Friday, July 1, 2016

A posokh selfie stick? The end is nigh.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Montreal: No priests alone with children. Ever.

Montreal (National Post) – Invoking past sexual abuse scandals and the need to create a “healthy and safe environment” in its churches, the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Montreal has announced new guidelines to ensure priests and lay workers are never alone with children.

“Recent events have brought to light the horrific reality of abuse of minors and vulnerable persons by members of the Church,” Christian Lépine, archbishop of Montreal, wrote in a message to the faithful dated Wednesday.

“These intolerable situations have shocked and shaken the Universal Church as well as the entire population to whom we wish to proclaim the Good News of Christ.”

A pilot project to begin this fall in 10 parishes and eventually extend to all 194 in Montreal will prohibit priests, staff and volunteers from being alone with minors. Following the lead of other organizations like amateur sport associations and the Scouts, the archdiocese will institute police screening of new hires and volunteers working with children or the vulnerable.

François Sarrazin, chancellor of the archdiocese, said the measures are intended to send a message.

“People who work in churches, if they hope to hide to commit acts of pedophilia, these people have no place in the service of the church,” he said.

Make no mistake. California is hostile to religion.

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 28, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News) - A bill that strips longstanding legal protections for religious colleges and universities is underway in the California legislature – and some say it will imperil Catholic education unless changes are made.

“It’s a way of harassing and making it more difficult for those of us who are people of faith who want to live and express our ways in society,” said California Catholic Conference executive director Edward Dolejsi.

“We’re being painted into a corner and constricted,” he told CNA.

Dolejsi voiced concern about proposed legislation that could narrow the definition of a religious organization and compromise the ability of a school to express its identity in its curriculum, policies and faith.

The California legislature is considering S.B. 1146, which would limit religious exemptions for institutions of higher education. It would bar colleges that receive state funding from making employment, student housing, admission and other decisions on the basis of gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. It also bars discrimination on the basis of religion.

Students who believe they are discriminated against may sue.

The legislation has passed the Senate and is headed to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, after passing out of the Higher Education Committee.

Quincy Masteller, general counsel of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., said the bill “in essence eliminates the religious exemption that has been in the Calif. education code for many years.”

“In many ways it’s an existential threat to religious colleges that want to live according to the principles of their faith in their community,” he told CNA. The long history of religious institutions of higher education could be lost.

“That’s the stakes we’re looking at,” Masteller said.

Dolejsi said the bill’s consequences are still unclear, given federal rules and other religious liberty protections. The bill could also be amended.

For his part, Masteller thought passage of the bill in its current form was likely.

Chaldean League urges Christians to stay in Iraq

(Al Arabiya) - An Iraqi Catholic group called the Chaldean League has urged Christians to stay put in their native land, saying “ISIS terrorism will soon go away,” local media reported on Tuesday.

“Christians in Iraq must stay in their land and to stop migrating,” Safa Sabah Hindi, the head of Chaldean League, said in a statement reported by Iraq-based Al-Sumaria News website.

The Chaldean League, headquartered in Iraq, was formed last year to unite Iraqi Catholics in the country and abroad.

He added: “Christians are one of the main edifice for building Iraq and one of its cultural civilizational pillars, who add to Iraq’s plurality.”

Hindi promised that “ISIS terrorism will soon go away and Christians will be able to come back to their homes, villages and cities and will contribute like they used to in rebuilding Iraq.”

He also urged the international community with the backing with the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces to liberate Iraqi cities.

Iraq was recently successful in liberating ISIS stronghold city of Fallujah in the western province of Anbar, paving the way to recapture the country’s second largest city of Mosul.

In a lightning offensive, ISIS was able to seize Mosul in June 2014.

Many Iraqi Christians consider Mosul as their native home. After the ISIS seizure of Mosul, Christians were evicted, alarming the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, who said there were no more Christians left in Mosul for the first time in the country’s history.

Iraqi Christians, who are considered to be one of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world, numbered about 1,500,000 in 2003, representing just over 6 percent of the population of the country down from 12 percent on 1947 in a population of 4.7 million.

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch on assassination attempt

(AINA) - Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church issued a statement on the assassination attempt on his life last week. On June 19, while the Patriarch was leading a commemoration service for the Turkish genocide of Assyrians in World War One, a suicide bomber attacked the service but was stopped by the Assyrian Sutoro military forces in Qamishli, Syria

Here is the text of the statement.

The Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
Damascus, Wednesday June 22, 2016

After returning safely to the Patriarchate in Damascus following his pastoral visit to the city of Qamishly, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, offered prayers of thanksgiving and condemned the suicide bombing which took place during His Holiness' visit. On Sunday June 19, 2016 following the celebration of the feast of the Pentecost and after the inauguration of a monument for the Syriac Genocide Sayfo which His Holiness presided over, the faithful were gathered inside the auditorium of St. Gabriel School to celebrate the 101st annual Sayfo commemoration when a suicide bomber set himself off a short distance from the place. Two members of the Sutoro Protection Units fell martyrs and several were injured. This terroristic act is planned and executed by people who want to spread hatred and create division among the people of the region. Such acts cause great suffering to the people and aim at destroying the unity of our beloved country Syria.

His Holiness gives thanks to God Almighty for protecting him and all the others who participated in the said event, by His divine care.

He prays for the souls of the martyrs, especially the two young people who lost their lives as a result of this act of terrorism, and offers condolences to their families. He likewise prays for the quick recovery of the injured. His Holiness expresses his thanks and gratitude to their Holinesses and Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the sister churches, as well as different governments and community leaders who offered their sympathies and prayers for His Holiness' safety by calling or writing. He, likewise, thanks the hierarchy, members of the clergy, and the entire faithful of the church who offered their prayers and expressed their concerns through phone calls, emails or text messages.

His Holiness prays the Lord to bless Syria with peace and security so that these difficult times come to an end and life returns to normal in this dear country Syria.

Suicide bombers blow selves up in terminal of Istanbul airport

(Mirror) - At least 36 people were killed and at least 60 people injured when three attackers detonated explosives at the entrance to Europe's third busiest airport shortly after 10pm local time.

Police fired shots to try to stop the attackers just before they reached a security checkpoint at the arrivals hall of the Ataturk airport but they blew themselves up, a Turkish official said.

Speaking in parliament, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told CNN Turk: "According to information I have received, at the entrance to the Ataturk Airport international terminal a terrorist first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew themself up."

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but early indications suggest ISIS terrorists were behind, police sources were reportedly cited as saying.

The state-run Anadolu agency said around 60 people were wounded, six of them seriously.

Ataturk is Turkey's largest airport and a major transport hub for international travellers.

Pictures posted on social media from the site showed wounded people lying on the ground inside and outside one of the terminal buildings while ambulances could be seen rushing to the airport.

A witness said security officials prevented his taxi and other cars from entering the airport at around 9:50 pm (1850 GMT).

Drivers leaving the terminal shouted "Don't enter! A bomb exploded!" from their windows to incoming traffic, he said.

The head of Red Crescent, Kerem Kinik, said on CNN Turk that people should go to blood donation centres and not hospitals to give blood and called on people to avoid main roads to the airport to avoid blocking path of emergency vehicles.

Authorities halted the takeoff of scheduled flights from the airport and passengers were transferred to hotels, a Turkish Airlines official said.

Earlier an airport official said some flights to the airport had been diverted.

Turkey has suffered a spate of bombings this year, including two suicide attacks in tourist areas of Istanbul blamed on Islamic State, and two car bombings in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group.

In the most recent attack, a car bomb ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university and the mayor's office.

Turkey, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, is also fighting Kurdish militants in its largely Kurdish southeast.

Abp. Sergios of Good Hope: A History of Orthodoxy in Africa

(GOARCH-ZA) - 1. What are the historical roots of the Orthodox presence in Africa, its present and the consistency of its prospects?

The beginnings of Christianity in Africa can be traced to Alexandria in Egypt, where the Apostle Mark, one of the four Evangelists and one of the 70 Apostles, preached and spread the word of Christ. He was undoubtedly the first bishop of the Church in Africa, which has been confirmed by historical research. The activities and contribution of the Apostle Mark to the spread of Christianity throughout the continent of Africa are well-noted and he has been venerated by the Christians of Africa since the very beginning. Recently, the remnants of the Basilica of St Mark were discovered in the sea near ​​Alexandria. The early Christians of Africa were of Greek, Egyptian and Jewish origin, and became the first members of the first Christian and community. Alexandria quickly developed into a spiritual centre and was originally the greatest Christian hub, where people of all nationalities congregated. The Patriarchate of Alexandria founded many dioceses, especially throughout Egypt, as well as in other places in North Africa, such as Egypt, Cyrene, Tripoli and Carthage. Due to the presence of Greek and other Mediterranean people in North Africa who travelled to other parts of Africa, Christianity spread to the rest of Africa south of the Sahara, which we now have evidence for. The spread of the Word continued in the so-called Byzantine period, as missionaries were sent to Ethiopia and other places that are not known today. There are some tentative signs indicating the presence of monks in parts of central and southern Africa, a broader area known as “remote border forts”.

During the fifth century, the secession of the Egyptian portion of the Church, namely that of Christians of Coptic origin or Jacobites, took place when they did not accept the decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and they remain known to this day as the Monophysites of Egypt. During the course of many centuries, the Patriarchate of Alexandria has maintained a good relationship with this wider Christian family, although without Eucharistic communion. Since then it has been called the Roman Church (Rum) and is the local Church that remains in unbroken communion with the Church in other places. In AD 536, another section of “Greek” Christians, or Melkites, was established. They identified with the ruling empire and remained faithful to the political power of Byzantium. After the Great Schism in 1054, the Church retained the same name, with the addition of the adjective “Orthodox”, and became known as the Rum Orthodox Church (Roman Orthodox). In this it showed the right belief of the peoples of the East, in contrast to the term “Roman Catholic” that was used in the West.

Today there are many Christian denominations on the African continent and Africa can basically be identified as a Christian continent. The Church, under the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, has bishoprics and parishes everywhere. There are both ancient communities and recently-established ones that have emerged due to the movement of Orthodox groups from North African communities and also due to of the missionary activity of the Church.

The Alexandrian "Stole of Judgement"

(Preachers Institute) - Theophilos II was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 1010 to 1020. For most of his patriarchate he lived in exile in Constantinople due to the fierce persecutions in Egypt by the Islamic Fatimid Caliph Al Hakim. During this persecution, many Christians became Muslims or sought refuge in other countries, but in the latter part of the reign of Caliph Al Hakim, he allowed unwilling Christian and Jewish converts to Islam to return to their faith and rebuild their ruined houses of worship.

While in Constantinople, Patriarch Theophilos intervened in a dispute between Emperor Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer (975-1025) and Ecumenical Patriarch Sergios II of Constantinople (999-1019). The dispute was as follows: Sergios II became patriarch during the time that the institution of charistikion was actively used within the empire.

Charistikion was a practice wherein the donation (charistike dorea) of monasteries to private individuals was made supposedly to support the operation of monasteries, but in actuality was used by the wealthy gentry to gain income. This practice was strongly supported by Emperor Basil for which his law Peri ton dynaton had been enacted. The institution of charistikion was not popular among the hierarchy and was challenged by Sergios’ predecessor Patriarch Sisinnios II. After he came to the see of Constantinople in 999, Patriarch Sergios continued to resist the charistike dorea. However, as Emperor Basil refused to repeal his law, Patriarch Sergios II resumed its use in 1016.

On account of this reconciliation between two ecumenical leaders that was due to the intervention of Patriarch Theophilos, the Patriarchate of Alexandria was given the title of “Judge of the Universe”, with the added privilege of wearing a second stole, known as the Stole of Judgement (Kritato).

The Patriarch of Alexandria continues to bear this title and wear two stoles till today (as seen in the photo above of the current Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II).

Assyrian Church of the East, Copts meet in dialogue

(Assyrian Church) - On Saturday, May 28, 2016, His Grace Bishop Mar Awa Royel, Bishop of California and Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East paid a fraternal visit to His Grace Anba Raphael, the Bishop of Central Cairo and the General Secretary of the Coptic Orthodox Church, at the St. Antonios Coptic Orthodox Church in Hayward, California at 12:30 pm.

Bishop Mar Awa was attended by the Very Rev. Nenos Michael, Archdeacon of the Diocese of California, and the Rev. Fr. Genard Lazar, parish priest of St. Mar Zaia Cathedral and secretary to the Bishop. The Assyrian clergy were received at the end of Bishop Raphael’s Holy Liturgy and spiritual lecture to the worshipping congregation at the Coptic parish by the Rev. Fr. Bishoy Ibrahim, parish priest of the Coptic Church in Hayward.

His Grace Mar Awa apprised His Grace Anba Raphael of the many attempts of the late His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV to communicate with His Holiness Patriarch Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria, and a dossier of documents was given to the Coptic Synod Secretary. A very warm and fraternal exchange concerning the faith and beliefs of the Assyrian Church of the East took place, as well as the prospects of a future concrete dialogue between the two Churches. Anba Raphael assured the Assyrian bishop and clergy that the dossier of documents on dialogue and the subject of opening an official dialogue with the Assyrian Church of the East would be personally presented by him as the General Secretary before the session of the Coptic Holy Synod in the month of June. At the end of the cordial meeting, His Grace Anba Raphael gave a pectoral Cross to the Assyrian bishop and attending clergy.

Extraordinary Prayer for Reconciliation, Unity, & Peace

Monday, June 27, 2016

A photographic pilgrimage of our monasteries in the US/CA

(YouTube) - The North American Thebaid is conceived to be both pilgrimage and publication, resulting in a large-format coffee table book of fine art photographic images, with select, inspiring texts, covering as many of the monastic settlements in North America as God allows. My plan is to travel over approximately a two-year period, staying for a few to several days at a time at various monasteries and sketes, living, praying and working with the monastics, while creating numinous, compelling images of the sacred space, the grounds, the life and the worship of these communities... Learn more, and help support the Project, at -- Thank You!

A Q&A with college students and bishops

Way back in September of 2015 this Q&A was held. The videos were just released today so I've posted them as promised. They may post more. If they do they'll be available here.

The coins of the "Joy of All Who Suffer"

From one of my favorite blogs Icons and their Interpretation, a post entitled "The Difference a Few Kopeks Make "The Joy of All Who Suffer 'With Coins'" on a rather unique icon and its history.

In an earlier posting, I talked about the very popular Marian icon type called in Church Slavic Vsem Skorbyashchim Radost, — the “Joy of All Who Suffer.” You may also find it titled Всех скорбящих Радость — Vsekh Skorbyashchikh Radost, which is the same name in Russian. Skorbyashchim/Skorbyashchikh part means both “those who are afflicted” and “those who sorrow,” which is why some translate the title as “Joy of/to Those Who Sorrow.”

Today we will look at an interesting and common subtype of that icon. It is called Всех скорбящих Радость (с грошиками) — Vsekh Skorbyashchikh Radost S Groshikami, meaning “The Joy of All Who Suffer ‘With Coins.'” The example below — which appears to have been painted in oils — bears the title:


Looking at it, we can see why it is commonly called “With Coins”; it has coins on its surface. In most icons the coins are painted, but the maker of this example used real copper coins inserted into the panel...

Complete article here.

Parting images from the Council in Crete

This image is evocative of an oil painting.

Expect the Church in Africa to continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

Moscow not a fan of Met. Job of Telmessos voting analogy

Moscow, June 27 (Interfax) - The Russian Orthodox Church reminds the Constantinople Patriarchate about incomparability of democracy traditions with taking decisions at the Council.

The discussion started with the words of the Constantinople archbishop who made it clear that all decisions taken by the inter-Orthodox Council on Crete would be compulsory for all Orthodox Churches, including those who did not participate in it.

"You come from a democracy. Everyone can vote. Now some people choose not to vote. Does that mean you don't live in a democracy?" Archbishop Job of Telmessos said resuming the results of the session on Friday answering the question of a Russian journalist. It should be noted that this was the most heated exchange between the media and the conciliar representatives by far.

"I understand that atmosphere on Crete is tense and it is tiresome to talk to journalists. But I believe comparing a Church Council to the democratic procedure is not successful and hardly relevant when voiced by the Council speaker," deputy head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Archpriest Nikolay Balashov told Interfax-Religion.

"There has not been democracy in the Church from the first centuries, and there won't be," he said, explaining that democracy is the rule of people, and power in the Church "belongs to God."

The priest says that "if church rules are examined for their correspondence to democratic norms, there will be great embarrassment."

"Any respected democrat will ask Archbishop Job for what term he is elected and when his term expires. From democratic point of view any unchangeable power is bad. And we do not employ women as bishop, it is not democratic at all," the Russian church official said. Though I would be remiss if I don't note that Met. Job was removed from his episcopate after his pastoral "style" was found to be quite unpopular. So, while the Church isn't a democracy, the voice of the people is still heard.

He reminds Constantinople opponents that several percents of advantage is a convincing victory in democratic election, the way it was with Brexit also discussed at the Crete press conference.

"Church has quite different mechanisms of decision-making," the priest stressed reminding the words of the first Apostolic Council "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..."

"In order bishops can put it this way, unanimity, common accord is needed," the interviewee of the agency said.

The heads of ten of 14 Orthodox Churches took part in the assembly, which should have become the Pan-Orthodox Council and was held on Crete on June 20-25.

Bulgarian, Antiochian, Georgian, Serbian and Russian Churches called for postponing the Council in order to settle the disagreements and finalize its draft documents. However, the Constantinople Patriarchate has rejected the initiative and insisted on it be held within the set timeframe. As a result, the Churches, who represent the minority of the episcopate, clergy and believers of the Orthodox world, participated in the forum.