Orthodox Churches Will Hold First Ecumenical Council In 1,200 Years

In Istanbul:

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 Patriarchs of the world’s 250  million Orthodox Christians ended a rare summit in Istanbul on  Sunday calling for a peaceful end to the crisis in Ukraine and  denouncing violence driving Christians out of the Middle East.

Twelve heads of autonomous Orthodox churches, the  second-largest family of Christian churches, also agreed to hold  a summit of bishops, or ecumenical council, in 2016, which will  be the first in over 1,200 years.

The Istanbul talks were called to decide on the council,  which the Orthodox have been preparing on and off since the  1960s, but the Ukraine crisis overshadowed their talks at the  office of spiritual leader Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

As the prelates left a special service at Saint George’s  Cathedral, a woman in the crowd called out in Russian “Pray for  Ukraine!” Two archbishops responded: “You pray, too!”

In their communique, the patriarchs called for “peaceful negotiations and prayerful reconciliation in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine” and denounced what they said were “threats of violent occupation of sacred monasteries and churches” there.

The Russian Orthodox Church, with 165 million members by far  the largest in the Orthodox family, last month issued a  statement along with Moscow’s Foreign Ministry about what they  said were attacks on revered historic monasteries in Kiev and  Pochayiv in western Ukraine.

Russia has used the alleged threat to Russian-speakers in  Ukraine, including the faithful of the Moscow-backed church  there, to argue it has the right to intervene to protect them.

Closely aligned with President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine  policy, the Russian church has a partner Ukrainian Orthodox  Church mostly in the Russian-speaking east of the country that  is loyal to the Moscow patriarchate.

There are two rival Orthodox churches mostly in western  Ukraine, both meant to be Ukrainian national churches. Neither  is part of the global Orthodox communion and the patriarchs’  communique expressed the hope they would one day join it.

On the Middle East, the patriarchs denounced “the lack of  peace and stability, which is prompting Christians to abandon  the land where our Lord Jesus Christ was born.”

Rest here.

 

Russia Church Shooting

Christian Science Monitor:

On Sunday, a 24-year-old man attacked a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, a city on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific. A nun and a parishioner were killed and six others were wounded.

A man employed as a private security guard opened fire Sunday in a cathedral on Russia’s Sakhalin Island in the Pacific, killing a nun and a parishioner and wounding six others, investigators said.

Law enforcement officers detained the 24-year-old man at the scene and were trying to determine why he had attacked the Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the Federal Investigative Committee said in a statement. The man worked for a private security firm in the city and was armed with a rifle. His name was not released.

Concerns about security in Russia are especially high because of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but there was no apparent connection to the games. Sakhalin Island is about 7,500 kilometers (more than 4,500 miles) from Sochi.

The six parishioners who were wounded were hit in the legs and their lives were not in danger, state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing the regional archbishop.

The gunman entered the cathedral shortly after a service had ended and began shooting at parishioners and religious icons on the wall, priest Viktor Gorbach said in a telephone interview with the LifeNews cable television channel.

He said not too many people were left in the cathedral and some managed to flee, but the nun and a male parishioner tried to stop the attacker and were killed. The priest said the man, who also destroyed a cross, expressed his hatred of the church.

In Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church honored the dead as heroes.

“Those who died today, they in any case died in the temple of God,” Patriarch Kirill said after a service in a Kremlin cathedral, the Interfax news agency reported. “They tried to prevent that person from defiling our sacred place. They died as heroes, as soldiers on the front line.”

Kirill said the attacker may be mentally ill or may have been influenced by those who speak ill of the church.

The Russian Orthodox Church has been criticized by those who oppose its resurgence and symbiosis with the Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin.

Russian television showed footage of mourners laying flowers and lighting candles outside the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk cathedral.

 

Syrian Rebels Plan Destruction of Christianity

So says a Russian Orthodox prelate, Metropolitan Hilarion:

In an interview with the AsiaNews service, the top foreign-policy spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said he fears rebels in Syria “have set themselves the goal of the complete and total destruction of Christianity” in the country.

Metropolitan Hilarion said that the conflict in Syria is not really a civil war, but a conflict waged by “foreigners, fighting with foreign money.” He said that the Orthodox Church is worried primarily about the toll of the conflict on civilians.

In the AsiaNews interview the Russian prelate also commented on the status of Vatican-Russian Orthodox relations, the prospects for a meeting between the Pope and the Russian Patriarch, theological dialogue among Orthodox leaders, and the relations between the Moscow patriarchate and the Russian government.

You can read that interview in full here.

 

Patriarch of Antioch Thanks Russian Church for Defending Christians in Middle East

On the Russian Orthodox Church website:

His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East sent a message to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, in which he expressed his gratitude for the efforts that the Russian Orthodox Church makes to defend Christians in the Middle East.

In his letter, His Beatitude Patriarch John X mentioned the celebration marking the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism Russia, which was held in Moscow, Kiev and Minsk with the participation of the Primates and representatives of all Local Orthodox Churches, saying in particular, “I was… so happy to see the brothers gathering about the holy Divine Altar and praising the Author of Life, Our Lord Jesus Christ who blessed Russia and the Russian People and granted this great nation all his heavenly blessings to be a true and sincere witness of Christendom. The baptism of Russia is not only an historical event, but it is also a concrete and lived reality that all people and nations can “come and see” (John 1:46) and praise the Lord Jesus Christ.”

According to His Beatitude, “with deep feeling of respect and appreciation” he read the Statement by Heads and Representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches Assembled for the Celebration of the 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia. The main theme of the joint statement is the situation of Christians in the Middle East.

“I consider it my duty to raise an Antiochian thankful voice to support and share every word of the released statement,” Patriarch John’s letter reads. “Truly, Christians are persecuted and damaged in the Middle East, in the land of Jesus Christ. The salvation of Syria and of all the Middle East comes, as mentioned, through the logic of dialogue and peaceful political settlement. Extremism, fundamentalism and blind radicalism are the most great dangers which threaten not only the Christian presence, but the existence of the States and the peace of all the nations.”

His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East expressed his wish to pay a brotherly visit to the Russian Orthodox Church and said in conclusion of his letter, “May Lord, Jesus Christ, the King of Peace give us His Divine Peace, grant you, the Russian Synod and the Russian People His heavenly blessings and bless the efforts of all the orthodox world to settle the peace in the Middle East and in all the world redeemed by the precious blood of our Savior.”

 

Putin: Defender of Christians Worldwide

Vladimir Putin has urged the world’s political leaders to stop the violent persecutions against Christians that have erupted in many Middle Eastern countries.

LifeSiteNews reports:

Speaking at a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow last week, the Russian President said he noted “with alarm” that “in many of the world’s regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians.”

“This pressing problem should be a subject of close attention for the entire international community,” Putin said. “It is especially important today to make efforts to prevent intercultural and interreligious conflicts, which are fraught with the most serious upheavals.”

Putin praised the growth of cooperation between the Orthodox Churches and the Russian state, saying, “We act as genuine partners and colleagues to solve the most pressing domestic and international tasks, to implement joint initiatives for the benefit of our country and people.”

The Russian Federation recently passed legislation making it illegal to promote homosexuality as normal, a move that, while condemned by many European leaders, was strongly supported by the Orthodox Church.

Putin added Thursday that the Church was giving Russians a moral compass when so many were looking for help. “Today when people are once again searching for moral support, millions of our compatriots see it in religion,” he said. “They trust the wise, pastoral word of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

He added that it was the Church that was ultimately responsible for the development and rise of “culture and education” in Russia over the last 1,000 years. “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization and helped it turn into one of the largest world powers,” Putin said.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said at the same meeting that the attempts to push Christians out of Syria would lead to a “civilization catastrophe.” Kirill and other Orthodox leaders have been critical of the lack of response to the crisis facing Christians in the Middle East by US and other Western leaders…

Rest here.

An unlikely voice indeed…

 

Russians. Stop Having So Much Fun

The Patriarch has spoken.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has urged Russians to have less fun and spend more of their free time in seclusion.

On July 11, Kirill said there was “more fun than needed” in the life of Russians.

He said people spent a lot of their energy working and should occupy their time in isolated, quiet places instead of celebrating during their vacations.

He cited the rugged archipelago of Valaam, close to the border with Finland, as a suitable holiday destination. (Valaam is home to a 14th-century monastery and has a population of roughly 600.)

The ultraconservative patriarch, who is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has not hesitated to speak his mind on a number of other issues in the past…

 

Anglican Church Received into Western Rite Vicariate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

From the Anglican Church in North America. Reception into Orthodoxy:

Holy Cross Anglican Church has been received into full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church and is now known as Holy Cross Orthodox Church. Holy Cross is an Anglican Rite parish of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia…

There is much more on Fr Novak’s blog here.

The Parish website is here.

Untitled

HT:  Michael Frost.

 

Russian Patriarch Tells European Leader: Same-sex Marriage is Sinful

In a meeting with the secretary general of the Council of Europe, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church emphasized that same-sex marriage is sinful.

“If people choose such lifestyle, this is their right, but the Church’s responsibility is to say that this is a sin in the face of God,” Patriarch Kirill told Thorbjørn Jagland.

Saying that he was heartened by the popular demonstrations against same-sex marriage in France, Patriarch Kirill lamented that through same-sex marriage, “the sin is justified by law for the first time in the entire history of mankind.”

Source

 

 

Russian Orthodox Tell Archbishop of Canterbury: Ordain Women Bishops and Forget About Unity

Damian Thompson blogs:

There’s a quaint Anglican concept of the universal Church known as the “branch theory”. This claims that there are three main branches to apostolic Christianity: Roman, Orthodox and Anglican. It’s much favoured by Church of England clerics who aren’t very keen on “Romans”, as they call Catholics, and convey their anti-Papist sentiment in pro-Orthodox code, forever banging on about the riches of Byzantine spirituality, the mystical power of icons, etc. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, is an example of this breed.

What these pro-Orthodox Anglicans don’t stress is that ordaining women priests was just as great an obstacle to unity with Constantinople and Moscow and it was to unity with Rome. And women bishops? Metropolitan Hilarion, head of ecumenical relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, delivered a pretty blunt message to the new Archbishop of Canterbury last weekend (H/T Gillibrand):

The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow patriarchate recognising the church hierarchy of the Anglican church, the communications service of the Department of External Church Relations reported on Saturday.

Even a theoretical possibility, note. This is exactly the same message coming from Rome (please don’t kid yourself that a change of Pope will make any difference). Of course, Hilarion’s warning won’t stop the C of E eventually ordaining women bishops, but let’s be clear about the consequences: the Orthodox Churches, following the lead of Moscow, will finally conclude that the Church of England is a protestant denomination with High liturgical trappings but outside the apostolic succession. Cue creaking of timber as the branch theory falls apart.

 

Anglican-Orthodox Relations Near Death

Moscow warns:

Women bishops, gay marriage, and other innovations of doctrine and discipline will end meaningful Anglican-Orthodox relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) has warned.

At a 26 Nov 2012 meeting in Moscow, Ambassador Tim Barrow and second secretary James Ford met with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the official press statement “Metropolitan Hilarion greeted the Ambassador and shared his reminiscences of his student years in Oxford and his impressions of the recent visit to London where he attended celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sourozh diocese.”

They also discussed the situation of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, the role the Russian Orthodox and Polish Catholic Churches had played in reconciling the “peoples of Russia and Poland” and the state of “Orthodox-Anglican relations at present” – which the Moscow Patriarchate said were at a nadir.

On 13 Nov, Hilarion wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury-designate, Bishop Justin Welby, offering his greetings upon the Bishop of Durham’s appointment as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.  However, Hilarion said meaningful Orthodox-Anglican ecumenical dialogue had all but died, and it was the Anglicans who have killed it.

In a carefully worded letter, Hilarion stated Moscow expected Bishop Welby to discipline the liberal wing of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Welby had been “entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the entire Anglican Communion, a unique union of like-minded people, which, however diverse the forms of its existence in the world may be, needs one ‘steward of God’ the guardian of the faith and witness to the Truth.”

“Regrettably, the late 20th century and the beginning of the third millennium have brought tangible difficulties in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion,” Hilarion said.

“The introduction female priesthood and now episcopate, the blessing of same-sex ‘unions’ and ‘marriages’, the ordination of homosexuals as pastors and bishops – all these innovations are seen by the Orthodox as deviations from the tradition of the Early Church, which increasingly estrange Anglicanism from the Orthodox Church and contribute to a further division of Christendom as a whole,” he wrote.

 

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