Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Prayer to Holy Armenian Martyrs

(Armenian Church) - As Armenian Christians across the globe mark this day, April 24, as the “Feast of the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide,” the Eastern Diocese offers a prayer of intercession to our multitude of saints who gave their lives for Christ in the opening decades of the 20th century:

A Prayer of Intercession

Christ our God, you crown your saints with triumph and you do the will of all who fear you,
looking after your creatures with love and kindness.

Hear us from your heavenly realm by the intercession of the Holy Mother of God and by
the prayers of all your saints, especially the Holy Martyrs who gave their lives during the
Armenian Genocide for faith and for the homeland, whom we commemorate today.

Hear us Lord, and show us your mercy. Forgive, redeem and pardon our sins.
Make us worthy thankfully to glorify you with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.
Now and always unto the ages of ages. Amen.

* * *

We encourage you to view a special episode of “Bread and Salt: Stories from the Armenian Church," which revisits the monumental April 2015 canonization service, and explains how the church now regards the Holy Martyrs of 1915.

Sr. Vassa: There's no ontological impediment to priestesses

Is the male-only priesthood a discipline or essential to the nature of being a priest? Sr. Vassa (again unflinchingly taking up a contentious topic by climbing up the ladder to the highest platform and then jumping into the deep end head first) dives right in and says there is no reason beyond personal preference to not have female clergy. I'm told she also posted this cartoon on her Facebook page as well.

You know, when people ask me about women in priesthood, they say, 'Sister, why can't women be priests?' And I say, 'Women CAN be priests. We don't WANT them to be priests.' Because you see, God can do anything, and the Church, by divine authority, uh, can do anything, but, the Church doesn't want to - and that's a legitimate reason. What I don't like is when we TRY to pretend that there are other reasons for this, because it's legitimate not to want something, and there are reasons not to want this - right? - but, we shouldn't pretent that there's some... reason, that, for example, the maleness of Christ is essential to priesthood. Because, the question in this whole big question, is, when we discuss something like the fact that Christ is indeed male, we can ask, with regard to priesthood - we should ask, this IS the question for the whole argument - is Christ's maleness essential to priesthood, or is it accidental? According to Aristotelian logic this would be at the heart of the question, okay? Is it essential, or is accidental? So, is it something- a sine qua non to Christian priesthood? And if you pay attention to the argumentation in Hebrews, where the author of Hebrews is at pains to show that there IS the possibility of change to the way priesthood is, um- is... how do you say, served, right? Those who have- see, the author of Hebrews is at pains to explain to Jews how in the world those who are not of the tribe of Aaron and so on, those who are not Levites, why in the New Testament now other can be priests. And he is explaining that- the priesthood according to the rite of Melchizedek. So, he's explaining a new kind of priesthood, and he is explaining that this is something that is changeable, as to who can be a priest, okay? So if one explores the Epistle to the Hebrews, one can see that there are- that the question of who can be a priest is something that is indeed a changeable aspect of tradition. What is NOT changeable is the basis for all priesthood, and that is of course Our Lord Jesus Christ. That's where the question arises: who- you know- what- what aspect of his person is essential to that service that is priesthood, that ministry, that, that mystery, um- is it, does it include his maleness, for example, would it include, if Christ indeed had black hair, for example, would priesthood be limited to those with dark hair? You know, I mean, we would ask what IS essential to the person of Jesus Christ in his priesthood? Would his maleness be part of that? Anyway, traditionally, actually, we don't see the maleness of Christ thematized at all- it's not a patristic- nowadays some people who are at pains to argue against females in priesthood- whereas I don't think there's a big problem, we should just say honestly, 'We don't want women to be priests. As Church, we don't want that.' That's fine, you know, that's fine, but we shouldn't say that we COULDN'T have women as priests.

First ever synaxis of clergy in Turkey convened

(Romanian Church) - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew cautioned Tuesday the clergy of the Archdiocese of Constantinople that there is a ‘virtual priesthood’ that wants to show off rather than to sacrifice themselves.

On Tuesday, April 17, His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened for the first time the Synaxis (Conference) of priests and deacons in Turkey at the Balukli Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring.

Paternal advice for clergy

Addressing the participants, the Ecumenical Patriarch pointed to the importance of priestly ministry and offered paternal pieces of advice for a more intense service in today’s world.

‘The priest does not belong to his own self, but to Christ. He owes everything to His grace. He serves Him,’ the Ecumenical Patriarch said recalling the advice and urges received at his personal ordination to the diaconate and priesthood from his spiritual father, Metropolitan Meliton Hatzis.

The Patriarch stressed that ‘the priest is spiritually and bodily consecrated for his mission.’

‘It is truly a great blessing to be clergymen, priests and deacons of the Most High God,’ Patriarch Bartholomew said according to a press release from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

‘We bring the witness of love to every human’

‘We are all bearers of this spirit. Steadfast and untiring, we keep what we have received: the faith, the doxological service of God, and the ecclesiastical ethos, but we also give to the world the good witness of love to every human, because every man is God’s creature in His image, and every human bears an honour because Christ became a Man, died on the cross, and rose from the dead for their sake.’

The Ecumenical Patriarch noted that all clergymen should offer the witness of fraternal love, without any distinction, to any person who needs support and strengthening.

‘This absolute primacy of love has made Christianity the greatest axiological renewal in the history of mankind, something at which the opponents of Christian faith are still astonished.’

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew cited the Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church that convened in Crete in 2016 stressing the importance of Church mission and ministry.

There is a virtual priesthood that wants to show off

There is a ‘virtual priesthood’ that wants more to seem than to be, to show off than to sacrifice themselves, to take than to offer. Instead, a true priest ‘does not seek to have his name inserted in the records of history,’ but ‘to be inscribed in the Book of the Kingdom.’

‘This is your mission too, beloved fathers. To be dedicated to your divine work without any barriers or limits, to be ministers of the Gospel of love.’

It takes self-sacrifice and grace

‘It takes humility, self-sacrifice, and proper spiritual state to be the good cleric. You have to have discernment towards yourselves. Do not show what is a self-evident great gift.’

‘What you offer to the believers is the gift of God’s grace. The grace of God always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking. Whatever you do, you must seek the glory of God, the Giver of all good things.’

Criticism of the clergy becomes criticism against the Church

Ending his speech, Patriarch Bartholomew recalled that priests must have an exemplary presence and conduct in their relations with other persons.

‘In the consciousness of most people, the name of the Church is automatically linked to the consecrated clergy. Thus, criticism of the clergy turns into criticism against the Church and, in general, into a weapon of war against our faith.’

Other speeches

Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa, the abbot of the Stavropegic Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Chalki, and professor at the Faculty of Theology in Tessaloniki, gave a speech entitled ‘The Ecumenical Patriarchate, its diaspora and inter-church relations’.

Other speeches were given on the Holy and Great Council, contemporary pastoral challenges, the ecumenical movement, the Sacrament of Confession etc.

EP announces official review of Ukrainian autocephaly

(EP) - The Holy and Sacred Synod, under the chairmanship of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, concluded its regular session, which took place between Thursday, April 19th, and Friday, April 20th. All the items on the agenda were reviewed and discussed and the appropriate decisions were made.

In accordance with the Divine and Sacred Canons, as well as centuries-old ecclesiastical order and Holy Tradition, the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerns itself with the preservation of Pan-Orthodox unity and the care for the Orthodox Churches throughout the world—especially of the Ukrainian Orthodox Nation that has received the salvific Christian faith and holy baptism from Constantinople. Thus, as its true Mother Church, it examined matters pertaining to the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, as done in previous synodal sessions, and having received from ecclesiastical and civil authorities—representing millions of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians—a petition that requests the bestowal of autocephaly, decided to closely communicate and coordinate with its sister Orthodox Churches concerning this matter.

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 22nd of April, 2018.

From the Chief Secretariat.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Oriental Orthodox meet in New Jersey

Whippany, NJ (SCOOCH) – On Tuesday, April 17, 2018 the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches convened at the Headquarters of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church in North America for its biannual meeting. Topics discussed by the fathers in attendance included the war in Syria and the suffering of that nation’s people, Oriental Orthodox Cooperation in missionary outreach to the African-American community, and the canonical crisis in the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church. Plans were also made for concelebrations of the Divine Liturgy in various regions of the country as well as youth conferences, book fairs, and other activities.

Hierarchs in attendance included the host of the meeting, H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho of the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church, SCOOCH President H.E. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian of the Armenian Apostolic Church, H.G. Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Church, H.E. Mor Dionysios of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and H.G. Bishop Aphrem of the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church who was visiting from India.

Romanian Catholics launch new magazine

Met. Hilarion speaks on Ukraine issue

Moscow, April 19 (Interfax) - The Russian Orthodox Church believes that the new initiative of the Ukrainian authorities to create an autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine is destined to fail, like the previous attempts.

"We are one Church, which was born in the Kiev, Dnieper baptistery, and, of course, the Constantinople Patriarchate or any other Church cannot unilaterally proclaim the autocephaly of this or that Church," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax-Religion on Thursday.

"Therefore, we believe that this initiative, despite all current information noise, will have the same fate as the initiatives adopted in the previous years, and we are again reminding that the Ukrainian church problem can only be resolved using canonical methods," he said.

According to earlier reports, Ukraine's Verkhovnaya Rada backed Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko's address to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the creation of an autocephalous local Orthodox Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church heard about the talks between Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew and the "rich gifts" that were brought to Fanar, the district of Istanbul, where the patriarch's residence is located, Metropolitan Hilarion said. "We all know that, and we also know many other things, which I would not like to say now," he said.

Constantinople ruminates on Ukraine situation

(Interfax-UA) - The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople has accepted the appeal from the president of Ukraine to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew asking the patriarch to grant a tomos (an official church document) about the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, a decision was made to start the procedures necessary to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian president's administration reported.

"The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has taken to consideration the appeal of the president of Ukraine to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the provision of a tomos about the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the decision of the Verkhovna Rada to support his appeal, as well as the corresponding appeals of the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox churches, and the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to start the procedures necessary to grant the autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. In particular, other local Orthodox churches will be notified about this," the official website of the Ukrainian president reported on Sunday evening.

The administration noted that on behalf of President Petro Poroshenko, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Rostyslav Pavlenko visited Istanbul on April 20 and handed to His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the appeal of the Ukrainian leader concerning granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

In addition, he also handed the ecumenical patriarch a decree of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on supporting this appeal by the president of Ukraine.

As reported, on April 17, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said about his intentions to appeal to Archbishop of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, asking him to issue a tomos (an official church document) granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and called on the Verkhovna Rada to support it. According to him, if there is a relevant resolution of the Verkhovna Rada, the president's address and the appeal of church hierarchs, this appeal will be transferred to the Ecumenical Patriarch.

On April 19, 268 MPs supported the appeal of the president of Ukraine to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to grant a tomos about the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Archbishop Peter serves the Rite of Washing of the Feet

Eastern Orthodox - Oriental Orthodox dialogue members met

(EP) - On 12 April 2018, at the initiative of the co-presidents of the International Theological Commission for the Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta, and in their presence, a working group, consisting of bishops from both families of Churches, met in Antelias (near Beirut, Lebanon). They were hosted by His Holiness Aram, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the evolution of the bilateral theological dialogue and to prepare the next meeting of the joint commission. This bilateral theological dialogue began in 1985 and produced, on the basis of a common understanding of the apostolic faith, a number of convergent documents on Christology. (See first and second agreed statements). The purpose of this meeting was to explore together the possibilities of reactivating this important process in the lives of the two families of churches. The next meeting of the plenary of the Commission will take place at the end of October 2018.

Apologia Pro Vita Sua

Apologies for slow posting of late. Holy Week, Bright Week, new baby, and diocesan convocation have put me on my heels. God willing, I'll be back to regular posting shortly. Christ is Risen!

Jordanville opens Master of Divinity program in Fall of 2018

(HTS) - Dear Alumni, Friends, and Supporters:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us greatly rejoice and be glad therein.” (Psalms 117:24, LXX)

On this glorious day, I am delighted to announce that Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, New York, will, by the grace of God the Holy Trinity and the approval of the New York State Board of Regents, begin a new Master of Divinity degree in Fall 2018.

On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, the Board’s approval culminated a long, sometimes arduous application process that began in 2015. Although others have also contributed their time and efforts, I wish to thank, in particular, the prime movers of our campaign from the beginning: Archimandrite Luke, our Rector; Priest Ephraim Willmarth, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions; Dr. Vitaly Permiakov, Assistant Professor of Dogmatic and Liturgical Theology.

The Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.) is the standard graduate professional degree for clergy in North America. It entails a rigorous, advanced, comprehensive, full-time three-year course of study in the various theological and pastoral fields for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree. Our M.Div. degree curriculum will also include four 1-credit “field education” practica where seminarians can learn how to apply their theological knowledge and newly acquired pastoral skills in practical ministry settings including parishes, college campus ministry, prison ministry, humanitarian service, evangelism, and public moral witness.

With profound gratitude to one of our most generous benefactors, I am humbled also to announce that Holy Trinity Seminary expects to offer full scholarships for tuition and books to as many as ten entering M.Div. students in Fall 2018!

We shall accept applications for the new M.Div. degree immediately. If you are interested in applying, or know an Orthodox man who may be called to the Holy Priesthood, please send your inquiry to Priest Ephraim Willmarth, Director of Admissions: ejwillmarth@hts.edu (telephone: 315-858-0945). You may find additional information on the Admissions page and Academics page of the Seminary website: www.hts.edu

I hope you will join us on this new journey on the 70th anniversary of the founding of Holy Trinity Seminary or make a generous financial contribution to support our new degree program.

Yours in Christ,

Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD
Dean and Professor of Moral Theology

Patriarchs of Syrian churches speak on increasing violence

(ROC) - His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi, and Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate issued a statement concerning the escalation of the situation in Syria.

The Christian leaders call the air strikes, carried out on 14 April 2018 against a number of facilities in the Syrian territory, a brutal assault by the USA, France and the UK on Syria.

“This brutal aggression is a clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter, because it is an unjustified assault on a sovereign country, member of the UN,” the Patriarchs of the Christian Churches in Syria state and add with great sadness that “this assault comes from powerful countries to which Syria did not cause any harm in any way.”

“The allegations of the USA and other countries that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons and that Syria is a country that owns and uses this kind of weapon, is a claim that is unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence,” the authors of the statement emphasize and note that the air strike against Syria carried out on April 14, undermines the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry.

According to the Christian leaders of Syria, the aggression “destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications,” as well as “encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism.”

Patriarch John X of Antioch, Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi and Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II call upon the United Nations Security Council to play its role in bringing peace rather than contribute to escalation of wars.

“We call upon all churches in the countries that participated in the aggression, to fulfill their Christian duties, according to the teachings of the Gospel, and condemn this aggression and to call their governments to commit to the protection of international peace,” the statement reads.

The Patriarchs note that they “salute the courage, heroism and sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army which courageously protects Syria and provides security for its people.” “We pray for the souls of the martyrs and the recovery of the wounded,” the authors emphasize, “We are confident that the army will not bow before the external or internal terrorist aggressions; they will continue to fight courageously against terrorism until every inch of the Syrian land is cleansed from terrorism. We, likewise, commend the brave stand of countries which are friendly to the Syria and its people. We offer our prayers for the safety, victory, and deliverance of Syria from all kinds of wars and terrorism.” As the document states, the Christian leaders “pray for peace in Syria and throughout the world, and call for strengthening the efforts of the national reconciliation for the sake of protecting the country and preserving the dignity of all Syrians.”

Ukrainian envoy in Constantinople seeking autocephaly

Kyiv, April 20 (Interfax) - Deputy Ukrainian Presidential Chief of Staff has left for Istanbul to deliver a request to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on issuing a tomos (ordinance) to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko said.

"Deputy presidential chief of staff Rostislav Pavlenko is currently in Istanbul. I won't waste a single day, we will deliver [the request]," Poroshenko told journalists while on a working trip to Lvov on Friday.

Asked how likely it is that a tomos will be issued, Poroshenko said, "Anything can happen, but I am absolutely convinced that everything is God's will."

Ukrainian lawmakers back independent Church

Kyiv (RFERL) - Ukrainian lawmakers have backed President Petro Poroshenko's appeal to the worldwide head of the Orthodox Church to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's independence from Moscow.

The vote in the Verkhovna Rada came days after Poroshenko met with the archbishop of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, during a trip to Istanbul.

The resolution was supported by 268 lawmakers, more than the minimum 226 votes needed.

Poroshenko in a speech to parliament on April 19 called the move an act of "restoring historical justice" and “unity.”

"Unity is our main weapon in the fight against the Russian aggressor," Poroshenko said. "This question… is about our finally acquiring independence from Moscow."

Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and continues to back separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

Poroshenko compared having an autocephalous church to Ukraine’s aspirations to join the European Union and NATO, "because the Kremlin regards the Russian [Orthodox] Church as one of the key tools of influence over Ukraine."

Poroshenko said on April 17 that the issue of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church getting autocephalous status may be considered by Orthodox Church leaders by July 28.

The parliamentary motion was opposed by the Opposition Bloc, a successor to the Russia-friendly former President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions that reformed after he was driven from power in February 2014 following months of mass street protests by pro-EU protesters.