Peter Anderson - NEWS 2021

  • 29 December 2021: Moscow Patriarchate has established two dioceses and an exarchate in Africa

    Today, December 29, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate adopted a resolution creating two dioceses and an exarchate in Africa.  The Moscow Patriarchate also accepted under its jurisdiction “102 clerics of the Patriarchate of Alexandria from eight African countries.”  The preamble to the resolution stated: “Today, no less than a hundred parishes of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, headed by their rectors, have declared their desire to join the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church.”  A Google translation of the full text of Journal No. 100, including the preamble and actual resolution, is pasted below. 

    Today’s resolution does not come as a total surprise.  As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate at its meeting on September 23-24, 2021, instructed Archbishop Leonid of Vladikavkaz and Alania [now with the title “of Yerevan and Armenia”] to study thoroughly “the numerous appeals of the clergy of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus with a request to accepting them under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate” and to submit proposals to the Holy Synod with respect to these appeals. (Journal entry 61).   Also, the Holy Synod had decided on December 26, 2019, to remove “from the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church located on the African continent” and to place them under the personal jurisdiction of Patriarch Kirill.  A representative of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR stated there are a total of six such Russian Orthodox parishes in Africa.  They are located in Morocco (Rabat and Casablanca), Tunisia (Bizerte and Tunis), Egypt (Cairo), and South Africa (Johannesburg).  Under today’s resolution, these six stavropegic parishes are incorporated into the new dioceses.

    The Holy Synod did not engage in any half-way measures.  There was some speculation that the Moscow Patriarchate might limit its new organizations to those parts of Africa where there is not a long history of the presence of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  The two new dioceses established today encompass every African nation without exception.  The new Diocese of North Africa includes 31 nations and is to be headed by a bishop with the title, “Bishop of Cairo and North Africa.”  It therefore covers territory which was part of the Patriarchate of Alexandria since its inception.  The theory of the Moscow Patriarchate appears to be that the Patriarchate of Alexandria has fallen into schism because of its recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), and therefore all of Africa is now territory open to canonical Orthodox churches.  In recruiting African parishes, it is possible that the Moscow Patriarchate indicated that it would give more authority to native African clergy.

    On October 8, 2021, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch issued a statement which included the following:  “The Synod Fathers considered the challenges facing Orthodoxy in the contemporary world, and stressed the importance of preserving the unity of Orthodoxy, respecting the canonical tradition of the Church, and avoiding anything that would exacerbate existing disputes, potentially transforming these disputes into larger and more consequential divisions in the one body of Christ.”  Today’s action by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate certainly is a major escalation of the dispute arising from Ukraine and does in fact greatly exacerbate the existing dispute.  Why is the Moscow Patriarchate doing this?  I do not have any inside information, but the following speculation may be a rationale for today’s action.  First, the Moscow Patriarchate wishes to demonstrate how far it will go if other Local Orthodox Churches recognize the OCU.  Thus, today’s action constitutes a stern warning to other Local Orthodox Churches not to recognize the OCU.  Second, it may be the hope of the Moscow Patriarchate that its action will alarm the primates of other Orthodox Churches and cause them to conclude that a meeting of the Orthodox primates is now absolutely necessary to resolve the worsening situation in the Orthodox world.  The Moscow Patriarchate has been hoping for a second Amman-type meeting, and it has not happened.  Moscow hopes that such a meeting will address the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine and specifically the powers claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarch in granting autocephaly to the OCU.  If an Amman-type meeting is held, the Moscow Patriarchate could agree to rescind its actions in Africa if the Ecumenical Patriarchate rescinds its actions in Ukraine.  In short, the actions in Africa could be a “bargaining chip.”  Again, this is just speculation on my part.

    In other news, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew tested positive for Covid on December 24.  It is now reported that Bartholomew has been experiencing mild symptoms and is doing well. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    JOURNAL No. 100


    Report of the Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, Archbishop Leonid of Yerevan and Armenia, on the numerous appeals of the clergy of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria to the address of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia with a request to receive them under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate.


    Due to the departure of Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria into schism, his commemoration at the Divine Liturgy on November 8, 2019 of the head of the so-called "Orthodox Church of Ukraine" among the Primates of the autocephalous Churches, recognition of the said schismatic grouping and concelebration with its head on August 13, 2021, part of the clergy of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, declaring their disagreement with the position of their Primate, addressed the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill with a request to be accepted into the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Archbishop Leonid of Yerevan and Armenia, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and in pursuance of the decision of the Holy Synod of September 24, 2021 (magazine No. 61), studied numerous requests of the clergy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, held a personal meeting with community leaders - priests from a number of African countries who wish to pass under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarch.  Today, no less than a hundred parishes of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, headed by their rectors, have declared their desire to join the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Many of them made a request to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia back in 2019, after the recognition of the schismatic group by the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Patriarch Theodoros.


    1. To state the impossibility of further refusal to the clergy of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church who submitted the appropriate petitions to accept them under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate.
    2. To accept into the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church 102 clerics of the Patriarchate of Alexandria from eight African countries, in accordance with the petitions submitted.
    3. To form the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa within the North African and South African dioceses.
    4. The head of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa has the title "Klinsky".
    5. Include the following countries in the sphere of pastoral responsibility of the North African Diocese: Arab Republic of Egypt, Republic of Sudan, Republic of South Sudan, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, State of Eritrea, Republic of Djibouti, Federal Republic of Somalia, Republic of Seychelles, Central African Republic, Republic of Cameroon, Republic of Chad, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Republic of Niger, State of Libya, Tunisian Republic, Algerian People's Democratic Republic, Kingdom of Morocco, Republic of Cape Verde, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Republic of Senegal, Republic of Gambia, Republic of Mali, Burkina Faso, Republic of Guinea-Bissau , Republic of Guinea, Republic of Sierra Leone, Republic of Liberia, Republic of Cote d'Ivoire, Republic of Ghana, Togolese Republic, Republic of Benin.
    6. To include in the North African Diocese the stavropegic parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Tunisian Republic and the Kingdom of Morocco.
    7. The Diocesan Bishop of the North African Diocese shall have the title "Cairo and North Africa".
    8. Include the following countries in the pastoral responsibility of the Diocese of South Africa: Republic of South Africa, Kingdom of Lesotho, Kingdom of Eswatini, Republic of Namibia, Republic of Botswana, Republic of Zimbabwe, Republic of Mozambique, Republic of Angola, Republic of Zambia, Republic of Malawi, Republic of Madagascar, Republic of Mauritius, Union of the Comoros, United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Uganda, Republic of Rwanda, Republic of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabonese Republic, Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.
    9. To include in the South African diocese the stavropegic parish of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Republic of South Africa.
    10. The Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of South Africa has the title of "Johannesburg and South Africa".
    11. For Metropolitan of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch of Africa, to appoint Archbishop Leonid of Yerevan and Armenia with the assignment of the administration of the North African Diocese and the provisional administration of the South African Diocese.
    12. To release His Grace Leonid from the post of deputy chairman of the DECR, retaining for him the temporary administration of the Yerevan-Armenian Diocese.


  • 22 December 2021: Russia and Pope Francis & other news

    Pope Francis told journalists on his return flight from Athens that Metropolitan Hilarion would be coming to the Vatican soon to arrange a second meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill.  On December 22, a 60-minute meeting between the Pope Francis and Metropolitan Hilarion did in fact occur.; .  After the meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an interview with TASS.  He stated that a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch is planned for 2022.  According to the Metropolitan, “we have discussed specific dates and specific places, but we cannot announce them yet, because they require additional elaboration on both sides.”  The future meeting will primarily relate to “how Christians can survive in the modern world, where they face persecution, violence, risk for life.” 

    In the interview Metropolitan Hilarion expressed doubts about a possible papal trip to Ukraine.  With respect to such a trip, the Metropolitan stated that he did not know how much would be possible in view of the political difficulties, the church schism, and the persecution of the UOC-MP.  However, he did not specifically state that the Moscow Patriarchate would opposed such a trip.  Rather, he stated, “It is up to him, not us.”  Metropolitan Hilarion had harsh words to say about the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  According to him, the dialogue has “turned into a deception” because of Constantinople’s “artificially inflating the primacy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”  The Metropolitan also referred to the Union resulting from Florence.  He stated: “ Whether this experience will be repeated now, we do not know, but the actions of Constantinople in recent years have been unpredictable.” 

     It appears that at this point in time, both the Russian government and the Moscow Patriarchate very much value good relations with Pope Francis.  This can be seen in the congratulatory messages to the Pope on the latter’s 85th birthday, December 17.  President Putin had a telephone conversation with the Pope on his birthday ( ) and also sent him a message (  which stated in part as follows:

    You dedicated your whole life to promoting high spiritual and moral values.  You have made an invaluable contribution to developing relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church and to strengthening ties between Russia and the Vatican.

    I have many pleasant recollections of our meetings and our constructive and meaningful talks, which reaffirmed the similarity between the attitudes of Russia and the Holy See to the key international issues.  I am confident that by working together we will be able to do a great deal to protect Christians’ rights and interests and to maintain interfaith dialogue.

    The message from Patriarch Kirill ( reads in part as follows:

    As Primates of the two largest Christian Churches in the world, we have a special responsibility for the future of humankind.  This responsibility has a global dimension, as evidenced by our meeting in Havana and the Joint Declaration we signed.  I am glad to note that while remaining faithful to their own traditions, our Churches have achieved a high level of cooperation.  It enables us to work together to glorify the name of God throughout the world, strengthen the imperishable moral ideals in society, promote interfaith dialogue, and give proper responses to the present-day challenges.

    There continues to be developments relating to the three churches of the Moscow Patriarchate operating in Western Europe – the ROCOR, the Archdiocese, and the Exarchate.  The Holy Synod of the ROCOR at its meeting on December 8-9 heard a report by Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe concerning “the uncanonical actions of Metropolitan Jean of Dubna [head of the Archdiocese], who has illegitimately claimed to have received a number of clergymen of the Russian Church Abroad without their canonical release.”  On December 13, Metropolitan Jean of Dubna met with Metropolitan Anthony [head of the Exarchate].  Metropolitan Jean awarded Metropolitan Anthony the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, the highest decoration of the Archdiocese.  Included in the discussions of the two metropolitans was “the situation in Great Britain and Germany following the declarations of the two diocesan bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad [ROCOR] to break Eucharistic communion with the clerics of the Archdiocese.”

    Also relating to Western Europe, Archbishop Simon of Brussels and Belgium [part of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarchate of Western Europe] celebrated his 70th birthday on December 7.  Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium [Ecumenical Patriarchate] attended the Divine Liturgy, was warmly greeted by Archbishop Simon, and spoke at the celebration. ;  After the celebration, the Archbishop invited the Metropolitan to his residence “where there was a discussion in an atmosphere of brotherhood and sincerity.”  (see Romfea link) 

    In Ukraine on December 17, President Zelensky met with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  Both Metropolitan Onufry (head of the UOC-MP) and Metropolitan Epifany (head of the OCU) were present.  At the meeting, Zelensky signed the new law "On the Service of the Military Chaplaincy," which will be effective July 1, 2022.  The new law is not discriminatory and allows both priests of the UOC-MP and OCU to serve as military chaplains.

    On December 15, a large delegation of monks and religious sisters, led by the Bishop Partenij of the schismatic Orthodox church in North Macedonia, was received at the Phanar by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.   The Phanar treated the meeting as simply one of many groups and individuals that the Ecumenical Patriarch met on that day.   The delegation had previously been in Athens where its choir participated in an international Orthodox music festival.  It is reported that the choir sang and communed at a liturgy in Athens.   In January 2020 the Ecumenical Patriarchate had invited delegations from the Serbian Orthodox Church and the schismatic church to come to the Phanar for consultations and an attempt to find a mutually agreeable solution to the split in North Macedonia.  To the best of my knowledge, the Serbian Orthodox Church has never responded.

    In Serbia, Patriarch Porfirije has continued his outreach to Catholics.  On December 20, he visited the Catholic cathedral in Belgrade and delivered a long and warm address.  He announced that the Serbian Orthodox Church will be making a donation to assist in the renovation of the Catholic cathedral.

    As is traditional, a delegation from the Vatican, led by Cardinal Koch, celebrated the feast of St. Andrew with the Ecumenical Patriarch at the Phanar on November 30.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his address to Cardinal Koch referred to the work of the international dialogue and stated:

    “The pandemic of the coronavirus has variously impacted our ecclesiastical life and inter-Christian dialogues.  It is now almost two consecutive years that the objectives of the Mixed International Commission of Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches have been unable to be realized through person-to-person encounters.  We hope that this will occur next May 2022 [namely a meeting of the Commission’s Coordinating Committee] and that the convening of the Commission’s plenary will also return to its course.”

    In contrast to Metropolitan Hilarion, the Ecumenical Patriarch is a strong supporter of the present work of the Commission.  The Catholic Church has been a strong supporter of the Commission since its inception.  On December 14, 1975, it was announced at a special Mass in the Sistine Chapel that a commission was being established to prepare for a theological dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  During the Mass, Pope Paul VI, in a dramatic and unplanned gesture, knelt and kissed the feet of the astounded Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon, the Orthodox bishop who had come to Rome to make the joint announcement with the Pope.  The following recent link has a photo of this amazing event. 

    For those of you celebrating Christmas on December 25, I wish you a very blessed and joyful Nativity of Our Lord.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 6 December 2021: Some very interesting remarks - Pope in Greece & return flight

    Pope Francis departed from Athens this morning (Dec. 6) and is now back in Rome.  As is his custom, he stopped first on his return to Rome at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to pray before the ancient icon Salus Populi Romani.  This Byzantine icon of the Theotokos and the Christ Child arrived in Rome from Crete during the pontificate of Pope Gregory the Great in the year 590 A.D.  It represents a bridge between the East and West when the Church was united.

    The Pope’s visit to Athens included two events of interest to Orthodox.  The first was his visit to Archbishop Hieronymos, primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece, in the Throne Room of the building of the Archbishopric.   A video of the entire meeting on December 4 is found at .  Also present at this meeting were a number of Greek Orthodox bishops who have had significant contacts with the Vatican in the past, such as Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia (a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches).   The full text of the address by Archbishop Hieronymos is found at (in Greek) .   The Archbishop’s address included remarks relating to the pandemic, immigration, and the environment.  With respect to Pope Francis, he stated: 

    “I absolutely trust your judgment, your spiritual greatness and your great ecclesiastical experience.  Finally, we welcome you, recognizing in your person a capable and humble worker of the gospel message for our unity in the common faith in Christ.  The common course of the Roman Catholic Church with the Orthodox Church during the first millennium of Christianity has much to teach us.”   

    However, the Archbishop did criticize the position of Catholics in the Greek National Uprising against the Ottoman Empire and urged the recognition by the Pope of the role of the martyrs and heroes who fought to free Greece.

    The English official translation of the entire address by Pope Francis is found at . This appeared to be a prepared address and not in response to any specific remarks by the Archbishop.  The Pope’s address included the following:

    "Tragically, in later times [after the early Church fathers] we grew apart.  Worldly concerns poisoned us, weeds of suspicion increased our distance and we ceased to nurture communion.  Saint Basil the Great says that true disciples of Christ are “modeled only on what they see in him” (Moralia, 80, 1).  Shamefully – I acknowledge this for the Catholic Church – actions and decisions that had little or nothing to do with Jesus and the Gospel, but were instead marked by a thirst for advantage and power, gravely weakened our communion.  In this way, we let fruitfulness be compromised by division.  History makes its weight felt, and here, today, I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics.  Yet we are comforted by the certainty that our roots are apostolic and that, notwithstanding the twists and turns of time, what God planted continues to grow and bear fruit in the same Spirit.  It is a grace to recognize one another’s good fruits and to join in thanking the Lord for this."

    On December 5, after the Pope returned to Athens from Lesvos, the Archbishop made a reciprocal visit to the nunciature in Athens.  This meeting is described at (includes photos).

    As is customary, Pope Francis held a press conference on his return flight.  These press conferences are of great interest, because the Pope speaks without a prepared script and because his remarks often include new information or surprises.  Today’s press conference was no exception.  The official transcript of the Pope’s press conference on the return to Rome can be read at (only in Italian at the present time).  An unofficial English transcript by the Catholic news agency CNA can be read at .  With respect to the Orthodox, the Pope stated:

    "Yes, thank you. I apologized, I apologized in front of Hieronymos, my brother Hieronymos.  I apologized for all the divisions that there are among Christians, but above all those that we provoked: the Catholics. I also wanted to apologize, because during the war for independence — Hieronymos pointed this out to me — some Catholics sided with European governments to prevent Greek independence.  On the other hand, on the islands, the Catholics of the islands supported independence, they even went to war, some gave their lives for their country.  But the center, let’s say, at that moment was siding with Europe.  I don’t know which government was there [...] but the accusation was that.  And I also ask pardon for the scandal of division, at least for that for which we are to blame.  The spirit of self-sufficiency — we keep our mouths shut when we hear that we must apologize — it always makes me think that God never tires of forgiving, never, never.  It is we who tire of asking forgiveness.  And when we do not ask God for forgiveness, we will hardly ask our brothers and sisters.  It is more difficult to ask forgiveness from a brother than from God, because we know that He says: “Yes, go forth, you are forgiven.”  Instead, with brothers, there is shame and humiliation.  But in today’s world, we need the attitude of humiliation and apologizing.  So many things are happening in the world, so many lives lost, so many wars, so many... How come we don’t apologize?

    Returning to this, I wanted to apologize for the divisions, at least for those that we caused. For the others, it is a responsibility to ask forgiveness, but I apologize for ours, and also for that episode in the war where some Catholics sided with the European government, and those on the islands went to war to defend.  I don’t know if that’s enough.  And one last apology — this one came from my heart — an apology for the scandal of the migrant drama, for the scandal of so many lives drowned at sea, and so on."

    With respect to the synodal aspect of the Church, the Pope stated:

    "Yes, we are one flock, it is true.  And this division - clergy and laity - is a functional division, yes, of qualification, but there is a unity, a single flock.  And the dynamic between the differences within the Church is synodality: that is, listening to one another, and going together. Syn odos : lead the way together.  This is the meaning of synodality.  Your Orthodox Churches, even the Eastern Catholic Churches, have preserved this.  Instead the Latin Church had forgotten the Synod, and it was St. Paul VI who re-established the synodal journey 54, 56 years ago.  And we are making a journey to have the habit of synodality, of walking together."

    With respect to a question from the Russian news agency TASS, the Pope stated:

    "The meeting with Patriarch Kirill is in the near future.  I believe that next week Hilarion will come to me to arrange a possible meeting, because the Patriarch has to travel - I don't know where he is going… he goes to Finland, but I'm not sure.  I am always willing, I am also willing to go to Moscow: there are no protocols to talk to a brother.  Brother is brother, first of all protocols.  And I with the Orthodox brother - who is called Kirill, who is called Chrysostomos, who is called Hieronymos, is a brother - we are brothers and we say things to each other.  We don't dance the minuet, no, we say things to our faces.  But as brothers.  It is beautiful to see brothers arguing: it is beautiful, because they belong to the same Mother, the Mother Church, but they are a little divided, some because of the inheritance, the other for the history that has divided them… But we must go together and try to work and walk in unity and for unity.  I am grateful to Hieronymos, to Chrysostomos, to all the Patriarchs who have this desire to walk together.  Unity ... The great Orthodox theologian Zizioulas is studying eschatology, and jokingly once said that we will find unity in eschaton, there will be unity.  But it is a way of saying.  This does not mean that we have to sit still waiting for the theologians to come to an agreement, no.  This is a phrase, a way of saying, it is what they say Athenagoras said to Paul VI: “Let's put all the theologians on one island and we go together somewhere else.”  It's a joke.  But the theologians, who continue to study, because this is good for us and leads us to understand well and to find unity.  But in the meantime, we move forward together. But how? Yes, praying together, doing charity together.  For example, I am thinking of Sweden, which has Lutheran-Catholic Caritas together.  Working together, right?  Working together and praying together: we can do this.  The rest, let the theologians do it, that we do not understand how to do it.  But do this: unity begins today, along this path."

    The last statement by Pope Francis must have caught the Moscow Patriarchate by surprise.  Metropolitan Hilarion immediately released a statement in English.  It states as follows:

    "In the 20’s of December, my meeting is planned with Pope Francis of Rome.  I intend to congratulate him on his 85th birthday on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and to discuss with him a wide range of issues concerning the bilateral relations between our two Churches.  Among these matters is a possible meeting of Pope Francis with Patriarch Kirill.  Neither the venue, nor the date of the meeting has been determined so far.  As for the visit of Patriarch Kirill to Finland, I can report the following.  As far back as several years ago, the Patriarch received an invitation from the head of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, the Orthodox Archbishop of Finland and the Catholic Bishop of Helsinki.  However, ‘a lot water has run’ since, the inter-Orthodox situation has changed and a pandemic has begun.  Now the preparation for this visit has been stopped.  As for the Pope’s visit to Moscow, I can say that this matter has not been discussed on the bilateral level.  I hope that the meeting planned for the 20s of December will offer an opportunity to discuss all the issues of mutual concern."

    My guess is that a meeting between Francis and Kirill is being planned to be held in the near future although the exact date and place has not yet been determined.  The Moscow Patriarchate will not agree to a Russian venue, in my opinion.

    On a completely different topic, more details on the Orthodox tensions in Western Europe, the subject of my last report, has been provided at

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 December 2021: Orthodox tensions in W. Europe, Pope in Cyprus & other news

    Europe, head of the Patriarchal Exarchate, stated that the remarks of Metropolitan Mark should not be construed as a break between the ROCOR and the Archdiocese.   In my opinion, these tensions are not surprising as the ROCOR is very conservative while the Archdiocese is at the other end of the spectrum.  The Patriarchal Exarchate is probably somewhere in between.

    Pope Francis arrived in Cyprus on December 2 and will remain there until the morning of December 4 when he departs for Greece.  This morning, December 3, Pope Francis arrived at the building of the Holy Archdiocese of Cyprus in Nicosia at 8:30 a.m.  There he was greeted by Archbishop Chrysostomos, the primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, and met various members of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus in a large reception room.   This meeting lasted approximately ten minutes and was followed by a private 20-minute meeting between the Pope and the Archbishop in the latter’s offices.  Photos can be seen at 

    At 9:00 a.m. the public and more formal part of the visit began in the Orthodox Cathedral.  A video of the entire public part of the visit can be seen at .  The members of the Holy Synod who were present were seated in a row facing the chairs of the Archbishop and the Pope.  In addition to the Archbishop, I saw 10 members of the Holy Synod in the video.  The total Holy Synod consists of 16 members plus the Archbishop.  An article posted today in Cyprus states that three of the members of the Holy Synod were absent:  Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou, and Bishop Nikolaos of Amathus. .  You may recall that when Pope Benedict visited Cyprus in 2010, five of the more conservative bishops refused to meet a Catholic pope.   Two of those bishops in 2010 were Metropolitan Athanasios and Bishop Nikolaos.

    The full text of the address by Archbishop Chyrosotomos can be read at .  Most of the Archbishop’s address is an attack on Turkey.  The Archbishop also stated:  “In this holy and just struggle of ours, Your Holiness, which our suffering people carry out under the guidance of their political and ecclesiastical leadership, we want to have Your own active support.”   The full text of the official English translation of the Pope’s address can be read at .   The Pope’s address related largely to the role of Saint Barnabas.

    The 75th birthday of Patriarch Kirill was November 20.  Because of the pandemic, the festive celebration of his birthday has been postponed to May 2022 as has the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate. (interview of Vladimir Legoyda)   Because of the postponement, there may have been some uncertainty as to when to send letters of congratulations.  It appears that four primates sent letters of congratulations on November 20:  Patriarch Porfirije (Serbia); Patriarch Neofit (Bulgaria); Metropolitan Sawa (Poland); and Metropolitan Rastislav (Czech Lands and Slovakia).  Since that time, the website of the DECR has posted over the course of a week or so letters of congratulations from Patriarch John (Antioch), Patriarch Theophilos (Jerusalem), Daniel (Romania), Ilia (Georgia), and Pope Francis.  President Putin presented Patriarch Kirill with the highest state award of the Russian Federation, the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called.   A jubilee edition of the book, Patriarch Kirill – A Biography, written by Metropolitan Hilarion, has also been released.  This edition is an enlargement of the book published in 2019. 

    On November 20 a long interview of Patriarch Kirill was posted.  Not surprisingly, he addressed the Ukrainian situation.  With respect to letters from Orthodox American families seeking to immigrate to Russia, the Patriarch agreed with these letters that Russia is “the leader of the free world.”  He stated:

    We are free from the most powerful external influences, we are developing along our own path, and I hope to God this path is successful.  Russia can serve as an example for others.  Although we have many problems, these problems can be solved.  We currently don’t have any pressing issues around which societal interests would clash and deep, irreconcilable contradictions unfolded.  I think this is the grace of God.  And the existing difference of opinion is a normal difference of opinion that does not destroy the foundations of human life, the statehood, the spiritual life - it creates the fertile ground for a creative clash of opinions which may result in new ideas and new projects, aimed at the further development of our Fatherland.

    Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, who visited the Russian Federation earlier this month, has now completed a visit to Serbia.  On November 22, he had separate meetings with the Serbian president, prime minister, and foreign minister.  President Vučić stated that relations between Serbia and the Holy See are based on true mutual respect and trust, and he expressed his gratitude that the Holy See has not recognized the independence of Kosovo.  On November 21, Archbishop Gallagher ordained Fabijan Svalina as coadjutor bishop of Srem (Vojvodina Province).   The entire beautiful Mass can be watched at  Two Serbian Orthodox bishops and a number of Orthodox clerics were present in the first row throughout the long service.  However, what impressed me the most is the kindness and hospitality extended to Archbishop Gallagher by Patriarch Porfirije.  On the evening of November 21, the Patriarch hosted the Archbishop for a private dinner and a tour of new St. Sava Cathedral.    On November 23, the Patriarch added a further personal touch by hosting the Archbishop at the historic Kovilj Monastery in Fruška Gora (78 km northwest of Belgrade).  This monastery was the home of Porfirije from 1990 to his election as Metropolitan of Zagreb in 2014.  The formal meeting between the Patriarch and the Archbishop was held here.  Before the meeting, the Patriarch gave a tour of the monastery to the Archbishop, and the two attended the office being chanted by the monks.  After the meeting, the two made statements to the media.  The complete statements can be read at (official English translation).  Among his beautiful remarks, the Patriarch stated: That is what we talked about and what we agreed and understood: to do good for an individual and one man and for the good of the entire human race, the entire planet, we must cooperate, work together with each other, above all we Christians. 

    In my opinion, relations between the Serbian Patriarchate and the Vatican, and the Catholic Church in general, have greatly improved recently and are the best that I have ever seen them.  There are, of course,  great wounds from the past that must be healed.  Catholic Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar of Belgrade stated this week:  “We must never forget the past behind us, but now we are cooperating more and more and looking for more dialogue with the majority Serbian Orthodox Church.  This enables a comprehensive dialogue, and the dialogue opens new possibilities for us.”  Part of the credit for the improvement goes to Pope Francis.  When hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church have met him, I believe that they have liked him as a person.  Also, the hierarchs are probably pleased that to date the Pope has not approved the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac.

    On November 16, Archbishop Elpidophoros (Ecumenical Patriarchate) spoke to the Fall Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore and was very well received.  It was the first time that an Orthodox bishop has addressed a meeting of the American Catholic bishops.  The full text of the Archbishop’s address is found at  I was pleased to see the following comment by the Archbishop:  As Orthodox Christians, we are also very interested in the work and the process of the next Catholic Synod of Bishops, which is scheduled for October 2023 and which will deal with “For a Synodal Church Community: Communion, Participation and Missions.” During this two-year period, I believe that there is room for your ecumenical partners to provide input into the preparation process. 

    Lastly, Father Jivko Panev, who directs the outstanding Orthodox website, has been promoted to the rank of knight of the National Order of Merit by a decree of the President of the Republic of France.  Congratulations, Father Jivko!


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 November 2021: Appeal by Belarusian church leaders & other news

    On November 12, the leaders of the four major religions in Belarus signed an appeal during a meeting with Belarusian Commissioner for Religious and Ethnic Affairs Aleksandr Rumak.  This was reported in an English-language article by the state news agency Belta.  The leaders were Metropolitan Veniamin (Orthodox), Archbishop Jozef Staniewski (Catholic), Mufti Abu-Bekir Shabanovich (Islam), and Chief Rabbi Grigory Abramovich (Judaism).  The appeal includes the following statement:

    We, the leaders of the major confessions of the Republic of Belarus, appeal to the politicians of the economically developed and prosperous European states. It is not the fault of these people that they have left their native lands fleeing the hostilities in search of a better fate for themselves and their children. These people are looking for the way to their better future in Europe through Belarus. People of all nationalities and religions want to live under a peaceful sky and see smiles on the faces of children.

    In anticipation of Christmas and the New Year, the appeal calls on “politicians, all believers and simply caring people of Europe to show wisdom, mercy and compassion, to save people who are homeless, in a state of despair.”  In total, the statement is an appeal for the European Union to receive the migrants who are on the Belarusian border.

    The official website of the Belarusian Orthodox Church does not mention the specific language of this appeal. However, it does quote Metropolitan Veniamin who said, “We pray for those who find themselves in distress and are ready to provide them with humanitarian aid through the parishes of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.”  It is also reported that a fundraiser is being held in the Orthodox diocese of Grodno to help the migrants.   There is no mention of this appeal by the religious leaders on the official website of the Catholic Church in Belarus.  Instead, the Catholic bishops issued a statement on November 13 that announced that there would be a special collection on Sunday at all Catholic parishes in Belarus to receive monetary donations to provide for the basic needs of the migrants at the border.  In addition, there will be collections in the parishes Grodno to receive blankets, warm clothing, and food for the migrants.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has completed his visited to the United States and has now returned to the Phanar.  In the United States he had an extremely full and active program.  The visit did included two unanticipated hospital stays.  He had an overnight stay for observation at George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. after feeling unwell on October 24.  On November 3, he was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City for an angiogram and a stent placement.  The procedure, performed primary by Greek-American cardiologists, went very well.  In an interview on November 5, the Ecumenical Patriarch stated:  “Of course, the heart attack, if I may call it that, was somewhat serious and the operation had to be done.”  On his return to Istanbul, the Ecumenical Patriarch denied any intent to retire for health reasons.   The Ecumenical Patriarch will be in Athens November 20-25 for events honoring the 30th anniversary of his election as Patriarch, but has cancelled his subsequent trip to Mt. Athos because of the worsening Covid situation there. 

    It was interesting to see that as part of the U.S. visit, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was invited to the headquarters of the North American Archdiocese of the Antiochian Patriarchate by Metropolitan Joseph, the head of the Archdiocese.  The visit included a doxology service and dinner.  I also saw from photos that Metropolitan Tikhon, head of the Orthodox Church in America, was present at the Thyranoixia (Opening of the Doors) of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine near Ground Zero in New York City.   Although both Antioch and the OCA appear to be siding with Moscow on the Ukraine dispute, these two contacts with Bartholomew are further evidence that neither of these two churches wish to burn their bridges with Constantinople.

    Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) is again in the United States.  On November 11, Metropolitan Hilarion was the keynote speakers at a conference hosted by St. Vladimir’s Seminary (OCA) in New York.  The theme of the conference was “Searching the Scriptures” in celebration of Metropolitan Hilarion’s series Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching.  Two of the speakers at the conference were from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.  The address of Metropolitan Hilarion is summarized in English at .  Prior to the beginning of the conference, Father Chad Hatfield, the president of the seminary, announced that a foundation named after Patriarch Kirill of Moscow had been established at the Seminary to encourage research in the field of biblical studies.  According to the website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, Father Hatfield stated that the Seminary’s Board of Trustees “thus expressed support for His Holiness [Patriarch Kirill] as a principled and consistent defender of the canonicity of the church system in the context of the crisis of world Orthodoxy.”  One wonders if this statement implies that the Seminary supports the Moscow Patriarchate’s position that primacy at the universal level involves only honor.  It is interesting to note that in a 2005 interview, Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) ascribed to both Alexander Schmemann and Paul Meyendorff (two of the most famous theologians associated with St. Vladimir Seminary) a view that primacy at the universal level involves more than simply honor.

    On November 11, a major conference was held at the Kyiv Theological Academy (UOC-MP) on the subject The Sobornost of the Church: Theological, Canonical, and Historic Dimensions.  According to the announcement of the conference, it was intended to focus not simply on sobornost, but also primacy.  Among the questions proposed for discussion were: primacy in the Ecumenical Church in contemporary Orthodox theology; the problem of primacy in the Ecumenical Church in the era of Ecumenical Councils; and the crisis in World Orthodoxy caused by the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine.  The best links summarizing the results of the conference are ; (morning session); and (afternoon session).  I was disappointed that more texts of addresses and videos are not available.  Three primates sent greetings to the conference – Patriarch Porfirije (Serbia), Metropolitan Sawa (Poland), and Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA).  Their greetings plus the greeting of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) are set forth at .  The greeting by Metropolitan Hilarion is a very harsh attack against the Patriarch of Constantinople.  In comparison, the greetings of the three primates are much more tempered.  At the conference, there were some speakers from outside the Moscow Patriarchate, namely Serbia, Poland, Bulgaria, Antioch, and Czech Lands and Slovakia.  Except for a few excerpts, I have not found online the text of the addresses of any of these outside speakers.

    The Vatican has now announced the full program for the visit of Pope Francis to Cyprus (Dec. 2-4) and Greece (Dec. 4-6).  In Nicosia he will meet with Archbishop Chyrsostomos and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus on December 3.  In Athens he will meet Archbishop Hieronymos and his “entourage” on December 4 and again with the Archbishop on December 5 after the Pope completes his visit to Lesvos.  You may recall that when Pope Benedict visited Cyprus in 2010, there was a sharp confrontation between Archbishop Chrysostomos and a few of the members of the Holy Synod who were refusing to meet with Pope.  Several of the metropolitans, such as Athanasios of Limassol, boycotted the meeting with Pope Benedict.  In Greece, Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, who often attacks the Catholic Church, has called the visit of Pope Francis to Greece “immoral.” 

    In other news, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate in a remote meeting on November 8 approved changes in the Church’s regulations to allow the Patriarch, in exceptional cases, to dismiss the heads of synodal institutions (such as DECR,  Society and Mass Media, etc.) and appoint acting heads.   The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land has approved guidelines which allow Orthodox to receive sacraments in the Catholic Church but provides that due consideration must be give to the discipline of the Orthodox church for its faithful in this regard.  The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, has completed his trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg.  The visit including a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  After the meeting Lavrov expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the talks and praised the “friendly relations with the Holy See.” 

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 2 November 2021: Metropolitan Hilarion - one cannot call oneself a Catholic and call for violation of Christian morality

    Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), chairman of the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate, on his weekly television program Church and the World was asked for his opinion why the administration of “Catholic Biden” was so insistent on repealing the “heartbeat law” in Texas.  The Metropolitan’s answer is posted in Russian on the website of the DECR at  The following is a Google translation of the question and answer:

    E. Gracheva: Vladyka, in the United States of America, the state of Texas in the literal sense of the word is now fighting off an appeal by the federal Department of Justice, which demands the repeal of the so-called “heartbeat law” adopted in this state.  It states that it is forbidden to have an abortion from the time when the baby's heartbeat is heard.  Why, in your opinion, is the administration of the Catholic Biden so insistent on repealing this law, and in the state of Texas?

    Metropolitan Hilarion: When they talk about the Catholic Biden, I always want to ask the question: what, in fact, is Biden's Catholicism?  The Catholic Church is against abortion, and Mr. Biden is for it.  Does he do it as a Catholic or as the president of the United States?  Does he do this proceeding from the dictates of his conscience or proceeding from the political situation? .. A person cannot call himself a Catholic, and at the same time violate and call for violation of the fundamental norms of Christian morality.

    The Roman Catholic Church, like the Orthodox Church, opposes abortion as such.  If in one of the American states there is still a law that somehow protects the rights of unborn babies, then the Catholic Church, like the Orthodox Church, only welcomes the preservation of this law.  But the American administration is now trying to fit all the states under one standard, which is guided by liberal norms.  According to liberal norms, the life of an unborn baby is worthless and does not need protection, the most important thing is to respect the rights of women.  In other words, it is said that a woman has the right to dispose of her body, she has the right to decide on an abortion and no one should interfere with her in this.  All the legislation of Western countries is moving in this direction.

    The Catholic Church in the West, including the United States, the Orthodox Church and many Protestants stand up to protect unborn babies, saying that abortion is murder, and everyone, including those who have not yet been born, has a fundamental right - the right to life.  This, unfortunately, is often forgotten by modern human rights activists. They defend all sorts of rights, for example, the right of a homosexual couple to adopt a child, the right of parents to have sex-reassignment surgery on their minor child - all these are considered human rights, and the fundamental human right to birth and life is rejected.

  • 31 October 2021: Canonicity of Moscow assuming jurisdiction in Africa & other news

    On October 30, the English-language website, which is affiliated with the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, posted an English translation of an article by Father Georgy Maximov, entitled On the Canonical Aspect of Receiving African Clergy into the Russian Orthodox Church.  Father Georgy teaches at the Sretensky Seminary, has a PhD in theology, and is a prolific writer.  He is a member of the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church.   The English translation may have been prepared in part for those living in English-speaking African countries, such as African clergy who have canonical concerns about joining the Moscow Patriarchate.

    As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate at its meeting on September 23-24, 2021, instructed Archbishop Leonid of Vladikavkaz and Alania [now with the title “of Yerevan and Armenia”] to study thoroughly “the numerous appeals of the clergy of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus with a request to accepting them under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate” and to submit proposals to the Holy Synod with respect to these appeals. (Journal entry 61)  According to the minutes, the Holy Synod gave these instructions because “Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria participated in concelebration with the head of the schismatic structure operating in Ukraine [OCU].” 

    In the article, Father Georgy raises two questions and answers both of them in the positive:  (1) Can the Russian Orthodox Church create its own jurisdiction in Africa when the Patriarch of Alexandria considers Africa its canonical territory? (2) Can the Russian Orthodox Church receive, under the current historical circumstances, clergy of the Alexandrian Patriarchate without them having a document of release from their hierarchs?

    With respect to the first question, Father Georgy asserts that the title and canonical territory of the Patriarch of Alexandria which “is traditionally and generally accepted in Orthodoxy” is “of the City of Alexandria, Libya, Pentapolis [northeastern Libya including Cyrene] , Ethiopia, and all Egypt.”  The title “of All Africa” was only added by Meletius (Metaksakis), who was patriarch from 1926 to 1935.  It appears that Father Georgy discounts “this serious expansion” primarily because it “was not the result of Pan-Orthodox discussion or any conciliar decision.”  He also adds that the Patriarchate of Alexandria did not “begin missionary work amongst the native population of a number of African nations” until the second half of the twentieth century.  However, Father Georgy does not address the question of whether the Moscow Patriarchate can now assert jurisdiction in Africa where this jurisdiction “was not the result of Pan-Orthodox discussion or any conciliar decision.”  Perhaps, Moscow will argue that Africa aside from Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia is no one’s canonical territory but is open to any or all Local Orthodox Churches.

    As you may recall, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on December 26, 2019, removed “from the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church located on the African continent” and placed them under the personal jurisdiction of Patriarch Kirill.  A representative of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR has stated there are a total of six such Russian Orthodox parishes in Africa.  They are located in Morocco (Rabat and Casablanca), Tunisia (Bizerte and Tunis), Egypt (Cairo), and South Africa (Johannesburg).  The fact that the Holy Synod assumed jurisdiction over the parish in Cairo demonstrates that the Holy Synod may have no reservations in assuming jurisdiction over parishes which are, even under Father Georgy’s definition, part of the historical canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.

    With respect to the second question, Father Georgy finds that the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on September 24 testified that between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of Alexandria a schism exists.  According to Father Georgy, “schism is a straight path to hell.”  Citing the second canon of the Council of Antioch, he concludes that “entering into communion with schismatics makes those who do so excommunicated from ecclesiastical communion.”  This deprives the person “of hope for salvation.”  Because none of the active bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria has publicly disagreed with the action of Patriarch Theodoros in recognizing the schismatic OCU, there are no active bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria who have not gone into schism.  Under these circumstances, Father Georgy argues that the African priests are justified in placing themselves in a church which has not gone into schism, and no permission from a schematic bishop is required.

    Personally, I wonder how far the principal that concelebrating with a schismatic makes one a schismatic can be carried.  For example, if a primate of a Local Orthodox Church has concelebrated with a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate or Alexandrian Patriarchate (thereby becoming a schismatic himself) and then concelebrates with Patriarch Kirill and other primates at the 70th birthday of Patriarch Kirill on November 20, do Patriarch Kirill and the other concelebrating primates thereby become schismatics themselves?  Certainly, this cannot be.

    On October 28, the websites of the Moscow Patriarch and of the DECR prominently posted an article with a large photo and very little text carrying the caption, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill had a working meeting with Archbishop Leonid of Yerevan and Armenia  It seems somewhat unusual to have an article simply announcing that the Patriarch had a working meeting with one of his bishops.  The article says nothing about the purpose of the meeting.  However, the photo shows Archbishop Leonid with a high stack of papers in front of him.   One may wonder whether the meeting relates to the appeals from African priests and whether the high stack of documents are those appeals.  This article does add to the suspense of those awaiting Moscow’s decision.   All of this does not mean that the Holy Synod will necessarily accept the appeals.  It is possible that Moscow may still listen to the appeal by the Patriarchate of Antioch for the parties to avoid “anything that would exacerbate existing disputes.”

    On October 21, Patriarch Kirill gave extensive answers to many questions asked of him by participants at 9th International Faith and Word Festival.  In the first question, the Patriarch is asked about his earlier remarks that the Patriarch of Constantinople is following the model of reproducing the schism of 1054.  In the first part of the answer, Patriarch Kirill stated:

    It cannot be the aim of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  Certainly, it does not seek to produce a schism; to destroy the unity of Orthodoxy is not its aim.  However, the desire to assert its primacy not as the first among equals but the first without equals - as what has already been declared by Constantinople - for certain is fraught with a terrible charge, with a bacillus of destruction of the church unity.  It is in this sense that I am constantly reminded of what happened in 1054.  The bishop of Rome sought to extend his direct jurisdiction to the whole of the Universal Church.  But look what is happening now?  Today, the Patriarch of Constantinople, interpreting his primacy in a new way, states that it is primacy without equals, that it is his God-defined place, which presupposes the exercise of authority with regard to all the other Local Orthodox Churches.  This is precisely the same attitude that led to division in 1054!

    After an overnight stay in a hospital in Washington, D.C., Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been involved in a flurry of events during his visit to the United States, October 23 to November 3.  It was his first visit to the United States in eleven years.  His many events and speeches are described at .  I particularly enjoyed watching the video of the reception of an honorary doctorate degree at the University of Notre Dame.  Although the Ecumenical Patriarch has not referred frequently during the visit to the dispute with Moscow, he did refer to Moscow in remarks to the Archdiocesan Council and others in New York City on October 29.  A video of these remarks can be watched at (delivered mostly in Greek).  He stated that he had been “tested by an ignorant attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church towards its Mother Church.”  According to Bartholomew, the Mother Church had given them Christianity, enlightened them, and gave them the alphabet.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate has the exclusive right to grant autocephaly, and the churches of Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, Romania, and Albania “have become autocephalous by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which empties itself for granting territories under its jurisdiction to become autocephalous independent churches.”    In the remarks, the Ecumenical Patriarch also praised the work of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and expressed full confidence in him.   Bartholomew also referred to his special relationship with Pope Francis and stated that “our chemistry fits.”  He recounted that they have met about 12 times in the eight years that Francis has been pope. 

    On October 16, Metropolitan Hilarion answered questions on his weekly television show, Church and the World  With respect to a second meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis (but not in Russia), the Metropolitan said:  “But no concrete actions have been taken to prepare such a meeting so far.  Its date has not been set, its place has not been either, and the range of topics of this meeting is still at the stage of being worked on.”  This statement demonstrates that at least some work is now be done to prepare for such a meeting.  The most difficult part of preparing for such a meeting is drafting a joint statement to be released at such a meeting and determining the topics that will be covered.  It appears that the parties are now working on those topics.  After the joint statement is finalized, it should be relatively easy to determine a date and a neutral location for a meeting. 

    In other news, Metropolitan Joanikije of Montenegro has stated that the Serbian Orthodox Church and the government of Montenegro are close to concluding their agreement governing their relationship.  Showing his optimism, he said, “I am not impatient at all.”   The Orthodox Church of Poland has reaffirmed its prior position with respect to the church situation in Ukraine.   Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov has given a long and candid interview on many different topics at   Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States in the Holy See's Secretariat of State, will be visit Moscow, November 8-10.  The visit will include a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.   Lastly, the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group has issued its final communique relating to its meeting in Rome, October 6-10.  The Group is now focusing on the topic, “Unity and Schism.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 October 2021: Catholic Synod - Eastern Orthodox should be involved "at all levels"

    Today, October 21, the Catholic German website Die Tagespost has posted a very important interview with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  In the interview, the Cardinal discusses the next Catholic Synod of Bishops which is scheduled for October 2023 and which will deal with the subject “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”  In connection with the Synod, Pope Francis has established a two-year period of preparation.  This preparation process is described in the following document:  The first level of the preparation process is at the diocesan level and involves a listening process.  The first level began earlier this month.  The main question to be considered is:  How is our “walking together” in synodality realized today in the Church?  What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “walking together”?   The individual dioceses will then forward the results of their consultations or listening to the respective bishops’ conference which will then prepare a document by April 2022.  The documents from the various bishops’ conferences will be considered by the Vatican’s General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops which will then proceed with the drafting of the first Instrumentum Laboris.

    From the Cardinal’s interview, it is clear that it is desirable that the “ecumenical partners,” and especially the Orthodox, be involve in providing their input into the preparation process “at all levels.”  Thus, the Cardinal stated:

    The basic principle of ecumenical dialogues is the exchange of gifts, in which we can learn from the other Christian churches, and indeed in the conviction that the specific gifts of the Holy Spirit are given not only to these churches but to all of Christianity.  Pope Francis gave a concrete example in his apostolic letter “Evangelii Gaudium.”  He emphasized that in conversation with the Orthodox Churches we Catholics have the enriching opportunity "to learn a little more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and its experience of synodality" (No. 246).  And in the opposite sense, one can see in the deepening and strengthening of synodality an important ecumenical contribution of the Catholic Church to the recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome by other churches as well.  The theological and pastoral endeavors to shape and live a more synodal church therefore has a profound impact on ecumenism, as is particularly evident in the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, whose core theme is the relationship between synodality and primacy.  It is therefore desirable if the ecumenical partners are involved in the synodal process at all levels.

    Pope Francis believes that the Catholic Church should learn from the Orthodox concerning synodality.  In fact, his great interest in “synodality” may well have stemmed from the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue.  As far as I can determine, the first time that Pope Francis ever publicly used the word “synodality” was on June 28, 2013, in an address to the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   There he stated:

    It is significant that today we are able to reflect together on these areas in truth and love, beginning from what we have in common, yet without concealing what still divides us.  This is no mere theoretical exercise: it demands in-depth knowledge of one another’s traditions in order to understand them and sometimes also to learn from them.  I am speaking for example of Catholic Church’s reflection on the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality, so characteristic of the Orthodox Churches.  I am confident that the effort to reflect together, complex and laborious though it is, will bear fruit in due course.

    In an interview given by Pope Francis to Father Antonio Spadaro S.J. on August 19, 2013, the Pope also referred to the Orthodox with respect to synodality.  The Pope stated:

    We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the pope.  Synodality should be lived at various levels.  Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic.  This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren.  From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality. 

    Thus, Catholics should learn more from the Orthodox about the “tradition of synodality.”

    Hopefully, the final results of the Synod in October 2023 will bring the Catholic and Orthodox Churches closer together.  For this, it is important for those at the diocesan and conference levels to have the benefit of the Orthodox experience in a form that can be easily understood and utilized by them in preparing their documents.  It is also important that the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops be able to include the Orthodox experience in its draft Instrumentum Laboris.  In my opinion, Cardinal Koch is inviting the Orthodox to step up and to be involved in this important preparation process.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 October 2021: Postponement of Moscow Council & other news

    Today, October 15, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held a short meeting by remote communications.  The journal of the meeting reflects only two items.  The first item is as follows:

    On December 29, 2020, the Holy Synod decided to hold a Council of Bishops from November 15 to 18, 2021 (Journal No. 103).


    Due to the difficult epidemic situation, postpone the holding of the Bishops' Council to May 2022, setting the dates of its meetings on May 26-29, 2022.

    Thus, the question of whether the Bishops’ Council will adopt a harsh resolution against the Ecumenical Patriarchate in connection with the dispute in Ukraine and in connection with the powers claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarch in the universal Church will postponed for more than six months.  As mentioned in my last report, Patriarch Kirill will be celebrating his 75th birthday on November 20.  A festive celebration is being held on this occasion, and the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches with whom the Moscow Patriarchate is presently in communion have been invited to attend or to send delegations.  If the Bishops’ Council was held immediately before the birthday celebration and if the Council condemned Constantinople in its meeting, attendance at the birthday celebration could be argued by some as implicit support by those Local Churches for that condemnation.  The postponement of the Council avoids that sensitive situation.  This is not to say that the reason for the postponement was to avoid this, but the postponement does have this beneficial effect.

    The second journal item is that the Moscow Patriarchate has established a diocese in the Republic Armenia and that Archbishop Leonid of Klin has been made bishop of that new diocese.  At the same time, Archbishop Leonid retains his position as one of the deputy chairmen of the DECR.  As you may recall, the Holy Synod at it September meeting assigned to Archbishop Leonid the responsibility of studying the requests of certain African priests to be received under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and to make a proposal to the Holy Synod concerning these African priests.  The fact that Archbishop Leonid has now been given the additional responsibility of the diocese in Armenia may be an indication that he will not be working full time on the African project. 

    The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch met in Balamand (Lebanon), October 5-8, 2021.  At the end of the meeting, a statement was issued.  The statement included the following:

    The Synod Fathers considered the challenges facing Orthodoxy in the contemporary world, and stressed the importance of preserving the unity of Orthodoxy, respecting the canonical tradition of the Church, and avoiding anything that would exacerbate existing disputes, potentially transforming these disputes into larger and more consequential divisions in the one body of Christ.  In this regard, they called for the opening of a comprehensive dialogue concerning all the accumulated controversial issues in order to find solutions that would allow the restoration of ecclesiastical communion within the one Orthodox family.

    In addition to calling for a “comprehensive dialogue,” this statement urges “avoiding anything that would exacerbate existing disputes.”  One wonders whether the Antiochian Synod had any specific future actions in mind when referring to exacerbating disputes.  It could include Moscow assuming jurisdiction over African priests or the November meeting of the Bishops’ Council in Moscow adopting new harsh resolutions against Constantinople.   If so, the Patriarchate of Antioch, as well as others, may be pleased with the actions taken in Moscow today.

    On October 13, Patriarch Kirill hosted a trilateral meeting with the religious leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan “to discuss ways to resolve the consequences of the long-term conflict in the South Caucasus.”  Those in attendance included the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Patriarch Catholicos Karekin II and the Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims’ Board, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh.  The following is the statement issued by Patriarch Kirill at the end of the meeting:  The next day, October 14, a trilateral meeting was held by the foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in Minsk.

    A commentary posted today by Novaya Gazeta (the newspaper’s editor-in-chief has just won the Nobel Peace Prize) speculates that the establishment of a diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate in Armenia may be a response to certain critical remarks made by Karekin after the trilateral meeting.  However, it appears that Karekin agreed to the establishment of the diocese in his meeting with Kirill. 

    It has been reported that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be in Greece, November 20-29, in connection with the 30th anniversary of his accession to the Patriarchal Thone.  He will be in Athens until November 24, followed by visits to Thessaloniki and Mt. Athos.  Although Pope Francis has canceled his visit to Glasgow and postponed his visit to Malta, it now appear that he will still be traveling to Greece.  On October 14, a Vatican delegation arrived on the island of Lesvos to prepare for a visit by Pope Francis in late November.  As you recall, the Pope together with the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop Hieronymos (primate of the Church of Greece) met with refugees on Lesvos in April 2016.  The visit this year will also relate to refugees.   As it appears that both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis will be in Greece in late November, one wonders if the two good friends will meet in Greece in November.

    On October 17, a conference dedicated to Bartholomew’s 30th anniversary will be held at the Stavropegial Monastery of the Holy Trinity Tzagarolon in Crete.  A patriarchal institute in honor of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be established there.  

    Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Catholic faithful in Russia congratulating them on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of three apostolic administrations (located in Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Karaganda) for the Latin-rite in Russia.  He also added that “in your space of the Eastern Christian tradition, it is important to continue to walk along with all Christian brothers and sisters….” 

    For those of you who were following religious events in the Soviet Union in 1991, you may recall that the establishment of these administrations on April 13, 1991 resulted in a very negative reaction from the Moscow Patriarchate.  I personally was affected by this negative reaction.  If you will forgive a personal digression, I will end this report with a story which illustrates this and provides some insight into the ecumenical spirit of Patriarch Alexy II.

    In connection with the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus in 1988, a “Sister Churches Program” was established between the Christian churches of Seattle and the Christian churches in Leningrad.  In September 1989, Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad and Novgorod and a church delegation including the heads of the only Baptist, Armenian Apostolic, and Catholic churches in Leningrad came to Seattle as guests of the Program.  Metropolitan Alexy and the 11-person delegation spent 12 days in Seattle, and the Metropolitan became a very enthusiastic supporter of the Program.  At that time, he was the chairman of the Presidium of the Conference of European Churches, and his ecumenical spirit was very evident to us in Seattle.   In July 1990 the Goodwill Games (an athletic competition primarily between the US and the USSR) was held in Seattle.  In connection with the Games, the Program brought the Choir of Leningrad Orthodox Theological Schools (composed of 12 men from the seminary and academy and 12 women from the school for choir conductors) for a series of concerts in Seattle.  It was probably the first church choir to come to the United States from the Soviet Union since Bolshevik Revolution.  Metropolitan Alexy had planned to accompany the choir, but his election as Patriarch in June made this impossible.  The high point of the Choir’s Seattle visit was singing at the “Ecumenical Prayer for Good Will” at St. James Catholic Cathedral in Seattle with the 50-member choir of St. James.  Both were outstanding choirs, and the Cathedral was filled to capacity.  The Leningrad choir members stayed at the homes of the Catholic choir members, and many friendships were made.

    The experience was so successful that Patriarch Alexy approved plans for the two choirs to tour in the Soviet Union together and to give joint concerts in Leningrad, Tallinn, Novgorod, Smolensk, and Moscow during the period June 22 – July 9, 1991.  The joint choir would sing at two of the Patriarch’s liturgies in Moscow.   These joint concerts, blessed by the Patriarch, would be an example of the friendship that should exist between Orthodox and Catholics in Russia, and this was presumably the message that Patriarch Alexy desired to convey.  However, this dream came to a sudden end when 14 days after the Vatican announced the establishment of the three apostolic administrations, the Catholic St. James Choir was notified by a fax from Leningrad that the joint tour was cancelled.   Although financial reasons were given for the cancellation, subsequent information made it apparent that the Holy Synod had vetoed the joint tour.  Due to a number of other factors, Orthodox – Catholic relations deteriorated in the Russian Federation during the subsequent years, and an improvement did not really occur until 2005.  However, I firmly believe that Patriarch Alexy had initially hoped for a very positive relationship with the Catholic Church in Russia, and the planned joint concert tour was to be a visible demonstration of this.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 October 2021: Orthodox in Rome, possible second Kirill-Francis meeting & other news

    During this last week, there were three important inter-religious events in Rome with significant Orthodox participation in all of them.  On Monday, October 4, there was the meeting Faith and Science: Towards COP26.  This meeting was described in my last report.  On Tuesday, October 5, there was the meeting of 19 representatives of the world’s religions in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on the subject Religions and Education: Towards a Global Compact on Education.  On the next two days, there was the program, organized by the Sant’Egidio Community on the subject Religions and Cultures in Dialogue:  Peoples as Brothers, Future Earth.  The latter program culminated on October 7 with a prayer for peace at the Colosseum.  Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had important roles in all three meetings.  Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) has significant parts in the first two meetings.  Metropolitan Antony of Korsun and Western Europe represented the Moscow Patriarchate at the third event.  Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury spoke at the first and third events, and Patriarch Catholicos Karekine II (primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church) spoke at the third event.  Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the German Federal Republic, was one of two major speakers at the closing ceremony at the Colosseum on October 7.

