Saturday, May 31, 2008

Apostle Hermas of the Seventy

Commemorated on May 31

The Holy Apostle Hermas was a bishop in Philippopolis, Thrace. He was a Greek, but he spent some time in Rome. The holy Apostle Paul greets him in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 16:14). The Apostle Hermas endured much grief from the pagans for preaching the Gospel, but he died in peace.

According to Tradition, St Hermas is the author of THE SHEPHERD, an instructive book based on revelations from angels.


Minister’s retirement turns into second career as writer

Father Emmanuel Hatzidakis of St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia sings a hymn during Vespers, or evening prayer service, on May 3. Father Emmanuel wrote a book on the Divine Liturgy, a Greek Orthodox communion service, entitled "The Heavenly Banquet."
Father Emmanuel Hatzidakis delivers a brief message to the congregation following the evening service at St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church on May 3.
Father Emmanuel Hatzidakis reads from a liturgical text during the evening service, or Vespers, at St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church on May 3.
May 30, 2008 1:00 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — The Rev. Emmanuel Hatzidakis was 20 years old when he felt a push toward a career in ministry. More than 20 years later he finally answered that call.

Hatzidakis was raised in the Orthodox Christian Church and was educated in Greece. He joined his brother at a university in Italy to study engineering. “In the middle of the second year I realized that this was not my field, and I switched,” he said. He finished by studying Italian literature and philosophy at the International Institute of St. Paul in Rome.
After graduation, his sister invited him to visit her in Cleveland, Ohio.

The trip helped “to clear my head about what to do in life,” Hatzidakis said. He moved to the Unites States intending to fulfill his pledge to join the ministry and become a monk for the Orthodox Church. “I thought I was coming for a short period of time ... but things happened one after the other,” he said.
Circumstances diverted him from his goal. He met his wife, Barbara, in his second year in the United States, and they were married in 1970.

Hatzidakis joined his wife in the insurance business, where he was an underwriter. His time away from ministry didn’t last long, though. At 45, Hatzidakis decided to change careers and sought a professional role in religious ministry.
“At some point in time this calling came back,” he said, “so I went to school with my wife’s agreement.”

His wife had to give more than just her verbal agreement. “She had to sign a statement that she was in agreement; otherwise I could not go to study,” he said.
“She accepted it because she did not know what she was getting into,” he said, laughing.

In the Orthodox Church, “Once a priest, if you are married, of course you stay married,” he said. “And if you are single, you stay single.”
Hatzidakis attended Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston to get his required master’s degree in theology. He received credit for his studies at other schools, so he completed the program in two years.

He was also required to have a confessor, a spiritual guide who decides if one has hindrances before entering into the ministry. “It’s more that you don’t have impediments rather than you are worthy to become (a priest),” he said.
“Nobody is.”

Hatzidakis graduated from Holy Cross in 1988 and was immediately assigned to a church in Huntington, W. Va., for a year and a half. He was then transferred to a church outside of Cleveland, Ohio, for another year and a half. He was later assigned to Sts. Constantine and Helen in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis, where he stayed for 10 years. He was in Chicago for two and a half years before he retired.
It was while he was in Belleville that Hatzidakis started publishing monthly installments in his church’s newsletter about the Divine Liturgy, the most holy of the weekly services in the Orthodox Church. A member of Orthodox Witness, an organization Hatzidakis founded, suggested he put the material together in a book to spread the knowledge to others outside the church.

A few years into retirement, Hatzidakis was offered a position to be a substitute priest at St. Luke the Evangelist Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia. Then he was offered the position permanently.
“I had to think very hard about it, for maybe three or four months before I gave them my consent,” he said.

With the administration responsibilities of a church back upon him, Hatzidakis was pressed to find time to finish his book. “How do you find time?” he asked. “You find time for things you want to do, every one of us, no matter how busy we are, you find time.”
“Writing the book, obviously, is not part of my duties or responsibilities for any given church, so therefore, that’s where my free time, so called, went,” he said. “And there are, God willing, more (books) to come.”


You said you founded the Orthodox Witness with a friend. What is Orthodox Witness?

Orthodox Witness, of course, is the publisher of this book. ... Orthodox Witness is an outreach organization. Its hope is to spread the truth of the Orthodox faith in the immediate area where we are. So rather than going as missionaries to some far country, we would like to make the Orthodox Church known in our surroundings.
Can you explain, quickly, what the Divine Liturgy is and why it’s important?

The Divine Liturgy is, if you are a Roman Catholic or from one of the high churches, Episcopal, like the Mass. It is a structure, especially prior to Vatican II, is essentially the same. ... So we have many sacraments, some Orthodox count them as seven, as the Roman Catholics do. I do not, with many others; I think everything the church does is sacramental in nature. ... (T)he Holy Eucharist is at the top of them all, and all of them, ultimately, relate to it, because there is nothing highest on earth for us. We cannot enter into a greater union with the divine than by partaking of the Holy Eucharist. ... So the Divine Liturgy stands apart from all the other services, and it is their completion. They all lead to it. Higher than that we cannot go.
So, what is the book about?

The book is an explanation of the Divine Liturgy. There is much that we do not understand, and we never will. The Divine Eucharist is a great mystery of our faith. Just like Jesus Christ is a mystery. ...

We don’t believe in a God who is uninvolved with his creation, but a God who is in control and guides the entire creation to its intended end, to its purpose, because it‘s not accidental. So this is explained. You may say, well, you know, can this be part of an explanation of the Divine Liturgy? Yes, because we have this petition. And also, let’s say we pray for our armed forces, which we do, you know. How is that? What’s the church’s stance vis-à-vis war? So we address that too. So we try to be as thorough, if we had a question in mind, then we needed to find a ... I hope a responsible and a reliable answer.
Where did the title “The Heavenly Banquet” come from?

Well, it’s hard for us to envision the Divine Eucharist as a meal, but that’s what it was. ... When this Divine Liturgy starts, the priest or the celebrant blesses the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, so we enter God’s kingdom, which is eternal. So we already enter into that eternal day of God, the eternal present, and the Divine Eucharist; it’s called divine because we partake of not only the humanity of Jesus Christ but also his divinity. We eat and drink the lord and thus we unite ourselves with him in this act. ... That’s why we have on the cover the Lord instituting the Last Supper, which is the sacrament, the mystery of Holy Eucharist.
So do you have any plans for books in the future?

Yes, I do. ... There are two books that I have started. One I have about 300 pages already ... it is a historic and a dogmatic walk ... you know, let’s take on different issues, see how they were developed from the beginning, from the Holy Scripture to the very early writings, so the emphasis is to use documents of the first three centuries of the church. And basically it is apologetic in nature, you know, to show that the Orthodox Church is that same church from the beginning that has kept the faith unaltered. So it’s addressed primarily to Protestants. The other book, perhaps will come before this, is more esoteric, perhaps we can call it The Humanity of Christ. It’s very much in my heart because I see that there is a problem in stating clearly who the Lord is and what did he accomplish and how. There is a lot of confusion and one would think that all these issues about who Christ is have been solved in 2000 years of history. ... So we’ll see, you know, how much time and energy God will give us to complete these projects.

