August 30, 2014

The Constitution of the Eastern Church

In 1942, Russian emigre and lay theologian Nicholas Zernov published a little book on the Orthodox Church under the auspices of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius. Much of Zernov's "The Church of the Eastern Christians" is aimed -- no surprise -- at educating the British public about the Orthodox Church and advancing the cause of unity between Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox. He also has some things to say about how the Church governs itself that we would do well to reflect upon today. "The Eastern Church rejects altogether the attempts of the West to locate Church authority in one or another ecclesiastical institution," Zernov wrote. "It is the Holy Spirit speaking and acting through the whole body of believers who is the teacher and guardian of truth for them." In his introduction, written against the backdrop of WWII, he identified two major problems facing Christians: the lack of unity and the rise of totalitarianism, first in Russia following the revolution and then … [Read more...]

Patriarch Kirill ‘copying John Paul II’

In the New York Times, Sophia Kishkovsky files a report on Patriarch Kirill's recent youth rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg where he struck both nationalist and highly personal tones. Patriarch Kirill also did not mention America, but said immoral economies are doomed to collapse. “An economic system built only on the striving for profit, on indifference to the fate of people, on disregard for moral norms, is deprived of stability and can collapse at any moment, burying the fate of people under its rubble,” he said. Here in St. Petersburg, Patriarch Kirill struck a much more personal tone. He made a generous reference to Martin Luther King Jr. — whom Kirill said he met in 1968 — and his “I Have a Dream” speech, and stressed the importance of true love and of striving for ideals. “He wasn’t a dreamer, he was a brilliant politician, orator, and Christian pastor,” Patriarch Kirill said of Dr. King, addressing some 8,000 students. “But he had a dream, and this dream led to … [Read more...]

Ukrainian Church ‘rent by divisions’

On the Get Relgion blog, Terry Mattingly describes a trip he made to Kiev to speak to Ukrainian journalists "about the challenges of covering religion news in mainstream press." He looks at the divisions among Orthodox Churches in the Ukraine, which is set against the long running antagonisms that exist between that country and Russia. "You see, right now almost anything can create tensions between Ukraine and Russia," Mattingly writes. "A ceremony with clergy linked to Moscow would create tensions in some circles. A ceremony without clergy linked to Moscow would create tensions in others. The symbolism has political content either way." He also writes about his trip to Kiev for his Scripps News column. Here's how he begins: Merely saying the forest's name -- Bykivnya -- can cause strong emotions for millions of Ukrainians. This is where the secret police of Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin buried 100,000 of their victims between 1937 and 1941 in a mass grave northeast of Kiev. … [Read more...]

The Schism and the Skoptsy

RIA Novosti is running a series on Russia's religious sects. The news service takes a look at the history of some of these groups and their leaders, and also asks "why Russia has proved such fertile ground for the growth of new and bizarre beliefs." Part one: MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti's Marc Bennetts) - Russia has seen a colossal number of sects and fringe religions throughout its long history, from the 18th-century self-castrating Skoptsy to the modern-day doomsday cult whose members threatened to burn themselves alive in the Volga Region last year. Up until the mid 17th century, the Russian Orthodox Church enjoyed complete spiritual authority. However, in 1666, Patriarch Nikon decided to bring the Russian Church in line with Greek Orthodoxy, and ordered the rewriting of ecclesiastical tomes. His move, in a country where dogma and tradition had always played a large role in religious life, caused an uproar. Nikon's assertion that Orthodox believers should use three fingers … [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: A Global Reach

Russia's new patriarch is "proving to be a capable administrator" and has surrounded himself with a team of "well-trained and capable younger clerics," say Leonid Sevastyanov and Robert Moynihan in the Moscow Times. In "100 Days of Patriarch Kirill," the writers also say that the new leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has a "fully European" vision for his ministry. Kirill now heads a church with about 140 million adherents, far larger than the Anglican Church and second only to the Roman Catholic Church. With a significant percent of Orthodox believers living outside Russia, this gives the church a truly global reach. But statistics are less important than suffering and faith. The Russian Orthodox Church suffered greatly under Soviet rule. Now it has re-emerged from the catacombs following the collapse of the Soviet Union 17 years ago to take on a greater role in post-Soviet Russia. Despite the enormous challenges that the Orthodox Church faces, now is the time of … [Read more...]

Holy Cross Faculty Weighs in on ‘Distinctive Prerogatives’ of Ecumenical Patriarch

The Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass., released a "Faculty Statement on the Ecumenical Patriarchate" on April 30 and posted it on the school's Web site on May 8. HT: Andrew. Text follows: The Leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Significance of Canon 28 of Chalcedon The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is the preeminent Church in the communion of the fourteen Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Reflecting the witness of St. Andrew, the First Called Apostle, the enduring mission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is to proclaim the salutary Gospel of Jesus Christ in accordance with the Apostolic and Orthodox Faith. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has a particular responsibility to strengthen the unity of the Orthodox Churches and to coordinate their common witness. At the same time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a specific responsibility to care for the faithful in lands beyond the borders of the other Autocephalous … [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...]

Church of Russia to host Metropolitan Jonah April 25-May 4

Does the concelebration indicate tacit affirmation that the standing of Met. Jonah is equal to Met. Kirill in the eyes of the Russian Orthodox Church? SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- At the invitation of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah will be the guest of the Church of Russia from April 25 through May 4, 2009. The visit marks Metropolitan Jonah's first official visit to a sister Orthodox Church since his election as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America in November 2008. During his visit, Metropolitan Jonah will concelebrate the Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Kirill at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral and at the 15th century Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin. He also will visit the OCA's Representation Church of the Great Martyr Catherine in central Moscow and the Valaam Monastery in northern Russia, where he began his life and ministry as a monastic. Accompanying Metropolitan Jonah will be His … [Read more...]

Patriarch Kirill: Easter greetings to Churches

Patriarch Kirill addresses his flock with a Paschal message Moscow, April 19, Interfax - On the eve of the Resurrection of Christ, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia turned to his flock with his first Paschal message. "Christ's resurrection is the foundation of a life that has conquered death, sin and corruption. We are called to relive Easter as the triumph of life not only on this day: every Sunday reveals to us the majesty of the Saviour's feat, liberating us from death and destroying the fetters of sin which separate man from God," Patriarch Kirill reminded. … [Read more...]

Patriarch Kirill shakes up Russian Orthodox hierarchy; Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev to head External Relations

A report in Georgian Daily by Paul A. Goble details a number of new appointments and transfers put in motion by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Goble says that "Russian commentators agree" that the patriarch intends to use his position to promote a more public and more active approach at home and abroad. But, citing a report by Aleksandr Soldatov on the Russian language Portal-Credo site, Goble says there are also signs of preparations for a major council. At the direction of Kirill, the Holy Synod created a “still mysterious” commission for the preparation of materials in anticipation of an as yet undefined and unscheduled church council or “sobor" and named Archmonk Saava, who is particularly close to the new patriarch as its secretary. This group, which Kirill apparently will chair could prove to be only a place holder for housekeeping functions or it could – and Soldatov suggests that Kirill’s own personality makes this more likely – a staging … [Read more...]

St. Tikhon: Shine the Light

St. Tikhon of Moscow

Monachos.net, a great resource, has published a new translation by St. Tikhon, Metropolitan of Moscow, delivered in 1907 at the New York cathedral on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Monachos.net describes this as "the saint's 'farewell homily' to his flock, before departing the United States, and contains important reflections on missionary zeal as well as touching reflections by St. Tikhon on his work in North America." Isn't it interesting that St. Tikhon was calling for the Orthodox to evangelize America in a serious way more than 100 years ago? He closes the sermon by recognizing that some of his flock found "shelter, work, and well-being" in America and all "received the freedom to profess the right Faith in your liberal land." St. Tikhon exhorts us: But it is not enough, brethren, only to celebrate “The Triumph of Orthodoxy.” It is necessary for us personally to promote and contribute to this triumph. And for this we must reverently preserve the Orthodox … [Read more...]