    The second meeting on education is described at'educational-alliance'-for-a-fraternal-world-against-violence-and-discrimination-54213.html and with a short video at  The full program for the third event can be read at   A video of all of the program at the Colosseum can be viewed at  In the prayer for peace, Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Patriarch Catholicos Karekine were on the platform and participated in the service.  Metropolitan Antony was in the first row of the audience.  (See 5:26 in the video)  Last year, Orthodox conservatives had criticized the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate for actively participating in the prayer for peace program sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community. 

    As in the first meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion in the second meeting was seated very close to the Ecumenical Patriarch with only one person seated between them.  These two meetings were the first time that the two men were in the presence of each other since the establishment of the OCU in Ukraine.  Perhaps to allay suspicions relating to their proximity to each other, Metropolitan gave an interview to the state news agency RIA-Novosti concerning this.  Included in the Metropolitan’s remarks was the following:

    According to the decision of our Holy Synod, we do not participate in any events in which the representative of Constantinople presides or co-chairs.  However, in this case, there was no such chairmanship or co-chairmanship.  Thirty-four religious leaders took part in the meeting, of which only two represented Orthodox churches - Patriarch Bartholomew and myself.  If it were not for me, he would have been the only representative of world Orthodoxy.  Let me remind you that at the last meeting of the Synod we announced that he cannot represent world Orthodoxy, since he has lost the trust of millions of believers.  He can only represent his own church and those churches that want him to represent them.  Our church is not one of them….I did not plan to negotiate with him [Patriarch Bartholomew].  When we were seated, he said “good morning” to me in Russian, and I replied “good morning” in English.  This ended our communication.

    This raises an interesting point.  As far as I am aware, Metropolitan Hilarion has made only four public trips outside of Russia since the first of the year.  One was a very short visit to Jordan in August.  The three other trips perhaps reflect a Moscow strategy of not allowing the Ecumenical Patriarch or Patriarchate to be the only prominent Orthodox representative at certain international events.  The Metropolitan’s first trip was to Washington D.C. in July to speak at the International Summit on Religious Freedom.  The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was very much involved in this program, and Archbishop Elpidophoros was one of the speakers.  The second visit was to Budapest in September to speak at the Catholic Eucharistic Congress.  The Ecumenical Patriarch was a major guest at that Congress.  In neither the Summit nor the Congress was Metropolitan Hilarion listed in the posted advanced program as a speaker, so his appearance may have been arranged shortly before these events. The third visit was to Rome to participate in the events just described.  It will be interesting to see whether this participation by the Moscow Patriarchate in international events, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a significant presence (but not a chairmanship role), will be a pattern that will be repeated in the future. 

    On October 4, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met privately with Pope Francis.  Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon was also present.   On the morning of Thursday, October 7, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope were at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome to inaugurate a new cycle of studies on ecology and the environment.  A new “Chair on Futures of Education for Sustainability,” in honor of the Pope and the Patriarch, was also established.   The text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address can be read at (English).  A video of the event can be watched at (52 minutes).  Pope Francis in his address on Thursday afternoon at the Colosseum stated:  My dear brother, Patriarch Bartholomew, present here, has helped us to realize that “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.”

    On October 6, Metropolitan Hilarion had a private meeting with Pope Francis.  As a gift, Metropolitan Hilarion gave to Pope Francis a Russian translation of the Pope’s book Prayer, the Breath of New Life with a preface by Patriarch Kirill.  In an interview, the Metropolitan stated:  I think it is important for Russian readers to know that Pope Francis is not only a leader of the Church, he is not only involved in leading the Roman Catholic Church, but that he is also a man of prayer.  The experience of prayer is something that unites all Christians.  And the lessons he gives to his flock will be of value to Russian readers, especially, of course, to Russian-speaking Catholics.  But I also believe that some Orthodox readers can profit from his lessons.

    Metropolitan Hilarion also had individual meetings with Cardinal Parolin (Secretary of State), Cardinal Koch (Promotion of Christian Unity), Cardinal Tagle (Evangelization of Peoples), and others.   On the evening of October 5, Metropolitan Hilarion participated in the presentation of the Italian translation of Soloviev's book Three Speeches on Dostoevsky  Metropolitan Hilarion had written the preface to the Italian translation.

    Metropolitan Hilarion also gave a major interview to Italy’s most read newspaper Corriere della Sera.  The printed Italian version of the interview is found at  The longer Russian version can be read at .  The interview gives the most optimistic assessment to date for a second Francis – Kirill meeting.   The Metropolitan made clear that a papal visit to Russia is not currently possible.  However, that does not preclude a meeting elsewhere.  With respect to such a meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion stated: I think the meeting will take place.  He also stated:  The Havana meeting was announced about a week before it took place.  I think that the next meeting, when we prepare it, will be announced in about a week.  It is unlikely that we will announce it in a month or a few months.  The Metropolitan also observed:  New challenges are emerging that will require new meetings and new joint statements.  In preparing for a second meeting, the negotiating of a new joint statement will undoubtedly be the most difficult aspect.  To justify a second meeting to the many Orthodox conservatives in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church may need to obtain something new and positive for the Church in the second meeting.  A second meeting may also put Patriarch Kirill in the international spotlight.  For the last year and one-half, the Patriarch has largely been in self-isolation with no international trips.  In contrast, the Ecumenical Patriarch has been travelling widely, appearing at major events, and receiving various honors. 

    With respect to the self-isolation of Patriarch Kirill, the Patriarch did not attend the very important feast at the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra on October 8 to commemorate the death of St. Sergius.  It is traditional for the Patriarch to be there.  Instead, the Patriarch celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Alexander Nevsky Skete (the public is not allowed to be present at or near the Skete) near his rural residence in Peredelkino.  In a video of his homily at the Liturgy, the Patriarch stated that “in view of the epidemic, at the categorical demand [по категорическому требованию] of doctors, it was proposed this year to refrain from visiting the Reverends.”   He also asked “all of you to pray for me that the Lord would strengthen my physical and spiritual strength….”  The great lengths that the Patriarch has gone to isolate himself during the past year does puzzle me.  Other church leaders have been cautious, but not to this extent.   Patriarch Kirill was vaccinated last March.  When the Patriarch has made public appearances, such as in Kazan, Volgograd, and St. Petersburg, he has seemed to be very healthy.

    This last week the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox–Catholic Working Group met in Rome at the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).  The Working Group consists of 13 Orthodox theologians and 13 Catholic theologians from 16 different countries.  Pope Francis met with the Group on October 7.  The text of the address of Pope Francis to the Group can be read at  Pope Francis revealed that he will soon make St. Irenaeus a “Doctor of the Church.”  The meeting of the Working Group began with a three-hour program of reflections on the Group’s document Serving Communion. Re-thinking the Relationship between Primacy and Synodality.  The complete program, which was in English, can be watched at .  A list of the names of the current members of the Working Group can be seen on the screen at 16:25 of the video.  The Group meets annually (except last year because of the pandemic), and perhaps because of its smaller size and greater flexibility, has been more productive in recent years than the official Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

    The OCU-MP has announced that a conference on sobornost and primacy will be held at its Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary on November 11, 2021.  Presumably, this will be similar to the conference held in Moscow, September 16-17.  I suspect that the primary purpose of the conference is to gather scholarly papers to support Moscow’s position that there is only a primary of honor at the universal level and that the only primate of the universal church is Christ himself.

    The Orthodox Church in America has announced that its Holy Synod “confirms the decision of His Beatitude [Metropolitan Tikhon] to accept the invitation from the Moscow Patriarchate to travel with a delegation in November to Moscow, in order to celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday jubilee of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.”   Patriarch Kirill’s 75th birthday is on November 20.  Presumably, invitations to the birthday celebrations were also extended to all Local Orthodox Churches with which Moscow currently has communion.  The birthday celebrations may well coincide with the Moscow Patriarchate’s Bishops’ Council which is scheduled for “mid-November.”  It is likely that the Council will make some resolution condemning the actions and positions taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, especially in Ukraine.  One wonders whether the presence of delegations from other Local Orthodox Churches gathered to celebrate with Patriarch Kirill will be used by some as a sign of implied support by those Churches for the probably harsh condemnation by the Council against Constantinople.  It seems to me to be a sensitive situation.

    Lastly, although Pope Francis had earlier expressed the hope of attending the U.N. Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in November, it is now clear that he will not.  In addition, it appears that his Malta trip will be postponed to next year.   There is no further word about Pope Francis going to Crete and Greece this year.  The fact that Pope Francis will go to neither Glasgow nor Malta raises the definite possibility that his hoped-for trips to Cyprus and Greece will not occur this year, but will be postponed to next year.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 October 2021: Bartholomew and Hilarion at the Vatican & other news

    Today, October 4 (the Catholic feast of St. Francis of Assisi), there was an important gathering of religious leaders, scientists, and experts at the Vatican.  The title of the event was Faith and Science: Towards COP26, and it was organized by the British and Italian Embassies to the Holy See.   At the meeting, the participants signed a joint appeal to the forthcoming U.N. COP26 Climate Conference to be held in Glasgow, November 1-12.  Orthodox representatives and speakers at the meeting included Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The WCC was represented by its Acting General Secretary, Father Ioan Sauca (Romanian Patriarchate).  The text of the signed appeal can be read at 

    A video of the entire program can be seen at (many of the presentations are in English) .  The address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew begins at 42:40 in the video, and the address by Metropolitan Hilarion begins at 53:35.  For me, it was fascinating to see these two hierarchs seated for over one hour very close to each other, separated only Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.  Although I saw no interchange between the two, the Ecumenical Patriarch did applaud at the end of the address by Metropolitan Hilarion.

    On September 27, Patriarch Kirill presented church awards to Metropolitan Hilarion and his three vice-chairmen.  The remarks by the Patriarch Kirill included the following:  “And we humanly very much upset by the fact that today the Patriarch of Constantinople has lapsed into schism because he took communion together with schismatics and recognized self-ordained clergy who do not have lawful consecration by canonical hierarchs.”   To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that Patriarch Kirill has called Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew a schismatic.  It appears that as time goes on, the strategy of the Moscow Patriarchate is to raise its attacks against Constantinople to a higher and higher level.  Patriarch Kirill also stated that he personally knows Patriarch Bartholomew well and that “probably, he was guided not by his own reason and not by his own will.”  Still, Patriarch Kirill rejects the argument that Bartholomew could not do otherwise because of “mighty outside forces.”  He gives the example of earlier Patriarchs of Constantinople who were martyrs and confessors.

    This weekend, Metropolitan Hilarion, on his television program Church and the World, spoken about the decision made by the Holy Synod at its last meeting concerning certain priests within the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  He stated that there were “several dozen” priests who did not agree with “the recognition of the schism” in Ukraine and who requested Patriarch Kirill to accept them into the Russian Orthodox Church.  Because the Patriarch of Alexandria and the head of the OCU have now celebrated the Divine Liturgy together, Metropolitan Hilarion said that the Russian Orthodox Church has no reason to refuse the appeals.  He added: “How long they will be considered, how our presence in Africa will be structured - we have yet to decide at the next meetings of the Holy Synod.”

    Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia has now made his second visit to Montenegro since his election as patriarch.  This time the Patriarch enthroned His Grace Metodije as Bishop of Budva-Nikšić.  The enthronement occurred on September 25 at the Đurđevi Stupovi Monastery near the town of Berane, Montenegro.  The ceremony took place “in a peaceful atmosphere.”  One can watch a video of the entire event at (over 3 hours long).   During the course of the Liturgy, one can see (from 1:19:30 to 1:24:30 in the video) the unfurling over the heads of the faithful attending the Liturgy a huge Serbian tricolor flag which is more than 300 meters long.

    As far as I am aware, there were no objections or protests in Montenegro to Patriarch Porfirije coming to Berane to perform this enthronement.  However, when Patriarch Porfirije came to the monastery in Cetinje, Montenegro on September 5 to enthrone Metropolitan Joanikije (Mićović) as Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, there were great protests by certain Montenegrins, and the Patriarch only obtained access to the Cetinje Monastery through the use of an army helicopter.  Why were there such great protests in Cetinje but none in Berane?   The ethnic composition of Cetinje is 91% Montenegrin, while Serbs are the largest ethic group (namely 43%) in Berane.  However, more importantly, Montenegrins consider Cetinje and its monastery to be the seat of their national identity.  The strong pro-Serbian aspects of the enthronement in Berane, exemplified by the huge Serbian flag and the many Serbian tricolor banners, perhaps make a little more understandable the concerns of certain Montenegrins that an enthronement in Cetinije would be a symbol of pro-Serbian sentiments overshadowing Montenegrin independence.   Still, the barricades by protesters were very unfortunate.

    Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv (Latin-rite) has given an interesting interview to the Polish Catholic news agency KAI.  Archbishop Mokrzycki was a personal secretary for Pope John Paul II from 1996 until the Pope’s death in 2005 and then a personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI.  Mokrzycki has been the archbishop of Lviv since 2008.  When asked if Ukraine expects a visit from Pope Francis, the Archbishop replied:  “I learned that the Holy Father is planning such a visit next year.”  The Archbishop is optimistic that in the future the churches of Ukraine will cooperate more with each other and that “there will be some symbiosis between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.” 

    Interestingly, in the final years of Pope John Paul II there were two cardinals in Ukraine – Cardinal Jaworski of Lviv (the predecessor of Archbishop Mokrzycki) and Cardinal Husar (head of the UGCC).  Now there are none.  In fact, Pope Francis in the eight years of his pontificate has not made a single ordinary (head of a diocese) in Eastern Europe a cardinal.  Of the 101 cardinals appointed by Pope Francis, only three have roots in Eastern Europe.  Archbishop Emeritus Sigitas Tamkevicius S.J. of Kaunas (the survivor of a gulag) was made a cardinal, but this did not occur until a few months after his 80th birthday (thus making him ineligible to vote in a conclave).  Father Konrad Krajewski, a Pole, was made the Papal Almoner and an archbishop in 2013 and then a cardinal in 2018.  However, he has lived in Rome since 1998 and has never been a bishop in Poland.  Father Ernest Simoni of Albania (a survivor of many years of communist imprisonment) was made a cardinal when he was 88 years of age and has never to date received episcopal ordination.  On the other hand, it must be said that Pope Francis has visited as pope 14 Eastern European nations.

    Lastly, there is a media report that Pope Francis will visit Malta on December 2-3, Cyprus on December 4, and Greece on December 5-6.  There has been no confirmation of these dates by the Vatican.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 September 2021: Moscow may accept jurisdiction over certain African priests & other news

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met in Moscow on September 23 and 24.  The official minutes of the meeting can be read at .  Journal entry 61 relates to “the consequences of the concelebration of the Primate of the Patriarchate of Alexandria with the head of the schismatic structure operating in Ukraine.”  This journal entry first gives a factual recital of prior statements by Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria supporting the UOC-MP and then his subsequent actions recognizing the OCU and concelebrating with its primate.  The recital acknowledges that to date “none of the bishops of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church has expressed disagreement with the actions of Patriarch Theodoros to support the schism in Ukraine.”  On the other hand, the recital states that after the recognition by Theodoros “the Russian Orthodox Church began to receive numerous applications for admission to the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate from the clergy of the Alexandrian Church who did not agree with the decision of Patriarch Theodoros to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics and for this reason did not want to remain under his omophorion.”  Although the Moscow Patriarchate did not take action on these applications earlier in the hope that the Alexandrian Patriarchate would reconsider its decision, Patriarch Theodoros according to the recitals went further and concelebrated with the head of the OCU on August 13, 2021.

    Accordingly, the Holy Synod resolved as follows:

    1. Express deep sorrow over the fact that Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria participated in concelebration with the head of the schismatic structure operating in Ukraine, which further deepens the split between our Churches.

    2. Taking into account the above and taking into account the numerous appeals of the clergy of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus with a request to accept them under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate, instruct His Grace Archbishop Leonid of Vladikavkaz and Alania to submit proposals to Holy Synod to study thoroughly the appeals received.

    Perhaps to give Archbishop Leonid more time to do this work, paragraph 3 of this Journal entry relieves him of certain other work and assigns him to Moscow.

    In reporting on this resolution, the Russian news agency Interfax has stated:  “Metropolitan Leonid who is also deputy head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate said in November 2020 the number of Alexandria clergy who wished to come under the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church was ‘in the hundreds.’”  With respect to specifics, there was a letter posted in December 2019 in which a group of 27 priests, who identify themselves as being “African priests” of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, have written an open letter that they “do not agree” with the decision of the Patriarchate to recognize the OCU.   The signers consist of 19 priests from Tanzania,  4 from Kenya, 3 from Uganda, one from Zambia.   They state that as far as they know, the “decision was made without asking the opinion of the African clergy,” who “make up the majority of clergy and parishioners of the Patriarchate.”    In April 2021, Metropolitan Hilarion stated:  “Indeed, we have received individual and mass requests from clerics from different countries in Africa.”   

    In December 2019, the Holy Synod had withdrawn six Russian Orthodox parishes in Africa from the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  If the Moscow Patriarchate does in fact take one hundred or more African parishes under its jurisdiction in the future, we will not only have two competing Orthodox churches in Ukraine, but two competing Orthodox churches for the entire African continent.  It remains to be seen how many African priests who expressed an interest in Moscow’s jurisdiction a year or so ago are still interested in making the change.  It will also be interesting to see whether a Moscow Patriarchate church in Africa will seek to established a church where native Africans constitute most of the bishops and priests without any significant Greek influence.  All of this could be greatly divisive to the Orthodox world.  Is the creation of further divisions the way to solve the division in Ukraine?  Perhaps Moscow hopes that the threat of establishing an African church will cause other Local Orthodox Churches to rally to Moscow’s side and hold a second Amman-type meeting of church leaders. 

    The Holy Synod at its September 23-24 meeting also condemned the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Kyiv.  In Journal entry 60, the Holy Synod resolved:

    1. To recognize the arrival in Kiev of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople with his accompanying persons without an invitation from the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Onufry, and the legitimate hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a gross violation of the canons, in particular, the 3rd canon of the Sardinian Council and 13th rule of the Council of Antioch.

    2. To condemn the continuing anti-canonical deeds of the Patriarch of Constantinople aimed at destroying the unity of Orthodoxy.

    3. To note the purely political nature of the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew, which reveals his dependence on forces external to the Church.

    4. Keeping the grateful memory of the merits of the Holy Church of Constantinople in enlightening Russia with the light of Christ's faith, emphasize that the noble deeds of the ever-memorable Holy Patriarchs of Constantinople in the past do not justify the current canonical crimes of Patriarch Bartholomew, who supported the schism and entered into church communion with persons who call themselves Orthodox bishops, but do not have canonical consecration.

    5. Note that by supporting the schism in Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew lost the trust of millions of believers.  Emphasize that in conditions when the majority of Orthodox believers in the world are not in church communion with him, he no longer has the right to speak on behalf of the entire world Orthodoxy and represent himself as its leader.

    6. Confirm the loyalty of the Moscow Patriarchate to the norms of canon law and the generally recognized principles of inter-Orthodox cooperation, its continuing openness to pan-Orthodox discussion of the situation in world Orthodoxy.  Emphasize that the responsibility for undermining the unity of the Orthodox Church lies entirely with Patriarch Bartholomew as a result of his anti-canonical actions.

    7. To express support to His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Onufry, archpastors, pastors, and the entirety of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in their stand for the truth, in their loyalty to the canonical unity of the Church.

    The Synod at this meeting did not specify what proposals relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be considered at the Bishops’ Council to be held in mid-November.  However, it is to be expected that another meeting of the Holy Synod will be held immediately before the Council.

    In other news, the tenth “Patristic Conference” was held in Vienna, September 16 to 19.  This conference also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Patristic Conferences which began in 2001 at the initiative of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and Prof. Ysabel de Andia (a well-known expert in patristics from Paris).  According to Prof. de Andia, the purpose of the Conferences is "to bring together Orthodox and Catholics who teach patristics or theology in the philosophical or theological faculties" in Europe and "who share a love for the church fathers of the first millennium."  The scope is limited to the first millennium because of a desire “to place oneself in a time before the great division of the Greek and Latin churches, a time in which the churches developed the diversity of their traditions and found their unity in the ecumenical councils.”   The first four conferences were organized by the Pro Oriente Foundation.  Since 2010 the Conferences have been under the direction of Prof. Theresa Hainthaler from Frankfurt, Germany (a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and a member of its Coordinating Committee).

    The subject for this year’s conference was “Inherited [Original] Sin?”  The participants came from 17 different European nations.   A “festive evening” was held on September 16 to celebrate the 20th anniversary.  At this event, Metropolitan Hilarion was one of the speakers (via the Internet).  Cardinal Schönborn also spoke.  With respect to the official dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the Cardinal stated:  “Even if the official dialogue is sometimes difficult, the dialogue at the Patristic Conferences works very well.”    In addition, a letter was read at the festive evening from Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate).

    Finally, I was pleased to see that Metropolitan John of Dubna, head of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe (Moscow Patriarchate), attended as a guest the enthronement of Metropolitan Dimitrios of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) on September 18. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 September 2021: Moscow conference on primacy & other news

    On September 16 and 17, the Moscow Patriarchate held a major conference in Moscow on the subject, “World Orthodoxy: Primacy and Conciliarity in the Light of Orthodox Dogmatic Teaching.”  The sponsors were the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, the Biblical – Theological Commission, and the Institute of Post-Graduate and Doctoral Studies – all headed by Metropolitan Hilarion.  The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on this subject is already well-known.  In fact, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate issued a definitive and authoritative document on this subject in December 2013. (full text)  This position essentially rejects any claims by the Ecumenical Patriarchate for primacy in the Universal Church except for a primacy of honor.  It appears that the main purpose of the current conference is to gather scholarly papers and opinions in support of this position and to publish them.

    The importance of this conference to the Moscow Patriarchate is demonstrated by the fact that Patriarch Kirill, who has made relatively few public appearances this year (apparently because of Covid), personally appeared at the conference and gave the opening address.  The official English translation of his address is found at  A video of his presentation is available at .  The Patriarch states that there are “certain political forces” that are seeking “to reproduce the model of the Great Schism of 1054” and divide Orthodoxy by separating Greek from Slavic.  Generally, the various points made by Patriarch Kirill are not new, but the address should be read in its entirety.  However, the Patriarch does state that he hopes that the Bishops’ Council, which will be held later this year in Moscow, “will adopt a resolution with regard to the position of our Church concerning the actions of Constantinople.” 

    The names of many of the participants in the conference are set forth at   Of course, the vast majority are from the Moscow Patriarchate.  Metropolitan Hilarion presented a new volume which “is the most complete collection of documents on the history of the reunification of the Kiev Metropolis with the Russian Orthodox Church in 1686.”  The listed persons from other Local Orthodox Churches (most of whom participated remotely) were:  Bishop Irinej of Bačka (Serbian Patriarchate); Archbishop Theodosios of Sebastia (Jerusalem Patriarchate); Metropolitan Andrea of Gori and Ateni (Georgian Patriarchate);  Protopresbyter George Zviadadze (Georgian Patriarchate);  Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos and Orinis (Church of Cyprus); and Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos and Tylliria (Church of Cyprus).   It appears that Archbishop George of Košice-Michalovc (Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia) was present but did not speak.  The presentations of persons from other Local Orthodox Churches is summarized at   See also (full text of joint report by the two Metropolitans from Cyprus);  (full text of the presentation by Bishop Irinej).

    As far as I know, none of the presenters from other Local Orthodox Churches stated that their views were the official views of their respective Local Orthodox Church.  In fact, the primate of the Church of Cyprus has recognized the OCU.  It should also be noted that members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches from all of the Local Orthodox Churches, except for the absent Moscow and Bulgaria, appeared to have agreed in the Ravenna document that primacy at the universal level involved “a series of prerogatives “ – something more than simply honor. (full text in English including paragraphs 43 and 44)

    The 52nd Eucharistic Congress, which began in Budapest on September 5, ended with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Heros Square before a crowd of approximately 100,000.  The Congress included addresses by a number of Orthodox speakers.   On September 6, Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) gave a presentation on the Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist.  (full text in English).  The following opening sentence of his address received considerable attention from the Catholic media: “The Catholics and the Orthodox are not united in the Eucharist, but they are united in the conviction that in the Eucharistic bread and wine after their consecration we have not just symbolic presence of Christ, but his full and real presence.”   After the presentation, Metropolitan Hilarion was interviewed in English by the Catholic media network EWTN. (10-minute video)  He referred to the “huge gap,” including in the Russian Federation, between those who are nominal Christians and those who are practicing Christians – the latter believing in the true presence.    He also remarked:  “I don’t think that we should make some aspirations related to the restoration of the full communion between the, for example the Catholics and the Orthodox….” (9:05)  However, overall it was a very positive interview.  Metropolitan Hilarion also met with the president of Hungary János Áder (a devote Catholic) and with Cardinal Péter Erdő of Budapest (with whom the Metropolitan has had a long friendship).  The Metropolitan attended the opening Mass of the Congress on September 5.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrived in Budapest on September 10.  He met with the president of Hungary and laid the cornerstone for a church on land donated to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Hungarian government.  On the afternoon of September 11, he was the guest of Cardinal Péter Erdő at a Mass in Kossuth Square next to the Hungarian Parliament building.  Before the Mass began, the Ecumenical Patriarch gave an address on the Eucharist.  The full text of the address in English can be read at  His address ended with an appeal for Christian unity.  He stated:  “The eucharistic realization of the Church in the common chalice and the shared Christian witness in the world is the vision and the dream of all of us who experience the continually existing division of Christianity as a fact, which, as Father Georges Florovsky aptly stated, ‘according to the plan of God should not have taken place.’”  He quotes Florovsky that “East and West organically belong together in the unity of Christendom.”  Unlike Metropolitan Hilarion, the Ecumenical Patriarch does has aspirations for a restoration of a shared Eucharist between Orthodox and Catholics at some time in the future.  Cardinal Erdő in his homily stated that the world has “a desperate need” for a unified testimony of Eastern and Western Christianity.  The entire Mass on September 11 and the beautiful candlelight procession through the streets of Budapest can be watched at (beginning at 54:00) .

    At the closing Mass with Pope Francis, the Ecumenical Patriarch was seated very prominently on the platform close to the altar.  He is very visible throughout the video of the Mass.  The following link shows a number of photos of the encounters of the two church leaders at the Mass.  The two also had a short private meeting after the Mass.  Later the same day, Pope Francis traveled to Bratislava.  At a meeting with representatives of other churches and religious organizations in Slovakia, he met with Metropolitan Rastislav, primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  With this meeting, Pope Francis has now met 11 of the primates of the 14 Local Orthodox Church considered by all of the Local Orthodox Churches to be autocephalous.  Only three of the primates now remain:  Serbian Patriarch Porfirije (who met with Pope Francis three times before becoming patriarch), Metropolitan Sawa of Poland (who met with Pope John Paul II in 1999), and Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus (whom Pope Francis will meet later this year).  I have pasted below a photo of the Pope meeting Metropolitan Rastislav.   

    An important Joint Message for the Protection of Creation, dated September 1 and signed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis, and Archbishop Justin of Canterbury was released on September 7.  The full text in English is found at .

    Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov, whose name has been mentioned as a future Patriarch of Moscow, has stated:  “I cannot be a patriarch according to the charter of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Only a person with a higher academic theological education can become a patriarch.  [see IV(17)(b) of the charter – “have a higher theological education”].  I have no such education.”  In 2004 Tikhon graduated from the Sretensky Theological Seminary as an external student.  However, he was the rector of this very important seminary from 1999 to 2018.

    The Holy See has named the Auxiliary Bishop of Grodno, Iosif Staneuski, as Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev. (article by Jonathan Luxmoore).  The following article in a major anti-Lukashenko website reflects some reservations concerning the appointment.  Staneuski has now issued a short letter to the faithful.  It is too early to make any judgments concerning him. 


    The website of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted an English-language article entitled: “Parishioners of a captured church in Vinnitsa region: the coming of Patriarch Bartholomew has aggravated the schism.”  The article relates to a parish in the village of Krasnosilka (population 1,865) in the Vinnitsa Oblast of Ukraine and the activities of supporters of the OCU in taking over a parish.  Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) has stated that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is primarily response for the “seizure” of the village church.    Metropolitan Anthony states that this event proves the correctness of his earlier prediction that the visit of Bartholomew to Ukraine would cause new seizures.  However, another article provides additional facts.  There was a vote in the village in early 2019 to change the parish’s affiliation from the UOC-MP to the UOC.  This vote was challenged by the UOC-MP in the courts.  The court ruled in favor of the OCU, and the UOC-MP appealed.  On March 31 the Vinnytsia Court of Appeal denied the appeal of the UOC-MP and upheld the legality of the transfer.  The UOC-MP then appealed to Ukraine’s Supreme Court and asked for a new trial.  On July 5, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the OCU and denied the request for a new trial.  Believing the appeals through the Ukrainian legal system had been exhausted and having the necessary legal registration papers transferring the parish, the OCU parishioners took possession of the church and parish house.   After possession was taken, the head of the legal department of the UOC-MP stated that the Ukrainian judges were “biased” and that the UOC-MP community “has not exhausted the means of protection against raider seizures.”  However, he did not specify what those means of protection are.  As far as I know, no other parishes have sought to transfer to the OCU since the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


  • 5 September 2021: A sad day in Montenegro & other news

    On Saturday, September 4, Serbian Patriarch Porfirije arrived on his first visit to Montenegro as patriarch.  His arrival in the capital of Podgorica appeared to be a positive and non-controversial event.  The Patriarch was greeted by thousands of faithful in the square in front of the large Cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection.  The Prime Minister of Montenegro, Zdravko Krivokapić, and ministers of the current government were there.  So were bishops from the Local Orthodox Churches of Jerusalem, Moscow (including the UOC-MP and ROCOC), Bulgaria, Albania, Poland, and Czech Lands and Slovakia.  Patriarch Porfirije gave a long address urging reconciliation. (full text)  It included the following:

    Therefore, I, together with the elected Metropolitan Joanikije and all our archbishops, ask everyone in these holy lands not to allow hatred between brothers and troubles to continue.  Let's not leave our children mortgages, neither theirs or our grandfathers.  We ask for forgiveness and forgive: if I have offended you, forgive, and I forgive you in advance for everything.  That is the word, that is the emotion, that is the faith of us Orthodox hierarchs, that is the faith of you Orthodox Christians, that is the faith of your new metropolitan as well.

    Patriarch Porfirije had arrived on a two-day visit to Montenegro to enthrone on Sunday, September 5, Metropolitan Joanikije (Mićović) as Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral.  Joanikije had been chosen by the Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, meeting in Belgrade in late May, to replace Metropolitan Amfilohije, who had been Metropolitan of Montenegro since 1990 and who had died from complications of the coronavirus in October 2020.  Joanikije had been born in Montenegro (then part of Yugoslavia) and had spent most of his life there.  Since 2002 he had been the bishop of Budva-Nikšić, a diocese in Montenegro.   There was a media report that Bishop David of Kruševac, who was supposedly supported by Bishop Irinej of Bačka and who had no roots in Montenegro, was also seeking at the Assembly to be the new Metropolitan of Montenegro.  It was also reported in the media that Joanikije was elected by acclamation, and not by a vote, at the suggestion of Patriarch Porfirije.  The choice of Joanikije, a local son, appears to have been well-received in Montenegro.  The fact that Patriarch Porfirije was now coming to Montenegro to enthrone Joanikije also seemed to be non-controversial.

    However, the plan to enthrone Joanikije in the historic Cetinje Monastery turned out to be extremely controversial.  Cetinje is the former royal capital of Montenegro and is located approximately 30 kilometers west of the present capital of Podgorica.  Cetinje is a city of approximately 15,000, of whom approximately 91 percent are ethnic Montenegrins and approximately 4 percent Serbian.  The city presently is the site of several national institutions (Ministry of Culture, national museum and library, archives) as well as the official residence of the president of Montenegro.  For at least some Montenegrins, the Cetinje Monastery is considered a most sacred location for the nation of Montenegro.  For example, St. Peter of Cetinje (1748-1830), a prince-bishop, who is often considered the founder of modern Montenegro, is buried there.  For these Montenegrins, the enthronement in Cetinje is an attempt to put a Serbian stamp on the sacred site of Montenegrin national independence.

    On August 22, there was a protest in Cetinje by approximately 12,500 against the enthronement occurring there.  On August 27, the mayor of Cetinje stated that enthronement at the Monastery “insults the national and religious feelings of Orthodox believers who declare themselves as Montenegrins who, as the majority people in Montenegro, have special sentiment and respect for this sacred site…”  He also stated that “the local administration and I as the mayor are of the opinion that this religious rite should be performed outside Cetinje.”   The next day, Montenegro President Milo Đukanović, whose political party no longer controls the Montenegro government, urged that the enthronement occur away from Cetinje in order to preserve peace and stability.  On August 30, the Social Democrats, the party of Đukanović, called upon the government to move the enthronement to another location because holding the enthronement in Cetinje would increase tensions where there is no need.  The party stated: “If that is not the case, the Social Democrats will be in Cetinje, with their citizens…” Đukanović pc-da-u-cilju-smirivanja-tenzija-ustolicenje-izmjesti-sa-cetinja/  It appears that all of the opposition political parties took the same position.  The enthronement had obviously become a political issue where the opposition parties sought to obtain greater voter support in future elections.

    However, from the perspective of the Church, Cetinje was the only proper place to hold the enthronement.  Although this was the first enthronement since the establishment of the independence of Montenegro in 2006, the enthronements of the Metropolitan of Montenegro had previously always been performed there.  The title of the Metropolitan includes “Archbishop of Cetinje.”  (However, his cathedral is apparently now the Cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection in Podgorica.)  Joanikije had previously served as head of the Monastery and as rector of the seminary in Cetinje. The Church was adamant that the enthronement occur there.  On September 3, Metropolitan Joanikije gave a long and interesting interview explaining his position.  With respect to the objections of the city of Cetinje, he stated “they have not yet created their own state called Cetinje.”  In order to lower tensions, he pointed out that the Church had agreed that only clergy would attend the enthronement.  He stated: “I want this communion to continue, to accept all the brothers, both those who think differently and those who want to unite with us.  When it comes to arguments, thoughts and dialogue, we are always ready to participate in that dialogue.  I am not ready to exchange hatred, because in that way hatred multiplies even more, and I am in favor of conversation, dialogue and agreement with, indeed, everyone, but everyone in Montenegro.  And I don't know what else to say, that is the essence of our faith and our holy service, and that is how we will work.”

    On the evening of Saturday, September 4, protesters erected blockades on the roads to Cetinje. (see photos and videos).  Patriarch Porfirije and Metropolitan Joanikije were brought to the Cetinje Monastery by helicopter.  The following is an absolutely amazing (and sad) video showing them arriving at the Monastery, being guarded by armed riot police with full gear, and being rushed into the Monastery covered by bullet-proof blankets.  (3 minutes)  The Liturgy was celebrated with Bishop David, the priests, and monks who had come to the Monastery the prior day before the blockade, and the enthronement was held.  The Patriarch, the Metropolitan, and Bishop David then departed by helicopter.  Police surrounded the Monastery during the enthronement.  In the town, there were many clashes between police and protesters.  Apparently, the bus carrying the bishops, including those from other Local Orthodox Churches, was turned away at the barricades and returned to the Cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection for a Liturgy.  The following are some articles on today’s events from the international press.;; ;  Patriarch Porfirije has now returned to Belgrade.

    I am sure that there will now be accusations of excessive use of force by the police, of criminal conduct by protesters, of incitement by the Social Democrats, of reckless behavior by the existing government.  There will be increased tensions between ethnic Serbs and Montenegrins in Montenegro.  The repercussions from today’s events will continue for a long time.  I feel especially sorry for Patriarch Porfirije, who has made forgiveness and the building of bridges the cornerstone of his service as patriarch.  Today’s events present a great challenge.

    From September 1-3, the world-wide hierarchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate gathered in Istanbul to celebrate the Feast of the Indiction and the Ecclesiastical New Year and to hold an Assembly (Synaxis).  On September 1, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued his annual letter to the faithful on the protection of the natural environment. (English text).  At the close of the Assembly, a press announcement was released. (Greek)  The Assembly noted with regret  “a willingness to alter Orthodox ecclesiology, as evidenced by the latest ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical events (abstention of four local Orthodox Churches from the Holy and Great Synod, Ukrainian ecclesiastical issue, pandemic), where some local churches deviate from the canonical tradition, a deviation in which the Great Church of Christ cannot be indifferent at all.” 

    Patriarch Kirill on the Orthodox feast of the Dormition had some harsh words to say concerning the Ecumenical Patriarch’s recent visit to Kyiv.  He stated:  “And we know what is happening today in world Orthodoxy, how these forces [of evil], using the difficult situation that has developed in Ukraine, are trying to break the unity of the Orthodox Church.  And in some ways they are succeeding: An example of this is the sinful and inexplicable visit of the Patriarch of Constantinople to Kiev and his concelebration with schismatics.”   Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, has given a critical review of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s addresses in Kyiv.   For a different view from Moscow, an analysis in the publication Novaya Gazeta has stated:  “Now that the Patriarch of Constantinople has safely returned to his native Istanbul, we can say that the fears and threats that accompanied his visit and were whipped up by the Moscow Patriarchate turned out to be illusory.”  As a postscript to my previous report on Bartholomew’s last day in Kyiv, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, did meet and converse on that final day.  

    Metropolitan Hilarion on September 3 received from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov an award, the Ministry’s “For Cooperation Medal,” as “an important sign that shows that we appreciate cooperation with our good friends and comrades.”   On August 30 in Volgograd, Lavrov stated: “We have been cooperating closely with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) abroad.  The Russian Church has parishes in many countries.  It has been suffering from very strong pressure from a number of Western nations, primarily the US, which are set to ruin the unity of world Orthodox Christian churches.  Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew played a vicious role in the attempt to break off the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which he has so far not succeeded in doing.”

    The 52nd Eucharistic Congress is being held in Budapest, September 5-12.  Pope Francis will preside at the closing Mass on Sunday, September 12 in Budapest’s Heroes Square.  From there, he will visit Slovakia, September 12-15. (complete schedule in English)  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the evening of September 11 will be present as a guest at the Mass at which Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő will preside.  This Mass will be held in Kossuth Square next to the spectacular Hungarian Parliament Building and will be followed by a candlelight Eucharist procession.   The next day at 11:30 a.m. the Ecumenical Patriarchate will attend as a guest the Pope’s Mass.  (interview of Cardinal Erdő)  Earlier in the morning, he will preside at the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church of the Dormition in Budapest. 

    Pope Francis had given a long interview to a journalist from the Spanish radio station COPE. (full text in Spanish)  With respect to future visits, the Pope stated: “Now Slovakia is on the program, then Cyprus, Greece and Malta.”  There is a recent media report that the visit to Cyprus will occur December 2-3.  It was reported by the media in July that the visit to Greece will occur in November.  Pope Francis is planning to make a short visit to Glasgow in November in connection with the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.  On October 4, Pope Francis will host at the Vatican a meeting of world church leaders in anticipation of the Glasgow conference.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is expected to attend this meeting of church leaders at the Vatican.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 August 2021: Bartholomew's last day in Kyiv

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has now ended his visit to Kyiv.  His last day, August 24, was the formal state observance of the 30th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine.  In the morning, the Ecumenical Patriarch met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.   Also during the morning, President Zelensky and his wife attend a “Prayer for Peace for Blessed Ukraine” which was sponsored by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organization and which was held in the courtyard of the historic St. Sophia Cathedral.  A video of the entire service can be seen at  The service was almost identical with similar services held in prior years.  As in prior years, Metropolitan Epifany (OCU) spoke first followed by Metropolitan Onufry (UOC-MP).  Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) subsequently claimed that Bartholomew was not invited to the service because of the insistence of the UOC-MP that he not be there.  Metropolitan Anthony stated:  “Guests come and go, and we live here.  And I want to live in inner peace and mutual understanding."  One wonders whether Metropolitan Anthony’s desire to live “in inner peace and mutual understanding” applies to the relationship of the UOC-MP to the OCU.

    The major state events for the celebration occurred in the afternoon.  The entire public broadcast of the events can be viewed at (2 hr., 45 min.)    In the first part of the video, heads of state (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, North Macedonia) and the Ecumenical Patriarch (the latter at 7:20 in the video) arrived in separate limousines in front of the reviewing stand and were formally received with honors.  The Ecumenical Patriarch was seated next to the podium on the right.  Also in the reviewing stand was Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.  He was seated some distance left of the podium in the second row immediately behind the wife of President Zelensky.  In the video, he can be seen at 16:22 (talking to the President of Lithuania) and at 1:33:02 & :09 (seated behind Mrs. Zelensky).  It was good to see Metropolitan Onufry and Metropolitan Anthony (UOC-MP) in the reviewing stand as well.  The UOC-MP have previously said that its representatives would not attend any of the events at which Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was present, but apparently the UOC-MP decided not to skip this very important national event.  They were seated in the far right of the reviewing stand as were Metropolitan Epifany and other hierarchs of the OCU.  The hierarchs of the OCU and the UOC-MP are seen numerous times in the video, but at 2:42:30 one can see all of them in one frame.  In the video, there are two very touching scenes involving a little girl.  The first (beginning at 1:19:30), showing the girl in a film and then live, brought Zelensky to tears and evoked extremely long applause by everyone.  The second appearance of the little girl at 2:41:30 concluded the program with a peaceful (and not military) theme.

    President Zelensky gave a major address.  The official English translation of the speech can be read at  This speech included the following:

    What is the strength of the Ukrainian people?  It is the Ukrainian people.

    Citizens of Ukraine of all nationalities.

    Today, for the first time in history, I want to name those who live in Ukraine, so that we finally understand that the Ukrainian people are Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, Karaites, Krymchaks, Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Roma, Georgians, Gagauz, Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Turkmens and Tajiks, Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians, Turks, Koreans, Bashkirs, Lezgins, Avars, Mari, Germans, Slovaks, Czechs and Finns, Komi, Albanians, Karelians, Chechens, Ossetians, Abkhazians, Kabardians, Tabasarans, Dargins, Arabs, Laks.  And we are all citizens of Ukraine.

    The national team of Ukraine.  One team.

    Father Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, has written a commentary in which he essentially praised the President’s address. 

     After the conclusion of the program and the major military parade, President Zelensky held a reception on the grounds of the Presidential Mariinsky Palace.  A description and photos are found on the website of the OCU.  It states that at the reception, Metropolitan Epifany held talks with “the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda, the President of Poland Andrzej Duda, and the Secretary of State of the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.”  The apostolic nunciature in Kyiv had stated earlier that the Cardinal’s visit “has a strictly diplomatic and protocol character.”  Presumably, the Cardinal was very careful not to do anything that would involve the Vatican in the current religious dispute in Ukraine.  Earlier Cardinal Parolin had visited with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who confirmed President Zelensky’s earlier invitation for Pope Francis to visit Ukraine – to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ukraine in 2001. 

    After the reception, Metropolitan Epifany showed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the historic St. Michael's Vydubychi Monastery.  There, Bartholomew stated:  “We will fly away soon, but be sure that a part of our heart is in Ukraine, in the Ukrainian Church.  Looking back as events unfolded, occurred the recognition of autocephaly, we can say with certainty that you were worthy of the granting of autocephaly and that you are worthy to lead the Church, Your Beatitude.”  It would seem that the visit strengthened the personal bond between Bartholomew and Epifany.  Metropolitan Epifany then bid farewell to the Ecumenical Patriarch at the Boryspil Airport. 

    On Monday, the day before the Ecumenical Patriarch’s departure, he had a very busy program.  During his visit, he averaged 7-8 events per day.  Perhaps, the most important event on Monday was his meeting with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  The chairmanship of the Council rotates among the various denominations and is presently held by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC).  Although the UOC-MP is a member of the Council, it chose to boycott this meeting because of the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The complete text of Bartholomew’s address to the Council can be read at  At the close of the meeting, Bartholomew presented to Sviatoslav a beautiful panagia with the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch engraved on the back.  A panagia is worn by a bishop.  The Union of Orthodox Journals has posted three English language articles concerning this gift.  Descriptions of the many other events involving Bartholomew in Kyiv can be found at .

    As I described in my last report, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the large Sunday Liturgy made an appeal to the UOC-MP for “peaceful coexistence” and “tolerance” between the churches. (English translation of the appeal)  To date, I have not seen any response from hierarchs of the UOC-MP with respect to this.  On the day after the Liturgy, the Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti posted a major interview with Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP).  The Metropolitan did not mention the remark relating to coexistence and tolerance.  Perhaps there will be a response to this appeal later.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 August 2021: Bartholomew in Kyiv - an appeal for peaceful coexistence of churches

    This is now the third day of the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Kyiv.  He was invited by both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the recently formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) to attend the celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) had strenuously objected to the visit on a number of grounds, including the assertions that most of the Orthodox in Ukraine are opposed to the visit and that the visit will only increase religious tensions and attempts to “capture” parishes of the UOC-MP.   Before the visit, the big question is whether the visit will be viewed by most Ukrainians and the world as a positive event or whether the visit will be viewed as a big mistake where the predictions of the UOC-MP prove to be true.  There was also the question of whether the UOC-MP would attempt to “spoil” the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit by taking certain actions.

    On August 16, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, who frequently acts as one of the spokespersons of the UOC-MP, stated that attempts by supporters of the UOC-MP to organize events, such as processions, during the visit of Bartholomew do not have the blessing of the hierarchy.  On the other hand, he specifically endorsed the plans of the organization “Mariane” (“Миряне”), the Ukrainian word for laity, to conduct a “prayer stand” (a prayer service by a group of people to oppose something) on August 21 near the Ukrainian parliament building.  Father Nikolai stated:  “Believers are going to ask Patriarch Bartholomew how the Church of Constantinople intends to remedy what it has done in Ukraine.  I think this action will be useful.  Let the Patriarch of Constantinople think about how to answer them.”  On August 17, an official letter was sent in which Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, specially blessed the activities of “Mariane.” (see August 17 entry). 

    Immediately before the visit, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gave an interview to the Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform  (English)  He praised Metropolitan Epifany, head of the OCU, as “a prudent Primate, who knows how to manage ecclesiastical matters with efficiency and in the spirit of the canonical tradition of Orthodoxy.”   Nikolaos-Georgios Papachristou, who is the Director of the Press and Communication Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and who is also accompanying the Ecumenical Patriarch on the visit, also gave an interview.  In his opinion, the visit “is gaining the size of a historic event.”  Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, expressed his concerns about the visit to TASS.   According to Father Nikolai, UOC-MP believers see the invitation by Zelensky to Bartholomew as “as a political demonstration of indifference to their opinion on the part of the current state leadership.”

    A number of “well-known figures of science, culture and sports,” who are members of the UOC-MP, wrote a letter asking Bartholomew to postpone his visit and expressed the fear that the visit “could trigger a new wave of raider seizures of churches and beatings of UOC believers.”  On the other hand, another group with some familiar names have posted a petition which expresses joy at the visit of Bartholomew and states that “[t]he hatred generated by individual spokesmen, bishops, priests and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church and its part in Ukraine - the UOC-MP - is a sad and painful fact for all of us.” 

    For fear of attempts by UOC-MP to disrupt the visit by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, his exact schedule in Kyiv, except for some public events such as the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, has been kept a secret.  One learns about the events as they unfold.  The Ecumenical Patriarch is taken to various locations in a large van with darken windows.  Because of this, there is little opportunity for public encounter where Bartholomew could be publicly cheered or protested.  With no advanced notice as to the hour that Bartholomew would arrived, he was greeted on arrival at the Kyiv International Airport by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Metropolitan Epifany, and others in the early evening of Friday, August 20.  Later in the evening, the Ecumenical Patriarch met with President Zelensky at the Presidential Mariinskyi Palace.   The statement released by the President’s office included the following:  “Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that one of the factors that the aggressor uses against Ukraine as a hybrid weapon is religious…. During the meeting, further steps for closer cooperation between Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate were also discussed.”

    On Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was received by Metropolitan Epifany and certain bishops, clergy and laity of the OCU at St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral.  A video of the entire doxology service can be viewed at  The text of the Patriarch’s address is at .  The address by Epifany is found at  Before the doxology, Bartholomew laid flowers at the near-by "Wall of Memory of the Fallen Defenders of Ukraine" and at the memorial to the victims of the Holodomor.  After the doxology, he held meetings at the residence of Metropolitan Epifany with Epifany himself, with a group of OCU bishops, with Victor Yushchenko (president of Ukraine at the time of Bartholomew’s 2008 visit to Kyiv), and with a delegation from the OCU Vinnytsia-Bar Diocese headed by Metropolitan Simeon.

    At approximately 2:40 p.m. Ecumenical Patriarch arrived at the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) building for a meeting with Dmytro Razumkov, the chairman of the Rada.  The Chairman thanked Bartholomew for his support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Chairman stated:  “ We continue to fight for the return of the temporarily occupied territories of our state.  And religion is one of the bases around which people can unite.”  A festive dinner for the Ecumenical Patriarch was the hosted by the ambassador of Greece to Ukraine.  The ambassador of Cyprus was also involved.  In the evening, a vesper service at which Bartholomew presided was held in the historical St. Andrew’s Church, which functions as the Stauropegion for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Perhaps because the Church remains an active museum owned by the State, attendance was limited to certain invited guests and dignitaries.

    The “prayer stand” organized by “Miriane” was originally scheduled to begin in Constitution Square at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.  The Square is an elongated strip of pavement (approximate 250 meters long and 25 meters wide) running in front of the Rada building and the adjoining presidential palace.  The time of 9 a.m. was selected because of the organization’s belief that Bartholomew would be meet with the chairman of the Rada at that time.  The organization subsequently moved the hour of the prayer stand to 11 a.m.   As a reason, the organization stated that the Bartholomew’s meeting with the President would occur at 11 a.m. and the meeting with the chairman of the Rada at 2 p.m.  As it turned out, the meeting with the President actually occurred the prior evening and the meeting with chairman about 3 p.m.  The prayer stand in fact began about noon and ended shortly before 3 p.m.  I do not know whether “Miriane” simply had incorrect information or whether the times of the meetings were changed to avoid the time of the prayer stand.

    Many video, photos, and descriptions of the prayer stand can be seen at  (Union of Orthodox Journalists) and (Information Center of the UOC-MP).  A good video can be seen at (4 minutes).  Although there were many strong speeches, the prayer stand was totally peaceful.  It was not simply a gathering of laity.  Many clergy of the UOC-MP were there, and the principal speaker was Archbishop Nikolai, vicar of the Kyiv Metropolis of the UOC-MP.  The organizers stated that the number attending the prayer stand was more than 10,000 – the same figure that Mirane had predicted several days earlier would be there.  In viewing numerous photos of the event, I saw many open space, even near the speaker’s stand, between the participants, and the entire square was not full.  This makes me wonder whether the figure of 10,000 is somewhat overstated.   It is reported that police estimated the number at 1,500. 

    One of the speakers was Vasily Makarovsky, the head of Miriane.  In reading a “tomos of the laity,” he stated among other things:  "We call you to repentance for the encroachment on the leadership in the Church, which belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ alone, for the desire to unite with the Catholics, for the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics, for the seizure of our churches, for the beating of believers, for the enmity and hatred that you brought on our land.”

    Today, Sunday, August 22, was the major religious event of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit.  The Divine Liturgy was held outside the historic St. Sophia Cathedral, but within the walled area of the grounds of the Cathedral.  There were strict security procedures to enter the grounds of the Cathedral.  The entire Liturgy was televised live and can now been seen at  (over 3 hours).  The full text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address at the Liturgy can be read at  At the end, the Ecumenical Patriarch’s remarks were directed at the UOC-MP.  The following is an English translation provided by the Union of Orthodox Journalists:

    We invite in this sacred time and call wholeheartedly the brothers in Christ, the hierarchs in this country, their clergy and believers, who do not have church communion with us, to reconsider their position and to foster peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding between people and Orthodox Christians here, sharing love for identity, for the sake of reconciliation and the establishment of tolerance we all need.  As a mother church, we are always ready to listen to problems, dispel doubts, soothe anxiety, heal injuries of all our children with the grace of God, but within the framework of a consecrated church tradition.  We firmly believe that the mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ will forever extend generously over all of us, and we will rejoice in the tangible fruits of the Holy Spirit.   To the best of my knowledge, this is the first occasion that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has suggested the “peaceful coexistence” between the UOC-MP and the OCU.  In my opinion, this is an incredibly important development.  Could this be opening the door to some form of religious peace in Ukraine?  Could the visit by Bartholomew to Kyiv signal a breakthrough in relations as occurred during his visit to Kyiv in 2008?

    The last visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Ukraine was for the celebration of the 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus in July 2008.  At this time also, the Moscow Patriarchate had opposed Bartholomew’s visit.  The Moscow Patriarchate had feared that Bartholomew might use his visit as an occasion to recognize the schismatic churches in Ukraine.  The Moscow Patriarchate had only invited a “patriarchal delegation” from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, apparently implicitly excluding the Ecumenical Patriarch himself, to attend the celebration, but the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate responded on July 2 that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew himself would be the leader of the delegation.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had also received an invitation from Ukrainian President Yushchenko to attend.   It was reported that on July 20, Patriarch Alexy of Moscow wrote a letter to all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Church requesting them not to come personally to Ukraine, but only to send a delegation.  The letter purportedly asked the primates “to avoid your personal participation in the celebrations so that your presence cannot be interpreted as a show of support for possible anti-canonical acts.”  (Article, dated August 1, 2008, by George Gilson in the Athens News)  In spite of this, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew came to Kyiv and so did the primates of the Churches of Greece and Albania.

    The fears of the Moscow Patriarchate did not materialize.  In fact, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Alexy celebrated the Divine Liturgy together and held a personal meeting afterwards.  They discussed the need to resolve their problems through dialogue.  It was a dramatic reconciliation.  In October, Patriarch Alexy traveled to Istanbul, against his doctors’ advice, to attend a meeting of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches and to sign a common document addressing certain world issues and endorsing consultations leading to the holding of the Holy and Great Council.  On December 7, Patriarch Alexy died suddenly at the age of 79.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided at part of the funeral services in Moscow.  In retrospect, it is clear that the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Kyiv in 2008 was a turning point and a very positive event in relations between Moscow and Constantinople.

    Perhaps I am being far too optimistic in assessing the remarks made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew today.  However, I hope and pray that I am not.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 August 2021: Celebration in Imbros, forthcoming visit to Kyiv & other news

    This morning, August 13, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the Divine Liturgy on his native island of Imbros (Turkey) on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the diaconate in 1961. (includes video and photos)   He concelebrated with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, Metropolitan Epifany (primate of the new Ukrainian church -- OCU), Metropolitan Panteleimon of Maroneia (Church of Greece), and Metropolitan Nektarios of Kition (Church of Cyprus).  The big news is that Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria celebrated the Liturgy with the primate of the OCU.  Theodoros had previously recognized the OCU in November 2019 by commemorating Epifany in the diptychs of the Liturgy.   However, now he has taken the ultimate step of serving with him.   Although the Moscow Patriarchate has already severed communion with Patriarch Theodoros, there may now be possible further attacks by Moscow against him.

    On August 24, Ukraine will be celebrating its Independence Day.  The holiday occurs on the anniversary of the day on which the Ukrainian SSR parliament in 1991 adopted its Act of Independence.  The holiday this year is especially important as it marks the 30th anniversary of the enactment.  Approximately 30 delegations from other countries and from international organizations are expected to attend.   In Kyiv there will be a very large parade including military units.  The official festivities will occur during the period of August 22 to 24.

    As previously reported, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been invited by Ukrainian President Zelensky to attend the celebration and has accepted.  His official program of activities has not yet been released by either the Ukrainian government or by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Perhaps the reason for the delay is to make it more difficult for supporters of the UOC-MP to plan protests.  However, there are now media reports of some details of the visit obtained from unnamed persons within the OCU.   According to these reports, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be in Kyiv for approximately four days, presumably beginning on August 22.  However, another source indicates that the visit will begin on August 20.  The Ecumenical Patriarch will participate in a number of government-related events, such as meeting with the President, the Prime Minister, and the head of the Parliament and attending the parade.  He will attend a meeting with children who had a parent who died fighting for Ukraine in the Donbass and will visit the Holodomor monument.  Both of these two visits relate to sad events in which Moscow was allegedly involved.  There will also be meetings with the ambassadors of Greece and Turkey.

    With respect to religious events, the media reports specify the celebration of the Divine Liturgy with Metropolitan Epifany (primate of the OCU) at St. Michael's Golden-Domed Church (the cathedral of the OCU in Kyiv) and a meal with clergy of the OCU.   An evening vesper service will be held in the historic and recently restored St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv.  (In July 2021, an agreement was signed by the Ukrainian authorities and by the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate allowing certain liturgical use of the church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while at the same time the church remains part of the museum complex “Sophia of Kyiv” and continues to operate as an active museum.  Although not mentioned, it is logical that the Ecumenical Patriarch will meet with the members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  Although the UOC-MP would certainly boycott such a meeting, it would be an opportunity for Bartholomew to meet with the Catholic, Protestant, and other religious heads in Ukraine.

    The UOC-MP has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the visit by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The big question now is what form of protest, if any, that the UOC-MP will have during the time of the visit.  It appears that many of the events will be intertwined with the official celebration of the 30th anniversary.  Protests and picketing during a time of celebration may result in a general public opinion backlash against the UOC-MP and may irritate the government.  Public protests by the official church itself during the celebration has risks for the UOC-MP.  However, there are other alternatives.

    Several months ago, an organization was created in Ukraine with the title “Miriane” which is the word for “laity.”  This organization has expanded rapidly.  Its website is  and its Facebook address is   On June 15 the organization held a major protest in Kyiv.  It is very possible that if there are protests during the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the demonstrations will be organized by Miriane and not by the UOC-MP itself.  The UOC-MP will then use the protests by the laity as evidence that the Ukraine people themselves oppose the visit.  Today, August 13, Miriane published a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch demanding to meet with him on August 21 to explain to him the true situation in Ukraine.  The letter includes the following statement:  “Lay people from all dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will gather to meet with you on August 21 at 9 AM by Kyiv time on the square at the entrance to the building of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine.”  It remains to be seen whether this will involve a large scale project, such as occurred on July 27, where a large number of people were bused from all parts of Ukraine to Kyiv.

    Another method of protest is action at the parish level of the UOC-MP and the posting of these protests on the social media.  This idea, originating in the Zaporozhye diocese (headed by Metropolitan Luke), was publicized on Facebook by the UOC-MP. (see entry for August 9 at 8:13 a.m.)  The protest involves the priest of a parish with his parishioners (a ”flash mob”) holding a large banner that states “Bartholomew, we did not invite you.”  It is also suggested to make some banners in English so that they can be understood by foreigners.  Photos of these protests are then collected under the Facebook hashtag found at .  So far, there are not a great number of photos posted, but I assume that they will increase as the visit approaches.  One website claims that the participants often do not know in advance why they are being asked to gather. 

    Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun has given a very extensive interview to the Kyiv publication, LB.ua  Whether or not one agrees with Archimandrite Cyril, the interview makes very interesting reading and has many historical insights.  Archimandrite Cyril served as chairman of the DECR of the UOC-MP under Metropolitan Volodymyr.  However, in recent years, he has held various academic positions in the West and is sympathetic to the OCU.  He discusses religious event in Ukraine from 1990 to present.  He discusses at length the relationship between the UGCC and the Orthodox church in Ukraine during the last few decades.  He also makes certain observations with respect to the conflict between the UOC-MP and the OCU.  He believes that the UOC-MP and the OCU “will exist in parallel for a long time.”  He compares the current conflict between the UOC-MP and the OCU to the highly emotional conflict between UGCC and the Orthodox in Ukraine in the 1990s.  However, over time, the two churches learned to co-exist and live with one another.  He believes that the same will eventually happened with respect to the UOC-MP and the OCU.  He states:

    I think that the UOC-MP and the OCU will grind like Orthodox and Greek Catholics in the 1990s.  And when they get used to it, more active communication will begin.  The UOC is still in a state of shock.  She did not expect everything to happen that way, she was not ready for that.  Now it's a church on steroids.  It is pumped, conditionally, by psychotropic drugs that support the changed consciousness of the people in this church.  This is the basis which allows her to remain separate from others.  Steroids will run out, the effect of hysteria will pass, people will wake up, they will see that nothing terrible is really happening - then reconciliation will begin.

    Is this a correct assessment?  On almost a daily basis I review the websites of the UOC-MP and the Union of Orthodox Journalists (UOJ).   Day after day there are attacks against the OCU and often against Constantinople.  It is a massive and very sophisticate form of information warfare.  The UOJ also has websites in Romanian, Georgian, Greek, and Serbian – peoples who are very important in the conflict between Moscow and Constantinople.  As far as I know, the financing of the extensive operations of the UOJ remains a mystery.  However, one wonders if it will be possible year after year for such websites to keep their readers and listeners at the present high emotional state given the fact the Ukrainian people are very friendly in nature and may have members of the OCU as their relatives or neighbors.  Human nature tells us that things will eventually calm down.  In fact, it is difficult to imagine that the Ukrainian religious situation will ever be resolved until emotions calm down.

    In Montenegro, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić has stated that the basic agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church has been technically and legally completed and has been handed over to the Serbian Patriarchate.  He affirms that the Government of Montenegro is “absolutely  ready” to sign it.   In response, Patriarch Porfirije sent a letter to the Prime Minister Krivokapić on August 11 stating:  “[W]e sent your proposals to the designated expert commission which should determine what is their qualitative contribution in relation to the already determined, fully agreed and accepted by you text that we intended to sign on 27 May of this year at the Patriarchal See in BelgradeAfter the end of the holiday season, the members of the expert commission will submit their analysis to the Holy Synod of Bishops, which will afterwards inform you about the position of the Serbian Patriarchate on this important issue.” 

    In other news, the Divine Liturgy for the recently-deceased Father Leonid Kishkovsky was held on August 12 at his parish church on Long Island.  The entire Liturgy can be viewed at .  The following are some beautiful tributes to him:;  In Dubai, an agreement has been reached between the Antiochian and Romania Patriarchate with respect to the establishment of a parish to serve the religious needs of Romanians in that area.  The priest of the parish will be appointed by Patriarch Daniel of Romania with the blessing of Patriarch John of Antioch.  Finally, the new apostolic nuncio to Ukraine will receive his episcopal ordination in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday.  He will be ordained by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is now visiting Lithuania. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 August 2021: Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky - A Great Builder of Bridges


    Today, I received the very sad news that Father Leonid Kishkovsky, who for many years has been the Director of the Office of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations for the Orthodox Church in America, died last evening, August 3, at a hospital in Glen Cove, New York.  I talked this morning to Matushka Mimi, his wonderful wife for 52 years, who was with him when he died.  She told me that he died very peacefully.  Father Leonid had a major heart attack yesterday morning and multiple organs were affected.  He was put on a ventilator, but did not make it through the night.  At the hospital, Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, anointed Father Leonid.  Later, Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey served a Panikhida at Father Leonid’s bedside.

    In recent years, Father Leonid had a number of operations on his feet due to his diabetes.  On April 27, 2020, his left leg was amputated below the knee.  There were complications after that.  However, he continued his work as rector of Our Lady of Kazan Church in Sea Cliff, New York, a position that he held since 1974.  As Director of the Office of External Affairs, he also worked at the Chancellery of the Orthodox Church in America in Syosset, located only ten miles away.   The following is a short video of Father Leonid giving the sermon this year on Palm Sunday.  This video was posted by Father Leonid’s daughter Sonia, who lives in Moscow with her husband and who writes for The New York Times on subjects relating to Russia and religion. 

    Father Leonid held many leadership positions in the field of ecumenical relations.  He was President of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA from 1989 to 1992.  He was the first Orthodox to head that largely Protestant body.  At that time, The New York Times wrote:  “Father Kishkovsky said in an interview last week that his election represented ‘a growing pluralism’ and recognition of an Eastern Orthodox tradition that could mend the breach between liberal and conservative Christians.”   Subsequently, a new organization was formed in the United States to bring together Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics.  It is called Christian Churches Together.  Its first formal annual meeting was in January 2008.  At that meeting, Father Leonid was elected to be the “moderator” of the new organization – the top leadership position.  He was elected because of the high regard in which he was held by Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics.   With regard to the World Council of Churches, Father Leonid served at various times on its Executive and Central Committees.

    Father Leonid was born in Warsaw in 1943.  His family fled from Warsaw just before the Warsaw uprising and became war refugees in Germany.  They immigrated to the United States with the status of “displaced persons” and lived in Los Angeles.  Father Leonid was fluent in Russian, and this was a very valuable asset for the very important role that he played in contacts between the Orthodox Church in America and the Moscow Patriarchate.  I know that he was highly regarded at the Moscow Patriarchate.  As the “foreign minister” of the Orthodox Church in America, he traveled extensively and had close contact with many Local Orthodox Churches.

    I was privileged to have Father Leonid as a friend.  I first met him in September 1989 when he came to Seattle to see Metropolitan (later Patriarch) Alexy, who was in Seattle for ten days as a guest of the Leningrad – Seattle Sister Churches Program.  Since that time, I have exchanged many telephone calls and emails with Father Leonid, and he has been a guest at my home.   He was a wonderful person, and I can certainly understand why he was held in such high regard by so many others.   Like the Apostle Nathanael, he was “without guile.”  His observations were always very objective and without any bias one way or the other.  One knew what he said was absolutely true.  It was a privilege to hear his insights.  Perhaps that is the reason that people of other faiths trusted him so much.

    Father Leonid was a builder of bridges.  He reminds me of the recently-elected Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia, who believes in “building bridges and establishing dialogue with everyone.”  Father Leonid spent much of his life bringing together on common issues Christians of very diverse denominations.  He was a consummate bridge builder.

    Today, “ecumenism” in the eyes of some Orthodox is a very derogatory word.  In fact for some conservative Orthodox, it is one of the worst heresies.  Father Leonid was totally immersed in ecumenism.  Yet, I have not heard of any attacks on Father Leonid.  In my opinion, the life of Father Leonid proves that one can seek to build bridges and create better understanding between various Christian denominations without compromising in any way one’s Orthodox faith.  Father Leonid was a real blessing for all of us.  Eternal Memory, Father Leonid!

  • 27 July 2021: A huge procession again in Kyiv & other news

    Today, July 27, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) conducted again its huge annual procession through the streets of Kyiv to celebrate the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.  Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil estimated that this year more than 350,000 participated. (link includes many photos of today’s event)  These annual processions by the UOC-MP are carefully organized.  The number of participants is used by the UOC-MP as proof of its popular support.  Yesterday, Metropolitan Anthony gave an interview concerning this year’s procession.  Groups of pilgrims are formed in the individual parishes in the many dioceses of the UOC-MP.  The individual dioceses then march separately in the procession under their own banners.  Because Patriarch Bartholomew is planning to visit Kyiv next month, it is likely that every effort was made by the individual parishes and dioceses to maximize the number of pilgrims this year.  The biggest hurdle is probably financing the bus or other transportation to take the thousands of pilgrims to Kyiv.  The procession began at 1 p.m. which allowed buses to depart from the parishes early in the morning, to take the pilgrims to Kyiv, and to return the evening of the same day.  As occurred in the procession of the cross in July 2019 (there was no procession in 2020 because of the pandemic), Vadim Novinsky, the billionaire parliamentarian, walked next to Metropolitan Onufry (the primate of the UOC-MP) throughout the procession.  (One can see Novinsky in a bright blue suit in the photos found in the first link.)  It is my guess that financial support from him, and from perhaps other wealthy supporters of the UOC-MP as well, enabled the UOC-MP to undertake the great expense of transporting thousands of people.

    Metropolitan Anthony did not explain the basis for his estimate of 350,000.  The National Police in Kyiv, which provided security and safety for the procession, has given a estimate of “more than 55,000 people.”   For 2019, Metropolitan Anthony gave an estimate of 300,000 and for 2018, 250,000.  For the 2019 procession where the UOC-MP estimate was 300,000 participants, the UOC-MP posted a very interesting time-lapse (sped-up) video showing the entire procession from the very beginning to the end.  The video last 314 seconds.  If the UOC-MP’s estimate is correct, there needs to be an average of 955 people (300,000 divided by 314 seconds) passing though the right and bottom edge of the video each second throughout the 314 seconds of the video.   In my viewing of the video, this was simply not the case, especially in the last part of the video where the number of participants decreased greatly.  Although the number of participants given by the UOC-MP may be substantially inflated, one cannot look at the photos of today’s procession and not be impressed by the number of participants.

    Representatives from the Patriarchates of Antioch and Serbia and from the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia participated today in the UOC-MP procession.  The OCU declined to hold its own procession this year, giving the new wave of the pandemic as the reason.  For the celebration of the Baptism of Rus by the OCU, both the Church of Cyprus ( and the Patriarchate of Alexandria ( ) sent bishops to participate in the services of the OCU.

    The Russian government is increasing its role in supporting the Moscow Patriarchate in its conflict with the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to Ukraine.  The latest example is an interview given by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on July 24 to the Rossiya 24 television network on the occasion of Metropolitan Hilarion’s 55th birthday   The following is the official English translation of the interview posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry.  Lavrov described Metropolitan Hilarion as “an extremely talented individual” and stated that “[w]e have been closely collaborating for many years now.”  In the interview, Lavrov also addressed the religious dispute in Ukraine.  He stated in part:

    All of us are well aware of how the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was created.  It was not just an initiative suggested by Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew.  It was directly dictated by the United States.  By and large, they do not conceal this fact themselves.  The US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom appointed by the previous administration was doing things that were directly opposite to his mandate.  He was undermining the freedom of religion and imposing organisational parameters (to use the bureaucratic idiom) on different local churches.  He was destroying the unity of the Orthodox believers of Russia and Ukraine and creating in Ukraine a schismatic and, in effect, powerless church.  He was also destroying the unity of the Church of Antioch and attempting to wean from it the Lebanese Orthodox believers. The same is happening with regard to the canonical territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

    We are clearly aware that Constantinople’s actions that are being directly manipulated by Washington have nothing in common with the ideals of Orthodoxy and the traditions that form the basis, upon which the collaboration between the local churches has always been organised.   This collaboration is being crudely disrupted. This is pressure in the sense that it requires efforts to oppose this sort of absolutely unacceptable actions.  We fully support the ROC.

    There have been many accusations that the Moscow Patriarchate is being used as a tool of the Russian government to promote its foreign policies.  Perhaps, Lavrov is engaging in a counter-attack by the asserting that Constantinople is simply a tool of the United States government and its foreign policy.

    Metropolitan Hilarion on his birthday celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Metochion of the Holy Martyrs of Chernigov, the church of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies.  For the occasion, he received letters of congratulations from the Patriarchs of Moscow, Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, and Romania, and from the primates of the churches of Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia, and OCA.  For the occasion, an interesting 46-minute film on the life of Metropolitan Hilarion, including childhood photos, has been released.  The entire film may be viewed at .

    President Putin has now authored an article entitled: “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”  The following is the official English translation of the entire article posted on the Kremlin website: .  In response to the article, the results of an Ukrainian opinion poll has just been released.  With respect to President Putin's statement that "Russians and Ukrainians are one people belonging to the same historical and spiritual space," 55% disagree and 41% agree.  There were regional differences.  In western Ukraine more than 70% disagreed with Putin’s statement.  In eastern Ukraine, more that 60% agreed with his statement. 

    On July 14, Metropolitan Hilarion spoke at the International Summit on Religious Freedom, held in Washington, D.C.   His address of approximately 11 minutes can be viewed at (beginning at 4:59:30).  More than half of his talk related to criticisms of  the Ukrainian government with respect to its treatment of the UOC-MP.  For some unknown reason, the Metropolitan was not listed on the posted program of the Summit as being a speaker.  Maybe his appearance was finalized only shortly before the event .  Interestingly, Metropolitan Hilarion had a meeting at the Summit with Sam Brownback, former US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.  This is the same person who was sharply criticized by Foreign Minister Lavrov in the quotation above.  The meeting was summarized by the website of the DECR at .  The summary includes the following:

    During the discussion, which lasted for an hour, a wide range of issues were touched upon concerning the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world, including the Middle East and a number of African countries.

    The sides exchanged opinions concerning mutual interaction in the sphere of defending religious freedom between the Russian Orthodox Church and American religious organizations.  Ambassador Brownback remarked that the voice of the Russian Orthodox Church should be heard in American society.

    The sides agreed to continue consultations, including in an offline regime.

    The description does not seem to treat Brownback as some type of arch-enemy.  In my personal opinion, the Moscow Patriarchate does not really believe that the idea of forming the OCU originated within the U.S. State Department.   Rather, Metropolitan Hilarion has repeatedly claimed that the formation of the OCU was “revenge” by Constantinople for the Moscow Patriarchate refusing to attend the Crete Council.  See for example .  Still, the Moscow Patriarchate echoes the charge that Bartholomew is acting as a tool of the United States.

    Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate) spoke at the Summit the following day.  His short address can be read at .  His topics were “Religious Nationalism” and “Nationalist Religion.”  His remarks included the following:

    Finally, there is a hybrid of the two, as in the case of the Russian Federation and the post-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church.  The painful history of the Church under the communist regime came to a sudden and stunning halt with the fall of the Iron Curtain.

    However, even as the Russian Federation morphed into its present form, the newly freed Russian Orthodox Church struggled to rebuild its place in society.  Its cooperation and support of the State has been a way to regain its former glories.  Yet, it is the state itself that has benefited from the Religious Nationalism” created by the reborn Orthodox Church within its borders.  Precisely because the Moscow Patriarchate maintains much of the contours of the old Soviet Union.  The close relationship between the state Foreign Ministry and the Church Department of External Relations is well known.

    Through the networks of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Federation is able to exert influence in the new nation-states that emerged after the fall of the Iron Curtain.  Ukraine is a case in point, where a local Orthodox Church was established, legally and canonically, by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, yet the Moscow Patriarchate continues to maintain its own entity.  This is clearly in the interests of the Russian Federation which benefits as much, if not more, from its Religious Nationalism” as the Church does from its Nationalistic Religion.”

    I have seen nothing to indicate that Hilarion and Elpidophoros met at the Summit, although the two did meet together in New Jersey on October 23, 2019, at a meeting arranged by Metropolitan Joseph (Patriarchate of Antioch).  The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate) hosted the ecumenical prayer service at the Summit, but Metropolitan Hilarion did not attend. of service).

    As expected, Patriarch Kirill consecrated the new reconstructed cathedral at the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan on July 21.  Excellent photos of the events can be viewed at    An interesting article describing the day’s activities can be read at .  As I previously reported, the cathedral is located over the exact spot where Matrona unearthed the original Kazan icon in 1579.  The cathedral is also now the permanent new home of the beautiful copy of the Kazan icon, given by Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Alexy II in 2004.  During the consecration services, Patriarch Kirill prayed before the icon twice. 

    As far as I can determine, this visit by Patriarch Kirill to Kazan is the first time that he has left the greater Moscow area since the beginning of the pandemic in February 2020.  (Kazan is 800 kilometers east of Moscow.) He arrived at the cathedral promptly at 10:00 a.m. after a morning flight from Moscow.  Metropolitan Kirill of Kazan and Tatarstan had previously stated that he expected that the Patriarch would depart after saying a few words following the Liturgy.  However, the Patriarch actually stayed for several additional hours.  He gave awards after the Liturgy and then went to the residence of the President of Tatarstan to meet with the President and then with local Muslim religious leaders.  The Patriarch appeared very healthy, energetic, and in good spirits.  It was a beautiful day, a beautiful cathedral, and a beautiful service.  I believe that the Patriarch greatly enjoyed his experience in Kazan.  A video of the entire service can be seen at .

    In other news, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has elected Archimandrite Dimitrios Ploumis (previously head of the Church of the Annunciation in Marseille) as the new Metropolitan of France.  He received his episcopal ordination at the Phanar on July 25.  The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece has decided to canonize many bishops, priests, deacons, and monks who were martyred by Ottoman troops during the period 1821-22. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 July 2021: Live video - consecration of cathedral in Kazan & the icon given by Pope John Paul II

    On July 21, the consecration of the beautiful cathedral at the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan, Russia will be performed by Patriarch Kirill.  The new cathedral is located over the exact spot where 10-year-old Matrona unearthed the original Kazan icon in 1579.  The Mother of God had earlier told Matrona in visions exactly where to dig.  Immediately after the discovery of the icon, it was credited with many miracles.  The icon became perhaps the most famous image of the Mother of God in Russia.  Copies of it are found in almost every Russian Orthodox church.  Kazan became a major pilgrim destination.  On the Russian Orthodox liturgical calendar, the feast day of the discovery of the icon is July 21 (new calendar).

    In June 1904, tragedy struck.  The original icon was stolen from the cathedral of the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan for the jewels overlaying the image.  According to witnesses, the thieves burnt the original wooden icon in a stove to destroy the evidence.  In any event, the original icon has never reappeared to this day.  In 1932, the communist authorities blew up the large cathedral at the Monastery which had housed the original icon.  A tobacco factory was later constructed in its place over the spot of the discovery of the original icon.

    In 1993 Pope John Paul II was given a magnificent copy of the Kazan icon by the Catholic lay organization “Blue Army” (now called the International Apostolate of Fatima).  The icon had been purchased for a very large sum by the Blue Army in 1970 and placed in its Byzantine chapel at Fatima, Portugal, where it remained for 23 years.  The icon had somehow been brought earlier from the Soviet Union.  The copy of the icon was very old and had many valuable jewels.  Experts have concluded that it must have been a highly venerated icon in Russia before it appeared in the West.  Pope John Paul II became very devoted to this icon which was kept in his personal chapel or by his work desk. 

    In 2000, the mayor of Kazan met with Pope John Paul II and requested that his icon be given to the Kazan, which was celebrating the millennium of its discover in 2005.  In 2004, Pope John Paul II made a gift of the icon to Patriarch Alexy, primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.  A high-level delegation from the Vatican, headed by Cardinal Kasper, brought the icon to Moscow, and the icon was formally given to the Patriarch in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin on the feast day of the Assumption (under the Julian calendar – August 28, 2004).  On July 21, 2005, Patriarch Alexy presented the icon to Kazan on the occasion of the celebration of the City’s millennium.

    After the icon was received by Kazan, it was placed for veneration in the Orthodox Exaltation of the Cross Church, the one major structure on the Mother of God Monastery grounds which had not been destroyed by the communists.  The icon has remained in this church for the last 16 years.  It has been visited by many famous people including President Putin.  Most importantly, the icon has gained a reputation from the local Orthodox believers and from the monks at the Monastery as being in fact a miracle-working icon.  Although the icon was originally given the name “Vatican icon,” it is now referred to as the “miraculous” icon.

    In 2015, the Republic of Tatarstan, of which Kazan is the capital, decided to undertake the rebuilding of the cathedral which had been blown up by the communists in 1932.  If was a major effort to build the new cathedral on the foundations of the old cathedral and to replicate to the extent possible all of the design, details, and art work of the destroyed cathedral.  On July 21, 2016, Patriarch Kirill came to Kazan and laid the cornerstone of the new cathedral.

    In an amazingly short period of five years, all of the work has now been completed.  It is a stunningly beautiful temple.  The consecration will now take place on Wednesday morning.  The Kazan icon, the gift from Pope John Paul II, will be brought by a large procession from the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kazan Kremlin beginning at 8 a.m. to the new cathedral.  The icon will then be placed in a special glass case built into the iconostasis of the right altar.  That will be the permanent home for the icon, which will act as the replacement for the original icon stolen and presumably destroyed in 1904.  At 10:00 a.m., the consecration of the new cathedral by Patriarch Kirill will begin.

    THE PROCESSION AND THE CONSECRATION CAN BE VIEWED LIVE ON YOUTUBE AT    Kazan is not on daylight savings time.  For middle Europe, the procession will begin at 7 a.m. and the consecration will begin at 9 a.m.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 July 2021: Joint plan for Lebanon & other news

    On July 9 the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, head by Patriarch John X, posted an important statement on its website.  The statement provided as follows:

    Following the visit to the Vatican, His Beatitude Patriarch John X contacted the Muslim Religious Leaders in Lebanon: the Grand Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Abdul Latif Darian, Sheikh Ali al-Khatib, First Deputy-head of the Supreme Shia Council, and Sheikh Akl of the Druze Naim Hassan.  His Beatitude conveyed the love of His Holiness, Pope Francis to the Muftis and put them in the ambience of the meeting of prayer and meditation for Lebanon, which was held in the Vatican on the first of July.
    The Muftis, in turn, thanked HB the Patriarch, for His love and constant initiatives to strengthen the relations and the coexistence among all citizens of the Lebanese society.  Likewise, they hoped that all efforts exerted for the well-being of Lebanon and its people of all sects would be fruitful.

    On July 7, Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Raï, head of the Catholic Maronite Church, met with Lebanon President Michel Aoun, a Maronite.  The Cardinal subsequently issued the following statement. 

    You know that this visit is to put His Excellency the President, in the atmosphere of what had happened in Rome, knowing that he followed-up on this issue.
    However, it is my duty to brief His Excellency more about the atmosphere which we were in. It was also important to tell His Excellency that the address of His Holiness the Pope, is a road map for us. And since we are heads of churches, we have to start our work within our ecclesiastical framework in order to implement this map which His Holiness put up in his address.

    We, as heads of churches, must work in the line which concerns us. This was all my conversation with His Excellency the President, since in the end we all have to bear the responsibilities of our society and country, each from his position, His Excellency the President and I as the Patriarch and others as well. Lebanon is based on all of us, and we do not mean one group without the other.

    Both Patriarchs were referring to the day of reflections and prayer for Lebanon called by Pope Francis and held at the Vatican on July 1.  Of the total population of Lebanon, approximately 25% are Maronite Catholic, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite Catholic, 2% Armenian Apostolic, and a lesser percentage for Syriac Orthodox.  The heads of all of these churches plus some other Christian churches were present for this meeting. (includes photos and video links)  At the meeting, there were approximately four hours of private discussions, divided into three sessions, which were held at a round table in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.  During an ecumenical service held in St. Peter’s Basilica at the end of the day, Pope Francis gave an address which focused on the present grave crisis in Lebanon.  The following is the text of his address, which probably also summarizes the consensus reached during the meeting:  A number of important points were made in the address including the following:

    We believe that God has shown us but one way: the way of peace.  Let us therefore assure our Muslim brothers and sisters, and those of other religions, of our openness and readiness to work together in building fraternity and promoting peace. For “peace does not call for winners or losers, but rather for brothers and sisters who, despite the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity” …. It is my hope that this day will be followed by concrete initiatives under the aegis of dialogue, of efforts to educate, and of solidarity.

    For me, the suggestions made do not related to a specific political action plan, but rather to create an “ambience” (in the words of Patriarch John) or an “atmosphere” (in the words of Patriarch Raï) which would allow a political solution to be reached.   At a webinar held on July 8, Raï stated that ““we will be working on organizing a summit with Muslim religious leaders.” (this article also describes the current political and financial crisis in Lebanon)   Perhaps, the contacts made by Patriarch John are the first steps toward this goal.  If the same ambience and atmosphere prevailing at the July 1 meeting could also be created at the Christian-Muslim summit, a constructive political climate may be established for the national as a whole.

    The visit of Patriarch John to the Vatican was also noteworthy because of its length – six days.  The Patriarch stayed at the Pope’s residence, Casa Santa Marta.  On June 28, he had lunch with the Pope.    On June 29, the Patriarch attended the papal Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  His attendance had be carefully planned as the Mass also involved the traditional attendance of the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, this year headed by Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon.  Not to overshadow the latter event, Patriarch John and his small delegation were a considerable distance away from the Constantinople delegation, and Vatican News did not mention their presence.  The presence of the Patriarch went largely undetected by the media, due in part to his mask.  However, after the Mass, the Pope accompanied by the Patriarch and the Elder Metropolitan together visited the tomb of St. Peter and the statute of St. Peter.  This can be seen beginning at 1:39:00 in the video of the Mass.  On June 30, there was the formal meeting between the Pope and Patriarch John, with the media now fully aware of the Patriarch’s presence.  As you will note from the photos of the meeting, Pope Francis kissed the panagia of the Patriarch, a gesture that he has done before with high-ranking Orthodox hierarchs.  On July 1, there was the day of reflections and prayer for Lebanon. Patriarch John concluded his stay at the Vatican by meeting with Cardinal Sandri (Eastern Churches) and Cardinal Koch (Christian Unity) on July 2 ( and with Cardinal Parolin (Secretary of State) on July 3 ( 

    In Ukraine, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology has released the results of an opinion poll conducted June 25-28 relating to the major churches in Ukraine.  In certain respects the results are familiar.  The OCU almost always seems to do much better in the opinion polls than the UOC-MP.  On the other hand, the UOC-MP has far more parishes, bishops, priests, and monastics than the OCU.  One aspect of the poll is new – the attitude of the respondents toward the planned visit of Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew to Ukraine scheduled for August 2021.  Overall, 57% view the visit positively, 32.5% are neutral, and 6% are negative.  Surprisingly, with respect to respondents who support the UOC-MP, 49% view the visit positively, 34% are neutral, and 15% negative.  Father Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR (UOC-MP), has posted a rebuttal to the survey. (English)  With respect to the question relating to Bartholomew’s visit, he describes the poll as “custom-made sociology” involving only 1,300 respondents.  With respect to the questions relating to the popular support for the UOC-MP or OCU, Father Nikolai states that the real measure of support is the number participating in each church’s religious processions.  Personally, I believe that this measure of support also has its problems.  The numbers participating in religious processions can be greatly influenced by the willingness of each church to spend large amounts of money to transport to Kyiv large numbers of believers from all parts of Ukraine.   The prime example would be the very large number of UOC-MP believers in the procession of the cross in Kyiv on July 27, 2019.  During this celebration, Vadim Novinsky was almost continually at the side of Metropolitan Onufry.  It appears that almost all of the dioceses had delegations and that free transportation was provided according to certain participants interviewed.  Thus, one can argue that the strong showing of the UOC-MP may have been due in part to possible financial support by Novinsky, one of the wealthiest persons in Ukraine, in paying for transportation.  On the other hand, the OCU may not have been willing or able to spend large amounts of money to transport people to Kyiv.  In my opinion there is no easy or perfect index, such as polls or processions, for measuring church support in Ukraine.

    In Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has written on article on the inadmissibility of substituting situational rules for international law.  The article includes the following observation:

    The concept of "rules" is also manifested in an attack not only on international law, but also on human nature itself.  In schools in a number of Western countries, children are convinced as part of their curriculum that Jesus Christ was bisexual.  Attempts by sane politicians to protect children from aggressive LGBT propaganda run up against militant protests in "enlightened Europe."  There is an attack on the foundations of all world religions, on the genetic code of the key civilizations of the planet.  The United States took the lead in open government intervention in the affairs of the church, openly seeking to split world Orthodoxy, whose values are seen as a powerful spiritual obstacle to the liberal concept of unlimited permissiveness.

    In other news, a recent article states that Romanians constitute the largest group of Orthodox in Western Europe.  North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski has acknowledged that it is necessary to consult with Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia in connection with the possible autocephaly of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church.  Pendarovski had previously met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on June 19.   Patriarch Porfirije has informed Catholic Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar of Belgrade that regular inter-church meetings and talks on all current issues are very important.  The letter from the Ecumenical Patriarch to Pope Francis on the occasion of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul discloses that the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches has been scheduled for May 2022 to discuss the document, “Primacy and synodality in the second millennium and today.”   Jonathan Luxmoore has written an interesting article on the visit of Minsk police to Catholic Bishop Yury Kasabutski regarding the singing of the hymn “Mighty God” in the Catholic cathedral on July 3. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 June 2021: Exchange of personal attacks & other news

    Metropolitan Hilarion has again taken aim at Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  This is the latest of the personal attacks against Bartholomew that have occurred during the last few years.  Interestingly, this latest attack relates to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s close relations with Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in general.  The attack was made last weekend by Metropolitan Hilarion on his television program Church and the World and can be read at  The video of the program can be watched at  Without mentioning any names, the Metropolitan refers to a statement made by “one of the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople” that the "process of uniting Catholics and Orthodox -- in the finishing stretch [на финишной прямой]."  This is a reference to a Vatican News interview of Metropolitan Polycarpos (Stavropoulos), the newly elected Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy. A video of the actual interview can be watched at  According to the English translation by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Metropolitan  said, “The journey of Catholics and Orthodox is on the right road, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and is going towards its goal.”  The actual words in Italian are: “Il cammino di cattolici e ortodossi è sulla buona strada, sotto la guida dello Spirito Santo, e sta andando verso il suo traguardo.”    Metropolitan Hilarion stated in his program:

    What are the hierarchs of Constantinople talking about, what is happening in the Phanar on the sidelines, what plans are being hatched, we do not always know.  The Patriarch of Constantinople has recently imagined himself to be the arbiter of the destinies of Orthodoxy.  He believes that he can make decisions on his own.….

    I think that against the background of such absurd and anti-canonical decisions, it will not be surprising if the Patriarch of Constantinople, without the consent of other Local Orthodox Churches, without addressing the many issues that are on the agenda of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, would simply announce that reunification has taken place, would sign some kind of paper. For us, for the Russian Orthodox Church, this paper will mean nothing.

    Metropolitan Hilarion also refers to the Orthodox – Catholic official theological dialogue. (English).   According to him, “[w]hat Constantinople was engaged in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue in the last years was an attempt to manipulate Local Orthodox Churches with the aim to recognize the model in which the Patriarch of Constantinople would receive some exclusive powers.” 

    On the other hand, Archdeacon John Chryssavgis (Archdiocese of America – Ecumenical Patriarchate) has now returned the fire and has attacked Metropolitan Hilarion.  It is an extremely strong attack as you will see by reading it.  It concludes:

    There is indeed a purpose in the words of Hilarion Alfeyev.  It is the same purpose that imbues the words of Sergey Lavrov.  Metropolitan Hilarion and his state patrons are more interested in a spectacle of conformity than in a spirit of unity.  It’s just that we can’t tell who is speaking on behalf of whom anymore.  The hand has grown into the glove.

    Personally, I am sadden by the attacks on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and on Metropolitan Hilarion.  I have been a great admirer of Metropolitan Hilarion since I first met him in person in July 2000.  He has such incredible talent!  Now he has publish another book – this one entitled: The Gospel of Dostoevsky  I am also a great admirer of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  I believe in his sincerity, and I admire his pioneer work on the environment.  As a Catholic, I believe that his close friendship with Pope Francis is wonderful.  In seeing these attacks, my present sadness reminds me of my childhood.  When I was 12 years old, my parents were divorced.  I lived with my mother, and she would continue to say negative things about my father after they were divorced.  Obviously, she felt hurt, but I did not want to hear about it because I loved both of my parents very much.  Now I do not want to hear these bad things about Bartholomew and Hilarion.  I cannot help but think about the wise advice of Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia to “do everything to blunt all possible blades among the people” in attempting to resolve disputes.

    The above remarks by Metropolitan Hilarion may have been intentionally timed to precede the annual visit of a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Vatican for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  On June 28, the Pope met with Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, this year’s representative from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The official English translation of the Pope’s remarks to the Metropolitan are found at .  One remark that caught my attention was the following:  “A fine prophetic sign would be closer cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics in the dialogue with other religious traditions, an area in which I know you, dear Eminence Emmanuel, are very much involved.”  This perhaps suggests that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches should work together in dialoging with Islam – an interesting idea.  The Metropolitan was also interviewed by the Vatican’s Andrea Tornielli.  In the interview, there was some discussion of a common Easter date.

    In Belarus, July 3 is the national holiday of “Independence Day,” commemorating the liberation of Minsk from Nazi occupation.  On June 11, Alexander Rumak, the Commissioner for Religious and Ethnic Affairs for Belarus, sent a letter to the Catholic Church in Minsk that the Council of Minister had requested that prayers “For Belarus” be offered by all denominations in Belarus on this holiday.  A photocopy of this letter is found at  The Belarusian Orthodox Church apparently received a similar letter and has posted on its website a notice that prayers and the ringing of the bells would occur at all churches and monasteries after the Divine Liturgy on July 3.  The Catholic Church has also posted on its website a notice from the Curia of the Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese.  The notice includes the following:  “If the opportunity arises, please add a call to the common prayer of the faithful during any Holy Mass on July 3 for unity and peace in our country, as well as a call that the decisions taken today, in the XXI century, do not lead to that horror which took place in the twentieth century.  Also on this day, July 3, the Curia encourages at the end of Holy Mass to sing the hymn Mighty God, in which we will ask Almighty God to save us and our land from all evil. "  As stated at , the government authorities will certainly not like the singing of this hymn.  Critics of the hymn point out that the hymn was derived from a poem composed by Natalia Arsenieva, whose husband was a commander of a military unit in Belarus that supported the Nazis.  A different person, who actually composed the hymn in 1947, does not have a negative history.  After the War, the hymn became very popular, and it was even proposed in 1993 to be the national anthem of Belarus.  Last year, the hymn was frequently sung by protesters in Belarus.

    On June 15 the Vatican announced that Monsignor Visvaldas Kulbokas has been appointed apostolic nuncio to Ukraine.   Kulbokas is Lithuanian, is 47 years old, speaks Russian fluently, and has been a member of  the Holy See Diplomatic Service since 2004.  Before assuming his new responsibility, he will be ordained an archbishop.  Perhaps due to the pandemic, the position of nuncio in Ukraine has been vacant since the departure of Archbishop Gugerotti in July 2020.

    Visvaldas Kulbokas was born in the Lithuanian port city of Klaipėda and attended school there.  During the Soviet era in Lithuania, the Russian language was a compulsory subject in schools.  Also Klaipėda had the greatest number of ethnic Russians of any major Lithuanian city.  It is therefore not surprising that Visvaldas Kulbokas became fluent in Russian.   In 1992 he entered the Catholic seminary in Telšiai.  After further education in Rome, he was ordained a priest of the Telšiai diocese in 1998.  Subsequently, he trained in Rome for the diplomatic service of the Holy See.  After serving in the nunciature in Lebanon and the Netherlands, he was the first secretary (the highest position under the nuncio) at the nunciature in Moscow from 2009 to 2012.  There he became acquainted with Archbishop Hilarion at the DECR.   The following is an English-language article of their first meeting on December 3, 2009.  The two probably shared some memories as Archbishop Hilarion had begun his religious life in Lithuania in January 1987 and was ordained a priest in Vilnius later in 1987.  As a young priest, Hilarion’s first assignment was to be the rector of the Orthodox church in Telšiai together with the churches in three nearby villages.  Hilarion lived in Telšiai for two years (1988 – 1990).  Telšiai is a very historic town with a relatively small population of approximately 21,500.  Kulbokas, of course, attended the Catholic seminary in Telšiai and became of priest of the Telšiai diocese.  Both men could reminisce about their past days in Telšiai.

    After returning to Rome in 2012, Monsignor Kulbokas was assigned to the Relations with States Section of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.  Here he had special responsibility for relations with the countries of the former USSR.  His fluency in Russian and translating skills were also in high demand.  He translated for Pope Francis for all of the Pope’s three meetings with President Putin (2013, 2015, 2019).  He translated for Pope Francis at his historic meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Havana in February 2016.  When Cardinal Pietro Parolin traveled to Moscow in August 2018, he was accompanied by Msgr. Kulbokas.  (article concerning meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion; in the photos, it is easy to identity Msgr. Kulbokas because he has the height of a Lithuanian basketball player).  On the various occasions when Metropolitan Hilarion has met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Msgr. Kulbokas was frequently there.  All of this does not mean that Kubokas will favor the Moscow Patriarchate in his new job in Kyiv, but his good relations with the Moscow Patriarchate will be helpful.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle [which today is experiencing the hottest day every recorded here]

  • 15 June 2021: Bold statements by Belarusian Orthodox archbishop & other news

    On June 9 the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held a special remote meeting for the sole purpose of approving the following resolution:  “Retire His Grace Archbishop Artemy of Grodno and Volkovyssk for health reasons according to the petition of the Synod of the Belarusian Exarchate.”  The Archbishop was sent to live in Minsk and not to remain in Grodno.  His replacement is Bishop Anthony of Slutsk and Soligorsk (age 40). (minutes of the meeting)  Archbishop Artemy was born in Minsk, is 69 years old, and has been the Orthodox bishop of Grodno since 1996.  He was the only Orthodox bishop in Belarus who spoke out strongly against the actions of the Lukashenko government during the time of the 2020 protests.  His criticism of the government was the subject of a number of my previous news reports.  In reporting the retirement, the media almost always noted the Archbishop’s previous criticism of the government’s treatment of protesters.  Emeritus Professor Paul D. Steeves on his website Russian Religious News has translated into English three of these media news reports.  See    There have already been appeals relating to the retirement of Archbishop Artemy.   The “Christian Vision Group” has issued a statement “on the forcible dismissal of Archbishop Artemy from governance of the Grodno Diocese.” (English) The following is an interesting video, posted on June 12, in which Orthodox believers express their support for Archbishop Artemy.  There are also several online petitions seeking the reinstatement of the Archbishop. 

    On June 13, Radio Svoboda (funded by the United States government) posted an interview of Archbishop Artemy concerning his removal from the Grodno diocese.  As was true of his remarks last year, the Archbishop is very blunt in his remarks.  With respect to his retirement, he states:

    It happened at the behest of the State.  Now the situation has changed a little after the August unrest and a general cleansing is taking place.  The border is closed, people are fired, imprisoned.  While they have a lull - time to put the Church in its place a wee bit, because the churchmen do not all support the existing regime.  Now representatives of the authorities are touring the dioceses, speaking there.  I have even heard that they are asked not to pray for those who are imprisoned.  Such prayers are forbidden so that there is not the slightest dissent anywhere.  Well, and they considered it necessary to deal with me.  At the initiative of this government, representatives of our system spoke with the Patriarch in Moscow and asked him to provide assistance in order to pacify the situation in Belarus.  Apparently, he gave them his blessing and consent to this.  The Synod immediately announced its decision.

    In the interview, Archbishop Artemy discusses the claims that the government has made against him.  These include a photo showing an Easter egg with the ancient coat of arms (a mounted knight with a raised sword used as the Belarusian coat of arms from 1991 to 1995).  The Archbishop replies that the diocese has 100 parishes and how can he control what an individual paints on an Easter egg.  With respect to the clergy singing the Belarusian hymn, “Might God,” he states, “We sang it for years.  Our music festival Kolozhsky Blagovest with an international musical program always began with this hymn, and then suddenly it became forbidden and almost anti-church.”  With respect to autocephaly for the Belarusian Church, he states that he never spoke about autocephaly and that this question is not even ripe for discussion.  With respect to visiting prisoners, this is what Christ told us to do.   The Archbishop states that “we have become a church of the period of stagnation, persecution, and captivity.  We are already surpassing the Khrushchev times, when the commissioner conveyed his will on how to live to the parishes and on what to say.”  [Interestingly, on April 27, Alexander Rumak, the Commissioner for Religious and Ethnic Affairs for Belarus, came to Grodno to meet with Archbishop Artemy.]

    The Archbishop stated that he did not seek to retire and that he does not believe that his health prevents him from serving.  With respect to his health, he admits that he has some age-related problems, but they are not serious.  There are no statements by doctors that he cannot do his work.  With respect to the Belarusian Synod seeking his retirement “for health reasons,” he told the Synod at its meeting on June 8 “you are acting dishonestly.”  With respect to being ordered to live in Minsk, he states:   “For some reason I was ordered to leave my place of residence.  I have to leave for Minsk in order to stay there all alone.  They want to corner me.  We will live.  I have a state pension ... we'll see if it is necessary, I'll get a job as a watchman in a parish.”  With respect to speaking out with respect to the protests and violence, he states:  “It is natural to grieve for your people.  We do not assess the authorities or the political structure.  We say that we see a violation of all the norms of human existence.  We consider this unacceptable and call for an end to the brutality against our people and the release of innocent prisoners.  There was no reaction of the Church to this, and now it is not even remembered, as if no one had ever written anything.”

    In my opinion, whether or not one agrees with the statements made by the Archbishop, one cannot accuse him of being easily intimidated.  However, since the first of 2021 and prior to this interview, I have not seen on the Internet any statements by him critical of the government.  In response to questions from journalists, the Vatican Press Office issued the following statement on June 11:  "The Holy See continues to follow closely the developments of the situation in Belarus and the steps taken by the various actors involved, remaining committed to the achievement of democratic and peaceful solutions to the legitimate demands of the Belarusian people. ”

    There have been a number of trips to the Republic of Georgia recently by Ukrainian visitors who discussed the church situation in Ukraine.  On June 3 Prime Minister of Ukraine Denis Shmygal met with Patriarch Ilia of Georgia.  Perhaps to counter the effect of this visit, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil led a UOC-MP delegation (which included Vadim Novinsky) to meet with Patriarch Ilia on June 7.  On June 11 Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun was in Tbilisi and gave an interview to Georgian television. (original interview in Russian); (Georgian translation).   The following is an article giving some of his comments in English.   Archimandrite Cyril was the head of the DECR of the UOC-MP under Metropolitan Volodymyr and now is a supporter of the OCU.   Earlier the Ecumenical Patriarch gave an interview to a Georgian television channel.  With this activity, one wonders whether some action by the Georgian Patriarchate with respect to Ukraine is anticipated. 

    On June 11, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated at the Phanar the Divine Liturgy on his saint name day.;   After the completion of the Liturgy, the Ecumenical Patriarch stated:  “We have and recognize that we have a unique responsibility to the Orthodox as the Archbishop of Constantinople.  We do not negotiate the responsibilities of our Throne.  We do not give them up.  We do not abdicate them.  We will not allow the alienation of blessed ecclesiology as it is boldly described in the texts of our history.”  This statement highlights an important difference between Constantinople and Moscow.  Moscow contends that the Ecumenical Patriarch is seeking to assert powers which he never had and is seeking to become a form of Eastern pope.  On the other hand, Constantinople claims that it has been exercising the powers that it already had and that Moscow is seeking to take these powers away.  The following article from the Pantocrator Monastery at Mt. Athos is an example of some of the arguments used by Constantinople to justify its actions in Ukraine. 

    In other news, Metropolitan Hilarion has been awarded the prestigious Russian Federation State Prize “‘for a contribution to the development of culture and educational work”.  As previously reported, the Bose Monastery, which holds the highly regarded annual conference on Orthodox spirituality, experienced internal tensions with respect to its leadership after Enzo Bianchi (the founder of the Monastery) stepped down as its head in 2017.  After a Vatican investigation last year, Bianchi was ordered to leave the Monastery, apparently to avoid interference with the current leadership.  Now after a year, Bianchi has complied with this order.  It is a sad situation, but hopefully the Monastery will continue to provide its excellent conferences.  Finally, the Supreme Court of Ukraine has ruled that the UOC-KP was legally liquidated.; (actual court decision).


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 May 2021: Final press release on closing of Assembly of Serbian Bishops

    On May 29, at approximately 11:07 p.m., there was posted on the official website of the Serbian Orthodox Church the “Press Release of the Holy Assembly of Bishops.”  At the present time, the press release is only available in Serbian  It may be read at .  The release summaries the results of the Assembly held in the crypt of the new and magnificent Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade from May 24 to 29, 2021.  The Assembly included all of the bishops who head dioceses of the Serbian Patriarchate throughout the world.  The release is very noteworthy both in what was decided and what was not decided.

    The most important news is that Bishop Joanikije (Mićović) of Budva-Nikšić, who has been administering the Metropolis of Montenegro and  Littoral since the death of Metropolitan Amfilohije, was elected to fill the vacant see.  Joanikije is a native of Montenegro and has spent most of his time there.  He is 62 years old.  A short English-language biography is found at   News of the election was obtained by the media during the daytime hours of May 29, a number of hours prior to the issuance of the press release. 

    The Serbian news service reports from a source at the Patriarchate that Joanikije was not elected by a vote, but that he was elected by acclamation at the express wish and proposal of Patriarch Porfirije. also states that Bishop David of Kruševac and Bishop Photius of Zvornik-Tuzla did not agree with the Patriarch’s suggestion and requested an actual vote, but the Assembly rejected an actual vote.  Previously, there were reports that Bishop Irinej of Bačka was supporting Bishop David of Kruševac for the position.  If these reports are true, the election by acclamation avoided a situation where the Patriarch voted for one candidate and Bishop Irinej, whom the Patriarch considers to be his spiritual father, voted for another candidate.

    In the evening of May 28, the night before the vote, the Assembly posted a notice including a strong statement that the members of the Assembly “do not make decisions under the influence of political or media campaigns or pressures.”  Presumably, this was done by the Assembly in part to emphasize that it would not be influenced by the remarks of the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Zdravko Krivokapić, on May 27 that the people of Montenegro desire the election of Joanikije. 

    News of the election of Joanikije appears to be very well received in Montenegro.  On the evening of May 29, there were fireworks in the capital of Podgorica.  There were enthusiastic congratulations for political leaders such as Krivokapić, Abazović , and Bečić.  As you may recall, Bishop Joanikije was very much of a leader in the public demonstrations against the controversial law regulating religion in Montenegro and is very popular with the Serbian Orthodox in Montenegro. 

    The second item of important news is that the Assembly did not elected a successor to Porfirije for the metropolitan see of Zagreb and Ljubljana.  At least for a period of time, it appears that Patriarch Porfirije will continue to administer this see himself.  During the years that Porfirije was living in Zagreb, he was very popular there and developed a strong affection for the city.  May he wishes to keep that connection for a while longer.

    The next important item relates to the composition of the Holy Synod, which consists of the Patriarch and four diocesan bishops.  The diocesan bishops are elected for a two-year term.  The Assembly appointed to the Holy Synod at the suggestion of Patriarch Porfirije two new members:  Bishop Vasilije of Srem and Bishop Photius of Zvornik-Tuzla.  The two diocesan bishops whose term continues for another year are Metropolitan Chrysostom of Dabro-Bosnia and Bishop David of  Kruševac.  The mandates of Bishop Irinej of Bačka and Bishop Jovan of Šumadija on the Holy Synod have now ceased, but they remain as alternate members of the Holy Synod.

    The Assembly elected a new bishop for Budva-Nikšić (the position previous held by Joanikije) and a new bishop for Valjevo (whose bishop died from the coronavirus in March) as well as a number of new vicar bishops.

    It is interesting that the Assembly’s press release says nothing about Ukraine.  However, the Assembly made a statement concerning Ukraine at its May 2019 meeting, and perhaps it believes that it is not necessary to say anything more at this time.  The release says nothing about a second Amman-type meeting.  The press release also does not say anything about the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church or the Ecumenical Patriarch’s offer to mediate.  Perhaps all of this reflects the preference of Patriarch Porfirije to work quietly on issues and not to make bold and fiery statements.

    Other subjects covered by the press release include: (1) “the condition of our Church and the position of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija;” (2) “the situation and problems of church education and religious instruction in public schools in Serbia;” (3) the elimination of “episcopal councils in various ecclesiastical areas” as they are no longer needed; (4) the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of America-Canada; (5) the emergence of new draft laws affecting churches without dialogue with the churches; (6) the draft law on cultural heritage is unacceptable in that it fails to include important shrines and cultural monuments in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija; (7) the government of Montenegro avoids signing the agreed-upon Basic Agreement.  Of course for completeness, the entire press release should be read.  One can use the Google translation tool for this.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 May 2021: A big surprise in Belgrade & other news

    The annual Assembly of the diocesan bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church is continuing in Belgrade.  Prior to the beginning of the Assembly on Monday, there were comments in the media on how tranquil the situation was under the leadership of recently-elected Patriarch Porfirije, compared to prior years when there were sensational media reports of divisions among the bishops.   Until Thursday night, May 27, there were no reports as to what was happening in the meeting, with everyone one waiting for the final press release at the end of the meeting (probably next week) to learn what happened.  However, last Thursday night, there was a surprising notice that was posted on the official website of the Serbian Patriarchate.  (official English translation).

    The notice stated that on Thursday morning, representatives of the Montenegro government and representatives of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Patriarchate had reached final agreement on the text of the Basic Agreement governing relations between the Serbian Patriarchate and the State of Montenegro.  Previously, there has never been such an agreement.  According to the notice, the representatives of Montenegro (apparently the negotiators) and the “Cabinet of the Prime Minister” confirmed that Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić would travel to Belgrade later Thursday afternoon, meet with Patriarch Porfirije, and sign the Basic Agreement.   After giving various reasons for delay, Krivokapić arrived at the meeting with the Patriarch at 9 p.m. and then “ presented new and previously unspoken reasons why he believes that the signing of the Agreement must be postponed.”  The notice did not specify the reasons, but stated that Patriarch Porfirije  was “unable to see in the least the merits and justification for Prime Minister Krivokapić’s intention not to sign the agreement.” 

    After the meeting, Krivokapić stated on his Twitter page:  “I proposed that the basic agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church be signed in Cetinje, on October 30, on the day of the death of Metropolitan Amfilohije” and “I came to Belgrade, to the Patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, to convey to His Holiness the greetings of the faithful people and their will to see Bishop Joanikije on the throne of St. Peter of Cetinje [namely, filling the vacancy resulting from the death of Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro].”  On Thursday evening, Krivokapić’s office confirmed to the Serbian news agency Tanjug that he had come to Belgrade to convey the will of the Montenegrin people that Bishop Joanikije (Mićović) of Budva-Nikšić (presently administering the church in Montenegro) be elected Metropolitan of Montenegro and that the Basic Agreement be signed on October 30.  Although the postponing of the signing was not linked to the election of Joanikije, I would suspect that the Assembly might fear that Krivokapić was holding the signing of the Agreement hostage to put pressure on the Assembly to elect Joanikije.  Bishop Joanikije has now informed the media that he demands that Krivokapić fulfil his promise to sign the Agreement and not to interfere with the election of a new metropolitan for Montenegro.  On the evening of May 28, Krivokapić posted an open letter seeking to justify his actions.  The full text can be read at .  He states that he has the “greatest duty to fight” for what Metropolitan Amfilohije defended.

    There is a report in the media that Bishop Irinej of Bačka, whom Patriarch Porfirije considers to be his “spiritual father,” has proposed postponing until the fall the election of a new metropolitan of Montenegro and that Bishop Irinej is not backing Joanikije, but Bishop David of Kruševac.  Joanikije was born and raised in Montenegro and has spent most of his life there.  It appears that Bishop David has no roots in Montenegro.  The following article gives some interesting background information on the opposition of Irinej to Joanikije and also mentions the tensions that previously existed between Irinej and Metropolitan Amfilohije.  What may be at issue is how much independence should be given to the Montenegro church within the Serbian Patriarchate.  Joanikije may mean more independence and David less.

    After following the events in Montenegro for over a year, the following are my conclusions.  Krivokapić  is a very religious member of the Serbian Orthodox Church and also a devoted disciple of Metropolitan Amfilohije.  He was also an extremely strong opponent to the very controversial law on religion.  He is not a professional politician, but was a professor of engineering until Metropolitan Amfilohije encouraged him to head the opposition Future of Montenegro coalition prior to the August 30, 2020 parliamentary elections in Montenegro.  The opposition coalitions, namely the Future of Montenegro and also the smaller Peace is Our Nation coalition (headed by Aleksa Bečić) and In Black and White coalition (headed by Dritan Abazović), won the election and enjoy a very narrow 41 to 40 majority in parliament.  Largely due to the influence of Metropolitan Amfilohije, Krivokapić was chosen to head the new government as prime minister.  Much to the frustration of the large pro-Serbian party of his Future of Montenegro coalition, namely the Democratic Front,  Krivokapić has pursued a middle course for an independent Montenegro with a pro-Western orientation.

    Krivokapić has strongly supported the created of a Basic Agreement governing the relations between the Serbian Patriarchate and the government of Montenegro.  When final agreement was reached on the Basic Agreement on Thursday morning, the Patriarchate, which was apparently very pleased with the agreement, wanted the agreement signed by Krivokapić that very same day.  Perhaps they were worried about the political situation in Montenegro and wanted the Agreement signed before any political changes could occur.  Krivokapić’s representatives agreed that he would fly to Belgrade that day, but it appears that when Abazović and Bečić were informed, they objected to the Agreement being signed in Belgrade rather than in Montenegro.  Admittedly, from the public perception, it would seem strange for Krivokapić to fly suddenly to Belgrade, without any prior public announcement, and sign in a foreign country an agreement relating to church relations in Montenegro.  This apparently led Krivokapić suddenly to change his mind and to insist on the formal signing at a later time in Montenegro.  The signing ceremony in Montenegro could also involve an important visit by Patriarch Porfirije to Montenegro.  With respect to the remarks by Krivokapić expressing the Montenegrin people’s preference for Joanikije, it appears that this may have been the result of sudden scare experienced by Krivokapić and others in Montenegro that Joanikije might not be elected due to the influence of Bishop Irinej at the Assembly.  Previously, it was reported by the media that Patriarch Porfirije had expressed to some bishops support for Joanikije and that the election of Joanikije was almost certain.  Although it can be well argued that this expression of preference by Krivokapić at the time the Assembly was deliberating was imprudent, Krivokapić probably believes that he was fulfilling the desires of Metropolitan Amfilohije.  One must now wait to see what the Assembly will do.  A critical question is whether Porfirije will support a choice contrary to the views of his spiritual father Irinej.

    On May 19, a delegation of the UOC-MP, headed by Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil, arrived in Belgrade and met with Patriarch Porfirije.  This meeting, held only a few days before the beginning of the Assembly, obviously provided an opportunity for the UOC-MP to argue its case to the new Patriarch just before the beginning of the Assembly.  The Serbian Patriarchate has previously issued very strong statements (stronger than any other Local Church aside from Moscow) in favor of the UOC-MP and against the OCA.  See  and  (statement by Assembly in May 2019).  Patriarch Porfirije agreed to do a short video expressing support for the UOC-MP.  The video and the text of the remarks can be seen at  In the video, the Patriarch expresses support for canonical order and UOC-MP.  However, compared to the prior statements by the Serbian Patriarchate on the subject, his statement is relatively mild and does not refer to either the OCU or to the Ecumenical Patriarch.  To me, it seems consistent with the desire of Porfirije to “blunt blades” in conflicts.

    The Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations (DECR) celebrated this month its 75th anniversary.  Congratulations were received from many, including President Putin.  In connection with the anniversary, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an interview.  With respect to the work of the DECR with other confessions, Metropolitan Hilarion stressed primarily aid to the people and churches of Syria.  No mention was made of seeking Christian unity – a subject that would displease conservatives.

    On May 21, Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, addressed the educational marathon “New Knowledge.”  In response to a question, Lavrov stated:

    The Russian Foreign Ministry works closely with the ROC, primarily with the Department for External Church Relations.  We have many projects.  This is especially important in conditions when not only the Russian Orthodox Church, but also Orthodoxy as a whole is undergoing a real attack.  Our American colleagues under Donald Trump have created the position of special envoy on freedom of religion.  He is engaged in exactly the fact that he is trying to split the unity of Orthodox peoples and churches.  In Ukraine, for this they use the Patriarch of Constantinople, an absolutely dependent person.  It is already clear that this is an instrument in the hands of those who want to undermine the position of Orthodoxy.  They are destroying the Serbian Orthodox Church, its canonical territory, trying to extract Lebanon from under the Antiochian Patriarchate. This is all sad.  In Russia, the state does not interfere in the affairs of the church.  But when other countries interfere in the affairs of the ROC and its sisters in the Orthodox world, the state is already obliged to protect the interests of its fellow believers and like-minded people.

    The next day, Metropolitan Hilarion, on his television program Church and the World, made similar comments.  He stated:

    And certainly, the fact that the US secretary of state met with the schism leader but did not meet either with the head of the canonical Church or Muslim or Judaic religious leaders shows for the umpteenth time that the “OCU” is a project of the USA, a political project from beginning to end.  This is not something that was born in the depths of church life - this is something that was created by the Americans in order to once again embody the principle by which they are guided: "divide and rule.” … Thus the division that had already happened on the political level happened on the church level as well, and the person who implemented this American plan was Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.  His dependence on America is quite obvious and a common knowledge; as a matter of fact, nobody hides it.”

    In an action of great significance, Pope Francis postponed for one year the Synod of Bishops assembly devoted to the topic, “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”  The postponement allows for consultations on the topic by each diocese, then by each episcopal conference, then by each continent, and then finally by the Synod of Bishops meeting at the Vatican in October 2023.  The diocesan phase includes “listening to all of the baptized.”  This is consistent with the vision of the Church presented by Pope Francis in his address to the Synod of Bishops on October 17, 2015.  In his vision, the Church should be like “an inverted pyramid” where the top is located beneath the base.”  It is a “listening process” where the Pope acts “not on the basis of his personal convictions but as the supreme witness to the fides totius Ecclesiae.”  The Pope also noted at that time that the “commitment to build a synodal Church…has significant ecumenical implications.”  In the first year of his pontificate (2013), Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium stated that “in the dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and their experience of synodality.” (para. 246)  In my opinion, the lessons learned by Pope Francis from Orthodoxy may be responsible, at least in part, for this major change of course by the Catholic Church toward synodality.

    In other news, the Synodal Commission on Inter-Christian Relations of the OCU, with the approval of Metropolitan Epifany, has issued a statement on the “75th anniversary of the so-called Lviv Sobor of 1946.”  According to the statement, the Lviv Sobor was not a true council but was organized by “Stalinist regime in 1946 for political purposes.”  The statement acknowledges that the preceding “four centuries of history are filled with bitter events, deeds for which Orthodox and Greek Catholics must apologize to each other.”  Metropolitan Emmanuel (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was in Kyiv this week to work on the details of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s planned visit to Kyiv in August.  The presidents of both Bulgaria and North Macedonia with their respective delegations were both in Rome this week for the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius.  The following is a short video of the Pope meeting with the delegation from North Macedonia.  If you look carefully, you can see that the Pope still has on his desk a photo of his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The same photo was there in a video posted in April 2020.  In this week’s video, one can see the Pope talking to Metropolitan Pimen of the European Diocese of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church.  Obviously, the Pope does not control whom the President of North Macedonia includes in his delegation.  However, significantly, no one from the Catholic Church was present when the North Macedonian delegation held a service at the grave of St. Cyril, but Cardinal Koch was present when the Bulgarian delegation held its service there.   


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20th May 2021: Serbian Assembly & Ecumenical Patriarch's Georgian interview

    The Serbian Patriarchate has announced that the assembly (sobor) of its diocesan bishops will begin with a liturgy at the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade on Monday, May 24.  This is an annual meeting where most of the important decisions for the Serbian Orthodox Church are made.  I have seen surprisingly little information on the Serbian internet as to what to expect from this meeting.  The assembly will almost certainly elect a new metropolitan for Montenegro and a new Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana to fill the existing vacancies.  Personally, I am interested in seeing whether the assembly will say anything about the desirability of a second Amman-type meeting.  As you recall, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia attended the first Amman meeting in February 2020.

    On May 19, the Serbian Patriarchate posted a notice limiting the media interviews that Patriarch Porfirije will give in the future.  The notice stated that Patriarch Porfirije has received more than one hundred requests for interviews from domestic and foreign newsrooms.  From this point forward, the Patriarch will address important topics in sermons at services and will “give interviews only on the eve of major holidays or when certain circumstances require it.”   The results is that he will not be available for questioning with respect to next week’s assembly.  With respect to recent assemblies, Bishop Irinej of Bačka has acted as the spokesperson of the Serbian Patriarchate.  See

    On Pascha, May 2, the Georgian independent television channel Formula News showed a 35-minute interview of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew by Giorgi Targamadze.   The entire interview can be viewed at (beginning at 4:55).  In the broadcasted video, Targamadze (a journalist and former leader of the opposition in parliament) asked questions of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Georgian language.  The Ecumenical Patriarch responded in Greek.  However, in the video, one cannot hear the Greek because a Georgian-speaking voice provides a simultaneous Georgian translation of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s words.  The television channel has provided the full text of the Georgian translation at  To the best of my knowledge, the actual answers by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Greek are not available anywhere.    One is therefore completely dependent on the accuracy of the Greek-to-Georgian translation provided by the television channel.

    There is one question and answer in the interview that has attracted the greatest interest.  Because of the deficiencies of a Google translation, a person who is fluent in both Georgian and English has very kindly provided me with the following accurate English translation of the Georgian transcript for this question and answer: 

    Journalist: There is an opinion in Georgia, which we hear even from members of the synod, that recognition of autocephaly of the OCU is problematic because it may instigate recognition of autocephaly of the church in Abkhazia by the Patriarchate of Moscow.  Is it possible or not?  Is meddling into internal affairs of the Orthodox Church of Georgia canonical on the part of the Russian Church?  I mean supporting separatist groups on the Abkhazian territory by the Moscow Patriarchate.  [The last sentence is slightly corrected as it made no sense in Georgian.]

    Patriarch: Of course [Moscow] does not have the right [to do so].  First of all, the Russian Church has no right to grant autocephaly not only to Abkhazia but to anyone [any other territorial church].  It does not have such a right.  This is an exclusive right of Constantinople, as has been confirmed by the Orthodox tradition and practice throughout centuries.  I will remind you, in 1970 Russia  proclaimed autocephalous the Orthodox Church in America, not of all the Orthodox, [not] of all the Russian-speaking [orthodox] throughout America, but of only one part.  This way Moscow made dependent on itself the wealthiest Orthodox in America.  This pseudo-autocephalous church founded in 1970 has not been recognized by anyone until today.  Only it [the OCA] calls itself the autocephalous church of America.  I am going back to the issue and repeat that Russia can grant autocephaly neither to Abkhazia nor to anyone.  On the other hand, interfering into the matters of the church in Abkhazia, as well as South Ossetia, is noncanonical since they belong to the jurisdiction of the Church of Georgia.  It is bad that the Russian Church interfered into their activities.  The Russian Church used for its own [purposes] political and military interventions in these regions, stepped into [the area] and stays [there].  Also, [Moscow] has its own bishop there, as far as I know, and benefits under the current circumstances.  Concerning your words: ‘If the Church of Georgia recognizes autocephaly of the Church in Ukraine, then the Patriarchate of Moscow will recognize autocephaly of Abkhazia’ – speaks of oppression and blackmail that has no basis.  It is bad that the Russian Church interferes in the internal affairs of your church.  It is bad that [Moscow] interferes anywhere it can.  It has/[suffers from] the sickness of becoming the third Rome, desires to expand, to lead the whole Orthodoxy, but this intention is in vain, since the fall of Constantinople, it [Moscow] attempted several times to realize an idea of the third Rome, becoming the leader of the Orthodox; however, as you see, it’s been 600 years since the fall of Constantinople, 600 years have passed,  - but it could not achieve its wish and will never be able to do so because the Orthodox Church has its own canonical system, its own tradition and practice.  We Orthodox are one big family.  We consider Constantinople as mother [church] to many churches and the coordinating center of the Orthodox; [we] wish unity, to love our brothers and our churches but also demand observance of church canons/Canon law which have protected us throughout these ages and led us up to this point.

    When I first read this answer, I was puzzled by the Ecumenical Patriarch’s reference to “Moscow made dependent on itself the wealthiest Orthodox in America.”  On further research, I now believe that the Ecumenical Patriarch is referring to the fact that the tomos which was granted by Moscow to the “The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America” carved out and reserved to Moscow over 40 parishes including the presumably wealthy “St. Nicholas Cathedral and its possessions” in Manhattan, New York City.  See (full text of the tomos).  The Ecumenical Patriarch also seems to refer to the title given by the tomos, namely “The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America,” perhaps because the tomos deleted the original “Russian Orthodox” title of the organization and the Ecumenical Patriarch believes that the title specified by the tomos is broad enough to encompass all of Orthodoxy in the United States.  Without such explanations, certain remarks relating to the OCA (assuming that the Greek to Georgian translation is correct) remain puzzling to me.

    On May 15, RIA Novosti posted an interview in which Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) disputed many of the statements made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the above answer.  For example, with respect to the allegation that the Russian Church desires to be first [первой] in the Orthodox world, Metropolitan Hilarion responded, “Of course, no.”   According to him, the Russian Church is “quite satisfied” with its place in the diptychs, and its official position with respect to primacy [первенства] is set out in the document adopted by its Holy Synod in 2007.  With respect to Moscow being the Third Rome,  “[t]here is not a single official document of the Russian Church, not a single official statement, not a single speech by the patriarch, which would declare that Moscow is the Third Rome.”  With respect to the Russian Church granting autocephaly to Abkhazia, “Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized as the canonical territory of the Georgian Patriarchate, and the Russian Church has never disputed this.”  According to the Metropolitan, “[t]he Russian Church has no bishop in either Abkhazia or South Ossetia.”  With respect to the OCA, “[t]he autocephalous status of the Orthodox Church of America is recognized by a significant portion of the local Orthodox Churches,” including the Georgian Orthodox Church.  For the other points made by Metropolitan Hilarion, the entire interview should be read.

    Metropolitan Hilarion does not address the question of whether the Moscow Patriarchate, which is the largest Local Orthodox Church and which some say contains more than half of the world’s Orthodox, does not seek to become the de facto leader of the Orthodox world.  One need not be the first in the diptychs or have a primacy of authority or claim the title of “Third Rome” in order to exercise the greatest influence in the Orthodox world.  

    In my personal opinion, the foregoing question asked by journalist Giorgi Targamadze reflects either a lack of knowledge by the journalist or an inadvertent use of the word “autocephaly” rather than “autonomy.”  Abkhazia is a relatively small territory with a current population of approximately 245,000, of whom approximately 60 percent consider themselves Christian.  At the present time, there appears to be no Orthodox priests in Abkhazia who regard themselves as members of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  The major church organization in Abkhazia is now the “Abkhazian Orthodox Church,” headed by the priest Vissarion Apliaa.   On February 28, Apliaa gave an interview to news agency Sputnik and stated: “The Moscow Patriarchate will help us in our independent position. The Russian Orthodox Church will support the establishment of an autonomous church in Abkhazia, it is too early to talk about autocephaly, first we need to restore autonomy.”   Apliaa also stated that the most important thing is that the Abkhazian Church not be associated with the Georgian Orthodox Church.  Thus, the concern of the Georgian Church would be that the Moscow Patriarchate might agree to make the Abkhazian Church an autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate, especially if the Georgian Church recognized the OCU.  Unfortunately, because of the framing of the question by the journalist, neither the Ecumenical Patriarch nor Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the much more likely concern relating to an autonomous Abkhazian church under the Moscow Patriarchate.

    In other news, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Vasyl Bodnar met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on May 17 to discuss the details of the program of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit to Kyiv next August.  On May 18, President Putin awarded Metropolitan Hilarion the Order of Alexander Nevsky for “his great contribution to the development of international and interfaith relations, many years of conscientious work.”   On May 18, Interfax posted an interesting article entitled: “Russian Orthodox Church proposes setting up system to filter Russophobic content online.”  Actually, it is the opinion of  Alexander Shchipkov, First Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for Church, Society, and Media Relations.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 May 2021: Moscow's strategy on Ukraine, intercommunion & other news

    Recent events make it increasing clear that the strategy of the Moscow Patriarchate is to avoid discussion of a compromise solution between the UOC-MP and the OCU, but rather to focus discussions on the powers claimed by Constantinople with respect to the other Local Orthodox Churches.  The UOC-MP is also adopting this strategy.  On May 12, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP held its first meeting of the year.    At this meeting, the Holy Synod decided:

    The Holy Synod considered violations by the Patriarchate of Constantinople of the principle of the synodality of the Church through unilateral interference in Ukrainian church affairs, as well as misinterpretation by the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople of certain canons of the IV Ecumenical Council.

    Given that this year marks 1970 years since the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem and the 1570th anniversary of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which marked the beginning of the Council's decisions on important issues in church life and which adopted a number of important doctrinal and canonical decisions, the Synod instructed the Kyiv Theological Academy [the most important theological school of the UOC-MP] to hold events dedicated to the theological and canonical understanding of the principle of the synodality of the Church and the issue of primacy among the Local Orthodox Churches.  Particular attention will be paid to the theological, canonical and historical interpretation of Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council.  Representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches will be involved in these events.

    Sometime earlier, Bishop Silvestre of Belogorodka, rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy, gave an interview which was posted by the Serbian Orthodox Church on May 10.  When asked about a “compromise solution” relating to a united Ukrainian Church, he replied that this was not being considered, and he immediately changed the subject to the “global goals” of Constantinople.  Now, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka, the representative of the UOC-MP to European international organizations, has stated that he considers it very important that the UOC-MP Synod made a decision to focus on the theological, canonical and historical interpretation of Canon 28 in the context of the church-wide teaching on synodality and understanding of primacy in the Orthodox Church.  He expresses the hope that the work done at the Kyiv Theological Academy with respect to the actions of Constantinople will be “a useful basis for the future Amman-2.”

    For me, it is understandable that the Moscow Patriarchate wishes to avoid any discussion of a compromise solution leading to a united Ukrainian Church as such a solution would probably involve a departure of the Ukrainian Church from the Moscow Patriarchate.  However, such a compromise may be the only practical way of resolving the Ukrainian dispute in the foreseeable future.  It may well be possible to negotiate a resolution between the UOC-MP and OCU which is favorable to the UOC-MP.  Rather than risking the possibility of a departure of the Ukrainian Church, the Moscow Patriarchate seeks to focus attention on the global issues relating to the powers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  However, under the rule requiring a complete consensus of all of the Local Orthodox Churches for a pan-Orthodox decision, there is almost no possibility in the foreseeable future that Moscow and Constantinople will come to an agreement on the powers of Constantinople.  The best that Moscow can hope for is to obtain clear decisions by as many Local Orthodox Churches as possible that Moscow’s view of the powers of Constantinople is the correct one and that the view of Constantinople is not correct.  However, such a result will leave Orthodoxy even more sharply divided than it is now.

    From May 13 to 16, the Ökumenischen Kirchentag (ÖKT) or Ecumenical Church Congress is being held in Frankfurt am Main.   It appears that the Greek Orthodox Church in Germany will have some limited involvement.  See  With respect to reception of communion at Catholic Masses at the Congress, the chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Germany, Bishop Georg Bätzing, has stated: 

    The offered celebration is not about intercommunion in the sense of a general reciprocal invitation to participate in the Eucharist and Lord's Supper, but about the question of how we deal with the personal decisions of conscience of individual Catholic or Protestant Christians.  For me, I respect such a decision and give communion when someone comes along who believes what we Catholics believe and wants to receive the body of the Lord in faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ.  Interestingly, he says nothing about Orthodox receiving Catholic communion.  Presumably, he knows that Orthodox Church would be opposed to it.  Still, the position taken by Bishop Bätzing in allowing non-Catholics to receive communion in Germany under certain circumstances is different from the position of the Orthodox Church which allows only Orthodox to receive Orthodox communion.  Indeed, the Vatican warned last year that the German Catholic Church in providing the Eucharist to non-Catholic spouses may “open new rifts in the ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Churches.” 

    There is one aspect of the position taken by Bishop Bätzing and others that seems to be completely ignored, and that is sacramental confession.  Orthodox practice with respect to the requirement of confession before communion varies.  Some Orthodox require a layperson to confess before every reception of the Eucharist, while others allow reception if the person has confessed in the not-too- distant past.  With respect to the Catholic Church, Canon 916 of the Code of Canon Law provides:  “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to …receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.”  I have found no provision allowing an exception to Canon 916.  The approach taken by Bishop Bätzing allows Protestants who believe in the real presence to receive communion even though they never have gone to sacramental confession in their lifetime or may not even believe in the sacrament of confession.  During the years of severe persecution in the USSR, the Moscow Patriarchate for a period of time allowed Catholics to receive communion in the Orthodox Church, but provision was also made for the Catholics to confess to an Orthodox priest.    

    Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem has given an interview to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, with respect to Holy Fire.    In the interview, he stated:             

    The true goal of the ecumenical journey is the restoration of the common Chalice to all those who are the followers of Christ.  Our foil, sacramental unity in faith and love must always be our goal.  In more recent times this goal has faded into the background, but we must retrieve it and place it back at the forefront of our efforts.  Only in this way will we have a chance of fulfilling the words that our Lord Jesus Christ prayed to his Father when he said, may they become completely one (John 17:23).

    It is interesting to compare the above statement by Patriarch Theophilos with a recent article posted by the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The article has the title:  “Metropolitan Hilarion: we are conducting a dialogue with representatives of other confessions to explain our position to them.”  Nothing is said in the article about sacramental unity.  Personally, I do not attributed the two different approaches to differing views of the respective persons, but rather to the reality that stressing a goal of restoring a common Chalice would well cause harsh criticism from the conservative wing of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    In other news, the Italian website Settimana News has posted an article entitled, “Those uncomfortable voices for the East.”  It discusses how Lithuanian Cardinal Tamkevičius (who spent many years in a Soviet gulag and exile in Siberia), Archbishop Gądecki (chairman of the Polish Catholic Bishops’ Conference), and the Hungarian Catholic Bishops have used words on the dangers of liberal Western culture very similar to the words used by the Moscow Patriarchate.  A bioethics forum is being held in Pyatigorsk, Russia, May 12-14.  It is organized by the Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media of the Moscow Patriarch and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.  At the forum, a draft document has been presented entitled,  “The attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church to in vitro fertilization.”  The document was prepared by Moscow Patriarchate’s Inter-Council Presence for presentation at the Bishops’ Council to be held in November.  The document seems to allow IVF under certain circumstances.  According to an article by RIA-Novosti, the document was sharply attacked at the forum by certain representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate who believe that the document goes too far in allowing certain types of IVF. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

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

    The dulling of blades:

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

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

    The dangerous world situation:

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

    Possible comprehensive agreement relating to Kosovo:

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

    The Jasenovac death camp:

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

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

    Possible future meeting with Pope Francis:

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

    Cardinal Stepinac:

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

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

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

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

    LGBT rights:

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

    Sports teams:

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

    In my opinion, it was an impressive interview.  


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Last Sunday, the joyful liturgy of the Resurrection was celebrated by the Orthodox.  However, because of the pandemic, it was without the huge crowds.  Still, in Russia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs estimated that “more than 1.6 million believers” attended the liturgy on the night of May 1-2.           The general situation and the restrictions in Russia during Pascha are described by RIA Novosti at .  According to this article, 4.3 million believers attended the Pascha liturgy in 2019 -- before the pandemic.  The entire beautiful liturgy at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, with Patriarch Kirill presiding, can be seen at  President Putin was in attendance.  As a Catholic, I was pleased to see that the Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation, Archbishop Giovanni d'Aniello, and Catholic Archbishop Pavel Pezzi, head of the Mother of God archdiocese in Moscow, were placed in a very prominent position to the right of the iconostasis.  See 2:24:30 and 2:54:00 in the video.  The apostolic nuncio to Serbia and the Catholic archbishop of Belgrade were also prominently placed at the Pascha liturgy in St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade.  See at 2:25.

    On Pascha, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia had his midday meal with 20 homeless people.  In the afternoon, he visited with sick children.; (video)    Another article also illustrates his humble approach to his new job.  He often walks to work on the public street without any escort.   On Good Friday, he was seen walking the 9 kilometers from his residence in the Dedinje neighborhood of Belgrade on foot alone to the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in the center of Belgrade.  His humble approach reminds me somewhat of Pope Francis.

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

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

    While denying any discrimination, Zelensky stated on April 26 that he would be willing to discuss the church and language issues if a meeting was held.   Later, Zelensky was asked by a journalist from La Repubblica whether he considered the Vatican as a venue for the meeting.  Zelensky replies that “this could be the best place from all points of view.”  There has been one subsequent report that Zelensky may not longer consider the Vatican his first choice for a venue. 

    In the competition between the UOC-MP and the OCU in Ukraine, the UOC-MP was able to receive in Kyiv the Holy Fire from Jerusalem on Saturday evening while the OCU only received the Holy Fire on Sunday morning via commercial carrier.  Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) received the Holy Fire at Ben Gurion Airport and returned to Kyiv on a charter flight.  A two-minute video shows the arrival of the charter flight in Kyiv.  From the video, one sees again Vadim Novinsky, the billionaire parliamentarian who has helped the UOC-MP so much financially in recent years.  From his Facebook page, it is clear that Novinsky provided the charter.   At the huge procession of the cross in Kyiv in July 2019, Novinsky was almost constantly at the side of Metropolitan Onufry.  I suspect that he may have paid much of the cost of transporting the very large number of UOC-MP believers from all parts of Ukraine to Kyiv for the procession of the cross.


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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

    For Orthodox, tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and Pascha will be celebrated on May 2.   In view of the increase of Covid cases in many countries, the last few days have seen more conflicts between church and state with respect to the celebration of Pascha.  A good example is Cyprus.  On Friday, the government in Cyprus decided that the presence of believers inside or outside a church at services during Holy Week is prohibited except for the Resurrection Liturgy of Holy Saturday.  For the Resurrection Liturgy, a maximum of 50 believers are allowed inside the church subject to the distance and other health protocols, while an unspecified number of believers are allowed in the courtyard of the church subject to the distance and other sanitary protocols.  For those attending this Liturgy, the beginning of the travel ban is extended to 1 a.m.   Later on Friday, Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, announced:  “We will not obey, and we will invite the faithful to come to the churches with distances and wearing masks.”   Still later on Friday, the government modified the ban on attending services during the other days of Holy Week by allowing attendance of up to 50 believers inside the church, provided that they have had at least one dose of the vaccine three or more weeks earlier.  Believers can also be in the courtyard of the church subject to the distance and the other protocols.   Today, Saturday, Archbishop Chyrsostomos rejected the maximum of 50 and the vaccination requirement and has stated that “if they have 4 meters between them and a mask, everyone can go to church.”  He plans to instruct his clergy accordingly.

    In Greece, the government has decided that the Resurrection Liturgy must begin at 9 p.m. rather than the usual time of midnight.  The Holy Synod of Greece has agreed to this. (listing all of the anti-Covid measures approved by the Holy Synod).  In Russia, it appears that anti-Covid measures are determined by the various regions.  Today, Metropolitan Hilarion expressed the hope that Pascha services in 2021 will not be limited due to the pandemic.  It appears that in St. Petersburg, the government is only requiring masks, with recommendations as to distancing, disinfecting, and ventilation. 

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

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

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

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

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

    On the morning of April 14, Metropolitan Yuvenaly prepared a petition to retire because of health, and it was immediately posted on his website.   On April 15, the Holy Synod, meeting remotely, granted the petition and appointed Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomarev) as the new patriarchal vicar for the Moscow Metropolis. .  As you may recall, Metropolitan Pavel had been the exarch for Belarus and a permanent member of the Holy Synod from 2013 to August 25, 2020.  He was suddenly removed from this position during the height of the Belarus protests, perhaps due to the unhappiness of Lukashenko over some of Pavel’s actions, and transferred to be metropolitan of Yekaterinodar and Kuban.  Now he is back as a permanent member of the Holy Synod.

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

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

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

    There continues to be comments by Orthodox hierarchs on the issue of universal primary with references to the positions stated on this issue by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate and by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) addressed this subject at a recent Conference of Students of Ecclesiastical Schools in Kyiv.  The following is the full text of his address: (Ukrainian);  (French).  In summarizing the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Anthony refers to Orthodoxy as a “family of Local Orthodox Churches.”   He states: “Thus, the system of World Orthodoxy is similar to a confederation.”  He concludes that “a dialogue between the Local Churches is vital in order to reach a consensus on these issues.”  Archbishop Ioann (Vranishkovsky) of Ohrid (Serbian Orthodox Church), during a recent visit to Russia, also addressed these issues.  He states that he agrees with the position of the Russian Church that on a dogmatic level, the principle of “first without equal” only applies at the first level, namely the diocese.  He also states that because the Ecumenical Patriarch is not elected by the entire Orthodox Church, he cannot be the “first without equals.”

    On April 14, the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Belarus met and elected a new chairman.  The new chairman is Bishop Aleh Butkevich of Vitebsk.  The following is his official biography:  He is 49 years old and is the youngest of the eight Catholic bishops in Belarus.   Last December he wrote a public letter protesting the criminal conviction of one of his priests who had used the social media to protest violence in Belarus.  He speaks Belarusian and attends events dedicated to the Belarusian language.  I enjoyed watching a short YouTube video showing him playing the guitar and singing the Belarusian Christmas carole, Ночка ціхая, зарыста (the night is quiet, glowing).

    On April 21, Pope Francis at his general audience addressed the subject of vocal prayer.   The following is a paragraph from his address:

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

    In other news, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić of Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church have reached a general accord on a “Fundamental Agreement” governing relations between Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church.   Today, Bishop Joanikije (now administering the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro) was asked an number of questions concerning the agreement and stated that its contents would only be made public after the formal signing of the agreement. 


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


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

    On April 13, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its first in-person meeting since last August.   The minutes of the meeting have been posted at .  Journal No. 10 of the minutes provides in part:

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


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

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

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

    The March 21 event in question was reported on the website of the OCU at .  The following is the official press release by the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning the event:   Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) of the OCU was one of many bishops who participated in the service.

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

    On April 8, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) answered questions during a breakfast meeting with journalists.  A video of the entire session is found at .  Metropolitan Anthony addressed many different subjects.  With respect to the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Kyiv next August, Metropolitan Anthony’s remarks included:

    Therefore, this [visit] may create a new round of seizures of our churches and destabilize the situation in Ukrainian society.  That is why we are against such an arrival.   And our parishioners are ordinary people, especially those who have suffered from the Phanar's actions in Ukraine, they have the right to express their opinion, including in public.  He also mentioned that processions of the cross involving several hundred thousands of believers is not a political action but always prayer. 

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

    As for the Roman Pontiff, we know that there is no response to this invitation yet.  Let's see if there will be such a visit, given the deep politics of the Vatican.  [deep politics – a relatively new political science term denoting political policies that are repressed rather than acknowledged]  Of course, they will not take any step that will somehow weaken their position.  If we consider the opinions of analysts, we will see that many people say that perhaps the Pope will not come here because, one way or another, he will need to decide on the OCU somehow clearly.  Rome values close relations with the Russian side very much, and such a visit is likely to hinder such close relations.  Interestingly, Metropolitan Anthony does not state how the UOC-MP would react to such a visit, but rather indicates that the “Russian side” (Moscow) would not be pleased with such a visit.  I have not seen the “opinions of analysts” to which Metropolitan Anthony refers.  However, it is clear that Pope Francis could visit Ukraine without taking a position on the status of the OCU.  For example, his encounter with the Orthodox in Kyiv could simply be done by scheduling a meeting in the Pope’s program with the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.  Both the UOC-MP and OCU are members of this organization.  The meeting by the Pope of the members of the Council of Churches, including Metropolitan Epifany, at this encounter would certainly not imply any de facto recognition of the OCU.

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On April 5, President Putin signed the new law relating to the certification of clergy receiving a religious education abroad and relating to preventing schisms.  The new law will go into effect in 180 days after its official publication.  The full text of the new law can be read in Russian at .

    The media war continues in Ukraine.  A hieromonk of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has decided to join the OCU.  The following is an extensive interview that the monk gave to a pro-OCU website in Kyiv.  In a rebuttal, Metropolitan Pavel, the abbot of the Lavra, describes the monk as a “a proud, arrogant, power-hungry person.”  (English article)


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

    On March 30, the Holy Council of Bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church held its spring session.  The communique issued at the end of the meeting can be read at  The communique includes the following paragraph:

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

    The paragraph raises the question as to what are the recent documents from primates relating to church life in Ukraine.  One must be the February 24 letter from Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem in which he expressed the hope that it may be possible later this year for the primates “to gather for prayer and fellowship.”   In this letter, Patriarch Theophilos had referred to the one-year anniversary of the Amman meeting.  Patriarch Theophilos had hosted the Amman meeting on February 26, 2020, to discuss Orthodox unity, especially with respect to Ukraine.  This meeting, to which the Ecumenical Patriarchate objected, was attend by primates or representatives of six of the Local Orthodox Churches.  The Orthodox Church of Poland sent a delegation headed by Archbishop Abel of Lublin and Chełm.   Poland has sided with Moscow on the Ukrainian dispute.  See 

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

    In other news, the UOC-MP presented on April 1 to the Office of President Zelensky a petition with over one million signatures objecting to various “discriminatory” laws, especially the law relating to the name of the UOC-MP.   An English translation of the petition is found at     On March 31, the Russian Federation Council approved the law, previously passed by the Duma, which requires the recertification of clergy receiving religious education abroad and which has provisions limiting schisms.  Catholics have expressed some concern with respect to this legislation.    With respect to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the Moscow Patriarchate to date has only imposed the restriction on the visitation of Russian pilgrims on the jurisdictions of two hierarchs:  Archbishop Chrysostomos and Metropolitan Vasilios of Constantia.   

    Serbia’s Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue Gordana Čomić is proposing the adoption of a law recognizing same-sex unions in Serbia.  The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church on March 25 issued a statement finding the proposed bill “unacceptable” and suggesting that the personal and property problems faced by individuals in such relationships be resolved administratively rather than through marital and family legislation.   Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, is the first openly gay person to hold that office and has a same-sex union with her female partner.   It has been reported that Patriarch Porfirije has a good relationship with both President Vučić and Prime Minister Brnabić.

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

    On March 25, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine met with Pope Francis.  In the official communique from the Ukrainian government, it is stated:  “In conclusion, the Prime Minister conveyed to His Holiness Pope Francis an invitation from the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to pay a visit to Ukraine on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Independence.”  As you recalled, President Zelensky extended a similar invitation to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Bartholomew has accepted the invitation.  The Vatican’s communique with respect to the Pope’s meeting with Shmyhal does not mention any invitation.  It is reported that the Vatican is considering the invitation. 

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

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

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


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

    Google translate:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    DECR Communication Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On March 9, the Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, gave an interview with the Belgrade office of the independent news channel N1.  A video of the entire 48-minute interview can be seen at .  In the interview, Zaev disclosed that he had raised the subject of the recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (which is currently not recognized by any of the Local Orthodox Churches) in his letter of congratulations to newly-elected Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia.  Extensive quotes from the interview are found on the N1 website.  It includes the following statement by Zaev:  “I believe that we can find a solution….We see hope through the dialogue between the SOC and the MOC with the goal of recognizing the autocephaly of the MOC….Politicians are here to create conditions for the bishops to reach a solution.”   Zaev also stated:  “Through my letter I wanted to ask the Patriarch of Serbia to devote part of his time and attention to finding a solution through dialogue.  We are very close nations, fraternal nations, and this issue must be resolved.”  See and .  As you may recall, Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew in January 2020 sent a letter to the Serbian Orthodox Church and to the MOC suggesting that they send delegations to the Phanar for consultations and efforts to find a solution.  It appears that the Serbian Patriarchate has never responded to this suggestion, perhaps due in part to the pandemic.  I anticipate that the Serbian Patriarchate may hold its annual Bishops’ Assembly in May, and the entire MOC matter may be discussed at that time.

    On March 13, a 63-year-old parishioner of St. Michael's Church (UOC-MP) in the village of Zadubrivka, Chernivtsi Oblast was badly beaten by teenagers as he returned home from guarding the church.  Photos of his swollen and discolored face were widely circulated on the Internet.;   With respect to this criminal act, the UOC-MP rector of the church asserts that the beating was part of the two-year conflict between supporters of the OCU and parishioners of the UOC-MP church.  On the other hand, a pro-OCU website has reported that according to local police, the argument that led to the fight had nothing to do with religion.  On March 2, a 15-minute video was posted by Unia Media describing how the supporters of the OCU have conducted their services year-round in the street in front of the Zadubrivka church for over two years.  It has also been reported that in January 2019, a meeting of residents of Zabubrivka resulted in a vote of 158 to 0 to affiliate with the OCU. 

    In my opinion, the good news is that such physical conflicts seem to be decreasing.  In 2019, there were 515 Ukrainian parishes which sought to transfer to the OCU; in 2020 there were 5; in 2021 there have been zero.    Zadubrivika is one of the “hot spots” which is still burning from 2019.  I have viewed the official website of the UOC-MP to determine the last physical confrontation prior to the March 13 incident in Zadubrivka.  It occurred December 12, 2020, in Mykhalcha, Chernivtsi Oblast.  Mykhalcha is another “hot spot” dating back to early 2019.  Over the passage of time, there will presumably be fewer “hot spots” of physical conflicts relating to the 2019 transfer disputes.  In this regard, it should be noted that the UOC-MP often uses the words “seized” or “captured” for any parish that has transferred to the OCU, even when the transfer has been completely peaceful and no violence has occurred.

    Although the physical conflicts seem to be decreasing, the UOC-MP has filed approximately 400 lawsuits, many of which challenge government actions to register transfers to the OCU, so the legal battles continue.  Last month, an organization, Union of Orthodox Lawyers, was created to provide legal assistance to persecuted parishes of the UOC-MP.  The hundreds of lawsuits by the UOC-MP may give supporters of the OCU at the existing UOC-MP parishes second thoughts about their seeking to transfer a parish to the OCU.  If they seek the transfer, they may well need to defend a lawsuit including hiring and paying for their own attorney.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

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

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

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

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

    Cardinal Koch’s statement is found at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

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

    Patriarch Porfirije addressed the possibility of a papal visit to Serbia, the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac, and the Jasenovac death camp.    An article at  summarized the Patriarch’s comments with respect to the Pope as follows:

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

    With respect to Stepinac, he also stated:  “ Whether the Catholic Church will canonize Stepinac is not our business.  But, in the dialogue with the help of historians from Serbia and Croatia, we tried to shed light on various events from Stepinac's life as best as possible.” 

    With respect to Jasenovac, Patriarch Porfirije stated:  We must nurture memory and remember, but at the same time as Christians we must fight resentment, because we must look to the future.  We must not allow in any way that culture of remembrance to be trapped by any kind of vengeance and hatred because we will again capture ourselves. That spiral of evil that has begun will never end. "   Patriarch Porfirije was at monastery at Jasenovac on February 28.  At Jasenovac, he remarked that there is no greater justice than to have a shrine, a monastery in this place, to gather primarily monks and nuns, those who are called by God to offer him prayers for the peace of the world, among all people.  The Catholic Bishop Antun Škvorčević of Požega, president of the Croatian Bishops’ Commission on Ecumenism and Dialogue, also participated in the Jasenovac event.   The bishop presented to Patriarch Porfirije a beautiful hand-bound Bible illuminated with pictures from the Austrian National Museum in Vienna.

    It was announced today that Patriarch Porfirije has now gone into quarantine because of contact that he had with a priest with Covid.  The Patriarch was planning today to speak at the Catholic funeral of Milan Bandić, the mayor of Zagreb.   Several days ago, the Patriarch referred to the mayor as “a friend of Orthodox Serbs and all the people of the city of Zagreb and beyond, but also my personal friend.”  This is just another indication of the ability of Porfirije to build bridges and create close friendships.

    With respect to a different topic, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem on February 24 sent an “open letter” to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.  A photocopy of the English-language letter has been posted by the Jerusalem Patriarchate at  The first paragraph of the letter reads:

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

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

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

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

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

    I found it interesting to compare this hope with the plans announced in the final statement issued by the primates and delegates at the end of the Amman meeting in February 2020.  The full text of the statement is set forth at .  The plans were as follows:

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

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

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

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 February 2021: The Amazing Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia

    Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana was enthroned as Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church on February 19, the day after his election.  The enthronement and the Divine Liturgy occurred in the very crowded Cathedral Church of Holy Archangel Michael in Belgrade.  A video of the entire event can be viewed at  A list of those participating in the Liturgy as well as government representatives and representatives of various religions present at the enthronement is found at (English).  Presumably because of the pandemic, representatives of other Local Orthodox Churches were not there or at least not mentioned.  A partial list of the hundreds of letters of congratulations is found at   Both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill spoke to Metropolitan Porfirije by telephone within a few hours after his election. (Patriarch Kirill); (Ecumenical Patriarch) 

    The official English translation of Patriarch Porfirije’s address at his enthronement can be accessed at .  The final paragraph of his address is as follows:

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

    It is also apparent that the people of Zagreb developed an affection for Metropolitan Porfirije.  A column in the major Zagreb newspaper Večernji list commented on the election of Porfirije.  The comments included the following:

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

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

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

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


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

    Metropolitan Porfirije was also the favorite of the Serbian bishops.  Secret ballot elections were held during last week’s Assembly of Bishops to determine the three candidates whose names would be placed in the envelopes for the drawing.  Of the 39 bishops who voted in the three separate elections for candidates #1, #2, and #3, 31 voted for Porfirije, 30 for Bishop Irinej of Bačka, and 25 for Bishop Jefrem of Banja Luka.  With respect to Bishop Irinej, whom Porfirije has repeatedly stressed is his “spiritual father,” there has been some very recent distressing news.  The day of the meeting of the Assembly to select a new patriarch, Irinej did not feel well.  He did not attend the enthronement the next day.  It has now been reported that he has tested positive for Covid and has a fever.

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

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 February 2021: New Serbian patriarch & more news

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

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

    His official biography includes the following statement:

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

    Having responsibility for the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia and Slovenia, he has had frequently contacts with Catholics, and the relationship has generally been good.  For some very recent examples, see;

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

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has given an interesting interview to the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire  Bartholomew covers a number of topics including Ukraine.  He also comments on primacy as follows:

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

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

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

    The entire televised proceeding of the Congress can be seen at (first day) and (second day).  From watching the proceedings, one can see that the Congress was dominated by Lukashenko.  His opening address on the first day lasted for 3 hours and 40 minutes.  At the end of his address, he received a standing ovation by apparently everyone.  Of the televised proceedings on the second day, Lukashenko was talking more than one-third of the time.  Metropolitan Veniamin spoke for approximately eight minutes during the first day (beginning at 6:27:30 in the first video).  Bishop Kazimir was on the list of speakers scheduled for the end of the second day, but did not speak due apparently to a lack of time.  The speech by Veniamin was prominently reported by the website of the BOC.  However, the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus ( was completely silent about the Congress and the presence of Bishop Kazimir at the Congress.  It is also interesting that the very vocal anti-protester Mother Gabriela from Grodno was seated in the center of the first row of delegates. (see second photo).  A number of weeks earlier, she had received a state award from Lukashenko. 

    The commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis was held on February 12 with an online conference including Cardinal Kurt Koch, Metropolitan Hilarion, and others.  The topic of the conference was “The Church and the Pandemic.”   (English summaries of the conference)  A video of the conference can be seen at .  The text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s presentation is found at  (Russian), and the text of Cardinal Koch’s presentation is at (Italian).

    On the same day, there was an online meeting of the Joint Working Group for Cultural Projects between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church.  One of the participants in the meeting was the well-known Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov, Chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

    The Holy Synod of the Serbian Patriarchate met today, February 10, and confirmed that the meeting of the Assembly of Bishops to elect a new patriarch will be held in the crypt of the huge new Church of St. Sava on February 18.   This comes as no surprise.  On February 4, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Dabro-Bosnia, the temporary head of the Patriarchate, had specified this date to the Serbian news agency Tanjug.  This is also the date designated by the Holy Synod at its meeting on December 24.  The Covid situation in Serbia has recently improved (see ), so it appears that a postponement of the meeting of the Assembly will not be necessary.  It has been reported that the participating bishops will be staying in the Hilton Hotel in Belgrade, a change from the more spartan accommodations provided in previous elections. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    February 12 will mark the fifth anniversary of the Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis.  On that day, an online conference on the Church and the pandemic will be held at 10:00 a.m. Rome time.  Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Hilarion will participate.  One can join the conference by using the link at  On February 11, there will be another online conference commemorating the anniversary and also celebrating the launching of a Russian-language website of the famous Jesuit periodical La Civilt à Cattolica   This new website is already working: 

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

    On January 23, Montenegro President Milo Đukanović signed the “Re-decision on the Law on Amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Legal Status of Religious Communities.”  As you recall, Đukanović had returned the law to Parliament on January 2, but then Parliament had reenacted the law a second time on January 20 by a vote of 41 of the 81 deputies.  Đukanović stated that after the reenactment, he had no choice under the Constitution but to sign the law.  On January 26, the signed law was published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro and legally went into effect.  The text of the new law can be read on the website of the Official Gazette at{80A433F1-D986-4ED0-A689-6A0DD388B105}.  Many had assumed, including myself, that the long fight over the controversial law was now over. 

    However, Đukanović had stated when he signed the law that the problems with the law still remained.  He remarked that after the legislation became law following its publication, the issue of the constitutionality of the law could be raised before the Constitutional Court of Montenegro by any entity in society.  He did not have long to wait.  On January 26, the same day as the publication of law in the Official Gazette, the NGO Montenegro International filed a petition with the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the new law and requesting an order from the Court suspending the law until the final decision of the Court.  The NGO makes the claim that the enacted amendments to the law would legalize the principle of discrimination between religious communities and alienate state properties and cultural treasures of Montenegro to a religious community that has no legal personality in Montenegro but which is a religious community of another state.

    The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ended on January 25, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.  In Rome, the traditional vesper service was held at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, but without the participation of Pope Francis, who was suffering from sciatica.  In the Pope’s absence, Cardinal Kurt Koch presided.  A video with English commentary of the entire service can be viewed at  The full text of the English translation of the Pope’s address, read by Cardinal Koch, is available at

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

    In Moscow, the traditional prayer for Christian unity was held in the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  Aside from Catholic Archbishop Pavel Pezzi and the apostolic nuncio  Archbishop Giovanni d'Aniello, there were also representatives of the Armenian Apostolic, Anglican, Lutheran, Assyrian, Baptist, and Seventh Day Adventist Churches present.  Representatives of the Moscow government were also there.  For the first time in many years, the Moscow Patriarchate did not send a representative to the service this year.  In recent years, Father Alexei Dikarev of the DECR was the Orthodox representative and took an active part in the service.  I have seen no explanation for the absence of the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate this year.

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

    Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) has given a significant interview to the popular Greek website (Greek); (Russian); (French)  One of the topics covered was Ukraine.  The following (Google translation) is an excerpt from the Metropolitan’s response on this topic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As can be seen, Metropolitan Hilarion states the “only motive” for Bartholomew’s action in Ukraine must be “revenge.”  However, there is a question mark at the end of the last sentence quoted above.  On the other hand, Patriarch Kirill in his Christmas interview indicated that Bartholomew’s actions in Ukraine were the result of “pressure from powerful political forces emanating from one of the world superpowers.”  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated that “American colleagues … made Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew follow the path of schism….”

    In the Catholic cathedral in Minsk on January 24, there was a “farewell” Mass for retired Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and for the assumption of responsibilities by the new apostolic administrator Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielc.  An excellent article by the leading Belarus website,, includes a description of the emotional event with photos and videos.   It is very apparent that although the Archbishop has retired, he will still be playing a very active role in the life of the Catholic Church in Belarus.  On January 22, both Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and Metropolitan Veniamin, the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, appeared at the Christmas program of the Saints Methodius and Cyril Christian Education Center.  The Center is a project of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.  The Christmas program was held in the Great Hall of the Belarusian State Philharmonic.  The following is a video of this major Orthodox event:  The address (8 minutes long) by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz begins at 19:20.  I was impressed by the long applause received by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz at the beginning and the end of his address from this large Orthodox audience.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

    To people interested in the Catholic Church in Belarus.

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


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

    January 24, 2021 at 05:40 PM

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

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

    Retirement after exile and difficult times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Also on January 18, an important article authored by Cardinal Kurt Koch was published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18 to 25. (in Italian, but translates well with the Google translation tool)  The article focuses on synodality from an ecumenical point of view and is entitled, “Walk together on the same path.”  The article first reminds us that the “great” 1700th anniversary of the first ecumenical council, Nicaea, will be celebrated in 3025.  According to Cardinal Koch, this first ecumenical council “documents the way in which controversial issues are discussed and resolved synodally in a council in the Church.”  One section of the article discusses the emphasis placed by Pope Francis on synodality,  and other sections discuss synodality and primacy in the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.  The Cardinal points out that the Ravenna document ( ), adopted by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches (without the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate) in 2007, recognized the need for a protos at the universal level.  The Cardinal also observes:

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

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

    On January 20 Pope Francis devoted his address at his general audience to the week of prayer for Christian unity. (text of address in English).  The Pope’s remarks included the following:

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

    In other news, the Parliament of Montenegro today approved for a second time the amendments to the controversial law on religion.  As you recall, President Milo Đukanović had returned the amendments, first passed on December 29, to parliament because of alleged procedural irregularities that occurred at the first session.  Presumably, those irregularities have now been cured.  See also 

    Metropolitan Simeon, one of the two metropolitans who left the UOC-MP to join the OCU, has given a very long interview to RISU.  It appears to be a very candid interview including a description of the great number of parishes that he lost as a result of the transition.  Simeon discusses the “unifying council” and many aspects of the current religious disputes in Ukraine.  The long interview is worth reading in its entirety.

    In Minsk, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz celebrated on January 15 a special Mass at the Catholic cathedral in memory of Metropolitan Filaret.  It was the day of the burial of the Metropolitan at the Zhirovichi Monastery.  The personal friendship between Filaret and Kondrusiewicz is captured at 8:00 is the following video of persons congratulating Metropolitan on the occasion of his 85th birthday on March 21, 2020. 

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

    Metropolitan Filaret (Vakhromeev), Honorary Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus, died from the coronavirus on January 12 at the age of 85.  He headed the Orthodox Church in what is now Belarus from 1978 to 2013.  Since his retirement, he has not been in good health and has not appeared in public in recent years.  During his active years as bishop and metropolitan, he was an extremely important hierarch in the Moscow Patriarchate.   The Divine Liturgy and funeral for the Metropolitan will be held at 7:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk on Thursday, January 14 and can be viewed live on the BOC YouTube channel. 

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

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

    Patriarch Kirill in his condolence letter ( stated in part:

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

    Today, Cardinal Kurt Koch sent a letter of condolence to Metropolitan Veniamin.  A photocopy of the letter in English is found at  The letter noted that the Metropolitan Filaret “contributed to deepening reconciliation among Christians of the East and West, and particularly to strengthening fraternal bonds between the Orthodox Church and Catholic Church by building up a fruitful network of spiritual friendships with many Catholic brethren.”  Retired Catholic Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, who in 1989 was the first Catholic bishop appointed in Byelorussia in over 60 years, has also written a letter of condolence praising Metropolitan Filaret.  The letter includes the following:

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

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

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

    In other news relating to Belarus, President Lukashenko on Christmas Day, January 7, visited the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Minsk to light a candle and present an icon to Metropolitan Veniamin.;   The following are two different videos of the occasion. ;  On January 10 Lukashenko gave a long interview to a Russian journalist.  One of the topics was the Belarusian People's Congress set for February 11-12 and possible amendments to the Constitution of Belarus.   Lukashenko stated that he believed that a draft of the new constitution would be available by the end of 2021.  Presumably, an election to adopt the new constitution would be held in 2022.  It appears that Lukashenko is not in a rush especially in view of the fact that the street demonstrations are now smaller.

    Finally, there is the sad news that Bishop Florentin Crihălmeanu, bishop of the Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Cluj-Gherla in Romanian, died on January 12 at age 61 from complications following the coronavirus.;  He was a valued member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches beginning in 2006 and attended all plenaries since that time.   His funeral will be held on Saturday, and the Orthodox Metropolitan of Cluj is expected to attend.  On January 13, Orthodox Patriarch Daniel of Romania sent a letter of condolences ( ) in which he stated in part:

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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

    Last evening (January 6), now retired Archbishop Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mogilev, celebrated Mass for the feast of the Epiphany at the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier in his hometown area of Grodno.  It was a very emotional time for the Grodno Catholics and for the Archbishop himself.  Two short videos, each of which shows different parts of the evening, can be watched at  (4+ minutes with many emotional comments by viewers) and (2+ minutes).   An excellent article about the evening was written by a journalist from, one of the most popular websites in Belarus.  (the article also contains many excellent photos)  I have pasted below a Google translation of the article, parts of which were written in Russian and parts in Belarusian.  It believe that the article captures the spirit of the evening very well and is very much of a tribute to the Archbishop.

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

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

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

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

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


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    By Olga Komyagina /

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Archbishop Kondrusiewicz announced the acceptance of his resignation letter during his homily at the festive Mass to celebrate his 75th birthday.   The Archbishop stated:

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

    According to an article in The Tablet by Jonathan Luxmoore, “a senior Catholic academic [presumably in Belarus] said the resignation had caused ‘shock and consternation’ among Church members and would be widely seen as a victory for the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.”

    Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec (the transliteration of the Belarusian spelling of his name is actually “Kazimir Velikoselets”) is the oldest of the Catholic bishops in Belarus and will be 76 years old in May.  In May 2020 he submitted his resignation to the Pope but was informed that he would continue his functions donec aliter provideatur (until determined otherwise) for at least the next two years.  He has been the auxiliary bishop of the Pinsk diocese for over 21 years and vicar general of the diocese for 29 years.  Of the four Catholic dioceses in Belarus, Pinsk has by far the fewest Catholics – approximately 50,000 or 1.6% of the total population of the area.  I found the best descriptions of his interesting past life at ;; and .  I found the best video of him at (2019 Easter message 2+minutes).

    In December 2012 Bishop Wielikosielec moved to the Gomel area (within the Pinsk diocese), a city with a population of 500,000, which then had only one Catholic parish, and has lived there in a room at the parish house since that time.    In 2018 he was instrumental in the beginning of construction of a new parish church in Gomel.   At the present time, there is a temporary small wooden chapel at the site, and apparently construction of the new church has been very slow because of lack of funds.  Bishop Wielikosielec appears to be a very spiritual person and is very well-liked.  He has stated that the problems that he has faced in his past life were overcome through prayers before the Blessed Sacrament and through the intercession of Our Lady.  Since the Belarus election, the following letter appears to be the only public statement made by him with respect to the current situation in Belarus: