Friday, April 28, 2017

Ecumenical prayer in Cairo

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Beware Justinian.


Ukrainian Church in US plants trees to remember Chornobyl

(UOC-USA) - Later in the day, Metropolitan Antony shared with the Seminarians of the Church that this is already a seventeenth tree planted on the grounds of the Spiritual Metropolia Center of the UOC of the USA that is dedicated to the tragedy of Chornobyl.

The first was planted on St. Thomas Sunday at the 15th anniversary of the tragedy in front of the Ukrainian Cultural Center by the students and teachers of St. Andrew Ukrainian Studies School, which holds its classes in the Cultural Center classroom wing. The second tree was planted on the circle before St. Andrew Memorial Church at the 20th anniversary of Chornobyl by the youth of our church from around the country. The third and fourth trees were donated by Metropolitan Antony (then Archbishop) on the 25th anniversary of the disaster on the Memorial Church grounds adjacent to the statue of Metropolitan Vasyl Lypkivskyj – two maple trees, one to commemorate the survivors and the other to commemorate the victims of the nuclear explosion. On the 30th anniversary of Chornobyl in 2016, Pokrova Sisterhood of the Memorial Church sponsored the planting of two rows of 12 flowering pear trees along the sides of the driveway before the Memorial Church. The trees on the left, when facing the Church, commemorate the survivors of the nuclear disaster – especially the children – and the trees on the right commemorate those who perished in the disaster.

The Metropolitan has always expressed his belief that the planting of trees to commemorate the survivors and the deceased is the most appropriate manner to remind visitors to our Metropolia Canter about the Chornobyl nuclear explosion. Life – as seen in the trees, which will grow for generations to come – continues on after suffering and death. A cold stone monument is beautiful, as the Metropolitan stresses, but a living memorial creates a more positive contemplation of how good always prevails over evil – how life prevails over death – thanks to our Risen Lord!

Calvinist explains to wife predestined nature of his beard

Glenside, PA (Babylon Bee) – According to sources, local Calvinist Patrick Umstead and his wife Emma have argued over his beard since he began growing it out roughly 2 years ago.

“It’s gotten really big. It hides half his face,” Emma complained to reporters. “I understand the whole ’emulating Spurgeon’ thing, but I want him to shave it off for my sister’s wedding this summer, and he refuses.”

Sources close to the couple confirm that Patrick’s response has not changed.

“God sovereignly ordained this facial hair, honey,” he told his wife in between tokes of his pipe on the couple’s front porch. “How could it grow on my face had he not predestined it before the foundation of the world? I did not choose my beard; the beard chose me.”

Something smells off: Anglican evensong for... asparagus

(The Telegraph) - Asparagus is so venerated in Worcester that it has been blessed in a special ceremony in the city's cathedral.

But the thanksgiving service celebrating the local crop has been criticised by other Anglicans who have called it "absurd".

The bizarre Sunday evensong service was defended by the cathedral's Precentor, who said the vegetable was "a sign of the abundant provision and generosity of God".

Christian groups told the Daily Telegraph that the ceremony, which also involved a man in costume as an asparagus spear, was inappropriate.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of pressure group Christian Concern, said: "This is an absurd pantomime-type scene that makes a mockery of Christian worship."

Influential Church of England blog Archbishop Cranmer, which is run by conservative theologian Adrian Hilton, said the service was "an infantile pantomime" and said it brought the Church of England into disrepute.

The post added: "This is church, for God’s sake. Really, for His sake, can the Church of England not offer something clean and undefiled in the worship of God?"

Rev Peter Ould, a priest from Canterbury, said: "I think the service itself is a good idea - there isn't anything wrong in praying for a good growing season.

"But someone dressed up as an asparagus and a bloke in a St George costume behind him holding a sword - that just looks a bit silly.

"That takes it from being a good church service to something which looks like it's more to do with promoting the asparagus growers."

On Twitter Norfolk-based vicar Rob Baker said: "I am seeing but still not quite believing. This is utterly extraordinary."

Another priest, Northumberland-based Victor Dickinson, posted: "Total prats".

The bizarre images from the service drew comparisons with Monty Python, and in particular with one scene in the classic comedy group's Holy Grail film in which a knight must source a shrubbery.

A bundle of the vegetable processed through the medieval cathedral accompanied by two men in costume, one as an asparagus spear and the other as St George.

The crop was then blessed by the cathedral's Precentor, the Reverend Canon Dr Michael Brierley.

Legislating lunacy: Jordan Peterson & transgender pronouns

"There is absolutely no logic, once you have declared yourself to be marginalized... There is no logical way for you to exclude anyone else who regards themselves as marginalized."

