Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Deposes Metropolitan Paisios and His Assistant Bishop Vikenty of Astoria Monastery
Constantinople: March 27. The March 27 session of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were disciplined for misappropriating church funds, immoral behavior, and insubordination. They both were reduced to the status of simple monks without the right or privilege to function in their priesthood.
These two prelates were under investigation after a nun opened a bag of money entrusted to her by Metropolitan Paisios and turned it over to the New York Police Department on November 6, 2010. The Metropolitan had instructed the nun to safeguard the bag when he had left for Constantinople to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch. Upon reports on the incident the Patriarch sent a delegation to investigate the matter, and later during the investigation various chambers of the Astoria monastery were sealed by the delegation. The Synodal action is the result of this investigation.
Courtesy: The Hellenic Voice, April 4, 2012
Metropolitan Jonah Consecrates Holy Chrism on Great and Holy Thursday
As widely reported, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, consecrated Holy Chrism during Holy Week, with the concluding rites being celebrated at the Monastery Church of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk here on Great and Holy Thursday morning, April 12, 2012.
The preparatory rites began on the morning of Great and Holy Monday, April 9, and continued through Great and Holy Wednesday. Clergy stirred the Chrism — a mixture of dozens of oils, herbs, fragrances —continuously, day and night, as Scripture was read.
The occasion marked the first time since 2004 that Holy Chrism has been consecrated and the first time that Metropolitan Jonah has presided over the rites since his election as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America.
Beginning of the Process of Sanctification of Holy Myron
On Holy Monday, April 9, 2012, following the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts at the Patriarchal Church of St. George, His All-Holiness blessed the beginning of the process of sanctification of the Holy Myron in a special office.
The Ecumenical Patriarch sprinkles holy water on the prepared materials, the utensils to be used, and the ancient copper boilers. Then, holding a lighted candle, he touches each boiler, placing pieces of old charred holy icons inside. At the conclusion of the service, the Patriarch reads from the Book of Holy Gospels. The reading of the New Testament is continued by those in attendance, including hierarchs, clergy from the Phanar, as well as visiting clergy. This order of readings will continue throughout the day on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday.
Just 7% of Russians say Pussy Riot Girls Should Not Be Punished
Moscow, April 16, Interfax - Most Russians think that the late February punk-prayer concert staged by the Pussy Riot band at the Christ the Savior's Cathedral in Moscow is hooliganism and blasphemy, while some see it as a political protest.
An opinion poll held by the VTsIOM public opinion research center shows that the action has captured the attention of more than 70% of Russians: 36% are well-informed and 35% heard about it.
Most of those who condemn the Pussy Riot action are residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg (77%), pensioners, people in their pre-retirement age (73-76%) and Orthodox believers (74%).
Some respondents said they knew nothing about the incident (29%), mostly rural residents (35%) and Muslims (44%).
About a half of the respondents qualified the punk-prayer as hooliganism (46%), including Orthodox believers (48%), Muslims (51%) and those who call themselves atheists (48%). Half of those who share this view are supporters of the United Russia party (51%).
Every fifth respondent (21%), mainly supporters of the A Just Russia party (28%), slammed the Pussy Riot act as blasphemy.
Only 13% of those polled see it as a political protest, 10% called it a PR action, 4% see it as a form of extremism and 1% as a performance.
One-third of the respondents think that the Pussy Riot girls should be sentenced to correctional labor (32%), including Orthodox believers (33%) and those who regard it as hooliganism (38%).
Every fifth (20%), including atheists (30%) and those who see the action as a political protest (33%), said that the action's organizers should be fined, 10% demand real prison sentences, mostly those who see as blasphemy (21%), 9% think that a punishment in the form of a 15-day arrest would be enough, and 5% suggest a suspended sentence.
Only 8% of the respondents, chiefly those who think that it was a PR action (13%), say that a punishment in the form of public condemnation would do, while 2% demand that the girls be anathematized.
Seven percent, mostly representatives of other religions (14%) plus those who see the punk-prayer as a political protest (20%), say that no punishment is needed at all.
