International Orthodox Christian News

Archbishop Ieronymos Enthroned

New Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos on Saturday called on the faithful to struggle for common targets, speaking during his enthronement ceremony in Athens.

Ieronymos added that it is vital for the Church and state to cooperate and preserve their distinct roles. The newly elected Archbishop arrived at 11 a.m. at the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral for the ceremony. As soon as Ieronymos entered the Cathedral a circular issued by the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece's Holy Synod and a presidential decree on his election were read out by Archimandrite Cyrrilos Missiakoulis.

Metropolitan of Karystia and Skyros Serapheim made the first address followed by Ecumenical Patriarchate delegate Ioannis Metropolitan of Pergamos, followed by Education & Religious Affairs Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis. Ieronymos stressed that the Church's duty is to enunciate the gospels and not to challenge institutions or take political positions, expressing at the same time his support towards the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou also attended the ceremony.


A new Old Age Home has today been added to the many other institutes which have been built by the Patriarchate of Alexandria throughout Africa for missionary purposes

The new Old Age Home, which was inaugurated on 19th February 2008 by His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, is the result and fruition of another lot of donations which this time came from Cyprus , whom the Venerable Primate thanked warmly.' It is right that we thank the benefactors who contributed towards this Home. We thank the heroic island of Cyprus from our hearts. We especially thank the Holy Metropolis of Kition and the town of Larnaca ' said His Beaitude, remembering also to thank the Greeks of Australia who also assisted in the completion of this work.

This new Home in Madagascar which is added to the already existing clinic and Seminary which started operating two days ago, the offices and hostels of the missions and the Byzantine church, completes one of the biggest missionary orthodox centres on the entire African Continent, in the area of Alasora, under the ceaseless efforts and the pastoral and missionary care of the local Bishop, His Grace Nektarios. Alasora is one of the poorest areas of Madagascar, where the aged find support with great difficulty when they need it, given the very low income of the local citizens which in the best instance is not more than 100€ a month.Following the inauguration ceremonies His Beatitude had a private meeting with the 200 seminarians of the Seminary of the Diocese, listened to their problems and their visions, as future active members of staff of the pastoral and missionary work of the local church of Madagascar . He gave them his paternal advice and expressed his love for them, which the ancient Patriarchate extends to all its spiritual children.


His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa celebrated his name day in Antananarivo on 17th February 2008, conducting the Divine Liturgy in a huge athletics stadium, in the presence of hundreds of the local population, high ranking Ministers and Ambassadors from many African countries.Despite the torrential downpours, there were citizens who traveled long distances to pay their respects to the Venerable Primate of the Orthodox Church of Africa.

“I came to celebrate my name day here in Madagascar , with my flock, my Orthodox brothers and sisters. And I thank you that today we have become one family”, said His Beatitude when thanking everyone for coming.Also, His Beatitude asked of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Marcel Ranjeva, to pass on his warmest greetings to His Excellency the President of the country, Mr. Marc Ravalomanana. “I want you to know that the Greek Orthodox Church will always be there for the people of Madagascar , to always do the best, with its schools, hospitals and anything else that it can offer the people of this African island”. During the Divine Liturgy concelebrated by His Grace Bishop Ignatios of Madagascar and all the priests of the island, the ordination of a local Deacon was also conducted as were the elevation to Oikonomos of two priests, by His Beatitude.His grace Bishop Ignatios then hosted an official lunch in honour of His Beatitude at a central Hotel in Antananarivo . In his address to those present, His Beatitude said:

“Following the spiritual table and the communion from the chalice of life, we are here at the table of God’s given food, which, according to the tradition of out Holy Church , is a continuation of the worship and the spiritual elation.We have come together here to enjoy all that His Grace Bishop Ignatios prepared for us, so that we may glorify “with one mouth and one heart” the true gift-giving God for His excellent gifts which He showers every day on Madagascar , where the people live in harmony, with no racial, religious, cultural or other distinctions.We confess whatever we endure, whatever wonders we notice, whatever we live through in these few days among you, the spiritual children of the Patriarchal Throne of St Mark, the Christians of the Church of M a d a g a s c a r , Greeks and natives. Your filial live and dedication to our ancient missionary Patriarchate and to your Patriarch, who has today received many blessings, celebrating his name day with all of you, the Priests, the Officials and the people, is great and sincere. We thank you from our hearts for all that you have given us, for the kind words, gifts, rich hospitality and this lunch.We wis h to assure you that even from our See, the Great City of Alexandria, where our sainted predecessor Patriarchs lived and worked, we care and pray for you, with you in mind and spirit, taking note of your efforts, your work, your anxieties as well as your hymns and gratitude to the Almighty Heavenly Father. paternally ask you to remain steadfast in the faith and unmoving in its traditions. And to pray that the Mission ary work in Africa , the continent of the future, will continue ceaselessly so that others may be led to the Truth.

Your Grace, my beloved brothers and sisters,

I greet you with much love and fervent gratitude and we raise our glass for the long life and progress of the Officials and the people of the island of Madagascar , the members of the local church, and for peace and prosperity for the whole world”.His Grace, in his reply, expressed his filial love, and the joy and gratitude of the local Chu rch for the presence of the Venerable Primate of the Throne of St mark, especially on this his name day.Present on this day were Ministers and Ambassadors of African Countries in Madagascar , the Apostolic Nuncio, the Consul General of Greece Mr Panayiotis Taloumis, the Chairman of the Hellenic Community of Madagascar Mr Christos Spiliopoulos, and other dignitaries.


His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia conferred the Order of St. Sergius of Radonezh, 1st degree, on the chairman of the Russian State Duma Upper House, the Federation Council, Sergei Mironov.

They also had a meeting an discussed, among other themes, the situation with the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija.‘The global power balance is being changed unilaterally,’ His Holiness said. ‘This may lead to very tragic consequences in many parts of the world where separatism is harbored.’According to Mironov, Kosovo is the first time after the WW2 they try to violently change the borders of existing nations. This decision nullifies the norms of the international law and makes a very explosive precedent, he added.


Serb Protest in Melbourne

Mario Xuereb
February 22, 2008 - 9:41PM

More than 1000 members of Melbourne's Serbian community have staged a small but passionate protest in the city tonight.

They chanted and waved banners in objection to Kosovo's declaration of independence and the Australian government's recognition of the breakaway state.Uniform and mounted police looked on as church and community leaders gave speeches in Federation Square.

The crowd then marched up Swanston Street and Bourke Streets to Parliament House, chanting "Kosovo is Serbia" and "Rudd is a wanker" while waving Serbian flags.Police ordered one protester to roll up an Australian flag that had a swastika sign drawn on the Union Jack and flares were let off near the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane and again on the steps of Parliament House in Spring Street.Four mounted and about 20 uniform police accompanied the marchers but there were no violent incidents.

One of the protesters, Desa Bojanic, said she was there because "Kosovo is a part of Serbia and what they've created is an illegal state."

Asked what impact the secession had on Serbs living half a world away in Australia, Ms Bojanic said: "We can integrate but we can't assimilate. I have a son born here who is Australian but I have a brother back in Serbia.

"Can I choose between being a mother and a sister? Being Serbian or Australian? This is important to us."

The organiser of tonight's protest, Father Milan Milutinovic, the parish priest at St Stefan's Orthodox Church in Keysborough, said Serbs were shocked at the Rudd Government's quick recognition of the new state, when other countries had been more cautious.He said local Serbian anger at the decision remains strong.

"Kosovo has always been the heartland of Serbia - it's like taking Jerusalem away from the Jews."

Superintendent John Cooke said police were pleased the protest was peaceful and that community leaders had conferred with them beforehand.He was disappointed flares were set off but said that no action would be taken.


Moscow, February 22, Interfax – Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa and Ismail has urged not to let “wolves in sheep's clothing” destroy the unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Moscow Patriarchate.

“Today, hierarchs, clerics, theologians, laymen and church youth - everyone should spare no effort to prevent dangerous threat impeding over the unity of our Mother-the Russian Orthodox Church,” Metropolitan Agafangel said on Friday at the 12th World Russian People’s Council in Moscow.

According to the metropolitan’s information, “Ukrainian opponents of the canonical Orthodoxy have a practical task: to tear the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate, to tear away millions of Orthodox Ukrainians, Russians, Moldovans and representatives of other nations living in Ukraine from centuries-old unity of church and civilization destiny with people of Great Russia, to split our peoples for keeps.”

Ruling Odessa hierarch stressed that “nationalistic circles who gained power (in Ukraine – IF) are hypersensitive and intolerant even to a prayer for His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia at divine services.”

He criticized “drastic intrusion in inner church affairs” initiated by some prominent state figures, who “violate the country’s Constitution and strive to “unite” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with schismatics against people’s will.

The metropolitan is convinced they try to convert the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in ‘a pocket, politicized Church to support anti-Russian hysteria inspired by certain forces.”


Moscow, February 22, Interfax – The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia believes the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence shows that Western world fears Slavonic peoples.

“Unfortunately, the West doesn’t understand Russians and Slavdom and it isn’t a friend of the Slavs,” administrator of the ROCOR Chicago Diocese Bishop Peter of Cleveland said at a meeting with students of St.Tikhon’s Orthodox University in Moscow.

He stressed he stuck to this conviction even though he was born in America to a Russian family and loved his Motherland.

‘The West feels its spiritual bankruptcy before Slavs and is afraid of the Slavonic unity,” Bishop Peter said.


Moscow, February 22, Interfax – Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia is to visit Ukraine to celebrate the 1020th anniversary of Russia’s Baptism.

“Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during their meeting invited the patriarch to visit the country to celebrate the 1020th anniversary of Russia’s Baptism. His Holiness thanked him for the invitation,” Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Nikolay Balashov told Interfax-Religion on Friday.

“The exact time hasn’t been set and yet to be considered,” Fr. Nikolay said.

The celebrations to mark 2008 jubilee will be held in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities, in Russia and Byelorussia.


Moscow, February 20, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia has slammed Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence.

Kosovo's independence, declared on Sunday, "is an anti-historic event that upsets the global balance and that may lead to very tragic events in a whole series of spots on the globe where separatist sentiments are being fanned," Alexy said answering questions from journalists in Moscow on Wednesday.

Alexy II cited himself as saying in a speech at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in October 2007 that advocates of independence for Kosovo were "people who had never been to Kosovo, didn't know the history of that land, and didn't know what Kosovo means to the Serbs."

The Battle of Kosovo in June 1389 was "a battle for the existence of the Serb people," the patriarch said. He mentioned that the battle took place nine years after the Battle of Kulikovo, which ended Tatar-Mongol rule in Russia.

Alexy II also said that a tremendous number of Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo that are "a part of general European heritage" and are under UNESCO patronage "were and are being destroyed."


In his sermon following the prayer service for the salvation of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija in front of the Temple of Saint Sava, the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands, Amfilohije, launched the message that the Serbian people had to say to the world that "as long as we exist, Kosovo is the apple of our eye, our heart, the heart of our heart, our holy city of Jerusalem and that we cannot renounce it, just like we cannot renounce our soul and our fate''. His Eminence Amfilohije said that "Kosovo represents a huge tribunal and that today we, the Albanians and the Americans, the British and the French are undergoing judgement in Kosovo''. The plateau in front of the temple church was completely filled with people who had arrived from the mass protest held in front of the National Parliament.


The session was convoked in view of the latest illegal selfdeclaration of independence by the so-called Albanian parliament in Pristina. Some great states which have enriched themselves with wordly powers have recognized this act by the parliament of Pristina and, as we have said before, they have cast shame on themselves as well as their historical path, minding only their bare interests.

Yet, our concern goes to our people, which is deeply and justifiedly embittered by this injustice and violence. We know from our ages long church experience that every violence ends up with the perpetrator's ruin, for, as the proverb says, every power is of time, and that of God is eternal.

Therefore, „be not afraid little flock"! „We stand upright"! We are no longer alone as we were in the times of the shameful and bloodly bomb attacks against us. We now have the support of great states such as brotherly Russia, friendly China and many other countires which do respect the norms of international law.

Uncountable times has the grace and the love of God for the Serbian people and all justice-loving people been confirmed. The latest events and the apostle Paul's words "God chastens those whom He loves'', reaffirm this. In this hardship God did show us His love, for by touching our hearts through this most recent suffering, he made the love of our people for Kosovo and Metohija and the Holy Kosovo oath flare.

It is especially touching to see this love in the eyes and on the faces of the young people, who are living this love and growing up into human matureness. These young people will, very quickly and together with us and with the help of all honorable individuals all over the world, bring about the return of the reign of justice Kosovo and Metohija and the restitution of what Serbia has been stripped of.

Most imortant of all, however, is the fact that we firmly believe that the our Lord Jesus Christ is with us, - may we only be with Him, too, for otherwise we won't be able to endure the humiliations, whipping, slapping and carrying the cross. We will resurrect and we will live in freedom and as free persons, for our God is alive and our soul will be alive, as well.

We thus wholeheartedly support His Rt Rev. Bishop of Ras and Prizren, Artemije, the church and the monastic clergy and the faithful Serbian people which endures on the path of Christ, remaining in their homes in Kosovo and Metohija, the pillar of our spiritual, cultural and national identity.

We pray to the Gracious Lord to grant us and the remaining non-albanian population additional strength to endure, to preserve peace and trust in a final victory which shall be slow but attainable.

We always have before us and in our hearts the invincible word of the true God: „ He who endures till the end, he shall find salvation".


Moscow, February 21, Interfax – The Moscow Patriarchate proposes to revise the Orthodox skeptic attitude to fiction.

“It is a frequent conviction that activities not aimed at saving one’s soul are useless. Many pastors advocate this position. However, many Orthodox people including priests read fiction,” Yaroslavl Theological Seminary’s pro-rector Hieromonk Sergius (Mitko) said in the Contemporary Fiction and Youth round table in frames of the 12th World Russian People’s Council.

According to the priest, “Christianity and fiction are close to each other as both are directed to the future.”

“Christianity is directed to the seemingly fictional prospects. From this stand both Gospels and the more so Apocalypses sound like fiction. When we read contemporary fiction, it is perceived as a special genre, something like prophecy,” the priest stated.

The seminary’s pro-rector believes that “it’s possible to form a model of positive national future in frames of fiction” and it “will be perceived better than an ordinary national ideology


Moscow, February 20, Interfax - Chairman of the boards of trustees of the Russian National Glory Center and the Saint Andrew Foundation thinks that critics of teaching the basics of Orthodox culture at Russian schools make another "clumsy attempt to suppress the national self-identification of Russians."

"Our citizens should be brought up with regard to our national traditions and roots. Basics of Islam must be taught in regions with a predominantly Muslim population. This would be far better than the situation where people return from countries where they were taught an incorrect interpretation of Islam and then become mullahs in our cities," Yakunin said in an interview with the Izvestia daily published on Wednesday.

In all times, "it is primarily the Russian people who bear all problems of multiethnic Russia. Just by default: it is larger. There are more of us," Yakunin said.

"Most Russians died in wars and most Russians suffered repressions. We want to maintain our culture, our traditions and our faith - what is bad about this? This country was built by the effort of many generations of Russian Orthodox people. One should not be boasting, but Russians should demand to be shown no less respect to them than any other nationality living in Russia," Yakunin said.


Moscow, February 21, Interfax - Metropolitan Laurus of East America and New York has urged to be more active in preaching Orthodoxy among young generation of Russian emigrants and do it in a comprehensible language.

"Russian church schools exist and flourish (abroad - IF), but we don't address people and young generation as often as we should," the metropolitan said in the Kremlin at an opening ceremony of the 12th World Russian People's Council.

'We should present them Orthodoxy in a comprehensible form. People coming to services don't understand much in them. It refers both to liturgical language and the course of a service," he noted.

According to Metropolitan Laurus, it is necessary to "explain everything": what is clerical robe, why a priest blesses in such a way, why he says such-and-such proclamations, "why certain things are performed during the divine service."

"From my personal experience I can say it works, people become interested. They ask more questions, read more and become more sensible in attending the Church," the hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia said.

He considers assimilation, 'a threat of alienation from the Church", one of the basic youth problems abroad.

"Assimilation remains a great problem as we live in non-Orthodox and non-Christian environment, in a secular society, which serves up a different outlook and does it very seductively," the hierarch noted.

According to him, Orthodoxy and "Russianness" are preserved only at the Church. "It is experimentally proved: one can't keep the faith, the language, and the culture without the Church. If we meet a young man who considers himself Russian, it is most likely that he is a churchgoer and takes an active part in parochial life," Metropolitan Laurus said.


On May 17 the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia signed the Act of Canonical Communion. A large delegation led by ROCOR primate Metropolitan Laurus came to Moscow to participate in the event. The guests visited many Moscow churches and monasteries, went to the Korennaya monastery in Kursk, and honored many shrines of Ukraine. Before leaving for the United States, Metropolitan Laurus shared his impressions with Interfax-Religion.

- The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is about to end their visiting of Russia and Ukraine after the historic reunion with the Moscow Patriarchate. What is your impression of what you have seen?

- If compared to my coming to Russia in 2004, during this visit we have transparently seen dynamic development in church life. There much more reopened churches and monasteries and they are all full of people. When in Kursk, I was deeply impressed with the restored Korennaya Pustyn Monastery full of joyful changes.

I was glad to see that churches are built by different social groups working together. It not only makes it quicker, but also stimulates popular interest for the Orthodoxy. To my mind, this kind of cooperation is very important not only for constructing churches and monasteries, but also in educational and social work of the Church.

Still the visit’s principal result has been our joint celebration of the Eucharist both in Russia and Ukraine, which demonstrated that we are the one body, the one spirit, and the one Church and that the one Christ, our God, is with and within us.

- Was were you thought and feelings during the ceremony of signing of the Canonical Communion Act in the Christ the Savior’s?

- At that historical moment I prayed, and so I do now, thanking God for bringing the Russian Orthodox Church’s two branches to such a unity confirmed by the Act. Finally we have achieved the possibility to worship together and to join in one liturgy! It was an affecting moment and many people were crying. We have been waiting for this minute for many decades.

- Clergy and people from the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia worshipped together and shared in the same communion cup in Russian and Ukrainian churches. We all could see many young people attending those services...

