Peter Anderson - NEWS 2014

  • 23 December 2014: More developments

    In my last report, I stated that after the election of Metropolitan Onufry, I had not seen on the UOC-MP website any subsequent statements in favor of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  That is no longer true.  Today, there was a meeting of the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP.  At the meeting, the Synod approved a letter to Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko.  The letter includes the following statement: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church supports the people of Ukraine in the hour of difficult trials.  We consistently advocate for the national independence and  territorial integrity of Ukraine.”  The letter also refers to the damage to churches in Eastern Ukraine, the “seizure” of churches of the UOC-MP by the UOC-KP, and the humanitarian work done by the UOC-MP in Eastern Ukraine.  Nothing is said in the letter concerning the UGCC.

    Cardinal Koch has given an interesting interview which was published on 21 December in the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire (in Italian).  The portions relating to the Orthodox have been translated into Greek at .  (You can use the Google or Bing translation tools on the latter link but not on the former.)  I found two items especially interesting.  First, the Cardinal agreed that the Pope asking for the Ecumenical Patriarch’s blessing and the Ecumenical Patriarch then kissing the Pope on the top of his head (the famous photo of 29 November) was “a very beautiful moment.”  However, the Cardinal stated that he “must also add that the Patriarch during the course of the Divine Liturgy went to the Pope to exchange the kiss of peace.”  The Cardinal called this “an unprecedented event.”  The Cardinal also stated that Pope Francis is “absolutely available to meet Patriarch Kirill unconditionally wherever and whenever he wants.”

    There have been several other interesting developments.

    On 13 December,  Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia  was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa diploma at the Saints Cyril and Methodius Theological Institute for Post-Graduate Studies in Moscow.  (n English)  Metropolitan Hilarion, who studied under Metropolitan Kallistos at Oxford, spoke at the presentation.  Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Apostolic Nuncio to Russia, was also present.  Metropolitan Kallistos has for many years been one of the representatives for the Ecumenical Patriarchate on Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

    The Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia has announced that the episcopal ordination and enthronement of the newly-elected Archbishop of Prague has been postponed.  No new date was set.   Presumably the delay is intended to provide additional time for discussions between the Czech Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the canonicity of the recent actions taken by the Czech Church.

    A general assembly of the Minsk Eparchy in Belarus has passed a resolution to ask Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk, head of the Orthodox Church in Belarus, to apply to Patriarch Kirill and to the Moscow Patriarchate’s Holy Synod for "the status of a self-governed church to be granted to the Belarusian Orthodox Church within the system of the Moscow Patriarchate on the model of Latvia, Moldova and Estonia." (English); (Russian)  The following is a very interesting (but unofficial) report, translated into English, of the surprisingly strong words of Metropolitan Pavel at the meeting in favor of self-governing status:

    Lastly, in my report of December 11, I referred to the “50th” anniversary of the legalization of the UGCC.  As I stated in my report of December 9, it is the 25th anniversary.  I have no excuse for this silly mistake aside from getting older.

    For those of you celebrating Christmas on December 25, I wish you a very blessed and joyful Christmas!!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 December 2014: Ukraine and Zizioulas interview

    Yesterday (Wednesday) Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna was in Kyiv for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the legalization of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC).   In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of his visit was his meeting with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations – an organization in which the various faiths in Ukraine have spoken with unanimity on many of the critical issues now facing Ukraine.  Until yesterday the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) attended every meeting of the Council.   However, when the Council was convened to meet with Cardinal Schönborn yesterday, no representative of the UOC-MP was present.    Cardinal Schönborn has very good relations with the Orthodox and is in fact a very good personal friend of Metropolitan Hilarion, who was once the MP’s bishop in Vienna.  To the best of my knowledge, the UOC-MP has given no explanation for its absence.  Does this mean that the UOC-MP has a major problem with the Roman Catholic Church or UGCC?  In my opinion it does not.

    A Ukrainian-language report by the UGCC has stated:  “During the meeting, the members of the AUCCRO attempted to submit to His Eminence a true picture of the events in Ukraine.  Each member of the Council who spoke told the Papal envoy that Russia is the aggressor, with respect to whom it is difficult for Ukraine to handle alone, and therefore our country needs international support.”  (poor Google translation)  In my opinion, it is not surprising that the UOC-MP would not want to be associated with such a meeting.  It is true that since the election of Metropolitan Onufry as head of the UOC-MP, the UOC-MP has taken a more “neutral” position with respect to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.  Prior to the election, one would frequently see on the official website of the UOC-MP statements in favor of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as described in some of my earlier reports.  However, after the election, Father Georgy Kovalenko was removed from his position as head of the Synodal Information Service of the UOC-MP, and I have not seen any subsequent statements in favor of the territorial integrity on the UOC-MP website.

    On the other hand, I have not seen any statements on the UOC-MP website which support Moscow’s current attack on the UGCC.  Yesterday, the UOC-MP posted an article and link to an interview by the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN of  Archpriest George Gulyaev, the press secretary for the UOC-MP Eparchy of Donetsk.   In the interview, Father Georgy states:  “Now, in my opinion, there is a glorification of some people with guns and demonization of others.  Believing persons would not support this trend.  Orthodox in the Donbass- the same victims of war, as Greek Catholics or Protestants.” 

    Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) has given to Vatican Insider an English-language interview which I believe is very significant and worth reading.   Ioannis expresses considerable optimism based on the remark by Pope Francis on his return flight from Istanbul to Rome that the Catholic Church "does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith.”  Ioannis refers to this as “a big step forward.”  He adds: “For us members of the Orthodox Church, the common faith that makes full communion possible is the one professed in the seven Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium. We need to clarify, from a Catholic point of view, whether a common faith that allows for sacramental communion should also include certain doctrines and dogmatic definitions which were established unilaterally by the Catholic Church.”  My guess is that the Catholic Church might well say that sacramental communion can be established based on the seven Ecumenical Councils without reference to doctrines articulated by the Catholic Church after the first millennium.  Does that mean that sacramental communion between Catholics and Orthodox can be established very soon merely by resolving perhaps the filioque controversy?    One of the major problems is that Metropolitan Ioannis does not speak for all of the Local Orthodox Churches.  In my opinion, many Orthodox would maintain that the Catholic Church, as a condition for sacramental communion, must also abandon a number of its teachings that these Orthodox consider heretical.

    Lastly, the Catholic University of Lublin has posted a nice 11-minute video of its conferral of the “golden diploma” on Cardinal Koch.    However, the Cardinal’s address on the Orthodox – Catholic theological dialogue is not included in the video.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 December 2014: Koch in Poland & More

    Cardinal Koch has just completed a five-day trip to Poland.  On Monday, he was awarded the “Golden Diploma” of the Theology Facility of the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) “John Paul II.”  KUL is, of course, the university where Karol Wojtyła taught for many years, and the Pope’s name has now been added to the formal title of the university.  In receiving this honor, Cardinal Koch delivered an address on the Orthodox – Catholic theological dialogue.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the full text on the Internet.  According to a KAI article, the Cardinal’s address included the following points:  Primacy should always be considered in the context of sobornost and sobornost always in the context of primacy.   Political decisions of the Churches contributed to a large extent to the remoteness of the East from the West; therefore, the two lungs could not breathe in the same body and so had to evolve separately.  He recalled the efforts of Benedict XVI on the reduction by the Vatican of the importance of papal primacy in the provisions of the First Vatican Council – maximum requirements do not serve the search for unity.  The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church recognize similar Eucharistic ecclesiology.  In Catholicism it is important to the individual responsibility of every community, and in Orthodoxy self-sufficiency is excluded in favor of participation in the whole community.  Photos of the KUL event can be seen at .

    On the first day of the visit to Poland (Friday), Cardinal Koch, accompanied by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP, visited Czestochowa and prayed before the famous miracle-working Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God.  Because this icon came to Poland from the East, John Paul II referred to it as "the sign of the unity” of Christian east and west.  On Saturday, Cardinal Koch participated in a conference, “On the Mission of the Church which Seeks Unity,” in the village of Kamien Slaski (Diocese of Opole, where Archbishop Nossol, a great ecumenist, was bishop for many years).  Another speaker at the conference was Archbishop Jeremiasz (Anchimiuk) of Wroclaw and Szczecin, who is responsible for the ecumenical activities of the Polish Orthodox Church.  According to a report by an Opole newspaper, Archbishop Jeremiasz urged members of neighboring parishes belonging to different faiths to meet for prayer together, for reading Scripture, and for learning about the history of other churches.   Although the Polish Orthodox Church is close to the Moscow Patriarchate in many ways, it is evident that the Polish Church is far more open to ecumenical activities than Moscow.

    Last night, Cardinal Koch met in Warsaw with Metropolitan Sawa, the primate of the Polish Orthodox Church.  Today, Tuesday, Cardinal Koch met with the Polish Ecumenical Council, which has been headed by Archbishop Jeremiasz for many years.  Cardinal Koch returned to Rome later today.

    On another subject, a delegation from the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, led by Archbishop Jiří (Stránský) arrived at the Phanar on the day after the visit by Pope Francis.  The delegation met both in the morning and the afternoon with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Canonical Committee.  They also had a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  A report on the meetings has been posted by Archbishop Jiří.  In the report, it is stated that “during the more than four-hour hearing, both parties could happily note that since the last joint deliberations in March this year, there has been a very significant convergence of views and opinions” concerning possible solutions to the current leadership crisis in the Czech and Slovak Church.  As I noted in a previous report, it will be difficult to hold a pan-Orthodox Council unless Constantinople and Moscow can agree as to who are the canonical leaders of this Church.

    I previously reported that Pope Francis has appointed Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna as his special envoy to the celebration in Kyiv on 10 December of the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.  The Information Department of the UGCC has now reported that the Cardinal will also meet with the Prime Minister of Ukraine and will attend a meeting of All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  The Moscow Patriarchate has often been silent about the outlawing of the UGCC in 1946.  However, in June 2008, Metropolitan (then Bishop) Hilarion gave at St. Vladimir’s Seminary (USA) an interesting English-language interview which included this subject.  He candidly stated that the UGCC was “banned by Stalin which was indeed an act of grave injustice.”   You can listen to the interview at  (at 7:05).   He would find the restoration of the UGCC to be an “act of historical justice,” but he strongly criticized the actions allegedly taken by the UGCC after its legalization.

    Finally, the “Synaxis of Orthodox Clergy and Monastics” is circulating a petition, already signed by six metropolitans of the Church of Greece, condemning the Ecumenical Patriarch’s “novel ecclesiology, entirely foreign to Orthodoxy.”  The petition was precipitated by the contacts of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with Pope Francis in the Holy Land.  The English form of the petition can be read at .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 December 2014: Constantiople & Alexandria

    Pope Francis has made some extraordinary gestures to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, such as the Pope kissing the Ecumenical Patriarch’s hand in the Church of the Holy  Sepulchre and the Pope bowing and asking for the Ecumenical Patriarch’s blessing at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George.  One aspect of the Pope’s visit to Istanbul that caught my attention is that the Ecumenical Patriarch personally went to the Istanbul airport both to welcome the Pope and say goodbye to him.  (departure)  I believe that this gesture by the Ecumenical Patriarch was extraordinary – and probably unprecedented.  Have you ever heard of a pope personally going to Fiumicino or Ciampino to welcome a visitor or to say goodbye to the visitor?  I certainly have not.   Patriarch Kirill went to Istanbul in July 2009, a few months after his election, to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch.  It was an extremely important visit by the newly-elected  leader of the largest Local Orthodox Church.  Still, Patriarch Kirill was greeted at the airport by a high-level delegation and not by the Ecumenical Patriarch himself.

    Immediately prior to leaving Istanbul, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop to see the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Mesrob II Mutafyan at the Surp Pirgiç Armenian hospital in Istanbul.  In 2008 Mesrob withdrew from public life because of the onset of dementia.  It appears that at the time of this visit, Mesrob was on life support without brain activity.   Still the Pope wanted to visit him.

    The following are some interesting reflections on the Pope’s visit: 

    An English-language Vatican Radio interview of Archdeacon Dr John Chryssavgis,  the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s media coordinator during the Pope’s visit.

    A report by Mavi Zambak to AsiaNews  “The idea that an authoritative figure could also be a regular guy left a major impression. Coming across as someone who refused the privileges of his social status in order to show his superiority, he did not stand behind divisive protective barriers and security perimeters. Instead, everyone felt his closeness. This is exactly what Christians and non-Christians saw, namely his capacity to become close, reach out and meet others, as they are, without fences. Indeed, what defined his trip- according to comments heard in the streets, on public transport and in homes - was his determination to ‘become close’ to others.”

    Letter to Pope Francis in the Hurriyet newspaper from a Turkish Moslem  “Nevertheless, be sure that you are opening minds here, especially with your exemplary modesty. The media has noted, rightly, that you refused to stay in luxurious five-star hotels and be driven in expensive limousines. This is quite a lesson, especially at a time when our president has just spent a billion dollars on his new colossal palace and his fancy new jet. Thanks for reminding us that greatness lies not in extravagance, but rather humility. ‘The last shall be the first,’ after all, as a wise Nazarene that we both love once said, ‘and the first shall be the last.’”

    On a different subject, the Greek website has posted an interesting speech which was delivered by Metropolitan Seraphim (Kykkotis) of Zimbabwe and Angola to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria on 27 November 2014.   The title of the speech is “The Prospects and Challenges of Inter-Christian Dialogue.”   Metropolitan Seraphim is a member of the Synodal Committee,  “Inter-Christian Issues and Dialogue with the Roman Catholics.”   Metropolitan Seraphim did not participate in the Amman plenary of the Orthodox – Catholic dialogue, but rather participated in the Orthodox – Anglican dialogue which was held in Jerusalem at the same time.

    Unfortunately, I can only read the speech through “Google Translate” which leaves much to be desired.  However, it appears that Metropolitan Seraphim is concerned about the disputes between the Orthodox delegations in the Catholic dialogue.  The following are some of the suggestions made by Metropolitan Seraphim in this regard:   The head of the Local Church delegations who create problems in the Orthodox reaching a common approach should be retired and replaced by non-contentious heads.  Orthodox delegations should resolve their disagreements before the beginning of the plenary and not after the meeting with Catholics has begun.  The Ravenna document is problematic and should be revoked to preserve visible Orthodox unity.  At the present time, the Orthodox – Catholic theological dialogue should “be limited to working for the protection of human rights and a culture of religious tolerance, to address social problems, poverty, protection of refugees and displaced persons and major diseases such as the Ebola virus. “  Metropolitan Seraphim makes clear that these are his personal views.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 1 December 2014: Day Three in Turkey

    An video of the entire liturgy, the subsequent addresses, and signing of the joint declaration can be seen at .  The video lasts for over three hours.  Here are some mileposts in the video: Arrival of Pope Francis – 13:15; Appearance of the Ecumenical Patriarch – 24:40; Ecumenical Patriarch greets the Pope – 1:33:00; The Our Father during the liturgy is recited by the Pope in Latin – 1:53:30; Address by Ecumenical Patriarch at the end of the liturgy - 2:20:23; Address by the Pope – 2:36:20; The two embrace – 2:50:00; The blessing by the Pope – 2:51:00; Leaving together – 2:54:00; Signing of joint declaration – 3:17:20.

    Ecumenical Patriarch’s address (translated in English):  Here are a few of the passages that caught my attention:

    Moreover, You offer to Your Orthodox brothers and sisters the aspiration that during Your tenure the rapprochement of our two great ancient Churches will continue to be established on the solid foundations of our common tradition, which always preserved and acknowledged in the constitution of the Church a primacy of love, honor and service within the framework of collegiality, in order that "with one mouth and one heart" we may confess the Trinitarian God and that His love may be poured out upon the world.

    In this Church [of Constantinople], through the order instituted by the holy Ecumenical Councils, divine providence has assigned the responsibility of coordinating and expressing the unanimity of the most holy local Orthodox Churches.

    However, until that blessed day, the participation in one another's synodal life will be expressed through the involvement of observers, as we observe now, with Your gracious invitation to attend Synods of Your Church, just as we hope will also occur when, with God's grace, our Holy and Great Council becomes reality.

    The modern persecutors of Christians do not ask which Church their victims belong to. The unity that concerns us is regrettably already occurring in certain regions of the world through the blood of martyrdom.

    The Pope’s address (translated into English):  I found especially interesting the following passages:

    I believe that it is important to reaffirm respect for this principle as an essential condition, accepted by both, for the restoration of full communion, which does not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation.   Rather, it means welcoming all the gifts that God has given to each, thus demonstrating to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit.  I want to assure each one of you here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith.

    The one thing that the Catholic Church desires, and that I seek as Bishop of Rome, “the Church which presides in charity”, is communion with the Orthodox Churches.  Such communion will always be the fruit of that love which “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (cf. Rom 5:5), a fraternal love which expresses the spiritual and transcendent bond which unites us as disciples of the Lord.

    The cry of the victims of conflict urges us to move with haste along the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox.  Indeed, how can we credibly proclaim the Gospel of peace which comes from Christ, if there continues to be rivalry and disagreement between us (cf. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 77)?

    The full text of the Joint Declaration (in English):

    Some of the Pope’s remarks to journalists on the return flight to Rome (translated into English):   Some of the more interesting passages:

    “Last month, the Metropolitan Hilarion attended the Synod as a delegate and he spoke to me not as a Synod delegate but as the President [actually head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation] of the commission for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. We spoke for a while. I believe we are moving forward in our relations with Orthodoxy, they have the sacraments and apostolic succession, we are moving forward.  If we wait for theologians to reach an agreement, that day will never come! I am sceptical: theologians work well but Athenagoras said: “Let us put theologians on an island to discuss among themselves and we’ll just get on with things!” Unity is a journey we need to go on together, it is spiritual ecumenism, praying together, working together. Then there is ecumenism of the blood: when they kill Christians, bloods mix. Our martyrs are crying out: we are one. This is what ecumenism of the blood is. We must follow this path courageously and carry on moving forward. Perhaps some are not able to understand this. The Eastern catholic Churches have a right to exist, but uniatism is a dated word, another solution needs to be found.”

    “I told Patriarch Kirill, we can meet wherever you want, you call me and I’ll come. But he has a lot on his plate at the moment  what with the war in Ukraine. Both of us want to meet and move forward. Hilarion suggested the commission hold a study meeting [presumably the planned 2015 meeting of the Commission’s Coordinating Committee] on the primacy issue. We have to continue along the footsteps of John Paul II: help me to find a solution to the primacy issue that is also acceptable to the Orthodox Churches.”

    “The thing I feel most deeply about on this path toward unity, I mentioned in yesterday’s homily on the Holy Spirit: the path of the Holy Spirit is the only right path, he is full of surprises, he is creative. The problem – and I as I said in the general congregations before the Conclave this may be self-criticism  – is that the Church has the bad and sinful habit of being too inward-looking, as if it believes it shines of its own light. The Church does not have its own light, it needs to look at Jesus Christ. Divisions exist because the Church has been focusing on itself too much. At table today, Bartholomew and I were talking about the moment when a cardinal went to communicate the Pope’s [?] excommunication to the Patriarch: the Church was focusing on itself too much at that moment. When one focuses on oneself, one becomes self-referential.”

    “The Orthodox accept the primacy: in today’s litanies they prayed for their pastor and primate, “he who leads the way”. They said this in my presence today. We have to look back at the first millennium to find an acceptable solution. I am not saying the Church did everything wrong (in the second millennium), no, no! It paved its historic path. But now the way forward is to follow John Paul II’s request.

    “Allow me to say that this problem [of ultraconservatives who look suspiciously at open approaches] is not only ours. This is also a problem they face, the Orthodox, some monks and some monasteries. For example, ever since the days when the Blessed Paul VI was Pope, there has been an ongoing discussion regarding the date of Easter and we still haven’t reached an agreement. At this rate, our great grandchildren risk celebrating it in August. The Blessed Paul VI had suggested a set date, a Sunday in April. Bartholomew was courageous: in Finland, where there is a small Orthodox community, he said they could celebrate on the same day as the Lutherans. Once, I was in Via della Scrofa, Easter preparations were underway and I heard a member of the Eastern Church say: my Christ will rise from the dead in a month’s time. My Christ, your Christ. Problems do exist. But we must be respectful and not tire of engaging in dialogue, without insulting others, without dirtying ourselves, without gossiping. If someone does not want dialogue, well ... But, patience, meekness and dialogue.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 November 2014: Day Two in Turkey


    Today was the second day of the visit of Pope Francis to Turkey.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate has established a special webpage (in English) with links for the various events and addresses during the papal visit. 

    Today (Saturday) Pope Francis was greeted at the Istanbul airport by Patriarch Bartholomew.    The Pope first visited the Blue Mosque and then Hagia Sofia.    The visit to Hagia Sofia begins at 32:00 in the video and the Blue Mosque at 3:00.  The Pope’s silent prayer (slightly more than 1-1/2 minutes) before the prayer niche at the Blue Mosque can be seen at 16:00

    At 2:45pm, Pope Francis presided at a Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit with the Latin, Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean Catholic communities.  Patriarch Bartholomew attended.    During the Mass, Archbishop Demetrios and Metropolitan Ioann were seated on either side of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The Ecumenical Patriarch processed in with the Pope (1:24), exchanged the kiss of peace with him (1:24:00), and gave a joint blessing to the congregation with the Pope (1:43:00).  I think that the Orthodox guests (and perhaps some of the Catholics as well) may have been surprised by the very jubliant hymn (with drums) sung after communion by what appears to be the African Catholic community in Istanbul (1:31:30).  Catholics in Istanbul are composed of many different traditions and cultures, and this was reflected in the music during the liturgy.

    At 5:00 pm, there was a Doxology Service for Thanksgiving and Peace in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George, followed by a 30-minute private meeting with Bartholomew at the Patriarchal Residence.   An English translation of the full text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address during the service can be read at  At the end of his address, the Ecumenical Patriarch stated, “Welcome, beloved brother in the Lord!”  This was followed by the Pope’s address.  An English translation of the full text of the Pope’s address can be read at     At the end of the Pope’s address, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope embraced and kissed.  Then the Pope requested the Ecumenical Patriarch’s blessing, and the Ecumenical Patriarch kissed the Pope’s bowed head.  You can see that at 33:18 on the video.  See also the attached great photo by Reuters capturing that moment. Francis and Bartholomew then recited the Pater Noster together in Latin at 33:50 in the video.

    Tomorrow should be an even bigger day – with the Divine Liturgy for the feast of St. Andrew and with the signing by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope of a joint declaration.

    In other news, the Vatican published today a letter from Pope Francis appointing Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna as his special envoy to the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.    The celebration will be held in Kyiv on 10 December.

    The Catholic and Orthodox members of the St. Irenaeus working group continued their unofficial dialogue on the subject of primacy at their meeting in Malta on 5-9 November.  Professor Paul Meyendorff  (St. Vladimir’s OCA Seminary) has written a short report of the meeting (with a photo of the group) that can be read at

    The close relationship between Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and Russia continues.  In October 2007, Patriarch Alexy visited the Cathedral and presented to it a beautiful copy of the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God.  This copy is still revered by both Catholics and Orthodox in a place of honor in the Cathedral.  As I reported earlier this month, a Russian gift of a giant statue of John Paul II by the famous Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli has been now placed in the public gardens of the Cathedral.  The latest gift is a giant Christmas tree cut in Russia and given by the City of Moscow.  The decorated tree is now in the square directly in front of the Cathedral.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 November 2014: New Archbishop of Prague

    One of the major roadblocks to the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council in 2016 is that the Ecumenical Patriarch has not recognized the canonical status of the recent elections of the primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia and of the Archbishop of Prague.  I have sent you a number of earlier reports on this very confusing situation.  If there is no agreement between Constantinople and Moscow with respect to the leadership of this Church, it would be difficult for this Local Orthodox Church to participate in the pan-Orthodox Council.  Moscow has clearly stated its position that all of the Local Orthodox Churches must participate in any Council.

    Yesterday, the Assembly of the Prague Eparchy elected a new archbishop.  He is Hegumen (abbot) Michal Dandár.  He received the votes of 87 of the 111 delegates (more than the required two-thirds).   The prior Archbishop of Prague Jáchym (not recognized by Constantinople) has submitted his resignation.

    Hegumen Michal is 67 years old and has served as the rector of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parish in Schweinfurt, Germany since 2007 .  He graduated from the Leningrad Theological Academy in 1969.  According to the controversial Moscow commentator Deacon Andrei Kuraev, Michal “is a native of Eastern Slovakia and has served for many years in one of the parishes in Prague.  However, a conflict with Metropolitan Christopher forced him to leave the Czech Republic and go under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.”  From these facts, it appears that Michal might be aligned with Moscow.  Future events will determine whether this correct or not.

    The group opposing the earlier election of Jáchym was led by Archbishop Simeon and was supportive of the prior primate Metropolitan Christopher, whom the group contended was forced to resign due to a conspiracy.  This group has sought the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Today, this group announced the results of the election on its website, but stated that “negotiations are ongoing.”

    It appears that the purpose of yesterday’s election was to eliminate any contention that the election of a new Archbishop of Prague was not canonical.  In May and October 2013, the Assembly of the Prague Eparchy was unable to agree on a new archbishop by the required two-thirds majority.  In view of this deadlock, the Holy Synod elected Jáchym in January 2014.  Now the Assembly has selected Michal by the required two-thirds vote.

    It remains to be seen whether there will now be a new assembly to elect the primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  Under the Church’s constitution, the primate must be either the Archbishop of Prague or the Archbishop of Presov (Slovakia).  In the election of the primate in January 2014, Jáchym (who was elected Archbishop of Prague that same day) immediately withdrew his name from consideration so that only Rastislav (Archbishop of Presov) remained on the ballot.  Rastislav was elected by a vote of 43 of the 49 delegates attending.  I suspect that a second assembly will now be held to elect a primate in order to avoid any contention that the assembly’s selection of a primate was not canonical.

    In other news, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity celebrated last week the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council document Unitatis Redintegratio, which launched a radical change in the Catholic Church’s relationships with other Christian denominations.  Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio did a very interesting English-language interview of Cardinal Koch in connection with this celebration.  You can hear it at   I was especially interested in the Cardinal’s comments that the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue on primacy initially sought to take an historical approach on the role of primacy in the first millennium.  The draft document on this subject was rejected in 2010 (at Vienna).  Instead, the Orthodox side suggested a theological systematic approach on the relationship between primacy and synodality.  The draft document on the later subject was rejected at Amman (2014).  Now a new document has been prepared, and in this document we “are returned to history and this is very good.”  The Coordinating Committee will meet in 2015 to work further on the document, and the next plenary session will occur in 2017 (delayed because of the pan-Orthodox Council in 2016).

    In connection with the celebration, the bishops who are members of the Pontifical Council had their own plenary meeting and met with Pope Francis.  A brief video of the meeting with the Pope can be seen at .  The Pope’s remarks are summarized at 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 November 2014: Hilarion meets with Anglican Church of North America

    Metropolitan Hilarion completed his visit to the United States yesterday.  Two events during his visit especially caught my attention.  First, he received an honorary doctorate from St. Vladimir Seminary (OCA) where he presented a paper on “Primacy and Synodality from an Orthodox Perspective.”  The entire paper can be read in English at .  Although the paper did not involve any surprising news, it is still very interesting and well worth reading.

    The second event was Metropolitan Hilarion’s meeting with Dr. Foley Beach, Primate and Archbishop of the newly created Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), together with two other bishops of that church.  Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the OCA, was also present.   Further details of the meeting are provided on the website of the ACNA.  According to the latter report, Metropolitan Tikhon invited Archbishop Beach to attend the All-American Council of the OCA in July 2015.  Beach was installed as primate and archbishop of the ACNA approximately one month ago.  The ACNA broke off from the Episcopal Church of the United States several years ago over the liberal position taken by the Episcopal Church on a number of different issues.  It appears that neither Episcopal nor Catholic representatives were present at the installation.  However, a number of Anglican bishops from Africa participated in the installation.  In addition, Anglican Bishop Gregory Venables from Argentina was present.  Bishop Venables is a personal friend of Pope Francis, who asked Bishop Venables to convey his personal greetings and congratulations to Archbishop Beach.  This was done by Bishop Venables at the installation service.  According to the latter article, Archbishop Welby stated in early October that ACNA is “not part of the Anglican Communion”.

    Whether to recognize a breakaway church obviously involves difficult ecumenical issues.  In my report two weeks ago, I provided a quotation from Metropolitan Hilarion.   The quotation included the following two sentences:   “In our view, such a close association of a Catholic structure - the Greek-Catholic Church - with a schismatic structure [UOC-KP] is, at least, contrary to the established protocol of decades of interchurch relations. We will not deal with those whom the other party believes are dissenters.”   There appears to me to be two grounds for arguing that the relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the ACNA are not governed by this particular protocol.  First, as stated by Metropolitan Hilarion in an address on November 7, 2014, in Charlotte, NC, USA,  “the Russian Orthodox Church had to suspend contacts with the Episcopal Church in the USA due to the fact that it consecrated an open homosexual as a bishop.”  Second, the Moscow Patriarchate believes that the ACNA has taken the correct position and that the Episcopal Church is simply wrong.

    Last Thursday, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Pro Oriente Foundation occurred in Vienna.   The latter site has a very nice photo of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, Cardinal Koch, and Cardinal Schönborn together.  Patriarch Tawadros expressed the hope that all churches worldwide will soon adopt a common Easter date.   More details of the celebration are provided in German at .  The visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Austria also involved two significant ecumenical gifts from the Catholic Church in Austria to the Greek Orthodox Austrian Metropolia: a church building in the state of Styria and land in the state of Burgenland for the first Orthodox monastery in Austria. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 9 November 2014: Hilarion - latest address - primacy
  • 5 November 2014: Strict neutrality?

    Yesterday, November 4, Russia celebrated National Unity Day.  It was also the feast day of the Kazan icon’s role in the liberation of Moscow from the Poles in 1612.  In my mind, it is providential that the great Soviet holiday commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution (Nov. 7) was replaced in 2004 by a new national holiday falling on a major feast day of the Mother of God.  It was a beautiful day in Kazan yesterday for the feast day.  Attached are two photos (by the Kazan Metropolia) showing the “procession of the cross” with the copy of the Kazan icon given by the Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Alexy in 2004.



    Patriarch Kirill celebrated yesterday’s feast day in the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin.  At the end of the liturgy, he addressed the faithful.  The full text of his address in Russian can be read at .  A video of the address can be seen at (second of the two videos).   The Russian news agency Interfax has provided in English certain quotations from the address.    I have pasted below these quotations from the Interfax article.

    Relying on the accuracy of the Interfax summary, the Patriarch’s address could well be construed as an exhortation to the Russian people to resist any pressure caused by the foreign sanctions now imposed on the Russian Federation.  As is well known, these sanctions have been imposed by the EU and by the US because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russia’s support of the separatists in Eastern Ukraine.  In my opinion, it is not surprising at all that His Holiness seeks to support the Russian people in any hardships that they are currently experiencing.  Indeed, such support is to be expected.  On the other hand, the Patriarchate’s statements do not follow a strictly neutral course between the position taken by the Russian government and Poroshenko’s Ukrainian government.  The latter has clearly supported the sanctions as a proper means of restoring Crimea to Ukraine.

    I personally believe that it is unrealistic to expect that the Moscow Patriarchate can take a strictly neutral position on the current Russian – Ukrainian controversy.  If that is so, can we really expect the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to maintain a strictly neutral position with respect to the current controversy, such as issues relating to maintaining the territorial integrity of Ukraine?


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Patriarch Kirill urges Russians to unite in response to sanctions and not to allow upheavals

    *** Decrease of life standards should not destroy national self-identification
    Moscow, November 5, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russian in connection with sanctions against Russia urges citizens to follow example of their heroic predecessors.
    "Russia has never been afraid of external enemies as we always won over them, even when we were much weaker. The most terrific for Russia are the troubles in minds and in hearts. Similar to our predecessors, who were able to overcome their obscurations and to mobilize their forces in order to push away all dangers, our generation of prosperous Russians shouldn't be inferior to their forefathers," the patriarch said on Tuesday, the Feast of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan after the Liturgy at the Assumption Cathedral.
    According to him, in the moments of economic hardships, many people give up the scale of life vision, which coincides with the scale of the country's life.
    "That's why to trouble minds, it is necessary to deteriorate economic situation. Today we face the problem of foreign sanctions. What are they directed at? First of all, they should make people think only about themselves and let alone national questions," the primate said.
    He noted that the same things had happened at the Time of Troubles: "disorder and wandering because of poverty, criminal bands on the roads, people are beating each other, the strongest wins, and beats again, the entire obscuration in people's minds".
    The patriarch said that "the best cure against the Time of Troubles" is waking national self-identification.
    To prevent troubles in minds, we shouldn't lose sight of our national good. Today, our life is so rich as it has never been after the revolution. Insignificant decrease in life standards can't be the reason for destroying national self-identification. Today, we should pray for it, think about it, and test ourselves on it," he stressed urging not to lose the feeling of "having one pulse with our people".

  • 1 November 2014: Russian theological education & an honor

    One of the great passions of Metropolitan Hilarion has been to improve the theological education offered in the Moscow Patriarchate.  This has long been an interest of his.   At a consultation of Orthodox theological schools held in Belgrade, Serbia, from 16–24 August 1997, under the sponsorship of Syndesmos (the Orthodox youth organization), Hieromonk Hilarion delivered an address on “The Problems Facing Orthodox Theological Education in Russia.”  The complete text of this address was translated into English and can be read at   It is an amazing document!  If, like I, you begin to read it, you will probably be so fascinated that you will read it all.  At the time that the address was delivered, Metropolitan Hilarion was simply a hieromonk, who that very month had just been assigned to head the Secretariat for inter-Christian Relations at the DECR.  Most people assuming a new position would proceed very quietly and cautiously, at least for a period of time.  However, Hieromonk Hilarion delivered a blistering attack on the then existing education system in the Moscow Patriarchate and on the way that seminarians were treated at that time.  To me, it demonstrated Hilarion’s great courage to speak his mind without regard to what some others may think.

    One of the problems that Metropolitan Hilarion has sought to address in recent years is the fact that the graduates of Russian seminaries and theological academy have not received degrees recognized in Russia.  According, Metropolitan Hilarion, with the full support of Patriarch Kirill, has been encouraging seminaries and academies to adopt the academic standards mandated by the Bologna Accords ( ).  The goal is that all graduates of Orthodox seminaries in Russia will receive recognized bachelor degrees and that graduates of the theological academies will receive recognized master degrees.

    In 2009, the Saints Cyril and Methodius School of Post-Graduate and Doctoral Studies was established in Moscow.  This new institution is intended to train “highly qualified personnel for the Russian Orthodox Church, including scholars, educators, church administrators and diplomats.”  It offers master and PhD decrees that will be recognized by the State.  The rector of the School is Metropolitan Hilarion.

    Yesterday (Friday) marked a major milestone in the history of this School.  It conferred the first doctor honoris causa diploma in its history.  Who received this first honorary degree?  Was it a great Orthodox theologian or bishop?  No, it was a Catholic layman from Rome –Prof. Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the  Community of Sant'Egidio.   The news report of the event and the text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s presentation can be read (in Russian) at .  The subject of the address by Prof. Riccardi was entitled, “XX Century: A Century of Martyrs."  The complete Russian text of this address can be read at .  You can translate both texts by using the Google or Bing translation tools.  Yesterday, Prof. Riccardi was also received by Patriarch Kirill.

    After the attack by Metropolitan Hilarion on the UGCC at the recent Synod, one might believe that relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Catholic Church are not good.  However, this relationship has many facets.  As demonstrated yesterday, the relationship between the two Churches is very good in many important ways.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 31 October 2014: Bartholomew, Pro Oriente & more

    Saturday, November 8, will mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Pro Oriente Foundation.  This Foundation, started by Cardinal Franz König of Vienna on November 4, 1964, during the time of the Second Vatican Council, has done so much to improve relations between the Catholic and the Orthodox and Oriental Churches.  Those attending the anniversary celebrations will include Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Coptic Orthodox Pope and Patriarch Tawadros II, Cardinal Kurt Koch, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.

    In anticipation of this visit by Bartholomew to Austria, the Ecumenical Patriarch has given an interview to Austrian journalists.  This interview was summarized in a KAP article published on the Internet today.      With respect to the visit of Pope Francis to the Phanar on November 30, the article stated:  “There will be no spectacular gestures during the Pope’s visit.  However, according to Bartholomew, the declaration, which will be signed by Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew during the visit to the Phanar, will be an important milestone in the relations between both churches.”  With respect to the recent Catholic-Orthodox plenary in Amman, the article stated: He [Bartholomew] expressed disappointment in this regard over the most recent plenary of the International Commission for the official dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the Jordanian capital of Amman.  This round of the dialogue in September did not succeed in adopting a common document on fundamental questions of the constitution of the Church.  In the discussions it became apparent that in the question of primacy -  by that, the role of the Bishop of Rome in the Universal Church – a serious difference of opinion could not be overcome, although all Catholic – and very many Orthodox – delegates were in favor of the text.  Bartholomew acknowledged in this regard “inter-Orthodox difficulties.”

    Metropolitan Hilarion, in his television program Church and the World, spoke at considerable length concerning his visit to the Vatican in connection with the recent Synod.  At this time, his comments are only available in Russian.  In his remarks, Metropolitan Hilarion made a statement that I believe is quite significant.  The following is a Google translation of that statement:

    We have one more criticism [in addition to the political activities] of the Greek Catholics, which, however, immediately after my speech, the head of the Greek Catholic Church gave the answer. I am satisfied with this answer. The idea is that in recent months the Greek Catholics have repeatedly supported the dissenters, which are separated from the Orthodox Church, have created their own independent church organization, and now, in essence, are fighting against the canonical Church. The head of the Greek Catholic Church has repeatedly been seen with the so-called head of the Kiev Patriarchate, Filaret (Denisenko), who was excommunicated. They even traveled together to America, together visiting the offices of the State Department.

    In our view, such a close association of a Catholic structure - the Greek-Catholic Church - with a schismatic structure is, at least, contrary to the established protocol of decades of interchurch relations. We will not deal with those whom the other party believes are dissenters. On the very next day after my speech, this has been answered by Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk).  He said that the Greek Catholic Church recognizes the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the only canonical Orthodox structure in Ukraine, and that the interaction occurs with the dissenters within, so to speak, the civil field and the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches, which unites various Ukrainian church organizations.

    Metropolitan Hilarion is apparently referring to the remarks by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav in his interview by Cardinal Dolan.  Metropolitan Hilarion also stated in this television program, “I think that the dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church must continue….”

    There have been a few more interesting developments.  Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, met on October 22 with Catholic and other journalists from the USA and Europe.  He gave an interview which was posted on the official website of the UOC-MP.    The following is a Google translation of a quotation from Father Nikolai: "It may seem strange, but with the Orthodox brothers in the so-called UOC-KP, which departed from us (although they are in schism, but are orthodox, that is close to us), the relationship is now the worst.  Relationships with other faiths, which are not so close to us, are fairly good [досить добрі].  As they say, the most brutal war is just between brothers "  Does that mean that the UOC-MP considers its relationship to the UGCC to be “fairly good”?  From the lack of anti-UGCC statements on the website of the UOC-MP in recent times, I believe that the answer to this question might well be yes.

    On October 24, Pope Francis met with a delegation of the Orientale Lumen Foundation, headed by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia.   A short video of the Pope’s remarks can be viewed at the foregoing link.  A different short video, with more coverage of Metropolitan Kallistos, can be seen at : 

    The annual meeting of the Eastern Catholic hierarchs of Europe was held in Lviv, Ukraine on October 23-26.  The meeting occurred at the time of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the legalization of the UGCC. The full text of the relatively short message adopted by the bishops at the end of their meeting can be read in English at .  I was very pleased to see the many positive statements in the message relating to the need for good relations with the Orthodox.

    Lastly, “a gift of Russian people to the Polish community of Paris” was presented last Saturday.  It was a 3.6 meter bronze statue of Pope John Paul II by the famous Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli .  The statue was placed in the public gardens of the Notre Dame Cathedral.   Some very nice photos of the impressive statue can be seen at  .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Russian monument to JPII at ND

    Lumen Orientale  Video:

    Relations with other churches pretty good 


    Fr. Georgy 

  • 18 October 2014: Metropolitan HIlarion at the Vatican

    This morning Metropolitan Hilarion had an one-hour audience with Pope Francis.  Yesterday he addressed the Synod which is meeting at the Vatican.  Yesterday he also had a meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Personally, I believe that all of this is wonderful.  However, I am also impressed by the great length that the Vatican has gone to reach out to the Moscow Patriarchate in this regard.  Unlike Patriarch Kirill, who believes that it is not yet appropriate to meet with a pope, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been willing to meet frequently with Pope Francis (and with prior popes), and Francis and Bartholomew have developed a close personal relationship.  This can be seen by their joint pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May and by the Ecumenical Patriarch’s participation in the prayer for peace in the Holy Land held in the Vatican gardens on June 8.  It is also demonstrated by the Pope’s acceptance of the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch to be with him at the Phanar next month for the feast of St. Andrew.

    Although all of the “fraternal delegates” have been graciously received by the Synod and have been able to participate to a remarkable degree, none was accorded the special attention given in the last two days to Metropolitan Hilarion.  Last Friday, the seven fraternal delegates (the eighth fraternal delegate – Metropolitan Hilarion was not present then) were invited to speak to the Synod.  To the best of my knowledge, each was given the same limited time to speak as the bishops and other Synod participants.  Generally, the time limit for such “interventions” was five minutes after which the microphone was turned off.  Although the interventions were completed last week, Metropolitan Hilarion came to Rome and present his intervention to the Synod at the beginning of its session Thursday.  It appears that he was not subject to the five-minute rule.  In fact his address was almost twice as long as Friday’s address by  Metropolitan  Athénagoras, the delegate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Metropolitan Athénagoras had an opportunity to meet Pope Francis briefly, but there was not a separate audience.  In contrast, Metropolitan Hilarion had an individual audience with the Pope which lasted approximately one hour.  To me, this seems like a long period of time for a papal audience, especially in view of the great demands on the Pope’s time during the period of the Synod.  Perhaps this specially favorable treatment to Metropolitan Hilarion is intended to convey to Moscow the message that the Vatican is not “playing favorites” between Constantinople and Moscow and that the Vatican seeks to establish the same excellent relationship with Moscow that it now has with Constantinople.

    The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has been extremely prompt in posting English-language articles of Metropolitan Hilarion’s Rome visit on its website.  The following article discusses in general terms Metropolitan Hilarion’s address to the Synod on Thursday.  The photograph on the far left of the article caught by attention.  It shows Metropolitan Hilarion greeting a Catholic bishop who appears to be Archbishop Pezzi from Moscow.  However, to the immediate right of Metropolitan Hilarion is Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.  To the best of my knowledge, Metropolitan Hilarion and Archbishop Sviatoslav have never met before.  Did they talk to each other on Thursday?  Personally, I hope so.

    The complete English text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s address to the Synod can be read at .  The address is very positive in terms of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church working together to promote traditional family values.  However, as is true of almost all of the recent statements by Metropolitan Hilarion to Catholics, his address contains a strong criticism of the role of the UGCC in the current situation in Ukraine.   Late yesterday, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav gave an interview in which he responded to Metropolitan Hilarion’s critical remarks.  This was done in a 29-minute interview of the Major Archbishop conducted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.  The complete English-language audio of the interview can be heard at .  The portion relating to Metropolitan Hilarion’s comments yesterday begin at minute 12.  I am sure that some will totally agree with the comments by the Cardinal and the Major Archbishop while others will totally disagree.  I certainly hope and pray that the very divisive political situation in Ukraine can resolved soon so that ecumenical relations can proceed on a more even course.

    A description of Metropolitan Hilarion’s visit with Pope Emeritus Benedict can be read at .   A very good personal relationship was created between Benedict and Kirill at the time that Metropolitan Kirill was head of the DECR.  They had three congenial meetings together.  (In a later Seewald interview, Benedict would state:  “We immediately got along.  He has such a joy about him, such a simple faith – the simplicity of the Russian soul, you might say – but also its determination and warmth.  So we understood each other well.”)    I am sure that yesterday’s meeting was motivated in part by a desire to convey the greetings of Patriarch Kirill to the Pope Emeritus.  Metropolitan Hilarion presented an extraordinarily nice gift to Benedict --  a bust of Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922) specially carved for the Pope Emeritus by the very famous Russian contemporary sculptor Alexander Bourganov. (See ) .  I am sure that the Pope Emeritus will treasure this gift.

    An English-language article covering the meeting of Metropolitan Hilarion and his delegation with Cardinal Koch and Father Hycinthe Destivelle OP of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity can be read at .  Metropolitan Hilarion also gave an interview to Vatican Radio.  The English text of this interview can be read at .  His meeting today with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, is described in Russian at .

    At this moment, the DECR article on Metropolitan Hilarion’s meeting with the Pope is only available in Russian.  I am sure that an official English translation will be available shortly.  However, in the meantime, I have pasted below a Google translation.   I found interesting the remarks by Metropolitan Hilarion relating to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  With respect to the future study of the issue of synodality and primacy, he indicates that the work of the Commission should be “based on the sources rather than on theological speculation.”  The “sources” presumably relate to statements by the ecumenical councils and the church fathers.  The elimination of “theological speculation” might possibly refer in part to the theological approach advanced in the dialogue by Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who chairs the Orthodox side of the Commission.  If so, it again illustrates the intra-Orthodox tensions within the dialogue.

    CORRECTION: In my last report, I stated that the AsiaNews interview on the state of the family in Russia was with Archbishop Pezzi from Moscow.  This is not correct.  Although the introduction of the interview refers to Archbishop Pezzi, anyone one who carefully reads the introduction (which I apparently did not) will see that the person interviewed was actually Fr. Mikhail Nuzkovsky, SDB, who works in Archbishop Pezzi’s diocese and who apparently accompanied the Archbishop to Rome.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    On October 17, 2014 at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Pope Francis.  Metropolitan Hilarion gave the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church greetings from the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.  In turn, the Pope gave to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill his fraternal greetings and good wishes.

    Much attention in the course of the meeting was given to the dramatic situation in Ukraine, where for about a year there has been an ongoing conflict that claimed thousands of lives.  Metropolitan Hilarion spoke about the situation in eastern Ukraine, where three priests have been killed and about fifty churches have been completely or partially destroyed.  The DECR Chairman shared with the Pontiff his deep concern in connection with the involvement of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the political conflict on the side of the forces hostile to the Russian Orthodox Church, expressing the hope that the Greek Catholics would reconsider their position, abandon unilateral politicized statements and stop supporting the schism.

    Another topic of discussion was the tragic plight of the Christian population in the Middle East. The two sides noted the need for consolidated actions of Churches in the protection of the Christians in the Middle East region.  The DECR Chairman briefed the Pope with the initiatives of the Russian Church in this area and thanked the Pope for his peace-making efforts.

    During the meeting the parties discussed various aspects of Catholic-Orthodox cooperation.  Metropolitan Hilarion spoke about the progress and results of the last 15-22 September in Amman (Jordan) XIII Plenary Session of the Joint Commission for Orthodox-Catholic theological dialogue.  The DECR chairman noted that the study within the Commission the question of the relationship between synodality and the primacy at the local, regional and universal levels of church government should be based on the sources rather than theological speculation.

    At the end of the meeting the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, shared his impressions of participation in the plenary session of the Synod of Catholic Bishops, noting the relevance of in-depth discussion of issues related to the institution of the family and the need to protect traditional family values.  The two sides stressed the importance of cooperation in this field between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.

    After the meeting, which lasted about an hour and took place in an atmosphere of mutual understanding, Metropolitan Hilarion presented to Pope Francis the members of his delegation: Secretary of Administration of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in Italy, Archbishop Anthony (Sevryuk); DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations, Hieromonk Stephen (Igumnov);  a member of the Secretariat for inter-Christian relations, Father Alexis Dikareva; and a student of the all-Church post-graduate and doctoral school of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Hierodeacon Nicholas (Ono).

  • 15 October 2014: Metropolitan Hilarion arrives in Rome

    This evening (October 14) Metropolitan Hilarion arrived in Rome.  He will remain in Rome until October 18.  He will attend the Synod of Bishops and will “address the assembly with words of greeting.”  He will also “meet with Pope Francis, the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, as well as to deliver a lecture at the opening of the academic year at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.”  One wonders whether Metropolitan Hilarion will express any words of wisdom to the Catholic bishops, especially on the issues that attracted so much media attention in the last few days.

    Last week the Moscow Patriarchate was represented at the Synod by Archimandrite Anthony (Sevruk), the rector of St. Catherine’s in Rome and the secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in Italy.  On Friday afternoon of last week, the “fraternal delegates” (except for the Moscow Patriarchate) addressed the Synod.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate was represented by Metropolitan  Athénagoras of Belgium.  The complete text of the Metropolitan’s address, delivered in French, can be read at .

    Archbishop Pezzi is at the Synod representing the Catholic bishops in Russia.  He has given an interesting interview to AsiaNews on his perspective on the family in the Russian Federation.,-divorce-and-alcoholism-are-threats-to-the-family-in-Russia-32406.html  Archbishop Pezzi had some comments about mixed marriages in Russia.  He stated: “The case of mixed marriages between Orthodox and Catholics, for example, shows the difficulty of working together. To get married in a Catholic ceremony we ask for the permission of the Orthodox Church, of the parish of one of the two spouses.  But many, when faced with the application for a permit to marry a Catholic, are denied permission, often getting insults and warnings like ‘better to live unmarried than to marry a Catholic.’  In so doing, the Orthodox clergy contradicts what is instead the official position of the Patriarchate about mixed marriages. This is due to the fact that Orthodox priests are often poorly trained; in some cases, they still rely on documents from the Middle Ages.  Prejudice and distrust persist even though our relations have much improved compared to the past.”

    The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch met on October 7.  The following is a good English translation of the minutes of the meeting.  I found the following portion of the minutes encouraging:  “The fathers reviewed the results of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue that was held in Amman, Jordan this past September. They stressed the necessity of serious work in order to remove all the obstacles to this dialogue and to the hoped-for unity in a spirit of love and openness, that the Christian world might be able to realize prayer of the Lord ‘that they may be one.’”

    There has been news recently concerning some of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in Ukraine seeking to join the Kyiv Patriarchate.  This has resulted in some serious disputes as to how to determine the desires of a parish.  According to Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP), a transfer can be done effected only under the following conditions: “The decision to move the community in another jurisdiction may be taken only by the members of the parish meeting, chaired by the Rector.  Public authorities have the right to record changes in the charter of the community only if the diocesan bishop has approved the decision of the meeting.”  From my perspective as an outsider, the UOC-KP has abandoned any hope of reconciling with the UOC-MP under Metropolitan Onufry in the near future and is now taking a more aggressive stance with respect to the UOC-MP. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 October 2014: Chambésy & Greece

    Today, the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR posted a short report on the conclusion of this week’s meeting at Chambesy, Switzerland of the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission which is preparing for the pan-Orthodox Council.  At this time, the report is only available in Russian.  The report gives the names of the persons representing the 13 Local Orthodox Churches present at the meeting.  The report also gives a brief description of the work of the Commission.  I have pasted below a poor Google translation of this description:

    The Commission revised the draft documents for the pan-Orthodox Council, adopted at Third Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference (1968), dealing with matters of inter-Christian relations, taking into account the significant changes that have taken place over the last decade in a number of the Protestant denominations.  The Commission undertook work and made necessary changes to the text of the previously developed draft documents for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.  The results of the work of the Commission will be further considered by the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference which, in accordance with the decision of the March 2014 meeting of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, is to be convened the next year.

    A slightly more detailed report of the meeting of the Commission was posted today by the Romanian Orthodox Church.  The following is a poor Google translation from Romanian of the description of the meeting:

    The objectives of the meeting were to review the following three texts: 1) Contribution of Local Orthodox Churches to promoting Christian ideas of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among nations and the elimination of racial discrimination; 2) Orthodoxy and the ecumenical movement;  and 3) the Orthodox Church’s attitude to the rest of the Christian world.  These texts relate to the last three topics from the list of ten proposed to be submitted to the Holy Council, as adopted by the Third Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, held in Chambésy, Switzerland, between October 20 - November 6, 1986.  At that time, these texts were intended to be presented as such to the Holy Council, but in view of the 28 years that have elapsed, their review and updating is strictly necessary. During its first meeting, the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission reviewed only the last two topics, although at its next meeting the first topic will be discussed.  Given the great responsibility that has been invested, this Commission has worked with much attention, striving to elaborate texts that meets the expectations of all believers from all of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.  The texts drawn up by consensus of this Commission will be sent to all of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches for study and then to the next Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, which will most likely take place during the year 2015.  After this, as adopted by consensus by the Conference, the texts will be transmitted directly to the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which is expected to take place in the spring of 2016. The next meeting of the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission will be held at Chambésy, Switzerland, between 15-21 February 2015.

    Another interesting development has occurred in Greece.  Until last week, the Catholic Church in Greece was not recognized as a legal entity under public law.  The situation was described in the U.S. State Department’s 2013 report on religious freedom as follows:  The Orthodox Church, the Jewish community, and Muslims in Thrace are the only religious groups the government recognizes as “legal entities of public law,” entitled to own, bequeath, and inherit property and appear in court under their own names. Other religious groups must be registered as “legal entities of private law” and cannot own houses of prayer (approved places of worship) or other property as religious entities. These religious groups must create other corporate legal entities, such as nonprofit associations, to own, bequeath, or inherit property or to appear in court.    On Thursday, the Greek Parliament passed a new law that allowed the Catholic, Anglican, Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox, Assyrian, and Greek Evangelical churches to be recognized as legal entities under their own names.  This was reported in an English article, , and in a more detailed Greek article, .   As a retired attorney, I was unable to determine from either article precisely how this change would work as a legal matter.  However, it is likely that Catholics in Greece will consider the new law an improvement.

    Finally, Pope Francis met with His Holiness Mar Dinka IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East on Thursday.  A short video of the meeting can be seen at  The full text of the Pope’s address in Italian can be read at .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 September 2014: Preparatory meeting - 2016 Council

    Today, a preparatory meeting for the 2016 pan-Orthodox Council opened at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy, Switzerland.  The meeting will continue until October 3.  This very interesting news was announced today by the website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR.  The website’s article is presently only available in Russian, although I expect an official English translation will be posted on the site soon.  In the meantime, I have pasted a poor Google translation below.

    As you can see below, Metropolitan Hilarion stressed several points in his opening address today.  For example, he states that the 2016 pan-Orthodox Council will not be an Ecumenical Council on the par with the seven Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium.  He states that the working document on inter-Christian relations must be reviewed, especially in light of the liberalizing trend of certain Protestant denominations.  He also noted the absence of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia at this week’s meeting.  As I reported earlier, Patriarch Kirill and Patriarch Neofit (Bulgaria) signed a joint document on May 30 in Moscow that the consensus principle “implies an obligatory participation of all Local Orthodox Church without any exception in the pre-Council process and at the Council.”  Apparently, the Moscow Patriarchate has the flexibility to attend this week’s Council meeting without the Czech-Slovak Church present.  However, the Moscow – Constantinople dispute over the election of a new primate for that Church, unless resolved, could be a problem later.

    A “group photograph” of the delegates to the Amman plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue has been posted by  I have attached the group photo to this email. 



    However, it should be noted that not all of the delegates were present when this photograph was taken.  Also, it is very difficult to see the persons in the back rows.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate has now posted the revised communique for the Amman plenary.  Most of the very minor corrections in the revision relate to Arabic names.  For example, if the name of the King of Jordan is spelled “Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein,” it is the corrected version.  Through an inadvertent error, the first version used “Ilbin Abdullah al-Hussein.”  There were also several other minor errors that have now been corrected.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    September 30, 2014 in the center of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy near Geneva, has started special-Orthodox Commission for the preparation of a Pan-Orthodox Council. The purpose of this meeting is to edit the previously adopted draft documents of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.

    The decision to convene a special Inter-Commission adopted held March 6-9, 2014 in Istanbul Meeting of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches .

    With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church at this meeting represented by a delegation headed by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations. The delegation also includes Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, DECR vice-chairman, and a member of the DECR Deacon Anatoly Churyakov (as a translator).

    Addressing the members of the commission was chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Metropolitan Hilarion gave them greetings and good wishes of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, noting that His Holiness "for many years as chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, personally participated in the preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council, and now, as the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, continues to pay personal attention to this important topic inter-Orthodox. "

    Stressing that "the upcoming Council cannot be called the Universal cannot be put on a par with those seven Ecumenical Councils, upon which all of our holy Orthodox faith", the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, however, expressed the wish that the Pan-Orthodox Council, preparation which has been going on for over fifty years, has become "an event that will unite our churches, help clarify the common ground on some issues of our time, on the agenda of the forthcoming Council." Therefore, the Russian Orthodox Church "attaches great importance to the process of its preparation" and considers it important thing work of the committee, which will review the previously prepared documents, assuming that the need "not only their editing, but also the introduction of major changes that will make the texts in the present relevant ".

    In particular, when working on documents concerning inter-Christian relations, it is necessary to take full account taken place over the past decade, "a major change in a number of Protestant churches that are members of the World Council of Churches, many of them on the path of liberalization of doctrine and moral teaching, with many of these communities, we now have almost stopped the dialogue.  "Council documents should clearly indicate that the participation of the Orthodox Christians in the ecumenical organizations "based on our firm belief that only the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church", - said the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations.

    Metropolitan Hilarion expressed his deep regret at the fact that at the meeting of the Commission not invited representatives of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and expressed hope for a revision of the decision of the host, which is indispensable to the proper enforcement of the Meeting of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in Istanbul acceptance all decisions in preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council on the basis of agreement (consensus) delegations of equal autocephalous Local Churches.

    The work of the Special Commission will continue until October 3. 

  • 26 September 2014: Ukraine, Koch & correction

    Catholic World News has posted a story about a speech given by the Vatican’s nuncio to Ukraine to the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (“Kirche in Not”).  As you know, ACN has provided financial aid to both the Catholic and Orthodox Church in Russia and has been praised by the Moscow Patriarchate for this work.  The nuncio, Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson, has adapted his speech into an article which was posted on the ACN website today.  The title of the article is “Catholic Church in Ukraine is under heavy pressure” and the subtitle is "The danger of repression of the Greek-Catholic Church exists in whatever part of Ukraine Russia might establish its predominance or continue through acts of terrorism to push forward with its aggression."  The specific facts relating to the present situation of Catholics in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are interesting to read.  However, what attracted my attention the most was the very negative assessment in the article of Russia’s actions with respect to Ukraine.  They are the same type of assertions for which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has been severely criticized by Moscow.  However, here they are being made by a Latin-rite archbishop who is an official representative of the Vatican.  

    Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has done an excellent 9-minute English-language interview of Cardinal Kurt Koch following his return from Amman.  His Eminence provided a number of very interesting insights that were news to me.  If you are interested in the dialogue, I consider this a “must hear” interview.  Among other things he describes the positive contribution of Metropolitan Hilarion in the Amman plenary.

    Yesterday, I sent to you the text of the official communique of the Amman plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  I have now received word from Bishop Brian Farrell that a few minor errors (such as correction to names) have been found and a revised communique has now been issued.  Therefore, the first version of the communique that I sent you yesterday and is still found on such websites as Vatican Radio and Zenit is not the final version.  I have pasted below the final version.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA






    Amman, Jordan, 15-23 September 2014


    The thirteenth meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church was held from 15 to 23 September 2014 in Amman, Jordan, a city with a long history related to the roots of Christianity. The meeting was generously and fraternally hosted by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

    Twenty three Catholic members were present, a few were unable to attend. All the Orthodox Churches, with the exception of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, were represented, namely the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

    The Commission worked under the direction of its two co-presidents, Cardinal Kurt Koch and Metropolitan John of Pergamon, assisted by the co-secretaries, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Msgr. Andrea Palmieri (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).

    At the opening plenary session held on Wednesday, 17 September in al-Mahktas, the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, the Commission was warmly welcomed by the host, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, who emphasized : "that there can be no genuine dialogue without the presence and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for it is the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth (cf. John 16:3)".

    In response the two co-presidents expressed their thanks for the hospitality offered by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and underlined the difficult situation in the Middle East and the importance of holding this meeting in Amman, Jordan.

    On Saturday, 20 September, the Catholic members celebrated the Eucharist in the Parish of our Lady of Nazareth presided over by Cardinal Kurt Koch. In his homily he said that "Christians are already united in many ways and most especially in the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters belonging to different Churches and Ecclesial Communions". Later a dinner was offered by Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, Apostolic Nuncio in Jordan and Iraq.

    On Sunday, 21 September, the Orthodox members celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Entry of Christ to the Temple, of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The celebration was presided over by Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia, in the presence of the Catholic members. In addressing those present, Metropolitan Benedictos of  Philadelphia conveyed "his warm welcome to the Commission members attending the Divine Liturgy in this historical church and asked to pray for a peaceful coexistence of all Christians and religious communities in the suffering region." During the afternoon, the members paid a visit to the Church of the Map and Mount Nebo.

    On Monday, 22 September, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III and His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad joined the Plenary Session of the afternoon. Prince Ghazi conveyed the greetings His Majesty King Abdullah Il ibn al-Hussein of Jordan and expressed his personal and particular interest for the progress of the dialogue. He underlined that any spiritual, intellectual or theological dialogue cannot be interrupted by a crisis. He recalled the recent visit of His Holiness Pope Francis and invited the Joint Commission to meet again in the near future in Jordan. He also extended an invitation to His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to visit Jordan. His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos as well as the two co-presidents expressed the warm thanks to His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad who facilitated the organization of this meeting. Later in the evening Patriarch Theophilos III offered an official farewell dinner to the Commission members.

    On the first day of the meeting, as is customary, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox members met separately to coordinate their work. The Orthodox meeting discussed among other things the draft text produced by the Coordinating Committee in 2012, Paris, France, on "Synodality and Primacy" as it was mandated by the 12th Joint Commission in Vienna. The Catholic meeting also considered the draft text, seeking specific ways to improve the text, and respond to methodological concerns.

    Because of the many questions raised about the text, the Commission decided to draft a new text which was then discussed and revised in detail. The Commission decided that the text be referred to the next Coordinating Committee for further elaboration and improvement, in view of the next Plenary Session of the Joint Commission.

    The Commission members, being assembled near the holy sites connected with the Baptism of Jesus Christ, raised their voices to express their deep concern for and solidarity with the Christians and members of other religious traditions of this entire region who are being persecuted, displaced and murdered. They totally rejected the idea that such horrifying crimes can be justified in the name of God or of religion. They  prayed ardently for these brothers and sisters. They expressed profound gratitude to all those who are engaged in bringing relief to millions of refugees and displaced persons. They expressed thanks in particular to His Majesty King Abdullah Il ibn al-Hussein of Jordan for his exemplary commitment to this task. They prayed for all the Religious Leaders of the region that they may continue to comfort their people and keep alive the vision of their return to their lands and homes, which in recent times have been occupied and often profaned. The Commission implores the international community to listen seriously to these Leaders regarding the most useful ways to intervene and protect those who are being persecuted, and to ensure the continuing vital presence of Christianity in the Middle East. They also renewed the appeal for the liberation of the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, and the priests and religious, and all those who have been kidnapped. May God shorten these difficult times and bring peace, justice and reconciliation to the whole region.

    To underline this sense of solidarity with the suffering peoples of the region, on Saturday 20 September, the co-presidents, accompanied by other members of the Commission visited a refugee center in Amman where they experienced first hand the urgent needs of the refugees and listened to the sad stories behind their tragic situation.

    The meeting of the Joint Commission was marked by a spirit of friendship and trustful collaboration. The members greatly appreciated the generous hospitality of the host Church, and they strongly commend the continuing work of the dialogue to the prayers of the faithful.


    Amman, Jordan, 22 September 2014

  • 23 September 2014 (2): Photos of Orthodox liturgy in Amman

    In the report that I sent earlier today, I stated that I could not find any photos on the Internet of Sunday’s liturgy celebrated in Amman by the Orthodox delegates with the Catholic delegates present.  Now thanks to an email from the Bose Monastery, I have two links to provide you with good photos of the liturgy:


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 23 September 2014 (1): Amman plenary results

    The 13th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches has concluded in Amman, Jordan.  When I got up this morning, I was naturally very curious as to whether there was any news on the Internet as to what had actually occurred in the plenary with respect to the issues discussed.  I looked first at the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR website,  This website is usually the first to break the news with respect to developments relating to the Joint International Commission, and it was again this time.  The report in English can be read at   As you can read in the report, no agreement was reached on the draft document, “Synodality and Primacy.”  Apparently, the disagreement related mostly to primacy rather than synodality.  This is not surprising in view of the very different views of Moscow and Constantinople on this issue.  The report also states that the Orthodox Church of Georgia has now joined Moscow in rejecting the 2007 Ravenna document.  The Georgian Church participated in the Ravenna plenary, and apparently did not voice an objection at that time.

    There were some positive aspects in the report.  Of the 14 Orthodox Local Churches with membership on the Commission, only Bulgaria did not send a delegation.  Bulgaria has also been absent from past plenaries.  Another positive aspect is that the Commission has not given up on the issue of primacy.  It was recommended that the Commission’s coordinating committee prepare an revised text prior to the coordinating committee’s meeting in 2015.

    At the beginning of the plenary, an Orthodox delegate from Poland provided some interesting photos. .  The top  photo shows the Commission in session.  The Catholic bishop in the middle photo is a Bishop Krzysztof Nitkiewicz, who chairs the Polish Bishops Committee on ecumenical affairs and who has just been appointed to the Commission.

    The Catholic news agency for Jordan has posted a very interesting 4-minute video of the Catholic Mass which was celebrated with Orthodox delegates in attendance on Saturday.  There are good views of most of the Commission delegates in the video.   It is interesting to see who was actually present for the Amman plenary.

    I have not yet found photos of the celebration of the liturgy by the Orthodox delegates on Sunday with the Catholic delegates present.  However, the DECR posted a report that Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Sunday liturgy at the Russian Pilgrims’ House at the place of the Baptism of Our Lord, but not with other delegates. 

    I assume that the official communique of the plenary will be available in a day or two.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 September 2014: Albania & other news

    Pope Francis has just returned to Rome after his one-day visit to Tirana, Albania.  He spoke with journalists briefly during the return flight.  His remarks focused especially on the martyrdom suffered in Albania and the brotherhood that now exists between faiths in Albania.  The Pope’s words were quoted in an article by Andrea Tornielli.  The article is definitely worth reading.  The Pope was moved to tears by the stories told by a priest and nun who suffered persecution.   During his visit to Albania, the Pope had a special meeting with religious leaders.   Among the religious leaders, Orthodox Archbishop Anastasios was given the first place of honor.  A video of the entire meeting with the religious leaders can be seen at  .

    The 13th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue is now being held at the Landmark Hotel in Amman, Jordan.  It will continue until Tuesday.  On September 12, the Vatican Information Service provided some limited information concerning the issues to be addressed by the Amman plenary.  Additional interesting details were subsequently provided by Vatican Insider  The DECR (MP) has provided several English-language reports:  (meeting of the Orthodox delegations);  (visit of the Commission to the site of Our Lord’s baptism).  The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which is hosting the plenary, has posted an English-language report on the opening of the plenary session.  A communique will probably be issued by the Commission after the plenary closes.  Today, the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Julian calendar), it is my understanding that a liturgy was celebrated by the Orthodox delegates with the Catholic delegates present.

    On September 19 in Amman, Metropolitan Hilarion discussed the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and other matters with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches.   Both Hilarion and Sandri are members of the Joint International Commission.   Two days earlier in an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax, Metropolitan Hilarion stated:  “Since unia still remains a bleeding wound on the body of the Christendom, as the recent events in Ukraine and extremely politicized statements of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic leaders have shown, this theme needs to be revisited [by the Commission].”

    Interestingly, the 6th Meeting of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue is now occurring in Jerusalem at the same time as the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue. 

    I have previously reported various statements that have been made by Father Georgy Kovalenko, head of the Synodal Information Service of the UOC-MP.  For example, on August 18, he stated: “the Crimea -  is a territory of Ukraine, and it must be returned.”  On September 16, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP abolished the position held by Father Georgy and assigned him to a newly created Council for Culture.  (See Journal entry 56)   It is difficult to know whether the various very “pro-Ukrainian” statements made by Father Georgy were a factor in his removal.  Bishop Irpinskij Clement, Vicar of the Kyiv Metropolia under Metropolitan Onufry, was made the new chairman of the Synodal Information Department.  Prior to becoming a bishop, Clement was vice-rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy.

    Finally, the Vatican has officially confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Turkey during the “final days of November” (which would include the feast of St. Andrew).


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 September 2014: Amman plenary & other news

    The Amman (Jordan) plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches begins next Monday.  For such a critical meeting, there has been almost no advanced information provided by the media.  I did find one short article (in German) by KAP, the Catholic press agency for Austria.   In announcing the plenary to the media last week, Cardinal Koch referred to the December 2013 resolution of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, in which the Holy Synod rejected the concept of any form of universal primacy.  Cardinal Koch stated that a pronouncement by such a high authority will have an influence on the further course of the dialogue.

    As can be seen from the Vienna plenary in 2010, the dialogue concerning universal primacy has been very difficult.  From the Catholic perspective, it has been complicated by the fact that Constantinople supports the concept of some form of universal primacy while Moscow completely rejects the concept of universal primacy.  The dialogue has now become even more difficult because the position of the Moscow Patriarchate has in many ways been “frozen” in the dialogue by the pronouncement made on this issue by the Holy Synod of Moscow Patriarchate last December.  However, with God, all things are possible.  One thing is certain.  There will not be progress in the dialogue without a great deal of prayer.  I hope that all of you will pray for the Amman plenary, especially during the time that the Joint International Commission is meeting – September 15-23.

    There have been a number of important conferences in which both Catholics and Orthodox have participated.  On September 9, the conference, Peace is the Future, sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio, concluded in Antwerp, Belgium on September 9.  All of the proceedings can now been seen at .  Important leaders of many different faiths spoke at the conference.  Metropolitan Pavel, the relatively new head of the Orthodox Church (MP) in Belarus, spoke at some length about the very positive relationships that now exist between Orthodox and Catholics in Belarus.  The full text of his remarks (in Italian) can be read at   I enjoyed watching the beautiful opening Mass, presided by Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp.  As you probably know, Bonny previously work for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and was responsible for relations with Oriental Orthodox Churches.

    The Bose Monastery, in collaboration with the Orthodox Churches, sponsored a very successful conference, Blessed are the Peacemakers, September 3-6.  The proceedings of this important meeting, can be seen at

    Officials at the Turkish embassy to the Vatican have stated that preparations are under way for Pope Francis to visit Istanbul for the feast of St. Andrew, November 30, 2014. 

    The Romania Greek Catholic Church has establish an eparchy and cathedral in Bucharest.  Cardinal Sandri, Vatican head of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, was in Bucharest for the installation of the new bishop.  As a sign of good relations between the Vatican and the Romanian Orthodox Church, the establishment of a new Greek Catholic eparchy and the installation of a Greek Catholic bishop for the nation’s capital did not evoke hostility on the part of the Orthodox.  In fact, Cardinal Sandri and the new bishop were kindly received by Orthodox Patriarch Daniel on August 30.  (Report of the meeting by an official Romanian Orthodox website)   Cardinal Sandri conveyed to Patriarch Daniel the personal greetings of Pope Francis.  The Cardinal stated that the Pope was “a great admirer of both the Romanian Orthodox Church and His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel.”  I have attached a photo from this official website showing Patriarch Daniel with Cardinal Sandri, Archbishop Ioan Robu (Latin-rite metropolitan of Bucharest), and the new Greek Catholic Bishop of Bucharest, Mihai Frățilă.


    Metropolitan Hilarion was in Romania for several days shortly thereafter and on September 5 had a meeting with Patriarch Daniel which lasted for more than two hours.   The official website of the Romanian Orthodox Church stated:  “During the meeting both parts discussed about the participation of the delegations of the two sister Orthodox Churches in the International Joint Commission for Orthodox – Catholic Theological Dialogue to be held in Amman, Jordan, from 15 – 23 September 2014.” 

    Yesterday and today, an international forum on “The Large Family and the Future of Humanity” was opened held in Moscow.  Both Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion spoke at the forum.  Another speaker was Cardinal Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.  As you probably know, the Catholic Church will hold at the Vatican a General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization,” October 5-19.  At the General Assembly, there will be eight “fraternal delegates” from other denominations.  One will be His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion.  Another will be His Eminence Athenagoras, metropolitan of Belgium, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Lastly, please don’t forget to pray for the Amman plenary.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 17 August 2014: Enthronement & Patriarch's letter

    This morning Metropolitan Onufry was enthroned in Kyiv as Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.  Those who served in the liturgy with him were Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate), Metropolitan Emmanuel (Ecumenical Patriarchate), and representatives of the churches of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia, OCA, and ROCOR.  On the latter site, you can also see photos and videos.


    I believe it is a mistake and an over-simplification to categorize the election of Onufry as “pro-Russian.”  It is true that the election is a rejection of the idea that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should unilaterally declare its autocephalous status and complete independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.  In my opinion, the Orthodox world already has enough “jurisdictional” disputes without adding such an enormously contentious issue to them.  Indeed, from my Catholic perspective, the creation of a separate Local Orthodox Church for each independent nation would create chaos and would move the Orthodox model of ecclesiology even further from the Catholic model.


    On the other hand, it is clear that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church already has a great amount of local autonomy.  The UOC-MP has in fact already used this autonomy to take different positions than those taken by Moscow.  Not surprisingly, many of the recent pronouncements of the UOC-MP have been “pro-Ukrainian.”  For example, immediately after the election of Metropolitan Onufry, Metropolitan Onufry and the Presidium of the Council of Bishops of the UOC-MP issued a letter to the faithful of the UOC-MP.   This letter included statements such as the following: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is in favor of state sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine…. Together we will keep our single unified Ukraine.”  Earlier, the UOC-MP joined in similar statements by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  From statements such as these, it is very clear that the UOC-MP is taking a position which is directly contrary to the goals of the separatists in Eastern Ukraine.  Such statements by the UOC-MP are also inconsistent with the position taken by Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow which maintains a strict neutrality with respect to the goals of the separatists and has never spoken in favor of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.


    It is interesting that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is admittedly “pro-Ukrainian” in its pronouncements, has reacted positively to the election of Metropolitan Onufry.  The day after the election, the primate of the UGCC Sviatoslav Shevchuk issued a warm letter of congratulations to Metropolitan Onufry.  The letter expresses the hope that Metropolitan Onufry will follow his “great” predecessor, Metropolitan Vladimir, to “work for the preservation of peace and the consolidation of Ukrainian society, starting a genuine dialogue and finding ways for unity of all of the heirs of Kyivan Christianity.”  A spokesperson of UGCC stated that the UGCC would be represented at the enthronement if invited.


    In a recent report, I have discussed what appears to be differing views of the ROC in Moscow and of the UOC-MP in Kyiv with respect to the UGCC.   Unlike the UOC-MP, the ROC in Moscow has been extremely critical of the UGCC with respect to the current Ukrainian situation.    On August 14, Patriarch Kirill raised this criticism to one of the highest levels possible – a letter to the primates of all of the Local Orthodox Churches.  An English version of Patriarch Kirill’s letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch has now been posted on the DECR website.   (The UOC-MP has not yet posted the letter or referred to it on its official website,  The letter concludes:  “I would like to ask Your Holiness to use every opportunity for raising your voice in defence of Orthodox Christians in the east of Ukraine, who, in a situation of violence on the part of the Greek Catholics and schismatics, live in everyday fear for themselves and their loved ones, in the fear that if the prosecutors take over, the Orthodox will be forced to renounce their faith or subjected to severe discrimination.”  In terms of evidentiary facts (places, dates, etc.), the letter refers to only one situation expressly involving the UGCC.  This involved improper statements by “Greek Catholic military chaplain” in an Orthodox church in Slavyansk on 17 July 2014.  As I previously report, Metropolitan Onufry in his letter to the Ukrainian president on 31 July 2014 objected to certain incidents in Eastern Ukraine (without mentioning the UGCC in any way), but did not include the Slavyansk incident which had occurred two weeks earlier.  The UGCC has already issued a denial stating that the Patriarch has been misled by incorrect information and that this military chaplain is a fictitious person.  With respect to conflicting contentions relating to the incident on 17 July, I certainly hope that the incident can be subject to an impartial investigation and appropriate action taken.  The UGCC has also issued a response to Patriarch Kirill’s letter in its entirety.  A good English translation of this response can be read at  The response includes the statement: “We strongly condemn all acts of violence against civilians in Ukraine, including its clergy, no matter which denomination, religion or ethnic group they belong to.”


    I do believe that the timing of the Patriarch’s letter to the Local Orthodox Churches is interesting.  The letter was issued only two days before representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches arrived in Kyiv for the enthronement.  Although the UOC-MP has great autonomy, its “foreign relations” with other Local Orthodox Churches are controlled by Moscow.  Exercising this power, the Moscow Patriarchate has arguably established the approach to be followed by the UOC-MP with respect to the culpability of the Greek Catholics and schismatics  – at least with respect to any communications between the UOC-MP and other Local Orthodox Churches.


    Can we not work together, rather than attack each other?  Are not the unanimous statements made by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations on  important issues facing Ukraine a model for us?


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 August 2014: New head of UOC-MP

    Approximately two hours ago, the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate announced the election of their new primate – Metropolitan Onufry, the locum tenens of the UOC-MP.   An English version of the announcement and a biography can be read at .  After the first round of voting, the leaders were:  Metropolitan Onufry – 36 votes; Metropolitan Anthony – 24 votes; and Metropolitan Simeon – 9 votes.  In the second round, Metropolitan Onufry was elected with a total of 48 votes.  There were no big surprises in this voting.  The enthronement will occur on 17 August in Kyiv.  Representatives of the various Local Orthodox Churches are expected to attend.  The DECR of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow has made a positive statement concerning the election results. 

    In another development, there has been a sensation news report from Serbia.  On August 10, it was announced by a Serbian Catholic bishop that Patriarch Irinej of Serbia has accepted an invitation from Pope Francis to visit him at the Vatican.  According to Catholic Bishop Vladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin, "All the present members of the Holy Synod and the envoys of the Holy See agreed that the visit should definitely happen. Diplomatic negotiations are now under way to determine how to organise the visit, which is not the simplest of things, considering the calendars of Pope Francis and Patriarch Irinej."  The full interview of Bishop Nemet by the Novi Sad newspaper Dnevniki can be read in Serbian at  However, on August 12, Metropolitan Irinej of Novi Sad (spokesperson of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate) issued a detailed denial of this sensational report.   According to the Metropolitan, there was neither an invitation nor an acceptance.  In any event, it seems to me to be a big mistake by the Catholic bishop.  If such a visit occurs in the future, any announcement should first be, and presumably would be made through the official channels of the Serbian Orthodox Church.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 August 2014: Two different approaches

    Today, the Synodal Information Department (in Moscow) of the Moscow Patriarchate issued a statement  “regarding the death of an Orthodox priest and threats to religious peace in Ukraine.”  The statement was immediately posted in English on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR.    What especially caught my attention was the extremely serious accusations made against the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Kyiv Patriarchate.  Thus, the statement reads in part:

    At the same time, the Ukrainian Orthodox churches and clergy not only have been suffering more frequently from the aftermaths of the hostilities, but they also are being subjected to purposeful attacks from the Greek Catholics and schismatics who maliciously take advantage of the civil commotion. Priests are subjected to humiliation, tortures and intimidation, as well as to forcible detention and interrogations. During such interrogations, armed men, belonging to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church or some uncanonical groups and claiming that they are authorized by the Ukrainian authorities, bring absurd accusations to the Ukrainian Orthodox priests and deliver them ultimatums, such as to leave the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and re-register the church property accordingly.

    In his letter to Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko, Metropolitan Onufry of Chernovtsy and Bukovina, Locum Tenens of the Metropolitan See of Kiev, described some cases of attacks by armed men against clergymen in the territory of the Donetsk diocese, including beatings and threats to inflict bodily harm. For instance, in the Amvrosiivka district some armed men tied up archpriest Yevgeny Podgorny, beat him up with a gunstock comb, stripped him of his priestly cross, shot from their guns above his head, and put him into a pit, threatening to kill his son. Many such reports are coming in from other dioceses of east Ukraine. For example, near Slaviansk some people with submachine guns made archpriest Vadim Yablonovsky dig a grave for himself and that same day handcuffed archpriest Viktor Stratovich, put a bag on his head and brought him to a forest where they made him stand on his knees while they were conducting an interrogation.

    We call the authority structures of Ukraine and competent international human rights watchdogs to immediately initiate an investigation into the abovementioned incidents.

    We are especially alarmed by the attempts of some Greek Catholic clergymen and representatives of schismatic communities to exchange the support of certain radical forces for the right of dictate and violence against parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, steadfast in her peacemaking position. There appear such Greek Catholic and schismatic figures who openly stir up fratricidal hatred, approving violence against civilian population and seeking to initiate persecution of all those, including priests of the canonical Church, who are committed to peace and dialogue.

    It is true that Metropolitan Onufry has issued two recent letters relating to the death of an Orthodox priest and various incidents actions against the UOC-MP in Eastern Ukraine.  These are posted in Ukrainian on the official website of the UOC-MP.  The following is a Google translation of Metropolitan Onufry’s letter, posted yesterday at , concerning the death of the Orthodox (MP) priest:

    With great sadness we received the news of the tragic death on July 31 of this year, the clergyman of your diocese [Lugansk], Archpriest Vladimir Kreslyansky, who was killed by a shrapnel shell while returning home from an evening worship. He is a good shepherd conscientiously fulfilling his priestly duty, not leaving his children without a church service, spiritual solace and guidance in difficult times of war.

    I express my sincere hope that our Lord Jesus Christ, the conqueror of the death, repose the soul of the faithful servant and conscientious minister of the altar to the heavenly home with the triumphant assembly and church of the firstborn enrolled in heaven (Hebrews 12:23).

    From my heart, I ask Almighty God to fortified the hearts of the relatives, friends and spiritual children of the deceased pastor and gave them strength and courage in difficult trial.   At the same time, I urge all concerned to show participation in the life of the family of Father Vladimir, who left five children, and help them as much as possible.

    This letter by Metropolitan Onufry does not state who was responsible for the shrapnel shell which killed Father Vladimir and does not assess blame to any specific party for this very tragic event.

    The second letter by Metropolitan Onufry is specifically referenced in the statement of the Synodal Information Department quoted above.  The letter may be read in full in Ukrainian at  You can use the Google translation tool to read the entire letter in English.  This letter was written to the President of Ukrainian at the request of Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk.  Metropolitan Onufry’s letter describes in great detail three specific situations.  Names, locations, and dates are given.  The President of Ukraine is asked to intervene and to ensure that such incidents do not reoccur.  The letter mentions the ATO Battalion Donbas, but there is no reference in the letter directly or indirectly to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.  [For an English translation of an interview with the Battalion Donbas commander, see .  The commander states that a majority of the members of the Battalion are volunteers from the Donetsk region.]

    Maybe I have missed something, but I have not seen anything on the official website of the UOC-MP  which criticizes the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.  On the contrary, the UOC-MP has stressed that the Christian dominations in Ukrainian, which includes the UOC-MP, the UOC-KP, and the UGCC, work together and agree on common positions relating to peace.  For example, on June 3, Metropolitan Onufry wrote to the President of Ukraine, “By their own example, the heads of confessions that are members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, prove the possibility, in spite of all of the differences, to find common ground and work together to express a common position.” 

    I must admit – I am totally confused.  I look each day at the official website of the UOC-MP in Kyiv and the official website of the DECR in Moscow.  Especially with respect to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, there really seems to be two different approaches in Kyiv and in Moscow.  Which of the two is the more accurate representation.  There are several different possibilities.  It is possible that the UOC-MP, headquartered in Kyiv, is not free to describe the realities with respect to the UGCC as they actually exist.  There is also the possibility that the Moscow Patriarchate in Moscow, for whatever reason, is seeking to make the UGCC a scapegoat.  Of course, there are other possibilities as well.  As a retired attorney, I am inclined to ask for more factual evidence in an effort to ascertain the truth.  For example, looking at today’s statement from the Synodal Information Department, there are no facts (names, places, dates) given in the two quoted paragraphs that expressly refer to the UGCC.  Can anyone help me with more factual information?


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 31 July 2014: Orthodox -Catholic plenary in Amman

    Vatican Insider posted a story today stating that the next plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches will be held in Amman, Jordan, 15-23 September 2014.  The original plans were for this plenary to be held  in Novi Sad, Serbia.  However, after the very successful meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch stated that the meeting would be hosted by the Jerusalem Patriarchate and held in the Holy Land instead.,-we-invite-all-Christians-to-celebrate-the-first-synod-of-Nicaea-in-2025-31213.html   The Vatican Insider story states in part: “The conflict going on within the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem – which is purely internal - could potentially have consequences for ecumenism: between 15 and 23 September, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem will be hosting the Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental [the reference to “Oriental” is incorrect] Orthodox Churches’ plenary session. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss the issue of supremacy [primacy].  The Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, chose the Jordanian capital Amman as the venue for the meeting.  Amman is inside the Patriarchate’s canonical territory and seemed like a stable place to hold the meeting given the climate of uncertainty that has rocked the region as a whole.  But now there are protests in Amman against the Patriarch and the Synod which they claim is being hegemonised by Greek bishops.”  The Vatican Insider article is focused primarily on tensions between the Orthodox Arabs and the Greek hierarchy of the Jerusalem Patriarchate – tensions that have been exacerbated by the current fighting in Gaza.

    In my opinion, it is sad when political events, such as Gaza-Israel and Ukraine-Russia, cause animosity between fellow Christians and impact religious decisions.  As a practical matter, I believe that any dispute between the Arab Orthodox and the hierarchy is unlikely to influence the plenary.  The plenary over the issue of primacy, especially in view of the varying views of Constantinople and Moscow on this issue, will be exceedingly difficult as it is—without any tensions from local disputes being added.  Certainly, the plenary greatly needs many prayers from all of us.

    Two days ago the 1026th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus was celebrated in Kyiv, Moscow, and elsewhere.  Although Patriarch Kirill had attended the five previous anniversary celebrations in Kyiv, he did not do so this year.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) made the Kyiv celebrations strictly local with only Ukrainian bishops celebrating the Divine Liturgy.  There were no bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate (outside Ukraine) or from any of the other Local Orthodox Churches.

    One of the few bright spots in Ukraine is the continuing cooperation of the various denominations and faiths in the work of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  The chairmanship of the Council changes every six months.  Metropolitan Onufry of the UOC-MP headed the Council until 9 July 2014.  After that date, the primate of the UOC-KP Filaret, assumed the leadership.  The last appeal by the Council (23 July 2014) was for truthfulness in the media.  It was signed by Filaret on behalf of the Council.  In my opinion, the willingness for the UOC-MP to serve on a council under the leadership of Filaret is a sign of cooperation in spite of serious religious differences.

    Lastly, Commonweal, a Catholic magazine in the US, posted today a very nice article concerning the friendship of an Orthodox priest and a Catholic priest in Orel, Russia. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 July 2014: Double Standard??

    Anyone who has followed Orthodox – Catholic relations during the past two decades is familiar with the attacks that the Moscow Patriarchate has made again Catholic “proselytism” in the Russian Federation.  It has been the position of the Moscow Patriarchate that the Catholic Church certainly has the right to care for Catholics, for example those of Polish or Lithuanian ethnicity, who live in the Russian Federation.  However, any attempt by the Catholic Church to make new converts in an Orthodox country such as Russia is improper proselytism.  From what I had read and from what I have personally seen in Russia, I believe that the Catholic Church in Russia has been very careful not to offend Orthodox in this regard especially in recent years.  In February 2004, a special bilateral working group was established between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Catholic Church in Russia.  One of the primary purposes of this working group was to consider, investigate, and resolve claims of Catholic proselytism in Russia.  To the best of my knowledge, the claims largely involved allegations that children at Catholic orphanages in Russia were being raised in the Catholic faith.  I believe this has now been resolved by allowing Orthodox clergy full access to children at Catholic orphanages.  I have heard nothing about the work of the bilateral working group in the last few years which leads me to believe that there are presently few claims by the Moscow Patriarchate that Catholic parishes are now engaging in proselytism by affirmatively seeking to convert Russians to Catholicism.

    With this background in mind, an article, posted on a Russian Orthodox website on July 17, caught by attention.  The Russian-language article is found at , the official website of the Church Research Center “Orthodox Encyclopedia” of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The article involves an appeal by the Russian Orthodox Church for missionaries to work in the Philippines – which is obviously a very Catholic (more than 80%) country.  An English translation of the article has been posted by Orthodox Christian News (Yahoo Groups) at   However, the complete Russian text of the original appeal from the Russian Orthodox Church in Taiwan can be read at   The following is a Google translation of the full text:



    With the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Yegorievsk, Head of the Office for Foreign institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church [MP], the representation office [Подворье] of the Russian Orthodox Church in Taiwan announces the enlistment of missionaries for the Philippines.

    Witnessing to Christ before all peoples is a matter entrusted by Christ Himself to every Orthodox Christian.  And to respond to this call of Christ is the responsibility of each of us.  At the present time the Lord has created an extremely favorable environment for such testimony in the Philippines, where tens of thousands of people are willing to embrace Orthodoxy.  Concerning the details of the circumstances and tasks of the mission, please contact us by e-mail or telephone.

    Young men and women wishing to do missionary work in the Philippines should be willing to serve the Church earnestly and selflessly, be deeply religious people, loyal to the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church, and have high moral qualities.

    A missionary must be prepared to go for 2 months or more.  Knowledge of English and experience in missionary work are welcome but are not mandatory.  It is necessary to have the recommendation of a spiritual father, parish priest or bishop.

    The possibility to travel with a spouse can be considered in the case of the possibility of missionary work by both spouses.  Accommodations for the missionaries are available.

    In addition to the missionary’s mission to the Philippines, there is a need for comprehensive assistance, including assistance in the Internet mission.

    For all questions relating to the missionary work or assistance to the mission in the Philippines, as well as with questions in connection with financial and technical aspects, please contact the head of the representation, Father Kirill, by email at the address and by phone +886 979-122000.

    In my opinion, this raises some questions that should be answered by someone.  Is the missionary activity of the Russian Orthodox Church with respect to the Philippines improper “proselytism” as that term was used in the past by the Moscow Patriarchate with respect to Catholic activities in Russia?  Should the definition of improper “proselytism” be the same whether it relates to Catholic missionary activities in Orthodox Russia or Russian Orthodox missionary activities in the Catholic Philippines?  Exactly how should improper “proselytism” be defined?


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20 July 2014: St. Sergius celebration & Ukraine

    Yesterday the observance of the 700th anniversary of the birth of St. Sergius of Radonezh (1314) culminated with the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Kirill at the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad.  As an indication of the importance of the celebration, all of the other Local Orthodox Churches were represent by bishops who concelebrated at the Liturgy.  There was also a very large number of pilgrims, many of whom were accommodated in a large “tent city” which was erected for the occasion approximately two kilometers from the Lavra.   After the Liturgy, there was a festive concert which included a number of outstanding choirs.  President Putin attended and spoke at the concert.  An interesting 10-minute video of the address by President Putin and the address by Patriarch Kirll, including views of the crowds and surroundings, can be seen at  President Putin also met with the permanent members of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate and with the representatives of the other Local Orthodox Churches.   A 17-minute video of this meeting, which includes a dialogue, can be seen at .

    It was good to see that Metropolitan Onufry, locum tenens of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP), participated in the liturgy.   Although he is a permanent member of the Holy Synod, he did not participate in the meeting with President Putin.

    St. Sergius of Radonezh is also revered by Catholics.  This was stressed by Father Igor Kovalevsky, general secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Russia, in an interview with RIA-Novesti  On the Catholic liturgical calendar, the feast day of St. Sergius is September 25.  Butler’s Lives of the Saints, perhaps the most popular Catholic English-language encyclopedia of the saints, devotes five full pages to St. Sergius of Radonezh.

    On Friday Metropolitan Onufry issued a statement concerning the tragedy of the Malaysia Airlines flight.  A Google translation of the statement on the UOC-MP website is as follows:  "This is a terrible event. The victims were innocent men, women and children from different countries.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church condemns those forces who are perpetrators of this crime and recalls that from the judgment of God there is no escape. The plenitude of the Church in prayer sympathizes with the families of the victims.  May the Divine Creator and the world comfort the hearts and strengthen the forces of the relatives of those who died in this terrible accident " - said in a condolence the Locum Tenens.  Metropolitan Onufry also said: "The Ukrainian Orthodox Church invites all who illegally took up arms, to stop military confrontation and take real steps towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict.”  On Friday, the Vatican issued a statement that Pope Francis was praying for the victims of the tragedy and their families and that he was praying for peace. 

    On Saturday there was a very interesting event in Kyiv.  The chief spokesperson of the UOC-MP and the chief spokesperson of the UOC-KP sat together in a joint press conference on Orthodoxy in Ukraine and answered questions from journalists.  The UOC-MP has posted a video of the entire 80-minute conference on its website.   RISU has posted an English-language report relating to the remarks by the two representatives concerning the possible reunification of the two Ukrainian churches.  According to this report, Father Georgy Kovalenko, spokesperson of the UOC-MP, stated:  “All things are possible by God’s will. It is important that this is happening not only externally but also internally, because it is only a half of the battle. But the other half is to know the decision that will be accepted by all religious community. It is important that it shall be supported and confirmed by the international clergy and the Eucharistic communion, they will convene for this end at the meeting in Istanbul.”

    Earlier in the week, the DECR (MP) website posted an English-translation of the interesting remarks by Metropolitan Hilarion concerning Metropolitan Volodymr, the situation in Ukraine, and the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England.   This interview was prior to the Malaysia Airlines tragedy.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 July 2014: Important announcement from UOC-MP

    Yesterday, the press office of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) made an important announcement concerning the celebration in Kyiv of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.  A Google translation of the announcement is as follows:

    “27-28 July in Kiev will be held the celebration of the Day of the Baptism of Kievan Rus and the Day of St. Vladimir.

    On Sunday, July 27 after the Divine Liturgy at St. Vladimir's Hill, the bishops and clergy in the city of Kyiv will say the traditional prayer.

    On Monday, July 28 on the square in front of Cathedral of the Dormition of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will celebrate the solemn Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the Day of the Baptism of Kievan Rus and the day in memory of the Baptism of Rus of Saint Prince Vladimir.  Especially on this day, the Church will pray for the repose of Metropolitan Vladimir.

    August 13 at the Holy Kiev-Pechersk Lavra will be held the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which will elect a new Primate.

    Responding to news media reports, the press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church officially says:

    - During the period of the celebration of the Baptism of Kievan Rus' and at the time of the Synod of Bishops of UOC, there are no planned visits in Kiev and in other diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (including Crimea) by His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus Kirill.  According to the Moscow Patriarchate, the Patriarch will celebrate the liturgy for the Day of the Baptism of Rus in the cathedral church of Moscow – the Church of Christ the Savior.

    - Participating in the Council of Bishops of the UOC on August 13 will be exclusively ruling and vicar bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  At the Council of Bishops of the UOC there are no plans to invite representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and other Local Orthodox Churches.”

    This announcement appears to stress intentionally the Ukrainian nature of the celebration in Kyiv and of the meeting of the Council of Bishops.  Paul Steeves has translated into English an Interfax article relating to this announcement.

    The funeral service for Metropolitan Vladimir was held last Monday morning, the second day after his death.  A good four-minute video of the funeral service can be seen at .  The Holy Synod of the UOC had announced at approximately noon on Sunday that the liturgy for the funeral would begin at 7 a.m. the next morning.  In spite of the short notice, representatives from outside of Ukraine arrived in time to attend the funeral.   Patriarch Kirill was represented at the funeral by Metropolitan Hilarion.   On Sunday, the head of the Information Department of the Holy Synod in Moscow had informed the Interfax news agency that Patriarch Kirill would not be attending the funeral because of a concern that

    the patriarch's arrival could transform the farewell to Metropolitan Vladimir into "an occasion for another performance by radical forces." 

    The Ecumenical Patriarch was represented at the funeral by Archbishop Job of Telmessos (head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe) and by Bishop Hilarion of Edmonton (Canada) and the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate).   The Ecumenical Patriarch also made a personal telephone call to the President of Ukraine and expressed his sorrow at the death of Metropolitan Vladimir.

    Metropolitan Pavel, the nameshnik (prior) of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, gave an interesting interview concerning Metropolitan Volodymyr to Izvestia in Ukraine.  In one part of the interview Metropolitan Pavel stated:  “His Beatitude [Volodymyr] spoke with everyone, regardless of religion, but had his own point of view.  He taught me not to be severe with people of other faiths.  He talked with them, he said: ‘With all live in peace.’   And indeed, to his funeral came [Cardinal] Lubomyr Husar [retired head of the UGCC], and Catholics and Protestants.  His Beatitude was a silent companion.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 6 July 2014: Death of Metropolitan Volodymyr

    Metropolitan Volodymyr of Kyiv and All Ukraine died this morning at the age of 78.,-primate-of-the-Ukrainian-Orthodox-Church-has-died-31544.html  He was a great church leader and was highly respected by almost all.  A very nice 5-minute English-language YouTube video on his life has already been prepared in the USA.    Condolences were sent today by Patriarch Kirill and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  ;   Both the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the UOC Kyiv Patriarchate believe that Metropolitan Volodymyr was a positive influence in their relationships with the UOC Moscow Patriarchate.  The leaders of both these churches sent their condolences. ;   The date of the funeral will probably be announced on Sunday by the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP.

    As I have previous reported, there has been speculation as to whether Patriarch Kirill will be invited and allowed to visit Ukraine for the celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus on July 28.  It is difficult to believe that he will not be invited and allowed to attend the funeral of Metropolitan Volodymyr in Kyiv.  If so, his visiting Kyiv on July 28 may no longer be such an issue.

    The Holy Synod of the UOC-MP will also be setting the date for the Council of Bishops of the UOC-MP to elect a successor to Metropolitan Volodymyr.  The Council of Bishops consists of all of the diocesan and vicar bishops and the heads of synodal departments and theological academies as set out in Section III.2 of the Statutes of the UOC- MP.   I believe that the Council now consists of over 70 bishops.  In contrast,  the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP that elected Metropolitan Onufry as locum tenens has ten bishops. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 June 2014: Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

    As has been the tradition for many years, the Ecumenical Patriarchate sent a delegation to the Vatican for this year’s feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  This year the delegation was headed by Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas), the Orthodox co-chairman of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  On Saturday, the Orthodox delegation met with Pope Francis.  The following is a good photo of the meeting from the Pope’s Russian-language Facebook page.       The full text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter to the Pope can be read in English at   A translation of the full text of the Pope’s address to Metropolitan Ioannis and a summary of the remarks of Metropolitan Ioannis can be read at  In the latter Vatican Radio report, I found the following especially interesting:  In his remarks to the Pope, Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamo, who headed the Delegation, expressed “full commitment… to promote the theological dialogue between our two churches, which continues in a spirit of love, mutual trust and respect.” He pointed out that the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is set to meet in September to continue discussions on primacy in the Church.  “It is a difficult subject but with the grace of God we hope to make progress,” Metropolitan Zizioulas said. “The way that Your Holiness understands and applies ecclesial primacy offers inspiration and hope in our efforts to reach agreement on this thorny issue.”

    For this year’s feast, not only was Constantinople at the Vatican, but so was Moscow in the form of the Synodal Choir of the Moscow Patriarchate.  You may recall that last month the Vatican’s Sistine Choir was in Moscow and presented a special concert with the Synodal Choir to honor Patriarch Kirill on the fifth year of his enthronement.  The Patriarch himself attended the concert.  On Saturday, the Sistine Choir and the Synod Choir presented a second joint concert – this one in the Vatican’s Sistine Choir.  I have attached a nice photo of the concert that I obtained from .   It was a private concert hosted by the Vatican’s Secretary of State.  Those invited included members of the Vatican Curia, bishops, and heads of diplomatic missions to the Holy See.в_торжество_святых_первоапостолов_петра_и_павла_в_ватикане_папский_хор/rus-809201   A substantial number of the religious works were song together by both choirs.

    The Synod Choir also sang with the Sistine Choir at the Pope’s Mass celebrating the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul.  The historic nature of this event was stressed today by the choir director of the Synodal Choir, Alexei Puzakov, in an interview with the Russian television network Rossia (Cultural Channel).   In watching a video of the Mass, I was especially moved by the performance of the Synodal Choir of Херувимская песнь (Cherubic Hymn) at the time of the offertory and of Ты Любовь Святая (with a beautiful solo) during the communion.

    On a different subject, many thanks are due to Patriarch Kirill for his appeal in obtaining the release of the OSCE hostages in Ukraine.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20 June 2014: Kirill to Ukraine in July?

    Every year since becoming Patriarch in early 2009, Patriarch Kirill has celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv on the feast day of St. Vladimir, July 28 (July 15 on the Julian calendar).  This can be seen from the links below:






    There has been considerable speculation as to whether Patriarch Kirill will come to Kyiv this year for the July 28 celebration.  The Baptism of Rus in 988 through the actions of St. Vladimir is the event which led to the acceptance of Orthodoxy by the peoples now living in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.  It is the historic spiritual event that links these people together.  The celebration of this event therefore has great symbolic meaning, especially at a time when political events are driving Ukrainians and Russians apart.

    The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) met today at the Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv.  Today would have been a very natural time for the Synod to extend a formal invitation to the Patriarch to attend the celebration on July 28.  However, the minutes of today’s meeting does not mention the subject at all.  In contrast, this morning Volodymyr Yushkevych, Director of Religious Affairs and Nationalities Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, did address the subject.  He stated:

    As has been reported by various media sources, this Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, under pressure from external forces, may reach a decision to invite the Moscow Patriarch Kirill to Ukraine. Therefore, as the head of the of the state authority responsible for church-state relations, I wish to announce that this visit during ongoing Russian military aggression against Ukraine is undesirable, provocative and designed for political ends.

    I assure you that Ukraine will do everything within available law and legislation for this visit not to take place on any territory in Ukraine, including temporarily occupied territories. In my view, such a visit by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church can only provoke a wave of inter-confessional conflict. Therefore, this visit would be possible only after Russia ceases its aggression and returns all the territories it has seized from Ukraine.

    Additionally, I want to inform you that Ukraine will not allow politicians to interfere in the internal matters of churches and religious organizations and, without exception, will continue to ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, especially in matters of the freedom of conscience and religion.

    I would like to take this opportunity to wish the members of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church productive work and informed and responsible decisions that will benefit the Church and an independent and united Ukraine at this difficult time for the people of Ukraine.

    In a sense the Holy Synod was on the horns of a dilemma.  If it extended a formal invitation, it would find itself on a collision course with the new Ukrainian government.  If the Holy Synod decided not to invite the Patriarch, it would be perceived as an insult to the Patriarch.  The only viable option was to say nothing at all in the formal deliberations of the Holy Synod.

    This afternoon, Father George Kovalenko, a spokesperson for the UOC-MP, referred to this morning’s statement by Yushkevych.   Kovalenko said: "It's a shame when a public body makes statements, guided by gossip.  Unfortunately, such a statement can be regarded as an attempt to pressure and interfere in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

    There was also some speculation that the celebration could occur this year in Kherson, a city in Southern Ukraine (but not in Crimea) which is also closely associated with St. Vladimir and the Baptism of Rus, rather than in Kyiv.  However, it was reported today that the mayor of Kherson has taken the position that the Patriarch would not be welcome. 

    In my personal opinion, all of this is very sad.

    Today the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP released a letter to the President of Ukraine.  It can be read in Ukrainian at  I believe that it is an important letter.  I have pasted a Google translation below.  The official English translation of Patriarch Kirill’s latest letter to all of the Russian Orthodox Church on the subject of Ukraine can be read at 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Today’s letter from the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP to the President of Ukraine:

    Dear Peter!

    God judged you to take the post of the President during difficult tests, when every day we hear of bloodshed and death of our compatriots.  Putting his hand on the Holy Gospel, you have committed to "provide for the good of the Fatherland and the welfare of the Ukrainian people, to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens" (Oath of the President of Ukraine).  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church sincerely supports you in your service to the people of Ukraine.  We wish you wisdom in making crucial policy decisions.

    We hope that you will guarantee interfaith and inter-religious peace in our country. The peaceful relationship between the churches and religious organizations in Ukraine - is an important property of years of independence. Despite the extremely intense public opposition last month, we were able to keep the peace between religions. All churches and religious organizations in Ukraine have worked together to preserve the peace in the country. Unfortunately, lately we see an attempt to destroy inter-religious understanding in the country. There are cases of attacks and attempts destruction of churches and prayer rooms. In particular, most recently in Kiev was an attempt to set fire to the temple of the Church. We look forward to a professional and impartial investigation of all such incidents. Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Presidency at the time of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, confirming its fundamental commitment to interfaith peace and condemns any provocations and attempts to make artificial hostility to religious environment.

    To save interfaith peace in the country is necessary to ensure impartial treatment of all religious organizations, and ensure fairness in the media of their activities. We note with regret that recently appeared in the media repeatedly post that significantly distorted the position of the Church on the situation in Ukraine. We regard all this as an attempt to artificially oppose our Church Ukrainian society. These actions of some members of the media threaten a violation of inter-religious peace and should be regarded as extremely destructive. It is therefore important to taking care of the inviolability of external borders of our country, we do not allow loosening of the internal situation in the country by allegations and defamation.

    We once again reiterate: Ukrainian Orthodox Church is in favor of the national independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We strongly condemn any act aimed at undermining national sovereignty and to split a single unified Ukraine.

    Today you, as President of our country, are making great efforts to restore peace in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. We know that the vast majority of these areas seeks peace and harmony, to live in a United Ukraine. Not interfering in any way in the processes of decision-making, our church still feels obliged to send you a request to our faithful living in Lugansk and Donetsk regions. The clergy and faithful of these areas are asked to take all possible measures to stop the bloodshed suffered by civilians. Our believers in the East believe that any conflict should be solved through dialogue and negotiations. Peaceful principle solve all our problems professed church. Together we must do everything possible to prevent the death of civilians. Protection of the civilian population - is a top priority for both the Church and the state.

    We lift up fervent prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ, that He sent us His peace and retained Ukraine from discord and strife.

    God Great One!  Save us Ukraine!

  • 17 June 2014: Pope Francis to Albania

    Pope Francis continues to surprise the experts and everyone else.  For his first foreign (outside of Italy) visit to a European country, Pope Francis has chosen not one of large and “important” European countries, but a small, poor, and predominately Muslim country that typically receives very little public attention – Albania.  During his Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the Pope stated that he would be visiting Tirana, Albania on 21 September of this year.  The Pope stated:  “With this brief trip I wish to confirm in the faith the Church in Albania, and offer my encouragement and love to a country that has suffered greatly as a result of the ideologies of the past.”  Certainly, of all of the communist countries, Albania was the most ruthless in attempting to stamp out the last vestiges of religion.   The Pope was invited to visit Albania by the country’s Catholic bishops and as well as by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who had visited the Pope on April 24.   The Pope’s visit to Albania was also the subject of a press conference held on Sunday in Tirana by Apostolic Nuncio Ramiro Ingles and Archbishop Rrok Mirdita of Tirana.  During the press conference, it was stressed that one of the reasons that Albania was chosen by the Pope --is because it is an excellent example of religious harmony and peaceful coexistence between communities.

    A majority of Albanians are Muslims.  The two largest Christian denominations are Orthodox and Catholic.  The primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania is Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania.  Archbishop Anastasios has a very close relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarch and has good relations with the Catholic Church.  As I previously reported, Fordham University in New York, a Jesuit institution, conferred an honorary doctorate degree on the Archbishop on 28 January 2014.  I am sure that Archbishop Anastasios will be involved in the Pope’s visit to Albania.  Just a week ago, the new Orthodox cathedral in Tirana was consecrated.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided and a number of the primates of the autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches participated.  Catholics were represent at the consecration by Apostolic Nuncio Ramiro Ingles and by the President of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church in Albania.

    On Saturday, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted the full Russian text of the May 20, 2014 address by Metropolitan Hilarion to the students of the Moscow Theological Academy on the subject, “Primacy in the Universal Church – the Position of the Moscow Patriarchate.”  An English translation has not yet been posted.  Still, one can obtain a general understanding of the text by using the Google translation tool.

    If you missed viewing the prayer service for peace (“Invocation for Peace”) held in the Vatican gardens on June 8 , you can still view all of it “on demand” at .  You can, of course, “fast-forward” on the video to see whatever interests you.  There were several aspects of the visit by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew which were not mentioned by the media.   Prior to the prayer service, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Emmanuel, and Metropolitan Gennadios had lunch with Pope Francis and three members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Cardinal Koch, Bishop Farrell, and Msgr. Palmieri) at Domus Sanctae Marthae.  The next day, Patriarch Bartholomew met with Pope Emeritus Benedict.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 June 2014: Text of Hilarion's address on primacy

    Today the DECR posted the text in Russian of last month’s address by Metropolitan Hilarion to the students of the Moscow Theological Academy on the subject of universal primacy.  Peter

  • 4 June 2014: Rome & Minsk

    As has been previously announced, the President of Israel, Shimon Peres and the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, have accepted the invitation of Pope Francis to pray for peace together at the Vatican.  This encounter of prayer for peace in the Holy Land will occur in the late afternoon of Sunday June 8, 2014.  Yesterday, Vatican Insider (La Stampa) reported that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be there too!  Vatican Insider stated that it had learned this “from authoritative sources of the patriarchy” and that the decision will be made ​​official following the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The Holy Synod is meeting at the Phanar, Tuesday to Thursday of this week.  Today, (a Greek website which is close to the Ecumenical Patriarchate) reported that the Ecumenical Patriarch will arrive in Rome on Saturday and will celebrate the Divine Liturgy Sunday morning at the Church of St. Theodore in Rome.   Today, the Vatican Press Office confirmed that the Pope had invited the Ecumenical Patriarch to attend but that official acceptance has not yet been received from Constantinople. 

    With all of the recent interaction between the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch, what about the Patriarch of Moscow?  Today, reported that Pope Francis has sent a personal message to Patriarch Kirill that the Pope “is willing to meet at any place".,-Kirill:-I-am-ready-to-meet-31265.html   AsiaNews states that according to a source at the DECR, “the message was delivered by Msgr. Massimo Palombella, director of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir, which performed in Moscow on 27 May, to mark the fifth anniversary of the Patriarch's enthronement.”

    The 4th European Orthodox-Catholic Forum is now being held in Minsk, Belarus, June 3-5.  The Forum was originally founded in 2008 as the result of the work of Metropolitan (then Bishop) Hilarion and Cardinal Peter Erdo.  It has made a very positive contribution to Orthodox – Catholic relations.  It is appropriate that the Forum this year is being held in Belarus where Orthodox – Catholic relations have steadily improved.  Yesterday, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus received in audience the participants in the Forum.  In addressing the President, Metropolitan Hilarion noted that in Belarus, “the Church has preserved her unity and lives in harmonious coexistence with the Catholic community and other traditional confessions in the country.”  The Metropolitan contrasted this with Ukraine:  “There was a schism there in the early 90s, which was supported by the state.  A dangerous and erroneous slogan was put forward: ‘An independent Church for an independent state’.  They encroached on the most sacred thing – the unity of our great multinational Church uniting fraternal peoples of Byelorussia, Russia and Ukraine. The Uniates, too, made their own contribution to it.  As a result, the people are divided and now the unity of Ukraine as state is under threat.”  Today, Metropolitan Hilarion made his major address to the Forum on the topic, “The Role of Secular and Christian Values in Contemporary Multicultural European Society.”  (full text in English).

    However, more media attention has been given to Metropolitan Hilarion’s short opening remarks at the Forum.  The official translation of his Russian remarks, which should be read in their entirety, can be found at .  It was his heartfelt anguish at the situation in Ukraine.  It was probably his strongest attack to date against the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC).  Perhaps as a partial rebuttal to these charges, a website connected the UGCC posted yesterday the full text of the letter which Metropolitan Onufry (locum tenens of the UOC-MP) sent on June 3, on behalf of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, to President-elect Poroshenko of Ukraine.    In congratulating the new president, the letter stated, “By their own example, the heads of confessions that are members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, prove the possibility, in spite of all of the differences, to find common ground and work together to express a common position.”

    I personally hope that there might be “some light at the end of the tunnel.”  I find some encouragement in the fact that all of the major religious players in Ukraine (UOC-MP, UOC-KP, UGCC, as well as other denominations and faiths), as well as Patriarch Kirill, have conveyed to President-elect Poroshenko (who is a member of the UOC-MP) their congratulations and acceptance.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 May 2014: Problem for pan-Orthodox Council??

    Today, Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria ended his visit to Russia (May 23-30) as guest of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Yesterday, Patriarch Neofit and Patriarch Kirill signed a communique concerning the visit and certain agreements reached.  The official English translation of the communique can be read at  I found the following provision in the communique very interesting:

    His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and His Holiness Patriarch Neophytos expressed satisfaction with the results of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches held in Constantinople on 6-9 March 2014 which considered important issues pertaining to the convocation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church and affirmed the principle of consensus decision-making at the Council and at various stages of its preparation.

    The Russian and Bulgarian Orthodox Churches believe that this principle implies an obligatory participation of all Local Orthodox Church without any exception in the pre-Council process and at the Council.

    The phrase “obligatory participation of all Local Orthodox Churches without any exception” makes it very clear that “all” really means all.  This, of course, could refer to the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, which did not participate in the Synaxis in March because the Ecumenical Patriarchate and a majority of the other Local Orthodox Churches have not recognized the validity of the recent election of a new primate of the Czech and Slovak church.  It could also refer to the Patriarchate of Antioch which did not sign the final agreement at the Synaxis because its dispute with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had not been resolved at the Synaxis.  However, most significantly, it could refer to the inclusion of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in the pre-Council process and in the Council.  The Moscow Patriarchate and certain other Local Orthodox Churches have recognized the OCA as an autocephalous Local Orthodox Church, but the Ecumenical Patriarchate and certain other Local Orthodox Churches have not.  If the pre-Council process cannot even begin until the OCA issue is resolved, the Council may be significantly delayed until after the planned 2016 date.  The agreement at the Synaxis to hold the pan-Orthodox Council was the result of a finely-tuned compromise between Constantinople and Moscow – the Council would make all decisions by consensus (as desired by Moscow) and the Ecumenical Patriarch would preside at the Council (as desired by Constantinople).  Constantinople will probably argue that Moscow is now insisting on another major concession (recognition of the OCA by Constantinople), which was not part of the carefully balanced agreement negotiated at the Synaxis.  Perhaps anticipating this, the communique states that the inclusion of all without exception is “implied” by the consensus rule.

    In another major development, AsiaNews has interviewed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and has quoted the Patriarch as follows:  "The dialogue for unity between Catholics and Orthodox will start again from Jerusalem. In this city, in the autumn , a meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission will be held hosted by the Greek -Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III.”,-we-invite-all-Christians-to-celebrate-the-first-synod-of-Nicaea-in-2025-31213.html .  The plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Church had been previously scheduled for 15-23 September 2014, in Novi Sad, Serbia.  This quote indicates that the venue of the meeting is being changed to Jerusalem.  If this is correct, it may be the hope that the holy site of Jerusalem will have same spiritual effect on the dialogue as it did on the recent meeting of the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch.   In the article, the Ecumenical Patriarch also spoke of a common celebration in 2025 of the Council of Nicea.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 May 2014: Pope Francis & Patriarch Kirill

    Pope Francis, during his General Audience today, spoke of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.   I have pasted below an English translation of his remarks concerning his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The Pope’s moving remarks included the following:  “Once more, like my predecessors, I ask forgiveness for what we have done to promote that division, and I pray that the Holy Spirit may help us to heal the wounds we have inflicted on other brethren.”

    Also today Patriarch Kirill in a meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that  "a very sad shadow" has been cast on the relations between the Russian Church and the Vatican because "the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics Church is engaging in direct political activities, unfortunately, using sharp Russophobic slogans and statements and making sharp statements against the Russian Orthodox Church in its public declarations.”   The Patriarch added:  “We regret that some of the national conferences of Catholic bishops, such as the German, Polish and American, also openly supported this position.”   The full text of the Patriarch’s remarks in Russian can be read at

    Yesterday, Patriarch Kirill sent a letter to “Pyotr A. Poroshenko, President Elect of Ukraine,” congratulating him on his election.  An English translation of the full text of the letter can be read at .  To the best of my knowledge, the Russian government has not sent a letter of congratulations up to the present time.

    Patriarch Kirill also met yesterday with Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria, who is on a visit to Russia at the invitation of the Moscow Patriarchate.   In the meeting Patriarch Kirill stated that the results of the election to the European Parliament the other day have shown that many Europeans refuse to accept the liberal philosophy requiring that fundamental ethical values be rejected and challenging the foundations of national self-awareness.  In contrast, Cardinal Reinhart Marx of Munich lamented the results of the election.

    The Sistine Choir has now completed its concerts in Moscow.  As far as I can determine, the concerts were very successful.  The first concert was held in the Catholic cathedral in Moscow.  The following is a 4-minute video of that performance.  The second concert was with the State Tretyakov Gallery Choir.   The concert received good media coverage.  See  (4-minute video including the choirs singing together).  The third concert, held last night, was with the Moscow Synodal Choir.  Patriarch Kirill attended the concert which was in honor of the fifth anniversary of his enthronement as patriarch. .  The following is a three-minute video relating to this performance.

    A conference has been held at the Monastery of Vlatadon in Thessaloniki, Greece, relating to the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarchate Athenagoras.  At the conference, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia gave a presentation on the progress and problems in the official Orthodox – Catholic dialogue after the Ravenna document.  Metropolitan Chrysostomos is one of two representatives of the Church of Greece on the Joint International Commission.  The full text of his presentation (in Greek) was posted today at .  Using the Google translation tool, it appears that Metropolitan Chrysostomos is a supporter of the Ravenna document.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Today’s remarks by Pope Francis:

    “The main aim of this pilgrimage was to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the historic encounter between Pope Pope VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras. It was the first time that a Successor of Peter visited the Holy Land: Paul VI thus inaugurated, during Vatican Council II, the tradition of papal trips outside Italy during the contemporary era. This prophetic gesture on the part of the bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople constituted a milestone in the arduous but promising path towards unity among all Christians, which has taken important steps since then. Therefore, my encounter with His Holiness Bartholomew, beloved brother in Christ, was the culmination of the visit. We prayed together at the Holy Sepulchre, along with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Nourhan, as well as archbishops and bishops from various Churches and Communities, civil authorities and many faithful”.

    “In that place, where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounds, we all felt the bitterness and suffering of the divisions that continue to exist between Christ's disciples, and this has really done great harm, harm to the heart. We are still divided; in that place, where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounds, where Jesus gives us life, we are still divided. But above all, in that celebration so rich in mutual brotherhood, esteem and affection, we strongly heard the voice of the Risen Good Shepherd who wishes to bring together all His sheep in one flock; we felt the desire to heal the wounds that are still open and to follow with tenacity the path to full communion”.

    “Once more, like my predecessors, I ask forgiveness for what we have done to promote that division, and I pray that the Holy Spirit may help us to heal the wounds we have inflicted on other brethren. We are all brothers in Christ, and with the Patriarch Bartholomew we are friends, brothers; we have shared the desire to walk together, to do what we are able to do today: to pray together, to work together for God's flock, to seek peace and protect creation, the many things that we have in common. We must move forward like brothers”.

  • 26 May 2014: Some historical links

    A video of the entire ecumenical service, held this evening at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre,  can now be viewed at .  The meeting of the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch occurs at l hr. 2 min. into the video.  Before that, it is simply waiting for the two to arrive.  The address (in English) by Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem occurs at l hr. 10 min., the remarks (in English) by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at 1 hr. 29 min., the remarks (in Italian) by Pope Francis at 1 hr. 40 min., the recitation of the Our Father together at 1 hr. 54 min, the final blessing at 2 hr. 0 min., and the end of the service at 2 hr. 2 min.  I found most moving the reverence by the two primates at the tomb of Our Lord, occurring at l hr. 55 min.

    An English translation of the full text of the Pope’s remarks at the service can be read at

    The complete English text of the Common Declaration by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew can be read at .

    While focused on Jerusalem, we should not forget Moscow.  The Vatican’s Sistine Choir arrived in Moscow today.  Tomorrow the choir will participate in a concert of Orthodox and Catholic sacred music at the Kremlin Armory.  Tuesday, the choir will participate in a concert in honor of the fifth anniversary of the election of Patriarch Kirill.  Next month, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Moscow Synodal Choir will sing at St. Peter’s Basilica. 


    Pete Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 May 2014: Spirit of Jerusalem and Kyiv

    This weekend begins the pilgrimages of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Jerusalem.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America have created a special English-language website with videos, photos, and information concerning the visit and its historical background.  For the website, there are English-language videos in which the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop Demetrios explain the importance of the meeting.  Each video is approximately 3-minutes long.  Personally, I really found the videos inspiring.

    The printed text or missal for all of the liturgical celebrations by Pope Francis can be read at .  The missal shows that both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis will recite the Our Father together in Italian during the ecumenical service at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.  Then all present will recite the Our Father together in their own language.  See page 87 of the missal.

    You can watch the visit with live television coverage at the following Vatican website:  As can be seen from the program provided at this site, the encounters between the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch will occur at the following times:  Sunday 18:15 – meeting and signing of joint declaration; Sunday 19:00 – ecumenical celebration in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre;  Sunday 20:15 – dinner at the Latin Patriarchate; Monday 15:30 – meeting at the Mount of Olives.  For viewers in Rome, the times will be one hour earlier; for London two hours earlier; for New York seven hours earlier.  Live television coverage will also be provided at .

    In an interview with the Greek news agency ANA-MPA, Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem has stressed the great importance of this meeting.  He added, "We as believers of the Gospel have a moral obligation to work to restore the unity between the two Churches."   For the occasion of the meeting, Archbishop Demetrios, as Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, as President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have issued a joint statement reaffirming the “dialogue of love” between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

    In an interview with Reuters news agency, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate observed that the meeting is less than it seems because the Ecumenical Patriarch did not ask other Orthodox for a green light to meet with the Pope.   "It is a meeting between the pope of Rome and the head of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople."   Although this may be so, it is my hope and prayer that the Jerusalem meeting may create a spirit – perhaps a “spirit of Jerusalem” – which will help improve Catholic – Orthodox relations with all of the Local Orthodox Churches.

    This Sunday, while the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope are meeting, the people of Ukraine will be voting for a new president.  With respect to Ukraine, I continue to be impressed by the position taken by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).  Paul Steeves on his website has translated a recent interview with Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, executive secretary of the DECR of the UOC-MP (“UOC-MP protects UOC-KP from violence in Dombass”).   With respect to possible threats against the UOC-KP in Eastern Ukraine, Father Nikolai stated: "I would very much wish that we as Christians would not only restrain ourselves but also prevent others from any violent actions with respect to Christians of other confessions, including believers of UOC-KP, and their church buildings and monasteries.  In this critical time our thoughts should be directed to God and our minds and hearts should be filled with prayer for peace, for Ukraine, for our church, and for our families."  He even had a kind word with respect to the UOC-KP:  “We appreciate the fact that the UOC-KP during the time of public disturbances officially threatened their own adherents with excommunication in the event of attempts to seize church buildings and monasteries of our church.”  With respect to religious peace between denominations in Ukraine, Father Nikolai asserted that “Ukraine has become a model for eastern Europe thanks to the consensus that exists at the level of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.”  Tomorrow (Thursday), the All-Ukrainian Council will be meeting again with the Acting President of Ukraine.  Perhaps, the spirit exemplified by the All-Ukrainian Council and by Father Nikolai’s remarks could be call the “spirit of Kyiv.”

    I personally wonder whether the “spirit of Jerusalem” and the “spirit of Kyiv” are really the workings of the same Spirit.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 May 2014: Watching the UOC-MP

    For me, it has been very interesting to follow the news on the official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate(UOC-MP).   In this regard, it is interesting to see what has been reported and what has not been reported.  Of course, it is very possible that the UOC-MP may have taken positions and made certain statements which have not been reported on its website.  Still, the news that has been reported gives some indication of the developments that the UOC-MP wishes to emphasize.  The following are some of the items that were covered by the press office of the UOC-MP:

    (1)  Today (May 15) the  All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations issued an address to the Ukrainian people concerning the Presidential elections on May 25.   The following is a Google translation of one paragraph of the address:  “After many thousands of protests on Independence Square in Kyiv and in many cities across Ukraine against arbitrariness and impunity of power, repression and harassment of civil rights, the Ukrainian people again receive the right to determine the fate of our country. This right may be exercised primarily in the direct and popular election of the President of Ukraine.”  This is followed by several paragraphs urging peaceful and fair elections.  The address concludes: “These days it is especially important for every believer to present daily prayers for a fair and legitimate electoral process, for peace in our country, and for the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine!”  In my opinion, it is a sign of hope that the All-Ukrainian Council, consisting of the UOC-MP and other denominations and faiths, can continue agree upon and issue common statements on the various contentious issues now facing Ukraine.

    (2)  Yesterday (May 14) the first Round Table for National Unity was held in Kyiv.  With the blessing of Locum Tenes Metropolitan Onufry, the UOC-MP was represented by Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil.  The acting president of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov and Ukraine’s PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk delivered the opening speeches and former presidents of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma were moderators.  A photo of the round table meeting can be seen at the above link.  There appears to be approximately 30 places at the round table and at least eight are filled by representatives of churches and faiths!!!

    (3)  Yesterday, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil also met with U.S. Congressman Jim Slattery at the famous Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv.  The “parties discussed the possible role of the church in addressing the socio-political crisis in Ukraine.”  According to my research, Slattery is actually a former Congressman (1983-1995) and is now with a firm, Wiley Rein, that engages in lobbying activities in Washington, DC.   Slattery has been very interested in interfaith dialogue and reconciliation and was very active in urging the U.S. government to seek the release of former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. 

    (4)  Another article on the UOC-MP describes the celebration on May 10 of the 75th birthday of Metropolitan Metropolitan Irenaeus of Dnepropetrovsk [a city west of Donetsk] and Pavlograd.  The celebration was led by Metropolitan Onufry.  The article lists the hierarchs who participated.  However, nothing was said in the article about Metropolitan Hilarion being prevented from attending the celebration by Ukrainian border authorities at the Dnepropetrovsk airport.  In searching the website, I did find elsewhere a link to the website of the Dnepropetrovsk diocese reporting the event.

    In my opinion it is hard to justify the action of the border authorities.  The DECR in Moscow describes the events in the following article:  The Russian Foreign Ministry demanded an explanation from the “de facto Kyiv authorities” for the action.  On May 13, a representative of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry stated that it was not involved in the decision which was taken by the border authorities.   Today AsiaNews posted a fairly long article concerning these events. 

    The horrible burning of the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2 shocked everyone.  Both Metropolitan Onufry and Patriarch Kirill issued appeals and statements.  ;   A Russian Orthodox (MP) priest, who is a good friend of mine and is very reasonable person, sent me a very emotional email including the following YouTube link documenting the fire:  (almost two hours of videos showing the burning and violence)

    Pray for Ukraine!

    Lastly, the Vatican press office gave a detailed briefing today on the meeting of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem later this month.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 9 May 2014: Karekin II & more

    His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, met this morning with Pope Francis at the Vatican.  After the meeting the two primates participated in a short prayer service in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater chapel.  During the visit to Rome, the Catholicos and his delegation will also visit the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and various other dicasteries of the Roman Curia.  Finally, they will visit the tomb of St. Peter and pray before the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator, which is located on the north courtyard of the Vatican Basilica.  This visit by the Catholicos is another positive step in the warm relationship between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

    An interesting short video of parts of the meeting and the prayer service can be seen at   An English translation of the full text of the Pope’s remarks can be read at  The full English text of the remarks by the Catholicos can be read at  In his remarks His Holiness Karekin II invites Pope Francis to visit Armenia in 2015.

    It has been reported by the Fides news agency that Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II has sent to Pope Francis a letter which “invites the Bishop of Rome to find a single date for the Easter celebration in all Christian Churches.” 

    The “Circle of Students of Pope Benedict XVI” (“Schülerkreis”) had a conference, May 1-4, in Istanbul on the subject, “Benedict XVI and Orthodoxy.”  At the beginning of the conference, the Circle, accompanied by Cardinal Kurt Koch, met and had lunch with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. (Greek)    The complete English text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s speech to the group has been posted at .  The speech is a wonderful tribute to the Pope Emeritus.

    Cardinal Koch gave an interview in German to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung concerning the current situation in Ukraine.   In the interview, the Cardinal spoke in very positive terms concerning the recent appeals by Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Onufry for peace.

    An English translation of the full Arabic text of the April 29 communique by the Holy Synod of the Antiochian Patriarchate relating to the Qatar controversy with the Jerusalem Patriarchate has now been posted.  In it the Holy Synod requests “the patriarch of Antioch not to commemorate the patriarch of Jerusalem in the diptychs.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 April 2014: Orthodox at canonization & more

    I was interested in hearing what, if any, Orthodox churches attended last Sunday’s canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  Unlike a funeral or installation Mass for a Pope, there might be some hesitation by Orthodox in attending a canonization of a person not in communion with their church.  Prior to the canonization of the two popes, the Vatican stated that no invitations were sent to representatives of other denominations.  Representatives were welcome to attend, but they would not be considered official delegations.  This anticipates the problem that some Churches might have and may have made attendance somewhat easier for them.  As far as I can determine, the Vatican did not release a list of church representative who attended.  However, those who attended were seated in a position of honor close to Pope Francis.

    I was very pleased to see that the Moscow Patriarchate sent a representative.  It was Father Alexei Dikarev from the DECR.

    The highest ranking prelates were sent by the Armenian Apostolic Church and by the Romanian Patriarchate.  The Armenian Church sent “Bishops Ashot Mnatsakanian and Vahan Hovannisian, who head the Armenian church’s dioceses in Egypt and Britain respectively.”  The Romanian Patriarchate sent Metropolitan Iosif of Western and Southern Europe and Bishop Siluan of Italy.   The above link to the DECR site ( has a photo of Orthodox bishops at the canonization.  In the photo, Metropolitan Iosif is in the center and Bishop Siluan is on the right. Father Alexei Dikarev is on the left.

    I was interested in seeing that the President of Bulgaria attended the canonization.    Before he attended, he met with Patriarch Neofit   His attendance was understandable as Pope John XXIII had served as apostolic visitor to Bulgaria for a number of years (1925-1934), and Pope John Paul II had visited Bulgaria in 2002 and stated his belief that Bulgaria was not implicated in the assassination attempt.

    Prior to the canonization, Cardinal Sepe had a very positive visit to Moscow.  He met with Patriarch Kirill.  It was good to see that Father Igor Vyzhanov also accompanied Cardinal Sepe.  Father Igor is now the rector of St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Church in Naples.  You may recall that Father Igor was in charge of inter-Christian relations at the DECR for a number of years and was also on the Joint International Commission for Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  After assignments in New York City and Rome, he and his family are now enjoying Naples.  I am sure that he is a positive influence on Catholic-Orthodox relations in Naples.

    There was also a meeting between Metropolitan Hilarion and Cardinal Sepe and his many Italian pilgrims.   Although Metropolitan Hilarion stressed the positive aspects of Catholic – Russian Orthodox relations, he did make some negative remarks about Greek Catholics.  An Eastern-rite Catholic priest, who receives my reports, has drawn my attention to a rebuttal to Metropolitan Hilarion’s past remarks about the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.   In the interest of considering both sides of the controversy, you may want to read it:

    Earlier in April, Metropolitan Hilarion was in Spain.  There, he met with the Catholic archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela.  In Barcelona, he met with Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona.   However, the highpoint was the performance of Metropolitan Hilarion’s Passion According to St. Matthew, translated into literary Catalan.  It was performed by the Russian National Orchestra and the Moscow Synodal Choir in Gaudi’s fantastic Basilica of the Holy Family, which was filled to capacity for the performance.  The Catholic Archdiocese of Barcelona has posted a (too) short (3:35 minutes) video of the performance at  but has also fortunately posted on YouTube the entire performance at .   La Vanguardia, the leading newspaper in Catalonia, called the performance “majestuós”   -- majestic.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 April 2014: Dear "Head of State"

    Now is the time for the primates of many of the Local Orthodox Churches to send Easter greetings to Pope Francis and for Pope Francis to send Easter greetings to them.  These greetings are always cordial.  However, on April 10, Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus and Metropolitan Andreas of Dryinoupolis (Church of Greece) sent to Pope Francis a personal 89-page letter, addressed to him as “Head of State of Vatican City,”  that was not cordial, but insulting. Today, the very popular Greek religious website,, posted the full text of the letter in both Greek and English.  The following is the link to the English text:  The letter is an attack not only on the Catholic Church but also on Pope Francis personally.

    Metropolitan Seraphim even has some remarks directed at Judaism.   At page 23, he states:  “We remind you of the act of restoration of the name Judah and of the act of exoneration of the Jewish people for the crucifixion of Christ, which was performed by His former Excellency, Benedict XVI, while Judaism now and throughout time with the satanic Kabbalah and the demonic Talmud crucify daily the Savior of the world!”

    It is not a complete surprise that it was Metropolitan Seraphim that wrote such a letter.  On the Sunday celebrating the Triumph of Orthodoxy in March 2012, Metropolitan Seraphim read out a series of anathemas including one directed at Pope Benedict XVI.  Later in the month, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew took the unusual step of writing a very strong letter to Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church 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 mentions the anathemas issued by a metropolitan of the Church of Greece.   It was reported that the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece discussed the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter, but there were no reports (to my knowledge) as to what, if any, action the Synod took.  Judging from this latest letter, any action taken by the Synod was not particularly effective.  As I previously reported, Metropolitan Seraphim in July 2013 also wrote a 71-page letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch, prompted by the Patriarch’s actions in Milan, in Bose, and in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

    Perhaps it is easy to discount the letter to Pope Francis as “Oh, that is just Metropolitan Seraphim again!”  However, I believe that it is more serious than that.  I have visited the site probably five times a week for a number of years.  It is probably the most popular Greek religious website, with almost one million unique visitors each year.  In my opinion, every letter written by Metropolitan Seraphim (and he writes on a number of different subjects) is given the greatest coverage possible by  It also seems that Metropolitan Seraphim is guaranteed that the full text of any letter that he writes will be posted by  Romfea is the source of Greek news for many Orthodox websites in the world, and it is very likely that the latest letter by Metropolitan Seraphim will be reported by at least some of them.

    Metropolitan Seraphim seeks to be the champion of conservative Orthodoxy.  At the conclusion of his letter at page 88, he states: “Finally we must make known to you that any censure and abuse that might come upon us

    for this gesture of ours will constitute the greatest crown of our life….”  One wonders what, if anything, the Church of Greece will do with respect to this letter to Pope Francis.  For example, without making Metropolitan Seraphim a martyr, the Church of Greece could write a letter to Pope Francis stating that it is embarrassed by the letter written by Metropolitan Seraphim.

    In other news, the Ecumenical Patriarch has sent a special letter to the people of Ukraine.   In an interview on April 9, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) stated:  “Our church has repeatedly stated that it supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  And today we unequivocally condemn the attempts to deprive Ukraine of its territory and include them in other states… We encourage our priests to be patriots of their country and prevent separatist sentiment among the laity.”

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 April 2014: My new book in Russian

    To my friends in Russia and to my friends of Russia,

    I have written a little book that has just been published by the St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute in Moscow.  The title of the book is “ДАР ЛЮБВИ. ВАТИКАНСКИЙ СПИСОК КАЗАНСКОЙ ИКОНЫ БОЖЬЕЙ МАТЕРИ” [GIFT OF LOVE. THE VATICAN COPY OF THE KAZAN ICON OF THE MOTHER OF GOD]. The book describes the history of the original Kazan icon and then the history of the copy of the Kazan icon that was given by Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Alexy.  I believe that some of the information in the book has never been made public in Russia.  The book describes the meeting in Seattle in September 1989 between Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad and Father Frederick Miller, the executive director of the Catholic organization, “Blue Army.”  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a beautiful copy of the Kazan icon that was owned by the Blue Army and that was located at the Blue Army’s chapel in Fatima, Portugal.  The book also discusses the subsequent letters by Metropolitan and later Patriarch Alexy in which he expresses his great desire for the return of this icon to Russia.  Subsequently, the icon was transferred from Fatima to Pope John Paul II, who kept the icon in his personal apartment.  It became one of the Pope’s most precious possessions.  Next, the book discusses in detail the very difficult years between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Catholic Church and how the Vatican Kazan icon became unfortunately a part of this bitter dispute.  Several chapters are devoted to the great efforts by the City of Kazan to obtain the Vatican icon.  The findings of the joint Russian – Vatican expert commission, which examined the icon in April 2003 are discussed and analyzed in detail.  In August 2004, Pope John Paul II gave the icon as a gift to Patriarch Alexy.  According to a representative of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, this gift “broke the ice” between the Vatican and Moscow, and relations steadily improved after that.  The book describes the great suspense in Kazan as to whether Patriarch Alexy would give the icon to Kazan and the extraordinary efforts made by Kazan to restore parts of the Mother of God Monastery (located at the site of the discovery of the original icon by Matrona in 1579) in the hopes that it would encourage the Patriarch to give the icon to Kazan.  The Patriarch kept it a secret as to whether he would give the icon to Kazan until he arrived in Kazan for the millennium celebrations (1,000th anniversary of the founding of Kazan) and brought with him the icon.  As described in the book, the Vatican icon has become the replacement for the original Kazan icon which was destroyed by thieves in 1904.  Kazan’s Mother of God Monastery is becoming an important destination for pilgrims in Russia.  Lastly, the book discusses in detail the firm conviction of Archpriest Stefan Lyashevsky, who wrote the authoritative history of the Diveevo Monastery for the period 1903-1927, that the Kazan icon, then in Fatima, was the personal Kazan icon of St. Alexandra, the founder of the famous Diveevo Monastery.  Father Stefan states that he personally examined the icon in great detail when it was being smuggled out of the Soviet Union in 1943 and he states that there can be no mistake in its identity.  It is my belief that this theory is very plausible and should be further investigated.

    The book is being published two weeks before the canonization of Pope John Paul II, which will occur on April 27.  It is my hope and prayer that the book will show readers in Russia that this icon was in fact a “gift of love” to Russia by Pope John Paul II.  This gift is the physical legacy left by this great Pope to Russia.  It is no coincidence that immediately after the canonization ceremony in Rome, the Catholic bishops of Russia will travel to Kazan.

    The following is the link from the St. Andrew’s internet stores for the book: .  Using a link on this webpage, you can read the first pages of the book.  This includes the dedication of the book to Protodeacon Andrei Chizhov, who played such an important role during the early years of the return of the icon.  It also includes the Preface in which I describe my reasons for writing this book at this time.  Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who was the Vatican representative to the Russian Federation during many of the critical years described in the book, has kindly written a very nice recommendation of the book, and this recommendation appears on its back cover.

    Although I know this little book will never be on the “best sellers” list for Russian religious books, I do hope that it will make, in a little way, a positive contribution to better relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.


    Yours in Christ and the Mother of God, Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 April 2014: New DECR representative visits Rome

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate at its meeting on 25-26 December 2013 appointed Father Dimitry Sizonenko as acting representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to European international organizations.  Father Dimitry was then the secretary for inter-Christian relations at the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate.  In that position, he was responsible for relationships with non-Orthodox Christian churches including the Catholic Church.  At the beginning of this year, the vacancy in that position caused by the new appointment of Father Dimitry was filled by hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov).  Father Stefan has worked in the DECR since at least 2010.  Congratulations to Father Stefan on his promotion!  But also many thanks to Father Dimitry for all that he has done to promote Christian unity!

    On Wednesday, Father Stefan was in Rome.  As far as I know, this is his first trip to Rome since joining the DECR a number of years ago.  At the end of Wednesday’s general audience, he met Pope Francis.  I have attached a photo of the meeting.  The photo also shows Father Hyacinthe Destivelle O.P., who is responsible for the Slavic Orthodox churches at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  I am sure that Father Stefan and Father Hyacinthe will be communicating with each other frequently.  As described in the English article linked above, Father Stefan also had a number of other meetings in Rome.

    In another development, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an “email interview” with the US Catholic newspaper National Catholic Register.  The full interview in English can be read at  I found most interesting his comments concerning a possible meeting with Pope Francis.  He stated, “Already last autumn, it seemed to me that the sides were ready to begin preparing it.  But the events in Ukraine have thrown us much back, first of all, because of the actions of the Greek Catholics….”  In this regard, he states, “In the present civic confrontation, the Greek Catholics have taken one side, entering into active cooperation with the Orthodox schismatic groups [primarily the UOC-KP].”  Later he states, “In these circumstances it became more difficult to speak of a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow in the near future.”

    The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow has taken a neutral position with respect to the annexation of the Crimea by Russia.  In my opinion, this is very understandable as the Moscow Patriarchate has a substantial number of members on both sides of the political controversy.  On the other hand, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has at least indirectly criticized the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate for not condemning Russia’s actions in Crimea.  In a recent interview with Day-Kyiv, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the UGCC, stated that the failure of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Holy Synod to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine “is a sign of some weakness.” (in Ukrainian)  He attributes this to the close relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government, and he believes that this relationship inhibits freedom of action on such issues as Ukraine.

    At the beginning of March, Metropolitan Onufry, present head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), signed a declaration on behalf of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations which stated:  “We appeal to the international community to do everything possible to maintain peace in Ukraine and to preserve the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of the borders of the Ukrainian state.”   Yesterday (April 3), the All-Ukrainian Council, headed by Metropolitan Onufry, issued another communique.  A Google translation of the last sentence of Paragraph 3 is as follows:  “[The Council] Also condemned manifestations of separatism and advocated for the integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”

    Although the MP’s Holy Synod has taken a neutral position, I have also not seen a condemnation of the annexation from the Vatican.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 1 April 2014: Czech and Syriac Churches

    Today, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a communique regarding the recent election of a primate for the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  The communique expressly finds that the “manner of the election that took place for the new Primate of the aforementioned Church following the resignation of Archbishop Christopher from his throne has not yet been recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Orthodox Autocephalous Churches due to certified irregularities of a canonical nature pertaining to the election.”  Furthermore, “any canonical action in the above named Church resulting from the composition of its Hierarchy after this election is considered uncanonical and is not recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” (in English)   Moscow, on the other hand, strongly supports the actions leading to the enthronement of Metropolitan Rastislav as primate on 9  February 2014.  Although Constantinople and Moscow were able to agree on a compromise paving the way to the holding of a pan-Orthodox synod in 2016, today’s actions by the Holy Synod shows that the tensions between Constantinople and Moscow continue.

    Yesterday, Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop of Eastern United States of America, was elected primate of the Syriac Orthodox Church.  He chose the name, Mor Ignatius Aphrem II.  The declaration certifying his election can be read in English at .  The following is a nice article with a photo showing the Archbishop with Cardinal Dolan last year.  The new primate received a licentiate of Sacred Theology degree in 1991 and a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1994 from St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Ireland.  He stressed recently the need for Christian unity.  He has also been co-moderator of the Annual Oriental Orthodox – Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States. 

    In an interesting development, the Orthodox Church of Poland has decided to switch to the old style (Julian) calendar for liturgical purposes.  This is not a radical change as most of the Orthodox parishes in Poland already use the old calendar.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 March 2014 (2): Metropolitan Hilarion's Fribourg statement

    To supplement my report yesterday, the English text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s address at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) on universal primacy has now been made available by the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR.  In my opinion, this is a “must read” for anyone interested in this topic.  Also now available is a good English translations of Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks concerning the UGCC on the television program “Church and the World.”

    Today, the Vatican also released the official schedule of the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land.  As you can see, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis will be together on several occasions.  A joint declaration will be signed.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 March 2014 (1): Ukraine & interesting conferences

    As far as I can determine, Metropolitan Hilarion has not made any lengthy public statements concerning Ukraine.  However, on his television program “Church and the World” broadcasted on Monday, he did sharply criticize the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.  This was the subject of an English-language article by Asianews.'Uniates'-for-meddling-in-politics-and-taking-a-pro-West-stance-30662.html    A complete transcript of Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks in Russian can be read at .  Metropolitan Hilarion stressed that the faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate are on both sides of the political barricades.  The Church has the function of uniting all and does not stand on one side of the barricades.  In contrast, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has been on one side from the very beginning.  He also criticized the close connection between the UGCC and the UOC-KP, such as the heads of the two churches meeting together with the US State Department in Washington, DC.

    Although the Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate are taking a strictly neutral position on the political situation in Ukraine and Crimea, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) appears to be less neutral and more supportive of the Ukrainian position.  Two days ago, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, headed by Metropolitan Onufry of the Moscow Patriarchate, issued a statement that expresses appreciation for the current government’s effort to stabilized the situation in Ukraine.  It also referred to the “external threats to the territorial integrity of Ukraine within the boundaries defined by the current Constitution of Ukraine.”   One Ukrainian Metropolitan of the Moscow Patriarchate has issued a very harsh condemnation of Russia’s actions.  (Russian); (English)

    In another development in Ukraine, the first working meeting of the Dialogue Commission between the UOC-MP, UOC-KC, and the UAOC was held in Kyiv today.  The following is a Google translation of part of the Ukrainian-language article which indicates a constructive beginning: “Commission members felt it necessary to study the experience of overcoming church schisms in other Local Orthodox Churches with a view to its incorporation in treating the religious divisions in Ukraine.  It was underlined that dialogue involves cessation of hostility and religious conflict.  Any conflicts between communities of UOC, on the one hand, and communities Kyivan Patriarchate and Autocephalous Orthodox Church, on the other hand, should be settled by peaceful means. The Commission expressed its readiness to consider all conflicting issues that arise in the field and to contribute to their constructive solution.  It was especially emphasized that in the dialogue the language of ultimatums is not acceptable.  All parties to the dialogue seek common ground to achieve this goal.”

    On a different subject, Metropolitan Hilarion participated on Monday in a seminar at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) on the subject, “Primacy in the Universal Church.”  At the seminar, he presented the position on this subject recently approved by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.  A lively discussion period followed.  Several Catholic members of the International Dialogue Commission were present:  Prof. Dr. Barbara Hallensleben (who organized the meeting), Bishop Charles Morerod OP (bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg), and Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).  I would be very interested in hearing more about the discussion.

    Lastly, the Sant’ Egidio Community sponsored a conference in Rome on March 21 on the subject: “Orthodox and Catholics on the Way of Charity.”  One of the speakers was Metropolitan Juvenaly, one of the most important members of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.    Bishop Panteleimon, who is responsible for the charity work of the Moscow Patriarchate, was also there.   One of the champions of charity studied at the conference was Saint Seraphim of Sarov.  You can watch an interesting video of the Metropolitan’s visit to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere at .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20 March 2014: New Metropolitan of St. Petersburg

    Today, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its first session for 2014.  The Holy Synod made a number of important decisions.  First, the resignation of Metropolitan Vladimir of St. Petersburg was accepted.  Metropolitan Vladimir had submitted his letter of resignation at age 75, but is now almost 85 years old.  He has apparently had increasing health problems and has now decided that he should really retire.  He has been the head of the St. Petersburg Metropolia since 1996.  Under his supervision, the Metropolia has greatly grown.  (Journal No. 8)

    The new Metropolitan of St. Petersburg will be Metropolitan Varsonofy of Saransk and Mordovia.  He presently serves as chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate and in that capacity is already a permanent member of the Holy Synod.  As far as I can determine, he is close to Patriarch Kirill and will have a similar viewpoint as the Patriarch.  I have pasted below an 2009 Interfax report concerning the appointment of Archbishop Varsonofy as chancellor in December 2009.  As you can see from the article, Varsonofy was appointed as acting chancellor at the first Synod meeting following Kirill’s election as Patriarch.  He replaced the existing chancellor, Metropolitan Kliment, who had been Kirill’s prime competitor in the election for patriarch.  As you see a brief description of the duties of chancellor in the Interfax article below.  The chancellor works very closely with the Patriarch and must presumably be a person that the Patriarch greatly trusts.  Metropolitan Varsonofy accompanied the Patriarch on his trip to St. Petersburg last September.

    A photo and a Russian language biography of Metropolitan Varsonofy can be seen at .  Metropolitan Varsonofy appears to have had relatively limited international exposure.  He was part of the Patriarch’s delegation to Japan last year and has been pilgrimages to various international destinations, especially to the Holy Land and Mt. Athos.  He made a pilgrimage to the shrines of Italy in February 1999.  I have found nothing on the Internet concerning his contacts with Catholics.  In view of his closeness to the Patriarch, I assume and hope that he will be in favor of good relations with Catholics.

    The Holy Synod was obviously concerned about the current situation in Ukraine and Crimea.  Certainly, it would be a catastrophe for the Moscow Patriarchate if the recent events caused the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) to break its ties with Moscow.  The first order of business of the Synod today was to make Metropolitan Onufry, the locum tenens of the Kyiv Metropolia, a permanent member of the Holy Synod.  (Journal No. 1)   He is to occupy the same seniority position as the very ill Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv – namely first among the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church (after the Patriarch).  Metropolitan Onufry was actually present and participated in today’s meeting.   The Holy Synod today also issued an appeal to the Ukrainian people.  It stated that the Moscow Patriarchate has avoided being identified with one side or the other in the current political disputes, but has rather urged a peaceful resolution.  The appeal states, “The boundaries of the Church is not determined by political preferences , ethnic differences and even state borders. The Church keeps its unity despite all the shifting circumstances.”

    On a different subject, an English translation of the interview of Metropolitan Hilarion on the recent decision to hold an pan-Orthodox Council can be read at   Metropolitan Hilarion states that the issue of primacy is not on the agenda.  Patriarch Kirill has stressed that this “Holy and Great Synod” in 2016 will not be an “Ecumenical Council.”   The head of the Synodal Communications Department of the Moscow Patriarchate also reaffirmed this point.

    Both Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion sent very positive letters to Pope Francis on the one year anniversary of his pontificate.  (English translations)


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Archbishop Varsonofy Sudakov of Saransk and Mordovia (1955- ), the new Chancellor of the MP

    At a meeting on Friday, the MP Holy Synod approved the appointment of Archbishop Varsonofy Sudakov of Saransk and Mordovia as Chancellor of the MP, Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Synodal Information Department, told Interfax-Religion. At the meeting of the Holy Synod of 31 March 2009, the first under the chairmanship of Patriarch Kirill, Bishop Varsonofy was appointed the acting chancellor of the MP. Earlier, Metropolitan Kliment Kapalin of Kaluga and Borovsk had held this position, from March 2009, Vladyki Kliment was the Head of the Publications Board of the Moscow Patriarchate. Archbishop Varsonofy (in the world, Anatoly Vladimirovich Sudakov) was born in 1955 in the village of Malinovka in Saratov oblast. After graduating from theological school in Moscow, he served parishes in the Diocese of Penza, and, in 1991, was ordained Bishop of Saransk and Mordovia.

    “Our activities are comparable with the work of the Presidential Administration, a body that provides the material conditions for implementing the president’s constitutional powers. We act on behalf of the patriarch, control the execution of circulars, decrees, orders, and resolutions of His Holiness, and submit relevant reports. Our Administration analyses the events taking place in the dioceses, preparing detailed reports for the patriarch”, Vladyki Varsonofy said in a recent interview with Interfax-Religion describing the duties of the Chancellor and his department.

    25 December 2009


  • 9 March 2014: Orthodox message to the world

    The meeting of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches concluded today.  Below are the links for the official English text from the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The very good news is that it confirms the holding of the pan-Orthodox Synod in 2016.  In this regard the key language from the message is: “All decisions at the Synod and in the preparatory stages are made by consensus. The Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church will be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople in 2016, unless something unexpected occurs. The Synod will be presided by the Ecumenical Patriarch. His brother Primates of the other Orthodox Autocephalous Churches will be seated at his right and at his left.”  In my person opinion, this reflects the compromise which broke the deadlock between Moscow and Constantinople.  Constantinople agrees with Moscow’s position that all decisions will be by consensus.  Moscow agrees with position of Constantinople that the “Synod will be presided by the Ecumenical Patriarch.” 

    On a negative note, the Patriarchate of Antioch “suspended” its signing of the message because of the failure of the meeting to resolve its dispute with Jerusalem (over Qatar).  The English-language communique from Antioch can be read at

    With some of the social issues of today, the letter states:  “We stress the undisputed sanctity of human life from inception until natural death. We recognize marriage as the union of man and woman that reflects the union between Christ and His Church. Our vocation is to preserve the natural environment as stewards and not proprietors of creation.”




    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 7 March 2014: Pan-Orthodox Council in 2016!

    Today, both and – the two most prominent religious websites in Greece – reported that agreement has been reached at the meeting of the primates on certain of the key details for the holding of the future pan-Orthodox Council.  In view of the fact that the information on both websites (which are very independent from each other and do not share the same perspective on many issues) is essentially the same, I am inclined to believe that the reports are accurate.  The reports in Greek can be read at and 

    The key details are as follows: (1) The pan-Orthodox Council will be held in 2016; (2) Each Local Orthodox Church will be represented by 20 bishops [assuming they had that many bishops]; (3) Each Local Orthodox Church will have one vote; (4) Decisions will be made by consensus; (5) A preparatory commission is being established to work out the details; (6) It appears that the Istanbul Church of Hagia Irene, location of the Second Ecumenical Council, may well be the location of the pan-Orthodox Council.

    The full English text of the opening address by the Ecumenical Patriarch can be read at .

    An English summary of the opening address by Patriarch Kirill can be read at .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 6 March 2014: Dinner with the primates

    The following link has a number of interesting photos of the dinner held tonight in Istanbul for the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches and their delegations.  Patriarch Kirill has arrived and has already met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  It is reported that Patriarch John of Antioch cannot attend because of health problems, but is sending a representative instead.  [One wonders if the Qatar dispute with Jerusalem was also a factor.]  All of the Local Orthodox Churches will be represented at the meeting except the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.   According to, the meeting tomorrow (Thursday) will begin with prayer at 9:30 in the Patriarchal church, followed by greetings from the Ecumenical Patriarch and the other primates.  The working session will continue to 19:30. reports that aside from the crucial issue of the future pan-Orthodox Council, the preparatory commission discussed such matters as the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, developments in Ukraine, and the abandonment of Christian principles by modern society in European countries. Also examined were bioethical issues, such as the issue of surrogacy and organ transplantation.  This information was also confirmed by the official site of the Bulgarian Patriarchate.

    The report by the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate on the conclusion of the work of the preparatory commission can be read at .  The report states that Metropolitan Hilarion “in accordance with the provisions of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2013, pointed to the need for a decision by the Council to be by consensus.”  

    Finally, the press service of the Orthodox Presov Eparchy has issued a communique concerning the meeting at the Phanar on 1 March between the two factions in the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  It states that the negotiations, which continued late into the evening, “were conducted in a spirit of constructive commitment.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 March 2014: Hooray for Orthodox unity!!!

    Today (Tuesday) was the first of two days (4-5 March) scheduled for a meeting of the preparatory committee which is responsible for formulating the program of the meeting of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to be held on 6-9 March.   There had been speculation by some that a number of the Local Orthodox Churches would not attend.  For example, it was said that Jerusalem and Antioch would not meet together because of their bitter disputes on jurisdiction over Qatar.  Others had said that tensions between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate would mean that only the Greek, and not the Slavic, Local Churches would accept the Ecumenical Patriarch’s invitation to attend this meeting at the Phanar.  It was therefore with great anticipation that I searched the Internet this morning to see who was attending the preparatory meeting.  It was a great joy to see that all of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches (whose autocephalous status is recognized by all of the other Local Orthodox Churches) sent important representatives to the preparatory meeting – with the exception of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, which I am sure would love to be there, but whose recent election of a primate is contested.  Thus, the following Local Orthodox Churches had high level representatives at the preparatory meeting today:  Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Moscow, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, and Poland.   Metropolitan Ioannis heads the preparatory delegation from Constantinople, and Metropolitan Hilarion heads the delegation from Moscow.   Metropolitan Hilarion suggested in his opening remarks that it would be a good idea to establish a small working group, an inter-Orthodox secretariat, to work on the planning of the future pan-Orthodox Council.

    Today, posted a statement by Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.  The Archbishop suggests that at the future pan-Orthodox Council, each Local Orthodox Church be represented by the primate and six bishops and that each Local Orthodox Church have one vote.  With respect to this idea, he states that the reaction of the Ecumenical Patriarch appears positive.  He also suggests that the Council be held in 2015 and that its proceedings be conducted in the Istanbul Church of Hagia Irene (subject to permission from Turkish governmental authorities), where the Second Ecumenical Council was held in 381.

    The next few days should be very interesting indeed!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 3 March 2014: Phanar and Ukraine

    Today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued an “announcement” with respect to the meeting of the Orthodox primates, scheduled for March 6-9 at the Phanar.  The official English version can be read at .  According to the announcement, the work of the preparatory committee will begin tomorrow (Tuesday).  The preparatory committee will “formulate the program of proceedings and draft the Message of the First-Hierarchs, who will concelebrate on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in the venerable Patriarchal Church of St. George, thereby also expressing the unity of Orthodoxy visibly.”  The meeting of the primates will “deliberate on matters pertaining to the entire Orthodox Church throughout the world, and especially procedural issues for the convocation of the Holy and Great Council, whose preparation is coming to an end.”

    Talks between the two factions from the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, held at the Phanar, ended this weekend without agreement. 

    With respect to Ukraine, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations adopted a very significant statement yesterday (Sunday).  The statement was signed on behalf of the Council by its chairman, Metropolitan Onufry (UOC-MP). (UOC-MP site) and  (Council site)  I have pasted an English translation by Google below.

    Yesterday Patriarch Kirill sent a letter to Metropolitan Onufry and to all of the faithful in Ukraine.  A good English translation of the letter, which should be read in its entirety, has been provided by the DECR at


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



      Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations

      in connection with the decision of the Federal Council

      Russian Federation from March 1, 2014

    On  March 1, 2014, the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation gave its consent to the use of Russian troops in Ukraine by the President of Russia.  Introduction military forces of another state on the territory of Ukraine is a threat not only for our country but also for the peace and tranquility on the European continent as a whole.

    We call on the Russian authorities to abandon the military and other, not under international law and bilateral agreements, interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine.  Russian authorities should recognize their responsibility before God and humanity for possible irreparable consequences of military conflict on Ukrainian soil.

    Ukrainian people have the friendly and brotherly feelings towards the Russian people.  Ukrainian citizens do not wish to incite hatred.  We want to continue to build fraternal relations with Russia as a sovereign, independent state.

    Once again we recognize the legitimacy of the organs of state authorities formed by the Verkhovna Rada [Supreme Council] and the appointment by the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of acting President of Ukraine A. Turchinov and the government of Ukraine officials.

    We appeal to the international community to do everything possible to maintain peace in Ukraine and to preserve the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of borders of the Ukrainian state.  Undermining peace and stability in Ukraine threatens to destroy the entire modern system of global security.  Therefore, you should take all measures to Ukraine due to the introduction of foreign troops not the war broke out.

    Churches and religious communities in Ukraine - the Ukrainian people.  Invite all to fervent prayer for our homeland.

    May the Lord preserve us all!


    + Onufry

    Chairman UCCRO,

    Metropolitan Chernovtsy and Bukovina UOC [-MP]

  • 28 February 2014: Romania, Ukraine, and the dialogue

    There are a number of important items to report today.  First, in an exclusive report, stated today that Patriarch Daniel of Romania sent a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew a few days ago seeking the intervention of the Ecumenical Patriarch in solving the problem facing the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  Patriarch Daniel urges that a solution be found before the meeting of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches scheduled for 9 March.  Presumably, the concern is that the meeting could be subject to great disunity at its very beginning over the question of the appropriate representative of the Czech and Slovak church at the meeting of the primates.

    Yesterday, Metropolitan  Onufry, locum tenens of the UOC-MP, sent congratulations to Arsenii Yatseniuk, the new prime minister for Ukraine.   The letter included the statement:  “Knowing your sincere love of country and respect for its cultural wealth, I hope that through the joint efforts of church and state we can reach mutual agreement and understanding in society and return to blessed peace and tranquility in our country.” has posted an interesting interview of Sergei Chapnin, editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, concerning the situation in Ukraine.,-which-opens-to-dialogue-30399.html   I found most interesting the following statement by Chapnin:  "we will have to understand and accept that the path of Ukrainian Orthodoxy does not coincide with or imitate Russian Orthodoxy". "For me, this is already evident today."   My [P.A.’s] personal belief is that it is certainly wise that the UOC-MP does not automatically follow the views of the Russian government.  Otherwise, the Church would lose credibility in Ukraine.  As can be seen, the UOC-MP is seeking to work with the new Ukrainian government, which has not been recognized by the Russian government.

    Vatican Insider has posted an extremely interesting interview of Ecumenical Patriarchate Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas), who chairs the Orthodox side of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.   Although the English-language interview should be read in its entirety, I found especially interesting the following comments by the Metropolitan concerning the dialogue:

    “Yes I did read it [the recent pronouncement by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on primacy]. I speak for myself and on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate when I say that we do not agree with that document.  It claims that the primacy exists and has theological grounding at the local and regional Church level but not on a universal level.  We know what the real reason for this is: they want to deny that after the schism in the Orthodox Church too the Ecumenical Patriarchate exercised universal primacy.  In order to achieve this, they reject the possibility of recognising the Pope’s role as universal primate in a way that is acceptable to the Orthodox Churches as well.”

    “I fear that there are going to be problems [in the ecumenical dialogue caused by divisions within Orthodoxy].  Particularly because the position of the Patriarchate of Moscow holds as much weight as a pronouncement by the Synod.  These are not positions expressed by single individuals, by Metropolitan Hilarion or by Patriarch Kirill.  With a pronouncement like that, it becomes difficult for an exchange of views to take place and this is what dialogue is all about.  Imagine if the Orthodox Church today wished to enter into dialogue with the Catholic Church having already made certain synodal pronouncements on the primacy issue, which is the issue currently at the centre of discussion:  it would mean there was no room for discussion and that dialogue had ended. The step taken by the Patriarchate of Moscow could have very negative consequences.  It could in fact lead to the end of theological dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches which was launched in order to overcome the obstacles that are standing in the way of full communion.  I hope this will not happen.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 February 2014: More on Ukraine & 9 March meeting

    Today, I searched on the Internet for any reaction to the election of Metropolitan Onufry as locum tenens of the UOC-MP.  I was relieved to see that the election has generally been well received.  The most interesting (and most insightful) observations that I found are in an article from Kommersant-Ukraina translated into English by Paul Steeves.   It seems that Metropolitan Onufry was a good compromise candidate.

    The election has not resulted in a sudden change in course by the UOC-MP.  This afternoon (Tuesday), the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations met with Acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchinov (who is a Baptist preacher).  Both Metropolitan Onufry and Metropolitan Anthony attended as well as many other religious representatives.  The latter link has some interesting photos of the meeting.

    A few hours after the election, Metropolitan Onufry went to a street in Kyiv where many had lost their lives in recent days and conducted a service there.   Yesterday, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP issued an appeal to the government.   The appeal lamented the many victims and stated that “we unequivocally condemn the sin of murder.”  The appeal proposed to establish a period of mourning through the end of Lent and  “to abolish during this period all mass entertainment in the country , and accordingly to adjust the programs of TV channels and radio stations.”

    The Holy Synod of the UOC-MP also established a commission to engage in a dialogue with the UOC-KP and UAOC.  This subject was also discussed in appeal sent by the Holy Synod to the faithful in Ukraine.  The appeal stressed that “overcoming church schisms in Ukraine should occur only on a foundation of Orthodox canon law” and that any political interference is improper.

    On a different subject, Archbishop Ieronymos, the primate of the Church of Greece, stressed to the Church’s Holy Synod today the great importance of the meeting of the Orthodox primates that will be held in Istanbul on 9 March.  He spoke of the need for Orthodox unity in view of the many problems that divide the Orthodox churches.  Today, Metropolitan Hilarion was in Cyprus to meet with Archbishop Chrysostomos, the primate of the Church of Cyprus.  The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss the 9 March meeting and a future pan-Orthodox Council.   The 9 March meeting was also the subject of discussion in a meeting between Metropolitan Hilarion and Archbishop Ieronymos yesterday.   There has been some speculation that the primates of some of the Local Orthodox Churches will boycott the meeting or only send low level delegations.  Hopefully, the need for Orthodox unity will be viewed as more important than the individual disputes between various Local Churches. has just posted an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion on the recent election of a primate for the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, entitled “Fantasies about the Problems in the Czech Republic.” has also reported that Czech Archbishop Simeon, who vigorous disputes the election, will be visiting the Ecumenical Patriarch in the next few days.  I assume that the election may be one of the subjects discussed at the 9 March meeting.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 February 2014: New head of UOC-MP

    Below is an English translation by Paul Steeves of an article from Religion in Ukraine.   Obviously, this is extremely important news.  Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Religiia v Ukraine, 24 February 2014
    On 24 February a session of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held in Kiev.  Metropolitan of Odessa and Ismail Agafangel, who is the senior permanent member of the synod in terms of date of consecration, presided at the session, Religiia v Ukraine reports, citing the website of the Moscow patriarchate, which was the first to post news about the election of the new leader of UOC.


    "In connection with the medically determined incapacity for His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and all-Ukraine Vladimir to perform the duties of his office of primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, of which the members of the synod are personally convinced after visiting His Beatitude in the hospital, the synod made a decision about the necessity of electing an acting metropolitan of the Kiev metropolia," the report of the Moscow patriarchate says.

    In accordance with the rules of the charter of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan of Chernivtsi and Bukovina Onufry was elected locum tenens by secret ballot.

    Details of the election of the new leader of UOC have just been posted on the official website of UOC.


    Report of the manager of affairs of UPTs, Metropolitan of Borispol and Brovary Antony, regarding the report of His Eminence Metropolitan of Pereiaslav-Khmelnitsky and Vishnevo Alexander, who is responsible to the Holy Synod of UOC for the treatment of the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and all-Ukraine Vladimir.


    1. In light of the information in the report, to conclude that the state of physical health of His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir gives reason for point 14 of part V of the charter on administration of UOC to take effect, namely the existence of causes that make it impossible for Metropolitan of Kiev and all-Ukraine Vladimir to fulfill the duties of primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
    1. On the basis of point 14 of part V of the charter on administration of UOC, to elect a locum tenens of the Kiev metropolitan see. By secret ballot, the Holy Synod of UOC elected, from among its permanent members, His Eminence Metropolitan of Chernovitsi and Bukovina Onufry locum tenens of the Kiev metropolitan see.
    1. The name of the locum tenens of the Kiev metropolitan see is to be raised in the divine liturgy in all churches and monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the following phrasing: "For our lord and father Vladimir, His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and all-Ukraine, and our lord His Eminence Onufry, Metropolitan of Chernovitsi and Bukovina, locum tenens of the Kiev metropolitan see."

    In a telephone conversation that was held after the election, Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill wished Metropolitan Onufry God's help in carrying out responsible ministry in the period being now experienced by the Ukrainian nation, which is difficult for the church.

    Metropolitan Onufry is well known in UOC as a long-time and consistent advocate for uniting with the Moscow patriarchate, however with less radical views than the metropolitans of Odessa and Donetsk.  At the same time, among the clergy he has the reputation of a man who is much less liberal in his views on the church and the world than Metropolitan Vladimir, on whose status there still is no news. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 February 2014)

  • 23 February 2014: Churches - one voice in Ukraine?

    I am sure that all of you have been following the rapidly changing situation in Ukraine.  Although most of the news has been political, the religious aspects have also been important.  With the wide split between government supporters and opponents and between East and West, the churches and religious organizations have been able to speak with one voice on significant matters.  Today, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations adopted a joint appeal, signed by its present chairman, Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol (UOC-MP).  An English translation has been provided by Paul Steeves at  as follows:   "The territorial integrity of Ukraine, whose independence was granted to us by God, is an asset for our nation, and therefore we do not have the right to permit its division, because this is a sin before God and future generations of our nation.  In the current conditions of social and political tension, any discussion of this topic is dangerous and does not serve reconciliation, and it leads to an expansion of the conflict, taking it into the provinces.  We also condemn provocation of clashes and strife between residents of different regions of Ukraine and representatives of diverse national minorities and confessions.  We appeal to residents of all regions of Ukraine with the words of the Kobzar [Taras Shevchenko – the great Ukrainian poet]: 'Embrace, my brothers! I pray you, I beg you!'"

    In an earlier appeal on 19 February, signed by Metropolitan Anthony, the Council urged an immediate end of violence and stated that it “was willing to get involved in all available means to restore peace in the country.”  In my opinion, it is significant that the Council, consisting of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Greek Catholics, and others, is not only able to make common statements, but is also able to offer its services as a single body in an attempt to restore peace.

    Yesterday, the day following the signing of the agreement by Yanukovych  , Patriarch Kirill made a fervent appeal for peace.  He also issued a directive to all Russian Orthodox bishops that during the divine liturgy tomorrow (23 February), special prayers (a model prayer is provided in the directive) be said for the situation in the Ukraine.   On the Internet, there were previously questions raised as to why Patriarch Kirill had not yet made an appeal, while appeals had been made by others including the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch. See, for example, .  It is my personal guess that a decision was made within the Church that the Moscow Patriarchate, in this very volatile situation, should speak through Kyiv and Metropolitan Anthony, rather than through Moscow.   Metropolitan Anthony has been very vocal in urging peace and, in my opinion, has been a very positive influence. 

    Today, the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) issued an appeal to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church for the three churches to unite as a single autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  (Synod resolution);  (letter from Filaret).   From the perspective of the UOC-KP, the situation in Ukraine now greatly needs a single united Orthodox Church.  The Kyiv Patriarchate is obviously hoping that the powerful currents existing in Ukraine today will cause the UOC-MP to drift further away from Moscow.

    The one thing that is certain for the future is that prayers are greatly needed.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 February 2014: Enthronement in Presov & Ukraine interviews

    Yesterday (Sunday), Metropolitan Rastislav was enthroned in the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Prešov as the new primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.   On 5 February, the Greek website,, reported that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would not be sending a delegation to the enthronement.  From this, the website concluded that the Ecumenical Patriarch does not recognize the election of Rastislav as primate.  At the enthronement, the following Local Orthodox Churches were represented: Moscow Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Orthodox Church of Poland, and the Orthodox Church in America.

    The Moscow Patriarchate sent three bishops, headed by Metropolitan Hilarion.  Interestingly, the Catholic Church in Slovakia sent four bishops, including its top leaders.  These bishops were: Metropolitan Archbishop Stanislav Zvolensky of Bratislava -- president of the Bishops Conference of Slovakia;  Metropolitan Archbishop Jan Babjak SJ of Presov -- the head of the Slovak Greek Catholic Church; Bishop Milan Chautur CSSR of the Greek Catholic eparchy of Kosice; Bishop Stanislav Stolarik, auxiliary bishop from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kosice. 

    As you recall, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has called for a meeting (synaxis) of all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to be held in Istanbul on 9 March.  This will raise the question as to whether Metropolitan Rastislav will be allowed to participate as primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.

    On a different subject, Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol, who may well be the successor to Metropolitan Volodymyr as head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), gave an interesting interview at  on the current situation in Ukraine.  Paul Steeve’s website provides a full English translation of this interview. (scroll down to the second interview)  I thought that the responses of Metropolitan Anthony were very even-handed.  A detailed English biography of Metropolitan Anthony can be read at .

    Paul Steeves also provided an English translation of Kommersant’s interview of an Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, Father Igor Yatsiv, head of the UGCC press service.  (first interview)   The original Russian interview can be read at .  In the interview, Father Igor made the following comment:  “Now on the Web an appeal of one of our priests is being hyped which called for radical actions on Maidan.  This video was even mentioned by Vladimir Putin in his speech in Brussels: they say priests in western Ukraine are calling for violence against national minorities.  But the truth is that this video was made in 2010.  And the truth is that at the time he was punished by his own bishop and he disavowed his statements and asked for forgiveness from those whom he may have offended.  Does Vladimir Putin really not know that he was shown an old video?  And does he not know that after the recent events our primate along with the chief rabbi of Ukraine issued a condemnation of radical methods of political struggle?  The church does not stand on the side of the nationalists.  We all are children of God regardless of language, skin color, and so forth, so that radical actions cannot be blessed by the church.“

    The following is what President Putin said in his Brussels news conference on 28 January:  “For example, a priest in Western Ukraine was calling on the crowd to go to Kiev and topple the Government so as to – using his own words – “prevent negroes, russkies and yids from telling us what to do in our own home.”   First of all, it is astounding to hear this from a religious figure.  Second, this is radical nationalism of a kind that is totally unacceptable in the civilised world.”   Personally, I wonder if this video was the basis, at least in part, for Metropolitan Hilarion’s television marks a few days later that “Greek Catholic priests in vestments call for killing.”  The YouTube video and the Greek Catholic priest are identified at .   I just finished looking at the video.  (fortunately only 1,410 views so far).  The title of the video is “Uniate priest urges killing.”  The priest is indeed in vestments.  The quality of the video is terrible.  The video was posted by someone in Australia.  A full English translation of the priest’s words is found in the second “comment” below the video.  In the English translation, you can see the remarks quoted by President Putin.

    Finally, the second installment of the interview of Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has been posted by Vatican Insider   In the interview, Bishop Farrell has a very positive assessment of the many current contacts between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Catholic Church.  However, Bishop Farrell does make the following additional comment:  “Our concern is that this kind of practical interaction and collaboration should not take the place of the theological discussions, and that the question of primacy is so difficult and so sensitive for the Russian Orthodox at this time that their presence in the theological dialogue is not as solid as perhaps that of other Orthodox Churches might be.”  With respect to the next plenary session of the theological dialogue, you may be wondering why Novi Sad was selected as the venue.  I am sure that the reason is that Bishop Irinej of Backa, an Orthodox member of the Commission and one of the most prominent members of the Serbian hierarchy, has invited the Commission to come to his see.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 February 2014: Hilarion, Scola, & more

    Yesterday, Metropolitan Hilarion returned to Italy for another visit.  This time he was in Genoa and met with Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.  During the meeting, they discussed cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Italian Episcopal Conference. 

    Last Saturday was an very important day – the fifth anniversary of the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill.   Some of the many accomplishments of the Patriarch were highlighted in a round table discussion held at Moscow State University.    On Saturday, Metropolitan Hilarion was interviewed in a television show broadcasted on “Russia-1” concerning the anniversary.  The Russian-language text can be read at  During the interview, he was asked the usual, repeatedly-asked question about a possible meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope.  In many ways the Metropolitan’s answer was the same as given many times before.  However, this time his remarks concerning the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church seemed much stronger than in recent years.   The following is a Google translation of some of the Metropolitan’s remarks: “There are many factors which complicate the holding of such a meeting.  If example when in Ukraine, Greek Catholic priests in vestments call for killing, how should that be treated?  How interpreted?  Of course at the Vatican they say to us that they cannot influence this, because the Greek Catholics are autonomous.  But they are nevertheless Catholics, the Unia after all was a Catholic project.  This was not simply a project that was associated with some historical stage.  On the theological level already in 1993 both Orthodox and Catholic condemned the Unia, recognizing that it is not the way to achieve unity.  But the effects remain.  We see how these people act, how they position themselves in relationship to the canonical Church and support schismatics.”  I do not know to what extent this statement by the Metropolitan was influenced by current events in Ukraine.

    Today Patriarch Kirill arrived in Sochi.  He viewed various sports facilities, and tomorrow he will conduct a prayer service in  a church in Sochi for representatives from the Olympic teams of Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.

    As I reported last time, Cardinal Scola and his delegation from Milano visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate this last weekend.  As part of the visit, the Ecumenical Patriarch and Cardinal Scola went together to the Catholic church of St. Anthony of Padova in Istanbul for the launch of a book written by Benedict XVI.  The Ecumenical Patriarch’s address in Italian can be read at .  In his address, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to his future meeting in May with “our brother and Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis to emphasize before the world the firm determination along the way of dialogue, peace, respect, the solution of injustices, and the preservation of God’s creation, and in general the rule of divine love.” (Google translation)   It is possible that this description may give us a very brief preview of a common statement to be made at the time of the Jerusalem meeting.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch’s interest in the environment is very well known.  The following is the Ecumenical Patriarch’s speech on the environment when he received an honorary doctorate degree last week at the Institut Catholique in Paris:   The Vatican has acknowledged that Pope Francis is presently working on an encyclical relating to the environment.  I wonder whether the release of this encyclical will be timed to coincide with the Pope’s meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch.  It would certainly be a wonderful supportive action by the Pope to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s many environmental efforts.

    Bishop Jachym was enthroned as Archbishop of Prague last Saturday.  The Moscow Patriarchate sent a large delegation, and a congratulatory letter from Metropolitan Hilarion was read at the enthronement.  Cardinal Duka also sent a congratulatory message, and a Catholic bishop was present at the enthronement.  The opposition, including Archbishop Simeon and former primate Christopher, apparently boycotted the event.   The opposition’s website ran an editorial which stated that except for the Moscow Patriarchate, the entire Orthodox world ignored the event. 

    It is good to see that certain controversies are being resolved.  Romania and Jerusalem resolved their jurisdictional dispute on Monday and full communion was reestablished.   Hopefully, the serious jurisdictional dispute between Jerusalem and Antioch over Qatar will be resolved next.

    On January 28, Fordham University in New York, a Jesuit institution, conferred an honorary doctorate degree on Archbishop Anastasios, the Orthodox primate of Albania.    Fordham University has an Orthodox Christian Studies Center, including an endowed chair in honor of Archbishop Demetrios of America .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 January 2014: Patriarch John in Moscow & more

    Today, Patriarch John X of Antioch completed his five-day visit to Moscow.  You may recall that Patriarch Kirill visited Syria in November 2011 at a time when Ignatius IV was Patriarch of Antioch.    This week was the first occasion for Kirill and John X to meet as patriarchs.  At the conclusion of this week’s visit, a common statement from both patriarchs was issued.  (in English)   As expected, much of the statement relates to the situation in Syria.  However, I also found interesting the following statement:  To make this living witness effective the Orthodox unity is of great importance. This is why careful preparations for any meeting on the pan-Orthodox level through special committees attended by representatives of all the Orthodox Churches are a necessary condition for the success of such meetings. This will require the Orthodox Churches’ joint work in a spirit of love and openness so that all the problems they encounter may be overcome.  I personally hope that Patriarch John will be a positive influence between Moscow and Constantinople.

    For the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, two more representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were interviewed concerning current Catholic – Orthodox relations.  Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of Pontifical Council, was interviewed in English by Vatican Insider:   The Polish language service of Vatican Radio interviewed Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP, who is responsible for the Slavic Orthodox Churches for the Council:,_ale_musi_dbać_o/pol-767467

    On January 21 in Moscow, a prayer service for Christian Unity was held in the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  The Moscow Patriarchate was represented by Father Alexei Dikarev of the DECR.  You can read the text of his very nice remarks (in Russian) at the service at   I was also pleased to see the high degree of Orthodox participation in this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C.  Certainly, the protection of human life is an area where Orthodox and Catholics should work closely together.

    From 14-19 January 2014, Metropolitan Hilarion was in Mexico.  The visit included a meeting with the Catholic primate of Mexico, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, at the Cardinal’s home.  While in Mexico, the Metropolitan received Mexico’s Order of the Legion of Honour, one of its highest awards.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is now in France.  Today, he received an honorary doctorate at the Institut Catholique in Paris and spoke on the ecological activities and vision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Pope Francis is presently working on his own encyclical relating to the environment.    On Saturday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will return to Istanbul to meet with Cardinal Angelo Scola and pilgrims from Milan, Italy.  This is a return visit following the Ecumenical Patriarch’s May visit to Milan to celebrate the Edict of Milan.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 January 2014: Plenary in Novi Sad, Serbia

    Yesterday (19 January), the daily Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano published an article by Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, with the title, “The Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox – Primacy and Synodality Are Not Mutually Exclusive.”  I believe that this is an important article.  I have attached the Italian text as a Word document.  I have pasted a Google English translation below.  Hopefully, there are not too many translation mistakes, but there may be some.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    The theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox

    Primacy and collegiality are not mutually exclusive

    By Andrea Palmieri

    It's been almost four years since the last plenary session of the International Joint Commission, which took place in Vienna in September 2010, but, despite this long interval, one cannot say that the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has stopped.

    These years, in fact, have been devoted to the preparation of a draft document to be submitted to the study of members of the Commission at its next plenary, that, according to the agreement of the two co-presidents, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas, will be held in September in Novi Sad in Serbia. The draft document has been developed through a long process of drafting, which included a first meeting of a Drafting Group in June 2011 in Crete and then the two meetings of the Coordinating Committee of the Commission in November 2011 in Rome and in November 2012 in Paris .

    The document, the text of which is under embargo until the Commission decides on its eventual publication, is dedicated to the relationship between theological and ecclesiological primacy and synodality in the Church at the local, regional and universal levels.

    The preparation of the document was quite complex, since there remains some difference of approach to the issue in question not only between Catholics and Orthodox, but also within the delegations.  For this reason, it is particularly difficult to predict what will be the outcome of the upcoming plenary, which will be called upon to assess the draft document.  For the continuation of the path taken, it is essential that each participant does not demand at this stage of the dialogue that the contents of the new document correspond in a precise and comprehensive way to the formulation of the doctrine of their church, but be aware that it should rather express, with innovative language that does not betray the deposit of faith, the consensus that up to now can possibly be achieved on the issue in question.

    The reflection together, in truth and charity, on these issues starting from what we have in common and not hiding what still separates us, represents already an important step in a process not yet come to an end.  The documents of the International Joint Commission, in fact, by their nature, are not theological treatises in which is expressed the doctrine in its systematic entirety. These documents do not claim to present new magisterial positions, but simply represent the result of the work of the Commission that is offered for the reflection of the Churches of origin as an aid in the journey towards the restoration of full communion.   It will be the competent authority of each Church, and not just the Theological Commission, to judge when, once having overcome all of the divisions, this journey, with the help of God who is the true and only source of unity, will be finally concluded.

    In this perspective, therefore, confronting the delicate question of the relationship between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church is not a doctrinal compromise between the strongest aspects of both Churches, that is the synodal tradition of the Orthodox Church and the strength of primacy of the Catholic Church, but rather seeks to show how these fundamental questions relating to the nature of the Church are not mutually exclusive, but rather they presuppose each other. Thus, the theological dialogue ceases to be purely theoretical and enables Christians of the East and the West to get to know each other's traditions in order to understand, and sometimes also to learn from them, while remaining faithful to the fundamental principle of ecumenical dialogue, which consists in a mutual exchange of gifts.

    On the one hand, the Catholic Church will have to admit that it has not yet developed in its life and its ecclesial structures that level of synodality that would be possible and necessary from a historical and theological point of view and that the strengthening of synodality represents an ecumenical contribution most important for Catholic Church to the recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.   On the other hand, one can await to reason by the Orthodox Church recognition of the fact that primacy even at the level of the universal Church is not only possible and theologically legitimate, but is necessary, and that this is not absolutely contrary to Orthodox ecclesiology, but is compatible with it.

    A significant support for dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox came from Pope Francis, who in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium characteristically said : "In dialogue with our Orthodox brethren , we Catholics have the chance to learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and on their experience of collegiality.  Through an exchange of gifts, the Spirit can lead us ever closer to the truth and goodness " (n. 246).  A similar idea was expressed by Pope Francis 's interview with Father Antonio Spadaro , the editor of  “La Civiltà Cattolica," where the Bishop of Rome confided to want to "learn" from the Orthodox "about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and tradition of collegiality."  The shared reflection on how they governed the Church in the early centuries - continued  Pope Francis - "will bear fruit in due time."  Meanwhile , in ecumenical relations, it is important "not only know each other better, but also to recognize that the Spirit has sown in the other as a gift for us.  Walking together in the differences . There is no other way to unite. This is the way of Jesus."

    It is easy to understand that as you get closer to the crucial question of the exercise of primacy in the universal Church, which throughout history has been one of the major points of disagreement between Orthodox and Catholics, the dialogue is made more complex and progress becomes slower . However, even if the path can seem even longer, it must be recognized that dialogue is already bringing important results, among which the main one is certainly that of a renewed sense of brotherhood and effective collaboration.

    The presence of delegations from almost all of the Orthodox Churches, and especially the historical personal participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch, at the solemn inauguration of the pontificate of Pope Francis on March 19 , as well as visits to the Pope of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Yuhanna X, on September 27, and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodore I, on September 30, are a clear sign of the journey already accomplished.

    In this direction, there were also the intensive contacts with the Orthodox Churches by the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Koch and his collaborators, among which may be mentioned the visits of the Cardinal in Romania and in Moscow, where he had the opportunity to meet with Patriarch Daniel and Patriarch Kirill respectively.

    Another significant example of good relationships that have developed in recent years is the collaboration between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the  Apostoliki Diakonia of Chiesadi, Greece for cultural training projects aimed at increasing mutual knowledge, which in 2013 were increased further. The Apostoloki Diakonia, in fact, not only arranged for the ninth consecutive year, a summer program for the study of the Greek language and knowledge of Orthodox culture for Catholic students, but, from the year just ended, has also decided to fund a new Greek language course at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.

    The many meetings held and the positive experiences of collaboration show how to open more roads towards full communion, in legitimate diversity of local churches.  Along this path, do not get discouraged because of the difficulties encountered, but, on the contrary, remain rooted in Christ, "the shepherd and bishop of our souls" (1 Peter 2: 25), our hearts warming as happened for the disciples of Emmaus, keeping very alive the hope that the Lord’s will be done, "that all may be one" (Jn 17, 21).

  • 19 January 2014: New Koch inteview

    New Koch inteview

    Peter Anderson <>

    Today, on the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Church Unity, Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio did an excellent and very newsworthy interview of Cardinal Koch.  You can listen to the 8-minute English-language interview at  Much of the interview relates to Catholic – Orthodox relations.  I found the following remarks by the Cardinal especially interesting:

    1. With respect to ecumenical relations generally, the Cardinal believes that the greatest opportunity in 2014 will be the May meeting of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.  As to whether there will be a declaration at the May meeting, this is a subject of current discussion and it is not appropriate to comment publicly on it at this time.
    2. The next plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches will occur in September.  [The last plenary session was held four years ago in Vienna in September 2010.  The plenary sessions are normally held every two years.  It appears that the delay has occurred primarily because of difficulties in preparing a draft document on primacy, especially in view of the failure of the Local Orthodox Churches to agree among themselves on this issue.]  The Cardinal did not specify the location of the 2014 plenary.  Presumably, it will be hosted by one of the Local Orthodox Churches, as the last plenary was hosted by the Catholic side.
    3. With respect to the work of the Joint International Commission, the Cardinal thinks that “there are more tensions between the Orthodox than between the Orthodox and Catholics.”
    4. In view of the recent high-level pronouncement by the Moscow Patriarchate on primacy, the Commission “now must find a new way to continue this dialogue.”  The Cardinal mentioned the public statement of Metropolitan Elpidophoros of the Ecumenical Patriarchate disputing Moscow’s position on primary.  The Cardinal believes that the fact that there is now this public discussion between Moscow and Constantinople may be “a very good opportunity” to make progress on this issue.  However, it is “an inner Orthodox discussion,” and the Catholic Church cannot interfere.

    Since my last report, I have not seen any new developments with respect to the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  As far as I can determine, three Orthodox Churches have sent congratulations to Archbishop Rastislav on his election as primate: Moscow, Orthodox Church in America, and Antioch.   It seems that the other Local Orthodox Churches are delaying their response – at least for the present.  Personally, I am glad that I am not the one to determine what is canonical and what is not in this situation.  The small size of the Church in the Czech Republic and Slovakia raises some special problems.  You may recall that the assembly for the Prague diocese was unable on several occasions to reach a two-thirds majority to elect a new bishop.  At the  January 11 meeting in Presov, the Holy Synod of the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia itself made the decision and elected Bishop Jachym for the Prague seat.  At that time, there were a total of four bishop who were members of the Holy Synod – Simeon, Rastislav, Juraj, and Jachym.  Simeon boycotted the meeting on the grounds that it was improperly called – leaving only three bishops at the Presov meeting.  Therefore, Rastislav and Jachym constituted, in themselves, a majority.  It is theoretically possible that Rastislav could agree to support Jachym for archbishop of Prague in return for Jachym withdrawing his name from consideration as primate leaving Rastislav as the only person on the ballot for that position.  I have absolutely no idea if there was such an agreement, but we do know that in fact Jachym immediately after his election withdrew his name from consideration as primate.  On the other hand, it is certainly possible that the third bishop, Juraj, also supported the election of Jachym – I have seen nothing on this.  Most importantly, the assembly at Presov voted to ratify this decision of the Holy Synod.  However, Simeon and his supporter contend that the assembly, which they boycotted, was improperly convened.  It appears that the former primate, Christopher, is aligned with group led by Archbishop Simeon.  In a decision last December, Rastislav, Jachym, and Juraj made it clear that Christopher only had permission to conduct religious services at the monastery where he had assigned and nowhere else.  It also criticized Simeon for inviting Christopher to attend the celebration of the Edict of Milan in Serbia. 


    Peter M. Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 January 2014: Now a schism?

    On January 12, the day after the election of a new primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, Archbishop Simeon sent a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stating: “I inform You with grief that the schism in Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church has already became a reality.”  He adds that he does not want a schism and “begs” the Ecumenical Patriarch to help find a solution.  The full text of the letter, in Czech and English, may be read at .  Whether a schism actually will occur depends, in my opinion, on whether Archbishop Simeon has a significant following among the clergy and faithful of the Church.   The followers of Archbishop Rastislav state that 65 delegates were invited to attend the assembly and that the 49 who attended were enough for a quorum.  The number of attending delegates voting for Rastislav were 43 or 66.15 percent of the total number of eligible delegates.

    Relatively little has been said about Jachym (Joachim) Hrdy, the new archbishop of Prague.  He is forty years old.  In doing a Google search, I found an interesting 2008 interview of him at the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad.   According to the article, he was the only Czech monk in Russia.  He became a monk at the Lavra in 1997, was ordained a priest, and attended the Moscow Theological Academy for two years.  He became a vicar bishop (under Archbishop Simeon) in the Czech Republic in 2009 and remained in this position until elected Archbishop of Prague on Saturday.  Although Jachym was entitled to be on the ballot with Rastislav in the election for primate, he immediately withdrew his name from consideration, so that only Rastislav remained on the ballot.  Simeon contends that both the election of Rastislav and Jachym were uncanonical.  Bishop Jachym is on facebook.   

    On different subject, Pope Francis met on Saturday with the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration and with the Orthodox students studying at Catholic theological institutions in Rome.   Addressing the students, the Pope said: A special greeting to you, dear students, who are completing your theological studies in Rome. Your stay in our midst is important for the dialogue between the Churches of today and, above all, tomorrow. I thank God because he has granted me this beautiful opportunity to meet you and tell you that the Bishop of Rome loves you. I hope that each of you can have a joyful experience of the Church and the city of Rome, enriched [spiritually and culturally], and that you do not see yourselves as guests, but as brothers among brothers. I am certain, that for your part, you by your presence you enrich the academic communities in which you study.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 January 2014: New Primate????

    The big news on Saturday was that a new primate had been elected for the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia -- the 35-year old Archbishop of Presov (Slovakia) Rastislav.  He was elected by an assembly held in Presov.   The same day Patriarch Kirill sent a letter to Rastislav congratulating him on his election as the new primate.    Apparently, events happened very quickly.  The Holy Synod elected Joachim as the new Archbishop of Prague.  Under the Church’s constitution, the next step would be for an assembly to choose between the Archbishop of Prague and the Archbishop of Presov.  However, Joachim immediately withdrew his name from consideration so that only Rastislav remained on the ballot.  Rastislav was elected by a vote of 43 of the 49 delegates attending.  In December, the Holy Synod had previously elected Rastislav as locum tenens of the Church and had removed Archbishop Simeon from the position.

    On January 7, I reported concerning a 31 December letter sent by Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew to Archbishop Simeon.  The Ecumenical Patriarch stated that the removal of Simeon had been uncanonical.  Last Friday, Archbishop Simeon sent a reply letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.   The letter states that the Assembly was being called against his will and was uncanonical.  Archbishop Simeon requests that the Ecumenical Patriarch call an international synod to resolve the matter.  It is therefore very possible that the followers of Archbishop Simeon and the supporters of the Ecumenical Patriarch decided not to participate in the Assembly as it was supposedly uncanonical.

    I believe that one has to wait until the dust settles before one can say what the results of this weekend’s assembly will be.  Hopefully, there can be some resolution of this matter.  However, the worse-case scenario is very disturbing.  Constantinople could withdraw its grant of autocephaly to the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia (although Moscow would obviously not withdraw its earlier grant of autocephaly to this Church).  This could then be just another major roadblock to the holding of a pan-Orthodox council.  Would the Czech and Slovak church be able to participate in a pan-Orthodox council as an autocephalous church?   If Moscow’s position prevails that all matters concerning the council must be determined by consensus of all of the Local Churches, who would speak for the Czech and Slovak church?  It is therefore difficult to say at this point in time whether Saturday’s election has improved the situation or just make it worse.  In any event, the situation certainly merits our prayers.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 January 2014: More on primacy

    Dear Barbara,

    Thanks so much for your kind note.  I know that a year ago both of us tried to persuade Metropolitan Hilarion not to have the primacy document endorsed by the Holy Synod.  However, who knows how he feels in his heart of hearts about this whole issue.  Although he is very influential, he doesn’t have control of the ROC.

    Speaking of Metropolitan Hilarion, I recently found among some old documents relating to our St. Petersburg – Seattle Sister Churches Program a speech by Hieromonk Hilarion on “The Problems Facing Orthodox Theological Education in Russia.”  I now see that it is also online:   It is an amazing document!  It shows that even as a monk, he had the courage to speak his mind.

    You have probably heard about Pope John Paul I’s extemporaneous remarks to the clergy of Rome concerning the death of Metropolitan Nikodim.  The remarks were omitted by the Vatican in all subsequent reports of the text.  However, through a friend at Vatican Radio, I received the voice recording of that portion of the address.  I have attached the recording in the event you have any interest.  I have shared this with Metropolitan Hilarion.  However, I have not distributed this because it could be used by conservation Orthodox to attack Metropolitan Nikodim.  Still, for a Catholic, it is very interesting.

    Thank you again for everything that you have done for me!  May 2014 bring you many blessings!  Yours in Christ, Peter



  • 8 January 2014: Constantinople challenges Moscow's view of primacy

    I apologize for sending two messages to you on one day – and on Christmas Day (o.s).  However, an Orthodox friend of mine has just sent to me a very interesting challenge by Metropolitan Elpidophoros Lambriniadis to the position statement on universal primacy issued by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Holy Synod at its 25-26 December session.  See   I have pasted the full text of Metropolitan Elpidophoros’ response below.  For many years Archimandrite Elpidophoros Lambriniadis was the chief secretary to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Interestingly, he is also a good friend of Metropolitan Hilarion.  In 2011 Metropolitan Hilarion made a special trip to Istanbul to attend the episcopal ordination of Archimandrite Elpidophoros.   I think that it is fairly clear that the views of Metropolitan Elpidophoros are not simply his personal views, but also those of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Obviously, Constantinople and Moscow have very different views on primacy.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

    A Response to the Text on Primacy of the Moscow Patriarchate
    Elpidophoros Lambriniadis
    Metropolitan of Bursa
    Professor of Theology, University of Thessaloniki

    In a recent synodal decision,[1] the Church of Russia seems once again[2] to choose its isolation both from theological dialogue with the Catholic Church and from the communion of the Orthodox Churches. Two points are worth noting from the outset, which are indicative of the intent of the Church of Russia’s Synod:
    First, its desire to thwart the text of Ravenna,[3] claiming seemingly theological reasons to justify the absence of its delegation from the specific plenary meeting of the bilateral commission (an absence dictated, as everyone knows, by other reasons[4]); and

    Second, to challenge in the most open and formal manner (namely, by synodal decree) the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate within the Orthodox world, observing that the text of Ravenna, on which all the Orthodox Churches agreed (with the exception, of course, of the Church of Russia), determines the primacy of the bishop on the three levels of ecclesiological structure in the Church (local, provincial, universal) in a way that supports and ensures the primacy and first-throne Orthodox Church.
    The text of the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the “problem” (as they call it) of Primacy in the universal Church does not deny either the sense or the significance of primacy; and up to this point, it is correct. In addition, however, it endeavors to achieve (indeed, as we shall see, in an indirect way) the introduction of two distinctions related to the concept of primacy.

    1. Separation between ecclesiological and theological primacy
    The first differentiation contrasts primacy as it applies to the life of the Church (ecclesiology) and as understood in theology. Thus the text of the Moscow Patriarchate is forced to adopt the novel distinction between on the one hand the ‘primary’ primacy of the Lord and on the other hand the ‘secondary’ primacies ["various forms of primacy ... are secondary"] of bishops, although later in the same text it will be suggested that the bishop is the image of Christ [cf 2:1], which seems to imply that the two primacies identical or at least comparable, if not simply identified. Even the scholastic formulation of such distinctions between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ primacies demonstrates the stealthy contradiction.
    Moreover, the desired separation of ecclesiology from theology (or Christology) would have destructive consequences for both. If the Church is indeed the Body of Christ and the revelation of the Trinitarian life, then we cannot talk about differences and artificial distinctions that shatter the unity of the mystery of the Church, which encapsulates the theological (in the narrow sense of the word) and Christological formulations alike. Otherwise, church life is severed from theology and is reduced to a dry administrative institution, while on the other hand a theology without repercussions in the life and structure of the Church becomes a sterile academic preoccupation. According to Metropolitan John of Pergamon: “The separation of the administrative institutions of the Church from dogma is not simply unfortunate; it is even dangerous.”[5]

    2. The separation of the different ecclesiological levels
    The second differentiation which in our opinion is attempted by the text of the Moscow Patriarchate pertains to the three ecclesiological levels in the structure of the Church. It is here, it seems, that the entire weight of that text hangs. The text states that the primacy of the local diocese is understood and institutionalized in one way, while on the provincial level of an autocephalous archdiocese it is understood in another, and on the level of the universal church in yet another way (cf. 3: “Due to the fact that the nature of primacy, which exists at various levels of church order (diocesan, local and universal) vary, the functions of the primus on various levels are not identical and cannot be transferred from one level to another”).
    As the Synodal decision claims, not only do these three primacies differ, but even their sources are different: the primacy of the local bishop stems from the apostolic succession (2:1), the primacy of the head of an autocephalous Church from his election by the synod (2:2), and the primacy of the head of the universal church from the rank attributed to him by the diptychs (3:3). Thus, as the text of the Moscow Patriarchate concludes, these three levels and their corresponding primacies cannot be compared among themselves, as done by the text of Ravenna on the basis of the 34th Apostolic canon.
    What is clearly apparent here is the agonizing effort in the present Synodal decision to render primacy as something external and therefore foreign to the person of the first-hierarch. This is what we consider to be the reason why the position of the Moscow Patriarchate insists so greatly on determining the sources of primacy, which always differ from the person of the first-hierarch, in such a way that the first-hierarch is therecipient, rather than the source of his primacy. Does perhaps this dependence also imply independence for the primacy? For the Church, an institution is always hypostasized in a person. We can never encounter an impersonal institution, as the primacy might be perceived without a first-hierarch. It should be clarified here that the primacy of the first-hierarch is also hypostasized by the specific place, the local Church, the geographical region over which as first-hierarch he presides.[6] It is important at this point to observe the following logical and theological contradictions:

    (i) If the First-Hierarch is a recipient of (his) primacy, then primacy exists without and regardless of the First, which is impossible. This appears very clearly in the reasons proffered for the primacy on the provincial and ecumenical levels. For the provincial level, the source of the primacy is considered to be the provincial synod; but can there be a synod without a First-Hierarch? The dialectical relationship between the First-Hierarch and the synod, as formulated by the 34th canon of the Apostles (as well as the 9th and 16th canons of Antioch, according to which a synod without a first-hierarch is considered incomplete), is abrogated for the sake of a unilateral relationship where the many comprise the First, contradicting all reason that recognizes the First both as the constitutive factor and guarantor of the unity of the many.[7] A second example of logical contradiction is presented by the Diptychs. Here the symptom is perceived as the cause and the signified mistaken as the sign. The Diptychs are not the source of primacy on the interprovincial level but rather its expression – indeed, only one of its expressions. Of themselves, the Diptychs are an expression of the order and hierarchy of the autocephalous churches, but such a hierarchy requires the First-Hierarch (and then a second, a third, and so on); they cannot in some retrospective way institutionalize the primacy on which they are based.
    In order to understand these innovations more clearly, let us look for a moment at what all this would mean if we related and applied them to the life of the Holy Trinity, the true source of all primacy (“Thus says God, the king of Israel, the God of Sabaoth who delivered him; I am the first” Is. 44:6).[8]
    The Church has always and systematically understood the person of the Father as the First (“the monarchy of the Father”)[9] in the communion of persons of the Holy Trinity. If we were to follow the logic of the text of the Russian Synod, we would also have to claim that God the Father is not Himself the cause without beginning of the divinity and fatherhood (“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” Eph. 3.14-15), but becomes a recipient of his own “primacy.” Whence? From the other Persons of the Holy Trinity? Yet how can we suppose this without invalidating the order of theology, as St. Gregory the Theologian writes, or, even worse, without overturning – perhaps we should say “confusing” – the relations of the Persons of the Holy Trinity? Is it possible for the Son or the Holy Spirit to “precede” the Father?

    (ii) When the text of the Synod in Russia refuses to accept an “ecumenical prelate” (“universal hierarch”) under the pretext that the universality of such a hierarch “eliminates the sacramental equality of bishops” (3:3) it is merely formulating a sophistry. As to their priesthood, of course, all bishops are equal, but they neither are nor can be equal as bishops of specific cities. The sacred canons (like the 3rd canon of the Second Ecumenical Council, the 24th of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, and the 36th of the Quinisext Council) rank the cities, attributing to some the status of a Metropolitanate and to others the status of a Patriarchate. Among the latter, the further attribute to one primatial responsibility, to another secondary responsibility, and so on. Not all local Churches are equal, whether in order or in rank. Moreover, to the extent that a bishop is never a bishop without specific assignment but rather the presiding bishop of a local Church – that is to say, he is always the bishop of a specific city (which is an inseparable feature and condition of the episcopal ordination) – then bishops too are accordingly ranked (that is to say, there is a particular rank attributed to a Metropolitanate and another to a Patriarchate; a particular rank is attributed to the ancient Patriarchates, as endorsed by the Ecumenical Councils, and another attributed to the modern Patriarchates). Thus, within such an order of rank, it is inconceivable for there not to be a first-hierarch.[10] On the contrary, in recent times, we observe the application of a novel primacy, namely a primacy of numbers, which those who today invoke the canonical universal primacy of the Mother Church dogmatize about a rank that is untestified in Church tradition, but rather based on the principle ubi russicus ibi ecclesia russicae, that is to say “wherever there is a Russian, there too the jurisdiction of the Russian Church extends.”
    In the long history of the Church, the first-hierarch was the bishop of Rome. After Eucharistic communion with Rome was broken, canonically the first-hierarch of the Orthodox Church is the archbishop of Constantinople. In the case of the archbishop of Constantinople, we observe the unique coincidence of all three levels of primacy, namely the local (as Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome), the regional (as Patriarch), and the universal or worldwide (as Ecumenical Patriarch). This threefold primacy translates into specific privileges, such as the right of appeal and the right to grant or remove autocephaly (for example, the Archdioceses-Patriarchates of Ochrid, Pec and Turnavo, etc.), a privilege that the Ecumenical Patriarch exercised even in decisions not validated by decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, as in the case of modern Patriarchates, the first of which is that of Moscow.
    The primacy of the archbishop of Constantinople has nothing to do with the diptychs, which, as we have already said, merely express this hierarchical ranking (which, again in contradictory terms the text of the Moscow Patriarchate concedes implicitly but denies explicitly). If we are going to talk about the source of a primacy, then the source of primacy is the very person of the Archbishop of Constantinople, who precisely as bishop is one “among equals,” but as Archbishop of Constantinople is the first-hierarch without equals (primus sine paribus).

    [1] Reading and citing from the English text. “Position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the problem of primacy in the Universal Church,” as published on the official website of the Patriarchate of Moscow:
    [2] Characteristic examples of other instances of such isolation include the absence of the Patriarchate of Moscow from the Conference of European Churches, as well as the now established strategy of the representatives of this Church to celebrate the Divine Liturgy separately from the other representatives of Orthodox Churches by closing themselves within the local Embassies of the Russian Federation whenever there is an opportunity for a Panorthodox Liturgy in various contexts.
    [3] His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia has dealt with this matter in a recent article published on December 30, 2013, on the website:
    [4] As for what exactly occurred in Ravenna in 2007, and the painful impressions recorded by Roman Catholic observers, see the analysis of Fr. Aidan Nichols in his book Rome and the Eastern Churches, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2nd edition, 2010, pp. 368-9: In October 2006 [sic], the commission resumed its discussions at Ravenna, though the event was marred by a ‘walkout’ on the part of the Moscow patriarchate’s representative. Bishop Hilarion’s protest was caused not for once by the wrongdoings, real or imagined, of the Catholic Church but by the presence of a delegation from the Estonian Orthodox church, whose autocephaly, underwritten by Constantinople, is still denied in Russia. His action demonstrated, of course, the need precisely for a strong universal primacy so as to balance synodality in the Church.” Elsewhere the author writes: “[t]he decision of the Moscow patriarchate in October 2007 to withdraw its representatives from the Ravenna meeting… was not only an irritating impediment to that dialogue; it was precisely the sort of happening that makes Catholics think the orthodox need the pope as much as the pope needs them.” (p. 369)
    [5] “The Synodal Institution: Historical, Ecclesiological and Canonical Issues,” in Theologia 80 (2009), pp. 5-6. [In Greek]
    [6] Thus, while the Patriarch of Antioch has for a long time resided in Damascus, he remains the Patriarch of Antioch since Damascus lies within the geographical jurisdiction of that church.
    [7] Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Recent Discussions on Primacy in Orthodox Theology,” in the volume edited by Walter Cardinal Kasper, The Petrine Ministry: Catholics and Orthodox in Dialogue, New York: The Newman Press, 2006, pp. 231-248. Also see Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Eucharistic Ecclesiology in the Orthodox Tradition,” Theologia 80 (2009), p. 23. [In Greek]
    [8] I have personally dealt with this subject during a lecture at the Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston: “Indeed, in the level of the Holy Trinity the principle of unity is not the divine essence but the Person of the Father (‘Monarchy’ of the Father), at the ecclesiological level of the local Church the principle of unity is not the presbyterium or the common worship of the Christians but the person of the Bishop, so to in the Pan-Orthodox level the principle of unity cannot be an idea nor an institution but it needs to be, if we are to be consistent with our theology, a person.” (
    [9] In his 3rd Theological Oration, St. Gregory the Theologian writes: “As for us, we honor Him as the monarchy” (ΒΕΠΕΣ, 59, p. 239). The concept of monarchy corresponds to “the order of theology“ (5th Theological Oration, p. 279). The All-Holy Trinity does not comprise a federation of persons; So we should not be scandalized when the Theologian himself of the Fathers speaks of the monarchy and primacy of the divine Father.
    [10] This argument has been clearly articulated in the article by John Manoussakis, entitled “Primacy and Ecclesiology: The State of the Question,” in the collective work entitled Orthodox Constructions of the West, edited by Aristotle Papanikolaou and George Demacopoulos, New York: Fordham University Press, 2013, p. 233.

  • 7 January 2014: Step to pan-Orthodox Council?

    Today, (a Catholic site) posted an English –language article by its Istanbul correspondent NAT da Polis reporting that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is calling for a meeting (synaxis) of all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to be held in Istanbul in March.  The article includes an interview by da Polis of Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of Pergamon.  Although I have not yet found this news on Orthodox sites that I regularly visit, da Polis has reported extensively on developments at the Phanar in the past and has been very reliable.  According to the article, the meeting  will include “an exchange of views on the guidelines and timeframe for the Preparatory Commission of the Pan-Orthodox Synod, scheduled for 2015,” but the meeting “is also motivated by Constantinople's desire to remind sister churches that they cannot face the challenges of an economically globalized but spiritually fractured world - with all the negative consequences that follow for human existence - without joint initiatives.”  I found the interview of Metropolitan Ioannis very interesting.

    In a report by today, a long letter from the Ecumenical Patriarchate (in Greek) to the deadlocked (over the selection of a new primate) Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia has been posted.   An excellent (and perhaps official) English translation of the letter is found at   (scroll down to the bottom of the page for the English translation)  The letter states that the action of the Holy Synod of that church to remove Archbishop Simeon as Locum Tenens was uncanonical.  The letter also criticizes the “uninvited” presence of Moscow representatives at meetings of the Holy Synod on 9 December.  Implicit in the letter is the possibility that Constantinople could withdraw its 1998 grant of autocephalous status to the church.   I suspect that that the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia is being pulled in different directions by Moscow and Constantinople.

    As was widely publicized by the media, Pope Francis announced at the end of his Angelus address on 5 January (the day marking the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem) that he would make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 24-26 May, 2014.  The following is an English translation of the complete text of the Pope’s remarks in this regard:  “If God wills, I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, principally to commemorate the historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras, which took place on 5 January fifty years ago.  The journey will involve visits to three places: Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.  In the Holy Sepulchre there will be an ecumenical meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches of Jerusalem, attended also by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.  From now on, I ask for your prayers for this pilgrimage.”     Presumably, more details will be announced later.

    To those who are celebrating Christmas this day, I wish you a very blessed and joyful feast day!!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA