Peter Anderson - NEWS 2011

  • 30 December 2011: Two perspectives on the Ephraim case

    On Christmas eve, Abbot Ephraim, the head of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, was arrest by Greek police and taken from the Monastery to Athens.  His arrest involved alleged criminal activity in a complex case involving land exchanges.  A few weeks earlier, Abbot Ephraim had return from Russia where he had accompanied the belt of the Virgin Mary, a relic of the Monastery, on its tour of Russia.  During the tour, approximately three million people, in an impressive demonstration of faith, had waited for hours to venerate the relic.

    Metropolitan Hilarion, in an interview with Interfax, stated that whether or not the criminal charges were meritorious, it was unnecessary to arrest and detain this elderly and ill religious leader.  The Metropolitan expressed his surprise at this action and stated that it was understandable why many believe that the arrest is an attack against the Orthodox Church.   Patriarch Kirill wrote a letter to the President of Greece expressing the “pain” that he and many others experienced from the arrest and asking that Abbot Ephraim be released from custody.

    A very different perspective is presented by a commentary posted yesterday by the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, an influential daily newspaper published in Athens. .   As you know, Mount Athos is under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  However, as the commentary points out, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has apparently been silent on the arrest – in contrast to the strong protests emanating from the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Foreign Ministry.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 December 2011: A spiritual bond between Russia and Poland reappears

    In 1813, the Pauline Fathers at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa gave as a gift to Tsar Alexander I (through General Fabian von Osten-Sacken) a beautiful copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God.  Tsar Alexander had this copy placed in a prominent location in the newly constructed Cathedral of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God located on Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg.  He had the Kazan icon decorated with a beautiful riza and surrounded with many burning lamps.  At that time, the Russian Orthodox Church even established a feast day on its official calendar for the Czestochowa icon – March 6 (old style) or March 19 (new style).  This feast day is still observed on the Russian Orthodox liturgical calendar today.  For more than 100 years, this icon was greatly venerated by the Orthodox in St. Petersburg, and many believed that this copy of the Czestochowa icon was indeed a miracle-working icon.  The honoring by the Russian Orthodox Church of the most famous icon of the Mother of God in Poland is now very often cited as a prime example by persons who write about the spiritual bonds between Catholics and Orthodox through the Mother of God. 

    The Czestochowa icon continued to be venerated at the Kazan Cathedral until the Cathedral was closed by the communists in 1932.  The Cathedral was then converted into a Museum of Atheism and became the primary headquarters for the propagation of militant atheism throughout the Soviet Union.  At that time, the beautiful copy of the Czestochowa icon disappeared.   Since that time, Russian sources describing the icon confirmed that the icon had in fact disappeared – presumably destroyed by the communists.

    You can imagine my surprise when I discovered just last week on a Russian Internet site a report that the Czestochowa icon, given as a gift to Russia in 1813, has been found.  It is located in the storage area of the successor of the Museum of Atheism --  now call the State Museum of the History of Religion, located at  14 Pochtamtskaya Street in St. Petersburg.  The existence of the icon was apparently revealed for the first time when the Museum issued an inventory in 2009 or 2010.  On March 10, 2010, approximately 600 Russian Orthodox believers, including the rector of the Kazan Cathedral and other prominent persons, petitioned the Russian Department of Culture for permission to hold a prayer service at the Museum before the Czestochowa icon on March 19 – the feast day of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God.  The petition also requested that the Czestochowa icon be returned to the Kazan Cathedral.   The prayer service was allowed, and the director of the Museum, Boris Arakcheev, indicated at the prayer service that the icon might well be returned to the Kazan Cathedral in the future.  All of this was reported on a St. Petersburg-based Internet site.

    At a press conference on May 19, 2011, the new director of the Museum, Lyubov Musienko, indicated that the Czestochowa icon might be returned to the Kazan Cathedral during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Kazan Cathedral, to be observed September 20-25, 2011.   In an interview on August 25, 2011, the rector of the Kazan Cathedral, Father Pavel Krasnotsvetov, stated the Czestochowa icon might be returned by the Museum to the Kazan Cathedral on the last day of the 200th anniversary celebration.    However, as of today, the icon has apparently still not been returned.

    Will the miracle-working copy of the Czestochowa icon be returned to the Kazan Cathedral where it was venerated for over 100 years?  Time will tell.  However, I do believe that it is providential that this beautiful icon of the Mother of God – a symbol of the spiritual bonds between Russians and Poles – now reappears after almost 80 years – at a time when the Moscow Patriarchate and the Polish Catholic Bishops have begun a dialogue on the reconciliation of the Russian and Polish peoples.

    With this hopeful news, I wish all of you, who are observing the great feast of Christmas tomorrow, a very blessed and joyful Christmas.

    Yours in the Infant Christ and His Mother,


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 16 December 2011: Orthodox at Vatican tree-lighting

    A few hours ago, the giant Christmas tree in the middle of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican was dedicated and lighted.  For the first time, the Vatican’s Christmas tree came from a country of the former Soviet Union – Ukraine.  Church representatives present at the dedication included not only Catholic hierarchs but also Orthodox.   The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) was represented by a delegation headed by Archbishop Philip of Poltava and Myrhorod.   Archbishop Philip also holds the important position of chairman of the UOC-MP’s Synodal Department for Religious Education, Catechization and Missionary WorkYou can see his photo and English-language biography at  Archbishop Philip is a prominent figure in the UOC-MP and has previously represented the UOC-MP at an number of important international events.  The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and the head of the Latin-rite Catholics of Ukraine, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, were also present at today’s festivities.  Earlier this morning, Pope Benedict met with the delegations.  You can see a one-minute video of some of the highlights of the colorful tree lighting ceremony at  Another one-minute video of Pope Benedict greeting the delegations, including Archbishop Philip, can be seen at

    On another subject relating to Ukraine, prayers continue to be needed for the health of Metropolitan Volodymyr, who has been critically ill.  As you know, Metropolitan Volodymyr is the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate and is also the highest-ranking member of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, after Patriarch Kirill.  The following is an encouraging eye-witness report by Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol, who saw Metropolitan Volodymyr yesterday.

    Lastly, I have attached (in the event you have not already received it directly) the monthly newsletter from Father Ron Roberson covering news events relating to the Eastern Churches in October 2011.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 December 2011: Congratulations Bishop Morerod!

    Father Charles Morerod O.P. received his episcopal ordination yesterday (Saturday) as Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg.  I have attached some Reuter photographs of the event which occurred at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Fribourg. 














    In addition to the cathedral, crowds packed two other churches where the ordination was viewed on big screens.  As you know, Father Morerod has been a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches since the work of the Commission resumed  in 2006.  He is a native of the canton of Fribourg (born in the small town of Riaz in 1961) and received his episcopal ordination from 89-year-old Cardinal Georges Marie Cottier – another Swiss Dominican.   An outstanding theologian, Bishop Morerod currently serves as the secretary general of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission (Cardinal Levada, prefect of the CDF and head of the ITC came to Fribourg for the ordination) and before his episcopal appointment was rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).  He is also closely associated with the University of Fribourg where he received his doctorate in theology and where he taught and served as a chaplain for a number of years.

    The presence of Bishop Morerod in Fribourg will further enhance its status as a great ecumenical center for Catholic – Orthodox relations.  As you recall, Metropolitan Hilarion studied at Fribourg before he became a bishop and his personal secretary, Hierodeacon Ioann Kopeikin, is presently studying there.  In March Metropolitan Hilarion received an honorary professorship from the Theological Department of the University of Fribourg.  In October the University of Fribourg opened a house to be used specifically by Orthodox students.  Fribourg has done much for ecumenical relations and, I am sure,  will do even more in the future.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 December 2011: Debate between Constantiople and Moscow - nature of the Church

    On October 16, a major Greek Orthodox website,, posted an article in Greek by  Protopresbyter George Tsetsis with the title “Orthodox Church or a Confederation of Local Churches.” George Tsetsis is Great Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne, a position obviously closely associated with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.   The article focuses on some of the contentions made by Metropolitan Hilarion in his Izvestia and Novesti interviews (see my email of Sept. 14, 2011) regarding the future pan-Orthodox Council and seeks to articulate some general arguments in opposition to those contentions.    Some of the points made by Dr. George Tsetsis are as follows: The Creed refers to “One” Church and not a confederation of churches.  The [Seven] Ecumenical Councils were not meetings of autonomous local churches but were sessions of one undivided Church.  The position of Metropolitan Hilarion that all of the decisions of the pan-Orthodox Council should be known in advance is not consistent with the procedure of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.  Rather, these Councils were open debates among the Fathers (not simply confirming prior discussions) and solutions were then reached under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The position of Moscow that all decisions at the pan-Orthodox Council be based on consensus (complete unanimity) is not consistent with Canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council.  The Church of Constantiople is not seeking hegemony over the other Local Churches and is not seeking to intervene in the internal affairs of other Local Churches.  Indeed, during the Byzantine and Ottoman eras, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did much to protect the separate existence of other Local Churches.  The primates of the various Local Churches are not simply first in honor among many equal bishops of their respective Local Church, but the primates of the Local Churches are the visible sign of unity and the guarantor of the proper functioning of the institution.  The Ecumenical Patriarch performs the same function for the “One” Orthodox Church.  The Orthodox Church is not a headless body or a multi-headed hydra.

    Yesterday (Saturday), another important Greek website,, prominently posted on its home page a rebuttal to the article by Protopresbyer George Tsetsis.   The article is entitled, “Again the Papacy of the East,” and was written by Archpriest Andrei Novikov of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Father Andrei is a member of the working group of the Synodal Theological Commission charged with formulating the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the issue of “primacy” at meetings of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  He is also the secretary of the Odessa diocese.  Some of the points made by Father Andrei are as follows:  The Papacy in the East is one of the basic theological challenges facing the modern Orthodox Church.  It is a temptation of power that is a grave distortion of Orthodox ecclesiology.  It now presents a real danger to pan-Orthodox unity.  According to St. Paul, the head of the Church is Christ.  Not satisfied with this, the zealots for upgrading the role of the Patriarch of Constantinople argue that an earthly head is the sine qua non for the unity of the Church.  The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church considered as heresy the idea that the Church has an earthly head and command center.  The unity of the Church is provided by the Eucharistic communion and not by a control center.  Father Andrei quotes many authorities to support his arguments.  He notes that many of these statements were made in the context of the anti-Latin controversies of the past, but now they must be sadly applied to Constantinople.  These issues are also present in the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  In this regard, only the Moscow Patriarchate supports the traditional Orthodox ecclesiology.  The delegates of Constantinople with the strange silence of other Orthodox delegates attempt to impose a papal-type model on the Universal Church.  This trend scandalously occurred in [the plenary session of Joint International Commission at] Ravenna in 2007.  [The Moscow Patriarchate did not attend the Ravenna session because of the Estonian dispute with Constantinople.]  The height of papal ecclesiology was reached in the Crete document where the largest Orthodox church did not participate.  [This draft document was prepared by the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission which met in Crete in 2008.  The Moscow Patriarch chose not to attend the Crete meeting because of the continuing dispute with Constantinople over Estonia.]  This document was based on a series of alterations to events and to concealment.  Thanks largely to the position of the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate headed by Metropolitan Hilarion, the Crete document was rejected [as a draft document] by the Orthodox in 2011 [2010?].   With respect to the argument by Tsetsis that the Ecumenical Councils were not meetings of autonomous local churches, the bishops of the Church of Alexandria at the Fourth Ecumenical Council were absolved from signing an act because without the presence of their Patriarch, it was impossible for them to represent their Local Church.  The disagreement of the Moscow Patriarchate with the Phanar [Constantinople] ecclesiology is gradually moving from a matter of canon law to dogmatic theology.

    In summarizing some of the key points of the two articles, I have tried to be fair and even-handed.  However, in translating the Greek text of the two articles, I have used the Google translation tool which can lead to many errors.  Also as a layperson, I am not an expert in these areas.  I am sure that I have not done full justice to either of the two positions.  Hopefully, the summaries above will still give some idea of the nature of the dispute on primacy.  One final caveat – I am not sure that Father Andrei’s views are the official views of the Moscow Patriarchate even though he is a member of the Synodal Theological Commission.  On another occasion, it appears that he was speaking only for himself and not for the Theological Commission.  However, in just one day, his article on has been read over 8,000 times.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 1 December 2011: More developments

    Yesterday, the feast of St. Andrew, the Vatican continued the tradition (since 1979) of sending a delegation to Istanbul to be with the Ecumenical Patriarch for the celebration of the feast at the Phanar.  The Vatican delegation was headed by Cardinal Koch, who presented to the Ecumenical Patriarch a letter from Pope Benedict.  An English-language translation of the Pope’s letter can be read at .   The English text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address to the Catholic delegation was posted today at

    However, the Vatican delegation was not the only Catholic representation present for the feast day.  There was in addition a delegation of the Catholic Church of Austria, headed by Archbishop Alois Kothgasser of Salzburg.  The Austrian delegation was present because the Ecumenical Patriarch at the St. Andrew’s liturgy ordained the 38-year-old Father Arsenios Kardamakis as the new Metropolitan of Austria and Exarch of Hungary for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  He replaces Metropolitan Michael who died on October 18.  Metropolitan Arsenios will be enthroned in Vienna on December  4, and Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna will be present at that ceremony.  Metropolitan Michael was well-known for his excellent relations with the Catholic Church, and Metropolitan Arsenios emphasized his desire to continue these relations.  A photograph of the Catholic hierarchs at the liturgy is attached.

    As you recall, the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches met in Rome last week.  I have seen on the Internet no communique or other information as to the results of the meeting.  However, it is very likely that the meeting of the Coordinating Committee was discussed with the Ecumenical Patriarch during the visit of the Vatican delegation.  In meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Vatican delegation was joined by Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of Pergamon and Metropolitan Gennadios (Limouris) of Sassima – the Orthodox president and the Orthodox secretary, respectively, of the Joint International Commission.  A photo of the attendees at the meeting from the latter website is attached.

    On the subject of the future pan-Orthodox Council, the DECR posted today an interesting interview of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  As you recall, the Georgian Church was one of the seven Local Churches which signed the recent Moscow communique stating that all decisions of the pan-Orthodox Council and its preparatory meetings should be determined by consensus.  As you know, the preparations for the pan-Orthodox Council have been deadlocked over the issues of the diptychs and the signing of the tomos of autocephaly.   With respect to the diptychs, the Georgian Church believes that the rank of its primate should be elevated to 6th place among the Orthodox primates.   Because of the deadlock, the Moscow Patriarchate has taken the position that the issues of the diptychs and the method of signing should be postponed until after the pan-Orthodox Council.  However, in the interview, Ilia states that these issues must be decided before the pan-Orthodox Council and must be decided by consensus.  From a practical point of view, this position is probably in the interest of the Georgian Church.  Prior to the pan-Orthodox Council, the Georgian Church has the possibility of withholding its consent to the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council (because unanimity is required) until there is agreement that its standing in the diptychs should be elevated.  After the Council has been held, it will have lost its leverage in this regard.  However, hopefully considerations other than the self-interests of individual Local Churches will prevail in the decisions relating to the pan-Orthodox Council.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA  

  • 23 November 2011: Some dark clouds

    Today, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted on its Russian-language site a report that Metropolitan Hilarion is in Rome to attend the meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.    According to the report, the Coordinating Committee began its meeting in Rome on November 22 and will continue to meet until November 25.  The coordinating committee is a key group of Commission members who have the responsibility of preparing for plenary sessions of the Commission including the formulation of draft documents to be considered at the plenary.

    There is no information in today’s posting concerning the substance of the meeting except the following which I have translated with the assistance of Google:

    In his opening remarks, Metropolitan Hilarion said that the resumption of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, one of the conditions for the return of the Russian Orthodox Church in the process of dialogue was to discuss the problem of the Unia. This position was supported by the Orthodox participants in the meeting.  At the suggestion of Metropolitan Hilarion also discussed the problems of the general methodology of the document about the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. This methodology, according to Vladyka [Metropolitan Hilarion], should reflect the experience of many centuries of Orthodox polemics against the papal claims to universal authority in the Church.

    Because individual comments at the international dialogue are normally not made public (to encourage free and candid discussions), one wonders why there was a need by the Moscow Patriarchate to make public the above remarks by Metropolitan Hilarion.   I personally believe that these remarks were made to be read by the Moscow Patriarchate’s conservative wing which may be concerned about the frequent contacts by the Moscow Patriarchate with the Catholic Church.  These remarks are very tough.  The Unia was the exclusive subject of the international dialogue from 1990 to 2000.   The discussion of the Unia was so heated at the plenary session of the Commission held at Emmitsburg, Maryland USA in July 2000 that the international theological dialogue was broken off completely for six years.  The dialogue was finally resumed in 2006 after the parties had agreed to discuss the issue of primacy first with the hope that progress on the primacy issue could help resolve the Unia issues.

    In my opinion, the Orthodox – Catholic discussion on the issue of primacy is already at a difficult juncture – complicated by the conflict between Moscow Patriarchate (primacy means only honor) and the Ecumenical Patriarchate (primacy means something more than honor).  If one adds to this already difficult discussion the volatile issue of the Unia and past Orthodox polemics against Catholics (or Catholic polemics against Orthodox), the outlook for progress on the primacy issue is not very rosy.  Fortunately, God can work miracles and maybe He will work one here.  Let’s pray that He does!   


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 November 2011: Big birthday present for Kirill

    Today is the 65th birthday of Patriarch Kirill.  The birthday celebration in Moscow was attended by the primates or representatives of six other Local Orthodox Churches – Georgia, Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia, Antioch, Romania, and Bulgaria.   By far the biggest birthday present given to Patriarch Kirill was a communique signed by Patriarch Kirill and the other six churches.  In the communique, the seven Local Churches state that “it is necessary to adhere to the principle of consensus in decision-making during the preparation process and at the [Pan-Orthodox] Council itself.”   Thus, seven of the fourteen Local Orthodox Churches now have expressed their views that the principal of consensus, used so far in the preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council, should not be changed.  They have also stated that the rule of consensus (unanimity) should be applied not only during the preparations of the Pan-Orthodox Council but at the Council itself.  If the rule of unanimity is applied, the Moscow Patriarchate or any other Local Church can be assured that nothing will occur at the Council which is against its own interests or views.  The corollary of this is that none of the tough issues which divide the Orthodox Churches (such as whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate has any authority greater than the other Local Churches) will be decided at the Council.

    As you recall, the communique issued following the September 1-3, 2011  meeting (synaxis) of the four “ancient” patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) and the Church of Cyprus, stated that “the impasse created last February in the process of the long-prepared convening of this Council is due to provisions in the Regulations Governing the Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Consultations regarding unanimous decisions” and that a meeting of the primates of all the Local Churches should be held to review these provisions.  The communique issued  in Moscow today raises great doubts that any attempt to change the consensus rule will be successful.

    What is perhaps most surprising in today’s communique is that the Patriarchate of Antioch, which had signed the communique of September 2011, now signs the Moscow communique stating that rule of consensus should be applied.  It is true that the Patriarch of Antioch did not personally attend the September meeting while the primates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Cyprus did.  Perhaps this was a sign that the Patriarchate of Antioch was not as committed to changing the consensus rule as the other four Local Churches.  The present alignment of Antioch with Moscow with respect to requiring unanimity is the critical “vote” which, if unchanged, prevents the Ecumenical Patriarch from obtaining support from a majority of Local Churches for changing the consensus rule.  His support is at best seven Local Churches versus seven Local Churches.

    It is certainly very possible that the alignment of Antioch with Moscow was the fruit of Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Syria last week.  It may also explain why Patriarch Kirill made the trip to Syria when he did – in spite of great political upheavals in Syria and some personal health problems that Patriarch Kirill has experienced recently.  It is true that having visited the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Alexandria (one and two on the official list of Local Churches), the Patriarchate of Antioch (third on the list) was the next due for an official visit following his enthronement.  However, his visit to the Patriarchate of Alexandria occurred in April 2010 – 19 months ago.

    The big question now is what will happen next.  What will the Ecumenical Patriarchate do?  Because a deadlock exists on certain preparatory issues for the Council, will the consensus rule mean that the Pan-Orthodox Council will not be held in the near future or does it means that the deadlock issues will simply be removed from the agenda of the Council as urged by Metropolitan Hilarion?

    I have pasted below the full text of the Moscow communique.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    On November 21, 2011, the Primates and representatives of seven Local Orthodox Churches: Antiochian, Russian, Georgian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish and of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, ­met at the patriarchal residence in the Moscow Kremlin on the occasion of the 65th birthday of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

    Participating in the meeting were:

    Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia,

    Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Iliya II,

    Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland,

    Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia,

    Metropolitan Nifon of Filippopolis (Antiochian Orthodox Church),

    Metropolitan Nifon of Târgovişte (Romanian Orthodox Church),

    Metropolitan Dometian of Vidin (Bulgarian Orthodox Church).

    On the eve of the meeting, the Primates and representatives of the seven Local Orthodox Churches celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral of Christ the Savior on the occasion of the 65th birthday of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. They gave thanks to God for the opportunity of fraternal meeting, greeted the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, and wished him many happy returns and God’s help in his primatial ministry.

    The Primates and representatives of the fraternal Local Churches of the East-European region stated that they have had common experience. Each of these Churches suffered different kinds of oppression by the theomachist political systems and now encounters new challenges that replaced the dominance of anti-religious ideology. These challenges include secularization, propagation of permissiveness and consumerism, and erosion of moral standards.

    The participants in the meeting noted the necessity of stimulating the Church’s mission and expressed their support to the extension of its social ministry in constructive cooperation with all healthy social forces. While interacting with society, the Church does not forget oppressions it had suffered and cherishes the freedom it has gained.

    The Primates and representatives of the Local Churches which have survived under hard historical circumstances expressed their solidarity with the Churches of the Middle East and North Africa: of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Cyprus, and expressed their sympathy with all Christians of the Middle East who suffer oppressions and in certain cases are subjected to direct persecution for the faith today, as well as the orthodox Serbians of Kosovo.

    The participants noted the significance of the recent regional meetings of the Primates and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches held in Cyprus, Jordan, and Constantinople on the initiative of the Heads of the respective Churches. The meetings facilitated inter-Orthodox cooperation on the situation of Christians in the Middle East and drew attention of the world community to the problem of discrimination against Christians in the region.

    The Primates and representatives of the seven Churches welcomed the revival of conciliar life in the Church in recent years and expressed their hope that the pre-conciliar process will in due time lead to the convocation of the Pan-Orthodox Council, which might solve many important church problems. Procedure and content of the Council should be thoroughly prepared, and the position of each Local Church should be taken into consideration. For this objective, it is necessary to adhere to the principle of consensus in decision-making during the preparation process and at the Council itself.

    The participants in the meeting emphasized that the Council should give a competent response to the modern challenges. The Council’s decisions should fully correspond to the dogmatic and canonical Tradition and not introduce novelties that might endanger the unity of the Holy Church.

    + Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

    + Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Iliya II

    + Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland

    + Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

    + Metropolitan Nifon of Filippopolis

    + Metropolitan Nifor of Târgovişte

    + Metropolitan Dometian of Vidin

    November 8/21, 2011

    Synaxis of the Archangel Michael
    and the Other Bodiless Powers
    of Heaven

  • 16 November 2011: More on Lebanon

    Further details have been posted on the Internet today concerning the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and the Maronite Patriarch.  There were actually two meetings.  The first occurred at the Baaba Presidential Palace in Beirut, and the second occurred at Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Patriarchate.  The DECR posted today an interesting English-language report on the second meeting together with a number of nice photos.  At the Bkerke meeting, Patriarch Kirill and Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï were joined by:  Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon and the Chaldeans; Cardinal Antonios I Naguib, Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria; Patriarch Gregory III Lakham of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church; Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Yunan of the Syrian Catholic Church; and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal; Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, apostolic nuncio in Lebanon; and the retired Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir.  These individuals were at Bkerke to attend a Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East dedicated to the situation of Christians in the Middle East.  The full text of the address of the Maronite Patriarch to Patriarch Kirill can be read at  .

    As can be seen from the DECR article, Patriarch Kirill acknowledged in his remarks the difficulties faced in the Catholic – Orthodox theological dialogue [the issue of primacy], but stated that cooperation of Catholics and Orthodox to uphold Christian values is equally important.  Patriarch Kirill stated that the Moscow Patriarchate will be holding an international conference in Moscow November 30 –December 1 on the subject of Christianophobia, and he invited the Maronite Patriarch to attend this conference or to visit Moscow at a later date.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 November 2011: Kirill & Maronite Patriarch

    Patriarch Kirill, on his visit to Syria and Lebanon, met today with the President of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman , and with the following primates of Eastern Churches: Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi (Maronite); Patriarch Gregory III Laham (Melkite); and Syriac Catholic Patriarch   Ignatius Joseph III Younan (Syriac Catholic).  After the meeting, all of them had lunch together.  This is not the first time that a Patriarch of Moscow has met with a primate of an Eastern-rite Church in communion with Rome.  Patriarch Pimen invited the Maronite Patriarch to be his guest in Moscow in October 1987.  Patriarch Alexy II visited the Maronite Patriarch during his trip to Lebanon in 1996.  The following article describes the great interest that the Moscow Patriarch has shown in the Maronite Church in the past:

    With respect to the meeting today between Patriarch Kirill and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, I had attached to this email a photo of the meeting from the following website:

    I have also pasted below an article concerning the meeting from the Lebanon News .  The Maronite Patriarch stated that preparations are now under way for a summit of the Christian and Muslim leaders of the Middle East.

    The protection of Christians in the Middle East is certainly another area where Orthodox and Catholics can work together.

    On a different note, the three-day conference hosted by the Synod of the Orthodox Belarusian Church (MP) on the subject of the Orthodox – Catholic dialog ended today in Minsk.  Among the many speakers were Metropolitan Filaret, Cardinal Koch, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, and Father Dimitry Sizonenko.  The Orthodox St. Tikhon University in Moscow also provided a large delegation and a number of speakers. .

    Lastly, in the event you have not already received it directly, attached is the latest issue of Father Ron Roberson’s excellent newsletter covering news events involving the Eastern Churches in July 2011.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Lebanon News article

    Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi stressed on Tuesday the need for cooperation with the Russian Church in order to preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East.
    He said after holding talks with Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill: “Christians should play an active role in the region as it has always done throughout history, since the time of Christ.” “We feel the need for greater cooperation between the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches given the recent developments,” he added. The patriarch said that this cooperation was needed in the face of regional political conflicts and against attacks against Christians.
    Al-Rahi explained that he “fears that the so-called Arab Spring will result in the rule of forces that may threaten the stability of the region and the coexistence among its people, which we are seeking to maintain.” Cooperation between the different churches will help the Christians’ coexistence with Muslims and help it confront the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts, he continued. For his part, Kirill reiterated the patriarch’s fears over the presence of Christians in the region, saying that the church “cannot remain silent over the violence and oppression they are facing.”
    He hoped that this oppression will not diminish their population, noting that the region cannot live without the people who established it. “Muslims and Christians have lived together for 1500 years and we are living in a time of culture and human rights, and therefore it is unacceptable for people residing in the same region to combat each other,” he stressed. “We should all work together to achieve peace and justice in the world, especially in this region,” he stated.
    Kirill arrived in Lebanon on Sunday where he has so far met with President Michel Suleiman.

  • 12 November 2011: 2012 - a year of decision for Orthodoxy

    Eight days ago, November 3, 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion delivered an extremely important address at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.  The address was delivered during a ceremony in which Metropolitan Hilarion received an honorary doctor of theology degree from the Academy.  The title of the address was “Inter-Orthodox Cooperation in the Preparation for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.”  The event and address were briefly discussed in an English-language report at  However, this summary is not as interesting as the Russian-language posting of the full text of the address.   I have been waiting to see if an English translation of the complete text will be made available, but to date it has not been.  Although the text has not been made available on the English, French, and Italian sites of the DECR, the full text was immediately made available on the DECR’s Greek site.    To the best of my knowledge, the speech by Metropolitan Hilarion is the most detailed and comprehensive exposition to date of the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the preparations for the pan-Orthodox Council, the current difficulties encountered in those preparations, and the expectations for the future.

