Saint Michael the first Metropolitan of Kiev, according to the Joakimov chronicle, was a Syrian by birth, but according to other chronicles, he was a Bulgarian or Serb. In the year 989, he arrived at Korsun with other clergy for holy Prince Vladimir (July 15), not long after Vladimir's Baptism (988).
As first metropolitan of the Russian Church his service was difficult, but grace-filled. He zealously made the rounds of the newly-enlightened Russian Land, preaching the Holy Gospel, baptizing and teaching the newly-illumined people, founding the first churches and religious schools.
In Rostov he established the first wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and installed Theodore the Greek there as bishop. St Michael was a wise and gentle, but also strict hierarch. The Russian Church has preserved the memory of the saint's praiseworthy deeds. In the Synodikon of the Novgorod and Kiev Sophia cathedrals he is rightfully called the initiator.
St Michael died in the year 992 and was buried in the Desyatin-Tithe church of the Most Holy Theotokos in Kiev. In about the year 1103, under the Igumen St Theoctistus (afterwards Bishop of Chernigov, August 5), his relics were transferred to the Antoniev Cave, and on October 1, 1730 into the Great Church of the Caves. Thus his memory was celebrated on September 30, and also July 15, the day of his repose.
Formerly, his memory was celebrated on September 2, along with Sts Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. There is a trace of this earlier celebration in the service to St Michael. In the second verse of the "Praises" we sing: "Having begun the new year, we offer you our first songs, O blessed one, for you were the beginning of the hierarchy in the Russian land."
Troparion - Tone 4 The prophecy of the first-called apostle has been fulfilled today:Grace has illumined the hills of Kiev and the faith is increased.Those who were not a peopleAre now the people of God, a holy nation,A flock of Christ of which you, O Michael, are first shepherd,And you serve it by bringing baptism.O Hierarch, standing before God pray that all may be saved!
Kontakion - Tone 2 You appeared as a second Moses,Bringing the vine from Egyptian idolatry into the land of promise.You said of it: Faith shall be established in this land,And fruit to nourish the world shall flourish on the summits of Kiev,More than on the heights of Lebanon.Having this harvest we bless you, O Hierarch Michael!
Shortly before his departure from the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Monday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (Vartholomeos) was received by Armenian President Serzh Sargsian, who stressed the importance he attached to the Armenian Orthodox Church and preserving Armenia's national identity.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Saturday began an official visit to Armenia, where he took part in ceremonies of the Armenian Orthodox Church.
ATHENS, Sept 29 (Reuters Life!) - Dozens of gays and lesbians protested outside parliament on Monday against the conservative government's attempt to overturn Greece's first same-sex marriages. Waving banners reading "These Weddings Are Valid", dozens of homosexual couples gathered in central Athens ahead of a court ruling due this week on the two marriages celebrated on the tiny Aegean island of Tilos in June.
The Justice Ministry has filed a legal suit to overturn the union of one gay and one lesbian couple after they took advantage of a loophole in Greek civil law that fails to specify gender in matrimony.
"We are here because we want equality," said Christina Neofotistou, 28, a designer. "These marriages were the first step, but this government wants to cancel it: instead they should be doing something for us."
The marriages drew strong criticism from the powerful Orthodox Church, which officially represents more than 90 percent of the 11 million-strong population.
While many European countries have established legislation recognising gay marriage or same-sex partnerships, Greece's traditional society has preferred to turn a blind eye to homosexuality. The Netherlands was the first EU country to offer full civil marriage rights to gay couples in 2001 and Belgium followed in 2003. Spain legalised gay marriage in 2005, despite fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.
Saint Theophanes the Merciful was an inhabitant of the Syrian city of Gaza. He was very kind and merciful. He took in vagrants, he helped the poor and the sick, and he spent all his substance on help for the needy, while he himself remained in want.
St Theophanes did not grieve at all over the loss of his property, but he lost his health, and sickness caused him great suffering. His body began to swell up, to rot, and to give off a stench. This ordeal the monk also endured in good spirit, giving thanks to God for all things.
A fierce storm raged while he was dying, and his wife grieved that she would not be able to give him proper burial. The saint comforted her: "Weep not, woman, for up to now the trial has lasted, but here comes help from the Merciful God, since in the hour of my death the storm will cease, by the will of God." So it occurred: just as he gave up his soul to God, calmness prevailed. After death the body of St Theophanes became completely cleansed of wounds and decay and became fragrant, giving forth abundant healing myrrh.
COIMBATORE, SEPT 26 (Agencies) – Attacks on church institutions spread to Tamil Nadu after a statue of Jesus Christ kept in front of Gnanaprakasham church at Dharmapuram near Erode was found damaged today even as crucifix located at Karthikappally junction at Harippad in Kerala was found broken by unidentified persons.
Following this police beefed up security at churches, mosques and temples in Erode district.Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi warned of stern action against those who aroused religious sentiments to disturb communal harmony in the State.
In a statement, he said following the attacks on some Churches in Karnataka and Orissa, stray incidents of stone pelting on churches were reported from a few places in Tamil Nadu. The Government would not tolerate any attempts to disturb communal harmony. in the State, he said.
Police would take stern action against those who indulged in such incidents, he said.
The attack in Erode came as fresh instances of desecration of church property were reported from Kerala. Glass panes of a holy wayside cupola at Harippad in Kerala’s Alleppey district were found broken.
The panes of the cupola were smashed with a stone, police said, adding that the glass on a portrait of apostle St Thomas placed inside it was also found broken.
The cross had been installed by St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral at Harippad. A photo of St Thomas, installed near the crucifix, was also found broken.
A total ‘hartal’ was observed in Harippad to protest the incident. A procession was also taken out by the local minority community.
Police had made no arrests so far. It suspected some anti-social elements to be behind the incident.Earlier this week, two place of worship at Nedumbaserry, near Kochi, were found vandalised.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians observes founding of True Cross (Meskel)
APA-Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) Millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians at the weekend celebrated the founding of the true cross where Jesus Christ was believed to be crucified.
The cross on which Jesus crucified is found in one of Ethiopian monastries while the other part is believed to be in Israel.
On Friday, the celebration was held in Addis Ababa at Meskel (cross) Square in the presence of around 100,000 people including the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Church.
Also in attendace, was the Ethiopian president Girma Woldegiorgisse, foreign diplomats and religious leaders from different countries.
The gathering people attending the ceremony wishes each other a happy new year.
Ethiopian patriarch, Abune Paulos, Patriarck of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and one of the presidents of the World Council of Churches told the gathering to keep the country’s history and culture alive as their fore-fathers’ did.
Ethiopia - which follows its own ancient Coptic calendar is celebrating the day on 26 September each year.
The Holy Prince Wenceslaus (Vyacheslav) of the Czechs was a grandson of the holy Martyr and Princess Ludmilla (September 16), and he was raised by her in deep piety. He began to rule at age eighteen after the death of his father Prince Bratislav (+ 920).
In spite of his youthful age, he ruled wisely and justly and concerned himself much about the Christian enlightenment of the people. The holy prince was a widely educated man, and he studied in the Latin and Greek languages.
St Wenceslaus was peace-loving. He built and embellished churches, and in Prague, the Czech capital, he raised up a magnificent church in the name of St Vitus, and he had respect for the clergy. Envious nobles decided to murder the saint and, at first, to incite his mother against him, and later to urge his younger brother, Boleslav, to occupy the princely throne.
Boleslav invited his brother to the dedication of a church, and then asked him to stay another day. In spite of the warnings of his servants, the holy prince refused to believe in a conspiracy and exposed his life to the will of God. On the following day, September 28, 935, when Wenceslaus went to Matins, he was wickedly murdered at the doors of the church by his own brother and his brother's servants. His body was stabbed and discarded without burial.
The mother, hearing of the murder of her son, found and placed his body in a recently consecrated church at the princely court. They were not able to wash off the blood splashed on the church doors, but after three days it disappeared by itself.
After repenting of his sin, the murderer transferred the relics of St Wenceslaus to Prague, where they were placed in the church of St Vitus, which the martyr himself had constructed (the transfer of the relics of St Wenceslaus is celebrated on March 4). The memory of Prince Wenceslaus has been honored from of old in the Russian Orthodox Church.
From correspondents in Athens September 27, 2008 11:07pm
GREECE'S highest court has approved a government move to legalise cremation, brushing aside complaints from the powerful Orthodox church that it was un-Greek and could hamper the resurrection of the dead.
The court ruling opened the way for municipal authorities to build crematoriums, but also specified that ashes could not be scattered in urban areas or, if at sea, within 1.5 miles of the shore.
A doctor will also have to provide a certificate stating that is no further need to examine the body.
The dogma of the Greek Orthodox church, which covers more than 90 per cent of Greece's 11 million population, strongly opposes cremation.
Its says bodies which God created should not be burned as this will prevent their resurrection on Judgement Day.
The constitution states that Greece is a secular democracy but recognises the Greek Orthodox church as the prevailing faith.
Metropolitan Kirill Notes Possible Aid to Dialogue
By Inmaculada Álvarez
ROME, SEPT. 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).- An official of the Russian Orthodox Church says there are many similarities between Orthodox and Catholic social doctrine.
This was highlighted today during the presentation in Moscow of "L'Etica del Bene Comune nel Pensiero Sociale della Chiesa" (The Ethics of the Common Good in the Social Thought of the Church), by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state.
The volume was published Tuesday by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the president of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, wrote the prologue.
The metropolitan explained in the prologue that the many similarities between Catholic and Orthodox social doctrine "will give an important thrust to dialogue."
In this connection, he clarified the fundamentals of Orthodox thought on this matter, in particular the vision of the concept of the common good as "fraternity," a perspective he shares with Cardinal Bertone.
The prologue was published in the Sept. 25 Italian edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
The Orthodox concept of the common good, the metropolitan continued, "is not reduced only to material well-being, to peace and harmony in earthly life, but refers primarily to man's and society's aspiration of eternal life, which is the highest good."
This does not mean, he said, that Orthodoxy "denies the material aspect of human existence," but "invites a setting of priorities. [...] Material goods are not a condition of salvation which cannot be given up; hence, their acquisition cannot become an end in itself."
Money is only a means to an end, Metropolitan Kirill added. It must always be moving, in circulation. "Genuine, totally exciting work, is the businessman's real wealth. The absence of the worship of money emancipates man, makes him free interiorly," he contended.
For his part, Cardinal Bertone explains in the book that for Catholics, the concept of the common good is not limited to ideas of justice and solidarity, proper to philosophic utilitarianism, but that the idea of "reciprocity" must be introduced, which allows for a broader concept of social relations.
In this connection, the great contribution of Catholic thought is to introduce -- in the utilitarian philosophic scheme that considers social relations as an exchange between "me" and "you," based on a contract -- the idea of a "third" party, based on the concept of "fraternity," he clarified.
"Whereas the principle of solidarity is a principle of social organization which tends to make what is different equal, the principle of fraternity allows what is equal to affirm its own diversity," the cardinal explained.
This fraternal society that social doctrine postulates goes beyond justice and solidarity, as it adds "the dimension of gratitude -- charity -- and, therefore, the possibility of hope," he said. Modern societies "must be supported by three autonomous principles: exchange -- through contracts; redistribution of wealth -- through the fiscal system; and reciprocity -- through works that attest with deeds to fraternity."
"A Christian," Cardinal Bertone affirmed, "cannot be content with a political horizon that looks to a just society, but must also look to a fraternal society."
The Holy Apostle Mark of the Seventy, also named John, is mentioned by the holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 12:25, 15:37-39) and also by the holy Apostle Paul in both the Epistle to the Colossians (Col 4:10) and the Epistle to Philemon (Philemon 1:23).
The holy Apostle Mark preached the Word of God together with Paul and Barnabas and was made bishop of the Phoenician city of Biblos. The holy Apostle Mark attained great boldness before God, so that his very shadow healed the sick (also January 4 and April 15).
This verse clearly and directly states that Christians must stay together, speaking, thinking and believing the same things. Orthodoxy, which has held the Christian faithful together in one divine body for two millennia, is the perfect fulfillment of these instructions. In the Orthodox Church, the faithful conform their minds and will to the sacred teachings of the faith, and this brings perfect spiritual unity.
If we are not of one mind, we are in direct disobedience to the Gospel, to the Church, and to Christ. To be of one mind, we must follow the teachings of and conform ourselves to the ancient Christian Church, the true Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church.
O Holy Lord Jesus Christ, help us to remain steadfast in the holy teachings of Thy church and disallow false ways of believing, thinking and living to corrupt and scatter Thy flock! Grant that we may preserve unsullied the pearl of great price given unto us, keeping it inviolate for all generations to come, through the prayers of Thy most pure Mother and of all the saints. Amen.
...................................................................................................................................................... The Associated Press Published: September 26, 2008 ......................................................................................................................................................
ATHENS, Greece: Greece's highest court has approved a government petition to legalize cremation, as well as a list of guidelines on how the ashes may be scattered by relatives.
The country's powerful Orthodox Church opposes cremation, arguing it is contrary to the notion of the resurrection of the dead. But a high court, the Council of State, ruled Friday that an executive order from the government allowing cremation is legal.
It also approved guidelines on where ashes can be scattered: at least 1.5 nautical miles from the shoreline, outside inhabited areas, or in gardens and fountains that will be built at crematoriums.
COIMBATORE/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After Orissa, Karnataka and Kerala, attacks on churches have spread to Tamil Nadu, with suspected Hindu activists damaging a statue of Baby Jesus in Dharmapuram town in Erode district in the southern part of the state.
The attack in Erode came as fresh instances of desecration of church property were reported from neighbouring Kerala. Glass panes of a holy wayside cupola at Harippad in Kerala's Alleppey district were found broken on Friday.
The panes of the cupola were smashed with a stone, police said, adding that the glass on a portrait of apostle St Thomas placed inside it was also found broken. The place of worship belongs to the Karthigappally St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, which falls under the Malankara Orthodox Church.
As in Orissa and Karnataka, where ire against conversions was directed wantonly against all orders and churches belonging to denominations which had traditionally not been involved in conversion, Hindu activists in Kerala have also expanded the violence to include Catholic churches.
The attacks have continued despite assurances from authorities on protection of churches and Christian property. After the Tamil Nadu attack on Friday, tension gripped Dharmapuram. Police beefed up security at churches, mosques and temples in the district after the attack.
In Tamil Nadu, it was the fourth attack on church property. It came barely a day after a statue of Virgin Mary was damaged in Karavalai in Nagercoil. On Tuesday, unidentified people damaged an idol at St Joseph's Church in Arapalayam in Madurai. Last week, two Hindu Munnani members were arrested for pelting stones at a church in Namakkal.
TN chief minister M Karunanidhi warned that strict action would be taken against the attackers. Friday's incident in Kerala was also the fourth such in the state in two weeks and the second in Alappuzha district. On Wednesday, glass panes of a chapel in Purakkod district were found broken. Those behind the desecration are yet to be booked.
Earlier this week, two churches near the Nedumbassery international airport in Kochi were attacked, again by unidentified miscreants. Investigations in the case have reached nowhere, but there are allegations that police were deliberately going slow in the matter.
The first attack was on September 15, at a convent school which doubled as a prayer hall in Kasargode district. One person has been arrested in connection with the incident, which was suspected to be orchestrated by right-wing Hindu elements who have accused the Church of indulging in conversions.
Kasargode being on the Kerala-Karnataka border, police suspect that those behind the Karnataka attacks were involved here too. The Sangh Parivar and affiliated organizations have a fairly large influence in the district, which has also witnessed Hindu-Muslim skirmishes at regular intervals.
Reacting to the development, Malankara Orthodox Church Metropolitan designate Poulose Mar Milithios said it appeared to be the handiwork of "anti-social elements" who wanted to foment communal trouble. He requested the government to take immediate action to bring the guilty to book and appealed to the faithful to maintain peace.
The Kremlin in Kazan, seen from the Lenin Bridge on the Kazanka River. The city has both Muslim and Orthodox monuments.
IN a world of religious strife, Tatarstan, a region with a long history and a large Muslim population in the heart of Russia, has begun marketing its capital, Kazan, as a unique tourist destination uniting Muslim and Russian Orthodox monuments.
Here, at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers, about 450 miles east of Moscow, the city’s Kul-Sharif Mosque — a re-creation of the one destroyed by Ivan the Terrible — and its blue minarets stand nearly side-by-side with the onion-domed Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, first built in the 16th century, within the majestic white walls of the city’s Kremlin (7-843-567-8001; www.kermen.ru), a Unesco World Heritage site.
But there is more to Kazan than symbols of modern-day religious harmony. Kazan is, for instance, the only Russian city to have a branch of the Hermitage Museum, the Hermitage-Kazan Exhibition Center (7-843-567-8034; www.kermen.ru/EngVer/hermitage.php, located in the Kremlin).
Kazan’s 1,000-year anniversary, celebrated in 2005, spurred a huge investment in real estate, including Mirage, a high-tech Italian-designed hotel (Ulitsa Moskovskaya 1a; 7- 843-278-0505; www.mirage-hotel.ru) at the foot of the Kremlin, and the charming Shalyapin Palace Hotel (Ulitsa Universitetskaya 7/80; 7-843-238-2800; www.shalyapin-hotel.ru). Still, preservationists lament the destruction of entire city blocks of Tatar wooden houses, and elegant mansions. City officials say they will now focus on restoration.
City officials and entrepreneurs are hoping to capitalize on one of Pope John Paul II’s last gestures before his death in 2005: his return of an 18th-century copy of the revered Kazan Icon of the Mother of God that had been taken out of Bolshevik Russia and ended up, decades later, in his Vatican apartment. Tourists and pilgrims can already see the icon at the Church of the Elevation of the Cross at the Bogoroditsky Monastery (Ulitsa Bolshaya Krasnaya 5; 7-843-292-2944; www.kazan.eparhia.ru), which is being restored on the site after being turned into a tobacco factory in Soviet times.
Others credit Mintimir Shaimiyev, Tatarstan’s wily president, who is always balancing Tatar and Russian, Muslim and Orthodox Christian — and now Catholic — interests. Those interests seem to balance out at places like the historic Mardjani Mosque (Ulitsa Nasiri 17, 7-843-293-0035; www.e-islam.ru). At a cafe across the street, run by the mosque, waitresses in tunics and headscarves serve Tatar specialties to secular customers, including young women in midriff-baring shirts.
For the more secular-minded, Kazan is a rollicking university town. Both Tolstoy and Lenin studied there (Kazan State University, Ulitsa Kremlevskaya 18; 7-843-292-7600; www.ksu.ru). Students today dance the night away in bars and clubs like Cuba Libre (Ulitsa Baumana 58; 7-843-253-5532) and Discoclub Arena (Ulitsa Pushkina 17; 7-843-236-2362; www.clubarena.ru). And don’t miss Kruiz (Nizhnezarechenskaya damba; 7-843-555-1131), a permanently docked riverboat restaurant where trendy locals order sushi or sip Spanish wine. But bear in mind it will be hard to focus on the menu. The view of the minarets and onion domes is spectacular.
The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God (which is preserved on Mt. Athos) was kept in the home of a certain pious widow, who lived near Nicea. During the reign of the emperor Theophilus, the Iconoclasts came to the house of this Christian, and one of the soldiers struck the image of the Mother of God with a spear. Blood flowed from the place where it was struck.
The widow, fearing its destruction, promised the imperial soldiers money and implored them not to touch the icon until morning. When the soldiers departed, the woman and her son (later an Athonite monk), sent the holy icon away upon the sea to preserve it. The icon, standing upright upon the water, floated to Athos.
For several days, the Athonite monks had seen a fiery pillar on the sea rising up to the heavens. They came down to the shore and found the holy image, standing upon the waters. After a Molieben of thanksgiving, a pious monk of the Iveron monastery, St Gabriel (July 12), had a dream in which the Mother of God appeared to him and gave him instructions. So he walked across the water, and taking up the holy icon, he placed it in the church.
On the following day, however, the icon was found not within the church, but on the gates of the monastery. This was repeated several times, until the Most Holy Theotokos revealed to St Gabriel Her will, saying that She did not want the icon to be guarded by the monks, but rather She intended to be their Protectress. After this, the icon was installed on the monastery gates. Therefore this icon came to be called "Portaitissa" or "Gate-Keeper" (October 13). This comes from the Akathist to the Mother of God: "Rejoice, O Blessed Gate-Keeper who opens the gates of Paradise to the righteous."
There is a tradition that the Mother of God promised St Gabriel that the grace and mercy of Her Son toward the monks would continue as long as the Icon remained at the monastery. It is also believed that the disappearance of the Iveron Icon from Mt. Athos would be a sign of the end of the world.
The Iveron Icon is also commemorated on February 12, March 31, October 13 (Its arrival in Moscow in 1648), and Bright Tuesday (Commemorating the appearance of the Icon in a pillar of fire at Mt. Athos and its recovery by St Gabriel).
On September 26, 1989, a copy of this famous icon arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia from the Iveron Monastery on mt. Athos. This copy had been painted by the monks on Mt. Athos as a symbol of love and gratitude to the Georgian people.
The mayor of Moscow has said that Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya Ulitsa, Big Communist Street, will become Ulitsa Solzhenitsyna, Solzhenitsyn Street.
By SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY Published: September 25, 2008
MOSCOW — In death as in life, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn remains a difficult, polarizing figure for Russia, a fierce critic not only of Communism but also of the decadence and materialism of post-Soviet Russia. So it was perhaps inevitable that the seemingly simple act of naming a Moscow street in his honor would become complicated.
The priests at St. Martin the Confessor, an Orthodox church on the street, have posted a sign saying Bolshaya Alekseyevskaya, to honor the church of St. Aleksy, a medieval Orthodox metropolitan of Moscow.
When President Dmitri A. Medvedev decreed last month that Mr. Solzhenitsyn, who died on Aug. 3 at 89, be memorialized “for his extraordinary contribution” to Russian culture, he did not set any deadline or single out any street. But the office of Mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov quickly said that Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya Ulitsa, or Big Communist Street, would henceforth be known as Ulitsa Solzhenitsyna, or Solzhenitsyn Street, in honor of Mr. Solzhenitsyn, the writer whose book “The Gulag Archipelago” is credited with revealing the horrors of the Soviet system and, ultimately, helping to destroy it.
That was too much for the Communists, who consider the writer little more than a traitor. Early this month, on the eve of the 40th day after Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s death, when Russian Orthodox custom calls for commemoration of the dead, Vladimir Lakeyev, a leader of the Communist Party faction in Moscow, read a statement saying that Big Communist Street was named after the Bolsheviks who fell in battle there in the revolution of 1905 and the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917.
Renaming the street — one of Moscow’s best preserved, with rows of elegant prerevolutionary mansions — is “inadmissible” because the current name “reflects the feat of Communists who gave their lives for freedom, the happiness of the people and the strengthening of the state,” Mr. Lakeyev said. By contrast, he said, Mr. Solzhenitsyn was “a public figure who devoted his life to fighting the Soviet people’s state and spoke out with anti-Communist and anti-state positions.”
This week the Web site of the Moscow branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation said that “citizens across the country continue to express their displeasure with the campaign of canonization of the false prophet.”
Mr. Lakeyev has petitioned the city prosecutor’s office to investigate the legality of the decision, saying that the law clearly states that a person has to have been dead 10 years before a street may be named after him or her. In response, Vladimir Platonov, an official in Mr. Medvedev’s party, United Russia, proposed a loophole in the law that would lift the restriction if the name change was based on a decree by federal authorities.
But this being Russia, it is not clear that such a move is necessary. In 2004, a street on the outskirts of Moscow was hastily renamed for Akhmad Kadyrov, a Chechen rebel turned pro-Kremlin strongman, who was killed by an assassin’s bomb.
Some have raised a different issue, saying that Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s memory is more likely to be dishonored by having his name attached to a busy city street.
“It will inevitably end up in amusing, and at times simply idiotic, contexts,” wrote Stanislav Minin, a columnist for the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “For example: ‘The Interfax agency reports that a drunken fight took place tonight on Ulitsa Solzhenitsyna.’ ”
In all likelihood, the renaming will go ahead despite the Communists’ protests. The presidential decree, dated Aug. 12, states that a plaque should be erected on the street and specifies the text — identifying Mr. Solzhenitsyn as a Nobel Prize winner and winner of the State Prize of Russia but making no mention of the gulag, the Soviet prison system — and says that new street signs and the plaque should be in place no later than Jan. 1, 2009. On Tuesday, the Moscow government gave preliminary approval to amendments that would fully legalize the name change. In the meantime, a handful of Communists and residents of Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya demonstrated, holding banners with slogans like “Don’t Live a Lie.”
Andrei Metelsky, the leader of the Moscow City Duma’s pro-Kremlin United Russia faction, said during the legislature’s session that dissenting opinions were getting much more of a hearing than in Russia’s past.
“This isn’t the situation of nearly 100 years ago when no one was asked, and it was just renamed and that’s it,” he said. “If anyone tried to object, they faced an unenviable fate in the camps.”
If nothing else, the squabble over Ulitsa Solzhenitsyna has spurred a new round of discussion about Moscow’s toponymy — a debate that had fizzled after a post-Soviet spate of renaming in the 1990s. Moscow still has a number of streets, squares and metro stations named after Lenin, lesser Communist figures and dates connected to the revolution. One of the major thoroughfares near Big Communist Street is still called Marksistskaya, or Marxist Street.
“Now that Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya, a street name with such ideological meaning, is being renamed, I think it will be easier to rename others,” said Viktor Moskvin, director of the Russia Abroad Foundation, a repository of Russian émigré memoirs and archives that Mr. Solzhenitsyn helped compile and strongly supported — and that will now also bear his name.
Meanwhile, the priests at St. Martin the Confessor, a beautiful Orthodox church on Big Communist Street, have taken matters into their own hands and simply erected a sign with its pre-1917 street address, 15 Bolshaya Alekseyevskaya, which honors the church of St. Aleksy, a medieval Orthodox metropolitan of Moscow.
“We shouldn’t be like the Communists, who went around renaming everything,” said the Rev. Valery Stepanov, who serves at the church and hosts a television show about Moscow. “But Solzhenitsyn Street is better than Big Communist Street.”
Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church... The oldest Christian Church in Alaska, established in 1794.
(Editor's Note: The following article is part of a series of articles submitted by Waukon native Brother Leo V. Ryan, CSV from his cruise through the Orient and the Far East during September and October of last year. The cruise was a gift bestowed upon him in honor of his 80th birthday.)
Kodiak Island and the port community of Kodiak lie 248 miles southwest of Anchorage, AK. Kodiak is proclaimed as "The Emerald Island." As a committed Irish-American for me there is only one "Emerald Island" and that's Ireland itself.
Kodiak is many things. Kodiak is the busiest fishing port in the United States. Kodiak is home to the largest Coast Guard Station in the United States. Kodiak is home to the Alutiiq people who have inhabited the Kodiak Archipelago for more than 7,500 years. Kodiak is home to the monster Kodiak brown bears.
Kodiak is an angler's delight. "Where sport fishing rivals any place on earth." (Chamber of Commerce) Kodiak is home to salmon - especially sockeye salmon that come to spawn in the Ayakulik River. But, also king, Coho, pink, and chum salmon are indigenous to Kodiak. More than a million salmon come plowing and up the Ayakulik annually. The Kodiak Archipelago is a fisherman's halibut heaven and, in season, rainbow and steelhead trout abound.
But, "The Emerald Isle"? Why the claim? Twenty thousand years ago Kodiak's 16 major and countless smaller islands were covered by glaciers that scarred and carved the landscape. Jagged peaks, fjord-like bays and U-shaped valleys resulted. The scenery approached by sea is dramatic - rugged coastlines with Sitka Spruce in abundance, lush vegetation and the hillsides are truly green! Kodiak gets 86 inches of rain annually. The rain guarantees the "Emerald Isle" image.
Two citizens, in briefing us, commented that Kodiak has only three or four days of total sunshine and the other 361 or 362 days have clouds, mist and/or rain. Our day in port was one of the rare days. Our day was filled with warmth and sunshine from sunrise (7:47 a.m.) to sunset (8:27 p.m.). Yes, everything was green! I am happy to concede that Kodiak is "Alaska's Emerald Isle"!
The brown bear is Kodiak's Archipelago's "most noble inhabitant." They migrated here from mainland Alaska 12,000 years ago. Kodiak brown bears are immense in size. Male bears known as "boars" reach over 10 feet when standing on their hind legs. They measure five feet when on all fours. The average adult "boar" weighs 600 to 800 pounds and can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds.
Female brown bears are known as "sows" and generally are 20 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter in weight. Kodiak bears are classified as the world's largest land carnivore; technically, they are omnivores not carnivores.
Salmon are their most important source of protein. They are known to devour 20 fish a day. The brown bears also eat elderberries, salmon berries, cranberries, nutrient-rich grass and occasionally they discover seal and whale carcasses on the beach. Over 100,000 Sitka black tail deer are on the island - some of which become dinner for the bears.
While I have written about the brown bears unique to Kodiak, there are also Sitka black tail deer, fox and mountain goats. These land mammals were all to be found in the wildlife refuge. Marine life is abundant including sea otters, fins, humpback and gray whales, porpoise, sea lions and seals. Sunday, we saw sea lions swimming in the harbor.
Kodiak is also famous for land, sea and inshore birds. Just as hunters and anglers are attracted to Kodiak, so, too, are ornithologists. Kodiak claims ten species of land birds, from bald eagle to sparrows, nine species of sea birds, including petrels and puffins, and thirteen species of inshore birds, including loons and even Black Oystercatchers, can be sighted on Kodiak Island.
Fish outnumber the resident population by multiples. Kodiak, the six island villages and the Coast Guard Station (3,500) all together account for 12,500 persons on a 3,588 sq. mile island. Commercial fishing and canneries are the major industries but employment is seasonal.
One of the exciting dimensions of travel is the discovery of new places of which you were never aware of and their fascination. Kodiak proved to be such a place.
The Kodiak Archipelago has a prehistoric history, a period of European discovery, and early Russian settlements all before the United States purchase of Alaska by William Henry Seward in 1867. Kodiak has a "modern" history from 1912 to the present including World War II military activity in the Aleutians. Each period is worthy of commentary.
Archeologists have determined that the Aleutian Islands were suitable for human habitation as early as 8000 BC. The first documented evidence of human colonization in the Kodiak Archipelago dates to 5500 BC. Flash forward to 1300 AD, Alutiiq families began to build very large, multi-roomed, multi-family, sod houses occupied by related families.
The exploration period began in 1741 with Vitus Bering. Hence the name Bering Sea. His expedition marks the first European landfall in present Alaska. Bering was followed in 1793 by the Russian explorer, Stephen Glutov, who wintered at present day Kodiak.
Twenty years later (1794), a Russian merchant, Grigori Shelikov, established the first permanent settlement at Three Saints Bay on the southeastern shore of Kodiak. Another merchant, Alexander Andreevich Baranov, arrived in Kodiak in 1781. He established a fur trading business at St. Paul Harbor, which is present day Kodiak. The Russian ownership and control of the Kodiak Territory is dated to these early merchant entrepreneurs.
These Russian explorers and merchants were followed three years later in 1794 by the arrival of ten Russian Orthodox missionaries transferred from Sitka to Kodiak. The original church which these Russian Orthodox priests organized, Holy Resurrection, has twice been replaced, the last time in 1945. Their gleaming gold crosses on the blue-domed, white-walled hillside church hovers protectively over the Kodiak skyline. In addition, the church sponsors St. Herman's Russian Orthodox Seminary, Veniaminov Museum and St. Innocent Academy.
The name St. Herman is greatly revered in Kodiak. The twin city ports are St. Paul and St. Herman. Who is St. Herman? Formally, he is St. Herman of Alaska, the first Russian Orthodox American Saint. Herman was among the first ten monks to arrive in 1794 and the last of the original group to live. He died in 1836. He was a monk from Valaam Monastery in the Russian North. He was noted as a priest, teacher, protector of the Alutiiq people and the Russian settlers.
Each August 7-9 hundreds of people pilgrimage to his hermitage on nearby Spruce Island. According to legend, the day he died, December 13, 1836, the Alutiiq people saw a column of light joining heaven and earth. They interpreted that light as a sign their spiritual father was in heaven. He was canonized August 9, 1970. His relics are enshrined in Holy Resurrection Church.
Kodiak was a "boom town" in World War II. It was a major staging area for the North Pacific Defense Command at Fort Abercrombie. A naval station, a submarine station, air station and army outpost operated on the island. Pill boxes and bunkers are still visible around the city. The Fort is now a State Historical Park.
The Aleutian Islands are a volcanic chain of islands and islet more than 900 miles long. They form the western extension of the Alaska Peninsula from Unimak Island in the Western Hemisphere to Amchitka Island in the Eastern Hemisphere and continue into the south part of the Bering Sea. The Aleutians include mountains with bold coasts, deep water, close inshore with rocks and reefs surrounded by heavy breakers. We followed the Aleutians for more than a day - beautiful at a distance, but treacherous close by.
The Japanese reached and occupied Atto and Kiska, two islands at the tip of the Aleutians. Therein lies an almost forgotten chapter of WWII: the brief but "deadly struggle" for the Aleutians, 1942-1943. For three and one half weeks, in March 1943, the U.S. Army fought to recover Kiska.
Fighting was hampered by the bitter cold climate, inhospitable terrain, mud that mired equipment and vehicles to the beach and newly enlisted troops without combat experience. The Japanese moved inland to the mountains drawing our troops into the valleys. Our troops became easy targets for the Japanese. Thirty-four percent of our military mission suffered fatalities.
The Japanese command staff, troops and ships slipped out of Kiska under cover of fog. They succeeded in eluding the loosely organized U.S. Naval blockage which had been assigned to protect our invasion. Their successful exit saved Kiska. Thus, the only Japanese - U.S. encounter on American soil in World War II ended, but at great cost.
The synopsis is much abbreviated. I offer my apology to any of my readers who might have been in the "Battle for Aleutians."
As I reread, the above background material, I am reminded of a joke. A second grade boy was asked to write a review of a book he was reading about penguins. He wrote: "This book is about penguins. This book tells me more about penguins than I care to know."
I hope I haven't told you more about Kodiak Island than you care to know!
Meanwhile, you may wonder how I spent my day in Kodiak. We arrived at 10 a.m., Sunday, September 15, a day of dazzling brightness. We were told by locals that they get only three or four days of total sunshine. We were lucky. After our Kodiak visit, we sailed westward for five days headed toward Japan. We experienced turbulent seas, mist, rain and heavy winds.
Early Sunday (8 a.m.) there was Mass for about 350 Catholics and an Interdominational Service followed immediately after (9 a.m.). The Catholic Chaplin was Fr. Michael Knipe, a diocesan priest from Tulsa, OK.
Shuttle buses were available hourly once we off-loaded the ship. A group of us had hired the services of Sue Rohner as a guide. Sue and her husband, Dick, operate the Rohner Bear Camp which offers "Bear and wildlife viewing for eagles, puffins, sea birds, marine mammals, stream fishing and fly fishing for 'wild' steelhead and coho" to quote their ad in the local Explorer.
They are transplanted Pennsylvania farmers who have been in Kodiak for 39 years. Sue was very friendly, knowledgeable and receptive to questions from us statesiders, ("from down below"), and the many foreigners on our cruise. Residents from Australia, Canada, China, England, Ireland and Wales were among the passengers on the Princess Sapphire.
Our first destination was the Baptist Campground for "Russian Tea." Among the Kodiak residents was a couple from Paris, France. He is a chef and she a pastry chef. She, Nicole, prepared platters of pastries to accompany the refreshing Russian tea.
We were further treated to a concert of Russian music, choral singing, and troika dances by students of St. Innocent Academy and townspeople. The musical leader, and organizer of both students and former students (townspeople), was a Russian Orthodox priest, Father Piousska. He is a transplanted Italian who has been with Holy Resurrection Parish and Academy for over 20 years, and he was their featured guitarist.
We were later to visit Holy Resurrection Parish, the earliest Christian church in Alaska (1784). The Russian Orthodox religion is the historic religion of the Aleutians and is a very visible religious influence even today.
The Russian Orthodox Church was long under Patriarch of Moscow. In recent years, ecclesiastical jurisdiction has been transferred to the United States. The five priests of Kodiak are under the Bishop of Sitka, AK. In my curio cabinet, in Arlington Heights, I have a religious triptych which I acquired 15 years ago at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Sitka.
We spent a half hour at Holy Resurrection. A young monk from St. Herman's Theological Seminary gave us the history of the Church and an interpretation of the icons on the Sanctuary screen.
Our city tour involved a "pass by" of Baranov Museum (Alutiq artifax), the harbors, marina, "the mall", Cannery Row, the library, junior and senior high schools, municipal buildings, the ferry dock and the airport. All these locations were easily accessible to each other since the city streets are no longer than our own businesses on East and West Main and Allamakee Street.
The island has, Sue said with a twinkle, "One hundred miles of paved roads." She explained, "We have a 50-mile paved road. When you reach the end, you have to turn around, making 100 miles." There is a second road of 25 miles but the same situation prevails.
Our driver, Bob, was an ex-Coast Guard stationed at Kodiak who never went back to Kentucky. Our group was permitted to visit the U.S. Coast Guard Station provided we did not exit the bus. The Station is an expansion of the old Naval Station of World War II. Today it is the largest Coast Guard Station in the U.S. (housing 3,500 active duty and their dependents). The base has all the facilities of an army or naval base.
The Station has a buoy tender, two cutters, seven helicopter units and five C-130 air craft. Kodiak Station personnel conduct patrol and rescue operations throughout Alaska. Communications, navigational support, marine safety are also part of the diverse mission of this Coast Guard Station.
Our group returned to the Sapphire Princess a half-hour before the ship departed. We sailed Sunday night, September 16 and all day and night Monday, September 17 following the Aleutian Chain. By Tuesday, we were in the open waters of the Bering Sea enroute to the North Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Rehearsing a familiar stance, a spokesman for the Moscow patriarchate told Interfax that Patriarch Alexei II could meet with Pope Benedict XVI-- but only after the Russian Orthodox Church is satisfied with the Vatican's answers to complaints about "proselytism" by Catholics in the "canonical territory" of the Orthodox Church. The Vatican has consistently rejected the idea that eastern Europe is the "canonical territory" of the Moscow patriarchate, and argued that Catholic missionaries are evangelizing the unchurched, not Orthodox believers. These arguments were repeated after President Alexandr Lukashenko of Belarus suggested an ecumenical summit meeting in his country.
Saint Euphrosyne of Alexandria was born at the beginning of the fifth century in the city of Alexandria. She was the only child in her family of illustrious and rich parents. Since her mother died early, she was raised by her father, Paphnutius, a deeply believing and pious Christian. He frequented a monastery, the igumen of which was his spiritual guide.
When Euphrosyne turned eighteen, her father wanted her to marry. He went to the monastery to his spiritual guide to receive his blessing for the planned wedding of his daughter. The igumen conversed with the daughter and gave her his blessing, but St Euphrosyne yearned for the monastic life.
She secretly accepted tonsure from a wandering monk, left her father's house and decided to enter a monastery in order to lead her life in solitude and prayer. She feared, however, that in a women's monastery her father would find her. Calling herself the eunuch Smaragdos, she went to the very same men's monastery which she had visited with her father since childhood.
The monks did not recognize Euphrosyne dressed in men's garb, and so they accepted her into the monastery. Here in a solitary cell, St Euphrosyne spent 38 years in works, fasting and prayer, and attained a high level of spiritual accomplishment.
Her father grieved over the loss of his beloved daughter and more than once, on the advice of the igumen, he conversed with the monk Smaragdos, revealing his grief and receiving spiritual comfort. Before her death, the nun Euphrosyne revealed her secret to her grieving father and asked that no one but he should prepare her body for burial. Having buried his daughter, Paphnutius distributed all his wealth to both the poor and to the monastery, and then he accepted monasticism. For ten years right up to his own death, he labored in the cell of his daughter.
Your Excellency Mr President of the European Parliament,
Your Excellencies, Honorable Members of the European Parliament,Distinguished Guests,
First and foremost, we convey to you salutations from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, based for many many centuries in what is today Istanbul – greetings replete with esteem and respect. In particular, we express our gratitude to an old friend of ours, His Excellency Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament. We likewise express our sincerest appreciation for the extraordinary honor to address the Plenary of the European Parliament, especially on this occasion that commemorates the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
As a purely spiritual institution, our Ecumenical Patriarchate embraces a truly global apostolate that strives to raise and broaden the consciousness of the human family – to bring understanding that we are all dwelling in the same house. At its most basic sense, this is the meaning of the word “ecumenical” – for the “oikoumene” is the inhabited world – the earth understood as a house in which all peoples, kindreds, tribes and languages dwell.
As is well known, the origins of our religious institution lie at the core of the Axial Age, deep in the history of the Christian Faith – with the earliest followers of Jesus Christ. Inasmuch as our See – our institutional center – shared the center and capital of the Christian Roman Empire, it became known as “ecumenical,” with certain privileges and responsibilities that it holds to this day. One of its chief responsibilities was for bringing the redemptive message of the Gospel to the world outside the Roman Empire. In the days before the exploratory age, most civilizations held such a bicameral view of the world as being “within” and “without.” The world was divided into two sectors: a hemisphere of civilization and a hemisphere of barbarism. In this history, we behold the grievous consequences of the alienation of human persons from one another.
Today, when we have the technological means to transcend the horizon of our own cultural self-awareness, we nevertheless continue to witness the terrible effects of human fragmentation. Tribalism, fundamentalism, and phyletism – which is extreme nationalism without regard to the rights of the other – all these contribute to the ongoing list of atrocities that give pause to our claims of being civilized in the first place.
And yet, even with tides of trade, migrations and expansions of peoples, religious upheavals and revivals, and great geopolitical movements, the deconstruction of rigid and monolithic self-understandings of past centuries has yet to find a permanent harbor. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has sailed across the waves of these centuries, navigating the storms and the doldrums of history. For twenty centuries – through the Pax Romana, the Pax Christiana, the Pax Islamica, the Pax Ottomanica (all epochs marked by intercultural struggle, conflict and outright war) – the Ecumenical Patriarchate has continued as a lighthouse for the human family and the Christian Church. It is from the depths of our experience upon these deep waters of history that we offer to the contemporary world a timeless message of perennial human value.
Today, the ecumenical scope of our Patriarchate extends far beyond the boundaries of its physical presence at the cusp of Europe and Asia, in the same City we have inhabited for the seventeen centuries since her founding. Though small in quantity, the extensive quality of our experience brings us before this august assembly today, in order to share from that experience on the necessity of intercultural dialogue, a lofty and timely ideal for the contemporary world.
As you yourselves have said – in this most esteemed body’s own words:
At the heart of the European project, it is important to provide the means for intercultural dialogue and dialogue between citizens to strengthen respect for cultural diversity and deal with the complex reality in our societies and the coexistence of different cultural identities and beliefs. (Decision No 1983/2006 of EP and CEU)
And we would humbly supplement this noble statement, as we did last year in our address to the Plenary of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg.
Dialogue is necessary first and foremost because it is inherent in the nature of the human person.
This is the principal message that we propose for your consideration today: that intercultural dialogue is at the very root of what it means to be a human being, for no one culture of the human family encompasses every human person. Without such dialogue, the differences in the human family are reduced to objectifications of the “other” and lead to abuse, conflict, persecution – a grand scale human suicide, for we are all ultimately one humanity. But where the differences between us move us to encounter one another and where that encounter is based in dialogue, there is reciprocal understanding and appreciation – even love.
In the past fifty years, our human family has experienced leaps of technological achievement undreamed of by our forebears. Many have trusted that this kind of advancement will bridge the divides that fragment the human condition. As if, our achievements had given us the power to overcome the fundamental realities of our moral and – may we say – our spiritual condition. Yet, despite every conceivable benefit and technological skill – skill that seems to outstrip our anthropological wit, we still behold the universal banes of hunger, thirst, war, persecution, injustice, planned misery, intolerance, fanaticism and prejudice.
Amidst this cycle that cannot seem to be broken, the significance of the “European Project” cannot be underestimated. It is one of the hallmarks of the European Union that has succeeded in promoting mutual, peaceful and productive co-existence between nation states that less than seventy years ago were drenched in a bloody conflict that could have destroyed the legacy of Europe for the ages.
Here, in this great hall of assembly of the Parliament, you strive to make possible the relationships between states and political realities that make reconciliation between persons possible. Thus you have recognized the importance of intercultural dialogue, especially at a time in the history of Europe when transformations are taking place in every country and along every societal boundary. Great tidal forces of conflict, and economic security and opportunity have shifted populations around the globe. Of necessity then, persons of differing cultural, ethnic, religious and national origin find themselves in close proximity. In some cases, populations are excluded from the broader societal context. In some cases, the same populations shun the greater whole and close themselves off from the dominant society. But in either case, as we engage in dialogue, it must not be a mere academic exercise in mutual appreciation.
For dialogue to be effective, to be transformative in bringing about core change in persons, it cannot be done on the basis of “subject” and “object.” The value of the “other” must be absolute – without objectification; so that each party is apprehended in the fullness of their being.
For Orthodox Christians, the icon, or image, stands not only as an acme of human aesthetic accomplishment, but as a tangible reminder of this perennial truth. As in every painting – religious or not and notwithstanding the talent of the artist– the object presents as two dimensional. Yet, for Orthodox Christians, an icon is no mere religious painting – and it is not, by definition, a religious object. Indeed, it is a subject with which the viewer, the worshipper, enters into wordless dialogue through the sense of sight. For an Orthodox Christian, the encounter with the icon is an act of communion with the person represented in the icon. How much more should our encounters with living icons – persons made in the image and likeness of God – be acts of communion!
In order for our dialogue to become more than mere cultural exchange, there must be a more profound understanding of the absolute interdependence – not merely of states and political and economic actors – but the interdependence of every single human person with every other single human person. And such a valuation must be made regardless of any commonality of race, religion, language, ethnicity, national origin, or any of the benchmarks by which we seek self identification and self identity. And in a world of billions of persons, how is such inter-connectedness possible?
Indeed, there is no possible way to link with every human person – this is a property that we would ascribe to the Divine. However, there is a way of understanding the universe in which we live as being shared by all – a plane of existence that spans the reality of every human person – an ecosphere that contains us all.
Thus it is that the Ecumenical Patriarchate – in keeping with our own sense of responsibility for the house, the oikos of the world and all who dwell therein, has for decades championed the cause of the environment, calling attention to ecological crises around the globe. And we engage this ministry without regard to self interest. As you know so well, our Patriarchate is not a “national” Church, but rather the fundamental canonical expression of the ecumenical dimensions of the Gospel message, and of its analogous responsibility within the life of the Church. This is the deeper reason that the Church Fathers and the Councils have given it the name, “Ecumenical.” The loving care of the Church of Constantinople exceeds any linguistic, cultural, ethnic and even religious definition, as She seeks to serve all peoples. Although firmly rooted in particular history – as any other institution is – the Ecumenical Patriarchate transcends historical categories in Her perennial mission of service.
In our service to the environment, we have to date sponsored seven scientific symposia that bring together a host of disciplines. The genesis of our initiative grew on the island that gave humanity the Apocalypse, Book of Revelation, the sacred island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. And it was in the Aegean that we commenced, in 1995, an ambitious program of integrating current scientific knowledge about the oceans with the spiritual approach of the world's religions to water, particularly the world's oceans. Since Patmos we have traversed the Danube, the Adriatic Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Amazon, the Arctic Sea, and we are now making preparations to sail the Nile in Egypt and the Mississippi River in the United States next year.
What we seek is not only an ongoing dialogue that is serviceable to practical necessities, but also one that raises human consciousness. While we strive to find answers to ecological concerns and crises, we also bring the participants into a more comprehensive sense of themselves as belonging to and relating to a greater whole. We seek to embrace the ecosphere of human existence not as an object to be controlled, but as a fellow-struggler on the path of increase and improvement. As the Apostle Paul, whose 2000 year legacy both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches are celebrating this year, says in one of his most famous epistles:
For we know that until now, the whole of creation groans with us and shares our birth pangs. (Romans 8:22)
Every ecosystem on this planet is like a nation – by definition limited to a place. The estuary is not the tundra, nor is the savanna the desert. But like every culture, every ecosystem will have an effect that goes beyond far beyond its natural – or in the case of cultures, national, boundaries. And when we understand that every ecosystem is part of the singular ecosphere that is inhabited by every living breath that fills the world, then do we grasp the interconnectedness, the powerful communion of all life, and our true interdependency on one another. Without such an understanding, we are led to ecocide, the self-destruction of the one ecosphere that sustains all human existence.
Thus it is that we come before you today, highlighting this Year of Intercultural Dialogue, bringing parables from the natural world to affirm your transcendent human values. As an institution, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has lived as a relatively small ecosystem within a much larger culture for centuries. Out of this long experience, allow us to suggest the most important practical characteristic that enables the work of intercultural dialogue to succeed.
Chiefly and above all, there must be respect for the rights of the minority within every majority. When and where the rights of the minority are observed, the society will for the most part be just and tolerant. In any culture, one segment will always be dominant – whether that dominance is based on race, religion or any other category. Segmentation is inevitable in our diverse world. What we seek to end is fragmentation! Societies that are built upon exclusion and repression cannot last. Or as the divine Prince of Peace Jesus Christ said:
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. (St. Matthew 12:25).
Our counsel to all is to recognize that only when we embrace the fullness of shared presence within the ecosphere of human existence, are we then able to face the “otherness” of those around us – majority or minority – with a true sense of the consanguinity of the human family. Then do we behold the stranger amongst us not as an alien, but as a brother or sister in the human family, the family of God. St. Paul expounds on pan-human relation and brotherhood quite eloquently and concisely when addressing the Athenians.
This is why Europe needs to bring Turkey into its Project and why Turkey needs to foster intercultural dialogue and tolerance in order to be accepted into the European Project. Europe should not see any religion that is tolerant of others as alien to itself. The great religions, like the European Project, can be a force that transcend nationalism and can even transcend nihilism and fundamentalism by focusing their faithful on what unites us as human beings, and by fostering a dialogue about what divides us.
From our country, Turkey, we perceive both a welcome to a new economic and trading partner, but we also feel the hesitation that comes from embracing, as an equal, a country that is predominantly Muslim. And yet Europe is filled with millions of Muslims who have come here from all sorts of backgrounds and causations; just as Europe would still be filled with Jews, had it not been for the horrors of the Second World War.
Indeed, it is not only non-Christians that Europe must encounter, but Christians who do not fit into the categories of Catholic or Protestant. The resurgence of the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain has truly been a marvel for the world to behold. The segmentation of Eastern Europe has led to fragmentation in many places. Not only does the center not hold; it is hardly discernable. Through this process, as nation states strive to re-establish themselves, it is the Orthodox Christian faith that has risen, even above economic indicators, to a new status that could not have been predicted even twenty years ago.
One of the vital roles of our Ecumenical Patriarchate is to assist in the process of growth and expansion that is taking place in traditional Orthodox countries, by holding fast as the canonical norm for the worldwide Orthodox Church, over a quarter of a billion people around the globe. At this moment, we wish to inform you that in October, at our invitation, all the Heads of the Orthodox Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches will meet in Istanbul, in order to discuss our common problems and to strengthen Pan-Orthodox unity and cooperation. Simultaneously, we will also concelebrate the two thousand years since the birth of the Apostle of the Nations Paul.
Currently in the City (Istanbul) we are experiencing great joy and enthusiasm as we are all preparing for its celebration as the European Capital of Culture in the year 2010. The City, which has a long history, was a crossroads for gatherings of people and served as a place of cohabitation of diverse religions and cultures. This past week, we attended a luncheon hosted by the Prime Minister of Turkey in honor of the Prime Minister of Spain. As it is public knowledge, both are co-sponsors of the Alliance of Civilizations under the auspices of the United Nations. We heard their wonderful speeches which were harmonious with the diachronic tolerant spirit of our City.
Your Excellencies, Honorable Members of the European Parliament: the Ecumenical Patriarchate stands ready to make vital contributions to the peace and prosperity of the European Union. We are prepared to partner with you in constructive dialogues such as this, and to lend willing ears to the concerns of the day. In this spirit, our Patriarchate for the past twenty-five years has been cultivating and developing academic dialogues with Islam and Judaism. We have realized many bilateral and tri-lateral meetings. In early November in Athens, we will have our twelfth stage dialogue with Islam.
Parallel to the aforementioned dialogues, we continue theological dialogues with the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed Churches. In October, at the invitation of the Pope, we will have the opportunity to address the twelfth General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican.
In summary, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is very active in the sphere of ecumenical dialogue with the purpose of contributing to a better understanding of people, reconciliation, peace, solidarity, and for the estrangement from fanaticism, hatred, and all forms of evil.
We thank you for this singular opportunity to address you today, and we pray the abundant mercy of God and His blessing upon all your righteous endeavors. Please allow us from this honorable podium to offer our best wishes to the Muslim faithful around the globe for the upcoming Great Feast of Ramadan and also our best wishes to the Jewish faithful throughout the world for the upcoming Feast of Rosh Ha Shanah.
We are all brothers and sisters with one heavenly Father and on this beautiful planet, which we are all responsible for, there is room for everyone, but there is no room for wars and killing of one another.
We thank you once again for the great honor and privilege of addressing all of you here today.
AP Başkanı Poettering'in yaptığı konuşma metni:
Word of Welcome by Hans-Gert Poettering,
President of the European Parliament
Solemn Sitting of the European Parliament on the occasion of the visit by
His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
in the context of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue
Brussels, 24 September 2008
Your All Holiness
President of the Commission, Jose Manuel Durrao-Barroso
President in office of the Council, Minister Jouyet
It is both an honour and a pleasure to welcome Your All Holiness to the European Parliament in Brussels for this Solemn Session during 2008 the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
The first intercultural guest to address our plenary session this year, the Grand Mufti of Damascus, came from Syria, a country which neighbours your own country of Turkey. Both countries are at the heart of the biblical world, within a region that gave birth to the world’s three great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
People from all three religions have lived in close proximity for centuries; sadly, not always in peaceful relationship with each other. Indeed, even today there are parts of the broader Middle East region where tensions exist between the different communities. Of course the terrible situation in Israel and Palestine is the most extreme case.
However, on the other hand there are numerous examples in the region of religious tolerance, of harmonious relations between peoples of different religious convictions. During my recent visit to Syria, I had the opportunity to meet spiritual leaders of all the various traditions and they assured me of the excellent conditions pertaining in that country with regard to freedom of religious expression.
The European Union is a community based on values, the most fundamental of which is the inherent dignity of every human person. In this respect religious freedom is central to human dignity and goes beyond any powers that state authorities by seek to evoke. The separation of church and state which we value so much, is a guarantee for the freedom of action of church authorities in the administration of their own affairs and in their relationship with their flocks.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is based in Phanar in Istanbul., was established in the fourth century and is an important spiritual home for 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.
The word Phanar means “lighthouse”. And you, Your All Holiness, through your life of peace and gospel of love, have been a constant beam of light to your followers in the Orthodox world. Here in the European Union recent enlargements have added the majority-Orthodox countries of Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. Greece has been a member since 1981.
The late Pope John Paul II used the metaphor of Europe breathing again with its two lungs after the downfall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. We could also use this metaphor to refer to the richness in the enlarged EU brought through the different perspectives of Western and Eastern Christianity.
The former Ottoman Empire displayed a remarkable tolerance with regard to religious diversity, even at a time when such tolerance was sadly absent in many parts of Europe. At one time almost 40% of the Sultan’s subjects were Christian. The Ecumenical Patriarchate centered on the “New Rome” has a long history of interaction with the Islamic world and I am sure we can all benefit from the wisdom gleaned over centuries in our attempts to have a constructive dialogue with this world.
In conclusion, I would like to refer briefly to Your All Holiness’ important work in promoting awareness among religious leaders from different faiths of the threat posed to our planet - to creation -by Climate Change. This is a challenge which we can only meet if we fully engage all our citizens at the local level. And in this respect the values system and the parish community structure constitute an important contribution that religions can make towards achieving public goals.
Your All Holiness, we thank you for your visit, and we look forward to what you have to share with us.
Minsk, September 24, Interfax - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said he would like the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Pope to meet in Belarus.
"I would very much like a meeting of the Moscow Patriarch and the Roman [Catholic] Pope to take place here in Belarus, in the center of Europe and at a meeting point of Orthodoxy and Catholicism," Lukashenko said in an interview with the Western media.
The president, however, admitted that "it is impossible today for certain known reasons."
In spite of this, "we, following the principles of hospitality and respecting our Catholics, have invited this great person [the pope] to visit Belarus," he said.
"I strongly regret that the incumbent pope's predecessor - John Paul II - did not come to Belarus. He wanted very much to visit our country. He loved Belarus absolutely sincerely," Lukashenko said.
The Belarusian president said he sees no reasons for religious conflicts in his country.
"It will never happen in Belarus. We have proclaimed a principle: everyone has to find his own path to the Church, if he wants to follow this path," he said.
In Belarus, "an Orthodox church and a Catholic cathedral are situated across the street from each other," the president said.
"We have never seen any confrontations, any reproaches, or wry glances between Catholic and Orthodox believers. And we will not see them," Lukashenko said.
The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in İstanbul, Patriarch Bartholomew, urged the European Union on Wednesday to take on Turkey as a member if it improves democratic and human rights standards.
The Orthodox Church is still suffering from problems in EU candidate Turkey despite an improvement in its treatment under the present government, Patriarch Bartholomew, said yesterday in Brussels. "I have to be honest and say that despite many steps taken by our country in modernizing reforms, there are still many things that have to be done before we can talk about a modern democracy which respects religious rights," he told a news conference after addressing the European Parliament.
The patriarch said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government had done more to improve the rights of the Orthodox Church than its predecessors but that problems persisted. "In order to survive, we need clergy and when we cannot train these people and prepare them. ... This creates dangers for the present and the future of our patriarchate," Bartholomew said.
"We are talking about a country of 72 million, so the question of 100,000 or 150,000 inhabitants who are not Muslims is not a threat. It is something that can only enrich the country," he said.
In his address to the EU legislature he said Turkey could be a bridge between religions and cultures. Bartholomew endorsed Turkey's ambition to become a full member of the EU, provided it met all the criteria, despite opposition from the leaders of France and Germany.
24 September 2008 MADABA - Segments of the Kingdom's rich and diverse heritage will be preserved and promoted under a landmark cooperation agreement between the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem and the Jordanian, Greek and US governments.
Under an agreement signed on Tuesday by the Planning Ministry, USAIDUSAID , the Ministry of TourismMinistry of Tourism, the Department of Antiquities and the Greek patriarch of Jerusalem, the Greek government will provide Jordan with $720,000 through Hellenic Aid to enhance tourism services in the mosaic city of Madaba and to protect and preserve an ancient Byzantine-era church.
Martyr's Church, which was built in the 6th century and houses several mosaics and other artefacts, is one of four Byzantine churches built on the site now known as the Madaba Archaeological Park.
Yesterday's agreement entails constructing a shelter over the site and providing visitors with interpretation and visual guides describing the history of the church and its numerous mosaics, according to the USAIDUSAID- Jordan Tourism Development Programme.
The Greek grant will also finance renovation work on the visitor centre adjacent to St. George Church, home to the world-renowned mosaic map of the Holy Land so it can accommodate the growing number of tourists coming to the site.
In addition, the visitor centre will be refurbished and provided with an interpretation room, while a new documentary will be filmed detailing the historical significance of the plethora of tourist sites in and around the city.
Expressing his support for the project, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III yesterday said the agreement represents an example of "mutual cooperation and understanding", and a symbol of the "common humanity" that supports peace and stability.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Theodorus Kassimis also stressed his government's continued support for the Kingdom, particularly in protecting heritage sites.
Planning Minister Suhair Al-Ali, who met with Kassimis to discuss Jordanian-Greek ties earlier on Tuesday, underlined the importance of the agreement and cross-cultural understanding.
"Tourism is a key and vital sector of the economy, which creates job opportunities and generates foreign currency," she said, highlighting the "excellent" relations Greece and Jordan enjoy.
Also under the agreement, USAIDUSAID pledged $100,000 worth of technical assistance and expertise in renovating the two areas and providing a more visitor-friendly atmosphere.
"The United States and Jordan have been working together on the management of heritage and tourism experiences. Tourism plays a pivotal role in Jordan's economy, and we will continue supporting the development of this sector," US Ambassador Robert Stephen Beecroft said at the signing ceremony.
According to USAIDUSAID Mission Director Jay Knott, the agreement is just one of several steps the US has taken to support the tourism sector.
"Tourism is important in terms of our cooperation with the government. We see tourism as a growing economic sector particularly with cultural sites, which have great potential," Knott told The Jordan Times yesterday.
The agreement comes as part of ongoing efforts to transform Madaba into a tourism hub and encourage visitors to use the mosaic city as a base for their travels, with several cultural and religious sites a short drive away.
Under the Tourism MinistryTourism Ministry's Madaba Tourism Strategy, the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration was revamped, while infrastructure work is under way to repave streets and improve shop facades.
The St. George Church of Madaba saw a 104 per cent increase in visitors in the first seven months of this year, drawing 163,027 tourists through July.
St. Petersburg, September 24, Interfax - The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland supports the Russian Orthodox Church on the need to teach school children the foundations of religious culture of their ancestors.
"Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Every child has the right to receive religious education in accordance with his own tradition", the summary of the 4th Theological Colloquium of representatives of the two Churches, ended in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, reads.
According to the Orthodox and the Lutherans, "there is no absolutely "neutral" transfer of knowledge about religion in school, because every educational system reflects a certain worldview and value system".
The participants of theological meeting however emphasized that the inclusion of religious education in school curriculum does not violate the principle of secularism in education. "It is necessary to distinguish the church catechism from the religious education in school. School children should have the possibility to receive a profound knowledge about their religious tradition, as well as basic knowledge about other traditions", the authors of resolution added.
They are convinced that the educational goals of a secondary school and of the Church can tune with each other. It is no coincidence that in many European countries, including Finland, the school trains its own religion in accordance with the principle of freedom of conscience. "Studying of religious traditions accords with this principle," the theologians of both Churches confirm.
They also note that Christian education build the moral values of society in a spirit of responsible freedom and create the preconditions for the dialogue of different religions and value systems. So the duty of Christian Churches is to act actively to resolve cross-cultural conflicts and to support for cross-cultural harmony and peaceful coexistence.
MOSCOW, SEPT. 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II says he is very pleased with the publication of a Russian edition of the Catholic magazine "30 Days."
In a letter to its director, former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said he is "very happy to see that this authoritative monthly, published in seven languages, now also has a Russian edition."
"This special issue contains rich material on the history, cultural and present-day life of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church," the patriarch noted. He added that he is certain this initiative will promote "a fruitful dialogue between the patriarchate of Moscow and the Roman Catholic Church."
The special Russian issue of "30 Days" was produced in collaboration with Moscow's World Public Forum "Dialogue of Civilizations" and is titled "The Faith of Russia, the Unity of the Church."