Peter Anderson - NEWS 2012

  • 26 December 2012: A sign of hope!

    My best Christmas present was reading today the complete minutes of the 25-26 December meeting of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.   Contrary to my fears, there is no reference in the minutes to the document, "The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of primacy in the Universal Church,” approved by the plenary meeting of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission, chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, on November 8, 2012.   The latter news release from the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission had stated that the approved document “will next be submitted for confirmation (на утверждение) by the Holy Synod.”  At least at the 25-26 December session of the Holy Synod, that did not happen.  In the minutes of the 25-26 December session, the only reference to primacy was journal entry no. 118, translated (by Google and my dictionary) below.  I assume that there will be another session of the Holy Synod immediately before the Bishops’ Council, Feb. 2-5, 2013.  It is possible that the primacy document may be acted upon at that session and then by the Bishops’ Council.  However, the fact that it was not acted upon by the Holy Synod at its session completed today is a very hopeful sign, in my opinion.  I hope that all of you had a very blessed Christmas and that 2013 will bring you many blessings! 

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    JOURNAL No. 118
    Report by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department of External Affairs, about participation in the coordination committee of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church.
    From 19 to 23 November 2012 in Paris, was held a meeting of the coordinating committee of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches dedicated to continuing work on the draft document on "Conciliarity and primacy." In the meetings of the committee as a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church attended Metropolitan Hilarion.
    1. Take note of the report.
    2. Endorse the position of the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in the meeting of the coordinating committee of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church.

  • 17 December 2012: New Patriarch of Antioch

    You may have already heard today’s (Monday’s) news that Metropolitan John (Yazigi) of Central and Western Europe has been elected the new Patriarch of Antioch.  However, you may not be aware of the Metropolitan’s English-language website which is a very extensive source of information about him.   His biography and lists of his publications and conferences can be read at  .  With respect to Catholic-Orthodox relations, I believe that his election is a positive development.  His biography states: “His Eminence was involved in many worldwide activities at the ecumenical, Christian and especially Orthodox Christian spheres.  Metropolitan John participated in many international conferences, namely in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Cyprus, United States of America, Russia, and the United Kingdom.”  However, even more significant is that Metropolitan John is co-president of the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group and co-chaired the Group’s meeting last month at the Bose Monastery in Italy.  The Group is an unofficial Catholic- Orthodox dialogue which was established after the breakdown of the official dialogue in 2000.  Although the official dialogue has resumed, the Group’s function was found so valuable that it has continued to be very active.  At the last meeting, the Group discussed “the relationship between primacy and synodality in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.”

    In other developments, there seems to be considerable activity indicating that a pan-Orthodox Council may actually occur.  On the feast of St. Andrew, the Ecumenical Patriarch stated: “Our Holy Orthodox Church finds itself in the delightful position of announcing that the preparation of its Holy and Great Synod has almost been completed, that it is in its final stages and will be convoked in the near future.   On Saturday Metropolitan Hilarion met with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul.   On December 10-12, Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate, met with the Romanian Patriarchate concerning the Council.  The Greek website also reported on the response of the Bulgarian Patriarchate to a letter from the Ecumenical Patriarchate relating to the Council.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 December 2012: Ecumenical Patriarch on Catholic - Orthodox dialogue

    The Ecumenical Patriarchate has just posted an English translation of the address of Patriarchate Bartholomew on November 30 to the Catholic delegation headed by Cardinal Koch.  In my opinion, it is worth a read.  It is an exhortation that we must continue with the theological dialogue and not be discouraged by the difficulties that it is now encountering.  I have only seen the full text of Pope Benedict’s letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch in French.   A short English summary of the Pope’s letter can be read at

    In  the US, vespers for the feast of St. Andrew was celebrated at St. Vladimir’s Seminary (OCA) by newly elected Metropolitan Tikhon.  Special guests for the occasion were Cardinal Dolan and his delegation.  Cardinal Dolan has a good sense of humor.  I enjoyed his remark, “I am especially happy to be here on the Feast of Saint Andrew, as I’ve always identified with Saint Andrew, having an impetuous and irascible brother of my own!”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 23 November 2012: Important dialogue committee meets

    The important Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is meeting in Paris.     Below is an English translation of the Russian language version of the news release of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate concerning the meeting (the English version does not include the names of all of the participants).  The link above also has four photos of the deliberations.  It is possible that the Coordinating Committee will issue a communique at the conclusion of its meeting.

    The last meeting of the Coordinating Committee was in Rome in November of last year.   The Coordinating Committee is struggling on the issue of primacy in the Universal Church, and this issue has become very complicated because there are essentially three different views – Constantinople, Moscow, and Rome.

    As I previously reported, the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate on November 8 completed its work on a document, "The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of primacy in the Universal Church."  The big question now is whether this statement will become a formal pronouncement by the Moscow Patriarchate on the part of the Holy Synod (which usually meets at the end of December) or by the Bishops’ Council (which is scheduled to meet in February 2013).  If there is a formal adoption, it is my personal opinion that the position of the Moscow Patriarchate will, as a practical matter, be frozen for decades to come.  It would be the end of any meaningful dialogue on the primacy question.  Needless to say, I hope and pray that I am completely wrong in this regard.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    On 20 November 2012, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, arrived in Paris with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and All Russia and was met by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Patriarchate of Constantinople) at Charles de Gaulle airport.

    They proceeded to the premises of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Metropolia in France, where the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches holds its meeting.  Metropolitan Hilarion takes part in it as representative of the Moscow Patriarchate.  From the Local Orthodox Churches, the member of the Committee also include: Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamon (co-chair); Metropolitans Gennadios of Sassima and Kallistos of Diokleia (Ecumenical Patriarchate); Metropolitan Makarios of Kenya and Irinoupolis (Patriarchate of Alexandria).  The Jerusalem Patriarchate was represented by Professor Georgios Galitis; Serbian Church -- Ignatije of Branitsevo; Romanian -- Metropolitan Iosif, managing the metropolia of Western and Southern Europe; Cyprus -- Metropolitan Vasilios of Constantia; Greece -- Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Peristeriou.

    Participants in the work of the Coordinating Committee on the Roman Catholic Church side were: Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (co-chair); Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Council; Archbishop Ioannis Spiteris of Corfu, Zante and Kefalonia;  Archbishop Minnerat of Dijon; Monsignor Paul McPartlan, representative of the Catholic University of America; Father Frans Bouwen ("Missionary Society of Africa"); Prof. Dr. Theresia Hainthaler  (Graduate School of Theology and Philosophy of St. George, Frankfurt am Main); and Monsignor Andrea Palmieri (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).
    On November 21, the feast day of the Presentation in the Temple of the Mother of God (according to the new style), members of the Coordinating Committee prayed at the Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Stephen.

    Metropolitan Hilarion is accompanied by hieromonk Antoniy (Sevryuk), secretary of the Administration of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in Italy.

  • 9 November 2012: Moscow on primacy

    In a very important development, it appears that the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate today completed its work, except for some possible editorial changes, on the document, "The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of primacy in the Universal Church."   I have pasted below a Google translation (with some help from my Russian dictionary) of the DECR’s news report concerning today’s meeting of the Commission.  To the best of my knowledge, the text of the document has not yet been made public.

    In another development, Pope Benedict sent a message of congratulations to His Holiness Anba Tawadros, the newly elected head of the Coptic Church.  The full text of the message can be read at

    The Pope also sent a message of condolences on the occasion of the death of Patriarch Maxim, primate of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.  The full text of the Pope’s telegram may be read at  The election of a new patriarch will be held within four months.  The funeral of Patriarch Maxim will occur tomorrow (Friday).

    Sunday was National Unity Day in Russia and marked the 400th anniversary of the expulsion of the Poles from Moscow in 1612.  It was also a feast day of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God.  Patriarch Kirill celebrated the feast day in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.  At the end of the Liturgy, he blessed the copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God that had been given to him by the Polish bishops during the Patriarch’s recent visit to Poland.   A nice photo (from that website) of the Patriarch with the icon is attached. 

    The icon will now be transferred to the Memorial Church of the Resurrection, built next to the memorial complex "Katyn" in Smolensk.  On November 3, on the television program “Church and the World,”  Metropolitan Hilarion stressed the importance of the recent agreement between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference.  In another television interview on the same date, Patriarch Kirill stated in reference to the agreement that “the hostility of past centuries is now replaced by the possibility of a common defense of Christian values ​​in Europe.”

    Tomorrow, Patriarch Kirill begins a visit to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    On November 8, 2012 in the conference hall of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate was held a plenary meeting of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission, chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Commission.
    In the plenary session participated: the Chairman of the Education Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church and rector of the Moscow Theological Schools Archbishop Evgeny of Verey, the rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy Bishop Ambrose of Gatchina, other members of the Commission, as well as the deputy chairman of the DECR Hegumen Philaret (Bulekov) and Archpriest Nikolai Balashov.
    Those present discussed the draft document "The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of primacy in the Universal Church", prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission and submitted for discussion by the Commission pursuant to the relevant decisions of the Holy Synod on March 27, 2007.
    After making proposed amendments the draft document was adopted by the Commission in order that after the end of the editorial work it will next be submitted for confirmation by the Holy Synod.

  • 8 November 2012: A matter of extreme concern

    I am sending this email only to certain Catholic members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.   I am only a Catholic layperson and not a theologian, but the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue is a subject that is very close to my heart and a subject of my prayers.  Because I am concerned about the fate of the dialogue on primacy, I would like to share with you some great concerns that I have based on a news report that I saw today.

    Today the Moscow Patriarchate’s Theological Commission, chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion, met and adopted the document, “The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of primacy in the Universal Church.”  The document will next be submitted for confirmation by the Holy Synod.  The Russian-language news report concerning this meeting is found at   An English translation of the report (done with the aid of Google and my Russian dictionary) is as follows:

    On November 8, 2012 in the conference hall of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate was held a plenary meeting of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission, chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Commission.
    In the plenary session participated: the Chairman of the Education Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church and rector of the Moscow Theological Schools Archbishop Evgeny of Verey, the rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy Bishop Ambrose of Gatchina, other members of the Commission, as well as the deputy chairman of the DECR Hegumen Philaret (Bulekov) and Archpriest Nikolai Balashov.
    Those present discussed the draft document "The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of primacy in the Universal Church", prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission and submitted for discussion by the Commission pursuant to the relevant decisions of the Holy Synod on March 27, 2007.
    After making proposed amendments the draft document was adopted by the Commission in order that after the end of the editorial work it will next be submitted for confirmation by the Holy Synod.

    Although the document has not been made public, it is extremely likely that the document will affirm the position of the Moscow Patriarchate that primacy in the Universal Church simply involves honor and nothing more.  If this document is adopted by the Holy Synod at its next meeting, it is very possible that the document will also be approved by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Bishops’ Council, scheduled for February 2-5, 2013.

    In my opinion, if the document on primacy is adopted by the Holy Synod, and especially if adopted by the Bishops’ Council, the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on primacy will be frozen and not subject to any modification for decades in the future.  It will in effect tie the hands of any representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate to the Joint International Commission.  Even if those representatives are persuaded through discussion to agree on certain points concerning primacy, they would have to state their opposition if those points deviated in any way from the position stated by the Holy Synod or Bishops’ Council.  This approach stands in contrast to the members of the Commission being able to engage in a process of discussing primacy and reaching the truth together.

    Perhaps I am an alarmist, but I believe that the adoption of this document by the Holy Synod or Bishops’ Council would be the death knoll for any productive future discussions by the Joint International Commission on the issue of primacy.  However, I also believe that the action by the Moscow Patriarchate in establishing a fixed and extremely-difficult-to-change position on primacy could also be aimed more at Constantinople than at Rome.  It could be a strong message to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to give up on any attempt, through a pan-Orthodox Council or otherwise, to establish a role of the Ecumenical Patriarch other than honor.  Unfortunately, the Joint International Commission becomes the casualty of this dispute between Moscow and Constantinople.

    On March 27, 2007, the Holy Synod gave the Theological Commission the task of formulating a position on primacy.  Its resolution of this date, found in Journal Entry No. 26, provided: “Entrust to the Synodal Theological Commission the study and preparation of the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the primacy of the Universal Church.”  When Cardinal Kasper visited Russia in May 2008, he raised his concerns about this action.  Subsequently, it appeared that the formulation of a document on primacy was not given priority by the Moscow Patriarchate, perhaps in part because of the Vatican’s concerns.  However, now, five years after the Synod’s resolution,  Moscow’s decision on primacy appears to be on a “fast track.”

    Interestingly, the resolution of the Holy Synod on March 27, 2007, does not dictate that the position formulated by the Theological Commission be confirmed by the Holy Synod or Bishops’ Council.  If the position was adopted only by the Theological Commission, there would be some flexibility for future movement.  However, by going to the next step, not expressly mandated by the resolution, of confirming the position by the Holy Synod or Bishops’ Council, the likelihood of the position being modified in the future becomes virtually nil.

    It is certainly my hope and prayer that something can be done to deter the Moscow Patriarchate from unilaterally determining the primacy question on its own as opposed to reaching a decision through dialogue. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 2 November 2012: Church and State in Russia

    Yesterday, the New York Times published an interesting article by Sophia Kishkovsky.   Unlike much of the reporting on church news in the New York Times, Sonia Kishkovsky (as she usually does) presents a balanced view.  The article is actually about the influence of Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov in Russia.  However, the article has a much broader title, perhaps given by the editors – “Russians See Orthodox Church and State Come Closer Together.”

    This title prompts me to give a brief description of the just-completed visit to Seattle by Bishop Amvrosij, the rector of the St. Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy.  The St. Petersburg Academy is one of the two most prominent theological institutions in the Russian Orthodox Church.  Patriarch Kirill was himself the rector of the Academy for ten years (1974 – 1984).  Patriarch Alexy II was a graduate of the Academy.  One of the purposes of Bishop Amvrosij’s five-day visit to Seattle was to seek some means to mitigate the effect of the Russian government’s steadfast refusal to recognize theological degrees granted by Russian theological departments.  In Russia, accreditation can be granted only by the Russian government, and the government refuses to recognize the subject of theology.  In Seattle, Bishop Amvosij explored the possibility of obtaining theology degrees in the United States for some of the Academy’s best students who would then return to teach in the Academy – apparently Western theological degrees are recognized in Russia.  In this regard, some very helpful discussions were held by the Bishop with Seattle University, with Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, and with Catholic Archbishop Sartain of Seattle.  Descriptions and photos of Bishop Amvrosij’s visit have already been posted (in Russian) on the Academy’s website.    In my opinion, the fact that outstanding theological institutions, such as the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, must seek recognized theology degrees in the West, because of the refusal of the Russia government to accredit theological institutions in Russia, demonstrates that the State and the Russian Orthodox Church are not “peas in a pod” and that important differences exist between the two.

    In another development, letters of support continue to be received by the Moscow Patriarchate in response to the public attacks in Russia against the Church and even the Patriarch.  For example, a letter was received from the Lithuanian Catholic bishops, signed by Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevičius (who himself spent many years in the gulags).  A letter of support was also received from the Presidency of the Council of (Catholic) European Bishops’ Conferences.   The latter letter includes a statement that the authors  “reject the tendency to misunderstand freedom of art and freedom of expression when there is in fact instigation or instrumentalization of religion for provocative purposes in order to damage religious peace ….”  --- a statement which might well be referring to the Pussy Riot controversy.