Paphos plumber is Cyprus’ first Pontian Priest

By Bejay Browne
CYPRUS has its first Pontian priest, ordained by the Bishop of Paphos on Sunday.
The ceremony took place at the 12th century five-domed church of Ayia Pareskevi in Yeroskipou.
In front of the 16th century iconostasis, and beneath the high vaulted ceiling, Bishop Georgios of Paphos ordained 40-year-old Georgian plumber, George Hmalantzidies.
The new priest moved to Cyprus 12 years ago, after studying electrical engineering at the University of Georgia. George, or Yiorgos as he is known in Greek, met his wife, Tamara, 40, while in Russia visiting his Aunt. Tamara lived next door with her family. This chance encounter, at the age of 25, was the only time the two met, before getting married a few years later.
“When the Soviet Union broke down, it was difficult for many of us, as we are Greek,” the newly ordained priest told the Cyprus Mail at his home this week. “Many Georgians chose to go to Greece. My brothers’ godfather lives in Paphos, he called me and told me I could find work here, so I came.
“Tamara came to join me and we were married in Ayios Spyridonas Church, in Yeroskipou in 1995.We have four beautiful children, the youngest is only one year old.”
George is now a plumber by trade, after deciding to learn a new profession, and works for WATT engineering, a job he really enjoys.
“I work in different places and I have met some really nice people.”
Yiorgos and Tamara both have strong religious beliefs, and attended Church regularly. Two years ago, Father Ioannis of Yeroskipou, told George to become a priest.
The Greek Orthodox Church has three levels of orders: deacons, priests and bishops. A married man may be ordained a deacon or priest, but if he is single when ordained, he is not allowed to marry later on. A married man cannot become a Bishop.
“This was not something I had ever considered. I love God and live my life accordingly, but I was a plumber. Then, other priests from different churches told me the same thing and I thought, God has chosen this path for me, and I must listen to him. I realised he was guiding me.”
Tamara fully supports her husbands’ ordination.
“Every human has a cross to bear, and a purpose. Yiorgos has found his cross and I am happy. I love my God and I love worshipping in church. It has always been an important part of my life. I go to church every Sunday, this is something I really like to do.
“I would like to have more children, I love them and I love being a mother. But this decision is in Gods’ hands,” she added.
George is elated at expressed how he feels about his new status.
“Two months before my ordination, I prepared to become a priest. I couldn’t quite believe what was happening. I have never, ever felt so good in my life, as I did when I was being ordained. I am very happy now. Before, I was just George. I was a plumber. Now I am not just George. I am Father George.
“Since my ordination, people have been even more friendly too me. They all think it is a wonderful thing. So many Arabs and Syrians are happy for me, and more people come to speak to me every day.”
The Church of Cyprus is autocephalous, self-ruling, and this has been the case as far back as 478AD. Men entering the priesthood are still required to wear traditional dress, and support a beard. The Bishop of Paphos, Georgios, who ordained the new priest, cited these as reasons for the decline in numbers of new priests.
“In other countries, such as England and Australia, it is not compulsory for members of the Church to wear robes or grow facial hair,” he told the Cyprus Mail. “They have a more modern approach. Young people these days do not seem interested in tradition.
“I welcome any nationality hoping to enter the Church, as long as they want to be Orthodox, can speak Greek and are good people. There is no difference between a man from Georgia or Cyprus, who wishes to be ordained. Anyway, Pontians are the same as us, we are all Greek.”
The Bishop added: “the Orthodox Church of Paphos has the first Pontian priest, and the first Syrian Deacon, who is tutoring Muslim Syrians, as they convert to the Orthodox Church.”
Two Romanian Orthodox Priests are based in the district, at the monastery of Salamiotissa and Ayia Marinouda and Achaelia. In addition, the deacon of St. Neophytos is also Romanian.
“It is important that people realise that belief spans all cultures and religions, it can bring people together. This is apparent in the diocese of Paphos. Father George will be attached to the Church of Ayi Anargiri in Kato Paphos, which has a large congregation of Pontians. I am sure his influence will be positive. He understands the community, he speaks the language, and he has lived here for a number of years,” said Bishop Georgios.
Father George is eager to fulfil his new role as one of the 133 priests in the district of Paphos.
“I am learning my catechisms now, and everything has changed for me. I have a new life. I am a new person.”
“Tamara and I both speak a few languages. I speak Russian, Greek, Georgian, a little Turkish, and a little English. It is important to be able to communicate with people. I am the first Pontian priest in Cyprus.”
The delight of his new status is apparent in George’s face, and he jokes that he only helps Tamara a little in the house.
“I don’t cook a lot. I am very good at Souvla and Souvlakia though,” he laughs.

The Catholic Church won't keep up its dialogue with Orthodox world without the Russian Church, the Vatican's representative assures

30 May 2008, 16:57

Moscow, May 30, Interfax - Head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Cardinal Walter Kasper stated that the Roman Catholic Church would keep up its theological dialogue with local Orthodox Churches only with the Moscow Patriarchate participating.

"We launched the dialogue with all Orthodox Churches and we won't continue it without the Russian Orthodox Church," he said in his interview cited by the official website of the Moscow Theological Academy.

The theological dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and local Orthodox Churches goes on international level in frames of the Mixed Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission with the Catholic party co-chaired by Kasper. The last session of this Commission was held in October 2007 in Ravenna.

Then the Moscow Patriarchate's representatives left its plenary session as they didn't agree to the participation of the so-called Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church established in 1996 by the Constantinople Patriarchate on the canonical territory of the Russian Church. The session's participants without the Moscow Patriarchate representatives adopted a final document defining their shared attitude to the nature of authority in the Ecumenical Church.

The cardinal noted that the conflict between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Constantinople Patriarchate was "an inter-Orthodox affair." "We can't interfere in these relations, but hope for the compromise," Kasper stressed.

He also reminded that this issue had been twice negotiated with the representative of the Constantinople Patriarchate and the cardinal reported it to the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.

According to Kasper, he would broach the subject again during June visit of the Constantinople Patriarchate's delegation to Rome.

As to the final document adopted in Ravenna without the Moscow delegation, the cardinal stated that the document wasn't ratified and this process would start "only when this stage of the dialogue is over."



Pope writes Aleksij II who still says no to Ravenna

05/30/2008 16:19


by D. Dudochkin

Cardinal Kasper handed Aleksij II a message in which the Pope expressed his esteem and gratitude to the Russian Patriarch. According to the Vatican the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere; invariably though the Patriarchate highlighted all the unsolved problems that come between the two Churches like the Uniate Church, Catholic orphanages and the Ravenna Statement.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Appreciation for a “commitment to fostering relations between Catholics and Orthodox” and hope to “undertake together our journey towards full communion in him” are the main points of a letter by the Pope that Card Walter Kasper personally handed yesterday to Aleksij II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

From 21 to 30 May the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was on a visit to Russia on the invitation of Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk.
In one of the various engagements of the visit, officially devoted to “greater understanding of Russian Orthodox culture,” the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity met the head of the Russian Orthodox Church yesterday. With him he had the opportunity to talk about the new climate of “friendship and brotherhood” that between the two Churches as well as the problems that continue to fuel tensions between them.

For some Russia experts Cardinal Kasper was supposed to meet the Orthodox leader to jumpstart the Joint Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission but apparently he failed to do so.
“The possibility in principle” of a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Aleksij II was confirmed, but the Russian Patriarch reiterated that such an event should be thoroughly prepared, and not just be “a photo-op.”

During the talks the two parties dealt with some of their problems like the “expansion of the Uniate Church” in the Ukraine as well as the rearing of children in Catholic-run orphanages in Russia. Similarly both sides expressed concern over the Ravenna incident of October 2007 at the session of the Joint Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission.
At that time representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate left the meeting’s plenary session because they opposed the presence of delegates from the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church set up in 1996 by the Constantinople Patriarchate in what Moscow considers its own canonical territory.

Patriarch Aleksij did not mince words about what the Statement that came out of the Ravenna meeting.
“The problem is not only that a statement was approved without our participation but the way it was done confers upon Constantinople a status like that of the Vatican for Catholics.”

Anonymous sources noted that for the Russian patriarch “Catholic-Orthodox dialogue cannot move forward without the participation of the largest Orthodox Church.”

Greek Gay Couples Vow to Wed Despite Opposition

Greece has long preferred to turn a blind eye to homosexuality rather than acknowledge gay rights.
Couples who have found a legal loophole to hold the first gay weddings in Greece are determined to go ahead with the services despite threats from prosecutors and the wrath of the powerful Orthodox church.
Taking advantage of Greek civil law not clarifying the gender of people wishing to marry, a gay and a lesbian couple are planning to marry on the tiny Aegean island of Tilos.

While many European Union countries have established legislation allowing gay marriage or "registered partnership" rights to same-sex couples, neither are allowed in Greece.
A senior Greek prosecutor said on Friday the mayor of Tilos would face criminal charges if he proceeded with the weddings.

"Neither civil law nor the country's constitution refer to gay marriages," Greece's supreme court prosecutor, George Sanidas, said in a statement. "If the Tilos mayor proceeds, he will have committed the criminal act of breach of duty."
But the Greek Gay and Lesbian Community (OLKE) said the weddings would go ahead as planned but would not reveal details for fear they may be disrupted.

"We were sure the Greek state would resist and we are prepared for a legal fight," OLKE's Evangelia Vlami told Reuters. "The two couples will go ahead and marry within 15 days and these weddings will help end discrimination."
"We will go ahead despite the difficulties," said Tilos mayor Tassos Aliferis told Reuters on Friday. "I still can't believe that someone would be prosecuted for defending human rights."

The Netherlands were 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.
Greece, where the Orthodox church remains influential, has long preferred to turn a blind eye to homosexuality rather than acknowledge gay rights. The Orthodox church strongly opposes marriage between homosexuals.

"We view this phenomenon of homosexuality as an illness of the body," Metropolitan Bishop Chrisostomos told national NET TV. "The church can not accept the union of homosexuals."

Escape From Moscow: Side Trips in the City's Suburbs

May 30, 2008

Moscow is one of the world's great cities, a massive and vibrant testament to Russia's historic and current power and wealth.

But sometimes the bling -- from the line of Bentleys outside the new Ritz-Carlton hotel near Red Square to the 150 ruble (€4) coffees at the Starbucks branch -- can be blinding. The city, rolling in oil cash, is increasingly expensive (for the past two years, it was named the world's most-expensive city to live in for expatriates by Mercer Consulting) and increasingly crowded. Last year, 11 million tourists visited, including four million foreigners.

Hotel room rates rose 11% last year from a year earlier and were up 93% from 2004, to an average of more than 12,000 rubles a night, according to Hogg Robinson Group, a corporate-services company.

Luckily, visitors in search of a quainter, quieter Russia don't have far to go. Podmoskovye, the suburban region beyond Moscow's outermost ring highway, is full of interesting sights for travelers looking for a bit of relief from Moscow's Wild West madness -- from majestic palaces and war memorials to historic artisan workshops to natural spots for fishing and hiking.

The region, all within 20 minutes' to three hours' drive from the city center, is home to sleepy and colorfully named towns such as Serp i Molot (Sickle and Hammer) and Pravda (Truth) that don't usually figure on Moscow tour itineraries.

Here we offer a look at the region's offerings in crafts, architecture, history and outdoor sports. One can mix and match a day trip based on geography, or fashion a full tour based on a theme.

The central square at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery


The Moscow region -- the seat of an empire that depended heavily on the power of the Russian Orthodox Church -- is home to some of Russia's most impressive churches and palaces, as well as some of the empire's strongest and oldest fortifications.

St. Sergius of Radonezh, the creator of monastic life as it is known today in Russia, is buried 70 kilometers northeast of Moscow at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery, which he founded in 1345. Pilgrims come here to visit the saint's tomb, a silver-and-gold edifice encased in glass, but the site is a breathtaking assortment of cathedrals, chapels, bell towers, defensive battlements and other structures, and is now a Unesco world-heritage site. Interiors of the churches are frescoed and include icons by the great painters Andrei Rublyov and Simon Ushakov.

Assumption Cathedral, with its gold and sky-blue domes, stands at the monastery's center. It is a copy of a larger, more famous cathedral with the same name in the Moscow Kremlin. Trinity Cathedral, whose whitewashed walls glow in the sunlight, represents one of a few remaining white stone churches of the 14th- and 15th-century Moscow style.

The monastery continues its tradition nearly 700 years after St. Sergius founded the seminary here. A priest starts taking requests from visitors for prayers at 8 a.m. "People come here, write down their wishes for their families and loved ones, and give it to the priest so that he will pray for them," said a black-robed monk.

Entrance to the monastery and its churches is free. Monks conduct tours in English. (Call to reserve a day ahead. See travel information on facing page.)

Three shops inside the monastery sell remarkably delicious Lenten foods year round -- the monks observe periods of fasting -- including gingerbread cakes that resemble oversize muffin tops. The monastery also makes its own honey and "sbiten," a drink of water, honey and spices.

New Jerusalem Monastery, meanwhile, 50 kilometers northwest of Moscow, is a masterful example of Old Russian, classical and Baroque architecture. Its polychromatic ceramic tiles spawned similar craft around Russia.

Patriarch Nikon founded New Jerusalem in 1666 as the Russian Orthodox Church's power swelled, and the church and czars dubbed Moscow the "Third Rome." The complex's main church, the Resurrection Cathedral, though topped with gilded domes in the Russian tradition, was modeled after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Some of the most famous architects in Russia, including Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli -- designer of Tsarskoe Selo and the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg -- designed buildings in the monastery complex, which also includes three other churches.

A line of painted and glazed red-clay ceramic cherubs, dating from the 17th century, runs around the outer walls of the cathedral. Over the next few decades, they influenced similar creations in Yaroslavl, a church-filled city 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow.

The red-brick ruins of what was once the belfry -- shattered by a Nazi bomb in 1941 -- remain, weathered over nearly seven decades. With little funding in Soviet times, restoration work has been slow. Birds swoop in through uncovered windows, and the morning frost crystallizes on walls with cracking, centuries-old paint.

A museum at New Jerusalem's north end -- restored and modern inside with white, stuccoed walls -- houses fragments of the monastery's architectural story: an iron bell salvaged from the belfry, icons from the 17th to 20th centuries, and golden crosses inlaid with semiprecious stones.

About 20 kilometers west of Moscow is Arkhangelskoye estate, called the Versailles of the Moscow region -- even though it is smaller and less grand than its French cousin. But it is stunning nonetheless, a collection of 18th-to-20th-century neoclassical buildings with colonnades, pediments and coffered ceilings set against a landscape of carefully pruned lawns, tree-lined allées, flowery archways, statues and lonely bridges -- all with a view of the Moscow River.

The estate, now a state-owned park and museum, has passed through the hands of several princes and was frequented by poet Alexander Pushkin. Prince Nikolai Yusupov (whose descendant became notorious for killing Rasputin in 1916) acquired the palace in 1810 and filled it with art. Many of his 50,000 acquisitions, including 18th- and 19th-century paintings by French, Italian, English and Russian artists, are on display in the museum. Jazz festivals draw visitors to the lawns every summer.

Tsaritsyno rivals Arkhangelskoye in name, scale and beauty. The 18th-century, 700-hectare estate located 20 minutes south of Moscow's center (technically still within the city limits) is home to Catherine the Great's Grand Palace.

Two architects, Vasily Bazhenov and Matvei Kazakov, began work at the behest of the empress, but after her death in 1796, the half-finished palace was abandoned. Muscovites came to know and love Tsaritsyno as an overgrown, weathered ruin -- until last September when it was restored at the request of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

Today, the State Museum Reserve Tsaritsyno is an odd, sometimes discordant mix of the old and new -- classical and gothic structures are painted in Disney-like colors, and a modern fountain wasn't in the original design.

Even so, Tsaritsyno holds on to a certain charm. Catherine's red palace, with a classical plan, white gothic detailing, large columns and ogival arcades, stretches 145 meters long. Across a green field, the second cavalier building, nicknamed the Octagon for its shape, has a trademark Russian design called kokoshniki: corbel arches shaped like a woman's headdress. Bridges, pavilions and other architectural follies dot the landscaped gardens, where birch, ferns and lime groves flourish.
A lacquered papier-mâché box made at Fedoskino


Some of Russia's most-loved souvenirs -- lacquered boxes, flowered shawls and white and cobalt-blue porcelain -- are produced in historic artisan towns in the Moscow suburbs.

Almost every Russian kitchen has something from Gzhel porcelain works -- or at least in the Gzhel style. The ceramic cups, samovars and teapots made here are central to tea drinking, almost a religion in this country.

Gzhel, located in Novokharitonovo, about 60 kilometers east of the center of Moscow, is the most famous of Russia's ceramics manufacturers for being a pioneer of the craft, uniting the workshops of the nearby town of Gzhel into a conglomerate and for the quality of its wares. You can take a tour of the factory, visit the adjoining museum and buy items in the shop.

Producing since the 14th century, Gzhel makes works that typically come in blue and white, hand painted with folk characters and entwined flowers and vines. The utilitarian objects are formed in witty shapes -- a teapot in the form of a cottage, a butter dish adorned with a milkmaid and her charge in relief.

In the quality-control corner of Gzhel's nondescript factory, aproned women tap the wares, listening for a crisp twang -- the signature sound of an object well baked. "If it doesn't sound right, we break it," to make sure no less-than-perfect item is offered for sale, said Natalya Zhukova, the factory's tour guide.

The museum shows some of Gzhel's works over the years, including bulbous, flowerlike teacups, multicolored tiles used in radiant-heat Russian stoves, elaborate ceramic chandeliers and even telephones with dainty receivers and flowery swirls around circular number dials. In the shop, blue-and-white teacups with saucers are 550 rubles (€15) a set, while gold-pattern sets go for 1,400 rubles.

Russia's lacquered boxes -- once used for snuff and small items such as postage and cards -- are miniature masterpieces of folk painting. Papier-mâché boxes are hardened with glue and resin, then painted with intricate, often idealized scenes of troika riding, sunset landscapes and peasant pleasures, or episodes from legends -- heroic princes battle dragons, and snow maidens enchant villages.

The craft began in Russia two centuries ago in Fedoskino, about 35 kilometers north of Moscow's center. Here, in a several-weeks-long process, artisans layer metal powders with oil paints and lacquer. "We apply an underlayer of aluminum or bronze so [the image] retains its brightness after centuries," said Irina Dyakova, a craftsman and the factory's tour guide.

The treated papier-mâché is extremely durable -- as seen in some of the 19th-century samples in the factory's museum. Workers wind cardboard around a mold, submerge it in a vat of heated glue and dry it in an oven. The item is returned to the kiln to harden after each layer of paint and lacquer.

Souvenir stalls in the city are notorious for hawking cheap imitations; true lacquerware is expensive, because of the painstaking process. In Fedoskino's shop, 30-centimeter panels with scenes of tea drinking and troika rides range from 32,000 rubles to 40,000 rubles.

Unique designs are relatively more expensive. A small box with a harlequin in pastel colors playing a flute commands 18,200 rubles.

Eighty kilometers east of Moscow, in the city of Pavlovsky Posad, Pavlovo Posad Shawl Factory produces another Russian favorite: wool shawls, or platki. Worn by aristocratic ladies in the 19th century -- picture Chekhov's three sisters lounging around the drawing room -- they became a wardrobe basic when the factory began mass-producing them. The shawls made by Pavlovo Posad are known for their quality and fidelity to traditional patterns.

The warm, soft wraps entered the wardrobes of Russian aristocrats from France, and with Russia's cold winters, they became indispensable. Because they were valuable items, men often presented them as gifts when asking for a woman's hand in marriage.

"I love shawls. I could collect them forever," said a tour guide, who said she had seven and wanted seven more. "It's not just for wearing. You can also use it to decorate a table or throw over a couch."

The factory's adjoining museum shows the process of making the patterns. When the business began in 1795, the designs were hand stamped with wood and copper blocks; today a machine stamps the patterns on the cloth. Each shawl can be printed with as many as 10 colors, and in the old days, a single misplaced block could ruin the design. Fringe is hand-tied onto the shawls, which are usually square in shape, 90 to 150 centimeters a side.

The earliest designs included flowers and paisley in intense greens, reds and blues against a black background. Today, pastels, leopard prints and monochromes have been introduced, and shawls in silk have been added in recent decades.

The manufacturer's store sells shawls at factory prices, from 200 rubles to 1,800 rubles. One pattern that has been popular for 18 years for its intricate flower design in blue is the Maiya (1,080 rubles on Russian wool or 1,700 rubles on Australian wool), named after the granddaughter of its designer, Ekaterina Regunova. The granddaughter was born in 1989 the day her grandmother completed the design.

Cannons on display at the Battle of Borodino history museum and reserve, site of one of the largest battles in the Napoleonic era


The historic military battles around Moscow began soon after the city's founding in the 12th century, from the 13th-century fight against the Tatar Hordes to the Battle of Moscow in World War II.

One of the most resonant is the Battle of Borodino, in which the Russian Imperial army fought Napoleon's invading troops about 120 kilometers west of Moscow near the town of Borodino on Sept. 7, 1812. It was one of the biggest battles of the Napoleonic wars; 44,000 of the 120,000 Russian soldiers died, and 30,000 of 130,000 French were killed.

The Russians, under General Mikhail Kutuzov, actually lost the battle, but strategically pulled back before being destroyed, drawing Napoleon even farther from his supply lines. The following month Napoleon and his troops, starving and freezing, retreated to Poland.

The battle became a textbook case of the failure of an overextended army, as well as the inspiration for numerous works of art, music and literature, including Tolstoy's "War and Peace."

Today the battlefield is part of the Borodino War and History Museum and Reserve. The 110-square-kilometer site preserves the rolling, grassy meadows where the battle took place, with 300 memorials at important sites of the battle, including the commanding points of Kutuzov and Napoleon. (You can also see pillboxes and other defensive works built in 1941 for the Battle of Moscow.) Maps of the territory are available at the main museum building.

In the museum, you can see historic uniforms from both the Russian and French armies -- the French in red and navy short coats with tails, with red or gold piping and epaulettes; the Russians in beige or blue ankle-length coats -- as well as old maps and strategy plans. There is also a section covering "War and Peace." Tolstoy traveled here in September 1867 to do research for the novel, and some of the books he used are on display, as well as photographs of the area from the time period.

Weapons are displayed: cannonballs, muskets and grenade shards. Toy soldiers are arranged on a model of Borodino, providing an overview of the entire battle.

Every year on Borodino Day, the first Sunday in September, the museum organizes a re-enactment of the battle, in which thousands of Russians take part in full regalia wielding bayonets, flags and trumpets and riding horses lent from nearby Moscow Stud Farm No. 1 (see the Outdoors section for more on this horse stable). Last year drew 2,000 re-enactors, 200 horses and more than 100,000 spectators to watch the battle re-enacted step-by-step.

The village of Gorki-Leninskiye, 35 kilometers south of Moscow, is the site of Lenin's final illness and death from a series of strokes in 1924. It was here (when the village was just called Gorki) that Lenin, in ill health after the revolution, retreated to his Doric-columned mansion at the end of Birch Alley.

His house has been preserved as a museum (called the Gorki-Leninskiye estate), but unlike most museums glorifying the life of the revolutionary leader, this one tells the story of Lenin as a dying man.

Clocks and calendars are frozen at the moment of Lenin's death -- 6:50 p.m., Jan. 21 -- and one can see the iron-and-wicker wheelchair and bottles of sedative powder he used, as well as the plaster cast of his face and hands made hours after death. (Lenin's body was later embalmed and moved to the mausoleum on Red Square.)

In the days before his death, Stalin and other Communist Party officials came to see the leader, but what is most interesting here are the remnants of Lenin's private life. Lenin read German, English, Italian and French, and books in foreign languages, including by Goethe and Shakespeare, line the library shelves. He loved Russian authors, too, and had tomes by Tolstoy, Turgenev and Pushkin. Legend has it Lenin could devour up to 600 pages a day.

In the garage is a telling detail of how the socialist revolutionary actually lived: a gray-blue 1916 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, outfitted with oversize skis and caterpillar tracks to travel in snow. The vehicle, maintained by Adolf Kergess, the former chauffeur of Tsar Nicholas II, was one of nine Rolls-Royces used by Lenin.

In the 14th century, the city of Kolomna, 115 kilometers southeast of Moscow, on the strategic confluence of the Moscow and Oka rivers, was Russia's second richest after Moscow. Today, what remains of the city's fortifications is a stunning example of medieval defensive architecture.

Italian architects -- including Aleviso Novi, who built the Moscow Kremlin -- designed the oval-shaped red-brick city walls. Kolomna's kremlin rivaled Moscow's in length and was designed so defenders could repel attackers with frontal fire from the walls and flanking fire from the towers.

Seven of the 17 towers remain, including Granovitaya Tower, sliced almost perfectly in a cross section to reveal its thickness and height. The kremlin walls are four meters thick and 20 meters tall. Some sections have walkways along the top.

Kolomna lost its strategic importance after the 17th century -- Moscow grew more powerful and was able to defend itself against the Tatars -- and as a result, the city's role in the Orthodox church was accentuated. Established as a diocese in 1350, Kolomna's metropolitan -- equivalent to an archbishop -- is one of six permanent members of the Russian Orthodox Church's holy synod.

Most important for visitors are the city's 20 churches and four monasteries. Some that closed or became run down in Soviet times have been revived in recent decades. The city has rebuilt the Church of Nikola in Posad's elaborate 16th-century roof made up of kokoshniki arches and reopened the Church of Nikola Gostinogo, one of Russia's first to be constructed of brick. The Assumption Cathedral Church, a 17th-century remake of a 14th-century original that commemorates Russia's victory over invading Mongols, reopened in 1999 and now hosts the city's main religious services on holidays.

At 4:30 p.m. every day, chimes of the bell tower at the Novo-Golutvin Women's Monastery signal the beginning of evening worship, where the nuns' singing can be heard.

A troika driven by Russian champion Alexander Pankov at Moscow Stud Farm No. 1

Outdoor Sports

It is no wonder many of Moscow's 10.5 million denizens leave town every summer for suburban holiday dachas. The countryside around the metropolis is filled with lakes and forests of birch, the silvery-white tree that epitomizes Russian rural beauty. Among Muscovites' favorite pastoral pastimes are horseback riding, skiing and fishing.

Moscow Stud Farm No. 1, 35 kilometers southwest of the city, was once a central source of horses for the Red Army's cavalry. Founded in 1924, it was the only auctioning ground where foreign buyers could buy domestic breeds. Today, it is an idyllic, wooded landscape for training, trail riding, countryside walks and even rides in troika carriages.

Visitors here can ride Orlov Trotters, a breed developed in Russia in the late 19th century and known for its speed and stamina. The quick trot makes the horses well suited to troikas. The stable has a statue of its most famous Orlov Trotter, Kvadrat, who held the record as the fastest Orlov in the 3,200-meter race from 1950 to 1986, and sired 600 offspring around the Soviet Union.

The farm's territory includes grassy fields and woods, four arenas, and the upper course of the Moscow River, clean enough for a dip. On a recent afternoon, the indoor manege was alive as students and trainers practiced their canters and jumps.

The stables house 500 horses; besides the Orlov Trotters there are mainly Russian Trotters, Trakehners and Hanovers. Look for Albatross, an Arabian that Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the farm's riding school in 2005, with the condition that only the best students were to ride it (director Alexander Filin says tourists can ride the horse).

If a sleigh ride is more your pace, three-horse troikas, as well as two- or single-horse wagons, are available. The troika's grace lies in the three horses' staggered pace: The middle animal trots while the side horses gallop. If you're lucky, Alexander Pankov, a Russian troika champion and one of the stable's staff, will drive your troika or even teach a lesson in the delicate Russian art. To request a ride or a lesson, call a day in advance ( 7-495-634-81-77).

The Yakhroma, Volen and Stepanovo ski resorts are clustered about 60 kilometers north of Moscow, in the Klinsko-Dmitrovskaya mountains.

Streams of Muscovites arrive every winter weekend to groomed slopes blanketed with snow, complete with piped in Euro lounge music. The slopes are lit, so skiers can stay until 2 a.m.

Yakhroma is perfect for novices, with wide, gentle slopes, including one for beginners' lessons, and ready instructors at reasonable rates (900 rubles per person per hour, or about €24). Volen, on an adjacent property a 10-minute stroll across the Kamenka River, has steeper slopes for advanced beginners. Stepanovo, three kilometers away, has a longer, bumpier ride on its one-kilometer run. The parks also offer tobogganing, ice-skating, tubing, sledding and snowmobiling. Although cross-country has been more common in Russia, downhill skiing is gaining popularity.

During the summer, when the region has up to 15 hours of sunlight, tourists swim or go mini-golfing at Volen. At Yakhroma, you can rent a bike to try the Nord Shor Extreme mountain-biking course. Both Volen and Yakhroma have log cabins to rent; Yakhroma's 13 Stepanovskoye Inns are each a cabin with three rooms, three bathrooms and a private sauna, for 24,000 rubles a night on weekends.

Fishing for carp, perch and pike is popular in the many natural and stocked lakes around Moscow. At Sabi, for example, 25 kilometers southeast of Moscow, fishermen cast lines from docks along the wooded shore, which are dotted with whimsical sculptures made of birchwood. Strawberries abound in the summer and mushrooms in the fall for picking.

In the winter, fishermen in fur-lined gloves and thick, warm camouflage jackets -- they sell cheaply in Moscow's markets -- ice fish from the snow-covered surface.

A day rate of 3,000 rubles includes any catch of up to 10 kilograms in total. Beyond that, each kilogram is charged per type of fish. No license is needed. Before visitors leave, park managers weigh their catch and determine the amount to be paid.

Istra Holiday cottages

Trip Planner

How to Get There

Podmoskovye, the official name for the administrative region around Moscow, covers a vast area, stretching out 100 to 150 kilometers in all directions from the capital. Commuter trains run regularly to many of the towns worth visiting, but at least a basic knowledge of Russian is needed to negotiate them. For an easier option, rent a car, or a car with a driver.

Podmoskovye is fed by more than a dozen radial highways. Getting to the destinations in this story can take anywhere from 40 minutes to three hours by car, depending on the distance and the road congestion. Traffic along the radial highways is always heavy, although not so bad outside rush hours.

Hertz and Auto Europe have offices in Sheremetyevo 2 and Domodedovo, Moscow's two main international airports. Avis is in Sheremetyevo but will transfer cars within Moscow for 730 rubles (€20). Thrifty is at three locations, with one close to Sheremetyevo. A standard five-seater runs about €100 a day.

In Russia, Budget car rental is a chauffeur service, with hourly rates of €40 to €90. You may not rent a car without a Budget driver. The office is at Sheremetyevo 2.

Some Moscow companies offer a combination of interpretation, tour guiding, chauffeur and car rental. Try Moscow Tour Guide (7-495-565-6163;, where you can hire a guide at $25 an hour or a car with a driver starting at $25 an hour.

Road signs are in Russian, so take a day or two to learn the Cyrillic alphabet in order to recognize place names. For maps, go to Dom Knigi Moskva (8 Tverskaya Street; 7-495-629-6483; where a helpful staff will help you navigate through their large selection.


Hotels and sanatoriums left over from the Soviet era remain popular, and new establishments have sprung up in the region around Moscow. Near the St. Sergius Monastery, try the wooden, Russian-style Russky Dvorik, which movie stars frequent (14/2 Mitkina Street, Sergiyev Posad; 7-496-547-5392;; 3,200-6,400 rubles a night for a double room.

North of New Jerusalem Monastery are Istra Holiday's luxury cottages (Trusovo village, Solnechnorgorsk region; 7-495-731-6199;; 6,100-7,300 rubles).

For something completely different, Zvenigorod Sanatorium, near Moscow Stud Farm, is a spa in a 19th-century columned estate once owned by Tsar Pavel I (Zvenigorod; 7-495-992-4134;; 1,980-3,100 rubles).

Bor, near Gorki-Leninskiye, has cottages, horseback riding and hockey. Governing political party United Russia holds party and media gatherings there several times a year (Odintsovo-Vakhromeyevo; 7-495-616-0820;; 4,600-5,200 rubles).


Near Arkhangelskoye, head to Deti Solntsa for salads, chops and meat dumplings (4 Pogodina Street, Staroye Peredelkino; 7-495-730-8989;; 700 rubles a person).

Near Moscow Stud Farm, dine among Russia's richest at A.V.E.N.U.E., which serves Italian and French dishes (Barvikha Luxury Village, Rubloyvskoye-Uskpenskoye Shosse; 7-495-980-6806; 2,300 rubles).

For something more Russian near the stable, try Tsar's Hunt, which is styled like a hunting lodge and serves Uzbek, Russian and other Eastern European dishes (186A Rublyovskoye-Uskpenskoye Shosse, Zhukovka Village; 7-495-418-7938; 1,700 rubles).

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Local businessman, investor gives UMSL $1.5 million

Nicholas Karakas' donation endows chair in Byzantine, Orthodox Studies

The University of Missouri-St. Louis announced today a $1.5 million gift from noted Greek philanthropist Nicholas Karakas to endow a chair in Byzantine and Orthodox Studies. An international search is underway for a candidate for the position.

UMSL Chancellor Tom George made the announcement during his annual report to the community at America's Center.

"This generous gift from Mr. Karakas, will allow the university to offer a comprehensive study of the history, culture, politics and individuals of the Byzantine Empire, one of the most powerful economic and cultural forces in Europe," George said.

Karakas offered this gift, as well as a previous gift from the Karakas Family Foundation, to honor his parents Achilles and Malamati Karakas. Presented to the university in 1996, that gift endowed a chair of Greek studies and established the Greek Studies program at the university. Karakas' generous contributions to the university over the last 15 years also include Greek language scholarships and the establishment of the Nicholas and Theodora Matsakis Hellenic Cultural Center and the Sam Nakis Memorial Lecture in Greek Studies.

In addition, Karakas and his family have supported the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, the university's music programs and The Center for the Humanities at UMSL.

"The idea of establishing the chair of Byzantine and Orthodox studies was to expose this era of world history, a span of some 1,000 years, providing an inside view of the society and culture during that period of state and church," Karakas said.

He has been an active member of numerous advisory boards at the university, serving as a member of the Chancellor's Council and as the current chair of the Greek Professorship Advisory Committee. He received the chancellor's medallion for his leadership and dedication to the principles of higher education.

Karakas has been a high-profile member of the Orthodox Church and has served as president of the Orthodox Christian Laity, a movement of Orthodox Christian laymen, women and clergy. During his three-year term, he was appointed to a two-year term on the Archdiocesan Council, the highest governing administrative body of the Orthodox church.

Karakas was chair of his family's business, Marcus Distributors, which distributed candy, tobacco and grocery products. He served as president and board member of the Missouri Association and the National Association of Tobacco Distributors. He has served on numerous boards of community organizations including the Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club of St. Louis.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Venerable Isaac the Founder of the Dalmatian Monastery at Constantinople

Commemorated on May 30

St Isaac lived during the fourth century, received monastic tonsure and pursued ascetic labors in the desert. During the reign of the emperor Valens (364-378), a zealous adherent of the Arian heresy, there was a persecution of the Orthodox, and churches were closed and destroyed.

Hearing of the persecution, St Isaac left the wilderness and went to Constantinople to console and encourage the Orthodox, and to fight against the heretics. At that time, barbarian Goths along the River Danube were making war against the Empire. They seized Thrace and advanced toward Constantinople.

When the emperor Valens was leaving the capital with his soldiers, St Isaac cried out, "Emperor, unlock the churches of the Orthodox, and then the Lord will aid you!" But the emperor, disdaining the words of the monk, confidently continued on his way. The saint repeated his request and prophecy three times. The angry emperor ordered St Isaac to be thrown into a deep ravine, filled with thorns and mud, from which it was impossible to escape.

St Isaac remained alive by God's help, and he emerged, overtook the emperor and said, "You wanted to destroy me, but three angels pulled me from the mire. Hear me, open up the churches for the Orthodox and you shall defeat the enemy. If, however, you do not heed me, then you shall not return. You will be captured and burned alive." The emperor was astonished at the saint's boldness and ordered his attendants Saturninus and Victor to take the monk and hold him in prison until his return.

St Isaac's prophecy was soon fulfilled. The Goths defeated and pursued the Greek army. The emperor and his Arian generals took refuge in a barn filled with straw, and the attackers set it afire. After receiving news of the emperor's death, they released St Isaac and honored him as a prophet.

Then the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) came to the throne. On the advice of Saturninus and Victor, he summoned the Elder, treating him with great respect. Obeying his instructions, he banished the Arians from Constantinople and restored the churches to the Orthodox. St Isaac wanted to return to his desert, but Saturninus and Victor begged him not to leave the city, but to remain and protect it by his prayers.

Saturninus built a monastery for the saint in Constantinople, where monks gathered around him. St Isaac was the monastery's igumen and spiritual guide. He also nourished laypeople, and helped many of the poor and suffering.

When he had reached an advanced age, St Isaac made St Dalmatus (August 3) igumen. The monastery was later named for Dalmatus.

St Isaac died in the year 383, and his memory is also celebrated on March 22.

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 Isaac, rejoices with the angels.

Kontakion - Tone 8

As a faithful favorite of God you became enflamed with zeal for the Church of Christand drew in the reins of the emperor Valens, O venerable one;you prophetically foretold to him the captivity of the Church and of his own wretched death.Therefore, venerable Isaac, ceaselessly pray for us who honor you.



An anonymous poster left the link to this site, ALL SAINTS OF NORTH AMERICA-ORTHODOX CHURCH in one of the comment boxes and lo and behold, a really good site with alot of great links to alot of really edifying and useful information.

I will add this link to my sidebar under, "Orthodox Sites of Note".

GOAA - Archbishop Demetrios Meets With Patriarch Alexy of Moscow

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Thu, 29 May 2008 12:27:25 -0700

8-10 East 79th St. New York, NY 10075-0106
Tel: (212) 570-3556

May 28, 2008

Contact: Stavros Papagermanos
Tel.: 212.570.3556

Archbishop Demetrios Meets With Patriarch Alexy of Moscow

MOSCOW ? Archbishop Demetrios of Americca and the members of the official delegation of the Archdiocese were received by Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia on Tuesday May 27th at the Official Patriarchal Residence inside the Danilovsky Monastery, the first Monastery founded in Moscow.

Before the 1:00 p.m. meeting with the Patriarch, the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate had arranged with the government for the Archbishop and the delegation to receive a private tour of the Grand Palace inside the Kremlin. This vast palace contains the official government ceremonial halls that have been used for state occasions throughout Russian history, as well as the private apartments of the Tsars and their royal chapel.

After returning from the Kremlin, Archbishop Demetrios led the delegation on the short walk from the Danilovsky Hotel to the Official Patriarchal Residence. There, precisely at 1:00 p.m., he was received by Bishop Alexander of Mitrof, Vicar Bishop to the Patriarch in charge of prison Ministry, Archimandrite Alexy, Abbot of the Danilovsky Monastery, and Protopresbyter Nikolai Balashov, Secretary for Inter-Orthodox Relations. These officials of the Moscow Patriarchate conducted His Eminence and the members of the delegation to a reception room where Patriarch Alexy warmly greeted the Archbishop, the Hierarchs and all the members of the delegation. After this initial greeting, the Patriarch escorted the Archbishop and all the members of the delegation into the Patriarchal Throne Room, where a table had been set up to accommodate all the members of the delegation and the Patriarchâ??s staff. Members of the media, including numerous reporters, television crews and photographers busily recorded the beginning of the meeting.

The meeting was divided into two sections; the first portion was an opportunity for the entire delegation to participate with mass media present. The second was a private meeting between the Patriarch and the Archbishop reserved for the Hierarchs and staff.

The Patriarch sat in the middle of the table, across from the Archbishop and formally welcomed both him and the members of the delegation. In his opening remarks, Patriarch Alexy thanked the Archbishop for the concelebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin. He welcomed His Eminence â??as a son of Thessalonikiâ?? (the birthplace of Sts. Cyril and Methodios), noting the shared faith of the Greek and Russian nations. The Patriarch concluded his welcome by stressing the importance of the visit of His Eminence as the Exarch of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, adding â??whom we wholeheartedly love.â?? After extending his greetings to the other Hierarchs, Patriarch Alexy welcomed Metropolitan Methodios, Metropolitan Alexios and Bishop Savas as â??esteemed pastors and spiritual leaders for the United States,â?? and the remainder of the delegation.

In his talk that followed, Patriarch Alexy spoke of the process of the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church after decades of minimal survival. He spoke of the difficulty of restoring the souls of the people as being the greatest challenge to the Church, adding that the role of the Church in society: in philanthropy, youth work, care for the elderly and chaplaincies for the military and in prisons is being restored. As an example of this restoration, he said that since 1990, 700 oratories (chapels) have been constructed in prisons throughout the country by the prisoners themselves. The Patriarch also shared some statistics with the delegation that bear witness to the remarkable resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In his response to the Patriarch, the Archbishop expressed his appreciation and gratitude for the Patriarchâ??s invitation and hospitality. He noted the kindness and attention that the Patriarch had shown both him and the delegation, by being present with them nearly every day of the visit. The Archbishop recalled when he led the official delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Consecration of Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2000, and the advancement and progress from that time. In their mutual discussion on the state of Orthodoxy in America, the Archbishop stressed the challenges created by advanced technology and increasing secularization and relativization. His Eminenceâ??s conclusion that a byproduct of increased secularization is an increased thirst for God leading to more conversions to Orthodox Christianity became a theme that he and the Patriarch returned to throughout the meeting.

Around forty minutes into the meeting, the Patriarch stood up with a broad smile to indicate that the public portion of the meeting was to be concluded with a bestowal of tokens of friendship and goodwill. The Patriarch presented the Archbishop with a crystal commemorative plate celebrating the 125 year history of Christ the Savior Cathedral, noting that the plates had just been struck and that the Archbishop was receiving the very first one. In addition, he gifted a Cross and Engolpion set to the Archbishop, an Engolpion to all the Hierarchs, a Cross to each of the clergy, and decorative Easter eggs to all the members of the delegation. The Archbishop reciprocated with a triple set of Cross, Panaghia and Engolpion for the Patriarch. Following this exchange of tokens of esteem and respect, the delegation posed for final pictures with the Patriarch, and the portion of the delegation not continuing in the meeting received the Patriarchâ??s blessing before departing to the hotel. Then, the press was dismissed and the private portion of the meeting commenced.

When the meeting had concluded, in an expression of love and esteem, the Patriarch accompanied the Archbishop down the grand staircase to the door of the Residence. Fraternal kisses of peace were exchanged, and Christos Anesti ? Alithos Anesti could bee heard all around.



Alexy II, Cardinal Kasper discuss Uniate Church's expansion in Ukraine (updated)

29 May 2008, 14:51

Moscow, May 29, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, discussed in Moscow on Thursday the expansion of the Uniate Church in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"The talks centered, among other matters, on the expansion of the Uniate Church, including in Ukraine. The Patriarch also said that canonical Orthodox believers in Western Ukraine must have decent church buildings to pray in," a source in the Moscow Patriarchate told journalists after the meeting.

Another issue raised was the spiritual rearing of children, who are heirs of the Orthodox tradition by birth, at Catholic orphanages.

No specific discussion was held on a possible meeting between Alexy II and Pope Benedict XVI, although "the possibility in principle" was confirmed, according to the source.

The Russian Patriarch said that a meeting like this must be thoroughly prepared, so it will not be merely "a photo-up opportunity ," the source said.

Both sides shared their concerns about the Ravenna incident happened on October 2007at the session of the Mixed Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission. Then the Moscow Patriarchate's representatives left its plenary session as they didn't agree to the participation of the so-called Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church delegates in it. The latter was established in 1996 by the Constantinople Patriarchate on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.

"Alexy II stated that Orthodox and Catholic dialogue couldn't develop without the world largest Orthodox Church participating," the source said.

According to him, Kasper agreed with such an opinion.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Virginmartyr Theodosia the Nun of Constantinople

Commemorated on May 29

The Virgin Martyr Theodosia of Constantinople lived during the eighth century. She was born in answer to the fervent prayers of her parents. After their death, she was raised at the women's monastery of the holy Martyr Anastasia in Constantinople. St Theodosia became a nun after she distributed to the poor of what remained of her parental inheritance. She used part of the money to commission gold and silver icons of the Savior, the Theotokos, and St Anastasia.

When Leo the Isaurian (717-741) ascended the imperial throne, he issued an edict to destroy holy icons everywhere. Above the Bronze Gates at Constantinople was a bronze icon of the Savior, which had been there for more than 400 years. In 730, the iconoclast Patriarch Anastasius ordered the icon removed.

The Virgin Martyr Theodosia and other women rushed to protect the icon and toppled the ladder with the soldier who was carrying out the command. Then they stoned the impious Patriarch Anastasius, and Emperor Leo ordered soldiers to behead the women. St Theodosia, an ardent defender of icons, was locked up in prison. For a week they gave her a hundred lashes each day. On the eighth day, they led her about the city, fiercely beating her along the way. One of the soldiers stabbed the nun in the throat with a ram's horn, and she received the crown of martyrdom.

The body of the holy virgin martyr was reverently buried by Christians in the monastery of St Euphemia in Constantinople, near a place called Dexiokratis. The tomb of St Theodosia was glorified by numerous healings of the sick.

Troparion - Tone 4

Your lamb Theodosia, O Jesus,Calls out to You in a loud voice:I love You, O my bridegroom,And in seeking You, I endure suffering.In Baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,And died so that I might live with You.Accept me as a pure sacrifice,For I have offered myself in love.By her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Kontakion - Tone 2

Through your striving, O venerable Theodosia,You inherited a life of peace.By shedding your blood, you vanquished the enemy of the Church of Christ.As you rejoice now in His presence, ever pray to Him for us all!

Kontakion - Tone 4

You were betrothed to the King of Heavenas a pure and trophy-bearing martyr.Entreat Him to save our souls, praiseworthy Theodosia.



Ieronymos steers clear of politics

Archbishop Ieronymos yesterday called for the Church to stay away from politics in a comment aimed at the head of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's Orthodox Church as well as Greek holy men who want to interfere in foreign affairs.

The head of Greece's Church was responding to comments by FYROM's Archbishop Stephan. He had suggested over the weekend that Thessaloniki was the Balkan country's heartland.

«That's what happens when people exceed their role,» Ieronymos said. «The Church is supposed to unite people.»

Sources close to the archbishop said the comment was also aimed at critics in the Church of Greece who feel that Ieronymos is not as active as he should be in foreign affairs. Earlier this year, he made it clear he was against the Church's involvement in gatherings to protest the name dispute with Greece's northern neighbor.

His position was applauded yesterday by PASOK leader George Papandreou, who said he was in full agreement with Ieronymos's view on the separation of Church and state.



GOAA - Archbishop Demetrios at Christ the Savior Cathedral Smolensk

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Wed, 28 May 2008 08:58:19 -0700

8-10 East 79th St. New York, NY 10075-0106
Tel: (212) 570-3556 Fax: (212) 774-0589

May 26, 2008

Contact: Stavros Papagermanos
Tel.: 212.570.3556

Archbishop Demetrios at Christ the Savior Cathedral
Hosted by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk

MOSCOW ? Archbishop Demetrios of America revisitted the massive Christ the Savior Cathedral on Sunday, May 25, in the same Church where he led the Official Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate eight years ago at the Consecration of this, the largest church building in Russia. Standing in the Altar with brother Hierarchs Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta and Bishop Savas of Troas, the Archbishop followed the Divine Service presided over by Archbishop Arseny, an Assistant Hierarch to Patriarch Alexy, and whose main duty is to be responsible for all the clergy of Moscow. During the Divine Liturgy, the lay portion of the Delegation was seated in a place of honor to the right of the Altar, where they witnessed the Cathedral filled both with pious faithful, and with the finest examples of Russian ecclesiastical music.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Arseny introduced the Archbishop to the faithful, together with the accompanying Hierarchs. He warmly welcomed the Archdiocese as a whole to the Cathedral (which was demolished by Stalin and only rebuilt ?? exactly as it was ? in recent years), and invited the Archbishop to address the congregation and clergy. The Archbishop spoke on this occasion in Greek, with a translator conveying his words in Russian.

The Archbishop spoke of the great emotion he felt returning to Christ the Savior after eight years, when he represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, by leading the Patriarchal Delegation that participated in the Consecration of the Cathedral. He spoke of the remarkable progress of the Russian Orthodox Church and congratulated Patriarch Alexy for his leadership. Finally, as the Archbishop presented a Commemorative Plate to the Dean of the Cathedral in honor of the occasion, he reminded the faithful, who are fully aware of the symbolic value of the rebirth of Christ the Savior, thatâ??whatever the obstacle, whatever the challenge, whatever the difficulty, in the end, the words on this Plate â??IC XC NIKAâ?? are the final witness: Jesus Christ Conquers!â?? As the assembled faithful followed the translation and heard this final praise to God for the miracle of the rebirth of the Russian Orthodox Church, as one body they bowed their heads and made the sign of the Cross. Then, as the Choir sang â??Eis Polla Etiâ?? the Archbishop blessed the congregation and was led with the whole delegation on a private tour of the Cathedral.

In the afternoon, the Archbishop and the delegation were hosted at a formal luncheon hosted by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. Also in attendance from the Russian Orthodox Church were Bishop Mark of Egorievsk and Protopresbyter Nikolai Balashov, both of whom had accompanied the delegation to the Holy Trinity-St. Segrgius Lavra, and who served with the Clergy at the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin on Saturday the 24th. The luncheon was an opportunity for lively discussion among all the participants, and ended with an exchange of gifts: Metropolitan Kirill presented the Archbishop with an Engolpion (Hierarchal insignia) and every member of the delegation with a gift. The Archbishop presented Metropolitan Kirill with a Cross and Engolpion set, Bishop Mark with an Engolpion, and Fr. Balashov with a Cross. When the luncheon concluded, the Archbishop, accompanied by the Hierarchs and staff, retired together with Metropolitan Kirill and his clergy for a round of private talks.



GOAA - Archbishop Demetrios Received at State Duma Delegation of Russian Federation

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Wed, 28 May 2008 09:00:36 -0700

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May 27, 2008

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Tel.: 212.570.3556

Archbishop Demetrios Received at State Duma

Delegation Visits Philanthropic Institution of Moscow Patriarchate

MOSCOW ? Archbishop Demetrios of America was received at the State Duma of the Russian Federation on Monday, May 26th, together with the accompanying Hierarchs and members of the delegation. Before the official visit to the parliament of the Russian Federation, the Archbishop, accompanied by officials of the Moscow Patriarchate, visited the Central Hospital of the Moscow Patriarchate, a Church philanthropic institution restored to Church ownership only in the last decade.

The Archbishop and delegation were received at the gate of the hospital grounds by administrators of the hospital and the spiritual father of institution, Archpriest Arcady. The clergy escorted the delegation immediately to the main chapel of the facility, dedicated to Saint Alexy of Moscow, where over 100 high school pre-nursing students of the reestablishedâ??Sisters of Mercyâ?? were awaiting the Archbishop with flowers and hymns. As they lifted their voices in singing â??Christ is Risenâ??(â??Christos Voskreseâ??), prayers of thanksgiving were offered. Fr. Arcady officially welcomed the Archbishop and delegation on behalf of the doctors, nurses and administration of the hospital.

The Archbishop introduced the members of the delegation one by one, saving for last Mrs. Aphrodite Skeadas, Treasurer of National Philoptochos, who made a presentation of $25,000 to the hospital. In her remarks, Mrs. Skeadas gave greetings on behalf of the more that 27,000 women of Philoptochos throughout the Archdiocese of America. Offering in her address these words of explanation of the purpose of the organization to the very attentive young women of theâ??Sisters of Mercyâ?? high school program, she said:â??

The women of Philoptochos aspire to their mission and honor their devotion to our Risen Lord by using their faith, gifts, abilities, compassion and love to improve their families, their Orthodox communities, contemporary society and the worldâ ??.

Following the presentation of the Philoptochos gift to the Hospital, the more than 100 young women of the â??Sisters of Mercyâ?? program chanted ? to thee delight and surprise of the delegation ? the famous hhymn of St. Nektarios of Aegina, â??Agni Parthene,â?? (in Greek) in honor of the day. The students then came forward one by one to receive the blessing of the Archbishop, and the delegation proceeded to a tour of the Hospital while â??Christ is Risenâ?? was chanted.

During the visit of the hospital, Archbishop Demetrios personally greeted some of the patients on the neurological ward, blessing them and sharing a pastoral moment with them. As the delegation has two physicians, Dr. Antoine Harovas and Dr. Anthony Limberakis, there were also discussions related to the healthcare system in Russia that started in the halls of the hospital and continued at a reception offered to the delegation by Fr. Arcady. As in all the visits on this pilgrimage, the hospitality and gifts were only equaled by the warmth and respect afforded the Archbishop and all the members of the delegation.

After the visit to the hospital, the delegation departed for the State Duma, the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, where the Archbishop was received by the Deputy Chairman, Liubov K. Sliska and various members and officials. As Deputy Chairman Sliska welcomed the Archbishop and the members of the delegation in a formal Hall of the Duma, she spoke of the great honor ? both to herself and to thee State Duma, to receive for the first time â??the Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.â?? She thanked the Archbishop for his visit and expressed great appreciation for his prayers and the prayers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in connection with the reunification of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). She spoke with great praise for Patriarch Alexy, and his leadership of the resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church. She also expressed her hopes that the visit of the Archbishop to Russia would contribute in a positive way to the relations between the United States and Russia.

The Archbishop spoke of the importance of the historical relations of Russia and United States, and stressed the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for many of the issues that are important to the Russian people. The Archbishop also expressed deep satisfaction at coming to this center of government, the State Duma, and finding such a deep commitment to the Orthodox Faith.

In the evening, the Archbishop and the delegation were guests of Patriarch Alexy at a concert and performance in the Auditorium of Christ the Savior Cathedral. The performance, including music, poetry and dance, were a continuation of the celebration of Slavic Letters Day. The Archbishop sat with the Patriarch throughout the evening, and accompanied him to a reception afterwards.



Fathers of Slavic script honoured in Rome

Greece reacted to statements Archbishop Stefan made in Rome on Saturday (May 24th). [Getty Images]
Bulgaria and Macedonia both sent state and church delegations to Rome for the annual commemorations of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Comments by Macedonia's Archbishop Stefan, however, triggered a row with Greece.
By Goran Trajkov for Southeast European Times in Skopje – 28/05/08
Officials from two Balkan countries paid weekend visits to Rome for an annual celebration honouring Sts. Cyril and Methodius. The two brothers, who lived in the ninth century, created an early Slavic script that later became the basis for Cyrillic.

Marking the occasion, Pope Benedict XVI held private audiences Saturday (May 24th) with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin and Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. The pontiff said the saints serve as examples for the modern world and urged the faithful towards greater appreciation of their religious heritage.
For Macedonia, the commemorations came during an election campaign and amid renewed international pressure to resolve the name dispute with Greece. During the visit, Gruevski reiterated his government's stance on the issue.

"Our strong determination is to become part of European integration as Macedonians and nothing other than that," he said. "We cannot deny our identity, culture and literacy because they are the most important preconditions for the future of the whole nation."
"There is no substitution for the identity and that is why we are going to become a part of EU as Macedonians and nothing but Macedonians," Gruevski added.

Comments by the head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, meanwhile, triggered an angry reaction in Athens.
"Saint Cyril, all you've done in your and our Thessaloniki is dead today," Archibishop Stefan said. "Your hometown has turned into ashes and dust, not a single letter of your and our alphabet has survived."

"In Thessaloniki, where people used to speak in your and our language, it is now prohibited for this language to be spoken and to exist anymore. Unfortunately, everything related to Macedonia is being prohibited and chased away. Our country's name, church, and all that's ours is being impugned," he said.
His words made headlines in Greece, where many saw them as implying a territorial claim. Voicing her country's concern, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis called on the Macedonian government to condemn the statements.

"What happened confirms the Greek arguments, position and policy, which emphasise the need for resolution of the name problem," Bakoyannis said, warning that the issue served as a tool for "irredentism".
In a statement Monday, however, the Macedonian Orthodox Church said Greece had taken the cleric's words out of context. "Neither in the past nor now could one deny that Thessaloniki is a birthplace of ours and the alphabet of all Slavic peoples rooted in the language of its citizens back then," it said. "It is exactly why Thessaloniki always has belonged -- in a spiritual and cultural sense -- to us and to all Slavic peoples."

Saints Cyril and Methodius were born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century. The two brothers became missionaries of Christianity and created the Glagolitic alphabet, the first alphabet used to transcribe the Old Church Slavonic language. They are venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church as saints with the title of "Equals to the Apostles".
In Bulgaria, which began celebrating the heritage of Sts. Cyril and Methodius during the Ottoman yoke, May 24th is a public holiday, known as the Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Literature.

The day of St. Cyril was also celebrated in Moscow and in Belgrade. A Macedonian delegation, led by Ambassador to the Russian Federation Zlatko Lecevski, laid flowers on the monument of Sts. Cyril and Methodius at Slav Square in Moscow.
In Belgrade, Macedonian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandar Vasilevski laid flowers at the monument to the brothers in Student's Park.

Svetla Dimitrova contributed to this report.
This content was commissioned for



Killers of last Russian Tsar must be named - senior Russian priest

28 May 2008, 10:46

Moscow, May 28 Interfax - Russia cannot move any further along the path of creative and peaceful development if those who ordered and carried out the execution of last Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family are not named, a senior Russian Orthodox priest said.

"I am fully convinced that the evil act that took place in 1918 must be analyzed. Some time ago, an idea was expressed that a historical inquiry into those events was needed," deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin told a conference in Moscow.

"We cannot move any further along the path of creative and peaceful development without finding out who committed this evil act, who gave orders and who approved them," he said.

"One should also make a legal qualification and a political assessment of the killing of the Tsar and his family, a killing whose effects the state and society should compensated for by their actions," Chaplin said.

"There does exist veneration [of Nicholas II] among the people, and it is very, very deep," he said.


Slaying suspect had no record

Monir A. George has been charged with first degree murder.
Man angry over divorce, priest says
By TERRI SANGINITI and ESTEBAN PARRA • The News Journal • May 28, 2008
Veterinarian Monir A. George did not have a history of trouble with the law, according to police in his Pennsylvania hometown.
That is, until the 58-year-old Whitehall, Pa., resident allegedly gunned down a church leader Sunday night in front of 80 people at a fundraising event in the banquet room of the Christiana Hilton, near Stanton. George is charged with the first-degree murder of Malak Michael, 63, of Bear, a prominent member of St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church of Delaware, the only Egyptian Christian church in the state.

"We know Monir George, but he's been somewhat of an unremarkable sort, at least until Sunday," Whitehall Police Chief Ted Kohuth said.

Kohuth said George has not been in trouble with the law and Whitehall police had no recent problems at the veterinary clinic he ran on the north end of Macarthur Road, a major shopping district in the Lehigh Valley.

In 2001, he was reprimanded by the Pennsylvania Board of Veterinary Medicine and fined $500 for failing to keep the equipment and premises of his AAA Animal Clinic in a clean and sanitary condition.
A year earlier, the clinic was burglarized twice. Police said the thieves were after the drug ketamine, also known as "Special K."

The animal tranquilizer is chemically related to PCP and can produce hallucinations, which makes it a popular party drug for young adults who attend raves.
The burglaries were followed by an extortion attempt in which George received a letter demanding more of the drug and threatening to firebomb the clinic.

George took the letter to police, who put the clinic under surveillance and arrested four people.
On Sunday, George, a former member of the St. Mary congregation who had not attended services for five years, showed up at the fundraiser in Stanton, about an hour and a half from his Pennsylvania home.

Michael, the head of a committee charged with building a new church, had just given attendees an update on the success of the church's fundraising project when, police say, George confronted him inside the banquet hall.
Police said George pulled out two 9 mm Smith & Wesson handguns, firing once at Michael, fatally wounding him in the chest.

George allegedly tried to fire the second gun but it malfunctioned.
Three members of Michael's family overpowered George after he fired two more shots that struck no one, police said.

Police have not announced a motive for the shooting, but Father Mina Mina, of St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church, blamed George's personal demons. He said George had just been divorced and was angry with the church.
Police found eight loaded magazines and more than 150 rounds of ammunition on George when they arrested him. He remains at Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington and faces a June 3 preliminary hearing in the Court of Common Pleas.

A church service for Michael is scheduled at noon Thursday at Saints Peter and Paul Parish, 1406 Philadelphia Pike in Wilmington. Burial will be at All Saints Cemetery, 6001 Kirkwood Highway.