August 30, 2014

Greece Supreme Court annuls verdict against Abbot Ephraim


Source: The Voice of Russia The Greek Supreme Court has annulled a verdict against Archimandrite Ephraim, the Abbot of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, local media reported on Thursday. Earlier this week, Ephraim and two more people were convicted to ten months in prison for embezzlement and money laundering in Greece. In a statement on Thursday, the Supreme Court said that the verdict is illegal and should be reviewed. Ephraim was arrested in December 2011 and is still in a detention center in Athens. … [Read more...]

Benjamin Peck: Speak My Name

Benjamin Peck

I am always encouraged whenever I read or hear young people who are serious about Christ. Below is a sermon written by Benjamin Peck, a freshman at Holy Cross College that he gave at the Festival of Young Preachers conference sponsored by the Academy of Preachers in January, 2012. (Learn more about the festival here.) Ben is 21 years old but you can see by his sermon he thinks deeply and seriously about the needful things. He is aware that following Christ carries a cost and requires soberness and courage. He knows that the Christian life requires interior transformation, a putting away of sin, and boldness and resolve in the face of opposition and even danger. This kind of clarity doesn't come without concrete encounter with the Risen Christ. As I said, this is very encouraging. Good work Ben. By Benjamin Peck Oh Heavenly King, the comforter, the spirit of Truth, who art everywhere and fillest all things. Treasury of blessings, and giver of life; come and abide in … [Read more...]

Greek Church Protests Pre-Trial Detention of Abbot Ephraim

Abbott Ephraim

Will the (autocephalous) Orthodox Church of Greece receive a scolding as well? (See: Εcumenical Patriarchate Denounces Russian Interference in the Ephraim Case.) Source: RIA Novosti The autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece has called for the release of Abbot Efraim, the head of the Vatopedi Monastery in Mount Athos, who is currently under arrest on real estate fraud charges, the church’s Holy Synod said on Thursday. “Our church respects rulings by justice and would not like to interfere in its responsibility sphere… Nevertheless, together with many believers, the church expresses sympathy of all its members to the embattled abbot, and… hopes the possibility of his release from custody will be reconsidered,” it said. The Cypriot-born 56-year-old Abbot Efraim is accused of involvement in a criminal scheme under which the Greek government swapped cheap farmland for costly Athens real estate in favor of the Vatopedi Monastery. He says he is not guilty. The head of … [Read more...]

Engaged Monasticism

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

Source: Fr. Peter-Michael Preble blog | Fr. Peter-Michael Preble In 369 AD St. Basil the great was a newly ordained priest ministering in and around the area of Constantinople. That year a drought hit followed by famine as the crops had all dried up. He delivered four homilies that have been complied in the book “On Social Justice” that spoke to the heart of how people act in these times of dire physical suffering. Many of the themes from these homilies are repeating themselves today as they have throughout history. St. Basil had a vision of a new social order based upon simplicity of life and sharing rather than competition and private ownership. He had a vision for what would be called “the new city.” Part of this new city would be an engaged monasticism, a monastic vision that was more urban than rural, a monasticism, which has at its very heart, service to the poor. He had a vision for what would be called the Basiliad, a complex of buildings where the poor and needy … [Read more...]

Εcumenical Patriarchate Denounces Russian Interference in the Ephraim Case

Abbott Ephraim

The Vatopedi land deal (see: Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds) has resulted in the arrest and detainment of the Abbot of the Monastery of Vatopaidi Ephraim. It has also exacerbated tensions between Constantinople and Moscow. Constantinople was silent on the matter while Moscow was unequivocal in its condemnation of the arrest which they view as unnecessary and unjust. Constantinople broke it silence only recently with the press release copied below. It is hard to draw any conclusions not knowing the particulars of the case but as a friend of mine mentioned to me earlier, criticism of the Greek Government for the arrest of Abbot Ephraim cannot be rightly constructed as "interference" in the canonical territory the Ecumenical Patriarchate. To Moscow, this is a matter of elementary justice, not administration. If, say, Moscow sprang the Abbott from jail and flew him to Russia, then Constantinople would have a point. But defending a man who quite likely is a pawn in the increasing … [Read more...]

Patriarch Urges Russia’s Government To ‘Listen’ And ‘Correct The Course’

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill (left) with President Dmitry Medvedev at the Church of Our Lady's Nativity in the Kremlin

Much political and social analysis in America about the Russian Orthodox Church tends to view Russia through the lens of the Cold War. Russia remains an enemy to American interests and the Russian Orthodox Church is merely a vassal to the Russian State that sanctifies, as it were, state policies that are inimical to American ideals, including freedom of religion. It's a peculiar analysis that is more concerned about maintaining neo-conservative ideas about the relationship of the state to civic values (as opposed to the conservative ideas of thinkers like Russell Kirk and others) that sheds little light on either Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church, or the relationship between religion and culture. The brief report below on the warning from Patriarch Kyrill to the leadership of the Russian State reveals that the neo-con assumption about the subservience of the Russian Church to the State is wrong. Source: Radio Free Europe The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has used a … [Read more...]

Revival of Orthodoxy in Russia


Back in October, 2011 Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill said: In 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church had 12,000 parishes, 117 monasteries and convents, two theologian academies, seven theologian seminaries, 16 theologian colleges and four schools. In 2011, we have 30,675 parishes, 29,324 priests, 3,850 deacons and 805 monasteries and convents. The number of theologian educational establishments has increased, too. Twenty years is not much in the history of a Church on the one hand, but on the other, the achievements made since 1991 are colossal. Spiritual revival is only at its start. The exhibit below is being held in Moscow presently. … [Read more...]

Christmas Too Commercialized? Bah! Humbug!


Source: Koinonia A sermon by Fr. Gregory Jenson. From both the left and the right then, we hear attacks of the contemporary American celebration of Christmas. Every year about this time you can be certain that someone—and not necessarily a Christian—will write an essay lamenting the secularization or the commercialization of Christmas. And for the last several years I have dutiful read these woeful litanies about how we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. Typically Christians on the cultural and political right complain about how Christmas has become secularized. These individuals are offended when they hear “Happy Holidays!” rather than “Merry Christmas!” in the stores and malls where they are shopping. Just as predictably, Christians on the political and cultural left will take others to task for the commercialization of Christmas. In tones as woeful and self-righteous as their opposite numbers on the right, they will express … [Read more...]

OCA Holy Synod of Bishops Expresses Solidarity with Coptic Church in Egypt


Source: Orthodox Church in America The witness and mission of the Coptic Church in Egypt have their origin in apostolic times. Today, the Coptic Church of Egypt is the largest Christian Church in the Middle East. Under the leadership of His Holiness, Pope Shenouda, the Coptic Church is a dynamic and active Church, with significant and effective work in education, youth work, and social work. While the Coptic Church has experienced limitations to its work in the context of the Muslim majority of Egypt, the present time presents special challenges. In the midst of the changes in Egyptian political life during the last months, some of which are positive, there are aspects of current developments which make the Coptic Church vulnerable to discrimination and even violence. For this reason, the Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, has issued a Statement of Support for the Coptic Church of Egypt. This … [Read more...]

Russian Orthodox Church Asserts Role in Civil Society

The Church of the Fedorovskaya Icon of the Virgin Mary, at the central Moscow campus of the Russian State Social University, was consecrated in 2006 after debate about religion’s place.

Source: New York Times (HT: The Orthodox Church) | Sophia Kishkovsky MOSCOW — Just over 20 years ago, any religious education outside church walls was still banned in the Soviet Union. Today, churches are being built on state university campuses, theology departments have opened around Russia, and the Russian Orthodox Church has built its own educational network with international contacts and even become something of a model for the secular system. Still, state universities struggle on many levels to integrate into the international system; the Bologna Process, an agreement streamlining higher-education standards across Europe, has upset many Russian academics who contend that it undermines the achievements of the Soviet system, where a standard specialist degree required five years of study. But the Russian Orthodox Church, which started building its education system virtually from scratch in the post-Soviet era, has applied international standards from the outset, said … [Read more...]

Cultural Legacy of Communism: Armenian Women Still Have Average of 8 and as High as 20 Abortions in Lifetime


When the Berlin Wall fell everyone pondered the ramifications as East Germany rejoined their Western brothers and presumably in a few short years catapult Germany to even higher economic prominence. It didn't happen. As it turned out, all it takes to weaken a culture is one generation. Sixty years can wipe values and habits that took generations to accrue. Russia proves the same point. Cultural rebuilding is a slower process than we would like, which also compels us to protect the things that remain. If the first things are lost they take a long time to restore, if ever. In the essay below writer Ben Johnson examines the abortion rates of once Christian Armenia after the call of Communism and reveals that the restoration of human value will be hard fought. Fortunately the Orthodox Church is starting to speak out. Orthodox writer and ethicist Vigen Guroian is quoted: "I cannot understand why the Armenian people are committing genocide against themselves now, when they’ve endured … [Read more...]

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill: Surrender of the principle of consensus in the pre-Council process can bring about disorders in world Orthodoxy

Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow

Reading between the lines it seems two questions are in play: 1) How to treat the autocephalous Churches and 2) whether consensus or majority vote will be used to determine how decisions are made. My question is if consensus is chosen, how will it be determined when consensus is reached? Source: Russian Orthodox Church Department of External Church Relations A process of preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council launched fifty years ago has become brisker, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia noted in his report delivered at the meeting of the Moscow Diocesan Assembly. All Local Orthodox Churches, which take part in the preparation, have got agreement on the ten topics of the Council out of ten. According to His Holiness, the advance is unthinkable without preliminary agreement that ought to be reached at the Pan-Orthodox pre-Council meetings; the principle of taking decisions unanimously or by consensus is fixed in the rules. Last February, however, … [Read more...]