    In a final development, which occurred while I was out of the country for two weeks, Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held at the Vatican, 7 – 28 October.   On October 16, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Pope Benedict.   Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio did an interesting 9-minute interview of Metropolitan Hilarion concerning this meeting.   In his conversation with the Pope, Metropolitan Hilarion explained the practical need for the recent creation of many new dioceses in Russia.  This explanation may have been made to counter possible speculation that the appointment of many new diocesan bishops in Russia was being done to increase the voice of the Moscow Patriarchate in any future pan-Orthodox Council (in the event the Council’s decisions are not made by consensus only).


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 October 2012: Bartholomew at Vatican today

    Today, Pope Benedict marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council in a special Mass in St. Peter’s Square.  The Mass also marked the beginning of the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by Pope Benedict.  Significantly, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was also there and delivered a very nice address at the conclusion of the Mass.  The following is the complete text of his address in English provided by Vatican Radio:

    In another development, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate was held in Moscow on October 4.    It was scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg but was moved to Moscow because of the apparent temporary limitations on extensive travel presumably imposed by the Patriarch’s doctors following the Patriarch’s very rigorous trip to Japan and the Russian Far East.  The sudden unexplained cancellation of the Patriarch’s visit to Kazan, on the day before the visit was to occur, is probably another indication of this limitation.

    At the beginning of the session of the Holy Synod, the Patriarch made some opening remarks.   With respect to the Joint Message to the Russian and Polish Peoples, the Patriarch stated:

    “I would like to draw your particular attention to my visit to Poland during which we signed the Joint Message to the Peoples of Russia and Poland together with the leadership of the Catholic Church of Poland. This document has been highly appreciated both in the Orthodox and Catholic milieu and also by the secular pubic. I believe that the Church should approve this document. Members of the Polish Episcopal Conference took part in secret voting on the draft document and supported it unanimously. We adhere to another kind of procedure: the Synod approves the documents post facto. Nonetheless, it is important to give the Message a proper church canonical authority.”

    The minutes (“journal”) of the meeting were subsequently posted in Russian on various sites including .  A brief English summary can be read at .  The Synod’s action on the Joint Message is found in “Journal No. 84.”  When I read this journal entry, I was initially concerned that the entry does not expressly adopt or ratify the Joint Message.  In view of the Patriarch’s specific statement at the beginning of the session that “the Synod approves the documents post facto”, I was expecting words to that effect in the subsequent journal entry.  On subsequent reflection, I have concluded that as a retired attorney, I was overly concerned about the precision of the wording of the entry.  A Google translation of the resolution of the Holy Synod is as follows:

    1. Recognize the particular historical significance of the Joint Message to the Peoples of Russia and Poland as it has laid the groundwork of dialogue and cooperation between the peoples of Russia and Poland.

    2. Testifying about reconciliation as a necessary spiritual act, which is essential to overcome the bitterness of mutual dislike and animosity, called on the people of Russia and Poland, not forgetting the lessons of history, to open a new page in relations between the two countries.
    3. Emphasize that the joint letter, which expressed alarm over the destruction of the foundations of Christian culture in Europe, has created a platform for the joint action of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Poland in the field of traditional Christian values on the continent.”

    Although the resolution did not “adopt” or “ratify” the Joint Message in toto, it certainly captures the essential points of the Joint Message and is perhaps better than a one-line ratification.  It will be interesting to see whether the Bishops’ Council, scheduled for February 2-5, 2013, will also discuss the Joint Message.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 28 September 2012: Sudden postponement & conference

    This afternoon (Friday), Patriarch Kirill was scheduled to arrive in Kazan for a three-day visit.  After his arrival, the Patriarch planned to go to the Mother of God Monastery (at the location where the original Kazan icon was discovered in 1579) at 5 p.m. for his first public event of the visit.  However, last night (Thursday) the Kazan Metropolia received word from Moscow that the entire Kazan visit had been postponed to a later undetermined date.  No explanation for the postponement was given.   In view of all of the preparations that had been made in Kazan for this weekend’s visit, including bus-loads of pilgrims coming to the city, this came as a disappointment for many.  Presumably, the postponement would not have been made unless there were very good reasons for it.

    A more detailed report has been provided by the Tatarstan Internet newspaper  In a telephone interview with Intertat, Aleksandr Pavlov, the secretary of the Kazan Metropolia, informed the reporter that the call had been received from Moscow announcing the postponement but without giving any explanation and that an explanation has not yet been received.  The article states that unofficial sources give health problems as the reason for the postponement.  Thus, although the Patriarch would normally serve the liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross yesterday morning, he did not do so.  On the other hand, he did keep his scheduled appearance at Moscow State University, where he gave an important address.  You can see a video of his entire 25-minute address at  Although he coughed several times, he appeared in good health, at least to me.  We will probably never know the reason for the postponement, and we probably do not need to know.  However, when the visit does occur in the future, I believe that it will be important for Catholic-Orthodox relations as I explained in my last news report.

    In another development a round-table conference was held in Moscow on September 26 on Russian – Polish relations.  An English-language report on the conference, with photos, can be seen at  Metropolitan Hilarion gave one of the presentations.  At the conference, the assessment of the recent Joint Message on the Reconciliation of the Polish and Russian Peoples was very positive.  I thought that the following statement by Metropolitan Hilarion is especially interesting: “When we will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles [namely the expulsion of the Poles from Moscow in 1612] in a few weeks’ time, we will revisit the same themes and the same questions to see how timely and important this document was.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 Septembre 2012: Patriarch to visit Kazan and icon

    Patriarch Kirill will visit Kazan next weekend, 28-30 September 2012.  Today, the Kazan Metropolia issued a notice on its website that during the course of his visit, His Holiness will visit the Kazan – Mother of God (Казанско-Богородицкий ) Monastery in the city of Kazan.   The monastery is located next to the piece of ground where in 1579 the 10-year-old girl Matrona found the original Kazan icon buried under the ashes of a burnt house.  She had been told by the Mother of God in a dream to dig in this spot.  Natalia Chugreeva, probably the world’s leading expert on the Kazan icon, believes that the original Kazan icon remained in Kazan during the liberation of Moscow in 1612 and that it was a copy that was taken by the liberating forces and later enshrined in the Kazan Cathedral on Red Square.  She also believes that the original icon was destroyed by the thief who stole the original icon from the Kazan – Mother of God Monastery in 1904 and then burned the icon in the stove of his home after removing the oklad (or riza) for its jewels.

    In 2004, exactly one hundred years after the destruction of the original Kazan icon, Pope John Paul II gave his very beautiful copy of the Kazan icon to Patriarch Alexy.  That copy is now venerated at the Kazan – Mother of God Monastery and has become the replacement for the original.  Although experts agree that this copy is not the original, there is a very plausible theory that the icon is actually Saint Alexandra’s Kazan icon used in the first stone church at the famous Diveevo Monastery.  This stone church was dedicated to the Kazan icon.  If you are interested in this theory, it is summarized in a long letter to the editor published in English in Bishop (now Metropolitan) Hilarion’s  Europaica Bulletin  The theory is based on the account of Archpriest Stefan Lyashevsky published in his book on the history of the Diveevo Monastery from 1903 to its closing by the communists in 1927.  The text of his entire book is posted on the official website of the Diveevo Monastery.  The discussion relating to the Kazan icon can be read in Russian at the end of the following chapter in his book:   Essentially Father Stefan states that the icon remained in his home for a period of time in 1943 while it was being smuggled out of the Soviet Union.  After seeing a photograph of the Kazan icon at Fatima, he was absolutely positive that it was exactly the same icon that he had examined so closely in his home.

    As a Catholic, I believe that it wonderful that Patriarch Kirill will be visiting this monastery and presumably its Kazan icon – a gift from a Pole.  I believe that it is a further step in the reconciliation of the Russian and Polish peoples.


    Peter Anderson USA

  • 16 September 2012: Poland, Russia, and Our Lady

    With the signing of the Joint Message to the Russian and Polish Peoples, I thought that I would update and revise my chronology, “Poland, Russia, and Our Lady of Czestochowa.”  In this latest update, I have made additions (and hopefully improvements) throughout the chronology. I have worked on enlarging and updating this chronology every year for the past 31 years.  Although it is a form of a chronology, I have tried to make it read like a story – which it in fact is.  There are several themes that run through the chronology.  The most important is the role of the Mother of God, especially her role in events relating to Poland and Russia and also more generally between Orthodox and Catholics.  Another theme is the role of the most famous Pole – Pope John Paul II – in his attempts to reach out to Russia and Orthodox generally.  A third theme is the spiritual bond – although not often recognized – that exists between Russia and Poland through the Theotokos.

    I had also attached a “Foreword” to the chronology that was kindly written by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) for an earlier version of the chronology.

    This year I have also decided to prepare a separate document, “Chronology Sources,” which annotates every date entry in the chronology.  I thought that this might be helpful if anyone wanted to know the basis for a factual assertion in the chronology.  The Chronology Sources is also attached.

    Because all of these documents are in digital form, one can do word searches in the chronology.  Even though you may not be interested or have the time to ready the chronology, I thought that the chronology might be useful for you as a research source if you ever need to recall a date or event relating to the subject matter of the chronology.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Foreword ...

    Chronology “Poland, Russia, and Our Lady of Czestochowa” ...

    Chronology Sources ...

  • 9 September 2012: Poland, Moscow & Borodino

    This was the weekend when the full text of the Joint Message to the Russian and Polish Peoples was read during all Masses in Poland.   Although the Moscow Patriarchate did not go that far, it is encouraging to hear that Metropolitan Hilarion read the full text of the Joint Message today before the communion of the laity at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

    Today’s Liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, celebrated by Patriarch Kirill, was an extremely important event.  It celebrated the 200th anniversary of the victory over Napoleon and his Grand Army.  For the Liturgy, the inside of the Cathedral was packed while outside, over 10,000, holding umbrellas because of the rain, watched the Liturgy on big screens.   The battle of Borodino occurred on August 26, 1812 (Julian calendar) or September 8 (Gregorian calendar) – so the 200th anniversary of this battle was this weekend.  Napoleon called Borodino the most terrible of all of his battles.  Although the Russians withdrew from the battlefield, a third of Napoleon’s Grand Army were either killed or wounded.  The Grand Army never recovered from these losses.  The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was originally constructed (construction occurred 1839-1860) to thank Divine Providence for saving Russia in 1812 and to memorialize the sacrifices of the Russian people.  The rebuilt Cathedral was therefore a most appropriate place for the celebration.

    The reading of the Joint Message by Metropolitan Hilarion at today’s Liturgy was perhaps especially appropriate because the events of 1812 were also important in Polish-Russian relations.  After the French, the Poles were the next largest national contingent in the Grand Army.  There were 24 Polish infantry battalions and 13 Polish cavalry regiments at Borodino.  These Poles were enthusiastic supporters of Napoleon because they believed that Napoleon would liberate Poland from the Russian Empire and restore the nation of Poland.  It was another of the complex events in Polish-Russian relations.

    You may recall that before the signing of the Joint Message, Patriarch Kirill had given to the Polish bishops a copy of the Smolensk icon of the Mother of God, and the Polish bishops had given Patriarch Kirill a copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God.  The Smolensk icon had an important role in this weekend’s celebrations because Russian Field Marshal Kutuzov had prayed before a copy of the Smolensk icon on the eve of the battle of Borodino.  Yesterday, Patriarch Kirill conducted a prayer service at the Borodino battlefield before another historic copy of the Smolensk icon (the original was apparently lost during World War II).   Today, the same icon was brought to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and Patriarch Kirill conducted a prayer service before the icon on the steps of the Cathedral.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 3 September 2012: Many thanks to the Russian monks!

    Yesterday at 8 p.m. at the 16th century Nilo-Stolobensky Monastery, near Ostashkov, Russia, the cornerstone was laid for a special chapel dedicated to the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God. 

    From 1939 to 1940, this monastery, located on an island in Lake Seliger, was used as a detention camp by the NKVD for over 6,000 prisoners, mostly Polish police officers.  In 1940, almost all of these prisoners were systematically executed by the NKVD by a shot in the head.  In September 2009, a group of Russian Orthodox monks, led by Archimandrite Arkady (Gubanov), went to the Jasna Gora (Czestochowa) Monastery in Poland and requested a copy of the Czestochowa icon as part of the monks’ plan to construct a special chapel at their monastery in memory of these Polish victims of communist tyranny.

    These Russian Orthodox monks are truly responsible for the recent signing of the Joint Message to the Russian and Polish Peoples on the reconciliation of their two nations.   Archbishop Jozef Michalik, president of the Polish Bishops Conference, has stated to the media several times that it was the action of these Russian Orthodox monks that initiated the process of developing a joint statement on the reconciliation of the Polish and Russian peoples.  

    I have pasted below a Google translation of a Russian-language article from the Tver News concerning the laying of the cornerstone.

    I have also attached some photos.  The first photo is an aerial view of the monastery posted on the monastery’s website.  The second and third photos were taken by the Tver News.  The second photo shows Archimandrite Arkady and Father Roman Majewski, prior of the Jasna Gora Monastery, who can actually speak Russian.  The third photo shows the laying of the foundation stone with the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs and the Polish Ambassador to the Russian Federation.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    At the Nilo-Stolobenskaya Hermitage, a Polish delegation took part in laying the corner stone of the chapel in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa

    On September 2, 2012 at 20:00 at the monastery of the Nilo-Stolobenskaya Hermitage, an event was held to commemorate the victims of the Polish prisoners of war held on the territory of the monastery in 1939-1940.

    The Polish delegation was headed by the Minister of Internal Affairs of Poland Jacek Chichocki and Polish Ambassador to Russia Wojciech Zajączkowski  .

    Abbot of the Monastery Archimandrite Arkady (Gubanov) in his speech said:

    - Today, being here, next to the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, we understand how much unites us - we are Christians.  The Mother of God with her protection [pokrov] helps our people, and the tragedy of 1939-1940 was sent by the enemies of our peoples and churches, to destroy brotherly relations and Christian love. After more than 70 years together we pray for the repose of the souls of the Poles killed ... Our future depends not only on the lessons of the past, but also the events of today. Together we have to forget all the insults, to come to a common understanding and mutual support. I wish you God's help in all your good endeavors

    At the end of the event was the consecration and laying of the foundation stone for the construction of a chapel in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa, to which will be transferred memorials associated with the memory of the victims.

  • 25 August 2012: Action at meeting of Polish bishops

    One certainly cannot accuse the Polish bishops of lacking enthusiasm for the recently signed Joint Message to the Russian and Polish Peoples.  At their meeting this morning at the Jasna Gora Monastery at Czestochowa, the bishops directed the entire text of the Joint Message be read at all Catholic Masses in Poland on Sunday, September 9.   Archbishop Jozef Michalik told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI that "there is a need to continue talks with the Russian Orthodox Church, and there is hope to formalize our relationship in the form of a permanent group, whose aim will be to further direct talks with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate."  Archbishop Michalik added that in the future it may be possible to organize various meetings of the faithful of both Churches, such as congresses, where Polish Catholics are able to get to know Orthodox.

    At the media briefing before the meeting, Father Józef Kloch, spokesperson for the Episcopal Conference of Poland (KEP), expressed “huge gratitude” to the media for the “great job” they did in providing very extensive coverage of the Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Poland.  In the same briefing, Archbishop Michalik shared his personal impressions of the Patriarch’s visit and stated that he was amazed that the interest of the people in the visit was “so great.”  The reception by both the Polish press and the Polish people was “very positive.”  According to the Archbishop, “This is a healthy interest in something good, something that bodes hope for good. "

    Personally, I was amazed at the number of articles and interviews that the KAI posted before the Patriarch’s visit and during the visit.  In Russia, the visit and the Joint Message was covered by the media, but it was subdued and not nearly as extensive as Poland.  Apparently, the Polish bishops are now waiting for the Russian response which may well come at or after the next meeting of the Holy Synod.  I do believe that this is a historic opportunity, and I hope that both sides will take full advantage of it.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 23 August 2012: Poland and Serbia

    Now that the historic Joint Message to the Polish and Russian Peoples has been signed, the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Poland (KEP) is losing no time in deciding what the next steps in the reconciliation process should be.  This Saturday, August 25, the Permanent Council of the KEP and the diocesan bishops will be meeting at the Czestochowa shrine.  The primary topic will be to reflect on Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Poland and on the issues related to the Joint Message.   At the meeting, Archbishop Henryk Muszyński, primate emeritus of Poland and the head of the Polish delegation for the drafting of the Joint Message, will present extensive materials on the current relationship between the Catholic Church in Poland and the Russian Orthodox Church.  The following day, August 26, is the feast day of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and the bishops will participate in the celebrations at the Czestochowa shrine.

    I find it interesting and encouraging that the Mother of God has been given a leading role in the reconcilation process.  In the Joint Message, the reconciliation process was entrusted to her.  Prior to the signing of the Joint Message, Patriarch Kirill and the Polish bishops exchanged icons of the Mother of God (Smolensk and Czestochowa).  Now, in planning the next steps, the Polish bishops are holding their deliberations at her greatest shrine in Poland and in conjunction with her feast day.

    Last Sunday, August 19, Pope Benedict in his Angelus address at Castel Gandolfo stated in Polish:  "During these days, Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Rus is the guest of the Orthodox Church of Poland.  I cordially greet His Holiness and all of the Orthodox faithful.  The program of the visit also included a meeting with the Catholic bishops and a joint declaration on the desire to build a fraternal unity and cooperation of our Churches to promote Gospel values in the modern world, in the spirit of the same faith in Jesus Christ.  This is an important event which raises hope for the future.  Its fruits I entrust to the graciousness of Mary, imploring God’s blessing.  Praise be to Jesus Christ!”

    On a different topic, Bishop Irinej, who often acts as the spokesperson for the Serbian Orthodox Church, issued a press release last week relating to the Nis celebrations.   He denied reports that secret negotiations were occurring relating to an invitation for the Pope to come to the Nis celebrations.  Aside from this, it is clear to me from the statement that the Serbian Church is trying very hard to present the failure to invite the Pope as not to reflect negatively on the Pope.  Pope was not invited because he never expressed his desire to come to Serbia.  Furthermore, the Catholic Church is being treated the same as other non-Orthodox Christian churches.  Although heads of the Local Orthodox Churches are being invited, only “high delegations” of other churches are being invited.   I personally believe that the Serbian Orthodox Churches does not want the failure to invite the Pope (because of lack of majority support among the Serbian bishops and faithful) to interfere with the generally improving relations between the Vatican and the Serbian Orthodox Church.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 August 2012: Good English translation of Joint Message

    Many thanks to Vatican Radio for an excellent English-language translation of the Joint Message to the Polish and Russian Peoples.   I have also pasted the translation below. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    2012-08-17 Vatican Radio
    of the Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of Poland
    Archbishop Józef Michalik, Metropolitan of Przemyśl,
    the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church,
    Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Cyril
    God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone’s faults against them, but entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5: 19)
    In the spirit of responsibility for the present and the future of our Churches and peoples, urged by pastoral concern, on behalf of the Catholic Church in Poland and of the Russian Orthodox Church we address this message of reconciliation to the faithful of our Churches, to our nations and all people of good will.
    Proclaiming the truth that Jesus Christ is our peace and reconciliation (cf. Eph 2: 14; Rom 5:11), aware of the call entrusted to us in the spirit of Christ’s Gospel, we wish to make our contribution to the work of rapprochement between our Churches and reconciliation between our nations.
    1. Dialogue and reconciliation
    Our brotherly nations have been tied not only by long centuries of neighbourhood, but also by the extensive Christian legacy of East and West. Aware of this long and shared history and the tradition, which takes its roots in the Gospel of Christ and has exerted a decisive impact on the identity, spirituality and culture of our peoples and of the entire Europe, we enter a path of honest dialogue in the hope that it will heal the wounds of the past, facilitate our overcoming mutual prejudice and misunderstanding and strengthen us in our pursuit of reconciliation.
    Sin, which is the principal source of all divisions, human frailty, individual and collective egoism as well as political pressure led to mutual alienation, overt hostility and even struggle between our nations. Similar circumstances had earlier led to the dissolution of the original Christian unity. Division and schism, alien to Christ’s will, were a major scandal; therefore we redouble efforts to bring our Churches and nations closer to each other and to become more credible witnesses to the Gospel in the contemporary world.After the Second World War and the painful experience of atheism, which was imposed on our nations, today we enter a path of spiritual and material renewal. If this renewal is to be longstanding, a renewal of the human being must take place first, and through the human being the renewal of the relations between our Churches and nations.
    Fraternal dialogue is the way towards such renewal. It is to facilitate a better understanding of each other and a reconstruction of mutual trust, and thus lead to reconciliation. Reconciliation, in turn, presupposes a readiness to forgive the wrongs and injustices of the past. We are obliged to do this by the prayer: Our Father (...) forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those, who trespass against us.We call on our faithful to ask for the forgiveness of the wrongs, injustice and all evil we have inflicted on each other. We are confident that this is the first and foremost step to rebuild mutual trust, a precondition for a sustainable human community and complete reconciliation.
    Naturally, to forgive does not mean to forget; memory is a significant part of our identity. We owe this memory also to the victims of the past, those tortured to death who laid down their lives for the faith to God and their homeland on this earth. To forgive, however, means to forgo revenge and hatred and to participate in the construction of concord and brotherhood between people, our nations and countries, which is the foundation of a peaceful future.
    2. The past in the perspective of the future
    The tragic events of the 20th century were experienced to a greater or lesser degree by all the countries and nations of Europe. Our countries, nations and Churches were painfully afflicted. The Polish and Russian people share the experience of the Second World War and the period of repressions imposed by the totalitarian regimes. These regimes, with their atheist ideology, fought against all forms of religious life and waged an especially atrocious war on Christianity and our Churches. Millions of innocent people fell victim to this war, of which we are reminded by numerous places of murder and graves on Polish and Russian soil.  Sometimes the events of our often difficult and tragic shared past give rise to mutual resentments and accusations, which prevent the healing of old wounds.
    An objective recognition of facts and an account of the magnitude of the tragedies and dramas of the past is an urgent task for historians and specialists. We appreciate the action taken by competent commissions and teams of experts in our respective countries. We express a conviction that their efforts will allow us to learn unadulterated historical truth, help account for doubts and effectively overcome negative stereotypes. We express a conviction that sustainable reconciliation as the foundation of a peaceful future may take place exclusively on the basis of a complete truth about our shared past.  We call upon all those who pursue good, sustainable peace and happy future: politicians, social activists, people of science, culture and the arts, those who believe in God and those who do not, representatives of the Churches: do not falter in your efforts to foster dialogue, support all that facilitates the reconstruction of mutual trust and brings people closer to one another and all that allows us to build a peaceful future of our countries and nations, a future free from violence and wars.
    3. Together in the face of new challenges
    As a result of political and social transformations, at the close of the 20th century our Churches were finally able to fulfil their mission of evangelisation, and therefore to help our societies develop on the basis of traditional Christian values. Throughout history, Christianity contributed immensely to the formation of the spirituality and culture of our nations. Today, in an era of religious indifference and widespread secularisation, we take every effort so that the social life and culture of our nations should not be stripped of principal moral values, the cornerstone of a viable peaceful future.
    The essential task of the Church until the end of time is the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. All Christians, not only the clergy, but also the lay faithful are called to preach the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and to proclaim the Good News with their words and through the witness of their lives, in an individual, familial and social context. We recognise the autonomy of secular and ecclesiastical authority, but at the same time call for cooperation with respect to care for the family, education, social order and other questions which are vital for the good of the general public. We want to uphold tolerance and first and foremost defend fundamental freedoms, primarily religious freedom, as well as to guard the right of the presence of religion in public life.
    Today our nations are faced with yet new challenges. Fundamental moral principles based on the Ten Commandments are questioned under the pretence of retaining the principle of secularism or the protection of freedom. We are faced with the promotion of abortion, euthanasia and same-sex relations, persistently shown as a form of marriage; a consumerist lifestyle is endorsed, traditional values rejected, while religious symbols are removed from public space.Quite often we encounter sings of hostility towards Christ, His Gospel and Cross; attempts are made to exclude the Church from public life. A misinterpreted secularism assumes a form of fundamentalism and in reality is a form of atheism.
    We call on everyone to respect the inalienable dignity of each human being, created in God’s image and likeness (Gn 1: 27). In the name of the future of our nations we call for the respect and protection of the life each and every human being from the moment of conception until natural death. We believe not only terrorism and armed conflict, but also abortion and euthanasia to be grave sins against life and a disgrace to contemporary civilisation.The family, a permanent relation between man and woman, is a sound foundation of all societies. As an institution founded by God (cf. Gn 1: 28; 2:23-24), the family warrants respect and protection as it is the cradle of life, a wholesome place of development, a guarantee of social stability, and a sign of hope for society. The family is a place conducive for the development of the human being who is responsible for himself, other people and the society he is part of.
    We look with sincere concern, hope and love to young people, whom we wish to protect from demoralisation and to educate in the spirit of the Gospel. We want to teach young people how to love God, their fellow human beings and the earthly homeland as well as to foster in them a spirit of Christian culture, which will bear fruit with respect, tolerance and justice.We are certain that the Risen Christ offers hope not only for our Churches and nations, but also for Europe and the entire world. May He grant His grace so that each Pole can see each Russian and each Russian can see each Pole as their friend and brother.
    Both Poles and Russians have profound respect for the Holy Virgin Mary. Having trust in the intercession of the Mother of God, we entrust to Her care the great work of the reconciliation and rapprochement between our Churches and nations. Recalling the words of Paul the Apostle: Christ’s peace must reign in your hearts (Col 3:15), we confer on all our blessing, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
    + Józef Michalik, Archbishop
    Metropolitan of Przemyśl
    + Cyril
    Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
    Warsaw, 17.08.2012

  • 16 July 2012: Kirill at Katyn

    Yesterday, July 15, Patriarch Kirill dedicated a large memorial church to the Katyn massacre.  The visit has received extensive publicity, but I found the best English-language coverage and photos at .   After dedicating the church, Patriarch Kirill visited both the Polish and Russian parts of the Katyn memorial.  The following article from the DECR (MP) describes this visit and also gives a brief history of the Russians and Poles who were massacred there.  During the visit to Katyn, the Patriarch stated:  “Nothing unites people as much as a common grief. The Katyn tragedy united Russians and Poles, and the two people should always remain brothers. I believe, from opening this monument, a new stage in Russian-Polish relations will start.”

    Perhaps the timing is coincidental, but today (the day after the Patriarch’s visit to Katyn), the Polish Catholic news agency KAI held a major press conference concerning Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Poland, August 16-19.  At the press conference, both representatives of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Poland spoke.  The press conference stressed the reconciliation agreement that will be signed during the Patriarch’s visit to Poland.  The following KAI link gives information (in Polish) concerning the conference and related information.  The Associated Press has also written a story.

    With respect to the peregrination of the Czestochowa icon from Vladivostok to Fatima in support of human life, the icon is now in Belarus.  Because it is not necessary to travel the great distances as in Russia, the icon is able to visit many cities and towns in Belarus.  The icon has had a very enthusiastic reception by the Orthodox in Belarus.   From the photos, I have been greatly impressed by the piety of the people in Belarus.  The long lines of people waiting to venerate the icon travel a long distance on their knees before reaching the icon.  The official website of the Moscow Patriarchate in Belarus is giving good publicity to the event. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 July 2012: Remarks by Patriarch Irinej re Pope

    Below is a Google translation (with some help from me) of an interesting German-language article by the Austrian Catholic news agency KAP relating to the possible visit of Pope Benedict to Serbia.  It confirms that the Pope will not be invited, but demonstrates the positive attitude of Patriarch Irinej towards the Catholic Church.

    On a different subject, the copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother is now in Moscow after completing its journey in support of human life by van from Vladivostok, with stops in Krasnoyarsk, Yekaterinburg, and Nizhny Novgorod.  On July 13, the icon will be driven to Belarus where many cities will be visited.

    I am also attaching Father Ron Roberson’s latest newsletter covering events involving the Eastern Churches in May 2012.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Belgrade (KAP) The Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej I would very much welcome a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Serbia.  Such a visit to the Constantinople celebrations in June 2013 would also be an important step towards the reconciliation of the churches and to greater unity, the Patriarch said in his office in Belgrade before Austrian journalists.  The southern Serbian city of Nis is preparing for the appropriate celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan.  With this edict, Emperor Constantine, who was born in Nis, decreed in 313 the end of religious persecution in the Roman empire and laid the foundation stone for the rise of Christianity as a world religion.

    Despite the clear statement by the Serbian Patriarch, it will obviously not result in a papal visit, as was learned from church circles close to the meeting.  Patriarch Irinej I had neither in the Serbian Orthodox Bishop Assembly the necessary majority of the bishops, nor does he have the necessary support of the faithful in order to be able to extend the invitation to the pope.  It was heard that an invitation to Benedict XVI. could lead to fierce conflicts within Serbia.

    As the apostolic nuncio in Belgrade, Archbishop Orlando Antonini, said to "Kathpress," a high-level delegation with the Vatican's "ecumenical minister" Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Unity Council, will probably participate in the celebrations in Serbia in this coming year.

    According to the appraisal of the nuncio, the relationship between (Orthodox) Serbs and (Roman Catholic) Croats is now, as before, very tense because of the conflict-laden history.  It is true that there are clear signs at the political level of rapprochement and reconciliation.  However, this has not yet penetrated to the population.

    For the Serbs, the Croats represent the Catholic Church, and the Pope as its head is a quasi "innocent fellow-prisoner".    Therefore all the more necessary are all of the initiatives to bring the two peoples closer together.  Of great importance in this respect is certainly the recent visit of Irinej to Croatia, as the nuncio said.  Patriarch Irinej I had in early June in Zagreb dedicated the new building of a Serbian Orthodox school.  On his trip to Croatia, he, among other things, also met with the Zagreb Cardinal Josip Bozanic.

    The patriarch confirmed to "Kathpress" the positive course of his talks in Croatia.  Both sides had agreed to continue to work within the meaning of reconciliation.  The patriarch still saw problems to be sure in the many Serb refugees who could not return to their original homes in Croatia.  Here the Croats must move and make a solution to the problem possible.

    Asked about Kosovo, the Patriarch said that many of the churches and monasteries destroyed by the Albanians are still not rebuilt.  From that, it is out of the question that the Serbian refugees return.  The situation is much more difficult than in Croatia, as acknowledge by the patriarch, who also thanked the Vatican that it had not yet officially recognized Kosovo.

    For the Holy See, there is no need for an international recognition of Kosovo, so long as the legality of its independence is not fully clarified, as the Apostolic Nuncio in Belgrade, Archbishop Antonini, explained the Vatican's position on this issue.

  • 23 June 2012: Polish-Russian reconciliation agreement - signing 17 August

    Today, the Polish Catholic news agency KAI posted on its website an article stating that the historic document on the reconciliation of the Polish and Russian peoples will be signed by Patriarch Kirill and Archbishop Jozef Michalik (president of the Polish Bishops Conference -  KEP)  at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on August 17, 2012.  The prior evening, August 16, the Patriarch and the representatives of the Bishops Conference will discuss future cooperation and dialogue between the Churches.   I have pasted a poor Google translation of the article below.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    The common message to the Russian and Polish peoples

    One of the topics of the bishops [plenary] meeting in Wroclaw [June 21-22] was a common message to the Russian and Polish peoples by the Catholic Church in Poland and the Moscow Patriarchate, which will be signed on August 17 ​​at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

    Signatories of the document will be Archbishop Jozef Michalik, chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference [KEP], and Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    However, on the evening of 16 August, Patriarch Kirill, with accompanying persons, will visit the building of the Episcopal Conference in Warsaw, where, together with representatives of the Polish Episcopate, they will talk about the prospects for cooperation and dialogue between the two Churches.

    The Catholic-Orthodox message of reconciliation of the peoples I await with great hope - Archbishop Jozef Michalik said today to KAI. He added that the document will address, among others, "the prospects for a deeper brotherhood between Christians and peoples." He remarked that it is "an expression of courage" of Patriarch Kirill and the entire Orthodox Church.  It is also "an expression of obedience on the part of the Orthodox Church in Russia and the Catholic Church in Poland to the words of the Lord Jesus that we may be brothers, that this is required."

    "This message - said Fr. Jozef Kloch, spokesman for the Bishops - is something groundbreaking. " He added that it is the fruit of three years of work by the representatives of our Church and the Patriarchate of Moscow. This dialogue was started with the visit to Poland of a group of monks of the Orthodox Nilov Monastery [in Russia], on whose territory during the war were imprisoned Polish officers, murdered later in Tver. [Nilov Monastery is located on Stolbny Island, about 10 km north from Ostashkov. It was the place where the Ostashkov Special Camp of the NKVD was located and where roughly 6,300 Polish policemen and prisoners of war were kept prior to their execution in Tver]

    The message - as reported by Fr. Kloch - will include a historical reflection about what has happened between our two peoples over the centuries, a call for mutual forgiveness of sins and reconciliation, a call to continue the dialogue and common witness of both Churches, especially in view of the challenges posed by the surrounding world and modern Europe.

    Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus Kirill is visiting Poland, 16-19 August.  He will arrive here at the invitation of the Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland Sawa and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church. This is the first time in the history of Christianity in our country, that there is a visit of the head of Russian Orthodoxy.  One highlight of the visit will be the signing with the President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, Archbishop. Jozef Michalik, of a common message of the churches: Catholic Poland and Orthodox Russia, on the subject of mutual dialogue and reconciliation between the peoples of both countries.

    The guest from Russia will spend the first two days in the capital: 16 and 17 August.  He will meet, among others, President Bronislaw Komorowski.   Along with the Archbishop Jozef Michalik, he will sign the Letter of the Churches.  On the evening of August 17, the head of the  ROC arrives in Bialystok, where in the cathedral of St. Nicholas, he will meet with the faithful.  On August 18 the Patriarch will also visit  Supraśl [Monastery] and Hajnowka, where he will pray in the church of the Holy Trinity. Then will go to the holy mountain Grabarka, where in the evening he will begin the celebration of the Transfiguration.   On the morning of August 19 with Patriarch Kirill presiding in a monastery on Mount Grabarka,  liturgy will be celebrated on the Feast of the Transfiguration.  In the afternoon, the head of the ROC will return to Moscow.

  • 22 June 2012: Czestochowa icon in Krasnoyarsk

    The Czestochowa icon has now arrived in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.  It made the very long journey from Vladivostok by van even though the road was really non-existent in places.  Because of the holes, the van had to be repaired at one point.  The good news is that the roads should be better for the remaining months of the peregrination of the icon.

    The website of the Krasnoyarsk Metropolia posted today an article and eleven photos of the icon.  There is also an English-language article with one photo at    The icon is staying at Metropolitan Panteleimon’s Pokrov (Protecting Veil) Cathedral in Krasnoyarsk.  There was also a “procession” of the icon by boat on the Yenisei River – one of the great rivers of Siberia.

    The icon will remain in the cathedral until tomorrow (June 23) and then travel to Yekaterinburg.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle

  • 16 June 2012: Another perspective on Western Ukraine

    I have pasted below a report from RISU ( ) on a recent interview of Major Archbishop Sviatoslav by the Polish Catholic news agency KAI.  In my opinion it shows the complexity of the issues in Western Ukraine.  As I understand Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, it is too simplistic to view the problem as involving only two churches (UOC-MP and UGCC).  Rather, one must also consider the large number of churches possessed by the two non-canonical Orthodox Churches in Western Ukraine.  All of this makes me believe that we should not expect a break-through on this issue in the very near future.

    In the event any of you are interested in following the continuing journey of the Czestochowa icon across Russia in support of human life and against abortion, the following English-language website should keep you posted as developments occur:  Many thanks to Asia News, Vatican Radio, KAI, and others for their coverage!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    UGCC head: Tragedy of Orthodox Church in Western Ukraine not caused by our existence or our presence

    14 June 2012, 13:16

     Patriarch Sviatoslav was asked by journalist from the Polish news agency KAI about the relationship between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and how to establish a dialogue between these churches.

    The UGCC head has repeatedly stated that a key issue for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the dialogue with the Orthodox Church, especially with the Moscow Patriarchate, because the UGCC is not against its Orthodox brethren. As for the ROC, they always accuse the Greek Catholics that in the 90s in Western Ukraine they took churches from the Moscow Patriarchate.

    In this regard, the head of the UGCC said: "Above all, we must put an end to inefficient conversations and review common strategies. If we want an agreement, then we must realize that some methods used in the past have been ineffective. For example, calls for the liquidation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. It is impossible, because this church exists by the will of God, which the Blessed John Paul II repeated many times.”

    According to Patriarch Sviatoslav, the Moscow Patriarchate is not always based on proven historical facts: "For example, Metropolitan Hilarion several times repeated that in the 90s we took from them 500 churches in Western Ukraine. This must be the biggest obstacle for a meeting between the pope and the Patriarch of Moscow."

    The head of the UGCC said that in March of this year during an audience with the pope, he gave the exact statistics of the Orthodox churches in Western Ukraine: "In those regions where, according to Metropolitan Hilarion such incidents took place, today there are more than two thousand Orthodox churches. But only two hundred of them belong to the Orthodox Church that is in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. Other Orthodox churches in western Ukraine belong to other Orthodox Churches that Moscow does not recognize as canonical. This means that the tragedy of the Orthodox Church in Western Ukraine is not caused by our existence and our presence but by the division among the Orthodox. If the Orthodox Church were united, it would have four times as many churches than Metropolitan Hilarion says there are. And where did these two thousand churches come from? A third are Roman Catholic churches that were given to the Orthodox; another third are our churches that Stalin after World War II gave to the Orthodox, when our church was banned. The rest were built by the Orthodox. So I do not understand what the problem is. We are always open to a dialogue, as already stated my predecessor, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, and do not forbid anyone to build a church or belong to this or that religion. We demand only justice and recognition of our right to exist. "

  • 12 June 2012: Czectochowa icon honored in Vladivostok

    The beautiful copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God has now arrived in Vladivostok.  It was driven by van from Kazakhstan (I believe via the “shortcut” through Harbin, China).  With the blessing of Metropolitan Veniamin of Vladivostok and Primorye, the icon is now being received with great honor in Vladivostok.  The arrival of the icon is featured on the home page of the Vladivostok Eparchy.    Today the icon was venerated in the Pokrov Cathedral; Wednesday it will be in the main St. Nicholas Cathedral; and Thursday it will be in the Assumption Church.  According to the website of the Eparchy, the icon was venerated today by several hundred of the faithful, including pilgrims from Ussuriisk and other cities of Primorye.  A moleben was served today before the icon by Archpriest Aleksandr Talko, the head of the Department of Church Charities and Social Services of the Vladivostok Eparchy.  Father Aleksandr stated, “For all of the days of the stay of the Czestochowa icon in Vladivostok, there will be prayers before the miraculous icon requesting the Mother of God to strengthen family ties."

    I have attached three photos from the website of the Vladivostok Eparchy.  

    The first shows the arrival of the icon with the van that will take the icon across Russia and into Western Europe. 

    The second photo shows the icon with Igor Beloborodov on the left.  Igor, an Orthodox, is the head of the Demographic Research Institute in Moscow.  The entire “From Ocean to Ocean” Project with the Czestochowa icon is his idea. 

    The third photo shows a boy venerating the icon.

    The following is the latest schedule that I have seen for the journey of the icon:  Russia ( to July 20); Belarus (July 20-28); Latvia (July 28- Aug.5); Lithuania (Aug. 5-12); Poland (Aug. 12-26); Czech Republic (Aug. 26-31); Slovakia (Aug. 31- Sept. 7); Hungary & Romania (Sept. 7-16); Slovenia (Sept. 16-20); Croatia (Sept. 20-25); Italy (Sept. 25-29); Austria (Sept. 29-Oct. 14); Lichtenstein (Oct. 14-15); Switzerland (Oct. 15-24); Germany (Oct. 24-Nov. 2); Belgium (Nov. 2-5); Great Britain (Nov. 5-16); Ireland (Nov. 16-26); France (Nov. 26-Dec. 10); Spain (Dec. 10-?); Portugal (?).   Plans are now being made for the icon to continue its journey in 2013 to the United States and perhaps even to Latin America.

    The entire purpose of the journey of the icon is to promote prayers to the Mother of God to end abortion and to promote human life.  To promote prayers, people must know about this journey.  I know that Igor is working very hard to bring the icon and its travels to the attention of the media.  Anything that you can do to help in this regard would be greatly appreciated by all who are involved in this wonderful project to end abortion.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 9 June 2012 (2): Zagreb - Good translation & interesting commentary

    The following link is a good English translation by the Catholic News Service of Croatia of the statement resulting from the meeting yesterday between Patriarch Irinej and Cardinal Bozanić.   I have also pasted below an interesting commentary from the same news agency of the current state of relations between Serbian Orthodox and Croatian Catholics.

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Dr. Jure Zečević, an ecumenical expert who is Chairman of the Department of Ecumenical Theology at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Zagreb and Secretary of the Council of the Croatian Conference of Bishops for Ecumenism and Dialogue, spoke on Croatian Catholic Radio about this first visit to Croatia by the highest officials of the SOC, a historical event in our country: "Patriarch Irinej and the current members of the Holy Synod attach considerable importance to relations with other Christian churches, especially with the Catholic Church. From the secular media in Serbia and the official media of the Serbian Orthodox Church, it is evident that the current leadership of the SOC is subjected on occasion by some circles in their Church to sharp criticism for allegedly excessive ecumenical openness. It is known, for example, that when Patriarch Irinej was still the Bishop of Niš, he expressed openness to a visit by the Holy Father to Serbia, i.e., Niš, the birthplace of Roman Emperor Constantine, which would have taken place in 2013, the year commemorating the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. Although it seems that objective circumstances do not permit the Pope's visit on that occasion, I personally believe that this visit by the Holy Synod to Zagreb and the representatives of the Catholic Church in Croatia, among other things, expresses the openness of the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church to dialogue and cooperation with the Catholic Church." Dr. Zečević also added: "As far as I know, this is the first time in history that the entire Holy Synod has come to Croatia, to Zagreb, and had a meeting with the highest representatives of the Catholic Church in Croatia, the Permanent Council of the Croatian Conference of Bishops. This already speaks about the significance of this encounter for interchurch relations.

    In response to a journalist's question about whether this was an encouraging ecumenical sign, Dr. Zečević said: "In this way, the pastors of the two Churches are unambiguously providing a positive example of Christian interconnectedness. Therefore, this encounter represents a new sign of hope for Catholic-Orthodox relations. Regardless of the issues discussed, the meeting has the value of a sign, a positive sign, a sign of good will, by which the Church pastors bear witness to their faithful, the Christians of both Churches and the general public, to the existence of the common evangelical foundations of Christian faith and a willingness to cooperate."

    Dr. Jure Zečević commented to Croatian Catholic Radio that cooperation between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Croatia is characterized by mutual openness and availability: "As an example of cooperation at the level of the episcopal commissions of the Croatian Conference of Bishops and the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, consisting of four bishops on each side, which have already met with each other three times. I would also mention scholarly-educational cooperation at the level of the Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Zagreb, and the Orthodox Faculty of Theology in Belgrade, where Orthodox theologians from Belgrade teach at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Zagreb and Catholic theologians from Zagreb teach at the Orthodox Faculty of Theology in Belgrade. These and similar forms of cooperation, evident from the announced meeting, show that both sides care about promoting authentic, humane gospel values in our Churches and societies. Therefore, I believe that this meeting, with regard to its religious and ecclesial dimensions, should be viewed positively by the public."

  • 9 June 2012 (1): Patriarch Irinej in historic visit to Croatia

    Today, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia and Cardinal Josip Bozanic of Zagreb met in Zagreb.  According to the Serbian news agency Tanjug, it was an historic meeting because it was the first high-level meeting between representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Croatian Catholic Church.  The results of the meeting were summarized in a second report by Tanjug.   Other high-level Croatian and Serbian bishops also attended today’s meeting.  The text of the communique (in Croatian) and a very nice photo of the Patriarch and the Cardinal can be seen on the website of the Zagreb Archdiocese. 

    With respect to a completely different subject, the beautiful copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God will be in Vladivostok next week to begin its many-month trip to Fatima in support of human life and against abortion.  The icon will first be honored in the major Orthodox cathedral of Vladivostok.  The Russian portion of the trip is being organized by the Orthodox.  There is a Russian website devoted to this part of the trip.  For the past few weeks, prior to the formal start of the journey, the icon has been honored in Orthodox churches in Minsk, Moscow, and Kazakhstan.  There has already been some good publicity about the trip in the Russian Far East.быyy-hod-protiv-abortov.html  Some plans are now being made for the icon to continue its journey against abortion in the United States in 2013.  After all of the journeys are completed, the icon will have a permanent home in Russia.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 May 2012: Serbian communique released

    Today, the Serbian Orthodox Church posted on its Serbian website the official communique of the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which held its annual meeting in Belgrade, 15-23 May 2012.   I suspect that the official English translation will appear on its English website next week.  As a Catholic, I found the two paragraphs relating to the celebration of the Edict of Milan and to the convening of a pan-Orthodox Council to be the most interesting.  I have pasted a poor Google translation of these two paragraphs at the bottom of this report.

    With respect to the celebration of the Edict of Milan, the invitees will include: (1) the primates of the various Orthodox Churches; (2) other dignitaries of the Orthodox world including laypersons; (3) “high delegations” of heterodox Christian churches and ecclesial communities; (4) inter-Christian institutions and organizations; (5) monotheistic religious communities; (6) representatives of science, art, and culture; and (7) famous domestic and foreign public figures.  The use of the term “high delegations” was probably intended to exclude the Pope, although it is not clear whether other church heads, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, would also be excluded.

    There is also another complicating factor.  In November 2009, Serbian President Boris Tadić invited the Pope to visit Serbia.  Whether this invitation is still in effect may well be in doubt due to the recent election of Tomislav Nikolic as the new Serbian president.

    For Catholics, it is probably a disappointment that the Pope has not been invited to Serbia.  Hopes had been created by the remarks by Patriarch Irinej to journalists immediately after his election that the Pope should be invited to the Nis celebration.   The Patriarch’s positive views and the Vatican positive remarks at that time are reflected in the following Reuters article from January 2010:   It is apparent that the Patriarch’s views did not prevail in the Holy Assembly (and of course, it is also possible that the Patriarch’s own views have changed over the past two years).  It is likely that Catholic Archbishop Hocevar of Belgrade is also disappointed.  At his press conference a week ago, he stated that the Catholics of Serbia greatly desired the presence of the Pope at the Nis celebrations and that if the Pope could not come to Serbia, Serbian Catholics would go to Rome to be with the Pope for this celebration.  Whether the latter will actually happen is in my opinion questionable.  Expressions of Catholic unhappiness will probably not serve to improve relations between the Holy See and the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Catholic Church greatly desires these relations to improve.

    With respect to the Holy Assembly’s statement on a future pan-Orthodox Council, it is probably dangerous to attempt to determine the Serbian Church’s position on this complex issue from a single paragraph (especially if one must rely on the Google translation tool).  However, it appears to me that the Serbian Church is taking a middle course between Moscow and Constantinople.  You may recall that on the occasion of Patriarch Kirill’s 65th birthday last November,  six other Local Orthodox Churches – Georgia, Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia, Antioch, Romania, and Bulgaria – signed a communique 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.”   Although there was a representative of the Serbian Church at the birthday celebration, the Serbian Church was not a signatory to that communique.  In today’s communique, the Holy Assembly states that a Council should be faithful to the principles of “функционисања“ (operation or functioning) of ecumenical and major local councils of the Church.  As far as I know, those previous councils did not make decisions only by consensus.  In addition, the paragraph’s reference to the need to deepen and enrich theologically the current preparatory process indicates in my opinion that the Serbian Church believes that the pan-Orthodox Council should not be convened simply on the basis of agreements already reached.  However, I can, of course, be totally wrong.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Google translation of the two paragraphs:

    The Assembly confirmed the commitment of our local Church, in the course of next year, to church services and appropriate spiritual-cultural events for the worthy and dignified celebration of the important anniversary of Christianity and culture - the 1700-anniversary of the Edict of Milan of St Constantine (313 - 2013), a document on freedom of religion and conscience of primary importance, and currently today, not only from the historical but also from the existential aspects. The Jubilee will be celebrated in all dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church, a central celebration will be held in Nis, the hometown of Emperor Constantine, and in Belgrade. To participate in the celebration of this anniversary will be invited all Orthodox patriarchs and other heads of Orthodox Churches, other dignitaries of the Orthodox world (bishops, theologians, artists ...), a high delegation of heterodox Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and inter-Christian institutions and organizations, as well as monotheistic religious communities, representatives of science, art and culture and famous domestic and foreign public figures.  All the preparation and celebration of the program will be coordinated by the Assembly committee, formerly established for that purpose, and the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

    The Assembly, in the same spirit and direction, again confirms its unchanged position to be to intensify, to deepen and theologically to enrich the current process of preparing for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, to re-convene Pan-Orthodox pre-consultation, and if needed, more such consultations, and in the appropriate foreseeable time to convene the general Council, with due responsibility, of course, and with fidelity to the divinely inspired principles of functioning of ecumenical and major local councils of the Church.

  • 18 May 2012: Serbian Church - Pope not invited to Nis, but??

    The Serbian news agency Tanjug has reported this afternoon a statement by Bishop Irinej of Backa that the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is presently holding its annual spring meeting, will not consider the possibility of inviting Pope Benedict for the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan in 2013.  This morning Archbishop Hocevar, Catholic archbishop of Belgrade, expressed the desire of Catholics in Serbia for a visit by Pope Benedict in 2013.  It appears that Bishop Irinej has now indicated that this is a separate question from the Nis celebrations and that this would be discussed if the Vatican signals its desire for the Pope to come to Serbia.

    The final paragraph of the Tanjug report repeats a mischaracterization of a Vatican’s statement in April (frequently seen in the Serbian media and elsewhere) relating to a possible visit by Pope Benedict to Serbia in 2013.  As I reported earlier, Father Lombardi stated that the Holy Father has not yet decided upon any travel plans for 2013.  Today’s Tanjug statement that the “Vatican recently stated that Pope Benedict would not come to the celebration” is a gross distortion of the truth.  I assume and hope that the Holy Assembly had a correct version of what Father Lombardi actually said and was not relying on the incorrect statements in the Serbian media.   Below is an excerpt of my previous report on Father Lombardi’s comments:

    Excerpt from my previous report:  Beginning yesterday [April 18], there were a number of reports, primarily on Orthodox websites, that Father Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesperson, had stated that Pope Benedict had no plans to visit Serbia in 2013.  I found this on none of the Vatican websites.  However, I did find a more detail account on the website of the Austrian Catholic press agency KAP.   The KAP article stated:  “The Vatican has called speculation over a possible Serbian trip by Pope Benedict XVI in the coming year as premature.  Presently there are no concrete plans for foreign trips by Pope Benedict XVI for 2013, said the Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi on Tuesday at press conference in Rome.  There is at most an expectation from the Brazilian side that the Pope will participate in World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013.” [Translated from German]


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Today’s report from Tanjug:

    BELGRADE - The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) will not consider the possibility of sending an invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to attend the celebration of the jubilee of 17 centuries since the signing of the Edict of Milan, which is due to take place in Nis in 2013.

    Bishop of Backa Iriney told reporters in the Belgrade Patriarchate that the SPC Synod, which is currently in session, had already discussed all issues related to the celebration and reached corresponding decisions.
    Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Belgrade Stanislav Hocevar said earlier today that Catholic believers in Serbia had a great desire to see Pope Benedict XVI in Nis next year, at the celebration of the jubilee of 17 centuries since the signing of the Edict of Milan.
    "The Archbishop and his clergy are free to express their desire, and should the SPC get a signal from Rome itself about this matter, it will be in a position to discuss it. This has not been the case so far," Bishop Irinej said.
    The Vatican recently stated that Pope Benedict XVI would not come to the celebration of 17 centuries since the Edict of Milan, although Serbian Patriarch Irinej announced the possibility of the Pope's arrival on several occasions, and even former president of Serbia Boris Tadic sent the Pope an invitation to visit Serbia.

  • 27 April 2012: A few items of interest

    Patriarch Kirill arrives in Bulgaria today on a visit to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.  Patriarch Kirill had originally planned to visit the Local Orthodox Churches in the order of the diptyphs, but these plans have now been changed as announced by Metropolitan Hilarion in a meeting with journalists last Tuesday.   According to Metropolitan Hilarion, the Patriarch will visit Cyprus in June, Poland in August, and Jerusalem in November.  I believe that this is the first announcement from the Moscow Patriarchate that the Patriarch will in fact visit Poland in August.  However, the Polish Orthodox Church had announced some time ago that the visit would occur August 16-19.   According to the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference, the Polish visit will also be the occasion for the signing of an historic agreement between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Polish Catholic Bishops on the reconciliation of the Polish and Russian peoples.

    As you recall, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew wrote a letter to the Holy Synod of Greece, in which he severely criticized as unacceptable the actions of certain hierarchs of the Church of Greece who challenge the pan-Orthodox decision to participate in dialogue with the non-Orthodox.   The Ecumenical Patriarch also specifically mentioned the anathemas issued by a metropolitan of the Church of Greece – clearly understood by everyone to be Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus.  The Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece decided to postpone consideration of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter until after Pascha.  It has now been announced that the Standing Holy Synod will hold its next meeting May 2-4.

    Metropolitan Seraphim has continued to be active.  He has now brought a legal action against the Catholic Archbishop of Athens and the Greek - French School Jeanne d 'Arc in Piraeus.  The school has been operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph since 1859 for both Catholic and Orthodox children.  In response, the Catholic Bishops Conference in Greece has now written a public letter protesting the Metropolitan’s latest action.  Unfortunately, I have found nothing in English about this latest controversy.  However, it appears that the dispute was precipitated when the Catholic and Orthodox school children received blessings from both an Orthodox priest and a Catholic priest at the opening of the school year.

    This morning a very nice article was posted concerning the last Sunday’s mass gathering in front the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.  The article was written by Andrei Zolotov, Jr., a well-regarded journalist on religious matters in Moscow.  I have also pasted it below.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

    Of Prayers and Rallies
    Andrei Zolotov, Jr.
    I climbed on the podium for journalists and looked around. In the beautiful spring weather, the broad street in front of the Christ the Savior Cathedral was filled with people as far as one could see. There were thousands, tens of thousands, many more than the expected 25,000. Police eventually counted 65,000, but even if there were less people (probably there were less), still, never-ever have I seen so many Orthodox Christians gathered in one place. There were church banners, Russian Imperial black-golden-white flags, flags of a church-leaning pro-Kremlin Georgievtsy youth group and of an extravagant "Holy Rus" movement - I saw these flags at a pro-Putin rally. But no posters, except one with a quote from a popular Civil War-era song: "Stand up for the faith, ye Russian land!" And most people - just your normal church-going crowd, quiet and concentrated.
    I have to confess: I was very concerned about this event - a mass prayer service combined with a special kind of rally that the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church called for April 22nd - the first Sunday after Easter. It was meant to "defend the good name of the Church" which came under a lot of criticism lately after the patriarch's support of Vladimir Putin in the electoral campaign was followed by the anti-Putin performance by a self-proclaimed punk-feminist group in the Christ the Savior Cathedral, which was followed by the arrest of three women suspected of participating in the performance and a couple of scandals in the media and blogosphere involving the patriarch's apartment and expensive watch. Parallel to this series of events in the capital, two churches were vandalized in the provinces - one in the country's North, another in the South. But these events have galvanized the society, both outside and inside the church community, to such a degree that I was afraid the prayer service would only lead to further conflict and further attacks on the church in the blogosphere and the media. The "dressed up" Cossacks and the extravagant ultra-conservative Union of Orthodox Banner-Carriers would come and generate ample photos for the liberal blogs with some ridiculous and xenophobic posters, I feared.
    As I was driving to the cathedral along the embankment of the Moscow River, a good stretch of it was filled with buses with license plates from various regions of Russia. So, they would bring people from the regions, as they had done during pro-Putin rallies, I feared, because they could not muster enough Muscovites.
    Yes, what I saw around was different. There were somewhat more men in the crowd compared to the number of women that you'd see on average in a Russian church. There were so many people around that no buses would suffice to bring that many. A Moscow City government official behind me was on the phone saying that another street had to be closed for traffic because "people keep coming and coming." A journalist for the religious program from Krasnodar in southern Russia who said she came with a group of 500 people by train said everybody in the group were very enthusiastic over coming. Meanwhile, a prominent charismatic Moscow priest also came to the journalists' podium joking that this is a better location to manage the event. He boasted that he alone brought 3,000 people to the square. Giant video screens around the cathedral showed a film with celebrities condemning the "blasphemy" and highlighting the church's leading role in Russian society.
    Then the bells tolled and a procession, including Patriarch Kirill and a dozen or so bishops, came out of the cathedral, preceded by the priests vested in red Easter robes carrying the icons damaged by vandals. To establish the connection with the Soviet-era persecution, an icon with bullet holes dating back to the 1920s was also included. The service began with Easter hymns broadcasted through the loudspeakers and within minutes Patriarch Kirill was giving a homily in his ordinary forceful manner. It was on today's Gospel lesson - on Apostle Thomas receiving his affirmation of faith. Christian faith, he said, was the "main nerve of human history" and a war had been waged against it from the very first days; it included the brutal persecution and murder of priests in the Soviet times, and stretched all the way to our days.
    Today, the patriarch said, millions of people "cannot think about the future of their country without reliance on the Orthodox faith." And although today's "attack of persecutors" is incomparable, he said, to that of the Soviet period, it is "dangerous" because the very fact of "blasphemy" is being presented as a "lawful manifestation of human freedom, as something that has to be protected in modern society."
    "What are we doing here, my dear ones?" the 65-year old church leader asked. "We have not come to a rally,. we have come to pray for our country and its people, so that never again would Christ the Savior Cathedral be blown up [as it was in 1931], that our holy objects are not defiled, that our history is not falsified, that our spirit and moral strength are not distorted. We are not threatening anyone, we are not demonstrating our force. But no one can prevent us from gathering for a common prayer in pivotal moments of history."
    He then read a pensive prayer based on the one written by St. Patriarch Tikhon in the years after the revolution and at the conclusion, led the giant crowd in an impromptu singing of the Niceo-Constantinopolean Creed.
    People prayed for real - you could feel it. When it came down to the Creed singing, I myself could not but choke on my tears.
    As people were leaving, they were mainly happy. The spirit of the event - despite some passionate passages by the patriarch, including the one where he accused unnamed priests who disagreed with him of being the "traitors in cassocks" - was a peaceful one.
    "When I saw the defiled icons, I could only cry," said Tatiana Levina, a Moscow retiree. "We had to pray together."
    Anton Alyalichev, a young man who runs a Sunday school in a Moscow suburb said: "We had to do it, if we don't want 1917 to repeat. We cannot express our position through rallies, we can only get together and pray together." That same very thought - about the importance of praying together and seeing so many of one's brethren and sisters around was dominant in all the replies I got.
    "I am so moved!" said Yevgenia Zhuravleva, a musician who came from the town of Smolensk 400 kilometers West of Moscow. "It is most important that we were together and prayed together."
    Was it not a rally indeed? It depends on how you see it. The church was able to avoid an outward politicization of the event. But Patriarch Kirill clearly needed to command the loyalty of church members and see how many people he could line up. So, the mass prayer service follows in the series of last winter's rallies, in which various groups were competing in how many people they could bring to the streets. For the church hierarchy and Patriarch Kirill in person, it was a demonstration of their might - both before the Kremlin and before the public.
    On the other hand, people themselves felt they had to - and could - come to the streets to demonstrate their hopes and grievances. As well as their prayers.
    It remains to be seen, however, what effect the event is going to have on the climate in the society in general. Many liberal bloggers were only further angered by what they saw as the church's show of force. Some people welcomed the event as a step for the church towards becoming a civil society force, albeit a conservative one. Yet others saw in it the Kremlin's policy of dividing and ruling society. In any case, the competition for the hearts and minds of people will go on.

  • 20 April 2012: Pope and Serbia

    Beginning yesterday, there were a number of reports, primarily on Orthodox websites, that Father Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesperson, had stated that Pope Benedict had no plans to visit Serbia in 2013.  I found this on none of the Vatican websites.  However, I did find a more detail account on the website of the Austrian Catholic press agency KAP.  Father Lombardi made his remarks at a Tuesday press conference marking the opening of a Rome conference commemorating the 1700th anniversary of Constantine’s victory at Milvian Bridge near Rome in 312.  (The full program can be seen at )  According to the Vatican Information Service, the conference “will focus on the environment in which Constantine lived and on relations between Christians and the Roman empire prior to the year 313.”  The conference began on Wednesday and will end with an audience with Pope Benedict at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

    The KAP article stated:  “The Vatican has called speculation over a possible Serbian trip by Pope Benedict XVI in the coming year as premature.  Presently there are no concrete plans for foreign trips by Pope Benedict XVI for 2013, said the Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi on Tuesday at press conference in Rome.  There is at most an expectation from the Brazilian side that the Pope will participate in World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013.” [Translated from German]

    Lombardi is very clear that the Vatican at this early date is not stating what if any countries the Pope will be visiting in 2013.  In short, we know absolutely nothing more about a possible Serbian trip after Lombardi’s comments than we did before.  Clearly, Benedict will only go to Serbia if invited by the Serbian Orthodox Church.  As best as I can determine, the Serbian Orthodox Church has not yet determined the exact dates of the anniversary events at Nis and has to date issued invitations to no one.  We simply have to wait and see.

    From public information available on the Internet, this is what we in fact know about the possible Serbian trip:

    1. The idea of the Pope coming to Nis to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan did not originate from the Catholic side but from Serbian Patriarch Irinej at a time when he was bishop of Nis.  He reaffirmed this idea after he was elected patriarch in January 2010.  However, the actual decision to invite the Pope will have to come from the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  It is safe to assume that some Serbian bishops are opposed to any visit by a pope to their Orthodox country, just as was true for some of the Cyprian bishops prior to Benedict’s visit to Cyprus in June 2010.
    2. Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate visited Serbia in April 2011.  There were reports in the media that the Moscow Patriarchate was opposed to an invitation for the Pope to visit Serbia.  In a sense this was logical in that Patriarch Kirill undoubtedly desires to attend the Nis celebration.  If the Pope was also there, it would be the occasion for the first meeting of a Moscow Patriarch and a Pope in history.  The Moscow Patriarchate does not want such a meeting to occur until there are greater accommodations to the Moscow Patriarchate in Western Ukrainian.  However, this is not an insuperable obstacle as there could be two or more Nis celebrations – one for Orthodox primates and a second one for Christian leaders generally.  In an interview with the Serbian newspaper Politika, published on 31 August 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion stated that an invitation to the Pope “is the internal affair of the Patriarchate of Serbia” and that “this topic was deliberately not discussed” in his meetings with the hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
    3. A meeting of the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church was held May 16-27, 2011.  The Nis celebration was an important issue on the agenda.  Although some press reports indicated that the pope would not be invited, the fairly lengthy final communique of the Assembly only contained the following sentence relating to Nis:  “Beginning with its most important liturgical aspect, the Assembly concerned itself with the upcoming celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan (313-2013) in Nis, the birthplace of St. Constantine the Great, on the local, pan-Orthodox, and all-Christian levels.” Nothing is said about the pope, but there is an indication that there may be separate pan-Orthodox and all-Christian celebrations.
    4. Pope Benedict visited Croatia in June 4-5, 2011.  During the visit, the Pope made some favorable comments concerning Croatian Cardinal Stepinac (1898-1960) and visited his tomb in Zagreb.  Although Croatians were deeply grateful to the Pope for these gestures, Serbs were very upset.  The concerns of the Serbian Orthodox Church were summarized in the following linked statement by Bishop Irinej of Backa, a very respected member of the Serbian hierarchy and a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches: After the Pope’s comments, the Serbian news agency Tanjug was reportedly told at the Patriarchate in Belgrade that the Pope would “most likely” not be invited to Nis.  However, the greatest cause for Serbian unhappiness with respect to the Vatican’s approach to Stepinac was his beatification in 1998.  This predated Irinej’s suggestion that the Pope be invited to Nis by 12 years.  Benedict’s remarks last year clearly reopened the Stepinac wound.  Will the passage of time from Benedict’s remarks to the time that the Serbian Church needs to make a final decision on invitations be sufficient to ameliorate this latest hurt?  That remains to be seen.
    5. Since the time of the Pope’s Croatian visit, I have found two reports on the English website of the Serbian Orthodox Church with respect to events in Serbia relating to the 1700th anniversary preparations.  Interestingly, both involved Catholic participation.  On October 29, 2011, there was a seminar at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, Toward the Edict of Milan.  “Besides His Holiness Patriarch Irinej, there were also His Grace Bishop Irinej of Backa, Belgrade's Roman Catholic Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar, as well as directors and editors of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic church media.” On November 3, 2011, there was the formal presentation of a book publishing the papers presented at an earlier conference held in Nis on the 1700th anniversary.  The organizers of this presentation were the “Committee of the Holy Assembly of Bishops for the preparation of the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan” and three other organizations – one of which was the Catholic organization Pro Oriente from Vienna.
    6. Although I have seen no dates, I believe that it is likely that the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church will meet again in the next few months.


    That’s all I know!  Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 March 2012: More strong letters

    Following the letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Archbishop Jerome, twenty-eight faculty members of the Theology Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki  have now written their own letter to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.  The letter condemns the conduct of Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus and requests “the convocation of the Holy Synod to reaffirm or redefine the attitude of the Church of Greece regarding the inter-Christian and interreligious dialogue and the ecumenical movement.”  The faculty members also state that their “concern is based on the fact that the Holy Synod to date has not checked its members, the hierarchs, for anti-synodical and inappropriate behavior.”  The letter in Greek has been posted at .   A Greek Orthodox blogger in Boston has already kindly translated into English and posted the letter on his website.

    The Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece will be holding its next meeting April 3-5, 2012.

    In the past, the Theological Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki has been active in the inter-Christian dialogue.  For example, during his general audience on October 5, 2011, Pope Benedict stated:  “In a special way, I would like to greet the Delegation of the Theology Faculty of the University of Thessaloniki, who have wished to confer upon me the Apostle Jason of Thessaloniki Gold Medal. I am deeply honored by this gracious gesture, which is an eloquent sign of the growing understanding and dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox Christians. I pray that it will be a harbinger of ever greater progress in our efforts to respond in fidelity, truth and charity to the Lord’s summons to unity. I thank the Delegation most cordially, and I offer my prayerful good wishes for their teaching and research.”

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has also written an extremely strong letter to Metropolitan Christopher, primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.   This latest letter again involves the recurring issue of primacy as related to the Ecumenical Patriarch.  In 1951, the Moscow Patriarchate granted autocephalous status to the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia.   As the Ecumenical Patriarchate maintains that only it has the power to grant autocephalous status, this action by the Moscow Patriarchate was not recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Years later, the Ecumenical Patriarch did issue a tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia in 1998.   On December 8, 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate was in Prague with the Moscow Synodal Choir to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the granting of autocephaly by the Moscow Patriarchate.  At that occasion, he also read a congratulatory letter to Metropolitan Christopher from Patriarch Kirill.   Although this was very understandable from the point of view of Moscow, it was also understandable that it was objectionable from the point of view of Constantinople.  In February, with the approval of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Patriarch Bartholomew wrote a letter to Metropolitan Christopher threatening to revoke the autocephalous status of the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia in the event of a reoccurrence of a celebration of the 1951 act in the future .  Metropolitan Christopher has now written a letter of apology to the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The two letter can be read in Greek at and   A Russian translation of both letters can be read at .  An Google translation of the latter is available at .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 March 2012: Two Greek developments

    I have previously sent a report on the anathemas which Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus directed against Pope Benedict (and also against Luther, Calvin, and those engaged in the present ecumenical movement) on the Sunday of Orthodoxy and also a report on the letter of Roman Catholic Archbishop Nicholas of Naxos, Tinos, Andros, and Mykonos in response to the anathemas.  Now Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has taken the unusual step of writing a letter to Archbishop Jerome, primate of the Church of Greece, in which he severely criticizes as unacceptable the actions of certain hierarchs of the Church of Greece who challenge the pan-Orthodox decision to participate in dialogue with the non-Orthodox.   The Ecumenical Patriarch also specifically mentions the anathemas issued by a metropolitan of the Church of Greece.  The letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch is strongly worded.  Unfortunately, I have not yet found an English translation of the letter which is written in Greek.

    An additional source of tension between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece has been the differing statements of their respective synods on the imprisonment of Abbot Ephraim of the Vatopedi monastery.  That tension may have been relieved, at least to some extent, by the announcement today of the decision of an Athens appellate court releasing Abbot Ephraim from custody, subject to the posting of bail of 300,000 euros and certain other conditions.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 March 2012: Halki to reopen!

    Today President Obama congratulated President Erdogan of Turkey on the decision to reopen the Halki seminary.  While both presidents were in Seoul, Erdogan informed Obama of the decision.   The story from Ekathimerini is pasted below.   In addition, many other websites have just posted this exciting story.  This is wonderful news – assuming Obama understood Erdogan correctly. 

    On a more sobering note, Metropolitan Hilarion, in his address before the Synodal Theological Commission, has stated that the Commission has completed its draft document on primacy.  “The document is being brought to an end and soon enough we shall consider and discuss it together in terms of its finalizing.”  Metropolitan Hilarion has previously stated that the document finalized by the Commission will then be reviewed and approved by the highest authorities of the Moscow Patriarchate.  As I have stated before, once this is done, it is my personal belief that the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on primacy will be etched in stone.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Turkey has decided to reopen a former Greek Orthodox seminary on an island off the Istanbul coast, according to a statement made by US President Barack Obama.

    “I am pleased to hear of his decision to reopen the Halki seminary,” the American President said after a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of a two-day nuclear security summit in Seoul on Sunday.

    The European Union has said re-opening Halki seminary, a centre of Orthodox scholarship for more than a century until Turkey closed it down in 1971, is key if Ankara is to prove a commitment to human rights and pluralism and advance its membership bid.

    During the meeting in Seoul, the two leaders discussed ways to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, including non-lethal assistance to the opposition and getting Iran to stop supporting Assad’s regime.

    Obama is expected to visit Turkey for the second time in June, Erdogan said.

  • 19 March 2012: More on Polish-Russian agreement

    The Conference of Polish Bishops (KEP) has now posted on its website a news release relating to Thursday’s meeting between representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the KEP on the reconciliation between the Russian and Polish peoples.   The Moscow delegation was headed by Igumen Filaret Bulekov (not Hieromonk Philip Ryabykh), who recently became the deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations.  The KEP news release also covers a meeting between Igumen Filaret and Archbishop Michalik, head of the KEP.  Photos of Thursday’s meeting can be seen at  I have pasted below a poor Google translation (Polish to English) which nevertheless gives some idea of the content of the news release.  As you can see, the release first states that the “message of reconciliation between the Polish and Russian is almost ready.”  However, the release later states, “Orthodox and Catholic parties agreed on the final wording of the document.” The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has not yet posted a news release on its site concerning Thursday’s meeting.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    The last step towards the reconciliation of the peoples


    The message of reconciliation between the Polish and Russian is almost ready.  Yesterday (15 March 2012) on the recent amendments debated representatives of the Polish Episcopate and the Moscow Patriarchate.  The abbot Filaret also met the chairman of the Bishops, Archbishop Jozef Michalik.

    - Last visit his father Filaret has helped to refine the text, which we hope will be able to be announced during the next visit of Patriarch of Moscow, which will welcome all your heart, which will draw on the request so that we can continue in some way, the dialogue between faith and religion , the relationship between our two nations - said Archbishop Jozef Michalik.  Chairman of the Bishops met yesterday with a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Previously held a working meeting with the abbot Filaret with Archbishop.  Stanislaw Budzik, bp.  Tadeusz Pikus and Fr.  dr.  Yaroslav Mrówczyński, Deputy Secretary General of the Polish Episcopate.

    Work on the document "Joint Message to the Peoples of Russia and the Polish of reconciliation between our peoples" took almost two years.  From the Bishops appointed a special team for talks with the Russian Orthodox Church.  Its chairman was Archbishop Henryk Muszynski, the team entered the Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik and Bishop Tadeusz Pikus.  The first meeting of representatives of both parties took place in Warsaw on 26 February 2010 Communication problems prevented the Metropolitan Hilarion, President of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, in arriving at the local meeting, but asked for the phone calls start.  On the part of the Russian Orthodox Church was attended by the abbot Philip Riabych - Deputy Metropolitan Hilarion wołokołamskiego Ałfiejewa and Fr.  Sergei Zvonareva - Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Faculty.  Both sides underlined the historic importance of this initiative and made calls.  A few months later, on 24 June 2010, at the next meeting in Warsaw arrived Vołokołamsk Metropolitan Hilarion with colleagues.  - The idea of this document is, to look at the history of our two nations from the ecclesiastical point of view and outline prospects for the future - said Metropolitan Hilarion.  - The focus of this document seeks to ensure that in the modern world, largely secularized, give common witness to the Gospel of Christ and be a sign of reconciliation - Archbishop Henryk Muszynski explained.  He added that the preparation of the document will take time, so that it is complete and reflects the position of the two Churches.  Further talks on Polish-Russian reconciliation took place June 1, 2011 In addition to Metropolitan Hilarion Ałfiejev participated in them, Fr.  Igor Jakimciuk, secretary of the Orthodox Metropolitan of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The Catholic party was represented by members of the Group for talks with the Russian Orthodox Church, the meeting was also attended by the apostolic nuncio in Poland, Archbishop Celestino Migliore.  March 15, 2012 in Warsaw, the abbot Father Filaret came from the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Orthodox and Catholic parties agreed on the final wording of the joint document.

    Sign a message of reconciliation Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All I and the President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Jozef Michalik.  Come to this in August., While visiting head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Poland.  The signing of the document is likely to be held in Warsaw at the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Polish Episcopate.  Will be the first visit of Patriarch of Moscow in Poland.

  • 16 March 2012: August signing of reconciliation of Russian and Polish peoples?

    As you know, the Polish Episcopal Conference (KEP) and the Moscow Patriarchate have been working together to produce a joint document on the reconciliation of the Polish and Russian peoples.  It has been generally recognized that reaching an agreement on such a joint document would be a truly historic event.  The fourth meeting of the two working groups was held in Warsaw today (Thursday).  The three KEP representatives on Catholic side have usually been Archbishop Henryk Muszynski (Primate-emeritus of Poland), Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik (newly appointed Archbishop of Lublin and previously secretary of the KEP), and Bishop Tadeusz Pikus (responsible for ecumenical relations for the KEP).  The delegation for the Moscow Patriarchate has been headed by Metropolitan Hilarion, although the Metropolitan was personally unable to attend today’s Warsaw meeting because he had to attend the meeting of the Holy Synod in Moscow today.

    In the last few hours, KAI (the official Catholic news agency in Poland) has posted an exciting report on the results of today’s meeting.   I have pasted below a (very poor) Google English translation of the Polish text of the report.  As you will read, it appears that after two years of work, the two delegations have now reached agreement on the terms of the document.  It is anticipated that the final document will be signed when Patriarch Kirill makes his scheduled visit to Poland in August.  Although one cannot say for sure that the August signing will happened because many things can possibly occur between now and then, the agreement reached today is nevertheless a very encouraging sign.  To the best of my knowledge, the Moscow Patriarchate has not yet issued a news release on today’s meeting.

    With respect to a different subject, I have attached a few nice photos of the hospital visit made a few days ago by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk (head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) to the recovering Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv (head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate).










    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    In August this year during the visit of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus would be signed by the Joint Special Message to the Peoples of Russia and the Polish of reconciliation between our peoples - KAI said Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik.

     "It has a historical dimension, because never before in the history of both of our churches is not submitted by a joint message" - said Archbishop of Lublin.  15 March in the premises of the Polish Episcopal Conference was held in Warsaw next meeting of the Polish Episcopal Conference (CEP) and the Russian Orthodox Church (RKP).  At the head of delegations of both sides of steel, Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik and Abbot Filaret [I suspect that this is actually Hieromonk Philip (Ryabykh)] of the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The joint document signed by head of the RKP Patriarch Kirill and President of KEP, Archbishop Jozef Michalik.  "On the part of our episcopacy is a great determination to sign the document.  This will happen during the August visit of the Patriarch in Poland and probably the seat of the general secretariat of CEP in Warsaw.  We want to act opened a new chapter in our relations, "- said Archbishop Budzik.

    Today was the final version of the message.  Work on it took almost two years.  The document is still subject to consultation with the patriarch, the Polish Episcopate and the Churches - Orthodox in Poland and the Catholic Church in Russia.  "I feel great satisfaction that our joint work has managed to bring to an end.  For sure the document will have a great impact on Christian culture of our peoples.  This is our contribution to the work of reconciliation between Poles and Russians.  It is also a response to the challenge of Christianity in Europe, the modern world "- said Archbishop of Lublin.

    He recalled that the document consists of three parts: the first is a call for dialogue and reconciliation, second look at history, but in view of the future, the third is the formulation of common tasks in the field of Christian witness.  "In the second part, which were related to the controversy, managed to overcome them.  The historical part we looked not to go into the details that have not yet been finalized by the historians "- said the prelate, and noted that the document does not end the dialogue between our Churches and peoples, but is its beginning.

    "It is a call for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation grievances, finding ways agreement.  Stands before us a great task of Christian witness to contemporary Europe and the world of Christian values, which for centuries have shaped the history of Polish and Russian, but also now must build our present and future "- said the caller KAI.

    Message contains a request to God for forgiveness and help in searching for ways of reconciliation.  "It does not list these specific mutual win, but it is an incentive for their forgiveness.  Of course we need to look critically at our past.  We were also common victims of World War II and godless communism.  The Orthodox Church in Russia suffered enormous sacrifices, perhaps even bigger than the Catholic Church during the reign of the communist regime "- said the archbishop.  He added that the fate of the document personally very interested in the Patriarch Kirill.

    These talks took part, alongside Archbishop Budzik, Abbot Filaret [Philip] , Bishop Tadeusz Pikus and Fr.  Dr. Jaroslaw Mrówczyński, Deputy Secretary General of the CEP.

    All previous meetings of representatives of both parties on a joint document of reconciliation took place in Warsaw.  The first took place on 26 February 2010, the Polish delegation was headed by the then Archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Polish Archbishop Henryk Muszynski.  "It was decided to begin work on the draft joint document on the contribution of our churches in the cause of reconciliation between the peoples of the Russian and Polish.  Topics discussed future dialogue and proposed the establishment of the bilateral committee of representatives of both Churches.  Found it useful to call for dialogue as representatives of the Orthodox Church in Poland and the Catholic Church in Russia "- stated after the meeting declared the official press.

    Next on 4 June 2010.  At the head of the delegation became chairman DECR Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion wołokołamski.  He was accompanied by the abbot Philip (Riabych) - his deputy in DECR and Fr.  Sergei Zvonareva, secretary for foreign affairs of this Department.  At this meeting, including  take the first outline of the future document.

    The third round of talks took place on June 1, 2011

    From the Catholic side in the talks attended by members of the previously established in the Polish Episcopal Conference team for talks with the Russian Orthodox Church: Archbishop Henryk Muszynski (Chairman), Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik and Bishop Tadeusz Pikus.  The meeting of 1 June 2011, also attended the apostolic nuncio in Poland, Archbishop Celestino Migliore.

     IAC reserves all rights to the site.  Users may download and print extracts web site content for personal use only.  The publication, dissemination of the contents of this website or its sale (including framing, et al. Similar methods), without the prior written consent prohibited KAI and in breach of laws on copyright, database protection and fair competition - will be prosecuted with all available legal remedies.  / We invite you to subscribe to IAC press service: tel 22 635 77 18 E-mail: /

  • 13 March 2012: The spirit of Tinos or Piraeus?

    On the feast of the Triumph of Orthodox (March 4 this year), Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus (Greece) read out a series of anathemas including one directed at Pope Benedict XVI.  You can actually see a video of his reading of the anathemas at  His action is not totally surprising in that Metropolitan Seraphim has been extremely outspoken in his views on many subjects including ecumenism and even the holocaust.  In a sense, the attack upon the Pope on the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy is ironic as the feast has its origin in the victory of holy images in the iconoclasm controversy – a controversy in which the Bishops of Rome had a major role in bringing about the victory of holy images.

    Archbishop Nicholas, the Catholic bishop of Naxos, Tinos, Andros, and Mykonos, has written an “open letter” in response to the anathema by Metropolitan Seraphim and to others who use the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy as an occasion to attack non-Orthodox Christians.  The full text of the Archbishop’s impassioned plea has been posted (in Greek) on two major Orthodox Internet sites in Greece: and   Although the Google translation of the letter leaves much to be desired, I have nevertheless pasted it below so that you will have some sense of the letter.  The essence of the letter is that charity must prevail in spite of our differences.

    It is interesting that the jurisdiction of Archbishop Nicholas includes the Catholics on the island of Tinos.  The Orthodox on Tinos are under the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Dorotheos of Syros, Tinos, Andros, Kea, and Melos.  There is a very good relationship between the two hierarchs.  They have even issued a joint letter to the faithful on New Year’s Day.  Tinos has a very substantial Catholic population (perhaps due to the Venetian presence on the island prior to 1718) as well as many Greek Orthodox, and the relationship between the two faiths on Tinos is excellent.  Of course, the small island of Tinos is the site of the most famous and honored Marian shrine in all of Greece – the Church of Panagia Evangelistria.   I personally wonder whether the Theotokos is more pleased with the spirit prevailing on her island of Tinos or at Piraeus.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    "If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am an noisy gong, a clanging cymbal, and if I have the gift of prophecy and with full knowledge knowing all mysteries, and almost certainly if I have faith enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. " (Corinth. 13.2).  In the celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, there was unfortunately heard from the lips of bishops and priests in many parts of our country, judgments and condemnation of non-Orthodox Christians.  All were condemned as "heretics" and as individuals or groups or churches with which Orthodoxy should not have any collaboration and even worse prayer "to avoid ritual impurity" (John 18.28)!
    Different behavior
    We read with sorrow and regret: "The Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus ......... considers that the Synod [of 843 A.D.] remains ‘open’ and it is therefore possible to add ‘anathemas’, as he did during this year's celebratory Sunday of Orthodoxy.  He did not read all of the anathemas of the Synod, but gave gegonyia [?] voice to his own ‘anathemas’ to give ‘witness to Orthodoxy’ today.  Let's see who was anathemized – in addition to the normal non-living and ekpesonti [?] heretics is the Pope and Patriarch of Old Rome, Benedict XVI and communion with him, Anathema, Anathema, Anathema. " [The quotation was apparently taken from a news report on  Elsewhere explains that when the feast day was established in 843, the anathemas from the Seven Ecumenical Council were added.  No new anathemas for the feast have been added since the 14th century.  However, Metropolitan Seraphim believes that these are “open” and subject to addition.]
    Pity, pity, pity for the headlong course backwards!  But fortunately there is a way forward.
    His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, for the celebration of the Church of Rome on June 28, 2011, wrote to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI: "Expressing to Your Holiness our fraternal prayers on the occasion of this feast, we cordially embrace you and iketefome [invoke?] the God and Creator of all good to guard you,  to invigorate you, and guide you for the good of the Church and the promotion of the unity of all things Christian."   Another happy event and worthy of every praise is  the attitude of the Primate of the Greek Church [Archbishop Jerome], who seemed fully to understand the true meaning of the modern restoration of images.  His Beatitude Jerome said, "The ruined images reentered under the columns [of churches?] in 843.  But if we look around us we see many ruined images. The biggest and most beautiful image is man.  But many people are ruined. "   Others, unfortunately, undertook the difficult task of the judge and the reprehensible,  acquitting with ease themselves and the Church and casting all non-Orthodox in "hell-fire!"   When will we realize that the time has come to leave behind the past and their possible mistakes, East and West, West and East, and to take the joint responsibility that we have to "love one another" and together to try to reunite the arafo [torn?] robe of Christ?
    The command of love
    O Our Master preached love.   He was taken before the cross and surrender his spirit to his heavenly Father, forgave even the executioners, because they really did not know what they did!   We, the Christians of the twenty-first century, have no duty to imitate Christ?  Not to love our brothers, because they do not agree in everything with us?  When as Christians will we no longer be intimidated by some who do not have the courage and strength to feel as brothers, even among Christians?  If this not possible, how can we feel as brothers with non-Christians and come to forgive our enemies and demonstrate that we are disciples Christ?  "I say unto you love your enemies.”  (Matthew 5.44).  No one asks for the leveling of everything.  Yes, there are differences between Christian denominations.  This should not be a cause of anti-Christian behavior among Christians!
    A separation between disciples of the same Lord and between siblings.  We need to approach one another with a brotherly spirit to try to bridge any differences.
    It is true that we the Christians of the twenty first century are not the culprits for the schisms among Christians. But we are responsible for maintaining the schisms.  We must talk together in peace and harmony, understanding and brotherhood. Participation in a fraternal dialogue will lead us, by the grace of God, to what the Lord desired and prayed for, that full unity will be a strong Christian witness to those who do not believe.  It restores to the Church those who left because of the scandalous lack of love among Christians themselves. Today, do unbelievers point to Christians, saying "Look how they love each other"?  Or do they have reason to say look how they hate?  But Our Lord was clear: "I give you a new commandment: love one another, such as my love has been for you, so must your  love be for one another.  This is how all will know you for my disciples, by your love for one another.”  (John 13, 34-35).
    Can the Church  preach love, when it is not experiencing it?  How can one advise and ask nations that have differences between them to sit at the negotiating table?  To explore ways of cooperation and understanding when we Christians refuse dialogue, afraid of ecumenism being "inside," that will help us to live together with our similarities, to understand what the real differences are between us, and try with much love to overcome them?
    The weight of history
    Often the differences between us are dramatized and loaded negatively by the weight of history.  When in reality, it may be a different version of the same truth.  Often we refer to the Fathers of the Church to justify a strict attitude towards others.   We say, for example, that the Fathers of the Church did not allow prayer with people who did not belong to our Church.  We looked closely at what was meant by the Fathers of the Church with respect to the word "prayer."   Did they mean the Divine co-functioning [Συλλειτουργία – correct translation?], which of course presupposes the unity of faith?   But above all remains the Word of God which considers our thinking and our actions.  This Word of God is crystal clear to all disciples and at all times: "love one another" is not a blessing but a command.   A command of the Lord.  It is a timeless Word of the Lord which is beyond all human words.  In these difficult international times that we are experiencing most severely at home, let us see what is the essence of our mission as Christians.
    The true images of God
    We often refer to the "deification" of man, correctly.  But it is time that we look at the "distorted images of God" that exist on earth and are ruined by our selfishness, introversion and indifference.  These images are people, our fellow human beings, as His Beatitude Jerome reminds us so well.  People are suffering, hungry, without shelter, have no work, nothing to wear, they are sick, imprisoned, isolated, forgotten, abandoned, thrown on the periphery of life.  It is time that all Christians, together as good Samaritans, treat every person whom modern bandits have robbed and injured in body and soul.  Let's become the modern Cyrene to help our neighbor to bear his cross to the summit of sacrifice and of redemption.
    The Lord will judge us for what we did to one of these little brothers and sisters.  Not because we barricaded ourselves and selfishly presented ourselves as “the genuine voices" of true theology.   Do we ignore that theology without love does not exist?   While love involves the whole theology, because "God is love".  (I John 4.8)   Do we expect the Lord to tell us "well done" because we judged and condemned those who do not belong in our doctrine?  Let's read chapter 25 in the Gospel of Matthew and you will see what the Lord asks of us.  What we request for our brethren who are hungry, who are homeless, who are prisoners, who are sick.
    With the offering of love
    Why not proceed with tender love for these brothers?  Why not join our forces and our gifts that exist in so many Christians and dear ones, moniasmenoi [μονιασμένοιo] and in brotherhood, and share with our anagkemenous [needy?] brothers what have we have from our savings or our surplus?  The man of today is not only waiting from Christians material assistance and waiting for moral support, but waiting for love, our love.  A love, however, that convinces, that is experienced and not just preached.   Faith as we try to uphold it cannot be alive, and therefore salvidic and redemptive, if not accompanied by works. "Faith without works is dead." (James 2.14).  To say that we keep intact our faith is not enough.  We need to demonstrate our specific works.  Saying that we believe in the name of this faith to insult, to accuse, to condemn and to offend in an unacceptable manner our brothers, I do not think such a faith can save.  This belief has nothing to do with the Word of God.  It is irrelevant to the Gospel of Christ.
    The "orthodoxy" without "orthopraxia" is illusory and dangerous.  It creates fanaticism, fundamentalism, and fosters hatred in the name of God.  What is different divides us, but let us remember that not everything different divides us.  There are differences that existed before the schism and that were not a cause of separation, but became accepted as a different expression of the common faith.  We must not confuse the essence of our faith with what are minor practices of the Church of the East and West adopted over the course of history in the liturgical, in the pastoral, in the liturgical music, in the ways and methods it uses to reach the nations for which it has been sent to teach.  Let's not forget what Saint Augustine said: “in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. In necessary unity, in doubt freedom, in all love.”
    Why is it difficulty to accept that there are common truths of faith among Christians, even if we have a different way that responds to the culture of the East or West.  What splits the Church is not its unity, but the people who have separated from each other and this is due to selfishness, the sin that finally removes them from God.  This is illustrated by the well-known teachings of Dorotheus of Gaza (4th cent.)  That the more people are close to God, the more they are close together, and as they are removed from God, so they are removed from each other.  The example given to explain this saying is very eloquent: Think - taught the monk – of a circle.  Within the area are the people and God is at the center. The more people move to the center, the more they meet each other. As they are removed from the center, the more they are removed from each other.
    East and West complement each other
    The theological and liturgical wealth of the East along with that available to the West is a precious treasure. We should everyday thank God who has given it to us and together offer it for all our brothers. The period of Lent is a time appropriate not only for prayer, for physical fasting with beautiful Lenten menus, but above all for the fast and abstinence which respect to our ego and judgment and condemnation against our brothers.  It is possible to consider preparing for the Passover of the Lord by spoken or written war against our Christian brothers?  Is this Christian behavior that a Christian with even a basic intellectual life can assume is consistent with the spirit of Christ?
    An appropriate and welcomed time
    Lent is the very time for love, brotherhood and lists [of resolutions?].  Let us realize our mission as Christians in the modern world and look beyond ourselves away from our ego, from our doctrine.  Let us seek the help of other Christians and together not only preach but above all demonstrate that we know that the first and second commandments of the Lord are vertical and horizontal love.   A love in the form of a cross that raises him in suffering along with Christ,  sacrificed and led to Calvary, to arrive with Christ in the Resurrection.  Why do so many people not believe?  Why are so many Christians limited to formal acts in worship and sometimes in their lives?  Why is there not continuity and consistency within the church out to the people?  Let's ask ourselves as to the blame that we do not believe him?  Is the faith we experience not convincing because the experience is not evangelical and Christian?  If so, let us take courage from the Lord.  Let us ask for the Holy Spirit's power to see them as brothers who do not belong to our Church, even those who do not believe.  Then all, with the grace of God, will be overcome through dialogue, consultation and understanding,  above all with love in accordance with the will of God.  Then the Church of Christ will regain valuable lost unity.  Then the Lord's prayer "so that they may be one" (John 17.11) will be held for the glory of God and for the interest of every man.  May we do this, not tomorrow but today!  The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you always.
    + Nicholas

  • 5 March 2012: Resignation accepted

    Today (Monday), the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece accepted the resignation of Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia from his various committee assignments.   These assignments have now been divided among a number of different new appointees.  With respect to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the Holy Synod appointed as a representative of the Church of Greece Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Peristeriou.  The latter already serves as the Chairman of the Synodical Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations.  He was born in 1935 and is one of the most senior of the Greek hierarchs, having received his episcopal ordination in 1976.  

    I have also attached Father Ron Roberson’s most recent newsletter on developments involving the Eastern Churches in January 2012.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 March 2012: Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia

    For a number of years, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia has been one of two representatives of the Church of Greece on the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  He has also represented the Church of Greece in many other contacts with non-Orthodox.

    In a prior email, I mentioned that Metropolitan Chrysostomos criticized the statement of the Holy Synod of the Church in Greece which strongly supported  Abbot Ephraim because it went beyond the prior “balanced and objective” statement issued by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the same subject – especially in view of the fact that Abbot Ephraim and his Vatopedi Monastery at Mt. Athos are under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and not the Church of Greece.

    The Metropolitan’s criticism of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece was subject to vigorous attack by certain hierarchs of the Church of Greece, including a heated exchange between Metropolitan Chrysostomos and another metropolitan on February 6.   On February 13, Metropolitan Chysostomos submitted his resignation on all of his committee assignments including his position on the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

    This morning (Saturday), Metropolitan Chrysostomos met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar.  The Ecumenical Patriarch praised the work of Metropolitan Chrysostomos with Catholics and other non-Orthodox.  He stated that the Metropolitan expresses the “authentic voice of Orthodoxy” that is needed and appreciated.  A description of the meeting (in Greek) and a video can be seen at .  It is anticipated that the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece will consider the Metropolitan’s resignations at its next meeting.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 February 2012: Primacy and pan-Orthodox Council

    The Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR has posted today on its own website an interview of Metropolitan Hilarion by the Russian Orthodox website   The interview has apparently not yet been translated into English.  There is one question and answer in the interview which especially caught my attention.  I have pasted a Google translation of the question and answer below.

    I found two aspects of Metropolitan Hilarion’s answer particularly interesting.  First, in connection with the preparations for the pan-Orthodox Council, he acknowledges that primacy within the Orthodox Church, together with the granting of autocephaly and the diptychs, are controversial issues on which there is not yet a consensus and that the issues of granting of autocephaly and the diptychs are related to the issue of primacy.

    Secondly, he states that the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission will be preparing a document on primacy that will be approved by the supreme ecclesiastical authority of the Russian Orthodox Church.  It is my personal belief that after such a document on primacy is prepared and approved by the Church’s highest authority, it will be very difficult for the Moscow Patriarchate to deviate from this position either in a pan-Orthodox Council or its preparations or in the present theological dialogue with the Catholic Church on the subject of primacy.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Recently, the preparation and convening of a Pan-Orthodox Council has been actively discussed.  How actively is the process of preparation going?  What do you see the role of the Biblical-Theological Commission in the preparation for this Council, which is significant for all of the Local Churches - in fact there are a number of questions, in particular the issue of primacy, which is resolved in different ways particularly because of differences in "ways of theology”?
    - Already I have had to dwell repeatedly on the questions relating to the preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council. This preparation has been underway already for half a century, it was activated, and then ceased.  There was agreement on the attitude of the Local Orthodox Churches on several questions for the agenda. Today we are back to a discussion of what a Council should be, in the course of the inter-Orthodox dialogue.  And I must say that this discussion is part of the conciliar process, which the Council itself should crown.
    It is possible that some of the controversial issues on which there is not yet a consensus, need not be submitted to the Council, but left for the future.  This concerns the question of primacy in the Orthodox Church, as well as the related issues of granting autocephaly and the diptychs.
    Concerning the question of primacy, in the framework of the activities of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission serious research is being conducted on this topic. Based on the historical, canonical and theological analysis, a document will be prepared, which, after its approval by the Supreme ecclesiastical authority, will be reflected the position of our Church.

  • 7 February 2012: Czestochowa icon - Vladivostok to Fatima

    Metropolitan Hilarion and other church leaders have often spoken of the need for Catholics and Orthodox to join together to confront the moral evils in our society.   Certainly, abortion is one of those evils.  From 28 to 30 January, pro-life leaders from 17 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, met at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland.  Metropolitan Hilarion sent a letter to the meeting in support of its efforts.  At the meeting, it was decided to sponsor a pro-life pilgrimage from Vladivostok, Russia to Fatima, Portugal in the summer of 2012.  For the pilgrimage, an exact replica of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God will be used.  The Czestochowa icon, which came from Rus to Poland in 1382, is highly venerated by both Catholics and Orthodox.   A vehicle displaying the icon will lead the motor caravan across Asia and Europe. The pilgrimage will take several months.  According to the Russian Internet site, Russkaya Liniya, the pilgrimage will stop in 12 Russian cities in order to allow the icon to be venerated by the faithful.  The entire idea of this Pacific to Atlantic pilgrimage came from a pro-life delegate from Russia.   The pilgrimage has also been reported by Human Life International, , and by the Jasna Gora shrine .  Another interesting link (in English) is .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 January 2012: Cardinal Koch on Catholic - Orthodox dialogue

    In connection with the week of prayer for Christian unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch has given an interview with the Italian religious news agency SIR.  In the interview there was an interesting question and answer relating to Catholic-Orthodox relations.  SIR has only given a shortened English translation of the Cardinal’s answer on its website.  Unfortunately, I found nowhere on the Internet the full text in English.  Below is my best attempt at an English translation of the full text with the assistance of Google.  I have also pasted below the original full Italian text of the answer.

    I found most interesting the Cardinal’s belief that the success of the pan-Orthodox Council is critical to the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.  The current tension between Constantinople and Moscow, especially over the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate among the other Local Orthodox Churches, is in my opinion the primary cause for the current delay in convening a pan-Orthodox Council.  This tensions has also plagued the Orthodox – Catholic dialogue on the issue of primacy.  Progress on the Orthodox –Catholic dialogue may well depend on a resolution of the issues delaying a pan-Orthodox Council.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    At what point are relations with the Orthodox Churches?
    "There are very good bilateral relations with Constantinople, and bilateral relations with Moscow have greatly improved.  And these reports represent a sign of providence.  I met with Patriarch Kirill in March of last year and he told me that his meeting with the Pope is so important, but he did not want even to talk about dates and places because he believes that this meeting must be realized with good preparation.  So bilateral relations (with other patriarchates) are fine.  As regards the international joint Catholic-Orthodox Commission, which involves 15 Orthodox churches, honestly, it must be said that we have come to a very difficult situation. We thought that an important step had been made after the meeting in Ravenna in 2007. At the time, it had been decided to carry out a historical survey of the first millennium on the practice of the primate of the bishop of Rome but the Orthodox have not desired to continue.   It thus seems hard to speak of Peter's tradition in the Bible. The theological discussion on synodality and primacy will have to continue but this year a joint document to be presented at next year's plenary hasn't been drawn up. I believe that the reason for this slowdown is that the Orthodox Church has a great challenge, which is the pan-Orthodox Council.  I am convinced that on the success of this Council may depend an important step for the entire ecumenical movement, and in this sense, Catholics must have patience and support this important event for the Orthodox.  I am convinced that a good future in dialogue lies ahead and even if today it's difficult we know that life hasn't always been a straight road.”

    A che punto siamo invece con le Chiese ortodosse?

    “Le relazioni bilaterali con Costantinopoli sono ottime e anche le relazioni bilaterali con Mosca sono molto migliorate. E questi rapporti rappresentano un segno di provvidenza. Ho incontrato il Patriarca Kirill in marzo scorso e mi ha detto che un suo incontro con il Papa è sì importante ma non vuole parlare ancora di date e luoghi perché ritiene che questo incontro debba essere realizzato con una buona preparazione. Dunque le relazioni bilaterali (anche con altri Patriarcati) vanno benissimo. Riguardo invece alla Commissione mista internazionale tra la Chiesa cattolica e la Chiesa ortodossa nel suo insieme che coinvolge 15 chiese ortodosse, dobbiamo dire con onestà di essere arrivati ad una situazione molto difficile. Pensavamo di aver fatto un passo importante dopo l’incontro di Ravenna nel 2007. Si era deciso di fare uno studio storico sul primo millennio riguardo alla pratica del primato del vescovo di Roma in questo tempo ma gli ortodossi non hanno voluto continuare. Risulta cioè difficile parlare della tradizione petrina a partire dalla Bibbia. La discussione teologica sulla sinodalità e il primato dunque dovrà proseguire ma non siamo arrivati quest’anno ad un testo da presentare alla plenaria il prossimo anno. Credo che la ragione di questo rallentamento vada ricercata anche nel fatto che le Chiese ortodosse hanno una grande sfida, che è quella del Sinodo pan ortodosso. Sono convinto che dal successo di questo Sinodo possa dipendere un passo importante per tutto l’ecumenismo e in questo senso i cattolici devono avere pazienza e sostenere questo importante appuntamento per gli ortodossi. Sono comunque convinto che si prospetta un buon futuro nel dialogo e anche se oggi è difficile, sappiamo che la vita non è sempre una strada retta.”

  • 15 January 2012: Now the Church of Greece on Ephraim

    There continues to be developments in the Ephraim case which raise issues between the Local Orthodox Churches.  As you recall, last Tuesday (Jan. 10), the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a statement in which it expressed its sorrow on the Ephraim case and  stated its policy of not interfering in ongoing judicial proceedings.   In connection with statements made by a sister Orthodox Church on this subject, the Holy Synod affirmed that Mt. Athos is its canonical territory and that the presence of monks of different nationalities at Mt. Athos does not give it a pan-Orthodox character which would allow any intervention on its territory from other autocephalous churches.  It is quite apparent that the latter remarks were in response to earlier statements by Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion in support of Abbot Ephraim.

    On January 12, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate, in response to an inquiry from the Interfax news agency, stated that it would issue no comment on the Synod’s statement because Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion had already stated all that they had to say on the subject of Abbot Ephraim.   Later the same day, the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece (which is a separate Local Church and not a part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) issued a strong statement in favor of Abbot Ephraim.  This statement can be read in Greek at .  I have not found a complete English translation of this statement, but the following is my best attempt at a translation using Google: 

    The Standing Holy Synod addressed the issue of custody of the Reverend Archimandrite Ephraim Abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, especially with respect to the time of communication and enforcement during the days of a great feast of Christianity and to the violation of sacred institutions and non-compliance with the autonomous region of Mount Athos derived from statutory provisions. This event has likewise critically hurt the prestige of our Church, and rightly has evoked the profound pity of the Orthodox Christians of Greece, and beyond these boundaries, and simultaneously has caused serious concern and severe criticism by distinguished scholars in the legal world.  Our Church respects the decisions of the courts and therefore will not interfere in any way in their sphere of competence, although at times there have been flaws in correctness.  However, with the multitude of believers, expressing the sympathy of all of its members to the tested Abbot, we reflect upon and wish and hope that soon there will be a more dispassionate review of his possible release from custody.  First there will a visit to the Korydallos prison by the Archbishop [Ieronymos].

    Immediately after the issuance of this statement, Metropolitan Chryssostomos of Messenia, a hierarch of the Church of Greece but not a member of the Standing Holy Synod, issued an attack against the Synod’s statement.    In this regard, he asks a series of questions.  For example, he asks if the Standing Holy Synod did not consider the “objective and balanced” statement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate acceptable.  He asks whether the Standing Holy Synod believes that the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate over Mt. Athos is ineffective.    The influential website has in turn attacked Metropolitan Chryssostomos.    It quotes an unidentified member of the Standing Holy Synod that “the decision is an expression of sympathy for a tested brother and is not directed against anyone, especially the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

    On a positive note, the Ecumenical Patriarch has warmly received a delegation from the Vatopedi Monastery at the Phanar.


     Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 January 2012: Ecumenical Patriarchate criticizes Moscow on Ephraim case

    Ecum. Patriarchate criticizes Moscow on Ephraim case

    Peter Anderson <>

    Today the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a short press release in Greek concerning the Abbot Ephraim case.   The release in Greek can be read at  I have not yet found a complete English translation.   However, the essence of the statement is as follows:

    1. His Holiness and the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, having discussed the issue of the arrest of Abbot Ephraim, express their "sorrow in connection with the situation."
    2. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has a consistent policy respecting the independence of justice to avoid any interference in the current case, especially given the fact that the patriarchate does not know the contents of the case.
    3. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, in connection with statements made by a sister Orthodox Church on this subject, recalls that the Holy Mountain is its canonical territory, although composed of Orthodox monks of different nationalities, but that does not give it a pan-Orthodox character which would allow any intervention on its territory from other autocephalous churches.

    It is fairly safe to assume that the third statement, which is obviously directed at the Moscow Patriarchate, will evoke a strong reaction in Russia.  It will probably increase the tensions that already exist between Constantinople and Moscow over the preparations for the possible pan-Orthodox Council.  However, the concern of Constantinople over Russian influence at Mount Athos is not new.  In the late 1800s, when Mount Athos was still part of the Ottoman Empire, the number of Russian monks on the Holy Mountain grew so that they outnumbered the Greeks.  By 1903, there were 3496 Russian monks at Mt. Athos.  The Russian presence at Mt. Athos was also increased by great financial support from the Russian Empire and by the large number of pilgrims coming from Russia.  This led to tensions between the Russian and Greek monks.    The balance in favor of the Russians was then suddenly changed by subsequent events such as (1) Mount Athos becoming Greek territory; (2) a major conflict between a large group of Russian monks at Mt. Athos and the Holy Synod in Moscow; (3) World War I; (4) and most importantly the Bolshevik Revolution.   Today, there again exists in Russia the number of interested monks, pilgrims, and financial donors to exercise a great influence on Mt. Athos.  This is probably a concern to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has jurisdiction over Mt. Athos.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 January 2012: Filaret (KP) & Constantinople

    Today, RISU posted the third part of an exclusive interview with Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP).  The Russian translation of the entire third part can be read at .  Although the comments by Filaret are unlikely to win any friends in either the Moscow or the Ecumenical Patriarchates, I still found them interesting.  RISU has posted English-language summaries relating to two aspects of this third installment.

    Filaret states that the Ecumenical Patriarchate offered  in 2008 to include the UOC-KP within the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   He states that Viktor Yushchenko, then president of Ukraine, was in favor of the offer because it would make the UOC-KP “canonical” (at that time and at the present time, the UOC-KP has not been recognized by any of the Local Orthodox Churches).   Filaret contends that the UOC-KP rejected the offer because the Ecumenical Patriarchate would not guarantee that it would be granted autocephaly in a specified period of time.

    You may recall, the Ecumenical Patriarch attended the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus in Kyiv in July 2008.  At that time, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Alexy had a private meeting.  The meeting marked a major turning point in the previously strained and cold relationship between the two church leaders.  After the meeting, Alexy told the press, “We have agreed that all of the differences in the relations between our two Churches -- and problems can arise in every family -- should be resolved through dialogue.”  Subsequently, in October 2008, Alexy joined the primates of the other Local Orthodox Churches in a meeting at the Phanar.  This meeting was another positive step in the improvement of relations between Moscow and Constantinople.  I assume that if Filaret’s statements concerning the offer and rejection are correct, these events must have occurred in 2008 prior to the meeting between Alexy and Bartholomew in July 2008.

    Filaret also contributes his views on the current dispute as to whether the future pan-Orthodox Council and its preparatory meetings should be based on consensus or on a less-than-unanimous vote. .  He argues that “consensus” is really synonymous with “veto.”  Because the word “veto” sounds unreasonable,  “consensus” is used instead – but the practical effect is the same.  Filaret contends that there is seldom unanimity on any issue of importance.  As an example, in the 1991 vote for Ukrainian independence, 92 percent were in favor, but there were still people opposed.  Accordingly, Filaret does not believe that the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church should require unanimity.

    Apparently, Filaret believes that the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church will not occur as a result of alliances with any other churches, but with the passage of time.  He gives the example of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria.  Bulgaria was eventually recognized as an autocephalous church [by Constantinople in 1945] although Constantinople had earlier anathematized all of the bishops of the Bulgarian Church [in 1872].  [However, it should be noted that Constantinople had recognized the Bulgarian Patriarchate in 927, but that this independence was subsequently lost during the Ottoman era.  Therefore, the recognition in 1945 involved the re-establishment of autocephaly.]

    In a separate development in Ukraine, Metropolitan Volodymyr, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, on December 30 attended services outside the hospital for the first time after being confined to the hospital for two and one-half months.  I have attached a photo, taken on this occasion, of the Metropolitan in his wheel chair.  

    On December 23, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP established a commission to administer its affairs during the illness of the Metropolitan.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA