Church

Russia Fights for Christianity in Syria, the US Fights Against It

So says the American Orthodox Institute:

Russian President Vladmir Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill

The everyday signs in America show a growing contempt for Christianity. The exact opposite trend is happening for Russia and its leaders—a return to Christian roots.

Read on here.

 

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The Surprising Rise of Christianity in Russia

Mystic Post with an interesting read for a Sunday afternoon:

With America clearly in mind, Vladimir Putin recently declared: “In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered. They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil.” Putin believes in sin and that morality is not a relative moving target that is determined by the dominate culture of the time. In Putin’s world – his Christian world – there are consequences to moral behavior – there is a right and a wrong.

Putin’s words on faith have surprised the world…

Read on here.

 

Church

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.

 

Church

Stand, Bow, Prostrate: The Prayerful Body of Coptic Christianity

Monastery of St. AntoniusIn The Clarion Review:

Many in the West tend to look at prayer life as a mental thing: we praise, we thank, we confess to, and we confide in God – with words. And yet, some kind of bodily movement always accompanies our prayers. Indeed, a great body of Christian wisdom has long known that while we think or pronounce our prayers, our bodies, too, are at work expressing and shaping our souls.  In the Coptic tradition it is the Liturgy of the Hours and the Divine Liturgy that become the occasions of formal psycho-physical prayer. Liturgical postures and gestures involve the whole person, for Christian prayer is not merely a mental activity, but rather one that proclaims and seeks to realize the union of body and soul. It recognizes, through the liturgy, that such unity is how God intended to create and save the human person…

… One of the central features of prayer in the Coptic Church, particularly as it developed in monastic circles, is precisely that the body is continuously involved in various actions during prayer. Unceasing prayer has been a feature of Egyptian monasticism from its very beginnings…

Well worth reading on. To do so, click here.

 

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What Needs to Change for East-West Unity to Happen?

Roman rights and wrongs.

Every January for over a century now, Christians have set aside a special week to pray for unity. This week, my friend the Orthodox priest and historian Oliver Herbel posted an excellent reflection in which he upbraided his fellow Orthodox for, as he powerfully put it, “spitting in the eye of Rome” every time she makes advances towards East-West unity. Father Oliver then went on to note some changes that he and his fellow Orthodox should make to respond better to Rome’s invitations.

Let me return the favor of my gracious friend. Speaking as an Eastern Catholic who tries to help East and West understand each other, let me offer a few reflections on the kind of changes Eastern Catholics and, perforce, Eastern Orthodox, want to see in very practical ways for unity to become a closer and more realistic possibility. However, I do not want to be thought querulous, so let me dwell briefly on areas where I think Roman practice is right and needs to be encouraged…

They are here.

 

 

Church

Roman Catholic Churches Being Given Away

In Vienna, Austria.

Austria’s Vienna Archdiocese has defended its gifts of Catholic churches to Orthodox communities, as part of a current reorganization.

“Our own church is receding in Vienna, whereas other Christian confessions are on the rise because of immigration,” Michael Pruller, the archdiocese spokesman, told Catholic News Service Dec. 19.

“Many large churches were built in the 19th century for parishes numbering tens of thousands. As in other countries, we’re now having to get rid of churches, which can’t be maintained by their small congregations.”

He said the archdiocese had tried to find an “alternative Catholic use” for unwanted churches, to prevent them being turned into “supermarkets and cafes,” but would otherwise hand them over to other Christian denominations. No money is given as compensation, he said.

In 2015, the archdiocese will formally hand over St. Anthony of Padua Church to the Romanian Orthodox, who have already begun celebrating liturgies there. The Kathpress news agency reported that fewer than 30 Catholics currently attended Sunday Mass at the church.

Under the reorganization, unveiled in September 2012, the Vienna Archdiocese’s 660 parishes are to be merged into 150 larger units, each served by three-five priests. Lay volunteers will conduct Liturgies of the Word in smaller affiliated communities.

In November 2011, the Vatican approved the handover of Vienna’s Our Lady of Sorrows Church to the expanding Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Central Europe, despite protests by its predominantly Polish parishioners.

Two other churches have been given to the Coptic Orthodox community and one to the Syrian Orthodox Church, which is also negotiating the handover of a second.