Friday, May 25, 2018

St. Tikhon's hosts OISM gathering

I loved OISM as a seminarian. Even with the very variable attendance and spotty participation by host seminaries (I once went to OISM at St. Vlad's and only two of their people attended any of the events. At other gatherings we were busting at the seams, went on field trips, and had stimulating speakers (Bp. Irenei of Sacramento comes to mind immediately). I'm heartened to see that OISM continues since the time when Bp. Michael of New York resurrected it during his tenure at St. Tikhon's.

(STOTS) - On the weekend of May 11-13, 2018, Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary hosted this year’s Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement [OISM] gathering on the school’s campus.

OISM is a Pan-Orthodox organization focused on building bridges between the different seminaries.

The theme of this year’s gathering was Orthodox Christian missions. Presentations were offered by three STOTS faculty members—Archpriest Steven Voytovich, Dean and Chair of the Department of Pastoral Arts and Praxis; Dr. David Ford, Professor of Church History; and Hieromonk Herman [Majkrzak], Lecturer in Liturgical Theology.

“In addition to stimulating and informative presentations, the seminarians where able to participate in services at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and spend time getting to know each other and build friendships,” said STOTS seminarian Joseph Clark. “It is hoped that the seeds planted here will one day bear fruit for Christ’s Church.”

In addition to students from Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, representatives from Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, NY; Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, Jordanville, NY; and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology/Hellenic College, Brookline, MA also participated.

ROCOR Orthodox Pastoral School offering Summer classes

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Moscow's church relations dept. on granting autocephaly

(ROC) - The Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has stated its intention to discuss with all the Local Orthodox Churches the appeal made to it by Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko to create an autocephalous Church in Ukraine. Is there today a commonly accepted procedure for granting church independence – autocephaly and what does canon law say about this mechanism? – a detailed explanation given to RIA Novosti by the vice-chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, Archpriest Nikolay Balashov.

– Father Nikolay, why does the question of granting independence to a particular Church have no clear answer given once and for all, why there are no appropriate fundamental prescriptions?

Indeed, the conditions and procedure for granting autocephaly are not explicitly prescribed in the acts of Ecumenical Councils (their decisions are fundamental and paramount for all the Churches – ed.).

For this reason, when preparations began for a pan-Orthodox Council in 1961 in Rhodes, this topic by common agreement was included in the catalogue of issues for discussion. The Local Orthodox Churches began to consider it actually at the meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission (IPC) in Chambesy, near Geneva in 1993.

By that time eight Local Orthodox Churches had presented their papers on ‘Autocephaly and Ways of Declaring It’. In the diversity of opinions, two conceptually different positions can be singled out.

The Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem and the Greek Orthodox Church emphasized the priority of the competence of Ecumenical Councils and Local Councils of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to grant autocephaly. The Patriarchates of Moscow, Romania and Bulgaria as well as the Polish Orthodox Church proceeded from the independent right of every autocephalous Church to grant autocephaly to its canonical part. However, in the course of the discussion, an agreement was reached on the principal thing: there is no autocephaly without the declaration of the will of the Mother Church, i.e., the Local Orthodox Church to which its part wishing to receive autocephaly belongs. Nor there is autocephaly without a pan-Orthodox agreement ‘expressed in the unanimity of the Councils of the autocephalous Churches’. Given the perfect unanimity of the Churches reached on these principles, it remains only to agree upon the procedure and details of the process.

Russian Church continues dialogue with Ethiopian Church

(ROC) - On 15 May 2018, Patriarch and Catholicos Abune Mathias I of Ethiopia arrived in Russia with an official visit at the invitation of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. It is the first visit of His Holiness Abune Mathias to the Russian Orthodox Church after his election to the Patriarchal throne in March 2013. Earlier, in July 1996, Patriarch Abune Paulos also visited Russia.

The delegation accompanying Patriarch Abune Mathias includes Abune Enthons, Archbishop of West Harerge Diocese; Abune Philipos, Bishop of South Omo Diocese; Abune Aregawi, Bishop of South Gonder Diocese; Melake Genet Abba Kidane Mariam, personal assistant to His Holiness Abune Mathias I; Melake Selam Abba Kiross Weldeab, head of the Media Service; and Musie Hailu, head of the Service of the Patriarchal Protocol.

At the Vnukovo Airport His Holiness Patriarch and Catholicos Abune Mathias was met by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.

Taking part in the meeting were also H.E. Grum Abay Teshome, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the Russian Federation; staff members of the Ethiopian Embassy; Hegumen Feofan (Lukyanov), head of the DECR Protocol Sector; Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations; other DECR staff members; as well as representatives of the Ethiopian diaspora and the Moscow clergy.

Greeting Patriarch Abune Mathias, Metropolitan Hilarion expressed his hope that His Holiness’ visit to the Moscow Patriarchate would be fruitful and would further strengthen the centuries-old relationships between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Addressing the DECR chairman, the head of the Ethiopian Church noted that his visit would help revive the historical friendship between the peoples of Russia and Abyssinia.

During the visit that will last until May 20, His Holiness Abune Mathias will meet with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and with high-ranking government officials of the Russian Federation and will visit the higher educational institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as churches and monasteries in Moscow and the Moscow Region.


The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which belongs to the family of the Oriental Churches, received its autocephaly in 1959 from the Coptic Patriarchate. Today the Ethiopian Church is not only the largest Oriental Church, but also one of the largest Christian communities in the world. It has the membership of over 65 million people living in Ethiopia and in diaspora, mainly in the USA and Canada.

Christianity came to Ethiopia as far back as the 1st century AD, when Apostle Philip was preaching in those lands.

The relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Church were established in the middle and latter half of the 19th century, thanks to a large extent to the head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, Archimandrite Porfiry (Uspensky), who had gathered massive amount of information on the history, doctrine, liturgy and traditions of the Ethiopian Christians. The 1950s-80s were the decades of most intensive inter-church contacts, through the efforts of the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and Novgorod. That period was marked by exchanges of official delegations, including the high-level ones. In those years the Ethiopian students studied at the educational institutions of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These days the contacts between the two Churches are intensifying again. In September 2011, in Addis Ababa Metropolitan Hilarion met with His Holiness Abune Paulos, predecessor of Patriarch Abune Mathias. In November 2017, a delegation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church visited Moscow, and in March 2018, a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate arrived in Ethiopia to take part in the celebrations marking the 5th anniversary of enthronement of Patriarch Abune Mathias.

Abp. Evstratiy (Zorya) [UOC-KP] communes at OCA parish

For context, Evstratiy (Zorya) pictured with Filaret (head of "Kyivan Patriarchate")

In a surprising series of photos (posted on the parish website no less), Archbishop Evstratiy (Zorya) of the schismatic UOC-KP group visited an OCA parish in Virginia and communed in a Liturgy there. Considering the ties of the OCA to the Church of Russia and of the problems the UOC-MP is experiencing with others in Ukraine (UOC-KP, UAOC, UGCC), this is a decidedly odd - if not inflammatory - event. If anyone has any context for what happened at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, please do put something in the comment box.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Serbian Church glorifies three neo-martyrs

( - The regular meeting of the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church began on April 29, 2018 at the Patriarchate of Pec monastery with the joint serving of the holy hierarchical Divine Liturgy and the invocation of the Holy Spirit and continued at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, under the presidency of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej. Participating in the Assembly were all diocesan hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

At the beginning of the meeting the Patriarch addressed all the hierarchs in attendance with introductory remarks in which he pointed to the essential issue in the life and mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the contemporary world, filled with both great spiritual challenges and temptations but also great possibilities for work on the spiritual renewal of the people.

The most crucial decision was the decision of establishing new feast days in the calendar of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which in turn, means in the calendar of the Orthodox Church as a whole. Namely, the Assembly unanimously deciced to canonize, add to the assembly of saints, three individuals who, because of their firm committment to their faith in Christ were killed by the Arnauts during the Turkish rule at the end of the 19th and the dawn of the 20th century, in Kosovo and Metohija, and they are the following:
  • Grigorije of Pec, a monk at Monastery Pec, as Hieromartyr, whose liturgical commemoration will be celebrated Janaury 22/February 7;
  • Vasilije, a baker from Pec, as a martyr, whose feast will be celebrated April 29/May 12,
  • Bosiljka Rajicic from the town of Pasjana near Gnjilana, as a martyr, whose podvig will be commemorated October 13/26,
  • and those who suffered with them.

Extremism and Terrorism conference held in St. Petersburg

(ROC) - On May 12, 2018, in keeping with a decision of the commission on theology and theological education of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Inter-Council Presence, a theological conference was held on Theological Understanding of the Phenomenon of Extremism and Terrorism, at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.

The aim of the conference was to involve ecclesial and secular experts in defining the notions of extremism, radicalism and terrorism from theological perspective and to consider possible ways of overcoming social deformations arising from the spread of world terrorism and growth of extremist moods.

The gathering in the academy assembly hall included members of the Inter-Council Presence commission on theology and theological education, experts, members of the St. Petersburg public chamber, municipal officials and students of the academy post-graduate courses.

The conference was opened by the rector of St. Petersburg Theological Academy and members of the Inter-Council Presence commission on theology and theological education, Archbishop Ambrose of Petergof.

In the beginning of the meeting, the conference was addressed by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR), chairman of the Inter-Council Presence commission on theology and theological education and rector of the Ss Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies (CMI).

Among the attendees from the Inter-Council Presence commission were Bishop Gennady of Kaskelen, administrator of the Metropolitan District in Kazakhstan and rector of Alma-Ata Seminary; K. Antonov, head of the St. Tikhon Orthodox University of the Humanities chair of philosophy and religious aspects of culture; and A. Maler, lecturer at the State Academic University of the Humanities. Among those invited to attend were V. Martinovich, director of the Byelorussian Orthodox Church center for the studies of sects and head of the Minsk Theological Academy chair of apologetics; V. Laza, counsellor, Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs directorate for monitoring, analysis and prognosis; Ms. A. Astakhova, head of Kazan Federal University chair of religious studies; Archpriest George Joffe, associate professor at St. Petersburg Academy chair of church-practice disciplines.

The conference program included papers on such topics as the formulation of the notion of ‘religious extremism’, the difference between extremism carried out under religious slogans and radicalism and fundamentalism, mechanisms for detecting and eliminating risks involved in these problems and the role of religious education in opposing extremist activities. The participants will consider methodological problems of the theological analysis of extremist manifestations in the religious sphere and will familiarize themselves with materials developed by Local Orthodox Churches on manifestations of extremism covered up by religious rhetoric.

The conference is expected to adopt a communique in conclusion of its work.

Met. Rastislav met with Pope of Rome

Reposting on the purpose of this blog

A few years back I posted this and again here. I think it's time for a reposting with a little augmentation.

This is a blog. It is not a news outfit. No one pays me to post anything nor is there a foundation that sends me money by the word. If we look at this with a chronological and historical eye, it was my wife who thought with all my combing of Orthodox resources on the Internet that I should put what I find in one place online. It followed me from Texas, to seminary, to the priesthood and parish life. Seven thousand, two hundred and fifty posts later we are here.

If I enjoy a photo of a monk throwing a snowball, it will probably get posted. If I think someone made an interesting point, it might get posted. If there is a spat between two parties and you are expecting that I'm going to strive for the news media's Israel-Palestinian parity policy you're going to be let down. There is bias, but there is also often an attempt to post from the other side as well. Also, I will post about non-Chalcedonians or even Greek Catholics (as I've done since the beginning) without feeling like I'm putting out sugary treats forming an insidious path to an inescapable gingerbread house of heresy.

If you see an article and your entire purpose for commenting is to say something snarky or be contrary, don't. There's a legion of people who already do so to my consternation. Those who are already doing it aren't grandfathered in either so I reserve the right to apply a purgative to their efforts at will.

It's wonderful to have so many people visit every day from all over the world. There are lots of emails with stories sent to me, lots of comments on what makes it into a post, and even the occasional retweet. I appreciate it all. But this isn't network news. This is a blog. I ask that you be civil. Or, as we say to visitors in Texas, "Howdy! Wipe your feet and take your hat off."

Metropolis of Denver teleturgical messages are the best

When the official letter makes it to the metropolitan website, I'll make the necessary updates below.


May 1, 2018

Teleturgical Encyclical 29
The Pious Priests
The Faithful Parish Members
Holy Metropolis of Denver

Beloved in the Lord,

It has come to my attention that there are an increasing number of parishioners in some of our parishes who come forth to receive Holy Communion, but insist that the priest not give to them of the Body of Christ but only of His Blood. Those parishioners explain to their priests that their doctors -- obviously not Orthodox Christians — tell them not to eat any kind of bread because it will harm them.

If there are Orthodox Christians in our parishes who believe that, after the Holy Spirit consecrates the Bread and the Wine during the Divine Liturgy, the gifts are still bread and wine, they should never again receive the divine Body and Blood again, until they believe that the holy sacrament of our Lord Himself is His spiritual presence, that is, both His Body and His Blood.

It is truly a great blessing from Saint Paul, the holy apostle to the nations, that he explains the dangers of receiving the holy Body and sacred Blood of our Lord, for very different reasons than medical science does. Saint Paul says "whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, for he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself... For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (die)." Corinthians 11:27, 29, 30

In regard to these powerful words of Saint Paul, are there parishioners who are ill, possibly because they have not prepared themselves to receive the divine gifts of our Lord's spiritual Body and Blood? And, if the doctor's instructions to them about not eating the Body (bread) because of the doctor's medical knowledge are considered more important than the Holy Eucharist, then they should not receive the Holy Eucharist of the Lord, unless or until they believe that the Creator of all has more knowledge regarding eternal life than all the medical science of this fallen world.

This serious matter is proof enough that the secular world is developing into the false philosophy that it is self-created, in relationship to the theory that all creation is incidental and accidental. Consequently, the world, which is based in materialism, is more and more identifying itself, especially humanity, as it pleases, since it does not acknowledge a divine Creator.

If any parishioner does not fully believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Creator, and that He came into the world, taking on our human body, but His Body being perfect, and offering Himself up on the Holy Cross for our eternal salvation, please help such persons to realize their error, if they wish to listen. Of course, it is up to them to exercise their free will to accept our Lord as we know Him, or to take the only other direction, that is, turn away. from Him. We pray that the Holy Spirit will give to them the only direction to eternal life, and that is to know and to love our Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.

With Paternal Blessings,

Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver

This letter is to be disseminated to all parishioners and published in all parish bulletins of the Metropolis of Denver.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy

After I posted here recently on the opening of the GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy, several people had questions about this new Orthodox resource. I, too, had questions and so was delighted that Fr. John Peck (dean of the Academy and rector at All Saints of North America Orthodox Church, Sun City, AZ) was gracious enough to answer a few of them.

GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy is an institution of higher learning under the jurisdiction of the Vicariate for Palestinian/ Jordanian Orthodox Christian Communities in the US. The Academy offers a two-year program of study (offered in English and Arabic) leading to the Diploma of Orthodox Theological Studies (Dipl. O.T.S.), and a one-year program leading to a Certificate in Preaching, and advanced courses for clergy and laity which qualify as Continuing Education Courses, both offered in English.

The mission of GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy is to serve the Orthodox Church by preparing students for service to the Church. As the only theological academy within the Vicariate, the Seminary welcomes applicants not only from the United States but also from abroad, thereby serving its mission to serve the Church in all corners of the world.

What's the history behind this effort? How did you get from a nascent idea to where you are today?

This is all covered on our Academy website, but allow me to sum it up: Beginning in the mid-1990’s, the administration of our jurisdiction (the Vicariate for Palestinian and Jordanian Orthodox Christian Communities in the US) has worked diligently for the improvement and spiritual nurturing of the Orthodox Christian faithful in its parish communities by way of missions, established parishes, the ordination of clergy, youth camps, etc. It soon became clear that spiritual education among Orthodox Christians in the Arabic language specifically, was lacking in the extreme. Opportunities to serve these Orthodox faithful abounded but administrative and clerical resources could not keep up with the growing need.

The arrival of Archimandrite Damaskinos Alazrai into the Vicariate allowed for aggressive growth in the area of Orthodox education and spiritual formation of the faithful. Immediately, an annual Bioethics Conference was established for each spring, with an annual Spiritual Retreat every October. Once the mission and vision of Archimandrite Damaskinos was communicated to us, the natural outcome was the founding of GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy; an internet-based Orthodox learning institution capable of serving the Orthodox faithful nationwide, and even worldwide, in both English and Arabic, and hopefully additional languages in the near future.

How does this differ from existing Orthodox resources in the US? To be more blunt, some might say, "We already have X, Y, and Z. Why do we need this?"

First of all, let's just say it - competition breeds excellence. But also, we aren't really competing with theological seminaries because we don't exactly have anything like this. We are not aiming for the future seminary student or the guy who needs another masters degree. This isn't another masters program in theology for future clergy or wannabe theologians. This is an undergraduate level program thoroughly grounded in the Tradition. And it is offered in English and Arabic.

This is ideal for the Orthodox Christian who is far from a local parish, who is a kind of satellite, and wants to do more than nothing to help build up the body of Christ, and grow the Church where they are.

Diploma grads will all have the materials necessary and ready for New Member classes, Catechumen classes, Baptismal preparation, Interior life instruction, and more, so that even if they are starting a satellite mission from scratch, they can hit the ground running with what is necessary for good solid instruction. It's a good beginning to prepare for the underground church as well.

You're not only providing English-speaking instruction, but, uniquely, you're also offering Arabic language instruction. How did that come about?

The Vicariate is a jurisdiction specifically of English and Arabic speaking people – Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis. Many of them – a great number – cannot afford $10,000 per semester to learn more about the faith. Our program delivers it for substantially less. There are a multitude of Arabic speakign men and women with a burning desire to serve the Lord and his Church, and to learn more and deepen their own Orthodox faith in a very profound way. But guess what – they can't leave home, and they have little or no income.

We not only have an excellent foundational Diploma program for them, we have started a scholarship for them – the MESSIAH Scholarship Fund (Middle East Student Scholarship in Academic Honors). If you really want to make a difference for Christians in the Middle East, help build up this Scholarship program. Our entire 2 year Diploma program can be completed for $5000. That's 4 semesters in two years for $5K or less.

It's the best deal in Orthodoxy, and we have worked very hard to make it so.

Who do you see taking advantage of this Academy? Who are the ideal students?

We are aiming for the person burning with desire to learn more about their faith, the homeschooling mom who needs more knowledge and help; the devoted father working a full time job but who needs to raise his children to have FAITH, and is the very reason he labors so long and hard; the Sunday School teacher, the Adult Ed instructor, the catechist, the Bible study teacher who want a broader, more indepth background for practical instruction, and it is ideal for the man who wants to go on to ordination and serve the Church as a deacon.

The ideal student is any Orthodox Christian high school graduate or person educated enough to handle challenging undergrad work - the man or woman who has a strong desire to deepen their faith by learning more about Scripture, History, Theology, Liturgy, Spirituality, and Pastoral practice – The Orthodox Tradition - with a desire to go on and teach, preach, and proclaim the Gospel to strengthen their own spiritual life, their own home parish, and the ministries of their own church. It doesn't take a PhD to do mission work. It takes action, practical knowledge, a love for Christ strong enough to serve others, and living strongly within the Orthodox Tradition. That is the person we have created this course for.

What should we look forward to down the road? Any projects or plans on the horizon?

Yes, indeed. I'm very interested in the training for, and establishment of, satellite missions anywhere and everywhere, especially in light of current events. We are at an exceptionally dangerous time as Christians, and preparing for the worst needs to be done, but we should talk about those things at a later date.

I will say this – in our jurisdiction, we require future clergy to take the Academy program AND THEN to submit to an onsite program of mentorship and formation for the diaconate and the priesthood. It's a more traditional Orthodox formation program, and it has to be accomplished onsite either in Arizona or California, but should be well worth it. The guided readings and study are intense, and the 'on-the-job' training will have an intensely spiritual and liturgical aspect to it. Ordinands will be expected to complete the traditional spiritual retreat following their ordinations, celebrating divine liturgy daily for at least 7 days, in the case of the deacon, or 40 days, in the case of a newly ordained priest. Diaconal and Priestly formation are critical to accomplish well, so we aren't taking any chances with this. We're going 'old school.'

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Baptisms: Private or Communal

People will come to me and want a baptism, then when I mention putting it in the bulletin and inviting the parish, it's not uncommon for people to look at me askance. To them baptism is a "family" event where they meet outside the normal worship time, have the service, and then go out to eat. I don't do boutique baptisms. The family the baptized is joining is the Church - hundreds of millions of people alive and millions more reposed in the Lord. They are going to pray for you every day and the opportunity to celebrate the new addition to the family should not be confounded.

(Eric Hyde's Blog via Pravmir) - Many people today are made to pass by a dry-erase board at work, hanging prominently where everyone is bound to see it many times a day, tracking their job performance month-to-month and keeping all employees in a constant game of mutual comparison.

Unfortunately, this method of employee motivation works, works very well. And it cost the business nothing!

It works well because it plays on powerful motivating factors in the human psyche – social acceptance and personal efficacy. For too many, the work place dry-erase board is a microcosm of life—a life animated in large part by a strong sense of individualism and autonomy; an “every man for himself,” thing.

Often when a Christian crosses over from this conditioning into the religious-spiritual environment little seems to change; it’s still a private affair: “just me, my Bible, and Jesus!”

What is interesting is that many people who claim to endorse the independent/autonomous lifestyle also begrudge the concomitant isolation it inevitably brings.

For most people, regardless of the outward enthusiasm for independence, there lies a deep desire for intimate community. For the Orthodox Christian, this desire is understood to be the natural orientation of the human soul. Being created in the image and likeness of God, humans, like God, are communal by nature (God is Trinity). It is the radical individualism experienced from all corners in daily life that are the expected manifestations of human nature when removed from its communion with God. The sacrament of baptism is the path Christ provides for return to this union.

This is not to say that baptism is a communal event and nothing more. Like repentance, baptism engages the whole person in the most private manner possible. I like how Kierkegaard describes the way in which God confronts each individual person by requiring them to enter His kingdom through the parabolic “narrow gate”. He relates it to the image of the battle of Thermopylae, where the 300 Spartans held off the Persian armies by forcing them through a narrow pass; in a like manner God holds back the crowds and takes in each person one-on-one.

In baptism, truly, each person is required to present himself or herself alone as a living sacrifice unto God; i.e., preparing themselves with devoted contemplation of the personal commitment laid before them. It is a “private” affair through-and-through, insofar as the believer is called upon to assume full responsibility for his or her baptismal vows.

Syriac Orthodox hold "Ceremonial Holy Communion"

I had no idea they did first holy communion.

(Syriac Orthodox Church) - On Sunday, May 6, 2018, St. Matthew’s Church in Boston held its Ceremonial Holy Communion. His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak, in the presence of the Church Pastor, Rev. Fr. Anton Sabha, celebrated the Holy Divine Liturgy.

During this blessed ceremony, eleven children were prepared to receive the Holy Communion; during which they recited several prayers in English, and a group of our Sunday School deacons served the Holy Liturgy.

Congratulations to all of the children and the Archdiocese extends their gratitude to the teachers for their excellent job. May God bless them all.

Halki Theological School to reopen "soon"

Take this with a grain of salt. The imminent reopening has been heralded for years with little actual change.

(Greek Reporter) - The Halki Theological School will open again soon, according to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Bartholomew commented on the school re-opening at a meeting with the delegation of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association in Istanbul, Turkey.

Bartholomew said that during his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, he was reassured that the Halki Thological School will reopen soon.

The Ecumenical Patriarch met with the Turkish president on April 25 at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, along with the foreign minister and discussed the issue.

The three men also discussed issues of the Patriarchate and the Greek community.

Pope of Rome visiting Czech & Slovak Orthodox primate

Rome (Crux) - Pope Francis and the primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav, will meet for the first time later this week, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

The meeting will take place May 11, the first visit between the pope and the Orthodox archbishop, who was elected primate, or the head, of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church in January 2014. Details of the visit have not been made available.

During his May 9-12 trip to Rome, Rastislav will meet with the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, and will celebrate Divine Liturgy at the tomb of St. Cyril in the minor Basilica of St. Clement in Rome.

The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia is an Eastern Orthodox Church whose territory covers the countries of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It is one of 14 self-governing Orthodox Churches originating in the Byzantine tradition, which was brought to the area through the evangelization of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
Cyril and Methodius are sometimes called the “Apostles of the Slavs” for their tireless work in spreading the Gospel throughout Eastern Europe in the 9th century.

Such was their influence in Church history, through their evangelization efforts, that the late Pope John Paul II named the two brothers the patron saints of Europe, along with 5th century monastic leader St. Benedict.

Cyril and Methodius are venerated by both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The common veneration of saints has been one of the tools Pope Francis uses to foster ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

One example of this “ecumenism of saints” took place last year, when relics of St. Philip and St. Nicholas were transported to Turkey and Russia, from Italy. They were exposed for the veneration of Orthodox Christians from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.

On his return from accompanying the relic of St. Nicholas to Russia, Bari’s Archbishop Francesco Cacucci said that the translation of the relic was “already an ecumenical dialogue,” as Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow had said many times.

“When ecumenism does not involve only the top ranks of churches or theologians, but rather involves the people of God, then it is possible to move forward.”

The archbishop explained that, for Francis, the veneration of relics is “an essential part of the path toward the re-establishment of full communion among all Christians.”

“The common veneration of saints helps us to look at ecumenical dialogue with a light of hope,” he said.