Friday, October 31, 2014

As close as the Russian Church and the Greek Catholics get
Pictured center Met. Hilarion of the Russian Church and to his right Major Archbishop (read: Patriarch) Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Rome. For context see this post.

Coptic head visiting Moscow

( - On October 28, 2014, His Holiness Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Church, arrived in Moscow for his first visit to the Russian Orthodox Church since he was elected to the Patriarchal throne in November 2012.

The official delegation accompanying His Holiness includes Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta; Bishop Rafeile of Central Cairo, general secretary of the Coptic Church Holy Synod; Bishop Kirolos of Milan; Bishop Serapion of Los Angeles; Bishop Angelos, vicar-bishop in Great Britain; Rev. Angelos Ishak, Patriarchal secretary; Rev. Poules Halim, Patriarchal press secretary; Sister Edrosis Girgis, mother superior of the St. Theodore Convent in Cairo; Prof. Dr. Ishak Ibrahim Agban, Port Said Theological and Pastoral College.

At Domodedovo airport, Patriarch Tawadros II was met by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, Egypt’s Ambassador to Russia Mohamed Abdelsattar Elbadri, Archpriest victor Kulaga, representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia to the Patriarchal See of Alexandria, Hieromonk Stephan (Igumnov), DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations, and Rev. Alexander Vasyutin of the DECR.

Welcoming the high guest, Metropolitan Hilarion expressed hope that His Holiness’s visit to the Russian Orthodox Church will be fruitful and leave good memories.

“We are very glad to come for a visit to your Church. Some members of my delegation have already been here, while the rest, just as I, have come for the first time. I will be glad to meet with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. We know that visiting the Russian Orthodox Church we are filled with grace”, the Head of the Coptic Church said.

The program of the visit includes a meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and representatives of the Russian state leadership and visits to churches in Moscow and its region.

The visit of Patriarch Tawadros to the Russian Orthodox Church will be concluded on November 4, 2014.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pope of Rome meets with Orientale Lumen group

On praying for the dead

I find myself preparing for a funeral later this week and so my mind is spinning through all aspects of death while I am spending the week gathering all the material things together to make this service happen. I came upon this video (one in a series of lessons on Orthodoxy by Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou - a name you might remember from some of his books) and quite enjoyed this primer on the Church and death. Enjoy.

Toronto diocese holds conference on EP: Finds him important

I'll post videos from the conference when they become available.

(GOA-Toronto) - With the blessings of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the spiritual leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) held a historic and very successful Conference on the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the theme, Reflecting on the Past — Looking Towards the Future.

The Conference was held at the Metropolitan Centre in Toronto and attended by 300 individuals, including many dignitaries.

The day began with introductory remarks from Metropolitan Sotirios and a video address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (here). Four distinguished speakers presented on various subjects that aligned with the Conference’s theme:

  • Fr. Maximos Constas, a former Professor at the Harvard Divinity School, who is a monk at the Monastery of Simonopetra on Mount Athos and currently a Senior Research Scholar at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, discussed the historical and ecclesiastical role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, specifically, St. Proklos of Constantinople.
  • The keynote address was delivered by His Eminence Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s sacred missionary work. A short but very moving video was also shown about Orthodoxy in Korea.
  • Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett, spoke on Truth, Dignity and Justice and on efforts to promote religious freedom around the world, particularly in Turkey.
  • The Order of St. Andrew’s National Commander, Dr. Anthony Limberakis, discussed the Order’s efforts to defend, protect and promote the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
A number of prominent North American Orthodox clergymen participated in the Conference including His Grace Bishop Christophoros of Andida, His Grace Bishop Ilia of Philomelion (Albanian Orthodox Church) and His Grace Bishop Andriy of Krateia (Ukrainian Orthodox Church), each of the Ecumenical Throne, as well as His Grace Bishop Georgije of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Other eminent attendees included His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins; Robert W. Peck, Ambassador of Canada to Greece; Alexandros Ioannidis, Consul General of Greece in Toronto; Rev. Fr. Alex Karloutsos of the U.S. Archdiocese; James Anas, President of the Canadian Archons; Efthimia Coutsougeras, President of the Metropolis Philoptochos; Archdeacon Bruce Myers, Representing the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary — Canadian Council of Churches; and, Dr. Kenneth Matziorinis, President of AHEPA Canada.

The Conference was a unique opportunity for participants and interested observers to learn about the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its illustrious history, present-day challenges and sacred role in Christendom, as well as the many honourable and principled initiatives of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the 270th successor of St. Andrew the Apostle.

During his concluding remarks, Metropolitan Sotirios specifically thanked Rev. Fr. Fanourios Pappas (Parish Priest at St. Nicholas) and Mr. E. Sotiropoulos, the principal organizers of the Conference. In addition, His Eminence conveyed the love, good wishes and blessings of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. He also thanked and glorified the Triune God and requested that participants do the same; after praising God, everyone chanted the blessed Phos Hilaron.

Photos and videos from the Conference are available on the Metropolis website and YouTube channel.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

California's Orthodox winery

(OCA-DOW) - "Do you make wine?" It is a question often asked by visitors to Holy Assumption Monastery and St. Simeon Verkhoturksy Church, both located in Calistoga, CA, nestled at the northern end of the Napa Valley. For two years now, the parishioners and nuns have been able to say, "Yes!", thanks to the creation of Calistoga Orthodox Wines, a jointly-managed non-profit company that currently produces two wines - California Kagor Premium Orthodox Chalice Wine and Traditional Blend Chalice Wine.

On Sunday, October 12, Calistoga Orthodox Wines hosted its 3rd annual wine-tasting and silent auction to raise funds for producing the wines. The event at St. Simeon Church featured eight local winemakers pouring their wines for guests, in addition to the chalice wines. Attendees milled about the spacious church lawn underneath globe lanterns from mid-afternoon until well after dark, enjoying an open-flame paella bar, desserts, and live instrumental music. Many took home valuable items donated to the silent auction by local stores and spas. New this year was a children's area, featuring various crafts that the children could make and take home. With over 100 participants, the this year's wine-tasting was the most successful fundraiser yet for Calistoga Orthodox Wines. If you missed the event, mark your 2015 calendar for Columbus Day Weekend, and join us next year!

California Kagor Premium Orthodox Chalice Wine and Traditional Blend Chalice Wine are high-quality wines are made according to the specifications of the Orthodox Church. The Kagor, as its name indicates, is of exceptionally high quality and is made according to the specifications of Tsar Peter the Great and the Russian Church Council of 1915. Please see here for more information on these wines. Proceeds from the sale of the wines benefit Holy Assumption Monastery and St. Simeon Church.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Leo Tolstoy's "Three Hermits"

Many moons ago I posted a video of this "old legend," but I enjoy it so much I thought it time to post the short story itself. Enjoy.

'And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.' -- Matt. vi. 7, 8.

A BISHOP was sailing from Archangel to the Solovétsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.

'Do not let me disturb you, friends,' said the Bishop. 'I came to hear what this good man was saying.'

'The fisherman was telling us about the hermits,' replied one, a tradesman, rather bolder than the rest.

'What hermits?' asked the Bishop, going to the side of the vessel and seating himself on a box. 'Tell me about them. I should like to hear. What were you pointing at?'

'Why, that little island you can just see over there,' answered the man, pointing to a spot ahead and a little to the right. 'That is the island where the hermits live for the salvation of their souls.'

'Where is the island?' asked the Bishop. 'I see nothing.'

'There, in the distance, if you will please look along my hand. Do you see that little cloud? Below it and a bit to the left, there is just a faint streak. That is the island.'

The Bishop looked carefully, but his unaccustomed eyes could make out nothing but the water shimmering in the sun.

'I cannot see it,' he said. 'But who are the hermits that live there?'

'They are holy men,' answered the fisherman. 'I had long heard tell of them, but never chanced to see them myself till the year before last.'

And the fisherman related how once, when he was out fishing, he had been stranded at night upon that island, not knowing where he was. In the morning, as he wandered about the island, he came across an earth hut, and met an old man standing near it. Presently two others came out, and after having fed him, and dried his things, they helped him mend his boat.

'And what are they like?' asked the Bishop.

'One is a small man and his back is bent. He wears a priest's cassock and is very old; he must be more than a hundred, I should say. He is so old that the white of his beard is taking a greenish tinge, but he is always smiling, and his face is as bright as an angel's from heaven. The second is taller, but he also is very old. He wears tattered, peasant coat. His beard is broad, and of a yellowish grey colour. He is a strong man. Before I had time to help him, he turned my boat over as if it were only a pail. He too, is kindly and cheerful. The third is tall, and has a beard as white as snow and reaching to his knees. He is stern, with over-hanging eyebrows; and he wears nothing but a mat tied round his waist.'

