News Reports – Spring 2005

News section of the Spring 2005 issue of In Communion

Fr. Serge Hackel (1931-2005)

Archpriest Sergei Hackel died on February 9, following a heart attack. He was 73. He was the longest serving priest in the diocese of Sourozh, England.

The family had once owned a house opposite the royal palace at St. Petersburg. His parents moved to Berlin following the Revolution; their son was born there on August 24, 1931. In the later 1930s the family moved to Holland, then, in 1940, crossed the Channel to England.

He read Russian and French at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he was a sprinter and middle-distance runner. After graduation in 1952, he became a teacher in south London. He was ordained a priest in 1965 by Metropolitan Anthony, after which he took charge of a parish in Lewes, Sussex, while lecturing at the European Studies School at Sussex University.

He was author of the most complete biography of Mother Maria Skobtsova yet published in English, Pearl of Great Price. Many owe their awareness of her remarkable life to him. Last May he participated in her canonization at the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Paris, at which he wore a vestment that Mother Maria had made for Fr. Dimitri Klpinin, her fellow martyr, also glorified with her. Fr. Sergei regarded Mother Maria’s concern for the dispossessed and the persecuted as providing an ideal example of Orthodox Christianity in the modern world. His death fell on the day of commemoration of Mother Maria and her three companions in martyrdom, her son Yuri, Fr. Dimitri Klpinin, and Ilya Fundaminsky.

Among his many other books was a study of Alexander Blok, The Poet and the Revolution.

For almost thirty years, until his death, he was editor of Sobornost, the quarterly journal of the Anglo-Orthodox Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius.

A fervent battler against anti-Semitism, he was an active member of the British Council of Christians and Jews. He was chairman of St. Gregory’s Foundation, established to bring aid to Russians after the collapse of communism. He was also a long-time member of the advisory board of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

For more than 20 years, he was editor of the religious program of the BBC’s Russian Service. The night before his heart attack he had recorded several important interviews, among them one on relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the State, and another on the intelligentsia in the Church. He also read for the last time for his listeners in Russia the verses from the Gospel on the Baptism of Christ.

A man indifferent to sartorial elegance, he refused to wear a tie, saying its only use was to hold up one’s trousers. He was a devoted jazz fan with a wide-ranging appreciation of art, from icon-painting to the avant-garde. He was an admirer of the Marx Brothers and Jacques Tati. He helped Benjamin Britten with the text of his Cycle of songs after Pushkin, translated Mstislav Rostropovich’s contribution to a festschrift for Peter Pears, and provided John Tavener with a translation for his setting of Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem.

“He loved the Church deeply,” observed his friend Deacon Peter Scorer, “and it was this love that made him such an outspoken critic of the Church. He always had a nonconformist streak. He disliked pomp and dissimulation, eschewed expensive vestments and ecclesiastical pharisaism. He defended the Russian Church when it was in captivity under communism, and spoke out loudly in support of those who were persecuted, often criticizing the hierarchy for its complicity with the regime. After 1991 he stood firmly on the side of the more liberal and outspoken wing of the Church, and never shied from upbraiding those he saw as the clerical and hierarchical mafia. For this he was regarded by many as an awkward rebel within the ranks.”

Fr. Sergei’s family have asked that donations in Fr. Sergei’s memory should be sent to St. Gregory’s Foundation, c/o Leverton and Son, 212 Eversholt Street, London NW1 1BD, UK.

Few but organized, Iraq veterans turn war critics

Sean Huze enlisted in the Marine Corps right after the September 11 attacks and was, in his own words, “red, white and blue all the way” when he was deployed to Iraq 16 months later. Unquestioning in his support of the invasion, he grew irritated when his father, a former National Guardsman, expressed doubts about the war.

All that has changed. Haunted by the civilian casualties he witnessed, Corporal Huze has become one of a small but increasing number of Iraq veterans who have formed or joined groups to oppose the war or to criticize the way it is being fought.

The two most visible organizations – Operation Truth, of which Corporal Huze is a member, and Iraq Veterans Against the War – were founded only last summer but are growing in membership and sophistication. The Internet has helped them spread their word and galvanize like-minded people in ways unimaginable to activist veterans of previous generations, who are also lending help.

“There’s strength in numbers,” Corporal Huze said. “By ourselves, we’re lone voices, a whisper in a swarm of propaganda out there. Combined, we can become a roar and have an impact on the issues that we care about.”

Those who turn to the groups are generally united in their disillusionment, though their responses to the war vary: Iraq Veterans seeks a quick withdrawal from Iraq; Operation Truth focuses on the day-to-day issues affecting troops and veterans.

Iraq Veterans Against the War, which started in July with 8 people, now has more than 150 members, including some still serving in Iraq, said Michael Hoffman, a former lance corporal in the Marines and a co-founder of the group.

Operation Truth, based in New York, began with 5 members and now has 300, with an e-mail list of more than 25,000 people. Its Web site is a compendium of soldiers and veterans’ stories, a media digest on the war, and a rallying point on issues affecting troops.

For Corporal Huze, the transformation began when he returned home in fall 2003. Unable to forget the carnage he had seen in Iraq, he began to grapple with the justification for the war, he said.

“By December 2003, I came to the conclusion that WMD’s weren’t there and that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, and now I’m left with all that I’d experienced in Iraq and nothing to balance it,” Huze said. “When I came to that conclusion, I felt this sense of betrayal. I was full of rage and depression.”

Huze, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is awaiting a medical discharge for a head injury. With the consent of his commanding officers at Camp Lejeune, he speaks regularly to the media and others as a representative for Operation Truth.

“Who I was before the war, who I was in Iraq and who I am now are three very different men,” Huze said. “I don’t think I can ever have the blind trust in the government like I had before. I think that my being over in Iraq as an active participant, I’m a bit more responsible than others for things there. And I think by speaking out now, it’s my amends.” He added, “I don’t know if it will ever balance.”

In March 2003, reports of suicide-bombing attacks on American soldiers had reached Sgt. Rob Sarra’s Marine Corps unit in an Iraqi town called al-Shatra. A short time later, soldiers saw an older woman walking toward them with a small bundle. The marines, fearing that she might be a bomber, called to her to stop, but she kept walking.

“I was looking at her, and I thought ‘I have to stop this woman,’ ” Sarra said. “So I fired on her, and then the other marines fired on her.”

“When we got to her, we saw that she was pulling out a white flag,” he said. “She had tea and bread in her bag. I kept thinking, ‘Was she a grandmother? Was she a mother?’”

Sarra, who has left the Marines after nine years, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder in Iraq and at home in Chicago before seeking counseling and help from other veterans. Now he is a leader of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

“When someone goes through PTSD, it brings what they went through to the forefront,” Sarra said. “I knew when I joined the Marines that if I was going to be there for 20 years, I’d face combat. But the question is, why did we go?”

A grenade tossed into Robert Acosta’s Humvee in Baghdad in July 2003 left him without his right hand and shattered his legs. Acosta, 21, spent months in hospitals surrounded by other young amputees, watching news about government commissions concluding that Iraq had no unconventional weapons.

He began reading, watching the news and talking to people, especially Vietnam veterans. Last summer, his girlfriend heard Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Operation Truth, speak on the radio. Acosta contacted him. By the fall, Acosta had become the organization’s public face, appearing in a provocative television advertisement.

[From a longer report in The New York Times]

Stresses of battle hit female soldiers hard

On a mission just south of Baghdad over the winter, a young soldier jumped into the gunner’s turret of an armored Humvee and took control of the menacing .50-caliber machine gun. She was 19 years old, weighed barely 100 pounds and had a blond ponytail hanging out from under her Kevlar helmet.

“This is what is different about this war,” Lt. Col. Richard Rael, commander of the 515th Corps Support Battalion, said of the scene at the time. “Women are fighting it. Women under my command have confirmed kills. These little wisps of things are stronger than anyone could ever imagine and taking on more than most Americans could ever know.”

But today, two years after the start of an Iraq war in which traditional front lines were virtually obliterated and women were tasked to fill lethal combat roles more routinely than in any conflict in U.S. history, the nation may be just beginning to see and feel the effects of such service.

Thousands of women are returning home emotionally damaged by what they have seen and done. Women appear more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, than their male counterparts.

Studies indicate that many of these women suffer from more pronounced and debilitating forms of PTSD than men, a worrisome finding in a nation that remembers how many traumatized troops got back from Vietnam and turned to drugs and violence, alcohol and suicide.

One children’s book increasingly popular among military families illustrates what the effects of this war might mean for society in the years and even decades to come: “Why Is Mommy Like She Is? A Book for Kids About PTSD.”

In the wake of such concerns, the Veterans Affairs Department has launched a $6 million study of PTSD among female veterans.

“PTSD is a very real problem for women who serve in the military,” said Paula Schnurr, one of the study’s lead researchers and the deputy executive director of the VA’s National Center for PTSD in White River Junction, Vermont.

“The evidence is conclusive,” said Rachel MacNair, an expert in the psychological effects of violence and PTSD. “The greater the trauma in your life, the greater the symptoms of PTSD.”

Another factor that acutely affects the rate of PTSD among veterans of Iraq, MacNair says, is whether they have killed during their deployment.

In 1999, MacNair earned her doctorate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a study that analyzed the data from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, a landmark congressionally funded project that studied nearly 1,700 veterans. Her findings showed that troops who had killed – or believed they had killed – suffered significantly higher rates of PTSD than those who had not.

“It is very clear that being shot at is traumatic, or losing your buddy is traumatic, but the act of shooting and killing another human being, something that goes against every instinct we have, is the biggest trauma of all,” said MacNair, who calls this kind of PTSD “perpetration-induced traumatic stress.”

“It all adds up,” said MacNair, “but the act of having killed does seem to be the factor that tips the scales in favor of PTSD.”

[From a longer report in The New York Times]

Patriarch Bartholomew’s response to the death of Pope John Paul

Here are extracts from a longer statement:

“Pope John Paul II envisioned the restoration of the unity of Christians and he worked for its realization. Thus, and in order to give the mark of his papacy, he visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate only a year after his election, and together with Patriarch Demetrios declared the formation of the Joint Committee for the inception of the Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

“He did not hesitate before pains and sacrifices in order to bring the message of the Gospel to the entire world and to contribute to the establishment of peace. History will also recount his crucial contribution to the fall of atheistic communism. There are not many such brave men of vision, as the departed Pope.

“During his passage through the Hierarchy and especially through the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, he drew deep his traces on her and on the history of all humanity, and he has left behind the indelible imprint of his strong personality.

“Many of his initiatives have been inception of developments, which still advance today. He was a pioneer in many issues. For this reason, his death is a loss not only to his Church, but to all of Christianity as well, and to the international community in general, who desires peace and justice….

“May his memory be eternal and may the Lord of life and death bring forth a most worthy successor, among the many personalities that adorn the hierarchy of the sister Church.”

Orthodox see hope for reform in World Council of Churches

A meeting on the Greek island of Rhodes of leaders of Orthodox churches that are members of the World Council of Churches has taken a positive view of proposals to reform World Council of Churches worship and decision-making procedures to accommodate concerns of Orthodox churches. More than 50 Orthodox church leaders and theologians took part, as well as participants from other WCC member churches.

The proposals were drawn up by a special commission set up by the council in the late 1990s to deal with Orthodox concerns that the Geneva-based WCC was too dominated by Protestant theology and decision-making styles.

“We affirm without reservation the work and recommendations of the Special Commission, its report in all its aspects,” said a statement issued after a 10-17 January meeting.

The WCC’s churches include all mainstream traditions, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, which cooperates with the council via some of its committees. Orthodox churches have said, however, their views are diminished by the WCC’s mainly-Protestant majority. Matters came to a head in 1998 when the Bulgarian and the Georgian Orthodox Churches left the WCC.

The special commission recommended the introduction of a consensus procedure for decision-making, and proposed changing terms used in connection with inter-church services to take account of Orthodox concerns.

“We have every confidence that these recommendations bear great promise for the whole fellowship, as long as they are given a real chance to work,” the Rhodes meeting said, noting they might help the Roman Catholic Church to join the WCC.

There are 22 Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches among the WCC’s 342 members. The Orthodox churches together have almost as many members as all the other WCC churches combined.

The statement represents a key response ahead of the WCC’s forthcoming world assembly, to be held in Brazil in February 2006.

The introduction of consensus decision-making would offer the WCC a way to create an atmosphere of openness, trust, and humility, “where the views of all churches will be encouraged and listened to with respect,” participants at the Orthodox meeting in Greece said.

“We trust that the change to consensus will enhance the potential of the Council to find its true prophetic voice, and may offer a model that invites to the Council churches of that vast Christian constituency not yet members of the Council (including the Roman Catholic Church),” they noted.

The pre-assembly of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches is traditionally held prior to WCC assemblies which meet every seven years.

A report issued by the hierarchs stressed that grace is associated with the transforming action of the Holy Spirit in creation.

“God’s divine unconditional graceful love draws us to Him, because humans are not only created by God but they are created for God. In God we entirely find the purpose of our lives restored and transformed.” The transfiguration of Christ reveals God’s ultimate intention for humanity and creation. “Christ gathers all things in Him, and the whole of creation is transformed into a new heaven and a new earth.”

Spiritual and social transformation are interrelated, the report emphasizes. “The process of the transfiguration of our socio-economic order … involves our personal and communal commitment” and the struggle to forge a “chain of good” affecting all aspects of human life.

Recognizing the suffering, violence, injustice and immorality so evident in the world, the participants expressed their conviction that the task of Christians is to call on the action of the Holy Spirit and to act as “fellow-workers” in restoring the “true humanity created in God’s image.”

Referring to ongoing discussions about possible new forms of international ecumenical work, the pre-assembly report affirms that “the world will continue to need a council of churches … an instrument to serve the churches by bringing them into a space for dialogue, shared work, for the mutual exchange of gifts and insights from our traditions, for prayer together.”

The complete text of the Rhodes report is at: www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/press_corner/rhodesreport.html.

Information on the Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC is available at http://wcc-coe.org/wcc/press_corner/index-e.html

Patriarch Theodoros urges S. African pressure on Zimbabwe

The Greek Orthodox African Patriarch believes the South African government should put more pressure on the Zimbabwean government to change its ways.

Theodoros II, a former archbishop of Zimbabwe, was speaking on his first visit to South Africa since becoming Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa last year.

“Zimbabwe faces many problems, for instance hunger. But I see positive developments and the situation is getting better,” he told the Cape Times newspaper in March. Yet he said South Africa could help the situation in Zimbabwe by “putting more pressure” on the government there.

The South African government has faced wide criticism for failing to get tough with autocratic Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who has seen his country’s once prosperous economy collapse and human rights severely eroded.

South Africa defends itself by saying it is seeking change quietly.

South Africa has a relatively large Greek community and Theodoros started his official visit this week by presiding at a service at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. George in the Cape Town suburb of Woodstock.

Theodoros, born Nicholas Choreftakis in Crete in 1954, has lived in several African countries since he first came to the continent 20 years ago, and said,

“Inside, I feel African. I lived with the people, in huts and in poverty.” [ENI]

Bulgaria honors role of Parliament and Church in saving Jews

Bulgaria has held formal commemorations of the courageous efforts of its then Parliament and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to save Bulgarian Jews from the Nazi death camps of the Second World War.

At a ceremony in Sofia outside Bulgaria’s Parliament on March 9, Emil Kalo, president of Bulgaria’s Jewish Shalom organization, said, “We commemorate those valiant men from the National Assembly, and the courageous behavior of the Holy Synod, and of thousands of Bulgarians. We thank them.”

The ceremony was one of a number held to mark the decision on 10 March 1943 by Bulgaria’s then government not to cooperate in deportations of Jews from Bulgarian territory. During the war, Bulgaria was an ally of Germany.

Political and religious leaders paid tribute to those, including Bulgaria’s then king, Boris III, Bulgarian Orthodox Church leaders Metropolitan Cyril and Exarch Stefan, and the then deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Dimitar Peshev, who publicly opposed the plans to deport the Jews.

In 1943, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church sent an official letter to King Boris, to the National Assembly, and to the government demanding that there be no deportations. Peshev, supported by a large group of legislators from the left and right of the political spectrum, attempted to pass legislation that would make such deportations illegal.

In April 1943, after the government decided not to cooperate, Boris III told the authorities in Berlin he would not consent to the deportation of Jews, explaining that they were needed to build roads.

The king died in mysterious circumstances in August 1943, shortly after a meeting with Adolf Hitler in which the Nazi leader railed against him for the king’s refusal to send Bulgarian troops into action against Russia, and his refusal to consent to the deportation of Jews from within Bulgaria.

Palestinians ride donkeys in Palm Sunday demonstration

Hundreds of Palestinians and foreign Christians joined together in Manger Square in front of Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity to demand the right of Palestinians to pray in Jerusalem.

Men rode donkeys carrying sacks of olive branches and leaves from Manger Square, through Bethlehem, and to the Wall.

The donkey’s turned back before getting too close to the Wall, but a rider said the purpose of bringing them was “to show the Israelis that we can’t travel by car anymore. We can’t pass the roadblocks and they aren’t allowing cars to pass. Our only hope is to travel by donkey.”

The Wall around Bethlehem provides only two openings out for people to walk through.

The Israeli government confiscated residential neighborhoods, farmland, and olive groves while surrounding Bethlehem with the Wall.

One of the organizers from the Bethlehem NGO Holy Land Trust remarked, “It is our right to be here. It is our right to pray in Jerusalem.” Israeli occupation forces loaded their machine guns and took out canisters of tear gas, not allowing Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem to reach Jerusalem for Palm Sunday services.

Serbian Orthodox Church condemns anti-Semitism

The Serbian Orthodox Church has strongly condemned anti-Semitism after posters deriding Jews were put up in the capital Belgrade, and against a background of anti-Jewish sentiments in the country that has caused widespread concern.

“Once again, as we have done in previous years, we most strongly condemn every form and every manifestation of anti-Semitism,” the Holy Synod of the church said in a statement posted on its Web site March 24. “This phenomenon is unacceptable theologically, morally, on the grounds of civilization and in every other respect.”

The statement was released two days after the anti-Semitic posters were put up by a hitherto unknown group calling itself “National Order”.

“We decisively and unconditionally reject every attempt, regardless of its origin, to deny, devalue or minimize the Holocaust against the Jews in World War 2,” the synod stated.

There are several Serbian anti-Semitic Web sites, representing various groups, and a number of books defaming Jews have been published in recent years. One group, Obraz, claims allegiance to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Serbia’s Jewish community is tiny, according to a 2002 census, numbering only about 1,200. Before the Second World War, the Holocaust, and emigration to Israel, the community represented less than one per cent of the population.

A report that the US State Department released in March said that Jewish leaders in Serbia had reported a continued increase in anti-Semitism on the Internet. The release of new anti-Jewish publications had led to an increase in hate mail and other expressions of anti-Semitism, the report stated.

Serbian police have arrested three suspects in connection with the recent anti-Semitic incidents.

Kofi Aan says the ethnic divide is widening in Kosovo

Kosovo Serbs are living in fear in Kosovo, widening an already deep ethnic divide, the UN Secretary-General said in mid-February.

Although serious crime against Kosovo Serbs has declined since March last year when thousands were expelled from their homes during ethnically motivated riots, Kofi Anan said isolated incidents were still feeding their fears.

