International Orthodox Christian News

Serb Patriarch Remains Hospitalized

Belgrade _ Patriarch Pavle, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, remains in hospital in a life-threatening, though stable, condition, his Church announced.The 93-year-old patriarch was admitted to the Belgrade Military Hospital on November 13, the Church said in a terse statement released late on Tuesday."His Holiness is enduring his old-age ailments with dignity and perseverance, in the company of doctors and two monks who are selflessly by his side," the statement said.Over the past few days the Serbian media have reported that the patriarch's health has deteriorated, and that he was in a serious condition.Pavle’s ailment is mainly related to his old age, rather than a specific illness, reports said.A physician at Belgrade’s Military Hospital said that Pavle’s health “is fragile," and that "he will probably remain hospitalized for some time.”"We are doing our utmost to help him recover," the source told Balkan Insight on condition of anonymity. He did not elaborate.The patriarch’s health has been gradually worsening in recent years, and since earlier this year in particular. Due to a hip injury and general weakness, he has been having to use a wheelchair, media reports said.Meanwhile, the Holy Synod, the top body of the Serbian Orthodox Church, elected Bishop Amfilohije, as its oldest member, to conduct the duties of the patriarch during the period Pavle is incapacitated.The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous or independent Orthodox Christian churches, ranking sixth in order of seniority. It is also the second oldest Slavic Orthodox church.According to official data, it represents over eight million Orthodox Serbs throughout the world.After World War II the Serbian Orthodox Church was suppressed under communist rule. It was revived in the late 1980s during the demise of Yugoslav communism and the rise of rival nationalist movements.Patriarch Pavle, supported the opposition to former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in the early and mid-1990s.


The man accused of sexual harassment and abuse of the four young students of a religious school beginning in 1999 is bishop Pahomije, the head of the southern Vranje diocese of SPC. Vranje is some 350 kilometres southeast from the capital of Belgrade.

The Court quoted "serious breaches of legal procedures" last week and suspended one of the judges who took part in the controversial trial, which means the case could see a re-trial in the near future.

"The boys were abused at least two times," lawyer for the families, Aleksandar Stojkovic, told IPS.

"Once it was by the official of the church; the second time by the court in Nis. In three years of this process (2003-2006) they were interrogated three times in the pre-trial procedures, confronted with the bishop and appeared seven times in the courtroom. Although they told the same stories each time, the court did not believe them," Stojkovic said.

The families of the four young men, who were minors in 1999 and 2000 when the alleged sex abuses by the bishop took place in a school in the Serbian south, claimed in their charges that the "lives of children were destroyed by illicit, scandalous and unprecedented behaviour by a representative of Church."

One of the boys suffered a nervous breakdown at the time and remains hospitalised to this day. Two of the boys decided to continue their religious education to become priests, as "the bishop does not represent the whole church", their fathers told "Blic" daily.

The fourth young man abandoned the idea of becoming a priest.

The stories told by the boys -- young men now -- include nightly visits by the bishop, whose worldly name is Tomislav Gacic (55). He insisted on corporal intimacy and "telling the stories of one's sex life."

The Serbian public, who were deeply disturbed by these details of the case that surfaced almost seven years ago, welcomed the Supreme Court ruling.

"This was a case of paedophilia that could endanger the reputation of church," Mirko Djordjevic, one of the most prominent analysts of the SPC told Belgrade-based B92 Radio.

"Cocooned in its capsule, it did not react properly," Djordjevic said.

Djordjevic explained that the church’s own court could have dealt with the matter, but it never met to discuss it.

Djordjevic says that religious leaders believe that keeping silent about incidents pushes them "under carpet" and does not tarnish the reputation of the church by exposing its misdeeds.

The lawyers and families of the boys insisted from the beginning of the trial that there were obstructions coming from higher ranks of state, such as influence on the court to stall for time, so that the statute of limitations of five years could be applied in the case.

The Serbian judiciary system is often accused of inefficiency and of caving in to pressures from politicians and other influential parties, including the church.

Three priests and two nuns who were witnesses for the prosecution, in favour of boys' statements in the trial, were subsequently moved from the Vranje diocese to distant parts of Serbia.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has become more influential since the early 1990s, when former leader Slobodan Milosevic came to power. It played a controversial role in the wars of the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, during which it backed nationalists and never distanced itself from war crimes against non-Serbs.

Almost 90 percent of Serbs declare themselves as Orthodox.

Although ordinary priests can marry and are considered by SPC as "close to their congregations" by leading ordinary lives, favour within church ranks usually befalls those who become monks and remain celibate. Bishop Pahomije's career followed the track of a monk.

Charges of paedophilia and church misconduct are not only being brought in Serbia.

In Croatia, a Catholic priest was arrested on the island of Rab last June. He was accused of the sexual abuse of five boys aged between 10 and 12.

In the course of the investigation, it was uncovered that the church had transferred him from the island of Krk because of similar acts. The case has still not come to court, and the priest has been quietly transferred again, this time to a retirement home for Catholic priests.

In neighbouring Bosnia, local media recently reported on the trial against a local Islamic teacher in the central town of Travnik. He is accused of the sexual harassment of girls he was supposed to be teaching religion to. He was put to trial despite intervention and pressure by the Islamic Community of Travnik.


RAVENNA, Italy, NOV. 15, 2007 ( Here is the final document of the plenary assembly of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, held Oct. 8-14 in Ravenna. The statement, which was released today, is titled “Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority.”

* * *


1. “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17, 21). We give thanks to the triune God who has gathered us — members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church — so that we might respond together in obedience to this prayer of Jesus. We are conscious that our dialogue is restarting in a world that has changed profoundly in recent times. The processes of secularization and globalization, and the challenge posed by new encounters between Christians and believers of other religions, require that the disciples of Christ give witness to their faith, love and hope with a new urgency. May the Spirit of the risen Lord empower our hearts and minds to bear the fruits of unity in the relationship between our Churches, so that together we may serve the unity and peace of the whole human family. May the same Spirit lead us to the full expression of the mystery of ecclesial communion, that we gratefully acknowledge as a wonderful gift of God to the world, a mystery whose beauty radiates especially in the holiness of the saints, to which all are called.

2. Following the plan adopted at its first meeting in Rhodes in 1980, the Joint Commission began by addressing the mystery of ecclesial koinônia in the light of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the Eucharist. This enabled a deeper understanding of ecclesial communion, both at the level of the local community around its bishop, and at the level of relations between bishops and between the local Churches over which each presides in communion with the One Church of God extending across the universe (Munich Document, 1982). In order to clarify the nature of communion, the Joint Commission underlined the relationship which exists between faith, the sacraments — especially the three sacraments of Christian initiation — and the unity of the Church (Bari Document, 1987). Then by studying the sacrament of Order in the sacramental structure of the Church, the Commission indicated clearly the role of apostolic succession as the guarantee of the koinônia of the whole Church and of its continuity with the Apostles in every time and place (Valamo Document, 1988). From 1990 until 2000, the main subject discussed by the Commission was that of “uniatism” (Balamand Document, 1993; Baltimore, 2000), a subject to which we shall give further consideration in the near future. Now we take up the theme raised at the end of the Valamo Document, and reflect upon ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority.

3. On the basis of these common affirmations of our faith, we must now draw the ecclesiological and canonical consequences which flow from the sacramental nature of the Church. Since the Eucharist, in the light of the Trinitarian mystery, constitutes the criterion of ecclesial life as a whole, how do institutional structures visibly reflect the mystery of this koinônia? Since the one and holy Church is realised both in each local Church celebrating the Eucharist and at the same time in the koinônia of all the Churches, how does the life of the Churches manifest this sacramental structure?

4. Unity and multiplicity, the relationship between the one Church and the many local Churches, that constitutive relationship of the Church, also poses the question of the relationship between the authority inherent in every ecclesial institution and the conciliarity which flows from the mystery of the Church as communion. As the terms “authority” and “conciliarity” cover a very wide area, we shall begin by defining the way we understand them.[1]

1. The Foundations of Conciliarity and of Authority

1. Conciliarity

5. The term conciliarity or synodality comes from the word “council” (synodos in Greek, concilium in Latin), which primarily denotes a gathering of bishops exercising a particular responsibility. It is also possible, however, to take the term in a more comprehensive sense referring to all the members of the Church (cfr. the Russian term sobornost ). Accordingly we shall speak first of all of conciliarity as signifying that each member of the Body of Christ, by virtue of baptism, has his or her place and proper responsibility in eucharistic koinônia (communio in Latin). Conciliarity reflects the Trinitarian mystery and finds therein its ultimate foundation. The three persons of the Holy Trinity are “enumerated”, as St Basil the Great says (On the Holy Spirit , 45), without the designation as “second” or “third” person implying any diminution or subordination. Similarly, there also exists an order (taxis) among local Churches, which however does not imply inequality in their ecclesial nature.

6. The Eucharist manifests the Trinitarian koinônia actualized in the faithful as an organic unity of several members each of whom has a charism, a service or a proper ministry, necessary in their variety and diversity for the edification of all in the one ecclesial Body of Christ (cfr. 1 Cor 12, 4-30). All are called, engaged and held accountable — each in a different though no less real manner — in the common accomplishment of the actions which, through the Holy Spirit, make present in the Church the ministry of Christ, “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14, 6). In this way, the mystery of salvific koinônia with the Blessed Trinity is realized in humankind.

7. The whole community and each person in it bears the “conscience of the Church” (ekkesiastikè syneidesis), as Greek theology calls it, the sensus fidelium in Latin terminology. By virtue of Baptism and Confirmation (Chrismation) each member of the Church exercises a form of authority in the Body of Christ. In this sense, all the faithful (and not just the bishops) are responsible for the faith professed at their Baptism. It is our common teaching that the people of God, having received “the anointing which comes from the Holy One” (1 Jn 2, 20 and 27), in communion with their pastors, cannot err in matters of faith (cfr. Jn 16, 13).

8. In proclaiming the Church’s faith and in clarifying the norms of Christian conduct, the bishops have a specific task by divine institution. “As successors of the Apostles, the bishops are responsible for communion in the apostolic faith and for fidelity to the demands of a life in keeping with the Gospel” (Valamo Document, n. 40).

9. Councils are the principal way in which communion among bishops is exercised (cfr. Valamo Document, n. 52). For “attachment to the apostolic communion binds all the bishops together linking the épiskopè of the local Churches to the College of the Apostles. They too form a college rooted by the Spirit in the ‘once for all’ of the apostolic group, the unique witness to the faith. This means not only that they should be united among themselves in faith, charity, mission, reconciliation, but that they have in common the same responsibility and the same service to the Church” (Munich Document, III, 4).

10. This conciliar dimension of the Church’s life belongs to its deep-seated nature. That is to say, it is founded in the will of Christ for his people (cfr. Mt 18, 15-20), even if its canonical realizations are of necessity also determined by history and by the social, political and cultural context. Defined thus, the conciliar dimension of the Church is to be found at the three levels of ecclesial communion, the local, the regional and the universal: at the local level of the diocese entrusted to the bishop; at the regional level of a group of local Churches with their bishops who “recognize who is the first amongst themselves” (Apostolic Canon 34); and at the universal level, where those who are first (protoi ) in the various regions, together with all the bishops, cooperate in that which concerns the totality of the Church. At this level also, the protoi must recognize who is the first amongst themselves.

11. The Church exists in many and different places, which manifests its catholicity. Being “catholic”, it is a living organism, the Body of Christ. Each local Church, when in communion with the other local Churches, is a manifestation of the one and indivisible Church of God. To be “catholic” therefore means to be in communion with the one Church of all times and of all places. That is why the breaking of eucharistic communion means the wounding of one of the essential characteristics of the Church, its catholicity.

2. Authority

12. When we speak of authority, we are referring to exousia, as it is described in the New Testament. The authority of the Church comes from its Lord and Head, Jesus Christ. Having received his authority from God the Father, Christ after his Resurrection shared it, through the Holy Spirit, with the Apostles (cfr. Jn 20, 22). Through the Apostles it was transmitted to the bishops, their successors, and through them to the whole Church. Jesus Christ our Lord exercised this authority in various ways whereby, until its eschatological fulfilment (cfr. 1 Cor 15, 24-28), the Kingdom of God manifests itself to the world: by teaching (cfr. Mt 5, 2; Lk 5, 3); by performing miracles (cfr. Mk 1, 30-34; Mt 14, 35-36); by driving out impure spirits (cfr. Mk 1, 27; Lk 4, 35-36); in the forgiveness of sins (cfr. Mk 2, 10; Lk 5, 24); and in leading his disciples in the ways of salvation (cfr. Mt 16, 24). In conformity with the mandate received from Christ (cfr. Mt 28, 18-20), the exercise of the authority proper to the apostles and afterwards to the bishops includes the proclamation and the teaching of the Gospel, sanctification through the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and the pastoral direction of those who believe (cfr. Lk 10, 16).

13. Authority in the Church belongs to Jesus Christ himself, the one Head of the Church (cfr. Eph 1, 22; 5, 23). By his Holy Spirit, the Church as his Body shares in his authority (cfr. Jn 20, 22-23). Authority in the Church has as its goal the gathering of the whole of humankind into Jesus Christ (cfr. Eph 1,10; Jn 11, 52). The authority linked with the grace received in ordination is not the private possession of those who receive it nor something delegated from the community; rather, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit destined for the service (diakonia) of the community and never exercised outside of it. Its exercise includes the participation of the whole community, the bishop being in the Church and the Church in the bishop (cfr. St Cyprian, Ep. 66, 8).

14. The exercise of authority accomplished in the Church, in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, must be, in all its forms and at all levels, a service (diakonia ) of love, as was that of Christ (cfr. Mk 10, 45; Jn 13, 1-16). The authority of which we are speaking, since it expresses divine authority, cannot subsist in the Church except in the love between the one who exercises it and those subject to it. It is, therefore, an authority without domination, without physical or moral coercion. Since it is a participation in the exousia of the crucified and exalted Lord, to whom has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (cfr. Mt 28, 18), it can and must call for obedience. At the same time, because of the Incarnation and the Cross, it is radically different from that of leaders of nations and of the great of this world (cfr. Lk 22, 25-27). While this authority is certainly entrusted to people who, because of weakness and sin, are often tempted to abuse it, nevertheless by its very nature the evangelical identification between authority and service constitutes a fundamental norm for the Church. For Christians, to rule is to serve. The exercise and spiritual efficacy of ecclesial authority are thereby assured through free consent and voluntary co-operation. At a personal level, this translates into obedience to the authority of the Church in order to follow Christ who was lovingly obedient to the Father even unto death and death on a Cross (cfr. Phil 2, 8).

15. Authority within the Church is founded upon the Word of God, present and alive in the community of the disciples. Scripture is the revealed Word of God, as the Church, through the Holy Spirit present and active within it, has discerned it in the living Tradition received from the Apostles. At the heart of this Tradition is the Eucharist (cfr. 1 Cor 10, 16-17; 11, 23-26). The authority of Scripture derives from the fact that it is the Word of God which, read in the Church and by the Church, transmits the Gospel of salvation. Through Scripture, Christ addresses the assembled community and the heart of each believer. The Church, through the Holy Spirit present within it, authentically interprets Scripture, responding to the needs of times and places. The constant custom of the Councils to enthrone the Gospels in the midst of the assembly both attests the presence of Christ in his Word, which is the necessary point of reference for all their discussions and decisions, and at the same time affirms the authority of the Church to interpret this Word of God.

16. In his divine Economy, God wills that his Church should have a structure oriented towards salvation. To this essential structure belong the faith professed and the sacraments celebrated in the apostolic succession. Authority in the ecclesial communion is linked to this essential structure: its exercise is regulated by the canons and statutes of the Church. Some of these regulations may be differently applied according to the needs of ecclesial communion in different times and places, provided that the essential structure of the Church is always respected. Thus, just as communion in the sacraments presupposes communion in the same faith (cfr. Bari Document, nn.29-33), so too, in order for there to be full ecclesial communion, there must be, between our Churches, reciprocal recognition of canonical legislations in their legitimate diversities.

II. The threefold actualization of Conciliarity and Authority

17. Having pointed out the foundation of conciliarity and of authority in the Church, and having noted the complexity of the content of these terms, we must now reply to the following questions: How do institutional elements of the Church visibly express and serve the mystery of koinônia? How do the canonical structures of the Churches express their sacramental life? To this end we distinguished between three levels of ecclesial institutions: that of the local Church around its bishop; that of a region taking in several neighbouring local Churches; and that of the whole inhabited earth (oikoumene ) which embraces all the local Churches.

1. The Local Level

18. The Church of God exists where there is a community gathered together in the Eucharist, presided over, directly or through his presbyters, by a bishop legitimately ordained into the apostolic succession, teaching the faith received from the Apostles, in communion with the other bishops and their Churches. The fruit of this Eucharist and this ministry is to gather into an authentic communion of faith, prayer, mission, fraternal love and mutual aid, all those who have received the Spirit of Christ in Baptism. This communion is the frame in which all ecclesial authority is exercised. Communion is the criterion for its exercise.

19. Each local Church has as its mission to be, by the grace of God, a place where God is served and honoured, where the Gospel is announced, where the sacraments are celebrated, where the faithful strive to alleviate the world’s misery, and where each believer can find salvation. It is the light of the world (cfr. Mt 5, 14-16), the leaven (cfr. Mt 13, 33), the priestly community of God (cfr. 1 Pet 2, 5 and 9). The canonical norms which govern it aim at ensuring this mission.

20. By virtue of that very Baptism which made him or her a member of Christ, each baptized person is called, according to the gifts of the one Holy Spirit, to serve within the community (cfr. 1 Cor 12, 4-27). Thus through communion, whereby all the members are at the service of each other, the local Church appears already “synodal” or “conciliar” in its structure. This “synodality” does not show itself only in the relationships of solidarity, mutual assistance and complementarity which the various ordained ministries have among themselves. Certainly, the presbyterium is the council of the bishop (cfr. St Ignatius of Antioch, To the Trallians, 3), and the deacon is his “right arm” ( Didascalia Apostolorum, 2, 28, 6), so that, according to the recommendation of St Ignatius of Antioch, everything be done in concert (cfr. To the Ephesians 6). Synodality, however, also involves all the members of the community in obedience to the bishop, who is the protos and head (kephale) of the local Church, required by ecclesial communion. In keeping with Eastern and Western traditions, the active participation of the laity, both men and women, of monastics and consecrated persons, is effected in the diocese and the parish through many forms of service and mission.

21. The charisms of the members of the community have their origin in the one Holy Spirit, and are directed to the good of all. This fact sheds light on both the demands and the limits of the authority of each one in the Church. There should be neither passivity nor substitution of functions, neither negligence nor domination of anyone by another. All charisms and ministries in the Church converge in unity under the ministry of the bishop, who serves the communion of the local Church. All are called to be renewed by the Holy Spirit in the sacraments and to respond in constant repentance (metanoia), so that their communion in truth and charity is ensured.

2. The Regional Level

22. Since the Church reveals itself to be catholic in the synaxis of the local Church, this catholicity must truly manifest itself in communion with the other Churches which confess the same apostolic faith and share the same basic ecclesial structure, beginning with those close at hand in virtue of their common responsibility for mission in that region which is theirs (cfr. Munich Document, III, 3, and Valamo Document, nn.52 and 53). Communion among Churches is expressed in the ordination of bishops. This ordination is conferred according to canonical order by three or more bishops, or at least two (cfr. Nicaea I, Canon 4), who act in the name of the episcopal body and of the people of God, having themselves received their ministry from the Holy Spirit by the imposition of hands in the apostolic succession. When this is accomplished in conformity with the canons, communion among Churches in the true faith, sacraments and ecclesial life is ensured, as well as living communion with previous generations.

23. Such effective communion among several local Churches, each being the Catholic Church in a particular place, has been expressed by certain practices: the participation of the bishops of neighbouring sees at the ordination of a bishop to the local Church; the invitation to a bishop from another Church to concelebrate at the synaxis of the local Church; the welcome extended to the faithful from these other Churches to partake of the eucharistic table; the exchange of letters on the occasion of an ordination; and the provision of material assistance.

24. A canon accepted in the East as in the West, expresses the relationship between the local Churches of a region: “The bishops of each province (ethnos) must recognize the one who is first (protos) amongst them, and consider him to be their head (kephale), and not do anything important without his consent (gnome); each bishop may only do what concerns his own diocese (paroikia) and its dependent territories. But the first (protos) cannot do anything without the consent of all. For in this way concord (homonoia ) will prevail, and God will be praised through the Lord in the Holy Spirit” (Apostolic Canon 34).

25. This norm, which re-emerges in several forms in canonical tradition, applies to all the relations between the bishops of a region, whether those of a province, a metropolitanate, or a patriarchate. Its practical application may be found in the synods or the councils of a province, region or patriarchate. The fact that the composition of a regional synod is always essentially episcopal, even when it includes other members of the Church, reveals the nature of synodal authority. Only bishops have a deliberative voice. The authority of a synod is based on the nature of the episcopal ministry itself, and manifests the collegial nature of the episcopate at the service of the communion of Churches.

26. A synod (or council) in itself implies the participation of all the bishops of a region. It is governed by the principle of consensus and concord (homonoia), which is signified by eucharistic concelebration, as is implied by the final doxology of the above-mentioned Apostolic Canon 34. The fact remains, however, that each bishop in his pastoral care is judge, and is responsible before God for the affairs of his own diocese (cfr. Cyprian, Ep. 55, 21); thus he is the guardian of the catholicity of his local Church, and must be always careful to promote catholic communion with other Churches.

27. It follows that a regional synod or council does not have any authority over other ecclesiastical regions. Nevertheless, the exchange of information and consultations between the representatives of several synods are a manifestation of catholicity, as well as of that fraternal mutual assistance and charity which ought to be the rule between all the local Churches, for the greater common benefit. Each bishop is responsible for the whole Church together with all his colleagues in one and the same apostolic mission.

28. In this manner several ecclesiastical provinces have come to strengthen their links of common responsibility. This was one of the factors giving rise to the patriarchates in the history of our Churches. Patriarchal synods are governed by the same ecclesiological principles and the same canonical norms as provincial synods.

29. In subsequent centuries, both in the East and in the West, certain new configurations of communion between local Churches have developed. New patriarchates and autocephalous Churches have been founded in the Christian East, and in the Latin Church there has recently emerged a particular pattern of grouping of bishops, the Episcopal Conferences. These are not, from an ecclesiological standpoint, merely administrative subdivisions: they express the spirit of communion in the Church, while at the same time respecting the diversity of human cultures.

30. In fact, regional synodality, whatever its contours and canonical regulation, demonstrates that the Church of God is not a communion of persons or local Churches cut off from their human roots. Because it is the community of salvation and because this salvation is “the restoration of creation” (cfr. St Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., 1, 36, 1), it embraces the human person in everything which binds himor her to human reality as created by God. The Church is not just a collection of individuals; it is made up of communities with different cultures, histories and social structures.

31. In the grouping of local Churches at the regional level, catholicity appears in its true light. It is the expression of the presence of salvation not in an undifferentiated universe but in humankind as God created it and comes to save it. In the mystery of salvation, human nature is at the same time both assumed in its fullness and cured of what sin has infused into it by way of self-sufficiency, pride, distrust of others, aggressiveness, jealousy, envy, falsehood and hatred. Ecclesial koinônia is the gift by which all humankind is joined together, in the Spirit of the risen Lord. This unity, created by the Spirit, far from lapsing into uniformity, calls for and thus preserves — and, in a certain way, enhances — diversity and particularity.

3. The Universal Level

32. Each local Church is in communion not only with neighbouring Churches, but with the totality of the local Churches, with those now present in the world, those which have been since the beginning, and those which will be in the future, and with the Church already in glory. According to the will of Christ, the Church is one and indivisible, the same always and in every place. Both sides confess, in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, that the Church is one and catholic. Its catholicity embraces not only the diversity of human communities but also their fundamental unity.

33. It is clear, therefore, that one and the same faith is to be confessed and lived out in all the local Churches, the same unique Eucharist is to be celebrated everywhere, and one and the same apostolic ministry is to be at work in all the communities. A local Church cannot modify the Creed, formulated by the ecumenical Councils, although the Church ought always “to give suitable answers to new problems, answers based on the Scriptures and in accord and essential continuity with the previous expressions of dogmas” (Bari Document, n.29). Equally, a local Church cannot change a fundamental point regarding the form of ministry by a unilateral decision, and no local Church can celebrate the Eucharist in wilful separation from other local Churches without seriously affecting ecclesial communion. In all of these things one touches on the bond of communion itself — thus, on the very being of the Church.

34. It is because of this communion that all the Churches, through canons, regulate everything relating to the Eucharist and the sacraments, the ministry and ordination, and the handing on (paradosis) and teaching (didaskalia) of the faith. It is clear why in this domain canonical rules and disciplinary norms are needed.

35. In the course of history, when serious problems arose affecting the universal communion and concord between Churches — in regard either to the authentic interpretation of the faith, or to ministries and their relationship to the whole Church, or to the common discipline which fidelity to the Gospel requires — recourse was made to Ecumenical Councils. These Councils were ecumenical not just because they assembled together bishops from all regions and particularly those of the five major sees, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, according to the ancient order (taxis). It was also because their solemn doctrinal decisions and their common faith formulations, especially on crucial points, are binding for all the Churches and all the faithful, for all times and all places. This is why the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils remain normative.

36. The history of the Ecumenical Councils shows what are to be considered their special characteristics. This matter needs to be studied further in our future dialogue, taking account of the evolution of ecclesial structures during recent centuries in the East and the West.

37. The ecumenicity of the decisions of a Council is recognized through a process of reception of either long or short duration, according to which the people of God as a whole — by means of reflection, discernment, discussion and prayer — acknowledge in these decisions the one apostolic faith of the local Churches, which has always been the same and of which the bishops are the teachers (didaskaloi) and the guardians. This process of reception is differently interpreted in East and West according to their respective canonical traditions.

38. Conciliarity or synodality involves, therefore, much more than the assembled bishops. It involves also their Churches. The former are bearers of and give voice to the faith of the latter. The bishops’ decisions have to be received in the life of the Churches, especially in their liturgical life. Each Ecumenical Council received as such, in the full and proper sense, is, accordingly, a manifestation of and service to the communion of the whole Church.

39. Unlike diocesan and regional synods, an ecumenical council is not an “institution” whose frequency can be regulated by canons; it is rather an “event”, a kairos inspired by the Holy Spirit who guides the Church so as to engender within it the institutions which it needs and which respond to its nature. This harmony between the Church and the councils is so profound that, even after the break between East and West which rendered impossible the holding of ecumenical councils in the strict sense of the term, both Churches continued to hold councils whenever serious crises arose. These councils gathered together the bishops of local Churches in communion with the See of Rome or, although understood in a different way, with the See of Constantinople, respectively. In the Roman Catholic Church, some of these councils held in the West were regarded as ecumenical. This situation, which obliged both sides of Christendom to convoke councils proper to each of them, favoured dissentions which contributed to mutual estrangement. The means which will allow the re-establishment of ecumenical consensus must be sought out.

40. During the first millennium, the universal communion of the Churches in the ordinary course of events was maintained through fraternal relations between the bishops. These relations, among the bishops themselves, between the bishops and their respective protoi , and also among the protoi themselves in the canonical order (taxis) witnessed by the ancient Church, nourished and consolidated ecclesial communion. History records the consultations, letters and appeals to major sees, especially to that of Rome, which vividly express the solidarity that koinônia creates. Canonical provisions such as the inclusion of the names of the bishops of the principal sees in the diptychs and the communication of the profession of faith to the other patriarchs on the occasion of elections, are concrete expressions of koinônia.

41. Both sides agree that this canonical taxis was recognised by all in the era of the undivided Church. Further, they agree that Rome, as the Church that “presides in love” according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos , a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium.

42. Conciliarity at the universal level, exercised in the ecumenical councils, implies an active role of the bishop of Rome, as protos of the bishops of the major sees, in the consensus of the assembled bishops. Although the bishop of Rome did not convene the ecumenical councils of the early centuries and never personally presided over them, he nevertheless was closely involved in the process of decision-making by the councils.

43. Primacy and conciliarity are mutually interdependent. That is why primacy at the different levels of the life of the Church, local, regional and universal, must always be considered in the context of conciliarity, and conciliarity likewise in the context of primacy.

Concerning primacy at the different levels, we wish to affirm the following points:

1 Primacy at all levels is a practice firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church.

2 While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West, there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations.

44. In the history of the East and of the West, at least until the ninth century, a series of prerogatives was recognised, always in the context of conciliarity, according to the conditions of the times, for the protos or kephale at each of the established ecclesiastical levels: locally, for the bishop as protos of his diocese with regard to his presbyters and people; regionally, for the protos of each metropolis with regard to the bishops of his province, and for the protos of each of the five patriarchates, with regard to the metropolitans of each circumscription; and universally, for the bishop of Rome as protos among the patriarchs. This distinction of levels does not diminish the sacramental equality of every bishop or the catholicity of each local Church.

45. It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the “first see” in an ecclesiology of koinônia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text? How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millennium? These are crucial questions for our dialogue and for our hopes of restoring full communion between us.

46. We, the members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, are convinced that the above statement on ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority represents positive and significant progress in our dialogue, and that it provides a firm basis for future discussion of the question of primacy at the universal level in the Church. We are conscious that many difficult questions remain to be clarified, but we hope that, sustained by the prayer of Jesus “That they may all be one … so that the world may believe” (Jn 17, 21), and in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we can build upon the agreement already reached. Reaffirming and confessing “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4, 5), we give glory to God the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has gathered us together.

* * *

[1] Orthodox participants felt it important to emphasize that the use of the terms “the Church”, “the universal Church”, “the indivisible Church” and “the Body of Christ” in this document and in similar documents produced by the Joint Commission in no way undermines the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which the Nicene Creed speaks. From the Catholic point of view, the same self-awareness applies: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church ’subsists in the Catholic Church’ (Lumen Gentium, 8); this does not exclude acknowledgement that elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion.


Members of a doomsday cult that believes the world will end next May and that barcodes are a sign of the Antichrist are holed up in a cave in south-east Russia and threatening to blow themselves up if the authorities try and eject them.

Yesterday, priests and officials were trying to talk to the 29, mainly female, followers of "Father" Pyotr Kuznetsov, founder of the "True Russian Orthodox Church" sect. Inside the cave near Nikoskoye, a village about 400 miles south-east of Moscow, the cult has stockpiled food and 100 gallons of kerosene. There were also reports that when an approach was made a few days ago, gunshots came from the cave. Its inhabitants include four children, one only 16 months old.

Negotiations with the cult members seem to be distinctly one-way. On Thursday, black-clad Russian Orthodox monks carefully descended into a snow-covered gully near the Volga river to try to make contact with the cult. But members refused to speak with clergy, and instead exchanged letters with Mr Kuznetsov. He is not in the cave, but is undergoing psychiatric evaluation after being charged with setting up a "religious organisation associated with violence". His followers were, however, in contact with doctors and officials, who promised food or medical supplies if needed.

Mr Kuznetsov is a trained engineer from a deeply religious family, who declared himself a prophet several years ago, left his family and began writing books and recruiting followers. His group believe that, in the afterlife, they will judge whether others deserve heaven or hell. Followers are not allowed to watch television, listen to the radio or handle money. Mr Kuznetsov has been known to sleep in a coffin.

Russia is home to a bewildering array of sects, at least 10 of which have members living in isolation. Many of them are led by the most unlikely of characters, including one, in Siberia, headed by an ex-traffic policeman who has managed to persuade 5,000 devotees that he is the son of God.


Archbishop Presides at Anniverary

SPRINGFIELD - To conclude the celebration of the 100th anniversary of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Western Massachusetts, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America came to the city this weekend.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios celebrated the Great Vespers last night at the cathedral in Memorial Square, which was followed by a reception at the Greek Cultural Center. He is scheduled to celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom this morning and then attend a banquet at the Springfield Sheraton hotel where he will meet a number of dignitaries, including Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Demetrios, the leader of about 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians in the United States, has been archbishop since September 1993. The 79-year-old Demetrios visited Springfield in 2001, the 100th anniversary of the first Greek Orthodox services in Western Massachusetts.Before last night's service, Demetrios said he was "more than glad" to be in the city, and glad members of the Greek Orthodox faith were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the cathedral.

"It's a very lovely and live community," Demetrios said.

The archbishop, who lives in New York City, also spoke about the challenges facing Greek Orthodox Christians in America. He said one challenge is how to combine life in the most technologically advanced society in the world "with a fullness and genuineness of the Orthodox tradition."Demetrios said another challenge - one he believes all religions face - is connecting with young adults who have limited participation in church life.

"They seem to be very busy, very concerned with their future," he said. Demetrios spoke about mixed marriages, where one spouse is a member of the church and the other comes from a different religious background. The different faith traditions can present a problem, and Demetrios said the work of the church must include offering the non-Orthodox member solid, nonadversarial instruction in the faith.

"They have to overcome, perhaps, a number of inherent difficulties," Demetrios said.

Demetrios was born in Thessaloniki, Greece. He was ordained a deacon in 1960 and a priest four years later.From 1983 to 1993, Demetrios was the distinguished professor of biblical studies and Christian origins at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline. In the 1980s he also taught at Harvard Divinity School.St. George's was founded in 1907 on Auburn Street. The Memorial Square church has been the site of St. George's for well over a half century.As part of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the church, Panagias Chapel in the cultural center was renovated and consecrated.


Russian Church Regain Lost Glory

Ryazan's dazzling kremlin, the ancient town fortress considered a gem of Russian architecture, seems like an unlikely venue for a bitter social conflict.
But for the past three years a subterranean battle has raged here over the 26-hectare complex seized by the Bolsheviks last century. The increasingly powerful Russian Orthodox Church is pressuring political leaders in Moscow to return the property to church stewardship, and public passions are running high.
"Society is split over this issue," says Sergei Isakov, a deputy of the regional legislature. "We need more time to listen to the people about this."
It's a struggle taking place across Russia. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, about 6,000 sites nationalized by the communists have been returned to the church, but hundreds more remain under dispute. Critics say the church's appetite exceeds its ability to restore old buildings, or fill them with worshipers, and its aims are increasingly politicized.
"Lately the church's ambitions have grown, and clericalism is creeping into state institutions and public organizations," says Anatoly Pchelintsev, editor of Religion and Law, a journal published by the independent Slavic Center for Law and Justice in Moscow. "We have elections coming, and the state finds it convenient to actively court the Church's embrace and seek its support."
Church's campaign for influence
The Orthodox Church has been – and remains – closely linked to the Russian state. Even before the Bolsheviks nationalized all its property and took full control over the priesthood, the church acted as the main ideological support for Russian czars. And since the fall of communism, Russian leaders have sometimes turned to the church, which has baptized some 60 percent of Russians, to boost their legitimacy.
"The Russian state is undergoing a crisis of values," says Alexander Dugin, who heads the International Eurasian Movement, a nationalist group that favours stronger church influence. "Soviet ideas have been destroyed, while the democratic values of the West have been completely discredited in post-Soviet Russia. The only real source of [spiritual] support for the new Russian state is the Orthodox Church."
In addition to seeking the return of its property and assets, the church has mounted an active campaign to raise its profile, lobbying for – among other things – mandatory "Orthodox culture" classes in schools. In addition, a newly formed wing of the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi has held several rallies recently to "propagate religious values" among young people.
"The greatest achievements of Russian history were made in the name of Orthodoxy," says Boris Yakimenko, head of Nashi's Orthodox section. "Society needs a clear spiritual orientation, and this is our calling."

Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Mediating Crisis

09 November 2007

The Parliament of Georgia has unanimously approved President Saakashvili's 15-day state of emergency following preliminary government and opposition reconciliation talks under the auspices of the country's Orthodox Patriarch. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky has this report from Tbilisi.

Approval of the 15-day state of emergency was unanimous thanks to a boycott by 101 opposition lawmakers. This allowed the remaining 149 pro-government deputies to vote as one in favor of the controversial measure, which will keep independent news broadcasts off the air until the state of emergency is lifted. President Saakashvili has the option of ending it sooner.

The Georgian leader announced the state of emergency on Wednesday after riot troops used force to break up anti-government demonstrations in Tbilisi.

Also Friday, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, held separate meetings in Tbilisi with representatives of the government and opposition in hopes of reconciling the two sides.

Pro-government lawmaker Khatuna Gogorishvili participated. In remarks to the VOA, she said the Patriarch is an individual that appeals to reason, not emotions.

Unfortunately, says Gogorishvili, some of our colleagues from the opposition understand the words dialogue and talks as ultimatum. To sit behind a table with them does not mean we agree with all of their demands.

Opposition members agree with Gogorishvili about the issue of consensus. But Goga Khaindrava, who met with the Patriarch as an opposition representative, told VOA that the government is standing in the way of a dialogue. Khaidrava was President Saakashvili's former Conflict Resolutions Minister.

Khaindrava says the president's words usually amount to public relations. He told the entire world he'll do this, that and the other, but repressions against our colleagues continue nevertheless.

The former presidential ally said the opposition will only talk with Saakashvili under the condition that the first meeting be held in the presence of Patriarch Ilia. Speaking to reporters after talks with both sides, the Church leader praised the decision to hold early presidential elections.

The president's smart decision to hold early elections relieves mounting tensions in Georgia. Ilia also called on Georgians to maintain the peace and to speak properly with one another.

The date of Georgia's presidential election was a major factor in six days of opposition protests in Tbilisi. The opposition wanted the date moved up from November to March. The president initially refused, but then went even further, setting the date for January 5. This gives the opposition little time to agree on a candidate and to mount a campaign. Some analysts say this will favor the president, but former minister Khaindrava says Mr. Saakashvili is so discredited that the opposition will win the election.

Indian Orthodox Church's Calcutta Diocese Metropolitan Passed Away

Indian Orthodox Church's Calcutta diocese Metropolitan His Grace Stephanos Mar Theodosius passed away in Muscat early this morning after a brief illness, a church spokesman said today.The 84-year-old Metropolitan was on a visit to Muscat in connection with the functions to be organised by the church there on the occasion of 105th death anniversary of Parumala Mar Gregorios, the first canonized saint of Indian Orthodox Church.

St Thomas Mission's Superior Fr Raju Thomas told UNI that the body of Metropolitian would be brought here by a special chartered flight tomorrow. The funeral is scheduled to take place at Bhilai on Thursday noon, he added.Indian Orthodox Church supreme head Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan His Holiness Moron Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos-I (Enthroned on the Apostolic Throne of St.Thomas and All the East) and Metropolitans of other dioceses would attend the funeral, he added.

Metropolitan Theodosius was well known for his service in pastoral, educational, humanitarian and social fields. For the last 60 years as a priest and Bishop, he was instrumental in establishing several educational institutions and mission centres in the remote areas in northern India.He founded the St Thomas Mission of north Indian region in July 1972 . Later, the mission activities were spread out in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Nagaland.

Born on October 2, 1924, he was ordained as a priest in 1947 and was consecrated as Bishop in 1975. He became the Metropolitan of diocese of Madras in 1976 and later headed the Calcutta diocese since 1979.Malankara Orthodox Church is an ancient church of India and it traces its origin to A D 52 when St Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, came to India and established christianity in the south western parts of the sub-continent.

The St Thomas Christians or the Syrian Christians exist at present in different churches and denominations. But a major section of the parent body of St Thomas Christians which has maintained its independent nature constitute the Orthodox Church under the Catholicate of the East with headquarters at Devalokam, in Kottayam district of Kerala.


Moscow Patriarchate accuses Romanian Church of nationalist expansion

The Moscow Patriarchate regards the decision of the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church to set up dioceses on its canonical territory as a threat to the unity of the Christian Orthodox world."This is a nationalistically tainted expansionist adventure and an act directly leading to a split in the Christian Orthodox world," deputy head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Bishop Mark told Interfax on Wednesday."One is getting the impression that the Church of Romania is simply a toy in the hands of nationalistically minded politicians and it is surprising that the Romanian Church has taken this road," he said.The Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church on October 24 decided to set up seven new dioceses, three of them in Moldova and Transdniestria.


Bulgarian Orthodox Church to Quit WCC

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is to withdraw from the World Council of Churches, in the wake of criticisms it has made of the Geneva-based organization's style and direction. The WCC, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding this year, has more than 330 member churches, including virtually all the world's mainstream church bodies, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church.
But in recent years the Orthodox churches have grown impatient with what they see as the Protestant dominance of the WCC's agenda and preoccupation with developments seen as Western and liberal, such as women's ordination and the use of modern, ecumenical liturgy. The arrival of Protestant missionaries in Eastern Europe following the end of communist rule has also kindled hostility to Protestantism.
Said a spokesman for the Bulgarian church's synod: "We have no intention of ending ecumenical church contacts or cutting links with other Christian organizations. But our church took the decision to leave last April, and will circulate its explanation shortly. We have not consulted other Orthodox churches about this announcement and cannot comment on their intentions." The decision was confirmed by the church's synod in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, on July 22. According to the spokesman, the church will send a single delegate to the WCC's Eighth Assembly at Harare, Zimbabwe, in December, with a letter confirming its withdrawal.
The spokesman added that the criticisms underlying the move had all been listed in a statement after a meeting of Orthodox leaders at Thessaloniki in early May, which had voiced fears that WCC activities were contributing to what he described as "a dissolution of the truths of faith." In May 1997 the Georgian Orthodox Church became the first to confirm its departure from the WCC and another ecumenical organization, the Conference of European Churches.
Representatives of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, whose 12 dioceses claim the loyalty of 87 percent of the country's 9 million citizens, indicated in May their intention to leave the WCC. In a statement on July 16 the Bulgarian church's diocese of Central and Western Europe argued that the WCC had failed to bring "satisfactory achievements" in Christian theological dialogue, and that Bulgaria had been overrun by a "swarm of proselytizing sects," acting with the protection of "long-established Protestant churches."
In other developments, a senior leader of Poland's 570,000-member Orthodox minority has denied press reports that his church is planning to withdraw from the WCC. Polish Orthodox Archbishop Jeremiasz of Wroclaw-Szczecin said that his church had decided to remain within the WCC after a debate late last year. He dismissed as "totally false" press reports that the church's new leader, Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw, is in favor of withdrawal.
"The WCC needs to reform its approach to theological dialogue, the life of member churches and other issues," Archbishop Jeremiasz contended. However, he went on to say that "criticizing the WCC doesn't mean rejecting ecumenical contacts." And: "No Orthodox church will ever wish to abandon the challenge of seeking Christian unity. The fanatics who loudly proclaim their rejection of ecumenism are motivated by particular interests and are not representative of Orthodoxy."
The archbishop, who also heads Poland's multidenominational Christian Theology Academy, said he does not believe that the "very important criticisms" made at the Thessaloniki summit had "created a basis" for leaving the WCC. He added that complaints about "negative tendencies" in worldwide ecumenism are nothing new; disputes over ecclesiology and women's ordination have been occurring for decades.
"The mere fact that the WCC is dominated by Protestant churches poses no problem for us, since many Protestants fully concur with our criticisms," the archbishop said. "The real problem concerns the WCC establishment, which dictates the general direction of its work."
In Geneva, John Newbury, spokesperson for the WCC, noted that there had been no official notification from the Bulgarian church of its intention to withdraw, so the WCC could not comment. However, Peter Bouteneff, a member of the Orthodox Church in America and executive secretary of Faith and Order at the WCC, said: "Whether someone withdraws for good reasons or for bad, it certainly arouses concern." He stressed that he was not speaking on behalf of the WCC, but said that the first step taken by the organization in such cases was to analyze the criticism "to see how much is coming from those who are antiecumenical from the outset and how much is coming from those who are proecumenical but are concerned about the direction the WCC is taking."
Asked why the Orthodox churches were complaining about having insufficient influence within the WCC when Orthodox delegates generally make a strong contribution to discussions in the organization's governing bodies, Bouteneff said: "The Orthodox obviously have a voice, though a minority one, on [the WCC's] Central Committee, but they feel this isn't fully reflected in the decision-making processes of the council." Asked further about the possible effect the Bulgarian withdrawal might have on other Orthodox member churches of the WCC, he said: "I think the effect that it's having is to alert the wider WCC and the other Orthodox churches to the gravity of the crisis. Other churches that have been Close to [withdrawing from the WCC] have backed off for the moment. The chief result will not be the domino effect, but the alarm is ringing louder."

Russian Orthodox Church States Clarification

The Eighth World Orthodox Russian People's Council signaled this week that the Orthodox Church would like to more actively participate in Russia's foreign and domestic policies.
Russian Orthodox clergymen made several political declarations seeking a more prominent political role for the church.
Speaking at the congress, Aleksii II, the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, outlined his vision of the role the Orthodox Church should play in the world. He said Orthodox nations should unite in the face of new challenges to preserve the values of Eastern Orthodox culture.
"The challenges of time naturally push nations and states, [through] culture, world outlook, and spiritual position, to unite," Aleksii said. "Integration trends are on the way in Europe. Muslim states seek to consolidate their [position] on the world stage. Is it possible, under such conditions, for countries with ages-long Orthodox traditions and culture to remain disconnected [and] on the sidelines?"
"So, for a long time now, we have seen moves by the Russian Orthodox to expand its profile within society and within the government."Aleksii asked whether a situation in which the voice of the Orthodox Church is not clearly heard can be permitted to continue.
This week's 8th World Orthodox Russian People's Council offered advice to Russian authorities in solving the country's moral and economic problems. It discussed obstacles standing on the way of Russia's prosperity and produced recommendations on topics ranging from contract enforcement and privatization to unemployment and paying taxes.
Russia's Orthodox Church has lent its support to two main state programs -- promoting private pensions and an anti-graft drive in which it reinterpreted the 10 Commandments to read, among others, "Thou shalt not bribe," "Work should not cripple and kill a human being," and "There is no place for corruption and other crimes in the economy."
Metropolitan Cyril, the chairman of external relations at the Moscow Patriarchate, said the church cannot stand silently by as moral norms are being ignored. "The problem of morality during the transitional period in the country, when new economic relations are being formed, is evident for everyone," he said. "How will this [revised 10 Commandments] text be used? Some people say [to us]: 'Your work [adopting the new commandments] was useless. Those who take part in economic relations are ignoring laws. Why do you think they will listen to your moralizing? Will they accept these principles?' Of course, it is impossible to stop a criminal from committing a crime only using words, but it doesn't mean that this word shouldn't be heard in the society. Today, somebody should say very clearly what style of relations in the economy we support."
Speakers offered various recipes to accelerate the changes. Yurii Boldarev of the Ukrainian Union of Orthodox Citizens said the monarchy should be introduced and that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be appointed czar. Another speaker, an Orthodox musician, urged that rock music be combated because of its Satanic messages.
Russian authorities were hard-pressed not to hear the calls of the participants. Almost all branches of the Russian state and many political parties were represented in the discussions. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and politicians from the Russian parliament were all guests and speakers at the congress.
Felix Corley is the editor of Forum 18, a Norway-based news agency covering religious freedom issues in the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe. Corley says the Russian Orthodox Church has always been close to the Russian state and that this trend has been clearly visible over the last decade.
"On a state level, the Russian Orthodox Church has been signing agreements with individual ministries and individual government agencies for some time, and there's the issue of Orthodox culture as a subject within schools. So, for a long time now, we have seen moves by the Russian Orthodox to expand its profile within society and within the government," Corley said.
Corley says the problem in Russia is the state's consent to the Orthodox Church participating actively in politics. Historically, he says, the Orthodox Church was always a junior partner but that that is changing somewhat. "The Orthodox Church is still really the junior partner with the state, but the state has allowed it to gain a significant foothold within various institutions, even if many state officials are very wary about the Orthodox Church and quite often don't even trust it," he said.
The Russian Orthodox Church supports the state in many critical areas.
Corley says the Orthodox Church wants the Russian state to stay together and supports Moscow's policies in breakaway Chechnya. It supports the reunification of the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, which have large Orthodox populations.
Corley says many believe the Orthodox Church has been reluctant to accept the breakup of the Soviet Union. He also says the Patriarchate is very close to the Foreign Ministry.
Speaking this week at the congress, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov praised the government's cooperation with the Orthodox Church. He said joint efforts led to the registration of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Estonia.

Ukrainian priest Vasily Simulik is among applicants for the $25 million prize announced by the British tycoon and scientist Richard Branson for the person to come up with a viable idea to prevent global warming. This year, a 60-year-old priest of a church in the Poltava region finished his study “The Theory of the Origin of Nature,”

The entrance ceremony of Mgr Paolo Pezzi as archbishop and head of Moscow’s Mother of God Archdiocese was held in the presence of 1,500 worshippers, 200 priests as well as members of the Orthodox clergy, the diplomatic corps and journalists. With the mass performed in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow on Saturday Mgr Pezzi took over from Mgr Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the former head of the archdiocese in the Russian capital, who moved to Minsk, in Belarus.
During the ceremony Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, read out a message from the Patriarch of Moscow Alexy II. In it the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church voiced his hopes that the tenure of the new head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow would be a time of “good relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and of an early resolution of the problems between us.”
The message ends saying that it all depends on “how effectively we testify to the world about Christian values,” a clear reference to charges made by the Patriarchate against the Catholic Church in Russia and the Vatican over alleged Catholic proselytising, a major obstacle preventing a meeting between Alexy II and the Pope.
Both Mgrs Kondrusiewicz and Pezzi referred to the issue in the days before the ordination of the new archbishop and metropolitan.
The former bishop of Moscow expressed his regrets that in his 16-year tenure he failed “to establish better relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.”
“I have never promoted any proselytising activities, which are contrary to how I see things as well as to Church teachings,” he stressed. “Never the less, the dialogue was not disrupted, and I wish that the new archbishop may do more in this area.”
For his part Mgr Pezzi, from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo, explained his point of view on “mission.”
In a long interview with the Russian news agency Interfax-Religion he said that “mission is a testimony of evangelical values [. . . whereas] proselytism starts at the point where the real mission ends. Therefore, if all of us—both Catholics and Orthodox—practice ‘mission,’ we can develop good understanding and pursue unity, as there will be no place left for conflicts ”
In the interview the new archbishop also mentioned some of the goals he has set for himself in his new pastoral role, which he views as a continuation of what Mgr Kondrusiewicz started. In addition to ecumenism, he wants greater care for clergy training, greater support for young priests as well as men and women religious and renewed commitment to face the great problems that affect Russian society.
Currently some 600,000 Catholics live in Russia, although some experts say Russian Catholics might account for 1 per cent of the population, or 1.5 million people.
Currently there are 230 Catholic parishes registered in Russia, plus some 30 other organisations. But some 30 per cent of the parishes still do not have their own churches, which were nationalised in Soviet times, something that is still a serious problem.
Some 300 clergymen from many countries around the world carry out pastoral services.


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