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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Germany made headlines this week by letting Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One chief, pay $100 million to end his bribery trial. In Greek justice, money talks in a different way: Some inmates jailed for minor offenses are allowed to buy their freedom, at an average rate of five euros per day.
With the rich at a clear advantage, Greek Orthodox priest Gervasios Raptopoulos has devoted his life to paying off the prison terms of penniless inmates.
The soft-spoken 83-year-old has helped more than 15,000 convicts secure their freedom over nearly four decades, according to records kept by his charity. The Greek rules apply only to people convicted of offenses that carry a maximum five-year sentence, such as petty fraud, bodily harm, weapons possession, illegal logging, resisting arrest and minor drugs offenses.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Prison/Prison Ministry * International News & Commentary Europe Greece * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
When Father Aristotle Damaskos was growing up, he and his Catholic cousins would always "play mass." "And I was always the priest," Damaskos, a Greek Orthodox priest for 26 years, said with a smile.
But it wasn't until a church camp trip to Greece at the age of 15 that Damaskos felt the call from God to become a priest. Originally, he had wanted to be a meteorologist, but he realized "it was too much math." As Damaskos likes to say, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans."
"God had other plans for me," Damaskos said. Fifteen years later, he was ordained.
Read it all from the local paper.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * South Carolina
A Vatican spokesman said it’s premature to suggest a gathering between Catholic and Orthodox faiths to mark the 1700th anniversary of the first church council held in Nicea in 325 A.D.
Despite cordial meetings between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during the pontiff’s visit to Jerusalem in May, the Vatican has rejected media reports that a 2025 event had been confirmed.
“Several news agencies, publications and individuals have reported on this gathering as a fait accompli,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, in a statement.
Read it all.
...the specifics are still pretty fuzzy. Will it be a formal ecumenical council, with leaders from the two faiths earnestly trying to reconcile their theological differences? Or will it be just what Bartholomew said—a celebration, full of meaningful dialogue but little actual change? Hard to tell, says Rocco Palmo, the author of the blog Whispers in the Loggia.
"It's 12 years away," he pointed out. Trying to predict what will happen in 2025 is like an extreme version of confidently declaring who will be president of the United States in 2016—there's just no way to know. Plus, Francis and Bartholomew are both in their 70s. Bartholomew said the pair wanted to leave this council "as a legacy to ourselves and our successors," which seems like an acknowledgment that they could both be dead—or retired—11 years from now.
There's also the challenge of getting Catholics and Orthodox Christians on board for whatever they want to do. "If the pope wants to do this, the Catholic side will be lined up, but if the ecumenical patriarch wants to, some will come and some will not," Palmo said. Bartholomew is the archbishop of Constantinople, meaning that he is "the first among equals" in the Eastern Orthodox churches, but he doesn't have power over other patriarchs.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Ecclesiology
On his return from Jerusalem , where he met with Pope Francis at the Holy Sepulchre, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, has revealed an important appointment for unity between Catholics and Orthodox: a gathering at Nicaea in 2025, where the first real ecumenical council of the undivided Church was celebrated.
Speaking exclusively with AsiaNews, Bartholomew says that together with Pope Francis "we agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries , the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated".
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Pope Francis travels this weekend to the Middle East, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, and will meet with Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders.
But the official purpose of the visit is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox and to try to restore Christian unity after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement.
Meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras set a milestone: They started the process of healing the schism between Eastern and Western Christianity of the year 1054.
Moves toward closer understanding followed, but differences remain on issues such as married clergy and the centralized power of the Vatican.
Read or listen to it all.
Filed under: * International News & Commentary Middle East Israel * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Ecclesiology
It’s the perfect match: a major Orthodox cultural figure celebrated by a pre-eminent Orthodox institution. But the Arvo Pärt Project also opens up a more complicated issue: What does it mean to speak specifically about the religion of a composer whose music’s spirituality has been interpreted so broadly for so long?
“There’s this kind of universally accessible spirituality going on, and yet it evidently has some particular sources in the context that he locates his own prayer life,” said Peter Bouteneff, a professor of theology at the seminary. “It’s where he goes to church, it’s the texts that he reads, the ancient Greek fathers,” he added. “This is what feeds his soul, and therefore: Is there some connection between this universally perceived and universally accessible spirituality, and the particular foundations in Eastern Orthodoxy?”
It is a question that Mr. Pärt is not quite comfortable answering, though he will receive an honorary doctorate from the seminary. When asked about the religious content of his music, he responded: “I am actually writing music for myself, based on my own cognition. Because of that, it reflects values that are important to me.”
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After a private meeting the Archbishops prayed together in the Crypt Chapel at Lambeth Palace.
In a greeting to Archbishop Chrysostomos, Archbishop Justin said: “Between our two churches there has always been more that unites us than that which divides us and so we can pray together and welcome all sincere efforts for peace in your country, in Europe and in the world. Certainly there is need for peacemakers today, and I pray that God’s love may move us beyond what we can hope for, that our endeavours in interfaith dialogues will create greater understanding for the world as one human family.”
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Ethiopia was cut off for centuries from the wider Christian world by the Islamic conquests to its north. During that time, its church flourished in isolation, untouched by and ignorant of the theological disputes dividing Europe. That means its traditions provide insight into an older, perhaps purer and certainly more mystical form of Christianity – one that dates back 1,600 years and therefore, in its unaltered forms, bears witness to a liturgy practised only a relatively brief period after the time of Jesus Christ.
To better understand this, I had come to Lalibela, Ethiopia's self-proclaimed "New Jerusalem". Here, I thought, I could engage with the religion and its beliefs. What I had not expected was that I would also get to see one of the world's most impressive – and most affecting – architectural marvels.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry * International News & Commentary Africa Ethiopia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
In February, the 20 or so Christian families still living in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa were given the same choice. The cost of protection is now the equivalent of $650 in Syrian pounds, a large amount for people struggling to make ends meet in a war zone. The other two options remain unchanged. This time the offer came from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), an extremist antigovernment group that seized Raqqa in May 2013 from more-moderate rebel brigades and declared the town the capital of its own Islamic state.
Most of Raqqa’s 3,000 Christians had already fled the fighting, leaving just a few families in a place suddenly run by a group known for its violent tactics in both Iraq and Syria, including beheadings and floggings–tactics so ruthless that even al-Qaeda has disowned the group. The number had fallen even further by the time ISIS commanders promised the Christians that as long as they paid the levy, the one church that had not already been destroyed in the fighting would be left untouched and the Christians would not be physically harmed. They would have the right to practice their religion as long as they didn’t ring bells, evangelize or pray within earshot of a Muslim.
Church leaders urged Raqqa’s Christians to pay the militants. “[ISIS] told me that all I need to do is pay the taxes, and they will protect me,” says George, a 17-year-old Christian music student still living in Raqqa. “I know that under the Caliphate, Christians got a lot of things in return for paying taxes. The Christian community was left in peace.” That hasn’t been the case so far in Syria’s new Caliphate. When ISIS arrived in town, it warned Christians to stay out of sight and hide their crucifixes.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Coptic Church Orthodox Church Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Unfortunately, brethren, we do not like to acknowledge our transgressions. It would seem natural and easy for a person to know his own self, his own soul and his shortcomings. This, however, is actually not so. We are ready to attend to anything but a deeper understanding of ourselves, an investigation of our sins. We examine various things with curiosity, we attentively study friends and strangers, but when faced with solitude without extraneous preoccupation even for a short while, we immediately become bored and attempt to seek amusement. For example, do we spend much time examining our own conscience even before confession? Perhaps a few minutes, and once a year at that. Casting a cursory glance at our soul, correcting some of its more glaring faults, we immediately cover it over with the veil of oblivion until next year, until our next uncomfortable exercise in boredom.
Yet we love to observe the sins of others. Not considering the beam in our own eye, we take notice of the mote in our brother’s eye. (Matt. 7. 3) Speaking idly to our neighbor’s detriment, mocking and criticizing him are not even often considered sins but rather an innocent and amusing pastime. As if our own sins were so few! As if we had been appointed to judge others!
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Early in the 20th century, some Orthodox leaders were willing to accept the "validity of Anglican orders," meaning they believed that Anglican clergy were truly priests and bishops in the ancient, traditional meanings of those words.
"It fell apart. It fell apart on the Anglican side, with the affirmation more of a Protestant identity than a Catholic identity," said Jonah, at the inaugural assembly of the Anglican Church in North America, held in Bedford, Texas.
"We need to pick up where they left off. The question has been: Does that Anglican church, which came so close to being declared by the other Orthodox churches a fellow Orthodox church, does that still exist?"
A voice in the crowd shouted, "It does!"
"Here, it does," agreed Jonah, stressing the word "here."
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On 19 March, the Patriarch of Moscow issued the justification in favour of peace among "the people of Holy Russia." In its decoded form, the position of Patriarch Kirill is as follows: since the majority of the people of Crimea are Russian speaking, and since Crimea had been the cradle of the Rus of Kiev, it is thus natural that Crimea rejoin "the Russian world." Patriarch Kirill's right-hand man, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, went so far as to say that all of the Ukraine should be annexed by Russia.
It is at this point, however, that we should explain to our Russian friends they must not confuse nationality with citizenship. It is unimaginable that France would organize a referendum in Wallonia on the pretext that the majority of Belgians are French speaking. Moreover, it is not because Clovis was baptized by a bishop who was subject to the Bishop of Rome that Italy should become French today. It is well known that Russia has only existed as a state since the seventeenth century and only occupied Crimea in the year 1855. Thus it is today that we are witnessing the incapacity of the Russian state to disengage itself from its imperial and colonial mentality and the tragic amnesia of the Russian church, which has forgotten that phyletism or ecclesial nationalism is a heresy that has been condemned by the Orthodox Church.
Now let us turn to the justification offered by Vladimir Putin. On 18 March, the day of the annexation of Crimea, the Russian president made reference to the 2010 decision of the International Court of Justice, which authorized Kosovo to declare its independence. Angela Merkel judged that this comparison was quite simply "shameful." In fact, as Paul Linden-Retek and Evan Brewer have shown, the cases of Kosovo and Crimea have absolutely nothing in common for three major reasons.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Ukraine * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Archbishop Justin said: “We thank God for the extraordinary life and witness of His Holiness and pray for the Syrian Orthodox Church at this time of mourning and uncertainty. His Holiness will be sorely missed. We also continue to remember His Eminence Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Alleppo, who has been missing along with His Eminence Metropolitan Boulos since April 2013 and seek the mercy of Christ for his safe release.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
The referendum will have done nothing to have diminished the risk of inter-ethnic violence.
Against this uncertain and volatile background, the Christian churches of Europe, through the Conference of European Churches, have been in contact with the All Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, a body that includes Jewish and Muslim representatives as well as Christian churches. A letter signed by the present CEC president, known to many Members of your Lordships’ House as the recently retired Bishop of Guildford, expresses solidarity and support, urges an end to further polarisation in Ukrainian society and assures them that churches elsewhere in Europe are urging a democratic and diplomatic solution to the problems facing Ukraine. I know that Bishop Christopher Hill will be talking later this week to other European church leaders about how this solidarity and support can be given more tangible shape through the Conference of European Churches.
Even if this crisis has cast a Cold War shadow over Europe, it is important that we remain in dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church. That is not always an easy task given the Russian orthodox world view. I am encouraged that only last month the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London met representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church to discuss the theological education of students from the Russian Orthodox Church here in the UK. However this crisis plays out, and I pray as I am sure many of us do for a speedy and peaceful resolution, it is important that we do not sanction measures that put such dialogue at risk.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General City Government * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe Russia Ukraine * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church
,,,after the Russian Revolution, when the Communists decreed that religion was the opium of the people, priests all over the nation were tortured and killed or sent to the Gulag. Many churches were destroyed or, like this one, turned into warehouses. Christians were banned from the Communist Party.
A generation was frightened away from worship and subsequent generations were coerced. Children were born and grew old and were buried without ever hearing the ancient divine liturgy of St. John the Chrysostom sung in the churches of their grandfathers.
Many churches of Russia fell into ruin, but with the fall of communism, they are making a comeback, one of these being St. Michael the Archangel, perfectly restored in recent years. The Russian Orthodox comeback is difficult, with cultural clashes and terrible incidents such as the shooting Sunday that killed a nun and a worshipper in far eastern Russia.
But faith has survived in Russia.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
for all that has remained the same, much has changed in Russia—and so, too, have its Christians. Under communism, Russian Orthodox Churches were allowed to hold services, but no one under the age of 18 was allowed to attend, and any expression of faith outside the church walls—like Ogorodniknov’s Christian discussion group—was punished.
When communism fell in 1991, there was a rush of religious fervor in Russia known as bogoiskatelstvo, or “searching for God.” In a phone interview, Wally Kulakoff, vice president of ministries and church relations for Russian Ministries, said, “All of a sudden, the things that were taboo became very interesting to society. To have a Bible, to have a New Testament was very popular. To carry a cross was very popular.” Even non-Christians, he said, kept Bibles on their bookshelves as lucky charms.
Today, the Russian Orthodox Church is mainstream. In fact, it’s the unofficial official church of Russia. Putin often appears in the pews and, in 2012, Patriarch Kirill famously called Putin’s rule a “miracle of God.” The seemingly cozy relationship between the church and an administration accused of murdering its critics has not gone without criticism of its own, but Father Gregory Joyce, priest at St. Vladimir Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., says what people fail to understand is the utter novelty of the Russian situation.
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The Ecumenical Patriarch said today he hoped for a continuing exchange of Orthodox and Anglican students to aid the two Churches' relationship.
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who occupies the First Throne of the Orthodox Christian Church, was speaking today during his welcome of the Anglican Communion's spiritual head Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
He said, "In the past, the rapprochement between our two Churches has been greatly assisted by the exchange of students, and we trust that this will continue. Our Theological School at Halki used to offer scholarships to Anglicans, and when it is reopened – as will happen in the near future (so it may be hoped) – we shall certainly wish to revive this tradition.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Education * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is traveling to Istanbul on Monday to visit the man considered by many as the spiritual head of Eastern Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
A statement on the Anglican Communion website says, "Archbishop Justin hopes that the visit will help to develop greater fellowship between the two churches and contribute to the goal of Christian unity."
The two day visit will include the first meeting in Istanbul between the Ecumenical Patriarch and Welby, who once worked in the banking and oil industry, since he became Archbishop of Canterbury.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church
Look through them all--there are 14.
The Chambésy process is the worst form of Orthodox church government for the 21st century, except for all the others. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has the power to bring bishops together, but he cannot force them to accept an unwelcome edict. When disputes arise, they must be resolved honestly by brother bishops and their flocks, even if the solutions are slow to come.
Last Saturday the Antiochian Orthodox Church commemorated St. Raphael of Brooklyn. Born in Beirut and educated in Syria, Turkey, and Russia, he humbly and tirelessly served the diverse Orthodox flock in America in the early 20th century as their bishop. Even if churches of Slavic rite celebrated his memory back in February, he is a reminder to all Orthodox in this land that despite our formal divisions, we remain one body in Christ.
While our Church is hampered by human weakness and pettiness, much of the world is still what Protestants would call a mission field. The Orthodox Church has great riches, if like Fr. Raphael we allow ourselves to overcome our own ethnic allegiances and allow Christ to shine forth.
Read it all.
When radical Islamists tore down a cross and hoisted a black flag above a church in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah last week, their action underscored the increasingly hostile environment for the country’s Christians.
Although Syria is majority Sunni Muslim, it is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, home to Christians, Druze, and Shiite-offshoot Alawites and Ismailis. But the country’s conflict, now in its third year, is threatening that tapestry.
While the primary front in the war has pitted Sunni against Shiite, Christians are increasingly caught in the line of fire. The perception that they support the government — which is in many cases true — has long made them a target of rebel groups. Now, Christians say radical Islamist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an affiliate of al-Qaeda, are determined to drive them from their homes.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It is not every day that a publication of America's foreign-policy establishment, which generally reflects the liberal sensibilities of think-tanks, law practices and college faculties, publishes a sort of defence of the public role of Russian Orthodoxy. Yet that, with a big qualification, is the position taken by Nadieszda Kizenko, a history professor at the State University of New York, in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. The qualification? She is referring not to the church's top hierarchs, but to a broader community of people, including scholars and public intellectuals.
When the church is in the news, she acknowledges, "the image that comes to mind is of an army of archbishops and abbots...operating in conspiracy with the country's authoritarian rulers in the Kremlin." But that is far from the full story because "devout Orthodox Christian journalists, academics and political scientists" were becoming "increasingly assertive as alternative spokespeople for the faith." Ms Kizenko (who is American-born but of Slavic descent) notes that "women now dominate the rapidly growing field of religious media, which ranges from glossy mass-market magazines to religious bookstores and publishing houses, blogs and social networks, as well as television and movie production studios." A "burgeoning Orthodox intelligentsia" is challenging both the church hierarchy and by extension the Putin regime, in her view.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
When the Russian Orthodox Church is in the news, which has been quite often of late, the image that comes to mind is of an army of archbishops and abbots, commanded by Patriarch Kirill I, operating in conspiracy with the country’s authoritarian rulers in the Kremlin. This is not without reason. The church’s conservative clerics have, in fact, given their support to the government’s most polarizing recent laws, including the jailing of three members of ##### Riot for offending believers’ religious sensibilities, legislation proscribing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” and the institution of a limit of three legal marriages per Russian, to discourage divorce.
But to conclude that the Russian Orthodox Church is nothing more than a bastion of extreme conservatives is to miss the many ways that change is being forced upon it. In some sense, the church’s ultraconservatism is on the wane -- for confirmation, one need only look to what’s happening among the laity, rather than to the very top of the church’s hierarchy. Devout Orthodox Christian journalists, academics, and political scientists -- as well as free-thinking priests -- are becoming increasingly assertive as alternative spokespeople for their faith. This burgeoning Orthodox intelligentsia is already posing a challenge to the conservative church hierarchy and, by extension, to Vladimir Putin’s regime.
This is not the first time that the church has produced prominent dissident intellectuals....
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
For days, Christians with ties to Syria waited for news about the fighting in Maaloula, a village near Damascus that is famous for being one of three in existence in which the locals still speak ancient Aramaic, the language of Jesus....
During the siege, an American bishop of the ancient Antiochian Orthodox Church — based in Damascus for centuries — was called by Metropolitan Saba Esper of southern Syria, who in turn had just reached Mother Belagia, abbess of the famous St. Thekla monastery in Maaloula.
The Syrians wanted to know: Was anyone paying attention?
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Canon Meurig Williams writes:- “Bishop Geoffrey visited Armenia from Friday August 23rd until Tuesday 27th. This was a farewell visit to Catholicos Karekin II and the Armenian Apostolic Church before Bishop Geoffrey retires in November. In his role as Anglican co-chair of the theological dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches of which the Armenian Church is one, Bishop Geoffrey has a long standing relationship going back many years. He has accompanied both Archbishops George Carey and Rowan Williams on their official visits to the Armenian Church and was present also at the 1700th anniversary of Armenian Christianity.
Read it alland enjoy the picture.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * International News & Commentary Europe Armenia * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church
Saints, whether formally recognized by Catholicism or informally regarded as such by other denominations, are bracing reminders that the transformation of spirit promised by religion—so elusive for most of us—is possible in this life. Christians of any kind can appreciate the remarkable lives of the two men the Catholic Church will canonize later this year.
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, born a peasant in Lombard, became in 1958 the wise and generous "Good Pope" John XXIII, opening up the Catholic Church to the modern world. Karol Wojtyla, a young playwright living under the harsh rule of communist Poland, eventually played a pivotal part as Pope John Paul II in the collapse of that degrading system.
Saints like these suggest that there is more to life, and to faith, than most of us dare to know. A century-old aphorism attributed to the French essayist Charles Péguy perhaps says it best: "Life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have become a saint."
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Just as they have done for 17 centuries, the Greek Orthodox monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai desert and the local Jabaliya Bedouins worked together to protect the monastery when the 2011 revolution thrust Egypt into a period of uncertainty. “There was a period in the early days of the Arab Spring when we had no idea what was going to happen,” says Father Justin, a monk who has lived at St. Catherine’s since 1996. Afraid they could be attacked by Islamic extremists or bandits in the relatively lawless expanse of desert, the 25 monks put the monastery’s most valuable manuscripts in the building’s storage room. Their Bedouin friends, who live at the base of St. Catherine’s in a town of the same name, allegedly took up their weapons and guarded the perimeter.
The community’s fears of an attack were not realized, but the monks decided they needed a new way to protect their treasured library from any future threats.
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Georgia was an early adopter of Christianity making it a state religion in 337AD. Georgians maintained their faith over the centuries despite the waves of invading hordes, including the armies of Ghengis Khan and Tamerlane.
Although the Soviets permitted religion to be practised, its reach was severely limited. In 1917, there were 2,455 working churches in Georgia, but by the mid-1980s there were only 80, along with a few monasteries and a seminary.
"During communism, the church was outdated, something for old ladies," says political analyst Ghia Nodia.
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A Macedonian court sentenced the archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) in Macedonia to three years in prison on what his denomination and activists called Wednesday, July 3, "false charges" of money laundering, while fourteen co-defendants received suspended jail terms.
Additionally Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, also known as Zoran Vraniskovski, must handover SOC properties, including church buildings, to the state for allegedly laundering some 250,000 euro ($325,000), his church said. Bishop Marko of Bregalnica, whose civilian name is Goran Kimev, Bishop David Ninov of Stobi as well as fourteen "priest-monks, abbesses, nuns and other faithful people of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric" each received two years suspended sentences for financial wrongdoing, the SOC added.
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Turkey is investigating an alleged plot to assassinate Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, and has stepped up security around the patriarchate in Istanbul, his spokesman said on Friday.
Spokesman Dositheos Anagnostopoulos said the patriarch had not received any direct threats but had learned of the alleged plot from Turkish media, which was later confirmed to the patriarchate by Turkish police.
"Later in the day, police informed the patriarchate of a possible threat and dispatched additional police officers," Anagnostopoulos said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Turkey * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
The nephew of bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, one of the two archbishops kidnapped in Syria a week ago, said he hopes Syrian Christians will not use the incident as an incentive to flee the country.
Bishop Ibrahim, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, was kidnapped last Monday, alongside his counterpart from the Greek Orthodox Church, Bishop Boulos Yaziji, close to the Turkish border.The driver of the vehicle, Fathallah Kaboud, was killed.
Kaboud had been the personal chauffeur of bishop Ibrahim for a number of years. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
Militants in a rebel-held area of northern Syria have abducted two bishops travelling from the Turkish border back to the city of Aleppo.
The kidnapping was reported by Syrian state media and confirmed by a member of the official opposition leadership.
Yohanna Ibrahim is head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo and Boulos Yaziji leads the Greek Orthodox Church in the city.
Read it all.
We are in a constant battle with a “twisted serpent” whose sole aim is to sow discord and enmity. And words are its main weapon.
We all deal with lots and lots of words every day. Speaking, reports, and waves of emails. And we all know that our words can be misinterpreted, feelings hurt, conclusions jumped to in an instant, especially in fast-paced email exchanges.
Proverbs has a lot to say about words...
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The Russian Orthodox Church preserves and defends the primary Christian understanding of marriage and family, sanctifies marital relations in the church Sacrament and asserts the importance of marriage for the wellbeing and development of society as a whole.
Our Church expresses her solidarity with Christians, adherents to other religions and those proponents of non-religious worldviews who have preserved the traditional understanding of marriage as union of man and woman and come out against the attempts to use a radical legal reform to impose on the whole society a different understanding of marriage unprecedented in human history.
Aware of the danger of these processes, we believe it important to develop dialogue with all the public forces, both religious and non-religious, who support the traditional ideas of family values. This criterion is one of the most important ones in the Russian Orthodox Church’s choice of partners in inter-Christian and interreligious dialogues.
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President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the Orthodox Church should be given more say over family life, education and the armed forces in Russia, as he celebrated the leadership of its head Patriarch Kirill.
Faith runs deep in Russia after the fall of the officially atheist Soviet Union and Putin has looked to the largest religion in Russia for support since he began his third term as president after a wave of protests against his rule.
He has also tried to mix spirituality with his own brand of patriotism in order to unify the officially secular country where ethnic and political fault lines are beginning to show.
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The Holy Orthodox Christian Faith is unabashedly pro-life. The Lord Jesus Christ was recognized and worshipped in His mother’s womb while yet unborn by the Holy Forerunner who was also still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44); St. Basil the Great (4th Century), one of the universal teachers of the faith, dared to call murderers those who terminate the life of the fetus. The Church has consistently held that children developing in the womb should be afforded every protection given to those outside the womb. There is no moral, religious or scientific rationale which can justify making a distinction between the humanity of the newly-conceived and that of the newly-born.
Abortion on demand not only ends the life of a child, but also injures the mother of that child, often resulting in spiritual, psychological and physical harm. Christians should bring the comfort of the Gospel to women who have had abortions, that our loving God may heal them. The Orthodox Church calls on her children, and indeed all of society, to provide help to pregnant mothers who need assistance brining their children safely into the world and providing these children loving homes.
On the occasion of this sorrowful anniversary, and as we mourn the violence we all too often visit upon one another, as exemplified by the recent mass killings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, we pray for an end to the violence of abortion. Surely the many ways in which we as a people diminish the reverence and respect for human life underlie much of this violence. The disrespect for human life in the womb is no small part of this. Let us offer to Almighty God our repentance for the evil of abortion on demand and extend our hearts and hands to embrace life.
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Read it all. (For more information on Father Kimel, please see this previous post about his decision last year to join the Orthodox Church).
Recovering the theological significance of Sunday is fundamental to rebalancing our lives. As Orthodox and Catholics, we share a theological view of Sunday and so our purpose in this statement is four-fold: to offer a caring response to what is not just a human, but also a theological question; to add a little more volume to the growing chorus of Christian voices trying to be heard in the din of our non-stop worklife; to offer brief reflections in hopes of drawing attention to the fuller expositions elsewhere; and to reinforce the ecumenical consensus by speaking as Orthodox and Catholics with one voice.
For Christians, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is a special day consecrated to the service and worship of God. It is a unique Christian festival. It is “the day the Lord has made” (Ps. 117 (118):24). Its nature is holy and joyful. Sunday is the day on which we believe God acted decisively to liberate the world from the tyranny of sin, death, and corruption through the Holy Resurrection of Jesus.
The primacy of Sunday is affirmed by the liturgical practice of the early church. St. Justin the Martyr writing around 150 AD notes that “it is on Sunday that we assemble because Sunday is the first day, the day on which God transformed darkness and matter and created the world and the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (First Apology, 67).”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Theology: Scripture
Some Orthodox Christians in Russia have taken issue with Apple’s logo recently, seeing an anti-Christian symbol for humanity’s original sin in the image of a bitten fruit....
...[We now, however, that many] people have offered many explanations for what they see as the obvious significance of Apple’s logo. This is to be expected, since any symbol—or “signifier” for you semantics aficionados—has a fluid link to the meaning signified. But if these interpretations are all up for debate, then why bother discussing such niche exegeses as the one put forward by conservative Russian Orthodox?
Because their interpretation is scheduled to collide with public policy....
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His Beatitude the late Patriarch Torkom Manougian was an exceptional figure both in the Armenian Church and in the wider Christian world, within and beyond the Holy Land.
An intellectual, scholar, musician and poet, he was also a skilled statesman who represented all the most impressive aspects of the Armenian character and the Armenian tradition.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams * International News & Commentary Middle East Israel * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church
As sharply contested parliamentary voting approached in Georgia last week, the country’s Orthodox patriarch implemented his own peculiar pre-election ritual: He arranged for an airplane carrying icons and holy relics to circle over Georgian airspace while priests prayed over the country’s future, in an updated version of an ancient practice employed ahead of enemy invasions and other calamities.
It was a revealing gesture from Georgia’s church, which exerts a profound but mostly behind the scenes influence on political life. The elections brought an end to the eight-year dominance of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his team — as well as their sometimes aggressive push to introduce Western ways to this conservative society. That quest drove Mr. Saakashvili’s government into occasional conflicts with the church, which worsened as the country approached a highly competitive election.
“They hoped, I think, that in the critical moment the patriarch would back them, which apparently was wrong,” said Levan Abashidze, a religious scholar. Instead the church repeatedly stated its neutrality in the race, he said, sending a signal to voters that it was not endorsing the government.
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As Christ prepared for His Gethsemane experience, He prayed a prayer for unity which is recorded in the Gospel of Saint John Chapter 17 verse 11: “ ... keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are”(All scripture from English translation of the Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.). Through the centuries we have, indeed, been kept in the power and love of Christ, and in the proper moment in history the Holy Spirit moved upon us and we began the long journey towards the visible unity that Christ desires. This has been confirmed in Unitatis Redintegratio § 1:
Everywhere large numbers have felt the impulse of this grace, and among our separated brethren also there increases from day to day the movement, fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the restoration of unity among all Christians.
Fifty years ago in this very square, a powerful and pivotal celebration captured the heart and mind of the Roman Catholic Church, transporting it across the centuries into the contemporary world.
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In this 1955 essay, [Vladimir] Lossky builds all of that around a very complex and very sophisticated analysis of how Christians, especially in the early centuries, talked about God as trinity and talked about the divine and the human in Jesus. If I had another three hours or so I would try to spell that out a bit further, but it might emerge a little later when we have some questions. The point I want to focus on here is that he is arguing for an essential mysteriousness about the notion of the person in the human world, an essential mysteriousness that one can’t simply deal with by listing it in a number of things that are true about us so that I am intelligent, loving, free and mysterious; which is something about the place I occupy in terms (as I said earlier) of being the point where the lines of relationship intersect. It’s because a person is that kind of reality, the point at which relationships intersect, where a difference may be made and new relations created. It’s in virtue of that that we are able as believers to look at any and every human individual and say that the same kind of mystery is true of all of them and therefore the same kind of reverence or attention is due to all of them. We can never say for example that such and such a person has the full set of required characteristics for being a human person and therefore deserves our respect, and that such and such another individual doesn’t have the full set and therefore doesn’t deserve our respect.
That of course is why - historically and at the present day - Christians worry about those kinds of human beings who may not tick all the boxes but whom we still believe to be worthy of respect, whether it’s those not yet born, those severely disabled, those dying, those in various ways marginal and forgotten. It’s why Christians conclude that attention is due to all of them. What that means, we may still argue a lot about. But the underlying point is quite simply that there is no way of, (as it were), presenting a human individual with an examination paper and according them the reward of our attention or respect only if they get above a certain percentage of marks. Any physical, tangible member of the human race deserves that respect, never mind how many boxes are ticked.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Anthropology
- The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury will join Pope Benedict XVI's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury will attend the Mass that Pope Benedict will celebrate at the Vatican to mark the anniversary of the Oct. 11, 1962, opening of the council, Vatican officials said.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
(ACNS) In the name of the Triune God, and with the blessing and guidance of our Churches, the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue (ICAOTD) met at the University of Chester, United Kingdom during 3-10 September 2012. The Commission is grateful for the hospitality extended by the Anglican Communion.
The ICAOTD is continuing in its in-depth study of Christian anthropology, particularly in regard to what it means to be a human person created in the image and likeness of God. The Commission discussed the draft of its joint theological work on this subject, developed through the collaborative studies of previous meetings and enriched by presentations at this meeting on nature and grace, marriage, celibacy and friendship, and creation. Recognizing the need for our churches to address the urgent issues of contemporary humanity, the Commission explored the application of its study, particularly in the area of ecology.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Reports & Communiques * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Anthropology
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has called President Vladimir Putin's rule a "miracle of God", defended its close ties with the state on Friday against criticism fuelled by the trial of three members of the ##### Riot punk band.
In remarks published a day before a court issues its verdict in the trial over the band's protest against the Church's political role on a cathedral altar, Patriarch Kirill said the Church and state were merely bound by a "common agenda".
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The Pan-‐Orthodox Episcopal Assembly for the British Isles and Ireland has considered the Government's proposed changes to the law relating to civil marriage and welcomes the opportunity to respond to the public consultation on this important matter. We recognise that we live in a pluralistic society and we value the traditional tolerance of British society in which we enjoy freedom to practise and witness in accordance with our Orthodox Christian faith. At the same time, we cannot be indifferent to the evident signs of the negative consequences of the weakening of the traditional understanding of family life that has undeniably occurred in the last fifty years or so. The tragically high rates of family breakdown and divorce, of teenage pregnancy and abortions and of single-‐parent families are painful to contemplate. The early sexualisation of children and indeed, the loss of childhood itself, fill us with concern for the future of our society.
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The skinny dissident is thrown headfirst into a police van by camouflage-clad officers. Nearby, a dozen bearded men bearing Russian Orthodox crosses and wearing skull-and-crossbones T-shirts cheer on the cops.
It's the latest flare-up in a growing feud pitting supporters of the influential church, which sees itself as the nation's spiritual guide, against opponents who say the church has sold out to Vladimir Putin — becoming an arm of his regime more interested in gold than souls.
Roman Dobrokhotov was on his way to Christ the Savior Cathedral, Russia's biggest church, to protest against the arrest of members of female punk rock band ##### Riot. They were jailed in early March for belting out an anti-Putin "punk prayer" in front of the church's gilded altar wearing garishly colored balaclavas.
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Hopes that Arab Christians can enjoy full recognition in their countries' post-revolution politics appear to have suffered a setback. The political parties that have swept to power in Egypt and Tunisia are attempting to define their nations in narrow ethno-religious terms – as Islamic with sharia as the principal source of law. In Tunisia, for example, the constitution explicitly prohibits Christians from fielding candidates in the presidential election.
Attacks against Coptic churches and Christians in Egypt have increased during and since the revolution, and Arab Christians have allegedly been attacked in Syria. This has led to much soul-searching in the Arab Christian community, whose numbers and political influence have dwindled significantly over the past two decades owing to significant bouts of emigration.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Coptic Church Orthodox Church Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
Close links between the Greek state and the Orthodox Church are turning from a blessing for the clergy into a curse as the debt-laden government struggles to fund the ancient institution, just as impoverished Greeks need its charitable work most.
Starved of money as the state makes huge spending cuts, the deeply conservative church which grew from one of the earliest centres of Christianity is seeking new sources of funds.
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Almost every year for over one hundred years on the Saturday before Orthodox Easter, the main street in Ramallah has been overtaken by marching boy scouts and girl scouts banging drums and blowing trumpets before tens of thousands of onlookers.
It isn’t much of a parade. The music is as loud and out of tune as it is enthusiastic. Yet I try never to miss Sabt el Nour and the rowdy procession celebrating the miraculous light that beamed from Christ’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem the day before his resurrection.
Read it all and do not miss the fantastic picture.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter * International News & Commentary Middle East Israel * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
This morning the smoke of incense is still dissipating from thousands of churches around the country and the world where, last night, the Great Vigil of Easter was celebrated. This service — which begins with a bonfire and continues with readings, psalms, prayers, baptisms and the first mass of the Easter season, all ending (typically) with a big late-night meal to break the fast of Lent — was, in the first centuries of Christian history, the central event in the worshiping life of the Church. Today it’s an observance that appeals primarily to liturgy geeks (myself very much included), an unwieldy and time-consuming festival that dramatically complicates one’s plans for baked hams and Easter baskets.
Strange as the Easter Vigil may seem today, it hasn’t lost its original purpose: welcoming new believers into the body of the faithful. What is so powerful about the Easter Vigil, apart from the sheer sensory experience of it, is the way it intertwines the whole story of the Bible with the passing over of Jesus from death on Good Friday to resurrection on Easter. And the men and women who have been preparing for baptism (called “catechumens,” or hearers) step into these entwined stories on Saturday night, just as men and women did back when Christianity was a minor cult of the Roman world.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Liturgy, Music, Worship * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Sacramental Theology Baptism
...for the Apostle Paul, diversity, not uniformity, in every aspect of human life and language and culture, characterizes the unity and catholicity of the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). His own speech, he admits, is “not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
“Interestingly,” Tim [Griffin] writes, "for purposes of both ecumenical and interfaith discussions, this approach of humble shared ignorance provides a basis of shared experience. We can begin to see that the categories from which we, as Christians and as Episcopalians, have expressed our understanding of the Holy are limited and provisional. When we acknowledge that, we may be more willing to “listen and listen” and hear, to paraphrase Isaiah. And we will no doubt be more willing to show radical hospitality when we acknowledge that our practices are simply ways of clothing the mystery."
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We make our way to the front of the convent, where women in their Sunday best, girls in skimpy mini-skirts and sequin-spangled scarves, boys in tight jeans and leather jackets, and men in suits and ties are zig-zagging their way down flights of stone steps with black iron railings decorated with crosses. We pause until the flow subsides before climbing to a landing, where the priest awaits us.
Fr George Nijmeh is a portly, balding man wearing a black pullover with sparkly threads over his cassock.
He echoes the words of Mansour: “The Virgin Mary protected us. Today’s service had many more people than previous prayers. Prayer is among the weapons protecting us and driving away the black cloud hanging over Syria.”
He adds: “We should not have fighting in Syria but there are lots of interests who seek to sabotage our country...."
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Check them out--24 in all.
Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, and the religion has gone truly global over the past century, according to a new report out Monday, which finds some of the world's biggest Christian communities in surprising places.
Europe was the clear center of world Christianity one hundred years ago, but today the Americas are home to more than a third of all Christians. In fact, the United States has the world's largest Christian population, of more than 247 million, followed by Brazil and Mexico.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Methodist Orthodox Church Roman Catholic
Church leaders from ecumenical councils in the U.S. and Cuba wrapped up a five-day meeting in Havana on Friday (Dec. 2) with a call for “normalized relations” between the two countries.
“We declare the following shared conviction: that the half century of animosity between our countries must end,” said a joint statement issued by the National Council of Churches and the Council of Churches of Cuba.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * International News & Commentary Caribbean Haiti * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church
Matthew Garrett makes a living from the tip of his paintbrush.
The 34-year-old paints nearly every day, re-creating scenes from the Bible and heavenly images of the risen Jesus, Christian saints and angels on wood and canvas. He carries forward the ancient tradition of Orthodox Christian iconography in a modest West Boise, Idaho, house that he shares with his wife, Lisa, and her cat, Cecelia.
Garrett has been commissioned by individuals and churches all over the country over the past 17 years, finding jobs through old-fashioned word-of-mouth and through his website. His work is in several churches, among them, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Boise.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship * Culture-Watch Art * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
Orthodox Christian Synergy is a pan-Orthodox organization consisting of clergy and lay representatives of Chicago-area Orthodox Christian parishes who seek to project awareness of Orthodox Christianity to the public at large. Synergy works together with its parent organization, the Orthodox Christian Clergy Association of Greater Chicago, and with the blessings of the Chicago-area Orthodox Hierarchs.
The topic of Synergy’s 2011 Symposium was “Orthodox Christianity and Homosexuality,” and featured was Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary and the author of Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections. The gathering took place at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cicero, Illinois, on Saturday, October 15, 2011.
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Ten years after tiny St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was destroyed by falling rubble from the World Trade Center towers, church leaders reached an agreement Friday (Oct. 14) to rebuild at Ground Zero.
The church, founded by Greek immigrants in 1916, sat in the shadow of the twin towers and was the only religious building to be completely destroyed during the 9/11 attacks.
Under the agreement brokered by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the church agreed to drop a lawsuit filed in February against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls rebuilding at Ground Zero.
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ICAOTD is deepening and consolidating its work on a joint study of the theological riches, in Scripture and our traditions, of the understanding of the nature of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. From this understanding flow many implications which are of particular importance to our world today. These relate directly to human rights, ecology, the environment and agricultural practices, and the questions that arise around the ethics concerning the beginning and the end of human life, the nature and relationship of man and woman, technology, and the constant warfare that plagues many parts of the globe. At this meeting the Commission developed a framework for its fundamental theological work on the question of the human person.
In the course of their discussions and in intercessory prayers members of the Commission were made aware of the violation of human rights taking place in many parts of the world, and expressed great concern.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Reports & Communiques Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known for over a century now by his Bolshevik nom-de-guerre, Lenin, was one of history’s greatest mass murderers. In the course of his ruthless efforts to impose communism on Russia and its neighbors through brutal force, terror, and extra-judicial homicides in the millions, he became one of the greatest persecutors of the Christian Church in two millennia. Lenin’s minions killed more Christians in a slow week than the last of the great Roman persecutors, Diocletian, did in years. All this is thoroughly documented—to the point where Russian Orthodoxy considers many of Lenin’s victims as martyrs and saints and celebrates their feasts in its liturgical calendar.
And yet today’s Russian Orthodox leadership cannot bring itself to say that this monster’s mummified corpse should cease, immediately, being an object of curiosity or veneration?
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[Archbishop] Dmitri [Royster] made that Knoxville trip to ordain yet another priest in his diocese, which grew from a dozen parishes to 70 during his three decades. The 87-year-old missionary died last Sunday (Aug. 28) in Dallas, in his simple bungalow — complete with leaky kitchen roof — next to Saint Seraphim Cathedral, the parish he founded in 1954.
Parishioners were worried the upstairs floor might buckle under the weight of those praying around his deathbed.
The future archbishop was raised Southern Baptist in the town of Teague, Texas, before moving to Dallas. As teens, Royster and his sister became intrigued with the history of the major Christian holidays and began visiting a variety of churches, including an Orthodox parish. The services were completely in Greek, but they joined anyway — decades before evangelical-to-Orthodox conversions became common....
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In view of the tragically difficult times that the whole Middle East, and especially Syria, is going through, H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III wrote a letter on 20 April 2011 to Western leaders, asking them to help boost social and political evolution in the region. He stressed that the current revolutions are unlikely to benefit Christians, and may even result in more Christians being obliged to flee the unrest. He believes that Western support for peace is very important for Muslim-Christian living together in the Arab region, for the Christian presence there, for the communion and witness of its Churches to be maintained and for the aims of the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops to be fulfilled.
From April, but still relevant--read it all.
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(Please note that this was produced by the voluntary hard work of a blog reader. We are incredibly grateful to him/her for his/her efforts since not everyone has been able to listen to the full audio the link for which was posted earlier. Readers are welcome to check it against the audio and please if you would be so kind let us know if there are any corrections--KSH).
Sharing Good News and Building the Church Today
Address of His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania to the General Synod of the Church of England 8th June 2011
Introduction by the Archbishop of Canterbury:
The first of our guests is going to be speaking to us in fact by my invitation shortly and that is His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania who has been head of the Orthodox Church of Albania since 1992 and is also Orthodox President of the World Council of Churches. [Applause]
As I’ve said, Archbishop Anastasios has kindly agreed to address Synod, and I will now invite him to join me on the platform. For those of you who do not know the extraordinary recent history of the Orthodox Church in Albania, I think I should say that Archbishop Anastasios has been instrumental in reviving a church which had virtually disappeared in Albania during the years of communist rule. The church had suffered acute persecution and privation. In the last decade and more it has revived to the extent of restoring many buildings, putting up impressive new buildings for worship and for service. It has extended to an extraordinary extent, its work with schools and with young people and has continued to play a crucial part in the renewal of the life of the whole country.
This great revival owes very much indeed to a leader whose spiritual qualities, intellectual qualities, force of personality, humility and sanctity have been a beacon to many across Europe over the years. Archbishop Anastasios began his career in Africa and is a missiologist of note and a theologian. Greek by origin, he has taught theology in a number of contexts and has been able to put that missiological and theological skill to the fullest possible use in the rebirth of the Orthodox Church in Albania.
It is a very great delight to be able to welcome him among us for this occasion. Your Beatitude:
Your Grace, I am thankful for your warm and kind words.
Your Grace, beloved Archbishop Rowan, dear Brother Bishops, Brothers and Sisters it is a particular joy for me to address this noble gathering. I feel first of all the need to express my cordial thanks to their Graces, the Archbishops for the honour of this kind invitation.
The topic I was asked to speak on from experience is: ‘Sharing Good News and Building the Church Today’ offering some personal reflections. In accordance with this proposal, my remarks will be of a quite personal nature. As you are already aware I have come from Albania, a country that during the previous century experienced a most cruel and long lasting persecution. From 1944 to 1967 this autocephalous church underwent the familiar forms of oppression that all the Orthodox Churches in Eastern Europe suffered. But from 1967 to 1990 for 23 long years an atheistic constitution which banned all expressions of religion brought about the complete dissolution of the church. This is the first special characteristic of our church.
The second is that the Orthodox in Albania do not constitute the majority of citizens as is the case with other Orthodox Churches in Eastern Europe. Nor do they form a very small minority as in various Orthodox patriarchates. According to the last statistics in 1942, 68.9% of the population are Muslims, the Orthodox 20.7% and the Roman Catholics 10.3%. Of course today these numbers are not accurate. From this resurrected missionary Orthodox Church I would like to convey to this eminent gathering, cordial and fraternal greetings.
I had never thought about Albania, and never expected to live in it. All my interest had been focused on Africa, and that is where I was in December 1990 when I received a message from the Ecumenical Patriarchate that I had been elected Patriarchal Exarch, a type of nuncio, to Albania. My task would be to investigate the conditions which obtained after the persecution, as well as the opportunities which existed for starting a new missionary effort, and for reconstituting the Church of Albania. I was greatly surprised and harbored a good many reservations.
It was July 1991 when I arrived for the first time in Albania. Together with a small group of old and harrassed men, we made our way from the airport to the ruined Cathedral of Tirana. In order to express the most essential message of my mission, I asked each one of those present to take a candle, and inquired how to say the greeting ‘Christ is Risen’ in Albanian? I lit the candle exclaiming ‘Christium Gal’, that is Christ is Risen! One after the other, the candles of the few believers were lit, and they answered ‘Vertatum Gal’, Truly He is Risen! And their eyes were full of tears and light.
From then on the exclamation ‘Christ is Risen’ has become the watchword with which we have advanced all these years with the restoration of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania from the ruins. This phrase gave light to the mystic Autumns and the darkness of the harsh Winters that followed and it dominates the spiritual Spring that finally God granted to us. As Patriarchal Exarch in Albania I visited as many cities and villages as possible where there had formerly been Orthodox communities. People began to become together and hear the Gospel message and liturgies most of which took place in the open air under trees or in the ruins of old churches. The liturgical life and sermons were the basic means of getting the faithful to attend. The central message of the sermons and of spiritual activities was that Christ crucified, buried and risen is the light of the world, that God does not abandon us, and there is hope, however dark everything may seem.
There followed the creation of a seminary to provide basic theological education for future Albanian clergy. This nursery had to be located in Albania in a hotel despite suggestions that we should send candidates abroad. From similar experiences in Africa, I knew that if we did so, most of them would certainly not return to the difficult conditions in Albania. The most difficult dilemma I faced was when the issue of the election of an Archbishop was raised. This was necessary so that the reconstitution of the local church could be properly effected in ecclesiastical terms. When I was sounded out by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I replied: ‘If the Orthodox in Albania really want it, if you endorse it, and finally if the government accepts it, then I will give it serious thought. I had already become aware of how harsh the place was and that there was no infrastructure whatsoever. The ground was stony and inhospitable. The old establishment of the atheistic state was very powerful and active. Failure seemed certain.
In the end, after much thought and prayer I decided to take the risk, in the certain knowledge that what was principally required of me at that critical and historical moment was Fidelity to the Will of God, not success in itself. In the spiritual life, freedom from fear is of particular importance. Love casts out fear, even the fear of failure.
My election as Archbishop of Albania took place on 24th June 1992. Conditions were so adverse, I did not find a room to stay or even a piece of paper from the archives of the past. At first my assistant and I stayed in a hotel, later in a sparce flat. There was no guaranteed source of funds. The steady income we had was my salary from the University of Athens where I was a professor for 20 years. In the end though, funds arrived from unexpected places, and these allowed us to meet our immediate needs. We were faced with another serious problem as regards the reconstitution of a united Orthodox autocephalous church. The individual Orthodox communities were not all of the same national background. Apart from Albanian communities there were Greek - Slavs, and so on. In the transitional period after the collapse of the atheistic regime there was lively interest on the part of certain nationalistic Serbs in the Balkans in affiliating these communities and taking them into their own national churches. This could have undermined the creation of a strong local church. Thanks to God, in the end all Orthodox irrespective of origin agreed to join the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. I often repeated: ‘A forest is not more beautiful if it only has one kind of tree, what is needful is that all should be free to grow as their potential permits.’
A fundamental element in Christian missionary work throughout the centuries has been the construction of places of worship so that hymns and thanksgiving can be raised to God in the ages of ages. Hundreds of churches had been destroyed or converted to other uses. We were concerned therefore to build new churches in places where old ones had been demolished. Altogether 150 new churches were built, and at the same time, 60 dilapidated cultural monuments were restored. As well as this, in many villages 160 small churches were repaired, as were about 70 buildings built to house the administration of the dioceses, schools, medical centres and various institutions. This broader construction activity contributed to the provision of work for thousands of workers with benefits for a corresponding number of families as well as for the economy of the country in general.
In the administrative sphere, apart from the establishment of the Holy Synod, and the creation of a local Albanian clergy - around 150, about 460 parishes were organised in towns and villages. As well as these, a new Consitutional Charter of the Church was drawn up which reflected the new democratic period in Albania. This included significant new elements such as the participation of the laity, women and youth in the various councils and also at the same time an accord was reached with the government, which was passed into law, which guaranteed autonomy of administration and action for the Church. You understand, that these things in a Muslim country are not so easy.
Because of the total lack of religious literature in the Albanian language, one of our first priorities was to make translations and to set up a publishing house with its own press as well as a radio station and website. The interest of our church was directed in particular to the younger generation. In this traditional transitional period, young people are faced with an enormous vacuum. From the old illusion of the communist paradise they have been led to the illusion of the capitalist paradise without moral inhibitions, and yet thousands of young people have responded to our invitation. In this way, these young people do not represent merely the future of the church, but also the present.
In order to develop a liturgical conscience and Orthodox spirituality we insisted on the need for the continuation of the experience of the Divine Liturgy in everyday life through the extension of the liturgy after Liturgy, a notion that we have first introduced in the early 70’s so that the whole of life will be transformed into a personal liturgical expression in which we will share in thanksgiving the gift we receive with those people who God brings to us.
Thus initiatives were also undertaken from the very earliest year for the involvement of the Orthodox Church in social developments. In particular in matters of social welfare: the provision of the agnostic centre for people of all religions and none, more than one million came during these years; education – primary and secondary schools, technical education and also the core of a new university; agricultural development; culture; and ecology. With all these activities, the church transmits the Gospel of Love in a silent way, to various strata of the population. Besides, when in 1999 [ it is another example] thousands of refugees from Kosovo flooded into Albania, the Orthodox Church in collaboration with other European churches sustained more than 33,000 Muslim refugees. We have cultivated genuine respect for diversity among all human persons and groups of citizens; cultivating relations of peaceful coexistence with other religious communities, Muslim or Christians; but also with those who continue to be completely indifferent or even hostile towards religion. Acceptance of others in sincere love, irrespective of what or if they believe, has been a firm principle for us.
In the midst of the multi-religious situation of Albania, apart from the emphasis on the Christian Credo, we underlined our conviction that of all the religions or philosophical proposals relative to the value and future of humanity, the boldest and most magnificent remains that of Christianity. It insists on the incarnation of the supreme being of the God of love and of the progress of the people towards deification by grace.
We Christians declare that Christ is the light of the world, that the Trinity as a whole is light. Regarding the people of various faiths, in respect of the above symbolism of light, we are thinking many times, that the new wealth of scientific knowledge regarding the nature of created light has given great breadth to the symbolism of the astonishing effects of spiritual light in the world. The fundamental particle of light, the photon, occupies a special place among the particles of matter and energy that make up the world in the form of photons or electromagnetic waves. Light exists and acts in the most remote spot of the universe which we cannot imagine. Equally, the Divine Light can also be active in cases and places where the human mind does not suspect. The light of Christ, the light of the Holy Spirit is recognisable and familiar as is the natural light, but is at the same time inconceivable and inaccessible in His essence. God is called light not according to His essence but according to His energy as St Gregory Palamas explains, and while the essence of God remains inaccessible, all who so desire may participate in His energy.
From the very first years, we made it a priority not only to have cordial relations with the other Orthodox Churches, but also to become members of the Conference of European Churches, and the World Council of Churches and to have bilateral relations with the Roman Catholic Church, and I am very thankful that in these bodies I have the opportunity to have friendship with excellent members of your own Synod.
We were presenting a double message internally, that even though we are a minority, we still belong to a wider global family which monitors our struggles and supports us; and externally that the Church which had been in dissolution for decades is now participating actively in global Christian development.
As far as the future of the ecumenical movement is concerned, I believe that we must avoid both the euphoria of overoptimism and unwarranted disappointment. Our responsibility for the development of the modern world is all the clearer and rapprochement and collaboration among Christians more imperitive. God has opened new horizons for the common actions of Christians such as the issues of world peace, justice and the sustainment of the creation supported by the profound assurance of the faith in Him who is indeed the creator of the Universe, the true being, by the truth and love which he revealed to us in their plenitude. We Christians, we dare to hope, and in this new phase of global history in the midst of pressing problems, we proclaim with boldness: there is hope in our efforts for unity; there is hope in the common battle for peace and justice, when we insist together on the obligation of solidarity between people and peoples, when we intensify our common efforts for unfailing respect for the creation. In the end through the power of the crucified and risen Lord Christ, truth, justice and love will prevail.
Let us not trouble over the future, the future belongs to Christ. He is the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty, and he is coming again, from the future.
When we discuss the theme of sharing, my thoughts go to the two lakes of Palestine, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Those two lakes have a principal feature in common and a basic difference. Both receive the water or the River Jordan. The first, the Sea of Galilee receives the water and offers it to fertilise the Southern regions. The second, the Dead Sea receives the water but keeps it for itself. In the first there is plenty of life within its waters and around them. In the second, there is no sign of life, and we know that our Lord had nothing to do with the Dead Sea. He started his public mission and performed many of his miracles in the area of the Sea of Galilee.
We Christians have the privilege of receiving continuously the living water of the spiritual Jordan. We receive a great many gifts, spiritual and material. If we keep them only for ourselves, for our communities, for our family, for our nations, we shall lose them. The Dead Sea remains the symbol of what it means merely to receive and keep for oneself. If we offer, we shall be like the Sea of Galilee, full of life. Receiving and sharing is the secret for having life, The Life. Thank you.
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Jaroslav Pelikan, an important historical theologian who became Orthodox late in life, once told me, "You evangelicals talk too much about Jesus and don't spend enough time thinking about the Holy Trinity." Can one talk too much about Jesus?
I would not want to contrast faith in Jesus with faith in the Holy Trinity. My faith in Jesus is precisely that I believe him to be not only truly human, but also to be the eternal Son of God. I cannot think of a faith in Jesus that does not also involve faith in God the Father.
How is Jesus present to us personally at this moment? How is it that he is not merely a figure from the distant past, but that he also lives in my own life? That is through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I cannot understand a faith in Jesus Christ that would not also involve faith in the Holy Spirit.
I don't think we can have too much faith in Jesus. But faith in Jesus, if it is to be truly such, is necessarily Trinitarian. If you look at the lives of the Orthodox saints, you will find a very vivid faith in Jesus. Their affirmation of the Trinity did not in any way diminish their sense of Jesus as their personal Savior.
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A Russian pro-life organization is about to launch a network of clinics offering pre- and post-natal care while excluding procedures such as abortion and in-vitro fertilization that "contradict the teachings of the Russian Orthodox, Catholic and traditional Protestant churches," said Alexey Komov, the project manager.
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With cries of “Rebuild now! Rebuild Now!” parishioners and supporters of a Greek Orthodox church that was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks rallied at Ground Zero on Sunday (June 26) in hopes of resuming negotiations to rebuild the church.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have been at odds for several years over the cost and exact location of the rebuilt church.
“Shame on the Port Authority to take this long to rebuild our church,” Nicholas A. Karacostas, supreme president of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, a national Greek-American group, at a rally that drew about 100 people to the site of the former World Trade Center.
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My Western background left me completely unprepared for this Eastern take on the feast of the gift of the Spirit to the Church. In Western Churches, Pentecost particularly focuses on the “fire” of the Holy Spirit lighting on the disciples in the upper room and the “empowerment” of the Church for mission. Traditionally in the West, the color of the feast is red (for the fire).
In the East, the color of the feast is green – which is also the color worn for the feast days of monastic saints. In the West, green is the “ordinary” color worn in the “in between” Sundays and weekdays of the Calendar. For the Orthodox, gold serves this function.
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Fr. Kimel is to be ordained into the Orthodox Church on Pentecost Sunday (i.e. today) by Bishop Jerome of the Russian Church Abroad, for the Western Rite.
For those of you who may not know, Al is the former rector of Holy Communion, Charleston, S.C. In 1998 it was written about him:
Father Alvin Kimel, Jr. became the 15th rector of the parish in November 1996. He is a scholar and accomplished liturgist. His efforts include an emphasis on improving music to complement the choral Eucharist and to generally raise the beauty of worship. Father Kimel is a superb teacher from the pulpit, in the classroom, and by published worship aid always available in the Church. He is well on his way to a successful ministry and the future of the Church of the Holy Communion looks bright.A number of years later, Al wrote about himself:
Al Kimel... was a parish priest in the Episcopal Church for twenty-five years. He has published articles in the Anglican Theological Review, Sewanee Theological Review, Interpretation, Scottish Journal of Theology, Worship, Faith & Philosophy, Pro Ecclesia, and First Things. He has also edited two books: Speaking the Christian God and This is My Name Forever. He began [the blog] Pontifications in March 2004 as a way to reflect on the meaning of the Church and to invite others to share in these reflections. In June 2005 he entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. On 3 December 2006 he was ordained a priest in the Catholic Church. He is currently serving as the lay Catholic chaplain at Kean University in Union, New Jersey.I found an article about Al's Roman Catholic ordination (with a picture of some of the family) here.
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...recent ecumenical contacts by [Hilarion Alfeyev, the] high-profile representative of the Moscow Patriarchate[,] is evidence that times are changing. Time after time, during meetings with evangelical leaders and others here in America, Hilarion has stressed that it is time for Orthodox leaders to cooperate with traditional Catholics, evangelical Protestants and others who are trying to defend ancient moral truths in the public square.
"I am here in order to find friends and in order to find allies in our common combat to defend Christian values," said the 44-year-old archbishop, who became a monk after serving in the Soviet army. He also speaks six languages, holds an Oxford University doctorate in philosophy and is an internationally known composer of classical music.
For too long, Orthodox leaders have remained silent. The goal now, he said, is to find ways to cooperate with other religious groups that want to "keep the traditional lines of Christian moral teaching, who care about the family, who care about such notions as marital fidelity, as giving birth to and bringing up children and in the value of human life from conception until natural death."
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BOB ABERNETHY, host: For Eastern Orthodox Christians this is Great Lent, the 40-day period of strict fasting leading up to Easter. The Orthodox are supposed to observe fasts of one kind or another nearly all year; no meat on some days, no dairy or oil on others. Their calendars serve as reminders. The discipline of fasting is supposed to help focus the mind on God and bring the person fasting closer to God. Catherine Mandell of Clearfield, Pennsylvania talked with us about her family’s fasts.
CATHERINE MANDELL: The church generally gives us a calendar to help us track those days that we are to fast and which days we’re allowed not to fast. We have several others fasting periods during the year. If you take all those days together you are fasting for more than half the year....
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Faith is a journey and facing doubts is part of the journey, according to Frank Schaeffer, a best-selling New York Times author and popular blogger for the Huffington Post.
Schaeffer will present a workshop “Articulating an Authentic Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)” on Saturday, sharing his journey from conservative evangelical beliefs to joining the Eastern Orthodox Church.
“I tell people my own doubts, my own story. People aren't used to hearing people share doubts,” Schaeffer said Monday in a phone interview.
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Is the ecumenical project alive and well?
In Russia? As the Holy Father said in his recent book when he gave the long interview to the German journalist that there are number of people in Russia who are frightened of the Catholic Church. Not only because of the many centuries of division, but because unfortunately the Orthodox know very little about the Catholic Church and the Catholic faithful in Russia they know little about the Orthodox Church. From the beginning of my mission in Russia I wanted to be present at the liturgy of His Holiness the Patriarch every year to give him a gesture of respect as he is the head of the most important Church in Russia and considering also the meaning, the importance of Orthodox spirituality and the suffering the Russian people have passed through many decades of atheism and persecution. They have had a sad fate, with a high toll of martyrs and people who lost their lives for Jesus.
Will one of your tasks be improving relations with the Church of England in the wake of Anglicanorum coetibus?
I have not yet met His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, but we have an appointment at the beginning of the next month. From what I know the official relations are very good and very friendly. On the other hand, we understand that this passage is a delicate matter, not only for the Catholic side but also the Anglican side, and so the Holy See wants to make clear that we are ready to accept them, but we don’t want to incite them to leave their identities as Anglican faithful.
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Jonah’s move to Washington strikes at the core of the traditional Eastern Orthodox reluctance to be on the front lines of the culture wars, much less political conflicts. The religion’s 1 million American adherents, who remain split into 20 separate ethnic groups, are more likely known to the general public as sponsors of bazaars featuring Slavic or Mediterranean food, crafts and dancing than as societal firebrands.
“Orthodox Christianity tends to be heavily theological and more concerned with matters of doctrine, liturgy and belief than evangelical Protestants and certainly the conservative Christian right,” said Rabbi Niles Goldstein, a senior fellow at the Utah-based Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy. “They’re wrestling with how to find this balance between Christianity and activism, which makes it difficult for them to speak with a unified voice on social policy and foreign affairs.”
But Jonah sees American Orthodoxy at a crossroads where the choice is either to remain in ethnic enclaves and be irrelevant or jump into the stream of culture and politics and make a difference. He dreams of Orthodox Americans speaking out “as a conscience for the culture.” They would have clout in Congress, advocating for persecuted Orthodox around the world, such as the Egyptian Copts. They would stand equal with evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics in opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, cloning and euthanasia. St. Nicholas would be a hive of missionary work and outreach.
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Steelers safety Troy Polamalu opened his red leather-bound playbook to a dog-eared page. “The life of a man hangs by a hair,” he began reading in a voice as soft as falling snow. “At every step our life hangs in the balance.”
It was three days before the Steelers’ A.F.C. divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, a matchup in which the Super Bowl aspirations of two worthy contenders hang in the balance, and Polamalu was getting himself centered.
“How many millions of people woke up in the morning, never to see the evening?” Polamalu read. And then: “The life of a man is a dream. In a dream, one sees things that do not exist; he might see that he is crowned a king, but when he wakes up, he sees that in reality he is just a pauper.”
The book in Polamalu’s hands, “Counsels From the Holy Mountain,” guides him in football and in life. It contains the letters and homilies of a Greek Orthodox monk, Elder Ephraim, whom Polamalu described as his spiritual doctor.
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Like many of his parishioners, Father Richard Petranek came to the Orthodox church in search of the past.
After 30 years as an... [Episcopal] priest, Petranek converted to the Antiochian Orthodox Church and leads a new but growing parish in west Houston, filled almost entirely with converts to the ancient faith.
"Most people come for the stability," he said. "The same thing that is taught today in the Orthodox church was taught 500 years ago, was taught 1,000 years ago, was taught 1,500 years ago."
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At the same time mainstream denominations lose thousands of members per year, churches such as Crosspoint are growing rapidly — 15 percent of all U.S. churches identified themselves as nondenominational this year, up from 5 percent a decade ago. A third dropped out of major denominations at some point.
Their members are attracted by worship style, particular church missions or friends in the congregation.
"They no longer see the denomination as anything that has relevance to them," said Scott Thumma, a religion sociology professor at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. He's compiling a list of nondenominational churches for the 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study. "The whole complexion of organized religion is in flux."
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In 1930, there were 28,798 Russian-born residents, 16 percent of the population, in the area roughly coinciding with what is now Community District 5, which includes East New York. In 1950, that number had been cut virtually in half. By 2000, only 1,042 native Russians were in the area.
As the church declined, a succession of priests came and went. But in 2001, the Orthodox Church of America assigned Father [Vladimir] Alexeev, a Siberian-born priest who was in New York for six months to study English at Columbia University, to the church. His placement was temporary — until his bishop told him that Holy Trinity would be closed if he left.
Father Alexeev turned down a professorship at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, in Poland, where he had earned a doctorate in theology, to stay in East New York.
He had a plan: repopulate the congregation by reaching out to the new wave of Russian immigrants in the city.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has travelled to Rome and Athens, holding private meetings with Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop Hieronymus II, the primate of the Church of Greece.
On Nov 17, Dr. Rowan Williams delivered a lecture commemorating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He joined Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal-designate Kurt Koch and Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon in addressing the evening service at the Sala San Pio V in Rome.
The lectures were part of the council’s Nov 15-19 plenary session focusing on the theme: “Towards a new stage of ecumenical dialogue.” The speakers noted the weakening spirit of ecumenism, but underscored the importance of continued church relations.
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The GAFCON statement notes a third sad fact about the Anglican Communion today:
The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ‘Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008. To make matters worse, there has been a failure to honour promises of discipline, the authority of the Primates’ Meeting has been undermined and the Lambeth Conference has been structured so as to avoid any hard decisions. We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’.
This third fact is also in line with the observation of Metropolitan Hilarion that the source of false teaching and lax discipline in the Communion has its origins in the “North and the West,” that is to say, in Canterbury’s own jurisdiction. I have noted elsewhere that the “Instruments of Unity” as currently constituted are under the sway of the “Lambeth bureaucracy,” and hence the ecumenical failure of Anglicanism can only be laid at the door of Canterbury himself. This tough fact is exactly what Hilarion has brought to the banquet table at Lambeth Palace.
So GAFCON and the Orthodox share the sober critique of contemporary Anglicanism. It would be facile to say that today’s Anglican confessors are of one mind with the Orthodox. Surely there are issues of substance and ongoing discussion between the two.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Archbishop of Canterbury Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Ecclesiology
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The legacy of the past half century of dialogue between the different Christian denominations and the future direction of the ecumenical journey were under the spotlight here in the Vatican last night. Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams and Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas joined past and present members of the Pontifical council for Christian Unity for a celebration recalling the founding of their original Secretariat by Pope John XXIII in 1960 in preparation for the Second Vatican Council.Drawing inspiration from New Testament texts, Dr Williams spoke of the three dimensions of unity – with Christ, with each other and with the apostolic tradition – which can underpin a new phase of ecumenical dialogue. Urging his listeners not to lose sight of the ‘Ut Unum Sint agenda’, he called for shared reflection on the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and, above all, on Eucharistic theology which he said has ‘worn thin’ in many Christian communities.
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America's Eastern Orthodox parishes have grown 16 percent in the past decade, in part because of a settled immigrant community, according to new research.
Alexei Krindatch, research consultant for the Standing Conferences of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, said the 16 percent growth in the number of Orthodox parishes is "a fairly high ratio for religious groups in the United States."
The number of Orthodox parishes has reached 2,370, and the Orthodox community in America consists of more than 1 million adherents across 20 different church bodies, according to the 2010 U.S. Orthodox Census.
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All current versions of Christianity can be very conditionally divided into two major groups – traditional and liberal. The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the ‘traditionalists’ from the ‘liberals’. Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately ‘inclusive’ to recognize alternative behavioural standards and give them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value; that it can be terminated in a mother’s womb or that one can terminate one’s life at will. Christian ‘traditionalists’ are being asked to reconsider their views under the slogan of keeping abreast with modernity.
Regrettably, it has to be admitted that the Orthodox Church and many in the Anglican Church have today found themselves on the opposite sides of the abyss that divides traditional Christians from Christians of liberal trend. Certainly, inside the Anglican Community there remain many “traditionalists”, especially in the South and the East, but the liberal trend is also quite noticeable, especially in the West and in the North. Protests against liberalism continue to be heard among Anglicans, as at the 2nd All African Bishops’ Conference held in late August. The Conference’s final document stated in particular, ‘We affirm the Biblical standard of the family as having marriage between a man and a woman as its foundation. One of the purposes of marriage is procreation of children some of whom grow to become the leaders of tomorrow’.
Among the vivid indications of disagreement within the Anglican Community (I am reluctant to say ‘schism’) is the fact that almost 200 Anglican bishops refused to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference. I was there as an observer from the Russian Orthodox Church and could see various manifestations of deep and painful differences among the Anglicans.
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[The Rev. Dave]...Mustian sees nothing odd about choosing a burgeoning town like Erie -- peppered with new housing developments and buildings under construction -- as a place to set down an ancient tradition. The town, while appearing to be in its infancy, is actually a place with more than 100 years of mining history, he said.
And more important than the church's physical location -- on Austin Avenue just inside the Boulder County line -- are the families St. Luke attracts, Mustian said. The families, he said, are looking for constancy in an ever-changing world.
Christi Ghiz, 40, has been an Orthodox Christian for 15 years. The Lafayette woman started off as a Baptist, but saw in her new faith a rich history that seemed to be fading from the Protestant services she attended.
"A lot of the Protestant churches are changing with the times, but the Orthodox Church hasn't changed in 2,000 years," she said.
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Motorists across America saw a strange sight this past Sunday morning if they stopped at a traffic signal near an Eastern Orthodox sanctuary and then, shortly thereafter, passed a Catholic parish.
What they saw was worshippers singing hymns and waving palm fronds as they marched in Palm Sunday processions at these churches. Similar sights will be common during Holy Week rites this week and then on Easter Sunday.
There is nothing unusual about various churches celebrating these holy days in their own ways. What is rare is for the churches of the East and West to be celebrating Easter (“Pascha” in the East) on the same day. This will happen again next year, as well as in 2014 and 2017.
This remains one of the most painful symbols of division in global Christianity....
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Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day — Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another — Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.
In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.
–Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983)
Four theologians began discussions in Geneva, Switzerland this week to define the guidelines of a new project promoted from within the Conference of European Churches. The initiative hopes to study how the different Churches understand unity.
According to a statement released by the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the project is investigating church unity as it relates to church identity at the theological, theoretical level as well as in church practices.
The four theologians taking part in the discussion are British Anglican Dr. Paul M. Collins from the University of Chichester, German Catholic Dr. Myriam Wijlens from University of Erfurt, Finnish Dr. Minna Hietamaki from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Orthodox Dr. Viorel Ionita from the CEC's Churches in Dialogue Commission.
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Although the 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint” by Pope John Paul II helped with Catholic-Orthodox relations, more progress could be made with a nudge from the man currently occupying the chair of Peter, according to an Orthodox bishop who has been part of Catholic-Orthodox dialogues for more than a decade.
“Ut Unum Sint” “was certainly helpful,” said Metropolitan Kallistos. “As an Orthodox, I was surprised and moved at Pope John Paul II when he openly asked for the help of others to understand his role and his primacy as bishop of Rome to the universal church.”
The retired British-born Greek Orthodox metropolitan, raised an Anglican, spent much of his ministry teaching at Oxford University.
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Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is affirming that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church stand together on many current social issues.
The Russian Orthodox leader stated this Tuesday while addressing a bishops' meeting of his Church in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, Interfax reported.
He observed: "We [together with the Roman Catholic Church] have similar positions on many problems facing Christians in the modern world. They include aggressive secularization, globalization, and the erosion of the traditional moral principles.
"It should be noted that on these issues Pope Benedict XVI has taken a stance close to the Orthodox one."
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Dr. Rowan Williams began his New York City tour this past week with duties related to his role as Archbishop of Canterbury, but ended it by demonstrating his academic acumen and continued interest in the Orthodox Christian faith. On Saturday, January 30, 2010, the Anglican archbishop delivered the 27th annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture— this year titled “Theology and the Contemplative Calling: The Image of Humanity in the Philokalia”— and received an honorary doctoral degree from St. Vladimir’s Seminary.
During his visit, Dr. Williams also attended Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Three Hierarchs in the seminary chapel, and had a cordial and frank discussion with St. Vladimir’s theological faculty at a private brunch. After the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and the Anglican archbishop both publically expressed their desire for a deeper personal friendship and their hope for deeper understanding and cooperation between their respective communions. Additionally, Dr. Williams thanked the seminary community for its "overwhelming warm and generous welcome," which he stated, surpassed even his first visit to St. Vladimir's in 1974, and which was all that he "had hoped and prayed for."
The Anglican archbishop received the invitation to be this year’s Schmemann Lecturer for his pioneering work in Russian Orthodox studies and his long-standing interest in Eastern Christian studies. His doctoral work at Oxford University focused on Vladimir N. Lossky, the famous mid-twentieth-century Orthodox theologian; and his first book, Wound of Knowledge, was a study of spirituality from apostolic times to the sixteenth century.
Read it carefully and read it all, noting especially the section toward the end about some audience members.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Archbishop of Canterbury * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
The Archbishop of Canterbury concluded a week of meetings in greater New York City by offering theological reflections to an overflow audience at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers.
In delivering the seminary’s annual Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture on Jan. 30, Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke on the topic of “Theology and the Contemplative Calling: The Image of Humanity in the Philokalia.” The Philokalia is a collection of monastic writings by great saints of the Eastern Church, dating from the 4th to the 14th century, and generally centered on the topics of asceticism, prayer and renewing oneself in God.
The archbishop focused his remarks on the “natural state,” that is, the wholly good state in and for which God created human beings. The Philokalia teaches that our natural state is of living in full communion and mutual love with God the Creator, Archbishop Williams said, but our fallen or “unnatural” state can interfere.
The watchfulness that the Philokalia requires is to “be aware of the moment this basic human consciousness can become diabolical,” the archbishop said.
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On Saturday, though, Williams will receive an honorary doctorate from St. Vladimir's that will recognize his lesser-known contributions to the study of Orthodox Christian theology. And he will speak not about sexual politics, but about the "Philokalia," a collection of writings about monastic life that date from the 4th to 15th centuries and are revered by Orthodox Christians.
The 12:30 p.m. lecture is free and open to the public.
"We chose to honor him because of the contributions he has made toward increasing knowledge of Eastern Orthodoxy in the West," said the Very Rev. John Behr, dean of St. Vladimir's. "Through his work, he has also asked (the) Eastern Orthodox to continue our own thinking through of our tradition ."
Read it all and you may find a Seminary press release on the event there.
Though not even two decades have passed since the Soviet state collapsed in 1991, the Orthodox Russians who came to France to flee communism say they're starting to view Moscow with mistrust again. The reason: the recent move by Russia to take control of a dazzling Orthodox cathedral built in Nice during the reign of Czar Nicholas II, which some opponents say is part a wider, nationalistic power play by Moscow to regain symbols of Russia's historical, cultural and religious grandeur abroad.
The tussle centers on the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas — a breathtaking church topped with spires and domes that was built in 1912 on land that Nicolas' grandfather, Alexander II, had purchased a half century earlier. Initially intended as a place of worship for the Russian aristocrats and industrialists who flocked to the Côte d'Azur before the 1917 Russian Revolution, the cathedral became a spiritual and cultural focal point for the mass of exiles who fled to Nice during the Soviet era. Since the fall of communism nearly 19 years ago, the so-called "white Russian" community and its offspring has been joined by Russian jet-setters who've grown extremely wealthy under the country's current leadership and bought pricey mansions in Nice to use as their second homes. (See a brief history of Russians and vodka.)
To the Russian diaspora, as well as the 85,000 paying tourists who visit the church every year, the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas has represented a slice of Mother Russia on the shores of the Mediterranean. And that's exactly the logic the Russian government used to win a court case in France on Jan. 20 that recognized Moscow's ownership of the church. The Nice Russian Orthodox Cultural Association (ACOR), which managed the church under a 99-year lease it signed with the czarist regime in 1909, had maintained that it effectively inherited the cathedral when Russia's royal family was executed during the revolution. But the court upheld the Russian government's position that since the czarists had bought the land and built the church using state money, the cathedral remains the property of the Russian government, meaning that Moscow could legally reclaim it now that ACOR's lease has expired. Decades of Soviet uninterest in the property, the court decided, did not undermine Russia's entitlement to it today.
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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, a spiritual leader who represents Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has urged young Christians to resist secularisation in Europe in a message to an ecumenical meeting that was greeted by global and regional leaders.
"After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe no longer recognises the place for Christianity that history dedicated to it - it is as if Christianity were being expelled from the history of Europe," said Bartholomeos I, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The Patriarch made his appeal in a message sent to a five-day European Youth Meeting, organised by France's ecumenical Taizé Community in Poznan, Poland.
"We wish to recall here that the identity of Europe is primarily Christian and cannot be considered without this legacy," he said in his message to the 29 December-2 January gathering. "The secularisation of Europe here takes the form of a rejection of the God of history. Nonetheless, the mobilisation of Christians throughout Europe is an important initiative recalling the Christian roots of this continent, its identity and its values."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Teens / Youth * International News & Commentary Europe * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
The ongoing Christian flight from the Middle East was high on the agenda of the Vatican's secretary for the relations with states, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, when I met with him recently in Rome.
The lengthy exodus of ancient Christian congregations from the greater Middle East's last redoubts of religious pluralism is accelerating. Terrorism, conflict, and the rise of intolerant Islamism are to blame, Vatican officials explain. There is a real fear that the light of Christian communities that was enkindled personally by the apostles of Jesus Christ could be extinguished in this vast region that includes the Holy Land.
This trend could be reversed or at least halted, but probably not without Western help. Thus far, the rapid erosion of Middle Eastern Christianity has drawn little notice from the outside world.
Pope Benedict XVI, however, is planning a special synod of Roman Catholic bishops next October to discuss this crisis and to promote greater ecumenical unity in the Middle East. The hope for the synod, as reported by the Catholic news agency Zenit, is that "new generations must come to know the great patrimony of faith and witness in the different churches" of this region.
The greater Middle East, of course, holds profound theological significance for all Christians. Broad Christian engagement may be the best hope for the survival of these ancient Middle Eastern churches -- the Copts and Chaldeans, the Maronites and Melkites, the Latin Rite Catholics, the Armenians, the Syriac Orthodox, the Assyrian Church of the East, and others.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Middle East Iran Iraq Israel * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church Roman Catholic
On Saturday afternoon, January 30, 2010, The Most Rev. and Rt. Honorable Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England, will deliver the annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. The archbishop will speak on the topic “Theology and the Contemplative Calling: The Image of Humanity in the Philokalia.”
St Vladimir’s Seminary will also confer upon the archbishop a Doctorate of Divinity honoris causa, in recognition of his contribution to the academic study of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality. The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr, dean of St. Vladimir’s, was examined for his own doctoral degree at Oxford University by the archbishop, then a professor of theology there.
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