Friday, February 29, 2008

Venerable John Cassian the Roman

Commemorated on February 29

Saint John Cassian the Roman was born around 360, probably in Lesser Scythia (in Dacia Pontica). His pious Christian parents gave him an excellent classical education, and also instructed him in the Holy Scriptures and in the spiritual life.

St John entered a monastery in the diocese of Tomis, where his friend and relative St Germanus labored as an ascetic. In 380, desiring to venerate the Holy Places, St John went to Jerusalem with his sister and his friend St Germanus. The two monks stayed at a Bethlehem monastery, not far from where the Savior was born.

After five years at the monastery, Sts John and Germanus traveled through the Thebaid and the desert monasteries of Sketis for seven years, drawing upon the spiritual experience of countless ascetics. The Egyptian monks taught them many useful things about spiritual struggles, prayer, and humility. Like honeybees they journeyed from place to place, gathering the sweet nectar of spiritual wisdom. The notes St John made formed the basis of his book called CONFERENCES WITH THE FATHERS in twenty-four chapters.

Returning to Bethlehem for a brief time, the spiritual brothers lived for three years in complete solitude. Then they went back to Egypt and lived there until 399. Because of the disturbances caused by Archbishop Theophilus of Alexandria to the monasteries along the Nile, they decided to go to Constantinople, after hearing of the virtue and holiness of St John Chrysostom. The great hierarch ordained St John Cassian as a deacon and accepted him as a disciple. John and Germanus remained with St John Chrysostom for five years, learning many profitable things from him.

When Chrysostom was exiled from Constantinople in 404, Sts John Cassian and Germanus went to Rome to plead his case before Innocent I. Cassian was ordained to the holy priesthood in Rome, or perhaps later in Gaul. After Chrysostom's death in 407, St John Cassian went to Massilia [Marseilles] in Gaul (now France). There he established two cenobitic monasteries in 415, one for men and another for women, based on the model of Eastern monasticism.

At the request of Bishop Castor of Aptia Julia (in southern Gaul), Cassian wrote THE INSTITUTES OF CENOBITIC LIFE (De Institutis Coenobiorum) in twelve books, describing the life of the Palestinian and Egyptian monks. Written between 417-419, the volume included four books describing the clothing of the monks of Palestine and Egypt, their schedule of prayer and services, and how new monks were received into the monasteries.The last eight books were devoted to the eight deadly sins and how to overcome them. Through his writings, St John Cassian provided Christians of the West with examples of cenobitic monasteries, and acquainted them with the asceticism of the Orthodox East.

Cassian speaks as a spiritual guide about the purpose of life, about attaining discernment, about renunciation of the world, about the passions of the flesh and spirit, about the hardships faced by the righteous, and about prayer.

St John Cassian also wrote CONFERENCES WITH THE FATHERS (Collationes Patrum) in twenty-four books in the form of conversations about the perfection of love, about purity, about God's help, about understanding Scripture, about the gifts of God, about friendship, about the use of language, about the four levels of monasticism, about the solitary life and cenobitic life, about repentance, about fasting, about nightly meditations, and about spiritual mortification. This last has the explanatory title "I do what I do not want to do." br> Books 1-10 of the CONFERENCES describe St John's conversations with the Fathers of Sketis between 393-399. Books 11-17 relate conversations with the Fathers of Panephysis, and the last seven books are devoted to conversations with monks from the region of Diolkos.

In 431 St John Cassian wrote his final work, ON THE INCARNATION OF THE LORD, AGAINST NESTORIUS (De Incarnationem Domini Contra Nestorium). In seven books he opposed the heresy, citing many Eastern and Western teachers to support his arguments.

In his works, St John Cassian was grounded in the spiritual experience of the ascetics, and criticized the abstract reasoning of St Augustine (June 15). St John said that "grace is defended less adequately by pompous words and loquacious contention, dialectic syllogisms and the eloquence of Cicero (i.e. Augustine), than by the example of the Egyptian ascetics." In the words of St John of the Ladder (March 30), "great Cassian reasons loftily and excellently." His writings are also praised in the Rule of St Benedict.

St John Cassian lived in the West for many years, but his spiritual homeland was the Orthodox East. He fell asleep in the Lord in the year 435. His holy relics rest in an underground chapel in the Monastery of St Victor in Marseilles. His head and right hand are in the main church.

Troparion - Tone 8

Having cleansed yourself through fasting,You attained the understanding of wisdom,And from the desert fathers You learned the restraint of the passions.To this end through your prayers grant our flesh obedience to the spirit.For you are the teacher, O venerable John Cassian,Of all who in Christ praise your memory.

Troparion - Tone 8

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Father,for you took up the Cross and followed Christ.By so doing you taught us to disregard the flesh for it passes awaybut to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.Therefore your spirit, venerable John Cassian, rejoices with the angels.

Kontakion - Tone 4

As a venerable monk,You consecrated your life to God,And radiant with virtue, O John Cassian,You shine like the sun with the splendor of your divine teachings,Illumining ever the hearts of all who honor you.Entreat Christ earnestly in behalf of thoseWho praise you with fervent love.


Bush Caught Lying About September 11th

You decide.

Adding of a new site-Monachos.Net

I ran across this wonderful site yesterday when I googled "St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery-cult" in response to some people claiming the monastery was a cult.

Having been there several times and leaving each time with such a wonderful experience, my last such experience written about here , these charges by Orthodox people I knew really upset me and hurt me and I knew that slander has an infectious aspect to it so I dismissed it.

But I decided to do the search anyway and found this discussion on the matter which naturally led me to this site's home page:


I print a brief description of this sites focus:

Welcome to,[1]
exists to further the study of Orthodox Christianity through reflection on its patristic, monastic,
liturgical and ecclesiastical heritage. Its aim is to be a resource for
academic, scholarly and personal study, a forum for the provision of patristic source and
secondary materials as well as ecclesiastical information on related matters, an
environment for the discussion of and reflection upon the Church's patristic, monastic,
liturgical and ecclesiastical heritage, and a means of providing access to
materials on the Church's thought and life.

This web site first appeared
in September 2000, in response to repeated requests for the type of materials
described above. has thus been, from its inception,
specifically designed not to emulate or duplicate the function and character of
the great number of web sites offering information on the Orthodox Church as a
whole, especially as it relates to other Christian traditions throughout the world;
nor was it designed to be another forum for the discussion of general Orthodox
theology. Those web sites which take these goals in hand are ample to the task,
and many of the best are indexed in our
on-line. Our purpose has remained specifically to address
an area less often explored in detail on-line: the thought and life of the
Church through the reading, study of and reflection upon the rich traditions of
the patristic and
monastic witnesses, together with the liturgical and ecclesiastical life of the
Church throughout its history.

Please visit this wonderful site.

Its link will be added on the sidebar of this site under "Orthodox Sites of Note".


Russian Church strives to keep up moral norms in European society

28 February 2008, 16:16

Moscow, February 28, Interfax – The Russian Orthodox Church stands for the primacy of moral law in private, public and political life of the European continent.

“The Russian Orthodox Church is concerned with the future of Europe. It is our duty to state: lack of centuries-proven models of righteous life suppresses human dignity,” the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations head Metropolitan Kirill said on Wednesday at a round table in Moscow with president of the European People’s Party Wilfried Martens.

According to the metropolitan, only economically profitable things are allowed to public space and profitable is to slave a person to his passions and exploit his instincts.”

“It’s always easier to deprive a person of his money if he is intoxicated with passions and moved by instincts rather than if he strives to live in compliance with moral ideas,” Metropolitan Kirill stressed.

The Russian Church’s representative is convinced that slavery to passions is “the most serious threat for human dignity”, as it makes happiness impossible for Europeans, destroys their freedom and makes public problems insoluble.

“Europeans should revise the role of their spiritual heritage for the continent’s future in order to escape these dangers,” Metropolitan Kirill said. He pointed out that Europe’s moral idea is expressed in traditional Christian values and “civilization will exist so long as humanity manages to tell good from evil, truth from lie, sin from righteousness.”

Representative of the Russian Church to the European Institutions Bishop Hilarion pointed out to another contemporary problem of the Western Europe which is Christianophobia.

The bishop explained that it not only drives Christian values away from social life, but also has external manifestations. For example, it’s impossible to buy a Christmas card in free sale in Great Britain as it is considered politically incorrect. Portugal schools named after saints strive to get rid of saints in their titles.

The bishop is perplexed that European society is more anxious to protect criminal’s life than lives of unborn children. He also said that when homosexual right to adopt children is discussed, they seldom question if children have right not to be adopted by such families.


RUSSIA: State investigates Methodists at Orthodox bishop's request

This article was published by F18News on: 28 February 2008

By Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

At the request of a Russian Orthodox bishop, the regional Public Prosecutor's Office, Organised Crime Police, Department for the Affairs of Minors, Education Department and ordinary police in Smolensk have made a series of check-ups on a local Methodist church, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. They also forced the church to remove missionary college plans from its website. Bishop Ignati (Punin) of Vyazma claimed the college "aims not to bring about the rebirth of the spiritual-moral foundations of the life of our people, but its spiritual destruction." He then asked the Regional Public Prosecutor "to take the measures necessary in this situation to defend the inhabitants of our city, particularly youth, from this pseudo-religious organisation." Even though the Bishop's appeal contained no legal argument, the Public Prosecutor's Office explained to Forum 18 that it reacted because: "Any citizen or organisation may appeal to us." If a citizen suggests an organisation is harmful, but not in breach of the law, "we'll check the legality of its activity," Forum 18 was told. Methodist Pastor Aleksandr Vtorov has filed suit for moral damages against Bishop Ignati. Intimidated by the unprecedented wave of check-ups, only five Methodists attended last Sunday's worship service, instead of the usual 36.

At the request of a Russian Orthodox bishop, government departments in the western city of Smolensk have conducted a series of check-ups on a local Methodist church and forced it to remove plans for a missionary college from its website, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. "I may not like Orthodoxy, but I don't send complaints to the Public Prosecutor," Pastor Aleksandr Vtorov of Smolensk United Methodist Church remarked to Forum 18 on 26 February. "There should be an anti-monopoly commission for religion, like there is in the economic sphere!"

Disfavoured religious minorities often suspect that the Russian Orthodox Church is behind government moves against them, but documented confirmation is rare (see most recently F18News 22 February 2007

In an 18 February summons inviting Pastor Vtorov for a 22 February "chat", however, Smolensk Regional Public Prosecutor's Office explains that its check-up is in response to an appeal from Bishop Ignati (Punin) of Vyazma, as does the same Office's 22 February report of its investigation into Smolensk United Methodist Church. Forum 18 has seen copies of both documents.

At the 22 February meeting, Prosecutor Yelena Sudarenkova allowed Pastor Vtorov to copy – but only by hand - Bishop Ignati's 22 January appeal to her Office. As recorded by the pastor, the bishop writes that information on the Internet about the opening in Smolensk of Jung Song Pak Missionary College "immediately aroused great displeasure among the inhabitants of the city." The college maintains its aim is "the rebirth of Christianity in Russia during a period of great decline in morality among Russians," continues the bishop, "which cannot but arouse perplexity and indignation. It is quite obvious that the activity of this Methodist College aims not to bring about the rebirth of the spiritual-moral foundations of the life of our people, but its spiritual destruction."

Bishop Ignati therefore requests Regional Public Prosecutor Yuri Verkhovtsev "to take the measures necessary in this situation to defend the inhabitants of our city, particularly youth, from this pseudo-religious organisation," noted Pastor Vtorov. He also copied Verkhovtsev's handwritten instructions to his staff on the document: "Comrade Losev – organise check-up by your staff. Inform me of the results by 25.1.08. Comrade Mednikov – organise check-up. Report by 25.1.08. Ye. S. Sudarenkova – to be reviewed. Double-check by 29.1.08."

Yelena Sudarenkova confirmed to Forum 18 on 28 February that her Office had acted in response to Bishop Ignati's appeal. "But we didn't do anything against the Methodist Church. We checked to see whether the organisation was in compliance with the law." Forum 18 pointed out that Bishop Ignati's appeal did not contain any legal argument, but requested measures be taken against the Methodist College due to what, in his view, is its spiritually destructive influence. So why did the Public Prosecutor's Office take any notice of it? "Any citizen or organisation may appeal to us," Sudarenkova replied. And if any citizen or organisation suggests that another organisation is harmful in some sense, but not specifically in breach of the law? "Then we'll check the legality of its activity," she told Forum 18.

Bishop Ignati is currently away on a business trip and unavailable for comment, his secretary told Forum 18 on 28 February. She added that only he could confirm whether he had asked the Regional Public Prosecutor and other state departments to take measures against Jung Song Pak Missionary College as a "pseudo-religious organisation". Bishop Ignati is the auxiliary bishop in Smolensk and Kaliningrad Diocese, headed by the second-most influential Russian Orthodox hierarch, Metropolitan Kirill (Gundyayev).

In the wake of Bishop Ignati's appeal, the Regional Organised Crime Police detained Pastor Vtorov for approximately three hours on 30 January. "Their first question was: 'Why aren't you Orthodox?'" the pastor told Forum 18. As well as enquiring about the church's development plans, officers took copies of church documentation, he said. "When I asked why it was happening, they replied that they weren't authorised to tell me."

While he was away being questioned by the Regional Organised Crime Police, Pastor Vtorov continued, representatives of the Regional Department for the Affairs of Minors arrived at his church and tried to obtain the addresses of parishioners' children from his wife. She refused to give them, however. The Vtorovs could not understand this sudden intrusion into their affairs, said the pastor, especially as the church successfully passed an annual Department of Justice check-up as recently as November 2007.

An independent Methodist congregation during the 1990s, Smolensk United Methodist Church joined the Moscow-based Russian United Methodist Church, headed by Bishop Hans Vaxby from Finland, in 2001. In 2002 the church bought a worship building in Smolensk with the financial assistance of the late Jung Song Pak, originally from South Korea and at that time elder pastor for the Russian United Methodist Church in St Petersburg.

The first indication of the reason for the sudden state scrutiny came on 31 January 2008, when a local police officer mentioned a complaint from the Orthodox Church. Visiting Smolensk United Methodist Church and taking further copies of its official documentation, the officer nevertheless maintained that his questions about the pastor's views on religion and the parish's activities were part of a routine check-up, Pastor Vtorov told Forum 18.

At the church's 3 February Sunday worship service, a female parishioner reported that the Organised Crime Police had telephoned her on 31 January and requested she come and testify about her membership of the church. On hearing that she could not do so due to poor health, Pastor Vtorov told Forum 18, she was read a list of the church's founding members and asked if she knew them.

A check-up by the Regional Education Department followed on 4 February. Pastor Vtorov was asked about the material advertising Jung Song Pak Missionary College on his church's website and told it would require a licence, he said.

On 11 February, ordinary regional police officers collected Pastor Vtorov for further questioning. Mistakenly believing the church to have members from the North Caucasus, they maintained that this check-up was linked with routine anti-terrorist measures ahead of the 2 March presidential elections, the pastor told Forum 18.

On 15 February a Regional Public Prosecutor representative visited Smolensk United Methodist Church and photocopied lists of Sunday school attendees, textbooks, notebooks and other documentation. It was only at the Regional Public Prosecutor's Office on 22 February, however, that Pastor Vtorov was informed that Bishop Ignati had written appeals to the state departments conducting the check-ups, he told Forum 18.

In a 22 February investigation report presented to Pastor Vtorov, First Assistant Public Prosecutor Viktor Losev demands the removal from Smolensk United Methodist Church's website of information about the opening on 1 September 2008 of Jung Song Pak Missionary College, including its entry conditions, study facilities and application procedure. Under the 1992 Education Law and the 1997 Religion Law, argues Losev, such an institution requires an education licence.

Pastor Vtorov disagrees with this legal interpretation. Stressing that the plans are simply "our vision", he maintains that the college would be a purely internal, non-professional structure permitted by the church's registered charter, and so would not require a licence. He has nevertheless removed the information from the church's website

Confusion persists over what type of religious educational activity requires a state licence. Moscow-based religious rights lawyer Vladimir Ryakhovsky has maintained to Forum 18 that only professional educational institutions require licences for educational activity, a view broadly supported by Viktor Korolev of the Federal Registration Service (see F18News 15 November 2007

However, FSB security service officers broke up an informal Pentecostal Bible school graduation ceremony in the Volga city of Tolyatti on Sunday 20 January 2008, insisting that it requires a licence (see F18News 14 February 2008 A similar Bible school in the Volga republic of Chuvashia was dissolved for being unlicensed in September 2007 (see F18News 15 November 2007

A charismatic Bible college in the Pacific region of Primorsky Krai was likewise shut down in 2003 (see F18News 21 April 2003

On 22 February 2008, Pastor Vtorov filed suit for moral damages against Bishop Ignati in Smolensk's Industrial District Court. "The church is in shock," he explained to Forum 18. "Some of the older parishioners are reminded of 1937." Intimidated by the unprecedented wave of check-ups, only five parishioners attended last Sunday's worship service on 24 February instead of the usual 36, he added.

Particularly since the Federal Registration Service was allocated wider monitoring powers in 2004, religious communities complain of a marked increase in state scrutiny and bureaucracy. In the traditionally Buddhist Russian republic of Tuva, for example, the local authorities tried to dissolve a Pentecostal church in 2005 because it failed to notify them of a change of address and because a visit by its pastor to a neighbouring church was not covered by its registered charter activity (see F18News 18 July 2005 (END)

For a personal commentary by Irina Budkina, editor of Old Believer website, about continuing denial of equality to Russia's religious minorities, see F18News 26 May 2005

For more background see Forum 18's Russia religious freedom survey at

Reports on freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Russia can be found at

A printer-friendly map of Russia is available at


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Venerable Basil the Confessor, companion of the Venerable Procopius at Decapolis

Commemorated on February 28

Saint Basil the Confessor was a monk and suffered during the reign of the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). When a persecution started against those who venerated holy icons, St Basil and his companion St Procopius of Decapolis (February 27) were subjected to much torture and locked up in prison. Here both martyrs languished for a long while, until the death of the impious emperor.

When the holy Confessors Basil and Procopius were set free along with other venerators of holy icons, they continued in their monastic struggles, instructing many in the Orthodox Faith and the virtuous life. St Basil died peacefully in the year 750.

Troparion - Tone 1

O dweller of the wilderness and angel in the body! You were a wonder-worker, O our God-bearing Father Basil! You received heavenly gifts Through fasting, vigil and prayer: Healing the sick and the souls of those drawn to you by faith: Glory to Him who gave you strength! Glory to Him who granted you a crown! Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!


End Times by Elder Ambrosy of Optina

This was sent to me by my friend Maxim in private e-mail and I want to share it:

Orthodox Heritage

END TIME INSTRUCTIONS by St. Ambrosy of Optina (+1891)

SOURCE: St. Ambrosy, Elder of Optina, "End Times and Now Collection of Writings"
[edited from the original translation to improve sentence structure]

Saint Ambrosy (also known as Starets Ambrosy) is one of the better known starets of Optina. The Russian Orthodox Church declared him a saint in 1988 and his memory is celebrated on October 10th.

He writes:

"My child, know that in the last days hard times will come; and as the Apostle says, behold, due to poverty in piety heresies and schisms will appear in the churches; and as the Holy Fathers foretold, then on the thrones of hierarchs and in monasteries there will be no men to be found that are tested and experienced in the spiritual life. Wherefore, heresies will spread everywhere and deceive many. The enemy of mankind will act skillfully, and whenever possible he will lead the chosen ones to heresy. He will not begin by discarding the dogmas on the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, or the Theotokos, but will unnoticeably start to distort the Teachings of the Holy Fathers, in other words the teachings of the Church herself. The cunning of the enemy and his "tipics" (ways) will be noticed by very few -- only those that are most experienced in spiritual life. Heretics will take over the Church, everywhere, and they will appoint their servants, and spirituality will be neglected. But the Lord will not leave His servants without protection. Truly, their real duty is persecution of true pastors and their imprisonment; for without that, the spiritual flock may not become captured by the heretics. Therefore, my son, when you see in the Churches mocking of the Divine act, of the teachings of the Holy Fathers, and of God's established order, know that the heretics are already present. Be also aware that, for some time, they might hide their evil intentions, or they might covertly deform the divine faith, so that they better succeed by deceiving and tricking the inexperienced.
They will persecute pastors and the servants of God alike, for the devil who is directing the heresy cannot stand the Divine order. Like wolves in sheep skin, they will be recognized by their vainglorious nature, love for lust, and lust for power. All those will be betrayers, causing hatred and malice everywhere; and therefore the Lord said that one will easily recognize them by their fruits. The true servants of God are meek, brother-loving and obedient to the Church (order, traditions).
At that time, monks will endure great pressures from heretics, and the monastic life will be mocked. The monastic families will be impoverished, the number of monks will decrease. The ones remaining will endure violence. These haters of the monastic life, who merely have the appearance of piety, will strive to draw monks to their side, promising them protection and worldly goods (comforts), but threatening with exile those who do not submit. From these threats, the weak at heart will be very humiliated (tormented).
If you live to see that time, rejoice, for at that time the faithful who possess no other virtues will receive wreaths for merely remaining steadfast in their faith, according to the Word of the Lord, "Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will confess before My Heavenly Father". Fear the Lord, my son, and don't lose this wreath so as to not be rejected by Christ into the utter darkness and eternal suffering. Bravely stand in faith, and if necessary, joyfully endure persecutions and other troubles, for only then will the Lord stand by you...and the holy Martyrs and the Confessors will joyfully watch your struggle.
But, in these days, woe be to monks tied to possessions and riches, and who, for the sake of love of comfort, agree to subjugate themselves to the heretics. They will lull their conscience by saying: we will save the monastery, and the Lord will forgive us. Unfortunate and blinded, they are not even thinking that through heresies and heretics the devil will enter the monastery, and then it will no longer be a holy monastery, but bare walls from which Grace will depart forever.
But God is more powerful than the devil, and will never abandon His servants. There will always be true Christians, till the end of time, but they will choose lonely and deserted places. Do not fear troubles, but fear pernicious heresy, for it drives out Grace, and separates us from Christ, wherefore Christ commanded us to consider the heretic and let him be unto thee as a heathen man and publican.
And so, strengthen yourself, my son, in the Grace of Christ Jesus. With joy, hasten to confession and endure the suffering like Jesus Christ's good soldier who was told: "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the wreath of life"."

Orthodox Church leaflet blasts Lions, Scouts, Masons, Rotary

Cyprus Mail

By By Jean Christou

February 9, 2005

THE Pancyprian Christian Orthodox Movement has issued a booklet claiming that the Lions and Rotary Clubs and the Boy Scouts are recruiting grounds for Freemasonry.

“Masons are the Trojan Horse in our state,” said the booklet, 50,000 copies of which have been printed.

“They are traitors not only to the faith but to the country. They are a Jewish Zionist organization, whose objective is to destroy Christianity and to enslave the country.”

The leaflet also claims that Masons were behind the Greek junta, which orchestrated the coup that led to the invasion of Cyprus.

Representatives of the Orthodox Movement could not be reached for comment yesterday, and neither could a spokesman for Kykkos Monastery, under whose auspices the orgnisation is listed.
In February 1993, the Holy Synod issued a circular saying Freemasonry was a known organisation outside the Church, “with a world view that does not agree with the principles of our Orthodox faith”. The Church condemned the movement again in February 2000.

The latest booklet includes the Lions, Rotary and Boy Scouts as being linked to Freemasonry.

“The Masons admit to being behind these clubs, which work for their aims of social reform,” the booklet said. “The Lions were founded by Melvin Jones, who was a Mason in service to the dark Zionist forces whose aim is world domination by Israel.

“They claim their aims are charitable when in reality they try to infiltrate society to recruit new members as a stepping stone to Freemasonry.”

It said the Rotarians were founded in 1905 under the pretence of being a charitable and cultural organisation in order to cover its secret aims. It was also set up by a Mason, as were the Boy Scouts two years later, the leaflet claimed.

“They take the children out of the Church and make them go camping and they forbid the Lord’s Prayer,” it said.

Rotary and Boy Scouts representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday but George Christodoulides, the president of the Lions Club Nicosia Cosmopolitan dismissed the claims.

“The Lions have no link whatsoever with the Freemasons except maybe if some members who are Lions are also Freemasons,” he said. “Freemasons have secret things. Lions don’t have anything secret. It’s a services organisation.”

According to the Lions website, the letters are an acronym for ‘Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety’, but Christodoulides said the organisation was not political.

“Politics are forbidden. It’s in the code,” he said.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2005


Orthodox Church calls on the West not to view Russia as "aboriginal country"

27 February 2008, 16:02

Moscow, February 27, Interfax - Disdain, which Moscow sometimes faces in the international arena, is a challenge for the Russian diplomacy, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Kirill said.

The priest called on Western politicians not to view Russia as "society of aborigines, which should grow up to share the patterns and values of colonists."

"I am not sure that such great civilizations as Russia, China, the Muslim and the Buddhist worlds are aborigines," Metropolitan Kirill said at a roundtable meeting with the participation of president of the European People's Party (EPP) Wilfried Martens in Moscow on Wednesday.

It would be more correct to bring the Russian and Western social patterns in harmonic synchronization given the historic path of each society's development, the priest said.

The Russian Orthodox Church will continue to insist on moral law being the cornerstone of private, public and political life on the European continent, he said.


Washington gets a new colony in the Balkans

Sara Flounders
Global Research
February 28, 2008

In evaluating the recent "declaration of independence" by Kosovo, a province of Serbia, and its immediate recognition as a state by the U.S., Germany, Britain and France, it is important to know three things.

First, Kosovo is not gaining independence or even minimal self-government. It will be run by an appointed High Representative and bodies appointed by the U.S., European Union and NATO. An old-style colonial viceroy and imperialist administrators will have control over foreign and domestic policy. U.S. Imperialism has merely consolidated its direct control of a totally dependent colony in the heart of the Balkans.

Second, Washington’s immediate recognition of Kosovo confirms once again that U.S. Imperialism will break any and every treaty or international agreement it has ever signed, including agreements it drafted and imposed by force and violence on others.

The recognition of Kosovo is in direct violation of such law—specifically U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which the leaders of Yugoslavia were forced to sign to end the 78 days of NATO bombing of their country in 1999. Even this imposed agreement affirmed the "commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Serbia, a republic of Yugoslavia.

This week’s illegal recognition of Kosovo was condemned by Serbia, Russia, China and Spain.

Thirdly, U.S. Imperialist domination does not benefit the occupied people. Kosovo after nine years of direct NATO military occupation has a staggering 60 percent unemployment rate. It has become a center of the international drug trade and of prostitution rings in Europe.

The once humming mines, mills, smelters, refining centers and railroads of this small resource-rich industrial area all sit silent. The resources of Kosovo under NATO occupation were forcibly privatized and sold to giant Western multinational corporations. Now almost the only employment is working for the U.S./NATO army of occupation or U.N. Agencies.

The only major construction in Kosovo is of Camp Bondsteel, the largest U.S. Base built in Europe in a generation.Halliburton, of course, got the contract. Camp Bondsteel guards the strategic oil and transportation lines of the entire region.

Over 250,000 Serbian, Romani and other nationalities have been driven out of this Serbian province since it came under U.S./NATO control. Almost a quarter of the Albanian population has been forced to leave in order to find work.

Establishing a colonial administration

Consider the plan under which Kosovo’s "independence" is to happen. Not only does it violate U.N. Resolutions but it is also a total colonial structure. It is similar to the absolute power held by L. Paul Bremer in the first two years of the U.S. Occupation of Iraq.

How did this colonial plan come about? It was proposed by the same forces responsible for the breakup of Yugoslavia and the NATO bombing and occupation of Kosovo.

In June of 2005, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari as his special envoy to lead the negotiations on Kosovo’s final status. Ahtisaari is hardly a neutral arbitrator when it comes to U.S. Intervention in Kosovo. He is chairman emeritus of the International Crisis Group (ICG), an organization funded by multibillionaire George Soros that promotes NATO expansion and intervention along with open markets for U.S. And E.U. Investment.

The board of the ICG includes two key U.S. Officials responsible for the bombing of Kosovo: Gen. Wesley Clark and Zbigniew Brzezinski. In March 2007, Ahtisaari gave his Comprehensive Proposal for Kosovo Status Settlement to the new U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

The documents setting out the new government for Kosovo are available at A summary is available on the U.S. State Department’s Web site at

An International Civilian Representative (ICR) will be appointed by U.S. And E.U. Officials to oversee Kosovo. This appointed official can overrule any measures, annul any laws and remove anyone from office in Kosovo. The ICR will have full and final control over the departments of Customs, Taxation, Treasury and Banking.

The E.U. Will establish a European Security and Defense Policy Mission (ESDP) and NATO will establish an International Military Presence. Both these appointed bodies will have control over foreign policy, security, police, judiciary, all courts and prisons. They are guaranteed immediate and complete access to any activity, proceeding or document in Kosovo.

These bodies and the ICR will have final say over what crimes can be prosecuted and against whom; they can reverse or annul any decision made. The largest prison in Kosovo is at the U.S. Base, Camp Bondsteel, where prisoners are held without charges, judicial overview or representation.

The recognition of Kosovo’s "independence" is just the latest step in a U.S. war of reconquest that has been relentlessly pursued for decades.

Divide and rule

The Balkans has been a vibrant patchwork of many oppressed nationalities, cultures and religions. The Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia, formed after World War II, contained six republics, none of which had a majority. Yugoslavia was born with a heritage of antagonisms that had been endlessly exploited by the Ottoman Turks, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and interference by British and French imperialism, followed by Nazi German and Italian Fascist occupation in World War II.

The Jewish and Serbian peoples suffered the greatest losses in that war. A powerful communist-led resistance movement made up of all the nationalities, which had suffered in different ways, was forged against Nazi occupation and all outside intervention. After the liberation, all the nationalities cooperated and compromised in building the new socialist federation.

In 45 years the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia developed from an impoverished, underdeveloped, feuding region into a stable country with an industrial base, full literacy and health care for the whole population.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Pentagon immediately laid plans for the aggressive expansion of NATO into the East. Divide and rule became U.S. policy throughout the entire region. Everywhere right-wing, pro-capitalist forces were financed and encouraged. As the Soviet Union was broken up into separate, weakened, unstable and feuding republics, the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia tried to resist this reactionary wave.

In 1991, while world attention was focused on the devastating U.S. bombing of Iraq, Washington encouraged, financed and armed right-wing separatist movements in the Croatian, Slovenian and Bosnian republics of the Yugoslav Federation. In violation of international agreements Germany and the U.S. gave quick recognition to these secessionist movements and approved the creation of several capitalist ministates.

At the same time U.S. finance capital imposed severe economic sanctions on Yugoslavia to bankrupt its economy. Washington then promoted NATO as the only force able to bring stability to the region.

The arming and financing of the right-wing UCK movement in the Serbian province of Kosovo began in this same period. Kosovo was not a distinct republic within the Yugoslav Federation but a province in the Serbian Republic. Historically, it had been a center of Serbian national identity, but with a growing Albanian population.

Washington initiated a wild propaganda campaign claiming that Serbia was carrying out a campaign of massive genocide against the Albanian majority in Kosovo. The Western media was full of stories of mass graves and brutal rapes. U.S. officials claimed that from 100,000 up to 500,000 Albanians had been massacred.

U.S./NATO officials under the Clinton administration issued an outrageous ultimatum that Serbia immediately accept military occupation and surrender all sovereignty or face NATO bombardment of its cities, towns and infrastructure. When, at a negotiation session in Rambouillet, France, the Serbian Parliament voted to refuse NATO’s demands, the bombing began.

In 78 days the Pentagon dropped 35,000 cluster bombs, used thousands of rounds of radioactive depleted-uranium rounds, along with bunker busters and cruise missiles. The bombing destroyed more than 480 schools, 33 hospitals, numerous health clinics, 60 bridges, along with industrial, chemical and heating plants, and the electrical grid. Kosovo, the region that Washington was supposedly determined to liberate, received the greatest destruction.

Finally on June 3, 1999, Yugoslavia was forced to agree to a ceasefire and the occupation of Kosovo.

Expecting to find bodies everywhere, forensic teams from 17 NATO countries organized by the Hague Tribunal on War Crimes searched occupied Kosovo all summer of 1999 but found a total of only 2,108 bodies, of all nationalities. Some had been killed by NATO bombing and some in the war between the UCK and the Serbian police and military. They found not one mass grave and could produce no evidence of massacres or of "genocide."

This stunning rebuttal of the imperialist propaganda comes from a report released by the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte. It was covered, but without fanfare, in the New York Times of Nov. 11, 1999.

The wild propaganda of genocide and tales of mass graves were as false as the later claims that Iraq had and was preparing to use "weapons of mass destruction."

Through war, assassinations, coups and economic strangulation, Washington has succeeded for now in imposing neoliberal economic policies on all of the six former Yugoslav republics and breaking them into unstable and impoverished ministates.

The very instability and wrenching poverty that imperialism has brought to the region will in the long run be the seeds of its undoing. The history of the achievements made when Yugoslavia enjoyed real independence and sovereignty through unity and socialist development will assert itself in the future.



Adding of a New Link-Illuminati Conspiracy Archive

I am adding this link for those interested in a source for alternative views of "The News" or for "News" we never hear of if we rely solely on our "approved"sources of news.

Illuminati Conspiracy Archive.

Enjoy but remember I personally do not approve of everything to be found here.

It will remain on my sidebar under the heading "Other Great Sites".

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Venerable Procopius the Confessor of Decapolis

Commemorated on February 27
Saint Procopius the Dekapolite lived during the eighth century in the region of Decapolis (Mark 7:31), to the east of Lake Galilee. There he labored for his salvation, struggling in asceticism.
St Procopius, his fellow ascetic St Basil (February 28), and others zealous for holy Orthodoxy rose up against the Iconoclast heresy of those times. By order of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741), St Procopius was arrested, subjected to a fierce scourging and thrown into prison. Here he languished together with St Basil until the very death of the oppressive emperor, after which the holy confessors were set free.
St Procopius spent the rest of his life in peace, guiding many on the way of virtue and salvation. He died in old age, around the year 750.
Troparion - Tone 8
By a flood of tears You did make the desert fertileAnd the longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance.By the radiance of miracles You did illuminate the whole universe.O holy Father Procopius, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!

Adding of a new Orthodox Site

My friend David, a new seeker into the Holy Orthodox Catholic Faith found this site while doing an Internet search on Orthodoxy.

The site is Eastern Orthodoxy and I would highly recommend it.

I like these sites which clearly outline their own shortcomings in relating the Orthodox Catholic Faith as any explication is bound to fall short as those writing are unable to capture the the Faith in its fullness in the writing of words explaining it.

I also like sites like this one which are not afraid or ashamed in proclaiming the uniqueness of the Orthodox Catholic Church as being THE Church and not merely the "Eastern" expression of it. The Church is catholic(whole), lacking nothing and needing nothing added to it to complete it.

I will add nothing else but would only invite the reader to explore this forthright yet humble site for a very good explanation of the Faith and good guidance towards further study and inquiry with statements such as this one as a good example of this site's balance:

Like with all Orthodox web pages, their nature on the Internet is rather unofficial, even if these are "official pages". Their aim is to give some information and that is about it.

Even this very web page that you read, dear reader, presents some material we believe to be in line with Orthodox Consciousness but you are not required to come back here to "learn the truth". On the contrary, we urge the reader to leave the Internet and media in general, and visit monasteries and Orthodox temples around the globe to learn the Life from within. Half a day spent with a holy monk or careful and willing participation in one Divine Liturgy is worth a lot more than a month's reading!

The new site's link will be added on the sidebar on this blog under "Orthodox Sites of Note".

Russia's presumed president travels to Serbia to sign pipeline deal

BELGRADE, Serbia - Russia solidified ties with Serbia on Monday, signing a deal that will direct a key gas pipeline through the Balkan country while promising to stand by Belgrade in its showdown with the West over Kosovo.

President Vladimir Putin sent his likely successor, Dmitry Medvedev, to watch over the signing in Belgrade, a deal potentially worth $1.5 billion, and to reassert Moscow's opposition to independence for Kosovo.

"Serbia needs support now," Medvedev said.

With Serbia as a political and economic partner in the Balkans, Russia secures a loyal ally in the heart of Europe and reaffirms its position as a key global player.

It may also further Russia's crucial influence as energy supplier to the continent.

Moscow's control of key energy routes has raised fears that it could use supply as political leverage: rewarding countries that support its policies and threatening hardship for those that do not.

Russia has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine citing unpaid bills, underlining Ukraine's dependence on Russia even as Prime Minister Yulia Yushchenko tries to move the country closer to the West.

Medvedev, however, said South Stream pipeline deal, and others pending with Serbia, "form the foundation of energy stability for all of Europe in the future."

Medvedev, Putin's chosen successor who is expected to easily win Russia's presidential election March 2, is the chairman of the board at Gazprom.

Gazprom would run the pipeline under the Black Sea from Russia to Bulgaria before it is extended to western Europe.

Few details about the deal were released and analysts suggest that Serbia is giving away some of its most valuable assets to Russia at a bargain basement prices.

Medvedev also toured Serbia's oil refinery in Pancevo, just outside Belgrade, where he said that a deal to buy Serbia's state oil company, NIS, will be signed soon.

Russia has offered $600 million for a controlling state in NIS and $730 million to modernize the run-down company. The offering price for a controlling stake, analysts say, is about one-fifth the company's market value.

"To say it is a sweetheart deal is an understatement," said James Lyon, the special Balkans adviser for the International Crisis Group. "Russia came knocking and said they wanted to collect the price for its support on Kosovo."

Sijka Pistolova, the editor of Energy Observer, a Belgrade-based trade online publication, said the lack of transparency has only added to the speculation.

"The deal itself has been shrouded in secrecy," she said. "We are in the dark."

A joint Russian-Serbian company will be formed to outline and co-ordinate the work in building the pipeline which could become operational in 2013, the Tanjug news agency reported.

Though the pipeline deal was at the centre of Medvedev's visit, the Russian leader also criticized Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, as well as western support for the move. Medvedev said Kosovo's self-styled independence "absolutely" violates international rules.

Serbia's hardline Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica demanded that the U.S. rescind its recognition of Kosovo and warned "there will be no stability" until the "fake state" is annulled.

Some Serbians do not welcome closer ties with Moscow, however, citing Putin's autocratic style and the refugee status given by Russia to the widow of former President Slobodan Milosevic. Mirjana Markovic and the couple's son, Marko, are both wanted in Serbia for embezzling millions. Milosevic died in 2005.

Although many Serbs refer to Russia as their "traditional ally," historians point out that Serbia has relied more on Austria and France in the 200 years since it freed itself from four centuries of Ottoman Turk occupation.

The Soviets, together with Britain and the United States, supported Yugoslavia's communist guerrillas in the Second World War. But by 1948, the Yugoslavs had broken with Moscow and incarcerated thousands of pro-Russian supporters in a penal colony on a remote prison island in the Adriatic.

Ties among the Orthodox churches remain strong, however, a point Medvedev highlighted when he joined President Boris Tadic for a visit to St. Sava Temple, the largest Orthodox Christian church in the Balkans.

The two lit candles in the Christian Orthodox tradition, and were greeted by local priest, Luka Novakovic.

"We see your arrival here as support to the Serbian nation and Serbian Orthodox Church at the time when there aren't many states and nations who support us and stand by us," Novakovic said.



Moscow Patriarchate calls on Vatican to discuss status of Catholic dioceses in Russia

26 February 2008, 12:28

Moscow, February 26, Interfax - The issue of the status of Catholic dioceses in the Orthodox lands as well as the issue of the status of the Orthodox dioceses in traditionally Catholic countries requires a "serious and elaborate discussion" in terms of the Orthodox-Catholic dialog, Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna and Austria, Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions, told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

"Many Western people think that the concept of a 'canonic territory' has lost its sense altogether in modern situation because Orthodox believers coexist side by side with Catholics, Protestants and representatives of other faiths," he said.

Recently Cardinal Walter Kasper, the President of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said the Moscow Patriarchate's wish to abolish four Catholic dioceses in Russia that had been created by the previous Pope John Paul II, was "very unexpected."

It is hard to discern a quality difference between Catholic dioceses in Russia and Orthodox dioceses in the West, Walter said. He called on the Russian Orthodox Church to show the same openness that the Catholics are demonstrating in relation to Orthodox parishes in Western Europe and the U.S.

In 2002, Vatican made a decision to upgrade the level of Catholic structures, operating in the status of apostolic magistrates in Russia, to the level of dioceses, and this decision lead to a protest from the Russian Orthodox Church.


Russian military-service policy puts Putin on conflict with Orthodox Church

Moscow, Feb. 25, 2008 ( - Russian President Valdimir Putin has announced that Russian Orthodox seminarians are obliged to do mandatory military service, Vatican Radio reports.

Putin's policy announcement appears to put the government on a collision course with the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Moscow patriarchate in the past has threatened to expel any seminarians who use firearms or engage in military service.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

St Porphyrius the Bishop of Gaza

Commemorated on February 26

Saint Porphyrius, Archbishop of Gaza, was born about the year 346 at Thessalonica. His parents were people of substance, and this allowed St Porphyrius to receive a fine education. Having the inclination for monastic life, he left his native region at twenty-five years of age and set off for Egypt, where he lived in the Nitrian desert under the guidance of St Macarius the Great (January 19). There he also met St Jerome (June 15), who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries. He went to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, and to venerate the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord (September 14), then he moved into a cave in the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds.

After five years, St Porphyrius was afflicted with a serious malady of the legs. He decided to go to the holy places of Jerusalem to pray for healing. As he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha, St Porphyrius fell into a sort of trance. He beheld Jesus Christ descending from the Cross and saying to him, "Take this Wood and preserve it."

Coming out of his trance, he found himself healthy and free from pain. Then he gave away all his money to the poor and for the adornment of the churches of God. For a time he supported himself by working as a shoemaker. The words of the Savior were fulfilled when the saint was forty-five years old. The Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained St Porphyrius to the holy priesthood and appointed him custodian of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord.

In 395 the bishop of the city of Gaza (in Palestine) died. The local Christians went to Caesarea to ask Metropolitan John to send them a new bishop who would be able to contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and were harassing the Christians there. The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to summon the priest Porphyrius. With fear and trembling the ascetic accepted the office of bishop, and with tears he prostrated himself before the Life-Creating Wood and went to fulfill his new obedience.

In Gaza there were only three Christian churches, but there were a great many pagan temples and idols. During this time there had been a long spell without rain, causing a severe drought. The pagan priests brought offerings to their idols, but the woes did not cease. St Porphyrius imposed a fast for all the Christians; he then served an all-night Vigil, followed by a church procession around the city. Immediately the sky covered over with storm clouds, thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down. Seeing this miracle, many pagans cried out, "Christ is indeed the only true God!" As a result of this, 127 men, thirty-five women and fourteen children were united to the Church through Holy Baptism, and another 110 men soon after this.

The pagans continued to harass the Christians. They passed them over for public office, and burdened them with taxes. St Porphyrius and Metropolitan John of Caesarea journeyed to Constantinople to seek redress from the emperor. St John Chrysostom (September 14, January 27 and 30) received them and assisted them.

Ss. John and Porphyrius were presented to the empress Eudoxia who was expecting a child at that time. "Intercede for us," said the bishops to the empress, "and the Lord will send you a son, who shall reign during your lifetime". Eudoxia very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters. Through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial family. As a result of this, the emperor issued an edict in 401 ordering the destruction of pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of privileges to Christians. Moreover, the emperor gave the saints money for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on the site of the chief pagan temple.

St Porphyrius upheld Christianity in Gaza to the very end of his life, and guarded his flock from the vexatious pagans. Through the prayers of the saint numerous miracles and healings occurred. The holy archpastor guided his flock for twenty-five years, and reposed in 420 at an advanced age.

Troparion - Tone 4

Adorned with the royal purple of your virtues, you were glorious as a hierarch and shone forth resplendently, wise Porphyrius.You were excellent in word and deedand you strengthen all with the grace of godliness.As you ever serve Christ, do not cease to pray for the world.

Kontakion - Tone 2

You were adorned by your holy way of life and were resplendent in the robe of the priesthood, all-blessed, divinely-wise Porphyrius.You are famous for your powers of healing and you unceasingly pray for us all.


How Putin is inspired by history

Mr Putin has been likened to a number of historical figures

As part of the Putin Project - the BBC World Service's special programming ahead of the Russian elections - Lucy Ash looks at how the country's leaders are inspired by their history.

Under President Vladimir Putin's leadership, a resurgent Russia has acquired a booming economy, a newly assertive foreign policy and a strong sense of state.

It has also gained a glorious history. Films and television programmes continually drive home the message that Russia is a great nation with a unique destiny.

Some of Mr Putin's ideological advisers believe Russians have spent far too much time being ashamed of their past. For example, a new manual for history teachers in Russian high schools now states that Joseph Stalin was "the most successful Soviet leader ever".

As for the purges, which killed millions, they are dismissed as a necessary evil. Mr Putin, himself, recently said they weren't as bad as atrocities perpetrated by other nations.

But going beyond the Soviet era, I wondered which role models from the past might have inspired Mr Putin?

What about the first Russian ruler to call himself Tsar Ivan IV - better known as Ivan the Terrible? The title is derived from the word Caesar because Ivan claims to be a descendant of the Roman Emperors.

He saw Muscovite Russia as the last Orthodox state on earth and the heir to a global Christian Empire after Constantinople - capital of the Eastern Roman Empire - fell to the Ottoman Turks.

Russians see themselves as defenders of the Orthodox faith


Russians today are still proud to see themselves as defenders of the true Orthodox faith.

At his coronation in the Kremlin's Assumption Cathedral, 16-year-old Ivan also assumed the title of Autocrat of all Russia. If the Orthodox Church is central to understanding Russia - and is used by Putin to legitimise his policies - autocracy is another vital component. It is principle of the absolute supremacy of the Tsar.

Many Russian liberals complain these days about "Tsar Putin". The president has certainly strengthened what he calls the "vertical line of power" - a euphemism for his own authority.

It seems far fetched, though, to compare him to Ivan the Terrible, who murdered hundreds of thousands of his countrymen in a decade-long reign of terror. But not to Russia's most controversial novelist, Vladimir Sorokin.

"Russia is like a block of ice floating back into the 16th century," he said on the phone from Germany where he is currently on a book tour.

"Again we are living under a centralised government like in the time of Ivan the Terrible. This power vertical, which Putin keeps talking about, is a completely medieval model for Russia. There is no accountability, no transparency."

Stalin - the country's "most successful Soviet leader ever"


Mr Sorokin's latest work, Day of the Oprichnik, is named after the oprichniki who were the secret police of the 16th Century, Ivan the Terrible's KGB.

Dressed like monks, they rode black horses and carried a broom and dog's head at the saddle "to sweep and gnaw away treason."

Mr Sorokin's 21st Century oprichniki drive around in black Mercedes and use computers, but they behave like feudal lords.

The novel is set in a big brother land in 2028, when all that counts are oil, gas and unswerving loyalty to a tyrant and his henchmen.

It's a satire of today's Russia, in which three quarters of senior politicians and bureaucrats have a background in the security services - just like ex-KGB colonel Vladimir Putin.

"Russia has a pathological relationship with power because most of our rulers believe power only exists when it is absolute," says Sorokin. "Just look at the examples of Ivan the Terrible and Stalin."

But Mr Putin's background in St Petersburg has led to parallels with another infamous Russian autocrat.

In the early years of his presidency, Mr Putin was most often compared to Peter the Great, according to a study by G808, a private media analysis group that often works for the government.

Today Peter I is seen as a harsh moderniser who was determined to drag his country out of the medieval era and turn its face towards the West. He built an elegant city of stone on a marshy swamp plagued by flooding.

"For many Russian nationalists, Peter the Great is a contradictory figure"
Professor Stanislav Tkachenko

"He was a cruel leader and I wouldn't like to have him as a friend or a boss but the results are marvellous - just look around you," says Serge Polotovsky, editor of the St Petersburg edition of Kommersant magazine. "It's a great city that came out of nowhere and he did it."

Mr Putin has not founded a new city but he does share some characteristics of Peter the Great. Both men cracked down hard on their opponents and consolidated the state's power.

Just like Peter the Great, President Putin has been eager to explore the world. In his two terms he has visited 64 countries on more than 190 foreign trips. He speaks fluent English, French and German, and clearly enjoys playing a role on the global stage.

But Stanislav Tkachenko, a professor of St Petersburg University's School of International Relations, says Mr Putin does not welcome such comparisons.

"He is far too modest. Anyway for many Russian nationalists, Peter the Great is a contradictory figure," he says. "On the one hand he raised the status of the country in the world, but he is also seen as a man who destroyed some Russian values because he was too much of a Westerniser."

Putin has likened his mission to that of US President Roosevelt


Strangely, Mr Putin says his role model is neither Peter nor any of Russia's past leaders, but America's longest-serving president. He has often compared his mission in history with that of Franklin Roosevelt's in the 1930s.

Just like FDR, the Russian president believes he has rescued his country from a Great Depression - in Russia's case, the chaos of the Yeltsin era in the 1990s - and laid the foundations for a new era of prosperity.

Other Russians I spoke to felt Mr Putin was much closer to reactionary Tsars of the 19th Century. Some compared him to Nicholas I, the Tsar who crushed the Decembrists' uprising in 1825.

The Decembrists were young noblemen who had gone to fight in the Napoleonic wars and returned to Russia from Europe filled with dangerous new ideas.

Impatient with the slow pace of reform at home, they called for the abolition of serfdom, a constitution and a representative form of government. But instead Russia got Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationalism. That was the triumphant motto of Nicholas I once he had executed the ringleaders of the revolt and exiled the rest to Siberia.

Despite his cosmopolitan side, the president also likes to quote another 19th Century Tsar, Alexander III, who said that Russia has no allies apart from its army and navy. Today's pipeline politics, rows over missiles and suspicions over politically motivated killings have helped to create the impression that Russia is surrounded by enemies.

Orlando Figes, professor of history at London's Birkbeck College, says Mr Putin's home city of St Petersburg may be a window on Europe, but it can also been seen as a fortress against foreign opponents.

"St Petersburg is very much an imperial city wielding power over a vast Russian empire. And it is that imperial legacy that Putin plays on in his rhetoric," he says.

"You can't say he is a Slavophile or a Westerniser because he is both, but above all he stands for a great Russian state."


Monday, February 25, 2008

St Tarasius the Archbishop of Constantinople

Commemorated on February 25
Saint Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople was of illustrious lineage. He was born and raised in Constantinople, where he received a fine education. He was rapidly promoted at the court of the emperor Constantine VI Porphyrogenitos (780-797) and Constantine's mother, the holy Empress Irene (August 7), and the saint attained the rank of senator.
During these times the Church was agitated by the turmoil of the Iconoclast disturbances. The holy Patriarch Paul (August 30) although he had formerly supported Iconoclasm, later repented and resigned his office. He withdrew to a monastery, where he took the schema. When the holy Empress Irene and her son the emperor came to him, St Paul told them that the most worthy successor to him would be St Tarasius (who at this time was still a layman).
Tarasius refused for a long time, not considering himself worthy of such high office, but he then gave in to the common accord on the condition, that an Ecumenical Council be convened to address the Iconoclast heresy.
Proceeding through all the clerical ranks in a short while, St Tarasius was elevated to the patriarchal throne in the year 784. In the year 787 the Seventh Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Nicea, with Patriarch Tarasius presiding, and 367 bishops attending. The veneration of holy icons was confirmed at the council. Those bishops who repented of their iconoclasm, were again received by the Church.
St Tarasius wisely governed the Church for twenty-two years. He led a strict ascetic life. He spent all his money on God-pleasing ends, feeding and giving comfort to the aged, to the impoverished, to widows and orphans, and on Holy Pascha he set out a meal for them, and he served them himself. The holy Patriarch fearlessly denounced the emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos when he slandered his spouse, the empress Maria, the granddaughter of St Philaretos the Merciful (December 1), so that he could send Maria to a monastery, thus freeing him to marry his own kinswoman. St Tarasius resolutely refused to dissolve the marriage of the emperor, for which the saint fell into disgrace. Soon, however, Constantine was deposed by his own mother, the Empress Irene.
St Tarasius died in the year 806. Before his death, devils examined his life from the time of his youth, and they tried to get the saint to admit to sins that he had not committed. "I am innocent of that of which you accuse me," replied the saint, "and you falsely slander me. You have no power over me at all."
Mourned by the Church, the saint was buried in a monastery he built on the Bosphorus. Many miracles took place at his tomb.
Troparion - Tone 4
You appeared to your flock as a rule of faith,An image of humility and a teacher of abstinence.Because of your lowliness, Heaven was opened to you.Because of your poverty, riches were granted to you.O holy bishop, Tarasius, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!
Troparion - Tone 3
You shone forth as a light of the Spirit, adorned with an exemplary life and clothed in hierarchical vesture.You stilled the turbulence of heresyand became a pillar and foundation of the Church,which praises your struggles, holy Father Tarasius.
Kontakion - Tone 3
You illumined the Church with Orthodox doctrineand taught all to venerate and honor the precious image of Christ.You vanquished the godless doctrine of the iconoclasts.Therefore we cry to you:"Rejoice, wise Father Tarasius."

Russians Slam Archbishop Rowan Williams

Church of England Newspaper

The Russian Orthodox Church has slammed the Archbishop of Canterbury for his remarks over Sharia law, saying the head of a Christian Church should not be promoting the tenets of non-Christian religions.

While church leaders in Britain have rallied to his defense, Orthodox, Lutheran and Roman Catholic leaders abroad have been less charitable in their remarks. The Feb 7 interview with the BBC and his subsequent speech at the Temple Church on certain aspects of Sharia law, have elicited sharp comments from overseas Anglican and Christian leaders, while Dr. Williams' subsequent explanation, that his remarks were misunderstood, appears not to have appeased his critics.

Speaking to the opening session of the World Council of Churches' Standing Committee meeting in Geneva on Feb 14, the Russian Orthodox's representative to ecumenical organizations, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria said "many Christians around the world are looking up to Christian leaders with hope that they will defend Christianity against all the challenges it faces."

"Our role is not to protect Sharia law, to glorify an alternative style of behavior or to preach secular values. Our sacred mission is to announce what Christ announced, to teach what his disciples taught," he said.

"Politically correct Christianity will die," said Bishop Hilarion. "We have already been watching the process of liberal Christianity's gradual decline as newly introduced moral norms lead to splits, discrepancies and confusion in several Christian communities," he said.

The head of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) told German radio on Feb 16 there must be a single law for all citizens, regardless of race or religion.

Dr. Wolfgang Huber, Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia and Chairman of the Council of the EKD said the premise behind Dr. Williams' remarks was flawed.

"Hoping to achieve integration through a dual legal system is a mistaken idea," Dr. Huber told Deutsche Welle. "You have to ask the question as to what extent cultural characteristics have a legitimate place in a legal system. But you have to push for one country to have one system."


Alma college professor dies in England-Bishop Thomas Mar Makraios

Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios
Clare Managing Editor

A professor of religion studies at Alma College and the founder of the United States-Canada Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Church of India was remembered as a much-beloved teacher, friend and advisor.
Bishop Thomas Mar Makraios, 81, died in Newcastle, England, Saturday morning, Alma College spokesman Mike Silverthorn said.
Makarios, who had been a professor at Alma College for 25 years, was in England for his annual pastoral visit to the parishes of the United Kingdom and Ireland when he sustained serious injuries in a traffic accident Jan. 5; he remained hospitalized until his death.

At Alma College, Makarios was recognizable by his flowing red robes and will be missed by all, President Shaundra Tracy said.
"Bishop Makarios was a revered member of the Alma community," she said. "While he was a distinguished world religious leader, his commitment to educating and nurturing Alma students was profound.

"He will be deeply missed."
Makarios began teaching at Alma College in 1988 and was committed to introducing students to differences between Eastern and Western modes of religious thinking, Silverthorn said.

While Silverthorn said teaching was Makarios' first concern, the bishop thought of students as a part of his personal family, and his commitment to the college, its students and its faculty was evident in an October 2006 interview.
"My mission in Alma is not just academic alone," he said. "By being on campus, I'm a father figure to many students to help them in their personal lives.

"Sharing with students about their concerns and their problems  that is part of my calling."
Makarios thought of Alma students as his children, according to the interview.

"I see Alma as a family much more than an academic institution," Makarios said.
"It is family work.

"Students are my children. When they come to share a problem, or they invite me for a meal at an Indian restaurant, that is more meaningful to me than giving them a grade or a test."
Makarios had a unique teaching style, according to Ronald Massanari, his longtime colleague and retired chair of the Alma College Religious Studies Department.

"He used books, but he would teach with parables and stories," he said. "He would tell them stories and then explain them, often with an Eastern twist.
"He was very engaging."

Makarios oversaw 75 churches and 7,000 families while teaching at Alma. He was a constant traveler to minister to his churches and was a frequent guest of church leaders around the world, Silverthorn.
Makarios was the only American religious figure invited to Qatar to a worldwide conference by the king of the nation, and was often invited to United Nations events or presidential commissions, Massanari said. He always took time to talk about Alma College at those events, he said.

"Before his accident, he talked with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he thought that was a wonderful opportunity for Alma College."
Massanari said. "He would do interviews with reporters from newspapers all over the country, and he would always talk about the college."

Makarios came to the United States from India in 1963 as a priest to earn a doctorate in religion. When he returned to India and was consecrated a bishop, he asked to return to America to minister to Indian families he had met, Silverthorn said.
According to the St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church website, Makarios was known for his work ethic and commitment.

"As a priest, and especially as a hierarch, Metropolitan Makarios was distinguished for his ecclesiastical ethos, his work ethic, his adherence to the fundamentals of liturgical life, his commitment to the Orthodox faith and the traditions of the St. Thomas heritage," according to the website. "He was a great gift from God to the church."
The Malankara Orthodox Church was founded in 52 AD by St. Thomas, an apostle of Christ, in India; since the mid 19th century, only Makarios family members have been priests or bishops in the church, according to Silverthorn.

Makarios will be buried in India, according to traditional church rites; details of the Indian services are incomplete, and information about a campus memorial service will be released when details become available, Silverthorn said.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

First and second finding of the Honorable Head of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist of the Lord, John

Commemorated on February 24

After the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John (August 29), his body was buried by disciples in the Samarian city of Sebaste, and his venerable head was hidden by Herodias in an unclean place. St Joanna (June 27), the wife of King Herod's steward Chuza (Luke 8:3), secretly took the holy head and placed it into a vessel and buried it on the Mount of Olives in one of Herod's properties.

After many years, this property passed into the possession of a government official who became a monk with the name of Innocent. He built a church and a cell there. When they started to dig the foundation, the vessel with the venerable head of John the Baptist was uncovered. Innocent recognized its great holiness from the signs of grace emanating from it. Thus occurred the First Finding of the Head. Innocent preserved it with great piety, but fearful that the holy relic might be abused by unbelievers, before his own death he again hid it in that same place, where it was found. Upon his death the church fell into ruin and was destroyed.

During the days of St Constantine the Great (May 21), when Christianity began to flourish, the holy Forerunner appeared twice to two monks journeying to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, and he revealed the location of his venerable head.

The monks uncovered the holy relic and, placing it into a sack of camel-hair, they proceeded homewards. Along the way they encountered an unnamed potter and gave him the precious burden to carry. Not knowing what he was carrying, the potter continued on his way. But the holy Forerunner appeared to him and ordered him to flee from the careless and lazy monks, with what he held in his hands. The potter concealed himself from the monks and at home he preserved the venerable head with reverence. Before his death he placed it in a water jug and gave it to his sister.

From that time the venerable head was successively preserved by devout Christians, until the priest Eustathius (infected with the Arian heresy) came into possession of it. He beguiled a multitude of the infirm who had been healed by the holy head, ascribing their cures to the fact that it was in the possession of an Arian. When his blasphemy was uncovered, he was compelled to flee. After he buried the holy relic in a cave, near Emesa, the heretic intended to return later and use it for disseminating falsehood. God, however, did not permit this. Pious monks settled in the cave, and then a monastery arose at this place. In the year 452 St John the Baptist appeared to Archimandrite Marcellus of this monastery, and indicated where his head was hidden. This became celebrated as the Second Finding. The holy relic was transferred to Emesa, and later to Constantinople.

Troparion - Tone 4

The head of the Forerunner rose from the earth as a star,Brilliant with rays of healing and immortality.It gathers the choirs of angels in heaven,And assembles the human race on earthTo sing with one voice the glory of Christ our God.

Kontakion - Tone 3

O Prophet of God and Forerunner of Grace,Your head has blossomed from the earth as a sacred rose.We are ever being healed,For as of old, You preach repentance to the world.


Orthodox Church unholy alliance with Putin

President Vladimir Putin meets Alexei II, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church
By Adrian Blomfield in Omsk
Last Updated: 1:54am GMT 23/02/2008

Russia's Orthodox Church, despite decades of brutal repression under Soviet rule, is putting its trust in the KGB to ensure that a remarkable religious revival does not fade with the departure of President Vladimir Putin.
In an unusual move, Alexei II, the Church's patriarch, has endorsed deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev ahead of next week's presidential election.

The influence of his support on Russia's estimated 100 million Orthodox worshippers is immense.
It also illustrates the unholy alliance the Church has forged with the Kremlin since Mr Putin came to power eight years ago.
The president, a proud adherent, has allowed the Orthodox Church to regain much of its Tsarist-era lustre and has won the enthusiastic support of religious leaders in return.
With his hand-picked successor almost guaranteed victory in the March 2 poll, Mr Putin is determined to maintain the arrangement by holding on to the reins of power as prime minister.
The relationship might seem odd. It was the KGB, after all, that led persecution of the Church in Soviet times, when priests were regularly jailed, tortured and executed. Neither this nor accusations that Mr Putin is restoring many of the attributes of Soviet rule seem to bother Alexei.
Although he has never confirmed it, the patriarch, like the president, is a former KGB agent codenamed Drozdov, according to Soviet archives opened to experts in the 1990s.
Many in the Orthodox hierarchy are also accused of working as KGB informers, a fact that critics say the Church has never fully acknowledged.

"Essentially, the Orthodox Church is one of the only Soviet institutions that has never been reformed," said one priest, who declined to be identified for fear that he could be defrocked. That fate already befell another colleague, Gleb Yakunin, in the 1990s when he called on Church leaders with KGB links to repent.
Yet it is not just the KGB that binds the Church and the Kremlin. In the Tsarist era, the Church was a committed supporter of the imperial rallying cry "orthodoxy, autocracy and nationhood." Critics say that Mr Putin, who draws as much of inspiration from imperial Russia as he does from the Soviet Union, has adopted the same mantra - making the president and the Church ideal bedfellows.

Both have blossomed from the relationship. The number of Russians who identify themselves as Orthodox has doubled in the past decade, with two-thirds of the 140 million population proclaiming the faith - quite a feat after seven decades of official atheism.
Yet most Russians say they follow Orthodoxy for national rather than moral reasons. Deeply patriotic and with a declared intention of making Russia great again, the Church has milked the sentiment.

Priests are regularly seen on television sprinkling holy water on bombers and even nuclear missiles, a blessing that reinforces Mr Putin's own militaristic philosophy.
The Church has even supported Mr Putin's repression of democracy, with a senior bishop last year comparing human rights activists to traitors.

When a prison chaplain suggested that the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a personal enemy of the president, was a political prisoner, he was promptly defrocked.
Late last year, Sergei Taratukhin - who served five years in a Soviet gulag for defying the authorities - recanted, falling to his knees in front of television cameras and won a partial reprieve. He is now employed as a rubbish collector at the cathedral in the far-eastern city of Chita, near where Khodorkovsky is jailed.

In return, Mr Putin has worn his religious credentials very publicly and is regularly shown on state television kissing icons at Church services.
Given his popularity, Mr Putin's example has been emulated by many Russians. The business and political elite have assiduously followed instructions to fund the rebuilding of churches destroyed by the Soviets across the country.

Last year the magnificent Assumption cathedral in the Siberian city of Omsk, blown up by the Bolsheviks in 1935, was rebuilt with donations from the city mandarins.
The result is that Russia, at least in religious terms, is beginning to take on a Tsarist-era hue - and not just in terms of architecture.

Sister Varvara, who lived under a tree for many years before locals helped her to build a wooden church, is Omsk's local prophetess, healer and mind reader - a throwback to the wandering mystics such as Rasputin, who dominated religious rural life at the turn of the 19th century.
Dignitaries from across Siberia visit her to hear their fortune or just get advice. Sometimes, she gives Mr Putin a helping hand. A few years ago she told Tatyana Chertova, a retired actress with a shock of red hair, that she would become famous by writing a play about the president.

Mrs Chertova's play, Putin's Holiday, premiered last year.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hieromartyr Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna

Commemorated on February 23

Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who was "fruitful in every good work" (Col. 1:10), was born in the first century, and lived in Smyrna in Asia Minor. He was orphaned at an early age, but at the direction of an angel, he was raised by the pious widow Kallista. After the death of his adoptive mother, Polycarp gave away his possessions and began to lead a chaste life, caring for the sick and the infirm. He was very fond of and close to St Bucolus, Bishop of Smyrna (February 6). He ordained Polycarp as deacon, entrusting to him to preach the Word of God in church. He also ordained him to the holy priesthood.

The holy Apostle John the Theologian was still alive at this time. St Polycarp was especially close to St John, and sometimes accompanied him on his apostolic journeys.

Shortly before his death, St Bucolus expressed his wish that Polycarp be made Bishop of Smyrna. When St Polycarp was consecrated as a bishop, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. St Polycarp guided his flock with apostolic zeal, and he was also greatly loved by the clergy. St Ignatius the God-Bearer of Antioch (December 20) also had a high regard for him. Setting out for Rome where execution awaited him, he wrote to St Polycarp, "This age is in need of you if it is to reach God, just as pilots need winds, and as a storm-tossed sailor needs a port."

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) came to the Roman throne and started up a most fierce persecution against Christians. The pagans demanded that the judge search for St Polycarp, "the father of all the Christians" and "the seducer of all Asia."

During this time St Polycarp, at the persistent urging of his flock, stayed in a small village not far from Smyrna. When the soldiers came for him, he went out to them and invited them in to eat. He asked for time to pray, in order to prepare himself for martyrdom. His suffering and death are recorded in the "Epistle of the Christians of the Church of Smyrna to the Other Churches," one of the most ancient memorials of Christian literature.

Having been brought to trial, St Polycarp firmly confessed his faith in Christ, and was condemned to be burned alive. The executioners wanted to nail him to a post, but he declared that God would give him the strength to endure the flames, so they could merely tie him with ropes. The flames encircled the saint but did not touch him, coming together over his head in the shape of a vault. Seeing that the fire did him no harm, the pagans stabbed him with a dagger. So much blood flowed from this wound that it extinguished the flames. The body of the hieromartyr Polycarp was then cremated. The Christians of Smyrna reverently gathered up what remained of his holy relics, and each year they celebrated the day of his martyrdom.

story has been preserved about St Polycarp by his disciple, St Irenaeus of Lyons, which Eusebius cites in his ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY (V, 20):

"I was still very young when I saw you in Asia Minor at Polycarp's," writes St Irenaeus to his friend Florinus, "but I would still be able to point out the place where Blessed Polycarp sat and conversed, and be able to depict his walk, his mannerisms in life, his outward appearance, his speaking to people, his companionable wandering with John, and how he himself related, together with other eyewitnesses of the Lord, those things that he remembered from the words of others. He also told what he heard from them about the Lord, His teachings and miracles....

Through the mercy of God to me, I then already listened attentively to Polycarp and wrote down his words, not on tablets, but in the depths of my heart. Therefore, I am able to bear witness before God, that if this blessed and apostolic Elder heard something similar to your fallacy, he would immediately stop up his ears and express his indignation with his usual phrase: 'Good God! That Thou hast permitted me to be alive at such a time!'"

During his life the holy bishop wrote several Epistles to the flock and letters to various individuals. The only one that has survived to the present day is his Epistle to the Philippians which, St Jerome testifies, was read in the churches of Asia Minor at divine services. It was written by the saint in response to the request of the Philippians to send them some letters of the hieromartyr Ignatius (December 20) which St Polycarp had in his possession.

The composer H.I.F. Bibier (1644-1704) has written a Sonata "Scti Polycarpi" for eight trumpets in honor of the holy martyr.

Troparion - Tone 4

By sharing in the ways of the Apostles,you became a successor to their throne.Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation, O inspired one of God;by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith, even to the shedding of your blood.Hieromartyr Polycarp, entreat Christ God to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 1

Through virtues, you offered spiritual fruit to the Lord,therefore, you were glorified as a worthy hierarch, wise Polycarp.Today, we who have been enlightened by your wordsextol in song your praise-worthy memory,there-by giving glory to the Lord.