And that, as I have said many times here, is the problem with our legal framework which wants to declare an ever expanding list of "rights" with no way to hem in such thinking with reason. How else do we get two men together and force a country to call it a marriage? Or how do we have innumerable gender designations that even include non-human variants? This is the sort of mass dissipation that marks the failing points of empires.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Prayer service for abducted Archbishops of Aleppo held

(Antiochian.org) - On Bright Thursday, April 20, 2017, the Antochian Archdiocese was joined by co-hosts—the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese and the St. John of Damascus Fellowship of New Jersey—in sponsoring a timely prayer service at St. George Antochian Orthodox Church in Little Falls, for the abducted Archbishops of Aleppo, Metropolitan Paul and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim. Metropolitan Paul and Metropolitan Yohanna vanished without a trace on April 22, 2013, after they drove together in hopes of negotiating the release of hostages in captivity. Metropolitan Yohanna’s deacon escaped, but his driver was killed. (Read the Paschal Message of His Beatitude John X, in which he issues a call for the liberation of Metropolitans Paul and Yohanna.)

Metropolitan Joseph was joined by His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak of the Syriac Archdiocese of the Eastern United States. In the service, Sayidna Joseph implored our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, for the freedom of the two beloved bishops and an end to the Syrian war. He also encouraged the attendees to urge their representatives and senators to continue their efforts to free the captive bishops, and called on the governments involved in the Syrian conflict to do the same in order to secure political and humane solutions towards peace in the region.

As well, the other speakers expressed their deep concern for the two bishops, and described the emptiness that has been left in the hearts of the clergy and faithful who are hoping and praying for their release. All present prayed to God for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and in all countries affected and besieged by wars and tribulations.

Also present at the prayer service were: His Excellency Bishop Yousif Habash of the Syriac Catholic Church; His Grace Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Maronite Church; hierarchs and representatives of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Coptic and Armenian Orthodox Churches, and the Maronite, Roman, and Syriac Catholic Churches; representatives from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York; elected officials and leaders from Passaic County, New Jersey; and the clergy and faithful of St. George.

Ecumenical Patriarch calls for "ecumenical solidarity"


(EP) - The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew delivered a public address at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva on 24 April 2017 as part of his official visit to Switzerland on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch and the 50th anniversary of the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy.

In his wide-ranging exhortation to the audience, the patriarch discussed the reasons for and accomplishments of the recent Holy and Great Council, convoked in Crete in June 2016, the role of science and technology in contemporary society, the theological imperative of tackling climate change, the plight and prospects of children today, the importance of countering human trafficking and modern slavery, and the need for all Christians to engage those issues in practical ways.

Uniting all these issues, “We must all work together for the promotion of a culture of solidarity, respect for others, and dialogue. Together with the sensitization of consciences, we must participate in concrete initiatives and actions. We need a stronger mobilization on the level of action,” he said.

Reminding his audience that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was instrumental, almost one hundred years ago, in igniting the ecumenical movement and its quest for unity, Bartholomew cited milestones in the church’s and his own engagement with the WCC. Since 1955, the patriarchate has had permanent representation to the WCC in Geneva, currently led by Archbishop Job of Telmessos.

Central to Bartholomew’s range of concerns, the patriarch said, is the strong, ongoing commitment of the Orthodox churches to ecumenism.

“We Orthodox strongly believe that the aim and the raison d’être of the Ecumenical Movement and of the World Council of Churches is to fulfil the Lord’s final prayer, that ‘all may be one’ (Jn. 17:21), which is inscribed on the beautiful tapestry ornamenting the wall of this hall.

Coptic Pope, Roman Pope, and EP attending peace conference

(Christian Post) - The grand imam of the Egyptian Muslim institution al-Azhar is holding a World Conference on Peace in Cairo, in which Pope Francis, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Coptic Pope Tawadros II will also take part "to eliminate the causes of conflict, violence and hate."

The objective of the conference, to be held Thursday and Friday, is to address "a message to the whole world" to "call for peace between religious leaders, between societies and between all the countries of the world," the office of grand imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed al-Tayeb, says, according to La Croix.

Pope Francis is scheduled to give a speech Friday after the grand imam, immediately following his arrival in the Egyptian capital and a "courtesy visit" to President al-Sissi. Francis is also scheduled to meet Pope Tawadros after the conference.

The Egyptian Islamic seminary has observed that "human society is currently experiencing overwhelming crises threatening our existence and destroying the essence of human life" and the "bloody, armed conflicts" that have resulted "contradict sublime religious values and humanitarian ideals."

"Considering the expansion of the circle of wars and violence and the rise in terrorism and sectarianism, the voice of reason calls us to do our best to eliminate the causes of suffering and to seek the means of cooperation rather than seeking conflicts ...," the seminary states.

Two Coptic churches in Egypt (St. Mark's Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic pope, and a church in Tanta) were bombed on Palm Sunday, leaving at least 45 people dead and more than 100 injured. Pope Tawadros was leading the mass in Alexandria when the blast occurred.

Coptic Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 82 million.

The Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, recently released a video threatening Christians in the country. IS is also believed to be behind the bombing of a chapel adjoining Cairo's St. Mark's Cathedral in December. At least 28 people were killed.

Bright Saturday

Monday, April 24, 2017

Anti-ecumenism "council" to be held in Ukraine

(Pravoslavie.ru) - An international coalition opposing the decisions of last June’s “Pan-Orthodox” Council on the island of Crete are planning to hold a “Pan-Orthodox” Council in Ukraine in June-July to anathematize ecumenism and those who support it, reports the site Religion in Ukraine.

The decision for the Ukraine synaxis came as a result of the recent “Thessaloniki Inter-Orthodox Synaxis” held on April 4. Although the gathering was forbidden by the hierarchy of the Greek Church, it brought together about a thousand clerical, monastic, and lay opponents of ecumenism and globalism from the Greek, Romanian, and Russian Orthodox Churches.

Greetings and blessings were read out to the gathering from Bishop Longin (Zhar), vicar bishop of the Chernivtsi Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and founder of Holy Ascension Monastery in Bachensk, which cares for around 500 children, some of whom are disabled and afflicted with HIV.

The synaxis called upon Greek clergy to cease commemoration of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, saying, “We have suspended association with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as the main organizer of the Council, and with the representatives and preachers of the pan-heresy of ecumenism, and with all bishops who accept the Crete Council as Orthodox.”

Those gathered condemned ecumenism and the Crete Council. Moreover, the Thessaloniki participants laid plans to hold a Pan-Orthodox anti-ecumenism council at Bachensk Monastery in June-July, in which they intend to anathematize Patriarch Bartholomew and others who they view as supporters of ecumenism.

Bishop Longin has also taken a strict stance in regards to Patriarch Kirill’s February, 2016 joint declaration with Pope Francis. At the same time, Vladyka Longin has remained a member of the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church—a body advising the highest authority of the Russian Church in matters concerning its internal life and external activities.

His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Holy Ascension Monastery in Bachensk yesterday, on Thomas Sunday, or Anti-Pascha, concelebrated by Metropolitan Meletios of Chernivtsi and Bukovina and Bishop Longin.

Oriental Orthodox conference meets in New Jersey

Cedar Grove, NJ (SCOOCH) – H.G. Bishop Karas – Patriarchal Exarch of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America – hosted the biannual meeting of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches at his New Jersey headquarters this past Friday, gathering the representatives of the Coptic, Syriac, Malankara-Syriac, Armenian, and Eritrean Orthodox Churches. The assembled fathers discussed a number of important regional issues, including the resumption of their dialogue and annual joint prayer service with their counterparts in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the upcoming visits of H.H. Pope Tawadros II and H.H. Karekin II to North America, the expansion of joint Oriental Orthodox activities at the local parish level, the dire situation in the Middle East, and the ongoing persecution of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and its lawful Patriarch by that country’s government and its supporters and how this relates to the condition of the Eritrean Church in this country.

In addition to H.G. Bishop Karas, the hierarchs present at the meeting included SCOOCH chairman H.E. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian (Armenian Apostolic Church), H.G. Abune Makarios (Eritrean Orthodox Church), H.E. Mor Dionysios Jean Kawak (Syriac Orthodox Church), and H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho (Malankara-Syriac Orthodox Church), as well as the representatives of H.G. Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of NY & NE.

Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine visit Johnstown, PA

(Tribune Democrat) - Serbia is among the European nations most afflicted by breast cancer.

For years, Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine – from the Karadordevic family – have worked tirelessly to help improve treatment and raise awareness of the disease in their home country.

So, when the couple visited Johnstown on Thursday, they not only met with St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church parishioners and enjoyed a celebration at the Pasquerilla Conference Center, but they also raised funds for two groups – the princess’s Lifeline Humanitarian Organization (lifelinechicago.org) and the local Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center at the Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center – that help in the fight against breast cancer.

“It’s actually quite a major issue in our country because we have a high incidence of breast cancer, and my wife’s foundation has been working very hard,” Crown Prince Alexander said during an interview at St. Nicholas. “Of course, connecting here on this subject is extremely important.”

The royal family has worked with some leading medical facilities, including the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Mayo Clinic, to help Serbians dealing with breast cancer and other diseases. With donated funds, the princess’s foundation purchased a mobile mammography unit that has provided exams to more than 100,000 women in Serbia.

“Being a woman, I’m partial to helping women stay healthy,” Crown Princess Katherine said.

Along with breast cancer, the royal highnesses have championed many other causes to benefit the neediest people in Serbia. “The humanitarian side needs attention,” said Upper Yoder Township resident Steve Purich, a longtime St. Nicholas member, who previously met the royal couple during a visit to Serbia. “People – I don’t care where you’re from – need help.”

Raising funds for breast cancer research was part of an overall message of compassion and peace shared by the royal couple, who come from a nation that endured World War II, life behind the Iron Curtain and a bloody civil war.

“We live in a world that there’s money for war, but no money for peace,” the princess said. “There is strategy for war, but no strategy for peace. And until we invest in peace, we cannot be expecting peace. And, after seeing the destruction in our country, I’m all for peace. I believe that life is too short and too precious, and every life is important, regardless of where the people live, what color they are, who they are. I just feel that we must unite and really enjoy whatever time we have on this Earth.”

There was plenty of fun, too, during the couple’s visit, including the party with traditional Serbian food, drinks, and music and what Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic called a “good friendly Johnstown welcome.”

The Karadordevics are believed to be the first royals to ever visit Johnstown.

“I just think it’s a monumental event for them, for the city,” said Kristina Marinkovich, a member of St. Nicholas’ Circle of Serbian Sisters, who organized the event. “It’s another connection that we have to Serbia. It’s another connection that Serbia has here in America. Really, hopefully, this is the start of a newfound friendship between Johnstown and Serbia.”

From the Episcopal Assembly, a report on evangelization

If the Assembly of Bishops is good at one thing, it's making reports. I'm not sure we do much with them or if they in any way improve our lot as Orthodox in the New World, but never bet against the Assembly putting out regular PDFs of some sort or another.

This study is worth reading if you are a priest (I almost said "a priest interested in the topic," but I take church growth as a given point of emphasis for all of us) or if you are someone who is interested in the state of evangelization right now. Having been a layperson in or attached to more than a few parishes, I think sentences like the below hit the nail on the head.

The study found that few clergy in both ʺexemplaryʺ and ʺnormalʺ parishes place a strong emphasis on an active ʺsearch for and bringing inʺ new members. Instead, a majority of clergy define evangelism in the Orthodox Church as ʺpassiveʺ (i.e. ʺCome and seeʺ) evangelism.
There's even a handy checklist of "Exemplary" vs "Normal" parishes that you can check off to see how your parish is doing and research areas where you might improve. Give the Executive Summary report a read, and if it piques interest, dive into the much longer Full Report.

(AOB) - The first ever, national study on evangelization and outreach in Orthodox parishes in the United States has been released by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA.

Download the report in various formats:
The report "Go and Make Disciples: Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Parishes" explores the practices and strategies developed by some Orthodox parishes that can be viewed as "exemplary" in their missionary and outreach efforts. Examples of what the readers will find in the report include:
  • The "secrets" of being a parish that attracts and welcomes new members;
  • Eight good practices of welcoming first-time visitors and inquirers about the Faith;
  • How do "exemplary" parishes achieve a high degree of involvement of their members in parish life;
  • Four distinct features of religious education in the "exemplary" parishes;
  • Six "lessons" that Church leadership (bishops) can learn from the "exemplary" parishes.
Parishes of seven Orthodox jurisdictions participated in this study. The report was prepared by Alexei Krindatch, the Assembly's Research Coordinator in cooperation with Fr. Eric Tosi (OCA), Fr. John Parker (OCA) and Adam Roberts (Antiochian Archdiocese). The study was initiated and sponsored by the Committee for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations (Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, Chairman).

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Promise, a film about the Armenian Genocide



Some months ago I posted another trailer for this film and I was able to see The Promise this evening. It was quite good. If you are interested in history or are a parent who wants to inform your children, this is a solid choice; my only caveat being a single romantic scene early in the film. You learn about what it was like to be of Armenian descent before the Turks turned to war, nationalism, and genocide in short order. The religious aspect of life as a non-Muslim in the last days of the Ottoman Empire are not painted with a heavy brushstroke, but you do see their respect for clergy, marriage ceremony, etc. throughout the movie. As with much of the Armenian way of things, they have many unique practices you might not be familiar with which add to the immersive nature of The Promise.

It's suitable for church groups, homeschoolers of older children, and adults alike. Please do go see it and never forget the Armenian Genocide (or the Pontic Genocide for that matter) in which millions of people perished.