International Orthodox Christian News

St.Basils Day

One of the most beautiful and inspiring traditions and customs of the Greek Orthodox Church is the observance of Vasilopita. It is this annual family observance, together with many other traditions of our Church, which joins our Orthodox Faith and heritage with the history of the Christian religion itself.

The word Vasilopita is a compound Greek word which means the sweet 'bread of Basil'.

This age old tradition commenced in the fourth century, when Saint Basil the Great, who was a bishop, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his Diocese. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. Thus the families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves, were pleasantly surprised to find the coins.

This original event which happened in Cappadocia of Caesarea in the last half of the fourth century, is very much alive in our Orthodox homes each year on January 1st.

According to tradition, special sweet bread (in some areas of Greece, it takes the form of a cake) is prepared both in the Orthodox homes and in the Church community which is called Vasilopita. Sweets are added to the bread which symbolize the sweetness and joy of life everlasting. It also symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness for all who participate in the Vasilopita Observance. When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is usally added to the ingredients. When the bread is cut and the observance begins, the individual who receives that portion of the Pita which contains the coin is considered blessed.

This tradition adds joy to the celebration at the beginning of the New Year, which everyone hopes will bring joy to all. Many Orthodox Christians enjoy the Vasilopita at home with their loved ones during the New Year celebration. The head of the family cuts the pieces of pita for all members of the family. Since Saint Basil loved the poor people, a special piece is cut for the unfortunate of the world, which symbolizes our concern for the poverty-striken people of all nations.

During the fourth century, one of the greatest Fathers of the Christian Church appeared on the spiritual horizon of the Orthodox Faith. His name was Basil and he was Bishop of Caesarea, Cappadocia (Asia Minor). He was born four years after the First Ecumenical Council held in the year 325 A.D. Saint Basil was one of the three Cappadocian Fathers of the Church (the others were Gregory of Nazianzus, his best friend, and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa).

Saint Basil was the first person in human history to establish an orphanage for little children. He also founded the first Christian hospital in the world. His fame as a Holy Man spread like wildfire throughout the Byzantine world. He was considered one of the most wise and compassionate clergymen in the entire history of the Church. His Feast Day is observed on January 1st, the beginning of the New Year and the Epiphany season. The Church, therefore, in respect for his many contributions to the Church and to mankind in general, combined the joy and happiness of the New Year with the glory of the birth of Christ, and the Epiphany into what is known in the Orthodox Church as the Vasilopita Observance.

The Vasilopita is a joyous observance, and it is a custom which should not be neglected by Greek Orthodox Christians in the Western world. It should be retained annually in the home and in the parish. It is a wonderful way to begin each New Year which God has given to the world. If you have been holding the observance in your home, congratulations! Please continue to do so. If you have not, hopefully this information has explained to you how to do it. We urge you to begin this year and make it a "family gathering" every year on Saint Basil's Day/New Year's Day, the 8th day of Christmas.


St.Stefan Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Istanbul: The Bulgarian Orthodox St. Stefan church in Istanbul is the most beautiful one among the ten churches in Turkey. The church was declared most beautiful in a chart for the ten most beautiful churches in Turkey made by experts and published in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, the Bulgarian National Radio /BNR/ reported.Experts regard the Bulgarian Orthodox church as an example in the world architecture because of its movable iron structure, which is unique in the world.The Bulgarian St. Stefan church was built on the coast of the Golden Horn in 1898. It is included in the intergovernmental agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey on the preservation of the cultural and historical heritage in both countries.

H.B.Archbishop Chrysostomos I, the former head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus, died on Saturday after a long bout with an undisclosed illness, officials said. He was 80.

Chrysostomos reportedly was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and for several years was unable to carry out his duties on the east Mediterranean island.

In May 2006, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I — the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians — chaired a meeting of church elders that called for Chrysostomos' "honorary removal."

His successor, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, said death had come as "a relief" to Chrysostomos, who had lived his final days in seclusion in his room at the Archbishopric in Nicosia.

"The late Archbishop was a deeply spiritual man and held aloft in difficult and trying times the flame of faith and country," the Archbishop said. "He will live in history and in the minds of all who knew and lived with him, and we will always honor his memory.

Chrysostomos' body will lie in state Sunday and Monday at Saint John's Cathedral, within Archbishopric grounds. A funeral is planned on Monday.

Chrysostomos was elevated to the church's senior position in 1977, when he succeeded Archbishop Makarios, the first post-independence president of Cyprus.

Paphos-born Chrysostomos joined the church as a young monk at the island's famed Kykkos monastery before earning degrees in philosophy and theology from the University of Athens.

After graduate studies in Britain, he worked as a teacher in Cyprus. Chrysostomos was ordained suffragan bishop in 1968 and bishop of Paphos in 1973.


Warsaw, 14 December (ENI)--Serbia's predominant Orthodox church has launched a diplomatic drive among church leaders abroad to prevent an expected UN vote to allow the independence of Kosovo from Serbia.

"By supporting this independence drive by Albanians living in Kosovo, the West forgets the hurt suffered in recent years by the Orthodox Serbs who live there," Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II of Russia told Serbia's Vecernje Novosti newspaper on 8 December.

"In this spiritual cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy, 150 churches and monasteries have been destroyed or desecrated, and numerous unimaginable crimes perpetrated to eliminate the Serbs," Alexei was quoted as saying. "I urge Western Christians to examine their consciences on Kosovo's projected status and help rescue the region's religious heritage."

The patriarch, who offered to mediate in the war-torn Serbian province, in an October address to the Council of Europe, was speaking ahead of a 19 December UN Security Council debate on Kosovo self-rule, which is expected to be opposed on Serbia's behalf by Russia.

European Union leaders have been moving towards a plan for statehood for Serbia's breakaway province, which has not pleased Russia.

In Istanbul, the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomeos I, told the visiting Serbian president, Boris Tadic, he would back a peaceful solution to disputes over Kosovo, from which up to 200 000 ethnic Serbs have fled since international control was imposed following NATO military action in 1999.

Leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority are expected to declare the province's sovereignty after the failure of UN-backed negotiators from the US, the European Union and Russia to reach agreement on its future.

Concerns have, however, been expressed for the surviving Serbian Orthodox minority in northern Kosovo, who have been promised protection by NATO and EU forces under a "supervised independence" plan drawn up for the UN by former Finnish president, Martti

The Serbian Orthodox Church's information service said the head of the (Orthodox) Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, had expressed concern over the province's future during talks on 11 December with Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro.

The information service referred also the Greek archbishop's "open discontent against the holders of political world power and their attitude towards the cradle of Serbian culture and spirituality".

I've tried to follow the story in Kosovo. From the previous Milosevic reprisals (by "militias") against its majority Albanian population, the forced flight of the Kosvar Albanians during the US-led NATO bombings (which also witnessed killings by Milosevic's troops), their return after Milosevic's ouster, the ongoing reprisals and killings of Serb minorities in Kosovo by Albanians, including destruction of churches, it would seem to me at least that either troops are going to have be kept there for many years, or independence will be granted to Kosovo and remaining Serbians will either leave or take their chances. (I might note that Kosovo's majority strongly shifted from Serb to Albanian when the birth rates of the Serbs plummeted and the Albanians rose.) This is the ultimate problem with hyper-nationalism: a homogeneous population is required, even demanded. One language, one ethnicity, one religion, maybe even one political party, the latter of which can be used as a substitute for the first three.


Top Russian Cleric has meeting with Pope Benedict

A senior leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, a visit seen adding credence to reports of a thaw in relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Roman Catholic Church. An announcement by the Vatican said that Pope Benedict on 7 December had an audience with Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the external relations department of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Vatican gave no details of discussions between the two religious leaders. The Moscow-based Interfax news agency quoting the Web site of the Moscow Patriarchate said that the Catholics and the Orthodox had underlined the need to engage in dialogue to coordinate their positions.

"The participants in the conversation approved of the efforts taken by both churches after the previous meeting between Metropolitan Kirill and Benedict XVI held right after the latter's enthronement in April 2005," Interfax reported. "These bilateral efforts were aimed at working out two churches joint position on the most important problems that humanity faces today."

Benedict's Polish-born predecessor, Pope John Paul II, spoke repeatedly about a dream of visiting Russia, but he met resistance from the Moscow Patriarchate, which had accused the Vatican of aggressively seeking converts among Russian Orthodox faithful.

Another controversial issue concerns what the Orthodox call "uniatism", or Catholics who follow the Orthodox Eastern Rite but come under the jurisdiction of Rome.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in November spoke of a "thaw" in relations between the two churches, and said that, "From our point of view, a meeting between the Pope and Patriarch of Moscow would be useful."

In October, Kirill said that there could be a meeting between Pope Benedict and Patriarch Alexei II, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, "at a place where each of them feels comfortable".

The same month Catholic and Orthodox theologians at a meeting in Ravenna in northern Italy agreed a document dealing with the papacy, one of the issues that led to the split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches in AD 1054. However, the Ravenna meeting was marked by a walkout by representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in protest at the presence of an Orthodox church from Estonia that the Moscow Patriarchate does not recognise.

Vatican officials expressed regret at the disagreement and underlined the importance of the Russian church participating in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.

The Catholic World News service reported on 6 December that the Vatican wanted to invite Patriarch Alexei to attend the next meeting of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue commission, scheduled for 2009.


His Holiness Bartholomew I's Letter to Vatican Delegation

Here is the text of the address made by the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I to a delegation of the Holy See on Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the ecumenical patriarchate.

Your Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper and beloved brothers in Christ comprising the Delegation of the Church of Rome,

It is with particular joy that we welcome you today at the historical center of Orthodoxy, on the occasion of our celebration of the joyous feast of the Ecumenical Throne. Your presence here both strengthens and seals the bonds of love and trust between our Churches, bonds which have been cultivated in recent decades and which have been especially established by the visit here last year of His Holiness, our most beloved Brother in Christ, Pope Benedict XVI of Rome, and his fervent participation in the thronal feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

We are particularly moved today because, this year, we enjoy the distinct blessing and spiritual pleasure of honoring the founder and patron of the Church of Constantinople, the glorious and first-called among the apostles, Andrew, whose sacred relics were generously and graciously permitted by the love of His Holiness to be donated to us during our recent visit to Naples, being returned from Amalfi to the Throne of the Patriarchate in order to remain here for the sanctification of our faithful and as a sign of communion with the apostle, whom we commemorate today, as well as of fraternal unity of Christians throughout the world.

It is with fond memories that we recall our recent meeting with His Holiness in Naples, together with our constructive and brotherly conversation there. This encounter contributed further to the cultivation of an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation of our two Churches, strengthening yet further the relations among us. We always believe that the peaceful coexistence of Christians, in a spirit of unity and concord, must constitute the fundamental concern of us all.

This is precisely what we confirmed and cosigned jointly with His Holiness in the joint declaration during his visit here last year, urging "that we share the same emotions and the same intentions of brotherhood, cooperation and communion in love and truth" (Common Declaration by Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I).

In an age when, as we once again jointly emphasized last year, we observe "the rise of secularism and relativism, or even nihilism, especially in the western world" (Common Declaration), we must derive inspiration from the example of the Apostle Andrew, who "endured many trials in every land and spoke of numerous difficulties" (See the Life of St. Andrew, according to the Synaxaristes of Constantinople), "and yet remained upstanding through the strength of Christ and for the sake of the faithful."

Therefore, the feast of this apostle provides the appropriate occasion for us to pray together more intently for the restoration of unity within the Christian world. The fracture of this unity has been the cause of so much trouble in humanity, while its consequences have proved tragic. The philosophy of the Enlightenment in the West and the French Revolution sparked a truly cultural revolution aimed at replacing the previous Christian tradition of the Western world with a new, non-Christian, concept of man and society.

This revolution gave rise in many ways to the practical materialism of contemporary societies, but also to diverse forms of militant atheism and totalitarianism which, over the last two centuries, have unfortunately claimed the lives of millions of innocent victims. Those who remained faithful to the Christian values were led to this new cultural environment by means of various processes to the loss also of the concept of mystery in God and of His living worship, which is genuinely preserved in the East, as well as to the reduction of religious life to a humanistic ethic by means of the relativization of doctrinal formulations.

Today, then, it is our obligation more than ever to reclaim the Christian roots of Europe and the spiritual, sacramental and doctrinal unity that it enjoyed prior to the schism of our two Churches. The re-evangelization of our peoples is "today, more so than ever before, timely and necessary, even within traditional Christian lands," as we admitted and confessed in common here exactly one year ago.

Thus, we believe that Western and Eastern Europe must cease regarding themselves as foreign to one another. Contact among Christians of the Latin tradition and the Orthodox faith may be rendered most productive for both sides. The feast of the Apostle Andrew, whom we commemorate and celebrate today, constitutes a vocation for all Christians of the world to return to the fullness, youthfulness and purity of the Christian tradition of the early Church. The example bequeathed to us by the Apostle Andrew, who remained faithful to his teacher throughout even the most grueling circumstances, preferring the Cross of Christ in place of any other compromise, invites us to an uncompromising resistance before the destructive consequences of the consumer culture today, before the increasing relativization of our doctrine and faith, before "the diverse forms of exploitation of the poor, migrants, women and children," as we declared again last year, as well as to "joint action to preserve a respect for human rights in every human being created in the image and likeness of God."

The first-called among the apostles, Andrew, could have modified the demands of his preaching in order to yield and avoid a horrible death, threatened at the time by the governor of Patras. Yet, he preferred the eternal glory of the Lord instead of any fleeting compromise, "considering the abuse that he suffered for Christ to be greater wealth" (Hebrews 11.26). It is he who today calls all Christians, and especially ecclesiastical leaders and shepherds, "to choose rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin" (Hebrews 11:26).

Today's celebration is an invitation extended to both our Churches to the unity of the Cross. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ stretched out his arms upon the cross, uniting all that was formerly divided, so also his apostle, in imitation of his Master, stretched out his arms, gathering us all today and calling us to stretch out our arms upon the cross spiritually in order to achieve the unity that we desire.

Elder Rome has the foremost St. Peter as its apostle and patron. New Rome, Constantinople, has the brother of St. Peter, the first-called of the apostles, Andrew. Both invite us to the fraternal unity that they shared with each other and that can only be acquired when the cross becomes our point of reference and experience of approach.

Let us, therefore, beseech these two brothers and greatest of apostles that they may grant peace to the world and lead everyone to unity, in accordance with the particularly timely troparion (hymn) today of St. Symeon Metaphrastes, Archbishop of Thessalonika:

"You, Andrew, were first-called of the apostles;

Peter was supremely honored among the apostles.

"Both of you endured the cross of Christ,
Proving imitators of your Lord and Master,
And one in mind and soul. Therefore, with him,
As brothers, grant peace to us.



Festivities on the occasion of the 110th anniversary of the St Nicholas’s Russian Orthodox church begin in the North-Italian city of Merano Wednesday.They will continue for three days and will be attended by the CEO of OAO Russian Railways /RZD/ Vladimir Yakunin, who is also president of the St Apostle Andrew’s Foundation, the president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Leonid Tyagachov, Russian ambassador to Italy Alexei Meshkov, and Russian Consul General in Milan, Alexander Nurizade.

The itinerary of the festival includes a festive service in the church and a photo exhibition displaying frescoes from Ferapontov Monastery in Northwest Russia painted by 15th century icon-painter Dyonisius. The Russian church was built in the Southern Tirol region at the end of the 19th century, when the area was still part of the Austria-Hungarian empire.Merano, a resort with a very mild climate, attracted many Russians at the time.A private charity foundation of Russian residents of Merano was set up in 1875 and the St Nicholas’s Church was consecrated in 1884.

It was located in the basement floor at first and was later moved to the upper story of a two-story house, crowned with the Russian dome.The consecration ceremony took place December 15, 1897, a few days before the day of veneration of the church’s patron. The church stayed open until the beginning of World War I, in which Russian and Austria-Hungary fought on opposite sides of the front.The period of oblivion lasted through to 1991 when rare services – once or twice a year -- started in it. In 2002, the first Russian Orthodox community reporting to Moscow Patriarchate was registered in Merano and the services became more frequent.

A priest was appointed to the Merano community in 2006, and since then the services are held there on the first and third Sundays of each month.


Srbian Church on Kosovo

The United States and almost all European Union member states support Kosovo's move as the best option for stability in the Balkans. Serbia says independence is out of the question for a territory it regards as its religious heartland.

Serbia should organise protests and military exercises to warn Kosovo and its Western backers it will not tolerate a declaration of independence by the breakaway province, a Serb Orthodox Church leader said on Tuesday. Bishop Artemije, the most senior Orthodox Church official in southern Serbia, said in an open letter that Serbia must act decisively "the day before" and give a serious warning of what might happen if Kosovo declared independence. Serbia should close the border between Kosovo and Serbia for three days, call in monitors from China, Russia, India and Pakistan, and mobilise army reservists, Artemije wrote. "We should organise military exercises in areas close to Kosovo and we should organise massive demonstrations in Belgrade and other cities so everybody realises how important Kosovo is to Serbia," he said in the letter to local media. Almost 18 months of internationally mediated talks, concluded last week, failed to produce a compromise between Serbia's offer of autonomy and the independence demands of Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority. Kosovo plans to declare independence within months. The southern province has been under U.N. rule since 1999 when NATO bombs expelled Serb forces accused of killing ethnic Albanian civilians while battling separatist rebels. Artemije wrote Belgrade should act before it is too late because any actions coming the day after a declaration of independence would be "pointless". "There is no Kosovo problem," Artemije concluded. "There is a problem of the Albanian minority in Serbia that deserves a solution based on the way similar problems were solved in all democratic countries of the world." The Serb Orthodox Church has been very vocal on the protection of more than 1,000 Serb monasteries and churches in the province, and it is also trying to reclaim large amounts of land it owned before World War Two. Some 140 religious monuments have been attacked by vandals since the end of the 1998-99 war. Nenad Lajbensperger, a historian at the Serbian Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, said Kosovo's almost mythical status in Serbian history had been ingrained in the national psyche. "The Church was what kept Serb identity alive during Ottoman rule, and that identity and culture was preserved through churches in Kosovo that still stand today," he said. (Writing by Ellie Tzortzi; Editing by Robert Woodward)


Ailing leader of Greece's Orthodox Church hospitalized

The ailing leader of Greece's Orthodox Church was hospitalized for tests Monday as doctors re-evaluated his cancer treatment, the Archbishop's office said.
Archbishop Christodoulos, 68, was diagnosed with cancer in June. He spent 10 weeks in a hospital in Miami but a planned liver transplant was aborted when the cancer was found to have spread.
His office did not say how long he was expected to remain in hospital.
Elected church leader in 1998, Christodoulos often stirred controversy with politically tinged statements.
He was also instrumental in attempts to improve ties with the Catholic Church. In 2001, he received Pope John Paul II in Athens _ the first pope to visit Greece in nearly 1,300 years _ ignoring loud protests from Orthodox hardliners.

He followed up last year with a historic visit to the Vatican, where he and Pope Benedict XVI signed a joint declaration calling for inter-religious dialogue and restating opposition to abortion and euthanasia.
Nearly all of Greece's 11 million people have been baptized Orthodox. There are more than 200 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, the second-largest Christian group in the world behind the Roman Catholic Church.


Cyprus Priest's war on sex traffickers

Standing outside his humble church in Limassol, a popular tourist town on the south coast of Cyprus, Father Savvas Michaelides, with his bushy graying beard and dark robes, could be mistaken for a Russian priest. Few would suspect that he has a 10,000-Cypriot-pound (17,000-euro, 25,000-dollar) bounty on his head after waging a one-man war on the seedy world of sex trafficking which is blighting this Mediterranean island. He has taken up the fight against sexual exploitation on behalf of what he says are th
e thousands of women forced to work in the country's illegal sex industry. Armed with a fearless frankness and booming voice, he thundered through an explanation of the plight of the young girls from eastern Europe and Africa, forced to work as prostitutes by unscrupulous "cabaret" owners. "The pimps tell them they are coming here to work as dancers or in bars. In truth, they must become prostitutes, and are locked away, sometimes beaten and raped," he said. Most have their passports taken from them, alleg
edly "for safe keeping" but in reality it is to keep them prisoners.

All this is possible because they are given 'artistes' visas to enter the country by the Cypriot authorities," he said angrily, referring to special permits for working in the entertainment industry. Father Savvas was born in Limassol 60 years ago, leaving for Athens at 19 to study theology. Fascinated by the Orthodox church, the dominant Christian denomination in the region, he sees the church in Russia as the "Mother of Churches", and went to France to learn Russian. He returned to Cyprus to teach theol
ogy and only then did he decide to devote his life to the priesthood. "I gave myself time to reflect. I wanted to be sure of my calling," he explained. Today, he works in the island's only Russian Orthodox church, a tiny building with crumbling brickwork, in Limassol.

In the intimate surroundings of his confessional, he learned shocking details of the reality of Cyprus's sex industry. "The women have told me of the horrible things to which they are subjected."I have tried to persuade them to leave the cabaret clubs but I cannot offer them a practical solution," he said. In 2001, a young Russian cabaret worker unwillingly drawn into prostitution plunged five stories to her death in the town. Reports that she had been trying to escape from a locked room drove Father Savva
s into action. "It is not enough to speak the word of God, you must also take action," he said. Three years later he was able to open a shelter for victims of sex trafficking.

The refuge is the only one of its type in Cyprus and has helped around 300 victims. "We help them leave prostitution, return home to their own countries or find legal help if they want to make a formal complaint, which is rare because these women are terrorized," he added. With his battered little white car, Father Savvas does not hesitate to go out onto the streets looking for vulnerable young women in the cabarets and confront their employers face-to-face. Tatiana is a Ukrainian and former sex worker res
cued by the priest. "He is the only one who tries to help them. He is hated by the people traffickers but he doesn't let it worry him. He just shrugs it off.

The priest sleeps little, reads a lot and never switches off his mobile telephone. "I like to fish and collect mushrooms, but I have little time for myself," he said. The government provides only 17,000 Euros a year to fund the centre and Father Savvas survives on church offerings and a small state pension, much of which he uses to subsidies the shelter. He blames the Cypriot authorities for failing to ban "artistes" visas, the police for "sometimes closing their eyes" to the problem and the judiciary for
being "often too lenient" with criminals. As for the Orthodox church, he regrets that it does not get more involved in the issue. "I do not ask for money, but I wish they would more often offer a helping hand to these women," he said. His crusade presents him with a moral dilemma. "My refuge is not the answer. When I save one woman, two others arrive in their place.

I sometimes think I am actually encouraging trafficking. "We have to pursue prevention by providing information to these women in their own countries." While his rejection of abortion has attracted criticism-he promotes adoption of victims' children-there can be no doubt he is confronting a problem many others chose to ignore. But his efforts are not without sacrifice. Asked about the 10,000 Cypriot pound price he says has been put on his head by underworld bosses, he said, "10,000 pounds? I had thought br
avery was a little more highly valued." When asked if he now fears for his life, he simply smiled and pointed to the sky, adding, "I have never been afraid of men, only Him."


Canada Anglican hierarchy seeks Canterbury rescue

OTTAWA, Nov 29 (Reuters)

The liberal hierarchy of the Anglican Church of Canada appealed to the archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the world's Anglicans, on Thursday to step in to resolve a battle with conservatives in Canada and Latin America over gay marriage.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz and fellow Canadian archbishops are angered that the orthodox Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of the Americas has started giving oversight to Canadian congregations that are unhappy with churches blessing homosexual marriages.

"This action breaks fellowship within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion," the Canadian archbishops said in a statement.

They called on Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the 77 million Anglicans globally, "to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism."

They appealed to him "to address the very serious issues raised by this intervention."

Two conservative Canadian bishops announced this month they were coming out of retirement to lead orthodox Anglicans in Canada under the authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables, head of the Argentine-based Southern Cone church.

Two congregations with roots in the Anglican Church of Canada joined them, and as many as 20 more are considering doing likewise.

At issue is the practice, for now principally in the western Canadian diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia, of blessing gay marriages, which are legal in Canada.

Archbishop Hiltz criticized Venables' actions as inappropriate and contravening ancient canons of the church.

The disaffected conservatives have responded to similar statements in the past by saying it was the Anglican Church of Canada that was violating historic provisions limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

While same-sex marriages are legal in Canada, churches are not required to perform the ceremonies.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Rob Wilson)

Russian patriarchate ready to train Chinese priests

Moscow (AsiaNews/Interfax) – Russian Orthodox theological schools are ready to train Orthodox students from China whose Orthodox Church is independent from Moscow, Metropolitan Kirill, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said.

At present, there are no Chinese Orthodox priests in the People's Republic of China whilst the number of Orthodox believers in the country is believed to be around 15,000, the metropolitan explained.

The Chinese Orthodox Church was granted autonomy by the Synod of the Russian Church in 1957, but it has not had a primate since the death of bishop Vasily of Beijing in 1962.

The Synod stated in 1997 that Patriarch Aleksij II of Moscow and All Russia would carry out canonical care for the parish of the Orthodox Church in China.

Russian Church is unambiguously interested in the restoration of an independent Orthodox Church in China, but as the Mother Church it is ready to send Russian priests to China as an interim measure,” he added.



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