Peter Anderson berichtet aus der orthodoxen Welt

Seit vielen Jahren verfolgt Peter Anderson aus Seattle USA die Entwicklungen in der orthodoxen Welt. Nicht im Auftrag einer Zeitung, sondern aus persönlicher Liebe zu den Ostkirchen und im Einsatz für die Communio von Ost und West gibt er Einblicke in neue Entwicklungen. Mit Zustimmung von Peter Anderson werden seine E-mail-Nachrichten auf der Homepage des Zentrums St. Nikolaus dokumentiert.

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NEWS 2021

  • 6 May 2021 (2): Patriarch Porfirije -- a different tone

    The website of the Serbian Patriarchate has just posted a major interview of Patriarch Porfirije with the Serbian daily newspaper Večernje Novosti.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_porfirije_intervju_dat_vechernjim_novostima  Yesterday, my report covered the major interview given by Bishop Irinej of Bačka (Serbian Patriarchate) given to Serbian newspaper Politikahttp://www.spc.rs/sr/episkop_bachki_irinej_intervju_dat_politici   Although Patriarch Porfirije considers Bishop Irinej to be his “spiritual father,” a comparison of the two interviews is further evidence that the two men have very different styles and tones.  Having read various statements by Bishop Irinej over the years, it have become apparent to me that if his disagrees with the position taken by another, he is not reluctant to respond with an “attack” using strong language.  On the other hand, Porfirije’s approach is “do everything to blunt all possible blades among the people.”  In fact, Porfirije’s approach in this regard is the subject of the first question and answer in the interview.  The Google translation tool works quite well on the interview of Patriarch Porfirije, and it is worthwhile to read the entire interview.  I have pasted certain excerpts from the interview below.  It is also noteworthy that Patriarch Porfirije states that the annual assembly of all the bishops of the Serbian Patriarchate is expected to occur later this month.

    The dulling of blades:

    “Dulling blades is the duty of all people.  We are all called to work on the realization of the ideal of living together, which the Holy Prophet Isaiah vividly described as beating the swords into plowshares, turning the weapons of death into tools of life.  Such redemption of time, which is a gift as the apostle Paul called it, to God's people, is possible only if our lives are designed with eternity and its values.  I do not hesitate to engage in politics, but not in the sense of partisanship, mere struggle for power, but in the original sense of responsible care for the polis and everything that is good and beautiful in the Christian sense….

    The influence and authority of the patriarch is inseparable from the whole Church because he is its first hierarch and she is the spiritual vineyard entrusted to him.  The patriarchal service is the conciliar lens of everything that is good and useful for man, society, nature, the state, everything that makes up one local Church - all bishops, priests, monks and the entire people of God. It is a system of merged courts ... 

    The dangerous world situation:

    “The times we live in are irresistibly reminiscent of the Cold War era and the great crises, such as the Cuban and Korean wars, the Vietnam War and other tense situations, some of which ended in war violence.  Even today, military troops, warships and planes are cruising in strategically important areas.  For some, such a situation looks like the dawn of the Third World War, while others, like Pope Francis, think that it has been going on for a long time, that is, that as being guided by the interests of multinational companies, it is continuously managed around the world.  This Pope's thinking is very close to me.  I would add to that America and Russia have never been at war with each other, as well as that they have jointly warned of the deepening of world crises.  The two leading world powers are, basically, Christian countries, with a similar state structure.  Compared to earlier times, in Russia now, thank God, it adheres much more to Christian values, nurtures the Christian ethos, and achieves close cooperation between the Church and the state.  I do not share the opinion of some analysts who characterize American society as post-Christian, because I know how much faith the country has built, how many faithful there are in it, including Orthodox Christians, just as I know that their current president is an active Christian, a Roman Catholic.  Because of all this, I have a deep hope that peace will prevail, and that the saying of George Santayana that only the dead "experience" the end of the war will not be relevant for long.  I am aware that the great introduction of cataclysmic thinking about biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, along with the fact of large-scale migration and economic shocks, is developing a kind of civilization of fear.  Fear creeps into human hearts, and there is no freedom in fear.  Fear is slavery.  You don't need an outside occupier, you don't need a war.  Capture yourself.  Such a civilization of fear is opposed by the risen Christ, who, as represented on the baroque icons with which I grew up, raises the banner of final victory over fear and death, a sign of eternal joy.  From that experience of the resurrection of Christ came the words of the Apostle Paul, which summarize in the best way what has been said above: "Rejoice always in the Lord, and again I say, rejoice!"

    Possible comprehensive agreement relating to Kosovo:

    “… I also know that responsible politicians, under great pressure and in difficult circumstances, talk to many parties looking for a solution that is best possible for our people.  Personally, I do not know, nor do I know anyone who knows what is written in the text of the mentioned comprehensive agreement.  With a great rise in temperature, uncontrollable, and big, words, unfounded suspicion, unrest and divisions among the people are encouraged, in which I do not want to participate.”

    The Jasenovac death camp:

    “The first Liturgies were served in the catacombs, on the graves of martyrs for the faith of Christ.  We also offer a bloodless sacrifice at the tomb of Christ.  And we do the same in the great martyr Jasenovac.  The fact that there is an Orthodox church of God in Jasenovac, that Bishop Jovan founded a monastery on that place, is, in my opinion, the only way in which the Church nurtures the memory of the victims.  By gathering in Jasenovac and other similar places, by praying, serving the Liturgy, acquiring the grace of the Holy Spirit, we transform ourselves.  And a transformed and ennobled man will never blame someone's offspring, someone's children, for what their parents did.

    An Orthodox Christian will build peace, friendship, not resentment or, God forbid, revenge. The paradox of the Christian faith is that in places like Jasenovac, by praying to Christ, the first martyr and sufferer, but also the head of salvation and life, we gain the strength to fight with all spiritual and human capacities for peace, goodness and understanding among people, to fight for everyone man.  I am talking about what the Church believes in and what it does….

    Possible future meeting with Pope Francis:

    So far, I have met with Pope Francis three times, separately or together with other of our eminent archbishops.  Each of our encounters, as well as our communication as a whole, are based on the spirit of the Gospel of Christ, in the spirit of understanding and mutual respect.  In the world in which we live, for which we are both responsible, faced at the same time with the problems of the modern age, dialogue, moreover, cooperation are necessary for both sides.  The fact is that Christians are directed at each other and that together we must respond to challenges that are essential to the world.  After all, the apostle Paul warns us that no one can say that he does not need others.

    Cardinal Stepinac:

    The opening of the Vatican archives for interested researchers will certainly contribute to a better understanding of the difficult times of the Second World War in the area of the Independent State of Croatia and Stepinac's place in them.  It is possible that results that can be interpreted pro et contra may appear during the research.  Of course, I am far from believing that he was directly and immediately involved in any kind of crime.  However, I must say that, not only as a bishop, priest, Christian, but above all as any ordinary person, I cannot hide that, at least I have a dilemma, that I have a problem with certain of  Stepinac's actions, words, attitudes.  I'm sorry if it bothers anyone.  It is my obligation to be honest.  At the same time, I am fully aware that the terrible circumstances in which he lived were not at all simple for him.  As for the previous positions of our Church, as well as the conclusions of the Commission established for the research of this important and delicate issue, they are clear, unchanged and known to the public.

    I will also say that when we talk about such topics, I always try to use words carefully.

    It is said that the Orthodox world is close to the point of division after which a return to the old will be impossible.  Do you think that the determination of the Serbian Church, which succinctly reads "neither Constantinople nor Moscow, but the canonical order," will be sustainable in the conditions of intersection of the power and influence of two ancient and important patriarchates such as Moscow and Ecumenical?

    But I think the belief of the existence of a point of not possible to return to a normal life of the church does not take into account the fact that the Church is not an ordinary human organization governed by different interests and is affected mainly human factors, but the one, holy, catholic and apostolic, an unearthly reality.  It is crucial for the life of the Church to preserve its canonical order, the way in which the Church lives and works in the world.  Having that in mind and in our hearts, our Church did not opt for any "side," Moscow or Constantinople or any other, but remained forever faithful and determined to respect and witness to that order.  Therefore, with faith in God, we will not regret the effort, as far as we can see, to restore the disturbed canonical order, and the two great and important patriarchates, Constantinople and Moscow, to restore the Eucharistic unity.

    LGBT rights:

    The question of marriage and the issue of same-sex unions is not a question of some "attitude" of the Church, but the expression of that very deep faith in God revealed truth about human nature and the way of its functioning, which, in the first pages of Sacred Scripture describes it: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and he shall cleave to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.  I think that my commitment to the complete equality of all people in the field of personal, property and other rights is not unknown.  I understand and support them.  However, all these rights, legal experts explained to me, can be fully exercised in the existing legal system of the Republic of Serbia or with minimal amendments to existing laws.

    Sports teams:

    From the earliest childhood, I followed sports competitions with great attention, and I was a Red Star fan. However, when I became a priest, and later a Bishop, I felt that God had called me to build unity and mutual love among all people, even among the large family of those who follow sports.  So I started to "cheer" for everything that is good and fair, constructive and advanced in all clubs and to call for love that implies respect for the other and the different.  I am also looking forward to every sports triumph not only in our country but also in other environments.  In Zagreb, for example, I shared the joy of my neighbors on the occasion of the victories of the Blues.

    In my opinion, it was an impressive interview.  

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 6 May 2021: Important interview of Bishop Irinej of Bačka & other news

    On Wednesday, April 28, Bishop Irinej of Bačka (Serbian Patriarchate) gave an important interview to the major Serbian newspaper Politika.  On May 1, the day before Pascha, the entire interview was posted on the website of the Serbian Patriarchate.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/episkop_bachki_irinej_intervju_dat_politici  On May 5, the entire interview, translated into Russian, was posted on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/87168/  It is not surprising that the DECR has posted the interview as it is very supportive of Moscow’s position in its current disputes with Constantinople.  In translating the interview into English, the Google translation tool works much better on the Russian version than on the original Serbian version.  The interview covers such subjects as the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the situation involving North Macedonia, and proposed legislation involving the control exercised by the Serbian Church over the Theology Faculty at the state-operated University of Belgrade.  Because of its importance, the interview should be read in its entirety.  However, in my report, I will focus on the Bishop’s remarks relating to the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch and primacy.  The Google translation of the Russian is as follows:

    - During these days, one could hear the statements of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the Jerusalem Patriarchate, that the possibility of holding a new meeting of representatives of Local Orthodox Churches, similar to the one that took place in Amman (in which the Serbian Church also participated), is being considered.  Moscow also voiced the opinion that there is no longer a need to preserve the practice of convening such meetings by the Ecumenical Patriarch, since he lost the status of the first among equals because of his support for Ukrainian schismatics.  How do you assess these appeals, as well as the remarks regarding the Ecumenical Patriarch?

    - Negotiations on overcoming this problem are needed. They should be held in different formats, bilateral and multilateral, and the most expedient and most fruitful would be a conciliar, pan-Orthodox one.  However, the Patriarch of Constantinople refuses so far to convene a Pan-Orthodox Council, because, according to his interpretation, he, in one way or another, as the first among equals bishop of the Orthodox Church, has the right to act independently and arbitrarily on matters of jurisdiction and autocephaly of Local Churches, regardless of their opinion, even if it coincides with the majority opinion or is universal.  Sound familiar, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, such rhetoric from the shores of the Bosporus is too similar to rhetoric from the banks of the Tiber in Italy.  "New Rome", Constantinople, Tsarigrad, today Istanbul seems to want to become an exact copy of "old Rome" in the ecclesiastical sense.

    Moreover, some theologians of Constantinople defend the thesis that no one except the Ecumenical Patriarch has the right to convene pan-Orthodox or inter-Orthodox councils.  This thesis, of course, has no basis either in theology or in the history of the Church.  Most of the Ecumenical Councils of the past were not convened by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and it is a fact that at the Ecumenical Councils some popes and some Patriarchs of Constantinople were tried for heresy or sins of faith.  If the Church of Constantinople really had ecumenical or universal jurisdiction and a monopoly on the convocation of Local and Ecumenical Councils, there would never have been a single council at which the Pope or the Patriarch of Constantinople would sit in the dock, and not for a disciplinary offense or a crime against morality, but for the most serious dogmatic violation, for apostasy from the true faith.  Thus, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, with his authority as the Bishop of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the authority of his Church as the oldest Apostolic Church that protects the greatest shrines of the Holy Land, has the opportunity and the right to convene other Patriarchs and other Primates of Churches to overcome emerging problems and preserve the unity of the Church, if already the first among equals, the Patriarch does not want to convene them.

    Here the question arises: what is the nature of the primacy of the first bishop in rank?  Is this the primacy of power or the primacy of honor?  Is the Ecumenical Patriarch the first ex sese (by himself), de jure divino (by divine right), or by the will of the Church, based on historical rather than strictly theological factors?  Is he above the Council of Bishops, or is he chairman of the Council and, therefore, a member of it?  The Orthodox Church has only one answer to all these questions, clear and unambiguous: there is no primacy of power in the Church; the bishop is first in honor became such is the will of the Church, conditioned by historical reasons, and he, after all, is no higher than the Council.  In short, he is primus inter pares ( first among equals ), but by no means primus sine paribus (first without equal), as the new neo-papist theory of some theologians states.  Despite all that has been said, the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, as his full official title sounds, has not lost the status of the first among equals, that is, the primacy of honor.  Moreover, he cannot lose it, except at some new ecumenical council, if, of course, such a council suddenly made such a decision.  Because he received such primacy by the decision of the Second Ecumenical Council held in 381 in Constantinople, the third canon of which reads: "The bishop of Constantinople has the privilege of honor after the Roman bishop, because this city is the new Rome." This rule was confirmed and supported by the 28th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in 451 in Chalcedon near Constantinople, which reads:  “…we also define and set the privileges of the Holy Church of Constantinople, the new Rome (...), rightly judging that the city, which received the honor of being the city of the Emperor and Senate and having equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, and will so in the churches, and will be second to her."

    Exactly so - on the basis of state and political reality (New Rome, the city of the emperor and the Senate), and not on the basis of a dogmatic, ecclesiological imperative, as our new followers of the official Roman Catholic concept of primacy argue - a small diocese centered in the town of Byzantium, the Suffragan diocese of the Metropolis of Heraclius, at the highest level, the rank of the primordial Church of the East was acquired, so that the primacy of Rome was extended to New Rome.  In the state-legal theory and ideology of the Roman Empire, both cities were actually considered as two parts of a single capital.  Interpreting the meaning of superiority (primacy) in the Church, the reposed Bishop Athanasius (Evtich) wrote that primacy in the Church undoubtedly exists and should exist, but it should never violate the catholic fullness of every Orthodox Church.  Consequently, primacy does not mean power over the Churches, but is an important element of their conciliar nature.  I tried - I don't know how successfully - to convey to the readers of the Politika newspaper in the simplest and most understandable way at least some important doctrinal aspects of our faith "in the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" - a faith that we ourselves seem to betray, when through the fog of vanity, ambition, prejudice, geopolitical (non-church) engagement and other immaterial idols, we cannot or do not want to see the unfading light of divine truth, which alone can free us from our tragic delusions and passions.

    Let's summarize the answer to the second part of your question.  The lower authority cannot challenge, let alone overturn, the decisions of the higher authority.  She in the Church is the Ecumenical Council, or, more precisely, she herself through her universal council.  Thus, the Ecumenical Patriarch -- despite his failure in the non-canonical intervention in the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate, which widened and deepened the schism in Ukraine, extending it to almost all of Orthodoxy -- did not lose his true primacy of honor, recognized by all Orthodox Churches, and those competencies, which canonically flow from him, however, unfortunately, for many in Orthodoxy, to a greater or lesser extent, he jeopardized the reputation and trust that he enjoyed until recently, both in relationships to his position and in terms of personal relationships.  Both (and reputation and trust), in my deepest conviction, he can restore in the blink of an eye - and not only restore, but also unimaginably increase - if he publicly declares that he has become a victim of disinformation by Ukrainian schismatics and manipulations by the Ukrainian authorities, will revoke the recognition of the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine, restoring the unity of Orthodoxy and encouraging dialogue with all.  Such a gesture of his would show everyone in the world what the content of primacy is in accordance with the Orthodox understanding:  it is an uncompromising service to the unity of the Church, where the primate Church plays the role of inspirer, mediator and coordinator, and not the sole steward. 

    The Lord Christ teaches us Himself and by His words that those who voluntarily and out of love are the last, become the first before God, and those who at any cost want to become the first, inevitably become the last before God and before the people.  Being for many years one of the humble collaborators of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew in the field of inter-Orthodox and pan-Orthodox affairs (among other things, in overcoming the schism in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church at the Great Council in Sofia, presiding over which, he performed a great historical work on the healing of spiritual wounds and reconciliation between brothers), I dare to conclude these reflections - perhaps immodestly, but in any case sincerely, with love and respect for his person and service - with an appeal to God and an appeal to him, the Ecumenical Patriarch, to be at the height of his vocation and his duties, to make a choice worthy of his saints and great predecessors, to remove all the rocks of temptation and every stumbling block, to erase every tear and suffering caused by the pain of the split, caused by the schismatic violence in Ukraine and not only in Ukraine.  If he wants, he can do it.  This can be, be!  God grant that it be so!

    In reading this answer, I particularly noticed the language in the third paragraph:  “there is no primacy of power in the Church; the bishop is first in honor became such is the will of the Church, conditioned by historical reasons….”  Although it is not totally clear, this broad statement would seem to say that there is no primacy of authority at any level in the Church.  On the other hand, the statement adopted by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church relating to primacy treats primacy differently at the diocesan, Local Church, and Universal Church levels.  https://mospat.ru/en/news/51892/  The Bishop’s answer also raises the question of whether his analysis is consistent with the document on conciliarity and authority adopted at Ravenna in 2007 by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  A delegation of the Serbian Patriarchate was involved in adopting this document.  Only Russia and Bulgaria were absent.  https://www.ecupatria.org/documents/joint-international-commission-for-the-theological-dialogue-between-the-orthodox-church-and-the-roman-catholique-church/ 

    In the interview, Bishop Irinej does not assert that his views are those of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  The Serbian Church has issued a statement rejecting the OCU (http://www.spc.rs/eng/position_serbian_orthodox_church_church_crisis_ukraine_after_newest_decisions_patriarchate_constanti ), but this statement did not discuss the issue of primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch generally.  It should also be noted that Bishop Irinej is a very close friend of Metropolitan Hilarion (head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate).  The support of Bishop Irinej  is therefore not surprising.   On the other hand, one must remember that Bishop Irinej is the “spiritual father” of Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia, has often served as the spokesperson of the Serbian Patriarchate, and was one of the three finalists in the recent election of a new patriarch.  He is an extremely important voice in the Serbian Patriarchate.  Interestingly, he is also one of two Serbian members on the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. 

    Last Sunday, the joyful liturgy of the Resurrection was celebrated by the Orthodox.  However, because of the pandemic, it was without the huge crowds.  Still, in Russia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs estimated that “more than 1.6 million believers” attended the liturgy on the night of May 1-2.   https://tass.ru/obschestvo/11296353           The general situation and the restrictions in Russia during Pascha are described by RIA Novosti at https://ria.ru/20210502/paskha-1730907218.html .  According to this article, 4.3 million believers attended the Pascha liturgy in 2019 -- before the pandemic.  The entire beautiful liturgy at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, with Patriarch Kirill presiding, can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta-5Pmf8MU8&t=10s.  President Putin was in attendance.  As a Catholic, I was pleased to see that the Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation, Archbishop Giovanni d'Aniello, and Catholic Archbishop Pavel Pezzi, head of the Mother of God archdiocese in Moscow, were placed in a very prominent position to the right of the iconostasis.  See 2:24:30 and 2:54:00 in the video.  The apostolic nuncio to Serbia and the Catholic archbishop of Belgrade were also prominently placed at the Pascha liturgy in St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade.  See  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0irFOpK3Q2U at 2:25.

    On Pascha, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia had his midday meal with 20 homeless people.  In the afternoon, he visited with sick children.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/patriarch_porfirije_homeless_and_sick_children; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKwpn43OpMk (video)    Another article also illustrates his humble approach to his new job.  He often walks to work on the public street without any escort.   On Good Friday, he was seen walking the 9 kilometers from his residence in the Dedinje neighborhood of Belgrade on foot alone to the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in the center of Belgrade.   https://www.blic.rs/vesti/drustvo/na-posao-dolazi-bez-sluzbenog-vozila-prolaznici-u-cudu-sto-su-na-mostarskoj-petlji/536lxej  His humble approach reminds me somewhat of Pope Francis.

    On April 22, President Putin held a meeting in Moscow with President Lukashenko of Belarus.  After the meeting, President Putin answered questions from journalists.  One question related to an offer by President Zelensky of Ukraine to meet with President Putin in Donbass.  Putin replied that he would not meet to discuss problems relating to Donbass unless Zelensky first meets with the leaders of the DPR and LPR (the proclaimed republics in Donbass).  However, Putin stated that he would be willing to meet with Zelensky in Moscow to discuss bilateral relations between Russia and Ukraine.  http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65428  With respect to current problems in bilateral relations, Putin stated:

    It includes their attitude towards the Russian Orthodox Church and attempts to destroy it.  This applies to their attitude towards the Russian language and Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine and Russian citizens living in Ukraine.  Many steps have been taken to destroy our relations, which we can only regret.

    While denying any discrimination, Zelensky stated on April 26 that he would be willing to discuss the church and language issues if a meeting was held.  https://www.unian.info/politics/ukraine-russia-tension-zelensky-responds-to-putin-s-allegations-of-oppression-of-russian-speakers-11401471.html   Later, Zelensky was asked by a journalist from La Repubblica whether he considered the Vatican as a venue for the meeting.  Zelensky replies that “this could be the best place from all points of view.”  https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-polytics/3236602-zelensky-sees-vatican-as-best-place-to-meet-with-putin.html  There has been one subsequent report that Zelensky may not longer consider the Vatican his first choice for a venue.  https://risu.ua/u-zelenskogo-nazvali-novi-miscya-dlya-zustrichi-z-putinim--ce-mozhe-buti-i-yerusalim_n118171 

    In the competition between the UOC-MP and the OCU in Ukraine, the UOC-MP was able to receive in Kyiv the Holy Fire from Jerusalem on Saturday evening while the OCU only received the Holy Fire on Sunday morning via commercial carrier.  Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) received the Holy Fire at Ben Gurion Airport and returned to Kyiv on a charter flight.  https://news.church.ua/2021/05/01/delegaciya-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-dostavila-blagodatnij-vogon-v-ukrajinu-2021/  A two-minute video shows the arrival of the charter flight in Kyiv.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dCnVfHgkcw  From the video, one sees again Vadim Novinsky, the billionaire parliamentarian who has helped the UOC-MP so much financially in recent years.  From his Facebook page, it is clear that Novinsky provided the charter.  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010720391976   At the huge procession of the cross in Kyiv in July 2019, Novinsky was almost constantly at the side of Metropolitan Onufry.  I suspect that he may have paid much of the cost of transporting the very large number of UOC-MP believers from all parts of Ukraine to Kyiv for the procession of the cross.

     

    In conclusion, I greet all of you:  CHRIST HAS RISEN!  

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 April 2021: Restrictions on Pascha, retirement of Yuvenaly & other news

    For Orthodox, tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and Pascha will be celebrated on May 2.   In view of the increase of Covid cases in many countries, the last few days have seen more conflicts between church and state with respect to the celebration of Pascha.  A good example is Cyprus.  On Friday, the government in Cyprus decided that the presence of believers inside or outside a church at services during Holy Week is prohibited except for the Resurrection Liturgy of Holy Saturday.  For the Resurrection Liturgy, a maximum of 50 believers are allowed inside the church subject to the distance and other health protocols, while an unspecified number of believers are allowed in the courtyard of the church subject to the distance and other sanitary protocols.  For those attending this Liturgy, the beginning of the travel ban is extended to 1 a.m.  https://cyprustimes.com/koinonia/pascha-se-karantina-antistrofi-metrisi-gia-skliro-lockdown/   Later on Friday, Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, announced:  “We will not obey, and we will invite the faithful to come to the churches with distances and wearing masks.”   https://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-kyprou/43128-arxiepiskopos-kyprou-den-tha-ypakoysoume-stin-kyvernisi-gia-ton-ekklisiasmo   Still later on Friday, the government modified the ban on attending services during the other days of Holy Week by allowing attendance of up to 50 believers inside the church, provided that they have had at least one dose of the vaccine three or more weeks earlier.  Believers can also be in the courtyard of the church subject to the distance and the other protocols.  https://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-kyprou/43130-nea-apofasi-apo-tin-kyvernisi-gia-ton-ekklisiasmo-stin-kypro   Today, Saturday, Archbishop Chyrsostomos rejected the maximum of 50 and the vaccination requirement and has stated that “if they have 4 meters between them and a mask, everyone can go to church.”  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/43143-kyprou-mporoyn-oloi-na-metexoun-stis-akolouthies-me-apostaseis-kai-maska  He plans to instruct his clergy accordingly.

    In Greece, the government has decided that the Resurrection Liturgy must begin at 9 p.m. rather than the usual time of midnight.  https://greekcitytimes.com/2021/04/23/easter-covid-19-rules-greece/  The Holy Synod of Greece has agreed to this.  https://orthodoxia.info/news/oi-odigies-tis-i-synodoy-pros-toys-naoy/ (listing all of the anti-Covid measures approved by the Holy Synod).  In Russia, it appears that anti-Covid measures are determined by the various regions.  Today, Metropolitan Hilarion expressed the hope that Pascha services in 2021 will not be limited due to the pandemic.  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/11236667  It appears that in St. Petersburg, the government is only requiring masks, with recommendations as to distancing, disinfecting, and ventilation.   https://spb.tsargrad.tv/news/pasha-v-sankt-peterburge-2021-kak-projdut-prazdnichnye-sluzhby-v-uslovijah-ogranichenij-iz-za-covid_348384 

    At the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held on April 13, the Holy Synod made major changes in the church structure of the Moscow Oblast (Region).  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5797265.html  (Journal No. 4)  The Moscow Oblast is a political subdivision encompassing a very large area surrounding the City of Moscow, but not including it.  The Oblast has a population of over 7 million, while the city of Moscow itself has a population of 12 million.  The current Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church contains specific provisions relating to the Moscow City and Oblast.    http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/133121.html   Thus, Chapter IV, Section 9, of the Statute provides as follows:

    The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia shall be the diocesan bishop of the Moscow diocese, which includes Moscow and the Moscow Oblast.  The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia shall be assisted in the administration of the Moscow diocese by the Patriarchal Vicar with the right of a diocesan bishop with the title of Metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna.  The territorial boundaries of the governance exercised by the Patriarchal Vicar with the right of a diocesan bishop shall be determined by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

    This unusual arrangement of a “Patriarchal Vicar with the right of a diocesan bishop” appears to be a special arrangement to accommodate the historic fact that Metropolitan Yuvenaly (Poyarkov) of Krutitsky and Kolomna has led the Moscow Oblast since 1977 in the same manner as a diocesan bishop.

    The Holy Synod in its decision on April 13 divided the Moscow Oblast into five separate dioceses and made Metropolitan Yuvenaly the diocesan bishop of one of the five, namely the Kolomna diocese.   Under the Statute, Patriarch Kirill has the right to reduce the “territorial boundaries of the governance exercised by the Patriarchal Vicar” as was done in this case.  On the other hand, the creation of five dioceses within the Moscow Oblast seems to be in direct conflict with the provision in the Statute that there be a single Moscow diocese covering both the City and the Oblast.  Consistent with the concept of a single diocese, the City of Moscow itself is divided into vicariates.  Perhaps, the Holy Synod reasoned that it could violate the Statute by having dioceses within a single diocese mandated by the Statute because it intends to propose to the Bishops’ Council, which will be meeting next November, an amendment to the Statute to eliminate this conflict.

    In its decision on April 13, the Holy Synod made the area of the Moscow Oblast, which now consists of five dioceses, a metropolis called the “Moscow Metropolis.”  “The Metropolitan of Krutitsky and Kolomna was given the right to govern the Moscow Metropolis with the powers determined by the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church.”  Under the decision, Yuvenaly remained the Metropolitan of Krutitsky and Kolomna, Patriarchal Vicar, and a Permanent Member of the Holy Synod.  However, when one examines the Statute and its regulations relating to powers of a metropolitan to govern a metropolis, one sees that those powers are very limited and that the diocesan bishops in the metropolis report directly to the Patriarch.  See http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5284256.html.   From all of this, one can see that the Holy Synod on April 13 drastically reduced the powers of Yuvenaly with respect to the Moscow Oblast.

    On the morning of April 14, Metropolitan Yuvenaly prepared a petition to retire because of health, and it was immediately posted on his website. https://mepar.ru/upload/iblock/347/%D0%9F%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%88%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B5.jpg   On April 15, the Holy Synod, meeting remotely, granted the petition and appointed Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomarev) as the new patriarchal vicar for the Moscow Metropolis. .  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5799058.html  As you may recall, Metropolitan Pavel had been the exarch for Belarus and a permanent member of the Holy Synod from 2013 to August 25, 2020.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/31716.html  He was suddenly removed from this position during the height of the Belarus protests, perhaps due to the unhappiness of Lukashenko over some of Pavel’s actions, and transferred to be metropolitan of Yekaterinodar and Kuban.  Now he is back as a permanent member of the Holy Synod.

    Metropolitan Yuvenaly, age 85, is one of the most well-known members of the Moscow Patriarchate.  He was one of the young men who were selected by Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad to be future leaders of the Church.  Others included Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Patriarch Kirill.  Yuvenaly had many international assignments earlier in his career such as West Berlin, Jerusalem, Japan, and the United States.  In 1964 he became deputy chairman of the DECR under Metropolitan Nikodim.  When Metropolitan Nikodim ceased being chairman of DECR in 1972, Yuvenaly assumed the chairmanship of the DECR and remained chairman until 1981.  In 1978 Metropolitan Yuvenaly headed the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate at the inauguration of Pope John Paul II.  He became a permanent member of the Holy Synod in 1972 and has served on it for almost 49 years!  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/31765.html   Metropolitan Yuvenaly considers Metropolitan Nikodim to be his “spiritual father and mentor, friend and brother,” and often attends or leads the services marking the anniversaries of the September 5 death of Metropolitan Nikodim.

    On April 19, Metropolitan Yuvenaly posted a brief letter of farewell to the Moscow diocese.  https://mepar.ru/  I have not seen any information concerning a possible liturgy or event to mark his retirement.

    The dividing of the Moscow Oblast into five smaller dioceses is somewhat similar to Patriarch Kirill’s practice of making an existing diocese into a metropolis and then creating a number of smaller dioceses within the metropolis.  This has been done many times since Kirill became patriarch, and the number of dioceses in the Moscow Patriarchate has increased greatly as a result.  When Kirill became patriarch in 2009, there were 159 dioceses in the Moscow Patriarchate.  At the beginning of 2019, there were 309, and this number has now increased further. https://mospat.ru/en/news/47970/  The result is that the Moscow Patriarchate has an ever increasing percentage of the world’s Orthodox bishops.

    There continues to be comments by Orthodox hierarchs on the issue of universal primary with references to the positions stated on this issue by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate and by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) addressed this subject at a recent Conference of Students of Ecclesiastical Schools in Kyiv.  The following is the full text of his address:  https://news.church.ua/2021/03/30/pravoslavne-vchennya-pro-cerkvu-suchasni-vikliki-i-poshuki-vidpovidej-dopovid-mitropolita-antoniya/ (Ukrainian); https://orthodoxie.com/mgr-antoine-metropolite-de-borispol-et-brovary-la-doctrine-orthodoxe-sur-leglise-les-defis-modernes-et-la-recherche-de-reponses/  (French).  In summarizing the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Anthony refers to Orthodoxy as a “family of Local Orthodox Churches.”   He states: “Thus, the system of World Orthodoxy is similar to a confederation.”  He concludes that “a dialogue between the Local Churches is vital in order to reach a consensus on these issues.”  Archbishop Ioann (Vranishkovsky) of Ohrid (Serbian Orthodox Church), during a recent visit to Russia, also addressed these issues.  https://ria.ru/20210420/okhridskiy-1729104069.html  He states that he agrees with the position of the Russian Church that on a dogmatic level, the principle of “first without equal” only applies at the first level, namely the diocese.  He also states that because the Ecumenical Patriarch is not elected by the entire Orthodox Church, he cannot be the “first without equals.”

    On April 14, the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Belarus met and elected a new chairman.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/13172-abrany-novy-starshynya-kanferentsyi-katalitskikh-biskupa-u-belarusi  The new chairman is Bishop Aleh Butkevich of Vitebsk.  The following is his official biography:  https://catholic.by/3/kasciol/conference/3969-biskup-aleg-butkevich  He is 49 years old and is the youngest of the eight Catholic bishops in Belarus.   Last December he wrote a public letter protesting the criminal conviction of one of his priests who had used the social media to protest violence in Belarus.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12562-pavedamlenne-biskupa-vitsebskaga-alega-butkevicha-suvyazi-z-aryshtam-ks-vyachaslava-barka  He speaks Belarusian and attends events dedicated to the Belarusian language.  https://belsat.eu/news/15-04-2021-malady-belaruskamouny-mozha-zajgrats-na-gitary-try-charapahi-abrany-novy-starshynya-kanferentsyi-katalitskih-biskupau/  I enjoyed watching a short YouTube video showing him playing the guitar and singing the Belarusian Christmas carole, Ночка ціхая, зарыста (the night is quiet, glowing).   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93h6ijnKJfQ

    On April 21, Pope Francis at his general audience addressed the subject of vocal prayer.  https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20210421_udienza-generale.html   The following is a paragraph from his address:

    We all have something to learn from the perseverance of the Russian pilgrim, mentioned in a famous work on spirituality, who learned the art of prayer by repeating the same invocation over and over again: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord, have mercy on us, sinners!” (cf. CCC, 2616; 2667).  He only repeated this.  If his life received graces, if prayer became so warm one day as to perceive the presence of the Kingdom among us, if his gaze was transformed until it became like that of a child, it is because he insisted on reciting a simple Christian exclamation.  In the end, it became part of his breathing.   The story of the Russian pilgrim is beautiful: it is a book that is accessible to all.  [The English title of the book is The Way of the Pilgrim.]  I recommend you read it; it will help you to understand what vocal prayer is.

    In other news, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić of Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church have reached a general accord on a “Fundamental Agreement” governing relations between Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/patriarch_porfirije_consent_prime_minister_krivokapic_regarding_agreement   Today, Bishop Joanikije (now administering the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro) was asked an number of questions concerning the agreement and stated that its contents would only be made public after the formal signing of the agreement.  https://www.cdm.me/politika/joanikije-sadrzaj-temeljnog-ugovora-bice-poznat-javnosti-tek-nakon-potpisivanja/ 

     

    To all who are celebrating Pascha on May 2, I wish you a very blessed Holy Week.   Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

  • 14 April 2021: Decision of Moscow's Synod & other news

    On April 13, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its first in-person meeting since last August.   The minutes of the meeting have been posted at  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5797265.html .  Journal No. 10 of the minutes provides in part:

    From media reports, it became known that on March 21, 2021, during the Divine Liturgy at the St. George Cathedral in Istanbul, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, co-served by the hierarchs of the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Alexandria, as well as a representative of one of the schismatic communities of Ukraine, who did not have canonical consecration, headed the ordination of Metropolitan Andreas confirmed by the publication of the corresponding photographs.

    IT WAS RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

    1. To express regret in connection with the participation of a person who does not have canonical ordination in the episcopal consecration in the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

    2. To note that this event deepens the split in the Orthodox world caused by the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

    3. Taking into account the canonical inferiority of the consecration of Metropolitan Andreas of Saranda Ekklisies, it is with sorrow to note the impossibility of concelebrating with him if, with God’s help, Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople is restored. The same applies to the clergy, whom the aforementioned metropolitan may eventually ordain.

    The March 21 event in question was reported on the website of the OCU at https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/arhiyepyskop-yevstratij-spivsluzhyv-za-bozhestvennoyu-liturgiyeyu-vselenskomu-patriarhu-varfolomiyu-u-nedilyu-torzhestva-pravoslav-ya/ .  The following is the official press release by the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning the event:  https://ec-patr.org/%ce%b7-%ce%ba%cf%85%cf%81%ce%b9%ce%b1%ce%ba%ce%ae-%cf%84%ce%b7%cf%82-%ce%bf%cf%81%ce%b8%ce%bf%ce%b4%ce%bf%ce%be%ce%af%ce%b1%cf%82-%cf%83%cf%84%ce%bf-%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%cf%85%ce%bc%ce%b5%ce%bd/   Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) of the OCU was one of many bishops who participated in the service.

    It appears that the Moscow Patriarchate is now saying that the participation of Archbishop Yevstratiy results in an imperfect ordination of the new bishop so that even in the event communion is restored between Moscow and Constantinople, members of the Moscow Patriarchate cannot serve with this bishop or with priests ordained by this bishop.  This obviously makes the divide between Constantinople and Moscow greater and of longer duration.

    On April 8, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) answered questions during a breakfast meeting with journalists.  A video of the entire session is found at https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=515581289615657&ref=watch_permalink .  Metropolitan Anthony addressed many different subjects.  With respect to the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Kyiv next August, Metropolitan Anthony’s remarks included:

    Therefore, this [visit] may create a new round of seizures of our churches and destabilize the situation in Ukrainian society.  That is why we are against such an arrival.   And our parishioners are ordinary people, especially those who have suffered from the Phanar's actions in Ukraine, they have the right to express their opinion, including in public.

    https://www.facebook.com/church.information.center/posts/3632888283505447  He also mentioned that processions of the cross involving several hundred thousands of believers is not a political action but always prayer.  https://spzh.news/en/news/78776-upravdelami-ne-boimsya-prijezda-glavy-fanara-no-vidim-ugrozu-destabilizacii 

    Metropolitan Anthony also addressed the invitation that was extended by President Zelensky to Pope Francis to visit Ukraine for the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence.  The Metropolitan stated:

    As for the Roman Pontiff, we know that there is no response to this invitation yet.  Let's see if there will be such a visit, given the deep politics of the Vatican.  [deep politics – a relatively new political science term denoting political policies that are repressed rather than acknowledged]  Of course, they will not take any step that will somehow weaken their position.  If we consider the opinions of analysts, we will see that many people say that perhaps the Pope will not come here because, one way or another, he will need to decide on the OCU somehow clearly.  Rome values close relations with the Russian side very much, and such a visit is likely to hinder such close relations.

    https://www.facebook.com/church.information.center/posts/3632888283505447https://risu.ua/en/uoc-mp-opposes-the-popes-visit-to-ukraine-because-it-will-not-please-russia_n117528  Interestingly, Metropolitan Anthony does not state how the UOC-MP would react to such a visit, but rather indicates that the “Russian side” (Moscow) would not be pleased with such a visit.  I have not seen the “opinions of analysts” to which Metropolitan Anthony refers.  However, it is clear that Pope Francis could visit Ukraine without taking a position on the status of the OCU.  For example, his encounter with the Orthodox in Kyiv could simply be done by scheduling a meeting in the Pope’s program with the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  https://vrciro.org.ua/en/council/info  Both the UOC-MP and OCU are members of this organization.  The meeting by the Pope of the members of the Council of Churches, including Metropolitan Epifany, at this encounter would certainly not imply any de facto recognition of the OCU.

    Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy died in his native Australia on April 10, 2021.  He had been the President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1989 to 2001.  A very nice summary of his significant contributions to Christian unity is found in the following in memoriam. http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/it/news/2021/2021-04-12-in-memoriam-cardinal-cassidy.html  (English)  With respect to the Orthodox, he was involved in the historic trips of Pope John Paul II to Orthodox countries such as the very successful visit to Romania in May 1999.  He also headed the Catholic side of the International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches during the very difficult time period when the “Unia” was the primary focus of discussion.  I believe that it is significant that Metropolitan Hilarion, who represented the Moscow Patriarchate at the Maryland USA plenary of the Commission in July 2000, has sent a very nice letter of condolence on the death of Cardinal Cassidy.   https://mospat.ru/ru/news/86977/  It indicates that Cardinal Cassidy was highly regarded by the Orthodox, even though he represented the other side during times of great Orthodox – Catholic tensions, such as occurred at the Maryland plenary.

    As is well known, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who is the husband of Queen Elizabeth, died on April 9 at the age of 99.  There are some interesting articles on his Orthodox roots.  It is clear that he was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church.  His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark.  His mother, Princess Alice, became a very devoted Orthodox and even founded a sisterhood of Greek Orthodox nuns in 1949.  Princess Alice died at Buckingham Palace in December 1969.  She in now buried in the crypt of the ROCOR Church of Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane, Jerusalem.  Alice’s aunt, Holy Martyr Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia, is also buried in the same church.  A detail biography of Alice’s life is found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Alice_of_Battenberg .   In an article posted on the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR website, Metropolitan Hilarion states:  “When I met him [Prince Philip] at his Buckingham Palace apartment [for approximately one hour] on May 25, 2011, he told me literally the following: ‘I became an Anglican, but I remained Orthodox.’”  https://mospat.ru/en/news/86967/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 7 April 2021: Metropolitan Hilarion on summit of primates in foreseeable future & other news

    On April 6, RIA Novosti posted an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion.  https://ria.ru/20210406/ilarion-1604366149.html  On the same day, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted the interview both in Russian and English. https://mospat.ru/en/news/86955/ (English)   Usually, there is a delay on the DECR website for an English translation, but not this time.  The caption of the interview is entitled: “Metropolitan Hilarion: Summit of the heads of Churches is possible in foreseeable future.”  The first question in the interview is whether Patriarch Theophilos or any other Church leader was planning another meeting of the kind of the Amman summit this year.  The answer provided by Metropolitan Hilarion is as follows:

    I would like to point out that all the delegations that took part in the Amman meeting last February expressed their intention to continue the brotherly meetings of the heads and representatives of Local Churches.  Back then they expressed their wish, as is specified in the Communique, to come together again “preferably before the end of the year.”  Of course, at that time none of us expected the pandemic and that many plans would not be destined to be carried out.  No wonder then that a year after the Amman meeting, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem in his message recalled the plans outlined at that time.  Although the risk of the Covid morbidity in the world is still high, quarantine measures are gradually being weakened in some countries, as the number of people with immunity to this disease is growing because some have already had it and others have had the vaccination against it.  Under these circumstances, the prospects for a new meeting of the Heads in the foreseeable future look promising.  However, I think that to speak about concrete dates is early yet.  I would like to remind you that Patriarch Theophilos was the initiator of the meeting last year.  I suppose that next meeting, if it is to take place, would be called together also by him as the Head of the Jerusalem Church, the Mother of all Churches.  The Russian Orthodox Church, for its part, welcomes the conducting of this kind of events looking for ways out from the crisis among the Orthodox and for the re-establishment of their unity.

    It should first be noted that Ukraine is mentioned nowhere in this answer.  Rather, the purpose of the meeting is “looking for ways out from the crisis among the Orthodox and for the re-establishment of their unity.”  This is not surprising.  At the Amman meeting in February 2020, Patriarch Kirill enumerated six issues that needed to be discussed on a pan-Orthodox basis.  https://mospat.ru/en/news/45658/  Patriarch Kirill’s articulation of these six issues did not mention Ukraine specifically, but rather addressed certain powers that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is claiming to possess generally.   Presumably, the Moscow Patriarchate hopes that the future meeting, hosted by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, will focus on these same issues and will decide that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not possess such powers.  This would be a great victory for Moscow and a defeat for Constantinople.  On the other hand, the discussion by the primates relating to a possible compromise between the UOC-MP and the OCU in Ukraine would be very dangerous for the Moscow Patriarchate because a suggested solution may involve the formation of a single autocephalous church in Ukraine and a departure of the UOC-MP from the Moscow Patriarchate.  For the same reason, the Moscow Patriarchate may not be interested in the primates discussing ways in which peaceful relationships between the UOC-MP and the OCU may be encouraged as this could also be the first step in creating a single autocephalous church in Ukraine.  In light of this, it is entirely logical for the Moscow Patriarchate to promote a discussion to undercut the powers claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in general terms as opposed to focusing on specific solutions for Ukraine.

    At the present time, it is not clear that Patriarch Theophilos will call such a meeting.  The calling of the first meeting by Patriarch Theophilos caused a very strong reaction by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who maintains that he has the sole right to call such a pan-Orthodox meeting.  See https://www.ecupatria.org/2020/02/26/the-ecumenical-patriarchs-second-response-to-the-patriarch-of-jerusalem/#more-1346  If Patriarch Theophilos called a second meeting, especially one to challenge the powers claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the gulf between Theophilos and Bartholomew would likely become very great – something that may not lead to the hoped-for pan-Orthodox unity.  The “open letter” from Patriarch Theophilios, dated February 24, 2021, is very cautiously worded.  See  https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2021/02/24/open-letter-from-his-beatitude-patriarch-theophilos-iii/  In the letter, Patriarch Theophilos expressed the hope for the primates “to gather for prayer and fellowship” later in the year, but there is no mention of Theophilos himself calling and hosting such a meeting.  Furthermore, the suggestion of a meeting of “prayer and fellowship” in the letter does not seem to encompass a debate on the powers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  It is certainly possible that the remarks by Metropolitan Hilarion in the April 4 interview is intended to encourage Patriarch Theophilos to take a stronger stand and to sponsor a second Amman summit with a discussion of the issues suggested by Patriarch Kirill at the first Amman summit.

    In the interview, Metropolitan Hilarion was also asked about the Moscow Patriarchate receiving under its jurisdiction clerics of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria who do not agree with the recognition of the OCU by Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria.  His answer was a follows:

    Indeed, we have received individual and mass requests from clerics from different countries in Africa.   We sincerely wish to render them all possible support, but so far we have suspended judgment on their reception to the Russian Church, because we do not want to deepen divisions existing among Orthodox Christians in Africa due in large part to the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics by Patriarch Theodoros.  Yet, we go on hoping that Patriarch Theodoros will change his mind.

    The fact that judgment on the question has been “suspended” does leave open the possibility that the Moscow Patriarchate may decide to take jurisdiction over these clerics in Africa at a future time, especially if Patriarch Theodoros does not change his mind.

    From March 25 to April 3, 2021, a large “monastic delegation” from the UOC-MP was in Egypt on a pilgrimage to the monasteries of the Coptic Church.  https://news.church.ua/2021/04/02/zavershilasya-pojizdka-chernechoji-delegaciji-upc-do-monastiriv-jegiptu/  This included a meeting with Coptic Pope Tawadros II on April 1.  https://popetawadros.org/?p=19183  As you can see in the photo in the foregoing link, the delegation also included Father Mykolay Danylevych (deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP) and Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov (DECR’s secretary for inter-Christian relations).  The two are on the far right of the second row.  The presence of Father Stefan from Moscow is not surprising as his responsibilities include relations with the non-Chalcedon Orthodox Churches.  It appears that the delegation did not have any contacts with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria during their visit to Egypt.  Perhaps, there was a subtle message to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria that the Moscow Patriarchate intends to continue its visits to Africa in spite of the action taken by Patriarch Theodoros.

    On April 5, President Putin signed the new law relating to the certification of clergy receiving a religious education abroad and relating to preventing schisms.  https://ria.ru/20210405/dukhovenstvo-1604315447.html  The new law will go into effect in 180 days after its official publication.   https://tass.ru/obschestvo/11072077  The full text of the new law can be read in Russian at http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001202104050017?index=0&rangeSize=1 .

    The media war continues in Ukraine.  A hieromonk of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has decided to join the OCU.  The following is an extensive interview that the monk gave to a pro-OCU website in Kyiv.  https://religionpravda.com.ua/?p=66489  In a rebuttal, Metropolitan Pavel, the abbot of the Lavra, describes the monk as a “a proud, arrogant, power-hungry person.”  https://spzh.news/en/news/78692-mitropolit-pavel-rasskazal-pochemu-byvshij-ijeromonah-lavry-okazalsya-v-pcu  (English article)

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 2 April 2021: Poland's response on Ukraine & other news

    On March 30, the Holy Council of Bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church held its spring session.  The communique issued at the end of the meeting can be read at https://www.orthodox.pl/komunikat-kancelarii-sw-soboru-biskupow-12/.  The communique includes the following paragraph:

    Documents of the heads of individual local churches related to the situation of church life in Ukraine were read.  The Holy Council of Bishops reaffirmed its current position on the above issue, expressing its concern over the prolonged crisis in the church in Ukraine, and decided to continue comprehensive international activities for the unity of Orthodoxy.

    The paragraph raises the question as to what are the recent documents from primates relating to church life in Ukraine.  One must be the February 24 letter from Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem in which he expressed the hope that it may be possible later this year for the primates “to gather for prayer and fellowship.”  https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2021/02/24/open-letter-from-his-beatitude-patriarch-theophilos-iii/.   In this letter, Patriarch Theophilos had referred to the one-year anniversary of the Amman meeting.  Patriarch Theophilos had hosted the Amman meeting on February 26, 2020, to discuss Orthodox unity, especially with respect to Ukraine.  This meeting, to which the Ecumenical Patriarchate objected, was attend by primates or representatives of six of the Local Orthodox Churches.  The Orthodox Church of Poland sent a delegation headed by Archbishop Abel of Lublin and Chełm.  https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2020/02/26/maintain-the-unity-of-the-spirit-in-the-bond-of-peace-eph-43-the-amman-fraternal-familial-gathering-of-the-orthodox-primates-and-delegates-25-27-february-2020/   Poland has sided with Moscow on the Ukrainian dispute.  See https://orthochristian.com/138424.html 

    With respect to the February 24 letter from Patriarch Theophilos to all of the primates, Metropolitan Hilarion subsequently stated that the Moscow Patriarchate “will accept this initiative.”  https://mospat.ru/en/news/86772/  However, I have seen nothing about a letter from Patriarch Kirill to the other primates confirming this.  The foregoing paragraph indicates that there might well be correspondence from various primates responding to the suggestion by Patriarch Theophilos for a meeting later this year and that this correspondence has not yet been made public.  Although it is not certain, the decision of the Polish bishops “to continue comprehensive international activities for the unity of Orthodoxy” could well be an indication that the Polish Church endorses a future meeting of the primates as suggested by the recent letter from Patriarch Theophilos.  The use of the verb “continue” could be a reference to a willingness by Poland to continue to participate in a Amman-type format.

    In other news, the UOC-MP presented on April 1 to the Office of President Zelensky a petition with over one million signatures objecting to various “discriminatory” laws, especially the law relating to the name of the UOC-MP.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/86926/   An English translation of the petition is found at https://spzh.news/en/news/78582-obrashhenije-verujushhih-upc-k-prezidentu-po-povodu-gonenij-na-cerkovy-tekst.     On March 31, the Russian Federation Council approved the law, previously passed by the Duma, which requires the recertification of clergy receiving religious education abroad and which has provisions limiting schisms.  https://ria.ru/20210331/dukhovenstvo-1603635040.html  Catholics have expressed some concern with respect to this legislation.  https://www.ucanews.com/news/russian-bishops-official-worried-about-new-religion-regulations/91930#    With respect to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the Moscow Patriarchate to date has only imposed the restriction on the visitation of Russian pilgrims on the jurisdictions of two hierarchs:  Archbishop Chrysostomos and Metropolitan Vasilios of Constantia.  https://credo.press/236392/   

    Serbia’s Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue Gordana Čomić is proposing the adoption of a law recognizing same-sex unions in Serbia.  https://www.rts.rs/page/stories/ci/story/1/politika/4310698/comic-o-nacrtu-zakona-o-istopolnim-zajednicama.html  The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church on March 25 issued a statement finding the proposed bill “unacceptable” and suggesting that the personal and property problems faced by individuals in such relationships be resolved administratively rather than through marital and family legislation.   http://www.spc.rs/eng/press_release_holy_synod_bishops_4   Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, is the first openly gay person to hold that office and has a same-sex union with her female partner.   It has been reported that Patriarch Porfirije has a good relationship with both President Vučić and Prime Minister Brnabić.

    In an event that was big news in the media, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave a negative answer to the question of whether the Catholic Church has the power to bless the unions of persons of the same sex.  The official English translation of the entire text of the decision can be read at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20210222_responsum-dubium-unioni_en.html.  Although the Orthodox Church does not bless same-sex marriages, the only prominent Orthodox hierarch who has publicly defended this specific Vatican’s document (as far as I can determine) is Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/86921/  An English translation of Metropolitan Hilarion’s comments are found at https://www.pravmir.com/metropolitan-hilarion-the-church-does-not-bless-same-sex-unions-because-this-is-a-sinful-way-of-life/.  The Metropolitan’s comments are very strong.  For those seeking a blessing for a same-sex union, the Metropolitan states:  “We tell them: if you want to be saved, then you must give up the sinful way of life.” 

    On March 25, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine met with Pope Francis.  https://www.kmu.gov.ua/en/news/premyer-ministr-ukrayini-zustrivsya-z-jogo-svyatistyu-papoyu-rimskim-franciskom  In the official communique from the Ukrainian government, it is stated:  “In conclusion, the Prime Minister conveyed to His Holiness Pope Francis an invitation from the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to pay a visit to Ukraine on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Independence.”  As you recalled, President Zelensky extended a similar invitation to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Bartholomew has accepted the invitation.  The Vatican’s communique with respect to the Pope’s meeting with Shmyhal does not mention any invitation.  https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2021/03/25/210325e.html  It is reported that the Vatican is considering the invitation.  https://risu.ua/papa-francisk-rozglyadaye-pitannya-vizitu-v-ukrayinu---posol_n117335 

    Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun has given an extensive interview to Volodymyr Mamchyn , a PhD student at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Innsbruck, concerning the religious situation in Ukraine.   The interview was posted at https://risu.ua/arhimandrit-kiril-govorun-cerkva-povinna-napovnyuvati-publichnij-prostir-ne-lishe-brizkami-svyatoyi-vodi-a-j-sensami_n117082 and subsequently at a number of other websites.  At one time, Father Cyril was head of the DECR of  the UOC-MP, but has been teaching for a number of years, mostly in the West.  He is very sympathetic with the OCU.  Father Cyril has a number of interesting insights.  One is the need of the UOC-MP and the OCU to learn to live together in peace.  He stated:  “I want to return once again to the idea we expressed at the beginning: it is God's providence that the Churches are not united, because we do not yet know how to accept each other and live together in peace.  In order to exist in one Church, we need to learn more.”  Earlier, Father Cyril had stated:  “I would even say that it is such providence of God that puts us in such conditions that we are forced to put up with each other - and that's good!  He also stated:  “The question of the affiliation of parishes must be resolved, this problem exists, but we should not forget, but rather prioritize missionary work.”  In other words, the OCU and the UOC-MP should not emphasize seeking to increase their numbers by recruiting members from the other church’s flock, but should rather focus their efforts more by missionary activities directed at those who do not regularly go to church.

    In my opinion, the need of the UOC-MP and the OCU to live together in peace makes a great deal of sense.  Neither the OCU nor the UOC-MP will disappear in the foreseeable future.  Like the Catholic Church and the Protestant churches, they should accept the reality of the other’s existence.  Although the Catholic Church has not accepted the validity of the ordination of Anglican orders, that has not prevented relations between the Catholic and Anglican Churches.  Likewise, the refusal of the UOC-MP to recognize the validity of OCU orders should not prevent a relationship marked by civility.  With respect to the division between Local Orthodox Churches as to recognition of the OCU, some Local Orthodox Churches have recognized the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America, but others have not.  However, this lack of uniformity of recognition has not caused a split in the Orthodox world.  The same should be true of the OCU.

    The following are a few steps that could be taken to promote religious peace between the UOC-MP and the OCU:  (1)  the OCU would cease to portray the UOC-MP as an instrument of a hostile foreign power;  (2) the OCU would cease to support efforts to change the name of the UOC-MP;  (3) the OCU would not oppose visits to Ukraine by important hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate, such as Patriarch Kirill; (4) the OCU would insist that any transfer of parishes be accomplished solely through the government and the courts and that “self-help” measures would not be used; (5) the UOC-MP would cease its current vitriolic attacks against the OCU through homilies, the media, and the Internet; (6) the UOC-MP would agree to meet with representatives of the OCU at various times to discuss matters of mutual interest; (7) the UOC-MP would comply with competent court orders requiring a transfer of a parish; (8) the UOC-MP would not oppose visits to Ukraine by important hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, such as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  All of this could perhaps be negotiated as a “package deal” in which each side makes concessions.  In thinking of this, I cannot help but remember the photo of Metropolitan Onufry and Metropolitan Epifany giving each other a Paschal greeting on May 9, 2019.  See photo pasted below.  Perhaps the spirit of Pascha 2021 could result in some healing between the OCU and the UOC-MP.

    To those of you who are celebrating Easter this Sunday, I wish you a very blessed Resurrection of Our Lord!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

  • 28 March 2021: Metropolitan Hilarion on same-sex blessings

    https://mospat.ru/ru/news/86912/ 

    Google translate:

    Metropolitan Hilarion: The Church does not bless same-sex cohabitation, as it is a sinful way of life

    A recent response from the Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the question of the possibility of church blessing for same-sex couples clearly stated: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family."  At the same time, a number of commentators have some misunderstandings caused by the fact that a blessing is not ruled out separately for people in a same-sex union. 

    As Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, noted in the program "Church and World," this document testifies to the fact that the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church regarding same-sex unions is identical to the teaching of the Orthodox Church. “We cannot in any form or under any guise accept same-sex cohabitation as a marriage union with all of the ensuing consequences of this rejection,” he stressed.  "Accordingly, no wedding or any blessing of a same-sex couple can be performed."

    Commenting on the mention in this Roman Catholic Church document of the possibility of individually receiving blessings for people of non-traditional orientation, the DECR chairman expressed the opinion: “As far as I could understand the meaning of this document, it is about this:  people who are in same-sex unions cannot get the blessing of the Church for this in any form.  This does not exclude each of them individually receiving the blessing of the Church - not a blessing for sinful cohabitation, but simply a blessing.  People with a homosexual orientation also come to our Orthodox churches.  Each such person can go to the priest and receive a blessing from him, and the priest cannot deny him this.  But if such a person says, "Father, bless me for same-sex cohabitation, then the priest, of course, will refuse him."

    “As I understand it, on this issue there is complete agreement between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church: same-sex cohabitation is unacceptable, it is a sin from the point of view of the Church.  Accordingly, if two men or two women come to a priest, be it Orthodox or Catholic, and ask for some form of blessing for cohabitation, then this blessing will not be given,” the archpastor noted.

    At the same time, Vladyka Hilarion continued, if each of these persons individually approaches the priest in order to receive a blessing, then the priest will not reject such a person, just as he does not reject people who commit other sins. “These people come, each one individually, to the Church, to the priest for confession, for a blessing.  We do not bless their sinful way of life, but we bless the person, - stated Metropolitan Hilarion.  "We tell him: if you want to be saved, then you must give up the sinful way of life."

    DECR Communication Service

  • 25 March 2021: New Russian law preventing schisms & other news

    On March 24, the Russian State Duma, following a third reading, approved a new law, “On the certification of clergy.”   https://ria.ru/20210324/dukhovenstvo-1602632541.html   The law must now be reviewed by the Federation Council and then sent to President Putin for signature.  See http://duma.gov.ru/en/news/28319/ (describing the Russian legislative process in English)  The new law requires “recertification” in Russia of clergy who received religious education abroad.  Certain exceptions were provided in the third reading.  https://ria.ru/20210324/dukhovenstvo-1602632541.html   The new law as amended was described by RIA-Novosti in the foregoing link as follows:

    The procedure for re-certification of clergy who received their education abroad has also been clarified: Russian clergy who have received a foreign spiritual education will be exempted from certification if they already carry out religious activities in Russia.  In addition, Russians who are just receiving or planning to receive religious education abroad, but have not yet begun serving in Russia, will have to receive additional professional education in Russian religious educational organizations after completing their studies.  If a confession does not have its own educational organizations in Russia, they will be able to receive additional professional education at the departments of theology of federal universities, the list of which will be approved by the Ministry of Education and Science.  Earlier, the head of the Duma committee for the development of civil society, issues of public and religious associations, Sergei Gavrilov, said that the norms of the law would not apply to foreign clergy who arrived in our country to give lectures, since this does not apply to religious activity.

    Thus, a minister or priest who in the future comes from a foreign land to serve in a Russian parish must receive additional education and certification in Russia before beginning religious activity in Russia.

    However, I found another provision of the new law even more interesting.  It provides that a religious organization will be able to leave the structure of a centralized religious organization only in accordance with the charter of the centralized religious organization.  https://ria.ru/20210323/gavrilov-1602487921.html  As stated by a spokesperson of the legal department of the Moscow Patriarchate today, this “prevents attempts to split the traditional confessions.”  https://ria.ru/20210324/rpts-1602714108.html  Presumably, the charter of the centralized religious organization, such as the Moscow Patriarchate, can prohibit the departure of parishes, monasteries, or other church institutions from the centralized religious organization without the consent of the centralized religious organization.  This law gives the force of civil law to such charter restrictions.  This will prevent in Russia anything similar to what happened in Ukraine where some parishes left the UOC-MP to join the OCU.  The new law clearly seeks to prevent schisms.

    On March 19, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia gave his first interview to the Croatian media since his recent election as patriarch.  The interview was conducted in Belgrade by HRT (Croatian Radio and Television).  The entire interview (in two separate videos) and a written summary can be viewed at https://vijesti.hrt.hr/svijet/patrijarh-porfirije-za-hrt-1146855.  The Patriarch stated in the interview: “In order to overcome prejudices, it is important that we understand each other.  In order to understand each other, we need to get to know each other, and in order to get to know each other, we need to have communication, we need to have a relationship.  So I feel my stay and my life in Croatia, which I will not leave and have not left, to be a great debt, first to God, and then to the people who live in Croatia.”  Asked about the joint Orthodox – Catholic commission to examine the life of Cardinal Stepinac, the Patriarch stated that there was “fruitful work” by the commission, but “unfortunately” each side remained in its positions.  He also added that he has in his hands letters from Stepinac to Pope Pius XII and that in places the letters are “deeply problematic.”   It was the “deeply problematic” comment that attracted the most attention from the media.  Subsequently, Msgr. Juraj Batelja, postulator for the cause of Stepinac, disagreed that the letters are problematic.   https://ika.hkm.hr/novosti/mons-batelja-o-pismima-bl-alojzija-stepinca-papi-piju-xii/  Batelja asks:  “Did he [Stepinac] betray his vocation by asking the Pope for protection for the Croatian people and help in preserving their religious and national identity?”  A newspaper journalist in Croatia has suggested that the letters be made public so they can be discussed by historians.  https://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/patrijarh-porfirije-treba-objaviti-stepinceva-pisma-da-javnost-vidi-sto-je-sporno-1477890 

    In this interview, Porfirije was also asked about his kissing of the hand of Pope Francis in the reception line at the Assisi meeting in 2016.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarch-of-serbia-i-had-my-own-reason-why-i-kissed-popes-hand/  In answering the question, the Patriarch stated:  “People told me that I’m a traitor of the Orthodox Church, but I had my own, personal reason why I kissed his hand.  I do not consider that I have betrayed anyone or anything by that act.  And I think I acted in the spirit of the Gospel.”

    On March 9, the Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, gave an interview with the Belgrade office of the independent news channel N1.  A video of the entire 48-minute interview can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAQlFgCiOAk .  In the interview, Zaev disclosed that he had raised the subject of the recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (which is currently not recognized by any of the Local Orthodox Churches) in his letter of congratulations to newly-elected Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia.  Extensive quotes from the interview are found on the N1 website.  https://rs.n1info.com/region/zaev-balkan-vise-nije-tempirana-bomba-do-resenja-problema-kroz-prijateljstvo/  It includes the following statement by Zaev:  “I believe that we can find a solution….We see hope through the dialogue between the SOC and the MOC with the goal of recognizing the autocephaly of the MOC….Politicians are here to create conditions for the bishops to reach a solution.”   Zaev also stated:  “Through my letter I wanted to ask the Patriarch of Serbia to devote part of his time and attention to finding a solution through dialogue.  We are very close nations, fraternal nations, and this issue must be resolved.”  See https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/42479-zaef-se-patriarxi-servias-na-vroyme-mia-lysi and https://orthochristian.com/138160.html .  As you may recall, Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew in January 2020 sent a letter to the Serbian Orthodox Church and to the MOC suggesting that they send delegations to the Phanar for consultations and efforts to find a solution.  https://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/34572-stin-ekklisia-ton-skopion-i-epomeni-autokefalia  It appears that the Serbian Patriarchate has never responded to this suggestion, perhaps due in part to the pandemic.  I anticipate that the Serbian Patriarchate may hold its annual Bishops’ Assembly in May, and the entire MOC matter may be discussed at that time.

    On March 13, a 63-year-old parishioner of St. Michael's Church (UOC-MP) in the village of Zadubrivka, Chernivtsi Oblast was badly beaten by teenagers as he returned home from guarding the church.  Photos of his swollen and discolored face were widely circulated on the Internet.  https://news.church.ua/2021/03/13/prixilniki-pcu-zhorstoko-pobili-63-richnogo-parafiyanina-upc-v-zadubrivci-na-bukovini/; https://mospat.ru/ru/news/86770/   With respect to this criminal act, the UOC-MP rector of the church asserts that the beating was part of the two-year conflict between supporters of the OCU and parishioners of the UOC-MP church.  https://news.church.ua/2021/03/13/vin-duzhe-dobrij-i-spokijnij-a-18-richni-molodiki-pobili-jogo-do-napivsmerti-nastoyatel-xramu-v-zadubrivci-rozpoviv-pro-svogo-parafiyanina/  On the other hand, a pro-OCU website has reported that according to local police, the argument that led to the fight had nothing to do with religion.  https://religionpravda.com.ua/?p=65594  On March 2, a 15-minute video was posted by Unia Media describing how the supporters of the OCU have conducted their services year-round in the street in front of the Zadubrivka church for over two years.  https://karpaty.today/chernivecka-oblast/u-cherniveckiy-oblasti-v-s-zadubrivka-viryani-pcu-dosi-molyatsya-na-vulici  It has also been reported that in January 2019, a meeting of residents of Zabubrivka resulted in a vote of 158 to 0 to affiliate with the OCU.  https://www2.stetson.edu/religious-news/190127b.html 

    In my opinion, the good news is that such physical conflicts seem to be decreasing.  In 2019, there were 515 Ukrainian parishes which sought to transfer to the OCU; in 2020 there were 5; in 2021 there have been zero.  https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%85%D1%96%D0%B4_%D1%86%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%85_%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%B4_%D0%B4%D0%BE_%D0%9F%D0%A6%D0%A3    Zadubrivika is one of the “hot spots” which is still burning from 2019.  I have viewed the official website of the UOC-MP to determine the last physical confrontation prior to the March 13 incident in Zadubrivka.  It occurred December 12, 2020, in Mykhalcha, Chernivtsi Oblast.   https://news.church.ua/2020/12/14/zaxoplennya-xramu-iz-zastosuvannyam-nasilstva-policiya-vidkrila-tri-kriminalni-spravi-pislya-shturmu-cerkvi-prixilnikami-pcu-v-mixalchi-video/  Mykhalcha is another “hot spot” dating back to early 2019.  Over the passage of time, there will presumably be fewer “hot spots” of physical conflicts relating to the 2019 transfer disputes.  In this regard, it should be noted that the UOC-MP often uses the words “seized” or “captured” for any parish that has transferred to the OCU, even when the transfer has been completely peaceful and no violence has occurred.

    Although the physical conflicts seem to be decreasing, the UOC-MP has filed approximately 400 lawsuits, many of which challenge government actions to register transfers to the OCU, so the legal battles continue.  https://spzh.news/en/news/77784-glava-jurotdela-upc-otkryto-okolo-250-ugolovnyh-del-o-zahvatah-khramov  Last month, an organization, Union of Orthodox Lawyers, was created to provide legal assistance to persecuted parishes of the UOC-MP.  https://spzh.news/en/news/77591-dlya-zashhity-vernyh-upc-v-kijeve-zaregistrirovali-sojuz-pravoslavnyh-advokatov  The hundreds of lawsuits by the UOC-MP may give supporters of the OCU at the existing UOC-MP parishes second thoughts about their seeking to transfer a parish to the OCU.  If they seek the transfer, they may well need to defend a lawsuit including hiring and paying for their own attorney.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 March 2021: Russian Church on a common Easter date & other news

    The hope of all Christians celebrating Easter or Pascha on the same day has been repeatedly raised in recent decades.  This year, Orthodox (except for the Orthodox Church of Finland) will be celebrating Pascha on May 2 while Catholics will be celebrating the great feast day on April 4 – a difference of four weeks!  The subject of a common Easter date has now been raised in a recent “editorial” written by Orthodox Archbishop Job of Telmessos in the February 2021 issue of the newsletter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Permanent Delegation to the World Council of Churches.  Archbishop Job heads this WCC delegation.  The editorial can be viewed at https://mailchi.mp/wcc-coe/newsletter-of-the-ecumenical-patriarchates-permanent-delegation-to-the-wcc-february-8249591?e=7fbe2f6ed4&fbclid=IwAR0pceOKrnCQycpRuF5ZQYqI6LBU0XD_QWJk_sl3ALgtdchAkutTav2d9AM (scroll down to the second article).  The editorial points out that the Council of Nicaea decided that Pascha should be observed on the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox and that the 1700th anniversary of this Council will be celebrated in 2025.  The editorial then describes the history relating to the application of this rule and how the use of different calendars and tables have given rise to the observance of different dates.  The editorial concludes:

    It is worth mentioning that in 1997, the World Council of Churches held a consultation in order to establish a common date for Easter and recommended maintaining the Nicene norms (that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring), to calculate the astronomical data (the spring equinox and the full moon) by the most accurate possible scientific means, using as the basis for reckoning the meridian of Jerusalem, the place of Christ’s death and resurrection.
    Perhaps, the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the council of Nicaea in 2025 would be a good occasion to educate Christians on the necessity of a calendar reform and of a common date of Pascha in order to remain truly faithful to the decisions of the first ecumenical council. The fact that the Eastern and Western dates of Easter will coincide on that year should be taken as an encouragement towards that direction!

    When asked about this editorial by Archbishop Job, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promotion Christian Unity, informed the media:

    The 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, which set a common Easter date as early as the fourth century, is a good opportunity to find a common Easter date again today.  I therefore welcome the move by Archbishop Job of Telmessos, Co-President of our Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole, and I hope that it will meet with a positive response.  It will not be easy to agree on a common Easter date; but it is worth working for it.  This wish is also very important to Pope Francis and also to the Coptic Pope Tawadros.

    Cardinal Koch’s statement is found at  https://www.kath.ch/newsd/oekumene-minister-kurt-koch-will-sich-fuer-gemeinsames-osterdatum-einsetzen/

    Today, March 13, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported the reaction of Father Stefan (Igumnov), secretary for inter-Christian relations at the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.  https://ria.ru/20210313/paskha-1601062309.html   According to Father Stefan, the “return of all Christian churches to uniformity in the date of the celebration of Easter would be a great blessing for the Christian world.”  However, he also made clear that the Moscow Patriarchate will not change its way of calculating the date of Pascha.  Thus, the RIA article states:

    He [Father Stefan] stressed that the Paschalion is "a dogmatic position."  "To depart from it means to lose touch with the Orthodox tradition.  For the Russian Church, this issue cannot be on the agenda.  We adhere to the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers.  This makes us Orthodox," concluded the representative of the Russian Church.

    For those not familiar with the “Paschalion,” it is discussed at https://orthodoxwiki.org/Paschalion and https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%85%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%8F.  Essentially, the Paschalion is a set of tables developed several centuries after the Council of Nicaea to determine when the paschal full moon would occur in future years.  Using both the Julian calendar and a lunar calendar, it was an excellent effort to predict the actual dates of the equinox and full moons, but it was not exact.  For centuries, both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches used the Paschalion to determine the dates of the equinox and the paschal full moon as opposed to using physical observations of the sun and moon.  During these centuries, Orthodox and Catholics always celebrated Pascha on the same date.  By 1582, the errors of the Julian calendar and the Pascalion had caused the calculation of Pascha to be wrong by ten days with respect to the date of the equinox and wrong by approximately four days for the phases of the moon.  This caused Pope Gregory XIII to implement the so-called Gregorian calendar in 1582.  Unfortunately, the Paschalion does not work well with the Gregorian calendar, and the Catholic Church developed new tables for the new calendar.  After 1582, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church usually observed Easter on different dates.

    Father Stefan seems to be saying that the use of the Paschalion is a matter of dogma and that changing it cannot be “on the agenda.”  In contrast, Archbishop Job in his editorial refers to the Paschalion as “old lunation tables” which are not astronomically correct.  If Father Stefan’s statement reflects the position of the Moscow Patriarchate, it appears that the only way to obtain a uniform Easter date is for all churches to use the Julian calendar and the Paschalion in calculating the date.

    On a different subject, Metropolitan Hilarion today on his television program Church and the World commented on the hopes expressed by Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem relating to a gathering of the primates this year.  Metropolitan Hilarion’s comments were also posted today on the website of the DECR.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/86772/.  The Metropolitan expresses the hope that a meeting in the "Amman format" may take place when the restrictions associated with the pandemic are eased.  He states that “we will accept this initiative.”  He comments that Patriarch of Constantinople has lost the right to call such as meeting as he has joined the Ukrainian schism.  Metropolitan Hilarion believes that even if the Patriarch of Constantinople called a meeting of the primates, “very many [of the Churches] will shy away under various pretexts.”

    The news reports relating to the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq last weekend focused on his contacts with Islamic leaders and with the churches in union with Rome.  However, he also had contact with other Christian leaders.  http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-03-08-francis-with-gewargis-at-erbil1.html   His Holiness Mar Gewargis III, Catholicos–Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, attended the papal Mass in Erbil on March 7.  During the Mass, he was seated near the altar next to Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.  After the Mass the Patriarch gave Pope Francis a silver chalice.  Also at the Mass were were His Grace Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Mosul, and His Grace Ghattaz Hazim, Metropolitan of Baghdad and Kuwait of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.

    On March 11 in Venice, His Eminence Polycarpos Stavropoulos was enthroned as the Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy and Exarch of All Southern Europe (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary, and Monsignor Andrea Palmieri, Under–Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity attended.  During the ceremony, Bishop Farrell read letters of congratulations both from Pope Francis and Cardinal Koch.  On March 4 in Moscow, the first Russian translation of Fratelli tutti, the third encyclical by Pope Francis, was presented in a special program.  http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=4&id=93406  Interestingly, the translation was done and the presentation was planned by Muslim organizations in Russia.  Hieromonk Grigory (Matrusov), Chairman of the Expert Council under Patriarch Kirill for Interaction with the Islamic World, represented the Moscow Patriarchate at the presentation and was one of the speakers.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 3 March 2021: Patriarch Porfirije's major interview & other news

    Yesterday, March 2, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia gave his first major interview as patriarch -- an interview that lasted more than one hour.  The entire interview, conducted by the state television channel RTS, can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V18m63rJjiU&t=14s   A written transcript of the interview is not yet available, but various parts of the interview have been quoted by news services.  Many different topics were covered in the interview.  With respect to Ukraine, the Patriarch clearly stated that the actions by the Phanar were not in accord with the canons, but his language appears to be less harsh than the resolution adopted by the Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church in May 2019.  Patriarch Porfirije stated that he is not aware of any pressure exerted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the Serbian Church to recognize the OCU and that he considered both Constantinople and Moscow to be sister churches.  He stated:  “We believe that at the moment, when it comes to the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine - they do not agree with the tradition of the Church, and in this sense, if you like, you can say that we are on the side of the Russian Church.  In reality, we are on the side of order and on the side of the canons.  And in this case, the Russian Church is really deprived of her rights.”  https://credo.press/236034/;  https://spzh.news/en/news/77955-patriarkh-porfirij-ob-ukrainskom-voprose-my-vsegda-na-storone-kanonov

    Patriarch Porfirije addressed the possibility of a papal visit to Serbia, the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac, and the Jasenovac death camp.    An article at https://www.rtv.rs/sr_lat/drustvo/patrijarh-porfirije-referendum-na-kosovu-je-izvrsen-1389.-godine_1214294.html  summarized the Patriarch’s comments with respect to the Pope as follows:

    The Pope's visit to Serbia depends on a number of factors, said Serbian Patriarch Porfirije tonight, who, as he stated, will never think about especially important and epochal events for the Church alone….[T]he patriarch pointed out that, to the extent he knows, there so far have been no Vatican initiatives towards the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding the Pope's visit, and vice versa.  "Patriarch Irinej said that it would be good and useful for the relationship between the two churches, but whether and when it will be - God knows," said the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  As for Pope Francis and the decision to form a commission to shed light on the life of Alojzije Stepinac, the patriarch says that it was a great gesture and believes that talks on that topic will continue.  His impression is that, as he says, after several meetings of that commission, the views of all parties somehow came closer, although everyone remained in their initial positions.  That is why he believes that, if the conversation continues, it will be easier to find a way forward, which will benefit both Serbs and Croats.

    With respect to Stepinac, he also stated:  “ Whether the Catholic Church will canonize Stepinac is not our business.  But, in the dialogue with the help of historians from Serbia and Croatia, we tried to shed light on various events from Stepinac's life as best as possible.”  https://beta.rs/politika/142449-porfirije-kosovo-sustinski-deo-srbije-referendum-odrzan-1389-godine 

    With respect to Jasenovac, Patriarch Porfirije stated:  We must nurture memory and remember, but at the same time as Christians we must fight resentment, because we must look to the future.  We must not allow in any way that culture of remembrance to be trapped by any kind of vengeance and hatred because we will again capture ourselves. That spiral of evil that has begun will never end. "  https://www.rtv.rs/sr_lat/drustvo/patrijarh-porfirije-referendum-na-kosovu-je-izvrsen-1389.-godine_1214294.html   Patriarch Porfirije was at monastery at Jasenovac on February 28.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/serbian_patriarch_porfirije_visited_jasenovac_monastery  At Jasenovac, he remarked that there is no greater justice than to have a shrine, a monastery in this place, to gather primarily monks and nuns, those who are called by God to offer him prayers for the peace of the world, among all people.  The Catholic Bishop Antun Škvorčević of Požega, president of the Croatian Bishops’ Commission on Ecumenism and Dialogue, also participated in the Jasenovac event.  https://ika.hkm.hr/novosti/srpski-patrijarh-porfirije-posjetio-jasenovac-medu-uzvanicima-i-pozeski-biskup-skvorcevic/   The bishop presented to Patriarch Porfirije a beautiful hand-bound Bible illuminated with pictures from the Austrian National Museum in Vienna.

    It was announced today that Patriarch Porfirije has now gone into quarantine because of contact that he had with a priest with Covid.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/press_release_7  The Patriarch was planning today to speak at the Catholic funeral of Milan Bandić, the mayor of Zagreb.  https://www.24sata.hr/news/porfirije-u-izolaciji-nije-dosao-na-bandicev-pogreb-ne-zeli-nikog-ugroziti-on-je-odgovoran-748688   Several days ago, the Patriarch referred to the mayor as “a friend of Orthodox Serbs and all the people of the city of Zagreb and beyond, but also my personal friend.”  http://www.spc.rs/eng/patriarch_porfirije_bandic_was_friend_orthodox_serbs_also_personal_friend_mine  This is just another indication of the ability of Porfirije to build bridges and create close friendships.

    With respect to a different topic, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem on February 24 sent an “open letter” to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.  A photocopy of the English-language letter has been posted by the Jerusalem Patriarchate at https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2021/02/24/open-letter-from-his-beatitude-patriarch-theophilos-iii/.  The first paragraph of the letter reads:

    One year ago this week, we gathered in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to build our common fellowship in the pursuit of a dialogue of love for the sake of the unity of the Local Orthodox Churches.  After two days of prayer and fraternal discussion, we emerged with greater determination to pursue deeper communion, and to address our common challenges together.

    The next three paragraphs discuss the pandemic including a remembrance of Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.  The fifth and sixth paragraphs then state:

    God is merciful, and has given to his creatures the knowledge and skill to develop medicines and vaccines to end this deadly pandemic.  As we look forward to brighter days this year, we are reminded of our common commitment to gather for prayer and fellowship.  We pray that this may be possible later in this year.

    Let us continue to uphold one another in prayer, and seek ways in which our Local Orthodox Churches might bring hope, blessing, and joy to one another.  For Saint Paul says, Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).  We also join together in prayer for our brother, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and our fellow Orthodox primates, and we look forward to serving together to further the unity of our communion.

    As can be seen from the foregoing, Patriarch Theophilos expresses the hope that it may be possible later this year for the primates “to gather for prayer and fellowship.” 

    I found it interesting to compare this hope with the plans announced in the final statement issued by the primates and delegates at the end of the Amman meeting in February 2020.  The full text of the statement is set forth at https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2020/02/26/maintain-the-unity-of-the-spirit-in-the-bond-of-peace-eph-43-the-amman-fraternal-familial-gathering-of-the-orthodox-primates-and-delegates-25-27-february-2020/ .  The plans were as follows:

    The delegations agreed that they should gather as brothers, preferably before the end of this year, to strengthen the bonds of fellowship through prayer and dialogue.  The participants hope that His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with his known seniority of honour (πρεσβεια τιμήs) will join this dialogue along with his brother Primates.

    The delegations embraced the call of their brother Patriarch Theophilos III to hold a prayer for the world, for an end to war, sickness and suffering, and for all the Christians as well as for the unity of the Orthodox Church.  This prayer is to be held in the Mother Church, the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre) in Jerusalem, before the Holy Tomb of Christ, from which He rose and proclaims peace to the world.

    The foregoing envisioned a gathering of the “delegations” [the delegations at Amman were from Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia] “preferably before the end of this year [2020], to strengthen the bonds of fellowship through prayer and dialogue.”   The hope is expressed that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew “will join this dialogue.”  The clear inference is that the six delegations would still meet even if Bartholomew does not join the dialogue.

