I do not agree with the video's makers final conclusion. To them, religion, all religion, has been used by those seeking world domination and in lumping religion into one basket, they lump the Holy Orthodox Faith along with the others and by doing so they throw away the only means whereby one may enter into the preservation of that which is truly human as God became Incarnate in Truth, not myth.
Orthodoxy maintains that "gate" open, to be entered in by those journeying in this world in search of refuge.
These events are foretold by the Church in Her Scriptures, Her Saints and in Her Holy Fathers.
The video makers are correct that the world itself will voluntarily seek this enslavement for the sake of security but they, the video makers, err in their belief that the joining of humanity, one of us with another, will prevent this coming enslavement and de-humanization from taking place.
Come it will and "the" Anti Christ is coming if not already in the World.
With fervent ascesis, clinging to our Lord, we are called to die to this world ahead of time while living in it that when the time comes that we are called to be separated from this body of ours for not yielding to the chip to be controlled by Satan.
May we die before we die.
Friday, November 30, 2007
I do not agree with the video's makers final conclusion. To them, religion, all religion, has been used by those seeking world domination and in lumping religion into one basket, they lump the Holy Orthodox Faith along with the others and by doing so they throw away the only means whereby one may enter into the preservation of that which is truly human as God became Incarnate in Truth, not myth.
Commemorated on November 30
The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he later brought his own brother, the holy Apostle Peter, to Christ (John 1:35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and he worked with his brother as a fisherman. When the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John began to preach, St Andrew became his closest disciple. St John the Baptist himself sent to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God.
After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, St Andrew went to the Eastern lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place where the city of Kiev now stands.
He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: "See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise up many churches." The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother, the Church of Constantinople, with her daughter, the Russian Church.
On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out of their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persistant disciple of Christ continued to preach to people about the Savior. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the Lord worked miracles. By the labors of the holy Apostle Andrew, Christian Churches were established, for which he provided bishops and clergy. The final city to which the Apostle came was the city of Patra, where he was destined to suffer martyrdom.
The Lord worked many miracles through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness; he healed Maximilla, wife of the governor of Patra, and his brother Stratokles. The miracles accomplished by the Apostle and his fiery speech enlightened almost all the citizens of the city of Patra with the true Faith.
Few pagans remained at Patra, but among them was the prefect of the city, Aegeatos. The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of the Gospel. But even the miracles of the Apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy Apostle with love and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought he might undo St Andrew's preaching if he were to put him to death on the cross.
St Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the prefect with joy and with prayer to the Lord, and went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail the saint's hands and feet, but to tie them to the cross. For two days the apostle taught the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take St Andrew down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, said: "Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit." Then a blazing ray of divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the light faded, the holy Apostle Andrew had already given up his holy soul to the Lord. Maximilla, the wife of the prefect, had the body of the saint taken down from the cross, and buried him with honor.
A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles beside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and St Paul's disciple St Timothy.
Troparion - Tone 4
Andrew, first-called of the Apostlesand brother of the foremost disciple,entreat the Master of allto grant peace to the worldand to our souls great mercy.
Kontakion - Tone 2
Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God,the namesake of courage,the first-called of the Savior's disciplesand the brother of Peter.As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us:"Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"
SOURCE FOR ICON:
BELGRADE -- President Boris Tadić and PM Vojislav Koštunica Wednesday visited Patriarch Pavle in hospital.
The 93-year old head of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) is receiving medical treatment at the Military Medical Academy (VMA) in Belgrade.
The two top state officials visited the patriarch immediately after returning from the three-day negotiations on Kosovo's future status, that ended without progress in Austria.
The health of the patriarch, who has been hospitalized for three weeks, has improved slightly, but is still very serious, doctors said earlier on Wednesday.
The Serbian Orthodox Church said in a statement that the patriarch had continued receiving visitors and blessing all those concerned about his health.
Thursday, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has sent a message of support to Patriarch Pavle wishing him speedy recovery, Tanjug learned from the Holy See Press Office.
"I have been informed of your delicate state of health, and herewith I want to express my brotherly and spiritual closeness with you at this moment of temptation," the Pope said in the message.
"In expressing my best wishes for your speedy recovery, I will remember you and find a special place for you in my prayers," Benedict XVI said.
READ THE PREVIOUS POST RELATED TO THIS STORY:
Father Edip Daniel Savci, a priest of the Syrian Orthodox Church, was taken captive in the southeastern town of Midyat, near the Syrian border, on November 28.
Another priest in the region reported that he had received a ransom demand, asking for €300,000 (about $440,000), shortly after Father Savci's car was found abandoned outside the town. The kidnappers threatened to kill the priest if the ransom was not promptly delivered.
Although the Christian minority in Turkey has suffered several violent attacks in recent months, spokesmen for the Orthodox Church said that they were not convinced the kidnapping was done for religious reasons. The Syrian Orthodox community, concentrated heavily in the southeast of Turkey, has frequently been caught up in conflicts that pit the local Kurdish community against the Turkish government.
The Syrian Orthodox Church, which broke from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon, is one of the most ancient Christian communities in the region, tracing its foundation back to the preaching of St. Jude the apostle. In recent decades most of the local Christians have fled, leaving only about 25,000 members of the Syrian Orthodox Church remaining in the region.
Of course, the source for this story is a Roman Catholic source so I must take issue with the reporter's citing in the last paragraph the Syrian Orthodox Chrurch breaking with Rome after the Council of Chalcedon.
The article presupposes that what Rome says of herself today holds true for this epoch of a very different Rome and very different Christian world.
Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the church head, urged priests to pray together on 2 December for rainfall to end a drought that had "blighted" the land.
Lower-than-average rainfall over the last year has drained the reservoirs on which Cyprus relies heavily for water.
Prolonged hot weather during the tourist season has further strained supplies, with most reservoirs on average only 8% full - as opposed to 25% last year.
"Once again a drought has blighted our country and the people are worried because if the dry spell continues it will bring terrible consequences to farming, livestock and crops," the archbishop said.
The Orthodox Church is among Cyprus' biggest landowners, with sizeable investments in banking, construction, hotels and wine-making.
Rome (ENI). A top official of the Russian Orthodox Church has said many problems have still to be resolved before a meeting can take place between Pope Benedict XVI and Moscow Patriarch Alexei II, despite overtures for such a meeting from the Vatican.
"I can't give an exact date [for such a meeting] because such a date doesn't exist," Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Russian patriarchate's department for external church relations said in Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported on 27 November.
Kirill was responding to suggestions by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, that a meeting between the two church leaders might improve relations between Orthodox and Catholic Christians.
Kasper made his remarks in a 23 November address at the Vatican to the College of Cardinals about the state of relations between Christian churches.
Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, spoke repeatedly about his dream of visiting Russia, but met resistance from the Moscow Patriarchate, which had accused the Vatican of aggressively seeking converts among Russian Orthodox faithful.
Speaking about relations with the Moscow church, however, Kasper said there is "no longer ice, but a thaw". He added, "From our point of view, a meeting between the Pope and Patriarch of Moscow would be useful."
Metropolitan Kirill also noted that the level of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches was now much higher than a few years ago. But, he said, "There is a working process and interaction. We are discussing many problems of our relations that are still on the agenda."
Kasper, in his Vatican speech, underlined the importance of working for Christian unity.
"There is no realistic alternative to ecumenism," he said, praising a recent document agreed by Orthodox and Catholic theologians at Ravenna in northern Italy, which dealt with the papacy among other things.
"For the first time, the Orthodox participants acknowledged the level of the universal Church and admitted that also at this level there is a Protos, a Primate, which can only be the Bishop of Rome," said Kasper, referring to one of the Pope's titles. "This is only a first step ... but with this document we have a basis for future dialogue."
Still, as far as Protestant churches were concerned, Kasper noted that despite some agreements, new differences had arisen.
"While on the one hand we are trying to overcome the old disputes, the other new differences are emerging in the field of ethics," the cardinal stated. "This concerns in particular issues relating to the defence of life, marriage, family and about human sexuality."
The Milan-based Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that after Kasper's speech, the English Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor suggested that Pope Benedict undertake a "a courageous gesture to invite all Christian churches to a world meeting".
The Pope responded, the newspaper continued, by saying, "It's a good idea, but at the moment it's not viable; and the difficulties do not come from our side."
READ THE PREVIOUS POST RELATED TO THIS STORY:
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Holy Martyr Paramon and the 370 Martyrs with him suffered for their faith in Christ in the year 250 during the rule of the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of the Eastern regions, Aquianus, had locked up 370 Christians in prison, urging them to abjure Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols.
They subjected the captives to beatings, hoping by torture and the threat of death to persuade them to renounce Christ and worship the pagan gods. One of the local inhabitants, Paramon by name, openly denounced the cruel governor and confessed his faith in the One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ. They beheaded St Paramon after fierce tortures, together with the other 370 martyrs.
Troparion - Tone 4
Your holy martyr, O Lord,Through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God.For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries,And shattered the powerless boldness of demons.Through their intercessions, save our souls!
STRASBOURG, France -- The top European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg held the first session of a trial Tuesday (November 27th) that pits the Greek Orthodox Church against Turkey for discrimination and violation of property rights. The Greek Patriarchate decided to sue after Ankara deprived it of control of an orphanage on Turkish soil. The Patriarchate claims it has owned the facility since 1902, when the country was part of the Ottoman Empire. The property, on Buyukada Island in the Marmara Sea, was taken over by Turkey in 1997. (AFP, CNN Turk, Zaman, Turkish Daily News - 27/11/07)
As a special emissary to the Holy Land representing the Rabbinical Alliance
of America, and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. and Canada, I had the
merit to be a key organizer and participant in the historic conference of
religious leaders pertaining to the sanctity of the Holy City of
Jerusalem. The media coverage of this conference occurred on March 30th to
the 31st, 2005, and included a front page story in the New York Times. A
document was issued which was signed by the Israeli Chief Rabbis, the various
Christian Patriarchs, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, currently the Vatican Apostolic
Ambassador to Washington, myself, representing the American Rabbinate, and
various Muslim leaders.
The heretofore, unparalleled scope of participants in Annapolis and the
previous statements of various religious leaders, such as a statement issued by
the Vatican on November 8th, 2006, which addressed preserving the sanctity of
Jerusalem which is venerated by so many faithful, provides a unique opportunity
for building goodwill between all the religious faith
Surely the City of Jerusalem deserves the sanctity and
respect accorded to Vatican City, Mecca, Karbalah, and other cities which
faithful venerate. Thus, there should be no immoral parades, public
displays, homosexual or heterosexual, no pornography, no titillating
advertisements, no establishments which promote licentiousness, and no municipal
funding of movies, plays, or cultural events that are immodest or offend the
sensibilities, not only of the various faith communities which populate
Jerusalem, but the millions, if not billions, worldwide, who venerate Jerusalem,
and all her Holy sites.
We call upon the various religious personalities who have historically had
connections with Christian Holy sites, such as Pope Benedict, the Patriarchs of
the Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Church,
etc...as well as the King of Morocco, who is traditionally charged with
protecting Muslim Holy sites, and other leaders who are not mentioned here, to
promptly join together and issue statements and exercise influence to see that a
binding agreement is signed by the appropriate authorities forever guaranteeing
the sanctity of the entire Jerusalem, the Old City, East Jerusalem, which is
largely populated by Arabs, and West Jerusalem, which is populated by
Jews. If it is called Jerusalem by any party, it should be totally devoid
of anything, which would offend any of the religious sensibilities of the major
All who care for the sanctity of Jerusalem should insist
that the section of Israeli Basic Law which pertains to Jerusalem's' sanctity be
updated and made crystal clear, there should be zero tolerance for any type of
public immorality, immodesty, or so-called "cultural activity" which wouldn't be
acceptable in the other aforementioned cities!
Safeguarding the sanctity of Jerusalem should be the first step in this new
era of international and interreligious cooperation.
Jews, we call upon the Knesset to act expeditiously and legislate in a manner
which ensures the success of this movement to preserve Jerusalem's
sanctity. We call on the Mayor and City Council of Jerusalem to defund all
immoral events that offend traditional religious sensibilities.
This common denominator of concern for the sanctity of Jerusalem will
create international goodwill and empower those who sincerely seek
Follow this link to view Rabbi Levin's Youtube Video regarding the "Annapolis Meeting": http://youtube.com/watch?v=sSUHg-ZaKps
11:59CHINA – RUSSIA
Metropolitan Kirill, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, confirmed Moscow’s willingness to provide theological training to priests from China’s 15,000-strong Orthodox community.
Moscow (AsiaNews/Interfax) – Russian Orthodox theological schools are ready to train Orthodox students from China whose Orthodox Church is independent from Moscow, Metropolitan Kirill, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said.
At present, there are no Chinese Orthodox priests in the People's Republic of China whilst the number of Orthodox believers in the country is believed to be around 15,000, the metropolitan explained.
The Chinese Orthodox Church was granted autonomy by the Synod of the Russian Church in 1957, but it has not had a primate since the death of bishop Vasily of Beijing in 1962.
The Synod stated in 1997 that Patriarch Aleksij II of Moscow and All Russia would carry out canonical care for the parish of the Orthodox Church in China.
“Russian Church is unambiguously interested in the restoration of an independent Orthodox Church in China, but as the Mother Church it is ready to send Russian priests to China as an interim measure,” he added.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Monk Martyr and Confessor Stephen the New was born in 715 at Constantinople into a pious Christian family. His parents, having two daughters, prayed the Lord for a son. The mother of the new-born Stephen took him to the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos and dedicated him to God.
During the reign of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741) there was a persecution against the holy icons and against those venerating them. With the support of the emperor, the adherents of the Iconoclast heresy seized control of the supreme positions of authority in the Empire and in the Church. Persecuted by the powers of this world, Orthodoxy was preserved in monasteries far from the capital, in solitary cells, and in the brave and faithful hearts of its followers.
The Orthodox parents of St Stephen, grieved by the prevailing impiety, fled from Constantinople to Bithynia, and they gave over their sixteen-year-old son in obedience to the monk John, who labored in asceticism in a solitary place on the Mount of St Auxentius. St Stephen dwelt with the venerable monk John for more than fifteen years, devoting himself totally to this spirit-bearing Elder, and learning monastic activity from him. Here Stephen received the news that his father was dead, and his mother and sisters had been tonsured as nuns.
After a certain time his teacher John also died. With deep sorrow St Stephen buried his venerable body, and continued with monastic effort in his cave by himself. Soon monks began to come to the ascetic, desiring to learn from him the virtuous and salvific life, and a monastery was established, with St Stephen as the igumen. At forty-two years of age Stephen left the monastery he founded, and he went to another mountain, on whose summit he dwelt in deep seclusion in a solitary cell. But here also a community of monks soon gathered, seeking the spiritual guidance of St Stephen.
Leo the Isaurian was succeeded by Constantine Copronymos (741-775), a fiercer persecutor of the Orthodox, and an even more zealous iconoclast. The emperor convened an Iconoclast Council, attended by 358 bishops from the Eastern provinces. However, except for Constantine, the Archbishop of Constantinople, illegitimately raised to the patriarchal throne by the power of Copronymos, not one of the other patriarchs participated in the wicked doings of this Council, thus making it less likely to style itself as "ecumenical." This council of heretics, at the instigation of the emperor and the archbishop, described icons as idols, and pronounced an anathema on all who venerated icons in the Orthodox manner, and it described icon veneration as heresy.
Meanwhile, the monastery of Mount Auxentius and its igumen became known in the capital. They told the emperor about the ascetic life of the monks, about their Orthodox piety, about the igumen Stephen's gift of wonderworking, and of how St Stephen's fame had spread far beyond the region of the monastery, and that the name of its head was accorded universal respect and love. The saint's open encouragement of icon veneration and the implied rebuff to the persecutors of Orthodoxy within the monastery of Mount Auxentius especially angered the emperor. Archbishop Constantine realized that in the person of St Stephen he had a strong and implacable opponent of his iconoclastic intentions, and he plotted how he might draw him over to his side or else destroy him.
They tried to lure St Stephen into the Iconoclast camp, at first with flattery and bribery, then by threats, but in vain. Then they slandered the saint, accusing him of falling into sin with the nun Anna. But his guilt was not proven, since the nun courageously denied any guilt and died under torture and beatings. Finally, the emperor gave orders to lock up the saint in prison, and to destroy his monastery. Iconoclast bishops were sent to St Stephen in prison, trying to persuade him of the dogmatic correctness of the Iconoclast position. But the saint easily refuted all the arguments of the heretics and he remained true to Orthodoxy.
Then the emperor ordered that the saint be exiled on one of the islands in the Sea of Marmora. St Stephen settled into a cave, and there also his disciples soon gathered. After a certain while the saint left the brethren and took upon himself the exploit of living atop a pillar. News of the stylite Stephen, and the miracles worked by his prayers, spread throughout all the Empire and strengthened the faith and spirit of Orthodoxy in the people.
The emperor gave orders to transfer St Stephen to prison on the island of Pharos, and then to bring him to trial. At the trial, the saint refuted the arguments of the heretics sitting in judgment upon him. He explained the dogmatic essence of icon veneration, and he denounced the Iconoclasts because in blaspheming icons, they blasphemed Christ and the Mother of God. As proof, the saint pointed to a golden coin inscribed with the image of the emperor. He asked the judges what would happen to a man who threw the coin to the ground , and then trampled the emperor's image under his feet. They replied that such a man would certainly be punished for dishonoring the image of the emperor. The saint said that an even greater punishment awaited anyone who would dishonor the image of the King of Heaven and His Saints, and with that he spat on the coin, threw it to the ground, and began to trample it underfoot.
The emperor gave orders to take the saint to prison, where already there were languishing 342 Elders, condemned for the veneration of icons. In this prison St Stephen spent eleven months, consoling the imprisoned. The prison became like a monastery, where the usual prayers and hymns were chanted according to the Typikon. The people came to the prison in crowds and asked St Stephen to pray for them.
When the emperor learned that the saint had organized a monastery in prison, where they prayed venerated holy icons, he sent two of his own servants, twin-brothers, to beat the saint to death. When these brothers went to the prison and beheld the face of the monk shining with a divine light, they fell down on their knees before him, asking his forgiveness and prayers, then they told the emperor that his command had been carried out. But the emperor learned the truth and he resorted to yet another lie. Informing his soldiers that the saint was plotting to remove him from the throne, he sent them to the prison. The holy confessor himself came out to the furious soldiers, who seized him and dragged him through the streets of the city. They then threw the lacerated body of the martyr into a pit, where they were wont to bury criminals.
On the following morning a fiery cloud appeared over Mount Auxentius, and then a heavy darkness descended upon the capital, accompanied by hail, which killed many people.
Troparion - Tone 4
Trained in asceticism on the mountain,with the weapon of the Cross you destroyed the spiritual assaults of the hostile powers, all-blessed one;Again you bravely prepared for combatand slew Copronymus with the sword of faith;for both struggles you have been crowned by God, monk-martyr Stephen of eternal memory.
Kontakion - Tone 8
Lovers of the feasts, from the heart with hymns let us praise in faith godlike Stephen the lover of the Trinity,for he honored the fair icon icon of the Master and of His Mother.Now let us rejoice together and cry out to him with love:"Rejoice, ever glorious Father."
The Middle East Council of Churches’ (MECC) 9th General Assembly began its deliberations here Tuesday with the participation of more than one hundred delegates from all Christian denominations in the Middle East.
According to the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the MECC discusses issues such as conflicts in the Middle East.
The Council meets every two years to review the work of the MECC and approve future action.
At the Paphos meeting the MECC will elect a new Presidium and a new Secretary General.
MECC is an autonomous and indigenous fellowship of the four Christian ecclesiastical families of the Middle East, namely Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic.
Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2007, 12:02 (GMT)
A Greek Orthodox Church in Northhamptonshire may be forced to sell its church building after repeated vandalism has pushed the church to the edge of bankruptcy.
The church at the old St Crispin’s Hospital in Duston has been undergoing a restoration scheme since the Greek Orthodox church took over and received a £54,000 grant from English Heritage for the repairs, reports the BBC.
The church is a grade II listed building but has been the victim of graffiti and criminal damage. The vandals have also stolen CCTV cameras meant to deter them as well as damaging the church.
"We bought the church nine years ago and we have been trying to restore it slowly but we've had around £13,000 of damage done to the church including smashed windows, stolen lead and ripped-up tiles,” church member Malcolm Rogers told the BBC.
"That has pushed us to the point of bankruptcy and we now owe the builders £9,000 and they are charging us daily interest.
"Had we not had all this vandalism we would probably be there about finished with the restoration.”
The church is now seeking help from businesses, but if no one can be found to support costs it may be necessary to sell the church.
“We don't know what to do now. We need to raise money and hopefully someone out there will be able to help us," Rogers told the BBC.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The Holy Great Martyr James the Persian (the Sawn-Asunder) was born in the fourth century into a pious Christian family, both wealthy and illustrious. His wife was also a Christian, and the couple raised their children in piety, inspiring in them a love for prayer and the Holy Scriptures. James occupied a high position at the court of the Persian emperor Izdegerd (399-420) and his successor Barakhranes (420-438). But on one of the military campaigns James, seduced by the emperor's beneficence, was afraid to acknowledge himself a Christian, and so he offered sacrifice to idols with the emperor.
Learning of this, James' mother and wife wrote him a letter, in which they rebuked him and urged him to repent. Receiving the letter, James realized the gravity of his sin. Faced with the horror of being cut off not only from his family, but also from God Himself, he began to weep loudly, imploring the Lord for forgiveness.
His fellow-soldiers, hearing him pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, reported this to the emperor. Under interrogation, St James bravely confessed his faith in the one True God. No amount of urging by the emperor could make him renounce Christ. The emperor then ordered the saint to be put to death.
They began to cut off his fingers and his toes one by one, then his hands and his feet, and then his arms and legs. During the prolonged torture St James offered prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord, Who had granted him the possibility of redemption from his sins by enduring these terrible torments. Finally, the martyr was beheaded. Christians gathered up the pieces of his body and buried them with great reverence.
Troparion - Tone 4
You astounded all, long-suffering James, by enduring horrible tortures with great patience.As the evil assembly performed the slaughter, you uttered prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord.Through your sufferings you received your crown, and came to the throne of the heavenly King, Christ God.Entreat Him to save our souls!
Kontakion - Tone 2
You listened to your faithful wifeand contemplated the judgment of God, holy James; you despised the threats and commands of the Persians, accepting the cutting of your body as though you were a vine.Therefore you were revealed as a martyr worthy of honor.
By Carol Reeves
The fog that blanketed most of town Sunday morning gave way to clear skies in the hills of northwest Corvallis, allowing the sun to light up the gold domes atop St. Martin the Merciful Orthodox Church. The church was celebrating its fifth anniversary after opening its doors to the public in 2002.
St. Martin’s has a long way to go to catch up with several local churches that have been around more than 100 years. But this weekend’s celebration is a spiritual milestone for a group of people who went from meeting in each other’s homes in the early 1990s to a congregation of about 60 in the small church building off Highland Drive designed to look like a 16th-century north Russian parish.
Before then, church families used to commute several hours every Sunday to either Mulino or Rogue River to participate in the liturgy before their building was finished in 2001 and regular services began a year later with the ordination of the Rev. James Baglien as their resident priest.
is one of two Orthodox congregations in Corvallis and one of just three in the state affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
St. Anne’s Orthodox Church, which meets in the Lewisburg Grange Hall on Northeast Elliott Circle, is affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America.
Now, the church is recognized as an active parish within the diocese and a vibrant Orthodox witness in the community.
“For the people who come here, this is their home, their family and their anchor,” Baglien said.
St. Martin’s is a diverse congregation in terms of the members’ ethnic, socioeconomic and spiritual backgrounds. Many of the newcomers to the Orthodox faith seem to be attracted to the serenity they feel worshipping there.
“I’ve been struck by how many people have said our parish is an island of ‘calm,’” Baglien said. “We live in a very frenetic world and for many people we represent a refuge from that ‘noise’ and ‘commotion."
Russian billionaire tycoons Arkadi Gaydamak and Roman Abramovich have agreed to fund the construction of a new Jerusalem courthouse to resolve a sensitive church property dispute with Russia, officials said Sunday.
The accord, which has been reached with Russian government representatives and is expected to be signed next year, would see the Jewish businessmen pay for the construction of new quarters for the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court so that the current landmark building in the city's Russian compound can be handed over to the Russians.
Israel has been negotiating the return of two Russian Church properties in central Jerusalem with Russia for the last three years, after Russian President Vladimir V. Putin first claimed the buildings as property of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The issue is considered to be extremely delicate because Israel is concerned over the precedent such claims may have on other churches' properties in the city, including the prime minister's official residence.
The Israeli government position has been that the Russians would need to fund the construction of the new buildings - including the courthouse - if they want Israel to vacate the current site.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman declined comment Sunday, citing ongoing talks between the two governments.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Israel had agreed in principle to transfer the St. Sergius Church and the building of the Russian church mission in Jerusalem to Russia.
The two church properties in question, which were sold to Israel by the Soviet authorities four decades ago, are located in the city's historic Russian Compound, a series of 19th century structures near city hall.
The premises of the St. Sergius Church are currently used by Israel's Agriculture Ministry and government agencies for environmental protection, while the Ecclesiastical Mission houses the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.
Putin has long been pushing ahead with claims on a couple of buildings in the city's historic Russian Compound which are owned by the Russian Orthodox Church, including the landmark city building housing the court.
Israel bought the Russian church assets, part of the so-called Russian Compound built during the waning years of Czarist rule, from the Khrushchev government in 1964 for a shipment of citrus fruit, in what became known as the "orange deal." Until World War I, Russians composed the largest group of pilgrims in the Holy Land.
The offer by Gaydamak, who has suggested he would be running in next year's Jerusalem mayoral race, was his latest high-profile move in the country.
Gaydamak, who has been facing suspicions of money-laundering, has been under police investigation for years. He faces an international arrest warrant because of a French investigation into alleged arms trafficking to Angola in the early 1990s, but has never been convicted of any crime.
At the same time, the philanthropist won praise from some Israelis for stepping in to help the hard-hit residents of the southern border town of Sderot, who have been the target of seven years of ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks from the nearby Gaza Strip.
Likewise, during last year's Lebanon War, he funded the evacuation of thousands of northerners for an all-expenses-paid beach vacation until the fighting ended.
READ THE PREVIOUS POST RELATED TO THIS STORY:
(left)An animated Kes Wolde Dawitt (right) who led the operation to repossess the Maxfield Avenue headquarters of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, caught vigorously objecting to the presence of the Sunday Observer. Looking on are members of his flock including its trustee and financial secretary Sarapheal Hemmings, at left. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
(above)Headquarters of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica situated at 89 Maxfield Avenue in Kingston.
THE rift in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church widened on Friday after a group representing one fraction of the church went to its headquarters at 89 Maxfield Avenue in Kingston and, with the help of bailiffs, took control of the premises.
Ethiopian Orthodox Church members battle for possession of Maxfield Avenue premises
BY BASIL WALTERS Sunday Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.orgSunday, November 25, 2007
The group - which is loyal to the mother church in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and which recently won a law suit to claim the Maxfield Avenue headquarters - turned up with new locks and keys to reclaim the premises, and was met with hostility by the other members currently occupying the premises.
Since 1992 there has been a split in the church when the mother church appointed a new patriarch and Archbishop Paulos to replace the incumbent Mekrios, who was ill. A section of the church, led by the late Abuna Yesehaq Mandefro who was in charge of the Western Hemisphere branches of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, contended that the decision by the mother church was a violation of its cannon, which stipulates that an incumbent Archbishop cannot be replaced once he is still alive.
That led to a schism in the first ancient African Christian Church, and separation of its members, with those following the late Abuna Yesehaq declaring their independence of the mother church.
Here in Jamaica, those members loyal to the mother church stopped from fellowship at the Maxfield Avenue headquarters. They began meeting instead at the St Mary Anglican Church on Molynes Road - still observing the ancient rituals of the Orthodox Church. But some of these members, sources say, were automatically excommunicated from the Abuna Yesehaq's-influenced Maxfield Avenue congregation.
The Molynes Road fraction eventually filed a law suit to claim possession of the headquarters, and on June 15 the court ruled in their favour.
The administrators of the Maxfield Avenue headquarters have since appealed, and a hearing has been set for next Tuesday.
"I'm not really happy about what is happening," resident priest at the Maxfield Avenue HQ, Kes Gabre Selessie (Fitzgerald), told the Sunday Observer.
"It is a matter that have to go back to the court. they came here while an appeal is pending for the 27th of this month. We will have to wait until the court resettle this matter," Fitzgerald added.
But Sarapheal Hemmings, a trustee and financial secretary of the Molynes Road fraction told the Sunday Observer that "the rite of possession has been issued by the court for us to come and picket. for the past two weeks they have been issued, and it's just today we decided to come and takeover. So, we come this morning with the bailiff to just take possession of the place; we're not here to run the people or anything. We've locked up the place now and we're going to try to arrange a meeting with the administrators to see how we still can workout this thing peacefully," Hemmings said.
However, Theophilus Dawkins, a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for over 30 years, accused the Molynes Road group of using "brute force."
"I am one of the foundation members here in Jamaica. Now, what they come and done this morning, is to try to dig off the locks and put on new locks, and try to force people to give up the keys for them to put on their locks. And we, the people, were telling them that we don't want them.".
"Dem come wid brute force, dem come wid di belly a di beast come tek ova di church," he added. The other members of the Maxfield Avenue fraction echoed similar sentiments.
One church sister also complained that a funeral service was about be prevented because the Molynes Road fraction had stated that they (from Maxfield Avenue) should no longer use that building.
"We have a funeral here for a member that passed off. She is supposed to be buried on the 25th; dem lick off the lock, put on dem lock and sey we can have no more service here. And she is a member here from she was young. Her name is Sistah Dotti and her baptism name is Amarian. She is from Trench Town," the church sister said.
However, Fitzgerald told the Sunday Observer that the Molynes Road fraction had made a concession for the funeral to go ahead today, adding that this was the last service he would be allowed to conduct there.READ THE PREVIOUS POST RELATED TO THIS STORY:
The Associated Press Published: November 26, 2007
NICOSIA, Cyprus: The Orthodox Church of Cyprus instructed priests to pray for rain at Sunday Mass in hopes of ending one of this east Mediterranean island's worst droughts in recent years.
Church Primate Archbishop Chrysostomos II issued a circular Monday instructing all priests across the island to offer special prayers on Dec. 2 for divine providence to end the drought with much-needed rains.
"Unfortunately, once again, drought is lashing our homeland. Justifiably, our people are anxious because if the drought continues, there will be severe consequences not only on agriculture, livestock farming and forestry, but also on sources from which our towns and villages are supplied water," the circular reads.
"We are certain that if we all pray together with an earnest soul and deep faith, then it's all but impossible for all-merciful God not to heed our prayers and fulfill our pleas."
Cyprus relies heavily on dams to meet its drinking water and irrigation needs.
Dam water levels stand at a paltry 8 percent of their capacity, compared with 25 percent during the same period last year.
By: Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos(GOA)Commentaries: Adaptation and Acculturation Are Inevitable, Unavoidable and Acceptable
By: Bishop Demetrios of MokissosIt is my special honor and privileges this day to offer greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on behalf of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, the Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne in the Americas, and the spiritual father of the Greek Orthodox Christians of the United States.
His Eminence is unfortunately unable to be with you for this symposium, but is certainly with us in spirit, for there is no person more interested in “meeting the needs of young Greek Americans” which is the main theme of this event. Indeed, His Eminence has asked me to convey his great concern, his care, his love and most importantly his prayers for all his spiritual children, but especially for those who will be charged with “guarding the treasure” entrusted to our generation and those that will follow. This treasure is the legacy of our identity as Greek Orthodox Christians: our faith, our spiritual values, and our cultural inheritance. Gathered here so close to our nationʼs capital, we may not even be fully conscious of the extent of our cultural legacy, echoing in the political values of democracy, and seen in the consciously classical art and architecture of this relatively young republic. Therefore, His Eminence is truly grateful to His Excellency, Ambassador Alexandros Mallias of Greece; the Greek Secretary General of Information, Mr. Panos Livadas; the World Council of Hellenes, and its President in the United States Mr. Theodore Spyropoulos; the American Hellenic Institute, and the Hellenic American National Council and its President Mr. Emmanuel Velivasakis, for providing this forum for the young persons who inherit the mantle of Hellenism. This forum has the opportunity to foster a sense of unity, communion, and responsibility for holding fast to the traditions of our ancestors while finding ways for our cultural institutions to remain relevant in this time and place.
As the senior Orthodox Christian hierarch in the New World, His Eminence would be the first to note that the Greek Orthodox Church is not simply a cultural institution. The Body of Christ, the Church, transcends our worldly institutions. Yet we may also note that those institutions that our people have preserved or founded, are with us precisely because the Church allowed our people to survive – as an ethnos-- through the darkest of times. When I was a seminarian, another hierarch of our Church used to fondly say that to be Greek is to be Orthodox and to be Orthodox is to be Greek. In proper context, these words simply acknowledge historical truth: there would be no lasting, living Hellenic culture, were it not for the Church.
As noted historian Father Demetrios Constantelos reminds us, “Culture is the outer garment of religion, and religion is the heart of culture.” In many ways, this has been true in the experience of the modern Greeks since emancipation from the Ottoman Yoke, though our Hellenism is not the same culture of Plato, Aristotle, Pericles and the 300 Spartans. It is, however, descended from that culture (actually, several related cultures). What was good and worthy and valuable in those times was preserved. Indeed, elements of these cultures were appreciated by the whole Mediterranean world and as far as Alexander conquered. And so we of Greek ancestry find ourselves today appreciating our cultural inheritance.
But living here in America means we are not living simply as Hellenes. We have adapted to an American way of life; the earliest immigrants from Greece and Asia Minor – our protoporoi -- had to adapt. Adaptation is always necessary for survival in any culture and society. Those of us born in the United States, but appreciating our Greek ancestry, have already acculturated to some extent: our identity is the result of a merger between Hellene and American (both terms being somewhat ambiguous). Adaptation and acculturation are inevitable, unavoidable and acceptable. Indeed, perhaps even beneficial. After all, the modern Hellenic culture is the result of acculturation and adaptation by many peoples over a great length of time. If our modern Greek cultural life is worthy of celebration—as I believe it is—then we cannot fear nor resist acculturation; to do so would be to reject our own history and heritage. One of the things that has made the so-called “American Experiment” so successful is the fact that so many different cultures find expression here in the United States in a relative peaceful co-existence.
What many worry about today, for various reasons, is the rate of assimilation, which is neither adaptation nor simply acculturation. Assimilation is the loss or rejection of one cultural identity in favor of another. For those of us from a Hellenic background, it would mean the rejection or forgetting of this heritage in favor of another—whatever that may be. It is the loss of cultural memory. It is the loss—by rejection—of tradition. And tradition is an inherited and lasting value. If Hellenism is to survive, it will be through our traditions, and these cannot be separated or segregated from the Orthodox Church.
not simply theoretical principles. They are incarnate through our daily living in our current culture; for those of us in the United States of Hellenic ancestry or origin, a Hellenic-American culture. We carry forth into our shared American society the lasting values of our ancestors. As Orthodox Christians, in the words of Father Alkiviadis Calivas, former dean of our Seminary, we need not abandon our roots nor be apologetic about the fact that we carry with us cultural values that have been hammered out in places and times other than our own. Indeed, this very fact acts to remind us of our own responsibility and mission to be active and creative participants in the historical process.
Instead of fearing the loss of our cultural heritage, we should embrace the desire of others to share it. That which is immortal and valued by everyone will not perish. What is good and true will survive regardless of our efforts or neglect—there is no philosophical idea more Greek. Instead of taking hopeless measures to preserve that which cannot die, our efforts should be to bring an awareness and appreciation of our living Hellenic culture to others, and this coincides with the mission of the Church.
Our Hellenic culture is part and parcel of our Orthodox Church experience. We act, sometimes, as if we do not want to share this heritage, but mummify it. Of course, in all this, the priority for Orthodox Christians can never be a language, a human culture, ethnicity, nation. Our true homeland, our first patrida as we sing at every mnymosynon, is the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom, the Lord will not remove our Hellenic identity from us. Rather, what is good, and honest, and true, and valued will be manifest in us and through us, shared among all persons by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Sharing the lasting values, the traditions of our ancestors, is our movement to this unity and communion; not something to be feared but welcomed in our movement to the Kingdom as the Body of Christ.
Again, I express the greetings of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America together with his gratefulness to the organizers of this event and all participants, offering his paternal blessings for success, renewal in spirit and perseverance in guarding the treasure of Christian Hellenism entrusted to us.
*** Bishop Demetriosʼ of Mokissos address on behalf of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, to the First Symposium of SAE USA “Meeting the Needs of Young Greek Americans: Opportunities and Perspectives in the USA and Greece”. Washington, D.C., NOVEMBER 16 – 18, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Commemorated on November 26
Saint Alypius the Stylite was born in the city of Adrianopolis in Paphlagonia. His mother, a Christian, was widowed early, and she sent her son to be educated by Bishop Theodore. She distributed her substance to the poor, then began to live an ascetic life near the church as a deaconess.
St Alypius, from his early years, wanted to devote his life to God and yearned for the solitary life, although Bishop Theodore would not give him permission to do so. Once, when St Alypius was accompanying his bishop to Constantinople, the holy Martyr Euphemia (September 16) appeared to him in a vision, summoning St Alypius to return to Adrianopolis and found a church in her name.
With contributions offered by believers in Adrianopolis, St Alypius did build a church in the name of the holy Martyr Euphemia, on the site of a dilapidated pagan temple infested by legions of devils. Beside the church, under the open sky, the saint erected a pillar over a pagan tomb. For fifty-three years St Alypius struggled upon the pillar, praying to God and teaching those who came to him.
The demons which infested the pagan cemetery fell upon the ascetic by night and pelted him with stones. St Alypius, wanted nothing to stand in the way of the attacks of the spirits of darkness, then even took down the boards that served him as a roof, protecting him from the rain and wind. In the face of the saint's conquering steadfastness, the demons fled the place forever, which had been sanctified by his deed of voluntary martyrdom.
Fourteen years before his death, St Alypius was no longer able to stand. He was compelled to lie on his side because of the weakness of his legs, and endured grievous sufferings with humble gratitude. Around the saint's pillar two monasteries sprang up: a men's monastery on the one side, and a women's monastery on the other. St Alypius introduced strict monastic rules for both monasteries and he directed both monasteries until his death. St Alypius reposed in the year 640, at age 118. The body of the venerable stylite was buried in the church he founded in honor of the holy Martyr Euphemia. The relics of the saint of God healed many of those who came in faith.
Troparion - Tone 1
You were a pillar of patient endurance,having having imitated the forefathers, O Venerable One:Job in suffering, and Joseph in temptations.You lived like the Bodiless Ones while yet in the flesh, O Alypius, our Father.Beseech Beseech Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion - Tone 8
The Church glorifies and praises you today, Alypius,as a perfect example of virtue and the boast of ascetics.Through your prayers, grant remission of sins to all who venerate your life and your struggles.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Commemorated on November 25
The Hieromartyr Clement, Pope of Rome, was born at Rome into a rich and illustrious family. Separated from his parents from childhood by force of circumstances, Clement was raised by strangers. Living in Rome, the youth received a fine education, he was surrounded by luxury, and had access to the imperial court. But these comforts brought him no joy, and pagan wisdom failed to attract him. He began to ponder the meaning of life.
When the news of Christ and His teaching began to reach the capital, St Clement left his home and estate and went to the lands where the Apostles were preaching. At Alexandria St Clement met the holy Apostle Barnabas, listening to his words with deep attention, and perceiving the power and truth of the Word of God. Arriving in Palestine, St Clement was baptized by the holy Apostle Peter and became his zealous disciple and constant companion, sharing his toil and sufferings with him. Shortly before his own sufferings and death, St Peter consecrated St Clement as Bishop of Rome. After the death of the Apostle Peter, St Linus (67-79) was the next Bishop of Rome, succeeded by St Anacletus (79-91), and then St Clement (92-101).
The virtuous life, charitable works and prayerful activity of St Clement converted many to Christ. He once baptized 424 people on the day of Pascha. Among the baptized were people of all social classes: slaves, officials, and even members of the imperial family.
The pagans, seeing the success of his apostolic preaching, denounced St Clement to the emperor Trajan (98-117), accusing the saint of insulting the pagan gods. The emperor banished St Clement from the capital, sending him to the Crimea, to work at a stone quarry near the city of Cherson. Many of the saint's disciples followed after him voluntarily, preferring to go into exile rather than live without their spiritual Father.
When he arrived at the place of exile, St Clement found many Christian believers there, sentenced to labor under harsh conditions amidst a scarcity of water. He prayed together with the condemned, and the Lord appeared to him in the form of a lamb and revealed the location of a spring, from which gushed forth a veritable river of water. This miracle attracted a multitude of people to St Clement. Hearing the zealous preacher, hundreds of pagans were converted to Christ. Each day 500 or more men were baptized. And there in the stone quarry, a church was built, in which he served as priest.
The apostolic activity of the saint aroused the wrath of the emperor Trajan, and he ordered that St Clement be drowned. They threw the martyr into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck. This occurred in the year 101.
The saint's faithful disciples Cornelius and Fibius asked the people to pray that the Lord would permit them to see the martyr's body. The sea drew back a distance of three miles from the shore and the people walked out on the seabed until they found a marble cave shaped like a church. There they found the incorrupt body of their archpastor in this "Angelic Church" formed by God. After this, each year on the anniversary of St Clement's martyric death the sea receded, and for seven days Christians were able to venerate his holy relics.
During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus (802-811), by divine providence, the sea failed to withdraw, and the relics of St Clement became inaccessible for fifty years. In the time of the emperor Michael and his mother Theodora (855-867), Sts Cyril and Methodius visited Cherson. When they learned of the concealed relics of St Clement, they asked Bishop George of Cherson to pray that the Lord would show them the relics of the hieromartyr.
Sts Cyril and Methodius walked along the shore in procession with the clergy who came with them from Constantinople. Through the fervent prayers of everyone gathered there, the holy relics of St Clement miraculously appeared on the surface of the sea at midnight. They solemnly took them to the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople. A portion of the relics were then brought to Rome by Sts Cyril and Methodius, but a large portion of the relics was later brought to Kiev by the holy Prince Vladimir (July 15) and placed in the Desyatin-Tithe church, together with the relics of St Fibius, where a chapel dedicated to St Clement had been built. The hieromartyr Clement is widely venerated in Russia. From ancient times, many churches have been dedicated to him.
St Clement, who belongs to the Apostolic Fathers, has left to us a spiritual legacy (two Epistles to the Corinthians) the first written examples of Christian teaching after the writings of the holy Apostles.
Troparion - Tone 4
O God of our Fathers,always act with kindness towards us;take not Your mercy from us,but guide our lives in peacethrough the prayers of the hierarchs Clement and Peter.
Kontakion - Tone 4
Podoben: "Today You have shown forth..."Unshakeable and godlike towers of the Church,truly inspired and mighty pillars of the Faith,all-praised Clement and Peter, protect us all by your prayers.
Putin, who will head the United Russia party ticket in the Dec. 2 elections, called on religious Russians to come to the polling stations.
The outcome of the elections, which are widely expected to strengthen United Russia's -- and Putin's -- position in power, will "directly determine the country's stable development and the continuity of those positive changes that have already entered our lives," he added.
Vladimir Vigilyansky, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, said before the meeting that the leaders came to discuss issues like state recognition of religious education and current regulations making priests eligible for mandatory military service.
After the event, the church officials were positive about the meeting with Putin and said there was no direct discussion of how Orthodox believers would or should vote. Varfolomei, Archbishop of Rovno and Ostrog, in Ukraine, said that during the meeting Patriarch Alexy II expressed his hope that Putin would continue his role as the country's leader.
Another church leader, Yevsevy, Archbishop of Pskov and Velikiye Luki, sidestepped a question about whether politics had been discussed, saying only that the leaders had talked of the need to "preserve the unity of the people."
After the meeting, Putin presented Alexy II with a fragment of what is considered to be one of the church's most precious relics -- the clothing believed to have been worn by Christ during or before the crucifixion. The fragment from the robe, held in a silver frame adorned with diamonds, has long been part of the Kremlin collection, but will now be kept at the Christ the Savior Cathedral.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Roman Catholic Church must figure out what it is doing wrong in the battle for souls, because so many Catholics are leaving the church to join Pentecostal and other evangelical movements, a top Vatican cardinal said Friday.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads the Vatican's office for relations with other Christians, told a meeting of the world's cardinals that the church must undergo a "self-critical pastoral examination of conscience" to confront the "exponential" rise of Pentecostal movements.
The Vatican has been increasingly lamenting the rise of Protestant evangelical communities, which it describes as "sects," in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere, and the resulting flight of Catholics. In Brazil alone, Roman Catholics used to account for about 90 percent of the population in the 1960s; by 2005, it was down to 67 percent.
This year, Kasper briefed the cardinals on relations with other Christians, focusing on the church's relations with the Orthodox, Protestants and Pentecostal movements.
Kasper opened his remarks by updating the cardinals and cardinal-designates on an important new document approved by a Vatican-Orthodox theological commission that has been working to heal the 1,000-year schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
The development is significant since the Great Schism of 1054 — which split the Catholic and Orthodox churches — was precipitated largely by disagreements over the primacy of the pope.
Kasper said that the Vatican's relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular, had become "significantly smoother" in recent years.
Tensions between the two churches have been strained over Orthodox accusations that the Vatican is seeking converts on traditionally Orthodox territories, particularly in eastern Europe — charges that Rome denies.
Kasper noted that Moscow had "never categorically excluded" such an encounter.
A document on the handover was signed Thursday in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.
Italian authorities said officially March 14 they had an intention to return the compound to Moscow Patriarchate.
It is located on the Adriatic coast three kilometers away from the basilica where St Nicholas’s relics are kept since the 11th century.
Monies were raised for the pilgrims center twice a year, on the days when the Orthodox congregation venerates St Nicholas, in all the monasteries and churches of the Russian Orthodox Church, as wardens would walk through the crowds of worshipers with special dishes in the hands and the worshipers would put coins and bills there.
Soviet authorities sold the compound to Bari municipality dirt cheap in 1937.
“The return of the entire compound to the Russian Orthodox Church will bring benefits not only to Russia and the Church but also to the city of Bari itself and will contribute to the progress of Russian-Italian contacts,” Bishop Marc, a deputy chairman of Moscow Patriachate’s department for external relations told Itar-Tass.
MOSCOW, November 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Orthodox Church has spoken out against using force in a standoff with a religious sect, who have sealed themselves in a cave to await the end of the world, the Russian church's chief spokesman said Friday.
The sect, which calls itself The True Russian Orthodox Church, was formed by one Father Pyotr, a 43-year-old diagnosed schizophrenic currently in custody. He is believed to have ordered his followers underground last week. The group of 28 adults and four children are threatening to set themselves on fire if police try to force them out.
"Persuasion and negotiations should be used, as people there [in the cave] are brainwashed and difficult to reason with," Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad said. "A violent solution should be avoided at all costs, it is very dangerous."
The church metropolitan explained the situation through the "religious ignorance" of the cult followers.
Orthodox priests have pitched a tent near the shelter and are praying for the sect members, and trying to engage them in "peaceful dialogue" a source in the Penza diocese said, adding that Archbishop Philaret of Penza had written to them.
"We are constantly engaged in talks, trying to make them change their minds, but it is difficult," the source said. "It took a long time to form their convictions, and reversing that process will not be quick."
Alexander Dvorkin, a Russian expert on religions and sects, earlier said that totalitarian sects were common in Russia, and that "control over their members is absolute, and anything that comes into the heads of their leaders has a direct impact on the entire group".
He also said the group in the Penza Region was similar in outlook to the pseudo-Russian Orthodox groups calling for the canonization of Stalin and Ivan the Terrible, adding that the actions of the Penza group could "act as a detonator," provoking other sects to "announce the end of the world."
The group leader is currently being held in a psychiatric hospital, and a criminal case has been launched against him.
READ THE PREVIOUS POST RELATED TO THIS STORY:
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Commemorated on November 24
The Holy Great Martyr Catherine was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandrian Egypt during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-313). Living in the capital, the center of Hellenistic knowledge, and possessed of a rare beauty and intellect, Catherine received an excellent education, studying the works of the greatest philosophers and teachers of antiquity. Young men from the most worthy families of the empire sought the hand of the beautiful Catherine, but she was not interested in any of them. She told her parents that she would enter into marriage only with someone who surpassed her in nobility, wealth, comeliness and wisdom.
Catherine's mother, a secret Christian, sent her to her own spiritual Father, a saintly Elder living in a cave outside the city, for advice. After listening to Catherine, the Elder said that he knew of a Youth who surpassed her in everything. "His countenance is more radiant than the shining of the sun, and all of creation is governed by His wisdom. His riches are given to all the nations of the world, yet they never diminish. His compassion is unequaled."
This description of the Heavenly Bridegroom produced in the soul of the holy maiden an ardent desire to see Him. "If you do as I tell you," said the monk, "you will gaze upon the countenance of this illustrious man." In parting, the Elder handed Catherine an icon of the Theotokos with the divine Child Jesus on Her arm and told her to pray with faith to the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of the Heavenly Bridegroom, and She would hear Catherine and grant her heart's desire.
Catherine prayed all night and was permitted to see the Most Holy Virgin, Who said Her Divine Son, "Behold Thy handmaiden Catherine, how fair and virtuous she is." But the Child turned His face away from her saying, "No, she is ugly and unbelieving. She is a foolish pauper, and I cannot bear to look at her until she forsakes her impiety."
Catherine returned again to the Elder deeply saddened, and told him what she had seen in the dream. He lovingly received her, instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly. She then received the Mystery of holy Baptism from him. Again St Catherine had a vision of the Most Holy Theotokos with Her Child. Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a beautiful ring, a wondrous token of her betrothal to the Heavenly Bridegroom (This ring is still on her hand).
At that time the emperor Maximian was in Alexandria for a pagan festival. Therefore, the celebration was especially splendid and crowded. The cries of the sacrificial animals, the smoke and the smell of the sacrifices, the endless blazing of fires, and the bustling crowds at the arenas defiled the city of Alexandria. Human victims also were brought, the confessors of Christ, those who would not deny Him under torture. They were condemned to death in the fire. The saint's love for the Christian martyrs and her fervent desire to ease their sufferings compelled Catherine to speak to the pagan priest and to the emperor Maximian.
Introducing herself, the saint confessed her faith in the One True God and with wisdom exposed the errors of the pagans. The beauty of the maiden captivated the emperor. In order to convince her and to show the superiority of pagan wisdom, the emperor ordered fifty of the most learned philosophers and rhetoricians of the Empire to dispute with her, but the saint got the better of the wise men, so that they came to believe in Christ themselves. St Catherine made the Sign of the Cross over the martyrs, and they bravely accepted death for Christ and were burned alive by order of the emperor.
Maximian, no longer hoping to convince the saint, tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame. Receiving an angry refusal, the emperor gave orders to subject the saint to terrible tortures and then throw her in prison. The Empress Augusta, who had heard much about the saint, wanted to see her. She prevailed upon the military commander Porphyrius to accompany her to the prison with a detachment of soldiers. The empress was impressed by the strong spirit of St Catherine, whose face was radiant with divine grace. The holy martyr explained the Christian teaching to them, and they were converted to Christ.
On the following day they again brought the martyr to the judgment court where, under the threat of being broken on the wheel, they urged that she renounce the Christian Faith and offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint steadfastly confessed Christ and she herself approached the wheels; but an angel smashed the instruments of execution, which shattered into pieces with many pagans standing nearby.
Having beheld this wonder, the Empress Augusta and the imperial courtier Porphyrius with 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ in front of everyone, and they were beheaded. Maximian again tried to entice the holy martyr, proposing marriage to her, and again he was refused. St Catherine firmly confessed her fidelity to the heavenly Bridegroom Christ, and with a prayer to Him she herself lay her head on the block beneath the executioner's sword.
The relics of St Catherine were taken by the angels to Mount Sinai. In the sixth century,, the venerable head and left hand of the holy martyr were found through a revelation and transferred with honor to a newly-constructed church of the Sinai monastery, built by the holy Emperor Justinian (November 14).
St Catherine is called upon for relief and assistance during a difficult childbirth. Pilgrims to her monastery on Mt Sinai are given souvenir rings as a remembrance of their visit.