    I found particularly interesting section 17 of the address.  This section focuses on future events.  As you recall, the communique issued following the September 1-3 meeting (synaxis) of the four “ancient” patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) and the Church of Cyprus, stated in part:

    “3. In the context of its deliberations, the Synaxis also discussed the subject of the Holy and Great Council, deciding that it should hasten its preparation in order to permit its convocation in the foreseeable future. The Synaxis regretfully ascertained that the impasse created last February in the process of the long-prepared convening of this Council is due to provisions in the Regulations Governing the Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Consultations regarding unanimous decisions. Therefore, the Synaxis submitted a proposal to His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, that he should convene a Synaxis of Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and Presidents of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches in order to review these provisions, thereby promptly advancing and fulfilling the preparation of the Great Council.”

    With respect to whether a pan-Orthodox Council can be expected to be held in the next few years, Metropolitan Hilarion stated in his address:

    “The answer to this question, apparently, will be possible after the meeting of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, which will presumably be held in 2012. If at this meeting there will be an attempt to abandon the principle of consensus as the cornerstone and the only way to decision-making at the inter-Orthodox level, we can assume that the convening of the Council will be postponed indefinitely.” [Google translation]

    To my knowledge, this is the first acknowledgement by the Moscow Patriarchate that the meeting of the primates of all of the Local Orthodox Churches, as recommended by the communique of the September 1-3 meeting of the five “ancient” Local Churches, will in fact occur.  This will be an extremely important meeting.  Conceivably, it could require the other Local Orthodox Churches to choose between the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that unanimous decisions should not be required at the pan-Orthodox Council and its preparatory meetings or the position of the Moscow Patriarchate that a consensus will be required for all decisions.  There is also the question of whether an existing consensus rule can be changed by a vote of a majority of the Local Churches or whether, as argued by Metropolitan Hilarion, the consensus rule can only be changed if there is a consensus (unanimity) to change the consensus rule.  The meeting of the primates does have the potential of being a major battle of the wills between the two giants of the Orthodox world – Constantinople and Moscow.

    Because the principle of consensus is being questioned, Metropolitan Hilarion also discusses in his St. Petersburg address the various ways in which Local Churches could be represented in a pan-Orthodox Council.  He discusses four methods of representation: (1) equal representation for each Local Church; (2) proportional representation based on number of believers; (3) proportional representation based on the number of diocesan bishops; (4) proportional representation based on the number of parishes.  He concludes that the first and second methods are not appropriate, but he does not state whether the Moscow Patriarchate prefers the third method or the fourth method.   He estimates that the number of diocesan bishops for all of the Local Churches together to be approximately 550.  [The Moscow Patriarchate has over 160 dioceses and the number continues to grow.]  Metropolitan Hilarion also states that the Orthodox Church in America should be represented in the pan-Orthodox Council even if its autocephalous status is not universally recognized by all the Local Churches.

    The fate of the pan-Orthodox Council could well depend on the results of the meeting of the primates in 2012.  It is in the interests of all Christians that a resolution of these very difficult issues be found.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 November 2011: Hilarion and the Vatican Kazan icon

    Today, November 4, is one of the two major feast days for the Kazan icon of the Mother of God.  This feast day commemorates the role of the Kazan icon in the liberation of Moscow from the Poles in 1612 – an event whose 400th anniversary will be celebrated next year.  The event in 1612 is also the basis for the new Russian holiday, People’s Unity Day.  On December 30, 2004, Putin signed a law abolishing the November 7 holiday commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution and substituted this new holiday in its place.  In a sense, a Marian feast day replaced the greatest communist holiday.

    Yesterday evening, Metropolitan Hilarion commemorated the vigil of the feast day in the monastery church located at the site of the apparition of the Mother of God to the 10-year-old girl Matrona in 1579.  It was in this apparition that the Mother of God disclosed to Matrona the location where the original icon of the Mother of God was buried.  Matrona became a nun at the monastery which was subsequently built at this location in Kazan, and the monastery became the home of the icon.  The Kazan icon that remained at the monastery was taken and apparently destroyed by thieves in 1904.  The Kazan icon that was taken from Kazan by the liberators of Moscow in 1612 (it is not clear whether the liberators took a copy or the original of the icon) was later placed in the newly-constructed Kazan Cathedral on Red Square.  This second Kazan icon mysteriously disappeared from the Kazan Cathedral in Moscow in 1918, soon after the communists had taken control of Moscow.

    At the monastery in Kazan, the icon stolen in 1904 has now been replaced by a beautiful and very venerated copy of the Kazan icon.  Especially for Catholics, this icon is very significant because the icon is a gift from Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Alexy.  The icon was greatly loved by the Pope and had been venerated by him in his personal apartment at the Vatican for 11 years.  On behalf the Pope, Cardinal Walter Kasper presented this icon to Patriarch Alexy during the celebration of the feast of the Assumption, August 28, 2004, in the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin.  In turn, Patriarch Alexy personally brought this icon to Kazan and on July 21, 2005, presented the icon to the Kazan Orthodox Eparchy on the occasion of the millennium of the city of Kazan.   The icon was placed in the specially-restored monastery church at the site of the 1579 apparition.

    Today, Metropolitan Hilarion served the Divine Liturgy at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kazan Kremlin.  He then joined thousands in a procession in which the Kazan icon, given by the Pope, was carried from the Annunciation Cathedral to its home at the monastery church.  Some excellent photos and a video of the event can be seen on the website of the Kazan Eparchy, .

    This was Metropolitan Hilarion’s first visit ever to the city of Kazan.   Although Archbishop Anastasy of Kazan and thousands of pilgrims have honored the Kazan icon with a major liturgy and procession on each of the Kazan feast days since the icon was given in 2005, this is the first time since Patriarch’s Alexy’s visit in 2005 that one of the most high-ranking hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate has come to participate in this celebration.  Metropolitan Hilarion had a previous involvement with this icon.  On January 25, 2002, when Metropolitan Pitirim and then-Bishop Hilarion met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, the Pope for the first time expressed personally to a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate his desire to bring the icon to Russia as a gift to Patriarch Alexy.   I believe that today’s visit is a wonderful gesture by Metropolitan Hilarion.

    The events involving this Kazan icon during the period from 1989 to 2005 were beclouded and greatly influenced by the fact that this period witnessed perhaps the worst-ever relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican.   Publicly, Patriarch Alexy expressed no interest in this icon.  However, in his heart-of-hearts, he greatly wished its return to Russia.  I know this personally from a series of letters that he wrote to me.  Because several years have elapsed since the death of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy, I believe that there is no longer a need to keep these letters confidential. I have attached them in the event you have any interest in this subject.  In reading these letters, you should remember and keep in mind that His Holiness Patriarch Alexy during the period of time covered by these letters may well have believed that the icon that was kept at Fatima and then in the papal apartment after 1993 was indeed the original Kazan icon stolen either from the monastery in Kazan in 1904 or from the Cathedral in Red Square in 1918.  This belief may well have changed after the examination of icon at the Vatican by the Russian commission established by President Putin.  Still, the gift of the icon from Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Alexy was a milestone event.  Certain representatives of both the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have stated that this gift was the turning point in the relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican .   Furthermore, subsequent events show that the relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican has steadily improved since that date.

    Kazan, a Russian city in which Muslims constitute a majority, is famous for its excellent relations between the various faiths.  Indeed, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Kazan (including the icon) in October 2009 just because of the city’s reputation for inter-faith harmony.  Let us hope and pray that the Mother of God will use the presence of her shrine in Kazan not only as a means of promoting brotherhood between Orthodox and Catholics but also between Christians and Muslims.  Indeed, Father Pitirim, the abbot of the Kazan monastery, relates that many Muslims in Kazan come to the monastery to pray before the icon and have left there many votive gifts to Mary.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


  • 1 November 2011: A surprise at Assisi

    The principal representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the Assisi event last week was Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan.  With his white veil, he was very visible in the various videos of the event.   He was a speaker and also sat at the Pope’s table for the frugal luncheon that was provided.   Ecumenical Patriarch  Bartholomew had a major role in the event and was almost always walking or seated at the Pope’s side.  Archbishop Anastasios, the primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania, was also very visible in the videos.

    However, I was pleasantly surprised to see from the statement of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR that Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk was also a member of the Assisi delegation.  I did not see him in the videos.  Perhaps he was intentionally trying to keep a low profile so as not to overshadow the important role that the less senior Metropolitan Alexander was playing.  Metropolitan Filaret has consistently been a supporter of better Orthodox – Catholic relations.  As you may recall, he is hosting in Minsk a major international conference on Orthodox – Catholic relations just two weeks from now (November 13-15).

    Although Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan may seem to some Westerners to be an Orthodox hierarch from a remote and predominately Muslim area, he is really becoming an important person in the Moscow Patriarchate.  At its last session, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate made him a permanent member of the Holy Synod. (Synod journal entry No. 99)  Because the statutes of the Moscow Patriarchate provide that there are only seven permanent members of the Holy Synod (in addition to the Patriarch) and because Metropolitan Alexander will constitute the eighth permanent members, the statutes will need to be amended at the next Bishops’ Council to provide for this eighth permanent position.  In a sense the eighth position will make the Holy Synod more international by making a permanent position for a representative of the Central Asian republics.  Permanent positions are already assigned to the principal hierarchs of Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova.

    Metropolitan Alexander is from the city of Kirov, northeast of Moscow.  He attended the Leningrad seminary at a time when (now Patriarch) Kirill was rector.  As Archbishop, Alexander headed the Synodal Department for Youth for ten years.   In March 2010, he was appointed archbishop of Astana, Kazakhstan.  Four months later he was elevated to the rank of metropolitan.  After 15 months, Alexander was made a permanent member of the Holy Synod.

    The Patriarch plus the seven and now eight permanent members of the Holy Synod are the individuals in the Moscow Patriarchate with the greatest influence on the important decisions of the Church.  There are five temporary members of the Holy Synod, but these individuals never serve more than a year.   Metropolitan Alexander is one of the younger generation of permanent members.  He is now 51 years old.   The four long-term permanent members of the Holy Synod (Vladimir of Kiev, Vladimir of St. Petersburg, Filaret of Minsk, and Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna) are now 75 or older.  The new generation of permanent members will be very important in determining the future direction of the Church.

    Another interesting aspect of Assisi is that the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury spent the afternoon rest period with the monks of Bose.   This was revealed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a Vatican Radio interview that I have pasted below.

    On the day of the Assisi event (Oct.27), Metropolitan Hilarion was not at Assisi, but rather in Fribourg, Switzerland, where he delivered a lecture for theological students on the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.  The next day he participated in the dedication of a house for Orthodox students at the University of Fribourg.  Metropolitan Hilarion has had a close relationship with the University.  He studied there himself, and his present personal secretary, Hierodeacon Ioann Kopeikin, is completing his theological studies there at the Master-level.   As you may recall, Metropolitan Hilarion last February was appointed by the Theological Faculty of the University of Fribourg to be an “honorary professor”  -- an act confirmed on the governmental level by the Swiss Council of States.   Then last Saturday, Metropolitan Hilarion received another honor – an honorary doctorate at the University of Lugano.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Archbishop Rowan Williams in a Vatican Radio interview describing an unscheduled visit:  “The Holy Father was resting, but the Ecumenical Patriarch and I were whisked away to visit the new house which the Bose community has established in Assisi – for those of us who know Bose it had an immediate family feeling, the beauty and simplicity of the chapel , the warmth of the welcome about a dozen of the brothers had come down for the day, so I’m very glad I didn’t miss out on that – even if I did miss out on the siesta!”

  • 25 October 2011 (2): Koch: best Moscow-Rome relations ever

    The French Catholic periodical La Croix has published an interview with Cardinal Koch “on the eve of the meeting in Assisi.”    The interview in French includes two questions on Catholic – Orthodox relations.  I have pasted a Google translation of the French below – remember a computer translation may have mistakes. 

    Vatican has now released the complete schedule of Thursday’s Assisi event.  As can be seen, the Ecumenical Patriarch plays a prominent role in the event.  The Moscow Patriarchate is represented at the event by “His Eminence [Metropolitan ?] Aleksandr” [of Kazakhstan?].  You can watch the event on  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    In dialogue with the Orthodox, in which the question is the primacy of the Bishop of Rome?
    Since 2005, we have delved into this question of primacy with fifteen representatives of Orthodox Churches. It's not easy. But we do not wish to find a unity of "a minima".
    We had, in 2007, a positive step forward with the document called "Ravenna." The two churches declared that the church needs a "primate" at the local, regional and universal level. We then wanted to explore this theme by a historical study of primacy in the Church during the first millennium, before the Great Schism.
    But we could not move, the Orthodox did not wish to continue in this direction, because of a lack of expert historians on the subject among them.  We decided to work on the relationship between the Orthodox synodality and Catholic primacy and the one and the other not being absolutely exclusive.
    As to the Orthodox side, we note that a primacy only of honor is not feasible when we discuss some questions: who convenes a council? who is behind it? who concludes it? During the first millennium there was the emperor. Therefore we must ask ourselves: is a primacy of no jurisdiction really feasible? The situation of the Anglican Communion is significant in this regard: the Archbishop of Canterbury does not have jurisdiction. This is a very difficult situation.
    The diversity between the Orthodox Churches is sometimes a challenge to advancement of the dialogue. That is why we are very attentive to the prospect of a future pan-Orthodox synod. I would be delighted if this event took place, because it would strengthen a practical and realistic synodality between the Orthodox Churches.
    Is a meeting between Benedict XVI and the Patriarch of Moscow looming?
    In March 2011, I traveled to Moscow and met with Patriarch Kirill. I feel that he is open to this perspective, even if he does not want to mention a date. In addition, Metropolitan Hilarion urges the prior resolution of problems between our churches in Ukraine.
    Personally, I think the situation between Moscow and Rome has never been so good as today, especially the personal relationship between the pope and the patriarch. I said to him: it is for me a sign of Providence.

  • 25 October 2011 (1): A joint gift from the UGCC and UOC-MP?

    On October 19, 2011, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), met with Archbishop Alexander, head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP).  This year the Christmas tree in front of St. Peter’s Basilica will come from Ukraine.  At the meeting, the parties discussed the joint participation of the UGCC and the UOC-MP in presenting the tree to Pope Benedict.   The English report from the UOC-MP can be read at  .  The report by the UGCC indicates that at the meeting the UOC-MP agreed to send a representative.[tt_news]=6272&cHash=5310361629c7502b483593a8f3058870

    Prior to the meeting, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav was in Italy from 11-17 October.  On October 12, he made a presentation in Venice on the subject, “UGCC’s Contribution to the Dialogue with the Orthodox in the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission.”[tt_news]=6219&cHash=6d4c7d88d2c5a70015cb076ffd2a75d5   The presentation included the following statement: “After meeting with Metropolitan Volodymyr of the UOC-MP I was convinced that we have established a relationship of openness and sincerity. We know about the differences, but we promised to work together where possible. It is in this perspective, I would like to continue efforts toward the unity of our church.”  

    Sviatoslav spent five days in Rome.   It is certainly possible that the issues between the UGCC and the UOC-MP relating to Western Ukraine were discussed with the Vatican.  Prior to leaving for Rome, Sviatoslav in an interview with Galinfo gave a less optimistic assessment than the statements above indicate.  (The full text of the extensive interview is only in Ukrainian; although the interview was posted after the Rome visit, the text makes it clear that the interview was given “on the eve” of the visit.)  In the interview, he indicates that the talks between the UGCC and the Moscow Patriarchate should include the healing of the wounds of the past.  Here he specifically mentions the 1946 “council of Lvov” which resulted in the elimination of the UGCC by the Stalin regime.  The talks should not be limited to one side making sacrifices [e.g., UGCC handing over churches to UOC-MP in Western Ukraine].  Sviatoslav states that the Moscow Patriarchate is “completely unprepared” to engage in such a broader dialogue.  Sviatoslav  strongly supports a broader dialogue and believes that mutual reconciliation is necessary for a healthy and constructive future.

    On a different subject, the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World will be held in Assisi this Thursday, October 27.  The Vatican has made it clear that the meeting in Assisi will not involve common prayer but rather be a pilgrimage to commemorate the historic event organized by Pope John Paul II twenty-five years earlier. Catholics will actually hold their own prayer vigil at St. Peter’s the prior evening.  The delegations will travel with the Pope on a train that will leave the Vatican on Thursday morning.  Vatican Radio has reported by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be on the train with the Pope.

    Lastly, the Belarus Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has announced a major international conference relating to the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue to be held Nov. 13-15 in Minsk.    I have pasted a Google translation of the announcement below.  This is just another indication of the work that Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk is doing to promote Orthodox – Catholic relations.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    International Conference "Orthodox-Catholic dialogue: Christian ethical values ​​as a contribution to the social life of Europe"
    From 13 to November 15, 2011 in Minsk to host international conference on "Orthodox-Catholic dialogue: Christian ethical values ​​as a contribution to the social life of Europe."
    The conference is organized Institute for religious dialogue and interfaith communication at the Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Vatican) and the International NGO "Christian Educational Center. Sts. Cyril and Methodius "(Belarus) supported by the Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus.
    On topic discussion include:
    Contemporary world and the response of the Church in terms of social ethics
    The global economic crisis and a crisis of faith
    Christian values ​​in a pluralistic world
    Christian values ​​and a social market economy in an era of global crisis
    Christian values ​​and modern legal system
    Social vision and social ethics: the fundamental epistemological questions
    State and Church
    Interaction of the Church with the media
    Christian "lifestyle" as a witness and mission in a pluralistic world
    Ecumenical projects: the experience of common witness to Christian values
    The theological foundation of European values
    At the conclusion of the conference will be a round table on "Dialogue among religions and civilizations on the social fabric of humanity."
    At the conference, November 14, 2011 at the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society will be held interfaith concert, which will be performed by Orthodox and Catholic hymns and secular music sounds of famous composers in the spirit of the conference.
    The conference attended by representatives of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches of the Eastern and Western Europe.
    Organizing Committee: G. Dovgyallo, tel. 227 75 28, 029 627 75 28 (Velcom); EV Pastukhov, tel. 227 55 71, prof. A. Danilov, tel. 328 60 83.

  • 4 October 2011: Who are those people with Hilarion?

    There is now available a very interesting video on the public aspects of the meeting of Benedict and Hilarion.  You can see it at  As was the case of Metropolitan Hilarion’s September 18, 2009 meeting with Pope Benedict, this meeting was largely conducted in private with no other persons present.  However, the video does show the very first part of the meeting and the very end of the meeting when Metropolitan Hilarion introduces the Pope to the members of his entourage.  What is particularly interesting about the video is that you can hear what is actually said and most of this is in English (the language that Hilarion and Benedict use to communicate).  Bob Moynihan (publisher of Inside the Vatican magazine) has posted this video.  I have also seen a similar video posted on an arch-conservative Orthodox website – with remarks indicating that the respectful attitude of Hilarion and his entourage toward the Pope is damning evidence of Hilarion’s pro-Catholic sympathies.

    In case you are interested, I thought that I would give you some more information on the seven members of Metropolitan Hilarion’s entourage.  In my opinion, they are interesting and important people.  I have listed them below in the order that they are introduced to Pope Benedict.

    Archpriest Dimitry A. Sizonenko. 

    Father Dimitry was born in Omsk (southwestern Siberia) 42 years ago.  In 1993 he graduated from the Faculty of Russian Philology and Culture at the Russian State Pedagogical University in St. Petersburg.  His first church assignment was above the Arctic Circle in Murmansk.  In 2004 he was ordained a deacon and then a priest by Archbishop Simon of Murmansk.  In September 2007 he was appointed by Metropolitan Vladimir to be a priest at the Cathedral of the Feodorovsky Icon of the Mother of God ( in St. Petersburg.  This is a very vibrant and dynamic parish headed by Father Alexander Sorokin.  Among its many activities, the parish has maintained good relations with such Western religious institutions as Taize and Chevetogne.  While at the parish, Father Dimitry had a weekly radio program at the St. Petersburg branch of Radio Maria.  The program, directed to Orthodox, involved Father Dimitry’s reflections on each Sunday’s Gospel.  Prior to this time, Father Dimitry had translated a book, for publication into Russian, by (later Cardinal) Tomas Spidlik, Spirituality of the Christian East: A Systematic Handbook.   On April 10, 2010, Father Dimitry became the acting secretary for inter-Christian relations at the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations (DECR).  He was elevated to archpriest on July 20, 2011, on the occasion of the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the DECR.  At the same time, he was officially given (no longer “acting”) the position of secretary for inter-Christian relations.

    Hieromonk Antony (Sevryuk)

    Hieromonk Antony (Sevryuk) has a very interesting biography.  He was born in Tver, Russia on October 12, 1984 and is thus 26 years old at the present time.  He is an example of Patriarch Kirill taking certain talented young men and advancing them very fast (as was done for Hilarion).  In this regard, Kirill is following the practice of his mentor, Metropolitan Nikodim, who took talented young men, such as Kirill, and advanced them rapidly.  Father Antony graduated from the St. Petersburg Seminary in 2007.  He graduated with distinction and was awarded the Metropolitan Nikodim prize.  In October 2007, he became an assistant to Metropolitan Kirill, then head of the DECR.  In September 2008 he was appointed a professor at the Smolensk Seminary.  In February 2009 (the month Kirill became patriarch), he became personal secretary to Patriarch Kirill.  From April 2009 to April 2011, he was the head of the Patriarch’s personal secretariat.  In April 2010 he was ordained a priest by Patriarch Kirill, and in June 2010 he graduated from the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.  By the decision of the Holy Synod on May 30, 2011, he was appointed dean of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria ( , located within sight of St. Peter’s.  By a decision by Patriarch Kirill on June 12, 2011, he was given the additional responsibility of secretary for all of the Moscow Patriarchate’s churches in Italy.

    As you may have heard in the video, Father Antony invited Pope Benedict to visit St. Catherine’s parish.   This is a very nice idea, and I hope that it will happen.

    Archpriest Igor Vyzhanov

    Father Igor was born in Vologna (northeast of Moscow) in 1971.  He graduated from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (Russia’s leading diplomatic training institution) in 1993.  It was here that Father Igor began his mastery of many different languages. He graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary in 1995 and from the Moscow Theological Academy in 1999 with a degree in theology.   Upon graduation, he began his work in the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Relations, which presumably found his diplomatic and language training extremely valuable.  He became a deacon and a priest in 2003 and was elevated to archpriest in 2009.  During his eleven years at the DECR, Father Igor became responsible for relations with the non-Orthodox Christian churches and in that capacity had many contacts with the Vatican and Catholics.  He was one of two representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate on the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  He has been to Rome frequently.  For example, he accompanied Metropolitan Kirill to the funeral of Pope John Paul II.  He accompanied Metropolitan Hilarion on his visit to the Vatican and Pope Benedict in September 2009.

    In March 2010 the Holy Synod assigned Father Igor to St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York City and appointed him representative of the World Russian People’s Council to the UN.  He accompanied Metropolitan Hilarion on the latter’s US east coast visit in February 2011.  In May 2011 the Holy Synod assigned Father Igor to St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Rome.   With Father Antony’s talents and with Father Igor’s language skills and Vatican experience, the Moscow Patriarchate certainly has an extremely strong team at St. Catherine’s.  In my opinion, the concentration of such talent in just one parish demonstrates the importance that the Moscow Patriarchate places on good communications with the Vatican.

    Vadim Sergeyevich Yakunin

    Yakunin is the founder, majority stockholder, and chairman of the Board of the Protek Group ( – the largest importer of pharmaceuticals in Russia and the owner of the Rigla chain of 655 retail pharmacies.  He is now listed in the Forbes magazine list of billionaires (in US$).  Yakunin was born in Rostov in 1963.  He start Protek in 1990 at the age of 27 and brought it to what it is today.  Yakunin has been very generous with his fortune in supporting the Russian Orthodox Church.  On the 20th anniversary of Protek, Metropolitan Hilarion presented Yakunin an award on behalf of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    In August 2009, Yakunin and Metropolitan Hilarion founded the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Fund. (   It is a registered charity with its complete charter and certified audits available on its website.  The Fund supports a number of activities.  The principal activities include, but are not limited to: (1) financial support of the international activities of the DECR (for example, flying Russian church choirs or orchestras for concerts in various parts of the world, such as Milan last Friday, costs money); (2) financial support for the reestablishment of the historic Moscow Synodal Choir (which sang in Milan last Friday); (3) publication of Patriarch Kirill’s book Freedom and Responsibility into various foreign languages; (4) supporting the Moscow Patriarchate’s post- graduate school established by the Holy Synod and headed by Metropolitan Hilarion; (5) major church and other restoration work in Rostov – one of Russia’s oldest cities and Yakunin’s home town.  It appears that Yakunin is the largest contributor to the Fund.

    Sergei A. Plastinin

    Plastinin is another Russian business leader who has financially supported the activities of the DECR.  He is chairman of the Board of Directors of Wimm-Bill-Dann ( .  This company is the leader in Russia with respect to dairy products and baby food and one of the leaders with respect to juices.  Last year PepsiCo acquired a 66% interest in Wimm-Bill-Dann for 38 billion dollars.  As an aside, it is interesting that Plastinin’s teenage daughter Kira is also an entrepreneur.  At the age of 14 she decided to become a fashion designer.  Now at the age of 19, she has over one hundred fashion shops throughout the world.  As far as I know, this is the first occasion that Sergei Plastinin has made an international trip with Metropolitan Hilarion.

    Leonid Sevastianov

    Sevastianov has been the executive director of the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Fund since its beginning.  He was born in Rostov-on-Don (southern Russia near the Black Sea) in 1978.  His father was a leader in the Old Believer community in Rostov.  Sevastianov attended the Moscow Theological Seminary.  It was there that he first became acquainted with Metropolitan Kirill and Father Hilarion at the DECR.  After graduating from the seminary, Sevastianov attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome from 1999 to 2002.  There he studied political philosophy and learned fluent Italian in the process.  From 2002 to 2004 he studied at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  There he obtained a master’s degree in international relations and learned fluent English.  When Hilarion decided to establish the Fund, he chose Sevastianov to be its prime administrator.  In January 2010, the magazine Inside the Vatican designated Sevastianov as one of its ten “Persons of the Year” for 2009.  Sevastianov accompanies Metropolitan Hilarion on most of his international trips and serves as his assistant for administrative and financial matters.

    Hierodeacon Ioann (Kopeikin)

    Father Ioann is the personal secretary to Metropolitan Hilarion.  Metropolitan Hilarion administered monastic vows to Kopeikin on February 28, 2010, at his Church of the Icon of the Mother of God “Joy to All the Afflicted.”  Father Ioann accompanies Metropolitan Hilarion on almost every trip.  I believe that Father Ioann also gets the credit for many of the excellent photos one sees on of Metropolitan Hilarion’s trips.

    The person who spoke with Pope Benedict immediately after Father Ioann is Father Milan Zust SJ.  He is the person at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity who is directly responsible for relations with the Moscow Patriarchate.  He is an expert in the Eastern Churches and did his doctoral dissertation in Paris on religious experience in the theology of Florensky.  You can read his impressive vita at  He has also lectured at the Moscow Patriarchate’s post-graduate school in Moscow. 

    In short, I think there are some very smart and capable people working on Orthodox – Catholic relations.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 September 2011: Today's Benedict - Hilarion meeting

    Metropolitan Hilarion met today with Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo.  Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio did an excellent English-language interview of Metropolitan Hilarion in connection with this meeting.  You can hear the nine-minute interview at .  The extremely interesting interview covers not only the meeting with the pope, but also the future pan-Orthodox Council, the differences between the Local Orthodox Churches on the role of primacy, and the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

    The DECR has posted a Russsian-language description (very general in nature) of the Benedict – Hilarion meeting at   Concerning the substance of the meeting, the description only states that the parties “ discussed a wide range of issues concerning bilateral relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate.”  However, the Russian-language posting includes some very nice photos of the meeting.  I am sure an official English-language version will be posted soon.  There are English-language postings now available concerning Metropolitan Hilarion’s activities in Rome yesterday.  These includes: (1) the meeting with Cardinal Koch  ; (2) the dinner in honor of Metropolitan Hilarion hosted by the Community of St. Egidio  ;  (3) the divine liturgy served by Metropolitan Hilarion in the catacombs of St. Priscilla  .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 28 September 2011: Much to report

    In the last few days there have been a number of significant developments involving Orthodox – Catholic relations.  First, Metropolitan Hilarion arrived in Rome last night for an anticipated visit with Pope Benedict, Cardinal Bertone, Cardinal Koch, and others.  You can read the DECR report on the visit in English at .  As you can see from the report, Metropolitan Hilarion will later travel from Rome to Milan where he will meet with Cardinal Scola and will participate in a concert of Russian church music to mark the end of the year of Russian Culture and Language in Italy.  The concert will also be attended by Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of President Medvedev.  Svetlana Medvedeva has been a promoter of Russian – Italian relations for many years.  Before moving to Moscow with her husband, she directed the St. Petersburg – Milan sister cities program.  One of the persons accompanying Metropolitan Hilarion is Archpriest Dmitry Sizonenko.  In the report, Father Dmitry is given the title, DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations.  Prior to this, Father Dmitry was always given the title “acting secretary.”   I was very happy to see that Father Dmitry has now been officially given the position.  I believe that he has been a very positive influence in improving Orthodox – Catholic relations.