- It is very joyful to see many young people and children going to churches nowadays. They are brought up in a church manner so that they may bring their children there too. It is very good that you endeavor to introduce the Basic Orthodox Culture as a voluntary part of curriculum. It affects the nation’s morals and leads people to a unity. It is very important to Russia’s future.

- Are there any distinctive features of the Orthodox witness in the West?

- We should keep the Orthodoxy and the spirit of the Holy Rus among the diaspora. It was the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia that gives to our йmigrйs spiritual might, uniting them and saving them from complete disappearing. We try to celebrate liturgies wherever we can. We celebrate 25th and 50th anniversaries of our parishes. We maintain our own traditions, but now it is especially important for us to learn the traditions peculiar for Russia.

- What will you say in your first sermon after you are back home?

- Our parishioners are already aware that we have signed the Act of Canonical Communion, and are united in their joy with the Orthodox believers in Russia. Of course I will share with them my impression of my visit to Russia and Ukraine.

- The Church reunion achieved on May 17 is both a joyful event and a great responsibility. How do you hope to serve to the united Russian Orthodox Church?

- The main thing is that we work for the benefit of the whole Orthodox world. We plan to actively cooperate with Russian clergy and lay people, to be interested in what they do, their traditions, monastic life, missionary, social and educational work. I hope that our joint ministry and common work in the spirit of the love as commanded by Christ will bring real fruits and will help to strengthen the holy Church.


The Serbian Community of St Savva and the Union of Faithful Cossacks held a demonstration against the independence of Kosovo at the Serbian Embassy in Kiev. Members of other patriotic and Orthodox organisations also took part, including activists from Russian groups. “When they kill our brothers, and when they expel our co-religionists from their homes, we cannot be silent in the face of such lawlessness. Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. What the Kievo-Percherskago Lavra is for us in Kiev, Kosovo is such for Serbians. Kosovo is the cradle of the Serbian state. Kosovo is a land with Orthodox churches and monasteries dating from the 8th through the 14th centuries”, stated a press release circulated by the organisers.
The release noted that since 1999 there have been 5,052 acts of terrorism against Serbs and that 149 Orthodox churches and monasteries have been destroyed by the Kosovar Albanians. “These churches were replaced by mosques. Kosovo has become a centre of narcotics trafficking and white slavery. Thousands of Serbs have been killed and tens of thousands more have become refugees. Their homes have been burned down or they have been stolen by Albanian terrorists. After all this, the Albanian majority illegally declared Kosovo an independent state”, this, according to the press release.
Sergei Provatorov, the chairman of the all-Ukrainian Association for Cooperation with Russia, said, “the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo is the beginning of a powerful new aggression against the entire Slavic world, whose final goal is the destruction of Holy Orthodoxy and the weakening of Russia. In recent years, with the increase in Russophobic propaganda in the Ukraine, we tended to pay less attention to problems of a pan-Slavic nature. However, Kosovo is a warning bell, it rings for all of us, and we must not ignore it. We should shout, ‘No pseudo-independence for Kosovo! Protect Slavic Orthodox unity!’”


On the evening of Monday, February 18, 2008 more than 400 Serbian Orthodox Christians from throughout the Chicago area attended a special prayer service (moleban) at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral. The service, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher, Fr. Darko Spasojevic, and Deacon Damjan Bozic was prayerful and moving and a loving display of brotherhood and solidarity for the suffering Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija.

The clergy was supported by a student choir of the St. Sava School of Theology,
Libertyville, Illinois, who sang the responses beautifully. The Serbian Orthodox Christians in attendance wholeheartedly reject the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence by the Albanian Muslims and the United States' subsequent recognition.

Anna Pavichevich


The Letter to The Honourable Kevin Rudd MP, Prime Minister of Australia

The Serbian Orthodox Church

Honourable Prime Minister:

We write to you on behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the substantial, patriotic Serbian community in Australia to urge you and the Australian government, in the strongest possible terms, to reverse its decision of 19 February 2008 to extend diplomatic recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral secession from the Republic of Serbia.

Kosovo and Metohija is Serbia’s spiritual Jerusalem and the very cradle of the Serbian nation. Kosovo is and remains an integral province within the sovereign Republic of Serbia in accordance with The Charter of The United Nations, Security Council Resolution 1244, as well as all relevant international conventions on human rights, the rights of peoples and on the inviolability of internationally recognized borders. Therefore, the recognition of Kosovo as an independent entity violates every established norm of International Law concerned with state creation.

First, customary International Law, for very good reasons, holds that secession from a recognised state can only be granted if it has the consent of the host state, in this case Serbia. As the former Secretary-General of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali observed in 1992: “[I]f every ethnic, religious or linguistic group claimed statehood, there would be no limit to fragmentation, and peace, security and economic well-being for all would become ever more difficult to achieve”. (Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace, Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping, United Nations, New York, 1992, para. 17.) Second, the putative state of Kosovo fails to meet the essential criteria of statehood set out in the Montevideo Convention of 1933. In particular, Kosovo’s present situation of effectively being an international protectorate renders it incapable of satisfying the requirement that a state should be possessed of a government and capacity to enter relations with other states. Kosovo simply does not meet the threshold of independence required by International Law. Third, recognition of Kosovo violates the European Union’s Guidelines on Recognition in relation to states emerging from the former USSR and Yugoslavia issued in 1991. In particular, prospective states had to establish that they respected and guaranteed various international law norms relating to human rights and the rights of ethnic and national minorities. The situation of the remaining Serbian population in Kosovo, which is segregated behind barbed wire and protected only by the presence of international forces on the ground, is a horrific demonstration of the violation of these requirements in Kosovo.

Prime Minister, not quite three months ago, the Australian people elected you and your government with a mandate to provide new leadership for this country. In terms of Australia’s foreign policy, it was clear that this mandate meant that Australia would exercise its own independent policy and no longer be part of any ‘coalition of the willing’. Recognition of Kosovo betrays this trust placed in you and your government by the Australian people. That Australia’s traditional allies, such as the United States and Great Britain, have sought fit to extend recognition to Kosovo, is not reason enough for Australia to automatically fall into line. Instead, it is in Australia’s interest to follow the lead of its closest regional ally, New Zealand, and not recognise a state in circumstances where, to do so, would be to ignore fundamental norms of International Law.

As the war in Iraq has led to massive instability in the region and exacerbated the growth of terrorism, in like manner the precipitate recognition of Kosovo will lead to the same consequences in the Balkans. Australia should take note of the concerns and interests of states in the region, such as Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia that are most likely to suffer from the regional instability that will inevitably follow recognition, and that have, therefore determined not to recognise Kosovo.

For all of these reasons Prime Minister, we urge you and your government to revoke the decision to extend recognition to Kosovo, and further, to use Australia’s standing as a good international citizen that respects the Rule of Law to impress upon all interested parties that the only way to resolve the status of Kosovo is through equitable, constructive dialogue and peaceful negotiations.

Yours sincerely,

+IRINEJ Bishop of Australia and New Zealand The Serbian Orthodox Church


Kosovo independence a blow to international law - Moscow Patriarchate

Moscow, February 18, Interfax - Kosovan Albanians need to remember that you cannot build a peaceful and successful life at somebody else's expense, the Russian Orthodox Church said.

"Certainly, the Albanians who live in Kosovo like any other people, who at any moment in history can wish for the life of peace and dignity. But you cannot build such a life at the expense of others," deputy chief of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said, commenting on the unilateral declaration of Kosovan independence.

This event is a breach of the international law, "one of the most crucial principles of which is the inviolability of territorial integrity of the state," the priest said.

"This principle in the international legal system is not inferior to the idea of human rights, and an attempt to otherwise interpret international law is biased," Fr. Vsevolod said.

That the global community has failed to prevent this breach by ceding to forceful and political pressure "is the most serious blow to the very foundation of the legal system of international relations," he said.

Most non-Albanians have left Kosovo, and hundreds of churches, which are part of world cultural heritage, have been destroyed and vandalized, and "this was accompanied by outrageous nationalist propaganda," the priest said.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II spoke of these instances on many occasions in public speeches and during meetings with high officials from various countries, Fr. Vsevolod said.

Hopefully, the remaining Serbs and other non-Albanians will not have to leave their homes and their spiritual and cultural legacy will not be disappear from the surface of the globe, the Church official said.

"I would like to hope that the Serb Orthodox Church which has an old spiritual center in this province will continue normal life in Kosovo, by developing its mission and service," Fr. Vsevolod said.

However, "previous events leave little hope for this," he added.

Nevertheless, all countries of the world today must do everything they can to make sure that people of various ethnicities can live a free and peaceful life in Kosovo and have an opportunity to fulfill their hopes and expectations and to choose for themselves a lifestyle both on a governmental level and on an ethnic community level.

"When one party to a conflict feels injustice and is suffering, the conflict cannot be deemed resolved, and this should be clear to all those who make decisions in Kosovo itself and in countries which are trying to take responsibility for the people who live there."


Askig For Your Humble Prayers!!!

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,

It is already Sunday in Kosovo, and the Muslims have most likely declared their independence from Serbia. What a shame that our nation, especially the previous administration, has been the chief catalyst in handing over the most sacred region of Serbia to Islamic extremists that have destroyed hundreds of Church and Monasteries in the last 9 years, and murdered thousands of Orthodox Christians.

Please read the Spirit-filled plea of Archmandrite Nektarios Serfes and join with him in prayer for our suffering brothers and sisters. I entreat the 900+ souls on my list throughout the world to send this to their respective lists as well; and entreat my Brother Priests to remember the Orthodox of Kosovo in their respective Holy Liturgies tomorrow. May the Holy Archangel Michael be their protector! +Fr. Demetrios

The concern all of us have to be aware of is after independence is declared in Kosovo/Metohija with or without the UN approval this is what shall happen thereafter….

1). The celebration of independence shall go for about two weeks!

2). Once these celebrations are over the people who believe in this independence then will start to go from home to home and tell the Serbian population ‘you owe us tax for you to live in this home and if you do not pay this tax then you must leave this property within twenty-four hours!’ This as well will be the same for the those who own farms and local business as a heavy tax will be imposed. If these tax’s are not paid then the property becomes the new Independent States land!

3). Thousands of individuals who are a part of this independence shall march towards our Serbian Orthodox Churches, and local monasteries and declare that their property no longer belongs to them but to the new Independent State. Monks, and nuns, including priest will be slaughtered if they do not approve or desire to leave their churches or monasteries. Orthodox monks and nuns, as well as priest will perish and be known missing! The media will pay no attention to these matters!

4). An increase of destruction of our Serbian Orthodox Churches and Holy Monasteries will rise and once one or two more churches and monasteries are destroyed and the Western media will pay no intention as well as the local police -then more churches and monasteries will perish week by week and month by month.

5). Local towns and cities with the Serbian population will be attacked and more citizens will seek to flee for their lives as no one shows interest or concern for the lives of these men, women, and children either by the peace-keeping troops who must themselves defend their own lives, however some peace-keeping troops will remain loyal!

6). Their will be an increase of Serbian missing men, women, and children!

7). Serbian citizens will perish on a daily basis, and the children will be in fear to come out of their homes or even go to school!

8). Dishonor and the lack of respect for the ideals of it’s culture or it’s religious heritage this will indeed be on the increase to seek to destroy the ideals and teachings of the Holy Orthodox Faith throughout the region!

9). The Holy Orthodox faith within the region of Kosovo/Metohija will decrease and the persecution of it’s loving Christian shall perish and we shall see more martyrdoms! Blood will be spilled everywhere!

10). Talk will be that the new Independent State will say that they somewhat desire to see the restoration of the local Serbian Orthodox Churches and Monasteries but only for tourist reasons and to attract others to visit their region. Lies about the destruction of more then 150 Serbian Orthodox Churches shall go unnoticed and it will be indicated that these churches and monasteries where all destroyed during the war in spite of the fact that 99% of these churches and monasteries where destroyed after the war was over!

11). An abundance of abandoned Serbian Orthodox Churches and monasteries will be on the increase!

12). Rumors of war will increase throughout the region, and throughout the world as the debate of this independence will be that it’s not acceptable!

13). The UN peace-keeping troops will leave the region or a decrease of these troops will take place and then the Independent State shall wait to then make their move to destroy or take over local towns, cities, and the Serbian Orthodox Churches, Monasteries and local cemeteries!

14). A humanitarian crisis!

15). Starvation and fear will be on the rise!

16). God weeps!

This independence is and always will be null!

Kosovo/Metohija, Serbia and always will be Serbia forever!

Pray and fast for all of Serbia, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray and pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray and pray!

May our Gracious God be Merciful!

Pray and fast for Serbia!

Peace to your souls!

Humbly in Christ our Lord,
+Very Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you and with you!
Boise, Idaho


Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Awards $1.6 Million Grant

February 8, 2008

Baltimore, Maryland — The special committee overseeing the Greek Fire Relief Fund of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America unanimously approved a $1,652,998 grant to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to further its current relief and recovery work for Greek farmers who lost livestock and pasturelands to last summer’s wildfires. Since September 8, IOCC has been on the ground in the Peloponnese distributing a total of 704 metric tons of animal feed and 20 metric tons of forage seed, benefitting thousands of farmers.

The new grant from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese will allow IOCC to expand its work to 2,000 additional farmers in the provinces of Ileia and Arcadia, two of the hardest-hit areas. “The fires may be a distant memory to some but their effects are acutely felt every day by our Peloponnese brothers and sisters who must find a way to feed their animals and replant their damaged pasturelands,” said His Eminence, DEMETRIOS, Archbishop and Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. “Our assistance gives farmers a twofold answer: emergency supplies of feed to sustain their livestock through the winter, and seed to replant their lands for a long term solution,” he continued.

This latest grant is the second that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has awarded to IOCC for its relief and recovery work in Greece. The first grant, $252,853 awarded in November, made possible the feeding of 130,000 head of livestock. “IOCC’s relief and recovery work has successfully helped farmers to maintain their livelihood so that they can remain in the region,” said Constantine M. Triantafilou, Executive Director and CEO of IOCC. “This new grant makes it possible for more families to sustain their farms.”

The decision to focus on animal feed came after IOCC consulted with local farmers, government and church officials in the affected areas of the Peloponnese. The wildfires, which killed 65 people, also destroyed nearly 500,000 acres of forest and grazing lands. Current assessments indicate that providing feed for livestock will be a long term problem for farmers.

IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented over $250 million in relief and development programs in 33 countries around the world.

To help in providing emergency relief, call IOCC’s donation hotline toll-free at 1-877-803-4622, make a gift on-line at, or mail a check or money order payable to “IOCC” and write “Greece Wildfires” in the memo line to: IOCC, P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, Md. 21263-0225.

Media calls: Contact Ms. Amal Morcos at 410-243-9820 or (cell) 443-823-3489.


Moscow, February 15, Interfax – A prayer service for saving Serbian people in Kosovo and Metochia to be conducted in St. Sava Cathedral in Beograd on February 18, Monday.

The threat of Serbs genocide in the region has motivated the service, the Moscow Patriarchate website has reported.

The believers will pray for Kosovo and Metochia natives who preserve the lands cradled Serbian culture, nation identity and spirituality of people, the Serbian Orthodox Church website noted.

Patriarch Pavel blessed Metropolitan Amfilohy of Montenegro and Primorje and patriarchal vicar Bishop Afanasy of Khvostanje to conduct the service.

Thus Serbian people and their Church spiritually reply to political oppression and attempt to proclaim 'Kosovo's independence', the message reads. They will also pray to bring Serbian political leaders to their senses in the crucial moment for the country's future.

Among those expected to attend the service are: successor to the Crown Prince Alexander and Princess Katarina Karageorgovitch, President Boris Tadic, prime-minister Vojislav Kostunica, Religion Minister Radomir Naumov, the Minister for Kosovo and Metochia, the Culture Minister, the Papal Nuncio, public and political figures.

The Blessed Heaven icon of the Mother of God by St. Petersburg icon-painters will be conveyed to the Serbian Orthodox Church on the eve as a gift of the Russian Orthodox Church which always extend its spiritual help to the suffering Serbian people in Kosovo and Metochia.


Moscow, February 15, Interfax – Ukrainian authorities intend to detach the country's Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate already this year and press on laymen and clerics, Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa and Ismail stated.

'Today's Ukrainian governmental authorities have a task: to gain 'autocephaly', separation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate already in 2008 at all costs,' he said in an interview to the Russkiy Dom magazine.

Metropolitan Agafangel notes that earlier the Ukrainian state attempted to 'impose' a split with the Russian Church on canonical Church by establishing parallel 'schismatic pseudo-churches' while today the believers face 'an absolutely new, unprecedented in its scale and impudence, scenario when 'a canonical autocephaly' is imposed on the very Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

According to the metropolitan, local authorities were commanded to 'lobby autocephaly.'

'Bishops and clerics of the Moscow Patriarchate's Ukrainian Orthodox Church are under strongest pressure. Both glittering promises and threats, blackmails are used. In store is lynching of most active advocates of church unity among clergy and laymen. No effort is spared not to let function those public organizations that openly oppose the threat of a new schism,' the metropolitan said.

He further said that the canonical Church is forced to 'dialogue' with schismatics from the so-called 'Kiev Patriarchate' of 'Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.'
'In compliance with the holy canons there cannot be any 'unification' with the 'Kiev Patriarchate's Ukrainian Church' or 'Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.' The only possible thing for schismatics is to join the canonical Church. It's not the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that should meet the conditions set by schismatics and nationalistic politicos and break the holy God-willed unity with the Russian Orthodox Church. It's the scismatics who have to accept the teaching, the practice and the church organization of the Mother-Church,' Metropolitan Agafangel said.


Moscow, February 13, Interfax - The Dean of Psychology Department of St. John Russian Orthodox University Priest Andrey Lorgus thinks it is possible to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, including the celebration by Orthodox couple lovers.

“I see nothing wrong with this. Thank God, that people have another opportunity to spend more time together, and give presents to their loved ones. Certainly, as long as we really mean love, and not fashion or stereotypic induced behavior patterns. The latter case is a shame,” said Fr. Andrey to Interfax-Religion Wednesday.
According to Fr. Andrey, St. Valentine’s Day as a holiday “may be good or bad, as well as New Year’s Day may also be good or bad.”

“For some, it means joy and a chance to manifest love, giving and generosity,” he noted.

Commenting the intention of some Orthodox young people to hold an Internet campaign on February 14 in protest at “pagan” and “commercial” nature of St. Valentine’s Day, Fr. Andrey said that organizers of such events were “driven by fear on the one hand, and by hypocrisy and a wish to make a name for themselves, on the other hand.”
“There is still a healthy trace in such protests - it is the zeal of their Orthodox tradition. However, it is well known, that such zeal unfortunately is not always moved by reason,” claims Fr. Andrey. At the same time, he agreed that the annual boom around St. Valentine’s Day had a commercial nature and was “certainly instigated by sales networks which raise a lot of money on that.”

“This boom refers to the modern tradition rather than to religious or popular worship of St. Valentine. From Christian and religious standpoint, this is not a holiday, because this day has no reference to any of St. Valentines known to us. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of St. Martyr Triphon on February 14,” said Fr. Andrey.

In his turn, the Head of Communication Service of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Mikhail Prokopenko thinks that the setting of Saint Valentine’s Day and its symbols are “some kind of a flash mob (a large group of people who assemble at a certain time for a special purpose - IF) with a commercial touch,” which indicate that people “lack festive events which could really reach their souls and lives.”

“The most deplorable thing we have to observe during the days of total obsession with Valentine greetings is that great and enigmatic phenomena of human life, such as love and faith which inspired many generations of poets and artists are pushed into the Procrustean bed of spiritual “fast food,” said Fr. Mikhail to Interfax-Religion.

He reminded that today’s family crisis is the objective reality, and one of its reasons is the fact that “many people see no ideals of love and family life, the images on which to build their lives.”

“Real true love is inseparable from responsibility; it is not selfish or ambitious. According to Paul the Apostle, such love is not self-seeking; it needs no reasons to reveal itself. Reasons are needed to habitual users of surrogates who lost their ability to feel true love long ago,” claims Fr. Mikhail.

According to him, if a person in love “never thinks about responsibility, and never cares that love is a very serious affair, he should better not disturb his spirit with such emotions which have no vital prospects.”

“Torturing one’s spiritual world with infatuation is harmful,” claims Fr. Mikhail.


Fiftieth anniversary of the repose of Vladimir Lossky

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the repose of Vladimir Lossky, one of the greatest Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century, best known for his seminal work, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Yesterday a special commemorative Divine Liturgy was heldNotre Dame Joie des Affligés et Sainte Geneviève in Paris.

Here is an obituary of Vladimir Nikolayevich, written by his friend Fr Alexander Schmemann:
at his home parish,
Professor Vladimir Lossky’s sudden death deprives the Orthodox Church of one of her best theologians. The loss is all the more irreparable because his published works are so limited in number – one book, a few articles . . . This was due to his unusually developed sense of intellectual and scientific integrity, which made him spend more than twenty years on his doctoral dissertation; he completed the manuscript only a few days before he passed away. But those who knew him intimately and enjoyed theological and spiritual fellowship with him know that in his person, Orthodox theology has lost one of its most gifted and devoted servants, one of those for whom theology is a unique and a sacred "charisma" in the Church, requiring the sacrifice of their whole life.

Vladimir Lossky was the son of the famous Russian Philosopher Nicholas Lossky (Professor emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary). Born in 1904, in St. Petersburg, he received his education, first in Russia, then after the 1917 Revolution, in Prague and in Paris. It was in Paris that he spent almost all his life, teaching, writing, maintaining close contacts with the theological and intellectual circles of Western Europe. The great Russian Church historian V. V. Bolotov said once that a theologian ought to know only three itineraries: to the Church, to the classroom and to his own desk. Professor Lossky was the very type of such a theologian. Very humble in his personal life, indifferent to the vainglory of human titles, ranks and honors, he declined several offers of academic positions because he was concentrated on the "one thing necessary" and preferred his vocation of thinker and theologian to everything in this world.

Having received an excellent philosophical training, Vladimir Lossky was at home in the world of contemporary philosophy with all its problems and methods. But he was equally at home in the thought and the spirituality of the Fathers, deeply rooted in all the living sources of Orthodox theological tradition. Hence the creative, the living spirit in his own theological work. He did not simply "quote" the Fathers and tradition, his loyalty to them was not that of a blind conservative . . . In one of the forthcoming issues of our "Quarterly", Professor Verkhovsky will discuss in detail Vladimir Lossky’s contribution to contemporary Orthodox theology (cf. the review of his book on the "Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" in the book review section.) Let me say here, that on various issues of our troubled and confused Church life many of us were often in disagreement with Vladimir Lossky, but these disagreements have never had any effect on our friendship and the respect we had for his sincerity and his truly Christian Spirit. No disagreement however sharp, no discussion, however heated, would become "personal" with him, for he was not looking for personal "recognition".

It was a pleasure to know him, to visit him in his small apartment of St. Louis Island in the very heart of Paris. Once there, one would find himself immediately discussing vital issues in a noble and high spirit, for such was Vladimir Lossky’s approach to the Church, to theology, or to any aspect of life, never trivial, bitter or destructive, but always generous and deep . . . He knew that it is "more blessed to give than to receive" and he gave much to the Church and to all those who wanted to receive from him. He must have joyfully entered into the joy of his Lord.

His Works

The first chapter of Lossky's Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church can be read here; half a dozen papers and book excerpts can be found here. An essay by his son, Fr Nicolas Lossky, entitled "Theology and Spirituality in the Work of Vladimir Lossky," can be read here; another essay by his son,"Vladimir Lossky and Medieval Western Philosophy" (in French), can be read here. An excellent study of Vladimir Lossky's thought can be found in Aristotle Papanikolaou'sBeing With God: God, Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Communion.


So when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to travel to Georgia for Mikheil Saakashvili's inauguration to a controversial second term, it was taken as a sign that warmer ties might be on the way.

And when Lavrov's first meeting during the January trip was with Georgian Patriarch Ilia II -- rather than Saakashvili or members of the ascendant political opposition -- it was seen as a sign that the church might play a key role in persuading a traditionally devout nation to turn the other cheek with regard to their domineering northern neighbor.

Lavrov set aside the harsh rhetoric he has typically adopted during the past two years of open hostilities between
Tbilisi and Moscow. Instead, he warmly assured Ilia of Russia's "sincere interest" in collaborating on contentious issues like Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The 75-year-old patriarch, a dignified figure with eyeglasses and a snowy white beard, responded in kind, urging a bilateral partnership and professing "deep respect" for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he credited with "doing a lot" to improve relations between Tbilisi and Moscow.

Traditional Ties

Ilia's comments raised the bar significantly in a season when Georgian rhetoric on Russia has often sunk low. It also marked somewhat of a departure for the religious leader. Ilia, patriarch since 1977, has traditionally refrained from making open political statements, much less professing "deep respect" for a figure many Georgians see as an ill-intentioned adversary.

In a country where 80 percent of the population is Orthodox, a gesture of reconciliation from Ilia is not likely to go unnoticed. Indeed, at a time of bitter divisions between the two countries, their common religious heritage may prove a critical -- if not always welcome -- bond.

Kakhaber Kurtanidze, an Orthodox priest, says that it's the linguistic and cultural ties that bind -- and not any shared political ideologies.

"We continue to speak the same language. We have a good command of Russian, so Russian-language texts are easily accessible for us," he says. "Our rituals -- baptism, wakes -- are mostly Russian. The Greek and Romanian rituals are slightly different. So sympathy toward Russia is predominantly determined by the fact that we've shared the same cultural space for two centuries."

Ties between the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches have not been without their troubles. After the Russian Empire annexed Georgia in the early 1800s, the Georgian church was subject to the authority of the Russian Holy Synod for more than a century.

Harassment by communist officials followed in the Soviet period. More recently, church officials in Georgia have complained that Russian clerics were practicing in churches in Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- a charge the Moscow Patriarchate has denied.

Still, the commonalities appear to outweigh the differences. In the spring of 2007, the Georgian Patriarchate took an early step toward playing the peacemaker amid rising tensions over Tbilisi's arrest of alleged Russian spies and Moscow's retaliatory move to impose economic sanctions, including a ban on air traffic.

The patriarchate succeeded in getting the flight ban lifted, and Ilia traveled out on one of the first Moscow-bound flights to meet with his Russian counterpart, Aleksy II, and attend the unveiling of a new volume of an Orthodox encyclopedia.

An Insular Church

Ties between the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches have been aided, inadvertently, by the insular tendencies of the Georgian church.

In 1997, amid rising nationalism and concerns that ecumenism would destroy the integrity of the Georgian faith, clerics in Georgia withdrew their country from the World Council of Churches. (In the 1980s, Ilia II had served as one of the presidents of the body, the largest global grouping of Christian churches.) A subsequent visit by Pope John Paul II also alarmed many clerics, who instructed their congregations to stay away from the papal Mass.

According to religious scholar Beka Mindiashvili, the Georgian Orthodox Church was slowly isolating itself from not only other Christian denominations, but other Orthodox churches as well. The one exception, he says, was
Russia, where the church is known for its conservative and exclusionary stance.

"For a long time, the Georgian Orthodox Church had fairly cold relations with the World Orthodox Patriarchate, which was very active on the ecumenical scene; and with the old patriarchates -- Antiochian, Alexandria, or others," Mindiashvili says. "At the same time, cordial and friendly relations were deepening with the Russian church."

That friendship, some say, only heightened the isolationist, anti-Western tendencies of the Georgian church -- a tendency that runs counter to the progressive leanings of Georgia's political leadership, and could ultimately be working to Russia's advantage.

Mindiashvili says such skepticism toward Western values can often be detected in church sermons.

"There is talk about all kinds of sexual sins, other kinds of moral degradation, the erosion of our traditions, and so on," he says. "And there is also talk that the West -- the European Union and the United States -- are preparing the way for the Antichrist, because they are denationalized, so to speak."

Church And State

Church representatives, however, reject the notion of an entrenched anti-Western bias. Patriarchate spokesperson Davit Sharashenidze says the church backs the government's Western course. Still, he says, individual clerics are free to endorse their own particular views.

"The church represents the whole spectrum of society," Sharashenidze says. "Some clerics like the Western lifestyle; others find some values characteristic of Western society to be unacceptable for them."

Others say there's no inherent contradiction in the church supporting the state's pro-Western aims even as it harbors its own isolationist tendencies. Religious scholar Levan Abashidze says the Georgian church rarely opposes government policies in public.

"The good relations between the church and the government is characteristic of Eastern churches," Abashidze says. "Since our government is openly pro-Western, the church can't afford to be openly anti-Western."

Nor can officials afford to overlook the importance of the church. Politicians and other officials make a point of attending religious services, and political rhetoric in Georgia is frequently imbued with religious and patriotic undertones.

Religious fervor became so fashionable ahead of the January presidential election, in fact, that the church urged all politicians -- from both the ruling side and the opposition -- to refrain from involving the church in their campaigns. Saakashvili, whose "Georgianness" has come under attack by populist opponents, has nonetheless sought to counter that image with frequent public appearances in church.

Will the church help Saakashvili find peace in relations with Russia? Some Georgians, weary of months of angry rhetoric, threats, and the deprivations of economic blockades, appear to welcome the idea of a detente -- especially one built on the basis of a common faith.

"Religion, in itself, may not be a decisive factor," says one Tbilisi man. “Because it so happens that we and the Russians are both Orthodox, of course we have much more in common. There can be no question about this."

"Of course, this is a plus. And I think it will be best if things normalize," a middle-aged woman adds. "Perhaps Russia is not going to be the same partner it was in the 20th century. But some normal, neighborly relations have to be restored. We are both Orthodox countries."


Jubilee of Georgia’s Patriarch Ilia II

His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia, Ilia II, celebrated his 30th jubilee of enthronement as Patriarch of Georgia. The solemn celebration took place at the Patriarchate Court in Tbilisi. On this occasion, numerous worshippers coming from all parts of Georgia visited the Patriarch and congratulated him for the jubilee, which is important not only for him personally, but for the entire Church of Georgia, as well.



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