International Orthodox Christian News

Romanian Patriarch Elected Amid Collaboration Charges

The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church on September 12 elected a new patriarch -- 56-year-old Moldovan Metropolitan and Archbishop Daniel Ciubotea, who was regarded as the favorite among the candidates.

Ciubotea is seen as a modernizer within the church, but his reputation has been tainted with accusations that he had ties to the country's communist-era secret police.Ciubotea, who becomes the sixth patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, expressed his gratitude to the Holy Synod upon his election. "We only want to thank the Holy Synod and the members of the Electoral Religious Commission for the trust they put in me," he said.The Holy Synod chose Ciubotea from three candidates: Ciubotea, Cluj Archbishop Bartolomeu Anania, and the bishop of Covasna and Harghita, Ioan Selejan. The three were narrowed down from the initial pool of 30 high-ranking members of the clergy.Ciubotea had been serving as the interim patriarch after the death of the previous Patriarch, Teoctist, in late July 2007.

Western Education, Suspicious Background

Western-educated Ciubotea is known as a "modernist" who has supported reforms and has been open toward the ecumenical movement. He has also angered many traditional monasteries in Romania's eastern region of Moldavia. Ciubotea spent a long time in the West, studying theology and working in various Catholic and Protestant institutions. But it is that background that has cast a shadow on Ciubotea's reputation. Many in Romania have said he was allowed to live abroad because of his collaboration with Romania's feared secret police, the Securitate. Mircea Dinescu, a representative of the Romanian national council that studies the Securitate archives, recently announced that the council knows of a group of top Orthodox clerics who had collaborated with the secret police. Dinescu did not disclose any names, but media reports have said that Ciubotea was one of those implicated.The council invited two of the candidates, Ciubotea and Anania, for an interview, but they refused.After the elections, the council today announced that it might fully disclose its findings about collaboration between the clergy and the secret police. Ciubotea wasn't the only candidate who was suspected of having a murky history.Similar accusations were also made toward the 86-year-old Anania.From 1965-76 he held important positions in the hierarchy of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the United States. A former Securitate head, Ioan Mihai Pacepa, who defected to the West in the late 1970s, has said that Bartolomeu was sent to the United States with a "mission."The third candidate, 56-year-old Selejan, was the only one not sullied by accusations of involvement with the secret police.

No Acknowledgment Of Collaboration

The issue of collaboration between the Securitate and the clergy has received much public attention in Romania. The late Patriarch Teoctist was criticized by many for opposing investigations into clergy members who had been accused of collaboration. After the fall of the communist regime, the church did not acknowledge the extent of the clergy's collaboration, nor did it remove tainted officials.

Alexi Kshutashvili, a Georgian theology expert living in Romania, says the issue of collaboration is a difficult one. "The Romanian media often talk about this -- that those members of the clergy who were allowed to study abroad, in Western countries, during the communist period, were in some way affiliated with the secret police, at least on the level of signing some declaration of collaboration," Kshutashvili said."Now to say that one was an agent of the secret police is another thing, and is difficult to say," he continued. But Kshutashvili said it is known that Ciubotea "did enjoy certain support from the political establishment, including these [latest] elections." RFE/RL's Bucharest correspondent Sabina Fati says some people are not happy with the close ties between the church and the government even today. The church receives most of its funding from the state -- and, according to Fati, the clergy often interferes in the political process."The church in turn helps the state -- most blatantly during the electoral campaign, when clerics openly support one or another candidate," Fati said.Romania's Orthodox Church has regained its popular and influential position in postcommunist Romania. Almost 87 percent of the country's population identifies with the denomination. But Fati says that the country's clergy are not held in particularly high regard. Opinion polls show that "70 percent of believers do not really trust the priests," Fati said. The new patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church will be inaugurated in three weeks.


Harvard Bell Back to Russia

A massive Russian church bell that hung for decades at Harvard was returned to a Moscow monastery yesterday, nearly 80 years after it and 17 others were rescued from Stalin's religious purges by a US industrialist.

Hundreds of believers flocked to the Danilovsky Monastery, home to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, for the ceremony to bless the bronze bell, officially known as the Everyday Bell. The remaining 17 bells will be shipped to Russia next year.

American industrialist Charles R Crane bought the 18 brass bells from the Soviet government in 1930, saving them from being melted down in Josef Stalin's purges that saw thousands of monks executed and churches and monasteries destroyed or turned into prisons, orphanages or animal barns.


New Patriarch for the Romanian Orthodox Church

Metropolitan Daniel, one of the youngest bishops in the church, known for his ecumenical stance and desire to modernize the church was elected Wednesday the new patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Daniel, 56, had been seen by many as the leading choice as a replacement for Patriarch Teoctist, who died in July at the age of 92.