'And did they speak to you?' asked the Bishop.

'For the most part they did everything in silence and spoke but little even to one another. One of them would just give a glance, and the others would understand him. I asked the tallest whether they had lived there long. He frowned, and muttered something as if he were angry; but the oldest one took his hand and smiled, and then the tall one was quiet. The oldest one only said: "Have mercy upon us," and smiled.'

While the fisherman was talking, the ship had drawn nearer to the island.

Friday, October 24, 2014

UGCC Patriarch on non-canonical bodies

So, if you want to know what is upsetting Moscow, this is it. Lines like 'Instead, the Ukrainian media spread information that “the hierarch said that the UOC (MP) is the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”' are what Russia's External Church Relations group is talking about. Setting aside the polemics associated with the Greek Catholic Churches, I hazard to guess that Rome would be very upset if the Russian Church engaged with sedevacantists and other Catholic splinter groups in the way the UGCC is treating the UOC-KP and UAOC. Again, I'm not entertaining a discussion about the very existence of Greek Catholicism, I'm saying if the UOC-MP is dealing with non-canonical groups and you are giving credence to those groups you should expect the rhetoric to fly. Discuss.

(RISU) - This is the opinion that Patriarch Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) the UGCC expressed on October 23, during a briefing on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of legalization of the UGCC. The head of the UGCC also commented on yesterday’s words of Patriarch Filaret that someone wanted to put at odds Greek Catholics and Orthodox of the Kyiv Patriarchate.

Note that the reason for that was spreading by the media of the UGCC Patriarch’s words taken out of context that referred to “canonicity” of the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. In an interview with The Catholic Channel Patriarch Sviatoslav said: “Today it is no secret that the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine, that is the one in full communion with World Orthodoxy is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. There are other Orthodox religious communities, which have emerged in the time of independence of Ukraine, at different times and for different reasons, and have dissented from this Patriarchate; other Orthodox Churches consider them non-canonical.”

In an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan Patriarch Sviatoslav suggested that the religious situation in Ukraine was not so easy for foreigners to understand. “Yes, he said, in Ukraine there really exists the ‘canonical Church’, which the other Orthodox Churches recognize – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in union with the Moscow Patriarchate. But we also have a large community of the Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, which is non-canonical for Orthodox world. And also there is a small community of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which is also considered non-canonical. But despite this, we try to be open to all.”

Instead, the Ukrainian media spread information that “the hierarch said that the UOC (MP) is the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”

“I have stressed and I want to stress once again now that we feel absolutely profound respect for all denominations existing in Ukraine,” said the Head of the UGCC.

“It became quite obvious for me that someone really wants to extend this conflict, which now exists in Ukraine between the Ukrainian society and the external aggressor, to religious grounds, thus fuelling the inter-religious and inter-confessional conflict in Ukraine. And here I agree with Patriarch Filaret that someone really wants to put the religious environment at odds. And today I say – you lose! We understand it and won’t rise to provocations,” said Patriarch Sviatoslav.

“Today we, the Orthodox Churches, the Catholic and Protestant Churches, are all unified as never before. This unity in the religious environment, such practical ecumenism that we have today, has probably never existed for the past 25 years,” the hierarch summed up.

St. George manhole covers offend some in Moscow

Moscow, October 24 (Interfax) - The Orthodox Gonfaloniers Union calls blasphemous the project of Moscow canalization manholes depicting St. George the Victory-Bearer designed by the Art Lebedev Studio (see here).

"We consider the manholes a blasphemous abuse of religious feelings: depiction of the saint covers a manhole, the impurities will flow under it, the depiction is intentionally perverted, the depiction of the saint will be trampled upon," head of the Orthodox Gonfaloniers Union and the Orthodox Brotherhoods Union Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich said in his statement conveyed to Interfax-Religion on Friday.

According to him, the project is a subject to Article 148 of the Russian Criminal Code (Public actions expressing evident disrespect to society aimed at insulting religious feelings.)

"We ask Moscow mayor office to renounce these canalization manholes, otherwise we reserve the right to turn to the General Prosecutor Office in connection with intentional insulting of religious feelings," the statement reads.

The Art Lebedev Studio reports that design of the manholes covered was ordered by the Industry, Housing and Utilities Department. The series includes ten covers dedicated to one of the main Moscow symbols - St. George the Victory-Bearer.

Eastern Catholicism and the Second Vatican Council

If you want to see how truly complex the relationship is between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Roman and Orthodox Church, this is the video series to watch. The first video (a talk delivered by Fr. Brian E. Daley, S.J.) is a good history lesson for those unfamiliar with the self-identification of the Eastern Catholics and how Rome and Orthodoxy have seen them. "Uniatism" is a major sticking point right now and will continue to be until some consensus is reached, Greek Catholicism becomes a thing of the past, or Orthodoxy miraculously decides that it's "no big deal."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Innovation? No, thanks says St. Maximus

Often what makes news in the Catholic and Protestant worlds doesn't resound quite the same way in Orthodoxy. That's not to say Orthodoxy lacks its faults in execution (this blog is full of snapshots of such moments), but that things like an "Extraordinary Synod on the Family" get a muted response from the laity. Why? Because Orthodoxy is loathe to do anything new. If we can't find a biblical, patristic, or conciliar precedent for something it's not going to go very far. Even if we look to the Great and Holy Council set for 2016, we aren't going to see anything new I hazard to guess. We're going to see consensus on points that need consensus and some flowery wording on, as the agenda puts it, "Proclaiming Christian ideals to the work of Justice and Human Rights" and "Presence of the Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches" among other similar "timely" topics. The hot button topic of autocephaly and who grants it didn't even make it onto the schedule.

"[T]hose who have itching ears and itching tongues are those who wish only to hear or or tell of something new, who are always delighted by innovations, and in relocating the boundaries established by their fathers — to use a biblical phrase — and who take pleasure in the ephemeral and exotic, and who rise up against whatever is well known, well established, and unchanging, as being dull, commonplace, and of no value. They would gladly embrace the latest fashion, even though it were demonstrably false and could bring no benefit to the soul."

- St. Maximus the Confessor
Ambiguum 13

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pope of Rome to visit Turkey

(Hurriyet Daily News) - Pope Francis is set to become the fourth Pope to visit Turkey, after the Vatican published details of an upcoming three-day visit to Ankara and Istanbul.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said on Oct. 21 that Pope Francis was scheduled to touch down on Turkish soil on Nov. 28 in Ankara, before leaving the country from Istanbul on Nov. 30.

“Accepting the invitation of the president of the [Turkish] Republic, of His Holiness Bartholomew and the president of the [Turkish] Bishops’ Conference, Pope Francis will make an apostolic visit to Turkey from Nov. 28 to 30, traveling to Ankara and to Istanbul,” read the statement issued by Lombardi.

On the first day of his visit in the capital, the Pope is expected to visit the Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, before meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez.

Pope Francis will then fly on Nov. 29 to Istanbul, where he is scheduled to visit the Hagia Sofia Museum and the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque).

The Pontiff will hold a Holy Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and privately meet Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I later in the day.

He will also sign a Common Declaration towards religious unity and have lunch with Bartholomew I on the last day of his visit, during which he is scheduled to make three speeches.

Pope Francis will be the fourth Pope to visit Turkey after Pope Paul VI in 1967, Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

The visit will come three days after he addresses the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, France, at a difficult time for people of various religions in the Middle East and at a time when Turkey is hosting more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

Syria’s civil war has left more than 191,000 people dead since it began over three years ago, according to a U.N. report released in August.

Iraqi Christians have also fled their homes in fear of their lives in the face of attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants, with most of them arriving in Turkey.

Asked whether the Pope may visit refugees from Syria or Iraq during his visit to Turkey, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told reporters that it had not been ruled out as “the program has not yet been defined.”

A U.S.-led coalition is continuing to strike ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria in an effort to help Iraqi government forces and Kurdish security forces fighting the terrorist group.

Turkey declared on Monday that it will help Kurdish security forces (known as Peshmerga) to cross the border and pass from Iraq to Syria, where Kurds are fighting ISIL militants in the border city of Kobane.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

OCA's Diocese of the West gets aux. bishop

(OCA) - On Tuesday, October 21, 2014—the opening day of the fall session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America—His Grace, Bishop Irénée of Québec City and Igumen Paul [Gassios] were canonically elected to the vacant Episcopal Sees of Canada and Chicago and the Midwest. In addition, the Holy Synod elected Igumen Daniel [Brum] to serve as Auxiliary to His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West as Bishop of Santa Rosa, CA.

Bishop Irénée, who had been serving as Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada, was nominated by delegates to the Extraordinary Archdiocesan Assembly held in Gatineau, QC on October 2, 2014. Igumen Paul, who had served as Administrator of the Diocese of the Midwest, was nominated by delegates to the Special Midwest Diocesan Assembly held in Broadview Heights, OH, on October 7.

Born in Montréal, Quebec on December 25, 1948, Bishop Irénée received a BA in Slavic Studies from the University of Ottawa in 1971, after which he began studies at Holy Trinity Seminary, Jordanville, NY. He was accepted as a novice at Holy Trinity Monastery and placed under the spiritual guidance of Archimandrite Kiprian. In 1974, he was tonsured a Rassophore monk. The following year, he was tonsured a Stavrophore monk with the name Irénée, in honor of the sainted hieromartyr of Lyons.

In 1978, he was blessed to serve in France. In May of the same year, he was ordained to the diaconate in Brussels, Belgium, and in August to the priesthood in Geneva, Switzerland. He continued to serve in France until 1982, at which time he returned to Canada to serve Montréal’s French mission. He and the mission’s faithful were received into the OCA in 1986.

In 1992, Hieromonk Irénée was elevated to the dignity of Igumen by His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa, to care for the French language monastics in Québec. He also served as a supply priest to the parishes in Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto and Québec City.

In April 2009, the Holy Synod of the OCA elevated Igumen Irénée to the dignity of Archimandrite and elected him as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Canada with the title of Bishop of Québec City. In October 2009, ten bishops participated in his consecration to the episcopacy at Ottawa’s Annunciation Cathedral. On October 1, 2010, the Holy Synod appointed Bishop Irénée as Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada.

Igumen Paul was born to Nicholas and Georgia Gassios, natives of Castanea, Greece, in Detroit, MI on April 6,1953. He, his parents, and his sister Agatha lived in Detroit until their move to the suburbs in 1973.

As an infant, he was baptized with the name Apostolos, in honor of the holy Apostle Paul, at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Detroit, MI—his home parish for the first 28 years of his life.

He graduated from Detroit’s Cooley High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, in 1971, after which he enrolled in Wayne State University as a history and psychology major. After his graduation in 1976, he worked with emotionally and physically abused children. He furthered his education at Wayne State, from which he received a Master of Social Work degree in 1980, and continued to work in his chosen field.

In the mid-1980s, he became a member of Holy Transfiguration Church, Livonia, MI. He began theological studies in September 1991 at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY, from which he received his Master of Divinity degree summa cum laude and served as valedictorian in 1994. He was ordained to the priesthood by His Eminence, the late Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest, on June 25, 1994.

After ordination, he was assigned Priest-in-Charge of Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, Kokomo, IN, which he served until June 2005, after which he resided at Saint Gregory Palamas Monastery, Hayesville, OH until May 2006. He briefly served as Rector of Archangel Michael Church, St. Louis, MO and the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church, Desloge, MO before his transfer to the OCA’s Bulgarian Diocese and assignment as Dean of Saint George Cathedral, Rossford, OH in 2007. In August 2014, he was named Administrator of the Diocese of the Midwest and relocated to Chicago.

On October 20, 2014, he was tonsured to monastic rank with the name Paul, in honor of Saint Paul the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople.

Igumen Daniel [Brum] was born in Fresno, CA, on November 16, 1954, the oldest of three children born to Orville Antonio and Marjory Brum. He was raised in Riverdale, CA—a community predominantly comprised of Portuguese-American families—where he graduated from high school in 1973.

Raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, he enrolled at Saint Patrick’s College Seminary, Mountain View, CA, where, during his freshman year, he first encountered the history of the Orthodox Church and frequently attended services at Saint Nicholas Church, Saratoga, CA, at that time under the rectorate of Mitered Archpriest George Benigsen, who welcomed him and encouraged him to explore Orthodox Christianity further. In the early 1970s, he began reading the Church Fathers and tried to integrate what he was learning of Orthodoxy into his regular courses of study.

He received a BA in Humanities, with specialization in history, philosophy and English literature, from Saint Patrick’s College Seminary in 1977, after which he entered Saint Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, CA, where he continued the study of Church history. In 1981, he received his Masters of Divinity degree and was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood. After ordination, he served in a variety of capacities and was especially involved in the Portuguese-American community. He also served as diocesan Director of Vocations and as editor of the Portuguese-language page of the diocesan newspaper.

Serbian Patriarch Irenaeus at Mt. Athos

( - Since Patriarch Paul as the primate of the Serbian Church did not visit Mount Athos, and that Patriarch German visited Mt. Athos in 1978, this is the first visit of the Serbian Patriarch to Mt. Athos after 35 years. According to the Athonite laws all primates of the Local Orthodox Churches when they enter the ground of Mount Athos they should visit its seat –capital town of Karyes. Patriarch Irenaeus was welcomed by protos – administrator of Mount Athos fathr Symeon from the holy monastery of Dionysiou (one-year mandate was given to representatives of the five Athonite monasteries: Saint Lavra, Saint Paul, Hilandar, Vatopedi and Dionysiou).

Monday, October 20, 2014

More on Met. Hilarion's visit to Rome

( - On October 6, 2014, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations visited Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at his residence in the Vatican. The DECR chairman is in Rome for the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Catholic Bishops, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
( - Answering questions from the interviewer, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, attending the plenary session of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Catholic Bishops as representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, spoke on the Christian understanding of the institution of the family and the stand taken by the Russian Orthodox Church with regard to the civic conflict in Ukraine.

– Your Eminence, please tell us which practices of the Orthodox Church with regard to the family and marriage can be adopted by the Catholic Church?

– I think, in the first place, it is necessary to renounce the rigorist approach. We have common church rules and a common understanding of marriage: marriage is the union of man and women, and it should be one and the only. At the same time however, in practice there is a great deal of situations where this doctrine is not observed for various reasons. Then the problem moves from doctrinal to pastoral plane, in which the Orthodox Church has accumulated a certain experience, first of all, sometimes using the principle of akriveia – the strict adherence to the rules and sometimes the principle of oikonomia – condescension for human weakness.

In the discussions I have heard here today, the question was raised whether divorced spouses may be allowed to take Holy Communion and to make Confession. It seems to me that this question should be subjected to a thorough study, and we are ready to present our pastoral experience to our Catholic brothers.

I think, it is absolutely inadmissible to replace the Sacrament of Holy Communion with what some speakers have called “spiritual communion”, for it cannot be a substitute at all. And here we have a great space for cooperation and exchange of opinions.

– After the week of the Synod’s meetings a so-called “post-debate report” has come out to provoke mixed reactions here. Is there anything confusing for you personally in it?

– Honestly speaking, I have had no time to read this report, but I have heard today numerous reactions to it, which will be published as well. From this reaction I have gathered that there is a considerable divergence of opinion among Catholic hierarchs, which is to be taken into account in drafting the final document. I have a feeling that the opinions expressed in that document were not final and some of the attitudes expressed may be incorrectly interpreted in it.

- Catholic communities in many European countries give their churches to Orthodox believers to use, including the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church. In Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia are there Catholic communities which have no churches of their own while at a given settlement there is an Orthodox church. Do you think such practice is possible there, but the other way round?

- In each particular place, the problem should be resolved on the basis of pastoral wisdom and the mood of the faithful, and we should be sure that the implantation of a community into the soil of the other will not harm them both and will not become a cause for conflicts and misunderstandings between different communities.

- Your Eminence, what role can the Church or Churches play in settling the conflict in Ukraine?

– First of all, Churches should not interfere in a political confrontation. I have spoken about it openly today, referring to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

I believe our mission and our mandate, which we have received from the Lord Himself, is to unite people, to reconcile them. We should not go into details of the political process nor associate ourselves with a particular side of a conflict – let politicians and journalists do it. We should be open to people of any political orientation except for anti-human or chauvinistic one and support those who stand on the opposite sides of a barricade.

Such was and is the stand of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which does not wish to identify with a particular segment of the political spectrum but supports all people. It should be mentioned that the faithful of our Church (I say “our” because the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is part of the one multinational Russian Orthodox Church), unfortunately, have found themselves on the different sides of the barricades. We should be fully aware of this and do everything to prevent the civic conflict from turning into an armed confrontation, to resolve all the controversies through negotiations so that people will not have to pay such a high price for their convictions.