Category : Orthodox Church

(CC) Timothy Jones interviews Rowan Williams–Eastern wisdom for Western Christians

At the outset of his Confessions we see his renowned prayer that “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” That affirms what you’ve been saying about seeing ourselves as unfinished: even at the beginning of his spiritual autobiography he tees that recognition up.

He does. Because if we see ourselves as finished, if there’s nothing more to long for, it’s as if we are blocking off a pathway toward the deep source of our being, which is God.

If we try to imagine ourselves standing on our own internal foundation, being in ourselves solid, grounded individuals, the truth is we are going to be very disappointed—because the truth is beneath and beyond. Our life opens up to the generous and creative gift of God.

Perhaps no period has riveted so much attention to confessional, personal narratives as ours has. Augustine seemed prescient in this. For him, identity was “storied,” as someone put it.

Our identity is something that always grows. What Augustine doesn’t like is the idea that somehow there’s a moment of static perfection and achievement, after which we can stop growing. Oddly enough, that’s why he’s so critical of the extreme ecclesiastical puritans of his day, the Donatists. What do they mean when they pray, “forgive us our trespasses”? Do they really not expect that they are going to be trespassing every day? So that’s part of the story: an interest in our own growth.

But Augustine looks at his life and experience and says, it’s not me who makes a story of this, ultimately. It is God who does that, because the witness of my life is God.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, Church History, Orthodox Church, Theology

(The Critic) Sebastian Milbank–Rod Dreher comes home: The conscience of the New World is here in the Old

According to Daniel French there is an increasingly “underground” aspect to conservative Christian life in the UK — believers have woken up to the fact that the culture is against them, and in many cases even traditional religious leaders too.

Another of his UK allies, Dr James Orr, believes that Rod Dreher is destined to have a significant impact on our conservatism. “His insights are proving more salient with every week that passes, not only for Christians but for all those who are beginning to feel the consequences of rejecting the West’s Christian inheritance.

“As hyper-progressivism continues to colonise the UK public square with neuralgic imports from the US culture wars, I predict that more and more people in the UK will start to take Dreher’s jeremiads seriously and pay attention to his constructive proposals.”

Whether or not James Orr is right, Dreher is interesting not just for who he is, but for what he represents. He stands at a newly emergent nexus of traditional European conservatism, English realism, and American romanticism and religiosity. With an increasingly sterile politics, caught between technocratic centrism and the hollow battles of the culture wars, there’s a desperate need for new ideas, and fresh approaches. This is a man worth listening to.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Books, Children, England / UK, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(RNS) World Council of Churches faces calls to expel Russian Orthodox Church

The World Council of Churches is under pressure to oust the Russian Orthodox Church from its ranks, with detractors arguing the church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill, invalidated its membership by backing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and involving the church in the global political machinations of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The debate garnered a response on Monday (April 11) from the Rev. Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the WCC, which claims 352 member churches representing roughly 580 million Christians around the world.

Sauca, a priest in the Romanian Orthodox Church who has visited Ukrainian refugees and publicly criticized Kirill’s response to the invasion, pushed back on the suggestion of expelling the ROC, arguing doing so would deviate from the WCC’s historic mission to enhance ecumenical dialogue.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Russian atrocities denounced by Ukrainian church leaders

Ukranian church leaders have hardened their tone amid growing evidence of Russian army atrocities in their country.

“As we received good news that the Kyiv region was liberated, we also received horrific footage of civilian killings: it is difficult to explain and understand how the murder of innocent people and children can be justified,” the leader of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany Dumenko, said.

“Today, we heard that the peoples of Holy Russia are peaceful, while we see the ideology of the ‘Russian world’ justifying murder, violence, and war. This ideology must be rejected and condemned, as was the ideology of Nazism.”

The message was published before a speech on Tuesday by President Zelensky to the United Nations Security Council, describing how civilians were shot in the streets, thrown into wells, and crushed by tanks in a list of alleged Russian war crimes.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Parish Ministry, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

St. Tikhon’s Forgiveness Sunday Homily for his Feast Day

Unfortunately, brethren, we do not like to acknowledge our transgressions. It would seem natural and easy for a person to know his own self, his own soul and his shortcomings. This, however, is actually not so. We are ready to attend to anything but a deeper understanding of ourselves, an investigation of our sins. We examine various things with curiosity, we attentively study friends and strangers, but when faced with solitude without extraneous preoccupation even for a short while, we immediately become bored and attempt to seek amusement. For example, do we spend much time examining our own conscience even before confession? Perhaps a few minutes, and once a year at that. Casting a cursory glance at our soul, correcting some of its more glaring faults, we immediately cover it over with the veil of oblivion until next year, until our next uncomfortable exercise in boredom.