    As can be seen, the hope expressed by Patriarch Theophilos on February 24 is different than the final statement of February 2020.  In this year’s statement, there is no mention of a future meeting by the delegations from the six Local Orthodox Churches, and there is no inference that the six delegations will still meet if the Ecumenical Patriarch decides not to call the meeting or decides not to participate in the meeting.  Although the February 2020 statement used the word “dialogue” twice with respect to the future meeting, the hope expressed by Patriarch Theophilos on February 24 does not use the word “dialogue” but simply refers to “prayer and fellowship.” 

    At the beginning of this year, Archbishop Michal of Prague and the Czech Lands issued a letter to his flock concerning several anniversaries that will be observed in the Archdiocese in 2021.  https://www.pp-eparchie.cz/arcibiskup/ (letter in Czech)  The letter includes the following:  “Another important event in the new year 2021 will be the 70th anniversary of the autocephaly, which was donated to our church in 1951 by the Russian Orthodox Church…. Leaving aside the ecclesiastical-political dispute over who was entitled to donate autocephaly to our church, we can say with certainty that God himself blessed the autocephalous path of our holy Church….”  The Russian website Credo Press has posted a Russian translation of a purported February 1, 2021 letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Archbishop Michal in which Bartholomew in strong words warns against the celebration of this “imaginary” grant of autocephaly.  https://credo.press/235816/  The Moscow website OrthoChristian has subsequently posted the full text of the February 1 letter in English and has stated that it has confirmed the authenticity of the letter with a member of the Holy Synod of the Czech and Slovak Church.  https://orthochristian.com/137501.html  As is well known, the Ecumenical Patriarchate maintains that only it has the right to grant autocephaly which it did for the Czech and Slovak Church in 1998.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 February 2021: The Amazing Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia

    Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana was enthroned as Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church on February 19, the day after his election.  The enthronement and the Divine Liturgy occurred in the very crowded Cathedral Church of Holy Archangel Michael in Belgrade.  A video of the entire event can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zx91SP0i6M4&t=44s.  A list of those participating in the Liturgy as well as government representatives and representatives of various religions present at the enthronement is found at http://www.spc.rs/eng/his_holiness_porfirije_archbishop_pec_metropolitan_belgrade_and_karlovci_and_serbian_patriarch_enthr (English).  Presumably because of the pandemic, representatives of other Local Orthodox Churches were not there or at least not mentioned.  A partial list of the hundreds of letters of congratulations is found at http://www.spc.rs/eng/orthodox_and_entire_christian_world_and_people_good_will_congratulated_patriarch_porfirije_his_elect.   Both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill spoke to Metropolitan Porfirije by telephone within a few hours after his election.  https://mospat.ru/en/news/61302/ (Patriarch Kirill); https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarchs-cordial-telephone-conversation-with-the-patriarch-of-serbia/ (Ecumenical Patriarch) 

    The official English translation of Patriarch Porfirije’s address at his enthronement can be accessed at http://www.spc.rs/eng/speech_serbian_patriarch_porfirije_enthronement_february_18_2021_cathedral_church_belgrade .  The final paragraph of his address is as follows:

    In July 2014, I said in Zagreb, and I do not give up, that with all my being, modest strength, but with the strength and power of God's grace, I will work on connecting people, building bridges and establishing dialogue with everyone. Through that dialogue in Zagreb and elsewhere, I gained friends, and I am deeply convinced that the Serbian Church and the Serbian people gained them.  I will try to be worthy of those people in Zagreb, Ljubljana and other cities of the Diocese of Zagreb-Ljubljana, who were close to me, my priests and the Serbian people, who accepted us as friends and more.  When needed, they publicly represented us and defended us in times of trouble if they ever existed.  I will try to be such a friend as I have gained in Croatia and Slovenia, according to the same key to my brothers, regardless of which nation and religion they belong to and who live in countries where we Orthodox Serbs are the majority.  Therefore, I ask you and all of us fathers, brothers and sisters to continue to do so, praying to our holy ancestors and heavenly intercessors to help us in this, and to reach eternal life here and now with such hope!

    It is also apparent that the people of Zagreb developed an affection for Metropolitan Porfirije.  A column in the major Zagreb newspaper Večernji list commented on the election of Porfirije.  https://www.vecernji.hr/premium/porfirije-ce-dati-poticaj-za-hrvatsko-srpske-odnose-1470177  The comments included the following:

    It is not a negligible fact that Metropolitan Porfirije comes from Zagreb, where, since he became the Metropolitan in 2014, he turned a new page in Orthodox-Catholic and Croatian-Serbian relations in this area.  He summed it up at the very beginning in one of his sentences in the inaugural sermon in the church of the Holy Transfiguration of the Lord in the center of Zagreb, paraphrasing Arsen Dedić [a Croatian songwriter and poet], saying that he and Zagreb would "love in public."  This initially meant that the new Metropolitan of Zagreb would be a man of dialogue and an open mind, that he would not allow himself to be captured by inherited burdensome relations.  Moreover, it is precisely through his openness and availability that he would seek to break down previous barriers and establish a new spirit of dialogue and understanding.  And his position has been confirmed all these years….

    The fact that he and Zagreb will love each other in public was confirmed by him on several occasions on the streets of Zagreb, where he often likes to walk, and where, as he once told us, “many recognize and address me, not as a foreigner, a newcomer, but with sincere friendship.  My priests who came to Zagreb from Serbia have such experiences.  They and their family have already made good friends here.  That is what is most valuable."  The Metropolitan Porfirije was the builder of bridges, and it will certainly be so for Patriarch Porfirije.  He is, above all, a man of deep and true faith, before whom both national and denominational church barriers fall.

    In fact, Metropolitan Porfirije authored a book in 2017 with the title “Zagreb i ja se volimo javno” – “Zagreb and I love each other in public.”  https://ika.hkm.hr/novosti/predstavljena-knjiga-metropolita-porfirija-zagreb-i-ja-se-volimo-javno/  The foregoing link describes the remarks of various individuals at the formal presentation of the book.  One of the speakers was Prof. Dr. Ivo Josipović, who was president of Croatia from 2010 to 2015.   The article states:

    Former President of Croatia Prof. Dr. Ivo Josipović pointed out that the messages of Metropolitan Porfirije are precious.  He said that they often discuss in the bishop’s home issues which are often not questions of Orthodox, Catholics, Croats or Serbs, "but are questions of all of us, all people."  It is true that the key word of all presentations and texts is “love.”  However, there is another word that is not mentioned explicitly, but it come out.  It is the word “wisdom,”  Vladika Porfirije’s words are words of wisdom, said Dr. Josipovic.  He explained that this is a man who came to Croatia at a time that was still bad, and the words of peace, reconciliation and love that he sends are a truly valuable contribution to Croatian society.

     

    For me, this is truly amazing.  The recent popular president of the Republic of Croatia, who is not Orthodox, regularly came to the home of Metropolitan Porfirije, a Serbian Orthodox bishop, to discuss various issues with him and to obtain his wisdom!

    Metropolitan Porfirije was also the favorite of the Serbian bishops.  Secret ballot elections were held during last week’s Assembly of Bishops to determine the three candidates whose names would be placed in the envelopes for the drawing.  Of the 39 bishops who voted in the three separate elections for candidates #1, #2, and #3, 31 voted for Porfirije, 30 for Bishop Irinej of Bačka, and 25 for Bishop Jefrem of Banja Luka.   https://www.kurir.rs/vesti/drustvo/3627687/otkrivamo-ko-su-osim-porfirija-bili-kandidati-za-novog-poglavara-apostolski-zreb-je-ovog-puta-takoreci-pogodio-zelje-vladika  With respect to Bishop Irinej, whom Porfirije has repeatedly stressed is his “spiritual father,” there has been some very recent distressing news.  The day of the meeting of the Assembly to select a new patriarch, Irinej did not feel well.  He did not attend the enthronement the next day.  It has now been reported that he has tested positive for Covid and has a fever.  https://orthochristian.com/137556.html

    The only recent criticism of Porfirije, of which I am aware, comes from certain conservative Orthodox who have circulated a short video of Metropolitan Porfirije bending down to kiss the hand of Pope Francis at the World Day of Peace at Assisi on September 20, 2016.  Metropolitan Porfirije attended this event as the representative of the Serbian Patriarchate and was a speaker.  https://archive.santegidio.org/pageID/11712/langID/en/text/2104/Speech-of-Porfirije.html   When the Pope arrived at Assisi, there was a very long reception line to greet him.  A video of the approximately one hour spent by the Pope greeting the individual delegates can be seen at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj6a9_5m8Uc .  You can see Metropolitan Porfirije greeting the Pope beginning at 36:00 in the video.  If you watch the entire video, it appears that a majority of the Orthodox or Oriental bishops did bend down to kiss the Pope’s hand – presumably intended merely as a courtesy of respect.

    Metropolitan Porfirije may well have met Pope Francis one year later.  The Metropolitan was one of the representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the joint commission to examine the life of Cardinal Stepinac.  The joint commission held its final meeting, July 12-13, 2017, at Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/joint_press_release_interchurch_commission  The Vatican’s daily bulletin lists no meetings or other activities for Pope Francis for those two days.  It is very possible that the Pope met confidentially with the commission, including Porfirije, during those two days.

    The Moscow Patriarchate has stressed that Patriarch Porfirije supports Moscow’s position with respect to the Ukraine dispute with Constantinople.  https://spzh.news/en/news/77725-v-rpc-napomnili-o-pozicii-novogo-serbskogo-patriarkha-po-ukrainskomu-voprosu (statement by Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, Deputy Chairman of the DECR).  In May 2019 the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Patriarchate issued a statement that “the Assembly’s present position remains: our Church does not recognize the newly established false-church structure in Ukraine, led by the citizens of Denysenko and Dumenko, and is only and exclusively in liturgical and canonical communion with the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, led by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry….”  http://www.spc.rs/eng/communique_holy_assembly_bishops_2  This decision by the highest authority of the Serbian Orthodox Church is, of course, the position that Patriarch Porfirije will take.  However, there may now be a difference.  In his address on his enthronement, the new Patriarch stated that “ I will work on connecting people, building bridges and establishing dialogue with everyone.”  Unlike his predecessor, Patriarch Porifije may take an active role in seeking to build a bridge between Moscow and Constantinople.  At least before the Ukrainian crisis, Metropolitan Porfirije thought highly of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  On September 10, 2016, Metropolitan Porfirije stated that Patriarch Bartholomew is known worldwide as a great peacemaker as well as man of love, man who connects and builds bridges between peoples, religions and countries.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/jasenovac_pakrac_10_september_2016  It is now apparent from the congratulatory letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-to-patriarch-porfirije-we-wish-your-patriarchal-ministry-to-be-long-and-auspicious/) and by telephone call to the new patriarch, that Bartholomew wishes to have good relations with Porfirije.  Maybe there is some hope Porfirije can play a valuable role between Moscow and Constantinople!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 February 2021: New Serbian patriarch & more news

    This afternoon (Thursday), during the Assembly of the Serbian bishops in the crypt of St. Sava Church in Belgrade, monk  Matej selected one of three envelopes that had been inserted in a copy of the Gospel.  Each enveloped contained a name of bishop who had been determined through an election by the assembled bishops.  The three names were: (1) Bishop Irinej of Bačka; (2) Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana; and (3) Bishop Jefrem of Banja Luka.  The election process had lasted approximately four hours.  Through the action of the Holy Spirit, the envelope containing the name of Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana was drawn.   

    http://www.spc.rs/eng/metropolitan_porphyry_zagreb_and_ljubljana_elected_new_patriarch_serbia;  http://tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=631549   

    Metropolitan Porfirije is relatively young, age 59, and has been Metropolitan of Zagreb (Croatia) and Ljubljana (Slovenia) since 2014.  His detailed biography with photos is found at http://mitropolija-zagrebacka.org/biografija-mitropolita-porfirija/.  This biography, found on the webpage of his eparchy, states that Bishop Irinej of Bačka is “his spiritual father.”  It comes as no surprise that Irinej and Porfirije were among the final three candidates.  I do not anticipate that his select with result in any immediate change in the position taken by the Serbian Orthodox Church on various issues including Ukraine.  It is reported that he has a good relationship with President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia.

    His official biography includes the following statement:

    He is the winner of the award of the Theological Academy of St. Ignatius in Stockholm (Sweden) for 2016.  This recognition was awarded to him "for his contribution to the reconciliation of the people in the Balkans and his dedicated work on promoting unity among Christians."  On the occasion of receiving the award, Metropolitan Porphyry gave a lecture on freedom and human rights in Stockholm.  Speaking about the fact that freedom and human dignity have their source in the Church of Christ, he said that "freedom of choice, freedom of conscience, free flow of people and ideas and material security of each individual are what Christianity as an authentic personalism brings with it" and pointed out that "this does not mean that Christianity stands for transient human values, but that it affirms the eternal values in which man and his salvation are at stake." 

    Having responsibility for the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia and Slovenia, he has had frequently contacts with Catholics, and the relationship has generally been good.  For some very recent examples, see http://www.spc.rs/eng/hierarchs_porfirije_jovan_and_heruvim_talked_bishop_skvorcevic; http://www.spc.rs/eng/meeting_between_metropolitan_porfirije_and_cardinal_bozanic_overcome_all_difficulties_together

    On February 16, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected Metropolitan Emmanuel of France to be the new Metropolitan of Chalcedon.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/metropolitan-of-france-was-elected-elder-of-chalcedon-and-bishop-of-abydos-metropoitan-of-kyrini-upd/      At the same time, the Holy Synod removed Metropolitan Athanasios from the Chalcedon see due to his “rebelliousness and disrespectful behavior.”  The Metropolis of Chalcedon includes the Asian part of Istanbul.  For Emmanuel, his new assignment appears to be a promotion.  Bartholomew held the position of Metropolitan of Chalcedon immediately before his election as Ecumenical Patriarch.  Metropolitan Meliton held the position beginning 1966 and served as the right-hand man of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.  When Athenagoras died in 1972, Meliton was heavily favored to become the next Ecumenical Patriarch, but his selection was vetoed by the Turkish government.  When Athenagoras was elected ecumenical patriarch in 1948, he was archbishop of North and South America.  The Archbishop of America is now Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis).  Both Elpidophoros and Emmanuel are possible successors to Bartholomew, who at age 80 may still have many more years to live.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has given an interesting interview to the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenirehttps://www.avvenire.it/chiesa/pagine/intervista-bartolomeo-patriarca-ecumenico-di-costantinopoli  Bartholomew covers a number of topics including Ukraine.  He also comments on primacy as follows:

    Q.  Pope Francis in the exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” indicated the Orthodox Churches as a model of synodality.  Do you think that, in order to serve the visible and universal unity of the Church, the "First Rome" would need more synodality and collegiality and the "Second Rome" (Constantinople) would need a more effective primacy?

    A.  The modern discussion of the synodal structure of the Church, the understanding and application in practice of the principle of synodality, is an important theological achievement.  A central aspect of synodality is its essential connection with Eucharistic ecclesiology.  Not only are there excellent ecclesiological studies to understand the role of the "protos" (primus) in the Church on this basis, but also the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has extensively worked on the question of "primacy” and of “synodality.”   The question posed, if the New Rome (not the "Second Rome", since there was never a "First Rome", but the "Old Rome") would need a "more effective" primacy, does not correctly address the question.  The role of the patriarch of Constantinople is defined by the canons, and has so far been exercised, always within the framework of these canons, effectively.  Disputes over the effectiveness or non-application arise from a misinterpretation of the canons, usually in favor of those who do so.  Those who question the role of the ecumenical patriarchate in Orthodoxy introduce a new unstable ecclesiology.  As we have stated many times, the ecumenical patriarch cannot have "papal claims," because we do not need a "Pope" for the functioning of synodality.  Synodality is inextricably linked not to the papacy, but to primacy, because there is no Synod without a primus.  This is a requirement of the Orthodox faith and not just of canonical convenience.

    The 6th Belarusian People's Congress was held in Minsk on February 11-12.  https://eng.belta.by/president/view/belarusian-peoples-congress-wraps-up-in-minsk-137447-2021/  Seated facing the 2,600 delegates and observers were the 77 members of the Presidium.  https://www.kp.by/daily/27238/4366027/  Both Metropolitan Veniamin, head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC), and Bishop Kazimir Velikoselets, Catholic apostolic administrator of the Minsk Archdiocese, were invited to attend the Congress and were made members of the Presidium.   As you can see from the photos in the two foregoing links, they were seated together close to the podium and only a few meters away from Lukachenko.  As a result of their seating location and their distinctive head coverings (the white veil and the zucchetto), they are very conspicuous in most photos of the speakers at the podium or of Lukashenko.   Perhaps their seating location was intentional on the part of the organizers.

    The entire televised proceeding of the Congress can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg3LGQKdHUs (first day) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dieOiQTruqo (second day).  From watching the proceedings, one can see that the Congress was dominated by Lukashenko.  His opening address on the first day lasted for 3 hours and 40 minutes.  At the end of his address, he received a standing ovation by apparently everyone.  Of the televised proceedings on the second day, Lukashenko was talking more than one-third of the time.  Metropolitan Veniamin spoke for approximately eight minutes during the first day (beginning at 6:27:30 in the first video).  Bishop Kazimir was on the list of speakers scheduled for the end of the second day, but did not speak due apparently to a lack of time.  https://t.me/nashaniva/25666  The speech by Veniamin was prominently reported by the website of the BOC.  http://church.by/news/edineniem-i-ljubovju-spasemsja-mitropolit-veniamin-vystupil-na-vi-vsebelorusskom-narodnom-sobranii-v-minske  However, the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus (catholic.by) was completely silent about the Congress and the presence of Bishop Kazimir at the Congress.  It is also interesting that the very vocal anti-protester Mother Gabriela from Grodno was seated in the center of the first row of delegates.  https://irp.news/pravoslavnyj-i-katolicheskij-ierarhi-v-prezidiume-vsebelorusskogo-sobranija/ (see second photo).  A number of weeks earlier, she had received a state award from Lukashenko.  http://obitel-grodno.by/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=158 

    The commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis was held on February 12 with an online conference including Cardinal Kurt Koch, Metropolitan Hilarion, and others.  The topic of the conference was “The Church and the Pandemic.”  https://mospat.ru/en/news/60968/http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-02-15-conferenza-online-con-il-patriarcato-di-mosca-.html   (English summaries of the conference)  A video of the conference can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nREz5j__73w .  The text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s presentation is found at https://mospat.ru/ru/news/decr-chairman/60981/  (Russian), and the text of Cardinal Koch’s presentation is at http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/cardinal-koch/2021/greetings-and-messages/bref-discours-d-introduction-pour-le-cinquieme-anniversaire-de-l2/it.html (Italian).

    On the same day, there was an online meeting of the Joint Working Group for Cultural Projects between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church.  http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-02-15-gruppo-coordinamento-progetti-culturali-santa-sede-ch.html  One of the participants in the meeting was the well-known Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov, Chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/60980/

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 16 February 2021: Some personal thoughts on Fr. Werenfried van Straaten

    With respect to the serious sexual allegations against Father Werenfried van Straaten, I have not judged him in my own mind.  The allegations may be totally true, but I do not know for sure.  The allegations were made for the first time a number of years after he died, and he therefore was not able to give his side of the story.  I understand that the victim’s father was also an employee of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and that Father Werefried had made some payments to him because he had been badly treated by Father Werenfried.  (See question and answer number 13 at https://acninternational.org/questions-answers-regarding-christwelt/ )   There is therefore a theoretical possibility that the woman wished to destroy the image of Father Werenfried, especially in view of the talk of his beatification, as a way of striking back at the person whom she believed treated her father badly.  There were no third-party witnesses to what occurred.  There is also the fact that there have been no other allegations of sexual misconduct against Father Werenfried and the fact that age 60 is a time when the sexual hormones have generally dropped for many males.  The woman was found to be a credible witness but so was the alleged victim in the Pell case.  I say all of these things because I am a retired attorney and have handled a number of sexual harassment cases in my career.  I have learned not to jump to sudden conclusions.  On the other hand, it could be that the woman is a wonderful person who would never lie or exaggerate.  The bottom line is that I just do not know whether Father Werenfried is guilty or not.  I leave everything in the hands of Our Lord at the final judgement.  In the meantime, I continue to love ACN for the wonderful work that it has and is doing, especially in Russia for the Orthodox.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 February 2021: Serbian Patriarch election, Navalny protests & other news

    The Holy Synod of the Serbian Patriarchate met today, February 10, and confirmed that the meeting of the Assembly of Bishops to elect a new patriarch will be held in the crypt of the huge new Church of St. Sava on February 18.  http://tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=629470   This comes as no surprise.  On February 4, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Dabro-Bosnia, the temporary head of the Patriarchate, had specified this date to the Serbian news agency Tanjug.  http://tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=627698  This is also the date designated by the Holy Synod at its meeting on December 24.  The Covid situation in Serbia has recently improved (see https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/serbia/ ), so it appears that a postponement of the meeting of the Assembly will not be necessary.  It has been reported that the participating bishops will be staying in the Hilton Hotel in Belgrade, a change from the more spartan accommodations provided in previous elections.  https://nova.rs/vesti/drustvo/sinod-spc-odlucio-sabor-u-hramu-vladike-u-hiltonu/ 

    The following will be the election procedure:  The Assembly consists of the active bishops and vicar bishops (a total of 43 bishops) of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  Two-thirds of their number (29 bishops) is the necessary quorum.  Candidates for patriarch must have governed a diocese for a minimum of five years.  Voting is conducted by secret ballot until one of the bishops receives a majority of the votes.  This bishop becomes Candidate No. 1.  Voting is then conducted again until a second bishop receives a majority.  This bishop becomes Candidate No. 2.  Another final round of voting is conducted until a third bishop receives a majority, and he becomes Candidate No. 3.  The names each of the three candidates are then placed in sealed envelopes, and the sealed envelopes are the inserted between pages at the beginning, middle, and end of a gospel book, which is then placed on the altar.  A monk will select one of the envelopes, and the bishop named in the selected envelope will be the next patriarch.

    There has, of course, been much speculation in the media as to whom the three candidates will be.  The names of Bishop Irinej of Bačka and Metropolitan Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana are among the most frequently mentioned.  Bishop Irinej (will be age 74 on Feb. 11) was one of the three finalists in the 2010 election for patriarch and is a very close friend of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Bishop Irinej is also considered the mentor of Metropolitan Porfirije (age 59).

    As you may recall, I have previously reported on the tensions between the Serbian Patriarchate and the University of Belgrade over the firing by the Patriarchate of tenured Professor Rodoljub Kubat at the University’s Orthodox Theological Facility.  Today, the rector of the University, Prof. Dr. Ivanka Popović, informed the media that talks seeking to resolve the conflict between the statutes of the Faculty and the statutes of the University would resume after the election of the new patriarch.  http://tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=629627 

    The recent protests in Russia in support of Alexei Navalny have been very much in the news.  https://apnews.com/article/ap-top-news-moscow-coronavirus-pandemic-arrests-russia-085b16035e9c89ffb9919e4d94a2309c  What has been the reaction of the Moscow Patriarchate to these protests?   The first large protest occurred on January 23.  On January 26,  Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, chairman of the Synodal Educational Committee and acting rectory of the important Sretensky Seminary, was interviewed about the protests by the Church’s TV channel Spas.  In view of his responsibilities, I assume that he must have frequent contacts with young people.  In the interview, he discussed the protests in considerable depth.  The complete transcript of the interview is found at https://foma.ru/cerkov-i-kazhdyj-konkretnyj-prihod-dolzhny-byt-otkryty-dlja-ljudej-samyh-raznyh-politicheskih-vzgljadov-protoierej-maksim-kozlov.html .  A video of the interview is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?fbclid=IwAR21mmxwbBAWiyIlL4G1KUjsWdN2CrcgPxyviEZGodq_nu2oROXE20d4afI&v=U53znwOMwwU&feature=youtu.be.   Father Maxim observed that the protests show that “our society is not monolithic; accordingly, those who make decisions, determine policy, including youth policy, must proceed from this real fact.”  He stated that the protests have touched mainly the younger generation, those who never lived in the times of the Soviet Union.  This younger generation wishes a positive plan for their future, but things had remained the same.  They ask, “How is it that we are almost in isolation, a great country with a great culture, with great achievements?”  Father Maxim does not see Navalny as an answer to these concerns, but the discontent which is fueling the protests is a reality.  He believes that both sides should be welcomed in the Church.  A young man should be able to come to church and confess that he went too far by hating the other side, and a law enforcement officer should come and confess that he went too far in his actions against protesters.  One should not hate a person that does not share one’s socio-political views and should learn the real possibility of coexistence, as members of a single nation.  Father Maxim ends with the lesson learned from the terrible mistakes of the 20th century:  “Lofty goals never justify the means and, declaring some hypothetical bright future for Russia, one cannot neglect the peace and well-being of people here and now.  Let the person, and not the goal of the future bright, be for us what will determine our behavior.”

    On January 30, Metropolitan Hilarion on his regular TV program Church and the World was asked about the number of minors that were seen in unauthorized opposition rallies.  The complete text of the Metropolitan’s answer is available at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5764581.html.  The Metropolitan first commented that the 8-year-old daughter of one of his assistants “suddenly started talking about Navalny at lunch, about the fact that you need to go out into the streets” based upon what she had seen on TikTok.  Metropolitan Hilarion then stated:  “The involvement of children and adolescents in political actions is a completely unacceptable violation of civil law and order, and the perpetrators must be held accountable for this.  Indeed, there are many social problems that we can and must fight together.  Indeed, the level of corruption is very high in certain state and bureaucratic structures.  But this is not a reason to encourage teenagers to take to the streets.”  He then drew an analogy to the Revolution of 1917 where revolutionaries and propagandist, many from outside Russia, talked about corruption, tsars living in rich palaces, and the need to distribute wealth to the poor.  Knowing where the revolution led, Metropolitan Hilarion concludes that “the state should develop in an evolutionary, not revolutionary way.”  Also on January 30, Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media, on a radio program stated  that it is important to look at the current situation as a whole, without denying either the presence of internal problems in the country or the influence of foreign forces seeking to destabilize the situation.  https://sinfo-mp.ru/v-r-legojda-czerkov-mozhet-byt-tolko-mirotvorczem.html (this includes a link to the complete transcript)  He pointed out that the “Church can only be a peacemaker.”  Young people should be aware that they can be subject to political manipulation.  With respect to problems such as justice and social stratification, “it is not true when they say that nothing is being done to solve them.”

    On the January 31, the day of the largest protest, Patriarch Kirill gave a homily at the Alexander Nevsky Skete near Peredelkino (the location of his residence) on the feast of the parents of St. Sergei.  The complete text of the homily is found at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5763399.html .  The Patriarch stressed the importance of parents.  He stated:  “As we know, the so-called crisis of the younger generation is taking place today.  We see how often our youth literally falls into madness, losing all life guidelines, which can manifest itself outside and become known both to society and the world.”  He refers to the great influence that the mass media, especially television and the Internet, have on the younger generation.  He urged parents to “educate children in the Orthodox faith, instill in them the foundations of morality, which helps a person to distinguish good from evil.” 

    Archbishop Pavel Pezzi, the Catholic archbishop in Moscow, was interviewed by the Italian religious news agency SIR on February 5.  https://www.agensir.it/europa/2021/02/05/manifestazioni-di-piazza-mons-pezzi-arcivescovo-di-mosca-urgente-dare-risposte-reali-al-disagio-della-gente/  His comments included the following:  “Personally I think the Robin Hood function that the West gives to Navalny is a bit exaggerated.  Having said that, it should be added that the state should be able to give the [public] square more convincing answers.   Limiting oneself to regulating the manifestation of this uneasiness by law, limiting oneself to saying that everything is fine and that there are no problems, does not seem sufficient to me.  Society today needs more real signals.  Apart from a few excesses, people took to the streets in a peaceful and civil manner.”  Today, February 10, Archbishop Pezzi gave an interview to RIA Novosti on the same subject.  https://ria.ru/20210210/katoliki-1596778003.html  He stated:  “The entire social teaching of the Church says that any conflicts must be resolved not by violence, but through dialogue and reconciliation, by helping each other, not seeing the other as an enemy.”

    Metropolitan Hilarion has given an important interview to the Serbian news service Novostihttps://www.novosti.rs/vesti/drustvo/959915/intervju-mitropolit-ilarion-ambicije-vartolomeja-prave-raskol-pravoslavlju  The Russian-language version was posted on February 1.  https://mospat.ru/ru/news/decr-chairman/60699/  Metropolitan Hilarion was asked a question about Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew wanting to be an “Eastern pope.”  The Metropolitan began his answer with the statement: “Indeed, in recent years, Patriarch Bartholomew has behaved not as a coordinator in inter-Orthodox relations, as he once called himself, but as the sovereign head of the entire Church of Christ who is not subject to anyone's jurisdiction.  Such power claims are alien to Orthodox teaching.”   The Metropolitan ends his answer with the statement:  “I very much hope that there will be no final split in Orthodoxy, and that unity in our common Orthodox family will be restored.  However, the restoration of unity is possible only by rejecting false ecclesiology and returning to strict adherence to church canons.”   In my opinion, the last sentence is very important.  If taken literally, it would mean that even if a compromise were reached on Ukraine, there would still not be “restoration of unity” unless the Ecumenical Patriarch retreats from his present claims of powers in the Orthodox world.  Interestingly, this last sentence, found in the Russian version, was omitted in the Serbian-language version published by Novosti.

    February 12 will mark the fifth anniversary of the Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis.  On that day, an online conference on the Church and the pandemic will be held at 10:00 a.m. Rome time.  Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Hilarion will participate.  One can join the conference by using the link at http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-02-09-fifth-anniversary-pope-francis-and-patriarch-kirill.html.  On February 11, there will be another online conference commemorating the anniversary and also celebrating the launching of a Russian-language website of the famous Jesuit periodical La Civilt à Cattolicahttps://sib-catholic.ru/11-fevralya-ofitsialno-otkroetsya-russkoyazyichnaya-versiya-onlayn-izdaniya-la-civilta-cattolica/   This new website is already working:  https://laciviltacattolica.ru/ 

    In other news, Metropolitan Isaias of Tamassos (Church of Cyprus), one of the Cyprian bishops who dissented from the actions taken by Archbishop Chrysostomos with respect to Ukraine, has given a long and interesting interview to Romfea.gr.   https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/41944-o-mitropolitis-tamasou-mila-ef-olis-tis-ulis-stin-romfeagr  He discusses the geo-political aspects of the tensions between Moscow and Constantinople.  He asserts that primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is one of ministry and not power.  He uses harsh words against the Archbishop.  However, he refers to the refusal of Moscow to participate in the Crete Council as a “great mistake,” because this “gave substance to all the fears of the Ecumenical Patriarch, that they want to replace him as the First in the taxis, so the existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in danger.”  At the end of January, the fourth Halki Summit was held on the subject, COVID-19 and Climate Change.  One can watch videos of the lectures, including the address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, through a link at https://www.ecupatria.org/2021/01/30/halki-summit-iv-reflected-on-covid-19-and-climate-change/.  The Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR has created a new website with ten different languages!  https://mospat.ru/ru/  Finally, the All-Belarusian People's Assembly will be held in Minsk, February 11-12, with 2,700 people attending.  The website of the Assembly is https://vsebel.by/.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 January 2021: Dispute continues in Montenegro & other news

    On January 23, Montenegro President Milo Đukanović signed the “Re-decision on the Law on Amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Legal Status of Religious Communities.”  https://www.b92.net/eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2021&mm=01&dd=25&nav_id=110259  As you recall, Đukanović had returned the law to Parliament on January 2, but then Parliament had reenacted the law a second time on January 20 by a vote of 41 of the 81 deputies.  Đukanović stated that after the reenactment, he had no choice under the Constitution but to sign the law.  On January 26, the signed law was published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro and legally went into effect.  The text of the new law can be read on the website of the Official Gazette at http://www.sluzbenilist.me/pregled-dokumenta/?id={80A433F1-D986-4ED0-A689-6A0DD388B105}.  Many had assumed, including myself, that the long fight over the controversial law was now over. 

    However, Đukanović had stated when he signed the law that the problems with the law still remained.  He remarked that after the legislation became law following its publication, the issue of the constitutionality of the law could be raised before the Constitutional Court of Montenegro by any entity in society.  https://www.telegraf.rs/english/3293388-this-time-djukanovic-signs-new-laws-adopted-by-assembly-including-that-on-freedom-of-religion.  He did not have long to wait.  On January 26, the same day as the publication of law in the Official Gazette, the NGO Montenegro International filed a petition with the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the new law and requesting an order from the Court suspending the law until the final decision of the Court.   https://montenegrointernational.org/mi-podnijela-inicijativa-za-ocjenu-ustavnosti-zakona-o-izmjenama-i-dopunama-zakona-o-slobodi-vjeroispovjesti/  The NGO makes the claim that the enacted amendments to the law would legalize the principle of discrimination between religious communities and alienate state properties and cultural treasures of Montenegro to a religious community that has no legal personality in Montenegro but which is a religious community of another state.

    The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ended on January 25, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.  In Rome, the traditional vesper service was held at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, but without the participation of Pope Francis, who was suffering from sciatica.  In the Pope’s absence, Cardinal Kurt Koch presided.  http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-01-26-vespers-st-paul-outside-the-walls.html  A video with English commentary of the entire service can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSjTcowPico&feature=emb_logo.  The full text of the English translation of the Pope’s address, read by Cardinal Koch, is available at  http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20210125_vespri-unitacristiani.html.

    Cardinal Koch processed into the Basilica with Bishop Atanasie of Bogdania (Episcopal Vicar of the Romanian Patriarchate’s Diocese of Italy) and Archbishop Ian Ernest (Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See).  Both of these bishops led prayers in the service and joined Cardinal Koch in blessing those present at the end of the service.  Representatives of other Christian denominations were seated in a semicircle with the three in the choir of the Basilica.  These included Father Alexei Maksimov (a priest at the Moscow Patriarchate’s St. Catherine Church in Rome) and Archimandrite Simeon Catsinas (rector of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s San Teodoro in Palatino Church in Rome).  During the program, the Our Father was recited together in Latin. 

    In Moscow, the traditional prayer for Christian unity was held in the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  https://cathmos.ru/v-moskve-proshla-ezhegodnaya-molitva-o-edinstve-hristian/http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=92688  Aside from Catholic Archbishop Pavel Pezzi and the apostolic nuncio  Archbishop Giovanni d'Aniello, there were also representatives of the Armenian Apostolic, Anglican, Lutheran, Assyrian, Baptist, and Seventh Day Adventist Churches present.  Representatives of the Moscow government were also there.  For the first time in many years, the Moscow Patriarchate did not send a representative to the service this year.  In recent years, Father Alexei Dikarev of the DECR was the Orthodox representative and took an active part in the service.  I have seen no explanation for the absence of the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate this year.

    In St. Petersburg, a prayer service for Christian unity was held on January 24 at the Catholic church of St. Stanislav.  https://cathmos.ru/molitvy-o-edinstve-hristian-v-sankt-peterburge/  A short video of the service can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kiXkmVb-lQ&feature=emb_logo.   The service was led by the new Catholic auxiliary bishop Nikolai Dubinin, who has special responsibility for the northern and western (Kaliningrad region) deaneries of the Archdiocese and who now resides in St. Petersburg.  There was an Orthodox representative at this service – Archpriest Dimitri Sizonenko from the Feodorovsky Cathedral.  The Feodorovsky Cathedral is one of the most dynamic parishes in St. Petersburg.  The parish even has a separate website in English! http://en.feosobor.ru/  Its priests have been open to good relations with the Catholic Church.  Father Dimitry himself was previously in charge of inter-Christian relations at the DECR in Moscow, and later in Brussels he was the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to European international organizations.  Another priest who serves at the Feodorovsky Cathedral is Archpriest Vladimir Khoulap.  Father Vladimir is vice-rector of the St. Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy and a member of the Synodal Theological Commission and the Inter-council Presence of the Moscow Patriarchate.  He is also a member of the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox–Catholic Working Group.  The rector of the Cathedral is Archpriest Alexander Sorokin.  Father Alexander heads the publishing department of the Metropolia and its magazine Living Water.  In December 2013, Father Alexander hosted Cardinal Kurt Koch at the Cathedral.  In the video of the January 24 service, one can also see Orthodox Archpriest Vladimir Fedorov in the first pew.  Earlier in his life, he was closely associated with the WCC and has long been one of the strongest Orthodox advocates of ecumenism in St. Petersburg.

    Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) has given a significant interview to the popular Greek website Romfea.gr.  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/41766-bolokolamsk-ilarionas-den-eprepe-na-pistepsoume-ton-patriarxi-bartholomaio-mas-ejapatise (Greek); https://mospat.ru/ru/2021/01/26/news190576/ (Russian); https://orthodoxie.com/interview-du-metropolite-hilarion-de-volokolamsk-au-portail-internet-grec-romfea/ (French)  One of the topics covered was Ukraine.  The following (Google translation) is an excerpt from the Metropolitan’s response on this topic:

    The topic of autocephaly was discussed many times during the pre-conciliar process, namely during the meetings of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission in 1993, 2009, and 2011.  The text of the document "Autocephaly and the method of its proclamation" was almost completely agreed upon.  All Churches, represented by their representatives, agreed that the granting of autocephaly in the future will be possible only with the approval of all Local Churches, and not by the sole decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  It only remained to agree on the form in which the signatures under the tomos of autocephaly would be - an agreement on this topic could not be reached.  And what happened then?  In April 2011, Patriarch Bartholomew sent letters to the Local Orthodox Churches with a proposal to remove the topic of autocephaly from the agenda and hold a Pan-Orthodox Council.

    As you know, in 2016 at the Synaxis of the Primates in Chambesy, Patriarch Bartholomew publicly, in front of all the delegations of the Local Churches, said: "We recognize Metropolitan Onufry and welcome him as the only canonical hierarch of our Orthodox Church in Ukraine, together with the holy bishops subordinate to him." ... Patriarch Bartholomew also promised not to interfere in church affairs in Ukraine either before the Council or after it.  We believed these words.  We thought: since the Ecumenical Patriarch says so, let us really, as he promises us, hold a Council, and after that we will continue to discuss the topic of autocephaly.  We couldn't believe him, he deceived us.  This was our big mistake.

    As for the non-participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Cretan Cathedral, you know very well how events developed.  The document "Regulations for the organization and work of the Holy and Great Council," approved by the Local Orthodox Churches, presupposes the convening of a Council with the consent of the Primates of all autocephalous Churches¹.  That is, the Council should be held with the participation of all universally recognized Local Orthodox Churches.

    When three Local Churches - Bulgarian, Georgian and Antioch - refused to participate in the Council, Patriarch Kirill wrote a letter to Patriarch Bartholomew with a proposal to hold an urgent Pre-Council meeting, resolve the existing issues and still invite these Churches to the Council.  But I received an answer from Patriarch Bartholomew: "The new extraordinary pan-Orthodox pre-council meeting proposed by your Holy Church was considered impossible, since there is no legal basis for its convocation."  Who considered it impossible?  There were still two weeks before the Cathedral.  Why was it impossible to take measures so that all the same took part in the Council?

    The legitimacy and bindingness of the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Council depended on the participation of the fullness of Orthodoxy in it.  Therefore, if the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church took part in the Council of Crete, it would be forced to declare that the Council has no legitimacy, because it lacks three Churches.  This means that the Council would have frustrated.

    Now we are told that if you went to the Cretan Council, then there would be an agreement on Ukraine, and nothing of the subsequent events would have happened.  I heard this from many Greek bishops with whom I met.  But if you remember that the topic of Ukraine was by no means on the agenda of the council, it turns out that the only motive for Patriarch Bartholomew's actions is revenge.  That is, out of a sense of revenge, he decided to grant “autocephaly” to the schismatics, to “legalize” the anathematized Filaret Denisenko?

    As can be seen, Metropolitan Hilarion states the “only motive” for Bartholomew’s action in Ukraine must be “revenge.”  However, there is a question mark at the end of the last sentence quoted above.  On the other hand, Patriarch Kirill in his Christmas interview indicated that Bartholomew’s actions in Ukraine were the result of “pressure from powerful political forces emanating from one of the world superpowers.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2021/01/07/news189972/  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated that “American colleagues … made Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew follow the path of schism….”  https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4527635

    In the Catholic cathedral in Minsk on January 24, there was a “farewell” Mass for retired Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and for the assumption of responsibilities by the new apostolic administrator Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielc.  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2021/01/at-mass-minsk-archbishop-hands-over-archdiocese-to-administrator/  An excellent article by the leading Belarus website, tut.by, includes a description of the emotional event with photos and videos.  https://news.tut.by/society/716150.html   It is very apparent that although the Archbishop has retired, he will still be playing a very active role in the life of the Catholic Church in Belarus.  On January 22, both Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and Metropolitan Veniamin, the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, appeared at the Christmas program of the Saints Methodius and Cyril Christian Education Center.  http://church.by/news/mitropolit-veniamin-vozglavil-provedenie-rozhdestvenskogo-vechera-hristianskogo-obrazovatelnogo-centra  The Center is a project of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.  http://christeducenter.by/sentre/  The Christmas program was held in the Great Hall of the Belarusian State Philharmonic.  The following is a video of this major Orthodox event:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwDyuUCRZtw&feature=emb_logo  The address (8 minutes long) by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz begins at 19:20.  I was impressed by the long applause received by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz at the beginning and the end of his address from this large Orthodox audience.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 January 2021: "Farewell" to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz today

    To people interested in the Catholic Church in Belarus.

    Today (January 24), there was the special Mass in the Catholic cathedral of Minsk to say farewell to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and to introduce the new apostolic administrator, Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec (or “Kazimir Velikoselets”).  Tut.by, the most watched Belarusian internet news service, made its article about this event the major piece on its home page today.  The article contains many excellent photos and also videos of the event.  https://news.tut.by/society/716150.html  Because the article contains some paragraphs in Russian and some in Belarusian, there is a slight problem as the Google translation tool only translates one language at a time.  I have therefore pasted below and joined the Google translations for both languages.

    Also on January 22, both Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and Metropolitan Veniamin, the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, appeared at the Christmas program of the Saints Methodius and Cyril Christian Education Center.  http://church.by/news/mitropolit-veniamin-vozglavil-provedenie-rozhdestvenskogo-vechera-hristianskogo-obrazovatelnogo-centra  The Center is a project of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.  http://christeducenter.by/sentre/  The Christmas program was held in the Great Hall of the Belarusian State Philharmonic.  The following is a video of this major Orthodox event:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwDyuUCRZtw&feature=emb_logo  The address (7 minutes) of Metropolitan Veniamin begins at 10:00 in the video, and the address (8 minutes) by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz begins at 19:20.  The applause received by the Archbishop at the beginning and the end of his address from this large Orthodox audience is impressive (in my opinion, more than received by Metropolitan Veniamin himself).   It is another indication that the Archbishop’s criticism of the violence against protesters, his involuntary exile, and the very unusual acceptance by the Vatican of his resignation letter on the day of his birthday celebration may have increased the sympathy and the regard in which the Archbishop is held by the Belarusian population generally.  In spite of his retirement, I believe that he will continued to be a very public figure in Belarus.  This article supports that belief.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    “Where are you going, Belarus?”  Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz held a “farewell service” in Minsk.  How it was.

    January 24, 2021 at 05:40 PM

    Snezhana Inanets / Photo: Daria Buryakina / Video: Anna Gorbacheva/ TUT.BY

    A service was held in Minsk today with the participation of Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, which can be considered a farewell service.  Since January 3, he has not been the head of the Catholic Church in Belarus, but today, January 24, he introduced its temporary leader to the parishioners.  Bishop Kazimir Velikoselets will be the administrator of the church in our country until the Vatican appoints a new metropolitan.  We saw how the historical service was held.

    Retirement after exile and difficult times

    Recently, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk and Mogilev.  On January 3, the archbishop turned 75, at this age, according to canon law, the bishops ask the head of the church to release them from the duties of administering dioceses.  This request could be either accepted or rejected. The resignation letter of Kondrusiewicz was accepted.

    It is important that Kondrusiewicz's departure from the post of metropolitan was preceded by dramatic events: for about four months he was not allowed into the country.  This was explained by problems with the passport, but Alexander Lukashenko several times accused the Catholic Metropolitan of going to Poland “for consultations” on “how to destroy our country.” Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz has repeatedly spoken out against the violence that was observed in the country after the presidential elections on 9 August.  During his absence, believers prayed for the return of the metropolitan to the country, and the Pope even sent a special envoy to Belarus to resolve this problem.  On December 24, 2020, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was finally able to return and even held a service on Christmas Eve in a Minsk church.

    Farewell service.  White roses and "Mighty God" [a Belarusian hymn often used by the protesters] in the church

    Without reservations, it is impossible to call this service of Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz a farewell - nominally, he no longer heads the Belarusian church since January 3, but in retirement will continue to participate in its life.  On January 24, at the Cathedral on Freedom Square, the former Metropolitan introduced Bishop Kazimir Velikoselets to the parishioners.  The latter was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese until the time when a new Metropolitan will be introduced to the Catholics of Belarus.

    Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, as always, was warmly greeted by the parishioners.  Some prayed with tears in their eyes, but the most emotional today was the Metropolitan himself.  He thanked the believers for their support.
    -- “I would like to thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for your solidarity with me, when I went through a difficult time for four months, when I was in exile,” said Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz – “I apologize to all of you: maybe someone was offended.  I want to assure you that everything was done for the glory of God, for the church and for the salvation of people.  I leave as a ruling bishop, but as a bishop I remain.  Therefore, I will continue to work in the Conference of Bishops, I will be among you, I will celebrate various services, take part in other activities.  I ask further for your prayers that I may perform my duties as bishop.  Sincere thanks to you all!” 

    Introducing Kazimir Velikoselets, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz noted: -- “Bishops change, but the church remains… (…) please love and serve.”  The former head of Catholics of Belarus added that now is a crucial time “for our Church and for our Fatherland.”

    He addressed Bishop Kazimir with warm words and figurative phrases:  “Do not be afraid to go to the depths of the tasks facing the church, the tasks facing our Fatherland.  Do not be afraid to look into the depths of the problems we face - and society, and everyone.  Do not be afraid to preach the word to those who have power and those who do not have, those who are scholars and those who are simple, those who are older and those who are young, those who are healthy and those who are sick, those who are free and those who are prisoners.  People demand this living word of God that carries the truth.  And only the truth will make us free.”

    During the service, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz also said that today we are faced with the following question: What will happen tomorrow, where are you going, Belarus?

    As during the Christmas services, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was greeted with applause.  Today, both he and Kazimir Velikoselets, who took up his duties, were presented with large bouquets of white roses.   Towards the end of the day, parishioners in the church sang the song "Mighty God".

    What did the people say near the church?
    Some left the Metropolitan's farewell service with tears in their eyes.

    Elena  is a Catholic, a parishioner of the Church of St. Roch.

    - I came here today because it is a great happiness to see such an important service. For me, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz does not leave, he stays with us.  It's good that they stopped mocking him.  He again has the opportunity to be with the flock, to preach. The fact that he made such a penetrating speech today is also important.

    Tatiana with her friend Svetlana and daughter Elena are Orthodox.  But they also came to the church today:

    “We have come to pay tribute to this great man.  A man lives by conscience.  We declare that you cannot take away a person's right to express their freedom.  You cannot force a person to do what you want with physical violence. These are the ordinary normal moral Christian principles.

  • 20 January 2021: The different views of Lavrov and Koch & other news

    As you recall, Patriarch Kirill in his Christmas interview stated that he has information that Patriarch Bartholomew “was under pressure from powerful political forces emanating from one of the world superpowers.”  According to Patriarch Kirill, the Patriarch Bartholomew did not have the fortitude to say “no,” and this led to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s actions in Ukraine.   According to Patriarch Kirill, “the intention is quite simple: tear the Russia Church away from the Orthodox Christians of Greece, the Arab world, and the Middle East so that Orthodoxy itself would be become weaker.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2021/01/07/news189972/

    On January 18, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave a major news conference in Moscow on the results of Russian diplomacy in 2020 and answered the questions of journalists.  The official English translation of the news conference is found at https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4527635 .  In answering a question regarding Russian relations with Greece and Cyprus, the Foreign Minister made reference to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and made statements very similar to those previously made by Patriarch Kirill.  The following is the text relating to that part of the answer:

    I have recently visited Greece and Cyprus.  Moreover, I have recently talked with Foreign Minister of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides by telephone.  I can see no reason why these countries should be persuaded that Russia is an enemy of theirs or has carried out an unfriendly policy towards them.  Someone is trying to convince them, but politicians with common sense can see the whole truth: that they are only trying to make an enemy out of the Russian Federation and saying that our presence in the Balkans prevents these countries from moving into NATO, hinders their Euro-Atlantic integration.

    There is no diplomacy here, only crude public leverage.  Not everyone in such countries as Cyprus and Greece can publicly respond to such battle cries because they are scared to offend “Big Brother.”  There is no underlying enmity between anyone in Russia, Greece and Cyprus.

    We have very warm and close relations, a spiritual connection.  Our American colleagues are actively trying to undermine this spiritual connection: they made Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew follow the path of schism, undermining centuries-old traditions of Orthodox Christianity, the path called Popery.  It has always been rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Church.  It is a reason that there is no analogue of the Pope in the Orthodox world.  There is the Ecumenical Patriarch, who until recently was revered as the first among equals.  Under the gross and open pressure from Washington, he chose schism in Ukraine creating a puppet Orthodox Church of Ukraine and deceived the Church by cutting off the rights promised to it.  Now, together with the Americans, he is trying to work on other Orthodox churches, including the Greek Orthodox Church and the Primate of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, in order to continue deepening these subversive anti-canonical actions against Eastern Orthodoxy.  The Pandora’s Box Bartholomew opened has already led to a split in the Cypriot Orthodox Church and unrest in other Orthodox churches.  The mission the Americans have assigned to him (they do not even hide that they are actively working with him under the slogan of “freedom of religion and confession”) is to bury Orthodoxy’s influence in today’s world.  I can see no other explanation for his actions.

    Also on January 18, an important article authored by Cardinal Kurt Koch was published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18 to 25.  https://www.osservatoreromano.va/it/news/2021-01/quo-013/camminare-insieme-br-sulla-stessa-via.html (in Italian, but translates well with the Google translation tool)  The article focuses on synodality from an ecumenical point of view and is entitled, “Walk together on the same path.”  The article first reminds us that the “great” 1700th anniversary of the first ecumenical council, Nicaea, will be celebrated in 3025.  According to Cardinal Koch, this first ecumenical council “documents the way in which controversial issues are discussed and resolved synodally in a council in the Church.”  One section of the article discusses the emphasis placed by Pope Francis on synodality,  and other sections discuss synodality and primacy in the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.  The Cardinal points out that the Ravenna document (http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/dialoghi/sezione-orientale/chiese-ortodosse-di-tradizione-bizantina/commissione-mista-internazionale-per-il-dialogo-teologico-tra-la/documenti-di-dialogo/testo-in-inglese.html ), adopted by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches (without the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate) in 2007, recognized the need for a protos at the universal level.  The Cardinal also observes:

    On the part of the Orthodox Churches, we can instead expect that, in ecumenical dialogue, they will come to recognize that primacy at the universal level is not only possible and theologically legitimate, but also necessary. The intra-Orthodox tensions, which emerged in a particularly evident way on the occasion of the Holy and Great Synod of Crete in 2016, should make us understand the need to consider a ministry of unity also at the universal level of the Church, which obviously should not be limited to a simple honorary primacy, but it should also include legal elements.  Such a primacy would in no way contradict Eucharistic ecclesiology, but would be compatible with it, as is often recalled by the Orthodox theologian and metropolitan John D. Zizioulas.

    It is not surprising that Cardinal Koch favors the view of Constantinople on the issue of whether the Ecumenical Patriarch possesses certain legal powers and not simply honor alone.  A goal of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which Cardinal Koch heads, is to restore eucharistic unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  No one expects that the Orthodox will ever adopt a view of universal primacy with the great powers possessed by a Catholic pope.  However, if the Ecumenical Patriarch’s has certain limited legal powers and not simply honor, there is the hope that the fact that the Catholic protos has far greater powers that the Orthodox protos may not be deemed a difference so great as to prevent the restoration of eucharistic unity. 

    On January 20 Pope Francis devoted his address at his general audience to the week of prayer for Christian unity.  http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20210120_udienza-generale.html (text of address in English).  The Pope’s remarks included the following:

    To pray means to fight for unity.  Yes, fight, because our enemy, the devil, is the one who divides, as the word itself says.  Jesus asks the Holy Spirit for unity, to create unity.  The devil always divides.  He always divides because it is convenient for him to divide.  He fosters division everywhere and in any way, while the Holy Spirit always joins in unity.  In general, the devil does not tempt us with high theology, but with the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters.  He is astute: he magnifies others’ mistakes and defects, sows discord, provokes criticism and creates factions.  God has another way: He takes us as we are, He loves us so much, but He loves us as we are and takes us as we are; He takes those of us who are different, He takes sinners, and He always nudges us towards unity.

    In other news, the Parliament of Montenegro today approved for a second time the amendments to the controversial law on religion.  https://www.cdm.me/politika/skupstina-usvojila-sve-zakone-koje-je-dukanovic-vratio-na-ponovno-odlucivanje/  As you recall, President Milo Đukanović had returned the amendments, first passed on December 29, to parliament because of alleged procedural irregularities that occurred at the first session.  Presumably, those irregularities have now been cured.  See also https://balkaninsight.com/2021/01/20/montenegros-president-flexes-muscles-with-new-government/ 

    Metropolitan Simeon, one of the two metropolitans who left the UOC-MP to join the OCU, has given a very long interview to RISU.  https://risu.ua/mitropolit-simeon-yedina-avtokefalna-pravoslavna-cerkva-v-ukrayini-bude---za-mogo-zhittya_n115105  It appears to be a very candid interview including a description of the great number of parishes that he lost as a result of the transition.  Simeon discusses the “unifying council” and many aspects of the current religious disputes in Ukraine.  The long interview is worth reading in its entirety.

    In Minsk, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz celebrated on January 15 a special Mass at the Catholic cathedral in memory of Metropolitan Filaret.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12735-u-minskaj-arkhikatedry-pamalilisya-za-spachylaga-mitrapalita-filareta  It was the day of the burial of the Metropolitan at the Zhirovichi Monastery.  The personal friendship between Filaret and Kondrusiewicz is captured at 8:00 is the following video of persons congratulating Metropolitan on the occasion of his 85th birthday on March 21, 2020.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rckCPbIhGs 

    In Zagreb, there was a cordial meeting on January 12 between Cardinal Josip Bozanic of Zagreb and Orthodox Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana, who may be the next Serbian patriarch.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/meeting_between_metropolitan_porfirije_and_cardinal_bozanic_overcome_all_difficulties_together  They discussed the pandemic and recent earthquake.  The Cardinal stated that the meeting was occurring on the eve of the Octave for Christian Unity and that “the Catholic Church has much in common with the believers of Serbian nationality and the Serbian Orthodox Church.”  Metropolitan Porfirije stated that if “we recognize our neighbor in the other, then the difficulties, whatever they may be, will at least be easier.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 January 2021: Tributes to Metropolitan Filaret & other news

    Metropolitan Filaret (Vakhromeev), Honorary Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus, died from the coronavirus on January 12 at the age of 85.  https://eng.belta.by/society/view/metropolitan-filaret-honorary-patriarchal-exarch-of-all-belarus-passes-away-136486-2021/  He headed the Orthodox Church in what is now Belarus from 1978 to 2013.  Since his retirement, he has not been in good health and has not appeared in public in recent years.  During his active years as bishop and metropolitan, he was an extremely important hierarch in the Moscow Patriarchate.   The Divine Liturgy and funeral for the Metropolitan will be held at 7:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk on Thursday, January 14 and can be viewed live on the BOC YouTube channel.  http://church.by/news/prjamuju-transljaciju-china-otpevanija-pochetnogo-patriarshego-ekzarha-vseja-belarusi-budet-vesti-telekanal-belarus-3 

    A very detailed English-language chronology of his life is found at https://orthodoxcanada.ca/Metropolitan_Philaret_(Vakhromeyev).  See also https://mospat.ru/ru/2021/01/12/news190064/ (Russian).   Filaret was well-known in the West and was very well-liked.  His mentor was Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad, who was very open to ecumenical relations and who ordained Filaret as a bishop in 1965.  After the death of Metropolitan Nikodim in 1978 and until the appointment of Metropolitan (now Patriarch) Kirill as head of the Department of External Relations in 1989, Metropolitan Filaret was the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate who travelled the most to the West.  Some of his assignment involving contacts with other Christian churches include the following:  From 1961 to 1965, he was the secretary of the Synodal Commission for Christian Unity.  In April 1973, he became Patriarchal Exarch to Central Europe (seat in West Berlin).  When Filaret was made Metropolitan of Minsk and Byelorussia in October 1978, he was also made Patriarchal Exarch of Western Europe.  From April 1981 to November 1989, he was chairman of the Department of External Church Relations.  He travelled widely in the West including visits to the United States and Canada.

    In July 1985, Metropolitan Filaret travelled to Velehrad, Czechoslovakia to join the Catholic celebration of the 1100th anniversary of the death of St. Methodius.  In addressing the 200,000 pilgrims (the largest religious gathering in the history of Czechoslovakia), Metropolitan Filaret surprised many by emphasizing the unity between Eastern and Western Christianity.  He also praised the various popes who popularized the veneration of Saints Cyril and Methodius.  In another major surprise, Metropolitan Filaret invited Cardinal Glemp, primate of Poland, to visit the Catholics in Byelorussia in September 1988 – the first post-War visit of a Polish bishop to the territories which were part of Poland between the two world wars.  These are just two examples of Filaret reaching out to Catholics.

    Patriarch Kirill in his condolence letter (https://mospat.ru/ru/2021/01/12/news190058/) stated in part:

    I would like to note the significant contribution of the late Metropolitan Filaret to the strengthening of fraternal ties between the Local Orthodox Churches and the development of interfaith dialogue.  Fulfilling various responsible obediences in Europe, being chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, he diligently performed the ministry entrusted to him and gained sincere love and respect from many people outside his country.

    Today, Cardinal Kurt Koch sent a letter of condolence to Metropolitan Veniamin.  A photocopy of the letter in English is found at http://www.christianunity.va/content/dam/unitacristiani/Cardinale/2021/2021%2001%2013%20Koch-Veniamin.pdf.  The letter noted that the Metropolitan Filaret “contributed to deepening reconciliation among Christians of the East and West, and particularly to strengthening fraternal bonds between the Orthodox Church and Catholic Church by building up a fruitful network of spiritual friendships with many Catholic brethren.”  Retired Catholic Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, who in 1989 was the first Catholic bishop appointed in Byelorussia in over 60 years, has also written a letter of condolence praising Metropolitan Filaret.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12712-artsybiskup-kandrusevich-vykaza-spachuvanni-suvyazi-sa-smertsyu-mitrapalita-filareta  The letter includes the following:

    As a faithful servant of the Church of Christ, Metropolitan Filaret has earned the high respect of his fellow believers, Catholics and representatives of other religions, as well as the entire Belarusian society.  The late Primate of the Belarusian Orthodox Church paid much attention to the development of relations with other religions, including the Catholic Church.  Vladika Filaret, with whom I was united by the bonds of fraternal friendship, in many ways became an example and a teacher for me, for which I am especially grateful.

    In Moscow on Christmas day, January 7, Patriarch Kirill gave an important televised interview.  The complete text of the interview in Russian is found at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5746352.html and a video of the interview is found at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mfjo0QNYGm0&feature=emb_logo (34 minutes).   An official English translation of certain parts of the interview can be read at  https://mospat.ru/en/2021/01/07/news189972/.  The interview contains the strongest statement made by the Patriarch to date with respect to Belarus.  This statement is far stronger than any yet make by Metropolitan Veniamin of Minsk. The statement included the assertion that the “authorities permitted instances of unjustified violence and excessive use of force.”  The Patriarch also stated that  “all issues should be resolved peacefully, but if there are issues, then they have to be resolved, and that is why I am appealing to the Belarussian authorities.”   He continues: “It is wrong to put on a backburner issues which cause discord and unrest in society.  Ways have to found for a wise, business-like discussion of problems with a view to concrete decisions.  May God grant that all attempts to resolve these problems in Belarus through violent means will cease and may, through God’s grace, dialogue develop between the authorities and the people, the authorities and society, with the participation of all forces, including the faith communities, aimed at stabilizing the situation and the general growth of fraternal Belarus..”  With respect to the issues dividing society, it would seem that the validity of the August elections would be one of them.  However, the Lukashenko government will probably argue that reference to dialogue with “all forces” does not include the protesters because of the reference by the Patriarch to a “force…aimed at stabilizing the situation.”

    The part of Patriarch Kirill’s statement that received the greatest media attention relates to Ukraine.  With respect to the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill states that he has information that Patriarch Bartholomew “was under pressure from powerful political forces emanating from one of the world superpowers,”  but did not have the fortitude to say “no.”  According to Patriarch Kirill, the logic of those behind Patriarch Bartholomew “was to tear Russia, Orthodox Russia away from her Orthodox brothers and sisters in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.”  Patriarch Kirill then contends that the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque was “divine retribution” for the “sin” of bringing the schismatics into the Church of Saint Sophia in Kyiv.  Kirill states:  “You have taken away the Church of St. Sophia in Kiev from Orthodox people, from the Orthodox Church, you have gone there and brought with you schismatics, and then you lost your own Church of St. Sophia.”  With respect to the phrase “taken away,” Patriarch Kirill must be referring to the use of the Church of St. Sophia in Kiev” as the Church is now and has been since 1934 a museum operated by the State.   The OCU was allowed by the museum authorities to use the historic Church for its “unifying council” on December 15,  2018, and on a few occasions after that.  The museum denied the UOC-MP the use of the Church in October 2020, allegedly because of the pandemic.  https://news.church.ua/2020/12/15/pcu-dozvoleno-te-shho-ne-dozvoleno-upc-v-sofiji-kijivskij-proveli-moleben-popri-obmezhennya-z-pandemijeyu/  However, I am not aware of any decision by the museum authorities to deny all future use of the historic Church to the UOC-MP.  On a positive note, Kirill stated that he and Bartholomew should pray for each other in their personal prayers.

    In other news relating to Belarus, President Lukashenko on Christmas Day, January 7, visited the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Minsk to light a candle and present an icon to Metropolitan Veniamin.  https://eng.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-lights-candle-at-church-in-minsk-to-mark-christmas-136428-2021/; https://eng.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-we-needed-a-year-like-2020-136431-2021/   The following are two different videos of the occasion.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnyjGBTYruc&feature=emb_logo ;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn0Pi4WIul4  On January 10 Lukashenko gave a long interview to a Russian journalist.  https://eng.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-fields-questions-ranging-from-the-serious-to-the-personal-in-an-unusual-interview-136437-2021/  One of the topics was the Belarusian People's Congress set for February 11-12 and possible amendments to the Constitution of Belarus.   Lukashenko stated that he believed that a draft of the new constitution would be available by the end of 2021.  Presumably, an election to adopt the new constitution would be held in 2022.  It appears that Lukashenko is not in a rush especially in view of the fact that the street demonstrations are now smaller.

    Finally, there is the sad news that Bishop Florentin Crihălmeanu, bishop of the Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Cluj-Gherla in Romanian, died on January 12 at age 61 from complications following the coronavirus.  https://www.vaticannews.va/ro/biserica/news/2021-01/a-murit-episcopul-florentin-crihalmeanu-cluj-gherla.html;   https://www.stiridecluj.ro/social/a-murit-episcopul-florentin-crihalmeanu-infectat-cu-covid-19  He was a valued member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches beginning in 2006 and attended all plenaries since that time.   His funeral will be held on Saturday, and the Orthodox Metropolitan of Cluj is expected to attend.   https://cluj24.ro/funeraliile-episcopului-greco-catolic-de-cluj-gherla-florentin-crihalmeanu-vezi-biografia-acestuia-41624.html  On January 13, Orthodox Patriarch Daniel of Romania sent a letter of condolences (https://basilica.ro/mesajul-patriarhului-daniel-la-trecerea-in-vesnicie-a-episcopului-greco-catolic-florentin-crihalmeanu/ ) in which he stated in part:

    Throughout his priestly mission, he was an erudite, diligent and gentle pastor for his clergy and believers, while at the same time standing out for his thorough theological training and sincere openness to inter-Christian dialogue and the values of the Byzantine tradition .  At the same time, His Grace was sensitive to the cultural and mental transformations in the contemporary world, affected by the crisis, not only in the social, economic and health field, but, especially, in the spiritual one.

    With respect to both Metropolitan Filaret and Bishop Florentin, I pray that their memories be eternal!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 January 2021: An emotional encounter for Kondrusiewicz in Grodno

    Last evening (January 6), now retired Archbishop Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mogilev, celebrated Mass for the feast of the Epiphany at the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier in his hometown area of Grodno.  It was a very emotional time for the Grodno Catholics and for the Archbishop himself.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12700-grodna-imsha  Two short videos, each of which shows different parts of the evening, can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMP_P7MGoXk  (4+ minutes with many emotional comments by viewers) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1vkKAzhjuk (2+ minutes).   An excellent article about the evening was written by a journalist from Tut.by, one of the most popular websites in Belarus.  https://news.tut.by/society/714025.html  (the article also contains many excellent photos)  I have pasted below a Google translation of the article, parts of which were written in Russian and parts in Belarusian.  It believe that the article captures the spirit of the evening very well and is very much of a tribute to the Archbishop.

    I would also like to add my own personal tribute to him.  In 1988 a group of us in Seattle decided to form an ecumenical “sister churches” program between the Christian churches of Seattle and the Christian churches of Leningrad.  It was during those exciting times when the churches of the Soviet Union were first regaining their freedom after over 70 years of persecution.  The future patriarch Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad was an enthusiastic supporter of the program and was in Seattle as the guest of the program for eight days in September 1989.  Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, then Apostolic Administrator of European Russia, was in Seattle at the invitation of the program for three days in June 1993.  During that time, he stayed at our home.  When I picked him up at the airport, I was surprised that his total luggage was one very small handbag.  He was a wonderful guest with no pretensions.  He was quite athletic, and each day would put on some short athletic pants and jog through our neighborhood.  Both my wife and I were very impressed by him both as a bishop and a person.  At the end of his visit, my wife told him that he must return and spend a short vacation with us.

    The next year Archbishop Kondrusiewicz was in Los Angeles and gave us a telephone call.  He accepted Ann’s invitation and spent April 10-18 with us.  He wanted to improve his English, so we arranged a week-long intensive English-language instruction for him at Seattle University (the local Catholic university run by the Jesuits).  However, we also took him on the weekend for a real vacation in the beautiful San Juan Islands.  He was a very easy guest to have.  He said daily Mass for us at our home, and it was a very special time for us.  He became very close to our hearts.

    On February 11, 2002, the Vatican announced that the four Catholic apostolic administrations in the Russian Federation had become dioceses.  The Vatican also made Archbishop Kondrusiewicz a metropolitan archbishop responsible for an “ecclesiastical province” consisting of the four Russian dioceses.  This administrative move caused an uproar in the Russian media and harsh criticism by the Moscow Patriarchate.  It was claimed that it was an effort to make Russia a province of the Vatican!  Of course, a “province” is simply a Catholic term used for the area of a metropolitan archbishop.  In fact the United States has 35 Catholic “provinces”!  Being in Moscow, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz was in the center of the storm.  Furthermore, there continued to be accusations against the Catholic Church will respect to alleged proselytism.   Archbishop Kondrusiewicz spoke out against the criticism of the Catholic Church, and this in turn caused irritation on the part of the critics.  In subsequent years, efforts were made by the Vatican to improve its relationships with the Moscow Patriarchate.  In my opinion, one of the elements of the attempt to improve relations was to transfer Archbishop Kondrusiewicz to Minsk in 2007.

    I talked to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz by telephone shortly after his transfer.  He referred to himself as a soldier of the Church.  He accepts orders without complaining.  He also said that in term of relations with the Orthodox, the difference between Moscow and Minsk was the difference between “night and day.”  In Moscow, he had headed the Catholic Church in Russia during the time when relations were at their lowest, due in part to the strong desire of Pope John Paul II to visit Russia.  In Minsk, the Orthodox Church was headed by Metropolitan Filaret who was very open to good relations with Catholics.

    In my personal opinion, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz deserves very high marks for what he did both in Moscow and Minsk.  As in Moscow, he spoke out against what he considered wrong in the current crisis in Belarus.  Now, as a good soldier, he accepts without grumbling the decision of Pope Francis with respect to his retirement.  To Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, I sing “Many Years.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    “WE ARE STRONG WHEN WE ARE TOGETHER.”  HOW TADEUSZ KONDRUSIEWICZ WAS MET IN GRODNO FARNY CHURCH

    By Olga Komyagina / Tut.by

    A festive and very touching service was held in Grodno at the Farny [this word means “parish” – not a church of a religious order] Church, in which Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz took part.  It contained both traditional prayers and sermons, and the Metropolitan's memories of his childhood in Grodno, and conversations about faith and unity.  And also loud and long applause, real emotions, jokes and even tears (there were a lot of them).

    On January 6, Catholics celebrate the feast of the Three Kings or Epiphany.  By tradition, believers come to churches on this day for a solemn Mass, and priests also consecrate chalk, incense, and gold.  But now almost no one brings jewelry to the church, and Kondrusevich jokes that if someone has golden teeth, you can smile, but he talks more about pieces of chalk that parishioners brought to the service, and then they will write on the doors of their houses and apartments of the letters K, M and B, symbolizing the names of the wise men who came to worship Jesus.

    At the evening celebratory Mass in the Farny Church, it was more crowded than ever.  Some parishioners even stood in the street.  Someone says that he came to the festive mass, but did not know that Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz would attend it, and someone, on the contrary, decided to visit the temple precisely because of the arrival of the Archbishop.  By the way, Orthodox Christians also came to the church.

    Kondrusiewicz says that these days he not only arrived in Grodno, but also visited his small hometown - in Adelsk, where he also held a service.  And even mentioning faith, he suddenly remembers how, as a schoolboy, he was going along Kirov Street, saw the already blown up Vytautas  Church [the largest church in Grodno, constructed in the 1300s by Grand Duke Vytautus and blown up by the communist authorities in 1961] and then remembered the words of the people: "That's it, the church is gone."  But at the same time, he says, he also remembers how the townspeople defended the Farny Church, where this festive service is taking place right now.  Kondrusiewicz recalls that people literally laid down on the floor of the church in order not to allow the shrine to be closed, and the church “survived”.

    In general, the service in the Farny Church was very touching.  Kondrusewiez’s voice kept breaking and trembling, and it seemed that he did not want to hide his emotions and tears.  The parishioners, listening to the Metropolitan, at first secretly wiped away their tears, and then they did not hesitate to cry.

    The Metropolitan conducted the service in Polish, switching from time to time to Belarusian and Russian.  He said that Belarusians now have many tests - both the coronavirus epidemic and the crisis that the country is currently experiencing.  “And everyone must give himself an answer, who I am before God, before Jesus Christ, and what kind of future I wish to build for myself, my family, city, my country, and land where I live,” the Metropolitan said.  “Today our society is divided […], but someday it will all end and the wounds of hatred will heal.  These wounds require an elixir of love and forgiveness.  Everything depends on us, and our destinies also depend on us.

    After the service, people reached out to the Metropolitan - to say something, to congratulate him on the anniversary and to wish him good health.  We talked a lot, emotionally.  About love, pride and faith.

    -- And you taught us to love the Belarusian language, because you speak it, you taught us to pray.  We are proud of you and all these four months we have been praying for you and at a distance with you.  And God heard our joint prayer -- says one of the women.

    Young parishioners told the Metropolitan that all the time that he was abroad, they came to the Farny Church every day and at a certain time began a joint prayer for his return.

    “You -- the archbishop of our hearts,” said one of the girls.  Tadeusz Kondruisiewicz was moved, of course, by the words of the Grodno residents.

    -- “Thank you to everyone who prayed these four months, it was very important for me, and I felt this prayer, because I know about it, being in contact with priests in Belarus.  I am often asked what was the worst.  I had a place to live, I had something to eat, I had a place to celebrate Mass, but I waited.  Every day started with looking at the email.  Or maybe there is some news that I can come back?  It wasn’t long, but it came.  God works miracles, but with the help of people.  Sincere thanks to those who (here the metropolitan switches to Russian. - Comment TUT.BY) supported me, it was important.  Prayer pierces the heavens, and it was another sign of solidarity.  We are strong when we are together.”

  • 5 January 2021: Catholic changes in Belarus & Orthodox developments

    On January 3, 2021, the 75th birthday of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Pope Francis accepted the Archbishop’s resignation letter (required under canon law for all bishops upon reaching age 75) and appointed Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec, O.P. [a Dominican] as apostolic administrator of the Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese.  https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2021/01/03/0006/00009.html   The speed of the acceptance of the resignation letter came as a surprise.  The Reuters news agency observed: “It is highly unusual for the pope to accept a bishop’s resignation precisely on his 75th birthday and even more so to announce it on a Sunday.  The speed with which the resignation was accepted indicated the possibility that a face-saving deal for both sides was found in negotiations between the Vatican and the Belarus government to win Kondrusiewicz’s return from exile in December, a diplomatic source in Rome said.”  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election-vatican/pope-accepts-resignation-of-belarus-archbishop-who-angered-lukashenko-idUSKBN2980JI  One journalist who has covered the Vatican for many years could not recall a prior case where the resignation letter was accepted on the bishop’s exact 75th birthday.  The appointment of an apostolic administrator is also not a common practice after the retirement of a bishop at age 75.  One practical effect of the appointment of an apostolic administrator is that the vicar general will not head the archdiocese during the period after the resignation of the archbishop and before the appointment of a new archbishop.  With respect to the Minsk archdiocese, the vicar general has been Bishop Yuri Kasabutsky, who has been very outspoken in defense of the protesters and who has been official warned by the Belarusian government concerning his remarks. 

    Archbishop Kondrusiewicz announced the acceptance of his resignation letter during his homily at the festive Mass to celebrate his 75th birthday.  https://news.tut.by/society/713560.html?utm_source=news.tut.by&utm_medium=news-bottom-block&utm_campaign=relevant_news   The Archbishop stated:

    “You know that according to canon law, a bishop who has reached the age of 75 must ask the pope to release him from his duties.  Today at 12.00 Roman time, at 14.00 Belarusian time, the Vatican announced that the Pope had accepted my request.  This is reality, we cannot escape from this.  The Minsk-Mogilev archdiocese does not remain without a leader.  Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec has been appointed apostolic administrator.  I ask you to receive him with an open heart.  You probably know him well.  The church must live.  People change, but the church remains.  Thank you all, accept the blessing.”

    According to an article in The Tablet by Jonathan Luxmoore, “a senior Catholic academic [presumably in Belarus] said the resignation had caused ‘shock and consternation’ among Church members and would be widely seen as a victory for the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.”   https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/13715/exiled-belarus-archbishop-resigns-after-return

    Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec (the transliteration of the Belarusian spelling of his name is actually “Kazimir Velikoselets”) is the oldest of the Catholic bishops in Belarus and will be 76 years old in May.  In May 2020 he submitted his resignation to the Pope but was informed that he would continue his functions donec aliter provideatur (until determined otherwise) for at least the next two years.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/11549-b-skup-kaz-m-r-vel-kaselets-pratsyagne-vykonvats-svae-funktsy  He has been the auxiliary bishop of the Pinsk diocese for over 21 years and vicar general of the diocese for 29 years.  Of the four Catholic dioceses in Belarus, Pinsk has by far the fewest Catholics – approximately 50,000 or 1.6% of the total population of the area.  I found the best descriptions of his interesting past life at https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/9960-biskup-dzyam-yanka-zvyarnu-sya-z-pavedamlennem-da-vernika-z-nagody-yubileya-svyatarstva-i-biskupskaga-sluzhennya-kazimira-velikaseltsa ; https://katolik.life/rus/news/tserkov/item/4333-lyudi-ego-lyubyat-starejshij-katolicheskij-episkop-belarusi-otmechaet-75-letie.html; and  https://gp.by/mneniya/news215617.html .  I found the best video of him at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nSayoorHzo (2019 Easter message 2+minutes).

    In December 2012 Bishop Wielikosielec moved to the Gomel area (within the Pinsk diocese), a city with a population of 500,000, which then had only one Catholic parish, and has lived there in a room at the parish house since that time.  https://katolik.life/rus/news/v-gomele/item/96-u-gomelya-poyavilsya-svoy-katolicheskiy-episkop.html    In 2018 he was instrumental in the beginning of construction of a new parish church in Gomel. https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/8920-u-gomeli-asvyatsili-kaplitsu-pobach-z-budo-lyaj-novaga-kastsjola   At the present time, there is a temporary small wooden chapel at the site, and apparently construction of the new church has been very slow because of lack of funds.  Bishop Wielikosielec appears to be a very spiritual person and is very well-liked.  He has stated that the problems that he has faced in his past life were overcome through prayers before the Blessed Sacrament and through the intercession of Our Lady.  Since the Belarus election, the following letter appears to be the only public statement made by him with respect to the current situation in Belarus:  https://catholic.by/3/pub/auth/12159-najstarejshy-belarusi-katalitski-biskup-zaklikae-da-abudzhennya-sumlennya-i-malitvy-ab-vyartanni-artsybiskupa-kandrusevicha  In the letter, he prays for the return of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz to Belarus but does not specifically mention the protests.  He appears to live a quiet life and is seldom the subject of media coverage.  On January 4, he told the Catholic.by website that he was completely surprised by the announcement and is grateful to Pope Francis for “the trust placed in my humble person.”  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12690-biskup-kazimir-velikaselets-vysoki-daver-da-majoj-stsiplaj-asoby  It should be remembered that the appointment of Bishop Wielikosielec is temporary until an ordinary is appointed to the Archdiocese.  Under Belarusian law, the future archbishop must be a citizen of Belarus.

    Archbishop Kondrusiewicz has been chairman of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of Belarus since 2015.  The vice-chairman has been Bishop Alexander Kashkevich of Grodno.  Kashkevich (now age 71) had been chairman from 2006 to 2015.  The officers of the Conference are determined by an election held by the Belarusian Catholic bishops themselves, usually every three years.  The website Catholic.by, the official portal of the Catholic Church in Belarus, has immediately posted that Kashkevich, by virtue of his vice-chairmanship, is now the head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops upon the retirement of Kondrusiewicz.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12690-biskup-kazimir-velikaselets-vysoki-daver-da-majoj-stsiplaj-asoby  One website has made the point that Kashkevich as chairman of the Conference will actually be the head of the Catholic Church in Belarus.  https://euroradio.fm/ru/pochemu-ne-kosobuckiy-kto-dolzhen-vozglavit-belorusskiy-kostyol 

    In an interview on January 3, Metropolitan Veniamin, head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC), has stated:  “Not only the church, but every person should take care of harmony and peace in our society.  Analysis of the past year and correction of mistakes, repentance, correction of wrong actions, smoothing them out with good deeds is the main contribution.  In addition, caution in business and actions, everything must be balanced, done with love, so that there is no new development of opposition.”  https://www.belta.by/society/view/kazhdyj-chelovek-dolzhen-zabotitsja-o-soglasii-i-mire-v-obschestve-mitropolit-veniamin-422710-2021/  The Metropolitan also stated that the BOC has submitted to the government proposed constitutional changes in such areas as marriage and allowing religious instruction in public schools.

    In other Orthodox developments, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate decided on December 29 to hold a Bishops’ Conference November 15-18, 2021.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5742428.html  The statute of the Patriarchate requires that a council of bishops be held at least once every four years, and the last conference was held in 2017.  There has been no announcement with respect to the agenda of the forthcoming council.   In Montenegro, President Milo Đukanović has refused to sign and has returned to parliament the amendments relating to the very controversial law on religion.  https://www.cdm.me/politika/dukanovic-vratio-skupstini-na-ponovno-odlucivanje-sve-zakone-usvojene-29-decembra/  The basis for the return relates to the quorum at the beginning of the session and the substitution of a new deputy for one who resigned.  The president of parliament has stated that parliament will vote on the amendments again, presumably with the technical procedural objections cured.  https://www.cdm.me/politika/becic-izglasacemo-ponovo-sve-zakone/  The new majority clearly has the votes to approve the amendments.  It appears that the President does not have a veto power.  One must feel sorry for Montenegro.  As I previously reported, the government in Montenegro claimed on May 25 to be the first European nation to become “Covid-free” after a number of weeks of no positive tests.  Now, the statistics show that Montenegro has the highest number of total cases per population of any nation in the world except for Andorra.  https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries 

    Bishop Irinej of Backa, who may be the next Serbian patriarch, has given a very long interview covering a number of different subjects.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/episkop_bachki_irinej_bulovitsh_ako_pristanemo_da_nam_uzmu_kosovo_nestatshemo_sa_lica_zemlje  The interview includes a discussion of “neo-papism,” which Irinej claims has now been adopted by Constantinople.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in a very recent interview has rejected the accusation of papism.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-there-is-no-schism-in-orthodoxy-i-have-no-right-to-take-a-step-back/  Patriarch Kirill has sent Christmas greetings to Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus.  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/41389-mosxas-se-kuprou-thlibomai-gia-tin-apofasi-na-dexteite-se-koinonia-tous-sxismatikous-tis-oukranias;  https://orthochristian.com/136552.html  In the letter, Kirill appeals to Chrysostomos to “reconsider your decision [to recognize the OCU] or to postpone it until a pan-Orthodox decision is made on the Ukrainian issue.”

     

    To all of you celebrating Christmas on January 7, I wish you a very blessed Nativity of Our Lord!

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA