Archive for the ‘News Reports’ Category

News Summer 2010

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

USA: First Episcopal Assembly Convened

The first Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs in North America was convened on May 26 in New York City by Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in North America. The Assembly, attended by most hierarchs of local Orthodox dioceses in North America, resulted from decisions made by the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference at its meeting in Switzerland in June 2009.

The main goal of the Assembly, said Demetrios, is to witness to Orthodox unity in a “new world” and to secure a more effective organization of mission, witness and cooperation of the local Orthodox Churches.

Demetrios chaired the gathering, with Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Justinian of the Moscow Patriarchate as co-chairs. Bishop Basil of Wichita, of the Antiochian Archdiocese, was elected secretary.

“We strive for unity because the Lord asked of us to be one, but diversity and differentiation are not to be feared. They are gifts that are to be used for the glory of God,” said Demetrios, adding that “our unity cannot exist to destroy such differentiation; rather, our unity is meant to flourish as a result of our natural diversity, be it linguistic, cultural or ethnic. Is this not exactly the condition of our universal Orthodoxy today?”

“Of course,” he reminded his fellow bishops, “problems related to unity, or to differentiation, or to both, always existed in the Church, starting already in the time of the Apostles, as the Book of the Acts of the Apostles testifies.”

Demetrios explained that the nature of the assembly is temporary, a preparatory step intended to facilitate the creation of a council that will decide “the final form of the Church in a particular country.” At the end of the process, the Assembly anticipates becoming a Synod of Bishops enjoying autocephaly.

The Assembly took place behind closed doors, with the bishops in attendance reportedly having committed themselves not to speak to the media regarding the details of their discussions.

The Assembly decided that such projects as International Orthodox Christian Charities will now operate under the auspices of the Episcopal Assembly. Committees of bishops are being set up to address legal, pastoral and canonical issues.
It is likely that the Assembly will be comprised only of the parishes in the US, with Mexican parishes becoming part of a Latin American grouping and Canadian parishes constituting a third region.

One of the complications in arranging the meeting concerned Metropolitan Jonah, head of the Orthodox Church in America. Patriarch Bartholomew had asked Archbishop Demetrios not to invite him because OCA’s autocephaly is not recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In the end a compromise was worked out – Jonah attended as an individual bishop rather than as the head of the OCA. Jonah accepted the compromise “with all humility.”

Tentative dates for the next meeting of the Assembly: May 25-27, 2011.
Similar Assemblies are to be convened around the world in regions where there is no single Orthodox jurisdictional presence. Participation in these meetings will be restricted to active canonical bishops who reside in the designated region. At each Assembly, the chairman will be the senior bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Meeting in Moscow:
Kirill and Bartholomew stress unity

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople celebrated Pentecost in Moscow, giving sermons that stressed the importance of pan-Orthodox unity. The Pentecost Liturgy took place at the ancient Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery north of Moscow.

In his sermon and greeting to Bartholomew at the monastery, Kirill spoke of the close ties between the early Russian church and Byzantium, and thanked God for the opportunity to celebrate the service with Bartholomew.

At the Savior Cathedral in Moscow the following day, 24 May, they jointly celebrated the memory of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Greek-born brothers who, in the ninth century, created the Cyrillic alphabet and preached to Slavic peoples. Their feast day is now marked in Russia as a celebration of Slavic and Orthodox unity.

In stressing unity, Kirill and Bartholomew both alluded to the travails Russia endured in the 20th century, also noting the challenges posed by the secular world.

“In spite of the decades in which atheist ideology dominated, the majority of the people of the countries of the Russian world regard themselves as believers, as children of the Russian Orthodox Church,” said Kirill, referring to the faithful in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, countries of the former Soviet Union that are still predominantly Orthodox. “This is the triumph of Orthodoxy in our day. The heritage of Cyril and Methodius unites the Slavic peoples. It is also a bridge between the Slavic and Greek worlds. This celebration is especially complete from your presence among us, Your Holiness, primate of the Holy Church of Constantinople, the living bearer of the thousand-year-old Byzantine heritage. In communing with you, we perceive that we are all members of one, unbroken Church Tradition.”

After the service at the Savior Cathedral, Kirill and Bartholomew led a procession to St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square where they addressed young people. Referring to Russian believers and decades of atheism, Bartholomew said, “You not only preserved but strengthened your amazing culture, at the heart of which is the Christian faith. You fought, endured, and became worthy of the calling you received from Constantinople.”

Speaking at St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg on the last day of Bartholomew’s eight-day visit, Kirill reported that “with each meeting we are becoming closer to one another…. The holiness and fullness of Orthodoxy overcomes all division.”
Kirill had visited Bartholomew in Istanbul in July. There the two patriarchs spoke of the need to cast differences aside and present a united Orthodox front against secular evils.

The visit by Bartholomew to Moscow comes after a mission to the Vatican by Metropolitan Hilarion, chairperson of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations. [Sophia Kishkovsky/ENI]

Environmental Day message
from Patriarch Bartholomew

In a June letter written for World Environmental Day, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said that “the fundamental cause of the abuse and destruction of the world’s natural resources is greed and the constant tendency toward unrestrained wealth by citizens in so-called ‘developed’ nations.”

He stressed the words of St. Paul in his first letter to Timothy, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” “As St. Basil the Great instructs us,” the Patriarch added, “everything beyond this borders on forbidden ostentation.”
Bartholomew’s brief letter ended with a classic story “from which everyone can reasonably deduce how uneducated yet faithful and respectful people perceived the natural environment and how it should be retained pure and prosperous.

“In the Sayings of the Desert Fathers on the Sinai, it is said about a monk known as the righteous George, that eight hungry Saracens once approached him for food, but he had nothing whatsoever to offer them because he survived solely on raw, wild capers, whose bitterness could kill even a camel. However, upon seeing them dying of extreme hunger, he said to one of them: ‘Take your bow and cross this mountain; there, you will find a herd of wild goats. Shoot one of them, whichever one you desire, but do not try to shoot another.’ The Saracen departed and, as the old man advised, shot and slaughtered one of the animals. But when he tried to shoot another, his bow immediately snapped. So he returned with the meat and related the story to his friends.”

Russian Orthodox and new WCC
leader discuss controversial issues

It is outside the scope of the World Council of Churches to put forward a view on the issue of same-sex marriage and female clergy, the WCC general secretary told journalists in Moscow after meetings with Patriarch Kirill and other leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Speaking at a press conference on 30 June, the new WCC general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Russian Orthodox leader responsible for ecumenical dialogue, dealt with challenges facing the WCC and inter-Christian dialogue in general.

Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran, has made contacts with Orthodox churches a priority since he assumed his position in January.
Responding to a journalist’s question about same-sex marriage and female clergy, Tveit said that the WCC cannot express a position until there is a consensus within the organization. “The WCC has 350 churches,” he said, “and they hold different positions on such issues. We work on establishing consensus. That means that the Council doesn’t have an opinion on issues that have not reached the level of consensus.”

Tveit noted that the WCC works to foster conversations and open space for discussing issues about which member churches have different viewpoints. “I don’t foresee that the World Council of Churches will have one point of view on either of these issues in the near future,” he stated.

Tveit praised the Russian Orthodox Church for fostering interfaith dialogue in Russia and thanked the Moscow Patriarchate for organizing meetings for him with government officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Denisov and Konstantin Kosachev, chairperson of the Committee on International Affairs of the State Duma, Russia’s lower legislative chamber.
Regarding his meeting with Tveit two days earlier, 28 June, Patriarch Kirill spoke of the WCC’s potential in defending Christianity in the world and in dialogue with other civilizations. “We live in a world in which relations between different civilizations are becoming more and more significant,” said Kirill. “In these conditions it is important for all Christians to ensure the preservation of Christian civilization and to cooperate in building good relations with communities of other civilizations. The WCC can help in achieving these two goals by defending the Christian system of values and developing the dialogue of Christians with other religions and with non-religious world views.”

Violence against Copts
on the rise in Egypt

In late April, in the Egyptian coastal city of Marsa Matrouh, some 3,000 angry Muslims gathered after Friday prayers during which the mosque’s imam had exhorted them to cleanse the city of its “infidel” Christians. The enraged mob went on a rampage – 18 homes, 23 shops and 16 cars were destroyed. For ten hours, 400 Copts barricaded themselves in their church until the frenzy died out.

This was only the latest of more than a dozen such attacks during the past year, including in the village of Kafr El-Barbary on June 26 last year, the town of Farshout on November 21, and the village of Shousha on November 23. Then came Naga Hamadi, where passengers in a passing car fired at Christians leaving a Coptic Christmas service on January 6. Seven were killed and 26 were seriously wounded.

Although the Copts have long been the target of sporadic attacks, the violence of the last few years is more like a purge, as waves of mob assaults have forced hundreds, sometimes thousands of Christian citizens to flee their homes. In each incident the police, despite frantic appeals, invariably arrive after the violence is over. Later the injured are coerced by the special security police forces into accepting “reconciliation” with their attackers, in order to avoid the prosecution of the guilty. No Muslim to date has been convicted for any of these crimes.

Egypt’s Christian Copts, about 12 percent of the population, have long been subject to customary and official discrimination. No church, for example, can be built or even repaired without a presidential decree. Copts are excluded from the intelligence and security services because they are deemed a security risk.

This discrimination springs from a belief deeply grounded in the social psyche of the ruling elite and large sectors of the Muslim community that it is unreasonable in an Islamic society to expect strict equality between Muslims and the infidels.
“The dhimmi status of the Copts,” said Moheb Zaki, former managing director of the Ibn Khaldun Center, an organization that supports democracy and civil rights in Egypt and the Middle East, “will not be changed by persuasion. It will only change by persistent domestic struggle supported by vigorous international pressure. The Copts do not demand the tolerance of Muslims but equal rights with them.”

Moscow Patriarch appeals
for Orthodox unity in Ukraine

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, on an official visit to Ukraine, has appealed to Orthodox believers there who have broken with the Moscow Patriarchate to return to its jurisdiction.

“There are no barriers preventing the return to ecclesial communion,” declared a statement issued after a 26 July meeting in Kiev of the Russian Orthodox Church’s bishops’ synod, chaired by Kirill.

The Orthodox church in Ukraine divided after the fall of the Soviet Union. There are now several different Orthodox churches in Ukraine, including one that comes under the Moscow Patriarchate and another, the Kiev Patriarchate, that is not recognized by any of the world’s canonical Orthodox churches. The Moscow-linked church accounts for a significant part of the membership of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ukraine, once the center of a Slavic state, Kievan Rus, is seen as the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy because of the Baptism of Rus that occurred in Kiev in 988 following the conversion of Prince Vladimir.
At a 28 July service in Kiev commemorating the Baptism of Rus, Kirill spoke of the spiritual ties that bind Russia and Ukraine, separate countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“There were sinners, there were crimes, there were weaknesses in the lives of the people, but we carried through a thousand years, and continue to carry the great ideal of Holy Rus,” he said in his sermon at the Kiev Monastery of the Caves.
Responding to journalists’ questions, Kirill denied that the Moscow Patriarchate had plans to take away the autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Kiev Patriarchate is led by Filaret Denisenko, a former metropolitan in the Moscow Patriarchate during the Soviet era. He reacted angrily to the appeal for reunification, saying that there is no schism, only jurisdictional division. [Sophia Kishkovsky/ ENI]

Christian peace gathering
in the American heartland

The closing days of July found nearly two hundred Christians of every stripe gathered on the campus of a Mennonite seminary in the American heartland. Their coming together was both the latest event in a centuries-long witness to the nonviolent way of Christ, and a preliminary to an event slated for next May, an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica, to be the culmination of the Decade to Overcome Violence program of the World Council of Churches. The conference in Indiana, called Peace among the Peoples, was intended to take the pulse of the faith-based peacemaking community in North America in preparation for that 2011 gathering.

The Mennonites were best represented, but the other “historic peace churches” – Quakers and the Church of the Brethren – were also an active presence. Added to this core were delegates from the full spectrum of American Christianity, from Pentecostals to Presbyterians, Catholics to Unitarian-Universalists, and Baptists to Orthodox.

Speakers presented new ways of looking at old issues – topics such as conscientious objection in an era of terrorism and upholding family values within new definitions of “family.” They brought new passion to perennial concerns, such as Christian understandings of war or the impact of empire on faith. Conferees wrestled with the theological issues (atonement and costly grace), ecclesiological questions (parish priorities vs. nationalism and globalization), and practical matters (how to reach out to youth, ethnic minorities and those of other faith traditions).

Voices from the Eastern Church took the form of three talks by Orthodox Christians: “An Orthodox Approach to War” by Fr. Philip LeMasters of McMurray University,”The Eucharist and Peacemaking” by Alexander Patico of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and  “A Reflection on War,” a sermon by Fr. Bogdan Bucur, a Romanian now at Duquesne University.
Special initiatives that were carried forward during the conference included:

• Truth Commission on Conscience in War – giving respect to those who have chosen, on the basis of conscience, to withdraw from the current military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. [see: www.truthcommission.org]
• North American Ecumenical Peace Center – envisioned as “a visible expression of a common call by God to advance the non-violent way of Jesus Christ by providing resources, facilitating networking, furthering communication and being a catalyst for collaboration among existing and future communities dedicated to peace and witness.”
• Global Peace Network – a way to lace together the work being done around the world to promote peace among all of God’s children, using today’s technology in the service of a timeless and universal path of reconciliation.
• Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace – several drafts of this seven-page document have been done; it will be finalized as a part of next year’s meeting in Jamaica. To accompany it, the writing committee is compiling a 100-page supporting document, which goes into greater detail about specific actions that have been or might be taken, and theological grounding for peace-work. (A text on this theme was prepared at an Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Consultation held in Leros, Greece in September 2009. Fr. Philip LeMasters attended on behalf of OPF.)

– Alexander Patico

❖ In Communion / Summer 2010 / issue 57

News (Pascha 2010)

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Black priest in a white town

When he moved back home to Ash Grove, Missouri, in 1998, Father Moses Berry – an African-American Orthodox priest – wanted to settle down to small-town life with his wife and two children. He did not intend to become a one-man racial reconciliation committee. But some residents of this nearly all-white, rural town of 1,400 people say that he has done just that. He has not only founded a parish but also a black history museum. He has tried to remind people of a part of the region’s often-forgotten past, and to open up hearts and minds along the way.

“He brings peace to people. I’ve seen it,” said Gail Emrie, a local history buff who helped get the Berry family’s 135-year-old cemetery – one of the region’s few black cemeteries not on a plantation – listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “It is reconciliation, and it is his mission, reconciliation of our history between the races.” She is grateful for the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum that Father Moses opened in 2002. “Every little town down here could use this.”
“The cool thing about him is that anybody who has trepidation about the subject, he’s instantly disarming, so he gets people to open up a lot about it,” says neighbor Dakota Russell. “There’s an assumption when it’s a black person talking about racial issues that it’s going to come down to you versus us. But as it says on his museum’s web site, it’s a ‘shared heritage’.”
Father Moses, 59, has spent much of his life on a spiritual quest that began in San Francisco in the late 1960s. He was ordained in 1988 by an Orthodox church that he now regards as uncanonical. In 2000 he became a priest of the Orthodox Church in America.

He returned to the family home in 1998 after inheriting a 40-acre farm. At the time, he had no plan of starting an Orthodox church in a town, still less of opening a museum. “We thought my wife would teach while I studied to become an emergency medical technician.”

After he told a few friends that he wanted to have a prayer service in a shed at the cemetery, and a dozen people showed up, he decided to start the Theotokos “Unexpected Joy” Orthodox Church. It has grown into a congregation with about 50 members that holds services in a new cypress building on three acres of his farm.

The historical work also came unexpectedly, he said, when he started showing the memorabilia his family had collected over the years, and people responded positively.

He sees his church and his historical work as inextricably linked. “It’s all bound up in my faith,” he said. “That is, that we are all children of God and that we do have a shared heritage and not just a national heritage.”

The work has not been easy. When he first broached the idea of the museum, some relatives and friends said it might be a dangerous undertaking. Indeed, some locals were not happy, said Larry Cox, the town barber, who is white. “People would say, ‘Hey, that’s in the past. Why does he have to talk about it? We can’t do nothing about it’.”

Father Moses’ original idea was to put the museum inside the town’s former black school. He acquired the unused building and had it dismantled into sections, but as yet he hasn’t been able to raise the $15,000 needed to reconstruct it on his land. The pieces now sit in a field by his home with the museum housed in a storefront downtown.

Father Moses personally escorts visitors through the museum, showing his family’s photos on the walls and explaining the history behind each, including his account of how his great-grandmother Marie Boone, of mixed race, was born a slave.
There are quilts Marie Boone made to help those traveling north on the Underground Railroad and a slave neck iron that Father Moses’ great-grandfather kept after he was freed.

Father Moses always puts the eight-pound iron around his own neck first before inviting to visitors to try it on.
“I don’t want other people to run this museum because it’s too delicate, this issue of slavery,” he said. “I’ve tried having other people run this, but they get stuck on, ‘Oh, this is a horrible thing the white man did,’ which causes resentment. I want to explain it and bring them from suffering to freedom.” [Sean D. Hamill / NY Times]

Moscow fans exchange Paschal greeting at sports match

On Easter, fans exchanged Paschal greetings with each other at a Sunday evening soccer match at Moscow’s Lokomotiv Stadium.

At the beginning of the second half of the match thousands of fans of Dynamo team started chanting “Christ is Risen!” Thousands of fans of Lokomotiv team, on the opposite side of the stadium, responded by chanting “Truly He is Risen!” The exchange took place several times.

An Interfax correspondent who has attended soccer matches for almost 50 years said it was the first known occurrence of this kind in the history of Russian soccer.

Georgia: Convicts trade prison cells for monastic life

As part of a plan to reduce overcrowding in prison, well-behaved convicts in the Republic of Georgia are being offered the chance to finish their sentences in a monastery. One such prisoner, Tariel Maizeradze, now takes part in daily services, even assisting in the sanctuary. Tariel, 50, was sentenced in 2006 to seven years for offences he had committed while working as a policeman. After four years behind bars and barbed wire, he is now free to roam the monastic grounds – a pine forest on the outskirts of the city – as one of the first candidates in a government-led rehabilitation programme.

“I start every day in prayer,” he told a BBC reporter in March. “Then I feed the chickens and sheep. During the afternoon I usually sit together with the other monks and we discuss our faith.” He also takes part in Bible study, bee-keeping, gardening and playing with the monks’ pet bear.

Father Saba, the abbot, says he is ready to accept anyone prepared to ask for forgiveness, including murderers. “With God’s help, we are ready to welcome criminals who confess their sins and want to become better people.”
Although the scheme is being organized and funded by the Georgian government, the initiative came from the Georgian Orthodox Church. The government sees this project as a better way to rehabilitate some of Georgia’s 22,000 prisoners. Tato Kelbakiani of Georgia’s penitentiary department said that jails need reform.

Serbian Church Elects New Patriarch

The bells at Belgrade’s Cathedral Church rang out in January to announce the election of Bishop Irinej of Nis as new patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The 79-year-old bishop promised he would carry the “burden and all the problems of my awesome and difficult duty together with my fellow bishops.”
He succeeds Patriarch Pavle, who died in November at the age of 95. Pavle had headed the church for almost 20 years, a period that included the ethnic wars of the 1990s, which accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Irinej will have to face long-lasting issues such as relations with the Vatican and churches in Macedonia and Montenegro that are seeking independence. Irinej has said he will not oppose a visit to Serbia by Pope Benedict, a welcome not all bishops support.

Bartholomew responds to ‘ecumenical heresy’ charge

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople issued an encyclical in February in which he vigorously stressed the need for increased dialogue between churches, countering accusations that ecumenism is heresy.
“Orthodoxy must be in constant dialogue with the world,” said Bartholomew. “The Orthodox Church does not fear dialogue because truth is not afraid of dialogue.”

The Church does not protect itself from heresy, Bartholomew said, by refusing to talk to those outside the Church. “If Orthodoxy is enclosed within itself and not in dialogue with those outside, it will both fail in its mission and no longer be the ‘catholic’ and ‘ecumenical’ Church. Instead, it will become an introverted and self-contained group, a ‘ghetto” on the margins of history…

“Orthodoxy is called to continue this dialogue with the outside world in order to provide a witness and the life-giving breath of its faith. This dialogue cannot reach the outside world unless it first passes through all those that bear the Christian name. Thus, we must first converse as Christians among ourselves in order to resolve our differences, in order that our witness to the outside world may be credible.”
The aim of dialogue, he said, “is to discuss, in a spirit of love, whatever divides Christians both in terms of faith as well as in terms of the organization and life of the Church.

“These dialogues, together with every effort for peaceful and fraternal relations of the Orthodox Church with other Christians, are unfortunately challenged today in a fanatical way … by certain circles that exclusively claim for themselves the title of zealot and defender of Orthodoxy, as if all the Patriarchs and Sacred Synods of the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, who unanimously decided on and continue to support these dialogues, were not Orthodox. Yet, these opponents of every effort for the restoration of unity among Christians raise themselves above Episcopal Synods of the Church to the dangerous point of creating schisms within the Church…

“Orthodoxy has no need of either fanaticism or bigotry to protect itself. Whoever believes that Orthodoxy has the truth does not fear dialogue, because truth has never been endangered by dialogue.”

A-bombed statue of the Virgin Mary brought to New York

The remains of a statue of the Virgin Mary that survived the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki 65 years ago will be exhibited in New York in May during a 26-day international conference in New York which will work to curb arms proliferation.

Nagasaki was and remains the national center of the Catholic Church in Japan. Apart from the head, the wooden statue, which once stood in city’s Urakami Cathedral, was destroyed by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. The cathedral was reduced to rubble. Hiroshima was the first city to suffer a nuclear bombing. Nagasaki suffered a similar fate three days later.    The statue will first be seen during Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 2 May. The service will form part of a visit to New York by Nagasaki’s Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, himself an A-bomb survivor.
In February, Takami and the Catholic bishop of Hiroshima, Joseph Atsumi Misue, appealed to world leaders for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

Takami was born in Nagasaki in March 1946. His mother was pregnant with him when the city was bombed, causing the death of about 74,000.

The two bishops said that the sin of the atomic bombings in the two cities “should be borne not only by the United States” but “also the other countries, including Japan, which have kept on waging wars throughout their history.”

Russian and Polish churches initiate talks

In March, Poland’s Catholic Church launched its first dialogue with Russian Orthodox leaders in an effort to rebuild relations between the two countries. Archbishop Muszynski said that the Warsaw talks had been arranged at the “personal initiative” of Moscow Patriarch Kirill, and had focused on the “special duties of both churches towards their societies” as majority denominations in their countries.

“Both churches must recognize,” the archbishop said, “that the Polish and Russian nations are divided by very difficult, unresolved issues from the past, as well as by great misunderstandings… I am sure we will nevertheless be able to prepare a joint historic document together which will serve as a common testimony of our churches.” Both churches, he said, shared the experience of Communist-era sufferings and held similar positions on social and moral issues.

“Although these were introductory talks, key problems of mutual interest were discussed, and it was agreed to start work on a joint document about our churches’ contribution to the labor of reconciliation,” representatives of the two Churches said in a joint statement.

Themes for future dialogue had been agreed upon, which would be handled by a bilateral commission of both churches.
Poles have often criticized Russia’s silence regarding mass deportations and executions which followed the occupation of their country by the Soviet Army during the Second World War.

Christians, Muslims issue religious freedom plan

Christian and Muslim leaders from the United States, the Vatican and the Middle East issued a “plan of action” in March to address religious freedom and peace-building after a three-day summit at Washington National Cathedral. Areas of common ground include commitment to the sacredness of human life, overcoming terrorism and violence, and the right to religious convictions. A follow-up conference is planned for next year.

“The worship of God who demands serious moral purpose is at the very core of Christianity and Islam,” the statement reads. “Therefore, religious leaders must cooperatively work with each other and the political leaders in their respective countries in response to these crises.”

At a news conference, leaders of the summit said their three days of discussion included disagreements, but resulted in a statement on shared principals.

“I think this is a demonstration that religion is not something abstract,” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Tauran described “proselytism” as imposing, rather than proposing, tenets of a faith.

Ahmad El Tayeb, president of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, said that, while “we don’t have a magic stick to solve all these problems,” the dialogue helped build tolerance among the different faiths even as tensions remain.

The final statement urges religious advocacy “particularly in situations where formal diplomatic talks have stalled.” It also opposes moral relativism, the oppression of women and children, and attacks on sacred places.

“To dismiss or demean another faith tradition, to impose a system of belief on others, or to proselytize them to change their beliefs, is a violation of the sacred dignity of the human person.”

Orthodox Church in Russia increases work with prisoners

The Russian Orthodox Church has introduced a special clergy department to help improve the notoriously oppressive situation in the country’s prisons, Patriarch Kirill announced in March.

About 900,000 prisoners are currently held in the country’s prisons. The new department will work to create parishes in each penitentiary

“It often happens that in prison a man who once lost his footing turns into a recidivist, a person who can’t imagine living in society,” Kirill said.

“The Church must work for each prisoner’s conversion.”

The new department is headed by Bishop Krosnogorsky Irinarkh, previously in charge of the Perm and Solikamsk episcopates.

European campaign to keep Sunday free of work

More than 70 organizations , including churches, trades unions and civil society groups, met in the European Parliament in Brussels in March for the first European Conference on a work-free Sunday. The meeting concluded with an appeal to the heads of governments, due to meet the following day in the European Council, for a Sunday free of work for all European citizens.

Rev. Rüdiger Noll, director of the Church and Society Commission of the European churches, argued that work-free Sundays also benefitted secular society:

“The protection of a work-free Sunday is of paramount importance for workers’ health, for the reconciliation of work and family life, as well as for the life of civil society as a whole. This common weekly day of rest serves to strengthen social cohesion in our societies, a cohesion severely undermined by the current economic crisis. More than any other day of the week, a free Sunday offers the opportunity to be with family and friends. Common free time is an important precondition for a participatory society, which allows its members to engage in civil activities.”

Earlier in March, Martin Kastler, a European Parliament member for Germany’s co-governing Christian Social Union, launched the EU’s first international citizens’ referendum to restore Sunday as a day for rest and family life. “This is the right time to show that, as European citizens, we want to involve ourselves not only through elections but also in other ways,” said Kastler. “Europe should be the most child-friendly region in the world, so people from different political and social backgrounds should rally behind the protection of Sunday.”

In Germany, a public campaign has been launched which has as its theme, “Mum and Dad belong to us on Sunday.” This campaign, Kastler said, “should build up huge public pressure. In this way, no one will be able to ignore us. The work-free Sunday is part of our European culture. We need time for our families and relationships, for civil society and religion. A life full of working days is unlikely to be fulfilling.”

Calls for the preservation of work-free Sundays have increased in the 27 countries of the European Union, where many shops and businesses now routinely require staff to turn up on weekends without extra pay.
A Europe-wide campaign, “Mum and Dad belong to us on Sunday,” has been launched.

‘Banker to poor’ urges new financial structures

At a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, held in April, Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for championing microcredit loans to the poor, called for a the re-invention of global financial systems to reduce poverty and protect the underprivileged. A new system, he said, could allow those excluded from mainstream banking to access credit that would enable them to live in dignity.

“We want to make sure our fellow human beings can stand on their feet with pride and dignity no matter where they live,” Yunus said at the opening of the four-day Africa-Middle East Microcredit Summit. 1500 delegates from 75 countries, including representatives of Christian-based microcredit organizations, such as the Ecumenical Church Loan Fund, attended the meeting.

Yunus said that microfinance is providing lessons in how the lives of the poor could be changed. If lending to the poor was brought to the level of other financial products, he said, more people would escape poverty. “It is the time we made possible what has been thought of as impossible,” he said.

Yunus began his microcredit initiative 30 years ago with a $27 loan to a group of women in Chittagong. Since then, the movement has grown widely and delivered millions of small loans to poor people with no access to mainstream banking services.

African microfinance organizations, some church-based, said they hoped to learn from the success and growth of similar institutions in Asia, where more than 150-million people have benefitted from microfinance.

Anger Harms the Heart

The saying that chronic anger is like an acid that does more harm to the bottle that contains it than to that which it is poured upon turns out not only to be spiritually but also medically true.

Frequent anger might raise the risk of heart disease significantly, reports Dr. Laura Kubzansky, associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She led a study of the role of stress on cardiovascular disease.

Negative, irritable, raging and intimidating personality types worry heart researchers and doctors alike. “We’re talking about people who seem to experience high levels of anger very frequently,” says Kubzansky.

However, expressing anger in “reasonable” ways can be healthy. “Being able to tell people that you’re angry can be extremely functional,” she says. But people frequently in a state of rage or harboring suppressed rage are at greater risk of heart disease.

“You get high cortisol and high adrenaline levels and that is the cardiotoxic effect of anger expression,” says Jerry Kiffer, a heart-brain researcher at the Cleveland Clinic’s Psychological Testing Center. “It causes wear and tear on the heart and cardiovascular system.” Frequent anger may speed up the process of atherosclerosis, in which fatty plaques build up in arteries.

The heart pumps harder, blood vessels constrict, blood pressure surges, and there are higher levels of glucose in the blood and more fat globules in the blood vessels. All this can cause damage to artery walls. “A change of mind can lead to a change of heart,” Kiffer says.
An analysis of findings from 44 studies published last year in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology confirms a link between emotions and heart disease.

“We’re really good at treating heart attacks, but we’re not that good at preventing them,” says Holly Andersen, MD, cardiologist at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“Stress is not as easy to measure as your cholesterol level or your blood pressure, which are clearly objective. But it’s really important that physicians start taking care of the whole person – including their moods and their lives – because it matters.”

Spring Issue IC 56/ PASCHA  2010

News: Winter 2010

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Moscow Patriarchate opposes death penalty

In October, the Moscow Patriarchate called on Russia to abstain from executions. “Certainly, it’s better not to practice the death penalty,” Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin told reporters in Moscow. “If society is strong enough to secure itself from criminality and evil will, it can be merciful to criminals and not deprive them of life. Russia didn’t practice death penalty in its best periods and usually this restraint was directly connected with the Christian outlook.”

“Christian society always aims at maximum mercy,” he said, “to give time for repentance even to desperate sinners. This is reflected in the practice of Christian states.”

Fr. Chaplin expressed the view that “today the country has enough inner strength not to practice the death penalty.” [Interfax]

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Churches seek to improve Russia, Georgia relations

At a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Primates of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches, Kirill and Ilya, agreed to make every effort to improve relations between Russia and Georgia and to solve the Abkhazia and South Ossetia problems, it was announced November 6 by Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

“It was pointed out that the friendship, mutual understanding, and cordial and fraternal relations between the two Churches,” said Fr. Balashov, “are guarantees that relations between the two peoples and states will in time be fully restored.” At the meeting, he reported, Patriarch Kirill compared the Russian and Georgian Churches to “two locomotives that will lead the relations between the two states from the impasse that they have found themselves in.” He added that “the two patriarchs met as two old friends.” [Interfax]

Debate about Stalin era continues in Russia

The Orthodox Church in Russia has expressed opposition to the reinstatement of verses praising Josef Stalin in a Moscow metro station.

Many Muscovites were startled when the Kurskaya metro station was reopened after a year of painstaking restoration.

Spelled out in gilded letters in the rotunda of the restored station was a line from the Stalin-era national anthem as it was sung when the station opened in 1950: “Stalin reared us on loyalty to the people. He inspired us to labor and to heroism,” reads the verse, words later removed.

Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin, chairperson of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, said in October that public areas like metro stations “are not the place for images and quotations related to people who are guilty in the deaths of a large number of innocent people, who exterminated others without charge or trial.”

Both Patriarch Kirill and Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s external church relations section, drew attention for outspoken condemnations of the crimes of the Stalin era. [ENI/Sophia Kishkovsky]

Orthodox priest murdered in Moscow

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Fr. Daniel Sysoyev, a priest known for his efforts to rescue young people from cult groups and also for outreach to Muslims, was killed November 19 by a masked gunman at his church, St. Thomas, in Moscow. The 35-year-old priest, father of three, died shortly after being shot in the head and chest by an unidentified assailant. The church’s choir director was also wounded.

“At present the names of the criminals are not known,” said Patriarch Kirill. “I ask all to refrain from any hasty accusations or sharp judgments against particular persons or groups.” He called on clergy and laity “not to forget that we are called by God to preserve peace among ourselves.”

Part of the work of the parish Fr. Daniel led focuses on mental health disorders, drug addiction, alcoholism, computer game addiction, all of which Fr. Daniel saw as consequences of false teachings leading to personality degradation.

Fr. Sysoyev gave lectures critical of Islam, debated Muslim leaders, worked among people from other religions, and had conflicts with pagans and various cult-like groups. He also spoke out against nationalists who followed Stalin rather than Christ. He was a teacher of the Perervensk Seminary and author of several books.

His parish community works to explain the Orthodox faith and to assist on the rehabilitation of victims of false religions and totalitarian sects. Other parish programs include service to the elderly and isolated, at their apartments and in hospitals, care for orphans, and running a free dining hall for those in need. Once a week low-income families in the area are provided with free food packages. [Sophia Kishkovsky]

Bartholomew visits US

Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on November 3, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople described himself both as a man of tradition but also something of a revolutionary.

“By calling Christianity revolutionary and saying it is dedicated to change,” he said, “we are not siding with progressives, just as, by our efforts to conserve, we are not siding with conservatives. The only side that we take is that of our faith, which today may seem to land us in one political camp, tomorrow another, but in truth we are always only in one camp, that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

During the Patriarch’s two-and-a-half week US visit, he’s spoke from the banks of the Mississippi River, where he led a conference on problems affecting the world’s major bodies of water.

He later went to New York, where he received an honorary degree at Fordham University, visited a synagogue, and led a prayer service at the United Nations.

At many stops, Bartholomew stressed the importance of caring for the environment, saying those who “tyrannize the earth” are committing sins.

“It’s very significant to have so prominent an Orthodox figure not talking just to the Church but to the world,” said Fr. Alexander Rentel, assistant professor of canon law and Byzantine studies at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY.

Bartholomew: one foot

in the past, one in the future

Because unity is finally a gift of God, “it demands a profound sense of humility and not any prideful insistence.”

With this call to the “never-ending search” for unity of the church, which “is also an ever-unfolding journey,” Patriarch Bartholomew opened the October 7-14 meeting of the Faith and Order Plenary Commission, in Kolympari, Crete, Greece.

In an address to the 152 theologians attending the event, Bartholomew highlighted the importance of a double conversion, turning both “toward the past and the future.”

“It is crucial that we learn from the early Fathers and Mothers of the Church,” he said,

“and from those who, in each generation. maintained the integrity and intensity of the Apostolic faith. At the same time, we should turn our attention to the future, to the age to come, toward the heavenly kingdom. [Such an eschatological perspective] offers a way out of the impasse of provincialism and confessionalism … and permits us to discern [such] areas of common ministry and united mission as the preservation of creation and promotion of tolerance and understanding among religions and people in our world.”

The meeting was hosted at the Orthodox Academy of Crete. (Text of Bartholomew’s remarks: www.oikoumene.org/?id=7208 ).

Orthodox bishop explains dialogue with Catholics

In November an Orthodox archbishop defended Orthodox-Catholic dialogue despite opposition by some church members.

“All of us who participate in dialogue with the Catholic Church are giving testimony to Orthodoxy with frankness in this difficult task,” said Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamon, a co-president of the Catholic-Orthodox International Commission for Theological Dialogue. The 78-year-old Greek-born theologian represents the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

He comments followed a meeting on the role of the papacy at Paphos in Cyprus at the end of October. During the gathering, Cyprus police arrested demonstrators who tried to disrupt the meeting, saying the participants were trying to subjugate the Orthodox Church to Rome.

Metropolitan Ioannis described dialogue with the Catholic Church as arduous. “The final outcome of our efforts rests in the hands of God, who will find a means to ensure his will ‘that all may be one’ is done,” he said. “All commission members are carrying out their churches’ instructions in conscience, and we are ready to accept any criticism since we are not infallible- but nor are those who very evidently pass judgment on us.”

Papal primacy, he said, is an ecclesiological issue, along with questions of canonical structure and church administration. “There are still so many questions to tackle the path is a long one, and the ill-willed will have plenty to react to.” He criticized those who wished to block such discussions for “providing false, misleading information.”

The next meeting of the Orthodox-Catholic commission is to take place in Vienna from 20 to 27 September 2010. [ENI/Jonathan Luxmoore]

Appeal for toleration sent to

the Republic of Macedonia

On December 10, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship appealed to Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of the Republic of Macedonia to end the government’s efforts to suppress the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The letter, signed by OPF international secretary, Jim Forest, expressed “profound dismay at the recent conviction of His Beatitude Jovan, Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje, on the charge of embezzlement. Archbishop Jovan had been acquitted of these very same charges twice before but, apparently due to political factors, was brought before the court a third time. Only at this third trial was he found guilty. This conviction is but the latest in a long series of events, all with the clear intent of preventing the Serbian Orthodox Church from existing on Macedonian soil.

“For years, the Macedonian Orthodox Church has sought to secure its position as the only Orthodox Church in the land. Perhaps in part due to the heavy-handed methods being used to suppress a continuing presence of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Macedonia, it does not come as a surprise the Macedonian Orthodox Church’s autocephalous status has yet to be recognized by other Orthodox Churches.

“What is surprising is that the Macedonian government has allowed itself to be drawn into an ecclesiastical dispute between the Macedonian and Serbian Churches concerning matters of canon law and jurisdiction.

“In a country that has recently endured so much violence from within and diverse political manipulations from without, we find it incomprehensible that the government of Macedonia would not make every effort to distance itself from this volatile issue and maintain a neutral position.

“If there is to be a lasting solution, it will only come about through patient, genuine dialogue between the Serbian and Macedonian Churches. Politically imposed solutions are likely to prove non-viable and unsustainable.

Consequently, it behooves prescient, democratic-minded national leaders to recognize this reality, insist that international law and human rights standards be maintained, and ensure that all citizens enjoy equal protection under the law.

“Therefore, we ask that the Macedonian government not interfere with this ecclesiastical matter, directly or indirectly, that the conviction against Archbishop Jovan be annulled, and that he be allowed to discharge his duties as an Archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church without further hindrance from the government.”

Occupation a ‘sin against God’ say Palestinian Christian leaders

Palestinian Christian leaders issued a letter in Bethlehem on December 11 in which they called for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, which they described as “a sin against God and against humanity.” They appealed for support from the world’s churches.

“The injustice against the Palestinian people, which is the Israeli occupation, is an evil that must be resisted,” they said.

“Resistance is a right and a duty for the Christian, but it is resistance with love as its logic. It is thus a creative resistance, for it must find human ways that engage the humanity of the enemy.”

The initiators of the statement  “A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering”  referred to the text as the “Kairos Palestine” document.

Signatories include Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna of Sebastia of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the region, Latin Patriarch emeritus Michel Sabbah, and the Lutheran bishop of Jerusalem Munib Younan.

“Our aim is to free both [Israelis and Palestinians] from extremist positions … bringing both to justice and reconciliation,” the signers stated.

“In this spirit and with this dedication, we will eventually reach the longed-for resolution to our problems, as indeed happened in South Africa and with many other liberation movements in the world.”

The signers accused Israel of “disregard of international law and international resolutions.” Issues faced by Palestinians, they said, included the “separation wall” that cuts through Palestinian territories, Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and “daily humiliation” at military checkpoints.

Rejecting Israeli justifications that their actions were in self-defense, the signers said, if there were no occupation, “there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity.”

“The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity,” the signers stated, “because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God.

“It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier, just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation.”

They condemned all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and called on Christians worldwide to “say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”

Information about Kairos Palestine is on the web at www.kairospalestine.ps. [Judith Sudilovsky/ENI]

Hunger in US at 14-year high

The number of Americans living in households that lack consistent access to adequate food soared to 49 million, up 13 million from the previous year, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls “food insecurity” fourteen years ago. A report issued by the US Department of Agriculture estimated that more than half-a-million households face “very low food security”  skipped meals, cut portions, or otherwise forgoing food.

The increase was much larger than even the most pessimistic observers of hunger trends had expected and cast an alarming light on the daily hardships caused by the recession’s punishing effect on jobs and wages.

The other two-thirds typically had enough to eat, but only by eating cheaper or less varied foods, relying on government aid like food stamps, or visiting food pantries and soup kitchens.

The phrase “food insecurity” stems from years of political and academic dispute over how to describe inadequate access to food. In the 1980s, when officials of the Reagan administration denied there was hunger in the United States, the Food Research and Action Center, an advocacy group, began a survey that concluded otherwise. Over time, Congress had the Agriculture Department oversee a similar survey, which the Census Bureau administers.

Analysts said the main reason for the growth was the rise in the unemployment rate. “Many people are outright hungry, skipping meals,” said James Weill, director of a food center. “Others say they have enough to eat but only because they’re going to food pantries or using food stamps. We describe it as ‘households struggling with hunger’.” ❖

Winter Issue IC 55 2010
IN COMMUNION 55 / FEAST OF ST. BASIL THE GREAT / JANUARY 2010

News: Fall 2009

Sunday, January 10th, 2010


Patriarch Kirill visits Ukraine

A ten-day trip to Ukraine by Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church included visits to a monument to victims of the Stalin-era famine, a liturgy that drew thousands to the scenic but tense Crimean peninsula, and a pilgrimage to Pochaev, one of the most important monasteries in the Orthodox Church. The visit started July 27.

“It is not my goal to give political recipes, or offer political analyses,” Kirill said at the outset. “My task is, praying together with the people, to ponder with them our common spiritual present and future.”
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate accounts for more than a third of the Russian Orthodox Church, but calls are growing for its autocephaly. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko advocated uniting his country’s Orthodox churches under the Istanbul-based Patriarch of Constantinople. The Moscow Patriarchate speaks of Kiev as the southern capitol in the Russian Orthodox Church, part of “a unified spiritual expanse that is much deeper and more enduring than political space.”

While in Kiev, Kirill said that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church already functions as an independent church and that formal autocephaly at this time would be detrimental to church unity.

With President Yushchenko, Kirill visited a monument to those who died during World War II and to victims of mass hunger that occurred under Stalin in 1932-1933. “This was the common tragedy of our entire people, who lived in that time in one country,” Kirill said.

During a visit to Rivne in western Ukraine, Kirill was the object of protest from adherents of the breakaway Kiev Patriarchate, who carried signs with slogans such as “The Russian Orthodox Church is the agent of Moscow’s empire.”

Kirill’s first words to the crowd were “Christ is Risen!” He compared parishioners of the church that is faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate to catacomb Christians of the early centuries of Christianity. “Preserve the Orthodox faith, in spite of all divisions, preserve your unity, because in unity is spiritual strength.”

On August 2, Kirill presided at a liturgy in Kherson, near the port of Sevastopol in Crimea.”Today it is my fervent prayer that never and under no circumstances should brothers ever take aim at each other,” he said, “that never and under no circumstances should the hand of one be raised against another, because nothing divides brothers so much as spilled blood.”❖

Russian, Georgian patriarchs commemorate South Ossetia war

While their political counterparts lobbed charges of aggression in marking the first anniversary of the South Ossetia war, Orthodox Church leaders from Russia and Georgia called for peace.

Patriarch Kirill and Patriarch Ilia stressed the shared spiritual heritage of the warring sides, continuing the line taken last year by Ilia and the late Patriarch Aleksy, who together had sought reconciliation as the conflict raged.

At a panikhida at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior on August 8, Kirill said that the war was “a tragedy of three fraternal Orthodox peoples.”

“Recalling this event, today we will pray for the repose of the souls of all those who died  regardless of nationality. We pray for all Orthodox people, who lost their lives in this war,” said Kirill. “At the same time, we will entreat the Lord that never again and under no circumstances should Orthodox peoples raise their hands against one another and spill one another’s blood.”

Patriarch Ilia of Georgia spoke of the deep links between Russia and Georgia. He said that the churches would continue to encourage peaceful solutions. “We pay great honor and respect to Russia, its culture, and its spirituality,” he said. “We have common saints. Russia must know we never reconcile ourselves to violations of Georgian borders. About this, Georgians are unanimous. We shall seek a peaceful way out. Orthodox churches of Russia and Georgia always support peaceful solution of the problem.” ❖

Kirill and Bartholomew Meet

In July Patriarch Kirill of Russia, visiting Istanbul, held talks with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople aimed at overcoming post-Soviet-era tensions that have divided the two Orthodox churches.

“From time to time, clouds have temporarily overshadowed ties between the brethren churches,” Bartholomew said in greeting Kirill. “These clouds must be sent to their places in the pages of history.”

Responding, Kirill said the two churches should unite to bear witness in the modern world.

“In conditions when religion is being pushed to the sidelines of public life, when the very understanding of sin is being wiped away, traditional moral values are being radically reconsidered and the profit motive is placed at the foundation of economics, we must unite efforts to defend Gospel norms and develop a unified Orthodox response to the challenges of our time.”

The Moscow Patriarchate was angered in the 1990s when Constantinople recognized the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church as a separate entity. The status of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine has also become a thorn in relations between the patriarchates. ❖

Role of the churches in secular Europe

Meeting in Lyon in mid-July, a gathering of European churches opened with a call for Christians to be at the forefront of resisting all forms of violence and racism.

“As Christians, we dare to hope, even in an age when millions of people all over the planet are in despair, under pressure from the global economic crisis, and are overwhelmed by uncertainty,” said Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, in welcoming delegates to the Assembly of the Conference of European Churches.

“There is hope when we resist all forms of violence and racism, when we defend the dignity of every human person,” he said. “There is hope when we insist on the obligation for unselfish solidarity between people and peoples, when we fight for unfeigned respect for the creation.” Christians, he said, must be at the forefront of “defending the dignity of all human beings.”

Patriarch Daniel, leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church, warned against attempts to restore a “Christian medieval Europe” as a response to increasing religious plurality. “We will have to become more and more used to religious pluralism, with respect for the others, without falling into doctrinal or moral relativism.”

The migration of people, he said, had radically changed the religious map of Europe. “In this complex context, we cannot afford to be nostalgic by attempting to restore a Christian medieval Europe. This is a new reality which brings about new challenges, where the churches must find together new solutions for new problems. European integration regarded only from an economic, juridical, financial and strategic-defensive viewpoint is not sufficient. The spiritual factor and, most of all, the religious one, because religion is the most profound dimension of human spirituality, cannot be disregarded.”

Europe was experiencing, he said, a “profound spiritual crisis” marked by a tension “between tradition and modernity, a loss of traditional Christian values, and a painful instability of the family,” as well as atheism, sectarianism and religious fundamentalism.

The economic crisis, he said, reveals “a spiritual crisis of greed that could be converted into an opportunity. This would entail promoting a change of attitudes about “the relationship between spiritual and material, between the amassing of wealth and the solidarity with the poor. The Gospel shows that Jesus Christ had a preference for the poor, for those in suffering, for those who cannot rely entirely on themselves.” ❖

Archbishop Hilarion: Stalin a ‘monster’

During an interview in Moscow in August, Archbishop Hilarion, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, condemned Josef Stalin for committing the crime of genocide.

“Stalin was a spiritually-deformed monster, who created a horrific, inhuman system of ruling the country,” Hilarion told the news magazine Ekspert. “He unleashed a genocide against the people of his own country and bears personal responsibility for the death of millions of innocent people. In this respect Stalin is completely comparable to Hitler.”

Hilarion’s statement contrasts with a study guide for high school teachers, approved by Vladimir Putin when he was president, in which Stalin is portrayed as an effective manager, comparable to the Russian tsars or to Bismarck, who united Germany in the 19th century.

Archbishop Hilarion in his interview said that “the number of victims of Stalinist repressions is comparable to our losses in the Great Patriotic War.”

Yet, Hilarion also warned against idealizing pre-revolutionary Russia. “If everything had been right in the pre-revolutionary church, then there wouldn’t have been a mass retreat from it during the revolutionary and post-revolutionary period. Maybe the revolution itself wouldn’t have happened.”

The situation today, said Hilarion, requires a different approach to relations between Church and State. “Of course, there were many positive things as well in the pre-revolutionary status of the Church in the State,” he said, “but under no circumstances must there be an attempt to recreate the pre-revolutionary situation. We must create a new model of Church-State relations that would exclude those negative phenomena in church and public life that led to the revolution.”

Shortly before Victory Day celebrations in May to mark the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, Patriarch Kirill indicated an interpretation of events that might diverge with that of the Kremlin. The Soviet victory in the war was “a miracle,” Kirill said, and the suffering of the Soviet people during the war can be seen as atonement for its rejection of Christianity during the Bolshevik era after the Russian Revolution in 1917. ❖

Solovki: from Gulag to spiritual center


new martyrs of Solovki

The Solovetsky Islands off the coast of Russia’s northern Arkhangelsk region  settled by monks in the 15th century became a center for the Gulag system of prison camps in the 20th century. Now the monastic archipelago is becoming a spiritual center not only for Russia but for all of Europe, said Patriarch Kirill when he visited the Golgotha-Crucifixion Hermitage on Anzer Island, where sick prisoners were sent to die.

Kirill’s grandfather, Vasily Gundyayev, a priest, was a prisoner in the island camp, whose cruelty was immortalized in dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago. Kirill said it was a miracle that his grandfather had survived.

“We believe that these sufferings and torments have strengthened the power of the Church as it grows with a divine power rather than with a human one,” Kirill declared. “It would be good if here, on Solovki, a national center for the study of the feat of the Russian church in the 20th century, the feat of the martyrs and confessors, was created.”

When the Solovetsky Islands were seized by the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Russian Revolution, its monks became prisoners. They were joined by thousands of other clergy, believers, intellectuals, and aristocrats whom the new regime wanted to eradicate.

“The Lord himself chose this deserted place, so that his death and resurrection were specially commemorated here,” said Kirill. “The Lord himself chose this place for people to take incomparable sufferings and torments.”

While on the islands, Kirill called for the State to turn over all the property of the monastery to the Russian Orthodox Church to allow it to complete the restoration of the complex and open an Orthodox educational institution there. Solovki, as the islands and monastery are known, has in recent years witnessed disputes between the church, museum workers, and non-governmental organizations on how such monuments should be run. The monastery and grounds are shared by the church and a State-run museum.

Many pilgrims and tourists have been coming to Solovki, famous both for its many martyrs and its scenery and marine life. ❖

Bartholomew: Global Crisis an opportunity

The global crisis offers an opportunity to deal in new ways with our problems, said Patriarch Bartholomeos in a message to mark a day of prayer for God’s creation, September 1.

“Human progress is not just the accumulation of wealth and the thoughtless consumption of the earth’s resources,” he said.

“We have rendered the market the center of our interest, our activities and, finally, of our life, forgetting that this choice of ours will affect the lives of future generations

“The present crisis offers an opportunity for us to deal with the problems in a different way, because the methods that created these problems cannot provide their best solution.

“If we believe that we are no more than consumers, then we shall seek fulfilment in consuming the whole earth; but if we believe we are made in the image of God, we shall act with care and compassion, striving to become what we are created to be.” ❖

Ministry of urban parishes explored

The ministry of parishes in urban U.S. settings was the topic of a meeting hosted by the Diocese of the Midwest at Saint Theodosius Cathedral in Cleveland and Archangel Michael Church in Broadview Heights, Ohio, the weekend of July 16-17.

The program included presentations from Orthodox and non-Orthodox contributors, roundtable sessions, case studies, relevant workshops, and fellowship.

Fr. Justin Mathews of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) gave examples of urban Orthodox parishes serving the homeless and hungry. Charles Robbins, outreach coordinator at Saint Gregory of Nyssa Church, Columbus, Ohio, offered personal insights into the outreach ministry of his parish. Through a combination of speakers and workshops, participants were encouraged get “unstuck” and think creatively about new initiatives in urban parish life.

In many cases, this could involve partnering with existing institutions, other Orthodox parishes, and non-Orthodox faith communities. ❖

Calley apologizes for My Lai Massacre

Speaking in a soft, sometimes labored voice, the only U.S. Army officer convicted in the 1968 slaying of the occupants of My Lai in Vietnam made a public apology while speaking to a small group near the military base where he was court-martialed.

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” said William Calley in August. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”

Calley, now 66, was a young Army lieutenant when a court-martial at nearby Fort Benning convicted him of murder in 1971. More than 500 men, women and children were killed in the massacre.

Though sentenced to life in prison, Calley ended up serving three years under house arrest after President Richard Nixon reduced his sentence.

Calley never denied taking part in the slaying, but insisted he was following orders.

“If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a second lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them foolishly, I guess,” he said. ❖

Palestinians study nonviolence

In the West Bank city of Hebron, nearly 30 percent are unemployed. Confronted with 78 checkpoints monitored by Israeli soldiers, for Palestinians even the shortest of trips is frustrating and time consuming.

Four Israeli settlements within Hebron’s city limits, and another five just outside of the city, are home to some of the most aggressive and dangerous settlers in the West Bank.

In the midst of the violence and desperation, a dozen young Palestinian men and women have been meeting together to discuss the words and deeds of such advocates of nonviolence as Dr. Martin Luther King.

“They have come because of their refusal to accept defeat and because of their conviction that there is a way forward that does not involve violence, but chooses to draw its strength from love,” according to The America-Palestine Report.

“They are participants in the Nonviolence Youth Hebron training program, and they are joining their voices with thousands throughout the Palestinian territories who are convinced of the potential to create change through nonviolent resistance to injustice.”

Nonviolent Youth is a project of Love Thy Neighbor, a group based in Bethesda, Maryland, which for the past two years has sponsored nonviolence summer camps for children and nonviolence training seminars for young adults.

Through music, literature, art and role play, participants are given the opportunity to build and practice their nonviolence and conflict resolution skills.

Organizers draw on “the long history of nonviolent resistance that is woven throughout Palestinian society and culture,” according to LTN’s director, Tarek Abuata. ❖

Rabbis start fast for Gaza

A group of rabbis has organized a monthly communal fast to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Called Ta’anit Tzedek (Jewish Fast for Gaza: http://fastforgaza.net), the water-only fast takes place on the third Thursday of every month from sunrise to sunset. The first fast took place on July 16. Participants also are being asked to sign a statement at the group’s Web site and donate the money they save on food to the Milk for Preschoolers Campaign sponsored by American Near Eastern Refugee Aid, a campaign fighting malnutrition among Gazan children.

The 13 rabbis who initiated the fast said that the project is based in Jewish tradition, in which “a communal fast is held in times of crisis both as an expression of mourning and as a call to repentance.”

The fast has four goals: calling for a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has been in place since Hamas’ electoral victory in early 2006; providing humanitarian and development aid to the people of Gaza; calling on Israel, the U.S. and other nations to negotiate with Hamas to end the blockade; and urging the U.S. government to “vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

❖ ❖ ❖ ❖

Whenever people say, “We mustn’t be sentimental,” you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, “We must be realistic,” they mean they are going to make money out of it.
� Brigid Broph

❖ ❖ ❖ ❖

Fall 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 54



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News: Fall 2009

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Patriarch Kirill visits Ukraine

A ten-day trip to Ukraine by Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church included visits to a monument to victims of the Stalin-era famine, a liturgy that drew thousands to the scenic but tense Crimean peninsula, and a pilgrimage to Pochaev, one of the most important monasteries in the Orthodox Church. The visit started July 27.

“It is not my goal to give political recipes, or offer political analyses,” Kirill said at the outset. “My task is, praying together with the people, to ponder with them our common spiritual present and future.”

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate accounts for more than a third of the Russian Orthodox Church, but calls are growing for its autocephaly. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko advocated uniting his country’s Orthodox churches under the Istanbul-based Patriarch of Constantinople. The Moscow Patriarchate speaks of Kiev as the southern capitol in the Russian Orthodox Church, part of “a unified spiritual expanse that is much deeper and more enduring than political space.”

While in Kiev, Kirill said that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church already functions as an independent church and that formal autocephaly at this time would be detrimental to church unity.

With President Yushchenko, Kirill visited a monument to those who died during World War II and to victims of mass hunger that occurred under Stalin in 1932-1933. “This was the common tragedy of our entire people, who lived in that time in one country,” Kirill said.

During a visit to Rivne in western Ukraine, Kirill was the object of protest from adherents of the breakaway Kiev Patriarchate, who carried signs with slogans such as “The Russian Orthodox Church is the agent of Moscow’s empire.”

Kirill’s first words to the crowd were “Christ is Risen!” He compared parishioners of the church that is faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate to catacomb Christians of the early centuries of Christianity. “Preserve the Orthodox faith, in spite of all divisions, preserve your unity, because in unity is spiritual strength.”

On August 2, Kirill presided at a liturgy in Kherson, near the port of Sevastopol in Crimea.”Today it is my fervent prayer that never and under no circumstances should brothers ever take aim at each other,” he said, “that never and under no circumstances should the hand of one be raised against another, because nothing divides brothers so much as spilled blood.”❖

Russian, Georgian patriarchs commemorate South Ossetia war

While their political counterparts lobbed charges of aggression in marking the first anniversary of the South Ossetia war, Orthodox Church leaders from Russia and Georgia called for peace.

Patriarch Kirill and Patriarch Ilia stressed the shared spiritual heritage of the warring sides, continuing the line taken last year by Ilia and the late Patriarch Aleksy, who together had sought reconciliation as the conflict raged.

At a panikhida at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior on August 8, Kirill said that the war was “a tragedy of three fraternal Orthodox peoples.”

“Recalling this event, today we will pray for the repose of the souls of all those who died regardless of nationality. We pray for all Orthodox people, who lost their lives in this war,” said Kirill. “At the same time, we will entreat the Lord that never again and under no circumstances should Orthodox peoples raise their hands against one another and spill one another’s blood.”

Patriarch Ilia of Georgia spoke of the deep links between Russia and Georgia. He said that the churches would continue to encourage peaceful solutions. “We pay great honor and respect to Russia, its culture, and its spirituality,” he said. “We have common saints. Russia must know we never reconcile ourselves to violations of Georgian borders. About this, Georgians are unanimous. We shall seek a peaceful way out. Orthodox churches of Russia and Georgia always support peaceful solution of the problem.” ❖

Kirill and Bartholomew Meet

In July Patriarch Kirill of Russia, visiting Istanbul, held talks with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople aimed at overcoming post-Soviet-era tensions that have divided the two Orthodox churches.

“From time to time, clouds have temporarily overshadowed ties between the brethren churches,” Bartholomew said in greeting Kirill. “These clouds must be sent to their places in the pages of history.”

Responding, Kirill said the two churches should unite to bear witness in the modern world.

“In conditions when religion is being pushed to the sidelines of public life, when the very understanding of sin is being wiped away, traditional moral values are being radically reconsidered and the profit motive is placed at the foundation of economics, we must unite efforts to defend Gospel norms and develop a unified Orthodox response to the challenges of our time.”

The Moscow Patriarchate was angered in the 1990s when Constantinople recognized the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church as a separate entity. The status of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine has also become a thorn in relations between the patriarchates. ❖

Role of the churches in secular Europe

Meeting in Lyon in mid-July, a gathering of European churches opened with a call for Christians to be at the forefront of resisting all forms of violence and racism.

“As Christians, we dare to hope, even in an age when millions of people all over the planet are in despair, under pressure from the global economic crisis, and are overwhelmed by uncertainty,” said Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, in welcoming delegates to the Assembly of the Conference of European Churches.

“There is hope when we resist all forms of violence and racism, when we defend the dignity of every human person,” he said. “There is hope when we insist on the obligation for unselfish solidarity between people and peoples, when we fight for unfeigned respect for the creation.” Christians, he said, must be at the forefront of “defending the dignity of all human beings.”

Patriarch Daniel, leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church, warned against attempts to restore a “Christian medieval Europe” as a response to increasing religious plurality. “We will have to become more and more used to religious pluralism, with respect for the others, without falling into doctrinal or moral relativism.”

The migration of people, he said, had radically changed the religious map of Europe. “In this complex context, we cannot afford to be nostalgic by attempting to restore a Christian medieval Europe. This is a new reality which brings about new challenges, where the churches must find together new solutions for new problems. European integration regarded only from an economic, juridical, financial and strategic-defensive viewpoint is not sufficient. The spiritual factor and, most of all, the religious one, because religion is the most profound dimension of human spirituality, cannot be disregarded.”

Europe was experiencing, he said, a “profound spiritual crisis” marked by a tension “between tradition and modernity, a loss of traditional Christian values, and a painful instability of the family,” as well as atheism, sectarianism and religious fundamentalism.

The economic crisis, he said, reveals “a spiritual crisis of greed that could be converted into an opportunity. This would entail promoting a change of attitudes about “the relationship between spiritual and material, between the amassing of wealth and the solidarity with the poor. The Gospel shows that Jesus Christ had a preference for the poor, for those in suffering, for those who cannot rely entirely on themselves.” ❖

Archbishop Hilarion: Stalin a ‘monster’

During an interview in Moscow in August, Archbishop Hilarion, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, condemned Josef Stalin for committing the crime of genocide.

“Stalin was a spiritually-deformed monster, who created a horrific, inhuman system of ruling the country,” Hilarion told the news magazine Ekspert. “He unleashed a genocide against the people of his own country and bears personal responsibility for the death of millions of innocent people. In this respect Stalin is completely comparable to Hitler.”

Hilarion’s statement contrasts with a study guide for high school teachers, approved by Vladimir Putin when he was president, in which Stalin is portrayed as an effective manager, comparable to the Russian tsars or to Bismarck, who united Germany in the 19th century.

Archbishop Hilarion in his interview said that “the number of victims of Stalinist repressions is comparable to our losses in the Great Patriotic War.”

Yet, Hilarion also warned against idealizing pre-revolutionary Russia. “If everything had been right in the pre-revolutionary church, then there wouldn’t have been a mass retreat from it during the revolutionary and post-revolutionary period. Maybe the revolution itself wouldn’t have happened.”

The situation today, said Hilarion, requires a different approach to relations between Church and State. “Of course, there were many positive things as well in the pre-revolutionary status of the Church in the State,” he said, “but under no circumstances must there be an attempt to recreate the pre-revolutionary situation. We must create a new model of Church-State relations that would exclude those negative phenomena in church and public life that led to the revolution.”

Shortly before Victory Day celebrations in May to mark the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, Patriarch Kirill indicated an interpretation of events that might diverge with that of the Kremlin. The Soviet victory in the war was “a miracle,” Kirill said, and the suffering of the Soviet people during the war can be seen as atonement for its rejection of Christianity during the Bolshevik era after the Russian Revolution in 1917. ❖

Solovki: from Gulag to spiritual center

new martyrs of Solovki

The Solovetsky Islands off the coast of Russia’s northern Arkhangelsk region settled by monks in the 15th century became a center for the Gulag system of prison camps in the 20th century. Now the monastic archipelago is becoming a spiritual center not only for Russia but for all of Europe, said Patriarch Kirill when he visited the Golgotha-Crucifixion Hermitage on Anzer Island, where sick prisoners were sent to die.

Kirill’s grandfather, Vasily Gundyayev, a priest, was a prisoner in the island camp, whose cruelty was immortalized in dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago. Kirill said it was a miracle that his grandfather had survived.

“We believe that these sufferings and torments have strengthened the power of the Church as it grows with a divine power rather than with a human one,” Kirill declared. “It would be good if here, on Solovki, a national center for the study of the feat of the Russian church in the 20th century, the feat of the martyrs and confessors, was created.”

When the Solovetsky Islands were seized by the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Russian Revolution, its monks became prisoners. They were joined by thousands of other clergy, believers, intellectuals, and aristocrats whom the new regime wanted to eradicate.

“The Lord himself chose this deserted place, so that his death and resurrection were specially commemorated here,” said Kirill. “The Lord himself chose this place for people to take incomparable sufferings and torments.”

While on the islands, Kirill called for the State to turn over all the property of the monastery to the Russian Orthodox Church to allow it to complete the restoration of the complex and open an Orthodox educational institution there. Solovki, as the islands and monastery are known, has in recent years witnessed disputes between the church, museum workers, and non-governmental organizations on how such monuments should be run. The monastery and grounds are shared by the church and a State-run museum.

Many pilgrims and tourists have been coming to Solovki, famous both for its many martyrs and its scenery and marine life. ❖

Bartholomew: Global Crisis an opportunity

The global crisis offers an opportunity to deal in new ways with our problems, said Patriarch Bartholomeos in a message to mark a day of prayer for God’s creation, September 1.

“Human progress is not just the accumulation of wealth and the thoughtless consumption of the earth’s resources,” he said.

“We have rendered the market the center of our interest, our activities and, finally, of our life, forgetting that this choice of ours will affect the lives of future generations

“The present crisis offers an opportunity for us to deal with the problems in a different way, because the methods that created these problems cannot provide their best solution.

“If we believe that we are no more than consumers, then we shall seek fulfilment in consuming the whole earth; but if we believe we are made in the image of God, we shall act with care and compassion, striving to become what we are created to be.” ❖

Ministry of urban parishes explored

The ministry of parishes in urban U.S. settings was the topic of a meeting hosted by the Diocese of the Midwest at Saint Theodosius Cathedral in Cleveland and Archangel Michael Church in Broadview Heights, Ohio, the weekend of July 16-17.

The program included presentations from Orthodox and non-Orthodox contributors, roundtable sessions, case studies, relevant workshops, and fellowship.

Fr. Justin Mathews of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) gave examples of urban Orthodox parishes serving the homeless and hungry. Charles Robbins, outreach coordinator at Saint Gregory of Nyssa Church, Columbus, Ohio, offered personal insights into the outreach ministry of his parish. Through a combination of speakers and workshops, participants were encouraged get “unstuck” and think creatively about new initiatives in urban parish life.

In many cases, this could involve partnering with existing institutions, other Orthodox parishes, and non-Orthodox faith communities. ❖

Calley apologizes for My Lai Massacre

Speaking in a soft, sometimes labored voice, the only U.S. Army officer convicted in the 1968 slaying of the occupants of My Lai in Vietnam made a public apology while speaking to a small group near the military base where he was court-martialed.

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” said William Calley in August. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”

Calley, now 66, was a young Army lieutenant when a court-martial at nearby Fort Benning convicted him of murder in 1971. More than 500 men, women and children were killed in the massacre.

Though sentenced to life in prison, Calley ended up serving three years under house arrest after President Richard Nixon reduced his sentence.

Calley never denied taking part in the slaying, but insisted he was following orders.

“If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a second lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them foolishly, I guess,” he said. ❖

Palestinians study nonviolence

In the West Bank city of Hebron, nearly 30 percent are unemployed. Confronted with 78 checkpoints monitored by Israeli soldiers, for Palestinians even the shortest of trips is frustrating and time consuming.

Four Israeli settlements within Hebron’s city limits, and another five just outside of the city, are home to some of the most aggressive and dangerous settlers in the West Bank.

In the midst of the violence and desperation, a dozen young Palestinian men and women have been meeting together to discuss the words and deeds of such advocates of nonviolence as Dr. Martin Luther King.

“They have come because of their refusal to accept defeat and because of their conviction that there is a way forward that does not involve violence, but chooses to draw its strength from love,” according to The America-Palestine Report.

“They are participants in the Nonviolence Youth Hebron training program, and they are joining their voices with thousands throughout the Palestinian territories who are convinced of the potential to create change through nonviolent resistance to injustice.”

Nonviolent Youth is a project of Love Thy Neighbor, a group based in Bethesda, Maryland, which for the past two years has sponsored nonviolence summer camps for children and nonviolence training seminars for young adults.

Through music, literature, art and role play, participants are given the opportunity to build and practice their nonviolence and conflict resolution skills.

Organizers draw on “the long history of nonviolent resistance that is woven throughout Palestinian society and culture,” according to LTN’s director, Tarek Abuata. ❖

Rabbis start fast for Gaza

A group of rabbis has organized a monthly communal fast to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Called Ta’anit Tzedek (Jewish Fast for Gaza: http://fastforgaza.net), the water-only fast takes place on the third Thursday of every month from sunrise to sunset. The first fast took place on July 16. Participants also are being asked to sign a statement at the group’s Web site and donate the money they save on food to the Milk for Preschoolers Campaign sponsored by American Near Eastern Refugee Aid, a campaign fighting malnutrition among Gazan children.

The 13 rabbis who initiated the fast said that the project is based in Jewish tradition, in which “a communal fast is held in times of crisis both as an expression of mourning and as a call to repentance.”

The fast has four goals: calling for a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has been in place since Hamas’ electoral victory in early 2006; providing humanitarian and development aid to the people of Gaza; calling on Israel, the U.S. and other nations to negotiate with Hamas to end the blockade; and urging the U.S. government to “vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

❖ ❖ ❖ ❖

Whenever people say, “We mustn’t be sentimental,” you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, “We must be realistic,” they mean they are going to make money out of it.

Brigid Broph

❖ ❖ ❖ ❖

Fall 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 54

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News: Winter 2009

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Patriarch Kirill pledges to keep church unified

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who was enthroned in Moscow as Kirill I, the 16th patriarch in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, has stressed it is his task to ensure unity within the church and to preserve the faith, but he is also seen as being a more “political leader” than his predecessor by some analysts.

Hundreds of bishops attended the lengthy service on 1 February. A Vatican delegation was led by Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Four of Russia’s most famous choirs performed in the Christ the Savior Cathedral, chanting in Greek, “Axios! Axios! Axios!” (“He is Worthy!”), during the installation of the first Russian Orthodox patriarch to be elected since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In his first sermon as patriarch, Kirill stressed the importance of church unity.

“The Patriarch is the custodian of the internal unity of the Church and, together with his brothers in the episcopate, guardian of the purity of the faith,” he said.

He then addressed the issues of the collapse of the Russian Empire and later of the Soviet Union. This continues to affect the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill said, since its territory extends beyond the borders of the present-day Russian Federation.

“The Patriarch is the defender of the canonical borders of the church,” he said. “This ministry takes on special significance with the situation that arose after the formation of independent states on the territory of ‘historical Rus’.”

“In an era of moral relativism,” Kirill declared, “when the propaganda of violence and debauchery steals the souls of young people, we cannot wait quietly for youth to turn to Christ. … We must be of service to young people, however hard it might be for us of middle and older generations, and help them find faith in God and meaning in life, and together with this an understanding of true human happiness.”

Kirill was elected in the cathedral on 27 January by a Russian Orthodox Church council of bishops, clergy, monks and lay people. [Sophia Kishkovsky/ENI]

Patriarch Aleksy: 1929-2009

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksy II, 79 years old, died December 5 at his residence in Peredelkino outside Moscow. He had often been ill in recent years and had undergone several operations. The most recent, last September, was a heart operation.

Despite illness, he continued serving at the altar and taking an active part in church life. The day before his death, celebrating the start of the Christmas fast, he presided at a Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin.

The first patriarch of post-Soviet Russia, he led the revival of the Church and played a major role in restoring unity with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

The son of a priest, Aleksy Ridiger was born in Tallinn, Estonia, 23 February 1929. He entered the Leningrad Theological Seminary in 1947, graduating two years later. He was ordained priest in Leningrad in April 1950 and appointed to a parish in Estonia. While there he continued his external studies at the Leningrad Theological Academy, graduating in 1953.

He was tonsured as a monk in March 1961 and several months later was appointed Bishop of Tallinn. That same year the Russian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches and Aleksy became a member of the WCC’s Central Committee.

For many years he was active in the Conference of European Churches, of which he became president in 1972 and chairman in 1987.

During the 1980s, in the final years of the USSR, he did much to repair church relations with the Soviet state. While the Soviet Union was falling apart, Aleksy dedicated himself to keeping the church together.

In 1986 Aleksy was appointed Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod. His time in Leningrad coincided with Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, which greatly relaxed anti-religious restrictions. (Reacting to Aleksy’s death, the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he was “so shocked that it is hard for me to find words on the spot. I respected him deeply.”)

Elected patriarch in 1990, he traveled widely, visiting more than 100 dioceses and encouraged congregations to come back to the fold.

A noted academic, he had hundreds of articles published in both the religious and secular press worldwide. He placed great emphasis on the education of the clergy, overseeing the building of new theological schools and colleges.

At the end of 2006, there were more than 27,000 active parishes throughout the old territory of the Soviet Union, 20,000 more than when he had been elected.

‘My heart aches,’ says director of bombed Gaza clinic

Constantine Dabbagh had prepared himself for the worst when he visited the ruins of the Gaza clinic for mothers and children, run by his organization, that was destroyed by an Israeli jet.

Nonetheless, he said he was shocked by the scale of devastation. “There was a heap of rubble, and some papers from files blowing about in the wind, and that was all. Nothing survived,” said Dabbagh, the executive director in Gaza of the Middle East Council of Churches Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees.

“We thought there might have been something we could keep as a memento of 40 years serving the community, but everything had been obliterated. Only after digging did we find a couple of smashed machines,” the 70-year-old director said. “I cannot express how I felt. I didn’t cry, but my heart was aching. For humans to have caused this made it especially shocking.”

It wasn’t until several weeks after the attack that Dabbagh was able to carry out the inspection.

A Palestinian Christian, Dabbagh was spending Christmas in Bethlehem when the Israeli incursion into Gaza started at the end of 2008, and it wasn’t until the cease-fire in mid-January that he was able to return home.

The clinic, in the densely populated Shujaiya district of Gaza City, was destroyed after people living in the flat above received a telephone warning from the Israelis to vacate the premises. A missile strike followed 15 minutes later.

Dabbagh said the reason the building was targeted remains a mystery. He was adamant that it had not been used for military purposes by Hamas.

The clinic was closed at the time because of the security situation, but the bombing destroyed medicines and equipment worth thousands of dollars. The facility is supported by Action by Churches Together International, a global alliance of churches and related agencies.

One of only three clinics serving a population of 80,000, it offered pre- and post-natal care and the services of gynaecologists and general doctors. It had also recently launched an ambitious program to visit 15,000 homes to check every child between six months and three years old for malnutrition.

“Much has to be replaced,” said Dabbagh. “We had a laboratory fully equipped for blood tests and ultrasound, and we had only just put in computers with a management information system There was a six-week stock of medicine and water purification equipment, as well as milk and nutritious biscuits for the malnutrition program.”

After visiting the ruins, Dabbagh said a clinic operating out of borrowed premises would be running within days. “The community is very anxious that we continue, so we will be replacing what we can and starting from scratch,” he said. “The silence of Western governments in the face of incidents like this is the silence of the grave,” Dabbagh asserted.

“After nearly 41 years of occupation we have to say enough is enough. We are humiliated and oppressed, enslaved and imprisoned. You reach madness if you do not believe in God. It affects the young people particularly. They will not forgive anybody for what is going on. It is a tragedy.”

Convert elected head of the Orthodox Church of America

Over the course of 11 days in November, a soft-spoken monk known as Jonah saw his life change in ways he hadn’t dreamed of. For years he had been abbot of a monastery in California. Then, just days after being consecrated bishop of Forth Worth, Texas, he was elected metropolitan of the 100,000-member Orthodox Church in America.

Born James Paffhausen, the 49-year-old Chicago native was baptized in the Episcopal Church. He converted to Orthodoxy as a college student, was ordained a priest and then became a monk, and founded a monastery  St. John of San Francisco and Shanghai located in Manton, California.

His election as head of the church’s synod of bishops was greeted with joy by members of the OCA, which is still reeling from a September report detailing the disappearance of millions of dollars in church funds under two of Jonah’s predecessors.

Jonah was formally installed as metropolitan on December 28 at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, DC. Among the formidable tasks confronting him are the restoration of trust in the church’s hierarchy and administration as well as fostering unity among the different Orthodox churches in the US and raising Orthodoxy’s profile in a country where Orthodox Christianity, in many places, is a trace element.

Asked what drew him, as a student, to the Orthodox Church, he replied: “I encountered Orthodoxy in a hippie bookstore, picking up a book called the Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church by Vladimir Lossky. It was one of the few books on Orthodoxy available in English at the time. When I read it, I knew it was the truth. I saw that Orthodoxy is the fully integrated experience and vision of what Christianity is all about.”

He was also asked if, as metropolitan, he will encourage the Church to take a more public role on political matters.

He responded: “There’s a difference between political issues and moral issues. When there are things which destroy people’s souls, it’s our fundamental responsibility to stand up and say, this is wrong, and this is wrong because it will hurt you. It’s not wrong because it says so in some book somewhere, in the canons or even in the Holy Scriptures. That’s part of the basis of judgment, but it comes down to, it’s wrong because it hurts you.”

Olivier Clément, 1921-2009

Olivier Clément, the renowned theologian and long-time professor at St. Sergius Institute in Paris, died at his home in Paris on January 15. He was 87 years old.

His conversion to Christianity at age 30 was in part influenced by the writings of Nicolas Berdyaev and Vladimir Lossky.

He was a member of the joint Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue. He also inspired the work of the Orthodox Brotherhood in Western Europe since its founding in the early 1960s and participated actively in various conferences Orthodox Christians in Western Europe since 1971.

He was the author of 30 books. English translations include the following: The Roots of Christian Mysticism (New City Press); Three Prayers (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press); You Are Peter (New City); On Human Being: Spiritual Anthropology (New City Press); and The Spirit of Solzhenitsyn.

A sentence from his writings: “The spiritual person is drunk with the wine of love and that wine is the Spirit, the wine of power and life.”

US Protestants more loyal to toothpaste than church

Protestants in the United States have less “brand loyalty” to their denominations than they have to their toothpaste, a survey made public in January revealed.

The survey, which categorized churches as “brands,” found there is a trend of “church shopping” in a diverse marketplace of religious offerings in the US.

The survey found that only 16 percent of US Protestants surveyed said they will not consider changing their denominational affiliation. By contrast, 22 percent expressed brand loyalty to a preferred toothpaste.

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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OPF’s Vocation: Witnessing to the Peace of Christ

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Several meetings held as a part of the recent OPF-North American conference in Maryland focused on the road ahead. These notes grew out of those discussions.

Education: Taking education to mean both educating ourselves and helping to educate others, we have begun to develop a more active engagement. There is interest in providing formal and informal experiences for OPF members to advance their development as peacemakers, while also giving of our own knowledge and understanding of Holy Tradition to others within the larger community.

One way will be to promote learning from others who are further along on that particular journey, such as the Christian Peacemaker Teams, acknowledging that what matters most is how effectively we facilitate the growth of Christ’s peace among His people, rather than parochial concerns of jurisdiction.

OPF Conference: For the 2009 Conference, David Holden suggested focusing on health, including mental health, possibly doing it as a joint conference with the Orthodox Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion. Topics within this area in which members have evinced interest include: PTSD and suicide (as manifested by returning troops who must cope with what they have seen and done in war), schizophrenia and other maladies that require much of family and care-givers, counseling that recognizes and draws upon spirituality, and asceticism in the past, present and future of the Church. Two venues have been discussed for 2009: the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and a location in the Minneapolis area. We hope to get back to the western part of the continent, if not in 2009, then 2010.

Collaboration: Educating others begins at home with Orthodox Christians. In higher education, we have begun a new collaboration with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship to provide a way to bring an awareness of OPF and the search for peace to many more young people. An earlier OPF publication, For the Peace from Above, will be used, with editing and revision, in this new context.

Children’s curriculum: In elementary/secondary education, Renee Zitzloff suggested we develop a children’s curriculum on relevant topics; she has been joined in this project by Sally Eckert. Synaxis, an Orthodox publishing house, has offered to support us with low-cost publishing of texts we develop for these projects.

Adult education: In Communion articles and original writings by members can gain wider circulation via the web. We will also consider the possibility of an OPF blog using essays based on conference talks as a basis for discussion. The same sort of thing can be done through Ancient Faith Radio, using audio versions.

Making OPF better known: Mother Raphaela proposed a special mailing of In Communion to non-members who may be interested in joining. Elaine Patico suggested establishing an “OPF Sunday.” Participating parishes would be provided with a Presentation Kit from OPF, which might include an outline for a talk or discussion, back issues of In Communion, OPF brochures, the resource book we are developing for OCF, and OPF mini-posters with patristic texts on peace and reconciliation.

Web presence: Michael Markwick is preparing to open a new section of InCommunion.org that will serve as a North American sub-site, to cover events and developments in our region, and report on conferences and chapter happenings. We would like to see it be truly North American, with contributions from the US, Canada and Mexico. We will be soliciting contributions of event notices, articles or essays by members to populate this new sub-site.

Local groups: Renee Zitzloff and others started on OPF group in Minneapolis which she hopes to revitalize during the coming year. Members in Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles have expressed interest in starting local groups.

Extra-Orthodox contacts: Alex Patico has been working with the Decade to Overcome Violence, a World Council of Churches project, and Olive Branch Partnership, an interfaith group that sprang out of the Christian Witness against the War in Iraq.

Future contacts might include a project designed to aid and train clergy who work with returning veterans, which is being organized by the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (Eastern Mennonite University); Heeding God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace – a meeting of the Atraditional peace churches” (Quaker, Mennonite and Brethren), which will take place in January in Philadelphia (OPF has been invited to participate); and Consistent Life, an “International Network for Peace, Justice and Life,” which emphasizes a consistent ethic opposing abortion, assisted suicide, capital punishment and war.

Peacemaking Services: It has been suggested that OPF develop a capability to assist parishes or Orthodox organizations in resolving intractable conflicts. This may seem an impossibly ambitious aim, but if a sufficient number of members were to make a serious commitment, it could be an important contribution to the life of the Church.

As the concept has taken shape thus far, OPF would assemble a team that would include persons with a background in conflict analysis, conflict resolution, relationship-building; would be based on high standards of confidentiality, professionalism, and Christ-centeredness; would be done at lowest-possible cost to the inviting group, but with minimum out-of-pocket expense for those taking part; would develop, over time, a body of knowledge that itself could prove useful to other groups confronting antagonism that threatens to undermine the peace and growth of parishes. One existing example of practical peacemaking that is changing lives and communities is Reconciliation Services, an Orthodox-oriented, Kansas-based community organization with a unique mission (www.rs3101.org).

Accountability: In order that members and supporters of OPF be able to know how their donations are being used, and to be able to influence the directions taken, we have resolved to send regular updates to the members of the Advisory Board of OPF, consult with active and experienced members regarding decisions, provide answers, in a timely fashion, to any member who has questions about our dealings, and distribute an annual report on finances that goes to the entire membership.

– Alex Patico, OPF-NA secretary

Fall 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 51

The Diaconate in Liturgy and Life.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

A Brief History of the Office and Considerations for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Orthodox Church.

by Teva ReguleOrthodox Peace Fellowship ConferenceBaltimore, MD 9/26-28/2008

Εν ειρηνη του κυριου δεηθωμεν (En eirini tou kyriou deithomen)… or in a more literal translation into English, “In the peace of the Lord, let us be in need.” These are the words of the deacon used to begin the “Great” or “Peace” Litany. Peace is an important theme and even a precondition of the Eucharistic celebration. It prepares the Church to offer and receive the Eucharist. At present, we begin the Liturgy with the Litany of Peace by invoking a state of peace commonly translated into English, “In Peace, let us pray to the Lord.” We are to be in peace the state of wholeness and integration within ourselves and with one another. As Bishop Kallistos Ware explains, “we are to banish, from within ourselves, feelings of resentment and hostility toward others: bitterness, rancor, inner grumbling, or divisiveness.” [1] Failure to forgive may be the greatest hindrance to knowing God. Moreover, peace with other believers should have primacy over duties in worship. As Christ commands, “So when you are offering your gift to the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.” [2] The Didache 3 also emphasizes this precondition of the communal sacrament “Let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join you until they be reconciled, so that your sacrifice may be undefiled.” This peace, however, is something that does not come from our own doing but comes only from God “For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls ” Finally, this peace is not only inward looking but also looks to embrace all “For the peace of the whole world and for the communion [union] of all.” Peace and unity go together.[5]

In the early Church, this litany was prayed immediately before the Kiss of Peace exchange. The Kiss of Peace signified membership in the communion of believers. It was part of the baptismal rite and the reception of converts into the faith. It was further included by the Apostolic Constitutions [6] in the form of the Prayer for the Faithful ” and let the deacon [emphasis mine] say to all, salute one another with the holy kiss ” According to the noted liturgical historian, Hugh Wybrew, “The Kiss unites the worshippers among themselves, and so enables them to be united with the One, for union with God is impossible for those who are divided among themselves.” [8] This unity allows the congregation to not only confess the Trinity as “one in essence and undivided” in the Creed whose recitation usually follows the exchange of the Kiss, but reflect it. As Bishop Kallistos explains, “We are made in the image of God, we are made in the image of God the Holy Trinity; and the Holy Trinity signifies mutual love. If we are made in the image of the Trinity, that means we are made to love one another. “[9]

The Church is in the world to serve the community, to draw us closer to God and one another. The link between liturgy and service is crucial to what it means to gather as Church in worship. Liturgically, as we have seen, it is the deacon’s function to bring the people together and unite them in corporate prayer. It is in our service to the other that we are united with them. Our service to the other brings them with us to worship.

* * *

(The following remarks are part of a more in-depth presentation on the topic, including a history of the order and an examination of its restoration (male and, in many cases, female) within different faith traditions.)

The Diaconate A Brief History

A. Biblical Times The Church’s ministry, modeled after Christ’s example, grew out of the needs of the community. In the early Church, the Hellenists complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. The Apostles realized that they could not attend to both the word of God and serve “tables.” [10] According to the account in Acts (Acts 6:1-6), they sought out “seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task.” [11] This has commonly marked the beginning of a differentiated ministry, and as Mary Truesdell, a Deaconess in the Episcopal Church, states in her article, The Office of the Deaconess, “has always been taken by the Church as the embryonic beginning of the office of the deacon.” [12] ————-

The first place where we find the word “deacon” used as a title is in Romans. St. Paul writing to the Romans says, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon (diakonon) of the church at Cenchreae ” Although some have argued that this passage only refers to Phoebe as a “helper,” Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald in her article, “The Characteristics and Nature of the Order of the Deaconess,”cites the works of Origen and Chrysostom to show that patristic tradition upholds Phoebe’s position as a deaconess. (In addition, Phoebe is referenced in the second ordination prayer of the female deacon in the Byzantine Rite.

Master and Lord, You do not reject women who offer themselves, and by divine counsel, to minister as is fitting to your holy houses, but you accept them in the order of ministers. Give the grace of your Holy Spirit to this servant of Yours also, who wishes to offer herself to you, and to accomplish the grace of the diaconate, as You gave the grace of Your diaconate to Phoebe, whom you called to the work of the ministry. 15 )

B. Early Church We have evidence of the existence of deaconesses and deacons in the early Church as well. In a secular text, one of the letters from Pliny, Governor of Bithynia, to Trajan (112AD), he asks for guidance on how to handle the Christian sect, writing that he had to place “two women called ‘deaconesses’ under torture.” In addition, we have evidence of the existence of the male and female deacon and a general understanding of the functions of each from early church documents. We know that each was answerable to the bishop. While the male deacons ministered to men, the female deacons ministered to women. Moreover, each also had a liturgical role, although there is disagreement as to their precise functions. This parallelism can be seen in the Apostolic Constitutions passage that outlines the character of the deacon,

Let the deacons be in all things unspotted, as the bishop himself is to be, only more active; that they may minister to the infirm . And let the deaconess be diligent in taking care of the women; but both of them ready to carry messages, to travel about, to minister, and to serve [17]

This reflects an earlier understanding of the functions of the office found in the Didascalia Apostolorum. [18 ]The Didascalia contains sections on the character of the deaconess, and her ministry of assisting in the baptism of women and instruction of women converts. In addition, it contains sections for both the deacon and deaconess advising each to care for the people and to work closely with the Bishop. [19] C. Byzantine Period During the Byzantine period, the diaconal office in the east, especially that of women, flourished. This can be see by the number of women deacon saints on the liturgical calendar, including Sts. Macrina, the sister of Sts. Gregory and Basil (July 19), Nonna, the wife of St. Gregory of Nazianzus (August 5), Olympias, close friend and confidant of John Chrysostom (July 25), Xenia “the merciful” (Jan 24-5th c.), and Irene of Chrysovalantou (July 28-late 9th/early 10th c.) [20] In addition, we have descriptions of the makeup of the clergy serving during the Liturgy at Hagia Sophia which included “forty deaconesses.” [21]

During this time, the male diaconate in the East also grew in prominence. They held high positions in church governance, including participating in the Ecumenical councils (e.g. Athanasius of Alexandria was a deacon and secretary for his bishop at the Council of Nicaea in 325). They also served as emissaries and ambassadors of the episopal seat in diplomatic matters. Moreover, they were administers of church-run homes for the poor and widows, orphanages, and hospitals. [22]

D. Decline of the Order in the East The order of the female diaconate began to decline sometime after the twelfth century. By this time, there were fewer adult baptisms so female deacons were no longer needed at initiation. In addition, in late Byzantium the rise of influence of Levitical rules, especially those regarding women, led to the perception that the shedding of blood made a woman “unclean” and therefore, unable to enter the sanctuary or participate in the liturgical life of the Church. It should be noted that this is in direct contradiction to the understanding of ‘uncleanness’ found in the Didascalia Apostolorum and the Apostolic Constitutions. Chapter 26 of the Didascalia admonishes Christians to abandon the rabbinical rules of ‘uncleanness.’

[Are they de-]void of the Holy Spirit.[?] For through baptism they receive the Holy Spirit, who is ever with those that work righteousness, and does not [emphasis mine] depart from them by reason of natural issues and the intercourse of marriage, but is ever and always with those who possess Him [23]

It goes on to explicitly state that the Holy Spirit remains with a woman during her monthly period and that giving into Rabbinical taboos and rules opens the way for the wrong spirit. [24] The Apostolic Constitutions extends this emphasis,

For neither the lawful mixture [=intercourse], nor childbearing, nor the menstrual purgation, nor noctural pollution can defile the nature of a [person], or separate the Holy Spirit from him .but only impiety towards God, and transgression, and injustice towards one’s neighbor [25]

With the rise of Islam and the subsequent fall of the Eastern part of the Roman empire to the Ottomans, the Church turned inward. It could no longer participate in many of the philanthropic aspects of its ministry. Moreover, many of the traditional duties of the male deacon were being assumed by the priest and by the growing number of those in the so-called “minor orders.” This led to the position of the diaconate being perceived as more of a “transitional” one, on the way to being ordained a presbyter. Although the male deacon retained his role in the liturgical assembly, the office had devolved greatly. Unfortunately, this is what typically remains of the order in the East today.

Modern Renewal of the Office

A. Western Churches

In modern times, the diaconate has experienced a renewal and rejuvenation, most notably (and somewhat ironically) in the Western Christian churches. While this movement is due mostly to the needs of the local churches, it is instructive to us, as Orthodox Christians, to realize that the theological reasoning and justification for a re-institution of the order came from careful study of the Early Church, primarily its expression in the East. In the interests of time, I will only highlight one western faith tradition, the Anglican/Episcopal Church. (I want to emphasize that I am only speaking of the diaconate, and not ordination to the presbytery or episcopacy.)

Example: The Anglican/ Episcopal Church

As early as the 17th century, the Anglican/Episcopal Church blessed a form of ministry for women that focused on caring for the sick, the poor and needy, women and children. This was the beginning of the reinstitution of the office of the diaconate, a process that spanned over three hundred years. It was a juxtaposition of women filling the various ministerial needs of the Church and a growing understanding of the theological underpinnings of the order.

It wasn’t until 1968 that the ordained, permanent diaconate in the Episcopal Church, for both women and men, was finally restored. The deaconess was now considered to be within the ranks of the higher clergy, specifically within the diaconate. In addition, the male diaconate was no longer solely a transitional office to the priesthood but, could be a permanent, vocational office. The intention was to restore “the ancient, full, and equal order of ministry based on the call to imitate Christ in service to the poor and the needy.”[26]

In many ways, the years of ministry of the deaconess provided a model for the restoration of the fully ordained, permanent diaconate for men and women. The deacon’s duties continue to include serving directly under the bishop and helping to carry out the bishop’s ministry. She or he also functions within the ministries of liturgy, word, and charity, particularly the ministries among the poor, sick, and oppressed.[27]

Since its reinstitution, the number of deacons has nearly doubled. According to Dr. Thomas Ferguson, former faculty member at the Episcopal School for Deacons [who received his ThM from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology], “The current renaissance of the diaconate is part of the church’s recovering its own sense of diakonia, of being called and sent into the world to serve.” [28] This rejuvenation has been instrumental in helping all baptized Christians within the Episcopal Church to live out their “Baptismal Covenant,” especially as reflected in the last two questions asked at the time of baptism:

a) Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? b) Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? [29]

In summary, according to the North American Association for the Diaconate, “The diaconate of the Anglican churches is an historic order, with roots in the ancient church, adapting to the needs of the church and the world in our own age. It is a gift from God for the nurture of God’s people and the proclamation of God’s gospel.”[30]

Eastern Orthodox Church

Although the diaconate in the Eastern Orthodox Church has remained an active ministry since apostolic times, its scope and function have greatly diminished since the fall of Byzantium. The male diaconate generally functions solely in the liturgical realm and, oftentimes, has become just a transitional stage to ordination to the presbytery. The female diaconate has virtually disappeared. It is my hope that the Church will someday not only restore the ordained female diaconate, but revitalize the office, encouraging women to serve within the community and the Liturgy as Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, a noted French Orthodox theologian (of blessed memory), and others have said, in the “context of the culture and present requirements of the day.” [31]

There have been numerous attempts for over one-hundred and fifty years to reinstitute the female diaconate. As early as 1855, the sister of Czar Nicholas I tried to restore the office. Other prominent Russians also lobbied for its restoration, including Alexsandr Gumilevsky and Mother Catherine (Countess Efimovsky). According to numerous sources, in 1905-06, several bishops, archbishops, and metropolitans of the Russian Orthodox Church encouraged the effort. According to a report on the Consultation of Orthodox Women in Agapia in 1976, this issue was to be a major topic at the Council of the Russian Church beginning in 1917, but due to the political turmoil in Russia at the time, the council’s work was not addressed.[33] (It should be noted that other items on the agenda included adopting the use of the vernacular in the liturgical services and the reinstitution of the married episcopacy.)

Other efforts were made in Greece. On Pentecost Sunday in 1911, Archbishop (now, Saint) Nektarios ordained a nun to the diaconate to serve the needs of the monastery. A few years later, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Athens appointed “monastic ‘deaconesses’ who were nuns actually appointed to the subdiaconate.” [34]

More recently, the issue has been discussed at the international conferences for Orthodox women in Agapia, Romania (1976 at which its restoration was unanimously recommended), Sophia, Bulgaria (1987), Rhodes, Greece (1988), Crete (1990), Damascus, Syria (1996) and Istanbul (1997). Furthermore, in July of 2000, after over a year of careful review of the subject, a formal letter was sent to the Ecumenical Patriarch by more than a dozen members of the Orthodox community in Paris, including such noted Orthodox theologians as Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, Fr. Boris Bobrinskoy, Olivier Clément, and Nicolas Lossky. The letter traces the history of the female diaconate and notes that the Patriarch himself has stated that there is “no obstacle in canon law [that] stands in the way of the ordination of women to the diaconate. This institution of the early Church deserves to be revitalized.” [35] It also states that the order should “involve more than a simple and archaeological reconstitution of the ancient ministry of the deaconesses it is a question of its revitalization, in other words of its realization in the context of the culture and requirements of the present day.” [36]

What would the deaconess do in the Church today? The question is generally preceded by the acknowledgement that the ancient deaconess assisted in the baptism of women, etc. It is oftentimes assumed that since we no longer have many adult baptisms (infant baptism being the norm) that we no longer need deaconesses. (Although a simplistic analogy, it is interesting that the same question is not asked of the male diaconate. i.e. Since we no longer need ‘table servers’ at the Eucharist, a function of the biblical diaconate, why do we need male deacons?) This issue has been discussed within Orthodox circles as well. According to the report of the Crete consultation (1990), a deacon or deaconess could

lead people in prayer, give spiritual counsel, distribute Holy Communion where possible. [In addition] The renewal of the diaconate for both men and women would meet many of the needs of the Church in a changing world catechetical work pastoral relations serving the same needs for monastic communities without a presbyter reading prayers for special occasions, performing social work pastoral care engaging in youth and college ministry counseling anointing the infirm carrying out missionary work ministering to the sick, assisting the bishop or presbyter in the liturgical services . [37]

The report concludes that a creative restoration of the diaconate for women, could lead in turn to the renewal in the diaconate for men as well. [38]

Considerations for a Reinstituted Female Deaconate.

A) The Liturgical Role of the Female Deacon.

When discussing the reinstitution of the female diaconate, the question of her liturgical role, including her service within the altar area, often arises. (It is my opinion, if this question were settled, we would currently have women deacons in the Orthodox Church.) According to the First Apology of Justin the Martyr (~150 AD), the ministry of the deacon was expressed in the liturgical celebration of the gathered Eucharistic assembly,

reading the gospel, leading the intercessions of the people, receiving the gifts of the people and ‘setting the table’ for the meal, serving the Eucharistic meal .[Moreover] the social service carried on by the deacons seems to be been rooted in the liturgical celebration. [39]

As we have seen, the link between liturgy and service is crucial not only to the office of the diaconate, but to our understanding of what it means to gather as Church in worship. It is in our service to the other that we are united with them. Our service to the other brings them with us to worship. We are their visible representatives. Although the liturgy enables us to encounter God in a variety of ways and at differing levels, allowing us to experience a “taste of the Kingdom,” we must always remember that we are not fully, as yet, in the eschaton [end times]. We live in the here and now and are called to draw all closer to God. In my opinion, it is a distortion of the office to have the male deacon serve only during the liturgy, but not within the community, and conversely, to have a future female deacon serve within the community, but not during the liturgy. As Dr. FitzGerald says in her book, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church,

It is important to remember that in the past women deacons did have important responsibilities in the Eucharist assembly as well as in the administration of baptism, in praying with and for those in need, and in bringing Holy Communion to those unable to attend the Eucharist. Today, these expressions of ministry can certainly continue. At the same time, we also need to examine how women deacons can participate in the Eucharist and other liturgical services in a manner which is expressive of the living Tradition of the Church and which is not defined by cultural norms of another time. [40]

B) The Need. But do we really need a rejuvenated diaconate and in particular, a restored female diaconate? To help answer this question, it is instructive to understand the responsibilities of a typical parish priest. Fr. Alexander Garklavs outlined a number of functions expected of today’s parish priest in his presentation at the 2004 Pastoral Conference held at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in June of 2004. In additional to all the liturgical duties of the priest (Sunday and any daily liturgical services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.), he enumerates some of the priest’s responsibilities in parish life in America:

Pastoral visitations, educational work, Bible study, adult study, youth work, teen work, working with choirs and choir directors, marriage preparation, marital counseling, visiting shut-ins, grief counseling, [hospital visits], office work, preparing and printing bulletins and schedules, parish mailing, aspects of parish administration: parish council meetings, budgets, agendas, PR, building committees, sunshine committees, yard work, etc. [41]

As far back as 1953, Archbishop Michael of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America realized that there is so much to do in each community that the

endeavors of these priests alone do not suffice. For should the priest wish to know, as he must his spiritual children by name, their problems, and their spiritual and moral needs, this would certainly be beyond his physical and spiritual resources. These tremendous needs of the Greek Orthodox Church in America has urged us to make a fervent appeal such as this to our daughters-in-Christ, With the future welfare of our Church and membership at heart, we are considering the establishment in this country of an order of deaconess. [42]

Clearly, a rejuvenated diaconate, a ministry that has service as its primary focus, is necessary in our Church today. No one person can fill all the duties necessary for the buildingup of the Body of Christ, the Church. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “Each of us has been given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The diaconate is not merely a “stepping stone” to higher orders. It is, as Dr. FitzGerald explains, “a full and parallel order of ordained ministry to which both men and women are called by God.” [44]

C) Is an ordained ministry necessary? It is an unfortunate effect of clericalism that lay participation in our churches varies widely. This is especially true of the participation of women. The range of women’s participation in the life of the Church can vary from diocese to diocese and even from parish to parish within each diocese. Still, many laywomen are already doing diaconal work in our parishes. Is ordination, then, necessary? What does an “ordination” mean? To begin to answer these questions, it is important to remember that we are all called to ministry within the Body of Christ. Each of us is called to minister to others in our daily lives we are all expected to teach others, especially those in our care; to be able to perform CPR on our neighbor, if necessary, for example. And yet, we set apart certain people to do such tasks on a professional basis. Unlike us, they must be trained in their profession and pass exams before we, as a society, confer a designation on them as “teacher” or “medical professional.” Likewise, throughout history the Church has “set apart” those “consecrated for service.” There are theological reasons for blessing someone in ministry.

[First,] Those who are set aside for ministry have the authority of the Church but they are also integrated into and accountable to the Church. [There are no "loose wheels." This is a reciprocal relationship. The Church is also accountable to them by providing support and preparation for carrying out diaconal ministries in its name.] [Second,] Setting aside a person by the Church is a way to affirm the fact that we, as a Church, are members of one another[and Third,] We believe that it is by the grace of the Holy Spirit that spiritual and pastoral gifts are enlivened. [45]

Moreover, an ordination by the bishop who is the guarantor of the unity of the faith, is universal in scope. The authority of the bishop is rooted in Jesus Christ and it is Christ who confers it by the Holy Spirit through the act of ordination.[46] As Dr. FitzGerald acknowledges, “Ordination is not a right or a possession of anyone. Rather, it is a profound acknowledgement, by the Church, of God’s action in the life of a particular person who is called to serve Him and His Church in a distinctive and public manner.” [47] It is an action that is beyond temporality, connecting us with those that have gone before us and those that have yet to live. It is a connection to the Church past, present, and future.

Meeting the Orthodox Deaconess in the 21st century.

The Church is blessed to have a number of laywomen working in diaconal roles already, including pastoral assistants, chaplains, ecclesiarchs, and monastics. Through conversations and reflection, I have collected some of their experiences. I would like to now share them with you now. (Most of the reflections below are verbatim accounts of their experiences. In some cases, I have contextualized their comments for clarity.) Reflections of a Chaplain The first time I was scheduled to serve over night as an on-call chaplain, I received a page at 5 am. I groggily called the Intensive Care Unit, and spoke to a nurse who requested that I visit an anxious, weeping patient who would be undergoing surgery later that morning. I was told that the patient, “Andrew” was Orthodox Jewish. The nurse said that Andrea had a tracheotomy, and therefore could not speak. I entered the small ICU, which was silent but for the beeping ventilator and monitors. I introduced myself to Andrew, a 50-year old man with a scraggly beard and dark eyes. I told him that I would be happy to sit with him in this time of anxiety, and pray with him if he desired. “I understand you are Jewish,” I said, thinking that I might try to locate his rabbi if he had specific religious needs. He shook his head, and began awkwardly attempting to cross himself in an Orthodox manner. “Oh!”, I said, “You’re Orthodox!” Apparently, he had been misunderstood. “Actually, so am I!”, I said. His eyes registered surprise and joy, and he began crying calmer, gentler tears. He took a pad and wrote in large, shaky letters, “I am Orthodox. I am scared.” I put my hand on his shoulder and consoled him, and after a short conversation (via the notepad) about his surgery and his fears, I offered to pray for him. I taped an icon of the Resurrection on the wall across from his bed, and standing beside him, chanted the Trisagion prayers and a Psalm. Andrew became visibly calmer; a sense of peace came over his face. He left for surgery, trusting in God’s protection. I did not see Andrew again, but I believe that God led me to him on that early morning, to ease his fears and to refocus his heart on God’s loving presence in a time of suffering.

[Now, how much more complete would this story have been if the "deaconess" could have brought communion to the afflicted and ailing?]

Reflections of a Pastoral Assistant

It is Pentecost and I am to give my sermon. I am nervous but excited to be speaking about the Descent of the Holy Spirit! When I preach or teach, I know I am doing what I love, doing what I am called to do. I get to use my passions and gifts in a way that benefits the community I love.

[There seems to be no better ministry than to be able to use one's gifts (on a universal basis) for the community that one loves.]

Reflections of a Pastoral Assistant

I am tired. I have just finished a long day at work and am drained. I have to lead the adult Bible Study tonight. I go to the chapel to collect my thoughts. We are reading and studying a passage from Matthew today. I ask God to give me the words. I read the passage slowly aloud. During the bible study, I am surprised at the profoundness of the words that come out of my mouth. I am energized and enlivened as are those around me. It is getting late so we wrap it up. I am totally exhausted when I get home but filled with the Spirit.

[As a "deaconess" she could read and preach not just for the small group in the Bible Study, but for all in the liturgical assembly.]

Reflections of an Ecclesiarch

I am directing students in the preparation of the chapel. We are approaching Holy Week. I need to be aware of all the liturgical order of the services, the rubrics, the chanting I put on my robe in the vestry and notice how the bishop is getting dressed, something I have never seen before. I explain part of the Proscomedia service to a young seminarian. I have always enjoyed the teaching part of this job. At first, some of the guys were “a little leary” of a woman doing this job. After all, I am not only a woman, but a convert. But, it has been a transformative process for all of us. Now, when challenged, they come to my defense, “of course she should do it, she knows what she is doing.” [It is important in our ministry as "deaconesses" to not only earn the authority, but have others recognize it.]

Reflections of a Pastoral Assistant.

I am helping Father with the Bridegroom services during Holy Week. At this particular service none of the altar servers are available. Father quickly motions for me to go into the altar and get one of the candles for the procession. I don’t know whether I wanted to be an altar server growing up or not. Now, here I was carrying the candle in the procession. Such a simple thing Somehow, I knew exactly what to do. It was a great honor. To be able to serve and be more fully integrated into the worship service gave me a connection to the liturgy of the Church in a way that I had never experienced before. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the liturgy this way.

[Perhaps, our daughters will get that opportunity. I remember that my sister wanted to be an altar server when she younger. They said that only boys could do it because they could be priests one day. But, if altar service led to the priesthood then our seminaries would be full of those boys. However, they are not. As a seminary student, I was always amazed at the things they know about the service of which I had no idea. I certainly missed a great catechetical opportunity. They say that anyone who has business "back there" and has the blessing to do so can serve and that there is no reason why girls can't and yet they don't allow us. I have spent many years frustrated by the policy. I remember my younger brother and how proud he was to serve at the altar. I also remember other boys who could care less but felt entitled to their service. We are all called to build up the Body of Christ. Is the Church utilizing all of the talents of its members to do so?

Altar service is an important but misused service in the Church. Women serve in women's monasteries. And prior to the fall of communism, women served almost ubiquitously within the altar area in Russia. In addition, there are young women who serve in isolated parishes in England and in the US. Would ordaining women to the diaconate and allowing women and girls to serve within the altar area allow for a more authentic form of altar service?]

Reflections of a Pastoral Assistant.

Father always said that no one person can meet all the spiritual needs of the congregation. Lately, he has asked me to hear confessions. Although, I am trained in pastoral care, I am nervous as this is such an awesome responsibility

[I remember reading that Paul Meyendorff (Professor of Liturgical Theology, St. Vladimir's Seminary) as a young child in France, would be taken to the monastery by his mother to go to confession with one of the nuns. It was only after he had been properly counseled that he would then approach the priest for absolution. [48] This is an example of carrying on that tradition within the parish context. However, it is important that deaconesses and those giving spiritual counsel be trained to do so. In addition, by setting her aside to minister in this capacity, the deaconess is accountable to the Church.]

The diaconate most closely manifests our ministry to the world. It helps us bring all of creation into unity with God. Unfortunately, our lives are often fragmented. We are disconnected from those around us. A revitalized diaconate can help bridge this gap. He or she can “interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes for the world.” [49]

Moreover, the Church in America faces a great many challenges in order to minister to the needs of Her faithful. Certainly, a rejuvenated diaconate a ministry dedicated to service for and by both men and women can, in the words of Dr. FitzGerald, “bear witness to Christ the Servant as well as facilitate a creative and salutary response by the Church to so many of the spiritual challenges which face us today.” [50]

The Liturgy gives us a foretaste of the Kingdom of God. But it should also make us restless, as we realize how far we are from that ideal for most of our life. We need to recognize our faults and limitations and move beyond them, striving to do the will of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” A community whose members are hurt is deformed. We need to be the Church, a therapeutic, healing community. It is then that we can experience the love of God more fully in this world as in the next. Thank you.

Endnotes

1 Bishop Kallistos Ware, “In Peace Let us Pray to the Lord: Peace and Healing in the Divine Liturgy,” http://incommunion.org/?p=99, April 1999. Henceforth: Ware, “Peace and Healing in the Divine Liturgy.”

2 Matthew 5: 23-24, NRSV.

3 The Didache is a 2nd c. church document outlining early church liturgics and ethics. 4 Didache 14:2.

5 Bishop Kallistos Ware, “In Peace Let us Pray to the Lord: Peace and Healing in the Divine Liturgy,” paraphrasing Fr. Lev Gillet from Serve the Lord with Gladness, http://incommunion.org/?p=99, April 1999.

6 The Apostolic Constitutions is a 4th-5th century document of Syriac origin that outlines early Church ethics and liturgics.

7 Apostolic Constitutions, VIII, 11.

8 Hugh Wybrew, The Orthodox Liturgy, The Development of the Eucharist Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite. (Crestwood, New York: SVS Press), p. 93.

9 Ware, “Peace and Healing in the Divine Liturgy.”

10 In Greek, trapeza. Although the word in this passage is usually translated as “table,” it can also be translated as “bank.” It refers to the function of distributing food (and possibly other supplies) to the poor, elderly, those widowed, etc.

11 Acts 6:3, NRSV.

12 Truesdell, Mary P., The Office of the Deaconess. Accessed via www.philosophy-religion.org/diaconate/chapter_7.htm on 8/ 12/2004. Ms. Truesdell was ordered a Deaconess in the Episcopal Church in 1919. This article appeared as part of an anthology on the Diaconate in 1967.

13 Romans 16:1, NRSV.

14 FitzGerald, Dr. Kyriaki Karidoyanes, “The Characteristics and Nature of the Order of the Deaconess” in Women and the The Priesthood, Fr. Thomas Hopko, ed. (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Press, 1983), p. 77-78. Henceforth: FitzGerald, “The Characteristics and Nature of the Order of the Deaconess.”

15 Original in the Barberini Codex gr. 336. Translated by Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash). Accessed via www.anastasis.org.uk/woman_deacon.htm on 8/12/2004.

16 Letters of Pliny and Trajan. Accessed via www.fordham.edu/halsall /ancient/pliny-trajan1.html on 9/05/2004.

17 Apostolic Constitutions, Chapter III, no. 19.

18 The Didascalia Apostolorum is a later 3rd century-early 4th century document outlining pastoral and Church practice. The eight books of the Didascalia Apostolorum were subsequently incorporated into the Apostolic Constitutions with some minor variation.

19 Didascalia Apostolorum, Chapter 16.

20 Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church: Called to Holiness and Ministry, (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998), pp. 28-56, referencing the Meterikon. Henceforth: FitzGerald, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church.

21 Gryson, Roger, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church. Jean Laporte and Mary Louise Hall, trans., (NY: Liturgical Press, 1980), p. 71 as referenced in Gvosdov, Matushka Ellen, The Female Diaconate: An Historical Perspective, (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing, 1991). Henceforth Gvosdov, The Female Diaconate.

22 Touloumes, Deacon Photios, The Diaconate in the Orthodox Church. Accessed via http://orthodoxyinfo.org/Diaconate.htm on 9/6/2004.

23 Didascalia Apostolorum, Chapter 26. 24 Ibid, Chapter 26. 25 Apostolic Constitutions, Chapter VI, no. 27.

26 Lifting Up the Servants of God: The Deacon, Servant and Ministry and the Future of the Church. Accessed via www.sfd.edu/LiftingUpServants.html on 11/22/04.

27 Deacons in the Anglican Churches. Accessed via www.diakonoi.org/naadinfo.html on 1/12/2005. Henceforth Deacons in the Anglican Churches.

28 Ferguson, Dr. Thomas, Lifting Up the Servants of God: The Deacon, Servant Ministry, and the Future of the Church. Accessed via www.sfd.edu/LiftingUpServants.html on 11/22/2004.

29 Book of Common Prayer (revised 1979). Accessed via vidicon.dandello.net/bocp on 11/22/04. Henceforth Book of Common Prayer.

30 Deacons in the Anglican Churches.

31 An Orthodox Diaconate for Women? Reported in Sobornost 23:1 (2001), pp. 60-63.

32 Gvosdev, The Female Diaconate.

33 Ibid, referencing Tarasar, Constance J. and Irina Kirillova, eds., Orthodox Women: Their Role and Participation in the Orthodox Church (Report on the Consultation of Orthodox Women, Sept. 11-17, 1976, Agapia, Romania) (New York: World Council of Churches Press), p.27.

34 FitzGerald, “The Characteristics and Nature of the Order of the Deaconess,” p. 90 referencing Theodorou, Cheirotonia.

35 An Orthodox Diaconate for Women? Reported in Sobornost 23:1 (2001), pp. 60-63.

36 Ibid.

37 Orthodox Women’s Consultation on Church and Culture, Crete, January 1990. Accessed via http://members.iinet.net.au/~mmjournl/MaryMartha/CONSULTATIONS%20and%20REPORTS/CRETE%20Consultation%201990.html on 4/28/2003.

38 Ibid.

39 Anglican-Lutheran International Commission, The Diaconate as Ecumenical Opportunity, (London: Anglican Communion Publications, 1996), p. 10 referencing Apology of Justin the Martyr.

40 FitzGerald, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church, p. 197.

41 Garklavs, Rev. Alexander, The Orthodox Pastor in the 21st century. Talk presented at the 2004 Pastoral Conference (OCA) at St. Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA, June 2-4, 2004. Accessed via www.oca.org.

42 FitzGerald, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church, p. 154-5.

43 1 Cor. 12:7, NRSV.

44 FitzGerald, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church, p. 165.

43 1 Cor. 12:7, NRSV.