Yet we love to observe the sins of others. Not considering the beam in our own eye, we take notice of the mote in our brother’s eye. (Matt. 7. 3) Speaking idly to our neighbor’s detriment, mocking and criticizing him are not even often considered sins but rather an innocent and amusing pastime. As if our own sins were so few! As if we had been appointed to judge others!

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Orthodox Church, Preaching / Homiletics

(Church Times) Rowan Williams adds his voice to calls for the WCC to eject Russian Orthodox Church

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has backed calls for the Russian Orthodox Church to be excluded from the World Council of Churches (WCC), as Patriarch Kirill of Moscow praised his country’s armed forces for acting in line with the gospel and Christian teaching.

“The case for expelling is a strong one, and I have a suspicion that some other Orthodox Churches would take the same view. Many in the Orthodox world feel that Orthodoxy itself is compromised,” Lord Williams told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme.

“The riot act has to be read. When a Church is actively supporting a war of aggression, failing to condemn nakedly obvious breaches in any kind of ethical conduct in wartime, then other Churches have the right to raise the question and challenge it — to say, unless you can say something effective about this, something recognisably Christian, we have to look again at your membership.”

The Archbishop, a Russian speaker and expert on Orthodoxy, spoke as Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General, Irina Venediktov, confirmed that the remains of more than 400 civilians, some bearing signs of rape and torture, had been recovered from Bucha, Irpen and other towns recently abandoned by Russian forces north of Kyiv.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Parish Ministry, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Ukrainians hear note of hope as fighting goes on

Church leaders in Ukraine have begun talking more convincingly about victory over Russian forces.

The Primate of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), told a Kyiv congregation on Sunday: “Although a heavy cross has fallen upon us, we must bear it with dignity, following Christ until we achieve victory — a spiritual victory over the evil brought to our homeland by the Russian aggressor. . .

“By the power of God’s truth and mercy, by the power of our people’s love, sacrifice, and faith, Ukraine — still wounded, tortured, and crucified by its enemies — will be resurrected.”

The Metropolitan preached as Russian forces continued shelling the capital, as well as Kharkiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, Mariupol, and other cities, despite claims by Moscow last week that it was refocusing its offensive on eastern Ukraine.

He asked: “Have we, as a state and people, done something against Russia which merits this cruelty and murder — did we harbour evil plans against our neighbours, or did we just want to live in our own home as free people?”

Read it all.

Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Parish Ministry, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

(New Statesman) Rowan Williams–Putin believes he is defending Orthodox Christianity from the godless West

But we might do worse than ask why non-Western cultures so fear being sucked into what they consider a moral vacuum. If all they see is a series of reactive demands for emancipation acted out against a backdrop of consumerism and obsession with material growth, the suspicion and hostility is a bit more intelligible. What do we in the shrinking “liberal” world think emancipation is for? Perhaps it is for the liberation of all individuals to collaborate in a positive social project, in a society of sustainable and fair distribution of goods. Perhaps it is for the construction of a social order in which our interdependence, national and international, is more fully acknowledged.

Solidarity with Ukraine involves sanctions that will cost us as well as Russians – decisions that will affect our reliance on oil and gas and open our doors to more refugees. If we are willing to accept these consequences for the sake of a positive vision of interdependence and justice, we shall have a more compelling narrative to oppose the dramatic, even apocalyptic, myths arising elsewhere in the world.

Unwelcome neighbours, after all, tend not simply to disappear; in which case, we must work out how we live respectfully with them. One thing that might be said in response to Patriarch Kirill is that neighbours have to be loved, not terrorised into resentful silence – a matter on which the God first acknowledged in Kyiv in 988 had a good deal to say.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Church History, History, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

(PRC) Religious dimensions of the conflict between Russian and Ukraine

News coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has touched on religious dimensions of the longstanding conflict between the two countries. Russia and Ukraine are home to some of the world’s largest Orthodox Christian populations, but the Orthodox Church of Ukraine gained independence from the Russian Orthodox Church in 2019 amidst the ongoing political turmoil. Now, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has sought to justify the invasion, although other Russian Orthodox clergy have expressed opposition to the war.

