International Orthodox Christian News

Patriarchal Proclamation of the Holy Pascha

+ B A R T H O L O M E W




Dearly beloved Brethren and Children in the Lord,

“Behold, the winter has passed!” (1) “Arisen is the spring” of salvation; “flowers appear across the land, the sound of the turtle-dove is heard, … the vines are in bloom and give forth their fragrance”. (2) A sacred Pascha -- great and holy -- has arisen; and it warms, lights and makes radiant the world. “Now all things are filled with light, both heaven and earth and the nethermost regions of the earth.” (3)

Our God, Who is beyond all suffering and is Immortal, Who is the comely Bridegroom of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Firstborn Brother and Dearest Friend -- “He is risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death” -- three days after He cried out from the crest of the Cross: “It is consummated!” (4) “Hades was embittered when it encountered” Him (5), because Christ destroyed his lordship. As God, He rightly emptied out his chambers of darkness, freely bestowing life on those He found in the tombs. But not only this; to all those who believe in Him from then until the consummation of the age -- indeed to all those who live in Him and hold fast their faith and confession in Him until the end, the Lord grants everlasting life and a sure resurrection. Christ, “Who has girded His loins with righteousness and clothed his sides with truth,” (6) is Risen from the Tomb. “As the One Who loves mankind, He has raised up Adam, the father of us all.” (7)

Behold then, dearly beloved brethren and children, the crown of our Great Feast and the atmosphere of springtime; in the midst of its first bloom the Church announces the Good News to the Universe. The heavy winter of death has passed away! The icy tyranny of the devil and his domination have been overcome. The frightful reign of darkness and perdition has been undone. “The Lord is King, He has girded Himself with majesty!” (8)

We behold Jesus Who, of His own free will, out of His unconditional love, suffered on the Cross, died and was buried for our sake and for our salvation. We have just now worshipped Him Risen from the dead, and together with the Apostles and the Myrrh-Bearers we have heard from His holy mouth the words: “Peace be unto you!” (9) and “Rejoice!” (10) -- and our hearts are filled with joy. Indeed, “no one will take our joy from us,” (11) because more than even our own, the personal death of every single human being has been mightily abolished. This is why we, who have crucified the carnal mindset of the old person “together with the passions and lusts,” (12) and “who have died with Christ: this is the reason we believe that we [shall] live with Him.” (13) For as “we have been buried” with Christ “through Baptism,” (14) we have become “planted with Him,” that is, we have become partakers of His Resurrection. (15)

St. Gregory the Theologian trumpets this truth with the highest rhetorical skill when he says: “Yesterday I was crucified with You, O Christ; today I abound with glory. Yesterday I died with You; today I am filled with life. Yesterday I was buried with You; today I arise with You.” (16) That which has plagued us from ages past has once and for all been resolved by the Risen Lord. Our agony is over. “Christ is Risen, and life can truly be lived!” (17) From now on, Life and our Resurrection are not things to be sought for – not dreams, neither a utopia. From here on, Life is, and the Resurrection is: concrete, tangible reality. A reality that has a specific face and name: “a name above every name” -- Jesus Christ-- before Whom “every knee shall bow – whether in Heaven or on earth or under the earth,” (18) and every tongue shall confess that He alone is Life-Giver and Lord. He is the One Who lives and reigns forever. He is the One Who by His ever-favorable will distributes His Kingdom, His glory and His inheritance from His Father, to all who share in His Cross, His death and His Resurrection, as “He is the Firstborn to many brethren.” (19)

Him do we beseech, from our Martyric Patriarchal and Ecumenical See, that He grace the world with peace; that He illumine the souls of men with truth and righteousness; that He bestow patience and encouragement on those who face adversity; and that He grant the taste of salvation and life eternal to all believers.

Unto Him, Who is the Conqueror of Death and the Prince of Life, be the glory, dominion, honor and worship, together with Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages. Amen.

Holy Pascha 2008
BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople
Your fervent intercessor before the Risen Christ


Albanian Orthodox Great Lend Celebration- Snaps

Photos taken by Nathan Hoppe


Moscow, April 26, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia has called for sympathy towards the members of a religious sect awaiting doomsday in seclusion in a cave in the Penza region."You need to treat such people with Christian love and sympathy. Expressing their protest, people want to be heard," Alexy II said in an interview published in the Saturday issue of Rossiiskaya Gazeta.One of the reasons of the Penza recluses' protest was their refusal to be assigned the Tax Identification Number and be registered in an electronic form with government agencies. However, Alexy said he did not see reason to criticize the Church for its indifference to such concerns spread among some of Orthodox Christians."Despite the seeming absurdity of resistance to the attributes of modern life, it should be admitted that collecting and storing information about people this way is really dangerous. This could lead to total control over them," he said.The Church tries to inform the authorities about ordinary people's questions and concerns and, as a rule, such petitions "are not left unanswered," he said.The best way to deprive false teachers of their influence is to teach people the true, peaceful, and wise religious tradition from childhood, he said.The patriarch mentioned the legacy of the Communist rule and problems of the transition period among the reasons that led to the situation surrounding the Penza recluses."Our people have survived a lot. Wars, revolutions, and various shocks that took place in last century produce instability, uncertainty about tomorrow, and mistrust in the authorities. Such attitudes [the expectation of doomsday] are especially common in transition periods. This is sometimes combined with various phobias, absolute obedience to dubious teachers, and unhealthy mistrust in all the others," he said."Poor literacy and illiteracy in religious affairs, indifference and coldness of the public, including the clergy - all this could push an individual toward an unsanctioned retreat to a cave," he said.

Moscow, April 24, Interfax – Only 7 per cent of Russians are not going to celebrate Easter this year. These are the data of the polls conducted by Yury Levada Analytical Center on April 11 – 14 among 1600 citizens. Young people aged from18 to 25 living in the northwestern district and small towns are more frequent among those who plan to visit the night Easter liturgy. Egg painting is most popular among those Russians who will celebrate Easter as sociologists say that 73 per cent of their respondents will do it the next few days. Among less popular cares are buying and baking Easter cakes (43 per cent and 32 per cent relatively), welcoming guests at home and going to see friends (29 per cent and 26 per cent), visiting cemetery (28 per cent), blessing Easter cakes (24 per cent), cooking Easter cream cheese (13 per cent), visiting festival Liturgy (10 per cent) and giving presents to relatives (8 per cent). Women are going to celebrate Easter more often than men, though men like to go to Easter parties more than women, the Levada-Center states.

Hundreds of Lebanese Armenians, young and old , renewed their pledge on April 24 to continue their national struggle for justice and paid their respects to the victims of the Armenian Genocide in front of the first ever Genocide memorial in Antelias.

Archbishop Souren Kataroyian officiated the Holy Mass in the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Antelias. The procession headed by His Holiness Aram I then moved to the chapel where the remains of Genocide victims are displayed and a requiem service was held around the eternal flame dedicated to their memory.

Lebanese Ministers and Members of Parliament, the director of the “Calouste Gulbenkian” Foundation’s Armenian Department Dr. Zaven Yegavian, the Ambassador of Armenia to Lebanon Vahan Der Ghevontian and a large crowd of Armenians attended the mass.

Addressing the resolute Armenians gathered in Antelias His Holiness spoke about three words and the messages embedded in them.

a. Memory: “Memory is one of the most fundamental factors of human life. It is through memory that man lives, organizes himself, constructs his identity and preserves his values and traditions. Memory is the source of history. The massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkey is imprinted in the memory of the Armenian nation in a way that can never be erased. It is not only recorded in historic documents, but also rooted in the collective memory, spirit and life of the Armenian nation. We should not forget our collective memory; every Armenian, wherever he or she is, should live with this memory. The memory of the Armenian Genocide will give us the faith to live, the will to fight and the hope to acquire our nation’s rights. To forget our martyrs? It would mean the death of our nation,” said the Pontiff.

b. Struggle: “In addition to their obligations, people also have rights. They should stand by those rights and demand them when they are violated. The Genocide committed against the Armenian nation is an issue of justice, a human rights issue. Therefore, the Armenian nation today demands justice from Turkey and the international community. This struggle is the right and obligation of the Armenian nation. Our nation’s children should demand the rights of our 1.5 million victims wherever they are, in a civilized manner and without recourse to violence,” he continued.

c. Unity: “A nation becomes strong when it is united, when all its children transcend their differences and gather around their collective values and demands. The Armenian nation should unite around its national struggle, plan together, and present its cause to the world together as the rightful owner of the nation’s rights. Armenia and the Diaspora should together pursue our nation’s rights with a clear division of labor,” the Pontiff concluded.

Wreaths and flowers were then placed around the chapel in memory of the Armenian martyrs. Armenians of all ages lit candled and solemnly remembered their victims.

The HMEM trumpet and drummers band then played national tunes, following which His Holiness praised the Armenian youth from the balcony of the Veharan.

On April 23, the students of Armenian national schools gathered in Antelias, where a Requiem Service was performed by Primate Bishop Kegham Khatcherian. The Director of the Department of Armenian Affairs of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Dr. Zaven Yegavian, addressed the students, calling upon them to pursue our nation’s legitimate rights.

On the same evening, Antelias was once again became the gathering place of hundreds of young Armenians, who pledged to remain loyal to the legacy of their victims during an event organized by Armenian youth associations.

Moscow, April 26, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia believes that no external force can destroy the spiritual unity between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples.The celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia is "a good reason to recall that our peoples had a common baptismal font and a common historical fate," Alexy said in an interview published in the Saturday issue of Rossiiskaya Gazeta."This spiritual unity should be valued. It is a valuable legacy to our peoples, and it lives in people's hearts. As the record shows, even the most powerful external force is powerless in such cases. It stands to reason when people say that the heart knows no laws," he said."There were times when attempts were made to declare our fathers' faith a survival of times past," he said."But nothing of the sort worked. It is just impossible to efface faith from people's souls. The same concerns the roots of the united Holy Rus. It is undefeatable," he said.

Moscow, April 28, Interfax - No incidents were reported during Easter church services and sacred processions in Russia, the Interior Ministry has announced."Overall, 7.128 million Russian citizens attended Easter services at Russian churches, convents and monasteries," the ministry told Interfax.Easter services and events have been held at almost 9,500 churches and cathedrals, a Ministry spokesman said.Law and order were maintained by 134,000 police and interior troops, he said.

Moscow, April 28, Interfax - About 400,000 Muscovites attended church services and had their Easter cakes consecrated on Saturday and on Easter night, Moscow Police spokesman Viktor Biryukov told Interfax."Events held on Saturday were attended by 292,000 people, of whom 140,000 attended church services and had their Easter cakes blessed at 258 churches," Biryukov said.Nearly 2,200 Muscovites attended the Easter service at the Christ the Savior Cathedral, about 1,500 at the Epiphany Cathedral, about 1,800 at the Church of the Assumption at Novodevichy Convent, some 6,300 at the St Daniel's Monastery and about 1,000 at the Church of All Saints on Sokol, he said.Nearly 152,000 residents visited the 58 largest cemeteries in and around Moscow, he added.No incidents or breaches of public peace occurred during the events, thanks to a strong police presence of some 5,400 officers.

A delegation of clergymen brought late on Saturday night the Holy Fire from Jerusalem to Bulgaria. The fire was taken to the St. Alexander Nevksi Cathedral in a huge procession. The fire was delivered to all churches in the country before the beginning of the night vigil before Easter. People call this fire "blessed" as the Bible says it was sent from God. It starts its trip from the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Holy Fire is considered by many to be the longest-attested annual miracle in the Christian world. It is believed to be non-material in the first few minutes of its occurrence - i.e. it does not emit warmth.The transfer of the Holy Fire from Jerusalem to Bulgaria took place for the fourth consecutive year.


Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia performed Bishop Ordination and Consecration services in St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Antelias, on April 19 and 20.
Over this weekend, this senior rank of service in the Armenian Church was bestowed upon V Rev Fr Norayr Ashekian and V Rev Fr Shahe Panossian following a decision by Catholicos Aram I. The two services on Saturday and Sunday were attended by Dr. Zaven Yegavian, director of the Lisbon-based “Calouste Gulbenkian” Foundation, guests from Lebanon and abroad, the relatives of the candidates and a large crowd of the faithful.

On April 19, the Confession and Signing of Oath service was held in the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral. Honourable Armenians Dr. Zaven Yegavian, Haroutyoun Vartanian, Daron Avedissian and Hagop Panossian were the representatives of the people during the ordination.

Archbishop Ardavazt Terterian has signed the letter of request from the Cilician Brotherhood, whose members appealed to the Catholicos to bestow the rank of Bishops upon two of their brothers. In accordance with the hierarchy within the Armenian Church, Acolytes, Sub-Deacons, Deacons, Priests and Bishops, as well the representatives of the people approached the alter. The Pontiff recited prayers to the two Fathers, who acknowledged the true faith in line with the creed of the Orthodox Church.

The candidates then recited their oaths while on their knees and publicly expressed their loyalty towards the Catholicosate of Cilicia, their obedience towards the Pontiff and their readiness to serve their Church and nation.

The ceremonious Ordination service was held the next day on April 20. Bishop Kegham Khatcherian (Primate of the Diocese of Lebanon) and Bishop Shahan Sarkissian (Primate of the Diocese of Aleppo) participated in the service.

After ordaining the foreheads and right thumbs of Father Norayr and Father Shahe with Holy Chrism, the Pontiff handed them the staff and ring of Bishops. The Catholicos delivered his sermon after the ordination, underlining that having accepted the responsibility to serve our church and nation, the newly consecrated Bishops remained the servants of the Catholicosate of Cilicia and its mission and will carry out all the functions entrusted to them with commitment and dedication. He stressed in particular the devotion of the new Bishops and their high sense of belonging to the Armenian Church. Both have responded with no reluctance to their Spiritual Father’s call for service and contributed to the mission of the Armenian Church through their utmost dedication.

The Catholicos also emphasized the importance of preserving the sanctity of the oath to remain loyal to the traditions of the Armenian Church, its principles and its creed. He grabbed this opportunity to talk about the Catholicosate of Cilicia’s mission, the service offered by its Brotherhood members and the Seminary, where lead turns into gold and people’s spirits come to life. The Catholicos highlighted the Seminary’s role in the education and formation of new generations both as good servants of the Church and as good Armenians. Concluding his sermon, he called upon Armenian parents to dedicate their children to the nation and church, and direct them towards the Seminary, whereby they will become the future leaders of our nation.

During “Voghtchoyn”, the Cilician Brotherhood members and the clergy went up to the Holy Altar to congratulate the newly consecrated Bishops. Through Achahampouyr, the faithful expressed their well-wishes to the new Bishops and received the first of their blessings.

The Catholicos organized a luncheon in honour of the new Bishops in the afternoon. Cilician Brotherhood members, the relatives of the new Bishops, Godfathers, benefactors and people dedicated to the Catholicosate of Cilicia’s mission were present at the luncheon. The speakers upheld the Holy See’s thriving present and its bright future thanks to the extensive efforts of the Catholicos and the support he receives from dedicated Cilician Brotherhood members and well organized and coordinated structures. Among those who spoke were Archbishop Ardavazt Terterian, Bishop Norayr Asehkian (also on behalf of Bishop Panossian), Dr. Zaven Yegavian, Dr. S. Nababa (one of the Presidents of the World Council of Churches).


Bishop Norayr Ashekian

He was born in Kessab (Syria) in 1956. His baptismal name is Movses. He received his elementary education in the Ousoumnasirats Miyatsyal School in Kessab. In 1971 he entered the Seminary of Antelias and was ordained as an Acolyte in 1973.

Upon his graduation in 1976, he was ordained as a celibate priest and renamed as Father Norayr. In addition to his tasks within the Monastery, he taught Armenological subjects in the Seminary until 1979.

In 1979-1991 he was the Vicar of the Djezire region (Syrian) in Kamishli. In 1986, he was elevated to the rank of Dzayrakoyn Vartabed. In 1992-1993 he served as the Vicar to Aleppo Diocese.

He assumed the responsibilities of vicarage in Greece and Pastor of the Saint Hagop Church of Kokinia in 1994-1997. In 1997-2001 he returned to Kamishli, where he once again took up the post of vicarage.

Since 2002, Bishop Norayr has been the director of the Catholicosate of Cilicia’s publishing house.

Bishop Shahe Panossian

He was born in 1958 in Kessab (Syria). His baptismal name is Kevork. He received his elementary education in the Ousoumnasirats Miyatsyal School in Kessab. In 1971 he entered the Seminary of Antelias, and was ordained as Deacon in 1976.

Upon his graduation from the Seminary in 1978, he became an assistant to the Dean. Simultaneously he continued his higher education in the Near East School of Theology.

In 1980 he was ordained as a celibate priest and renamed Father Shahe. In addition to his tasks within the Monastery, he taught Armenological subjects in the Seminary until 1982.

In 1982-1986 he served in the Prelacy of Greece as the Pastor of the Armenian community of Thessaloniki.

In 1987-1989 he served as Pastor of the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church in South Florida, the Eastern Prelacy of the United States.

In 1990-1994 he also served as a Pastor of the Holy Martyrs’ Church in Chicago. In 1993 he received the rank of Dzayrakoyn Vartabed. In 1995-2002 he was the Pastor of the Saint Asdvadzadzine Church of Toronto, Canada.

In 2003, he returned to Beirut and served as the director of the “Birds’ Nest” orphanage for one year. In 2004-2006 he was assigned as a Pastor once again to the Saint Vartanants Church in New Jersey (U.S.A.). Since 2006, Bishop Shahe is the Dean of the Seminary.

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His Holiness Aram I departed to Yerevan on a special plane on the early morning of April 21. The Catholicos met with the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II, in Saint Etchmiyadzine. The two Catholicoi then visited newly elected President Serge Sarkssian, whom they met for over an hour.

Catholicos Aram I was accompanied by Yervant Pamboukian from the Central National Committee, Committee chairman of the Diocese of Aleppo Daron Avedissian, benefactors Harout and Souren Vartanian brothers. In Yerevan, the Pontiff’s delegation was joined by Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian (Primate of the Diocese of Tehran), Bishop Papken Tcharian (Primate of the Diocese of Isfahan), Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian (Pontifical Vicar to the Eastern Prelacy of the United States), who are currently in Etchmiyadzine for meetings.

After their meeting with the President, the two Catholicoi visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial of Dzidzernagapert and placed a wrath in the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide on the eve of the Martyrs’ day, 24th of April. The Pontiffs also presided over a Requiem service in the memory of the victims. Later they visited the Genocide museum adjacent to the memorial. President Serge Sarkssian hosted a luncheon in honour of the two Catholicoi. Attending the luncheon were former president Robert Kocharian, Palriament Speaker Tigran Torossian and Prime Minister Tigran Sarkssian. His Holiness returned to Antelias in the afternoon.

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Moscow, April 21, Interfax – A model of St. Sophia Cathedral is to be built from eggs at the central square of Kiev to Easter. The cupolas are also being made from eggs and then will be painted gold. “Eggs construction” occupies ten square meters. Almost thousand eggs were used to build a city of castles Kamenets-Podolsky. Fortresses and fortified constructions of Kazacheskaya Sech, famous Lastochkino Gnezdo in Yalta and the Black Sea are set up nearby. Several layers of special glue were applied to harden the sculpture so that it didn’t crash down while constructed. About 17 thousand eggs were used to create so unusual map of Ukraine apart from the thousand crushed ones, the Vremya TV program broadcasted on the Pervy canal has reported. The eggs map will be consecrated before Easter and then each Easter egg will be presented as a souvenir.

Sofia, April 21, Interfax - The Orthodox and Catholic Churches could form a strategic alliance for the protection of Christian values, Russian Orthodox Church Representative to European International Organizations Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria said in an interview with the Bulgarian magazine Christianity and Culture. "We must realize that Orthodox and Catholic believers are no longer rivals. We are allies. The rivalry must be gone once and for all. If we understand that, proselytism will stop," he said.'The romantic ecumenism' personified by the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches is not viable, the bishop said. In his opinion, it would be much better to form bilateral strategic alliances or partnerships, for instance, between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches."I don't mean union, administrative merger or compromise in theological teaching, I mean strategical partnership," the Moscow Patriarchate's representative said. According to Bishop Hilarion, joint Orthodox-Catholic "front" is required both to oppose to the challenges of secularism and to protect traditional Christianity and dialogue with other world religions. He believes that many Protestants unlike the Orthodox and the Catholic have created "a light version of Christianity, without apostolic succession, without sacraments, without strict dogmatic teaching and what is also important they don't require sticking to Christian moral norms." Such communities don't consider centuries-old sins as such and even promote them. When Christian community starts "revising theological or moral teaching of Christianity in order to make it more "modern" or "politically correct", it's a direct way to spiritual death," Bishop Hilarion said.

The Head of the Syrian Orthodox Church H H Moron Mor Ignatius Zakka I will visit India in the month of October, 2008. The visit will as part of the golden Jubilee celebration of the H B Thomas I, Catholicose of India. Metropolitans from different nations will also accompany the Patriarch to India. H H Zakha I is the spiritual head of the Jacobite Syrian Church, Malankara Knanaya Syrian Church, PATRIARCHAL CHURCHES, THE EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION OF THE EAST etc . Earlier His Holiness have made his Apostolic visit to India on three different occasions. The last visit was made in year 2004. Official declaration of the visit and the scheduled will be declared soon.
Orthodoxy Beyond Limts News Report

The Serbian Orthodox Church to Her Spiritual Children at Pascha, 2008

By the grace of GodOrthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church – to all the clergy, monastics, and all the sons and daughters of our Holy Church: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, with the joyous Paschal greeting:


“Today all is filled with light,heaven and earth and the lower regions;therefore, let all creation celebrate the resurrection of Christ,for in Him we are established.”
With these words of the great church hymnographer we congratulate you all on the Feast Day of Christ’s resurrection, and greet you, dear spiritual children, with the greeting,
After Great and Holy Friday, the greatest tragedy of mankind, but also the glory of God when man became a merciless judge of God’s Love, when man judged and killed the God-Man Christ, when a lie, deceit, and delusion triumphed over the crucified Christ, when heaven and earth and the lower regions became ashamed because of the evil act of mankind, and when the darkness enwrapped everything – behold the Day of the Passover of the God-Man Christ from death to life, from the darkness of the tomb into the light of the Day. Behold the Day above all days, the Time above all times, in which He has shattered the chains of sin, death, and the devil with which mankind and all of nature were imprisoned. Behold the day of our freedom and joy! With the Resurrection of Christ, everything and all is filled with a new light of life, a light in which we are established. Therefore, let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord’s Pascha, the Feast Day of freedom and life. Those imprisoned by darkness most of all rejoice in the freedom of light. With the Resurrection of Christ, the centuries old injustice brought upon man by sin and death has been conquered. The holy apostle Paul, overtaken by the resurrectional delight, victoriously asks: O death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory? They are no more! For the sting of death has been broken, and Hades has been emptied, and the prisoners of Hades have been freed.The light of the world has shone forth from the tomb like the Sun, just as before the passion it had shone on Mount Tabor. Let all creation rejoice in the Resurrection of Christ, for through its might the weak and helpless become strong and powerful. In the Resurrection of Christ the entire universe has been changed. This is why the Resurrection is a new creation of the world and a new birth of man, this time from the very Life which the Resurrected Christ bestows upon the world and man. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” says the Lord of Himself.The Resurrected Lord appeared to the myrrhbearing women and the frightened apostles, who out of fear of the Jews had run away. And gathering them again around Himself, He fortified their faith by saying to them: Do not fear, I have conquered the world! — the world which only a few days earlier had condemned Him and crucified Him on the Cross. In like manner, He today and always gathers all of us around Himself and says to us: do not be afraid, for I have conquered the world! Having seen and experienced the glory of Him resurrected, let us glorify Him and proclaim to the world: Christ is risen, O ye people! Christ is Risen, let us glorify Him! Christ is Risen, believe O ye people, for “we proclaim that which our eyes have seen, and our hands have touched” as the holy apostle and evangelist John the Theologian says, “so that you too believing may have eternal life”. Our faith is the faith of the cross-resurrection experience. We know, and this is why we believe. The knowledge obtained through experience is the greatest confirmation of faith.Before his suffering, burial and resurrection, our Lord brought three of his disciples to the peak of a very high mountain. That was Mount Tabor. On this mountain, in the mystery of His transfiguration, He revealed to them the mystery of His divine nature within Him, the nature which they and the entire world would come to know through experience after His resurrection. The manifestation of the divine nature and glory was accompanied with the light of the uncreated grace which is in Christ and which the world has received through the Resurrection of Christ. The world without Christ is a world of darkness. The world with the resurrected Christ is a world of eternal light, the light which enlightens every part of our soul and our entire being. This is why we are children of the light. From Him Who is the Light of Life we have received light to shine forth in this world. This is why the Lord says to us: “May your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify our Father Who is in heaven”.Only the resurrected Christ is the cornerstone of our faith and of our life. At the same time He is the cornerstone and divine-human head of our holy Church. Another stone has no one laid, nor can anyone lay. When the disciples asked St. John the Baptist whether the Christ was the One which was to come or whether they should wait for another one, he said to them: His sandal strap I am not worthy to loose! The holy prophet, forerunner, and baptizer of the Lord St. John said this — he who laid his hand upon the head of the Savior. If then he who is the greatest ever born of woman said this, how is it then that somebody can proclaim himself the visible head of the Church, infallible and vicar of the Son of God here on earth? God forbid! Our Holy Church with all her priests and the faithful people stands firmly in the Christ-Resurrected Faith of the holy prophets, apostles, martyrs and saints. At the same time, we are the Church to which God gives strength to be a Church of dialogue with all people and nations, calling all of them to the enlightenment of with the light of the Resurrected Christ. We do not withdraw within ourselves, nor do we shut in Christ within the narrow confines of our mind. On the contrary, we shine the light upon the world and witness the Truth to others, as did the holy apostles, saints, and martyrs. This is how the world recognizes that we are Christ’s, for the Holy Apostle Paul says: “I was everything to all in order to gain somebody for the Gospel of Christ…”What is the resurrection of Christ for us who live 2000 years after it happened? Is it only a recollection or memory? Is it only a celebration, or is it something more and something deeper? The grace of Christ’s resurrection is the inexhaustible fountain of the salvation of man and of the world in every place and age. It is the absolute and complete change of man and of the world that the God-Man Christ has brought with his coming and resurrection. So then, Christ’s Resurrection has the same and equal strength and power for us today, 20 centuries later, as it did for His contemporaries. The Holy Apostle Paul assures us that we eternally live with Christ, for “…through one Man’s righteous act [that is, the resurrection] the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” (Romans 5:18) “…Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him…likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6: 9-11). The past, the present, and the future have been saved by the Resurrection.In these days of Paschal joy, in this time of divine mercy toward all and everybody, we cannot but remember the human injustice and violence of the mighty of this world inflicted upon our Kosovo and Metohija, our Serbia and the entire Serbian nation. Kosovo and Metohija are an integral part of every Serb’s life, as every Serb is a part of Kosovo and Metohija. Knowing this, the creators of this historic injustice wanted to inflict the deepest possible wound, unbearable pain and suffering, the pain and suffering which directs us to the single, salvific suffering on Golgotha of our Lord.Kosovo and Metohija is not only a question of Serbian territory. Above all it is a question of our spiritual beings, because we were born, grew, lived and matured with Kosovo and Metohija as individuals and as a nation. We have lived and died by the Kosovo testament: “The earthly kingdom is transient, while the heavenly kingdom is forever!” This is why the question of Kosovo and Metohija is so vitally, psychologically and anthropologically connected with every one of us. This is well known to the mighty of this world, and this is why they collectively wish to hurt and punish the Serbian Orthodox people; they wish to break and crush them in order to make out of us a defaced mass ready to fall down on our knees before them, surrendering to their will and manipulation. By submitting ourselves to Christ’s will and His teachings, we bring light upon their unlawful acts, their hypocrisy, similar in many ways to Pilate’s washing of hands in the blood of the Righteous One.Having Kosovo and Metohija in our hearts and our unceasing care for our brothers and sisters and all those that suffer there, having a living Kosovo and Metohija within ourselves day and night, no one will take them away from us. The Homeland is the heart of man, says one poet. Within our hearts we have placed Kosovo and Metohija. We call upon all Orthodox Serbs to fulfill the Kosovo covenant in full, and that is the Holy Lazar’s testament. If we complete that covenant no one will take Kosovo and Metohija away from us, neither in this nor that age, just as no one could have taken Holy Jerusalem from the Jewish people. We call upon all of you, beginning with politicians and scholars down to the most humble and youngest sons and daughters of our Homeland, that with their work and honorable lives we be deserving of and preserve Kosovo and Metohija before God. Let scholars with their scientific work defend Kosovo and Metohija; let artists with their creativeness express the beauty and the essence of our Kosovo and Metohija; let athletes vow their successes to Kosovo and Metohija; let every parent have Kosovo and Metohija be a first word to whisper in his newborn’s ears; let every farmer dedicate his first hour of labor to Kosovo and Metohija; let every worker dedicate his first hour of work to Kosovo and Metohija; let every politician dedicate his first political thought to Kosovo and Metohija, let every pastor offer his first prayer to God for Kosovo and Metohija! This is the call to the unending battle that will be well pleasing to God, and our prayer will be heard by God, for we do not give the question of Kosovo and Metohija into the hands of deceiving people and their interests, but rather to God and His judgment. Just as the Psalmist of old sings of the unjustly taken and destroyed Jerusalem, we too must sing in the spirit of the Kosovo covenant: If we forget you Kosovo, if we forget you Metohija, let then the right hand of the Lord forget me! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not put forward Kosovo and Metohija as the beginning of my joy.Dear spiritual children, we live in a hard and critical time of globalization, in a time of the abolishing of basic human rights: the right of man to life; the right of a baby to be born; the right of parents to raise and guide their children; the right of a mother to be a loving and caring mother of her children and a wife to her husband, the right of man to be a man! A strange civilization of globalization is being created according to the measure of deformed moral values, that is, immorality, without the yeast which gives human life eternal meaning. Such a civilization which is in direct opposition to the Resurrected Christ and His Gospel cannot survive. Being mindful of this, let us be wise and cautious when we approach this strange table of worldly offers and delights. Let us choose wisely only that which is worthy of Christ; let us choose that which is worthy of our calling and dignity. Let us refuse all that is of pseudo-civilization, distorted and inhuman, just as Christ refused all the offers of the Devil: if you bow down to me all this that you see will be yours! We know the true answer: It is written: serve only God, and to Him only bow down!We especially greet our brothers in the diaspora: in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Europe. We greet and call them to unite in our Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, that they never again let others divide them and make them quarrel among themselves. We also greet our brothers and sisters in the Republika Srpska and Bosna and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. We greet the entire Church of God spread throughout the world and among people of good will. We call all to peace, unity and a good witness before all those outside. Let us renew ourselves with the resurrected Christ, and let us shine with good and virtue in this world. Gathered at the Divine Liturgy, in good witnessing of the Truth, let brother embrace brother, let us greet one another, heaven, and earth, with the all-joyous greeting:Christ Is Risen!Indeed He Is Risen!

Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade at Pascha 2008.Your prayerful intercessors before the Crucified and Resurrected Lord:Archbishop of Pec,Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci andSerbian Patriarch PAVLEMetropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana JOVANMetropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJEMetropolitan of Midwestern America CHRISTOPHERMetropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJBishop of Sabac LAVRENTIJEBishop of Nis IRINEJBishop of Zvornik-Tuzla VASILIJEBishop of Srem VASILIJEBishop of Banja Luka JEFREMBishop of Budim LUKIJANBishop of Canada GEORGIJEBishop of Banat NIKANORBishop for America and Canada (New Gracanica Metropolitanate) LONGINBishop of Eastern America MITROPHANBishop of Zica CHRYSOSTOMBishop of Backa IRINEJBishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJBishop of Ras and Prizren ARTEMIJERetired Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina ATANASIJEBishop of Bihac and Petrovac CHRYSOSTOMBishop of Osijek and Baranja LUKIJANBishop of Central Europe CONSTANTINEBishop of Western Europe LUKABishop of Timok JUSTINBishop of Vranje PAHOMIJEBishop of Sumadija JOVANBishop of Slavonia SAVABishop of Branicevo IGNATIJEBishop of Milesevo FILARETBishop of Dalmatia FOTIJEBishop of Budimlje and Niksic JOANIKIJEBishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina GRIGORIJE Bishop of Valjevo MILUTINBishop of Western America MAXIMBishop of Gornji Karlovci GERASIMBishop of Australia and New Zealand IRINEJVicar Bishop of Hvostno ATANASIJEVicar Bishop of Jegar PORFIRIJEVicar Bishop of Lipljan TEODOSIJEVicar Bishop of Dioclea JOVANVicar Bishop of Moravica ANTONIJE THE ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF OCHRIDArchbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje JOVAN Bishop of Polos and Kumanovo JOAKIMBishop of Bregal MARKO


of Greek Women of Heliopolis “Mary of Egypt” and other officials.On 13th April 2008, the 5th Sunday of Great Lent, on which we commemorate St Mary of Egypt, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, together with His Eminence Nicholas of Hermopolis and His Grace Nikodimos Bishop of Nitria, Patriarchal Vicar of Cairo, conducted the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Church of the Archangels in Daher, of the Arab Orthodox Community. During the Service, His Beatitude spoke about the life of this great Alexandrian Saint of the Church. He also expressed his contentment on the great work of the Philanthropic Association of Greek Women of Heliopolis “Mary of Egypt”. “Whatever you offer the poor, you offer to Christ”, said His Beatitude. “And the cross which the Blessed Mary faced when she arrived in Jerusalem, we too are called to lift it during the Great and Holy Week which we will experience in a few days and it is this same Cross which will prepare us for the Resurrection of the Lord”. The Venerable Primate of the Throne of St Mark also expressed his joy for the functions being prepared by the Parish of the Archangels in Daher for the 75th year since its inception and the 50th year since the publication of its informative booklet, as well as for the multifaceted contribution to the Arab Orthodox Youth through the maintenance of the two educational institutes and the two clubs. Present at the Divine Liturgy were The Consul General of Greece in Cairo Mrs. Ekaterini Ginis, the Treasurer of the Hellenic Community of Cairo Mr. Antonios Diamantides, the Executive Committee of the Philanthropic Association of Greek Women of Heliopolis “Mary of Egypt” and other officials.

The entire fullness of the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria was moved by the rescue of His Eminence Ignatios of Central Africa following the tragic air disaster which occured yesterday, 15th April 2005 in the Congo. As soon as it became possible, His beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa communicated telephonically with His Eminence Ignatios, emphasizing to him that "God wanted you to continue your multifaceted missionary work which is undertaken in a vast area of Africa". His Beatitude also expressed his deep sorrow on the loss of so many innocent lives in the air crash. His Eminence Ignatios Metropolitan of Central Africa thanked the Venerable Primate of the Alexandrian Church for his paternal interest and concern and the support at this difficult hour, promising that he would now continue with even more strength his service to the missionary effort in the Patriarchate on the African continent.

On 16th April 2008, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa visited the Greek Schools of Alexandria. In the presence of the Headmasters and the teaching staff of all the schools of the Great City, His Beatitude spoke to the pupils about the spiritual treasure of knowledge as well as about the suffering children of Africa and the efforts being made by the Church of Alexandria for their education. He gave them all small handmade gifts from the countries of Africa.

HH Partiarch Alexi II to Meet Abbas

Moscow, April 16, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia will meet with President of the Palestinian National Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas at his residence in Moscow St. Daniel Monastery on Friday, a statement posted on the Moscow Patriarchate website says.Abbas is also the leader of Fatah. In March 2006, Alexy II met with representatives of Hamas, which is a rival of Fatah, after it won parliamentary elections.Alexy II then called on the PA authorities to engage in a peaceful dialogue with Israel and pointed out that the Russian Orthodox Church had always backed the idea of a Palestinian state in the Middle East.

The Head of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Zakka Iwas I, arrived in Antelias on a special visit from Damascus Tuesday evening.

The Patriarch met with Catholicos Aram I discussing issues related to bilateral relations and cooperation between the two churches. They were later joined by the Spiritual Leader of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Abune Paulos, who was on a one-day visit to Antelias.

The three spiritual leaders discussed prospects for a number of inter-church initiatives. Welcoming his friends in Antelias, the His Holiness Aram I stressed the need for continued contact and close cooperation between the three churches.


Moscow Patriarch responds to 138 Muslim Scholars

In a letter published on the Moscow Patriarchate website, Alexy II lays out the ground for a possible dialogue with Islam, namely the need to face common challenges that require joining forces. At the same time he insists that in any exchange the identity of each participant must be respected so as to avoid the danger of syncretism.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Russian Orthodox Church has responded to the letter 138 Muslim scholars wrote to Christian leaders. The text of the response was published on the website of the Patriarchate of Moscow and is signed by Patriarch Alexy II himself.

In this letter the Russian patriarch expressed his gratitude for the scholars’ initiative. He agreed that Christians and Muslims have similar goals and that they can join forces to achieve these aims. “Today Christianity and Islam do a quite important thing—they remind mankind of God’s existence and of the spiritual dimension of man and the world,” Patriarch Alexy II wrote.

At the same time ‘[t]his joining will not happen if there is no clarification in understanding religious values of each other. That is why I greet the striving of the Muslim community to begin sincere and open dialogue with representatives of Christian Churches on a serious scientific and intellectual level,” he said.

In describing points common to both religions the Patriarch noted that the commandment to love one’s God and one’s neighbour brought them closer.For Alexy II each point in Christian and Muslim teachings must be seen as deeply connected with “its unique place in the whole theological system”.Yet he added that any inter-faith dialogue must respect the identity of each participant to avoid the danger of syncretism.

A possible dialogue can be built at two levels. On “a doctrinal level it could touch such important questions like God, man and the world;” at a more practical level, it could be realised in “defending the role of religion in social life, fighting xenophobia and intolerance, [. . .] and promoting common peaceful initiatives”.

The current “doctrinal dialogue” between Islam and Russian Orthodoxy is “more active” according to Alexy II. Common challenges that no single religion can face alone are among its reasons, challenges like an “anti-religious world view’ that tends “to subordinate all spheres of social life” to universality, and attempts to install a “new morality” that contradicts the “moral norms supported by traditional religions”.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church the fact that the two religions had “enemies” bent on causing “a clash between Christians and Muslims.” Finally he stressed that Russia is a “rare multi-religious and multinational state” that can serve as an example for the co-existence between Islam and Christianity


Albanian Orthodox Church
On March 15th in the village of Gerdec, near the capital city of Tirana a terrible tragedy occurred in which the whole village and surrounding areas were basically demolished when an illegal arms factory blew up in several major explosions. Over 20 people died, hundreds were wounded and many are still missing. This tragedy was felt deeply by the Orthodox faithful.
Within the first hours after this tragedy, His Grace Andoni, assistant to the Archbishop had contacted the emergency response teams to communicate the Church’s readiness to help. Immediately the faithful of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania made a concerted effort to pray and gather whatever possible to help those affected, especially the wounded.
That very day, the Youth Group together with Archimandrite Kozma Prifti went together to the University Center of “Mother Theresa” to give blood and the Church’s radio station “Resurrection” broadcasted continuous requests for believers to help those in need.
On Sunday, March 16th, His Grace Andoni remembered the victims of the Gerdec tragedy in prayer during the Divine Liturgy. In fact a special prayer was made for the victims and their families during the procession of the icons made for the Sunday of Orthodoxy which was that same day. Following Liturgy, the faithful were invited to donate money and from the funds gathered, 100 packages of food were prepared for the many people displaced from their homes by the tragedy. On Monday the Secretary of the Holy Synod, Father Jani Trebicka, together with a group from the church brought the food to the Town Hall in Vore (a town near Gerdec). The workers of the town hall were very grateful especially as this was the first help to arrive.
A few days later, Archbishop Anastasios went to Durres, to the vacation dormitory, owned by the Ministry of the Interior, where about 400 people who had lost their homes in the explosions were staying. There he gave hope to the people and spoke warmly with the director. His Beatitude not only shared spiritual warmth but physical warmth as well, donating many heaters and blankets and gifts for the children.
In addition, students and professors from the Orthodox Theological Academy joined forces with the Orthodox Youth Group of Tirana to offer material and spiritual support and organized activities with numerous children who were in great shock from the explosions and all its tragic results. Archbishop Anastasios has declared that the Church’s dedication to help those in need will not fade over time and included a promise to secure funds to rebuild the school or kindergarten in the area destroyed by the explosions.

Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has issued an official condemnation of the amputation of Kosovo and Metohija province from the rest of Serbia, the Interfax news agency reports.
"It is a crime to ignore what Kosovo province represents to the Serbian people. This is not merely a piece of land they are trying to seize from the Serbs, Kosovo-Metohija is the historical cradle of the Serbian nation and at the core of its national identity", the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said, according to Tanjug.
The Synod assessed that the international community's professed goal of securing the safe living conditions for all, while guaranteeing the territorial integrity of the Serbian state, has not been accomplished.
"The attempts to randomly redraw the map of Europe are generating legitimate condemnations by the people of different faiths and nationalities", the statement said, warning that "such scenarios will undoubtedly trigger new cycles of suffering for thousands of innocent people."
Creating Conditions for War of Everyone Against Everyone
Russian Orthodox Church reminds that humanity paid the overwhelming price in two world wars for the principles that were, until recently, considered essential for building relations between nations and states.
"Violation of these principles can set off a war of everyone against everyone, when each nation will have to protect itself with all means available," the Synod said.
Russian Church Holy Synod invited all the Orthodox Churches to "pray that such time does not come".
The Synod officially supported the Declaration issued at the 12th World Russian National Assembly at the end of February, which opposed the illegal declaration by Pristina separatists, stressing it represented danger for the world stability.
"In their Declaration regarding the imposed severing of Kosovo and Metohija from the rest of Serbia, the Assembly stated they share the pain of their Serbian brothers, they characterized the unilateral secession as the most dangerous precedent and pointed that this kind of development represents the grave threat to preserving the balance in the world, by undermining the international law", the press service of the Russian Orthodox Church said

Liturgical practicum for Deacons and Diaconal Candidates in June - OCA

CRESTWOOD, NY [SVS] – Intense liturgical training is the focus of a 4-day training program to be held June 3-6, 2008, on the campus of St Vladimir’s Seminary.
Practical liturgical training will be supported by daily celebration of the Divine Liturgy and other divine services by participants with seminary clergy. In addition to practicums, focused presentations by faculty will augment the deacon’s understanding of his place in the liturgical life of the Church and the deacon’s broader vocation as a symbol to the faithful of the diakonia of Christ our Lord. Instruction in public speaking and vocal technique will also be offered.
Participants are invited to arrive the afternoon of Tuesday, June 3, 2008. The program begins with the celebration of Vespers for the Leavetaking of Pascha. Sessions conclude in the late morning of Friday, June 6, following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Participants are invited to register for the
St Sergius and St Alban Fellowship Conference that will take place in the later part of the week. The conference will feature noted speakers such as Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), and Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) among others.
Fr John Behr, Dean of the Seminary, explains the purpose of this concentrated liturgical training for deacons and diaconal students: “Our former dean, Fr Alexander Schmemann, taught us that everything in worship concerns us as the Church of God, makes us the living body of Christ, and concerns me, as a living member of that body. The deacon’s prominent role in worship requires that he studies and learns the rubrics of the services. The training we provide offers just such an opportunity for learning.”
Intensive workshops led by Protodeacon Kirill Sokolov, Lecturer in Liturgics at St Vladimir’s Seminary, will aim to provide participants with the skills needed to serve effectively in the Orthodox Church as an attentive server, deacon, or priest. Particular focus will be given to the typical celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom by one priest and one deacon. Attention will be given to the liturgical patterns of movement that inform the entire rite of the Church. Participants will also receive guidance on concelebrations and hierarchical celebrations so that they can effectively prepare for such occasions.
Fr Alexander Rentel, the seminary’s Coordinator of Liturgical Instruction, will offer presentations on the Liturgy of the Church and the place of the received Typikon and other liturgical guides in ministry.
This practicum, which is being offered for the second consecutive summer, is held in conjunction with the
Orthodox Church in America’s Diaconal Vocations Program and is highly recommended for participants in the Church’s program by the Holy Synod.
Further information, including the program, online registration, and travel information, is available on the seminary web site at a special event home page:

BARCELONA - “As the voice and the political will of the people, the parliament should act with this sense of responsibility and accountability” said His Holiness Aram I at the Parliament of Catalonia, Spain. “Religion is the voice of the people too, furthermore, religion is called to be the voice of God. If parliament is accountable to the people, religion is first and foremost accountable to God. But religion and political institutions are partners. Although there exist a qualitative difference between religion and parliament, they must respect their differences. We must work together, because we have common objectives, namely the dignity, justice, peace, human rights and well being of people”.

Referring to the two references made by the president of the Parliament in his welcoming speech, His Holiness Aram I emphasized the pivotal importance of dialogue: “Dialogue is no more a conceptual notion; it is part of our daily life. Dialogue is no more an initiative pertaining exclusively to religions. All the stakeholders of civil society must engage in dialogue. Indeed, dialogue is rejection of self centered existence; it is opening ourselves to the others. Dialogue is interactive approach to the realities and problems that we face in different spheres of our common life. Dialogue is a firm commitment to being together, reflecting and acting together, by preserving our distinctiveness and particularities as cultures, religions and nations. Religion has a major role to play in promoting a culture of dialogue. Only such a culture will become a source of peace against violence, a source of trust against hatred, a source of justice against injustice, a source of living together as community against all trends which lead our societies to disintegration and polarization”.

Catholicos Aram I also criticized the crucial importance of integration in the life of societies: “We must live as communities, not as separate groups co-existing side by side. If co-existence is not transformed into a common life together, it may generate tension. What we need today is to develop communities of integrated diversities. The role of religion in this respect is critical. Religion could be both a source if integration and a factor of disintegration. Religious leaders have a major role of promoting the positive role of religion as bridge builder, community developer and integration facilitator”.

The second speaker was the former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Khatami. Welcoming the particular emphasis laid by His Holiness Aram I on the role of the Parliament, and the necessity of dialogue and integration, president Khatami in his turn developed the notion of the parliament being the household of the people. He said that the parliament must work for the well being of the people in all spheres of their life.

The third speaker was Dr. Abdulaziz Otheman Altwaijiri. He stressed the importance of dialogue of religions and cultures. He stated the commitment of his organization to working together as partners with all actors of civil society for peace building, as well as for the promotion of cultural, educational and human values.

At the end of the official ceremony the Speaker of the House presented gifts to Catholicos Aram I, President Khatami and Dr. Altwaijiri.

Tirana, Albania — International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) will provide aid to victims of the Albania munitions explosions that occurred on March 15 in the town of Gerdec near the capital city of Tirana. The explosions killed 17 people and wounded 300 others. More than 3,500 people were forced to evacuate their homes as the massive explosions continued into the next day.
'Displaced villagers will not be able to return to their homes for at least six months and will need long term support,' said IOCC Regional Director Mark Ohanian who is coordinating the response in Albania. IOCC will provide $10,000 of support including basic hygiene supplies and clothing for families who were displaced by the explosions. Psychological support and recreational activities will also be provided to children and young people.
Three villages neighboring Gerdec were devastated with officials reporting that at least 315 buildings, including homes, were totally destroyed and nearly 1,700 others were damaged.
Diakonia Agapes, the humanitarian organization of the Orthodox Church of Albania and IOCC's partner in the country, will implement the project.
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.

EU chief visits Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul

STANBUL, Turkey -- The head of the European Union met with the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians on Friday in Istanbul, where they were expected to discuss Turkish resistance to reopening a Greek Orthodox seminary.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, is on the second day of a three-day visit to Turkey, which is seeking EU membership. On Thursday, Barroso welcomed a Turkish decision to return property, such as school buildings, churches and orphanages, seized from Jewish and Christian foundations decades ago.

Turkey had seized the properties in 1974, around the same time it invaded Cyprus after a failed coup by supporters of uniting the island with Greece.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is based in Istanbul. Turkey does not recognize his international role as spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. It rejects his use of the title "ecumenical," or universal, arguing instead that the patriarch is merely the spiritual leader of Istanbul's dwindling Orthodox community.

Barroso and Bartholomew were expected to discuss Turkey's unwillingness to reopen a seminary that was shut down more than two decades ago, despite pressure from the EU and the U.S. No announcement was made after the meeting.

The Halki Theological School on Heybeliada Island near Istanbul was closed to new students in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control in the predominantly Muslim country. The school closed its doors in 1985, when the last five students graduated.

The official argument for the seminary's closure is that a religious institution without government oversight is not compatible with secular institutions of Turkey, a country where all Muslim clerics are trained and paid by the government, and are handed scripts of Friday sermons by a state agency.

Bartholomew says Ankara refuses to open the seminary because it aims to prevent the church from raising new leaders. The church's leader has to be a Turkish citizen, which makes it difficult for the dwindling Greek community of several thousand to produce any candidates.

Turkey's reluctance to reopen it stems from a deep mistrust many here feel toward the patriarchate because of its traditional ties with Greece, Turkey's historical regional rival.

The patriarchate in Istanbul dates from the Orthodox Greek Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, today's Istanbul, in 1453.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


His Holiness Pope Shinoda III of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark would arrive here on Friday to pay a three- day official visit to Ethiopia, the Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia said.
Ambassador Tarek Ghoneim told journalists on Wednesday that the visit of the Pope would further strengthen the long-standing relations between Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).
During his stay here, the Pope is expected discuss with EOC's Patriarch His Holiness Abune Paulos, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and President Girma Woldegiorgis.
The two Patriarchs would jointly offer prayers at the Trinity Cathedral here in the capital, the Ambassador said.
The Ambassador recalled that Abune Paulos, who is also President of the World Council of Churches, has visited the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in July 2007.
Ethiopia and Egypt are executing various activities aiming at peace and security in all African nations. Efforts are also being made to scale up the trade cooperation between the two countries, he added.
The relation of the two churches dates back to
330 AD

Orthodox Ukrainians celebrate Annunciation Day on April 7

On April 7, the Orthodox Church celebrates one of its biggest holidays – the Annunciation Day of the Mother of God.

The Annunciation Day is one of 12 the most important orthodox holidays. It was established in memory of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary that she will become the Mother of Jesus Christ.From the earliest times, Ukrainians used to free birds from cages on this day, as a symbol of freedom for all the world. It also symbolizes the Heaven, which opens for human souls.

On this day people also should not work, and should throw away old stuff.


First Orthodox Liturgy to be celebrated at the North Pole

Moscow, April 4, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia blessed to celebrate the first Divine Liturgy at the North Pole on April 5, Saturday."Archbishop Ignaty of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka will head the Divine Liturgy. Two priests and a deacon will also participate in the expedition," representative of the Petropavlovsk Diocese in Moscow Fr. Alexander Terpulov told Interfax on Friday. A 2-meter wooden cross and Russian flag will be set at the "zero point" of the North Pole. Archbishop Ignaty will baptize one of the participants of the Polar expedition organized by aviation administration of the Federal Security Service, the interviewee of the agency said. The Kamchatka archbishop celebrated the first Divine Liturgy under Arctic ice onboard of the submarine - the Tomsk atomic strategic cruiser. The same year priest Viktor Smetannikov from the Novosibirsk Diocese made a parachute jump to the North Pole, set a cross and conducted a prayer service there. Later he carried out the similar expedition to the South Pole.

At the end of 2007 the ninetieth anniversary of the establishment of a vicariate in Revel was solemnly celebrated. It was at this time that the Orthodox heritage in Estonia acquired for the first time an initial canonical diocesan structure as a local Church.

Orthodox Christianity in Estonia grew in the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church over a thousand years. As early as 1030 the Russian prince Yaroslav the Wise founded the town of Yuriev (Tartu), where the first Orthodox Churches were built. Orthodoxy was established at the same time as Catholicism, which was preached by Franciscan monks, until the thirteenth century when the Orthodox tradition was forcibly ended by the expansion of the Crusaders. And yet, the Orthodox survived in Tartu until 1472 when the priest Isidor and seventy two parishioners were tortured, and the priest Ioann Shestnik (tonsured with the name Jonah), who fled from Tartu to Pskov, and founded the Pskov Monastery of the Caves, the abbot of which Cornelius preached Orthodoxy not only to the Estonians who lived in the vicinity of the monastery but went as far as Narva and founded parishes in Neihausen and other places.

The revival of Orthodoxy came not in the eighteenth century as one might have expected from an Orthodox power as a result of the Neistadt peace treaty and not with its presenting by the Sovereign and the Holy Synod, but in the middle of the nineteenth century, and then it first came in spite of them as a result of a spontaneous movement towards Orthodoxy among the Estonians, Latvians and Swedes. It was then that our Local Church began to form canonically: the see of Riga was founded first as a vicariate in 1836 and then as an independent Diocese in 1850, and then given special status within the Riga diocese in 1917 was the Revel vicariate, the head of which (and temporarily the head of the whole diocese) was the first Estonian bishop, the holy martyr Platon (Kulbush) . He was consecrated bishop on 31 December 1917 in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn by holy martyr Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd and Archbishop Arseny of Luga. Thanks to the self-sacrificing love and care of the holy martyr Platon, Orthodox church life in Estonia blossomed in the most unfavourable circumstances. However, the episcopal ministry of the first Estonian bishop was short-lived. At the beginning of 1919 the Red commissars, when retreating from Tartu, shot him. He was canonized in 2000 by the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1920 His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon of All Russia granted autonomy to the newly-formed Estonian Orthodox Church, from among which Fr. Alexander Paulus was elected and consecrated bishop at the end of the same year by Archbishop Yevsevy of Pskov and Bishop Seraphim of Finland and appointed to the see of the archbishop of Revel, having taken the corresponding oath of loyalty to the Patriarch of Moscow and all the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The newly-formed Estonian state wanted to see in the independent republic the same independent (i.e. exclusively dependent upon it) religious structures and in this regard exerted political pressure on the Estonian Orthodox Church. The atheistic persecution and confusion in church life in the USSR was the reason for Bishop Alexander to appeal in 1923 for autocephalous status from Patriarch Meletius (Metaxakis), who, however, did not grant the requested autocephaly but merely gave to the 'Estonian Orthodox Metropolia' the corresponding Tome of autonomy in his jurisdiction, justifying in the text of this document his uncanonical step (the reception without a letter of dismissal from the Mother Church) by the exceptional circumstances which temporarily disrupted communications between the daughter Church and the Patriarch of Moscow.

The only role played by Patriarch Meletius' Tome in the further establishment of Estonian Orthodoxy is the separation of the Estonian flock from the Mother Church. It has never been implemented in all other aspects in Estonia. The 'Estonian Orthodox Metropolia,' as the 'Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church' (henceforth the EAOC) was officially called, was divided not into three (as the Tome prescribed) but two dioceses - Tallinn and Narva.

At the same time this division was made not on territorial lines in accord with the canons of the Church, but according to the criteria of nationality: the diocese of Tallinn consisted mainly of Estonian and mixed parishes (it included the Convent of Puhtica under the direct jurisdiction of the metropolitan), while the diocese of Narva was made up mainly of Russian communities.

Finally, the Statutes adopted by the EAOC in 1935 were more akin to those of an autocephalous, i.e. completely independent, rather than an autonomous Church. It mentions nothing about any dependence on the Patriarchate of Constantinople, even with regard to the election of a new primate.

In accepting Estonian Orthodoxy under its omophorion, the Patriarchate of Constantinople did exactly nothing for its strengthening. Not a single of its bishops visited Estonia in the eighteen years (1923 to 1941) of our Church existing under its canonical jurisdiction.

When in 1940 Estonia was annexed to the Soviet Union, Metropolitan Alexander canvassed the opinion of the clergy and undertook attempts at reunification with the Russian Orthodox Church. At first he thought that the events of 1923 would be perceived as having no canonical significance, as though no infraction of ecclesiastical norms had occurred. He asserted that unity with the Mother Church had been maintained. Yet the then head of the Russian Church Metropolitan Sergy (Stragorodsky) declared with no ambiguity that before the judgment of Holy Tradition the aforementioned events ought to be viewed as a schism, and therefore repentance should be forthcoming. Metropolitan Alexander was also warned that it would be impossible to preserve the autonomous status which was granted by Patriarch Tikhon in conditions when Estonia was an independent state. These conditions were again discussed, and after Metropolitan Alexander appealed for a second time to Metropolitan Sergy to 'forgive in love the involuntary sin of apostasy,' our Church was reunited in 1941 with the Moscow Patriarchate.

With the beginning of the war Metropolitan Alexander again betrayed his oath and broke with the Moscow Patriarchate, for which, after long admonitions, he was suspended from his ministry by all four hierarchs of the Baltic Exarchate and dismissed from administering the diocese. This did not prevent him (thanks to the policy of the German authorities aimed at dividing Orthodox believers) from preserving his authority over the Estonian-speaking and mixed parishes of the diocese of Tallinn.

In 1944 Metropolitan Alexander abandoned Estonia together with twenty-two priests. Until his death in Stockholm in 1953 not once did he address Orthodox believers in Estonia with a single epistle, which would affirm the fact that he recognized himself to be the archpastor of only those who abandoned the territory of the Church which he had at one time nourished.

A canonical end to this story was put by Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople, who in his letter to Metropolitan Paulus of Scandinavia on 3 May 1978 recognized the Tome of Patriarch Meletius as having lost its authority 'as normal canonical contacts with the Holy Russian Orthodox Church, of which the Orthodox Church of Estonia was once a part, have become possible.' Vladyka Paulus was entrusted only with the foreign Estonian parishes in Scandinavia. The function of the coordinating centre of the Estonia Orthodox diaspora was carried out by the 'Synod of the EAOC' formed in Stockholm in 1948.

At the same time in Estonia we had the 'building of communism,' which included a hostile battle with religion. Our Church, in changing its status, name, and external structure (depending on the need for the functioning of the Church's mission), adapted itself to external circumstances and, in continuing its ministry unceasingly, preserved its essence unharmed in conditions of atheist persecution. One of those who in the Soviet period preserved our Church from destruction is the present-day Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, who administered the diocese of Tallinn for twenty-nine years from 1961 to 1990, i.e. longer than all the archpastors of Estonia, and managed in the most difficult of conditions to defend and save from closure the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, the Puhtica Convent and many churches.

In 1991 Estonian independence was re-established. However, the trials of our Church did not end with the rule of the Bolsheviks.

In 1991 the Orthodox Church in Estonia was officially registered and in June 1992 by decision of the Tallinn city court it was recognized as a subject of property reform (so restitution in Estonia is called). In August of the same year the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church headed by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II granted the Orthodox Church of Estonia 'independence in ecclesiastical, administrative, economic, educational and civil affairs.' Thus the autonomy granted by Patriarch Tikhon in 1920 was in effect restored.

However, a small group of priests and laymen began to work in another direction. They declared that the diocese of Tallinn was a puppet structure of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had broken off the legitimate activity of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church on the territory of Estonia. Yet the activity of the latter continued abroad; the Foreign Synod of the EAOC in Stockholm was an analogy of a 'government in exile.' The restoration of autonomous status at the same time was linked to a mandatory exit from the Moscow Patriarchate. The supporters of this decision viewed ecclesiastical problems through the prism of worldly stereotypes, referring not to the commandments of the Gospel and Church tradition, but to concepts and tendencies characteristic of the times.

On 29 April 1993 Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia solemnly granted to our Church at its Local Council a Tome on the restoration of its autonomy. Thus the confirmation of self-governing status was finally completed. The Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs was promptly made known of this and informed that on the basis of the Statutes of the EAOC of 1935 its redaction, brought into conformity with the realities of the time, would soon be presented for registration. However, in August of the same year the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs, guided by political motives, registered under the historic title the structure 'Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church', which from the beginning consisted of a mere handful of parishes represented by the Stockholm 'Synod.' State officials recognized the small schismatic part as the legal successor of the entire pre-war Orthodox Church in Estonia with all the judicial and property consequences of this decision, while our Church found itself outside the law for nine years. The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was recognized by the Estonian state only in 2002 after long and difficult negotiations, during which it was necessary to turn attention on numerous occasions to the serious infractions of the rights of the second largest religious community in the country (after the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church).

Pressure was placed upon those parishes that did not join the 'Stockholm Synod'; there were official threats to drive people from their churches. In a slandering press campaign the martyr Church was declared to be an 'occupation' Church, while those who had fled and avoided repression were awarded a martyr's crown. The confessors who preserved the faith and, as far as possible in conditions of atheist persecution, church buildings, were smeared as collaborators. The tabloid press screamed, 'Take Archbishop Cornelius to Court!' and published mocking caricatures of him. At the same time it was forgotten that Vladyka Cornelius had in fact been in the very same court under Soviet rule and was sentenced to prison in a Soviet concentration camp for being a pastor.

The crowning moment of the rude intervention of the political establishment into church life were the personal appeals of the Estonian Prime Minister M. Laar and then Estonian President L. Meri to the Patriarch of Constantinople to receive the 'EAOC' into its jurisdiction. As a result, an international conflict flared up, the consequences of which were felt beyond Estonia and threatened to destroy the whole world Orthodox family.

On 20 February 1996 Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople officially received under his omophorion the clerics and laymen of our Church who had gone into schism by proclaiming the formation of his jurisdiction in Estonia. In response there followed the breaking off of prayerful communion between the Patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople, which was restored later that year after negotiations between representatives of both sides in Zurich. In order to avert a schism within Universal Orthodoxy the Moscow Patriarchate made a serious concession in agreeing to grant equal rights in the sphere of civil and legal rights and property divided among the Orthodox of Estonia in accordance with the wishes of the parishes and the removal of the bans upon those clerics who betrayed their oath, as well as also serving in turn in disputed parishes. The Moscow Patriarchate promptly fulfilled all the conditions while the other side did not fulfill a single one. Nevertheless, the negotiations continued. Delegations of the two patriarchates signed a draft agreement in Berlin in February of 2001 providing for the normalization of relations between the two jurisdictions and the resolution of the problem of church buildings in the spirit of the Zurich accords. Several days later the draft was confirmed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. But what did Constantinople do? Before long a representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Estonia declared that the Russian Orthodox Church had interpreted the Zurich accords incorrectly and there can be no question of equal rights: two autonomous churches on the same territory is uncanonical! No further comment is necessary, as they say.

It was not enough that the leadership of the Constantinople jurisdiction in Estonia did not enable the realization of the aforementioned accords on equal rights (as before, the majority of our parishes have to rent their church buildings) but continues to discredit the EOC of the Moscow Patriarchate. We are described as being avaricious for our insistence on having property rights. At the same time it is forgotten that we have renounced claims to the land and houses that once belonged to our parishes, having requested that we are given back our sacred objects as property without having to fear any 'surprises'. The present head of the EOC Metropolitan Stephanos, appointed to the Tallinn see by the Patriarch of Constantinople, in spite of the fact that it is legitimately occupied by Vladyka Cornelius, to this day does not speak Estonian (unlike Metropolitan Cornelius and His Holiness Alexy II), and never misses an opportunity to portray the EOC of the Moscow Patriarchate in the eyes of the state as a 'fifth column.' When the EAOC joined the World Council of Churches, Metropolitan Stephanos promised that he would not hinder our re-entry into the same organization (of which we could not be members as a result of not being registered by the state, even though we are one of its founders). The good bishop's memory failed him as soon as the question was put on the table And what of the article by Metropolitan Stephanos in the Greek Newspaper Vima in 2006 where Patriarch Alexy II is declared to be a 'supporter of the Zionist system' and persecutor of Estonian Orthodoxy?

In 2002 The Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs registered our Church with the title 'Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.' We were obliged to renounce the historical title of 'Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church' in order to register our statutes. Soon protocols of intent between the Republic of Estonia, the EAOC of Constantinople and the EOC of the Moscow Patriarchate were signed. In accordance with these protocols agreement was reached on those churches of ours which were recognized as being a part of restitution to the jurisdiction of Constantinople but where the corresponding parish communities did not wish to break their canonical ties with the Moscow Patriarchate. These churches, after payment by the authorities of a significant sum 'for the restoration of cult objects' were handed over to the EAOC as property by the state, which in its turn rented them to the parishes that worship in them. Thus, with rare exceptions, we have to rent our own churches. At the same time the leadership of the EAOC put forward one condition: the state has no right to hand over these church buildings as property of our Church. What is behind this? Maybe the hope that in time the will of the parishioners will be broken and these communities will be transferred to an ecclesiastical organization that has nothing in common with the Russian Church? It is worth noting that the EAOC has received as its own property not only all its church buildings but also land and residential houses, including those that historically belonged to our parishes Much of this property has already been sold off.

Glory be to God for our registration in 2002, and heartfelt gratitude to those who made it possible and continue to have an interest in the complete liquidation of the conflict by being prepared for new judicial acts in this direction. We also hope for good will on the part of the EAOC, the head of which - Metropolitan Stephanos - has many times put forward the initiative of restoring complete prayerful communion (concelebration of clergy, receiving of the Eucharist in both our Churches, etc.). And every time it has been explained to him, even by His Holiness Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, that the resolution of this problem is completely dependent upon the observance of the aforementioned Zurich accords.

It is essential for all to understand the following: in placing prayerful communion with the EAOC dependent upon the observance by its leadership of the conditions of equal rights agreed on in Zurich we are not fighting for any material gain, as our opponents claim. If on their part the transfer to us of the property of our church buildings is proposed in exchange for the Moscow Patriarchate recognizing their autonomy, then we do not bargain canonical truth. The change of property status, the transfer from being tenants of the church buildings constructed by our ancestors to being property owners is a matter of principle, rather than of material gain. The schism can only then be healed when the bad consequences of a judicial and property nature can be corrected. The next stage can be for the two Patriarchates to view the question of regulating the canonical status of Estonian Orthodoxy, including the problem of mutual relations between our Church and the ecclesiastical structure within the Patriarchate of Constantinople and recognized by the latter to be an autonomous Church. The notion of serious discussion on this topic before the implementation of the Zurich accords, which the Moscow Patriarchate agreed to with very many concessions so that world Orthodoxy would not be irreparably split, is incompatible with our dignity and with the defense of the legitimate rights of our flock.

We do not want to create a mere appearance of well-being, yet we hope to attain full communion, when from the depths of our heart we can say to each other: 'Christ is in our midst! - He is and shall be!'

Archpriest Igor PREKUP,
rector of the Tallinn parish of St Nicholas in Kopli
April 3, 2008



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