Monday, June 30, 2008

Synaxis of the Holy, Glorious and All-Praised Twelve Apostles

Commemorated on June 30

The Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles of Christ appears to be an ancient Feast. The Church honors each of the Twelve Apostles on separate dates during the year, and has established a general commemoration for all of them on the day after the commemoration of the Glorious and First-Ranked among the Apostles Peter and Paul.

The holy God-crowned Emperor Constantine the Great (May 21) built a church in Constantinople in honor of the Twelve Apostles. There are instructions for celebrating this Feast which date from the fourth century.

For lists of the Apostles' names, see: Mt.10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 6:12, Acts 1:13, 26.

Troparion - Tone 4 Note: The troparion for June 30 is the same as June 29.

Kontakion - Tone 2

Podoben: “Seeking the highest...”Today Christ the Rock glorifies with highest honorPeter, the rock of faith and leader of the apostles,together with Paul and the company of the twelve,whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith,giving glory to the One Who gave glory to them.


Pope and leader of Orthodox Christians appeal for Christian unity

The Associated Press Published: June 29, 2008

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I renewed their appeals for Christian unity on Sunday during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

Benedict led the ceremony alongside the leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians and expressed the "common hope of seeing the day of unity draw near."

While acknowledging key differences, Benedict has made healing the 1,000-year-old rift with the Orthodox a priority of his papacy.

In his speech, Bartholomew said that dialogue between the two branches of Christianity is continuing, despite "numerous difficulties" and that he was praying for these obstacles to be overcome.

After centuries of moving apart, the two churches formally split in 1054 over several issues, including the primacy of the pope, devotional differences, and Latin demands for priestly celibacy as the Greek-influenced tradition permitted married clergy.

Relations remain tense over Orthodox charges of proselytizing and rival property claims in places such as Russia and eastern Europe. However, Benedict and Bartholomew have met several times in an effort to promote or to seek a reconciliation.

Benedict, the leader of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics, told the crowd that Christian unity is even more important in a world that is increasingly connected by technical means, but is unable to resolve its conflicts.

"In today's world there are new instruments of unity which, however, also create new conflicts and give new strength to old ones," he said.

"In the midst of this external unity, based on material goods, we have an even greater need for interior unity, which comes from the peace of God."

The Mass marking the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul included readings from the Gospels in Latin and Greek by Catholic and Orthodox clerics. Benedict and Bartholomew also prayed together in Greek.

During the ceremony Benedict bestowed the pallium, or a woolen shawl, on 40 archbishops from around the world to symbolize their bond with the Vatican. One by one the archbishops, wearing crimson vestments, knelt before the pope to receive the shawl and the pontiff's embrace.

After the Mass, Benedict and Bartholomew silently prayed together underneath the basilica at the tomb the faithful believe houses the remains of the apostle Peter.


Orthodox Church Icons are Tearing Oil in New York Cathedral

The pastor of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Hempstead says two religious icons are apparently tearing.
Last Edited: Sunday, 29 Jun 2008, 5:34 PM CDT
Created: Sunday, 29 Jun 2008, 5:27 PM CDT
MyFoxNY Reports

The parishioners and clergy of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Paul in Hempstead, New York are reveling in what they say is a divine sign. Two icons at the church are apparently tearing: a slightly fragrant liquid is seen coming from their eyes.
In the past two weeks, two icons of the Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas have been tearing. Upon examining the icons, a trail of moisture is seen coming from the eyes.
Parishioners say its a miracle, and have traveled from afar to worship the weeping icons.

Relics from Moscow Kremlin museum transferred to Russian Orthodox Church

29.06.2008, 20.23
MOSCOW, June 29 (Itar-Tass) -- Some relics from the Moscow Kremlin museum are being transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, President Dmitry Medvedev said at the Savior Cathedral in Moscow on Sunday.

“These include parts of Our Lady’s robe and relics of Prince Vladimir, the Baptist of Rus,” he said. “We understand how this transfer is important for the believers and the entire Orthodox world.”
Medvedev lauded the latest Assembly of Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and congratulated the flock on the beginning celebrations of the 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.

”The assembly, which had taken place in a remarkable year, confirmed the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church and blocked attempts of division,” he said. “The assembly also adopted fundamentals of the church teaching on dignity, freedom and human rights.”
“The beginning celebrations are a good occasion to take a close look at the Russian history, the outset of Orthodoxy and the formation of the Russian statehood,” Medvedev said. “The public interest is huge. It is a positive outcome of the revival of the church and the recent profound changes, among them the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).”

The Russian conversion to Christianity was of paramount importance, Medvedev said.
“The decision of Prince Vladimir to convert to the Orthodox religion had a truly historic role and a number of systemic consequences,” he said. “The essence of the baptism exceeded the religious framework and changed many spheres of life.”

The decision united the country, supplied it with a developed ideology, and helped the linkage to progressive European and world processes, he said. “In the far away times, a choice of religion implied a civilized choice,” he said.
“The baptism enabled the ancient Russian state to develop active and equal dialog with other nations, while ancient Russian culture adopted universal Biblical values and shared moral and humanitarian ideals with Europe,” Medvedev said. “The historic choice enabled our ancestors to realize their identity and to strengthen national awareness.”

Inter-religious dialog and cultural cooperation are characteristic of the Russian statehood, Medvedev said.
“The centuries-old cooperation between nationalities, religions and cultures is the foundation and the characteristic feature of our statehood,” he said. “This cooperation many times saved Russia in the time of ordeal. It remains a source of peace and accord in the Russian society and a fundamental value recognized by religions and the state.”

This common legacy unites not only the millions of Russians but also other peoples, who share their history and culture, he said. Representatives of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova took part in the recent Assembly of Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“The weighty contribution of our churches to inter-religious peace and dialog also helps the solution of social and humanitarian problems and reduces extremist and other negative trends in the society,” he said.

The Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state administration have a unique partnership, which has assisted the establishment of democratic principles of religious freedom, Medvedev said.

Medvedev praises efforts to unite Church

The President has attended a service on the 1020th anniversary of Christianity in Russia. It was held at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. Speaking at the service, Dmitry Medvedev praised recent attempts to unite the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The Assembly for the first time has a major presence from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. By being held on such an important date, the Assembly has proved the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church and its dedication to preventing separation,” he said.
The president pointed out that representatives from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova had taken part in a meeting of the Council of Bishops.
He lauded moves by the church to promote inter-faith peace, saying that such efforts helped countries combat extremism and aided social cohesion.
To watch the service and to hear the speeches of Medvedev and the head of Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksy II, click the VIDEO button.
As part of the day’s programme, Dmitry Medvedev announced the handover of holy relics from the Moscow Kremlin museum to the Russian Orthodox Church. Among the prized relics is part of the Virgin Mary’s Robe.

Russian Church to use scout methods in its work with youth

The Moscow Patriarchate states that active missionary work with youth is very important, reports Interfax-Religion.

"We shouldn't wait for the young people to come to the church. We need to go and meet them. We have to suggest interesting programs and projects to bring them in the Church," Chairman of the Synodal Youth Department Archbishop Alexander of Kostroma and Galich said at the Bishops' Council session held in Moscow.
He noted that development of Orthodox infantile and youth organizations could significantly help solve the tasks of Orthodox youth service. According to him, he meant already existing scout organizations such as the Brotherhood of Orthodox pathfinders.

"The main reason for the Church to turn to scout methods of youth service is that it causes sincere interest among children. It can be replenished and the teaching of Orthodoxy can be stressed," Archbishop Alexander said.
The archbishop cited the data proving there were 39,6 million young people in Russia, or 27 per cent of the entire country's population.

Report: Defiant Russian Orthodox bishop refuses to repent, holds service despite ban

The Associated Press Published: June 29, 2008

MOSCOW: A renegade Russian Orthodox bishop defied a church order barring him from leading services Sunday and rejected a demand that he repent, the Interfax news agency reported.

Bishop Diomid's defiance would set the stage for a potential confrontation in the tightly hierarchical Russian Orthodox Church.

Diomid has made waves by assailing the church for its support of government policies and its contacts with other faiths — essentially saying the deeply conservative institution is too liberal and too worldly.

Following a decision at the Council of Bishops, the church said Saturday that Diomid was barred from serving. It summoned him to Moscow from his diocese on the Chukotka Peninsula, in extreme northeastern Russia across the Bering Straight from Alaska, and demanded he "immediately repent."

But Interfax quoted Diomid's nephew, Alexander Nesterov, as saying that Diomid held a service Sunday in the capital of the Chukotka region, Anadyr, and told parishioners he would not repent because he does not believe he is guilty.

Diomid said he had made his position clear to the head of the church, Patriarch Alexy II, the report said.

In February 2007, the 47-year old bishop issued a statement in which he criticized the Church for its approval of the Kremlin's "anti-people policies" and condemned its ecumenical contacts with Catholics, Jews and Muslims.

He also urged Russians to refrain from using identification cards and mobile phones.

Earlier this week, Diomid's supporters rallied in Moscow calling for the resignation of Patriarch Alexy II and clashed with activists of a pro-Kremlin youth group that condemned the cleric. They also beat up several journalists with icons and banners.

A Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, played down the report of Diomid's defiance, saying he could not confirm it. He said Diomid still has time to repent, but will be permanently defrocked unless he does so before a Holy Synod that will likely be held next month.

Chaplin would not say whether the church would seek to prevent Diomid from leading services or take any other action against him before the synod.

Church and state are separated under Russia's post-Soviet Constitution, but Alexy II has claimed a leading role for the church in setting moral guidelines for society. Its growing prominence has caused concerns among minority faiths.

The church has experienced a major resurgence after the 1991 Soviet collapse ended decades of state atheism. The Moscow Patriarchate counts about two-thirds of Russia's population of 142 million as members, and controls branches in other former Soviet republics.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking Sunday at a ceremony marking the 1,020th anniversary of the adoption of Orthodox Christianity by the precursor of the Russian state, signaled support for the church's moves to thwart Diomid.

Medvedev, who attended the ceremony at Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral with his wife, Svetlana, said the Council of Bishops had "affirmed the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church in all its fullness and placed a barrier against efforts to divide it," the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Medvedev also suggested that he opposes the withdrawal of the church that Diomid advocates — and that Russia's dominant faith should bring the country closer to the West rather than underlining differences.

Like relations between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, ties between Russia and the West have been troubled by disputes in recent years.

The adoption of Christianity a millennium ago helped integrate Russia into "more progressive European and world processes" and formed a basis for "the common moral, humanistic ideals we have in common with Europe," RIA-Novosti quoted Medvedev, who succeeded Vladimir Putin in May, as saying.



Sunday, June 29, 2008

Feast of All Saints of Georgia

Commemorated on June 29

Having examined the history of Georgia and the hagiographical treasures attesting to the faith of the Georgian nation, we become convinced that Heavenly Georgia— the legion of Georgian saints, extolling the Lord in the Heavenly Kingdom with a single voice—is infinitely glorious. It is unknown how many cleansed themselves of their earthly sins in merciless warfare with the enemy of Christ, or how many purified their souls in unheated cells through prayer, fasting, and ascetic labors.

To God alone are known the names of those ascetics, forgotten by history, who by their humble labors tirelessly forged the future of the Georgian Church and people.

St. George of the Holy Mountain wrote: “From the time we recognized the one true God, we have never renounced Him, nor have our people ever yielded to heresy.”

A decree of the Church Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi states: “We will not depart from thee, the Catholic Church which bore us in holiness, nor will we betray thee, our pride—Orthodoxy—to which we have always been faithful, for we have been granted the honor to know thee, the witness of the Truth Itself!” This relationship to Orthodoxy is the cornerstone of the life of every Georgian believer.

It is impossible to count the names of all those Christians who have been raised up from the earthly Church in Georgia to the heavens, let alone to describe all the godly deeds they have performed. For this reason December 11 has been set aside for the commemoration not only of the saints whose Lives are known to us but also of the nearly three hundred more whose names, but not stories, have been preserved as well.

Most Georgian people bear the name of a saint who is commemorated on this day, and they entreat the saint to intercede before the Lord in their behalf.


The Moscow Patriarchate Council to change format of inter-Orthodox events

28 June 2008, 14:27

Moscow, June 28, Interfax - The Bishops' Council proposed to change the principles of arranging inter-Orthodox meetings.

Thus, the Council believes it necessary to insist on representation of autonomous and self-governed Churches of the Moscow Patriarchate (the Ukrainian Church, the Japanese Church, the Latvian Church, the Estonian Church, the Moldavian Church, the Chinese Church, and the Russian Church Abroad) in all such meetings.

The Council, which is being held in Moscow these days, decided that the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America should also take part in the meetings.

Such initiative was caused by the position of the Constantinople Patriarchate as it believes that inter-Orthodox events can be attended by representatives of the so-called Estonian Apostolic Church generally unrecognized as an autonomous or independent Church.

The Moscow Patriarchate delegation was forced to leave the session of the Mixed Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission held in Ravenna in October 2007 as representatives of "Estonian Apostolic Church" were among its participants. The Constantinople Patriarchate established this structure in 1996 on the canonical territory of the Russian Church.

A new conflict has been kindled between the Moscow and the Constantinople Patriarchates this June as the latter invited representatives of this uncanonical Estonian structure to participate in work of the Inter-Orthodox commission on Rhodes. Further to this step, the Russian Church delegation had to leave the session.



Head Of Greek Orthodox Church Visits Ghana

Sat, 28 Jun 2008
General News

Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, at the start of one-week patriarchal visit to Ghana, has described Africa as the continent of the future and Ghana, luminous example for the continent.

He however entreated the clergy, politicians and the press to work harder to transform the vast resources of the Continent to propel it to higher levels of development.

Beatitude Theodoros, who is also the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church, is to preside over the week-long activities marking the silver jubilee celebration of the Church in Ghana.

Among the activities planned for the celebration are a welcome doxology for his Beatitude at the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Accra, courtesy call on President John Agyekum Kufuor, a silver jubilee durbar at Larteh in the Eastern Region, and consecration of some chapels of the church at Tema and Larteh.

Beatitude Theodoros told a press conference in Accra that he had a particular attachment to Africa where he did a 10-year pastoral service before his assumption to the papacy of the church. His Beatitude had worked in Cameroun, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and Angola. He said his visit to Ghana was a dream to West Africa that had come, adding, 'It is my duty as ambassador to be here.'

Beatitude Theodoros entreated the world community to pursue the true teachings of Jesus Christ, to promote love, unity and understanding among mankind.

While emphasising the economic, social and political well-being of the individual and state, Beatitude Theodoros, reiterated his call to the church to take care of the spiritual needs of the people to check the growing moral and economic decline in the world community. He said the state must also show respect to the church.

The Beatitude was accompanied at the conference by high profile personalities of the church in Ghana and other West African countries.

Among them were: Father Kwame Joseph Larbi, Director of the Ghana Diocesan Mission Programme of the church, the Spiritual Leader in Ghana, Bishop Damaskinos, the Greek Ambassador to Ghana, as well as prominent Greek business persons in Ghana.

Born out of the old African Universal Orthodox Catholic Church, the current 5,000-member Church was received into canonical Orthodoxy under the Patriarchate in 1982. The Church now has 35 communities in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central, Eastern and Central Regions under the care of 25 active priests.

In addition to honouring its spiritual mandate, the Church said it had, with the support of its partners in Europe and America, built and supported the building of schools in a number of communities in Ghana.

It says it runs the St. Peters Business College at Larteh, and in the area of health delivery had organised or hosted medical teams to provide free medical care and supplies to a number of communities.



About 60 arrested at Bulgaria's first gay parade

Riot police detain far-right extremists near the site of a gay pride parade in central Sofia June 28, 2008. Riot police detained about 60 protesters on Saturday who tried to violently break up the Balkan country's first gay pride parade that defied severe opposition by the church and far right groups.

Demonstrators hold rainbow flag and Bulgarian national flag during a gay pride parade in central Sofia June 28, 2008.

Sat Jun 28, 2008 1:05pm EDT
By Anna Mudeva

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian riot police detained about 60 far-right extremists on Saturday who threw a petrol bomb and tried to break up the country's first gay parade.

Some 100 gay activists marched across the capital Sofia to protest against discrimination in this generally conservative nation that is often hostile to homosexuality -- an attitude seen in many eastern European countries.
One militant protester threw a petrol bomb near the marchers, while others hurled eggs and some carried clubs, police and a Reuters eyewitness said.

About 60 people were arrested, police said. No one was hurt.
Religious and far-right groups as well as some political parties in the Black Sea country of 7.6 million had wanted the parade banned.

The head of the Christian Orthodox Church called the march "immoral and sinful" and the Muslim Chief Mufti said homosexuality was a disease.

A far-right group has called for a "week of intolerance of gays" and together with other groups threatened violence. Even Socialist Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said he did not like "the manifestation and demonstration of such orientations."

"I am shocked by this attitude," said Yasen, 32, who took part in the parade. "Everybody is free to make their choice and that should be respected in a European Union member country".
The EU and human rights group repeatedly criticize authorities in east European countries for banning gay parades and for sometimes apparent discrimination against homosexuals.

Human rights group Amnesty International said on Friday it was concerned about the hostile statements by some far-right groups and urged authorities in Bulgaria to provide adequate security for the Sofia march.
Although homosexuality has become legal in eastern Europe after the collapse of communism, same-sex couples rarely make a public display of their affection.

Despite the general public disapproval of homosexuality, Bulgarians have a gay idol -- pop and folk singer Azis. The Roma gypsy, who wears women's clothes and boasts penis enlargement, married his partner at a mock ceremony two years ago.

Outcry in Romania over abortion for raped 11-year-old girl

Sunday Times Foreign Desk Published:Jun 29, 2008

Romania divided after the government grants termination on special grounds

Romania is heatedly debating the emotive issue of underaged girls being allowed abortions after it was revealed that an 11-year-old Romanian girl intended to fly to Britain to terminate her 21-week pregnancy.

Florina Vranceanu’s tragic circumstances have generated a furore in her homeland since her pregnancy became known earlier this month.

The Romanian authorities initially refused to allow Florina to have a termination because her pregnancy was too far advanced. The legal limit for abortions in Romania is 14 weeks unless the mother’s health is threatened. But they relented on Friday after an outcry in Romania and abroad.

Florina fell pregnant after being raped twice by a 19-year-old uncle in their village of Piatra Soimului in eastern Romania, according to UK tabloid the Daily Mail.

Florina’s parents only found out she was pregnant on June 2 after her 26-year-old mother, Lacramioara, took her to the doctor when she complained of stomach pains. The stunned parents decided on termination, but were informed their daughter’s pregnancy was too far gone.

“Panel after panel, meeting after meeting. In the meantime, my poor girl gets more and more terrified,” said Lacramioara.

A family friend said: “She was just a child herself and one who had been raped and betrayed by one of her own family. How could anyone expect her to go through with the pregnancy and have the baby?”

The case has bitterly split the legal and medical communities, child rights groups and the public in Romania.

Romania’s National Child Protection Authority argued Florina should be allowed to have an abortion because she was already traumatised by the experience of rape and pregnancy.

But the National Doctors’ Council said the rights of the foetus should be considered and the pregnancy should go ahead. Twenty church groups also opposed an abortion, according to the Daily Mail.

But the publicity had one positive outcome — a Romanian woman living in Britain offered to fly the girl and her parents to the UK and arrange for the termination at a clinic. Abortion is legal up to six months (24 weeks) in the UK, although the issue is being fiercely debated at the moment. There is growing public pressure for the limit to be lowered to 20 or 22 weeks.

Florina’s relieved parents decided to take up the good Samaritan’s offer and fly to the UK. But the publicity caused the Romanian government to backtrack and announce on Friday that Florina can have an abortion in Romania on exceptional grounds. At a meeting, Romanian government committee member Vlad Iliescu read out an emotive letter from the girl.

It said: “I want to go to school and to play. If I can’t do this, my life will be a nightmare.” Iliescu said: “The girl’s mental health would be severely affected if she had a baby.”

Theodora Bertzi, a labour ministry official, said the decision was taken because “we are talking about ... the rights of this child who was subjected to rape and incest”.

Florina’s 33-year-old father, Florin, insisted he would take his daughter to the UK. “Whatever is decided here in Romania, it all takes too long. Even if they agree to a law change, it will all take too long and it’s putting my daughter’s life at risk in the meantime,” he said before the ruling.

“We will take up the UK offer and have arranged to fly out on Tuesday. The clinic is already arranged.”

Florin said his daughter had not told anyone about being raped because her uncle had threatened her.

“He told my daughter that we would beat her if we found out what had happened and that we would abandon her, so she kept quiet. We only found out four weeks ago after she complained of stomach pains.

“Her mother took her to the hospital and we discovered she was pregnant. I wanted to kill him but he has gone on the run — no one knows where he is.”

Florina’s ordeal may still not be over. The church groups who opposed her abortion are insisting that the Romanian government prevent Florina from travelling to Britain.

The pro-life Christian Orthodox groups also threatened to press charges if the girl was allowed to have a termination in Romania on exceptional grounds.

They have offered “material, spiritual and psychological help” to Florina’s impoverished family. They have also offered to raise the child in a church institution if the family is unable to care for it.

But the Romanian Orthodox Church, which is followed by more than 80% of the population, said the decision should be left to the family. Spokesman Constantin Stoica said it was “an exceptional situation which must be treated in an exceptional manner and the family is the only one to take this decision”.

Stoica said although the church considered abortion a crime, this belief applied to normal circumstances and not to incest or rape.



Bishops' Council urges authorities to "soon and just" church property restitution

28 June 2008, 15:26

Moscow, June 28, Interfax – The Bishops' Council welcomes a law, which is being worked out in Russia, on the questions of transferring religious property to religious organizations and backs up it "early adoption."

According to the Council's decision, such a law should be "read with leaders of the largest religious communities."

"The Council draws attention of state authorities to the necessity to give back church property as soon and just as possible, to begin with churches and shrines as well as buildings and land lots required to revive charitable, social, educational, enlightening, scientific and cultural activities of the Russian Orthodox Church," the document reads.

The bishops also urge to work out corresponding legal acts in the countries guided by the Moscow Patriarchate "where restitution of church property still do not have stable legal basis."

Besides, the Council noted that application of certain legal provisions on nonprofit organizations to religious communities "contradicts the principle of Church-state separation" as "state regulation of their inner life is envisaged there."



Utah Jazz: Top draft pick Koufos spurned big offers from Greece for NBA

7-footer Koufos spurns big offers from Greece
The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated: 06/28/2008 08:18:45 AM MDT
Even before he took his first class at Ohio State, Kosta Koufos already completed his major in international relations. All it took, in fact, was one offer the 7-footer received out of high school to play basketball in Greece.
There was a $5 million contract waiting for Koufos to sign and a beachfront villa waiting for him to call home. He could play for the Olympiacos club team in Athens, which would throw in any car of his choosing for good measure.
It wasn't the NBA, though, which was why Koufos could say he was living a dream Friday when he was introduced as the Jazz's newest member, selected with the No. 23 pick in the first round of Thursday's draft.
"With basketball, I follow what my heart says," Koufos said. "My heart told me to go to Ohio State because I'm going to learn and develop more as a player."
He spent Friday meeting with coach Jerry Sloan at the Jazz's practice facility - "He told me he's going to be hard on me, which I love," Koufos said - and posing for pictures with his new No. 41 jersey, last belonging to Thurl Bailey.
Koufos' mother, Kathy, said she had learned of two Greek churches in Salt Lake City while her son said he was confident in his abilities despite coming to the NBA after only one season at Ohio State.
"As a 19-year-old, yes, I'm young," Koufos said. "But at the same time, I feel like I can contribute to the program. Everybody's got something to work on and I'm going to do that and I'm going to work hard at it and raise my game to the next level."
The biggest question for Koufos had been whether that next level would take him to Europe or the NBA. He was contacted regularly by Greek teams in the last year, some asking if he would consider leaving Ohio State in the middle of the season.
"We sat and talked about it, thought about it, but not much," said the Rev. Dan Rogich, who runs the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Koufos' hometown of Canton, Ohio, and has been a mentor since childhood.
"He said, 'My dream is to play in America. Greece is always going to be there.'"
On draft night, though, Koufos again was tested. He watched as the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers passed on him as a possible successor to Zydrunas Ilgauskas and selected N.C. State forward J.J. Hickson with the No. 19 pick.
Jack Greynolds Jr., who coached Koufos at GlenOak High, admitted the Cavaliers' decision "took a little wind out of the sails."
"Obviously, it's the hometown team and he knows LeBron [James] pretty well, playing together the last couple summers," Greynolds said. "All indications were they were interested, but that's the way it goes sometimes."
Rogich said Koufos asked him, "Should I be going to Greece?" amid the disappointment. Once projected as a lottery pick, Koufos wound up being selected by the Jazz, a team for which he didn't even work out before the draft.
"I think things are meant for a reason when they happen," Kathy Koufos said. "As the day's progressing, that feeling is solidifying for me that it's a good fit."
The Jazz, meanwhile, can only hope that Koufos' work ethic will help accelerate his development. Rogich said it wasn't uncommon for Koufos to shoot for an hour and a half before and after every Buckeyes game last season.
"When he first came," Rogich said, "the coaching staff there called me and said, 'How can we get him not to do this because he's going to get burned out during the Big Ten season.' "
Although Koufos was blessed with extraordinary height in a family where nobody stands taller than 6 feet - "This is my lottery winning," he joked - he grew up almost overnight as a player, according to Greynolds.
In January 2007, GlenOak snapped Canton rival McKinley's 41-game home winning streak as Koufos finished with 32 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks. He scored 28 of his team's first 34 points in the game.
The next night, Koufos came back and totaled 32 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks to lead GlenOak to victory over Detroit Country Day, the school that produced Chris Webber and Shane Battier.
"He's as close to Dirk Nowitzki as I've ever seen," Country Day coach Curt Keener told the Canton Repository.
Koufos also has dealt with tragedy as his father, Alex, a pediatric oncologist at Akron Children's Hospital died of liver cancer 10 years ago.
Rogich said that Koufos paid a visit to his father's grave Thursday and also lit a candle in his memory at church.
"The thing I told him," Greynolds said, "it makes you grow up faster, makes you appreciate things. It makes you look a little differently at life."
At the very start of his NBA career, Koufos already has had to make a difficult decision. Instead of playing for Greece in an Olympic qualifying tournament next month in Athens, Koufos will play for the Jazz's summer-league team at the Rocky Mountain Revue.
If it costs him a chance at playing in the Olympics, Koufos didn't seem particularly bothered. "For me, the priority's NBA," Koufos said. "Always will be. Whatever the staff needs me to do to excel on the NBA level, I'm willing to do."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Finding of the Relics of Cyrus and John the Unmercenaries

June 28


These Saints lived during the years of Diocletian. Saint Cyrus was from Alexandria, and Saint John was from Edessa of Mesopotamia. Because of the persecution of that time, Cyrus fled to the Gulf of Arabia, where there was a small community of monks. John, who was a soldier, heard of Cyrus' fame and came to join him. Henceforth, they passed their life working every virtue, and healing every illness and disease freely by the grace of Christ; hence their title of "Unmercenaries." They heard that a certain woman, named Athanasia, had been apprehended together with her three daughters, Theodora, Theoctiste, and Eudoxia, and taken to the tribunal for their confession of the Faith. Fearing lest the tender young maidens be terrified by the torments and renounce Christ, they went to strengthen them in their contest in martyrdom; therefore they too were seized. After Cyrus and John and those sacred women had been greatly tormented, all were beheaded in the year 292. Their tomb became a renowned shrine in Egypt, and a place of universal pilgrimage. It was found in the area of the modern day resort near Alexandria named Abu Kyr.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone

Since Thou hast given us the miracles of Thy holy Martyrs as an invincible battlement, by their entreaties scatter the counsels of the heathen, O Christ our God, and strenghten the faith of Orthodox Christians, since Thou alone art good and the Friend of man.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
With a great voice, O ye faithful, let us hymn the great physicians of the world, the pair beloved of Christ, the luminaries who are radiant with the beams of healing; and as we stand in their temple, we cry out: Cyrus and John, the bestowers of miracles and healers of the ailing, shine forth to the ends of the world.


Where are the Keys to the Kingdom?

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom

Matt 16, 19

The four-yearly Council of Bishops of the multinational and multilingual Russian Orthodox Church is now taking place in Moscow. It has been announced there that the Russian Orthodox Church now has 196 bishops, 30,544 clergy and 769 monasteries and convents. The number of churches is increasing by five per day, between 1,500 and 2,000 per year, and is now nearly 31,000, the same as the number of clergy.

It is notable that the present number of churches is almost exactly the same as the number of New Martyrs and Confessors, who have been canonised in the ever-growing list of Russian Orthodox saints of the twentieth century. This list continues to grow and eventually with further documentary research it is expected to extend to at least 100,000 catalogued saints and lives. Since, in an extraordinary way, the numbers in the list appear to run parallel to the number of parishes, there are those who hope to see the day when the Russian Church will be composed of at least 100,000 parishes, twice the number of 1917. It is notable that the number of monasteries and convents is already higher than that of 1917.
It is also highly significant that for the first time, bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) are taking part in this Council. Our Metropolitan Hilarion has made a speech there, forcefully and without compromise or hindrance expressing our concerns on ecumenism. Thanks to the reconciliation of 2007, the voice of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is now being listened to by the episcopate, clergy and people of the whole Russian Orthodox Church, something impossible and unthinkable at the last Bishops’ Council four years ago. Our God is indeed the God who works miracles.

The theme of the 2008 Council is Church Unity. This is of particular significance, given that the two parts of the Russian Church, the Patriarchate and ROCOR reunited only last year, both abandoning politically-conditioned Cold War excesses. However, many dangers for unity still exist. These disintegrating trends threaten the literal and spiritual integrity of the Church and can be listed as follows:
1.The Ukraine

Apart from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, two schismatic, semi-Orthodox groups also exist in the Ukraine. At present the Church and these two groups are being pressured by secular and nationalist politicians like Vladimir Yushchenko and provincial Galician politicians to fall into Uniatism. In this way, politicians and nationalists could construct and impose an Autocephalous Ukrainian Church, which would be Roman Catholic Ukrainian first and Orthodox last. Sadly there are also pressures from Rome, Warsaw and, even more sadly, from ‘Orthodox’ modernists in Istanbul, whose dream it is to take over the Ukraine as part of a worldwide ecclesiastical Empire of ‘Eastern papism’.

It may be that in the Ukraine Orthodox will yet have to witness with their blood for the sake of Russian Orthodox Church Unity. If so, we are ready.

As mentioned above, this tiny but ancient Patriarchate, which is less than 2,000 strong in Istanbul itself, has been interfering in Church life in the Ukraine. Sadly, it has interfered even more actively and created schisms elsewhere, in Estonia. France and England, thus souring its relations with the rest of the Orthodox world and putting itself on the fringes of the Orthodox world.

Its ecclesiastical imperialism, inspired by the State Department of the USA and masonic lodges (some would say that these are the same thing), is resisted by faithful and conscious Orthodox in all the Local Orthodox Churches, which outnumber it by far. One of the main seats of resistance is on the Holy Mountain of Athos, which is within the Constantinople jurisdiction. We pray that the Church of Constantinople will return to its former place in the mainstream of Orthodox life, throwing off political temptations and the fallacies of ecumenism and so isolationism within the family of Local Orthodox Churches.
3.The Romanian Church

Sadly, the Romanian Church has set up plans to take over the Church in the independent Republic of Moldova, which is a Metropolia of the multinational and multilingual Russian Orthodox Church. These plans would create two Churches on the same territory, an uncanonical situation (as in Estonia, where there is a tiny ‘Church’ under Constantinople, which has about 10% of the Estonian Orthodox population under it). Of course, if Moldova, which is basically a Romanian-speaking country, and its Church, which is basically a Romanian-speaking Church, wishes to give up its political independence and become part of Romania, it would be normal that the Metropolia there transfer its allegiance to the Romanian Church. But to set up two Churches on the same territory is unacceptable. Even more sadly, the Romanian Church has even threatened to set up parishes in the Ukraine, where Romanian-speaking parishes happily co-exist with Ukrainian speaking parishes under the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

We can only hope that the nationalist, political agenda of the new Romanian Patriarchate, at present also under pressure from the problems raised by its new, Uniat Archbishop Nicolae of the Banat and the Romanian government, which recently gave up its sovereignty to the EU, will cease. Then the previous excellent relations between the Russian and Romanian Churches can resume.

There is within Russia among the newly-baptised but still unChurched millions a tendency towards ‘Diomidism’, that is the nationalist xenophobia and isolationism of the Patriarchal Bishop Diomid of Chukotka. This tendency goes much further than some similar tendencies in the emigration. It even goes to the extremes of calling for the canonisation of Tsar Ivan the Threatening (often miscalled ‘the Terrible’ in English) and the layman Gregory Rasputin and refusing to pay income tax. Although both these figures were and are much slandered by Western and Westernised historians, no Churched Orthodox would think of them as saints. As for rejecting tax codes, we can only repeat the words of the Gospel: ‘Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s’.

By the grace of God, with time, patience and much more information, such people will become Churched. We suggest that they visit ROCOR parishes in the West, where we are certainly not isolated, but still hold the Faith. This may help them to come to a Churchly and balanced understanding of the real world. Of course, Metropolitan Hilarion’s uncompromising speech on ecumenism at the Bishops’ Council should already help them, as also those small numbers outside Russia who did not follow ROCOR’s reconciliation with the Patriarchate..

On the other hand, among the newly-baptised but still unChurched millions, there is also the opposite extreme of modernist Neo-Renovationism. Led by figures like Fr George Kochetkov in Moscow, those who are great admirers of the neo-Catholic Fr Alexander Men, and by old renovationist Orthodox in the West, such as Bishop Basil Osborn, Olivier Clement, Elisabeth Behr-Sigel and their now mainly deceased mentors from the Paris emigration clergy in Paris, the USA, Finland and elsewhere, they would like Russian Orthodoxy to merge with Protestantism and Uniatism.

By the grace of God, these individuals, now dying out, will eventually come to repentance and the realisation of the truth, understanding the Church and Her Church culture (‘Tserkovnost’). Repentance will bring with it not only spiritual realisation and understanding, but also the abandonment of both liberal secularism and equally secular conservative moralism. The Church is beyond all these secular fads. She lives in Tradition, in the Holy Spirit.
6.Diaspora Autocephalism

Finally, as in the Ukraine, there is the problem of autocephalism in the Diaspora, especially in the USA. Here, there is the OCA organisation, begotten during the Cold War like a premature baby and unrecognised by the majority of Local Churches. One quarter of its membership is now leaving it, to return to the now free Romanian Mother-Church and there are moves by some other OCA members to return to their now free Mother-Churches, whether Bulgarian, Albanian and above all Russian. This is the case especially in Alaska and to some extent in Canada. The example of ROCOR and its reconciliation with the Mother Russian Church is clearly behind this. That is why the reconciliation was so opposed by senior modernist elements in the OCA, who attempted to sabotage it, as they wish to remain outside canonically-recognised bodies. Eventually, they may join anti-Tradition Protestantised/ Americanised elements in groups like the Antiochian Archdiocese in North America. The same can also be said of the European Paris Exarchate under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is divided down the middle between Churchly elements who wish to return to the Russian Mother-Church with their pre-Revolutionary Church property, and renovationists, who wish to destroy the Russian Tradition and completely merge with anti-Tradition modernist elements inside the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The above movement of autocephalism was brought about by placing nationality above Orthodoxy. Placing Ukrainianism, Americanism, French/Western intellectualism or any other sort of ethnophyletism, be it Russian (Bishop Diomid), Romanian or Greek, above the Holy Spirit is responsible for all these divisions. These divisions exist and can only continue to exist through the lack of spirituality and the absence of spiritual thinking of the majority. Therefore, their inherent problems can only be overcome by substantial numbers in these groups putting the Holy Spirit first. Only when the Holy Spirit comes first, will Orthodox Tradition, the Life of the Spirit, come first. Then the various forms of secularism found in such groups, whether tedious liberal modernism (common among renovationist pseudo-intellectuals) or tedious conservative moralism (common among fundamentalist Evangelicals) will come last.

The spiritual flatness and emptiness of so much of ‘Orthodox’ life reduces the Church to a mere ‘religion’, instead of Faith. It reduces the Church to mere institutions and bureaucracies, instead of a vibrant and dynamic soul-saving organism. Such spiritual emptiness and shallowness merely ‘preserves’ ethnic customs instead of living the life of the Spirit. Therefore, it is called on to die out. This is already happening, as the old generation who blocked spiritual progress for so long reach their sixties, seventies and eighties and die out.

The way ahead for Orthodoxy is in what I was privileged to see last week in the wonderful family atmosphere in the Church of the Nativity of Christ at Erie in Pennsylvania.
There the children of the parish are called on to hold dearly three values. These are:

Faith. Respect. Tradition.
These values are Trinitarian. They provide the solution to all six disintegrating trends, which are outlined above and threaten the integrity and unity of Church Life. Thus, we have Faith, because we believe in the Father. We have Respect for all other human-beings, Orthodox or Non-Orthodox, because we believe that the Son of God took on human nature, becoming man. And we believe in the Tradition of the Church, because Tradition is the sum of the continual outpouring of the Holy Spirit on human history and activity, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Those who put secular, ethnic and political ideologies first will lose the keys to the Kingdom. But those who put these values of Faith, Respect and Tradition first are those who will gain the keys to the Kingdom. Let us be warned and take this warning to our hearts.
Priest Andrew Phillips,
East Anglia
12/25 June 2008
St Onuphrius the Great
St Peter of Mt Athos

The Russian Bishops' Council to express concern about actions of Constantinople and Romanian Patriarchates within its canonic territory

27 June 2008, 23:42

Moscow, June 27, Interfax - The Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church reminded the Constantinople Patriarchate that it was inadmissible to deviate from the unshakable foundations of inter-church relations, as disregarding of canons leaded to "dangerous consequences for the Orthodox unity."

"The Council deems inadmissible for hierarchs and clerics to transfer from one local church to another without the relevant release document and insists on the strict compliance with the Orthodox canonic traditions which violent interpretation is subject to criticism," reads the statement of the Bishops' Council held these days in Moscow.

The above is the participants' comment of the Constantinople Patriarchate's decision to accede under its jurisdiction the former temporary administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate's Diocese of Sourozh Bishop Basil (Osborne) in 2006. The Holy Synod of the Russian Church referred to this decision as invalid and non-compliant with the church canons.

The Council denied any attempts made by Constantinople to feign the pan-Orthodox recognition of its church structure in Estonia as the autonomous local church with no regard to opinions and interests of absolute majority of Orthodox believers in Estonia.

The document expresses concern regarding the Romanian Orthodox Church which has established new dioceses within Moldavia and adjacent Ukrainian territories as part of "Bessarabian Metropolia". The Council understands it as "a new threat to the church integrity and social consensus."

The Bishops' Council stated the inviolability of canonic borders of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church. In April 2008, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church has denounced the decision of the Constantinople Patriarchate to include China in its Hong-Cong Metropolia.



From hippie to Orthodox

Frederica Mathewes-Green converted along with her husband.
By Yonat Shimron, Staff Writer
Frederica Mathewes-Green, a writer and commentator, was the guest speaker this past weekend at the Southeast regional conference of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, which met in the Research Triangle Park. Mathewes-Green, a native of Charleston, S.C., converted to the Orthodox Church as an adult alongside her husband, Gary, a priest. A commentator on NPR and CNN, she often talks about her journey from "mother Earth hippie-type seeker" to the Episcopal Church and finally to Orthodoxy. We caught up with her to ask her a few questions.

Q: What attracted you to the Orthodox Church?

A: In the late 1980s my husband and I began to feel that the Episcopal Church wasn't a safe place to raise children any more. The bishops seemed to question the resurrection, the Virgin Birth. The obvious thing to do was to become Roman Catholic. But when we looked at it, we were dismayed. We were into high church worship -- chant and incense, the medieval mystics. Contemporary Catholicism was trying to keep up to date with the 1960s. Somebody was leading worship by singing into a microphone. It wasn't as aesthetically lovely as what we'd gotten into in the Episcopal Church.
I don't think we would have considered Orthodoxy, because it was so associated with a particular ethnic background. But my husband heard Father Peter Gillquist [a former evangelist with Campus Crusade for Christ who converted to Orthodoxy], who spoke in Washington in 1987. He answered my husband's questions in ways that were very impressive. The next week my husband went to a vespers service in an Orthodox church and came home and said, "It's so beautiful. It's exactly what I want. You have to come." Well, I hated it.

Q: So what happened?

A: I was a reluctant convert at first. I didn't get it. I thought, "Well, now it will be more formal, more aesthetic, more elevated, more mystical." The earthiness and hardiness of Orthodoxy was not what I expected. It's fancy, but not fussy. It's beautiful like Christmas dinner, where you make it very elaborate, but then you just enjoy yourself. It's so much better than I thought it would be.

Q: You often write about gender roles and feminism. How did you come to accept that women can't be priests?

A: My husband and I believed in the ordination of women when we were Episcopalian. I assumed [the Orthodox Church was] patriarchal. I braced for it being old world and repressive. What I found is that [women's ordination] is not as vexed an issue. In the Orthodox Church you look at what the saints do, and there's so many examples of women doing extraordinary things -- St. Mary Magdalene, St. Thecla, St. Junia. When Protestants worry about whether a woman can preach, it's so beside the point. Thecla preached. Mary Magdalene preached. Of course women can preach. A lot of things laywomen do in Orthodoxy only ordained people do in Protestant churches.

I was also surprised to find that when I became Orthodox I was invited to speak at Orthodox conferences and retreats. I wasn't well known. But I was so welcomed, and they were so willing to listen. It never happened when I was an Episcopalian. They've been crazy about what I say. They love me.

Q: What is the Orthodox Church doing to keep young people engaged at a time when Protestant churches offer rock bands and encourage young people to come dressed in jeans and flip-flops?

A: The very fact that it's a difficult church. During worship you stand up for two hours. The whole thing is sung. You don't eat anything after midnight if you're going to communion. Every Friday you don't eat meat or dairy. Teenagers can get a kick out of that. They like being challenged. It shows their strength.

It's also relentlessly focused on God, not on your needs. Nothing holds people in the church except the Lord Jesus Christ. And the wonder of the Orthodox Church is this process by which you can cultivate the ability to tune in to that constantly, like St. Paul says, "pray constantly." It begins to put down roots, like a tree.

Controversial bishop defrocked in Russia's Far East

17:22 27/ 06/ 2008

MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Orthodox Church degraded from priesthood on Friday Bishop Diomid of Anadyr and Chukotka for criticizing the hierarchy and provoking a schism.

The Church's eparchial council also banned some clerics in the Far Eastern diocese from holding services.

"We have long tolerated every accusation and attack. His statements tempted people," Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia said.

Diomid, 47, has headed the Chukotka diocese since it was established in 2000.

In his letters, published in the Novye Izvestia newspaper, Diomid described the evolving ecumenism as "heretical teachings." He also criticized the Russian Orthodox Church for "implicitly approving instead of denouncing the incumbent government's anti-national policies" and called the church's consent to democracy a mistake.

He argued that monarchy was the only system of government blessed by God.

In an online publication, Diomid accused the Russian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate of "deviating from the purity of Orthodox teachings."

The same publication slammed the Group of Eight major industrialized nations as a body of global Masonry, designed to pave the way for the arrival of a single global leader, or antichrist, and warned against any spiritual cooperation with the "dangerous" group.

Diomid also demanded abolishment of the foreign church relations department at the Moscow Patriarchate, said the Church should refuse to communicate with people of other religions, and called for an end to tax payer identification numbers, modern passports and cell phones.

In a resolution, a working group at the eparchial council of the Russian Orthodox Church said there was no reason to consider anti-national the government supported by the bulk of people. It added that the Orthodox Church has always expressed its concerns about negative social phenomena, such as social stratification, demographic problems and the public promotion of immoral behavior.

The resolution said Diomid's calls for rejecting communication with other denominations and religions were a manifestation of sectarian ideology and schism.

However, the council did offer Diomid the chance to repent, saying the decision to degrade him could then be suspended.



Head of Orthodox Church commends Ghana

Casmel Ibrahim , 27/06/2008

The Supreme Head of the Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Theodoros II has praised Ghana, describing it as a "luminary example of good governance and prospect in Africa" adding that it is a "continent of the future".

Clad in his official black robe and a huge medallion around his neck, the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria said this a news conference in Accra.

The Supreme Head expressed profound delight on his maiden visit to Ghana as part of the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ghana.

According to him, the aim of establishing the Orthodox Church 2000 years ago is not only to seek spiritual welfare, but also to provide equal importance to political, social and humanitarian advancement to the world.

His Beatitude Theodoros II commended the local heads of the Orthodox Church in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria for the tremendous work done to bring meaning and an appreciable level of integrity to the Orthodox Church.

His visit to Ghana is part of his duty as Ambassador and will preside over all activities which entail a courtesy call on President J.A. Kufuor at the Castle, Osu, the inauguration of a classroom block and separate encounters with the Chiefs and people of Tema Newtown and Larteh Akuapem.

Orthodox heads from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana explaining the Orthodox faith, said their understanding of prophecy was not predicting the future, but challenging it, adding that the perception of some religious institutions and persons on prosperity is a total aberration of the real dictates of the gospel.

"Our understanding of prosperity is the upliftment and transformation of new life. The Orthodox Church has been called to present the light of the world not to follow the light," they said.

"Non pursuance of this gives room for leaders to say what they want to say and for Christians to hear only what they want hear," they added.

The Orthodox Church in Ghana was born out of the old African Universal Orthodox Catholic Church in 1982. It has thirty-five communities in Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central, Eastern and Volta regions under the pastoral care of 23 Ghanaian orthodox priests.

His Beatitude Theodoros II is the direct successor of the holy apostle and the Evangelist Mark, who established the church in Alexandria 64years after the death of Jesus Christ.



What is Orthodoxy?

Yonat Shimron

Christians in the West often see their faith as divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants. In fact, Christianity is divided into three groups, with the Orthodox Church numbering about 300 million adherents worldwide. It's the second-largest Christian denomination behind Catholicism; Protestants, while numbering more than Orthodox believers, are divided among dozens of denominations.

The breakup: The Orthodox Church broke with Rome in 1054. As the West saw the ascendancy of the Roman Catholic Church and the fracturing of Christendom during the Protestant Reformation, Orthodoxy continued in its age-old traditions, spreading to countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia.

A new world: Orthodoxy came to North America in the mid-18th century.

System of belief: Orthodox believers light candles, cross themselves and bend down to kiss icons as they enter the church sanctuary. The Sunday service is called the "Divine Liturgy," a nearly two-hour recitation of hymns and Scripture readings culminating in the feast of the bread and wine, or Holy Eucharist.

Local churches: In the Triangle, there are Greek Orthodox Churches in Raleigh and Durham, a Russian Orthodox Church in Durham and an Antiochian Orthodox Church in Raleigh.

Yonat Shimron


Raped 11-year-old girl will have abortion in UK, parents say

The Associated Press Published: June 27, 2008

BUCHAREST, Romania: An 11-year-old pregnant girl allegedly raped by her uncle will travel to Britain for an abortion despite a government ruling that the procedure can take place in Romania.

Despite strong pressure from a number of religious groups, a government committee ruled Friday that the girl could have an abortion in Romania even though her 21-week pregnancy is beyond the 14-week limit set by law. Abortions can only be carried out later than 14 weeks in Romania to save the life of the mother.

But the family said they would still travel to Britain for the termination.

"We are determined to go to Britain....there's nothing that can be done Romania," the girl's father was quoted as telling state news agency Rompres after the ruling. "On Tuesday we're going and that is our final decision."

A Romanian in Britain has offered to finance the trip and the family has already bought flight tickets.

In Britain, an abortion is legal up to 24 weeks if two doctors decide that the risk to a woman's physical or mental health will be greater if she continues with the pregnancy than if she ends it.

"'I want to go to school and to play. If I can't do this my life will be a nightmare,'" said a letter from the girl, read out Friday by health ministry official and committee member Vlad Iliescu. "The girl's mental health would be severely affected if she had a baby," Iliescu said.

The country's Doctors' Council, a professional body that represents doctors, said Friday's ruling was only a recommendation and any Romanian doctor who carried out an abortion would be held legally responsible.

The girl's pregnancy only became known June 2 when her parents took her to a doctor because she appeared unwell. She told doctors she had been raped by her 19-year-old uncle, who has since disappeared.

Romanian daily Evenimentul Zilei reported that the girl was depressed because other children in the village in northeast Romania where she lives were refusing to play with her because she was pregnant.

Theodora Bertzi, who was also on the committee, said that the ruling was not an effort to further liberalize abortions.

About 533 girls under the age of 15 had an abortion in 2007 in Romania, and 2,000 girls of the same age gave birth.

The case has divided Romania. On Thursday, 20 anti-abortion Orthodox groups called for her to continue with her pregnancy and offered to raise the child.

Child rights groups have appealed for tolerance because she was a rape and incest victim.

The official position of the Orthodox Church, to which more than 80 percent of Romanians belong, said it was "an exceptional situation which must be treated in an exceptional manner and the family is the only one to take this decision," church spokesman Constantin Stoica said.

He said the church considers abortion a crime, but this belief applies to normal circumstances and not to incest or rape.



Church persuades Russian sport fans that the country's grandeur doesn't depend on its football victories or losses

27 June 2008, 14:19

Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, June 27, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church urges Russian football fans "to keep cool."

"It was a great game of our footballers. Their result is a breakthrough of Russian football and we all can congratulate each other on it," head of the Sakhalin Diocese missionary department Archpriest Viktor Gorbach told an Interfax-Religion correspondent.

The priest confessed that being an Orthodox missionary he often communicated with teens and young people and saw how emotionally they reacted to the game of the Russian football team.

"I think it's not so much their love to a certain sport as their desire to see Russia great in everything. This patriotic feeling is understandable, explicable and arouses sympathy. Bur we should remember that the country's grandeur doesn't depend on its football victories and losses," the interviewee of the agency noted.

The missionary department head believes there is "very serious emotional overheat" in attitude to the Russia's results in Euro-2008.

According to the priest, "disruptive and sometimes inadequate reaction of fans to the results of football matches up to frankly hooligan actions shows not quite correct life priorities of young people as they don't realize what is really important and significant. It's necessary to keep in mind that football is only a sport game, though very showy and popular," Fr. Viktor stressed.


WCC NEWS: WCC visit to Egypt: Church unity and interreligious dialogue

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Fri, 27 Jun 2008 09:38:08 +0200

World Council of Churches - News Release

Contact: +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

>For immediate release - 26/06/2008 16:49:39


Challenges facing Christians today are too strong for a divided
church, said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in Egypt recently as he called for church
unity both locally and globally. Kobia was speaking during a
16-21 June visit to WCC member churches in the country.

Among the most urgent challenges for Middle Eastern churches arethe regional peace process and the migration of Christians, bothof which are addressed by the 2007 Amman Call, a document inwhich some 130 representatives of churches and Christianorganizations from six continents agreed on guiding principlesfor their work in the region.

A WCC delegation led by Kobia was welcomed to Egypt by theMetropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, from the Coptic Orthodox Church.He greeted the visitors on behalf of patriarch Pope Shenouda IIIwho was abroad for health treatment.

The group met Rev. Dr Safwat al Bayady and chairpersons of thedifferent councils of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church ofEgypt, also known as the Synod of the Nile. Kobia expressedappreciation of the Synod's contribution to the ecumenical workin the country.

The WCC general secretary greeted the Faith and Order StandingCommission, whose members were meeting in Cairo from 16-22 June.The delegation attended a session of the Commission, in whichthey discussed a study project on moral discernment.

The WCC delegation as well as the members of the Faith and OrderStanding Commission was received by Pope Theodoros II, GreekOrthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. Pope Theodorosbestowed on Kobia the Cross of the Patriarchate and congratulatedhim upon his contribution to the WCC. Kobia will be leaving theWCC at the end of 2008.

Interreligious dialogue must aim to preserve human dignity

The delegation met the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University andGrand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque Dr Mohammad Sayyed Tantawy withwhom they discussed the prospects for Christian-Muslim dialogue."An accurate mutual understanding of religions can only beachieved if Christians and Muslims see each other as human beingsrather than as representatives of different faith groups," saidKobia.

Tantawy briefed the delegation on cultural and interreligiousdialogue initiatives between the Coptic Orthodox, Anglican andRoman Catholic churches and the Al Azhar Mosque, considered bymany one of the most influential Sunni Muslim institutions."Preserving human dignity and procuring a safe environment forliving together should be the aim of all interreligiousdialogues", Tantawy said.

The Minister of religious affairs Dr Mahmoud Zakzouk met thedelegation and emphasized the importance of communication inorder to modify negative perceptions of Islam. "Islam is areligion of love, respect and peace; we reject all aspects ofviolence", stated Zakzouk.

In turn, Kobia emphasized the role of interreligious dialogue inovercoming misunderstandings and prejudices. "Christians andMuslims form together more than 55% of the world's population. Ifwe find ways of dialogue and we live peacefully together then wewill contribute to global peace", he said.

For this goal to be achieved, Kobia and Zakzouk agreed,interreligious dialogue cannot be confined to leaders, scholarsand intellectuals only. Ordinary people living in interreligioussettings need to be involved in interreligious dialogue if thisis to have an impact on people's lives.

A meeting with the secretary general of the League of ArabNations, Amro Moussa was an opportunity to discuss a possiblecooperation in the search for peace and justice in the MiddleEast and in Palestine/Israel in particular.

Members of the WCC delegation that visited Egypt:

· Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, WCC general secretary
· Mr Guirguis Saleh, Middle East Council of Churches generalsecretary
· Ms Sophia Shokry, WCC commission on youth in the ecumenicalmovement (ECHOS) member· H.G. Bishop Gregorios of Mesaoria, Church of Cyprus
· Mr Michael Spyrou, Church of Cyprus
· Ms Carla Khijoyan, WCC programme consultant for EcumenicalSolidarity and Regional Relations

WCC member churches in Egypt:
( )

>WCC work with churches in the Middle East:

WCC programme on Interreligious Dialogue:

See also the WCC press release of 12 June 2008: "Egypt visit tohighlight WCC Middle East focus":

Additional information:Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith,witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenicalfellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC bringstogether 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churchesrepresenting more than 560 million Christians in over 110countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman CatholicChurch. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, fromthe Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva,Switzerland.


Friday, June 27, 2008

St Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople

Commemorated on June 27

Saint Sampson the Hospitable was the son of rich and illustrious Roman parents. In his youth he received an excellent education, he studied the medical arts, and doctored the sick without charge. After the death of his parents St Sampson generously distributed alms and set his slaves free, preparing himself to go into the wilderness.

With this intent in mind he soon journeyed from Rome to the East. But the Lord directed him onto a different path, that of service to neighbor, and so St Sampson came to Constantinople. Settling into a small house, the saint began to take in homeless wanderers, the poor and the sick, and he attended to them. The Lord blessed the efforts of St Sampson and endowed him with the power of wonderworking. He healed the sick not only through being a skilled physician, but also as a bearer of the grace of God. News of St Sampson spread abroad. The patriarch heard of his great virtue and ordained him to the holy priesthood.

It was revealed to the grievously ill Emperor Justinian (527-565), that he could receive healing only through St Sampson. In praying, the saint put his hand on the afflicted area, and Justinian was healed. In gratitude the emperor wanted to reward his healer with silver and gold, but the saint refused and instead asked Justinian to build a home for the poor and the sick. The emperor readily fulfilled his request.

St Sampson devoted the rest of his life to serving his neighbor. He survived into old age and after a short illness he departed peacefully to the Lord. The saint was buried at the church of the holy Martyr Mocius, and many healings were effected at his grave. His hospice remained open, and the saint did not cease to care for the suffering. He appeared twice to a negligent worker of the hospice and upbraided him for his laziness. At the request of an admirer of St Sampson the hospice was transformed into a church, and beside it a new edifice was built for the homeless. During the time of a powerful fire at Constantinople the flames did not touch the hospice of St Sampson. Through his intercession a heavy rain quenched the fire.

Troparion - Tone 8

Through your patience, your unceasing prayer, your love for the poor and the help you gave to them,you became worthy of your reward, O holy Sampson.Intercede with Christ God that He may save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 8

We honor your relics, for you are an excellent physician and powerful intercessor;as we gather to praise you with psalms and hymns, divinely-wise and venerable Sampson,we glorify Christ, who granted you the grace of healing.


Bridging the Gap Between Rome and Constantinople

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko welcomes Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to Kiev, May 25. (Mykhailo Markiv/AFP/Getty Images)
June 26, 2008 From
Vatican inroads into Ukraine are facilitating a strategic alliance between the Roman Catholic Church and her Eastern Orthodox sisters. By Andrew Miiller
As the Vatican goes about expanding its influence further and further east, it has now set its sights on Ukraine. That is why Pope Benedict xvi sent his right-hand man, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to Ukraine in late May. During his trip, Bertone met with high-level Ukrainian political and religious leaders to discuss issues relating to Christian unity and European integration. At the end of his trip, the vice prime minister of Ukraine thanked Bertone for the Vatican’s support of Ukraine’s aspirations to enter the European Union.

Upon returning home to Vatican City, Bertone expressed his conviction that Ukraine is a vital crossroads between the cultures of East and West. He went on to emphasize the need for religious dialogue between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians in an attempt to forge further bonds of unity between the churches. This call for unity is picking up momentum from Rome to Kiev to Constantinople—and not just on the Catholic side.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church is an Eastern rite church that still pledges fidelity to the pope of Rome. Its major archbishop, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev, has for some time been proposing that a unified Ukrainian patriarchate for all Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, should be established. To facilitate this goal, he has also been calling for a system of “dual unity” that would allow his church to establish full communion with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople while maintaining communion with Rome.

Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew i has responded favorably to this suggestion, saying it would produce a situation in the Christian world akin to the one that existed before the Catholic-Orthodox split in a.d. 1054. Bartholomew says the people of both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have come together at the grassroots level and are now waiting for church leaders to reach agreements on remaining doctrinal questions.
Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders have already drafted a joint consensus declaring the pope’s primacy over all Catholic and Orthodox bishops. If attempts by the Ukrainian Catholic Church to establish “dual unity” work out, it will signal another major mile marker on the road toward communion between Latin Rite Catholics, Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Such an agreement would also likely pull the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into closer communion with both Rome and Constantinople. This patriarchate consists of Orthodox Ukrainians who have separated themselves from the Patriarchate of Moscow for nationalistic reasons. While this group does not yet pledge fidelity to Rome, it is friendly to the Roman Catholic Church because it longs to break away from Russian influence and further integrate with the European community.
The one group that probably would not move any closer to the Vatican would be the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Alexei ii of the Russian Orthodox Church is a staunch Russian nationalist who is rumored to have ties to the kgb. He wants to maintain his ecumenical control over all Christians in Ukraine and is therefore resentful over Catholic efforts to proselytize in Russia and its Commonwealth of Independent States.

As tensions build among the Ukrainian people over whether they want to remain in Russia’s sphere of influence or throw their lot in with a forming United States of Europe, religion is going to play a major factor. Catholic and Orthodox Christians who take the European side are going to have little choice but to rely more and more upon the Vatican for support. Those who take the Russian side are going to have to look to Moscow, because the other patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox Church are already moving closer and closer to Rome.
For over 40 years, until his death in 1986, Plain Truth editor in chief Herbert W. Armstrong foretold that the Roman Catholic Church would pull its Protestant daughters and Eastern Orthodox sisters back into its fold as it rose up to rule over a united Europe. The November 1963 issue stated, “The mighty problem of achieving [Catholic] unity is two-fold. First, it involves reconciliation of the Orthodox schism that officially commenced in 1054 and divided the churches in the East—Greece, Russia, the Balkans and the Near East—from Rome. Second, it involves the restoration to the Roman Communion all Protestantism which developed from 1517 onward.”

Russian political opposition to a Catholic-dominated European Union may present a future stumbling block to the Vatican’s efforts to reabsorb the Russian Orthodox Church, but that will not stop Rome from reabsorbing the Orthodox patriarchates of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Roman Catholicism is indeed about to become the religion of a united Europe.

Russian Orthodox prelate warns against praying together with Catholics

Moscow, Jun. 26, 2008 ( - The bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church have warned the faithful about praying in Catholic churches, and especially about joining in the services of Byzantine-rite churches that are in union with Rome.

During a meeting of the Russian hierarchy, the bishops discussed at length the question of whether it is proper for Orthodox believers to pray in other Christian churches or even in non-Christian shrines such as the ancient Hebrew temples of the Holy Land. "Until recently this practice has never been challenged," observed Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk in a briefing for reporters. But the Russian Orthodox bishops now recognize the question as problematical, and have prepared a statement on the proper approach.

In a report to the body of bishops, Metropolitan Kirill-- who heads the ecumenical-affairs department of the Russian Orthodox Church-- said that prayer services in non-Orthodox churches should be approached with care. He reminded his fellow bishops that the Orthodox tradition forbids praying together with non-Orthodox.

Metropolitan Kirill called for "special care and discretion" in any dealings with Eastern-rite Catholics, to whom he referred as "schismatics and Uniates." The Russian prelate said that "prayers in such churches are dangerous for the unity of the Orthodox Church as they are fraught with sharing in schismatic actions."