44 FitzGerald, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church, p. 165.

45 Sarah Byrne, Orthodox Chaplaincy: Reflections and Recommendations in The St. Nina Quarterly forthcoming.

46 Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order paper, No. 11 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1982), p. 22.

47 FitzGerald, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church, p. 184.

48 Meyendorff, Paul, “Penance in the Orthodox Church Today,” Studia Liturgica 18 (1988), p. 105. 49 Book of Common Prayer, p. 543 50 Ibid, p. 195.

49 Book of Common Prayer, p. 543.

50 Ibid, p. 195.

Christian Soldiers

Monday, October 6th, 2008

by Alex Patico

Returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan

A recent issue of the University of Minnesota’s alumni magazine noted that over five hundred of that university’s current students are veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan. The U’s Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs (named for a public servant whose career may have stopped short of the presidency primarily because his association with an earlier, divisive war) has embarked on a project in oral history to preserve the lessons of transition back into civilian life.

Done in collaboration with Minnesota’s National Guard, the project has found that the transition is often fraught with difficulty. Many of those who return find they have come back “a different person” — different both from those who did not experience war, and different from their own former selves. The relative invisibility of the war stateside is troubling. “There’s ordinary people dying and being blown up and burning to death while we sit here drinking coffee,” said Ross Hedlund, who served a year in Iraq. “I don’t think,” said Hedlund, “very many people care. The question,”Did you kill anyone?” is one that alarms the returnees, though it comes up often. This story is being repeated across the United States and, to a lesser extent, in the United Kingdom and other countries that have sent troops. [See: "From Combat to Campus," by J. Trout Lowen, in Minnesota, Sep/Oct 2008]

Mennonite Project

Transforming the Wounds of War (TWOW) is a two-year project for religious leaders working with returning military veterans and their families building on programs already established at Eastern Mennonite University and its Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, including the Seminars in Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) and the Summer Peacebuilding Institute.

An Army-funded study found reports of “severe aggression” against spouses ran more than three times higher among Army families than among civilian families. Domestic violence shelters find that rates of domestic violence have risen. Incidents of child abuse and neglect by the noncombatant parent are three times normal rates when one parent is deployed. Although veterans of all wars constitute 11% of the US population, they represent 23% of the homeless. Veterans’ rates of alcoholism and drug addiction are significantly higher than among non-veterans. While the military does not track suicides once a soldier has been discharged, investigations of veteran suicides have discovered that in 2005 there were at least 6,256 suicides of veterans of this and past wars. This is a rate of 120 every week and an average of 17 every day for 2005.

This initiative will enable communities to develop skills and programs to assist veterans to work through the spiritual issues they face as a result of participating in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to facilitate their successful reintegration back into American society. Once fully funded, this two year project will train 300 religious leaders in 15 communities across the US, and will support a pilot community-wide integrated faith response in a large community.

The leader of the project is a PhD psychotherapist with experience in dealing with trauma, who has also worked as a hospital chaplain. [Contact: Center for Justice and Peacebuilding]

*The title is not to deny that many members of the military are atheists, agnostics or adherents to other faith traditions, but only to focus here on Orthodox Christians who may be in that status.

Forest Talk

At the recent OPF-North America Conference, OPF international secretary Jim Forest gave a presentation on the response of Orthodox Christians in times of war, beginning with Christ and the apostles. “The only one of his disciples to shed blood, a brave action performed in Christ’s defense by Peter,” Forest pointed out, “was immediately admonished by Jesus, ‘Put away your sword, for whoever lives by the sword will perish by the sword.’ His last miracle before his crucifixion was to heal the wound of the man whom Peter had injured. This compassionate gesture provides a powerful example of what Jesus meant in commanding love of enemies to all those attempting to his follow him.”

Forest quoted Hippolytus, one of the first bishops of Rome: “A soldier under authority shall not kill a man. If…ordered to, he shall not carry out the order..If he is unwilling, let him be rejected. He who has the power of the sword or is a magistrate of a city who wears the purple, let him cease or be rejected. Catechumens or believers, who want to become soldiers, should be rejected, because they have despised God.” He cited the theologian Origen: “Christians have been taught not to defend themselves against their enemies; and because they have kept the laws that command gentleness and love of man, they have received from God that which they would not have achieved if they were permitted to make war, though they might have been quite able to do so.” And, Clement of Alexandria: “The Church is an army which sheds no blood…In peace, not in war, we are trained…If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. And what are His laws? You shall not kill, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. To him that strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also.” He talked at length about St. Martin of Tours, who came from a military background and yet came, by the age of twenty, to a point where he told the emperor: “Up to now I have served you as a soldier. Now let me serve Christ…I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.”

The talk traced the winding road of steady, but gradual dilution of the principle of non-combat. Even under the Emperor Constantine, who was a protector of Christianity, canons like this were written:

As many as were called by grace, and displayed the first zeal, having cast aside their military belts, but afterwards returned, like dogs, to their own vomit, so that some have regained their military stations; let these, after they have passed the space of three years as hearers, be for ten years prostrators. [Hearers and prostrators are categories of penitents who can be present, like catechumens, for the Liturgy of the Word, but are barred from the Eucharistic Liturgy.] But in all these cases it is necessary to examine well into their purpose and what their repentance appears to be like. For as many as give evidence of their conversions by deeds, and not pretense, with fear, and tears, and perseverance, and good works, when they have fulfilled their appointed time as hearers, may properly communicate in prayers…But those who take the matter with indifference, and who think the form of not entering the Church is sufficient for their conversion, must fulfil the whole time.” (Canon XII, Council of Nicea, AD 325)

Forest talked, too, about St. Augustine and the “Just War” doctrine, which has actually never been embraced in the Eastern Church. Fr. Stanley Harakas, long-time professor of Orthodox Theology at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Massachusetts, studied the patristic record of many centuries and concluded, “For the Eastern Orthodox tradition war can be seen only as a ‘necessary evil,’ with all the difficulty and imprecision such a designation carries.” Forest ended with the admonishment: “Whatever choice we make, we must always bear in mind our responsibility to love even our enemies and to recognize Christ in the stranger.”

P.O.V. Documentary: Soldiers of Conscience

By special arrangement, through their community involvement outreach program, the documentary series P.O.V. (Point-of-View) made available to OPF a copy of one of their latest offerings, Soldiers of Conscience, for viewing at its late-September conference in Maryland.

This powerful documentary, by filmmakers Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg, treats the question of conscientious objection in the context of the current war in Iraq. A project of Luna Productions and recipient of a Sundance Institute Documentary Fund grant, Soldiers follows several men who opted to reject their role in the military and to accept the consequences. While the focus is largely on what led each of them to make that determination, the producers were diligent in including other voices — representatives of U.S. Army public affairs, a gunnery sergeant charged with training recruits, a West Point professor who grapples with the moral and philosophical issues that grow out of the prosecution of a war. Footage of Iraq war combat depicts both the herding of frightened civilians out of their homes and the blowing up of a U.S. vehicle by an IED on a Iraqi street. The viewer is thus made to look at the issues from every side. (One can say that more of the victims of bombs or bullets shown are Iraqi, but of course that is also the reality of the overall conflict in Iraq.)

Note*

The individuals introduced to the viewer include:

* Josh Casteel, a self-described “cradle conservative” and former president of his local Young Republicans who served in the 202nd Military Intelligence unit. A graduate of ROTC and West Point, Casteel, still in his twenties, is now speaking against the war. “War is not fought,” he reminds us, “by or for ideas; it is fought by individual persons who possess human will.” (He interviewed prisoners in Abu Ghraib several months after the scandal over prisoner treatment erupted.) His application as a CO was eventually approved.

* Kevin Benderman, a mature man who served during the First Gulf War (though not in combat) and re-enlisted for the present conflict, has a long family history of military service. Two grandparents served in WWI, his father in WWII, an uncle in the Korean conflict and cousins in Vietnam; indeed, Benderman said, members of his family have been in the army “since there’s been a country.” He will serve 15 months in prison and be given a dishonorable discharge for his conviction on “missing movement by design” (failing to ship out a second time to Iraq, where he had served in combat).

* Specialist First Class Aidan Delgado was signing papers to enlist in the Army at the very time that planes were crashing into the twin towers on 9/11. Serving in the 320th Military Police, Delgado saw first-hand the techniques of interrogation that have been examined and re-examined in the press and in Congress. His CO status was recognized by the military.

* Camilo Mejia, a well-spoken Hispanic-American, was in Iraq with the 124th Infantry Division. Joining the military at age 19, he also took part in routines that included sleep deprivation, threats of death and other abuses before reaching his fateful decision. He was interviewed by Dan Rather on CBS’ Sixty Minutes while still on active duty. Mejia was later court-martialed and sentenced a year in prison and a bad-conduct discharge (he was released after less than ten months — for “good behavior”).

As affecting as the very human situations shown certainly are — the face of a nine-year-old girl terrified by a house-search conducted by rough and profane coalition soldiers with big guns, the shock of the up-armored humvee being smashed by a planted explosive, or the wearing tension of sniper duty in an unfamiliar city — the documentary also presents contextual information that is vital. It cites the first recognition of conscientious objection, in one of the first laws passed by the Continental Congress on July 18, 1775. The voice-over and shots of relevant documents make clear that the soldier must object to all war, in order to stand a chance of being granted status as a conscientious objector. We learn that in present-day Germany, which has a provision for mandatory public service, over half of those called now opt for conscientious objection, rather than entering the military of that country (80,000 out of 150,000 in 2004).

A particularly eye-opening segment quoted Gen. S.L.A. Marshall, Historian of the U.S. Army, in his finding that only one-quarter of the soldiers who were in a position to shoot an enemy in World War II actually managed overcome their reluctance to do so. Responding to that fact, the Army improved its conditioning of recruits, instituting “reflexive fire training” that would “by-pass the moral decision” that gave pause to the person with his finger on the trigger. By the time Korea came, 50-60% made (from the view of the military) the “right” decision; in Vietnam, shoot-to-kill rates reached 85-90%. Feedback from military commanders in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate that “people are more lethal than they ever imagined” possible.

What will stay with many of us who watched the documentary are the soliloquies of the objectors:

“I looked at [the detainees] and I saw my own unit, but with brown skin. I was not able to make the jump to turn those people into subhumans, but it is the nature of war to turn them into subhumans.” [Delgado]

“I found myself in the region that the historians say might have been the Garden of Eden. I asked myself ‘why am I carrying around an M-16 in the Garden of Eden?’…We figured out that human sacrifice was wrong. We decided that slavery was wrong. Maybe we will finally say that war is wrong.” [Benderman]

And, the voices of new recruits, responding to their boot-camp drill sergeant cheer-leader:

“Kill, kill, kill without mercy!!! Blood, blood, blood makes the green grass grow!!!”

[Soldiers of Conscience will air on most public television stations on October 16th at 9:00 pm (check local PBS listings for P.O.V.). For more information, visit: www.soldiers-themovie.com ]

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Orthodox Peace Fellowship letter to the Patriarchs of Russia and Georgia

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship, an association of Orthodox believers seeking to apply the principles of the Gospel to situations of division and conflict, has written to the leaders of the Orthodox Churches in Russia and Georgia to express support of their recent efforts first to prevent war and then to bring about a cease fire.

“What a sin and a scandal it is to see these armies shedding each other’s blood.” the letter notes. “That such an event can happen is a poignant reminder of how often, among Orthodox Christians no less than others, national identity easily takes priority over our common identity as children of the One God.

“We hope to see you both standing side-by-side in continuing efforts to promote peace between the Russian Federation and the Democratic Republic of Georgia, to collaborate in healing the deep wounds left by this tragic conflict, and to bear witness in unity to the Gospel of Christ’s Peace, who called us to love, not slay, each other.”

The full text of the letter is attached.

* * *

August 13, 2008

Beloved Patriarchs Alexei and Ilya,

Though your efforts to prevent armed conflict between Russia and Georgia have received little attention in other countries, we have followed them as we have been able, including Patriarch Ilya’s proposal in April in which he noted the potential “role and authority of our churches to prevent the escalation of tensions and help restore good bilateral relations.”

Sadly, despite work for peace by both of you, Russia and Georgia entered into armed conflict. Many have died, not only soldiers but innocent people. Many of our Orthodox brethren have blood on their hands.

More recently, with the conflict at its height, there was the cease-fire appeal made by Patriarch Alexei, which included these words:

“Today blood is being shed and people being killed in South Ossetia and my heart deeply laments over it. Orthodox Christians are among those who have raised their hands against each other. Orthodox people, called by the Lord to live in fraternity and love, confront each other.”

What a sin and a scandal it is to see these armies shedding each other’s blood. That such an event can happen is a poignant reminder of how often, among Orthodox Christians no less than others, national identity easily takes priority over our common identity as children of the One God.

We hope to see you both standing side-by-side in continuing efforts to promote peace between the Russian Federation and the Democratic Republic of Georgia, to collaborate in healing the deep wounds left by this tragic conflict, and to bear witness in unity to the Gospel of Christ’s Peace, who called us to love, not slay, each other.

We write on behalf of members of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship who reside in countries around the world.

Jim Forest, International Secretary, Orthodox Peace Fellowship

Alexander Patico, Secretary for OPF in North America

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Written September 11, 2008 for the Sojourners magazine blog: http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/

Orthodox Response to the Russia-Georgia conflict in South Ossetia

The recent Georgia-Russia conflict in and around South Ossetia was definitely not a religious war, but serves as a reminder that religious identity doesn’t even come in third place when issues of national identity are at issue. While the battle raged, the majority of participants — and casualties — were Christians on both sides.

In both countries, the Orthodox Church — in practice, though not officially — functions as the national church. Russia has an icon of St. George at the center of its national coat of arms; the average Russian atheist regards himself as an Orthodox atheist. Georgia prides itself on having adopted Christianity in the 4th century, six centuries before the baptism of Russia.

No matter how borderless Christianity is in theory (“neither east nor west, neither Greek nor Jew”), in practice national borders are as substantial as cathedral walls.

The Orthodox churches in Russia and Georgia — led by Patriarch Alexei in Moscow and Patriarch Ilya in Tbilisi — are no exception. It’s rare for either church to stand in opposition to its government. The Russian Orthodox Church has been especially notable for being quick to bless Russia’s military — and has been all but silent in voicing criticism about Russian actions, no matter how brutal. Patriarch Ilya also has been equally silent about post-Soviet Georgia’s deepening association with the United States and the US-sponsored military buildup that has resulted.

Thus it has been a surprise to note the efforts made by the leaders of both churches first to prevent the recent war and then, their efforts having failed, to speed its end.

Ilya seems to have been the one who took the first step. In April he sent a letter to Alexei in which he noted the potential “role and authority of our churches to prevent the escalation of tensions and help restore good bilateral relations.”

While Alexei’s response has not been made public, it is likely that he intervened with Russia’s president and prime minister (he is on close terms with both Medvedev and Putin) in hopes of encouraging renewed diplomatic efforts to prevent conflict.

But when Georgia’s military bombarded Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, on the night of August 8, hopes to prevent war were shattered. (What lay behind Georgia’s action is baffling. Whatever provocations there may have been, it was something like Rhode Island opening fire on New York. The Russians had already made clear what would happen in such a case. Georgia’s small army hadn’t a chance against Russian forces. Was President Saakashvili imagining that America, his military sponsor, would join the battle? Had he even been encouraged to open fire? I’d love to know.)

What is remarkable in the context of the days that followed was Patriarch Alexei making a public appeal to the Russian state to declare a cease fire.

“Today blood is being shed and people being killed in South Ossetia,” he said, “and my heart deeply laments over it. Orthodox Christians are among those who have raised their hands against each other. Orthodox people, called by the Lord to live in fraternity and love, confront each other.”

In a sermon given in Tbilisi two days later, Patriarch Ilya said that “one thing concerns us very deeply — that Orthodox Russians are bombing Orthodox Georgians.”

Note that when Alexei made his appeal, he was definitely not acting as the Russian government’s amen chorus. At the time, Russia’s leaders were strongly resisting international pressure for a cease fire. It seems likely Russia was hoping, war having begun after years of tension, to seize the moment to bring South Ossetia, bitterly with odds with Georgia for many years, into actual rather than ex officio inclusion in Russia — a goal Russia is still pursuing, but at present without warfare with Georgia.

Will the two churches make more vigorous efforts to prevent renewed conflict? And if so how? How willing are the two churches to prevent the cross from being used as a flag pole?

– Jim Forest

* * *

Jim Forest is the international secretary of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship (www.incommunion.org), editor of its journal In Communion, and author of Praying With Icons and The Road to Emmaus: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life.

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