Minority transport vehicles had been stoned, hate graffiti painted on public buildings, empty houses belonging to minority Serbs had been looted and there was little respect for minority language rights, he said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.

“Kosovo Serbs in particular continued to consider themselves at risk. Their reluctance to leave their communities or to interact with members of the majority community (and vice versa) is widening an already deep ethnic divide,” Anan said.

The government had not done enough to punish all ethnically motivated crime, he added.

Kosovo, which formally remains part of Serbia-Montenegro, has been administered by the UN since mid-1999, when a NATO air war ended a Serb crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

About 100,000 Serbs remain in the province, one-third of their prewar population. They have little freedom of movement and face occasional attacks and harassment by ethnic Albanian militants.

The UN has been trying to promote reconciliation between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and the Serb minority. But Anan said ethnic Serbs in Kosovo still faced many problems. They had to travel on special transport or with military escort, limiting their freedom of movement and their access to services, jobs and the justice system. Concerns about safety have discouraged Serbs from returning to Kosovo, he said.

Minorities had little trust in Kosovo’s political and administrative systems, he said. “Their involvement in the political process and in senior levels of the civil service remains marginal.”

Serbian Church delegation meet with UN General Secretary

A delegation from the Serbian Orthodox Church, headed by Bishop Grigorije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina and Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan on March 28 in New York.

“The primary goal of our delegation is to offer our cooperation so that Kosovo and Metohija can truly become a multi-ethnic and multi-religious region once again,” said Bishop Grigorije. “Our Church has remained present in Kosovo and Metohija despite all difficulties after the war but we need good will and help to stop the suffering of the people and the Church after more than five years of violence against Serbs and other non-Albanians, and the destruction of 150 Orthodox churches and monasteries.”

Citing an example of clear and unambiguous readiness on the part of the Serbian Orthodox Church to work together with the international community on the establishment of a democratic society, Bishop Grigorije informed Kofi Anan with the recently signed Memorandum on the restoration of Serbian Orthodox holy shrines signed by Patriarch Pavle.

“This is a historic moment for our Church. Those who do not wish to cooperate will not be able to influence the entire church by their non-cooperation.”

Later Bishop Teodosije emphasized the readiness of the Church to cooperate with all communities in Kosovo and Metohija. “I am abbot of Decani Monastery, which helped all ethnic and religious communities, including the Kosovo Albanians, during the period of war-time suffering,” he said. “Unfortunately, after the war we have been left surrounded by mono-ethnic cities and villages where there are no more Serbs. We would like all refugees to return and conditions to be created for the survival of those who remained in their centuries-old homes.”

He added that “it is especially important to preserve the Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija regardless of political solutions and the final status of the Province.” Bishop Teodosije also emphasized the security problem, which affects not only Serbs and other minority communities but even moderate Albanians. Commenting on the importance of the Memorandum on the restoration of Serbian Orthodox holy shrines, Bishop Teodosije noted that the Church has received agreement from the UNMIK chief and other international factors, which should enable the organization of a donors’ conference to collect additional funds for the rebuilding of the destroyed churches and monasteries.

Hieromonk Irinej Dobrijevic spoke of the economic and humanitarian aspects of refugee returns. When asked by the Secretary-General how the Church could become involved and actively participate in the return process, Fr. Irinej mentioned the positive experience of Orthodox NGOs such as the IOCC and Covekoljublje (Philanthropy), which have achieved significant success on the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Explaining the Church’s view of the return process, Fr. Irinej stressed that refugee returns should first be made possible near Orthodox holy shrines where people could immediately become employed in restoring their churches and homes, and thus ensure the means for beginning life anew. In this respect, the Memorandum on the restoration of Orthodox churches is of tremendous importance for speeding up the return process. Restoration of churches and returns are mutually linked.

At the conclusion of his commentary Bishop Grigorije mentioned that the restoration of holy shrines in Bosnia-Herzegovina is also very important.

“The restoration of holy shrines automatically enables the return of the people,” he said, adding that “Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina are interconnected and normalization in one region will automatically have a positive influence on the other”.

Orthodox marchers at Right to Life rally in Washington

Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and well-known spokesman for the sanctity of life, again led hundreds of Orthodox Christians at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, Monday, January 24,

Despite a crippling snowstorm that covered the east coast on the eve of the March, Metropolitan Herman, Archbishop Job of Chicago and nearly 500 Orthodox Christians braved the elements to join in the annual public demonstration in support of the sanctity of life.

At the pre-March rally, Metropolitan Herman addressed an estimated 100,000 pro-lifers who filled the Ellipse. He offered words of encouragement and spoke of the sanctity of human life and the need to protect the rights of unborn, created in the image and likeness of God. He also called for a victory march in the years ahead, predicting the day when the infamous 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision will be overturned.

The Orthodox marchers, who came from as far away as Chicago, displayed a new banner bearing an icon of Christ blessings the children. Designed by Archdeacon Alexei Klimitchev and constructed by Mr. Martin Paluch, the banner was a gift from Metropolitan Herman.

After the rally, Metropolitan Herman, Archbishop Job, and the Orthodox marchers joined the procession which made its way along Constitution Avenue to the US Supreme Court.

On the steps of the court, a Service of Intercession and a Memorial were celebrated by Metropolitan Herman and the Orthodox marchers.

“Every year, the March is held to lament the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of January 22, 1973 that legalized abortion on demand in the US,” said Fr. John Matusiak, OCA communications director.

“For nearly two decades Metropolitan Herman has been a visible and vocal presence at the annual gathering, leading hundreds of Orthodox Christians in prayerful witness to the sanctity of human life from its conception.”

Orthodox bishops opposed starving Terri Schiavo

Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago: “Human life is always precious and sacred. This is a fundamental tenet of the Orthodox Christian tradition. Each and every human being is created in the image of God the Creator, and can never cease to be loved by God. The highest measure of a quality of life is our personal relationship with God, and this relationship endures the best and worst conditions in which human beings may find themselves. It even endures physical death in this age, continuing in the age to come. Orthodox Christians are greatly saddened by the condition of Terri Schiavo, and must be saddened by the decision … to purposely end her life by the withdrawal of the basic care of feeding and hydration.

“As a gift, life is always to be respected, nurtured and defended by Orthodox Christians. It is not an abstract principle to be debated. We affirm that we are called to be wise stewards of this gift. This prohibits the conscious destruction of life at any stage in the human life cycle, and demands loving care at every stage, for ourselves and especially for the lives of others.

“We acknowledge that there are times when artificial life support is more expressive of a fear of death than concern for loved ones in tragic circumstances. We affirm that in light of the body functioning only by artificial and mechanical means, when it is unable to sustain life on its own in any manner, the cessation of such means is often acceptable, since this is not actually causing death. We do not view feeding and hydration in such terms, for in the case of Terri Schiavo and others who are in similar conditions, death is not imminent as long as the body is nourished.

“Therefore, the removal of Mrs. Schiavo from feeding tubes so as to hasten her death can in no way be accepted or supported. Doing so demonstrates a blatant lack of wise stewardship of God’s sacred gift of life and an extraordinary means of hastening her death by starvation.”

Metropolitan Maximos of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh: “She deserves to live. A miracle is always possible for her to be restored from minimum consciousness to full consciousness … I beg all those in charge to consider the plea of her parents, with whom I fully identify. Murder is a strong word that nobody wants to use, but that is what it is.”

OPF officers

OPF has a new treasurer: Silouan Deutekom. The former treasurer, Hanna Bos, is now vice-president. Michael Bakker continues as OPF president. Michael and Silouan are members of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam. Hanna, a physician who worked in Angola for a number of years, belongs to Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Deventer. Michael has a PhD in Slavonic studies.

“Take courage, toil and strive zealously, for nothing will be lost. Every prayer you make, every Psalm you sing, is recorded; every alm, every fast is recorded.”

- St. Cyril of Jerusalem