The poll was conducted on March 31-April 1 in 138 communities in 46 Russian regions.
On February 21, several members of the feminist Pussy Riot band, their faces covered by masks, performed an anti-Putin song inside the Christ the Savior's Cathedral.
A criminal case was opened on hooliganism charges. Three Pussy Riot girls were arrested.
On Easter Eve Patriarch Kirill Urges Society to leave Behind "the Spiritual Emptiness"
Moscow, April 14, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia congratulated clerics and parish on the coming feast of Easter.
"May our behavior, in contradiction to the evil spirit of this age, become the visible affirmation of Eternal Truth. For, although we live today in conditions of social and religious freedom, the striving to live in accordance with Christian moral norms signifies, as before, a movement against the current," the Patriarch said in his message.
This message will be read in all churches of the Russian Orthodox Church, there are over 30 thousands of them in the world.
According to Patriarch Kirill, striving to live a Christian life "reveals a refusal to accept those stereotypes of behavior and the position of the justification of sin which insistently and systematically make their way into peoples’ lives through modern means of influencing the consciousness".
However, in spite of these contradictions, humanity still has the way out, the Primate believes.
"When we turn to the Lord we can leave behind the spiritual emptiness and egoism reigning in the world, see the light of the Resurrection and perceive it as a guiding sign on the way to the Heavenly City," the message reads.
The Patriarch is sure that moral and spiritual transformation is the main pledge and foundation for the transfiguration of the life of society, the nation and the country.
"It is impossible to change for the better the whole without perfecting its parts. The correct mental perception of people from all age, social and political groups determines the well-being of our homeland," Patriarch Kirill said and added that "our vectors in life will shape the development of all the countries of historical Rus’, our Church and, by extension, of all of God’s creation."
Greek Easter Goes on, Despite Priest Shortage
By Charlotte King
Hundreds of thousands of Greek Australians attended church services over the weekend to mark Orthodox Easter, but a growing shortage of priests is leaving some congregations without a Minister.
Mildura has one Greek Orthodox Church - a stark white building that stands high above the neighboring houses along the town's main drag.
Greek Easter starts here, when hundreds from the region's community fill the church to mark Holy Friday.
"Friday morning the women come to decorate [the epitaph] with flowers," says Julie Kiapekos, who is involved with the committee that keeps the church going.
By the afternoon, the priest is blessing the congregation with oils, commemorating the death of Christ - but it is not until the evening that the numbers really start to swell.
The sombre evening service is attended by hundreds from Mildura's Greek community, who then follow the epitaph out of the church, embarking on a procession along Deakin Avenue.
"That's very important", says Ms Kiapekos, "the service continues through that procession, the decorated epitaph symbolising the burial of Christ."
The events continue into Saturday, culminating with a midnight mass and a late night supper of soup, made with offal, to mark the moment in the Orthodox faith when they believe Christ rose.
This is also when the hard boiled eggs come out, dyed red to symbolise the blood of Christ.
Family members play a game before the eggs are peeled open, to see whose egg will remain intact the longest when tapped against the others.
With all the ritual and tradition, it's easy to forget that the man who would normally lead the Greek Orthodox community through the holy week no longer lives here; Mildura's Greek Orthodox church has no Minister.
Alkristi Theofelos, another member of the congregation, says the community usually has to bring in a priest from South Australia for special events.
"For funerals or christenings or weddings, we get the Renmark priest," she says.
"It's a bit hard, because it's the country, and a lot of young priests don't want to come up."
For Julie Kiapekos, the absence of an Orthodox priest in Mildura comes down to economics.
"People you know, disband" she says, "everyone's growing up and choosing their own direction, and the oldies that remained here are becoming fewer and few, and so we're not economically viable to be able to run and to be able to sustain a priest financially here."
The Secretary of the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Church, Nicholas Papas, says that even if the congregation was increased, the problem would not go away.
Mr Papas says the shortage is across the country.
"With almost 800,000 Greek Orthodox faithful dispersed right across the country, instances like Mildura are not uncommon," he says, "it's been a source of considerable dismay for the Archdiocese."
But the lack of a Greek Orthodox priest in Mildura hasn't stopped the community from keeping their traditions alive.
As the festivities draw to a close on the Sunday, the Greek Community Hall fills with women making salads and tzatkiki, as a select group of men watch over rotating spits of lamb.
George Raftis helped to build the hall in 1954, when he was only 19 and says it makes him feel terrific to see the Greek community still using it.
"We have good times here", he says.
Land Purchased for First Orthodox Church in Pakistan
Pakistan: A piece of land has been purchased by the Greek Orthodox Church of Pakistan (Ecumenical Patriarchate) to build its own temple for worship. The land has been purchased under the leadership of Fr John Tanveer.
The Pakistan Orthodox community is growing day by day. Apart from the Greek Orthodox Church, the Pakistan Orthodox folks are also served by Coptic and Russian Orthodox Churches.
OCP News Service
Orthodox Archbishop Audi Says Lebanon in Need of Moral Renaissance
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Beirut Metropolitan Archbishop Elias Audi expressed dismay Sunday over the country’s current social and political conditions, calling for a moral renaissance and asking people and politicians to stand together for the sake of a brighter future.On the occasion of Easter Sunday for Christian denominations that follow the Eastern calendar, Audi lamented the series of woes that has befallen the country.
“Are we not ashamed of what we hear daily of calamities? Buildings collapsing on their residents, spoiled food killing people, spoiled milk and rotten medicine, and no monitoring and no accountability?” he asked during his sermon at the St. George Orthodox Church in Downtown Beirut.
“What about what we hear of deals and commissions, the waste of public money, and corruption in administering our natural resources that plagues the administering of the state?” he asked.
Audi also said that it was time for the ambitions of Lebanese to transcend security and other basic needs.
“Lebanon is in need of a moral, cultural, social and political renaissance and must rise from this muddy quagmire in which it flounders,” he said, adding that the only way to achieve this is by people and officials coming together and learning from the mistakes of the past to build a better future.
The bishop also criticized opponents of a draft law aimed at protecting women from domestic violence, asking: “How can it be that in the 21st century a [draft] law combating the oppression of women and violence against them is rejected?”
He also bemoaned the lack of a proper educational system and health institutions and said that children have a fundamental right to live a decent life.
Separately, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Monday congratulated Elias Audi on Easter, according to his media office. He also contacted Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari and Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel, Hariri’s office said in a statement.
Egypt's Copts Face Tough Choices in Looming Presidential Elections
Currently under an interim pope, the Coptic Church - and its roughly 10 million followers - grapples with the ongoing debate over Egypt's imminent presidential contest amid fears of Islamist political ascendancy
It's Easter Sunday, but it's hardly a joyful occasion for Egyptian Copts, who are still mourning the recent loss of their longstanding patriarch, Pope Shenouda III, and eyeing domestic political developments with considerable apprehension.
"Grief remains in our hearts over the loss of Pope Shenouda," said retired Coptic civil servant Audette Abdel-Messih.
In mourning since the pope's death on 17 March, Abdel-Messih added another reason for this year's less-than-festive Easter celebrations: "We don’t know what's going to happen to us. I'm not only talking about us Copts, but I'm speaking about the country in general – nobody knows where Egypt is heading."
Such sentiments are all too common these days among Egyptians – be they Christian or Muslim.
"Where the country is heading to" has become a catchphrase that many people use to reflect their concern about Egypt's confused political scene. No consensus has been reached on the fate of a constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution, while many Egyptians – especially those in Coptic and liberal quarters – fear the domineering influence of Islamist political parties. Others, meanwhile, fear the re-instatement of unpopular figures associated with the former regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
"As Copts, we accept that Egypt's president will always be a Muslim – it's an obvious choice in a country that has a predominantly Muslim population," said Abdel-Messih. "But we don't want a president who discriminates against Copts or be forced into the equally horrible alternative of having to emigrate."
With her children having already immigrated to Canada, Abdel-Messih could easily join them there – but she doesn't want to. "I was born in this country, I was married here, I had my children here, and it's here that I want to die," she said.
But the notion of Egypt "becoming another Saudi Arabia" is something that she cannot reconcile herself with.
"I wouldn't even mind someone like [former Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel-Moneim] Abul-Fotouh for president, although I prefer [former Arab League chief] Amr Moussa," said Abdel-Messih. "But I can't countenance the idea of the presidency going to the Muslim Brotherhood or [Salafist candidate] Hazem Abu-Ismail."
Such sentiments are common among many Copts, whether from Heliopolis – a middle-class haven in East Cairo – or the capital's lower-income districts.
Copts generally tend to favour Moussa and Abul-Fotouh as good examples of "moderate Muslims."
Some Copts also see Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's long-time civil aviation minister and his last prime minister, as a viable choice for president.
Omar Suleiman, too, Mubarak's longstanding spy chief who briefly served as vice president, has also managed to rally some support among Coptic quarters. Many Copts say he is the only one who can thwart what they regard as the otherwise inevitable Islamisation of the country at the hands of hardcore Islamist candidates like Abu-Ismail or the Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat El-Shater and Mohamed Mursi.
On Sunday, as news broke that Suleiman, Abu-Ismail and El-Shater would all be disqualified from the presidential race for legal reasons, the mood among many Copts – in both Cairo and Alexandria – was positive.
Many expressed particular relief over Abu-Ismail's disqualification. Some also voiced satisfaction with Suleiman's exclusion from the presidential contest – despite the possibility of an appeal.
"Suleiman was too closely associated with Mubarak; he's not suitable for the new era we're living in," said Samria Tadros, a resident of Alexandria's Laurent neighbourhood. "And one can't forget that when he was in office he failed to have a positive influence."
Such mixed feelings about Suleiman appear to be shared by Egypt's official Coptic Church.
According to one source at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo's Abbassiya district, when Suleiman's assistant called the church to say that the presidential hopeful wanted to pay his respects at Easter mass – only hours before he was tentatively disqualified from the race – there had been a distinct sense of apprehension in advance of his visit.
Ultimately, the source said, the Coptic Church's interim pope decided that he would not close the Cathedral's doors to any presidential candidate, especially one who would likely curb the anticipated Islamist domination of the state.
Suleiman launched his last-minute presidential bid last week, with a promise to quell any attempt to Islamise the country.
The church's decision to receive Suleiman and allow him to be photographed with the acting patriarch caused considerable anger among revolutionary quarters. Some young revolutionaries viewed the meeting as an insult to the Coptic role in last year's Tahrir Square uprising.
"I took part in the revolution like any other Egyptian, and I was struck by the Mubarak regime's bullets when Suleiman was vice president," said Coptic activist Mina Maurice. "So I don’t accept that the pope receives Suleiman or gives him any beneficiation."
The Coptic Church, meanwhile, has repeatedly stated that it is not rallying the "Coptic vote" in favour of a particular candidate.
"They have never told us who to vote for," said Fekriya, a housekeeper from Ain Shams in a lower-income Heliopolis neighbourhood. "We go to the church and solicit their views on the candidates, but we are not told who to vote for."
She added: "This was the case during Pope Shenouda's time and it remains the case now."
Fekriya herself says she will vote for the same candidate as her husband. "He says he hears good things about Moussa, so maybe – I don’t know," she said.
Coptic intellectual and activist Youssef Sidhom, for his part, says the church must avoid intervening in the political decisions of its followers. "Ultimately, Copts should stop acting as Copts and should act as Egyptians who are Copts," he said. "They should choose the candidate that they think would best serve their interests as citizens of this country."
According to Sidhom, it is within this context that many Copts will refrain from voting for hardcore Islamists "who, to start with, don't perceive Copts as equal citizens."
By the same logic, Sidhom finds it "only natural" that some Copts might vote for Abul-Fotouh, who "isn't just making empty statements about respecting the rights of equal citizenship, but who is actually showing that he intends to do so by including unveiled women and Copts in his campaign."
Economics professor at the American University in Cairo Samer Atallah is one of the most avid Coptic voices in support of an Abul-Fotouh presidency.
For Atallah, choosing the next president is something that every citizen must do, free from the church's influence. "The political role played by the church during the Shenouda era must end," he said. "Copts should not be bound to the church's particular preference."
Islamists Force 50000 Christians to flee from Syrian City of Homs
Damascus: April 16, 2012. (PCP) The Syrian Orthodox Church, which represents over half of Syrian Christians, issued a statement saying revolutionary fighters had expelled some 50,000 Christians from the embattled city of Homs. That figure is estimated to account for about 90 percent of the Christian community there. Hundreds more — including women and children — were slaughtered, according to charitable organizations operating in the area.
The Orthodox Church referred to the persecution as the “ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians” by Muslim militants linked to al Qaeda. According to its report, the so-called “Brigade Faruq” is largely to blame, with Islamic extremists going door to door and forcing followers of Christ to leave without even collecting their belongings. Their property is then stolen by rebels as “war-booty from the Christians.”
Christians in Homs were reportedly told that if they did not leave immediately, they would be shot. Then, pictures of their bodies would be sent to the pro-Syrian-regime-change Al Jazeera — a media broadcaster controlled by the dictatorship ruling Qatar — with a message claiming that forces loyal to Assad had murdered them.
The report is also widely circulated by Mr. Robert who writes “Fr. John, Attached hereto is a copy of a message which I received today dealing with the purge of Syrian Orthodox Christians in Homs, Syria by Sunni Muslims. The vulnerability of Christians to Muslim purges in the Middle East & elsewhere is nothing new. Back in the 1930ies during my childhood I was repeatedly told by Syrians in Tupper Lake, NY that the reason for their flight from Syria was "le massacre". Decades later I learned that "le massacre" referred to the purges of Christians in Syria in 1840 & 1850. The Ottomans ignored the protests of European states, whereupon the French moved into Syria to establish a protectorate of Christian and other minorities. When the French left, the Syrian government was seized by Air force officer, Hafez al Assad backed by the Alowite minority which dominated the military. Eventually they formed a coalition of minorities (Baathists) which has protected the minorities from the Sunni majority. Today the Sunnis seek to restore the old order which allowed them the freedom to stomp the minorities whenever they wished. Should Bashar al Assad lose to the Sunni rebels, the minorities will be sorely oppressed. Islam has never emerged from the Bedouin tribal mind set of the 7th century Hijaz. Past is present is future. Should Bashar al Assad be vanquished, who will protect the minorities from the wrath of their enemies? The UN, NATO, Obama? Don't hold your breath”
Orthodox Christians Take Steps Toward Unity
By Ann Rodgers / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter today, they have resurrected a movement toward unity in America, where they are divided into a hodgepodge of overlapping ethnic jurisdictions. On orders from patriarchs in Constantinople, Russia, Serbia and elsewhere, all Orthodox bishops in this country are working on a plan for one American Church.
The patriarchs say they want to approve such a plan at a yet-unscheduled Great and Holy Council of global Orthodoxy. The last such council was in A.D. 787. In 2010, 66 American bishops formed the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, to devise the plan.
“This has great potential,” said Bishop Melchisedek of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania in the Orthodox Church in America, which is self-governing but has Russian roots. He cited existing differences on matters such as divorce or re-baptism of converts.
“The canon law of the church allows for only one bishop of a city, but here in Pittsburgh we have four. It’s a situation that can create unnecessary conflict. Now we have the potential for the church to speak with one voice.”
Skeptics say unity can be achieved immediately if the bishops really want it and that details could be worked out later.
The bishops assembly “is a façade,” said Cal Oren, a layman from Baltimore.
“They want us to believe that they are working together and are really unified. If they are really unified, where is the real unity? Why do we have nine bishops of New York? We don’t need more joint commissions on youth work. That just creates an excuse for never really unifying.”
Orthodoxy is the Eastern wing of a Christian church that split into the Catholic and Orthodox churches in 1054. Its spiritual leader, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in modern-day Turkey, is first among equals. He has no authority to tell any other patriarch what to do.
This system of governance that they trace to New Testament times broke down in the New World. Immigrants started churches and then sought priests from the Old Country, giving rise to multiple, overlapping jurisdictions. The Russian Orthodox Church sent a bishop to serve all ethnic groups, but that ended after the communist Revolution of 1917.
In 1970 the Moscow Patriarchate set free its daughter diocese in the United States to become the Orthodox Church in America. But that wasn’t recognized by the other patriarchs, who still govern dioceses here. There are now 13 Orthodox jurisdictions in North America, with 800,000 members. The Pittsburgh region is a stronghold, with perhaps 25,000 adherents.
In 1994, when all of the Orthodox bishops in the Americas gathered near Ligonier and called for unity, the ecumenical patriarch accused them of rebellion.
“When we started this work 20 years ago it was anathema to talk about the possibility of administrative unity. Now we’re not only talking about it, but hopefully the hierarchs will be looking at what is necessary to accomplish it,” said Charles Ajalat, a retired lawyer from Southern California, chairman of the pan-Orthodox social service agency FOCUS.
Planning for a Great Council to redraw boundaries started in 1961. Little progress was made until the Iron Curtain fell. That freed the largest churches from persecution, and sent new waves of emigrants to the West. In 2009 the patriarchs asked the Orthodox bishops in 12 regions of the globe to plan for unity. The American bishops have asked the patriarchs to let them break into separate groups for Canada, the United States and Mexico-Central America.
“The United States is the laboratory where this will work out, because we are the biggest and most developed and most complicated,” said Andrew Walsh, a Greek Orthodox layman who is associate director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
Both supporters and skeptics of the Bishops Assembly say the problem isn’t merely bureaucratic, but spiritual. In 1872 the idea of one bishop planting an ethnic church in another bishop’s territory was condemned as a nationalist heresy.
“These divisions are not authentic to our faith and should not be tolerated,” said the Rev. Josiah Trenham, an Antiochian priest from Riverside, Calif., the media relations officer for the Assembly of Bishops.
“If this doesn’t work, nothing will,” he said of the assembly.
“The mother churches are requiring us to come together. They said we’ll give you an opportunity to draw the road map and present it to us, or we will do it for you. That’s like lighting a fire under the clerical leadership in America. We don’t want someone else solving our problems from elsewhere.”
Skeptics believe the assembly will be undermined by rivalry between the overseas patriarchates, particularly Moscow and Constantinople. The latter, with 3,000 resident members, is so constricted by the Turkish government that it needs parishes elsewhere to survive. Moscow, the largest patriarchate with 164 million members, is asserting renewed strength since the fall of communism.
George Matsoukas, executive director of Orthodox Christian Laity, which advocates American unity, said he was once promised that the Great Council would convene by 2000. “Now, you read that they are in disagreement about convening it because they can’t agree about who should convene it,” he said.
The American assembly “is a step in the right direction, but they’re not doing anything. It’s mired in the affairs of the Old World.”
Metropolitan Savas, the Greek Orthodox bishop of Pittsburgh, said the patriarchs aren’t trying to delay the Great Council.
“There are several reasons why it has taken so long. The first is that we don’t have an emperor to summon it. That’s how they were all called in the past” when there was still an emperor, he said. “There are questions such as does each bishop get one vote, or do we vote in blocks? Does the Moscow Patriarchate have one vote or 750? They’ve got something like 500 dioceses.”
The Rev. Radu Bordeianu, associate professor of theology at Duquesne University and president of the Orthodox Theological Society in America, believes that Americans sometimes see overseas resistance where none exists. Father Bordeianu, a Romanian Orthodox priest who serves a Greek Orthodox parish, used to accept the axiom that churches overseas want to keep financial support from America.
But after talking to some bishops “I realized that the so-called mother churches are materially supporting the small jurisdictions in the United States,” he said. “I was very surprised.”
There are tensions between converts — who have entered the priesthood in large numbers — and ethnic Orthodox. There has been conflict in and between jurisdictions here. In 2010, the Antiochian diocesan bishops were demoted to auxiliaries stripped of most of their power. Thirty years after declaring the Orthodox Church in America self-governing, the Russian Orthodox Church began planting parishes in the United States and reunited with the formerly schismatic Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
At the Assembly, “a lot of the work right now is simply getting to be comfortable with each other’s presence,” said Metropolitan Savas. It includes “three different churches that came out of the Russian experience but didn’t acknowledge the legitimacy of one another. The fact that they are present and sitting around the same table and communicating is a major advance.”
Committees are examining jurisdictional differences in matters from church government to liturgy. They commissioned a study that found they had less than one-third of the 3 million members they once claimed.
Although no one rejoiced, “this means that we might start planning for the real Orthodox Church, not the fantasy Orthodox Church,” Mr. Walsh said.
Such work isn’t a stalling tactic, Metropolitan Savas said.
“Defining our task is important. What is it we want to achieve? How can we better demonstrate our unity of faith? Does it mean that we have to speak the same liturgical language?” he said.
Metropolitan Savas hopes the bishops will begin to form regional synods and work together.
“Right now we are on parallel tracks. We pretty much ignore one another. That has implications for church planting,” he said.
Father Trenham says a united church would cut many overall administrative costs by a factor of 10, saving millions of dollars.
“We’ve done some things to try to collaborate, but it’s nothing compared to what it would be if we were one church. This is an incalculable waste of resources that no business would ever tolerate,” he said.
Unity is crucial to the church’s ability to carry out Christ’s mission in America, Mr. Ajalat said.
“Right now people see all of these jurisdictional divisions and they get confused. They think that all of them are separate churches, like Protestant denominations, but they’re not,” he said. “The Orthodox see themselves as one church. They are one church in doctrine and worship and episcopacy. It’s this administrative problem that needs to be solved.”
Ann Rodgers: email@example.com.
First Published 2012-04-15 04:21:43
Pilgrimage Rights of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, known as the Church of the Resurrection, has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century. There are three major rights of the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate over the pilgrimage area.
The first one is the key of the inside gate of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as the Exarch explains to ana-mpa.gr. Responsible for the key of the main entrance of the Church is a local Muslim family whose roots are associated to Prophet Muhammad. The Holy Community of the All-Holy Sepulcher, also known as Templars, have the right to open the Church’s gate using the inside key. The Orthodox monastic fraternity has guarded and protected the Christian Holy places in the Holy Land for centuries. Keeping the Sepulcher, Jesus’ burial site, and Golgotha safe, are two of the most significant pilgrim rights of the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate.
The Holy Community of the All-Holy Sepulcher or Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher administers the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.
The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher was traditionally founded in year 313, and the foundation of the Churches in the Holy Land by Constantine and St. Helen is traditionally dated to year 326. At first, it bore the name “Order of the Spoudaeoi (studious, zealous, industrious, serious),” or “The Spoudaeoi of the Holy Resurrection of Christ.” The Brotherhood was distinguished primarily for their observance of uninterrupted mental prayer and heartfelt supplication in the Holy Lands.
The Patriarchal School of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem (School of Sion) provides the Orthodox testimony of the Christian Faith at the Holy Lands. The Patriarchal School, which is a Gymnasium and Lyceum and fully equivalent to the public schools of middle Education of the Greek State, recognized by the State since 1911, follows the complete program of the Ministry of Education enriched by special subjects which cover Christianity’s special role. Graduates may be inducted to the Brotherhood and under the care of the Patriarchate, continue their studies in Greek or foreign universities.