Around the time of the split between the Ukrainian and Russian churches, we published a blog post based on data from a Pew Research Center survey of Central and Eastern Europe conducted in 2015 and 2016. The analysis found that even before the split between the two churches, a plurality of Orthodox Ukrainians (46%) looked to the leaders of the Ukrainian national church (either the patriarch of Kiev or the metropolitan of Kiev and all of Ukraine) as the highest authority of Orthodoxy, while just 17% saw the patriarch of Moscow as their spiritual leader. The patriarch of Moscow received higher levels of support in eastern Ukraine than in western Ukraine, consistent with a broader geographic pattern of views toward Russia within Ukraine at the time of the survey.

Posted in History, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Ukrainian Churches deplore rising death-toll, as Russian Patriarch disregards calls for intervention

Church leaders in Ukraine have deplored the growing number of civilian deaths in the current war and have backed calls for firmer Western action, as the Patriarch of Moscow disregarded worldwide appeals for him to condemn the invasion and urge a halt to the fighting.

“All the people of Ukraine are suffering hourly from the terrible realities of war — and these are innocent sufferings, since they have done no harm to Russia,” the leader of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany Dumenko, said in a Sunday message to his clergy.

“Let us be comforted by the realisation that our innocent sufferings will be crowned inevitably with victory and eternal glory, just as the sufferings of Christ were crowned with them. . . With God’s help we will win — and Ukraine, now crucified by the Russian occupiers, will be resurrected.”

The message was one of several issued by the Metropolitan on Sunday, after talks with the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, and the commander of Ukrainian forces defending the capital.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Russia, Ukraine

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Isabel Hapgood

Loving God, we offer thanks for the work and witness of Isabel Florence Hapgood, who introduced the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church to English-speaking Christians, and encouraged dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox. Guide us as we build on the foundation that she gave us, that all may be one in Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Orthodox Church, Russia, Spirituality/Prayer

Stephen Freeman–Shame in the Public Arena

But all of these events share something in common: the public use of shame. The language of shame essentially attacks who-a-person-is rather than what-they-have-done. A person who is guilty of murder thus becomes a “murderer.” And though this is technically true, it is also not true. The language of guilt isolates responsibility for a single event; the language of shame assumes that you are now that event waiting to be visited upon all. Guilt suggests punishment or restitution; shame declares that no matter what you might do, you will always be that person.

There is a world of difference, for example, between being wrong about something and being “stupid.” But, as one comedian has it, “There’s no cure for stupid.” Shame labels us as incurable.

The language of shame is far more powerful than the language of guilt. Guilt can be answered and atoned. Shame, however, has no atonement – it is a declaration of “who we are.” There is no atonement for stupid, ugly, incompetent, mean, evil, etc. On occasion, I have been accosted by those who use shame as a verbal weapon. Recently, in an exchange in which I was the object of someone’s labeling, I was told that no apology need be made when speaking the truth – that is, shame is fine so long as it is “true.”

Shame is not only permitted in our culture; it needs no apology.

There is a strange phenomenon about shame, however. I describe this as its “sticky” quality. When we see the shame of someone else, we ourselves experience shame. This can be as innocuous as watching someone’s public embarrassment and sharing the feeling of embarrassment. It is equally and more profoundly true in darker and deeper encounters. We cannot shame others and remain untouched. The very shame we extend reaches within us and takes us with it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Orthodox Church, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(BBC) Serbia coronavirus: The Church losing its leaders to the pandemic

Few organisations have taken a bigger hit from the coronavirus pandemic than the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Over the past two months, Covid-19 has deprived the religious institution of its top leadership in both Serbia and Montenegro. But critics say the blows are self-inflicted, with traditional acts of worship the likely cause of infection.

The chain of events is extraordinary:

Last month, the Church’s senior bishop in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije, died after contracting coronavirus
Then, the Church’s leader, Patriarch Irinej, tested positive for Covid-19 days after presiding at his colleague’s funeral, and died
Last week, Bishop David of Krusevac, who conducted part of the service marking the Patriarch’s death, confirmed that he had contracted coronavirus for the second time
Amfilohije’s successor in Montenegro, Bishop Joanikije, has been unable to take up his duties due to his own struggle with the disease
Regardless of the decimation of its leadership, the Orthodox Church remains central to many people’s lives. And while schools in Serbia have mostly moved online because of the epidemic, communion is still performed in person, often in breach of the ban on gatherings of more than five people.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Orthodox Church, Parish Ministry, Serbia

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Isabel Hapgood

Loving God, we offer thanks for the work and witness of Isabel Florence Hapgood, who introduced the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church to English-speaking Christians, and encouraged dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox. Guide us as we build on the foundation that she gave us, that all may be one in Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Orthodox Church, Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT) A ‘Breakdown of Trust’: Pandemic Corrodes Church-State Ties in Russia

A physics student at Moscow State University, Dmitri Pelipenko turned away from science in 2018 to devote himself to God, enrolling as a novice monk at Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church.

His spiritual journey, derailed by the coronavirus, came to an abrupt and gruesome end shortly after the Orthodox Easter.

Admitted to the hospital after testing positive for the illness, Mr. Pelipenko smashed a window on April 24, jumped outside, doused his body with fuel from a church lamp and set himself on fire. He died from his burns two days later.

His monastery swiftly blamed the suicide on “mental illness.” Others, however, asked whether the monk’s clearly fragile mental state had been broken by the apocalyptic mood gripping wide swaths of the Russian church, some of whose leaders have challenged the state’s stay-at-home orders as the work of the devil.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Russia

(CEN) Confusion grows over fresh divisions in Ukraine Orthodoxy

Orthodox Christians in Ukraine – and in Orthodoxy worldwide – are in confusion following Metropolitan Filaret (pictured on the left) of Kiev’s break from the new Ukraine Orthodox Church, established just a year ago by Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

The Patriarch’s decision ended three centuries of Russian Orthodox canonical authority over all Ukraine Orthodox.

Ninety-year-old Filaret, the Soviet-era Russian Orthodox Church leader in Ukraine who formed the breakaway nationalist ‘Kiev Patriarchate’ when the USSR dissolved, was Patriarch Emeritus and joint leader of the new church, which comprised his patriarchate and an earlier breakaway, the small Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Led by Metropolitan Epiphany, the new church claims to control some 7,000 parishes, 77 monasteries and 47 dioceses, with some 500 parishes having switched allegiance from the continuing Russiaaligned Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate] – voluntarily or under nationalist pressure.

Declaring the new church “too much under the control” of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and that in practice his own role counted for little in its decisionmaking rather than being ‘side by side’ with Metropolitan Epiphany, Filaret has proclaimed the re-establishment of his former Kiev Patriarchate. He is busily rebuilding its support following an extraordinary ‘restoration assembly’ of his followers in Kiev’s historic St Volodymyr’s Cathedral last June, defying both Epiphany and the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Ukraine

(Rod Dreher) When A Bishop Does Right

Whenever you read about bishops here, it’s usually to complain about their failings. I’m delighted to be able to write about something good a bishop has done. In this case, it’s the Antiochian Orthodox Bishop Basil Essey, of Wichita, who corrected one of his priests, Father Aaron Warwick. As I wrote here, Father Aaron published an essay in a dissenting Orthodox online journal in which he called for a strong revision in Orthodox pastoral care for LGBT people — including encouraging same-sex couples to pair off and keep their sex lives within the pairing. Father Aaron insisted that he wasn’t challenging Church teaching, only pastoral practice, but this is a Jesuitical distinction without a difference (no, it really is: this is the tactic the Catholic LGBT activist priest James Martin, SJ, uses).

Father Aaron was scheduled to be elevated to archpriest (sort of like “monsignor” in the Catholic Church) this month, but now, that’s not going to happen quite yet. This went out yesterday:

I don’t know what, exactly, Bishop Basil did, but Father Aaron issued a public apology, and a retraction of his essay….

There is no more difficult stance in contemporary American culture for a cleric, bishop or not, to take than the one Bishop Basil has taken here. When our priests, pastors, and bishops do take those stands, we need to praise them, and praise them publicly. A senior church leader who doesn’t temporize or surrender to the culture — imagine that! God, send us more!

Read it all (cited by yours truly in the morning sermon).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Orthodox Church, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

Orthodox, Anglican churches hold international theological dialogue

The International Commission for Anglican Orthodox Theological Dialogue met in Canterbury, England from 10-17 October to continue consideration of ecology and end-of-life issues.

In a communique, the group stated that its work was undergirded by daily prayer and worship. “Visits were made to holy and historic sites, including a tour of St Augustine’s Abbey and the ancient church of St Martin, and to the Cathedral archives and library, and the Eastbridge Hospital,” reads the communique. “One of the highlights of the Commission’s meeting was a meditative candlelit walk of prayer led by the Dean around the Cathedral, including the site of the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket.”

The Commission completed its work on issues surrounding the environment and ecology according to principles established in its agreed statement, “In the Image and Likeness of God: A Hope-Filled Anthropology” (Buffalo 2015). “The text of a statement, entitled ‘Stewards of Creation A Hope-Filled Ecology,’ was finalized and will be prepared for publication as part of a projected series,” states the communique. “Further consideration was then given to the proposed statement on the end of human life, now provisionally entitled ‘Good Dying: the Christian Approach to Life and Death.’ ”

Read it all and you can find the Communiqué there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Orthodox Church

A Prayer for the Feast Day of ‘the beautiful-sounding nightengale of the church’ Kassiani

O God the Father of boundless mercy, whose handmaiden Kassiani brought forth poetry and song: Inspire in thy church a new song, that following her most excellent example, we may boldly proclaim the truth of thy Word, even Jesus Christ, our Savior and Deliverer, who with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen (slightly ed.).

Posted in Church History, Orthodox Church, Spirituality/Prayer

(AM) Rod Dreher–[Following up on the FT article already posted] Putin & The Patriarchs

UPDATE: An American reader in Moscow says there’s a lot wrong with the FT piece, at least as I have reported it. He writes:

I can’t access Max Seddon’s piece, so I am sure most of my corrections are problems with his article. In any case, there are some serious factual errors and lack of context for a lot of the information in this post.

To begin, the main problem is the narrative of the Ukrainian Church breaking from the Russian Church. This simply did not occur. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the rest of the Local Orthodox Churches, remains within the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Onuphry, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who consistently is left out of Western coverage of this crisis, is to this day a member of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. There simply has been no change on this front.

Very basic proof: Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Onuphry concelebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Saint Sergius Lavra outside of Moscow in June of this year: https://pravlife.org/uk/content/predstoyatel-upc-spivsluzhyv-patriarhu-v-prestolne-svyato-troyice-sergiyevoyi-lavry

That’s right. The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church flew from Kiev to Moscow to attend a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of which he continues to be a member. While there his Beatitude Onuphry served the Liturgy with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, which in the Orthodox world means everything. The Archbishop of Greece refused to serve the Liturgy with “Metropolitan Epiphany” Dumenko because that would mean legitimizing his controversial status.

The basic fact pulls the carpet out from under the narrative of Seddon’s piece (what you have quoted) as well as most of the Western coverage. The Churches did not split. This is a classic case for Terry Mattingly at GetReligion — journalists who don’t know enough about the religion they are writing about simply cannot resist the temptation to bend the narrative so that it perfectly reflects the political narrative. In this case, that would be “Russia is mad that Ukraine wants independence.”

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia

(FT) Putin and the Patriarchs–how geopolitics tore apart the Orthodox Church

Kirill thought his status as post-Soviet patriarch would earn him a key role of peacemaker, according to people close to the church. But when Russia annexed Crimea in February 2014, a rift opened between Kirill’s and Putin’s conceptions of the “Russian world”. Keenly aware that Putin’s actions severely undermined his authority in Ukraine, Kirill refused to absorb Crimea’s parishes and boycotted a ceremony in the Kremlin to celebrate Russia’s annexation.

Later that year, Putin underscored the rift by declaring that the Crimean town of Khersones — where Vladimir the Great, the first Christian ruler of Rus, was baptised in 988AD — was “Russia’s Temple Mount”.

The notion has no grounding in Orthodox theology and, by implication, undermines the primacy of Kiev and the Lavra. According to Roman Lunkin, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, it was an attempt to justify the annexation by presenting Putin as the protector of all Russian-speaking people.

The growing divide between Ukraine and Russia was underscored by the war with ­Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine shortly afterwards, where more than 13,000 have died. Filaret backed Ukraine’s offensive, saying the local population “must pay for their guilt [in rejecting Kiev’s authority] through suffering and blood”. Rebels in Donetsk, meanwhile, enjoyed support from Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch and prominent member of Moscow’s Orthodox elite.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia

(The Tablet) Both Wimbledon champions are committed Orthodox Christians

“For many young people today Simona is a symbol of diligence, perseverance and hope”, the Patriarch said at the ceremony. “Besides all that, the Romanian Church greatly appreciates the fact that you profess your Orthodox faith by making the sign of the Cross in public thus showing that you faithfully represent the devout, sacrificial and skilled Romanian people”, he added.

Halep received the Romanian Patriarchate’s Cross of St Andrew last year (2018). In an interview a few days after winning Wimbledon, she said that her Christian faith was “most important” for her in her life. “I believe in God even if I cannot attend the liturgy every Sunday”. (Unlike Sunday Mass attendance in the Catholic Church which has been compulsory since the Council of Trent, attending the Sunday Liturgy is not compulsory in the Orthodox Church.)

Novak Djokovic (aged 33), the number 1 tennis player in the world, belongs to the Serb-Orthodox Church. He already received the Serb-Orthodox Church’s Order of St Sava 1st Class in 2011 above all because he promotes many religious and social church initiatives. “This is the most important award in my life as, before being an athlete, I am an Orthodox Christian”, he said at the time on receiving the award from the hands of Patriarch Irenaeus of the Serb-Orthodox Church.The Order of St Sava is the Serb-Orhtodox Church’s highest distinction.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Sports

A brief biography of Moses the Black from the OCA

Moses the brigand spent several years leading a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert monasteries. Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance, but the former robber would neither be driven away nor silenced. He continued to implore that they accept him.

Saint Moses was completely obedient to the hegoumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while Saint Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent his time in prayer and the strictest fasting.

Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of Saint Moses. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked the Elders what to do with them. The Elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about Saint Moses’ repentance, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent monks.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Egypt, Ethiopia, Orthodox Church

(Economist Erasmus Blog) The gift of overcoming barriers eludes the world’s Orthodox Christians

in the coming weeks, the Ecumenical Patriarch’s profile in the Western and Anglophone world will certainly rise. The average age of his most visible representatives will plunge by nearly 40 years as younger clerics take over Greek-Orthodox sees in New York, London and Sydney. Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, has invited Patriarch Bartholomew to America in July to give a speech on the environment. The choice of topic will come more naturally to the guest, a staunch greenie, than to the host.

As part of an apparent effort to counter-balance Muscovite influence in the Orthodox world, Patriarch Bartholomew has in recent weeks visibly mended his relations with the Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos, by patching up their arcane quarrels over church jurisdiction in parts of Greece. That paved the way for Archbishop Ieronymos to join the primate of the new Ukrainian church, Epifaniy, and many other Bartholomew-minded hierarchs at celebrations in Istanbul of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s personal feast-day on June 11th. To judge by the reaction on social media, this innocent-seeming event caused much fury in the Muscovite camp and much pleasure in the opposing one.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, ecclesiastical disputes roll on in an often bizarre way. Controversy swirls around 90-year-old Filaret Denysenko, a veteran and still-vigorous player in the high politics of Orthodoxy since the Soviet era. Having narrowly failed to become Patriarch of Moscow, he led a breakaway Ukrainian church in 1992 and was duly defrocked and disgraced by his erstwhile colleagues in Moscow, some of whom he had helped to consecrate as bishops.

Since then the nonagenarian has styled himself the Patriarch of Kiev, a title that few people outside Ukraine recognise. In recent months, he has voiced bitter disappointment over the fact he was not put in charge of the newly-established Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and he has openly challenged the authority of 40-year-old Epifaniy, who was once his close aide.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Isabel Hapgood

Loving God, we offer thanks for the work and witness of Isabel Florence Hapgood, who introduced the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church to English-speaking Christians, and encouraged dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox. Guide us as we build on the foundation that she gave us, that all may be one in Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Orthodox Church, Spirituality/Prayer

(PRC FactTank) Split between Ukrainian, Russian churches shows political importance of Orthodox Christianity

The recent decision by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to split from its Russian counterpart after more than 300 years of being linked reflects not only the continuing military conflict between the two countries in recent years, but also the important political role Orthodox Christianity plays in the region.

Ukraine is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian nation, with nearly eight-in-ten adults (78%) identifying as Orthodox (compared with 71% in Russia), according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey of much of the country (some contested areas in eastern Ukraine were not surveyed). This is up from 39% who said they were Orthodox Christian in 1991 – the year the officially atheist Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine gained its independence. With roughly 35 million Orthodox Christians, Ukraine now has the third-largest Orthodox population in the world, after Russia and Ethiopia.

In addition, Orthodox Christianity is closely tied to Ukraine’s national and political life. Roughly half of all Ukrainians (51%) say it is at least somewhat important for someone to be Orthodox to be truly Ukrainian. The same is true for Russia, where 57% say being Orthodox is important to being truly Russian. In both countries, about half (48% in each) say religious leaders have at least some influence in political matters, although most Ukrainians (61%) and roughly half of Russians (52%) would prefer if this were not the case.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT) As Ukraine and Russia Battle Over Orthodoxy, Schism Looms

Ukraine is on the verge of opening the biggest schism in Christianity in centuries, as it breaks from the authority of a Moscow-based patriarch and this week expects to formally gain recognition for its own church, taking tens of millions of followers.

Intensifying a millennium-old religious struggle freighted with 21st-century geopolitical baggage, Ukraine’s security services have in recent weeks interrogated priests loyal to Moscow, searched church properties and enraged their Russian rivals.

“They just want to frighten us,” said the Rev. Vasily Nachev, one of more than a dozen priests loyal to the Moscow patriarch who were called in for questioning.

The new Ukrainian church is expected to be granted legitimacy on Jan. 6, the eve of the Orthodox Christmas, when its newly elected head, Metropolitan Epiphanius, travels to Istanbul to receive an official charter from the Constantinople patriarchate, a longtime rival power center to Moscow.

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Posted in Church History, History, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist Erasmus Blog) The Greek Orthodox Church faces a battle over secularisation

Theresa May is not the only public figure in Europe who is making a rearguard defence of a “historic” agreement about an ultra-sensitive matter that was struck behind closed doors and may not survive open debate among the interested parties.

Earlier this month it was reported that a landmark accord had been reached to secularise the most theocratically governed democracy in Europe, Greece. The bargain was sealed on November 6th between the country’s leftist and atheist (though not especially anti-religious) prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and the head of the Greek Orthodox church, Archbishop Ieronymos. Today the archbishop was struggling to defend the accord before the bishops who make up his Holy Synod. It has been billed as the hardest moment in the 80-year-old cleric’s ten-year reign, and even a turning point in the 200-year history of the Greek state.

The deal is certainly an intriguing piece of political gamesmanship. One provision dominated the headlines: the country’s 10,000 or so priests would no longer be considered civil servants, with all the job security and pension rights that go with that status. Instead the state would pay the church an annual subsidy of €200m ($230m) a year, a sum that would not be affected by any change in the number of clerics. Over time, the need for such a subsidy would diminish. In what was described as a win-win arrangement, a large portfolio of properties, ranging from land to urban real estate, whose ownership had been disputed between church and state since the 1950s would be jointly managed for the benefit of both parties.

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Posted in Greece, Orthodox Church

(BBC) Orthodox Church split: Five reasons why it matters

There are fears that, with a full-blown dispute between Church authorities, congregations could be shut out of certain churches.

President Poroshenko accuses the Kremlin of trying to foment a religious war, and he has warned that Russian agents could try to seize church property.

The Moscow Patriarchate says its worshippers should no longer attend any services conducted by clergy loyal to Constantinople. From now on it will also boycott joint Orthodox Church ceremonies.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin would defend “the interests of Russians and Russian speakers and the interests of the Orthodox”, but only by using “political and diplomatic measures”.

Russia also said it had to protect ethnic Russians ahead of its military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.

So there is potential for serious conflict, not least because Ukraine’s Orthodox believers are divided among three Churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the small Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC).

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia, Theology, Turkey, Ukraine

(Guardian) Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with Constantinople

The Russian Orthodox Church has announced it will break off relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople in a religious schism driven by political friction between Russia and Ukraine.

The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church elected on Monday to cut ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is viewed as the leading authority for the world’s 300 million Orthodox worshippers.

The split is a show of force by Russia after a Ukrainian church was granted independence.

Last week Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the “first among equals” of eastern Orthodox clerics, granted autocephaly (independence) to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which previously answered to Moscow.

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine