August 23, 2014

Report: Turkey to reopen Halki Seminary

Turkish newspapers say a deal is in the works. Will there be reciprocity from Greece? When President Obama was in Turkey, there were reports that "the recognition by Greek authorities of muftis in Thrace and financial support for Muslim schools might prompt a Turkish rethink on the Halki school." Here is the story from Hurriyet, the Turkish newspaper: ANKARA - The Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada is to be reopened, Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay said, adding that they are searching for a formula to integrate the Orthodox theological school into Turkey’s university system. "Although we have not finalized a decision in the Cabinet, my personal impression is that we are going to open the seminary," said Günay, speaking on Kanal 24 television over the weekend. Recalling that the functioning of the Halki seminary is not compatible with the Turkish university system, Günay maintained that work is underway to find a formula for its status. He explained that the question … [Read more...]

Ecumenical Patriarch Decries Turkish Property Seizures

AsiaNews is reporting that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has "announced his intention to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg over violations against the Orthodox community and its foundations, unjustly expropriated of lands and buildings by Ankara’s Direction for Religious Foundations." Speaking to faithful in St Georges’ Parish, close to the Byzantine walls of Istanbul, the Patriarch affirmed that the decision to go to the Strasbourg court was made by the Synod: We have and you have come here to celebrate this religious ceremony in a parish that is facing many difficulties. Unfortunately it is not alone. The problem is that this parish and its community, as is the case with many other's of the Church of Constantinople, have been abusively declared mazbut (occupied) by the Direction for Religious Foundations. This means that we cannot claim any rights to the management of the properties of this community, nor proceed with the election of its … [Read more...]

Using ‘Human Rights’ to Squelch Free Speech

In the June issue of Reason Magazine, Ezra Levant details his long and unnecessary struggle with Canadian human rights watchdogs over charges that he insulted a Muslim extremist, who claimed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. This sorry episode also cost Levant, the former publisher of Canada's Western Standard magazine, about $100,000. Read "The Internet Saved My Life: How I beat Canada's 'human rights' censors." (HT: RealClearPolitics). Levant sums it up this way: The investigation vividly illustrated how Canada’s provincial and national human rights commissions (HRCs), created in the 1970s to police discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of goods and services, have been hijacked as weapons against speech that offends members of minority groups. My eventual victory over this censorious assault suggests that Western governments will find it increasingly difficult in the age of the Internet to continue undermining human rights in the name of … [Read more...]

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Icon of Christ opening the gates of Dachau

Every Pascha, I repost two stories on OrthodoxyToday.org. that tell how Orthodox prisoners in Dachau held the Paschal Liturgy during their liberation. The first, "The Souls of All are Aflame" provides historical background and detail. The second, "Pascha in Dachau" recounts the story of a prisoner who was there. Dachua was liberated during Holy Week. The Orthodox believers experienced Christ's triumph over the forces of darkness to a depth that is difficult to understand. It is hard to fathom the depravity the evil ideologies fostered in their persecutors short of any direct experience, but anyone who has confronted lesser evils knows that such great evil can exist. The resurrection of Christ is the final confrontation to the horrors unleashed when the embrace of Nazism and Communism opened the jaws of a deep hell. We see it in our own day too, especially the embrace of the nihilistic fantasies that fuel the arguments that devalue human life. It began with that faceless figure, … [Read more...]

Turkish film ‘Guz Sancisi’ sheds light on 1955 Istanbul pogrom

For the first time, a Turkish film has taken a serious look at the anti-Greek riots in Istanbul on Sept. 6-7, 1955, a horrific mob attack that triggered the rapid decline of the Greek Christian community -- at the time numbering some 120,000 to 135,000 people. Widespread destruction was wreaked on homes, businesses and Greek Orthodox Church property. Businesses and homes owned by Armenians and Jews were also targeted. An article in Today's Zaman, a Turkish paper, describes the film "Güz Sancısı," or "The Pain of Autumn," as a love story of Behçet and Elena, a Turkish man and a Greek woman, set against the tension that culminated in the real-life destruction of 5,300 businesses and houses owned by Greeks, Armenians and Jews. The paper, citing distributor Özen Film, said that more than 500,000 people have seen the film since its release in March. Visit the official site here. The producers of "The Pain of Autumn" say the film about the 1955 pogrom ... ... is a result of an … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Iakovos Speaks Out on Illinois ‘Reproductive Health and Access Act’

Greek Orthodox Metropoiltan Iakovos has issued a "call to action" on an Illinois bill that right-to-life advocates describe as a state level Freedom of Choice Act. The metropolitan has posted a clear and forceful letter on the Metropolis of Chicago Web site condemning the proposed HB 2354 as unjust and a violation of "the very principles of our faith in Jesus Christ, the Life of the world." The metropolitan said HB 2354 "would affect all health care workers by removing their right to conscientious objection to abortion and related procedures, forcing them to participate in or provide abortions or face legal punishments. This bill would basically make the right to an abortion a fundamental human right in the State of Illinois." More: The forces that oppose religious freedom and are actually seeking to increase the number of abortions in our society are well organized, well funded, and well connected to the political process. It is high time for Christians to raise their own … [Read more...]

Mor Gabriel, Halki and Obama

A very timely story yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Higgins about a land dispute between Syriac Orthodox monastery Mor Gabriel and Turkish authorities. Also yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, during a stop in Ankara, announced that President Obama will be visiting Turkey "in a month or so." She said this toward the end of her public remarks: I reiterate the Obama Administration’s support for Turkey’s membership in the European Union. The United States believes it will strengthen Turkey, Europe, and our transatlantic partnership. The United States continues to support the UN-sponsored talks now taking place to achieve a settlement of the Cyprus conflict based on reunification of the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We talked about Turkey’s democracy, its multiethnic heritage, and in that context, I raised the importance that we place on reopening the Halki Seminary and efforts to reach out to all of Turkey’s communities. For … [Read more...]

Fr. Harakas: St. Athanasius the ‘supreme model’

St. Athanasius

Orthodox Christians have "a message and a way of life" that they must present as "an alternative to the morally and spiritually down-spiraling contemporary American lifestyle," says Fr. Stanley Harakas, Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology Emeritus at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Fr. Harakas was the keynote speaker at Fordham University’s Orthodoxy in America lecture on Feb. 17. He said that St. Athanasius is a useful model for Orthodox Christians as they anticipate their future in this country because "his battles for the Orthodox faith, his acceptance of repeated exiles and his unrestrained resistance against opposing forces in high places earned him in history a description as Athanasius contra mundum, or 'Athanasius against the world.'" Also, Alexandria, the city in which St. Athanasius was born and raised, was, in the first few centuries of Christianity, "a pluralistic place, full of variety and within the Christianfold of a wide range of … [Read more...]

The Faith-Based Pitfall

A word of warning from Joseph Loconte on the seductive appeal of government funding for Church-based social ministries. Loconte, a senior research fellow at The King’s College in New York City, says that the faith-based initiative, as it's being reformulated under the Obama administration, will likely be filtered though a Religious Left/Social Gospel ideology which holds that "compassion is defined by government budgets and delivered by government agents." From my point of view, the faith-based initiative has always been problematical because it surrenders the autonomy of the Church, and its ancient ethic of freely given charity, to federal bureaucrats. The danger here is the secularization of social ministries and a dependence on federal funding. Just say no. Witness the bizarre debate that erupted in 2001, recently revived by Obama, about the right of religious organizations to make faith commitment a criterion for employment. Earlier this week, the New York Times demanded that … [Read more...]

The Church of New Martyrs

Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and Gallich

The Orthodox Church today commemorates St. Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople, famed for his "lofty eloquence and ... wondrous breadth of learning." In Russia, today is also the feast day of the New Martyrs, the millions of faithful Christians who perished under the Communist terror. Among them was the holy New Martyr Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky) of Kiev and Gallich, the first bishop to be tortured and slain by the Communists at the time of the Russian Revolution. The Church was an immediate target of the Bolsheviks who saw the faithful as "a threat from the opposing political force." On January 23, 1918, during the battle for Kiev, the Bolsheviks seized the Kiev Caves Lavra, and the monks were taken out into the courtyard to be stripped and beaten. A few nights later, according to one account, five armed soldiers and a sailor came looking for Metropolitan Vladimir. The hierarch was tortured and choked in his bedroom with the chain of his cross. They … [Read more...]

Met. Jonah: Episcopacy, Primacy, and the Mother Churches

In June, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America delivered a talk on "Episcopacy, Primacy, and the Mother Churches: A Monastic Perspective" at the Conference of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius at St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary. The audio of the talk is available on Ancient Faith Radio along with the other presentations from the conference. The PDF version of Metropolitan Jonah's presentation is available on the OCA site, where the Church is also archiving his articles and speeches. On the subject of the Mother Churches and the “Diaspora,” Metropolitan Jonah has this to say: ... almost all national Churches have extended their jurisdictions beyond their geographic and political boundaries to the so-called diaspora. But Orthodox Christians who are faithful to the Gospel and the Fathers cannot admit of any such thing as a diaspora of Christians. Only ethnic groups can be dispersed among other ethnic groups. Yet the essential principle of geographic … [Read more...]

‘A Day of Public Thanksgiving’

In "Thanks to the Founders," Andrew Kadar recalls his arrival in America as a young boy, and explains why Thanksgiving is now his favorite holiday. Anyone from an immigrant background will be touched by his story. Some people lament that Americans treat immigrants unkindly, that we discriminate against them and make their lives more difficult. I never experienced that. To the contrary, Americans went out of their way to help me become one of them. My family's attitude contributed to our reception. We didn't come here to be Hungarians in America. We came here to be Americans. We made the effort to live and act like Americans to the best of our ability from day one. We all learned to speak English as soon and as well as possible. We eagerly absorbed American culture, history and customs, which we grew to appreciate and love. And on this day, let us give thanks, as did that revolutionary conservative George Washington, for the "great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty" we … [Read more...]