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Elderly Cor-Bishop (Village Bishop) severely beaten in Kerala

An 81-year-old village bishop of Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church was severely beaten and hospitalised on August 29 at Kanjiramattam in Ernakulam district of Kerala state, India. Mathews Pulimoottil Cor-episcopa, aged 81, the village bishop and the vicar of the Kajniramattom St. Ignatius Orthodox Syrian Christian Church was severely beaten on Wednesday on the public road near his house while on his way home from the church after the funeral of a member of his parish. The accused, known as Baby of Kaniyamparmbil, apparently slapped the bishop on his face several times until he fell on the road. The accused also thrashed the bishop on his chest and hands and kicked him repeatedly.The accused fled the scene when those who were nearby came to the bishop's aid. Bishop severely injured and admitted at the Kolenchery Medical College. He still at the hospital and continue treatment."Mathews Cor-episcopa yet to be recovered. There are still some internal injuries in his body. So he suffer body aches. He finds very difficult to pick up even a pen, because one of his hands also threshed," Doctor Vinod said the Salem Voice Ministries (SVM) News Service.

After hearing this news, bishop's wife Kunjamma Mathew, 77, became seriously ill and admitted at Chottanikkara Tata hospital.Sudheesh Kumar, the Deputy Superintendant of Police in Muvattupuzha, Kuriakose, Circle Inspector of Piravam and Yunus Kunju, Sub Inspector of Mulanthuruthy are investigating the case. They have arrested the accused, but released on bail due to the political pressure.

Thankachan, Baby, Prince and Sojan are the sons of Bishop Mathews Cor-episcopa.

Since last 55 years of priesthood, Mathews Cor-episcopa served about 40 parishes as vicar in Kochy, Kottayam, Niranam, Malabar and Knanaya Dioceses of the Indian Orthodox Church. All the church congregations were having more than 1500 members each as parishoners.His Holiness Baselios Marhoma Didymos I, the Catholicos of the East and the Supreme Head of the Indian Orthodox Church alongwith Paulose Mar Militheos, the Catholicos Designate and other bishops visited him at the hospital. He condemned the incident. "Persecution towards Christians and minorities are being continued by the support of government and police authorities. Mathews Cor-episcopa is one of its last victims," His Holiness Moron Mar Baselius Marthoma Didymos I ( Catholicose of the East and Malankra Metropolitan, Supreme Primate of the Indian Orthodox Church) said.


A foundation stone was laid yesterday in Sharjah for the building of first Russian Orthodox church in the UAE on the eve of Vladimir Putin's visit to the UAE. The shrine which, cost Dh30 million, will be built on a plot of over 2000 square meters provided by the Government of Sharjah. The function was attended by a number of archbishops, priests, ministers and clergymen as well as a crowd of members of the Russian community.
Jurgen Gasiecki, administrator of the Russian Orthodox Church in the UAE paid rich tribute to H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah for donating the land for building the church which he said will serve around 100,000 Roman Orthodox followers living in the UAE and hailing from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldavia, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. He added that the design of the Church was modelled on the Russian Orthodox Church in South Africa.


Serbian Krsna Slava

"The commemoration of Krsna Slava was to our ancestors one of the most important expressions of their Orthodox faith. So they always celebrated their Krsna Slava, regardless of how dangerous the situation. In our long suffering history, the state and freedom ceased to exist, but in our homes, the candle of our Patron
Saint never was extinguished....

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Christianity is Necessary for Europe: Metropolitan Kirill

In an address to the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu this week, outspoken Russian Orthodox Bishop Kirill said that in order for Europe to survive the tribulations that have befallen previous civilizations, it must retain its Christian identity. According to a report on, Kirill explained that an increasing amount of Europeans Christians and non-Christians alike have come to recognize "Christianity as a powerful source of support for European civilization."
He was careful to explain that this does not imply that "there is no room" in Europe "for people of other religions and with other outlooks on the world." Rather, it points to the "recognition of the high role of the Christian faith in the past, present and future of our continent."

Considered a 'high up' in the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kirill serves as bishop of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and is the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations. According to the website of the Russian Orthodox Church, Bishop Kirill has authored more than 200 works on religious and secular issues and hosts a popular weekly TV program. This is not the first time that Kirill has been highlighted in the media. Kirill met with Pope Benedict not long after Benedict's appointment and some assert that Kirill is working to heal the rift between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

According to Kirill, "In the Vatican and not only in the Vatican but all over the world, Catholics understand that Orthodox (people) are their allies. And Orthodox people are more and more coming to understand that Catholics are their allies in the face of hostile and non-religious secularism."Kirill has also been outspoken in his condemnation of homosexuality saying, "When the declaration of human rights was made no-one in their worst nightmare could imagine a gay parade in Jerusalem."


The Russian Orthodox Church has proposed developing a new, moral, basis for inter-Christian cooperation. ‘We are facing new divisions in the Christian family, especially in the area of morality’, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, said during a briefing in an interval of the 3d European inter-Christian Assembly taking place in Romania. He believes the time has come for a new self-examination of the movement for Christian unity. The Basis of the World Council of Churches, which states the belief in the Holy Trinity, for all its importance, does not help to prevent new divisions.

In this connection the metropolitan asked the forum of representatives of various Christian confessions: ‘Why are we avoiding the idea of sin?’

‘What is the Christian message without any reference to the idea of sin? This idea, which is not accepted by liberal philosophy and politics, is fundamental for Christianity. The modern world will hear us only if Churches are able to send a proper signal to the present civilization’, the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate noted. According to the Metropolitan Kirill, this signal should be consistent with the apostolic tradition, which is still present in Europe despite all the historical changes.


European Ecumenical Assembly opens in Romania

Sibiu, Sep. 4, 2007 ( - More than 2,000 delegates representing European Christian groups met in Sibiu, Romania, on September 4 to open the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople offered the opening prayer for the assembly, which will continue through Sunday, September 9. The gathering is co-hosted by the Conference of European Churches and the (Catholic) Council of European Bishops' Conferences. Together, those two groups represent most of the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican churches of Europe.

Among the most prominent delegates to the meeting in Sibiu are Cardinal Walter Kasper (bio - news), the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity; Metropolitan Kirll of Smolensk, the chief ecumenical officer of the Russian Orthodox Church; and Rev. Samuel Kobia, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches. Also in attendance, and scheduled to address the assembly, are José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Council; and Terry Davis, the EC secretary general.

The European Ecumenical Assembly is held once each decade. The first such gathering took place in Basel, Switzerland, in 1989; in 1997 the meeting was held in Graz, Austria. This week's meeting is the first to be scheduled in a predominantly Orthodox country.


Orthodox head comments positively election of new president at the end of annual synod. He announces new conference on the environment and initiatives to promote ecumenism with Catholics.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – At the end of the Indiktos, the annual meeting of the Orthodox Synod, both the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople and the Synod expressed optimism about the election of the new Turkish President Abdullah Gül and the earlier re-election of his Islamist party, the AKP, under Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“We are happy about the elections and welcome with optimism the results of the parliamentary and presidential elections,” said Patriarch Bartholomew I, who was speaking from Istanbul’s Yenikoy parish to a group of young Orthodox involved in revitalising the city’s Orthodox communities.

The patriarch, who heads a tiny Greek-Orthodox community of a few thousand people, has lobbied the Turkish authorities for a long time to get them to grant greater freedom of religion, to allow the Church to open theology schools, build new churches, buy new buildings and return property belonging to the Patriarchate that was confiscated by the Turkish government.

“We hope the (election) results will have a positive impact on minorities, providing them with some answers to the problems that have accumulated over time and uprooted the Orthodox community.

The Indiktos, which starts the Orthodox Ecclesiastic Year, brought together 63 metropolitans from around the world. Among the issues they discussed was the need to protect the environment “from man’s excessive ambitions and abuses.”

The patriarch used the occasion also to set the date (September 6-13, 2008) for a big conference on the environment to be held in Greenland.

Another issue was ecumenism. A conference by theologian Ioannis Zizoulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon, was noteworthy for showing that the communion between the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy continued for centuries despite the official break in 1054.

“Gennadios, the first patriarch appointed after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 who had a reputation of being anti-catholic, used to say that Catholics and Armenians who took part in the liturgy should receive the blessed bread and the blessing with the icon of the Mother of God,” Zizoulas said.

Zizoulas’ address is encouraging for Catholic-Orthodox dialogue—it puts into perspective the relations Orthodox have with other Churches, including the World Council of Churches. For instance, he noted that whilst the “dialogue between Orthodox and Anglicans is not meant to achieve unity,” it can “encourage the formulation of common solutions to social problems even though there is no vision of sacramental unity. Orthodoxy is not a confederation of local Churches, but [a communion with] a centre of unity: Constantinople.”(NT)


Priest's remains return to church he founded

Serbian Orthodox Church in America

After 67 years abroad, Father Sebastian Dabovich crossed the Atlantic Ocean one last time to be back home with his flock.

On Saturday, inside a small foothills church choked with incense and sweltering from the triple-digit temperatures outside, people from across the United States stood shoulder to singing the Trisagion, one of the oldest prayers in Christianity, as Dabovich's remains were returned to the soil of his native California.His bones were washed in rose water and white wine. He was given a new set of priest's vestments to replace the set that decayed along with his body after he was originally buried in 1940. Upon his earthly remains, a gold cross was placed, which high bishops and the laity alike took turns kissing. Among Orthodox Christians, God's work moves not only through the living but through the remains of holy men as well.Though in his life, he'd attained the rank of archimandrite, one of the highest stations a monk can achieve, the 200 or so people gathered for the special liturgy in his honor saw him as something between a founding father and a spiritual beacon.

"Without him, there would be no Serbian Orthodox Church in America today," said Father Tom Paul, a protodeacon at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church.Atop the highest hill in the city, the church in Jackson was consecrated in 1894. It's believed to be the oldest Serbian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere. Dabovich, many assert, was the first American ever to be ordained as an Orthodox priest.Dabovich, who was born to Serbian-immigrant parents in San Francisco in 1863, first came to Jackson in 1893 to baptize a Serbian baby. At the time, he ministered at a Russian Orthodox Church in San Francisco.The older gravestones in the cemetery of St. Sava tell much of the story of the Serbian migration to the Mother Lode.

Most Serbian immigrants coming to Amador County were born in the Bay of Kotor, then part of the easternmost reaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now part of modern Montenegro. Unrest there and in neighboring Bosnia around the 1860s led many to seek refuge overseas.Most died before the age of 30 in places like Angel's Camp, one of the many foothill towns fueling California's Gold Rush. The Serbian population boomed during that time, accounting for more than a third of Amador County's population until the mines were closed at the start of World War II, said Father Steve Tumbas, a deacon at St. Sava.

Though the income from the mines fostered the community, many perished in the shafts. California's deadliest mining accident, the Argonaut Mine disaster of 1922, claimed the lives of 47 miners in Jackson -- 10 of whom were Serbs.After founding several other churches in the United States, Dabovich returned to his ancestral homeland to serve as a chaplain to the Serbian Army during World War I. He spent his last years at a monastery in central Serbia.

Getting his remains back to Jackson took 10 years of careful prodding, said Paul.

"It was like getting a law passed," he said. "You have to go around lobbying everyone until you find someone who says, 'Yeah, you're right,' and then runs with it."

He'd grab anyone he could and lay out the case for bringing Dabovich's remains home, he said. People with connections to the patriarchy back in Serbia, he said, got special attention.

Two years ago, Paul found that sympathetic ear. The bishop of the Zhicha monastery called him. The monastery was expanding, and members were digging up the graveyard where Dabovich was buried to make room for a new building.Paul wrote a letter, telling of the congregation's desire to see their founding priest back home. The bishop presented the idea to other bishops in Serbia, who agreed Dabovich's remains ought to return to America, he said.Paul -- his grandparents anglicized his name from the original Pavlovich -- said Dabovich's work inspired him to join the diaconate.He spent his career as an undercover narcotics officer in several police departments around the Bay Area and Amador County, he said. When he retired, he said, the same desire to help people led him to trade his badge and gun for a vestment and cross. But there were some hurdles.

Before Paul could be ordained, the bishop asked him a question about his past.

Church canons forbid anyone who's committed murder from wearing the cloth. Having served as a Marine in Vietnam, had he ever killed anyone?

Paul told the bishop he wasn't sure.

"I shot at them, and they shot at me," he said. "I'm still here, and I don't know if they're still there."

That was good enough for the bishop, Paul said.

Paul sold all the guns he'd acquired as a police officer and took the money to Serbia to buy his first set of vestments.

Quoting from the book of Isaiah, Paul beat his "swords into plowshares," he said.

Though Paul, Tumbas and many others in the Serbian Orthodox community are overjoyed to have the remains of the founding priest back in Jackson, some in the Serbian Orthodox community in the States think the church should go a step further and proclaim Dabovich a saint.It's a rare move, but not one without precedent. Another Serbian American monk who went back to Serbia during World War II and is believed to have been poisoned by the Yugoslav secret police following the war was made a saint two years ago, Tumbas said.Tumbas said local priests have already been referring to Dabovich as Saint Sebastian. He hopes the mother church back in Serbia will start following suit.

"Poets and writers sometimes die in poverty, and it's 100 years later that the beauty of their work is recognized," he said. "Sometimes, it's the same way in the church."

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