    The second development was the celebration last Sunday in Moscow of the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  Of course, the church did not become a cathedral until February 2002 when the Vatican established the Mother of God diocese headquartered in Moscow.  The papal legate at the celebration was Cardinal Jozef Tomko.  The celebration was also attended by Father Dmitry Sizonenko, who spoke of the common persecution of Catholics and Orthodox under communism and who expressed the hope of further progress in the Orthodox – Catholic dialogue.  The DECR English-language report of the celebration can be read at .  Cardinal Tomko also had a meeting with Patriarch Kirill.  The DECR report of the “warm and friendly” meeting can be read at .  In my opinion, the Moscow Patriarchate’s participation in this event is quite amazing and demonstrates how Orthodox – Catholic relations have improved over the past nine years.  When the Vatican established on February 11, 2002, four dioceses in Russia, including the archdiocese situated in Moscow, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian media exploded.  This Vatican action resulted in what was perhaps the lowest point in Russian Orthodox – Catholic relations in recent years. Now, the Moscow Patriarchate is participating in a celebration involving this cathedral which is very much a symbol of the presence of a Catholic bishop in Moscow.  I believe that this participation is a wonderful sign of openness on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate and a willingness not to remember old wounds.

    The third development is the meeting held by Pope Benedict on Saturday in Freiburg, Germany with 15 representatives of the Orthodox and Oriental Churches.  The positive report of the DECR can be read at  The full text of the Pope’s remarks can be read at .

    For those of you who do not receive directly Father Ron Roberson’s monthly newsletter on events involving the Eastern Churches, I am attaching his latest newsletter covering events in June 2011.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 Septembre 2011: The next stage of the debate

    In response to the statements of the Synaxis (Sept. 1-3) of the five “ancient” Local Orthodox Churches relating to the future pan-Orthodox Council, Metropolitan Hilarion held a press conference last Friday at the RIA – Novesti news agency in which he delivered a forceful rejection of all of these statements.  The official English translation of the press conference was posted for the first time today.   Last Wednesday, Metropolitan Hilarion gave a much shorter interview on this topic to the newspaper Izvestia   I believe that both these interviews are well worth reading in their entirety.

    Metropolitan Hilarion emphatically rejects the contention that the five ancient Local Orthodox Churches whose autocephaly was recognized by Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus) have any special role in the Orthodox “confederation” of Local Churches.  He contends that there is no historical basis for such a role.  He states that there “are fifteen Local Orthodox Churches, and none of them takes the lead.”

    Metropolitan Hilarion expressed surprise at the intention of the Ecumenical Patriarch to hold a meeting of the primates of all of the Local Orthodox Churches to reconsider the consensus (all Local Orthodox Churches must agree) rule that has been applied during the fifty years of preparations for the future pan-Orthodox Council.  He believes that the consensus rule is absolutely necessary to preserve the unity of Orthodoxy.  He implies that the convening of the primates to reconsider the consensus rule is futile, because, in his view, the consensus rule can only be changed by a consensus and the Moscow Patriarchate opposes such a change.  The Moscow Patriarchate has “always insisted on the necessity of strict adherence to the principle of consensus both during the process of preparation and at the Council.”  With respect to any proposed decision by the pan-Orthodox Council, Metropolitan Hilarion states that “if a proposed decision appears for some reason to contradict the interests and self-awareness of the Russian Church, she will simply refuse to participate in such a Council.”

    As a non-Orthodox, I should perhaps not express any personal reactions concerning this very significant dispute between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  However, the tensions between these two great patriarchates affect not only Orthodox but other Christians as well.  For example, the tensions seriously affect the Orthodox – Catholic theological dialogue.  I am personally convinced that the tensions at the present time are not the result of conflicting personalities.  I believe that a friendship exists between Bartholomew on the one side and Kirill and Hilarion on the other side.  This can be seen by Kirill’s friendly meeting with Bartholomew in Istanbul in June 2009, by Bartholomew’s very warm reception in Russia in May 2010, and very recently, by Bartholomew’s invitation to Hilarion to join him on a visit to the island of Imbros, the childhood home of Bartholomew.  Last Saturday, the day after the RIA – Novesti press conference, Metropolitan Hilarion was at the Bose Monastery in Italy and participated at the Bose conference with Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  After dinner, both men met to discuss inter-Orthodox matters.  See   I believe that both sides have gone out of their way to improve relations on a personal level.

    In spite of such positive personal relationships, the tensions remain because they are due to strong and conflicting institutional interests.  As the largest Local Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate has an extremely strong institutional interest in not being second to any other Local Orthodox Church.  On the other hand, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a very strong institutional interest to exercise a leadership role which it believes is not only historically based but also badly needed in the Orthodox world.  I think that it is very unlikely that either Church, on its own, will retreat from protecting these very strong institutional interests.  What saddens me is that if there is no procedure for resolving these strong conflicting institutional tensions except consensus, these tensions, including the crucial issue of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Orthodox Church as a whole, may never be resolved.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 September 2011: The great debate begins

    Until today (Sept. 8) it was difficult for non-Greek speakers to evaluate the results of the September 1-3 synaxis called by the Ecumenical Patriarch, because the key document (the announcement or communiqué) had not been translated (as far as I can determine) and posted on the Internet.  The Google translation of the “announcement” that I attempted was so bad that it was not useful.  However, today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate posted on its website a good translation of the “announcement” in English, French, and Italian.  There are two other important documents, namely the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address at the beginning of the synaxis and the “message” at the close of the synaxis.  English translations of these two documents had been posted earlier by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  I have provided links (below) to the English translation of the complete text of the three documents.

    Although the plight of Christians in the Middle East is the prime focus of the documents, what I personally found most interesting is the positions taken with respect to the present impasse in the preparations for the pan-Orthodox Council and with respect to the justification for the Sept. 1-3 meeting of the heads of some, but not all, of the Local Orthodox Churches.  I have pasted below the language in the three documents that relate to these two aspects.

    Ecumenical Patriarch’s address at the opening of the Synaxis:

    “The equitable participation of all the most holy Orthodox Churches in pan-Orthodox and inter-Orthodox gatherings always remains respected and valid. Yet, it does not annul the special honor attributed from ancient times to the older Patriarchates, which, like the Church of Cyprus, have their autocephaly ratified by Ecumenical Councils. In other words, as already stated, our present Synaxis could contribute the ancient experience of the early Churches it represents in order to promote Orthodox affairs in the contemporary world, thereby facilitating the work of the pan-Orthodox and inter-Orthodox committees and consultations.”

    Message at the close of the Synaxis:

    “We have gathered here as those bearing the responsibility for leadership and pastoral guidance of the ancient and historical Churches, which were founded by the Apostles of Christ and which were proclaimed autocephalous by the Ecumenical Councils of the one, undivided Church, in order to revive a former practice, as well as in order to exchange thoughts and reciprocate love and solidarity as a result of all that is occurring these days in the historical territory of the geographical region where divine providence has assigned our Churches from the earliest of times.”

    The announcement or communiqué at the close of the Synaxis:

    “3. In the context of its deliberations, the Synaxis also discussed the subject of the Holy and Great Council, deciding that it should hasten its preparation in order to permit its convocation in the foreseeable future. The Synaxis regretfully ascertained that the impasse created last February in the process of the long-prepared convening of this Council is due to provisions in the Regulations Governing the Panorthodox Preconciliar Consultations regarding unanimous decisions. Therefore, the Synaxis submitted a proposal to His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, that he should convene a Synaxis of Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and Presidents of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches in order to review these provisions, thereby promptly advancing and fulfilling the preparation of the Great Council.”

    With respect to the justification for the meeting of these five churches – Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus, the address of the Ecumenical Patriarch refers to “the special honor attributed from ancient times to the older Patriarchates, which, like the Church of Cyprus, have their autocephaly ratified by Ecumenical Councils.”   These five churches can “contribute the ancient experience of the early Churches.”  According to the Message, the meeting of the five Churches was held “to revive a former practice.”  From all of this, I assume that the five churches claim that their meeting has an historic basis and that the views of these five churches of the first millennium, because of their antiquity, should be accorded special (but not controlling) weight by the other Local Orthodox Churches.

    With respect to the present impasse in the preparations for the pan-Orthodox Council, the announcement states that the five churches suggest a meeting of the primates of all of the Local Orthodox Churches to review the rule requiring unanimity which has resulted in the impasse and has impeded the preparation for the pan-Orthodox Council.   This raises extremely important questions that I am sure will result in much debate in the Orthodox world.  If unanimity cannot be reached, should there be a vote?  Should decisions be made by a vote not only at the level of the preparatory commission but also in the deliberations of the pan-Orthodox Council itself?  If there is a vote, how should the Local Orthodox Churches be represented – one vote per Local Church, number of votes determined by the size of the Local Church, or some other method?  In the suggested meeting of the primates of all of the Local Churches, should the unanimity rule be rejected only by the unanimous decision of all of the primates or can the unanimity rule be rejected by a vote of less than all of the primates?

    The next round of the debate will begin tomorrow.  The Moscow Patriarch has announced today that Metropolitan Hilarion will hold a press conference tomorrow (Sept. 9) at 11 a.m. (Moscow time) at the news agency RIA Novesti to discuss the issues relating the Sept. 1-3 synaxis.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 September 2011: Halki - an optimistic Ecumenical Patriarch

    09/05/2011 12:57
    A "satisfied" Bartholomew I hopes for the reopening of the Halki School
    by NAT da Polis

    Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, has expressed great satisfaction with the decision of Prime Minister Erdogan Tayep to return properties confiscated after 1936 to all non-Islamic minorities. At the same time, meeting the Turkish prime minister, he expressed the hope that there will be "further steps". Erdogan replied, "This is just the beginning."
    The patriarch also strongly hopes in the return and the theological school of Halki to the Orthodox Church, and that the academy, which the Turkish government closed in 1971, will be re-opened.
    As if to anticipate the possibility of its opening, Bartholomew I has appointed Msgr. Elpidoforos Lambrinidis, Metropolitan of Bursa, as prior of the monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity), and director of studies: the theological school of Halki in fact belongs to the monastery.
    After much pressure from the international community and especially the European Union, the Erdogan government has issued a decree which returns to the Greek-orthodox, Armenian, Jewish and other non-Islamic minority groups, thousands of properties which Turkish the government had unfairly stolen or seized from them in contravention of their international commitments.
    The decision is of historical significance because it reveals a change in Ankara’s view of religious minorities, after over 70 years.
    Yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarch went to Our Lady of Souda for the feast of the Sacred Area of Our Lady. The church where he celebrated mass is located near the city’s ancient Byzantine walls. In his homily, Bartholomew I, for the first time, commented on the government's decision.
    "Today is a very special day - the patriarch began - because the festivities take place a few days after Turkish government's return of property unfairly taken from us after 1936. It is a moment of great joy not only for us Orthodox Christians, but for all minorities who have lived in these lands for centuries "
    "Better late than never," he exclaimed, and added: "If Turkey considers itself a State of law, everything must be done in a context of justice and not lawlessness."
    Some commentators underline this sentence because it defines Mr. Erdogan's initiative, not as an act of favour to non-Muslim minorities, but as an act of reparation for the injustice perpetrated against them, despite the commitments and agreements made by previous Turkish governments that were never respected.
    Bartholomew I concluded by expressing his satisfaction, joy and thanks to Erdogan but he also wanted to remind him that "everyone is waiting for further significant steps towards non-Muslim minorities." The Prime Minister replied to him: "This is just the beginning".
    Meanwhile, the ecumenical patriarch yesterday appointed the new prior of the monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity), to which the theological school of Halki belongs. The new prior is Msgr. Elpidoforos Lambrinidis, Metropolitan of Bursa. He is due to take over the direction of studies in Halki, as soon as the school is reopened.
    In diplomatic circles it is rumoured that this appointment points to the probable or imminent reopening of the Theological School of Halki, because - they say - "Erdogan wants to close all the outstanding issues with non-Muslim minorities, a legacy of the governments of the old establishment."
    The choices in favour of non-Islamic minorities show the prime minister is engaged in a new Middle Eastern geopolitics. The gesture of the reopening of Halki would further improve his image not only in the eyes of Westerners, but throughout the entire region.

  • 1 September 2011: Hilarion on Nis

    Today the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate published an interview of Metropolitan Hilarion by the Serbian newspaper Politika   One of the questions related to a possible invitation by the Serbian Orthodox Church to Pope Benedict to come to Serbia and to participate in the celebration in Nis, Serbia (Constantine’s birthplace) of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan.  The possible invitation was discussed by the hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church during their Council held May 16-27 of this year.  One point that was almost certainly raised in these discussions was Pope Benedict’s recent visit to Croatia where he prayed before the body of Cardinal Stepinac and praised the Cardinal in remarks during the visit.  The Pope’s conduct in this regard offended many Serbian Orthodox who view the Cardinal’s actions or inactions during World War II in a radically different light than the Vatican.  At the end of the Council, the official communiqué reflected that the Nis celebration had been discussed, but made no mention as to whom would be invited to the celebration.

    There was also speculation in the media that during a visit to Serbia in the prior month, Metropolitan Hilarion had stated the opposition of the Moscow Patriarchate to a papal invitation to Serbia.  Such speculation was not entirely illogical.  Patriarch Kirill would certainly wish to attend the celebration, and if the Pope was there, it would be very possible that the two would meet.  This would potentially deprive Moscow of its ability to control the timing of the first meeting between a pope and a patriarch of Moscow.  The Moscow Patriarchate might well desire to delay such an historic meeting until further progress is made between the two churches on the Western Ukraine and other possible issues.

    In light of this background, Metropolitan Hilarion’s answer to the question is perhaps significant.  I have pasted a Google translation of the question and answer below.  The Metropolitan’s answer indicates that at least publically the Moscow Patriarchate is taking a “hands off” stance on the issues of the invitation.   I believe his answer carries some implication that Serbian Orthodox Church has not yet made a final decision as to whether the Pope will be invited to Serbia.  However, time will tell.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    After your visit to Serbia in early April this year, the Serbian press reported that during the meetings you had reported the negative attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church for a possible invitation of Pope to Serbia in 2013.   Did you discuss this question with the representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church?
    - In meetings with the bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, this topic was not specifically discussed.  This is - an internal affair of Serbian Patriarchate.  As far as I know from the media, among the bishops of Serbian Orthodox Church

    there is not one view on the question of inviting the Pope.
    For the time being, the nature of the forthcoming celebrations of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan is not quite clear - whether they are thinking of evidence of the significance of this historic anniversary for the representatives of various Christian denominations or as an opportunity to express the fraternal unity of the Local Orthodox Churches.

  • 31 August 2011: Council to be discussed Sept. 1-2

    The Ecumenical Patriarchate issued today a communiqué concerning the synaxis of the “ancient” Patriarchates and Cyprus which will occur in Istanbul on Sept. 1-2.  The Greek text of the communiqué may be read on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s website .  I have found an English translation of the communiqué at the official OCA website, .  I have pasted this English translation below.

    Yesterday, I sent a Google translation of Metropolitan’s Interfax interview on the subject of the synaxis.  A good English translation of the interview was posted by the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR today.

    In the interview, Metropolitan Hilarion stated:  “It is hard to say at present whether the Pan-Orthodox Council will be discussed at their meeting. I believe, however, that questions of an inter-Orthodox nature should be discussed by all Local Orthodox Churches in order to avoid giving an impression that a group of Churches tries to make decisions on behalf of all Local Churches in their absence.”

    Today’s communiqué answers the question.  The meeting on Sept. 1-2 will discuss the Pan-Orthodox Council.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    An announcement issued by the Office of the Chief Secretary of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Sacred and Holy Synod, dated August 31, 2011, announced the convocation of a Synaxis of the Heads of the Ancient Patriarchates and the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus at the Ecumenical Patriarchate September 1-2, 2011.
    The text of the announcement reads as follows.
    “At the invitation of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is also presiding over deliberations, the Synaxis of Heads of the Ancient Patriarchates and the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus is convening at the Phanar from September 1-2, 2011. The Synaxis will be personally attended by Their Beatitudes, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, and Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, who are arriving today in Istanbul. Patriarch Igantius of Antioch, who ultimately was unable to participate, although he was the first among all invited Patriarchs to accept the invitation to attend the Synaxis, will be represented by His Grace Bishop Isaac of Apameia.
    “Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs, the Archbishop of Cyprus and his hierarchal entourage, as well as the representative of the Patriarch of Antioch will concelebrate with His All-Holiness and the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne during the Divine Liturgy to be held on Thursday, September 1, 2011, on the occasion of the feast of the Indiction.  They will also sign the relevant Act prepared for the beginning of the new ecclesiastical year.
    “The sessions of the Synaxis will begin on the evening of September 1 at the venerable Patriarchal Church of the Phanar and will focus on the state of the most holy Orthodox Churches in the Middle East at this time, as well as on Orthodox affairs in general, including the matter of the way toward the Holy and Great Synod of the most holy Orthodox Church.”

  • 1 September 2011 (1): Hilarion on eve of September 1 meeting

    Today (Aug. 30), Interfax-Religii posted a lengthy and important interview with Metropolitan Hilarion on the subjects of his recent trip to the Middle East and the future pan-Orthodox Council.  The interview has also been posted on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations.  I have only found the interview in Russian.  I have pasted below an imperfect Google translation of the Russian-language text.

    The following are my personal conclusions after reading the text: (1) the two issues that resulted in the impasse of the Preparatory Commission – the signing of the Tomos of Autocephaly and the order of the diptychs – have still not been resolved; (2) Metropolitan Hilarion in his meetings did not receive firm assurances from the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem that such pre-Conciliar issues will not be discussed at their meeting on September 1; (3) Metropolitan Hilarion does not know whether such issues will in fact be discussed at that meeting – he clearly hopes that they will not; (4) he believes that the two dispute issues above are actually political in nature and should not be decided by the Council.

    With respect to a pan-Orthodox Council, the Moscow Patriarchate is in favor of such a council.  Decisions during the preparations for the Council and at the Council itself should not be made by a vote but by the consensus of all of the Local Orthodox Churches.  All Orthodox diocesan bishops should be invited to participate in the Council.  Metropolitan Hilarion states that it is appropriate for the larger Orthodox Churches to have a greater representation at the Council.

    However, this brief summary really does not do justice to the interesting interview that should be read in its entirety.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Do not expect surprises from the Pan-Orthodox Council
    In late August, the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion made a trip to the Middle East, during which he visited three ancient Orthodox Churches and met their Primates.  Vladyka [“lord”] stated the outcome of these meetings on his return to Moscow to portal, "the Interfax-Religion."
    - Your journey has ended in the countries in the Middle East region and Turkey. You have visited three of the Patriarchate. What was the purpose of this trip?
    - The trip was with the blessing of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill.  His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod instructed me regularly to visit the Heads of Local Orthodox Churches, to consult with them on  inter-Orthodox relations, topical issues of contemporary life of the Orthodox Church.  A trip to the Middle East was essentially to meet personally with the Primates of the three ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem.
    Currently, in the Middle East, there are political events that could seriously complicate the lives of Christians in this region.  It is no accident that the problems of local Christians has become the object of attention of the Heads of Middle Eastern Churches.  On August 1 in Jordan, a meeting was held of the primates of Antioch, Jerusalem and the Church of Cyprus with a representative of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  On August 23 a similar meeting was held in Cyprus.  On September 1 another meeting on the problems of the Middle East will be held in Istanbul under the chairmanship of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
    Russian Orthodox Church has never remained indifferent to the problems of our Middle Eastern Orthodox brothers, and its concern about the situation of Christians in the Middle East and other regions of the world was expressed in the statement of the Holy Synod on May 30.
    - And how was this statement  seen by the Primates of the Churches with whom did you meet?
    - I gave to all three Primates this statement which is translated into different languages, including Greek and Arabic.  The Primates of the Middle Eastern Churches gratefully accepted this statement.  In particular, the Patriarch of Antioch said that it will be published in the Orthodox media resources in Syria and Lebanon.
    - How was the topic of Christians in the Middle East treated by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, with whom you met on a Sunday?
    - As a leader of one of the regions with a predominantly Arab population, in which Muslims and Christians live side by side , Mahmoud Abbas is well aware of these problems and hoped that events like those that occurred more recently in Iraq and Egypt will not be repeated in other countries in the Middle East region.  As we know, after these countries with the help of external forces toppled regimes that existed there, the situation of Christians has deteriorated significantly.  While in Iraq, according to various estimates, there were about a half million Christians, today there remains less than half that amount.  Christian life is under constant threat, and many were forced to leave the cities and villages, where their co-religionists had lived for many centuries.
    - Are more frequent meetings of the Primates of the Churches of this region connected only with the political circumstances of the time?  Will the forthcoming meeting of the Primates in Istanbul only discuss regional issues or also issues of common Orthodox significance?
    - I asked this question to all of the three patriarchs.  Patriarch Bartholomew said to me that the meeting will focus, above all, on the problems of the Middle East.  This was confirmed by Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilus, who, however, added that when the Primates meet, they can discuss any issues of concern.
    Will there be discussed at the meeting the theme of the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council, it is now difficult for me to answer.  But I think that questions of an inter-Orthodox character should be discussed by all the Local Orthodox Churches, to avoid creating the impression that some group of churches is trying to make a decision for all the Orthodox Churches in their absence.
    - Was the question of the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council and its preparation discussed in meetings with the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem?
    - This question was also raised.  It was important to discuss with the Primates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of these Church the question of the possible configurations of the Council, its topic, how the Church will be represented, and what the decision-making method will be.  Today in  inter-Orthodox cooperation the only method of decision-making is consensus, and on it is built the possibility of the working together between the Local Orthodox Churches.  This method helps, in the spirit of brotherly love, to address emerging issues and to reach agreement on those issues for which there are differences.
    Recently there have heard some voices in favor of abandoning this method and making decisions at inter-Orthodox meeting by a simple majority. But such a radical change in the work of inter-Orthodox organs can lead to very serious consequences: if at least one church would oppose a decision by a vote and its opinion is ignored, it will inevitably split the family of Orthodox Churches.  And if a division is not overcome at the preparatory level, it will necessarily occur at the level of the pan-Orthodox Council.  Therefore, it is not possible today to offer any kind of different method than consensus.
    - Vladyka, what do you think will be the norm of representation at the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council?  Will there meet a few hundred or all, merely a few tens of bishops?
    - I think that this issue should be discussed by the pan-Orthodox Preparatory Commission.  If we want to convene a true Pan-Orthodox Council, I believe that all the diocesan bishops should be invited, so that the church of each location is represented at the Council by its bishop, as it was done in the era of the Ecumenical Councils. The total number of diocesan bishops of the Local Orthodox Churches, taken together, is approximately five hundred, and I think it would be realistic to collect five hundred people at the meeting.  However, if for some technical reasons it is now be impossible to assemble such a representative forum, then, of course, representative of the church should be in proportion to their size.
    Today, there are mechanisms for inter-cooperation, in which each church is represented by one or two representatives.  But when it comes to the Russian Orthodox Church, we must understand that the number of its faithful is more than the total number of all other Local Orthodox churches together. The size of the Church cannot be disregarded in determining the quota of representation in the Pan-Orthodox Council.
    - What do you think of where and when such a council could take place?
    - His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew expressed the hope that this Council was held in Istanbul, in the church of Agia Irini, where the Second Ecumenical Council was held in 381.  I think the Council could take place in the foreseeable future, if, of course, there is a thorough discussion and resolution of issues relating to representation, protocol and agenda.
    - Can we say that, subject to agreement on all these issues, the Moscow Patriarchate today in favor of convening the Council?
    - We call for the convening of the Council, because today in the face of the challenges faced by the Orthodox Church throughout the world, a common voice of orthodoxy needs to be heard and shared.  That is why it is important to overcome all the differences in the preparatory phase so that the forthcoming Council becomes a factor of unity, not division.  And that is why it is imperative that, as already adopted in the inter-Orthodox cooperation, consensus be the only method of decision-making.
    - Is your expectations and among some representatives of the church community: the Eighth Ecumenical Council meets and cancels all previous decisions of seven ...
    - These fears are unfounded, because, first, the Council will not accept any solution that would not have been voiced over the past fifty years of the Preparatory Commission.  Decisions of the Preparatory Commission are known, they are none hidden: and the documents and minutes of meetings of these committees may become available to those who so wish.  Many of the documents of the Preparatory Commission were published in "Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate" in 1970-1980's.
    Moreover, if there is a decision to convene a Pan-Orthodox Council (I would like to stress that this decision can only be taken by all the Local Orthodox Churches), then all the topics that were discussed during the fifty years of preparatory pre-conciliar meetings will be studied again.  The necessary adjustments will make in light of changed circumstances, decisions taken will be known in advance: there is no reason to expect from this Council any surprises.
    - Can we say that following the principle of consensus before the Council excludes rule-making decisions that might go counter to church tradition, which is feared some of the believers?
    - Yes, excluded, because the principle of consensus requires agreement of all the Churches with the decisions made.  And if at least one church does not agree with something, consequently, there is a reason for it, and this reasons is in the tradition of the local church.
    I must say that between the Local Orthodox Churches there are no doctrinal differences, there is no disagreement in the field of canon law.  All the difficulties we face relate, above all, to political issues - those issues that can be solved either in a bilateral dialogue between the two Local Churches, among which there is disagreement, or at the inter-Orthodox level.
    And speaking of the ten topics that were included in the agenda of the pan-Orthodox Council 50 years ago, in eight of them agreement has already been reached, and the remaining two are, one might say, of a technical nature.  It is about how to subscribe the Tomos of Autocephaly in case of granting it to this or another church, and about the order in which a Church will be featured in the official lists - diptychs.  These questions - I want to emphasize - are not doctrinal nature, can be solved after a pan-Orthodox Council.
    - Meanwhile, representatives of non-canonical groups in Ukraine, which today are not in communion with any of the local Orthodox Churches, expect the Council and even the upcoming September 1 meeting of five heads of Churches in the Middle East, recognizing their autocephalous and make their names into these diptychs.
    - The issue of a split – it is very painful.  A split – is a wound on the body of the Church.  Of course, the Church must make a sustained effort to ensure that the existing divisions are healed. The Church always encourages those people, who consciously or not knowingly deviate in a split, back into its fold, it is always waiting with open arms.
    I believe that the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council may well discuss these topics and make decisions that will help our brothers and sisters, to avoid a split, to return to the bosom of the Church.  But I do not think that meeting the Primates of the Churches in the Middle East, which will be advisory in nature and will be devoted to problems of this particular region, cannot make any kind of decision on the Ukrainian issue.  Ukraine is not the Middle East.  It also is a regional meeting which will focus on the regional, Middle Eastern theme.
    - On the feast of the Assumption of you led worship at the monastery of St. Mary Magdalene, which is owned by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.  How were you met there, how exists today the cooperation between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church Abroad in the Holy Land?
    - I was very warmly received by the Mother Abbess Elizabeth and her sisters of the monastery of St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane, and served the Divine Liturgy. And, of course, with a special sense of praying on the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the Mother of God was buried, where Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed to His Heavenly Father before His suffering on the cross and death.
    Cooperation between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate is developing in the right direction. Today, in some places, including in the Holy Land, there are parallel structures of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which from a canonical point of view can be seen as an anomaly, but this situation is the result of the tragic events of the post-revolutionary time, and the process of healing the wounds that were inflicted then it may take a long time.
    Currently, at the request of the Church Abroad and by the decision of the Holy Synod established a working group that will work on further cooperation between the Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate. And I think that if such a desire, the theme of interaction in Holy Land can be discussed within the framework of this working group.

  • 29 August 2011: Turkey to return 1,000 Orthodox properties

    Below is a very positive development reported this morning by 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    08/29/2011 09:41
    Historic decision: Erdogan returns seized property to religious minorities
    by NAT da Polis
    A decree published last night for the return of thousands of properties seized in '36, just hours before an Iftar of the Prime Minister with representatives of religious minorities. The beneficiaries are Greek-orthodox Christians, Armenians, Jews. Roman Catholics do not fall within the recognized minorities. The Prime Minister’s hopes: end to era of discrimination.
    Istanbul (AsiaNews) - In a sudden twist, the Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan has decided to return thousands of properties, confiscated by the government after 1936, to non-Muslim religious foundations.
    This is Erdogan’s second surprise reserved for the old establishment of the Turkish Republic after the recent decapitation of the heads of the armed forces and the return of the primacy of politics over the military.
    The publication of the draft-law on the restitution of property took place yesterday, just hours earlier than the traditional Iftar [the dinner-party that celebrates the end of the Ramadan fast] which the representative of the non-Muslim religious foundations, Lakis Vingas, held last night with the Prime Minister guest of honour.
    The publication of the draft-law is a real "coup de theater": it will return all property to religious foundations that the Turkish administration with various subterfuges has seized in the past, after the census of 1936. Non-Muslim religious foundations means those recognized by various international treaties signed by Turkish Republic after 1923.
    The decree has been published within a few days of Bartholomew I’s request for the return of unjustly usurped properties to minorities. In his campaign to see the return of certain properties of the Greek-orthodox communities, Bartholomew I had approached various European forums.
    The decree provides:
    1) the restitution of property as they were surveyed and registered in 1936 and subsequently confiscated from the religious foundations by the various administrations of the Republic of Turkey;
    2) the return of the management of cemeteries belonging to non-Muslim foundations, which have been improperly sold to various towns and municipalities;
    3) the restitution of undefined deeded property (such as monasteries and parishes), which were never recognized as legal entities by the Turkish Republic.
    4) In the event that these properties have been sold or disposed of in various ways by the Turkish state parties, the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Turkey will establish with the owners a just compensation.
    Interested parties are invited to submit the relevant documentation to the Directorate General of Foundations within 12 months.
    It should be noted that the last law of the Turkish parliament voted on February 20, 2008, challenged and never accepted by opposition did not provide any of these regulations. What remains to be determined is the fate of mazbut properties (the so-called "occupied" properties) in which management, administration and property passed to the Turkish state.
    According to an initial calculation, the decree provides for the restitution of 1000 properties to the Greek-orthodox Christians, 100 to the Armenians, numerous properties to the Chaldean Catholics and also to the Jews.
    Nothing is expected for the Roman Catholics as they do not fall under the Treaty of Lausanne. But according to observers, the passage of the decree gives hope.
    The decree has provoked positive reactions from all minority representatives. The director of the non-Muslim foundations described it as "a step of great importance and great historical content", the lawyer for minorities, Dr. Kezmpan, described it as a great revolution, after the liberation from the military dominance” . Another lawyer, Dr Hatem said that finally "the wrong done to the Church is restored."
    In recent years the EU has always asked Turkey to take steps to remove discriminatory laws against religious minorities. And in some cases the European Court for Human Rights has condemned the Turkish state to return property or compensate the former owners.
    At the Iftar yesterday, Erdogan said: "Like everyone else, we also do know about the injustices that different religious groups have been subjected to because of their differences…Times that a citizen of ours would be oppressed due to his religion, ethnic origin or different way of life are over".

  • 25 August 2011: More progress

    There continues to be encouraging signs.  Metropolitan Hilarion has completed his three-day stay (Aug. 21-23) with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the island of Imbros.    During the stay, the Ecumenical Patriarch praised the Metropolitan and pointed to the special importance that the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations has in the cause of consolidating inter-Orthodox unity.  Metropolitan Hilarion is now in Jerusalem and met today with Patriarch Theophilos.    With the meeting with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Metropolitan Hilarion will have met with all five of the primates of the “ancient churches” who will be meeting on September 1 to discuss, inter alia, the problems involved in preparing for the pan-Orthodox Council.  It will also mean that since April, Metropolitan Hilarion will have met with almost all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.  Perhaps with all of his traveling diplomacy, Metropolitan Hilarion will have prevented the “ancient churches” from articulating a view on the preparatory problems which is not agreeable to certain other Local Churches, including the Moscow Patriarchate.  Time will tell.

    Meanwhile, a very positive development has occurred in Kyiv.  On August 23, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv (Moscow Patriarchate) and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), newly-elected primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, met at the residence of Metropolitan Vladimir.  This is the first meeting of the heads of these two Ukrainian churches.  Not only is this a historic meeting in itself, but the report of the meeting on the official site of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is also very positive.   I have pasted below a Google translation of the Ukrainian-language text.  A nice photo of the meeting from the website is attached. 

    When one compares the positive language below to the verbal (and sometimes physical) attacks between the two churches 20 years ago, truly much progress (perhaps even miraculous progress) has been made.  Deo gratias!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 23 August 2011: Signs of hope??

    As you know, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has summoned a meeting with the Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem and the Archbishop of Cyprus beginning the end of August.  These are the Local Orthodox Churches whose autocephalous status was recognized by ecumenical councils of the first millennium.  Although the meeting will discuss the situation of Christians in the Middle East, it will also address the issues facing the Preparatory Commission for the future pan-Orthodox Council.  At the present time the Preparatory Commission is deadlocked on certain issues.  The deadlock potentially blocks further progress in the convening the pan-Orthodox Council.

    The meeting at the end of August and the first of September, to the extent that it relates to the deadlocked issues, has been a subject of considerable concern to the Moscow Patriarchate.  The deadlock is largely the result of the conflicting positions taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate on such issues as the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch in granting autocephalous status to churches (e.g., how the tomos granting autocephalous status should be signed).  The Moscow Patriarchate is concerned about such issues being discussed at the forthcoming meeting without its presence.  It is also possible that an argument could be made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate that the views of the churches of the first millennium should be accorded greater weight on such issues because of their antiquity.   The Moscow Patriarchate has already strenuously disagreed with such a potential argument.  See  (Metropolitan Hilarion: “we certainly cannot agree that a particular group of Churches is regarded as ‘the pillar’ of world Orthodoxy on the grounds that their autocephaly is older than that of other Churches, for in this case there is a threat of dividing Orthodoxy into first-rate Churches and second-rate Churches.”)

    Since April (when the meeting of the five ancient churches was first made known), Metropolitan Hilarion has personally met with the primates of many of the Local Orthodox Churches, namely Serbia (twice), Greece (twice), Romania, Bulgaria, Alexandria, Cyprus, Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia.  Last Saturday (Aug. 20) he met with His Beatitude Ignatios IV, Patriarch of the Antioch.

    Yesterday (Aug. 21), a week before the scheduled meeting of the five ancient churches, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  However, the two did not merely meet at the Phanar, but rather traveled together to the island of Imbros (where the Ecumenical Patriarch was born).  The attached photo shows them relaxed at Imbros. 

    All of this may be a sign that a resolution may occur before the scheduled meeting of the five ancient Orthodox churches.  Let us hope and pray so.

    There is also some other good news.  Immediately after Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Ukraine (July 26-28), he was hospitalized at Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital (the best hospital in Russia, known sometimes as the Kremlin clinic) for a severe viral infection.  One Russian Internet site ( even reported that the Patriarch had actually had a heart attack.  Fortunately, the Patriarch is now active again.  He served both the vigil and the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration (Aug. 18 and 19) at the Cathedral of Christ Savior.  Yesterday, he served another Liturgy, and today he attended a commission meeting.  It appears that his good recovery is continuing.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 August 2011: More on Great and Holy Council

    The site posted today a good English translation of Metropolitan Hilarion’s August 3 interview with NG-Religii.  I found particularly interesting Metropolitan Hilarion’s answer to a question relating to the future Pan-Orthodox Council.  I have pasted the question and answer below.  As you can see, His Eminence raises the possibility of the agenda of the Council only including those items on which the Preparatory Commission has already reached a unanimous position plus new issues such as bioethics and family values on which all the autonomous Orthodox Local Churches can reach a unanimous positions.  Issues on which the Preparatory Commission is presently deadlocked would be deferred to a time after the Council.  Deferring such deadlocked issues was also suggest by Metropolitan Hilarion in an Interfax interview in June. (an excerpt of the June interview is also pasted below).

    The deferring of the controversial issues is an interesting approach.  It stands in contrast to the councils of the first millennium which were called specifically to resolve controversial issues that were dividing the Church.  On the other hand, the Council could issue a strong unanimous statement to a world where traditional moral values are under attack, especially with respect to bioethics and family values.

    I have no idea whether the postponement of the controversial issues has been the subject to Metropolitan Hilarion’s  meetings with the primates of a majority of the Local Orthodox Churches in the last few months. However, if Metropolitan Hilarion receives strong support for the postponement, it could affect the results of the meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the primates of the first millennium autocephalous Orthodox churches (Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Cyprus) where the issues facing the Pan-Orthodox Council will be discussed.  That meeting will begin at the end of this month.

    I have attached a copy of Father Ron Roberson’s latest monthly newsletter relating to events in May 2011 involving the Eastern Churches --  in the event you have not already received it and have an interest in reading this excellent newsletter.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


     When you think a Pan-Orthodox Council may take place?

    1. Mutual relations between Local Orthodox Churches are on the rise today, characterized by growing trust and cooperation. In the recent years, a considerable progress has been made in preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council. It is impossible to foretell the exact date of the Council. It will take place when Orthodox Churches agree on the items of the agenda published as far back as the 1960s. In discussing these items at inter-Orthodox preparatory commissions and Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences, Local Churches have managed to come to consensus on most of them but not all as yet. At present, the Local Orthodox Churches should decide together whether to hold a Council on the full agenda or only those items on which an agreed position has already been reached by the Churches. The latter option will clearly draw nearer the date of the Pan-Orthodox Council.

    On the other hand, not all the items put on the agenda in the last century are relevant in our days, for instance, the struggle against racial discrimination. At the same time, the Church is facing a whole number of new challenges requiring urgent discussion and decisions. Among them some issues of bioethics as well as problems brought about by the crisis of family values in the modern society. It would be worthwhile to discuss these issues during the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council.

    Excerpt from the June interview of Metropolitan Hilarion:

    That is why I believe that any review of the diptych whatsoever should not be initiated now. Any further discussion on this theme can only put off the convening of a Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, while this Council is what our flock expect from us. And the people of God not at all expect from us a decision as to the order in which Primates of our Church should be placed in the diptych. They rather expect from us a powerful and inspired witness to the truth of Christ; they expect answers to the questions of how the Orthodox Christian should live in the modern world. Let us hold the Council and show to the whole world that we are united and unanimous and that we are capable of responding to the challenges of our time ‘with one mind and one voice’. And let us leave the question of which of the Primates should take which place for the post-Council time.

  • 24 July 2011: Swiatek and Filaret

    On July 21, Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek died in Belarus at the age of 96.   The same day, Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk sent a letter to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.  The letter is prominently posted on the official website of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.   I have pasted a Google translation below.  Even with the shortcomings of a Google translation, it is a most beautiful letter.

    Cardinal Swiatek, a survivor of the gulags, was truly an amazing person.  I remember seeing Cardinal Swiatek when he was approximately 80 years old.  To demonstrate his vigor at that age, he took a small boy, weighing at least 20 kilos, tossed him high in the air, and caught him.  The gulags simply had not be able to crush him.

    It is a fact that Catholic – Orthodox relations are warmer in Belarus than in Moscow, although the latter have improved greatly in recent years.  In my opinion, much of the credit should go to Metropolitan Filaret, Cardinal Swiatek, and Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.  Archbishop Kondrusiewicz was in Moscow during the period when Catholic – Orthodox relations were at their worse.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of some at the Moscow Patriarchate, his image became tarnished because of the confrontations of that time.  However, when he was transferred by the Vatican to Minsk, Metropolitan Filaret warmly welcomed him.  According the Archbishop, it was like going from night to day.

    With the death of Cardinal Swiatek, it would not surprise me if Archbishop Kondrusiewicz will someday receive a cardinal’s hat.  I have pasted below a short biography of Cardinal Swiatek from the website.  As a veteran of the gulags, Cardinal Swiatek personifies the philosophy of the Catholic and Orthodox prisoners in the gulags that the differences between the two Churches just didn’t seem that great.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Letter from Metropolitan Filaret:

    His Eminence Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz,
    Metropolitan of Minsk and Mogilev,
    Apostolic Administrator of Pinsk
    With a heavy heart we accepted the sad news of the blissful death of Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek - confessor and zealous pastor, showing an example of courageous defense of the faith and following the divine call to be faithful to Christ even unto death (Revelation 2:10).
    Neither the decades of camps nor other hardships and troubles had been able to break his will and his desire to evangelize the world about salvation and to witness to contemporaries divine mercy. The calls for patience, sorrow and love for one’s enemies from his mouth sounded especially convincing and affirming, because he spoke from the heart, from what he personally experienced and suffered.
    The late Cardinal Kazimierz made an enormous contribution to the development of good-neighborly relations between the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus. We keep fond memories in our heart of him and share the burden of all grieving his loss.
    On behalf of all Orthodox Christians of Belarus, we express our condolences to Belarusian Catholics. We pray to the Merciful Lord Jesus Christ for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek and for comfort of his spiritual children.
    Eternal memory to the deceased!
      + Filaret
    Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk
    Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus
    July 21, 2011


    Excerpt from a Zenit article:

    Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek is a revered figure of Catholicism in Belarus due to his heroic resistance during the Communist period. He was a survivor of the Soviet gulags, and a key figure in the reconstruction of the Catholic community after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    Born on Oct. 21, 1914, in Walga (now Estonia), he was only three when his family was deported to Siberia. In 1939, he was ordained a priest in Pinsk, and barely two years later was arrested and imprisoned by the Communist authorities, although he took advantage of the confusion caused by the Nazi invasion in 1941 to escape.

    In December 1944, he was imprisoned again and condemned to 10 years of forced labor in Siberia, then beyond the polar circle in Inta near Varkuta, places where it was almost impossible to come out alive.

    After his release in 1954, he returned to Pinsk, where for 30 years he carried out a difficult ministry looking after a Catholic community decimated and semi-clandestine, spread over a very vast territory.

    With the fall of the regime in 1989, he was appointed vicar general of Pinsk and, two years later, archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev and apostolic administrator of Pinsk. In 1994, Pope John Paul II created him cardinal.

    The elderly cardinal led the reorganization of the Church in Belarus, the first ad limina visit and the first diocesan pilgrimage to Rome in almost 100 years. He also led in the struggle for religious liberty in post-Communist Belarus and was elected the first president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Belarus.

    On Sept. 27, 2004, John Paul II conferred on Cardinal Swiatek the prize "Witness of the Faith" (Fidei testis) of the Paul VI Institute, in recognition of his heroism in living the faith.

    Despite his advanced age, Cardinal Swiatek remained at the head of the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev until he was 91, when Benedict XVI accepted his resignation.

    He remained the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Pinsk until late last month.

  • 20 July 2011: Metropolitan Hilarion and Patriarch Daniel

    Metropolitan Hilarion met today with Patriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church. As you can see from the statement of the Press Office of the Romanian Patriarchate (below), there was special stress at the meeting on the issues facing the Preparatory Commission for the Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council.  Since the deadlock at the meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission at Chambesy, 22-26 February 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion has now personally met with a majority of the primates of the Orthodox Local Churches.  This has included the primates of the Churches of: Cyprus (June 18), Greece (June 14 and April 9-10); Alexandria (June 13); Bulgaria (May 16); Poland (May 13); Czech Lands and Slovakia (May 11), and Serbia (March 31).  In addition, the Ecumenical Patriarch will be meeting with the Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem and the Archbishop of Cyprus beginning the end of August.  Although the latter meeting will discuss the situation of Christians in the Middle East, the meeting will also address the issues facing the Preparatory Commission.  Hopefully, with all of these consultations, the deadlock will be broken. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    The Press Office of the Romanian Patriarchate informs us:
    On 19 July 2011, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel received in an audience, at the Patriarchal Palace, His Eminence Ilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, President of the Department for Church External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
    During the first part of the meeting, various aspects of the inter-Orthodox relations were discussed, with special stress on the issues in the daily agenda of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission of the Holy Great Pan-Orthodox Synod.
    Further on, topical themes of the bilateral relations between the two sister Orthodox Churches were also discussed. In this context, the need to intensify the dialogue and cooperation between the two Patriarchates was emphasised, through exchange of students, cultural projects and organisation of certain conferences and colloquia concerning the pastoral-missionary and social work of the Church in the contemporary secularised society.

  • 1 July 2011: Moscow at St. Peter's - June 29

    As is well known, the Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have sent delegations to the celebration of their respective patronal feasts.  This began with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Istanbul on the feast of St. Andrew’s in 1979 and was followed by a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate coming to St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29, 1980.  This year the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to St. Peter’s was headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.  However, what has gone unnoticed in the media is that this year a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate was also present.  This was made clear by the press release of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate which states in part:  “the service was attended by a delegation of the Constantinople Patriarchate, headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, as well as the rector of the Russian church of St. Catherine in Rome, Fr. Anthony (Sevryuk).”  (Google translation of Russian).  To my knowledge, this is the first occasion that the Moscow Patriarchate has ever sent a representative to celebrate the patronal feast in St. Peter’s Basilica.  Perhaps the presence of Father Anthony was also motivated by the fact that Pope Benedict was celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ordination.  Still, I found it a very positive gesture by the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Hieromonk Antony (Sevryuk) has a very interesting biography.  He was born in Tver, Russia in October 1984 and is thus 26 years old at the present time.  His photo is attached.  He is an example of Patriarch Kirill taking brilliant young men and advancing them very fast (as was done for Hilarion).  In this regard, Kirill is following the practice of his mentor, Metropolitan Nikodim, who took talented young men, such as Kirill, and advanced them rapidly.  Father Antony graduated from the St. Petersburg Seminary in 2007.  He graduated with distinction and was awarded the Metropolitan Nikodim prize.  In October 2007, he became an assistant to Metropolitan Kirill, then head of the DECR.  In September 2008 he was appointed a professor at the Smolensk Seminary.  In February 2009 (the month Kirill became patriarch), he became personal secretary to Patriarch Kirill.  From April 2009 to April 2011, he was promoted to head of the Patriarch’s personal secretariat.  By the decision of the Holy Synod on May 30, 2011, he was appointed rector at Moscow Patriarchate’s Church of St. Catherine, located within sight of St. Peter’s.

    The Vatican should be very pleased with this assignment.  As I noted in an earlier email, Archpriest Igor Vyzhanov was also transferred to St. Catherine’s by the Holy Synod on May 30.  Before an assignment at New York City, Father Igor headed the secretariat for relations with the non-Orthodox churches at the Department of External Church Relations in Moscow.  He was also one of two representatives for the Moscow Patriarchate on the Joint Theological Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  With Father Anthony and Father Igor both in Rome, there is an extremely talented team in Rome to communicate with the Vatican.  I believe that this is very good news.

    Lastly, Pope Benedict discussed the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue in his meeting with the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on June 28.  I have pasted these remarks, posted on the new Vatican website,, below.  In my opinion, the Holy Father is saying that progress on the primacy discussion may seems slow, but this is because the issues are so complex – but we must continue in order to fulfill the will of Our Lord.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    "We are carefully following the progress of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches", he added. "From a purely human perspective, one could get the impression that theological dialogue proceeds with difficulty. The truth is that its rhythm is linked to the complexity of the questions under discussion, which require extraordinary efforts of scholarship, of reflection, of mutual openness. We are called to continue this journey together in charity, asking the Holy Spirit to give us light and inspiration, in the certainty that He wishes to lead us to the complete fulfillment of Christ's will: that all should be one".

  • 25 June 2011: Interesting St. Petersburg event

    Corpus Christi Procession on Nevsky Prospekt

    On next Sunday, June 26, Catholics will celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.  After the noon Mass at St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church on Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg, Russia, Archbishop Pezzi will lead a Corpus Christi procession on Nevsky Prospekt and the surrounding streets with the Blessed Sacrament.  As you know, Nevsky Prospekt is the most famous avenue in St. Petersburg, Russia.  It is the first time that such a procession has occurred on Nevsky Prospekt in the last 83 years.  The last such procession was organized by Monsignor Constantin Budkiewicz, who was shot in the back of the head by the Communists during the early morning hours of Easter 1923.  I believe that it is an significant act of tolerance that the City of St. Petersburg is now giving permission for this procession.  In fact, Nevsky Prospekt has been historically known as the “avenue of tolerance,” because not only is the Orthodox Kazan Cathedral, but also the major Armenian, Lutheran, and Catholic churches, located on this most important avenue of St. Petersburg.

     Cardinal Etchegaray Hosted by Orthodox in St. Petersburg

    Cardinal Roger Etchegaray of France celebrated Pentecost with Metropolitan Vladimir of St. Petersburg.  The Cardinal was in St. Petersburg for six days.  I have pasted below an interesting Zenit ( article posted yesterday on the visit.  A short 3-minure video of Cardinal Etchegaray’s visit to St. Catherine’s Catholic Church on Nevsky Prospekt can be seen at  Not only does Cardinal Etchegaray have a friendship with Metropolitan Vladimir, but he also had 40-year friendship with Patriarch Alexy.  It was Cardinal Etchegaray who arranged the Patriarch’s visit to Paris in 2007.  Cardinal Etchegaray was also one of two cardinals in the Vatican’s delegation at the funeral of Patriarch Alexy.  At the age of 88, it is amazing that Cardinal Etchegaray is still going to Russia.  You may recall that on Christmas Eve 2009 in St. Peter’s Basilica, a woman jumped the barrier, pulled down Pope Benedict, and knocked down Cardinal Etchegaray, breaking his hip.  In the St. Petersburg video, you can see that Cardinal Etchegaray is now using a cane, but you just can’t keep the Cardinal down!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia, JUNE 22, 2011 ( A longtime friend of leaders in the Russian Orthodox Church, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray visited Russia for Pentecost, inviting the faithful to "walk by the Spirit" in bettering relations between the two Churches.

    Cardinal Etchegaray is vice dean of the College of Cardinals. He served as president of the Pontifical Councils Cor Unum and for Justice and Peace.

    He was in St. Petersburg June 9-15, beginning his visit with prayer at the tomb of Metropolitan Nikodim, whom he visited in St. Petersburg more than 30 years ago.

    The 88-year-old cardinal has been a pioneer in Catholic-Russian Orthodox dialogue; his visit to what was then Leningrad was made at the invitation of Metropolitan Nikodim.

    The cardinal has also been a longtime friend of Vladimir, the present metropolitan of St. Petersburg. They met in the framework of the Second Vatican Council, in which the cardinal, then a priest of the French Diocese of Bayonne, took part as an expert, and the future metropolitan as an observer of the Moscow patriarchate.

    Cardinal Etchegaray celebrated Pentecost with the Orthodox, as the feast was marked on the same date this year by both Churches.

    The cardinal attended an Orthodox vigil for the feast, exchanging the kiss of peace with Metropolitan Vladimir.

    The next morning, Cardinal Etchegaray gave Metropolitan Vladimir a letter from the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch. The letter recalled the importance of Vatican II in the development of relations between Catholics and Orthodox.

    Bishop Ambrose, rector of the Academy of Orthodox Theology, invited the cardinal to stay at the academy during his time in St. Petersburg and organized a reception in his honor.

    At the time of the cardinal's first visit to that city, the rector of the academy was the present head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

    Cardinal Etchegaray also celebrated Mass with the Catholic community of St. Petersburg in the Church of St. Catherine, as well as visiting the seminary.

    He also met with representatives of Russian culture, including Boris Borisovich Piotrovski, former director of the Hermitage Museum, which houses numerous masterpieces of Western religious art.

  • 23 June 2011: Hilarion on Rethymno meeting results

    Metropolitan Hilarion has given an interview to concerning the results of the Rethymno meeting.  It includes a video of the entire interview which lasts for approximately 8 minutes.   Although the interview was conducted in English, the Greek translation has been superimposed so one cannot hear the English.   However, does give a short written summary which I have translated into English using Google.   From this summary, it appears that the following are the major points:

    1. The dialogue with Catholics requires patience.
    2. At the Rethymno meeting, the parties discussed primacy and synodality based on both theological studies and historical data relating to the Church’s first millennium.
    3. So far not much has been accomplished because there were different attempts on different texts.  We have not reached a final text.
    4. The Orthodox must reach a common position on  these issues which is not easy to do.
    5. Work will continue until the meeting of the Coordinating Committee in November.

    Hopefully, in the next few days the complete English text of the interview will be available on the Internet.  It appears that at this point there is not a single draft document, agreed to by all of the Orthodox churches, which can be presented to the Catholic side.  Presumably, the Moscow Patriarchate continues to hold to its position that primacy means honor and nothing else, while the Ecumenical Patriarchate holds the primacy means honor and something else.  Aside from the dialogue with Catholics, this difference, in my opinion, remains a major stumbling block in the preparations for the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church.

    The Interfax interview of Metropolitan Hilarion, in which he stated that the issue of the diptychs should be postponed until after the Great and Holy Council, is now available in a good English translation at


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 June 2011: Hilarion interview on pan-Orthodox issues

    Last Friday evening Interfax posted an exclusive interview with Metropolitan Hilarion with the title, “Escalation of Christianphobia in the Near East threatens Orthodoxy.”   The interview is in Russian, and I have not seen an English translation on the Internet.   Although the first question of the interview deals with that topic, the other questions deal with pan-Orthodox issues.  The Google translation of Metropolitan Hilarion’s answers does not do justice to his arguments and reasoning.  I have therefore attempted below just to summarize his conclusions (as I understand them).

    Meeting of the Ecumenical Patriarch with the Primates of the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem and the Church of Cyprus at the end of August and beginning of September

    Metropolitan Hilarion states that it is reported that the meeting will involve not only a discussion of issues involving the Near East, but will also include pan-Orthodox issues relating to the preparations for the  Great Council of the Orthodox Church.  The Metropolitan rejects any concept that these five churches, whose autocephalous status was established by ecumenical councils, constitute the “core” of Orthodoxy.  This concept would lead to first and second class churches.  In preparing for the Great Council, one must rely on ecclesiological concepts that unite the Orthodox Church rather than on new concepts that create division and discord.

    The order of the diptychs – one of two issues that resulted in a deadlock at Chambesy in February

    There should be no revision of the diptychs at this time.  Further discussion of this subject will only delay the holding of a Great Council.  The resolution of the order of the primates in the diptych should be left to the period after the Great Council.

    The situation of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) whose autocephalous status is not recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and certain other Orthodox Churches

    No one disputes the canonical status of the bishops and priests of the OCA.  Their canonical status allows them to participate fully in the common life of the Church, including sending representatives to numerous inter-Orthodox meetings.  The more often we see bishops and priests of the OCA at Church-wide events, the more likely, Metropolitan Hilarion believes, that the issue of its pan-Orthodox recognition will be addressed.  It is also very important that the primate of the OCA together with the primates of other Orthodox churches take part in inter-actions whenever he receives an invitation.

    On a different subject, I have not seen on the Internet any reports concerning the progress or lack of progress at the Rethymno Catholic – Orthodox meeting.  See (no comments on results).   Actually, this may be good as involving the media, before a conclusion is reached, may not be the best idea.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 17 June 2011: More on Rethymno

    More information on the Rethymno meeting is available today on Greek and Romanian websites.  If you wish, you can use the Google translating tool to translate these sites.



    The second site lists seven Orthodox and seven Catholic representatives at the meeting.  The Orthodox members listed are: Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas)(Ecum. Pat.); Metropolitan Gennadios (Limouris)(Ecum. Pat.); Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)(Moscow); Metropolitan Vasilios (Karayiannis)(Cyprus); Metropolitan Chryssostomos (Savvatos)(Greece); Bishop Ignatije (Midic)(Serbia); and Prof. Archdeacon Ioan Ică  (Romania).  The Catholic members listed are:  Cardinal Kurt Koch (Ponf. Council); Archbishop Roland Minnerath (France); Msgr. Piero Coda (Italy); Msgr. Paul McPartlan (USA); Father Frans Bouwen, W.F. (Jerusalem); Prof. Dr. Theresia Hainthaler (Germany); and Father Andrea Palmieri (Pont. Council).  The article states that another meeting will be held in Rome in November.  A photo of the co-chairmen (Koch and Ioannis) and the secretaries (Gennadios and Palmieri), from, is attached. 

    I believe the fifth person in the photo (in the middle) is Metropolitan Eugene of Rethymno, who is hosting the meeting.

    For those of you who have not already received it directly, I have attached the latest newsletter from Father Ron Roberson covering news events involving the Eastern Churches in April 2011.

    Also today, the new apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, met with Patriarch Kirill, in what appears to be a constructive and positive meeting.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 June 2011: Bishop Farrell interview on Rethymno

    Today Vatican Radio interviewed Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who is in Rethymno, Crete for a meeting of the “subcommission” of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  The 9-minute English-language interview may be heard at  Some of the interesting points made by Bishop Farrell are the following:  (1)  At the request of the Orthodox, the Rethymno meeting will attempt to draft a document on the role of the papacy in the first millennium which is more theological and less historical that the 2008 “Crete document.” (2) This is the first meeting of the “subcommission,” and more than one meeting may be necessary to reach agreement.  (3)  A date for the next plenary meeting of the International Joint Commission has not be set, as it will depend on the results of the work of the “subcommission.”

    I also believe that Bishop Farrell’s use of the term “subcommission” is significant.  Previously, draft documents were prepared by various working groups, and then the final draft was prepared by the “coordinating committee” of the Joint International Commission.  This was the process for the first “Crete document.”  The use of the term “subcommission” implies a broader group than the “coordinating committee” but still a smaller group than the full Commission.

    Please remember this important meeting in your prayers.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 June 2011: Crete - again the site of a crucial meeting

    Today the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted a Russian-language report that Metropolitan Hilarion will be visiting Greece, 13-18 June.   However, the most interesting aspect of the report is the statement that during this visit to Greece, Metropolitan Hilarion will be participating in the meeting of a working group of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches to prepare a document on the topic, “The role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium.”  This meeting will be held in the city of Rethymno(n) on the island of Crete.

    Personally, I had never heard of Rethymno, so I did some brief research on the city.  Rethymno is not only an Orthodox city, but also had a Catholic presence during the Venetian occupation.  The city of also was occupied by Russia from 1897 to 1913.  In short, the city has had a diverse and interesting history.

    The Rethymno meeting this week could be very significant.  As you may recall, the Joint Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission met in Elounda, Crete, from 27 September to 4 October 2008, and reached agreement on a document on the same topic.   However, unlike this week’s meeting in Rethymno, the Moscow Patriarchate did not participate in the Elounda meeting because of its dispute with the Ecumenical  Patriarchate over the participation of Estonia in the dialogue.  Subsequent to the 2008 meeting in Crete, the “Crete document,” agreed upon at Elouda, was unfortunately leaked and posted on a Catholic Internet site.  The leaked document created an uproar in certain conservative Orthodox circles.  When the plenary session of the Joint International Commission met in Cyprus in October 2009, strong head winds had developed against the “Crete document.”  In addition, the Moscow Patriarchate, which had rejoined the dialogue at Cyprus, took a more restrictive view of primacy than did the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  No agreement was reached on the “Crete document” at the 2009 plenary at Cyprus, and no agreement was reached at the 2010 plenary in Vienna.  At the end of the Vienna plenary, it appeared that it would be necessary to abandon the “Crete document” of 2008.

    This week’s meeting in Rethymno appears to be an effort to create a new Crete document – this time with the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Hopefully, there will be some progress at Rethymno in overcoming the stalemate on the issue of primacy.   The issue of primacy is not only critical for the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue, but also has direct relevance to the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to the other Local Orthodox Churches.  The dispute between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate on the latter issue has been a major stumbling block in the preparation of a Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church.  Much prayer is needed for greater agreement between Catholic and Orthodox and also between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate on the difficult issue of primacy.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 June 2011: Serbia continued

    The following is an article posted yesterday by the Serbian daily tabloid Blic.  The article is based on the remarks of an unidentified person at the Serbian Patriarchate.  In spite of the headlines, a reading of the text of the article supports the view that the Serbian bishops have not yet made a final decision as to whether the Pope should be invited to Serbia or not.   I found no statement concerning the Pope’s visit to Croatia on the official website of the Serbian Patriarchate,   In my opinion, we must still wait for a final answer – which may be many months away. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 


    SPC shall not invite Pope to come to Nis

    Tanjug, N. Vlačo | 07. 06. 2011.

    The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) most likely shall not invite the Pope Benedict XVI to attend the celebration of 1,700 years of the Edict of Milan in the Town of Nis in 2013 since the Synod had not agreed about that, Tanjug was told at the Patriarchy in Belgrade.

    As said by the Patriarchy the Pope perhaps would have been invited had he during visit to Croatia this weekend visited Jasenovac and paid respect to victim of the concentration camp in which 700,000 Serbs and about 100,000 Jews and Roma were killed during the WWII.

    That has not happened but the Pope did visit the grave of Croatian Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac who was on trial after the WWII for cooperation with the Nazis.

    The Pope’s disputable praising of Stepinac proved how huge differences over Stepinac between the Catholic and Orthodox Church are.

    Jovan Mirkovic, Director of the Museums of Victims of Genocide does not agree with the Pope who said that Stepinac was saving the Jews, Serbs and Roma. ‘There are simple no proofs for such claims but there are proofs about Cardinal’s responsibility for the ustashi crimes’, he says.

    The Pope said in Croatia that Stepinac was a humanist who suffered under two totalitarian regimes – of the ustashis and of the communists. Like his predecessor John Paul II, Benedict XVI, too paid respect to Stepinac at his grave in the Zagreb Cathedral.

    In a statement to ‘Blic’ Federico Lombardi, Director of Vatican’s Office for media claims that there are testimonies that Stepinac was not supporting Ante Pavelic’s regime, that he was saving all he could and that serious historians have proved that.
    ‘There are data about saving of Jews’, Lombardi said.

    Jovan Mirkovic, former Director of Jasenovac Monument Park says that ‘Vatican’s thesis that Stepinac was saving Jews is without ground’.

    ‘Had he saved life of a single Jew, Israel would have proclaimed Stepinac a righteous among nations. I think there were certain attempts to that direction but they all failed’, Mirkovic says.

    As regards Stepinac’s relation towards the Serbs, everything is clear according to Mirkovic.

    It is sure that there is his responsibility for enforced turning of Serbs into Catholicism. Secondly, large number of his priests was ustashis committing crimes together with others. Thirdly, he was s supreme military priest and all military priests delegated to ustashi units were under his authority. Stepinac knew about Jasenovac and all horrible things that were going on there’, Mirkovic says.

  • 1 June 2011: Reconciliation of Poland and Russia

    Although not yet reported at, the Polish Catholic news agency KAI has just posted a story on its website concerning today’s (June 1) meeting in Warsaw between Metropolitan Hilarion and the 3-person committee of Polish bishops headed by Archbishop Henryk Muszynski.   This constitutes the third meeting of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference to reach an agreed-upon document on the reconciliation of the Russian and Polish peoples.  Although the process of reaching a common document is a difficult one, it appears that progress is being made.  I have pasted a Google translation (very poor) of the Polish-language article below.  When I asked Metropolitan Hilarion several months ago what can be done to assist this dialogue, he responded “prayer.”   It has been in my prayers, and I hope that you can remember it in your prayers as well.  Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Work is underway to document

    mp / ms, Warszawa, 2011-06-01 mp / ms, Warsaw, 2011-06-01

    Fot. Fig. md, jk - Biuro Prasowe KEP md, jk - Press Office KEP

    There are discrepancies as to the historic document of reconciliation, prepared jointly by the Catholic Church in Poland and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate - Archbishop Henryk Muszynski said.

    Archbishop Muszynski after a meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Relations of Church Moscow Patriarchate said that the work must still take and no way today to announce the dates for their completion.

    The primate emeritus said that today's meeting marked "the third phase of our work together."  The first was to agree on common themes that we want to discuss.  Then the Catholic side and the Orthodox side each prepared its own proposed document. Based on this - especially the version prepared by representatives of the Polish Episcopate - was prepared, the next version of the document that was discussed today.
    "It was admitted in the sphere of its theological content, except details of difficult moments in a common history, still to be completed" - Archbishop Muszynski explained.  "But it was an important step towards the eventual adoption of the document" - he stressed.
    "We need to find such a formulation that will be acceptable to one and the other side.  He added that history does not deal with a story, but we evaluate them in terms of faith. "
    Among the disputed issues mentioned by Archbishop Muszynski, among others, was the problem compared to communism, a different look at the year 1920, the year 1939 and 1945.  As another example, a different view of the two churches on the same historical events, Archbishop Muszynski mentioned the demolition of the church in Poland in the interwar period.  "For the Orthodox it was a struggle with the Orthodox Church, and for the Poles, it was a fight against occupation" - he explained.
    "We want to stand in the truth and we want to be credible in relation to the people to whom we speak" - Archbishop Muszynski said.
    To the question whether both parties want to apologize for mistakes and blame their peoples, by analogy, as it was stated in the Polish-German document of 1965, Archbishop Muszynski said:

    "Without mutual apologies document does not make sense."  "This is an expression of a new democratic reality, when the churches are free and can speak their own language" - he added.
    Meeting between a delegation of Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Poland lasted more than 2 hours.  Held in the building of the Secretariat of the Episcopate. In addition to Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev attended Fr. Igor Jakimciuk,  secretary of Metropolitan Hilarion.
    Catholic Party was represented by appointed members of the Polish Episcopal Conference Team for talks with the Russian Orthodox Church: Archbishop Henryk Muszynski (Chairman), Bishop Stanislaw Budzik and Bishop Tadeusz Pikus, who directs the work of the CEP Council for Ecumenism.   The meeting was also attended by the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, Archbishop Celestino Migliore

  • 30 May 2011: Another perspective on Serbia

    Today, many Orthodox websites continue to state, without identifying any authority for their comments, that the Serbian bishops decided at their session last week not to invite the Pope to the 2013 Edict of Milan celebrations in Nis, Serbia.  Many websites have also stated that Patriarch Kirill told the Serbian Church that he would not come to the celebrations if the Pope came.  However, the report below takes a somewhat different approach.  I am inclined to believe it because in my opinion it is very logical and comes from an important website.  It is from, which according the “top 100” survey, is the second most popular religious website in the Russian Federation.  I have pasted this report, including the Google English translation, below.  As can be seen, this reports states that the Moscow Patriarchate requested that the decision whether to invite the Pope be postponed and that the Serbian bishops did so.   To me this makes a great deal of sense.  For example, if a Kirill – Benedict meeting occurs prior to the Nis celebration in 2013, I would doubt that the Moscow Patriarchate would object to the Pope’s presence at Nis.  Also the failure of the official communiqué of the Serbian Synod to mention anything about the invitees to the Nis celebration supports the theory that decision was postponed.  However, this remains speculation on my part.

    In another development, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church announced today that Archpriest Igor Vyzhanov is being transferred from New York City to the Moscow Patriarchate’s St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Rome.  As you may recall, prior to his New York assignment, Father Igor headed the secretariat for relations with the non-Orthodox churches at the Department of External Church Relations in Moscow.  He was also one of two representatives for the Moscow Patriarchate on the Joint Theological Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  In my opinion, his presence in Rome is a positive development which will further facilitate communications between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican.


    Peter Anderson


    Belgrade. 30 мая. May 30. ПРАВМИР – Состоявшийся в Белграде Архиерейский Собор Сербской Православной Церкви принял решение о приглашении гостей на празднование 1700-летия издания Миланского эдикта, которое должно состояться в 2013 г. в Нише. PRAVMIR - held in Belgrade, the Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church has decided to invite guests to celebrate the 1700 anniversary edition of the Edict of Milan, to be held in 2013 in Nis.

    До и во время Собора сербская пресса много писала о том, будет или не будет приглашен на празднование Папа Бенедикт XVI. Before and during the Council, the Serbian press wrote a lot about whether Pope Benedict XVI will or will not be invited to the celebration. Говорилось с одной стороны о стремлении Сербского Патриарха Иринея пригласить римского первосвященника на празднования в Ниш, а с другой стороны – о просьбе Русской Православной Церкви не спешить с приглашением римского папы. Said the one hand the desire of the Serbian Patriarch Irenaeus  to invite the Roman pontiff to the celebration in Nis, on the other side - on the request of the Russian Orthodox Church not to hurry with an invitation to the pope.

    В итоге Собор не назвал среди приглашенных на празднование юбилея римского понтифика. As a result, Council did not mention among the guests at the celebration of the Roman pontiff. Это не означает, что Папа не будет приглашен на праздник, а говорит только о том, что данный вопрос отложен на будущее. This does not mean that the pope would not be invited to the celebration, and said only that the issue is postponed for the future.

  • 28 May 2011: More on Serbia

    I must confess that 24-hours after sending my earlier email on the spring session of the Holy Synod and Assembly of the Serbian Patriarchate, I am now confused on what was decided (if anything) as to whether the Pope would be invited to Serbia for the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan.  As reported yesterday, it appears that Bishop (not Patriarch) Irenaeus, the spokesperson for the Synod, in extemporaneous remarks to journalists after the final session on Thursday described the invitees in such a fashion as to include heads of Christian denominations.  However, since then a few Serbian websites have stated that there has been a clarification and that the Pope will not be invited.  The confusion is demonstrated by one Serbian website which states in its headline that the Pope will not be invited but the article below the headlines states that the Pope will probably be invited.  See   A Greek website has stated that according to unconfirmed sources the Pope will not be invited.   Today (Saturday), the Serbian Orthodox Church posted on its website the official communiqué describing the results of the spring session of the Holy Synod.   Although it is a long communiqué, there is only one sentence devoted to the celebration and that sentence does not describe the invitees.  A Google translation of that sentence from Serbian to English is:  “Starting with the most important, liturgical aspect, the Assembly tackled the issue of the upcoming ceremony to mark the 1700th  anniversary of the Edict of Milan (AD 313 to 2013.) in Nis, the home town of Saint Constantine the Great, on the local, pan-Orthodox and  pan-Christian level.”  We are therefore left with more questions than answers.  It is known that the Serbian bishops are divided on the issue of whether to invite the Pope.   We will probably have to wait and see what the final resolution is or will be.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 May 2011: Pope to Serbia - BUT??

    In the week before Pope Benedict’s visit to Croatia, people interested in Catholic – Orthodox relations may have been carefully watching the spring session of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate held last week and this week.  As you may recall, Patriarch Irinej, the newly-elected head of the Serbian Church, had stated at the time of his January 2010 election (and also before) that he hoped that Pope Benedict would be able to attend the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, to be held in Nis, Serbia, the birthplace of Emperor Constantine.   See  The celebration is very close to the heart of Patriarch Irinej, who was the bishop of Nis for more than 30 years prior to his election.  It was believed that the 2010 spring session of the Synod would discuss the celebration and also discuss whether Pope Benedict would be invited to attend.

    Prior to the session, there was speculation by some experts that the Pope would not be invited because of pressure from conservatives.  There was also a report in the Serbian media that the Moscow Patriarchate’s Metropolitan Hilarion, on his last visit to Belgrade, had conveyed a negative reaction from Patriarch Kirill.  See   This report was denied by Patriarch Irinej.   Although it is likely that nothing of the sort was conveyed by Metropolitan Hilarion, an invitation to the Pope presented some possible problems for the Moscow Patriarchate.  The Moscow Patriarchate probably wishes to control the timing of the first meeting in history between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope.  (Kirill as a metropolitan has met three times with Pope Benedict, but never as patriarch).  For example, the Moscow Patriarchate may desire further progress on the Western Ukraine problem before agreeing to a patriarch-pope visit.  With respect to the celebrations at Nis, Patriarch Kirill would obviously be expected to attend, but if the Pope was also there, it would in fact constitute history’s first meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope.  In short the meeting would occur regardless what happens in Western Ukraine.

    Below is a Google translation from the reliable website for the “Orthodox Encyclopedia” on the results of the spring session.  It appears that the Synod arrived at an interesting solution to the dilemma.  As can be seen below, the celebration will involve three stages.  The second stage will involve a gathering of the heads of all of the Orthodox Churches at Nis.  The third stage will involve the heads of the non-Orthodox Christian Churches.

    Although this program will not be as noteworthy as a gathering of the heads of all of the Orthodox Churches with the head of the Catholic Church, it may still be very significant.  It may mean that Pope Benedict will go to Serbia in 2013 and may meet Patriarch Irinej  --- which in itself is a very important step on the road to Christian unity.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    BELGRADE. Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church has decided to invite in 2013 in Nis, on the celebration of 1700 anniversary of the Edict of Milan heads and representatives of all local Orthodox and all other Christian Churches, the official website of the Serbian Church.
    26 May ended the spring session of the Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was held in Belgrade from May 16 this year.
    One of the final decision was to define the range of guests to be invited in 2013 to triumph in Nis, in honor of the 1700 anniversary of the Edict of Milan by the Emperor Constantine, the official website of the Serbian Church.
    As spokesman for the Council of Bishops Bishop Irenaeus Bachsky (Bulovic), the Serbian bishops have decided that these celebrations will encompass three levels. Level 1 - Local, internal church for the Serbian Orthodox Church. Level 2 - Pan-Orthodox, so the festivities will be invited to the heads of all Orthodox Churches. Level 3 - vsehristiansky that Bishop Irenaeus called more "general cultural" and "pan-European". In accordance with this 3-m level of the celebrations will be invited to the head and high-ranking delegation "of East and West" and all Christian churches, which now are not in unity with the Orthodox Church.
    In his address to the press-secretary of the Council of Bishops did not mention the head of the Roman Catholic Church, but based on the characteristics of the levels of the invited guests, we can conclude that the invitation will be sent to the Vatican.
    Bishop Irenaeus said that the events in Nis will reflect all three levels, and guests will participate in all activities planned in Nis, in honor of this anniversary.
    He also added that, unfortunately, probably not all the invited Heads of the Churches and Heads of Christian denominations will be able to take part in the festivities because of their health status, or various other factors.
    In closing his address Bishop Irenaeus said the new composition of the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which meets under the chairmanship of Serbian Patriarch Irenaeus. It includes bishops Sremski Basil (Vadich) Shumadiysky John (Mladenovic), Budimlyansko-Niksicko Ioanniky (Michovich), as well as the Bishop Irenaeus Bachsky (Bulovic).

  • 10 May 2011: Working on the UGCC - Orthodox problems

    Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk has returned again to Rome – this time to discuss relationships between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) and the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine.  The very fact that he has returned again to Rome after only six weeks indicates that real efforts are being made to solve the current difficulties between the UGCC and especially the Moscow Patriarchate.  Vatican Radio has conducted an interesting 11-minute English-language interview with Shevchuk during his most recent visit which you can hear at    One interesting item in the interview is that the UGCC is conducting a detailed community-by-community analysis of the actual situation relating to Greek Catholics and Orthodox in Western Ukraine.  In this manner, the dispute relating to churches can be discussed with the Orthodox in very concrete terms rather than in broad generalities.

    In another item of news, the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarch severed communion with the Romanian Patriarchate yesterday.   According to the latter website, the dispute relates to a Romanian church and guest facilities established in Jericho without the canonical approval of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.

    Lastly, in connection with the beatification of Pope John Paul II, an exhibit of over 100 Russian icons from the 18th and 19th centuries has opened at the Vatican.  According to the person responsible for the exhibit, the exhibit was “in honor of the Slav Pope who loved Russian icons.”  The latter is perhaps a reference to the copy of the Kazan icon which the Pope kept in his apartment for eleven years and which was then given to Patriarch Alexy.  This copy is now venerated at the Kazan monastery, which is at the site of the apparition of the Mother of God and the discovery of the original icon in 1579.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 May 2011: Orthodox-Catholic conference in Rome

    Today (May 5), an Orthodox-Catholic conference, sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, was held in Rome.  The title of the conference was “The Gift of Old Age.”  Two of the principal speakers were Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Cardinal Kurt Koch.  There were also other speakers from the Moscow Patriarchate and from the Romanian Patriarchate.  I have pasted below short English-language reports concerning the conference from the Italian religious news agency SIR.  You can watch a video (in Italian) of the entire conference at .  In May 2010, the Sant’Egidio Community sponsored an earlier Orthodox-Catholic conference on the poor. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    “Elderly people who are abandoned and deceived by their sons and daughters and are often seen as an annoying burden by their relatives. Sometimes, because of their painful illness, they are often tempted to commit suicide. Hospices… euthanasia. All this wounds our consciences and reveals the old age in all of its defenceless weakness”. Metropolitan Filaret, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus of the Patriarchate of Moscow, gave a passionate speech at the meeting organised by the Sant’Egidio Community on the elderly that is taking place in Rome. In his opening speech, the Metropolitan said that unlike in the past “the elderly are now considered as a separate social group because the old age is no longer viewed as a natural part of life but has become a phenomenon, a problem, whose solution requires special efforts”. The Metropolitan went on to speak of the “gift” of the elderly in “the contemporary mosaic”. They are – he said – and will remain, “although in their defenceless weakness”, the “symbol of the plenitude of life”, “the sign of the fullness of the knowledge of God”, “a question to our soul”. “The elderly have the duty to wake up the consciences of young generations that they do not lose themselves on the path of lie; to keep tradition alive, to sustain young people as they head towards the future. Paradoxically, the elderly open the way to the future”. 



    “Christians, Catholics and Orthodox share love for the poor”. This morning, with those words, Card. Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of Christian unity, opened the meeting named “The gift of old age. Orthodox and Catholics on the path to charity” in Rome, at the Trastevere seat of the Community of Sant’Egidio”. The Peace Room was crowded with the delegations of the Orthodox Patriarchates of Moscow, Ukraine and Romania, and the ambassadors of Romania, Brazil, Austria, France, Macedonia and Slovenia. The main report was entrusted to Filaret, Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of the whole Belorussia of the Patriarchate of Moscow. On introducing the works, Card. Koch recalled how the meeting of Sant’Egidio reached the second edition this year. One year ago, the Community’s theme for reflection was “The poor are the precious treasure of the Church”. This year, the choice was for the theme of the elderly people “because – said Koch – old age is a challenge of our time, with respect to which Christians can work together. Old people are a challenge for our European countries. For our societies, they are a request of love, but at the same time they are a resource of common sense in a world marked by pervasive materialism”.

    Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community, did the honours of the house. “In love – he said – in the ocean of love, the differences between Christians are no longer an obstacle”. And he added: “In human relationships, there are many temptations. Quite often, they are temptations of political or ideological order, because man is a complex being. That is why we feel that the path of love is a decisive path overcoming indifference, in which prejudices disappear”. Hence the invitation to “be great in love”, which “for us means being humble, said Riccardi. John Paul II witnessed that for us. He constantly told us that Christianity is a humble force, which is nevertheless stronger than the arrogant in this world”. Therefore, the poor as measure of Christian love, even as “sacrament” because – concluded Riccardi – “the poor renders the world more human and the Christian more brothers”.

  • 26 April 2011: A new and interesting development

    I hope that all of you had a very blessed Pascha!  Last week, it was reported that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has sent a letter to the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem and to the Archbishop of Cyprus suggesting a meeting at the end of August and the first of September.  The full text of the letter, which apparently has not been officially made public, has been quoted in full in Greek on a number of Greek websites.  See, e.g., .

    The prime purpose of the meeting is to discuss the plight of Christians in the Middle East.  Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch (or now Damascus), Jerusalem, and Cyprus are in or geographically close to the Middle East.  However, the letter also suggests that these five Churches engage in an exchange of “views on Orthodox affairs, including the issue of moving toward a Great and Holy Council of the Holy Orthodox Church.”  The letter then states that there is a long tradition for these ancient patriarchates, plus the Church of Cyprus, whose autocephaly were recognized by one of the seven ecumenical councils, to discuss issues relating to Orthodox unity.  The letter is very careful to state that this discussion is not to exclude other Orthodox Churches as the issue will ultimately be decided on a pan-Orthodox basis.  [Caveat:  I have based this summary on a Google translation of the Greek and from reports on Russian websites – so that  it may not be totally accurate].

    As you know, the last meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church was held at Chambésy, Switzerland from 22 to 26 February 2011.  The meeting essentially resulted in a deadlock.   The most important issue at this Chambesy meeting was the method for signing a tomas of autocephaly, namely whether the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch should be affixed in a manner which indicates a special role for the Ecumenical Patriarch.   This, in turn, involves the reoccurring intra-Orthodox dispute as to whether primacy (in this case the primacy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople) is only a position of honor with respect to the other Churches or whether primacy involves additional powers or functions with regard to those Churches.   Interestingly, a similar issue of primary (just honor or something more for the Pope of Rome) is the issue which prevented progress at the last meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.   Unless there is some resolution of this critical issue among the Orthodox, it is possible that progress toward the Great and Holy Orthodox Council, as well as progress in the Orthodox – Catholic dialogue, may be seriously impeded.  (Of course, with respect to the Orthodox – Catholic dialogue, even if there is agreement among the Orthodox that primacy involves something more than honor, there will still be the long and difficult journey of defining what that “something” is.)

    The proposed September meeting, if it actually occurs, raises some interesting questions – in my mind at least.  Will the five Local Orthodox Churches, whose autocephaly was recognized by ecumenical councils (325 – 727 A.D), seek to articulate a common position on the primacy issue (honor or something more)?  If so, will the other Local Orthodox Churches (including the largest – Russia) give any special weight to the views of the Local Churches which were the principal Local Orthodox Churches in the first millennium?

    For those of you who do not directly receive Father Ron Roberson’s monthly newsletter, I have attached, in case you are interested, his latest excellent newsletter covering developments involving the Eastern Churches in March 2011.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 April 2011: Statement by Metropolitan Hilarion - my personal opinion

    Last month, Metropolitan Hilarion made an interesting statement to Elena Yakovleva, a correspondent for the Russian newspaper Rossijskayai Gazeta (RG).  (For more information about this newspaper, see  -- “most of our readers are even -tempered adults inclined to conservative views”)   An English translation of Metropolitan Hilarion’s statement has recently been posted at  and  I have pasted it below.

    Although most of us are very familiar with Metropolitan Hilarion’s statements relating to the need of a Catholic – Orthodox alliance on moral issues, I do believe that his statement relating to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is new – for me at least.  For good reason, the deliberations of the Joint Commission are not public, and therefore the positions taken by individual Commission members or delegations are not well known.  In the statement below, Metropolitan Hilarion, in the portion that I have emphasized with bold type, states that “my position is often the toughest” and that “the documents that are drafted there are the most often contested by the ROC delegations.”

    Why did Metropolitan Hilarion believe that there was a need to make such a statement in this interview?   In my personal opinion, this statement demonstrates the need of Metropolitan Hilarion and the DECR to justify their actions to the conservative wing of the Russian Orthodox Church.  One cannot view or understand the Moscow Patriarchate without taking into consideration that there is a very significant, and often vocal, group of believers who view the Moscow Patriarchate’s relations with Catholics with suspicion.   Maintaining unity within the Russian Orthodox Church is a very important consideration.  The responsibility of the members of the DECR is to reflect the views of the Church as a whole, as opposed to their own personal opinions.  The Council of Florence demonstrated that attempts at unity without the general support of Orthodox believers are very unlikely to succeed.  Metropolitan Hilarion has a very difficult job of both seeking to work for Christian unity and maintaining the support of the Russian Orthodox flock.  If unity is to come, the Holy Spirit must touch the hearts of the faithful as well as the leaders.  That is my personal opinion, at least.

    I hope that all of you have a very blessed Holy Week. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Bishop [“Vladyka” used in the Russian text] Hilarion commented on his statement to RG as follows.
    “The idea of a strategic alliance with the Catholics– is an old idea of mine. It came to me when the Catholics were electing the new Pope. Although I would like to point out that what I am suggesting is, in essence, the direct opposite of Uniatism, which is a way toward a rapprochement based on doctrinal compromises. In our point of view, the policy of Uniatism had suffered complete failure. Not only did it not bring the Orthodox Christians and Catholics closer together, it actually distanced them. And Uniatism, as is currently recognized by both Orthodox believers and Catholics, is not the path toward unity.  
    ‘‘I, on the other hand, am asking to – without any doctrinal compromises and without attempts to artificially level our dogmatic differences, the teachings about the Church and about the superiority of the Universal Church, without the claims to resolve all of the existing problems between us – act as allies, at the same time, without being a single Church, without having a single administrative system or common liturgy, and while maintaining the differences on the points in which we differ.     
    ‘’This is especially important in light of the common challenges that face both Orthodox and Catholic Christians. They are first and foremost the challenges of a godless world, which is equally hostile today to Orthodox believers and Catholics, the challenge of the aggressive Islamic movement, the challenge of moral corruption, family decay, the abandonment by many people in traditionally Christian countries of the traditional family structure, liberalism in theology and morals, which is eroding the Christian community from within. We can respond to these, and a number of other challenges, together.       
    ‘’I would like to stress, once more, that there are well-known doctrinal differences between the Orthodox and Catholic faiths, but there are also common positions in regard to morality and social issues which, today, are not shared by many of the representatives of liberal Protestantism.  Therefore, cooperation is first and foremost necessary between the Orthodox and Catholic Christians – and that is what I call a strategic alliance.
    ‘’The Church is not ready to make any compromises. And I am not calling for compromise, but on the contrary, to uncompromisingly defend our positions. Within the framework of the Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, my position is often the toughest. Meanwhile, the documents that are drafted there, are the most often contested by the ROC delegations. There have been instances when we were forced to walk out of sessions as a sign of disagreement with what was happening. We always very firmly oppose attempts to erode the differences that exist between us.    
    ‘’We don’t need any compromises. We need cooperation and collaboration. And within the framework of the theological commission, we could discuss the differences that exist between us not in order to find a compromise, but in order to clarify our differences and the things we have in common. It could so happen that in the course of discussion we realize that in some doctrinal aspects we are actually closer than seemed to be before – and this will be a rapprochement. But just the opposite could happen: we may see the differences that we have never noticed before.    
    ‘’The theological dialogue should be allowed to take its course; it may or may not lead to some results. Meanwhile, cooperation that is built on a systematic basis and that is founded on the fact that we share many of the same tasks and challenges should be developed at the same time.”

  • 16 April 2011:Three positive news items
    1. At the invitation of Patriarch Kyrill, Brother Alois and four other brothers of the ecumenical Taize community in France will celebrate Holy Week with the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. More details are provided in a French interview of Brother Alois at  (website of the French Catholic Bishops Conference).   I have pasted an extremely poor Google translation below.   The brothers will be joined by 200 young people from Western Europe.  Because of the great number of young people who wished to join this pilgrimage, Taize is not able to bring all of the young people who desired to go.  The entire visit has been arranged by the Moscow Patriarchate.  It appears that the pilgrims will be divided between various Moscow Orthodox parishes and will stay in the homes of families.  All will celebrate vespers with Patriarch Kirill.  As Brother Alois noted in the interview, it is very unusual for the abbot and the brothers to be away from their own community at the time of Easter.  However, they are doing so because they believe that it is important for Christian unity.  Taize has had a close relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church for many years.  For example, after the millennium of the baptism of Rus, the Taize community had a million Russian-language (Synodal) Bibles printed and given to the Moscow Patriarchate to distribute in the USSR.
    1. The Polish KAI news agency has written a Polish-language report on the Russian – Polish commemoration of the anniversaries of the Smolensk air crash tragedy and of the Katyn massacres. The commemoration was attended by both Russian President Medvedev and Polish President Komorowski.   A special Russian-Polish commission has been established to construct a major memorial at the site of the crash.  The commemoration also had a religious ceremony during which Orthodox Bishop Panteleimon of Smolensk, on behalf of Patriarch Kirill, gave as a gift to the Catholic Church of Poland an exact copy of the Smolensk Hodegetria icon of the Mother of God.   The icon will be taken to Poland, where it will be given a place of special honor.

    Bishop Stanislaw Budzik, secretary-general of the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference, has stated that in response to this gift, the Polish bishops will present to the Russian Orthodox Church a gift of a copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God (which is also a Hodegetria icon).  Although few people realize it, a beautiful copy of the Czestochowa icon was greatly venerated in the Orthodox Cathedral of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God in St. Petersburg, Russia from 1813 until the cathedral was closed and converted into a museum of atheism by the communists.  After the closure, the copy of the Czestochowa icon disappeared and has never been found.  Even fewer people realize that that in 2004 the Moscow Patriarchate made the Czestochowa icon the protector of the Russian Air Force.  

    1. Lastly, the German bishops have announced the schedule of Pope Benedict’s September 2011 visit to Germany.  The visit will include a meeting in Freiburg on September 24 with representatives of the Orthodox Churches.  


    Why go away from Taizé for Easter?
    It is true that this time we welcome thousands of young people, which made us a bit hesitant.  But passionately seeking communion between Christians, how not to respond positively to the invitation of Orthodox friends to come celebrate with them the most beautiful reality -- Holy Week? This festival is most important to them. It is the same source, which allowed them to fit in very difficult situations. We are fortunate that Easter falls on the same day in the calendars of the East and West. We are very grateful to the Orthodox Church for inviting us to live this pilgrimage. Ties with Taizé are very old. The youth on our hill are united that we live in Russia.
    What is the program of your stay?
    We do not organize anything about our initiative. We will spend Holy Week in the parishes in which we will spread. You know, it's very touching to see how they prepare for our arrival.   They have not used and are very anxious that everything goes well. All participants are welcomed into families. Besides the celebrations, we'll have workshops in the afternoon on the icons, the Orthodox liturgical music, etc.  On Sunday we will celebrate Vespers with the Patriarch Kyrill.   A circuit-pilgrimage of  city churches is also planned  and a time of prayer in memory of the martyrs  at Boutovo shrine, south of Moscow. This is where in the 1930s during Stalinism, 20,765 people were shot, one thousand priests, nuns, peasants and intellectuals because of their faith. Witnesses have experienced periods of persecution, it becomes very urgent that we listen.
    Youth faces secularization, economic threats, ecological. What sense then give the hope of Easter?
    It is true that the international situation is very heavy. But everywhere people, rooted in God, do everything to keep alive the flame of hope. Go toward each other to encourage each other becomes very important. There are still differences between theological and cultural young West European and Russian Orthodox Youth, Serbian, Romanian, but these kids are not so different. They live voltages, seeking a place for their life of faith. They feel the need to know to build a fraternity. This pilgrimage is a step on this path, a beautiful stage and the relationship will continue. I am delighted to celebrate Easter with the Russian Orthodox Church. The richness of the liturgy can help us. By its songs, ancient texts, incense, icons ... it brings the mystery of God among us.

  • 4 April 2011: More interesting news

    Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, the new head of the UGCC, has stated in an interview with the Ukrainian media that he desires to meet with Patriarch Kirill in an attempt to solve the problems between the UGCC and the Moscow Patriarchate.  The RISU article discussing this interview is pasted below.   Although I seriously doubt that Patriarch Kirill will agree to such a meeting in the near future, meetings between Shevchuk and Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv or Metropolitan Hilarion could well happen as a first step.  Shevchuk has also stated, in his personal meeting with Pope Benedict, that one of the major objectives of the UGCC is to develop the ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.  One certainly cannot say that Shevchuk has failed to respond in kind to the warm overtures of the Moscow Patriarchate in sending a bishop to the enthronement and in sending a congratulatory letter from Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv.

    Events involving the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate or Russia continue at a rapid rate.   Last week, Archpriest Mykola Danylevych, secretary of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), was in Rome to discuss the celebration in Rome next month of the 1150th anniversary of the finding of the relics of Pope St. Clement in Crimea by St. Cyril.   As may you recall, according to tradition, Pope St. Clement was exiled by Trajan to the Crimea in approximately the year 99 and died a martyr there.  The saint’s relics were discovered there by St. Cyril and brought by St. Cyril to Pope Hadrian II in Rome.  St. Cyril died in Rome in 869.  Both the relics of Pope St. Clement and St. Cyril are today located in the Basilica of St. Clement in Rome.   Interestingly, a portion of St. Clement’s relics were supposedly left by St. Cyril in Crimea.  These relics were brought by Prince St. Vladimir to Kyiv in 988 and became the first holy relics of the Church of “Rus.”  For the Moscow Patriarchate, the celebration next month in Rome may be of special interest because Patriarch Kirill is named after St. Cyril.

    The second event will be the opening next week at the Vatican Museum of a special exhibit of Faberge art objects from Russia.

    I only send these emails when there has been news which I believe is significant.   The frequency of these recent mails is because much has been happening in the last several weeks.  If you prefer not to receive them, please send me a reply so stating and they will be stopped.  Thank you. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 


    Head of UGCC would like to meet with Patriarch Kirill to relieve tension

    1 April 2011, 13:20  

    In an interview to Left Bank, in response to the question whether he would like to meet with Patriarch Kirill and what he would say to him, the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav, said that the best way to communicate is to be open in a brotherly dialogue, be open to the purification of our memory, to ask for forgiveness and to forgive.

    "I would like very much to visit him and hold a personal meeting with him. I am convinced that in peacefully and openly communicating with each other, we can relieve any tension.   

    "Our church has voiced its readiness and openness for a dialogue ever since it emerged from the underground. I remember how Patriarch Ivan Lubachivskyi, who ordained me, after he moved to Ukraine, said: 'We forgive and ask for forgiveness.' It was a very deep call to reconciliation on his part. It was in the 1990s, at the time of the strongest confrontation, particularly in western Ukraine. There was the will for reconciliation on our part. Later, His Beatitude Lubomyr confirmed and repeated the same in the presence of Pope John Paul II who visited Ukraine.

    "I think that today, we should heal the wounds rather than irritate and deepen them. One can heal the wounds of our memory only with mutual forgiveness. Therefore, as for any our brethren or neighbors who wounded us or were wounded by us, the best way to communicate is to be open in a brotherly dialogue, be open to the purification of our memory, to ask for forgiveness and to forgive," said Patriarch Sviatoslav.

  • 1 April 2011: Two postive developments - Shevchuk & Poland

    Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service (CNS) has done an interesting and encouraging interview in Rome of the new Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk.

    I have pasted her article below.  CNS has also done a short video of Shevchuk.  (click on the icon showing  Shevchuk).  In  response to the open and positive letters of Metropolitans Vladimir and Hilarion and the presence of Orthodox bishops at the enthronement, it can be seen that Shevchuk is making some open and positive statements of his own with respect to the Orthodox.  Shevchuk’s positive statements in this CNS interview have already been translated and posted on the Russian Internet.  See (website of the Orthodox Encyclopedia).

    There has also been an encouraging meeting between Patriarch Kirill and the Polish Ambassador to the Russian Federation.  Again, it is apparent that the Patriarch is definitely interested in decreasing the historical animosities between Catholic Poland and Orthodox Russia.  A report concerning the meeting can be read at .  I have also pasted this article below.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Ukrainian archbishop says he was chosen 'despite age' to promote unity

    By Cindy Wooden
    Catholic News Service
    ROME (CNS) -- The new head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, its youngest bishop, said he believes the other bishops elected him to promote unity within the church and with other Christians.
    The 40-year-old Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, visiting Rome to meet Pope Benedict XVI, told Catholic News Service he believes he was elected "despite my age."
    Ukrainian bishops from around the world, who met in a synod in late March to elect a new major archbishop for their church, were looking for a leader who could "unite the church in Ukraine and outside Ukraine," who could "promote the unity of Christians in Ukraine and establish some sort of dialogue with the new Ukrainian government," he told CNS March 30 at the Ukrainian church office in Rome.
    Archbishop Shevchuk said the suffering -- including imprisonment and martyrdom -- endured by Ukrainian Catholics under the Soviet regime from 1946 to 1989 "was a sacrifice for communion with the See of Peter" and the Catholic Church.
    In 1946, the Soviet government dissolved the Ukrainian Catholic Church by forcibly uniting it with the Russian Orthodox Church. But for more than 40 years, Ukrainian Catholics continued to live and to worship clandestinely.
    Archbishop Shevchuk said there are tensions between generations of Ukrainian Catholics over relations with the Orthodox, considering the fact that older Catholics risked their freedom and even their lives to remain Catholic.
    But, he said, people seem excited by his election, "and I think this is the work of the Holy Spirit, which is the spirit of unity. And that's why I was so courageous to open my arms to the Orthodox without fear and with great assurance that my church, which I represent, is an open church."
    While the majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox, they are divided into three churches: one in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church, one with a patriarch in Kiev and the third known as the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
    All three Orthodox communities sent bishops to Archbishop Shevchuk's enthronement, or installation, liturgy March 27.
    "For Eastern Christians, liturgy is the main expression of doctrine and of the life of the church. When we were chanting the creed, I approached each of them saying, 'Christ is among us' -- that is the liturgical greeting -- and each of them responded, 'Yes, he is and will be,'" the archbishop said.
    With the exchange of greetings in such a solemn setting, "maybe we started a new moment in our relationship and I hope this new openness in the dialogue will grow," he said.
    Archbishop Shevchuk, who was born in Ukraine and entered the seminary after the Ukrainian Catholic Church won its right to live freely, was the apostolic administrator of a Ukrainian diocese in Argentina at the time of his election.
    Being so far from home and from the headquarters of his church, he said he kept in touch and up-to-date through the Internet and the church's website.
    He has a Blackberry phone, but no Facebook page. He said that as major archbishop he plans to continue developing a media strategy for his church because communications is key to promoting unity.
    Speaking to reporters immediately after a private meeting with the pope March 31, Archbishop Shevchuk said the purpose of the meeting was to express his communion with the pope and to thank him. "Confirming the election of such a young bishop is a sign of great trust," he said.
    For decades, the heads of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and many of its faithful have been calling on the Vatican to give the major archbishop the title "patriarch" -- a title that recognizes the holder as the father of a self-governing church and a title which would place him on par with the heads of the Orthodox churches.
    Archbishop Shevchuk said that while having the title is important recognition of the maturity of an Eastern church like his, convincing the pope to grant the title is not his first priority.
    "The No. 1 priority for each head of a church is evangelization, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in today's world," he said. "Of course, our church is growing, is developing its structures ... but we are conscious that the decision about the patriarchate belongs to the Holy Father and we would never press him. We respect his freedom."
    Archbishop Shevchuk also said his age is not really so shocking when one considers the fact that the average age of his priests is about 35.
    "In our tradition, we do have a married clergy, but a married clergy is not the main reason we have so many young priests," he said.
    The large number of priests in their 30s and 40s today is the result of young people looking for strong values when communism fell apart 20 years ago and finding those values in the church, the archbishop said.
    Religious orders, which accept only candidates willing to embrace celibacy, were just as full as the seminaries, which accept married men, he said.
    "The possibility of being a married priest is not the main cause of an increase or decrease in vocations to the priesthood because this vocation comes from God," he said.


    Patriarch Kirill meets with Polish Ambassador Wojciech Zajączkowski

    On March 30, 2011, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church met with Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Russian Federation Wojciech Zajączkowski.

    In response to Patriarch Kirill’s welcoming remarks, Mr. Zajączkowski thanked His Holiness for the opportunity to meet. Speaking about the life of the Orthodox community in his country and the work of the Polish Orthodox Church, he noted, ‘I and my country’s authorities are convinced that the Church has a great authority in today’s world including Poland and can promote contacts between our nations’. The Polish ambassador also shared his impressions of the celebrations on the Day of Orthodoxy observed on the first Sunday of Lent.

    During their talk, Patriarch Kirill reminded his guest that Russia and Poland were countries with a strong Christian tradition and said, ‘We have many things in common and we should use the existing potential for reconciling our two nations’.

    They also discussed the forthcoming anniversary of the Polish President’s death in a plane crash and the participation of church representatives in the commemoration event.

    His Holiness Kirill also expressed hope that the Russia-Poland Dialogue Forum of the civil societies would broaden its work.

    The meeting was held in a warm atmosphere.

    DECR Communication Service

  • 30 March 2011: Hilarion and UGCC

    I apologize for sending so many emails recently.  However, there continues to be significant daily events relating to the relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.  Because this is a major issue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, I thought that you might be interested.  The following reports are from


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    UGCC will build 'strategic alliance' in its relations with Ukrainian Orthodox churches

    29 March 2011, 14:32 

    During his first press conference today at UNIAN information agency, Patriarch Sviatoslav shared his vision of the relations between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. He calls it, above all, a constructive dialogue, cooperation and coexistence in an alliance to defend traditional Christian values. It is not about merging.

    “Our policy, that is our way of communicating with them, will progress toward a constructive dialogue and cooperation. I would like to share with you my most recent ideas and impressions.

    "Right before our synod, I attended an international conference of the very important charitable organization Church in Need [Kirche in Not] in Germany. I was invited to serve a celebratory liturgy according to our rite. Right after the liturgy, a roundtable was held with the participation of the prefect of the Papal Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Koch, as well as with the head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Ilarion Alfeiev.

    "It was a very interesting roundtable where the necessity of a strategic alliance between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church was voiced. Obviously, we feel a part of such a strategic alliance. But in what sense? Metropolitan Ilarion explained that it is not about merging or subordinating to someone. 'Strategic alliance' is rather a military term. What does it mean? That we today should jointly defend traditional Christian values.

    "Let me quote the Metropolitan Аlfeiev: 'We do not have to struggle against Islam in Europe. But we must struggle for the strength of Christianity. We do not intend to oppose abortions, but we intend to struggle for human life. We do not so much want to struggle against a distorted view on Christianity as for the traditional Christian Evangelical values, which have been brought by the Church of Christ to the modern human since the times of the Apostles. You know, I personally and our whole Church feel very comfortable in such a 'strategic alliance.'

    "Moreover, in his greeting address to me, His Beatitude Volodymyr [Moscow Patriarchate] calls me to do just that, to build the Ukrainian society together on the basis of Christian values that are held sacred by our churches in their traditions,” said the head of the UGCC.


    Russian Orthodox Church is ready for a dialogue with UGCC

    30 March 2011, 08:34 

    Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk of the Russian Orthodox Church has sent Major Archbishop Metropolitan Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Church congratulations on his enthronement this past Sunday.

    In his congratulation Metropolitan Hilarion expressed the hope that the Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic Churches can "gradually resolve acute and painful problems that accumulated over the years to the [better] welfare and prosperity of the Ukrainian people," stating that "the Moscow Patriarchate is ready to develop constructive discussions with the [Ukrainian] Catholic Church ... aimed at overcoming the existing difficulties."


    Pope Benedict XVI greets new head of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

    30 March 2011, 13:30 

    "With great joy I greet today His Eminence Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the new Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, together with the bishops and faithful who accompany him. I assure my constant prayer to the Blessed Trinity to bless you with gifts, to keep in peace and love the dear Ukrainian people," with these words Pope Benedict XVI began his greetings to the faithful and the church hierarchy during the general audience March 30, 2011, Vatican Radio reports.

    Addressing the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church personally, Pope Benedict said: [here I have substituted in part a better translation available on the Vatican Radio website] "Your Eminence, the Lord has called you to the service and guidance of this noble Church, which is a part of the people who for over a thousand years have received Baptism at Kyiv. I am sure that, illuminated by the work of the Holy Spirit, you will preside over your Church, guiding her in faith in Jesus Christ in accordance with her own tradition and spirituality, in communion with the See of Peter which is the visible bond of that unity for which so many of her children have not hesitated even to lay down their lives.  In these moments I recall our beloved brother His Beatitude Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, distinguished Major Archbishop Emeritus. With the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God, I pray for God's blessing for you, your bishops, priests, monks and nuns and all the faithful."
    Together with the head of the UGCC today's general audience was attended by the following bishops: Ihor Voznyak, CSSR, Archbishop of Lviv, Lawrence Huculak, OSBM, Metropolitan of Winnipeg (Canada), Stefan Soroka, Metropolitan of Philadelphia (USA), Bogdan Dzyurakh, CSSR, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, David Motiuk, Bishop of Edmonton (Canada), Volodymyr Viytyshyn, Bishop of Ivano-Frankisk, Ken Nowakowski, Bishop of New Westminster (Canada), Vasyl Semeniuk, Bishop of Ternopil. Together with numerous representatives of religious communities were Father Basil Koubetch, Protoarhymandryt Basilian Order of St. Josaphat and Sister Jenis Solyuk, General Superior of Sisters of Mary Immaculate, as well as diocesan priests, seminarians and lay people.

  • 28 March 2011: A new beginning?

    There continues to be encouraging news from Kyiv.  At the installation service, the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Svyatoslav Shevchuk, embraced the bishops from the three Orthodox churches of Ukraine.  According to, Shevchuk later stated, “I was glad to hug the three Orthodox bishops on the first day of my service, openheartedly saying them: ‘Christ is among us!’ All of them replied: ‘He is and always will be!’ It’s a good sign.  I’m grateful for their openness. I hope that our relations will develop for the benefit of the Ukrainian people and our state.”  In addition to the official representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, Bishop Hilary*, there were also various priests from the Moscow Patriarchate present at the installation.  Metropolitan Vladimir, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), has written a congratulatory letter to Shevchuk.  The letter states in part, “I hope that during the time of your governing, the UOC and the UGCC will develop good and constructive relations, the difficult period of our relationship will stay in the past, and we will jointly fight the aggressive manifestations of secularism in our country.”  The letter also states: “our common goal is to educate the future generations of our compatriots on the basis of gospel values, as it will guarantee a harmonious development of Ukrainian society.” “I believe that by our joint efforts, accordingly to Kobzar [a book of poems by the famous Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko], ‘we’ll restore our peaceful paradise with the name of Christ.’”  A new person can sometimes be an occasion for a new beginning.  In Orthodox- Catholic relations, we saw that with the accession of Pope Benedict.  Maybe that will occur here also.

    *Contrary to my understanding yesterday, the representative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) at the installation was not Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk, but rather Bishop Hilary of Makariv, vicar bishop of the Kyiv diocese.

    Today the primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, met with Pope Benedict. The primate will be visiting the Vatican for three days.  One of the topics for discussion is the plight of Christians in the Middle East.  You can listen to an interview of the primate by Vatican Radio at .

    For those of you who have not already received them directly, I have also attached Father Ron Roberson’s monthly newsletters covering events involving the Eastern Churches in January and February 2011.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 March 2011: Two positive developments

    In the last two days there have been two positive developments in Catholic – Orthodox relations.   At the installation today of Bishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk as primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches, important hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox churches were present.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) was represented by Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk (?) (not to be confused with the head of the DECR).  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) was represented by its primate Filaret.  With respect to the Catholic Churches, the numerous representatives included Patriarch Gregory III of the Melkite Church.   The enthronement occurred in the new UGCC cathedral in Kyiv.  Several years ago, when the UGCC moved the location of its primate from Lviv to Kyiv, the Moscow Patriarchate protested.  It was possible that the Moscow Patriarchate could have refused to attend the enthronement in Kyiv on the grounds that it might constitute an implied recognition of this change.  I believe that it is to the credit of the Moscow Patriarchate that it did send a high-level representative as a good will gesture.  You can see and listen to the installation homily (in Ukrainian) at YouTube, .  The homily was focused on the cross (today, the Third Sunday of Lent is the Veneration of the Cross for the Eastern Churches), but also contained a special appeal to the youth of Ukraine.  The text of the homily is found at  You can use the Google tool to translate it.

    In Fribourg, Switzerland, Metropolitan Hilarion (of the DECR) on Friday received an honorary professorship from the Theological Department of the University of Fribourg.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Metropolitan Jeremiah of Switzerland also attended this event.  Attached is a nice photo ( of Metropolitan Hilarion, Metropolitan Filaret, and Cardinal Koch. 

    Also attached is a nice photo ( of Prof. Dr. Barbara Hallensleben.  She deserves much of the credit for this event.  An outstanding theologian, she is one of the first two woman ever appointed to the Vatican’s International Theological Commission.  She is also a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 March 2011: More on Bishop Shevchuk

    Tomorrow, Sunday, March 27, Bishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk will be enthroned in Kyiv at 10 a.m.  (Eastern European Time; GMT +2)   I understand that you can watch it live through the website   The enthronement will occur in the newly constructed (actually not completely finished) Cathedral of the Resurrection.

    The Ukrainian Orthodox Church USA has sent congratulations to the newly-elected head of the UGCC including “we pray that your pastoral activity positively influence the development of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.”  To date, I have seen  nothing on the official websites of the Moscow Patriarchate about the election.

    I have found some interesting information about Bishop Shevchuk not mentioned in the official biographies.  In the development of his faith, he was greatly influenced by the deep faith of his grandmother.  As a teenager, he was involved in the secret underground seminary in the village of Dora (Ivano-Frankivsk region).  The rector of the underground seminary, Father Mikhail Kosil, was his inspiration to enter the priesthood.  Shevchuk also served in the Red Army.  He thus clearly experienced the persecuted church.

    In Rome Shevchuk was a brilliant student.  He not only graduated summa cum laude, but he also completed in four years a course of studies, which normally takes 6-10 years.  One of his two dissertations was on Pavel Evdokimov (1901-1970).  Evdokimov is a famous Orthodox theologian who was born in St. Petersburg and then escaped to Paris, where he studied under Berdiaev and Bulgakov and later taught at the Institute Saint-Serge.  In Rome Shevchuk learned a number of foreign languages, including English.

    After the enthronement, Shevchuk will meet with Pope Benedict at the Vatican.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 25 March 2011: New UGCC head and Hilarion on Chambesy

    Today, it was announced that the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is 40-year-old Argentinian Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.  After 12 rounds of voting, the UGCC Holy Synod was unable to elect a new head by the required two-thirds majority.  Accordingly, pursuant to the rules, the ballot was narrowed to the two candidates who previously received the most votes, and the selection of a new head was made by a simple majority on Thursday.  The identity of the new head was withheld until he was confirmed by Pope Benedict.  Today, the feast of the Annunciation (new style), the announcement was made.  An article from RISU is pasted below.

    Metropolitan Hilarion was interviewed by on the subject to the recent Chambesy meeting.  An English translation has now been posted on  and is pasted below.  The good news is that it appears that the Moscow Patriarchate has the desire to continue to work on the disputed issues until they are solved.

    Also today Metropolitan Hilarion is awarded an honorary professorship by the University of Fribourg (Switzerland).


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Argentinian Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk becomes new head of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

    25 March 2011, 13:44

    Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, till now the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of the Protection of the Blessed Mary in Buenos Aires, has become the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Election Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which was attended by 40 bishops from Ukraine and abroad (Western Europe, USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Australia), elected him on March 23. He is one of the youngest bishops in the Catholic Church, a well-known Ukrainian moral theologian.

    The Holy See approved the choice of the Synod of Bishops.
    The enthronement of the new head of the UGCC will be held March 27 at 10:00 a.m. in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv.
    Biography: born on May 5, 1970, in Stryi, Lviv region.
    1991-1992 - Center for Philosophy and theological studies "Don Bosco" in Buenos Aires, Argentina
    1992-1994 - Lviv Theological Seminary
    1994-1995 - Pontifical University of Thomas Aquinas (Rome, Italy). BA in Theology
    1995-1997 - Pontifical University of Thomas Aquinas. Theological Faculty, Section of moral theology
    1997-1999 - Pontifical University of Thomas Aquinas. Doctorate with Summa cum laude in theological anthropology and moral theology.
    Pastoral activity:
    1999-2000 - Prefect of the Lviv Holy Spirit Theological Seminary
    2000-2007 - vice rector of Lviv Holy Spirit Theological Seminary
    Since 2001 - vice dean of Theology Faculty of the Lviv Theological Academy (today known as the Ukrainian Catholic University)
    2002-2005 - Head of Secretariat and personal secretary to His Eminence Lubomyr, head of the Patriarchal Curia in Lviv
    From June 2007 - rector of the Lviv Holy Spirit Theological Seminary.
    January 14, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI blessed the decision of the Synod of Bishops on the appointment of Father Sviatoslav Shevchuk as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Virgin in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    Bishop Sviatoslav was ordained as bishop on April 7, 2009, in Lviv.


    Metropolitan Hilarion: I am confident that preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council will continue in the near future

    23.03.2011 · Analitics, DECR Chairman, Inter-Orthodox relations  

    Your Eminence! You have recently led a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church at the meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission held in Chambesy near Geneva. Which questions did you discuss?

    The Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission is a working body which prepares the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. It elaborates items included in the Council’s agenda. The catalogue of the items was compiled in 1976 and includes ten topics demanding the elaboration of common position of the Orthodox Church. According to the regulation, proposals made by the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission are to be approved by the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference.

    The major part of the mentioned catalogue has been elaborated in the last decades, while in 2009 the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference approved the decisions on the ordering of cooperation among the Churches in Orthodox diaspora. That same year the Commission formulated the unanimous opinion on the method of granting the autonomy (self-governing) to a church province within a Local Church and considered in part a method of promulgating a new autocephalous (completely independent) Church.

    This time the Commission had to complete consideration of the issue of church autocephaly and discuss the topic of the holy diptychs – the lists, according to which the Primates of the Local Churches are commemorated during divine services.

    The Commission’ meetings, chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, took place on 21-27 February 2011. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church was represented by myself, by Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), and by my deputy, archpriest Nikolai Balashov.

    Was an agreed decision on the mentioned questions taken?

    The Commission’s work has shown that both mentioned questions need serious complementary exploration. The discussion in Chambesy was not an easy one and disclosed different positions, while the decision must be taken only by consensus in accordance with regulations.

    The major debate developed on the method of signing a document on the promulgation of autocephaly called “Tomos.”  Some participants, including those of the Russian Church, made the following proposal: In keeping with the practice of the former Ecumenical and Pan-Orthodox Councils, common decision of all the heads of the Churches sign their common decision without any distinction, beginning, certainly, with the first among them – the Patriarch of Constantinople.

    In the end it was recognized that this topic needs further exploration.

    As to the topic of diptychs, the Commission has thoroughly studied all its aspects and analyzed the criteria used for the inclusion of the name of a Primate of a Church into diptychs. Having compared the differences in the present diptychs, the Commission considered it useful to reach a uniform opinion on this matter.

    Also considered were opinions on the place of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches of Georgia, Cyprus, Poland and Albania and the variant reading in the diptychs that exist because of the lack of common opinion on the number of Churches recognized as autocephalous. This refers to the Orthodox Church in America, which is recognized as autocephalous by five Local Churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, while other Churches do not have the name of its Primate in their diptychs. Unfortunately, mutual consent has not been obtained on all these questions.

    Is it really true that convocation of the Holy and Great Council is postponed for an indefinite period? What should be done to reach the unity of sentiment on disputed questions?

    The situation should not be excessively dramatized. It is true that we have encountered certain difficulties in the process of obtaining consensus on certain questions. However, it only means that we all should seriously ponder over the overcoming of these difficulties. After all, it was difficult to obtain consensus in the past.

    Participants in the discussion in Chambesy are aware of their responsibility for the destiny of inter-Orthodox dialogue. They understand the necessity to continue in a constructive way the preparation for the Holy and Great Council. They understand the importance of thorough elaboration of all questions included in the agenda. We should seek to hear those points of view that do not concur with ours and try to comprehend them. In the process of seeking other solutions the voice of each participant in the dialogue should be heard and the opinion of each Local Church should be taken into account. This principle is reflected in the regulations of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission and the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference.

    Our common aim is not to convene the Council as soon as possible, but to do all we can to make its decisions show the majesty of the Orthodox faith to the world, to bring witness of the intransient meaning of the Holy Tradition of the Church, and to confirm the unity of the Church.

    I am confident that preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council will continue in the near future.

  • 21 March 2011: Post-Moscow Koch interview

    Vatican Radio has just posted an interesting 8-minute English-language interview with Cardinal Kurt Koch concerning his completed Russian visit.  You can listen to it at .

    At the end of the Hilarion – Koch panel discussion on Saturday, the 2000 attendees at the Fourth International Congress of Kirche in Not in Wurzburg, Germany gave the panelists a standing ovation.  Metropolitan Hilarion’s prepared text, delivered in German, is translated into Russian at .  Hilarion’s address, which was interrupted by applause on several occasions, was directed to the need for an “alliance.” .  However, I found some of Cardinal Koch’s remarks particularly interesting.  Although he assesses the concept positively, he believes that another word should be found rather than “alliance” because that term has a military connotation in the West.  He also made the candid remark that he could not be as enthusiastic as Hilarion because the Cardinal is not certain “whether I have behind me the whole Catholic Church, especially in German-speaking lands.”  He also stated that we should also include the Greek Orthodox churches “in the boat.”  To this, the Metropolitan quickly stated that all of the Orthodox churches should be included.  With respect to Constantinople, Metropolitan Hilarion was at the Phanar yesterday for the consecration of his friend Archimandrite Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) as Metropolitan of Proussa. 

    The bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church are meeting today in Lviv to elect a new head.  An interesting description of the procedure is found at .

    Lastly, I have received word from the Chevetogne Monastery (famous for its work in Catholic – Orthodox relations) in Belgium about the dedication of a new set of bells (“kolokola”) made in Moscow especially for the monastery.  The dedication will occur on Friday.  One of the bells is in memory of the late King Baudouin of Belgium and offered by Queen Fabiola and King Albert II.   Other bells have been offered by several people among whom there are Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants.  According to the Monastery, “ the whole project would have been impossible without the help and persistent assistance of some of our Russian Orthodox friends.”   Father Alexander Sorokin of the Church of the Feodorov icon of the Mother of God in St. Petersburg has also made an announcement of the event on his website. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 March 2011: A dispute that will not go away

    At the end of the Russian visit of Cardinal Kurt Koch, both the Cardinal and Father Dimitry Sizonenko of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR were interviewed by the Interfax news agency.  The Interfax report is pasted below.   In my opinion, the most interesting part is the statement by Father Dimitry that the parties discussed “the question of probable returning to the Ravenna document in order to understand when the mistake was made….”   The Moscow Patriarchate, which did not participate in the Ravenna plenary, has always objected to a part of the Ravenna document which assigns a greater role to the Ecumenical Patriarchate than to the other Local Churches.  As can be seen from the very interesting AsiaNews analysis (also pasted below) of last month’s meeting at Chambesy, the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is also the issue that led to the failure of that important meeting.  After the dramatic warming of personal relations between the Bartholomew and Kirill, as exemplified by Bartholomew’s visit to Russia, I, at least, hoped that there would be some progress on this intractable issue.  Maybe this is an issue that can only be solved with much prayer.

    Metropolitan Hilarion and Cardinal Koch will have further opportunity for discussion later this month.  Tomorrow (March 19) at 10:45, both will appear on a roundtable discussion in Wurzburg, Germany at the Fourth International Congress of Aid to the Church in Need (Kirche in Not).  A week from day (March 25), it is anticipated that the Cardinal will be present when the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) awards an honorary professorship on Metropolitan Hilarion.  Also next week we will know the identity of the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Sooner or later Patriarch Kirill and Benedict XVI will meet, the Vatican says

    Moscow, March 18, Interfax -Meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is not actual for the both sides, the Vatican says.
    "The meeting is not in the agenda. Both the Holy Father and His Holiness wish this meeting took place, but it should be thoroughly prepared," Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told journalists in Moscow.
    His words match with the position more than once voiced by the Moscow Patriarchate: as its officials do not exclude a possibility of such a meeting, but believe that first it is necessary to settle all contradictions in bilateral relations.
    According to Koch, both Churches have unsettled questions in frames of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, there are "problems in Ukraine" between Orthodox and Greek Catholic believers.
    At the same time the cardinal added that the level of interaction between the Patriarch Kirill and Benedict XVI "give grounds to suppose that the meeting between them will eventually take place."
    On the eve, in frames of his visit to Moscow Koch met with Patriarch Kirill. He confessed that "the conversation was held in open and friendly atmosphere," prospects of interaction between the two Churches were discussed.
    "Modern Europe is abandoning Christian values and each Church is urged to witness to Christian traditions, to its faith and values. It is very important to make this witness joint," the cardinal stressed.
    In his turn, DECR acting secretary for inter-Christian relations priest Dimitry Sizonenko, summing up the results of meeting with Koch told the journalists that they also discussed questions of cooperation at international organizations "on standing for Christian ideas of marriage and family, what we call traditional moral values."
    Besides, the discussion touched upon some issues of theological dialogue in frames of the Joint Commission, especially "the question of probable returning to the Ravenna document in order to understand when the mistake was made and to further go in this direction."
    "Russian Church didn't participate in compiling the Ravenna Document - final text of the Joint Commission in October 2007 in Ravenna dedicated to the nature of authority in the Ecumenical Church. Then representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate accused Vatican of imposing Orthodox world an administrative model characteristic for the Catholic Church headed by the Pope of Rome.


    Pan-Orthodox Synod postponed over differences between Churches
    by NAT da Polis
    The representatives of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches have not reached agreement on the rules for granting autocephalous status. Moscow will not recognize any kind of primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

    Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Representatives of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches, given the failure to reach an agreement during the last pan-Orthodox meeting last week in Chambesy, on the issues of granting autocephalous status and Dipticha, themes that were outstanding after the penultimate meeting, have suspended all activities emphasizing the latent differences in the Orthodox world.

    The final statement, a very laconic and very one signed by the president of the meeting, Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis Zizoulas, makes no secret that there are difficulties due to a certain protagonism present in some areas of the Orthodox world. These preparatory meetings began in 2009, wanted by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in order to prepare the coveted pan-Orthodox synod, which has not taken place since 1054, the year of the schism between Rome and Constantinople. The Synods gather representatives of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

    Topping the agenda of this last meeting was the completion of discussions on the issue of granting autocephalous status, ie the granting of independence of self-administration of an Orthodox Church. This self-management includes the ability to elect their own bishops and head archbishop of the autocephalous Church. It also had to consider the so-called Dipticha, that the rules of mutual recognition among the canonical Orthodox Churches. According to practice, any decision taken in these meetings must be approved unanimously by the representatives of the 14 autocephalous churches

    In fact it was at the final act of the debate on how to seal recognition of the autocephalous nature of a Church by the other Orthodox sister Churches that sparked disagreement between the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis Zizoulas and the representative of Moscow, Metropolitan Hilarion. Zizoulas proposed signing the recognition granting autocephalous status this way: "The Ecumenical Patriarch affirms, given the will of the other churches, to grant autocephalous status. This is followed by his signature, and then by the signature of the heads of other Churches, preceded by the word "confirm", as an expression of consent, according to the canonical order of mutual recognition. The Moscow representative strongly disagreed with this proposed formula of signing the recognition of autocephalous status, which, according to Hilarion, recognises the supremacy of Constantinople.

    At this point we need to provide some background.  In the Orthodox world, historically the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem have existed as autocephalous churches, while the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is called the "mother church" because she gave birth to the Churches of Moscow, Bulgaria, Serbia, etc..

    This disagreement, therefore, has revealed that two camps have formed in the Orthodox world. That of Constantinople, which draws within its sphere the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Sofia, Belgrade, Churches of Greek language and culture, and the Church of Albania. And that of Moscow, which includes the Patriarchate of Georgia and the Churches of Poland and the Czech Republic, and, surprisingly, the Patriarchate of Romania. The latter has not failed to hide its hegemonic ambitions, especially among the Orthodox Diaspora.

    In an attempt to calm the waters, discussion moved on to the issue of the Dipticha, the rules of mutual canonical recognition among the Orthodox Churches. But even in these discussions, disagreements arose between the representatives of some churches, such as those of Cyprus and Georgia. Given that here too it has been impossible to reach an agreement it was decided to postpone further debate until after a closer examination of the issues.

    The reaction was one of widespread and deep disappointment among representatives. Particularly that of a high priest of Slavic language (has asked not to reveal his name) who expressed his regret that, "We really cut a very unchristian figure. The time has come for us to regain the lost spirituality of the great Fathers of the church and  together re-examine our life, currently characterized by a rampant secularization, which finds its highest expression in the building of luxurious archbishops residences".

    Finally, the Reverend Dositheos, head of the press office, speaking to AsiaNews declared: "We need to clarify one thing: that the so-called leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not intended as that of Rome, but rather should be understood as the primacy of charity and as a result of diakonia (service, ed) and non-administrative. It wants to express respect through the diaconate. This element expresses the importance of Constantinople’s diaconate, far removed from any identification of national expression. If the Ecumenical Patriarchate expresses itself through the Greek language and uses tools like Greek thought, this is because it is what happens in the tradition of the great Fathers of the United Church. " The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, concluded rev. Dositheos, has repeatedly pointed out that the Church must get rid of the localisms and provincialisms that afflict it”.

  • 17 March 2011 (2): Kirill-Koch meeting -- different version

    Today the Moscow Patriarchate posted an English-language account of the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Cardinal Kurt Koch.  I have pasted this English-language account below.  The Russian-language version is still posted on the site at .  The English-language account is not a sentence-by-sentence translation but a different shorter version.  In the Russian version, the issues raised at Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches were “touched upon” – “zatronuli” – lightly discussed.  In the English version, these issues were “especially” discussed.

    Yesterday (March 16), Cardinal Koch and Father Milan Zust also visited the Butovo firing range.  A Google translation of the this visit, reported at , is pasted at the bottom of this email. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on 16 March 2011 at his working residence in Chisty Pereulok.

    They discussed major areas of cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, especially the issues considered by the two Churches’ Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue. Since its establishment in 1979 this commission has become the main platform for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue because, among other things, its work involves representatives of all the Local Orthodox Churches. The commission agreed on several documents concerning the teaching on the sacraments and sacramental nature of the Church.

    As was noted that even if there are theological differences the both Churches can already now come into close cooperation in areas where their positions coincide, namely, defense of traditional Christian values in Europe, advocacy of the Christian position in the socio-economic sphere and in the ethics of scientific research and bioethics. This is the basis on which it is possible to develop cooperation in international organizations, such as the UN, OSCE, and the EU structures.

    Patriarch Kirill and Cardinal Koch also discussed the problem of Christianophobia which has affected not only the regions where Christians are subjects to open persecution but also the European countries with their age-old Christian tradition. In January and February 2011, the European Parliament and the European Union Committee of Foreign Ministers recognized the existence of this problem, and Orthodox and Catholic hierarchs spoke on various platforms setting forth their common stands concerning the discrimination against Christians.

    Concerning the propaganda of liberal views in no way linked with traditional morality, Cardinal Koch expressed satisfaction at the fact that the Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill have a shared position on this problem and underscored that these shared views help to further inter-church cooperation.

    Patriarch Kirill said he respected the position taken by Pope Benedict who defends the Christian tradition in spite of sometime sharp criticism from liberal circles.   DECR Communication Service

    MOSCOW. March 16 The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, during an official visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, visited the temple of the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors at the former NKVD firing range in Butovo - a place of mass executions during the years of Stalinist repression.
    Archpriest Kirill Khaled of the parish told the Cardinal about the tragic history of the landfill and the thousands of innocent victims of Butovo, many of which are now glorified among the saints of the Russian Orthodox Church. It was stressed that in addition to the Orthodox clergy shot at the site, there was a Catholic priest. The victims included a few Swiss citizens – compatriots of Cardinal K. Koch.
    The hierarch of the Catholic Church visited the Resurrection Church, the Church of New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian and prayed for all those killed in Butovo before the memorial cross, installed at the place of mass graves. At the conclusion of his pilgrimage, Cardinal K. Koch expressed his belief that the testimony of martyrs of the XX century is especially valuable today, as addressed to Christians with a call to remain faithful to the end to the gospel of Christ, and warns of modern secular society from possible catastrophic consequences which is the rejection of the Christian tradition .
    In the Cardinal's visit was accompanied by staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Father Milan Zust and the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate’s Deacon Alexei Dikarev.

  • 17 March 2011 (1): Kirill - Koch meeting with Hilarion absent

    Today Cardinal Kurt Koch concluded his Russian visit with a meeting with Patriarch Kirill.  A Russian-language summary of the meeting can be read at .  The meeting provided an opportunity for Cardinal Koch to meet the Patriarch.  (I believe that this is their first meeting ever) The subjects discussed included the defense of traditional values and discrimination against Christians.  The MP’s summary also stated, “ The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church said that he respects the position of Pope Benedict XVI, who defends the Christian tradition, despite the sometimes harsh criticism from liberal circles.”  A photo of the meeting from is attached.  Metropolitan Hilarion was not present at the meeting.

    Shortly before departing from Rome, Cardinal Koch had stated that an important subject for his visit would be to discuss the issues facing the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.   The summary states that this subject was “touched  upon” in the meeting.  This certainly indicates that the subject was not discussed in depth.  The reason for this may have been that the Patriarch was reluctant to discuss this subject in depth without the presence of Metropolitan Hilarion who heads the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation to the Joint International Commission.

    Cardinal Koch did meet with Metropolitan Hilarion on Monday, 14 March.  A MP summary of this meeting is pasted below.  Immediately after this meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion flew to New York City where he met with certain bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) on Tuesday, 15 March.  The fact that Metropolitan Hilarion had been to New York City only one month earlier and the fact that he missed the Kirill – Koch meeting indicates the urgency of this latest trip.  The OCA, which has just emerged from a crisis involving financial accountability, is now sadly facing a new crisis over its primate Metropolitan Jonah.  Metropolitan Hilarion is highly regarded by many in the OCA (in fact several years ago there was a movement to elect him as the primate of the OCA) and hopefully Metropolitan Hilarion, on behalf of the Patriarch, can help resolve the latest crisis.

    The following are some of the other activities of Cardinal Koch during his Russian visit.  On Sunday, he celebrated Mass at the Catholic cathedral in Moscow.  .  On Monday he met with Metropolitan Hilarion.  The same day he also met with students at the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Post-Graduate School.   On Tuesday, he visited the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra and the Moscow Theological Academy as well as the St. Tikhon’s University.   Today he met with the Patriarch, and tomorrow he is scheduled to return to Rome.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    On 14 March 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), met with Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

    Discussed during the meeting, which took part at the DECR premises, was a wide range of issues of cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, including results and prospects of the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, as well as concrete measures for the settlement of conflict between the Orthodox and the Greek Catholics in Ukraine, the necessity of common witness in the face of challenges of secular society and opposition to xenophobia in Europe and other parts of the world.

    Taking part in the meeting were Rev. Dimitry Sizonenko, DECR acting secretary for Inter-Christian Relations, and Rev. Milan Zust.

  • 16 March 2011: French article - St. P. - laboratory of unity

    Attached is an interesting French article posted yesterday on the website of La Croix  It discusses the situation between Catholics and Orthodox in St. Petersburg.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 March 2011: SEIA Newsletter - December 2010

    Attached is Father Ron Roberson’s SEIA Newsletter covering developments involving the Eastern Churches in December 2010.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 March 2011: Koch interview prior to Moscow

    Saturday, Cardinal Kurt Koch and Father Milan Zust SJ will be arriving in Moscow.  Today the Cardinal gave a 6-minute English-language interview with Vatican Radio concerning the visit.  You can listen to the interview at .   As you will hear, the Cardinal is looking forward to his meetings with Patriarch Kirill and with Metropolitan Hilarion.  The Cardinal agrees with Metropolitan Hilarion’s advocacy for an Orthodox – Catholic alliance on moral issues, but the Cardinal states that the dialogue with the Moscow Patriarch must go beyond this and include the theological issues that divide the churches.  It is safe to assume that the issue of primacy, with which the Joint International Commission is presently struggling, will be included in the subjects of discussion with the Patriarch. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 3 March 2011: Cardinal Koch to Russia

    Vatican Radio announced yesterday that Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will visit Russia March 12 -17.  He will be accompanied by Father Milan Zust SJ of the Pontifical Council.  Aside from meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, Cardinal Koch will visit some of the holy places of Russia.,0,0,0,f&ki=217660 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 February 2011: November 2010 SEIA Newsletter

    Attached is Father Ron Roberson’s monthly newsletter covering events involving the Eastern Churches in November 2010.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle

  • 26 February 2011: What happened at Chambesy this week

    Today the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission finished its session at Chambesy.  It appears to have been a difficult meeting and  sadly little progress was made on the subjects of autocephaly and the diptychs.  Below is a Google translation of the French version of the final communiqué by Metropolitan Ioann of Pergamon.   This is followed by a Google translation of the Russian-language statement by the Moscow Patriarchate.  Lastly, there is a Google translation from Bulgarian of a very interesting report posted yesterday on the website of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria.  These translations leave much to be desired and hopefully good English translations of the first two will be available shortly.  Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

    Final Communique:
    "The Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church met at the center of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy (Geneva) from 22 to 26 February 2011. The work was chaired by HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate. HE the Metropolitan of Switzerland, Jeremiah, provided the secretariat.
    Inter-Orthodox commission was tasked to complete the study questions of the autocephalous and conditions of its proclamation, and the Orthodox diptychs.
    1. After the opening speech of the president and his secretary, the committee continued its review of the method signature of the tomas of autocephaly, an issue that had remained unresolved since its previous meeting. A long discussion on this topic has not led to a unanimous decision. Because according to the regulations in force decisions of the Committee shall be taken unanimously, an agreement was reached on the issue of autocephalous and how to proclaim it, that question remains therefore again outstanding.
    2. The Committee discussed the issue of Orthodox diptychs and has examined various aspects canonical and ecclesiological and has reviewed the current practice of the Orthodox Church in the matter and unanimously expressed the opinion that was required of establish uniform diptychs in the Orthodox Church, as a practical expression of its unity.
    The committee also reviewed the criteria that apply to this day for the registration of a church in the holy diptychs.
    The Committee considered the request of the Churches of Poland and Albania on membership in a uniform manner in the holy diptychs all autocephalous Orthodox churches, beginning with the Church in Poland, and proposed a consequent adaptation of diptychs Orthodox churches.
    The Committee considered applications:
    a) of the Most Holy Church of Georgia for his elevation to the 6th place in the holy diptychs of all Orthodox Churches
    b) the most holy Church of Cyprus for its inclusion in a higher rank in the holy diptychs of all Orthodox Churches
    c) and differentiation was found in the holy diptychs, with respect to the inclusion of unrecognized churches on a pan-Orthodox as autocephalous.
    The Committee found it impossible to reach a universally accepted proposition regarding these issues.
    † John of Pergamon, President. "


    February 26, 2011 at the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople in the center near Geneva ended Chambesy began Feb. 22 meeting of the Inter-commission for the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.
    In the work of the commission, chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), was attended by representatives of the fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church delegation headed by Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion. Members of the delegation were the archbishop of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain, Mark (Russian Church Abroad), Vice-Chairman Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, DECR and translator AG Churyakov.
    The Commission, whose task is to pre-study items on the agenda Orthodox Council, continuing in 2009, taking up the subject of signing Tomos of autocephalous status. During the lengthy discussion, a unanimous decision on the matter had been taken. Thus, it is acknowledged that the topic of autocephalous status and the way its proclamation requires further study.
    The Commission discussed the topic diptychs of the Orthodox Church, to examine its canonical and ecclesiological aspects, described the current practice of the Orthodox Church in this matter, the present criteria for inclusion in the sacred diptychs Churches and locate the names of the Primates in them, and also noted the need in the future to design a unified diptychs of the Orthodox Church.
    We studied the wishes of the Polish and Albanian Orthodox Church of achieving uniformity in the placement of Primates in the sacred diptychs autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Commission proposed to consider these requests and to consider making appropriate changes in the diptychs.
    During the session, there were also motivated by requests of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the assimilation her sixth place in the sacred diptychs of the Orthodox Churches and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus about the assimilation of the Primate of a higher place in the sacred diptychs. For these questions, a general agreement at present it was not possible, as well as on the differences in the sacred diptychs of individual churches, relating to the lack of agreement on a number of pan-Orthodox Church, recognized as autocephalous.
    According to Article 16 of the Rules pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox meetings, papers on all topics agenda of such meetings shall be approved unanimously.
    At the commission meeting was also attended by the delegation of the Orthodox Churches, as follows:
    Ecumenical Patriarchate - Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Archimandrite Bartholomew (Samaras), Protopresbyter George Tsetsis;
    Patriarchate of Alexandria – Metropolitan of Cape of Good Hope Sergius, Archimandrite Nicholas (Ioannidis);
    Patriarchate of Antioch - Metropolitan of Western and Central Europe John, George Ghandour;
    Jerusalem Patriarchate - Metropolitan of Kapitoliadsky Hesychius, Protopresbyter George Dragas;
    Georgian Patriarchate - Metropolitan of Zugdidi and Tsaishsky Gerasimos, Metropolitan of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klardzhetsky Theodore, Archpriest George Zviadadze;
    Serbian Patriarchate - Metropolitan of Montenegro and Premorsky Amfilohije, Bishop of Bachsky Irenaeus;
    Romanian Patriarchate - the secretary of the Office of the Holy Synod George Grigoritsa;
    Bulgarian Patriarchate - Metropolitan of Varna and Velikopreslavsky Kirill, Professor Pavel Pavlov;
    Orthodox Church of Cyprus - Metropolitan of Paphos George, Chorbishop  of Karpasiysky Christopher;
    Greek Orthodox Church - Metropolitan Dimitriadsky and Almirsky Ignatius, Protopresbyter Stefan Avramidis;
    Albanian Orthodox Church - Metropolitan Argirokastrsky Demetrius, Pirros Kondylis;
    Polish Orthodox Church - Archbishop of Wroclaw and Szczecin Jeremiah, priest Andrew Kuzma;
    The Orthodox Church in Czech Lands and Slovakia - Archbishop Michael George.
    Secretariat of the Commission constituted Metropolitan Swiss Jeremiah and Professor Blasius Fidas (Ecumenical Patriarchate).
    DECR Communication Service

    Continue the meetings of the Pan-Orthodox Preparatory Commission in Chambesy. Having not reached final agreement on all matters concerning the granting of autocephaly began discussing another problem and difficult-to-reach-unanimous-consent question - diptychs, i.e. the order in which are arranged the places of the autocephalous Orthodox churches.  Yesterday, 24 February, during the three meetings discussed the need for a diptych, the number of diptychs, the criteria for the compilation and arrangement in diptychs and claims of some churches to more prominence.
    Early in zasedanieto was placed on examining the issue – should the Orthodox Church have one or more diptychs. Identified are two extreme views. Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is behind the view that all local Churches should have a single diptych, and the Moscow Patriarchate, which protects the position for more diptychs, i.e.  that different Local Orthodox Churches can have their diptychs, arrangement in which reflect the local tradition of each of the Churches. Expressed the common opinion that in view of the current situation of raznomislie and different traditions and criteria for ranking in seniority it would be a true utopia to agree on a single diptych satisfactory to all Local Orthodox Churches.
    What the Commission could propose in the name of peace and unity, however, is not to encourage churches in their claims regarding diptychs and in creating new diptychs.
    As regards the criteria for the elaboration of diptych and ordering it, the views of delegates in the committee vary.  According to some criterion must be apostolic foundation, i.e.  whether any of Christ's apostles laid the foundations of the particular local Churches, according to others it must be recognition of the former church of Ecumenical Council, antiquity, importance, sanctity, canonization, number of Bishops, pastoral criteria, etc.
    Particularly emphasized was that often given Local Orthodox Churches have received one or another place in diptychs for purely political reasons and that the arrangement has changed according to historical circumstances.
    The main claim for prominence in diptychs are Georgian and the Church of Cyprus. Both want to take sixth place in the diptychs. Georgian Orthodox Church enjoys the support of the Russian Orthodox Church, which also gives this place in its diptych. Church of Cyprus, which has the support of ancient Patriarchates, based its claims of apostolic his home and that the Third Ecumenical Council gave autocephaly.
    The claims of Georgian Orthodox Church have a purely historical basis, because without the specific documents confirming what has traditionally been assumed that it is one of the oldest churches, founded by St. Andrew in the first century and that became autocephalous in the year 466.  Claims of the Cyprus Orthodox Church itself, although they are historically justified, in violation of the traditional primacy in diptychs of churches that have patriarchal dignity.
    In tomorrow the Presidency will be proposed text in relation to the discussed topic of diptychs. If it finds support from all members, it could be used as a proposal to the Local Churches towards the preparation of Pan-Orthodox Council.

  • 22 February 2011: Chambésy and UGCC election

    Today both the Orthodox Centre at Chambesy, the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Romanian Patriarchate made short announcements concerning this week’s meeting at Chambesy.  Photos of the opening session can be seen at .

    Also today it was announced that the election of the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will occur during the period March 21-24 and the enthronement will occur in Kyiv on March 27.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 January 2011: Meeting in Chambésy today

    The meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission began at the Orthodox Center in Chambesy, Switzerland today and will continue until February 27.   As you recall, the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference met in Chambesy, June 6-12, 2011.  A meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission was held in Chambesy, December 10-16, 2009, in order to prepare for a future Fifth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference.  The December meeting focused primarily on the granting of autocephalous status.   This week’s meeting is the second Commission meeting which will hopefully finalize the preparations for the Fifth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference.

