July 24, 2014

‘On a Summoning of the Great Council’

In response to the "First Pre-Conciliar Conference" held in Chambesy, Switzerland (near Geneva) in November 1976, Archimandrite Dr. Justin Popovic composed "On A Summoning of the Great Council of the Orthodox Church." In this, Fr. Popovic (1894-1979), spiritual father of the monastery of Celie Valjevo (Serbia), expressed his "grievous considerations for the future council." The Orthodox Christian Information Center has the complete text here. This letter is "dated" in that, written more than 30 years ago, it could not foresee the fall of communism and the revival of the Russian Church, nor anticipate the expansion of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to include members from outside of Turkey. And it is always risky to draw close analogies from one historical moment to the present. But some of the language in the letter reads as if it could have been written yesterday. Here are some selections in which Fr. Popvich gives some thoughts on the "diaspora" and the … [Read more...]

All-Orthodox ‘Pre-Conciliar Consultation’ Set for Chambesy in June

From Interfax: Moscow, May 26 – The 4th all-Orthodox pre-conciliar consultation is to be held in the Constantinople Patriarchate Orthodox center in Chambésy on June 6-13, 2009. “Participants will touch upon the topic of organizing Orthodox diaspora (Orthodox believers living out of borders of any local Orthodox church),” Acting Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Priest Igor Yakimchuk has told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday. He noted that several centuries had passed after the last seventh Ecumenical Council and “there are a lot of questions that need all-church solution for the sake of strengthening unity and avoiding schisms in one Orthodox Church.” “To settle these questions it is planned to hold the Holy and Great Council of the Eastern Orthodox Church in foreseeable future,” the priest said. It was decided to get ready for the Great Council by way of convening all-Orthodox pre-council consultations and inter-Orthodox … [Read more...]

Russian Orthodox in Rome

Good coverage in the New York Times about the dedication on Sunday of the Church of the Great Martyr Saint Catherine on the grounds of the Russian Embassy in Rome. From Russian Orthodox Consecrate Parish in Rome: “Today is a special event,” said Andrey Shumkin, a priest with the delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate, “and the presence of two cardinals here is a visual sign of collaboration.” Cardinal Kasper said that “a lot of progress” between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox church had been made in the last 10 years. Both sides have demonstrated a willingness to discuss, as have the pope and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, he said. A meeting between the two will come “when the time is mature,” he said. And, from the advance story, Relations Warm Between Russian Orthodox Church and Vatican: Reflecting Russia’s geopolitical dance with Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate has found common ground with Benedict, and since Patriarch Kirill … [Read more...]

Patriarch Kirill welcomes Metropolitan Jonah in Moscow

Metropolitan Jonah (left) and Patriarch Kirill in Moscow

Official statement from the Moscow Patriarchate (HT: Byzantine, TX, and Rocor United): On the 26th of April 2009, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America served liturgy with Patriarch Kirill at Christ the Savior Cathedral. The Patriarch then addressed Metropolitan Jonah with the following words: Your Eminence Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of all America and Canada, beloved in Christ brother and co-celebrant! Wise bishops and priests! Dear brothers and sisters! Christ is Risen! It brings me great joy to greet the delegation of the Orthodox Church in America headed by His Eminence Vladyka Jonah during these bright Paschal days. In your first official visit as a newly-chosen primate, which you are making to the Moscow Patriarchate, you have emphasized the special interrelation of American Orthodoxy with its Mother Church. This relation, filled with a spirit of love and unity, truly can be characterized by the words of the apostle, “One … [Read more...]

Patriarch Kirill to visit Ecumenical Patriarchate in July

The ANA-MPA news service is reporting that "the new Patriarch of Moscow, Kyrill will be on a formal visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople at Phanar on July 4-6. Patriarch Kyrill and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople will co-officiate in a mass, while the visiting Patriarch is expected to follow the example of his predecessor and visit Aghia Sophia." Here's a good backgrounder on the tensions that have existed between Moscow and Constantinople for years. The report in AsiaNews was a "table setter" for the Pan-Orthodox Synaxis held in October at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. From the article: The dispute between Moscow and Constantinople has been going on for some time: first in Rhodes (Greece) in 2007, when Moscow announced it would not take part in the pan-Orthodox Synod in 2008; then in Ravenna when Moscow’s representatives walked out of a conference because they objected to the presence of the Estonian Orthodox Church which Moscow does not … [Read more...]

Bishop Hilarion: Ecumenical Patriarchate seeks to impose Roman Catholic model of primacy

From Interfax: Moscow Patriarchate disagrees with Constantinople desire to play special role in Orthodoxy MOSCOW (April 10) -- Bishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's external church relations department, has criticized the Constantinople Patriarchate's intention to control all church communities within the Orthodox diaspora. "I see the situation in the inter-Orthodox relations surrounding the Constantinople Patriarchate's claim to have some special role in the Orthodox Church as one of the key challenges today," Bishop Hilarion said at a press conference at the Interfax main office in Moscow on Friday. "What is happening is in fact an attempt to impose a model existing in the Catholic Church on the Orthodox Church to have as centralized church power as possible, with one bishop leading it as the head of the Ecumenical Church," he said. "There has never been such a model in the Orthodox tradition," Bishop Hilarion said. He … [Read more...]

Alexy II: A ‘Transitional’ Patriarch

Vladimir Berezansky, Jr., a U.S. lawyer with experience in Russia and former Soviet republics, recalls an interview with Patriarch Alexy II in 1991. Like many Russians at the time, the Patriarch was coping with a "disorienting change" following the fall of the Soviet Empire, Berezansky writes. At the time, he seemed overcome by the changes taking place around him, and he did not know where to begin. "For our entire lives, we [clerics] were pariahs, and now we are being called on to do everything: chaplains for the military, ministries to hospitals, orphanages, prisons," he said. He even voiced regret about taking the time to travel to the United States. But he had gambled -- correctly, as it turned out -- that he could do more for his flock by seeking foreign assistance than by staying home to manage the Russian Orthodox Church's destitution. His plate was full and overflowing, and he seemed keenly aware of the ironies of his situation. The Russian state was returning … [Read more...]

The Church and the Terror State

Priests, archbishops and a metropolitan imprisoned in the Solovetsky labor camp (1926). Solovetsky, a thriving monastery before the Bolshevik takover, was returned to the Russian Church in 1990. Source: Tomas Kizny

The Moscow Times reports on the funeral of Russian Patriarch Alexy II: Candles flickered and white-robed elders chanted prayers as the country bade farewell Tuesday to Patriarch Alexy II, who guided the country's dominant Russian Orthodox Church through its remarkable recovery after decades of Communist-era repression. Nuns, believers and government officials looked on as prayers filled the soaring Christ the Savior Cathedral at a six-hour funeral service for Alexy, who died Friday at age 79. He was buried later Tuesday at the Epiphany Cathedral across town in a ceremony closed to the public and media, the church said ... "We are burying a great man, a great son of our nation, a beautiful holy fruit grown by our Russian church," Reverend Dmitry Smirnov, a Moscow archpriest, said in an address at the funeral, which was broadcast live on state-run television. "Our whole nation has been orphaned." The BBC has a clip from the very moving funeral service here. I published "The … [Read more...]

Orthodox Christian Patriarchs Celebrate Baptism of Russia

Orthodox Churches have long been involved in ecumenical projects, such as the World Council of Churches, and affirm the Lord's mandate "that they all may be one" (John 17:21). Yet, I can't help thinking at times that the Orthodox Churches might work a little harder at unity in their own house. For that reason, it was encouraging to follow the progress of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios' recent visit to the Moscow Patriarchate and see Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I side by side with Patriarch Alexy II for the celebration of the baptism of Russia. The Greeks and the Russians have had some contentious moments of late, such as the controversy over who shall have jurisdiction for Orthodox Christians in Estonia. Good background here in an AP story on the tensions between the Ukrainians and Russians: Ukrainian officials are determined to use the events to lobby for autonomy for the local church from Russia, while the dominant Moscow Patriarchate will fight to retain … [Read more...]

‘Requiem for the Romanovs’

Robert Moynihan, writing for Inside the Vatican, has a moving report on the world premiere of a "Requiem Concert" in Russia's largest church, Christ the Savior, in a commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the execution of Czar Nicholas II and his family on the night of July 17, 1918. The historical texts and music were by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna, Austria, head of the Russian Church representation to the European Institutions. Alfeyev also participated in the performance, reading Scriptural passages in which the sufferings of Christ seemed to foreshadow the sufferings of Christians in communist Russia. In the article "Requiem for the Romanovs," Moynihan wrote: No one can contemplate the bloody murder of four lovely, educated, refined, innocent girls, and their young brother, without a shudder. This sense of horror is multiplied by the sense that the children in some way represented the nation itself. The czar "incarnated" the "essence" of the Russian nation, … [Read more...]