Archbishop Hanna: Syria Will Be Victorious Against Conspiracy
DAMASCUS, (SANA) – The Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, Atallah Hanna, Stressed that Syria will achieve victory thanks to the awareness of the Syrian people in the face of conspiracy targeting to undermine their position, role and sovereignty.
In an interview with the Syrian TV, Archbishop Hanna said that the message of Jerusalem to Damascus on Easter Day is a message of solidarity, loyalty and amity.
He added that the conspirators want to destroy the brotherly relations between Muslims and Christians in Syria but they will fail.
Archbishop Hanna stressed that Syrians will overcome the crisis and move to the new stage announced by President Bashar al-Assad, adding that the continuous instigation against the Syrian people indicates that the target is to undermine their morals and destroy their homeland instead of reform and democracy.
He called upon all Syrians to unite and cooperate with their leadership to restore security and stability.
Archbishop Hanna said that the stance of the Turkish government has to support Syria and prevent arms smuggling to it as its stance doesn’t serve security and stability in the Middle East and the Arab region.
R. Raslan/ Ghossoun
Easter is Celebrated at Armenian Church in Turkey’s Diyarbakir
An Easter Liturgy was celebrated for the first time in the St. Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir, Turkey, ever since its restoration.
The Divine Liturgy was served by pastor Avedis Tabashyan of the Forty Children Church in Hatay Province, Turkish Haberfx informs.
Aside from the Diyarbakir Armenians, Mayor Abdullah Demirbas of Sur city and other officials also attended the Holy Mass.
The St. Giragos Armenian Church, which is one the biggest churches in the Middle East, was reopened and consecrated on October 22, 2011, and the first liturgy was celebrated on the next day.
The St. Giragos Armenian Church of Diyarbakir was built in 1376 at the city’s Hancepek district, which was called the “gavur (non-Muslim; infidel) district” by the local Muslims, since a great number of Christians used to live there until the Armenian Genocide.
Coptic Christians Celebrate Easter Without Pope Shenouda
By CLAIRE READ
AL ARABIYA CAIRO
Coptic Christians celebrate gathered to celebrate Easter but this year’s celebrations have been more subdued out of respect for Pope Shenouda’s III passing.
Easter Sunday festivities were canceled and the Saturday night vigil from the Coptic cathedral was not projected in the streets outside the other churches of Cairo has previously been the case.
But vigil masses took place as usual, with several hours of sung prayers, candlelit processions and sacred readings.
The 88-year-old patriarch of the church died on March 17, leaving the Coptic community without its well-loved and active leader.
“Easter will not have the same spirit this year,” said Marina Alfred, 21, a Coptic Christian from Cairo. “A lot of people are sad after his death and they say we never knew we loved him this much until he died.
“He was so friendly and kind and was someone who knew the solution to everything,” she added.
But former People’s Assembly candidate John Talaat, 30, disagreed. “Easter is not a big deal after [the Pope’s] death. People used to go to the Pope to ask for help but in the last year of his life they took to the streets. He used to advise us to pray for solutions; he had no real influence.”
Easter comes in the run-up to the country’s post-revolution presidential elections. Egypt’s 10 million Copts have long felt marginalized within society and some fear the situation will not get any better, particularly with an Islamist majority in parliament, largely made up of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Copt Michael Saber, attending mass in Cairo, said, “[The Muslim Brotherhood] think they shouldn’t consult us because we are not believers and they frame us as second class citizens.”
He went on to say, “Nothing has changed since the revolution between Copts and Islamists.”
But there is also optimism among some Copts. Musician Bino Faris, 25, said he’s not worried.
“There are a lot of people who don’t like [the imposition of an Islamic way of life] who will make a new revolution,” he predicted. “All musicians will say no.”
This is a commonly held view among Coptic youth, not limited to musicians. Alfred said, “The fear is broken [since the revolution]. We won’t accept mistakes anymore.”
Talaat believes Copts need to continue to go out to the streets to protest. “They have to go out to know what’s going on. They have to know their rights. It’s not about the number [of Copts in Egypt]; it’s about proving they’re here.”