    This meeting, which is being held after a considerable delay from the first meeting, has been the subject to almost no information or publicity on the Internet.  The only references that I found on the Internet were the December minutes of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate designating the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate to the February 21- 27 meeting at Chambesy and a just posted article from the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France stating that the delegations of the Local Orthodox Churches were arriving in Chambesy today.   The delegation from France consists of Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Metropolitan John (Yazigi) (Antiochian Patriarchate).  According to the latter website, the discussion at this week’s meeting will complete the list of topics that are on the agenda of the future Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Council.  According to an earlier statement by Metropolitan Hilarion, this meeting will include a discussion of the procedure for drafting a Tomos on Autocephaly and a discussion of the diptychs of the primates of the Local Churches.   See also

    If the deliberations of the Commission are successful this week, the meeting of Fifth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference should proceed without difficulty.  This in turn will set the stage for holding the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Council – which will be a great historical event.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 19 February 2011: New nuncio for Russian Federation

    Today, Saturday, February 19, the Vatican announced the appointment of the new apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic.   I am sure that the announcement did not come as a surprise to either the Russian Federation or the Moscow Patriarchate.  Pope Benedict had met with President Medvedev just two days before, and the proposed appointment surely must have been discussed.  Although the DECR does not usually post on its website on Saturday, it was prepared to post the announcement immediately today together with a detailed biographic summary of the new nuncio.  The chances are great that the DECR knew of the appointment in advance and is most likely pleased by it.

    Archbishop Jurkovic is filling the shoes of Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who has done so much to improve Orthodox – Catholic relations.  As you know, Archbishop Mennini is now the nuncio to the UK.  Just yesterday, the day after the papal meeting and the day before the announcement of the new nuncio, President Medvedev signed an order that Archbishop Mennini is awarded by the Russian Federation with the high honor of “Order of Friendship” for his work in improving Russian – Vatican relations.

    The new nuncio is not a new face for the Moscow Patriarchate.  He has served as nuncio to Belarus, 2001-04, and then Ukraine, 2004-present.  Metropolitan Hilarion had a very friendly meeting with him in Kyiv on March 25, 2010.

    The following is some biographic information that I compiled from, risu, and

    Ivan Jurkovic was born in Kocevje, Slovenia (a town of approximately 16,000 in Southern Slovenia) on June 10, 1952.  He finished his theological studies at the Faculty of Theology in Ljubljana and was ordained a priest in 1977.  He then worked for two years as a parish priest near Ljubljana.  In 1980 he entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to be trained as a Vatican diplomat and graduated in 1984.  While in Rome, he also studied canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University, and he received his doctorate in canon law in 1988.

    His first diplomatic assignment was as secretary at the nunciature in South Korea (1984-88).  In Korea he obtained a bachelor’s degree at a secular university.  From 1988 to 1992, he was auditor at the nunciature in Columbia.  Then, from 1992 to 1996, he was assigned to be a councilor at the Holy See’s representation in Moscow.  While in Moscow, he taught canon law at the St. Thomas Aquinas College.  There he published various works on canon law: "Marriage Law" (Moscow, 1993), "Canon Law on the People of God" (Moscow, 1993), "Latin-Russian Dictionary of Terms and Expressions of the Code of Canon Law" (with A. Koval, Moscow, 1995), "Canon Law on the People of God and Marriage" (Second edition, Moscow, 2000).

    From 1996 to 2001, he headed the Secretariat of State’s OSCE Department at the Vatican.  In 2001 he ordained an archbishop was assigned to be the nuncio in Belarus.  From 2004 to present, he has been the nuncio to Ukraine.

    His Excellency has studied languages much of his life and is fluent in Italian, English, Russian, Spanish, German, French, Croatian and Ukrainian.

    He is a Conventual Chaplain Grand Cross ad honorem of the Sovereign Military Order of Hospitalers of Saint John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta (“Knights of Malta”).
    A photo of him from the website of the Kyiv nunciature is attached.

    Pasted below from the same website is an interesting interview that he gave when he became nuncio in Ukraine.

    It is safe to assume that Archbishop Jurkovic will follow the same path of the good relations with the Moscow Patriarchate as did his predecessor.   Let us hope so. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

    The post of papal nuncio is known and respected in Ukraine, especially among the faithful. It's only natural that they would want to learn more about the new appointee, his background, education, knowledge of languages, and previous appointments. They would certainly want to know how His Eminence came to serve the church, his theological education, pastimes, and attitude to the arts, literature, and vacations.
    I. J.: I'm Slovenian and come from an ordinary family; I was the middle son. When I started thinking about my future, I decided to become a chemist. Gradually, I found myself increasingly drawn to the idea of serving the church. I was ordained in 1977 and worked for two years as a parish priest near Ljubljana. In 1980 I was invited to join the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, where priests are trained for the diplomatic service of the Holy See. Simultaneously I studied canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. I entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1984 and was dispatched to South Korea. That same year I enrolled in another academic institution, Central Texas College, which had a branch in Seoul. I graduated three and a half years later with a bachelor's degree. During all the years I spent in higher schools I studied languages. As a member of the small Slovenian nation I quickly realized the need to know other languages. If I'm not mistaken, I've been studying languages since I was 30. I started with German, followed by English, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Belarusian, and now Ukrainian. Of course, every Catholic theological student must learn some Latin. Add here my native Slovenian and several other languages of former Yugoslavia. Superior linguistic culture is one of the hallmarks of pontifical diplomacy, but it requires endless hours of study and practice. However, knowledge of languages has become a necessity for everyone, so people who lack this knowledge are ineligible for almost all responsible posts.
    As for my work, I mentioned that my diplomatic career began in South Korea, where I stayed from 1984 to 1988. It was a shame that I didn't see the Olympic Games because I was transferred to Colombia. I spent a little over 4 years in this South American country. I arrived in Moscow on March 4, 1992, where the Holy See was opening its diplomatic mission. Four years of demanding work followed, which added to my knowledge of Eastern Europe, other Slavic nations, and Orthodoxy. While I was in Moscow, I taught canon law at Thomas Aquinas Theological College.
    In 1996-2001 I lived in Rome, where I was the head of the State Secretariat's OSCE Department (the Holy See is a founding member of the OSCE and an active participant). In 2001 I was appointed nuncio to Belarus, and now I'm the papal nuncio to Ukraine.
    My hobbies? We all have them, but after years of work in various countries and on different continents I believe that personal preferences and hobbies change, depending on the country. Naturally, my years of study in Rome sparked my interest in art and history. Rome is an incredible city. First-time visitors cannot grasp its riches. Everything seems precious there, even the streets. I was also very impressed by the Far East. South Korea was taking its first steps as an economic power, but it had an excellent educational system and substantial creative achievements. It had an atmosphere of true optimism. Even now I remember the enthusiasm with which they were modernizing their country. At the time I also frequently visited Japan. In a word, the Far East was a taste of beauty about which I had practically known nothing.
    Colombia was a different world. Of course there were considerable difficulties, but that world was also very interesting and remarkably creative. This period enriched my knowledge of modern Hispanic culture. Spain is an important European country, although it is somewhat aloof from the others. However, if you consider the world as a whole, you realize that Spanish culture left countless traces in other countries and made a strong impact on the human race. When you consider the nations that have a special link with Catholicism, all this was especially important for me.
    In Moscow my interest in literature received a fresh impetus and it's still there. Literature is probably the sphere in which the human soul expresses itself with the most clarity, where it is capable of revealing something that is superior even to human experience, and where it can glimpse the realm of the Spirit. Of course, the visual arts and music have a great potential, primarily owing to their direct impact and originality, but perhaps they cannot as easily convey precise and thematically determined ideas. Words remain the key instrument in the world of religion and theological reflections, especially if they are close to the Word, meaning Christ, God, and man.
    My own life and personal preferences are largely governed by fate as determined by Providence. One could say that this is an act of violence against an individual who would prefer to live in a more stable and peaceful environment. On the other hand, openness to the world and one's fellow humans without making any personal plans means enriching one's own life.

  • 17 February 2011: Benedict - Medvedev meeting and other news

    Today, President Medvedev met for 35 minutes with Pope Benedict.  The official communiqué of the meeting is pasted below.  A Vatican Radio report on the meeting can be read at   You can watch the public parts of the visit on YouTube.

    Also today Father Milan Zust SJ of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity gave a lecture in Moscow to the students of the St. Cyril and Methodius Post-Graduate School of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Sharing his personal experiences, Father Milan stressed the importance of contacts and meetings between Catholics and Orthodox to overcome past estrangement.  The lecture included a lively discussion with students.

    Next week, the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission will meet in Chambesy, Switzerland (21-27 February 2011).   The Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation will consist of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) – head of the delegation; Archbishop Mark of Berlin-Germany and Great Britain – member of the delegation; and archpriest Nikolai Balashov, DECR deputy chairman – consultant of the delegation.  Please keep this very important meeting in your prayers.

    Next month, Aid to the Church in Need (Kirche in Not) will hold its Fourth International Congress in Wurzburg, Germany.  On 19 March 2011, as part of the Congress, a round table discussion will be held on the relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches since the end of the Soviet Union.  Both Cardinal Kurt Koch of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and Metropolitan Hilarion will take part in a roundtable discussion on this topic.   Kirche in Not, an international Catholic charitable organization headquartered in Germany, provides financial aid equally to the Moscow Patriarchate and to the Catholic Church in Russia.  Perhaps its most well-known work in Russia has been to finance for the Moscow Patriarchate chapel boats that provide Orthodox church services to small communities along the Volga River.   The head of the Russia section of Kirche in Not is an Orthodox, Peter Humeniuk, who will also participate in the panel discussion.   Peter Humeniuk deserves a great deal of credit for his outstanding work in improving Catholic – Orthodox relations.

    I have heard from Prof. Doctor Barbara Hallensleben that Cardinal Koch will also attend the March 25 events relating to the conferral of an honorary professorship on Metropolitan Hilarion by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.  Also, three days ago, it was announced that the University of Fribourg was establishing a Center for Russian Studies (the first of its kind in Switzerland).

    Lastly, Metropolitan Hilarion was in Dallas last weekend.  While there, he met with the president, faculty, and students of the Dallas Theological Seminary.  To my knowledge, it was one of the first efforts by the Moscow Patriarchate to reach out to the Evangelical churches, perhaps the fastest growing Christian group.  Metropolitan Hilarion stressed the need for various Christian denominations to defend traditional moral values.  It raises the question of whether the “alliance” of Orthodox, Catholic, and Oriental Churches, to defend traditional Christian values, frequently mentioned by Metropolitan Hilarion, should also the enlist the support of conservative Evangelical groups.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    Today, 17 February 2011, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Dmitry Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation. Subsequently the president, accompanied by Sergey Lavrov, minister for foreign affairs, went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

    In the course of the cordial discussions, the parties expressed their pleasure at the good state of bilateral relations and highlighted their desire to strengthen them, also in the wake of the establishment of full diplomatic relations. The broad-ranging collaboration between the Holy See and the Russian Federation was recognised, both in the promotion of specifically human and Christian values, and in the cultural and social field. Subsequently, emphasis was given to the positive contribution inter-religious dialogue can make to society. Finally, attention turned to the international situation, with particular reference to the Middle East.

  • 10 February 2011 (2): Resignation confirmed

    Below are two articles posted today by RISU relating to the resignation of Cardinal Husar:

    Synod to elect new head of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church within two months

    10 February 2011, 13:32 

    Patriarch Lubomyr Husar announced Thursday at a press conference in Kyiv that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted his resignation from office as the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The 77-year-old patriarch submitted a request to the pope two years ago, reports the Information Department of the UGCC.

    "As I no longer have enough strength, I would like to transfer power to my successor who will effectively continue this work. It's not my job and I am not the key. The key is the church, and the goal of our work is to serve the church, and we try to do it until we can do it effectively," said the patriarch. 

    After his resignation, Patriarch Lubomyr does not intend to completely abandon the life of the church and society. "I will pray for the church, think over the past, make sure nothing from the past of our church is lost. I would like to meet with young people, and with different professional groups," says His Beatitude.

    Already this month, the patriarch will meet with students of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy and begin work on his second audiobook series called "Society," which will include the audiobooks "Society and Power," "Society and Business," and "Society and Law".
    "According to Canon Law, until the new patriarch is elected, Bishop Ihor Voznyak will be the administrator of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Within two months the synod will elect a new head of the church," said Bohdan Dzyurakh, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops.


    Patriarch Lubomyr Husar on his possible successor

    10 February 2011, 16:26

    "My peers are pensioners. To transfer patriarchal power to any of them would be futile. Our church has a synodal structure that must search not for a person with extraordinary talents but for the leader of this community. The archbishop, father, and head of our church is the head of the synod. In our tradition, especially in the restored tradition, the synod is the governing body that sets the tone of the church’s life. I am sure that our bishops will look for a man who will plan for the future, who will continue the work that has already begun, because through the synod, we all take part in the life of our church," Patriarch Lubomyr Husar said in an interview on Thursday.

    According to the hierarch, "a person capable of strengthening, supporting and promoting the church must be chosen. It is not about a single attribute but about the person's vision."
    "We should take advantage of the internal unity of the church to move forward. We should look not only at the near but also at the distant future. We have already developed some strategies in our church for the next decade. These strategies should be put into practice and not remain words. Also, the proceedings that took place in the last 20 years should be continued with new force," said the Patriarch Lubomyr.

  • 10 February 2011 (1): Husar resignation tomorrow??


     9 February 2011, 20:50

    On Thursday, 10 February, at 14.00 in Kyiv, Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Lubomyr Husar will hold the press conference in press center of "Ukrainian House" (Khreshchatyk, 2).

    Meeting of Ukrainian Greek Catholics with the journalists will be devoted to the results of 10 years of patriarchal service of the Cardinal Husar. During the press conference will be informed about current events and changes in the life of the UGCC.



    Cardinal Lubomyr Husar resigns

    Yesterday at 17:16 | Kyiv Post Staff

    Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has resigned.
    “The pope accepted the resignation which the most blessed has requested for a long time because of his health,” a source within the Ukrainian Catholic Church told the Kyiv Post.
    The source requested anonymity since an official announcement about the resignation is expected on Feb.10.
    The 77-year-old cardinal has headed Ukrainian Catholics since 2001. Even though the title of the primate is for life, Husar has asked the pope to accept his resignation for several years because of his failing health.
    After his resignation, a temporary administrator will be appointed until a new head is picked within two months.
    The election will take place during a Holy Synod of bishops from around the world.

  • 9 February 2011 (2): Swiss honor for Metropolitan Hilarion

    Metropolitan Hilarion has received a new distinguished honor – he has been appointed by the Theological Faculty of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) to be an “honorary professor.”  This appointment has now been approved by the Rectorat of the University and the Swiss Council of States.  It was announced on February 7 (Jan. 25 – Old Style), the feast day of St. Gregory the Theologian – a saint who is very important to Metropolitan Hilarion (whose baptism name is Gregory).  I am sure that many thanks are also due in this regard to Prof. Dr. Barbara Hallensleben of the Institute for Ecumenical Studies at the University of Fribourg.  Prof. Dr. Hallensleben – a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and one of the first two women ever appointed to the International Theological Commission – has been a tireless worker for Orthodox – Catholic unity.  It is my understanding from her that the honor will probably be conferred on His Eminence on March 25, when His Eminence is scheduled to give a public conference in Fribourg.  His “Psalm Symphony” will also be performed on the same occasion.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 9 February 2011 (1): Interview in New York

    Below is an interesting interview given by Metropolitan Hilarion to the National Catholic Register (now owned by the EWTN global Catholic network) last Saturday.  On Monday, Metropolitan Hilarion was present at the performance of his St. Matthew Passion at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in New York City.   The event was hosted by St. Vladimir’s Seminary (OCA) in cooperation with the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.  The event was financially underwritten by the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee and the St. Gregory Foundation in Moscow.  According to one report, the large church was packed and it was necessary to bring in extra chairs. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Archbishop Hilarion on Christian Unity

    ‘We should not pretend we are close to solving this problem’

    by John Burger Monday, February 07, 2011 8:13

    COMMON INTERESTS. Pope Benedict XVI exchanges greetings with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk prior to a concert at the Vatican last May. The concert was a gift from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Both the Pope and Metropolitan Hilarion have musical backgrounds.

    There’s been encouraging — sometimes tantalizing — news in recent years about the growing potential for Catholic-Orthodox unification. Pope Benedict XVI is said to be viewed more favorably by the Orthodox than his predecessor. The Catholic Archbishop of Moscow exclaimed in 2009 that unity with the Orthodox could be achieved “within months.” And the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation issued a document last October that envisions practical steps each Church can begin taking to begin the process of reunification.

    But Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev is a lot more cautious about any predictions of imminent unity between East and West. Archbishop Hilarion heads the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, a position that was held by now-Patriarch Kirill before Patriarch Alexei died in 2008.

    At 44, Hilarion has experienced a meteoric rise in the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church. A brilliant theologian and author, he was elected bishop at age 35, has served as bishop of Vienna and head of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions in Brussels. He is deeply involved in ecumenical dialogues with the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

    He’s also an accomplished composer and is in New York for the U.S. English-language premiere of his St. Matthew Passion oratorio this evening. He also delivered the annual Father Alexander Schmemann lecture at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., on Saturday, where he spoke about the meaning of icons in the Orthodox Church.

    Thanks to Father John Behr and Deborah Belonick of St. Vladimir’s, I was able to sit down with Archbishop Hilarion for a chat after the lecture. Here’s a transcript of our conversation.

    How important is Christian unity to the Orthodox Church?

    The notion of Christian unity is essentially linked to the last words of Jesus Christ, which he pronounced at the Last Supper and, notably, those which were addressed to his father, when he preached about the unity of his disciples. It is a tragedy that Christ’s disciples throughout the world were unable to preserve this unity and that many schisms and divisions arose in the Church, and the call to Christian unity is the ultimate goal of our exposure to inter-Christian activities and to various dialogues which we lead with the Roman Catholic Church and with other Christian traditions.

    So I think for an Orthodox Christian, it is essential to participate in inter-Christian exchanges in order to bring different Christian traditions closer to mutual understanding in order to overcome centuries of prejudices with the ultimate goal of the restoration of the full Eucharistic communion between various Christian denominations.

    Of course, the Orthodox and the Catholic are the closest ones. We have certain differences in dogma, certain differences in ecclesiology, but we have the same teaching on the apostolic succession of the hierarchy, on the sacraments and on the Church in general.

    Therefore, though there are obstacles to unity, they are, I believe, in no way insurmountable.

    What in the Orthodox view constitutes full Christian unity? What does it look like?

    Full Christian unity is the Eucharistic communion. We do not need to reshape our Church administration, our local traditions. We can live with our differences within one Church, participating from one bread and one cup. We need, however, to rediscover what united us and what brought us to disunity, particularly in the 11th century.

    So the basis for the restoration of the full communion would be, I believe, the faith of the Church east and west in the first millennium.

    And you are quite involved in these talks personally.


    Has Catholic-Orthodox unity become more of a possibility in recent years? If so, since when, or because of what?

    I think certain feasible positive changes came with the beginning of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. He is a man of the Church. He is very traditional in his understanding of the dogma and of morality and he is very close to the Orthodox Church. He highly respects Orthodox traditions. He knows Orthodox theology, and as he indicated in his latest book, Orthodox concerns are very close to his heart. He speaks very highly about the Ecumenical Patriarch (Bartholomew I). He speaks very highly and also very personally about his encounters with the current Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill. And it is clear that, for him, the relationship with the Orthodox Church is one of the primary tasks on his agenda.

    Do you think complete union between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is a possibility in our lifetime? What do you think would have to happen before it could come about?

    I would respond by quoting the Pope: it depends on how long we will live. But I believe that the Eucharistic unity between the Orthodox and the Catholics is not something easily achievable within a few years because even if we look at our theological dialogue, it goes very slowly, and we sometimes are unable to solve even rather insignificant problems which existed in the past for many years.
    So we should not anticipate that there will be major breakthroughs in just a few years time. But we should be hopeful, and, what is most important, we should work. We should be honest towards each other. We should not hide our differences. We should discuss them openly.

    But I also believe that, without aspiring that solving all theological problems that exist between the Orthodox and the Catholics we can learn how to work together, how to act together. And without being one Church administratively we can act as members of one Christian body.

    This is what I call a strategic alliance between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church. This alliance is necessary in order for us to learn how to work together, because the challenges we are facing are the same. One of the challenges is how to re-Christianize a de-Christianized world. This is what Pope Benedict XVI speaks about very often. In particular he speaks about the New Evangelization of Europe. I believe that this is a huge missionary task and even such a grand Church as the Catholic Church cannot accomplish this task alone. And the closest allies for it would be the Orthodox Church. I believe we can do many things together; we can face modern changes together, even without being one Church, even without having full Eucharistic communion.

    How would you describe recent dialogue on the issue of primacy? What is each side saying? Has either side shown any sign of possibly changing?

    Well, Pope John Paul II called on everybody, particularly on the Orthodox to express their understanding of primacy.

    In his encyclical Ut Unum Sint.

    Yes. I believe we the Orthodox are ourselves not altogether clear about what we mean by primacy and how this primacy should be exercised. We have, for example, certain differences between the primacy as it is understood by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the primacy as it is understood by the Patriarchate of Moscow.

    In any case, we do not believe that there could be a bishop above all other bishops whose decisions would be binding for the entire Church. We believe that the bishop of Rome in the first Millennium was obviously first in honor but he was first among equals. He did not have direct jurisdiction, for example, over the East. Therefore, when we come to the discussion of the primacy we would argue that the universal jurisdiction of the Pope is something that didn’t exist in the first Millennium and that if we restore, for example, Eucharistic communion, we would accept his role as first among equals but not as the universal bishop

    So what has some of the dialogue been like in recent months? There’s been a lot of talk about breakthroughs and being on the verge of unity.

    I believe that when some people talk about breakthroughs, it was a wishful thinking rather than anything close to reality. We are still at a rather early stage of the discussions. We still discuss the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium, and even on this issue we see clear differences between the Orthodox and the Catholics. If we come to the discussion of the second millennium, the differences will become much more obvious. Therefore we should not pretend that we are close to solving this problem.

    I think, however, that we should discuss it honestly; we should describe the differences in our positions, and we should see what would be the way out. For us, as I said, the way out would be the return to what we had in the first millennium.

    Would you tell me about your background: where you are from originally, what was your family like when you were growing up, what kind of family you come from.

    It would be a long story. I wonder whether I should start telling you this story.

    I was born in Moscow. I studied music for many years. Then I became a monk in a small monastery in Lithuania. I spent five years there. I did my doctorate at Oxford. And then I became a bishop and served in Austria and Hungary as a Russian Orthodox bishop. And when Metropolitan Kirill became Patriarch Kirill, I inherited his former chair as president of the Department of Foreign Relations.

    This is to make a long story short.

    How did you discover that you had a vocation to the priesthood?

    I cannot quite tell you how I discovered it but I can tell you when I discovered it. It was approximately at the age of 15 when I realized that I really wanted to serve the Church and serve as a priest. For some preceding years, as I was studying music, the choice which I had to make for myself was whether to become a professional musician or to serve the Church. I was even thinking about combining the two by, for example, becoming the choir master.

    At the end I decided that I wanted to serve the Church in the full sense, to serve at the altar, i.e., to become a priest. And this was the inner voice that was repeatedly telling me this, and this is what we call a vocation.

    How do you find time to write music?

    I no longer have time to write music. I didn’t even have it before, but when I was a bishop in Austria, I could somehow organize my agenda in order to have some minutes to write music, but very often I did it on a plane or in the waiting area of an airport. For example, some of the pieces from St. Matthew Passion were composed literally on a plane.

  • 12 January 2011: 20th anniversary - "Bloody Sunday"

    Tomorrow, January 13, marks the 20th anniversary of what is known in Lithuania as “Bloody Sunday.”  It was on this day in 1991 that the Soviets attempted to suppress by force the new independence movement in Lithuania.  The events culminated in the Soviet forces (members of the Pskov Division and the KGB Alpha Special Forces) taking control of the Vilnius TV tower and the Radio and Television Committee Building at approximately 2 a.m., Sunday morning.  A large crowd had gathered to protect the TV tower.  Soviet tanks and troops attacked the crowd, and 14 persons were killed either by gun shots or by being crushed by tanks.  Hundreds were injured.  The TV broadcast abruptly ended.  The last TV images were of a Soviet soldier rushing towards the TV camera.  However, a half-hour later, transmission unexpectedly began from a small TV  studio in Kaunas where appeals were made for help.  The appeals were picked up by a Swedish TV station and relayed from Sweden to the world.

    Yesterday, in Kaunas, the mayor of the city, Andrius Kupcinskas,  recognized the actions of the young rector of the Russian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral in Kaunas who had appeared on Kaunas TV that day and urged Soviet troops not to fire on unarmed persons.  The former rector was awarded by the mayor the city’s “Order of Jonas Vileisis” for his courageous actions that day.    That former rector is, of course, Metropolitan Hilarion.   Today, Metropolitan Hilarion met with the speaker of the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas), Irena Degutiene , who also thanked the Metropolitan for his actions in January 1991.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 January 2011: Hilarion in Kaunas

    Today, January 10, Metropolitan Hilarion arrived in Kaunas, Lithuania to speak at an ecumenical conference jointly sponsored by the Lithuanian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The title of the conference is “Christians Face Family Challenges.”  According to the conference program, Metropolitan Hilarion will give an address entitled, “The Sexual Revolution and Demographic Consequences.”  In a sense, Metropolitan Hilarion is returning home in that he was the dean of the Russian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral in Kaunas early in his ecclesiastical career (1990).

    As shown in the attached photo (from, Metropolitan Hilarion was warmly greeted this morning at the airport by Sigitas Tamkevicius SJ, the archbishop of Kaunas and current president of the Lithuanian Bishops Conference.   

    During the 1980s, Father Sigitas was one of my heroes.  He was one of those free spirits who had the courage to speak out boldly against the repression of the Church by the Soviet authorities and the KGB in the Lithuanian SSR.  From 1982 through 1988, I received in the mail approximately 30 editions of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, which had been translated into English by the Lithuanian Catholic Religious Aid in Brooklyn, New York.  Each edition of this samizdat was an amazing description of specific acts of repression and discrimination against Catholics, including details with dates, locations, and names of those committing the acts.  In the Chronicle I read all of the details of the trial of Father Sigitas in 1983 and also read there his subsequent letters from the strict regime gulag in Perm.  Father Sigitas had actually founded the Chronicle in 1972, and after his imprisonment its work was continued by others.  In 1978 he and several others had formed the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers’ Rights.   A short English biography of Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius can be read at .

    It seems that those who have spent time in the gulag, like Archbishop Tamkevicius, often have a very open attitude toward  other Christians.  From many accounts, it appears that Orthodox and Catholic believers in the gulag formed a close bond together.  For some reason, the differences that now divide Catholic and Orthodox did not appear so important to them then.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 December 2010: Archbishop Mennini to Britain

    The Vatican has announced that Archbishop Mennini has been appointed apostolic nuncio to Great Britain.  In November 2002, he had been appointed the representative of the Holy See to the Russian Federation, after having served successfully as apostolic nuncio to Bulgaria where he established very good relations with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and did a very good job in arranging Pope John Paul II’s 2002 visit to Bulgaria.  Last December he became the apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation after full diplomatic relations were established between Russia and the Vatican.  In my opinion, many thanks are due to Archbishop Mennini for the great work that he has done to improve Catholic – Orthodox relations in Russia.  You may recall that in February 2002, Catholic relations with the Moscow Patriarchate reached their lowest point after the Vatican had announced that four apostolic administrations in the Russian Federation had become dioceses and that an ecclesiastical providence was being established in Russia covering the new dioceses.  In contrast, those relations are now very good, although admittedly some problems still exist.  One of the reasons why those relations are so much better today is the hard work done by Archbishop Mennini over the last eight years.  In recognition of his work to establish good relations, Patriarch Alexy awarded Archbishop Mennini the Russian Orthodox Church’s Order of Prince St. Daniel on the occasion of the Archbishop’s 60th birthday in 2007.  To my knowledge, no successor has yet been named to fill the Archbishop’s Moscow post. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA