The Church, the Nation, and a Resurgent Russia

Recently, Monomakhos has been pleased to publish the comments of an erudite correspondent who took us to task for our admiration for the Russian Orthodox Church. Some of his criticisms were valid insofar as they went, but as we have pointed out in previous posts, Monomakhos is not about looking at the minutiae of events but at the broad picture. We strive to paint vivid pictures with broad brush-strokes, not sketches in pale pastels.

Hence, we believe that this particular correspondent’s critique of the Russian Orthodox Church falls flat as it fails to comprehend the big picture of the Christian revival which is currently taking place in Russia. (And one could say is most definitely not taking place here in America.) To be sure, the proximity of the Church to the Russian state may be a little to uncomfortable for some but it is wrong-headed to insinuate that a local Church can offer nothing to the civilization in which it resides. Can there be negative consequences for combining Throne and Altar? Of course, but it would be next to impossible for the Church to baptize a culture if it chose to remain aloof from it. In our own country, the abolition of slavery would not have happened had our Churches chose to “rise above” politics.

One of the hallmarks of a vibrant Church is the fruits which come out of it. This was something that Christ Himself said that we should look for. St John the Theologian likewise picked up on this motif in the Book of Revelation when he wrote to the seven Churches of Asia. Some were on fire for the Gospel, some were moribund, and one was merely lukewarm, just going through the motions.

We see something similar to this in the present. Some Churches are full of zeal, others are apostate (see ECUSA), while others are merely going through the motions, concentrating on boutique issues such as “climate change” instead of what’s really important.

Whatever else can be said about the Russian Orthodox Church, it’s not just going through the motions. Take a look at this news item. The Patriarchate of Moscow recently hosted an international conference on Christophobia in which dignitaries from all Christian confessions were invited. Muslim and Jewish religious leaders were also invited to participate. The very concept of “Christophobia” is is not a mere photo-op nor is it a boutique issue which makes it palatable to the glitterati, but something which is central to the Gospel. If nothing else, Jesus said that those who are ashamed of Him would have no part of the Kingdom of Heaven. On a more mundane level, Christophobia manifests itself in horrific ways in that it is nothing less than the rising intolerance and persecution of Christians all over the world. It includes everything from forcing Catholic hospitals in the U.S. to perform abortionns to hanging Evangelical pastors in Iran, to wiping out ancient Christian populations in Egypt. In our country it is manifested in the incessant, tiresome, perennial debate about Christmas and Easter and whether Christian imagery can be allowed in the public square.

If nothing else, Russia’s embrace of a robust Christian witness puts us Orthodox in America to shame. What are we doing here to promote Christian unity and raise the awareness of the plight of our brothers in the Middle East? What of the war against Tradition that is incessantly launched from the citadels of Hollywood and Academe? Essentially nothing. Any statements are perfunctory at best and couched in equivocal talk about the supposed “sins” of Christendom.

As for the raising the awareness of Orthodoxy, the vaunted Episcopal Assembly is barely going through the motions of activity. It was set up as a new and improved SCOBA but even with the blessing of the oversees patriarchates, has less to show for its efforts and nothing on the horizon. This is a travesty when we consider that SCOBA had already done the hard work over the course of decades, setting up at least nine different ministries. The transition from SCOBA to EA should have been seemless, with the augmentation of another fifty bishops we should have been firing on all thrusters by now. But what do we have to show for it? Where is the episcopal committee created to engage American culture? Silence. If our efforts are not mired in inter-jurisdictional squabbling, the Christian kerygma is muted because the different jurisdictions have different priorities and divergent emphases on Tradition.

Some things that are obvious, non-controversial, and fully within the bounds of the foundational concepts such as the freedom of religion are met with muted silence. There has been no mention at all of joining the coalition of Catholics and Evangelicals who have come together to resist the Obama Administration’s diktats which would force Christians to act against their conscience. On another issue, only Metropolitan +Jonah has sounded the alarm that the danger of allowing open homosexuals to serve in the Armed Forces poses to Christian chaplains who run the risk of court-martial if they do not perform gay marriages or counsel homosexual couples. These are no-brainers. Just eight years ago SCOBA had no problem speaking unambiguously against the incessant homosexualization of our culture. Why the silence now?

These are not the signs of Church which is on fire for the Lord. Clearly we are not apostate but let us not forget the fate of Laodicea, which was lukewarm. The Lord said He would “vomit them out because they were neither hot nor cold.” Thus, we at Mononakhos would warn those who disdain the Russian Orthodox Church to tread lightly in their criticism. We have beams in our own eys that need to be extricated first.

+ + + + + + + + + +

HT: Byzantine, TX

( – A Conference on the Freedom of Faith: the Problem of Discrimination and Persecution of Christians opened at the conference hall of “Danilovskaya” hotel in Moscow on 30 November 2011. Taking part in the opening were Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations; Archbishop Edwin Joseph Ender, representative of the Holy See; Mr. Massimo Introvigne, representative of the OSCE on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.

The Russian Orthodox Church has initiated the forum with support of the Christian Interconfessional Committee, the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Foundation and the International Organization “Aid to the Church in Need.”

Attending the opening of the Conference were representatives of the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Serbia, of the Orthodox Churches of Cyprus and Greece, of the Roman Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Muslim and Jewish communities, and the international, inter-Christian, interreligious and public organizations.

Citing the data provided by Massimo Introvigne, Metropolitan Hilarion reminded the listeners that every five minutes a Christian is killed for his faith, and one hundred and five thousand Christians come to a violent death in interreligious conflicts every year. Metropolitan Hilarion underscored the necessity of recognizing a simple fact: Christians are the most persecuted religious community in the world. He named Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Sudan, Nigeria, Etritrea, Somali, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, and India as countries in which Christians are most persecuted.

Metropolitan Hilarion, who accompanied His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in his visit to Syria and Lebanon in November, expressed his concern about the future of religious minorities, mostly Christians, in Syria, in case the political situation is destabilized and a civil is unleashed.

He underscored that not only Christians, but also representatives of other religious minorities are persecuted, and added that the governments of certain countries do much for establishing harmonious intereligious relations.

The DECR chairman noted in particular the historical role of the European countries and Russia in the protection of Christian minorities. He emphasized, however, that the problem of persecution of Christians has been hushed up in Europe for many years. “The European politicians, being moved by the spirit of political correctness, talked a lot about the inadmissibility of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other manifestations of religious or ethnic intolerance, but passed over the discrimination of Christians in silence.”

The situation has begun to change only in the recent years, he said, and gave examples of conferences and resolutions on the problem.

While describing the actions of the Russian Orthodox Church in defense of the persecuted Christians, Metropolitan Hilarion emphasized that the Moscow Patriarchate has come out resolutely against any form of xenophobia, religious intolerance and extremism. “It is known that though millions of the followers of different religions have been living in Russia, there were no religious wars in our country. We cannot be indifferent to the persecution of our brothers in the Muslim countries and hope that our Muslim compatriots will extend their support to us. We hope that our fellow believers in other countries share our pain over the suffering Christians and shall seek the ending of persecution and discrimination,” he said. He hopes that the problem of discrimination against Christians will be considered in the context of cooperation among Christians.

The DECR chairman believes that the Pan-Orthodox Council, currently being prepared, will state its opinion on the problem of the persecution of Christians in different regions of the world.

The Conference will continue its work till December the 1st. A communiqué will be issued.


  1. George, you are right on when you talk about luke-warmness in the American church, and you are also right on that the MP has shown a lot of courage and spiritual fortitude by standing firm for tradition and morality against modernism. These factors are a legitimate counterbalance to the criticism that the MP is too close to the Russian government.

    However, you present a false dichotomy when you present cultural “aloofness” as the alternative to a state church. It is very possible to be bold in addressing cultural and societal issues without being a state church and without being an apologist for government policies. Just a few years ago, one of the documents that was exposed through Wikileaks was a state department document quoting a Russian hierarch in America saying something like “of course we promote the interests of the Russian state.” I personally know someone who works for the state department and they had to leave ROCOR after the reunification with the MP. For those who advocate the possibility of an American church under a foreign patriarch, do they really believe that Orthodoxy is only for those who do not hold security clearances, and the rest of the population should be excluded from the possibility of Orthodox communion?

    There is no question that wonderful things are happening in the Russian church. However, the Russian church suffers from the same maladies as many state churches. A relatively small percentage of baptized Orthodox attend liturgy weekly. When I consider the Russians that I know personally, this is born out – a very small percentage of them are devout Orthodox, even though many may have been baptized. It has been stated on the discussions on Monomakhos that most of the high level Russian politicians are Orthodox. However, as my wife can attest coming from that part of the world, there are few if any politicians or successful business people in Russia or former Soviet republics that are not connected with the Mafa. If an honest person were to rise to power, they would not live long. This mafia mentality is diametrically opposed to the way of Orthodoxy, and by the way, the coercion of conscience by the mafia is no better than Obama’s coercion of conscience forcing Christians to violate their religious beliefs with regard to abortion and homosexuality. Coercion through force is always wrong no matter what the issue or context except for the very limited government role of restraining agression against others.

    • George Michalopulos says

      I agree with your assessment, Ken. It’s a fine needle to thread for any church, how close to the lever of state do you need to be to effect positive change. As for the percentage of people who actually go to Church in Russia, it’s low in comparison to the rest of the population but it’s far higher than anything in most of Western Europe. (Poland may be the highest at 40%). In England it’s 2%, France 4%, Greece 3%, etc.

      One of your points is debatable however, and that is that the ROC is “state supported.” I’m trying to figure this one out. As Metropolitan +Hilarioan Alfeyev pointed out in his excellent book, the ROC actually pays taxes to the Russian state which is a shocker. No state-recognized church in the US pays taxes. So I’m not sure what the actual relationship between Moscow and the ROC is, who pays who, who pulls the levers of power, etc. It’d probably be difficult to untangle it all.

      • ‘It’d probably be difficult to untangle it all.’
        I think ‘Byzantine’ is the word you’re looking for, George.

      • If nothing else, the independence of the ROC from the state is attested to by the fact that prominent church-affiliated websites ( seems to be leading the way) have been among the most vocal critics of the recent Duma election, running some pretty scathing critiques of United Russia and testimonials of abuses at the polls.

        That doesn’t sound to me like the kind of behavior one would expect from an “established” church of a “dictatorial” regime.

        And if you can close down an NGO, shut down its website and intimidate its employees by accusing them of being funded by the West (an allegation that is probably true anyway), you can’t do that to the ROC without having a PR nightmare and a scandal on your hands.

        Example: the foreign ministry of Uzbekistan recently complained that the Holy Synod did not consult the Uzbek government in appointing a new Metropolitan of Tashkent. As a result, the Patriarch canceled his scheduled visit to Uzbekistan. The Patriarchate does not need to consult a foreign government in making its HR decisions, was the stern warning from Chisty Pereulok.

        The Church may be established for all intents and purposes, but it sounds to me like it is properly carrying out its role of the “conscience of the state”.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Thank you Alex. Excellent points, especially about the NGOs. You know, back in the 50s, the HUAC was going to look into the constitionality of the various foundations (Ford, Pew, Rockefeller, etc.). A lot of NGos are supported by them and they are subsersive to the local governments. Even if they do good things (which is arguable) the fact that they are undermining native governments is a dangerous proposition.

          • A whole ‘nuther question, George, is how far afield these various foundations have wandered from the values of those who established them. Many of the activities of these foundations would have their benefactors spinning in their graves!

  2. Ivan Vasiliev says

    Thank you for publishing this article. The Russian Orthodox Church has taken the lead among Orthodox Churches in speaking to the real issues believers face today. The persecution of fellow Christians all over the world is of far greater concern on a daily basis than the politically safe issue of climate change. It is a case of human beings on a personal level versus the planet on an ideological level.

    Incidentally, Westerners–especially Americans–have a revulsion against the idea of a “state church”, but Russian civilization at its best is very much a product of Orthodox Christianity. In a profound way the Russian identity is deeply interwoven with Orthodoxy. Even the god-hating Communists could not ignore that. If you look at a typical communist parade before, during, or after the fall of the Soviet state you will see people carrying “icons” of their leaders, signs stating, “Glory to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union” (a parody of “Glory to Jesus Christ”) etc. In other words a parody of the Orthodox roots of the culture, but also a back handed witness to how powerful those roots are.

    Now, the Communist Party permits–even encourages religious believers to become members and there are stories that some Orthodox priests have encouraged voters to cast their ballots for Communist deputies to the Duma because of a general disgust with the extremes of market capitalism present in Russia today. If this is true, then Orthodoxy will have had the last word across the political spectrum and real icons may be seen next to the false icons of Marx and Lenin. (Personally, this gives me the chills, but perhaps it indicates that God appreciates irony).

    At any rate, the ROC is one of the few Orthodox Churches to consistently and powerfully address the deepest concerns of human beings. Whether deeply religious or not, the Russian people seem to appreciate this. And, by the way, over four million people have venerated the “belt of the Virgin Mary” in its journey through Russia. The lines standing in the cold in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere, stretched for miles. Name a western country (including the US) where anything remotely similar is happening.

    • The fact of thousands of people standing in lines for hours in bitter cold for a chance to venerate for only a few moments the Belt of the Theotokos reveals to me again the “spiritual stamina,” indwelling Grace, and deep faith of the Orthodox Christians in Russia. I honor them greatly because of that, and ask their prayers for the wellbeing of our Holy Church.

    • Ivan Vasiliev says:
      December 5, 2011 at 6:54 am
      “Russian civilization at its best is very much a product of Orthodox Christianity.”
      Or maybe, and more appropriately, the Orthodox Christian “Byzantine Empire”?
      I’m wondering if that also applies, to the same extent, to the other Orthodox countries.

  3. ‘And, by the way, over four million people have venerated the “belt of the Virgin Mary” in its journey through Russia. The lines standing in the cold in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere, stretched for miles. Name a western country (including the US) where anything remotely similar is happening.’

    Er, and this is meant to indicate what, Ivan Vasliliev?

    Perhaps that Russians are more superstitious than Americans?

    Even voices within the Patriarchate were warning against attaching too much significance to the visit of “the Belt”.

    I note that even you, while apparently drawing weighty conclusions from recent events, put “the Belt” in inverted commas. Superstition is the poor cousin to true, Christian piety.

    • Who says the veneration of the “Belt of the Theotokos” is superstition?! It may be so for some or even many, but not so by many, many more, including me.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        PdnNJ asks, “Who says the veneration of the ‘Belt of the Theotokos’ is superstition?!”

        My question too.

        I found Basil’s supercilious comments and superior attitude very offensive.

        Give me a peasant’s faith any day!

      • True, one man’s superstition is another man’s piety, I suppose.
        Let’s settle on a definition then, shall we?
        How about that of St Philaret of Moscow’s Catechism?
        ‘Superstition; when men put faith in any common thing as if it had divine power, and trust in it instead of trusting in God.’ As far as I am aware the church has never officially stated that the Belt is a true relic or that grace flows from its veneration. Thus the veneration of it is at best an act of piety or at worst a superstition.
        In any case, Fr Patrick, give me a ‘peasant’s faith’ any day too, namely the faith recommened by a certain 1st C. Jewish peasant: ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But Jesus said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

        • Basil, I must disagree, “piety” is as different from “superstition” as astronomy is from astrology. One is based on reality while the other on magic. As to the history of the Iveron Belt I must confess myself agnostic but the fact that it comes from Mt Athos must be a mitigating factor in its authenticity.

          And for the record, that same first century Jewis peasant-rabbi regularly attended the Temple and paid for its upkeep. He also upheld the Sabbath laws. I imagine he probably wore phylacteries and other identifying markers of His faith in order to distinguish Him from the pagans.

        • Basil, what do you think about the instant healing of the woman who was bent over for many years when she simply touched the hem of the Lord’s garment and He knew that power had gone out of him?

          • That would be the woman with the flow of blood (Matthew 9), PdnNJ; but your point is valid notwithstanding. So many miracles associated with so many material things (garments, spittle, shadows, bones of prophets…) it’s easy to get confused.

    • Many people in the so-called enlightened West have come to venerate the Hawaiian Iveron icon and the Kursk Root icon. I find your post very offensive, Basil.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Of course, we in America are not superstitious at all. We stand in line for hours to pass through Graceland Mansion to venerate the relics of The King. And then, after the tragic death of The King’s one-time son-in-law, the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, took time off from his retirement to teach us all how to grieve the passing of The Gloved One.

        • We Americans are a strange bunch. Fr. Stephen Freeman had a blog post a couple weeks ago that really made me think. People pay exorbitant amounts of money to watch gory movies showing people getting murdered, but God forbid you have an open casket funeral these days.

      • Well, Helga & Fr Patrick, in my defence, the invitation to post a comment here does say ‘Speak Your Mind’, which is just what I did! I certainly don’t think there was anything inherently offensive in my remarks. Of course, there are truly offensive things one can say, like saying someone is supercilious and superior, but simply expressing a minority viewpoint, i.e. that venerating a material object of unknown provenance is superstitious, does not constitute giving offence by any reasonable interpretation, surely? Perhaps we had all better toughen up a bit if we’re going to post comments here under that rubric? It is an invitation to free speech, after all, and free speech exercised within the bounds of reason and propriety is something to cherish.

        • Ivan Vasiliev says

          My comments, all, were directed to the faith and piety of the Russian people and their devotion to the intercessory love of the Theotokos. The exact provenance of the Iveron belt is not the point. No one–at least no Orthodox person I know, educated or not–believes that wood, paint, cloth, gold, silver, or any other thing has power in and of itself. That would not only be superstition, but idolatry. It is the grace that is imparted by what these material things represent that matters. The Orthodox veneration of saints, icons and relics is only possible because God has filled them with grace (precisely because they associated with those heard the word of God and kept it–the Theotokos first and foremost). This is no superstition, but Orthodoxy 101.
          Still, even admitting that there were some barely catechized people among those millions who went to venerate the Iveron belt, and that their understanding was superstitious, is it beyond all possibility that the need and desire for healing grace that motivated them could not be redeemed and transformed by what is still a profound act of piety?

          • Ivan Vasiliev,
            When you put it like that, I take your point.
            Pardon me if I offended you, but Russian superstition, as opposed to Russian religiosity, often gets me down.

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          Basil, evidently not a careful observer of grammatical structure nor a student of syntax, accuses me of “saying someone is supercilious and superior.”

          Those two adjectives, drawn from my previous post, described comments and attitude.

          So far, I have made only comment about Basil himself: Grammar and syntax are not his strong points.

          • ‘I have made only comment about Basil himself: grammar and syntax are not his strong points’

            ROTFL. I hear my Baba speaking!

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            PHR, unmindful of the simplest obligations of civility, wrote: “So far, I have made only comment about Basil himself: Grammar and syntax are not his strong points.”

            PHR is a knave and fool, and he apologizes sincerely for speaking to a Christian brother in this way.

            • Jane Rachel says

              Who is PHR and why is Father Patrick Henry Reardon speaking for him?

            • I know how you feel, Father PHR.

              Being a…shall we say…’regular’ sort of guy, nature reminds me most every morning – usually about halfway through my first cup of coffee – just how correct the opinion some may have held about me the previous day really was.

  4. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    I do not support same-sex marriage; however, if Metropolitan Jonah said or implied that chaplains in our armed forces could be court-martialed for refusing to perform same-sex marriages, I believe he is mistaken in that, and that proponents of same-sex marriage may attack the whole idea of traditional marriage on the basis that supporters of same-sex marriage are looney, inasmuch as they believe a U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps etc., chaplain could be forced to perform any marriage at all, particularly at the risk of court martial.

    • Your Grace, Metropolitan Jonah said no such thing. What he did do was warn the Armed Forces Chaplains Board that if Orthodox chaplains were in any way forced or coerced into performing such ‘marriages’, he would pull the chaplains under his authority out of the military. I take that to mean he would yank their endorsements, which they need in order to serve as chaplains. I also take it to mean that he will not stand for covert threats and retaliation against his chaplains for refusing to perform same-sex ‘marriages’.

      • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

        I just wanted to point out that no American armed forces chaplains can be coerced or forced into performing ANY marriage or other Sacrament, wither against their will or the teachings of their religion. This would be as ridiculous as the idea that a Jewish chaplain could be forced into marrying a Christian or Muslim couple or that a Muslim chaplain could be forced or coerced into performing the marriage of Jews or Christians.
        Now, commanders, not chaplains, are in some circumstances granted the powers of a justice of the peace and may marry people. I can imagine that if the Commanding General of a numbered army were a homosexual and directed a post commander to marry a couple homosexual lieutenants the post commander would feel that resistance would be an unwise career move. What you have reported Metropolitan as having said presents a hypothetical case which is, in my opinion, impossible. If Metropolitan Jonah or Helga or anyone else can explain to me how an Eastern Orthodox Chaplain could be coerced or forced under any circumstances to perform a same-sex marriage, I’d be willing to reexamine my conviction that the scenario is looney-tunes. Of course, we ALL know that Orthodox priests and bishops have , in the past, performed highly problematic Crownings ……but not because of coercion of being forced, but for very egregious reasons, including bribes and career advancement. We all know of cases where Orthodox leaders have blessed or even performed mixed marriages of Jews and Christians. But is the Chaplaincy is so saintly that no such characters are ever commissioned and would proceed to perform same-sex marriages. Now THAT scenario I can imagine: they could blame it on coercion or force. I just wish to point out that there exists NO regulatory force which can force or coerce any Chaplain to perform any marriage. Period.
        Also, the Metropolitan has no authority to pull any chaplains out of the military. The only thing he can do is proceed to withdraw a given chaplain’s accreditation. Otherwise, he would have recourse to the a spiritual court which could depose a Priest for not serving according to the canons and service books of the Orthodox
        Church. I hope none of our Chaplains advised His Beatitude that they could be now or ever forced or coerced to perform any marriages at all. Any chaplain need not perform any marriages at all. Regular worship services and counselling are the main functions and duties of our chaplains required by regulation.

        • Your Grace, you ought to know as well as anybody that people in militaries often have ways of causing departure from official policy, and of punishing those who do not.

          What Met. Jonah was trying to get across was that he would not stand for anyone pressuring his chaplains to do this. He can’t directly force a chaplain to leave the military, obviously, but he can give orders to his clergy, and discipline them if they don’t follow through.

          Furthermore, military chaplains have to be endorsed by the organization behind their faith, whatever that may be. In the case of Orthodox chaplains from the OCA, that’s the Metropolitan’s prerogative. If he withdraws that endorsement, the chaplain must either seek other endorsement, or he/she cannot continue to serve without violating that military policy.

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            Helga, thanks for informing us what i “ought” to know. Actually, I don’t personally have experience of that, so my “ought to know” is rather, ‘reason to fear that”. Yes, the military are not exempt from human error and weakness and are, therefore, subject to temptation to disobey regulations, laws, and commit crimes.
            What my experience tells me is that such criminality is less likely to be acted out in the military than elsewhere.
            And, you know, I feel I have a very good idea, TOO, of what Metropolitan Jonah was “trying to get across.” I, Helga, merely pointed out that the way he was quoted indicated that he proposed an almost impossible scenario to “try” to get that point across. Surely he knows, as do you, that he cannot “pull” anyone out of the Armed Forces, especially officers commissioned not by him but by the President. Of course, Helga, he can give orders to clergy and discipline them, but surely the Chaplains’ Board is very much aware of what he has the power to do. They also know he can NOT pull anyone out of the Armed Forces. I posted by way of requiring clarity in communications by those whose calling is to communicate. Further, who in the world advised His Beatitude that any Chaplain can be ordered to perform any wedding at all? I’m sure, too, that the Chaplains Board knows very well that any accrediting authority may withdraw accreditation. I’m sure His Beatitude would be within his rights and the canons if he would depose or withdraw accreditation from any Orthodox Chaplain who would perform a same-sex marriage as the result of illegal coercion or force, thus dishonoring the Holy Martyrs. I repeat that there is no LEGAL means of coercion or force available to any military authority to force any marriage whatsoever.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Thank you Your Grace for clarifying that. I take full responsibility for the miscommunication regarding my interpretation of +Jonah’s words. However you bring up an interesting point: since these chaplains are commissioned by the President and not by the Metropolitan, this causes me to fear that in time the liberal zeitgeist will overtake them as well. And since they’d be protected by the gov’t which of course will want them to perform gay/polyamorous marriages and/or counsel gay/polyamorous servicemen, then any traditionalist Metropolitan would be unable to discipline them.

              This is in fact what we are seeing at present, a metropolitan who is being actively hamstrung by those who disagree with him. It’s based on other matters at present but I fully expect that in the future an Orthodox primate will be unable to discipline liberal chaplains in the military.

              • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                You mean he’ll be as unable to discipline liberal chaplains in the future as he is at the present time to discipline liberal clergy who are not chaplains? Was he warning the chaplains board that he won’t tolerate their fostering the same climate in the military as now prevails in the OCA? He surely can’t expect the military to do what he is powerless to do himself! I feel his message to the Chaplains’ board was misdirected. he should have sent out a letter of warning to our Chaplains and all Priests that he will not tolerate deviation from the Church’s moral standards. As I tried to get across by pointing out that the military may not command any chaplain to perform any marriages or baptisms or chrismations, etc., nor to commune anyone whom the priest determines may not be communed
                The Holy Synod, under the Metropolitan’s leadership, should underline the principles expressed in their publications on marriage and sexual behavior, by publishing a SPECIFIC rule forbidding the performance of same-sex marriages by Orthodox clergy and clearly stating the canonical penalty (ies) for any clergy who would perform them.
                And, of course, George, no “gov’t which of course will want them to perform” same-sex marriages could prevent the Metropolitan from disciplining them if they do so.
                Here’s the question, if someone like Mr. and Mrs. Steve Brown were to persuade an OCA Priest to crown them in Church, would the HOLY SYNOD and/or the Metropolitan Soviet allow the Metropolitan to proceed against that Priest? THAT is what must be addressed. Addressing the Chaplains’ Board is quixotically tilting against a windmill, . and a diversion from what’s crucial.
                Have the chaplains in the German, British, Danish, Dutch, Israeli armies ever performed same-sex marriages? Is there any record of it? Hard to imagine our media would not have covered such events!.a Have any American military chaplains performed same-sex marriages?
                Have same-sex marriages ever been performed in RC Churches? How many homosexuals in the US Army are Orthodox? How many of them are in relationships with other Orthodox? Is there in fact a group of Orthodox homosexual servicemen or servicewomen who are advocating a right to Orthodox crowning of a homosexual couple?
                Who are these declared Eastern Orthodox homosexual servicemen/women who will be coming to the post chapel asking to be married by an Orthodox chaplain? How many Orthodox chaplains have performed one crowning of an Orthodox couple, man and woman at all? Of two? What is the proportion of homosexual Orthodox pairs to heterosexual Orthodox pairs in the armed forces?
                So, why not a Metropolitan’s encylical stating that same-sex marriages will not be tolerated? Such a statement would have much more weight with everybody, including the Armed Forces Chaplaincy, than any letter to the latter.

                • Jane Rachel says

                  Whew! and amen from the peanut gallery.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Your Grace, your reasoning chastens me. I’m sure your wisdom is a balm to my worries which I hope are needless. Having said that, please understand though that speaking as someone in Jane R’s “peanut gallery” (i.e. the normal workaday world), I’ve been living my life, providing for my family as best I can, generally minding my own business and –KABOOM!–the Church I joined about 10 years ago to help start a mission was by and large controlled by a liberal/ecumenist/gay cabal, at least on the national level.

                  As for my own environs, I live in what has been known as “the buckle of the Bible Belt.” OK, it is. But even here in our public schools we have LGBT clubs, transgendered clubs, etc. On the nite of the Sr Prom, parents buy hotel rooms for their kids because since they’re minors, they can’t purchase a hotel room for themselves. I mean, where the heck did all this come from ? If I raise my eyebrow at this my friends and family come down on me like a ton of brickes all but comparing me to Archie Bunker. How did we get here? From puritanical America in which premarital sex was a taboo to “celebutants” like the Kardashians making tens of millions of dollars and all because they happened to inherit the name of a minor member of the OJ “Dream Team”? I mean, the teenage sex-tape is now almost an obligatory part of a young girl’s resume.

                  Pardon my frustration but how did all this happen? Am I foolish to suspect that this will happen in our Church? I hope I am but the portents don’t look good. The Dean of the Boston Cathedral has sanctioned a pro-homosexual Facebook Group that meets at his church. One of the auxiliary priests at St Nicholas in DC openly rebuked another clergyman just because he used the word “sodomy.” Both men would have never thought for a moment to act in such a way ten years ago. But here are.

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    P.S. I agree with you. The Holy Synod should spell out precise policies regarding the performance of the Sacraments and th precise penalties that will immediately fall upon any priest who violates them. Of course, the fact that we are at this point of having to state openly and unequivocally that there can be no sanction for homoerotic/polyamorous couplings in the Orthodox Church means that the battle is alreay lost for the most part. What was once a no-brainer is now the subject of an extensive protocol.

                • His Grace writes:

                  So, why not a Metropolitan’s encylical stating that same-sex marriages will not be tolerated? Such a statement would have much more weight with everybody, including the Armed Forces Chaplaincy, than any letter to the latter.

                  The Metropolitan has actually sent such letters to his diocesan clergy and to his diocesan faithful. So all that’s needed now is for the Synod to join him in issuing such statements to the whole OCA, including its chaplains — and then for ALL OF THEM to actually ACT on their own words.

                • “So, why not a Metropolitan’s encylical stating that same-sex marriages will not be tolerated?”

                  He already wrote one, Your Grace. I also understand that he’s written other letters to his diocesan clergy on the subject.

                  • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                    No, Helga, you are completely mistaken. Metropolitan Jonah’s letter was written to and distributed to the clergy and faithful of the diocese of which he is the ruling bishop. i wrote many such letters to the Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West on topics that concerned me. Helga! Let’s not try and make Metropolitan Jonah into some kind of sacred cow or golden calf as some tried with ever-memorable Archbishop Job.
                    Are you now saying that I should have said “First Hierarch’s Encyclical to the Whole Church of Christ Sojourning in the United States of America?” That’s what I though a balanced person would understand by “a Metropolitan'[s encyclical.”

                    • Your Grace, you’re right to point out that this wasn’t a church-wide encyclical, but I believe he is hoping to get the rest of the members of the Holy Synod to sign onto an encyclical from everyone. Writing one by himself to the whole church might undermine that initiative: “You already wrote one so what’s the point”, etc.

                      Vladyka! The Metropolitan is not my sacred cow. At most he is my much-esteemed primate.

                      Does Metropolitan Jonah get everything right? No. I just criticized something he said at the AEI meeting, and that was less than 24 hours ago. I’ve done it before, and I’ll probably do it again. But Metropolitan Jonah is a good bishop and a good metropolitan, a man with a kind heart and fervent faith, and he deserves better than what he’s been getting from the people who should be supporting him.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Your Grace, unlike yourself, I have not had the distinction of wearing my country’s uniform. My own fears therefore must be taken with this in mind. However, I am firmly convinced that the spirit of the age will indeed force Christian clergymen to act against their will in time. This will happen first in secular parishes which will have their tax-exempt status yanked because they are engaging in “hate-crimes.” Then Army chaplains who would counsel a homosexual to heed the Gospel will be at the very least forced into retirement.

      Simply put, the obstinancy of the Christ-hating secularists will stop at nothing to destroy His Church. I wish I could offer words of optimism here but reality forbids me from doing so.

      • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

        I carefully put limits on what I had to state relative to remarks made by His Beatitude which seemed to indicate that the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps can force chaplains to do anything but obey regulations in their capacities as commissioned officers of those services. There are no regulations requiring chaplains to perform specific rites called sacraments, rites, mysteries, etc. of any faith community at all, but only requiring them to perform the ordinary and conventional and periodic worship services and to provide religious counsel to members of the Armed Forces.
        Now, in regard to what George has just publilshed above, I do not theorize for or against anything at all which is or may be attributed to the Spirit of the Age. If George means to predict a big decline in morality within the Churches of God, who am I to disagree? In theory, Army Christian Chaplains are encouraged to preach the Gospel as that is understood by the faith community/church which accredits those chaplains. If the CHURCHES begin to innovate on or reform their own practice and teaching vis-a-vis the Gospel, I do not foresee the Army stopping or hindering them. I do NOT believe the Army is capable of forcing any Chaplain to do or not do anything consistent with the teachings of the Chaplain’s faith community. There are no forced retirements for commissioned officers except by the statutes on retirement of federal officers. RIFs or Reductions in Force must be initiated on the basis of a budget, and these result only in reversion to reserve status (if an officer has not served the number of years required for statutory retirement), or the retirement of those who have already served the statutory limit.
        It’s only “outfits” like the OCA which allow the creation of ad hoc and kangaroo courts and which create bases for retirement on the spot, that may act arbitrarily. No, the Armed Forces are much more conservative and, one may say, “Law-Abiding” than some Holy Synods of the day. George, you should not think our Defense Department is as subject to arbitrariness as our American Orthodox Churches! What an idea!

        • Your Grace, I pray you are right. I am somewhat hopeful in your remark that the Armed Forces are more “conservative” than other bodies. (And I agree with your contentionn about the arbitrariness of the judicial process in the OCA.) But if it is indeed the case that the Armed Forces are more conservative than even society at large, then there is going to be a massive confrontation in the near future regarding the homsexual agenda. I’m not at all sure that the Amerd Forces are going to win that one.

          Instead, what I fear to the Armed Forces is what has happened in the American Catholic Church and (dare I say it?) the some of the Orthodox Churches, both here and abroad. And that is that a coterie of closeted homosexuals insinuated themselves within its clergy, ascended to the hierarchy, took over several seminaries and to this day surreptitiously direct policy by various means, including blackmail, the softening of standards, and making life generally miserable for heterosexual men.

          Again, I would love to be proven wrong.

          • The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a classic case of “be careful what you ask for.” One of the neat things (from a gay serviceman’s point of view,) was that this policy made it possible to have a “get out of jail (service) free card.” Just declare you’re gay and walk.

            No more.

            • Trey, my question ultimately is does the law which states that homosexuality is “incompatible with military service still stand”? And if so, how will it be enforced. On the other hand, if it is not in force any longer –and in fact has been repealed, then what about the Defense of Marriage Act? The basic question is for how long can the military proscribe gay marriage if DOMA is overturned? After all, DOMA must be overturned otherwise it violates the “civil liberties” of homosexual servicemen.

          • NickinUniform says

            I’m coming late to this discussion but as an Orthodox layman and serving military officer allow me yo make a couple comments.

            His Grace is quite correct: military chaplains will never be forced to perform any services which contradict their faith and particular canons. Not gonna happen.

            That said, the cultural changes happening in the US military since the repeal of DADT are significant and have disturbing implications. This needs to be understood in the context of the enormous grievance industry which has popped up in DOD in the last two decades. The amount of leftist agitprop force-fed to service personnel, regarding race, gender, and now deviant sexuality, would astonish the American public.

            Given that I now must ensure my personnel are clear on the “fact” that any sexual encounter with a female servicemember after the consumption of ONE alcholic beverage is “forced” and therefore a violation of UCMJ (military law), I’m just waiting to see how that gets transferred onto what the ROC aptly terms “sexual minorities” who are our new protected class.

            I can easily imagine a day, not far off, when servicemembers who are not “PC” in their beliefs – meaning they do not openly embrace post-modern definitions of sexuality – will face de facto persecution. +Jonah was on to the truth in his comments …

            • “US government do not tell me how to preach”. The beauty of separation of government and church.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Anna, if you rely on the forbearance of the governement to protect the Church, you will be disappointed.

                The U.S. Governement can and does tell congregations how to preach if they wish to maintain their tax exemption.

                The vaunted ‘separation of church and state’, as currently understood, was and is no where in the Constitution. The first amendment was meant to be a protection of the Christian faith from the predations of a national government (although every single colony had an established church at the time). Now it is used primarily as a protection from the Christian faith by any and all who are offended by us. We are moving from protection of the free exercise of our faith to a nebulous ‘freedom of worship” to “be silent you **)#*”! This is possible because in the political mind the current interpretation of the establishment clause outweighs the free exercise clause. In the modern mind the free exercise is somehow separate from “The Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion….” In fact, they are an integral whole. If the Congress makes a law that restricts free exercise (which means any and all preaching any where, public prayer, etc.) they have made a defacto establishment of a faith other than that they have actively proscribed. Nothing in the Constitution prohibits the states from taking whatever action they deem necessary however.

                Unfortunately, we are increasingly ruled by a tyrannical legalistic egalitarianism which the PC stuff the various government regulatory bodies and most political ideologies reflect and embody.

                If the Church preaches long enough and loud enough in a manner that displeases our government, we will be punished. There are enough folks in the pews and above who have bought into one or another of the dominant political idelogies (left and right) that there will be distraut people when the Gospel is preached if nothing else.

                After all the Gospel is nothing but a bunch of archaic hate speech don’t you know. Even the modern Santa Claus is too Christian for some protectors of the public welfare.

                • I see your point. If a tax-exempt group promotes ideas which contradict important public policies, then the group’s tax-exempt status may not be granted or extended. However,the Church does not have to take advantage of the exemption. Here is an interesting story if you have not seen it

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    Anna, since the taxing power of the government long ago ceased being about raising revenue but became a social engineering tool just opting out of the tax exemption will not protect the Church either. The government could then tax the churches into economic oblivion.

                    The point is that there is no protection guaranteed from worldly governments–only Christ. The biggest error the Church has ever made, IMO, was the creation of the idea of the synergy of the Church and the state.

                    If we are not always preaching and living the Gospel in ways that irritate the state and the culture in which we live–thus exposing us to martyrdom for our witness, then we are not properly doing our job.

                    When we get captured by the ideology of the left or the right or sink into accomodation we have lost our savor.

                    • I pretty much am in agreement with what you write. The topic interests me and I will do more research. I am reading the Church to mean all Christians. I’m not seeing the charitable work of the Orthodox Church at least not in my own parish and the surrounding community. Perhaps they are paying a hefty tax. The government cannot do for the people as much as the Church can.

                • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                  Michael, can you or anyone else tell me if the Freebro (sp?) Baptist Church has its tax exemption? If the iRS or “the government” controls the preachng and other activities of the churches, religions, faith communities so skillfully and cleverly how did they get a free ride?

                  You also indicated a belief that raising revenue and social engineering were mutually exclusive.
                  All government is primarily devoted to social engineering: punishing truants and criminal “elements”, channeling commerce into highways, rail=lines and sky lanes and so on, drawing community boundaries, etc.. Our Lord just indicated that Caesar should get his due taxes, but he didn’t say, only give that coin to Caesar if it’s for revenue!
                  The Ten Commandments and the rest of the laws of God in the O.T. are social engineering par excellence.
                  It’s true that the government imposed religious standards on, for example, the Mormons who practiced polygamy and probably caused the main-stream Mormons to change the practice of their religion in that. Was that a good thing or not? Was it constitutional?
                  Is Newt Gingrich a Freemason? R, Paul? Karl Rove?Bush and Sons?
                  What was ever-memorable Archbishop Dmitri’s position on Masons?
                  Should they be tax-exempt, I wonder?

                  • Your Grace,
                    Ah yes, the Westboro Baptist Church. Definitely rejecting government and social changes and as of March 2011, stil tax exempt. Subsidized hate was the article title. You’ve given me quite bit more to ponder.

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Your Grace, I’m not sure about where the Freemasons come in but to my knowledge, most of the governing elite in the US have been Freemasons. As for the Venerable +Dmitri’s take on them, all I know is that one of my godsons who was a Freemason asked Vladyka about his membership. It should be known that the man in question had become quite an upstanding citizen because of his Masonry and was in fact open to mystical experiences and the Orthodox aesthetic. If memory serves, His Eminence said something gracious about what Masonry had done in his case without actually endorsing it.

                    I don’t know whether the Masons are tax exempt. Anyone know?

                    And yes, you’re right about the clerical corruption in the RCC going back to pre-Luther.

                    • My understanding is that Freemasonry is incompatible with being in good standing in the Orthodox Church. The Church of Greece went so far as to declare them apostates.

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      That is mine too, Helga. Although here in the States the GOA regularly takes a pass at their members being Freemasons. I’ve heard that some of the other jurisdictions are lax as well.

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    Your Grace,
                    For the life of me I do not understand how the Westboro “Baptist Church” continues to exist except for the fact that Fred Phelps and his whelps are very accomplished attorney’s and very aggressive litigators.

                    The times that the Federal government has punished churches with either the threat of the acutality of revoking tax exempt status is when they have specifically promoted certain candidates–usually of the conservative variety. The policy is neither evenly or heavily enforce at this time. Almost all of the churches of which I am aware, including one here in my town, are of the fundamentalist independent or pentecostal churches.

                    The latest thing is the Obama administration’s attempt to greatly narrow the ministerial exemption that allows churches to hire and fire without being under the non-discrimination laws that most other employers have to abide by.

                    Howver, the desire of many secularists to continue to truncate the expression of religious faith to the church building on Sunday is clear. They will continue to slowly boil the frog for as along as they are able.

                    • another one says

                      The Phelpses are Democratic contributors and Fred has even run for office as a Democrat.

                      What I don’t get is why the Baptists would allow such to sully their name…..

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    Your Grace,

                    Taxes will always be for social engineering of course, it is that prior to the late 19th century taxes were primarily revenue raisers with social engineering secondary in part because of the use of taxes to attempt to quash the American Revolution by George III.

                    With the advent of the Progressive/populist movement however, the emphasis switched to the social engineering side of things.

                    I never once indicated the two were mutually exclusive–just pointing out that since social engineering is a big part of the reason for taxes, one cannot approach taxes as if they were simply to raise revenue.

                    Neither can one forget that the power to tax is always supported by the state’s power to incarcerate which is in turn supported by the state’s power to kill.

                    What is Caesar’s?

            • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

              What is meant by “openly embrace” in this context? Is Nick saying being passive will be punished?

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            George, the scandals of the American Roman Catholic Church are not about something that just developed in a society controlled by immoral, leftist, or liberal politicians. They are about what has been going on in the RC Church since the time of Luther, if not before. It’s the evolution of the media which has made it FINALLY possible for the RC Church’s practices to be judged by a mostly agnostic, liberal press and other media: hence by society at large.

  5. Francis Frost says

    Dear Mr Michalopulos:

    Your assessment of the support for the ROC is again uninformed. While over 70% of the Russian population self identify as “Orthodox Christians”, the number who actively participate in the church on a regular basis is less than 5%. This fact was confirmed by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokalamsk in an interview with the US Ambassador to Russia, an interview subsequently published by the Wikileaks group. (A copy of that leaked diplomatic cable may be found on Stokoe’s web-site archive). You may find the attached articles equally informative.

    While the Moscow Patriarchate holds meetings to publicize the oppression of Christians, the Moscow Patriarchate continues to oppress the adherents of the legitimate Orthodox Church within the occupied Georgian territories. For more on that, your readers may access the Forum 18 website which documents religious persecution around the world. You will note that Forum 18 has articles documenting how the de-frocked Archimandrite Vissarion Aplia the so-called ‘leader’ (not bishop!) of the MP’s “Abkhaz Eparchy”, personally led the Russian military forces who expelled the last legitimate Orthodox clergy and monastics from occupied Abkahzia. The Moscow Patriarchate stands self condemned by the Apostolic canons and the Savior’s commandments.

    The MP’s cheerleaders here in America are accomplices after the fact in the MP’s destruction of the unity of the Orthodox Church. The day of God’s righteous judgement and vindication of the truth is already at hand. (Read today’s headlines in the Wall Street Journal and the London Telegraph). The KGB monster Putin is going down and his acolytes in the Donskoi will follow in short order.

    Moreover, the leaders of the Ancient Patriarchates meeting in Cyprus last summer admonished the MP for its violation of the canonical order in occupied Georgia. It should be noted that these same Patriarchates presided at the trial and deposition of the Russian Patriarch Nikon. See attached article below:


    Window on Eurasia: Church Attendance at Christmas Undercuts Moscow Patriarchate’s Claims on Orthodox Nature of Russian People
    Paul Goble

    Staunton, January 8 – Fewer than two percent of Russian citizens attended Orthodox Christmas church celebrations this year, a number that calls into question not only the claims of the Moscow Patriarchate that Russian population is overwhelmingly Orthodox but also the special relationship it has with the state and the state’s spending to promote Orthodoxy.

    As Svetlana Solodovnik noted in yesterday’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” perhaps no other public organization has benefited as much from the tandem as the Russian Orthodox Church which has positioned itself as the moral arbiter of the majority and extracted both the return of property and enormous state subsidies (

    Most of that state deference reflects the personal convictions of the leaders, especially Dmitry Medvedev and his wife, and their views about the role of Orthodoxy in the life of Russia past, present and future. But at least some of it reflects the acceptance by the secular authorities of the Patriarchate’s claims concerning the number of its followers.

    (That second factor seems to be particularly important now given the growing evidence of religious fervor of the country’s Muslims as reflected in the massive celebration of Islamic holidays not only in traditional Muslim areas but particularly in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other “traditionally” Russian cities.)

    Because of the impact both of Soviet anti-religious policies in the past and of the forces of secularization then and now, far fewer people are believers and active practitioners of any religion than most religious leaders regularly claim. But no denomination in Russia has more consistently overstated both the number and share of its followers.
    Orthodox hierarchs routinely say that 65 to 85 percent of Russian Federation residents are Orthodox Christians, a figure that reflects their counting as believers almost all those who are members of historically Orthodox nationalities such as the Russians. In brief, they count as believers all “ethnic Orthodox” even as they dismiss equivalent claims about “ethnic Muslims.”

    Obviously, precision in this question is difficult to achieve. On the one hand, declarations of faith are very different than actual belief and practice in Russia as everywhere else. And on the other, the sources of information about such matters vary widely, with religious leaders claiming more and others reporting fewer faithful.
    But despite that, many in Russia attend to the numbers of people who take part in religious services especially on holidays as an important indicator. And this Christmas, which took place yesterday according to the Eastern calendar, the numbers of Russian Orthodox were both low and if anything smaller than in earlier years.
    According to interior ministry sources, approximately 2.5 million people took part in the celebration of Orthodox Christmas this year, attending services in approximately 8500 churches. The attendees constitute fewer than two percent of the country’s population, and the number of Orthodox churches conducting Christmas services about two-thirds of all Orthodox churches.

    In reporting these numbers, the Siberian news agency said that they once again “demonstrate the falsehoods of the demagogy of the Russian Orthodox church about the traditional Orthodox essence of the Russian people” and raise questions about state support for the Orthodox Church (
    “It is curious,” the news service said, “that despite the strongest propaganda of Orthodoxy, including in the schools, the number of convinced believers over the last five years has not changed” and that the Patriarchate continues to “exaggerate the real figure by a factor of four to five.”

    But it is not just in church attendance on a high holy day that the Russian Orthodox Church appears to be less widely supported than its leaders claim. This week, Archbishop Ioann of Belgorod, one of the most Orthodox places, released figures showing sharp declines in the number of practicing Orthodox there (

    Not only have the number of divorces now risen to equal the number of marriages, but the share of people marrying in the church has fallen by two-thirds over the last several years, from 30 percent to only nine percent, the archbishop said, statistics that he acknowledged showed that the standing of Orthodoxy as a “fashion” among the population has changed.

    But however that may be, the Russian state is pushing ahead with programs to push the cause of Russian Orthodoxy both at home and abroad. In the waning days of 2010, the country’s ministry of culture announced without much notice that it is spending “almost six million US dollars” on the popularization of Orthodoxy


    5 September 2011, 09:06 | Orthodox world | 9 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

    Patriarchs of the four oldest churches of the world and the primate of the Cyprian Autocephalous Church called the Russian Orthodox Church to observe its canonical territory.

    “Due to the events which have recently taken place in the Orthodox Church,” the council stressed the necessity that the Orthodox Churches should respect and strictly observe the geographical borders of their jurisdictions “as defined by the holy canons and Tomoses on the foundation of these churches.”

    With these words the pentarchy hinted at nonrecognition of a canonical status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchate as an “integral part” of the Moscow Patriarchate since the Constantinople Patriarchate stated in the Tomos on the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Poland issued in 1924 that it never legally renounced its jurisdiction over the Kyivan Metropolitanate. As for the whole Moscow Patriarchate and its canonical borders, the Constantinople Council observes the Thomos of 1589 according to which the territory of the present-day Ukraine is not part of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    One should mention in the context of the above the commentary of the Kyivan Patriarchate saying that the Pentarchy is the way of the Constantinople Patriarchate to show the Russian Orthodox Church “who is the boss” reported.

    Pentarchy (from Greek pente, five, and arche, rule) is a system of the superiority in the Christian Church of the five patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem) with the primacy of Rome, which came into effect after the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) when the Jerusalem Patriarchate was established.

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      I first smile, then chuckle, then giggle, then laugh, then roll around on the floor laughing whenever I read this remarkable headline which Herr Frost has kindly pulled out of the wastebasket yet again. I’m not the only one; in fact, these smiles, chuckles, giggles, laughs, guffaws and rolls on the floor are to that headline like the legendary wooden stake which dispatches evil vampires. Herr Frost tried to pull the stake out, so to speak, but i just can’t help putting it back in again through helpless, uncontrollable laughing. This is the headline:
      “Patriarchs of the four oldest churches of the world (sic) and the primate of the Cyprian (SIC) Autocephalous Church called the Russian Orthodox Church to observe its canonical territory.”
      That’s the same little scrub team of high-ranking bishops which condemned and anathematized those who follow the Gregorian reforms of the Calendar reckoning. Of course, all that handful of high-ranking bishops of “the four oldest churches of (note that word “of”: it’s also very telling) “the world”, seem to forget they ALL and their entire churches have fallen under their own anathematizations vis-a-vis the calendar and that Holy Russia, the Serbs, and a few other Local Churches are the only ones that seem to have observed even until today such conclaves as having had authority to pronounce judgments on people relative to the new moon, the sabbath, and holy days.
      Even funnier than that bunch of senior bishops of “the four oldest churches OF THE WORLD” issuing edicts like the Queen of Hearts’s “Off with their heads”, is that they are, in fact, demanding that the Church of Moscow and All Russia REASSERT its rights over all the Baltic republics and Finland, essential parts of the ‘Northern Lands” included in the original grant of autocephaly to the Russian Church. Yes, the Russians have been amazingly lax in letting bishops of the Constantinople Archdiocese reach out and interfere in those Northern Lands belonging canonically to the Russian Church. Oh, as they say, “The Days Are Just Too Short!”
      Genuinely Orthodox bishops are bishop in the world, but NOT of it…they are only sojourning here. Cyprian might apply to wood from the cypress tree..might. However, the denizens of the Isle of Cyprus are called “Cypriotes.”
      WAY too short.

      • Thank you your Grace for bringing this up. The news of this “warning” by the “real” patriarchates to Russia eluded me. I guess my original pessimism of the Episcopal Assembly and the good intentions of Istanbul are finally being laid to rest. I had hoped against hope that maybe, just maybe, there was going to be a patriarchal “kumbaya” moment but alas, they were dashed. The Phanariotes have no intention of giving up their supremacist claims.

      • Francis Frost says

        Dear Bishop Tikhon:

        While I hate to disrupt your laughter at the statement of the head of the ancient Patriarchates, you laughter does nothing to diminish the un-canonical and anti-Christian behavior of the Moscow Patriarchate and its bishops.

        The fact that you find humor in the degradation of the Orthodox faith, the destruction of ancient Orthodox temples and the wholesale slaughter of Orthodox Christians says far more about you that it does about me.

        The fact is that you have provided no coherent response to the MP’s well documented transgressions of the Sacred Canons, Canons which you once swore to uphold. You have provided no reasonable excuse for the wholesale murder of innocent Christians, or the destruction of two entire Orthodox dioceses, or the desecration and burning of the ancient Ghvrtaeba Cathedral.

        No, you simply find all this to be funny. Enjoy your laughter, sir.

        “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” Luke 6:25

        Do you not know that here is a God in Heaven who will judge even you ? Do you not know that you will be called to account “for every idle word you have spoken”

        “Judgement is without mercy to those who have shown no mercy” James 2:13

        May the Almighty, yet Merciful One help you to repent while there is still time

        • Monk James says

          I remain astonished that Patriarch Iliya of Sakartvelo (Georgia) maintains cordial relations with Patriarch Kirill of Russia in spite of all this.

          What does that mean?!

          • Francis Frost says

            Dea Fr James:

            Unfortunately, the long-suffering of the Georgian church is used as an excuse to deny the reality of these crimes against Christ. Despite the enormity of these crimes, His Holiness, Patriarch Ilya and the members of the Holy Synod have followed the Apostolic example: “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure, being defamed, we try to conciliate.” I Corinthians 4:13

            Twice the Holy Synod sent a delegation to Moscow to discuss the occupied territories (in the fall of 2009, and again in the spring of 2010). The Georgian Patriarchate offered to grant the status of a ‘metochion’ to the Russian clergy if only they would commemorate the Georgian Patriarch. The Russians categorically refused that offer and berated the Georgian bishops saying: “You Georgians are ungrateful for all we have done for you”. Meupe told us about that: “They stole 20% of my country, killed thousands of my neighbors, driven many more in to exile, and they expect me to be grateful ?!!”

            There is more; but what I can share with you is that patience is running out.

            Georgia is a very ancient land. It has been invaded, oppressed and devastated countless times. Yet only Russia has carried out these crimes while claiming an Orthodox Christian identity. There is a real cost to such hypocrisy. The Lord has stated twice in both the Old and the New Testaments “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay says the LORD your God”

            The Lord speaking through the Psalmist says:

            “Why do you declare My ordinances, and take up My covenant in your mouth? You hate my instruction, and cast My words behind you. If you see a thief, you run with him, and you keep company with adulterers. Your mouth is filled with evil, and your tongue weaves deceits. You sit and speak against your brother, and place a stumbling block before your mother’s son. You do these things and I keep silent: You think I am lawless like you; but I shall rebuke you and contradict you to your face…” Psalm 49 16-21

            The Day of God’s “righteous chastisement which impendeth against us” is already at hand. Read the headlines. Even Gorbachov is calling to annul the Russian elections due to the blatant and well documented fraud. This past autumn, the Russian military failed to draft even half of its goal, and among recruits, ethnic minorities (Nerusskiye Rossiyannini) all but outnumber the ethnic Russians. As Khodorkoskiy recently remarked from jail: “Change is coming to Russia, and as it always does, that change will come from the bottom up, and it will be bloody.” Even in Georgia’s occupied territories the Kremlin sponsored candidates were beaten by the opposition.

            The fact remains that he Moscow Patriarchate has violated the most ancient Apostolic canons and the Savior’s own commandments. The bishops of the ROC have have in effect apostacized from the Orthodox faith, and have made themselves unworthy of their offices, unworthy even of the name “Christian”

            The question for us here is where are OUR moral leaders, our moralists and upholders of traditional morality?

            Missing in action, one and all; or in the words of the Akathist “dumb as fish” !!!

            What utter uselessness, to sign declarations of the “sanctity of life”, while our own Orthodox bishops publicly bless genocide and ethnic cleansing. The Lord has his scythe and his winnowing and in hand and who can escape his righteous judgement ?

        • Mr. Frost, is it only the Russians you hate? You do seem obsessed with only Russian sins. I wonder why.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            Mr. Frost raises ver serious points. Various Patriarchs of the Orthodox Church raised concerns over the MP’s actions. They should be considered and pondered upon. The situation that arose that pitted Moscow against Georgia and previously Moscow against the Ukraine was more of a secular geo-political nature that unfortunately involved religion.

            It’s almost like Stalin opening the Churches to get Russian nationalism ginned up to support good Ol mother Russia. This is expectable and ver common in other Orthodox countries, especially in the Balkans between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria as it concerns FYROM, Kossovo and various Serbian national interests.

            This is why it is so important to separate nationalism from Orthodoxy.


            • Where do you find “various patriarchs” raising concerns over the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate?

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Patriarchs of the four oldest churches of the world and the primate of the Cyprian Autocephalous Church called the Russian Orthodox Church to observe its canonical territory.

                See Mr. Frost’s post above. This was my reference.


                • Heracleides says

                  Now if only they would do the same. Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot.

                  • Exactly, Herc. It’s like the MP and EP have turned the world into their own war-zone. The most egregious examples I can think of are MP intrusions (a church in Havana where there’s already an EP church, a church on the canonical territory of the Patriarch of Alexandria, and so on), but I know darned well that the EP does it, too.

                • No they didn’t. Please point us to the text.

                • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                  That is just what causes me to laugh. However, Francis Frost must have twisted ears or a twisted eyes or twisted brain, because he translated that as laughing at what the Russian Church may or not be doing. What a distortion, even for a fanatic ideologue like Herr Frost!
                  What a torrent of moralizing and condemnation he unleashed on me for laughing at someone citing ANY declaration by the “Ancient Patriarchates” (actually many of them packed with Freemasons) as authoritative guidance for anything. Doubly funny was their exhortation, so relished by Herr Frost, to stay within canonical boundaries, when Constantinople has been ravaging those canonical boundaries which granted “the northern lands” (Finland, Estonia, Hello) to Moscow!! Oh Frost, the days are too short! And you brought up the vows I made when I became a bishop, wiithout demonstrating where I broke them. Now that’s somewhat arrogant, spiritually speaking (if you recognize the possibility of such) no? Shades of the kennan (sp?) institute, which no doubt used to keep Frost’s toes curled up in delight. Where did they all go, Francis?

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            Well, in all fairness the attacks that I have seen on this board by various members against the EP and Greek overseas one can say the same thing in regards to people’s hatred of all things Greek.

            Again, it cuts both ways. The MP and the OCA, at least it’s laity finding it very difficult to even utter the word Eumenical for the EP.

            I think Mr. frost is just giving as good as others have given around here. So if you are going to throw it out you should expect it to be thrown back, and thrown back hard!


            • Carl Kraeff says

              I, for one, do not like to use either “Ecumenical Patriarch _____” or “HIs All Holiness_____.” My avoidance of these terms have nothing to do with the Patriarch’s Greekness; indeed, one of the few Patriarchs that I met in my lifetime (and the only one that I liked) was Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. My objections are based on my understanding of Orthodox ecclesiology and theology.

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Its his OFFICIAL TITLE as the first among equals in the Orthodox Church, hence Ecumenical.
                Just because you and I do not like it means nothing.

                The Patriarch of Alexandrian also has the official title of Pope, You think I like that? No, but is one of his official titles.

                When we the laity or even clergy start hemming and hawing about titles its dangerous because with those titles run rights and responsibilities. Take a title away and you take a right away. You take it away from the EP then you have set a precedent and can take whatevery title you do not like FROM ALL THE OTHER PATRIARCHS!

                Be very careful with this. Further, let’s say the Church has its up coming official Ecumenical Council, opps, sorry to use the dirty “E” word, and the rights and privileges and titles of the EP are set by council, which they were before, but here who cares at this point right? Would you like it then, or would you still protest? Protest…? Hmmm? were have I seen the word “Protest” before? Hmmm?

                Anywahy, we are now in the Christmas season so Merry Christmas to all.


              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Just so you know Carl:

                “As the Patriarch of old Rome was addressed ecumenical (oikoumenikos archiepiscopos kai Patriarches), the Patriarch of New Rome began to be addressed as ecumenical (oikoumenikos patriarches). – J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, 31 vols. (Florence and Venice 1759-1798), 6:1005, 1012

                It was soon after the council of Chalcedon that Patriarch Akakios (471-489) was first called oikoumenikos. A few years later, in a council held in Constantinople in 518, Patriarch Ioannis the Cappadocian (518-520) was addressed as oikoumenikos patriarches. Soon after, Patriarch Menas (536-552), too, was designated as oikoumenikos. Justinian’s new legislation (the nearai-novels), too, speak of the Patriarch of Constantinople as ecumenical. By the end of the sixth century the rank of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and new Rome, with jurisdiction over dioceses as described by canon twenty-eighth of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, was well established. It was used by Patriarch Ioannis the Nesteutes (Faster) (582-595). The authority and privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate had been accepted to the extent that by the ninth century the title “Ecumenical” had entered the state’s and the church’s official protocol. And it was not simply a honorific title.

                Now I will agree that Canon 28 recognized the EP’s Primacy of Honor. However, what was the extent of his Jurisdiction? the EP argues, which I disagree with, full jurisiction over the Orthodox Churches in the Barbarian lands. Now this may have been true for its time and political situation, but it is NOT true today.

                This is where the entire Orthodox Church NEEDS an ecumenical council to clarify the EP’s and every other Patriarchs’ jurisdictional and ecclesiastical authority in relation to one another. Until such clarification occurs both the EP and the MP needs to cease and desist in any and all claims until such council can be had, OR until a joint statement from the EP and the MP can be worked out and presented to the Church.

                Until such time we can beat each other up and say this guys dosn’t deserve this and Moscow has Jurisdiction over America, no realy the EP did, etc, etc. A council decree or joint statement from the EP and MP is needed. which one will happen and when is anybodys guess.

                So for now I am content to call the EP Ecumenical as a title of Honor and as a recognition of his Primacy of Honor and leave it at that, as well as recognizing the MP’s title of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia without getting into if this encompasses the Ukrain, Belarussia, Georgia, etc.

                Disrespecting these institutions and men does nothing but harden their positions, and make them unreasonable.


                • Carl Kraeff says

                  I do not think I disrespect the current occupant when I limit myself to calling him as the Patriarch of Constantinople or Patriarch Bartholomew. Generally speaking, I choose not to use honorifics whenever I can get away with it. For example, I usually use the words “vladika” or “master” when I talk directly to a bishop. However, if I were to find myself in the unlikely situation where I would be addressing the Patriarch of Constantinople in any official capacity, you can be assured that I would follow the prescribed protocol.

                  Nonetheless, I think it is more than grandiose and almost blasphemous for any mortal, except for the Blessed Theotokos, to be called All Holy. It is pretentious for somebody to be called Ecumenical just to emphasize his “first among equals” status,which was given to his throne on a political basis that is no longer applicable.

                  • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                    Merry Christmas Carl. I bid you peace.


                  • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                    If memory serves—for I was young at the time—Saint Gregory the Dialoguist, who referred to himself as “the servant of the servants of God,” also objected to the expression “ecumenical patriarch” being adopted in the Second Rome.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      In the spirit of full disclosure the following link clarifies Fr. Reardon’s citation.


                      What is instructive is how the word Ecumenical is translated or better yet mistranslated and misunderstood by St. Gregory if the above link’s contents are correct.

                      While we are at it if we take this argument to its logical conclusion such terms as Patriarch, Archbishop, Bishop and even “Father” should be abolished. Now that would be a very protes…er…novel idea for Orthodoxy.


                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      I also find the following article, by a Greek covert to the Roman Catholic Church, to be very interesting as well. Although as an Orthodox Christian I do not agree with his position on Rome’s Papal claims it does show why even with Caotholic and Orthodox discussions such issues as “Titles” are not always clear cut and deserve much study and reflection.

                      Further for us Orthodox a Council that clearly defines these issues, and many others, so all doubt is laid to rest. Enjoy:
                      Pope St. Gregory ‘the Great’,
                      Defender of the Papacy
                      By JAMES LIKOUDIS


                      A brief article attacking the Papacy has recently been circulated among the Eastern Orthodox. Entitled “The Universal Patriarch”, it originally appeared in “The Orthodox Christian Witness” [issue of] 8/16/81, and serves to revive familiar Protestant and Orthodox polemics attempting to show that Pope St. Gregory the Great rejected with horror the concept of Papal supremacy which allegedly emerged only with Pope St. Nicholas I in the 9th century. The evidence for this is said to be found in the famous letters of Pope St. Gregory the Great to John the Faster, the first Patriarch of Constantinople to be termed “Ecumenical Patriarch”. As the author of this anti-papal diatribe writes:

                      St. John’s new title ‘Ecumenical Patriarch’ was translated into Latin as ‘Universal Patriarch’. Here is where some of the papacy’s troubles began. Today’s papacy, that is.
                      …Pope Saint Gregory the Great did not know Saint John personally; he did not know that Saint John had not assumed this title himself, nor that he had not wanted to become patriarch, and that he was not the power-hungry, ambition-driven despot that his supposed new title ‘Universal Patriarch’ seemed to imply.
                      Alarmed at the thought that one bishop was claiming authority over all the other bishops, Saint Gregory wrote to Saint John. Thus, history has bequeathed to us these incredibly beautiful letters written by the saintly pope, letters which gently but firmly demolish the foundations of the papacy as it later came to be known and hated.”

                      The following quotations from Pope St. Gregory’s letters are given as “proof” that he repudiated Papal supremacy over the entire Church:

                      “Therefore, dearly beloved brother, have humility with all your heart. It is that which inspires peace among the brethren…What will you say to Christ, Who is the Head of the universal Church – what will you say to Him at the last judgment – you, who by your title of universal, would bring all His members into subjection to yourself? Whom I pray you tell me, whom do you imitate by this perverse title if not Lucifer who, despising the legions of angels, his companions, endeavored to mount to the highest?…But if anyone usurp in the Church a title which embraces all the faithful, the universal Church – O blasphemy! – will then fall with him, since he makes himself to be called the universal. May all Christians reject this blasphemous title – this title which takes the sacerdotal honor from every priest the moment it is insanely usurped by one.”

                      Our anti-papal author concludes:

                      “Thus, letter after letter, like a deadly artillery barrage, Pope Saint Gregory the Great’s epistles to the Orthodox bishops of his day fell with point-blank accuracy upon today’s ‘infallible’ popes, with their claims to supremacy as ‘successors’ of Saint Peter’s throne in the Vatican City.”

                      The import of Pope St. Gregory’s letters is totally distorted by our polemicist.
                      He is correct in observing that the title ‘Ecumenical Patriarch’ really meant nothing more than “the Imperial Patriarch” (since the bishop of the city of Constantinople had become in effect the “right-hand man” of the Emperor). When the title was translated into Latin as “Universal Patriarch”, it caused Pope St. Gregory the Great to denounce the title as “a name of blasphemy, of diabolic pride, and a forerunner of Antichrist”. But what our Eastern Orthodox writer utterly fails to note is that the Pope rejected the title because he understood it as involving a claim to be the one sole bishop in the Church (“solus conetur appellari episcopos”) – thereby un-churching all other bishops including their Primate, the Bishop of Rome! Such a claim was also suspected to represent an assault by the Imperial power on the entire episcopacy as well as on the divine Primacy of the Roman See over all the Patriarchs and Bishops of the Church. The mischievous title “Universal Patriarch” granted by the Emperor similarly implied the assumption that the spiritual jurisdiction exercised by members of the hierarchy derived from determination by the Emperor rather than from Jesus Christ.

                      That Pope St. Gregory the Great expressed traditional Catholic belief in the universal Jurisdiction of the See of Rome over the universal Church is clear from testimonies in his other correspondence — testimonies which our polemicist suppresses. For example, the holy Pontiff wrote:

                      “As to what they say of the Church of Constantinople, who doubts that it is subject to the Apostolic See? This is constantly owned by the most pious Emperor and by our brother and Bishop of that city.” (Lib. ix., Ep. 12);
                      and again, “If any fault is found among bishops, I know not any one who is not subject to it (the Apostolic See); but when no fault requires otherwise, all are equal according to the estimation of humility.” (Lib. ix., Ep. 59)

                      In gazing upon the battered Church in the East torn by various schisms and heresies and increasingly subject to imperial interference, Pope St. Gregory the Great strongly defended Papal power and the prerogatives of the See of Peter. Reacting firmly to the presumptuous title of “Universal Patriarch” assumed by the [self-]aggrandizing Bishop of Constantinople, the Pope took to himself the title of “servus servorum Dei” (“servant of the servants of God”) in upholding the authority of his fellow Bishops. That title would be used by all subsequent occupants of the Chair of Peter.

                      Eastern Orthodox writers often appeal to the “Church of the 7 Ecumenical Councils” (of the first 8 centuries) to justify their unwarranted schism. Pope St. Gregory the Great was the Roman Pontiff from 590-604 A.D. Acknowledged by the Eastern Orthodox themselves as a Saint, he may be said to have destroyed the fundamental rationale for the Byzantine Schism when he affirmed in unmistakable terms:

                      “Who does not know that the holy Church is founded on the solidity of the Chief Apostle, whose name expressed his firmness, being called Peter from Petra (Rock)?…Though there were many Apostles, only the See of the Prince of the Apostles…received supreme authority in virtue of its very principate.” (Letter to the Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria, Ep. 7)

                      Well at least Carl and others are in good company with our Catholic brothers and sisters that also deny the EP the title of Ecumenical. We don’t want him getting to big for his breeches.

                      Rome denied the Title Ecumenical because it threatens Roman Papacy.

                      Moscow denies the Title Ecumenical because it threatend their jurisdictional control in certain Slavic countries and abroad, usually the U.S.

                      Turkey deny the Title Ecumenical because it gives the Patriarch of Constantinople a legal standing that they do not want him to have as well as certain property rights they do not want him to have


                      The EP wants the term Ecumenical for all of the above and more.

                      This is why the Church in and through a council needs to define and clarify every Patriarch’s titles and the rights and priviledges that go along with them. Until then everybody has an opinions and it is truly known known who is right and who is wrong and who is just pushing an agenda.

                      Again, Merry Christmas.


          • Francis Frost says

            Dear Deacon:

            You are entirely wrong.

            I was raised in a Russian family. We spoke Russian in our home, and still do. I was part of the OCA, before it was the OCA. I am likely the last cantor capable of singing the Liturgy in Slavonic in this entire region. When our cathedral held Slavonic Liturgies for Russian immigrants, I was the one they asked to do it!

            I treasure the memories of the beloved Baba’s who taught me how to be a Christian. It is precisely because I learned from them to follow the truth and the teachings of Christ that I speak out on the betrayal of the Orthodox faith and the murder of innocent Orthodox Christians in occupied Georgia.

            If I rebuke the Russian clergy, it is because they have betrayed the Orthodox faith, and have crucified Christ anew, to use the Apostles phrase. The Proverbs say “better an open enemy that a silent friend”

            Tell me dear Deacon Brian, if you were driving off a cliff, would you rather someone warned you, or would you want someone to cheer you on a la “Thelma and Louise” ?

            Decide or yourself what is right. Either answer the facts that have been presented, or act on the truth; but don’t spout nonsense about “hating Russians” !!

            • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              Thank you for the personal background. I am surprised to hear it, in view of your many lengthy posts here and elsewhere directed solely against Russia, which have caused several non-Russian Orthodox I know whose business is foreign policy to wonder where you are coming from and what your interests are.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Mr Frost, thank you for your background as well. If I may, I still believe that your overall critique is unbalanced and unfair. You write a lot about the pathologies in Russia (divorce, abortion, etc.) yet you overlook the fact that that entire nation was subjugated to a odious and violent atheism that did everything it could to destroy the individual conscience. Is that fair? What about the very same pathologies we have here in the good ole’ U S of A? What excuse do we have? After all, we had freedom of religion and Christianity used to be extolled. Or what about Greece which had a state-supported Church?

              As for the immoral foreign policy of Putin re George, by what right did we take Kosovo from Serbia?

              • Francis Frost says

                Dear Mr Michalopulos:

                As for my supposed “xenophobia” please see my response to Deacon Brian. Perhaps you have forgotten that when you and Mr Tikhomirov wanted to have a “Slavonic Vespers” at Holy Trinity in Tulsa, (before you started Holy Apostles mission) I was the cantor you asked to sing for you. It is indeed a small world. I will simply point out that one side of my family originated in Lithuania and Russia. My wife is from Georgia. We have relatives in Moscow, Petersburg as well as across Georgia. I am trained to sing the Liturgy in Slavonic, Greek and English. If that is xenophobic, well so be it.

                Despite all the dust thrown in the air by those who want to elude the documented facts, the question is one of simple basic morality and fidelity to the Gospel. What the US and NATO did in Kosovo is irrelevant to our discussion. The US government and NATO are not Orthodox Christian institutions, nor did any Orthodox bishop dare to “bless” the US / NATO military actions against Serbia. On the contrary, every Orthodox bishop in this country decried that action and condemned it,

                On the other hand, the Russian leaders claim to be faithful Orthodox Christians. Five weeks after Dmitri Medvedyev ordered the invasion of Georgia and the assaults on civilian targets, he was received by Patriarch Aleksei and congratulated on his “Orthodox piety”. What is more the Russian bishops, Panteleimon of Karabadino- Adyghe and Feofan of Saratov, appeared with the invasion forces and literally “blessed” the missiles tanks and weapons used to attack civilian targets, weapons used to desecrated and destroy the ancient Ghvrtaeba Cathedral in Nikazi. I have already provide you with the YouTube video of that fact.

                Perhaps, you do not understand the reality of what these actions accomplished. To help you see, I am attaching an article on what the Russian attacks did to just one family from Samechablo (South Ossetia). Mind you, after twenty years of genocide and ethnic cleansing, there are tens of thousands of such families and with equally heart-breaking, horrific tales to tell.

                If you learn nothing else out of our conversation it must be this. It is precisely the victims of violence like little Dito (Dmitiri) whom Our Lord Jesus Christ called “these, the least of my brethren.” Matthew 25. If we fail to recognize the Lord Jesus in each of these countless sufferers, then of a certainty, He will fail to recognize US on the dread Day of Judgement. “Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you.”

                May the righteous, yet merciful Judge spare us from that fate.

                South Ossetia one year on: Georgians wait in fear for Russians to return
                A year ago, the Kremlin shocked the world when it sent troops into Georgia. Today, the war clouds over South Ossetia are gathering once more.

                Zaza Razmadze holds the body of his brother Zura after a bombardment in Gori, 80 km from Tbilisi, August 9, 2008. A Russian warplane dropped a bomb on an apartment block in the Georgian town of Gori, killing at least 5 people Photo: REUTERS

                By Adrian Blomfield in Gori
                6:19PM BST 01 Aug 2009

                When the dull throb of homesickness becomes too overpowering to resist, the former inhabitants of Eredvi perform a bittersweet ritual.

                The last Georgian Police check-point on the way to Tskhinvali. Check-point is located in Ergneti on the administrative border of South Ossetia. The Russian and Ossetian checkpoint is about 100 m further down that road.

                Clambering up a steep hill outside the Georgian city of Gori, they fix a borrowed pair of binoculars on the gutted cottages that, until a year ago, they called home.

                Closer inspection is impossible. Though Eredvi is just a few miles away, it lies in the breakaway province of South Ossetia and their way is blocked by Russian troops and the local militiamen who burned their village down.

                Though his eyes are weak and his body wracked by illness, Tengiz Razmadze occasionally makes the trip to the top of the hill, listening as his younger son Zaza describes the ruins of the little house at the end of the village.

                Mr Razmadze has no need to see for himself. He lived through the destruction of his home, refusing to leave even as the roar of Russian bombers filled the skies during five days of war last August, killing his neighbours and striking his house.

                It was only as Ossetian militiamen, bent on revenge, embarked on drunken looting sprees in Georgian villages like Eredvi that lay on Ossetian soil, that he finally decided to flee. He reached Gori, a supposedly safe sanctuary deep in undisputed Georgian territory, only to find that his older son Zviadi had just been buried, after being killed in a Russian air strike.

                Zaza Razmadze saw the explosions that killed his brother. Running through the choking dust and smoke that darkened the sky above Gori, he stumbled on his body in the forecourt of the block of flats where Zvio, as his family knew him, lived.

                It was here that The Sunday Telegraph came across Zaza Razmadze, cradling his brother’s head in his arms and imploring him to live as he ripped off his own shirt to try to staunch his wounds.

                Photographs of his grief were to become the defining images of the short but brutish war Georgia and Russia fought a year ago, images so compelling that the Kremlin sought to dismiss them as fabrication.

                In the garage where the two men worked together, Zaza Razmadze has built a shrine to the brother he loved, a small fountain above which he has carved the word’s “Zvio’s Stream”.
                Jerkily he recalled that hot August day, explaining that – unbeknown to him – as he tended Zvio’s body his brother’s wife, eight months pregnant, was also dying in the flat above.
                “They had left the previous day,” he said with quiet but forceful bitterness. “I still don’t know why they came back.”

                The only person who could answer that question is his nephew, eight-year-old Dito. Wounded in the blast that killed his parents, Dito is still to traumatised to speak of what happened.

                Two months ago, Zaza Razmadze got married. But any happiness that brought remains clouded by grief and anger, emotions that are caused to burn more deeply by a conflict that was frozen but never resolved – and by talk of a new war.

                “If war resumes, every citizen of Gori will fight,” he said. “Even the women will fight, even my new wife. We have nothing to lose.”

                In the 12 months since a war that stunned the world, Georgia has slipped from its consciousness.
                Yet tensions remain high. At least 28 Georgian policemen patrolling the administrative boundary have been killed by sniper fire or remotely detonated mines since the end of the war. At border crossings, now sealed, Georgian and Russian guns remain trained on each other. Less than 100 yards separate the Russian and Georgian flags that flutter above identical dugouts, protected by sandbags and concrete barriers at the crossing of Ergneti.

                Capt Zura, the officer commanding the Georgian side of the line, pointed out Russian sniper positions on the roof of an abandoned hotel. “The Russians make a lot of trouble, especially at night when they are drunk,” he said.

                Later that evening, Georgian officers at a nearby crossing said they had come under fire, claiming that a rocket-propelled grenade had exploded above their positions.
                Such is the instability that the International Crisis Group, a leading conflict prevention think tank, warned in June that “extensive fighting could again erupt.”

                A European Union investigation is still trying to establish who was responsible for last year’s war, which ended in a humiliating battlefield rout for the Georgian army. But western diplomats in Tblisi say it is fairly clear that Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s pro-western president, walked into a carefully laid Russian trap by launching a massive assault against the Ossetian rebels, who had long enjoyed Moscow’s support.

                Some military analysts in Moscow say that Russia is now contemplating a new war to oust Mr Saakashvili, whose determination to seek Nato membership for Georgia has consistently infuriated the Kremlin.

                Remarkably, the Georgian leader has defied widespread predictions that failure in the war would cost him his job – despite four months of protests called by Georgia’s fragmented opposition.
                But elsewhere, the omens do not look good. Since recognising the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Kremlin-backed rebel enclave in Georgia, Russia has deployed thousands of troops in both provinces and has begun building new military bases.

                The Russian defence ministry angrily declined immediate comment on its troop levels in the two provinces and accused The Sunday Telegraph of failing to respect its dignity.
                The Kremlin has also forced the withdrawal of two international observer missions from the conflict zone and, in breach of its ceasefire commitments, has prevented the third, the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), from operating in either South Ossetia or Abkhazia.
                Even more worryingly, the EUMM came under attack for the first time when an ambulance driver was killed in an assault on a monitors’ convoy near Abkhazia in June.

                “It was a definite attack on the EUMM,” said Steve Bird, a Foreign Office official attached to the mission. “The mine used in the attack was remotely detonated.”

                The EUMM says that Georgia has abided by the ceasefire agreements, brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, that ended last year’s war, but the Russians have not.

                In one of its most contentious moves, Russia used the days after the ceasefire to seize control of Akhalgori, a largely Georgian district of South Ossetia that had been under government control for over a decade.

                Russia now allows buses to carry displaced Georgians to their homes in Akhalgori, which – unlike those elsewhere in Ossetia – have largely escaped the arsonists. But most are still too afraid to stay for long.

                The Sunday Telegraph received a brusquer welcome at the Russian checkpoint when it sought permission to take photographs of buses crossing into Akhalgori. “Go and take your pictures in Georgia,” the Russian commanding officer said, before stalking off in a rage.
                Observers suspect that Russia’s tactics are partly aimed at laying the groundwork for a new war. A pretext could be created, they say, either by engineering a cross-border incident that results in Russian casualties – or by accusing Georgia of helping anti-Kremlin rebels in Russia’s nearby North Caucasus region.

                In a potentially disturbing omen, Russia on Saturday threatened to “use all available force and means” to defend its civilians after claiming that Georgia had launched several attacks on the separatist capital Tskhinvali in recent days. Georgia denied the allegations and the EUMM said it had been unable to verify Russia’s claims.

                Last week it also claimed that North Caucasus rebels were operating in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge.
                “There is definitely a pattern to what the Kremlin is doing,” said a senior Western diplomat in Tbilisi. He said that Moscow wanted control over Georgia, both to prevent the construction of a gas pipeline that would reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and to find an easier way of supplying its own troops in Armenia.

                But with Russia unlikely to find a pliant successor to Mr Saakashvili, the diplomat said a major war was unlikely. Instead, he predicted that Russia would make creeping advances deeper into Georgian territory or launch occasional bombing raids, as part of a campaign to destabilise its neighbour.

                “Georgia would protest to the international community but without guaranteed success,” he said. “The law of the strongest will apply.”

                In the meantime, for tens of thousands of Georgians uprooted from their homes or scarred from those few days of war, daily life grows ever more desperate.

                Over three days last week, The Sunday Telegraph revisited villages in Georgia that bore the brunt of the Russian advance and the brutal reprisals by the accompanying Ossetian militias.
                The border village of Ergneti has been all but abandoned, save for the occasional family that ekes out an existence in the charred ruins of their homes.

                Ivane Dvalishvili showed us the rusted remains of his grandson’s first bicycle, almost all he had salvaged from the rubble. His 80-year-old neighbour, Gaioz, had neatly swept his destroyed possessions into large piles by the blackened walls of his house.

                A year ago, during an intense Russian arterial assault, the Sunday Telegraph took shelter with Makhvala Orshuashvili by the wall of her garden in the village of Tkviavi, where she fed us peaches from her orchard, shouting over the noise of the shells. We found her where we left her, sitting on a bench outside the garden – only this time she was wearing a black headscarf to denote mourning.

                When the Ossetians came through, raping and pillaging, they came across her husband returning home with bread. Telling him to run, they shot him in the back and he died later of starvation after rejecting food. Makhvala cowered in terror inside her house, listening as the drunken soldiers played a stolen guitar on the street outside.

                Back in Gori, stung by the financial crisis and the aftershocks of war, Zaza Razmadze is lucky if he takes home more than £5 a day, half what he earned before the conflict. With that he must support the families of eight relatives who were also forced out of Ossetia when the militias embarked on what the Council of Europe has described as a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Georgians.

                The Georgians of South Ossetia, about 25,000, are now housed in identikit camps that have mushroomed near the administrative boundary with the rebellious province. A small, whitewashed cottage in one of the camps now houses Zaza Razmadze’s father, Tengiz. Blind in one eye, his eyesight failing in the other, Mr Razmadze ekes out an existence in his half-painted rooms, furnished with only a narrow bed, a flimsy table and a small television, on the £17 a month provided by the state.

                Like other Georgians in South Ossetia, he was never rich. But the fecund soil allowed them to create fruit orchards and vegetable gardens. In their new accommodation, Ossetia’s displaced can no longer fend for themselves.

                Tengiz Razmadze seems a broken man, much older than his 60 years. He is trying to summon up the mental and physical strength to commemorate the first anniversary of his son’s death on Aug 9. But it will be a struggle. “I don’t know if I can survive the pain and sorrow again,” he said.

                Post-script: The EU report by ambassador Heidi Tagliavini declared “Georgia fired first” while admitting that the Georgians fired “first” after weeks of shelling by the Russian and Ossetian militias. This past week the same Ms Tagliaini issued a report denouncing the Recent Russian parliamentary election as fraudulent a rigged to benefit Putin’s “United Russia” party, which Russian now refer to as “The Party of Crooks and Thieves”.

                • Mr Frost, please note that I did not accuse you of “xenophobia.” I made this assertion about some of the “ancient” patriarchates (a curious locution if you ask me). As such your argument is disingenuous. As for bringing up the names of friends of mine, I am speechless as these people are not germane to the argument at all. Common decency compels us both to address the issues at hand without recourse to bringing up mutual friends and acquaintances –whether for good or ill.

                  As for the litany of horrors that you describe being perpetrated by the Russian government against Georgia, unless you can document that His Holiness +Kirill ordered this action, I fail to see how this can be laid at the feet of the ROC. Moreover, the fact that our country is not an “Orthodox” nation in no way excuses the atrocity performed against the Serbians by us.

                  • Francis Frost says

                    Dear Mr Michalopulos:

                    Again, you are ill informed. Patriarch Kirill and his synod are intimately involved in the aggression against the Georgian nation and the Georgian Orthodox Church.

                    First, the renegade Archimandrite Visarion Aplia who renounced his monastic and ecclesiastical obedience to Metropolitan Daniel (the legitimate Orthodox bishop of Pistunda, Sokhumi and all Abkhazia) has been received without a canonical release by the MP and has con-celebrated even with Patriarch Kirill. (see the attached articles) This same Visarion Aplia was awarded the Order of St Seraphim “on behalf of Patriarch Kirill and the entire holy Synod” of the MP. (view the you Tube videos “Orthodox Occupation” and Orthodox Occupancy Part I & Part II ” This same Visarion Apliaa led the military forces that drove out the last legitimate Orthodox clergy from occupied Gali / Kodori (eastern Abkhazia).

                    During, the 2008 invasion the Russian bishops Panteleimon of Karabadino-Adyghe and Feofan of Sartatov accompanied the invasion forces and publicly “blessed” the weapons used to inflict the horrors on the innocent Orthodox populations, weapons used to destroy the very house of God in Nikazi.

                    Patriarch Kirill and his synod are individually and corporately guilty for their participation in these crimes against humanity, crimes against Christ.

                    You can view the video for yourself. you may re-ead the following articles which document the MP violations of the canons, and its participation in genocide and ethnic cleansing.

                    The 2008 documentary “Orthodox Occupation” has been re-released and posted on You Tube at the following url:


                    Portions of this documentary plus additional footage are now available with English voice over at the following urls:



                    The following articles give details of the most recent events in occupied Abkhazia

                    “It’s the Weak Link that Breaks. Abkhazia, the Next Weak Link in the Russian Church’s Diplomacy” by Alexander Soldatov; Portal-Credo.Ru web-site article

                    Original article (in Russian):

                    The Moscow Patriarchate has perhaps the world’s most powerful ecclesiastical-political structure. The quasi-state Russian Church does not suffer from lack of funding. Well, perhaps, there is a lack of personnel; there are not enough creative people in the numerous structures of the Patriarchate, who are enthused by the high ideal of service to the Church for the sake of God’s truth on earth. Also this is a pragmatic time, and the political-economic situation of the ROC-MP does not evoke a romantic mood. If you do not accept as a “National Idea” the nostalgic celebration of May 9th (Victory over

                    Fascism Day- translator); you’ll have to admit the “Monetocratia” the power of money and the faith in its huge, wonderworking might has become the genuine national idea in most of the post-Soviet space.

                    Since the Russian Orthodox Church acquired “an effective manager” as its head, it has articulated just such a mindset and set of values in its church policy. Patriarch Kirill realized that the time had passed when unpaid church workers would labor ‘for the glory of God’ and that in order to implement its ‘missionary imperative’, the church would require a solid financial policy and sound economic base. Hence the transfer of vast properties to the Church’s estate, the public financing of religious education in the schools and chaplaincies for the military; the creation of state sponsored ‘endowment funds” for the most significant monasteries and parishes. In addressing issues of foreign policy, the Patriarch also routinely relies on the Russian government.

                    It is no secret to Russians that the wars in Chechnya and the Caucasus region were only concluded by the permanent infusion into the “secessionist regions” of multi-billion ruble subsidies from Moscow. Nor is it a secret that huge sums of money were invested in the restoration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose independence the Russian Federation recognized after the end of its victorious war against a fearsome opponent – Georgia. The Russian government even expended its financial resources in order to acquire recognition of the “newly independent states” by the governments of Nauru and Nicaragua. The authorities of the microscopic island of Nauru did not even hide the kind of sums they were paid for their recognition of the independence of the two Georgian regions.

                    For its part, the Moscow Patriarchate also invested its substance in the creation of an independent Abkhaz diocese. Despite the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church recognizes the jurisdiction of the Georgian Church over Abkhazia, Sukhumi and Novy Afon (New Athos), the ROC is constantly sending priests of the neighboring Maikop diocese into Abkahzia to serve there. Moreover, the Russian Church has dispatched to Abkhazia its chief public relations asset, Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev, who in recent months has carried out successful interventions in the various “hot spots” of the post-Soviet Oikumene. His trip to Moldova of last autumn was memorable for his accomplishment of extinguishing the “fire of a new schism” in the face of the conservative Society of the Blessed Matrona of Moscow. That crew consisted of three priests of the Udmurt diocese, who had ceased the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill; a fact of which, alas, Moscow had not been forewarned. And so we have an example of Fr. Andrei’s successful efforts to prevent schisms on the territories of one of Russia’s central regions.

                    Officially in Abkhazia since last fall, Fr Andrei has been lecturing at the university, rides around on aMoped, and lives with a pious family, who had moved to the ‘land of the soul’ from stifling Moscow. Unofficially, Fr Andrei is steering the process of forming an autocephalous Abkhaz Church, whose autocephaly will be just as real as the Abkhaz’s government’s supposed sovereignty.

                    If we accept Fr Andrei as the “overseer” over the Abkhaz Church, the main lever of control over the Abkhaz Church is the priest Vissarion (Besarion in both Georgian and Apsynni languages – translator) Apliaa, who has served in Pitsunda since the Soviet era, when he went by the surname, “Plia” which sounds better in the Russian language. Having tested the waters in several jurisdictions during the Georgian- Abkhaz war, Fr Vissarion came to the conclusion that only the Moscow Patriarchate could successfully support and defend the Abkhaz Church. Fr. Vissarion often travels to Moscow, where he serves with the local clergy including the Patriarch, despite the questionable canonical status of the Abkhaz clergy. Fr Vissaraion elevates the name of the Patriarch of Moscow during the services, although he never was granted a canonical release by the Georgian Patriarchate. This course of action, however, is consistent with the stated policy of the Abkhaz authorities, who carry out Moscow’s orders and are more loyal to the Kremlin than any other region subject to the Russian Federation.

                    Such a “narrow and puppet-like” position as shown by Fr Vissarion – a representative of the old Soviet generation of the clergy – has not found favor with the younger generation of Abkhaz clergy, formed under conditions of independence, who seek to incorporate the Abkhaz church into the system of “World Orthodoxy” rather than relegate it to the status of a provincial diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church –Moscow Patriarchate. This younger generation rejects the destruction of the special delights of catholicity (sobornost’), the strict centralized “vertical” merger with the plutocratic powers, the commercialization, and the other systemic flaws inherent in the Russian State Church. In general, they are guided by the desire to introduce their Abkhaz Church on the world wide stage, rather than “beg on the doorstep of the Russian embassy”.

                    Who could have predicted that the Clergy-Laity meeting at Novy Afon on May 15th would be the premier national event in

                    Abkhazia? It was attended by about 2,000 people, a huge number for such a small country. Here it was: real conciliarity (sobornost’), the kind that Russians can only dream about! The meeting welcomed numerous political leaders, including Abkhaz government officials. The chairman of the meeting, Hieromonk Dorofei (Dbar), who completed his MDiv and theological studies in Greece, was named candidate for bishop. The organizers of this event let it be known that they have the definite support of the authorities, so that they will soon be registering the new name for their creation – The Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia. As the name of this structure implies, as well as the personal contacts its founders have with Patriarch Bartholomew, indicates the priority they give to Constantinople, not Moscow, in negotiating their autocephaly. Especially, since the Ecumenical Patriarch is of the opinion that only he has the right to grant autocephaly, a right recognized since antiquity. This is why “World Orthodoxy” does not recognize the autocephaly granted by Moscow to the Orthodox Church in America. Yet even with such “daring” as to proclaim the establishment of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia, these clergy stressed that they remained within the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate.

                    At one time, the Orthodox in Abkhazia had a choice, similar to the one faced by their brothers in South Ossetia. Have found themselves caught between “two beacons of official Orthodoxy” – Moscow and Tbilisi – and unable to be located in either jurisdiction, they opted for one of the unofficial “True Orthodox” jurisdictions albeit one with the softest stance vis-a vis “official Orthodoxy”, that is the “Synod in Resistance” of Metropolitan Kipirian (Kutsumba). Currently the True Orthodox Church in South Ossetia is headed by Fr Georgiy ((Pukhate) who would like to enter into the Moscow Patriarchate, only Moscow cannot come up with a plan to accomplish the deed.

                    The Moscow Patriarchate and its de-facto representative in Abkhazia, Fr Vissarion, responded most irritably to the news of the meeting at Novy Afon. Since the monks Andrei (Amparo) and Dorofei (Dbar) are listed as minor (parish) clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Maikop Diocese, they could be subject to canonical sanctions. It is true that Fr Andrei was transferred to the Church of Greece, where he served in parishes; but Moscow will not acknowledge that this temporary transfer was a canonical release.

                    The newly proclaimed Metropolis will prove to be a “great trial” for the Abkhaz authorities. On the one hand, this organization is deeply nationalistic in nature, and the principle “Independent State – Independent Church ” which was key to the future of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, is dear to the heart of any sovereign power, even a puppet regime. On the other hand the bulk of the Abkhaz clergy, gathered around Vissarion, will never recognize the autocephalous Metropolis without direct and specific instructions to do so from Moscow. Given the fact that the pro-Moscow faction has been present in Abkhazia for twenty years, and the fact that the Abkhaz authorities are so dependent on Moscow; it is unlikely that the authorities could take an independent stance on the church issue. It is therefore unlikely that the “Holy Metropolis” was authorized by the authorities.

                    The situation may be resolved as it was in Estonia- a division of the parishes between Constantinople and Moscow. If this model works in so many countries around the world; well then, why not in Abkhazia?

                    In any case even with the story still unfolding, we are dealing with another loss of Moscow’s position in the post Soviet region, and with the expansion of Constantinople, which represents the West in the Orthodox world – that is the U.S and the “aggressive NATO bloc”

                    Alexander Soldatov


                    Excerpt from the Article: “Abkhazia Again Struggles for Independence; but this Time from Russia?”

                    by Vladimir Vorsobin Moskovskaya Komsomolskaya Pravda, 5/17/2011

                    Original article (in Russia):

                    The Church

                    Further on the way to the border, in the Sochi airport, I meet the well known Russian missionary, Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev. He frowns, furtively and diplomatically. If he speaks, “it is not for publication”. For the past several months, Deacon Andrei has been running shuttling back and forth between Moscow and Sukhumi; trying to maintain peace in the confidential religious sector of Russian-Abkhaz relations. Alas, there is a trench warfare going on. The conflict flared up in the New Athos monastery when the Russian Orthodox Church installed a retired priest, Igumen Efrem, as the new abbot of that monastery. Oddly, the head of the Abkhaz Church, Vissarion Apliaa, calls Fr Efrem by the respectable Abkhaz surname “Lakerbaia”, while their opponents call Fr Efrem by his Russian surname, Vinogradov.

                    To the amazement of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Abkhazians actually cared. The nationalist scruples of the local Sukhumi Orthodox newspaper “Necessary” described it thus:

                    “If Fr. Efrem had come alone and had Abkhaz roots; well then let him come; but no – he came with three (read Russian) hieromonks, five or six monks, and a novice… This requires a negotiation.”


                    “The monastic brethren do not like the fact the Bessarion, behind their backs, took This Fr. Efrem to Moscow and presented him to Patriarch Kirill, and then in their words, Fr Efrem began to give orders what should be and what must not be in the monastery. There was to be nothing of the Byzantine or Greek style; emphasis must be on the Slavonic. It did not please the brothers nor the lay people, who came to worship in Novy Afon, that Fr. Efrem would conduct the services in Slavonic rather than in the Abkhazian (Apsynni) language.

                    The uproar led the former rector of the monastery, Fr. Andrei (Anpar), with the help of public meetings, to obtain the recommendation of the Public Chamber of Abkhazian ‘to suspend the appointment’. Moreover, Fr Andrei clearly formulated the main and clearly understood idea of an established nation, which has finally become independent.

                    ‘We believe that the future of the Abkhaz church must be built not only on our relationship with the Russian church; but also with the other Orthodox churches: with the Greeks, with the Serbs. The foreign policy of the Abkhaz church should be multipolar.’ As a result, the (Abkhaz) Orthodox community erupted in conflict. The next Sunday, the Abkhaz church split – those under the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church headed by Fr. Vissarion, and the independents headed by Fr. Andrei.

                    Since I promised the Orthodox diplomat (Archdeacon Adrei Kuroev) that I would not cite him in my article, I will only say that the deacon expressed his astonishment at these events in the most colorful and emotional Russian language.

                    Vladimir Vorsobin

        • Mr Frost, your entire polemic is nullified by the xenophobia and cultural triumphalism of the “ancient patriarchates.” Besides being scabrous to the extreme, the EP, by creating this coalition out of thin air is embarked on a path of sundering communion. After all, what will prevent the MP and the patriarchates of the Slavic nations, Greece, and Romania from banding together to form a coalition known as “the patriarchates of the Living Orthodox Churches”? Or “the evangelizing Orthodox Churches”?

          P.S. I’m not at all sure that Antioch is really part of this new grouping considering that +Kirill paid a high-profile visit to Damascus. (We all know why +Bartholomew can’t visit Damascus –his Turkish overlords won’t let him.)

          P.S.S. Perhaps the silver lining to this cloud is the diminution of the possibility of a Great and Holy Council taking place. I have long shared St Justin Popovich’s concerns regarding such a conclave.

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            Hey, Peter! “Ecumenical” does not mean first among equals or first in anything. What an idea!
            In former times (and even today, in some circles) all four of the ancient Patriarchs were called Ecumenical, because their Patriarchates were located in the “Ecumene”, i.e., within the boundaries of the dead RomanEmpire.
            Hardly had St. Constantine pronounced his favor of the Christian Church before Eastern hierarchs began obsessing about rank. How unbecoming those who surely knew what our Lord thought about people seeking high places at banquets and ranking in the kingdom of Heaven! The precedence of honor long ago assumed by the Archbishops of Constantnople and which got pushed through some ancient councils which never indicated their ranking was eternal, is not something to be proud of or to defend with pride and vanity. Those ancient ecumenical Patriarchates are Greek, except the ecumenical Patriarchate of Antioch. The “ancient” ecumenical Patriarchate of Alexandria, whose incumbent is also titled “Pope,” is a Greek island on Egyptian soil, replacing the ancient Coptic Patriarchate.
            I note you and some other people like to point to a coming “Ecumenical” council. Where’s the Emperor who will call that Council?
            I ask anyone, which of the ancient Patriarchates ever fell into the number of heresies that Constantnople did? They had to be rescued from Arian dominance from the death of St. Constantine until Julian the Apostate came along and restored Nicene Orthodoxy. What was Nestorius if not a thorough-going Constantinopolitan. The Union of Florence remained totally in effect in Constantinople with its Ecumenical Patriarchs until the Muslim came along, conquered the city, and installed the Orthodox Scholarios on the throne, replacing the Uniate Ecumenical Patriarch who fled to Italy where he became a cardinal and eventually died. If things had been left to the Constantinople Patriarchs to decide, we’d probably be either Arians, Nestorians or Uniates (and I’m just skimming the surface of heretical history in Constantinople’ The Patriarchal Throne of Russia was never occupied by a heretic. (By the way, I have no dog in this fight. My forebears were Germans, Englishmen and Irish.)

            • Very well said, Your Grace. We “Constantinopolitans” have a lot to account for. Even today, the ecumenizing liberalism that is coming out of the Phanar causes Traditionalists no end to grief. It’s very possible that if this doesn’t stop (and soon), then their will be a schism within the GOA with the Ephramites holding to Tradition.

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Right on the money with that one. Its unfortunately only a matter of time. This is the culmunation of the seizmic events that started with the forced retirement of Iakovos and the Forced Resignation and ouster of Spyridon.

                No matter what the OCA went through the present posture of the GOA is that its WORSE that the OCA and AOAA put together in terms of this coming schism. It is directly becuse of the actions of the EP in NOT supporting traditional Orthodox belief and praxis that this split will occur.

                The ONLY lifeboat for GOA people like myself are the Ephramites that are truly holding on to Orthodox Belief and Tradition. This is why they are directly and viciously attacked by the more liberal and secularized elements in the GOA, and this includes clergy.


                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Peter, I fear you are right. We should be on the lookout for more stories about the Ephramites. About how they’re “fundamentalists,” etc.

            • Peter A. Papoutsis says

              Your Grace I agree with your assessment of the history of the EP, and that Moscow never fell into heresy, except until the Communists came along. Rome’s claim of not falling into heresy is also true, until the Filique and Papal Jurisdictional claims. So I can play tit-for-tat on that one as well, but that was not my point.

              My point was that ALL the Patriarchs have titles that confir certain rights to them whether its the EP, MP or not. When we start taking away titles we start taking away rights and privileges and that is a very BAD precedent to set outside of an ecumenical council.

              If the MP was called “the First among equals” and Greek were down grading him and stripping him of his title I would be arguing the same on his behalf. So until a council comes along, and I do not know when that will be, the status quo remains. If the Russians or whoever do not like it, bring it up in a council, bring it up in a joint-EP & MP statement on the issue and settle it. That’s all I am saying. BUT once settled everybody has to accept it and if not then the fault lies with us not the EP or MP or whoever.


              • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                I’ll reword something I wrote, for Austin Powers’s benefit.
                No Orthodox Patriarchate existing today has EVER fallen into heresies condemned by Ecumenical Councils, as the EP has done, and the EP never rescued itself from those heresies: why, it took Julian the Apostate to give the coup de grace to Arianism, which reigned supreme in Constantinople from the death of St. Constantine (right after being baptized by an Arian) until Emperor Julian the Apostate finally put an Orthodox Patriarch on the EP throne. Who was Nestorius, as well? Who forced the EP into abandoning iconoclasm?
                Too many people, I feel, concentrate on the words “First among” and try not to think what “equals” are. Yes, the EP gets to be called First, but not “over” anyone. Equals are equals.
                We know that even today’s EPs are aware of this and are constantly trying to do something that makes them something which other Patriarchates cannot equal. The most notorious is not their puerile misinterpretation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon but the banal, puerile invention of being successors to Apostle Andrew “as Roman Popes are to Apostle Peter.” I suppose that makes all the Protestants at the NCC and WCC giggle a little when they hear of it, but they are mostly polite and do not comment.
                When loading down an EP with oriental hyperbole (like the heretical “all-holy”) we should remember that all the other Orthodox Bishops in the world, including the Bishop of Moscow, are his EQUALS. And whoever says, “Oh, but ONLY equals on paper,” should be told, “And he’s “only” first on paper.”

                • Sometimes I think that “the Greeks” agree with “first among equals” only as long as they are recognized and accepted as “first.” I came to that conclusion when working on the local clergy association level, too.

                  • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                    Your Grace and PdnNJ I bid you peace. Merry Christmas and enjoy time with your family and loved ones.


                    • Thank you, Peter, and I sincerely wish the same for you and all your family and loved ones, too.
                      CHRIST IS BORN, GLORIFY HIM!!!
                      And since I’m Greek also, I’ll add (hoping you will correct the misspelling for me),
                      KALA XHRISTUGENIA!!!

    • Mr Frost, the “5%” regular attendance figure is high compared to Western Europe. What is your point? My point was that fantastic things are happening on the ground in the Russian Church. We’re talking monasteries being reopened, churches being rebuilt, orphanages and homeless shelters being established, awareness about abortion being raised, students from Africa being offered seminary educations, etc., etc., etc.

      In comparison, what are the various Orthodox eparchies here in America doing?

      • Francis Frost says

        Dear Mr Michalopoulos”

        You simply miss the point. Your posting declared a resurgent triumphant Russian Church, something that clearly does not exist.

        Metropolitan Hilarion admitted that maybe 5% attend church; but that less than half of those actually live Christian lives. The Levada Center poll (Russia’s version of the Gallup Poll) cited 2%. Those levels of participation are no different than they were during the communist era. In other words, the Moscow Patriarchate has squandered 20 years of freedom gathering money and political influence rather than re-evagelizing the Russian people. More on that later.

        Today Russia is in a demographic free all. By mid-century the ethnic minorities (Nerusskiye Rossiyannini) will outnumber ethnic Russians. These mostly Muslim populations have endured centuries of oppression and they do not turn the other cheek! Today the average Russian man dies before the age of 60 (a full 13 years earlier than was true in the 1980’s) due to rampant alcohol and drug abuse. Russia with half the population of the US consumes 70% of the entire world’s production of heroin. Russia has the highest rate of HIV infection in the Northern Hemisphere.

        And the only alcohol drug abuse recovery program in Russia is run by our IOCC.

        While Russia’s leaders plunder the wealth of that country, while the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate violate the Canons and the Savior’s commandment, the Russian nation and people are withering.

        So what pray tell are you and your triumphalist shills doing about that !!! ??? !!!

        If you love Russia, Stand up, Tell the truth and stop prattling the nonsensical Kremlin propaganda !

        It’s time for the Orthodox people to get real or bear the consequences.

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Nowhere did I say a “triumphant” Church, just a “resurgent” one. Triumphalism is the curse of all Orthodox. That the ROC is resurgent in Russia after 70 of violent atheist persecution is obvious to even the most casual observer. Even during the desperate 90s when the USSR collapsed, the people of Russia banded together and to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in overruns, rebuilt Christ the Savior Cathedral in no time flat.

          If that’s not the sign of resurgence then I don’t know the meaning of the word. As for being a “Kremlin apologist” I am no such thing. I am unalterably opposed to the US needlessly trying to resurrect the “Evil Empire.” If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the Cold War is over. We won. Now we need to “come home.”

          • George, while it’s true that the past 20 years have been enormously liberating for the Russian Orthodox Church, I don’t think it’s for nothing that Met. Jonah told the AEI the other night that the past fifteen years of decadence have done even more damage to Orthodoxy in Russia. That’s a pretty shocking statement, but he has a lot of experience in Russia, including living there just after the Soviet government fell.

            When Christianity became the state religion in the Roman Empire, the Church was flooded with nominal members. In both cases, we can’t deny the obvious advantage of no longer having believers rounded up and forced to either sacrifice or be killed, but there’s also grave danger from the pagan or secular-minded being given a Christian veneer, a sort of sheep’s clothing to disguise a wolf. The more popular Orthodoxy gets in America, the more likely we are to have liars and blasphemers in our midst, devouring our sheep.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Helga, I completely agree with you. The influx of tens of thousands of nominal members would have debilitating effects on the Church here as it did in Rome, Byzantium, Russia, etc. No question. And the liberalism of the last twenty years have had numerous debilitating effects on Russia. Again, no question.

              My complaint was that critics like Mr Frost are ignoring the obvious gains that have happened. Maybe it’s because I’ve been involved in building programs here in my hometown and I’ve seen how difficult it is to build an outhouse for the church. The contention, the squabbles, and the government regs. And over there in Russia, gigantic edifices are springing up like mushrooms. That’s not nothing.

              Also, I find it hard to believe that critics would overlook the fact of the 70 year tributation that was imposed on Russia. That alone will have severe sociological consequences. Consider what the Roman persecution did to the Christians: created the Donatist heresy which was hyper-holiness, created factions of colloborators, probably even outright heresies.

              I always try to look at things with the proper perspective, that’s all (I freely conceed that my perspective may be wrong).

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          Herr Frost! Many are called: few are chosen. What’s your big deal about one-half of five per cent?
          What about YOU? I don’t see barking at Russian heels as being particularly evangelical or salvific or edifying, even.

          These American number games. Are they played with such fervor elsewhere? What’s in a number?

          • Francis Frost says

            Dear Bishop Tikhon:

            I very much apologize or disturbing your mirth with a moral issue. How dare I expect an Orthodox bishop follow the Sacred Canons of the Orthodox Church and the Lord’s own commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” ?

            Your personal invective and hyper-rationalizations do not change facts:

            The Moscow Patriarchate has committed multiple violations of the most ancient, authoritative Apostolic Canons. They MP has received into its ranks and its bishops (including Patriarch Kirill) have concelebrated with the de-frocked renegade Archimandrite Visarion Aplia. This same “leader” of the Abkhaz Eparchy, Visarion Aplia personally led the military forces, who evicted the last legitimate Orthodox clergy from occupied Gali and Kodori (eastern Abkhazia) two weeks before Pascha of 2009. The MP has created, funded and staffed a schismatic “Apkhaz Eparchy” on the territory of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. Bishops of the MP publicly, on television “blessed” the very weapons used to attack civilian targets across Georgia, weapons used to attack, desecrate and destroy the Orthodox Cathedral in Nikazi.

            These facts are well documented in print and on video. The Moscow Patriarchate has publicly admitted these acts in its own publications.

            My question to you is: Do the Sacred Canons and the Savior’s own commandments apply to our church or not? If not, then why bother pretending to be Orthodox Christians? Why not just sign up with the Unitarians, or the Jehovah’s witnesses. Indeed those groups will have a better answer on the Day of Judgement. They never “blessed” genocide and ethnic cleansing!

            No matter how much dust you throw in the air, facts are facts. Either you must confess the truth and act on it, or follow the “Father of lies” to his eternal home.

            • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

              Where is the list which ranks the canons according to their age and authoritativeness? Are the Apostolic Canons really more authoritative than those of the First and rest of the Ecumenicsl Councils? “Dust in the air?” I liked, “follow the ‘Father of lies’ to his eternal home.” Man up, Francis! If you want to tell me to follow the devil, say so. If you want me to go to hell, say so. What’s the “his eternal home, stuff? Dust? Oh, I know, it’s what they used to call “an attempt at Fine Writing.”
              “Hyper-rationalization?” Is that, like, St. John of Damascus? The Cappadocian FAthers? The Fathers of Chalcedon?
              Is it a crime to insist on clear writing? How does one say “Francis’ in Russian?

              • Francis Frost says

                Dear Bishop Tikhon:

                The Apostolic canons were incorporated into the Acts of the First Ecumenical Council. (4th century)

                My church name is Herman for ” Sv. Gyerman Ayaskiinski” if you want the Russian form. I have no interest in the kind of stupid name games of the type you indulged yourself with when you attacked Deacon Eric Wheeler.

                You are still throwing dust in the air and blowing smoke.

                As for clarity, you have still not answered a simple question:

                Do the Sacred Canons and the Savior’s commandments apply to the church in our time?

                Either provide an adequate refutation for the documented facts of history, or provide a reasonable justification for the MP’s behavior, or admit the truth.

                As for telling you where to go. There is no need, you are already there.

                • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                  Herr Frost still doesn’t get it! I asked where one may find the ranking of canons according to their authoritativeness, because he said an Apostolic Canon ranked as one of the most authoritative. I assume the canon against usury and the one against consulting a Jewish doctor are not so authoritative as others, for example. Francis! You forgot the “L” in Saint German’s title. He served in Alaska, not “Ayaska.” Protodeacon Wheeler’s Christian name is Eros. Who has been playing name games with him?
                  Your question which you now put, relative to the application of the Sacred Canons and the Saviour’s commandments is patently a rhetorical one. You stated it for effect as some kind of tactical step in what I’m beginning to think you see as a war against your ego. I don’t usually answer such rhetorical questions. if I were that sort of interlocutor, i would ask you if you really believe in God or if you use the Gospel as a handy tool. But I won’t ask that. The Russian Church is resurgent. It is one of God’s Holy Local Churches, the one sojourning in Russia. Judge it as you will and have done since the days of the Cold War: it is still God’s Holy Church. Judge the Patriarch as you please, and if the Gospel you use demands that you don’t let him get away with anything uncondemned, you must condemn, condemn, condemn. But you know that already…..

      • Carl Kraeff says

        One source has the following attendance rates. While they may not be the latest or the best estimates, I do not think that the list order has changed much. (

        Note: In parenthesis after each European country, I have inserted weekly attendance rates that I found at Wiki,

        # 1 Nigeria: 89%
        # 2 Ireland: 84% (54%)
        # 3 Philippines: 68%
        # 4 South Africa: 56%
        # 5 Poland: 55% (63%)
        # 6 Puerto Rico: 52%
        = 7 Slovakia: 47% (33%)
        = 7 Portugal: 47% (29%)
        # 9 Mexico: 46%
        # 10 Italy: 45% (31%)
        = 11 United States: 44% (43%)
        = 11 Belgium: 44% (7%)
        = 13 Peru: 43%
        = 13 Turkey: 43%
        # 15 India: 42%
        # 16 Canada: 38% (20%)
        # 17 Brazil: 36%
        # 18 Netherlands: 35%
        = 19 Venezuela: 31%
        = 19 Uruguay: 31%
        # 21 Austria: 30% (18%)
        # 22 United Kingdom: 27% (14%)
        = 23 Argentina: 25%
        = 23 Spain: 25% (21%)
        = 23 Chile: 25%
        # 26 Croatia: 22%
        = 27 France: 21% (12%)
        = 27 Hungary: 21% (12%)
        # 29 Romania: 20%
        = 30 Switzerland: 16%
        = 30 Lithuania: 16% (14%)
        = 30 Australia: 16%
        = 33 Korea, South: 14%
        = 33 Czech Republic: 14% (11%)
        # 35 Taiwan: 11%
        = 36 Ukraine: 10%
        = 36 Moldova: 10%
        = 36 Bulgaria: 10%
        = 36 Georgia: 10%
        # 40 China: 9%
        # 41 Armenia: 8%
        # 42 Serbia and Montenegro: 7%
        = 43 Belarus: 6%
        = 43 Azerbaijan: 6%
        = 45 Norway: 5% (3%)
        = 45 Latvia: 5% (7%)
        = 45 Denmark: 5% (3%)
        = 48 Sweden: 4% (5%)
        = 48 Finland: 4% (5%)
        = 48 Iceland: 4% (10%)
        = 48 Estonia: 4% (4%)
        # 52 Japan: 3%
        # 53 Russia: 2%
        Weighted average: 26.2%

        Tthe CIA World Factbook says the following: Russia: “Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2% (2006 est.) note: estimates are of practicing worshipers; Russia has large populations of non-practicing believers and non-believers, a legacy of over seven decades of Soviet rule.” We also heard ROC officials acknowledge that attendance at Nativity 2010 was about 2%, so that a realistic weekly attendance rate would in the range of 2-3%.

        No matter which way one looks at these statistics, there are two interpretations possible:

        1. Glass is half empty: The Second Coming is near.

        2. Glass is half full: marvelous opportunity for evangelization.

        Regarding Russia and the other nations who had been enslaved by Godless Communism, it is not surprising that regular attendance is so low as the people had been changed into self-centered materialists.

        OTH, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfayev)’s thesis regarding the collapse of Holy Russia in the 20th Century is quite disturbing, where he asks “How did it happen that the country known as ‘Holy Russia’, with such a long history of Orthodox Christianity, was in a very short period of time turned by the Bolsheviks into ‘the first atheist state in the world’? How was it possible that the very same people who were taught religion in secondary schools in the 1910s with their own hands destroyed churches and burned holy icons in the 1920s? What is the explanation of the fact that the Orthodox Church, which was so powerful in the Russian Empire, was almost reduced to zero by its former members?” You can read the entire article at “”

        My take on it is that we cannot be triumphalist about any of our local churches, except may be the catacomb church up until the Edict of Milan. The other side of the coin is that the Holy Spirit has indeed watched over us and preserved the One True Church even when we did not deserve it. Glory be to God!

        • Carl, you make some good observations. To look at the inverse situation, how is it that the masses came to the church after Constantine? Was it because they all of the sudden had a desire to give up their own lives in order to gain life eternal? On the contrary, many came to the church because it was fashionable and convenient and politically advantageous. Except for a few areas on earth where there is currently persecution, I suspect that many who call themselves Christian today would not “endure to the end” should persecution resume. At the AEI talk, +Jonah made the observation that 20 years of consumerism has done more damage to spiritual life than 70 years of atheist persecution. This definitely has some truth to it. Many children were secretly baptized during the communist years despite the risks. When my wife goes back to Ukraine, she is struck by the greed and ambition and the lack of friendliness and concern for others as compared with when she was growing up in the Soviet Union. Some people long for the “glory” days of Byzantium. As for me, I don’t think Orthodoxy has ever seen anything as glorious as when the martyrs gave everything for Christ, when St Anthony overcame the passionate demons in the desert, or when the hesychasts attained true and ceaseless prayer. If we want to return to greatness, it will come from within, not from without.

  6. cynthia curran says

    True George, americans and western culture going back to the Greeks and Romans still believe in the goddess Fortuna. Saying such as I have good luck show that we still take Fortune seriously. Even some of the early Byzantine writers mention about Fortune’s influence.

  7. cynthia curran says

    Personality, going back to the communists creates a state monopoly on everything which isn’t good either. Sweden which was going to nationalized everything about 20 years ago has reverse since the economy was too much in the hands of the state which lead to slow growth. In the extreme cases state control lead to the problems of the old Soviet Union and Communists China where the state force lots of people in labor camps this is worst than 19th century Capitalism. The Swedes once were at about 70 percent of their economy apart of the state about 20 years ago are now down to 50 percent and Sweden doesn’t have the problems of Russia. Some Orthodox like state ruled because Constantinople control trade a lot. However, Constantinople use a lot of western merchants from places like Venice and Genoa to access western and middle eastern markets and both Venice and Genoa took off and Venice was involved later in the sack of Constantinople. Also, a lot of farm land was actually control by Aristocratics in most of the Eastern Roman Empire period and some workers were coloni which means they were almost serfs. Byzantine society had extremes of wealth and poverty.

  8. cynthia curran says

    Well, I don’t think that everyone is evil in Russia, But I think Mr Frostt doesn’t like Russia since it wants to influence Georgia. I think Mr Frost should be entitled to his opinions as well as others here that are criticial of the USA in foreign countries.

  9. cynthia curran says

    Well, I agree with Peter that the Greeks get attack here more than the Russians here and Mr Frost does have a case about the Georgia.

  10. cynthia curran says

    Mr Frost is correct Russian Men are expected to live below even many third world countries. A man born in places like Mexico lives even 10 years longer than men in Russia. And he is correct Russia has low birth rates and the ethnic minorities will make a majority.

  11. Ivan Vasiliev says

    It has been quite interesting to read this page. There is so much passion for the Church in Russia here!
    Let’s think of it this way:assuming that the three million plus believers who came to venerate the Iveron Belt were not exactly the same people who attended the Nativity services across Russian last year (an astonishing thing if they were!), and assuming that for everyone who came there were one or two others who would have if time, proximity, and circumstances permitted, then we have many millions of Russians who are yearning for the presence of God in their lives. Since the veneration of the Mother of God is very much identified with the Orthodox tradition in Russia, these people can be safely said to be open to Orthodoxy on a very deep level. Yes, they may be ignorant and conflicted and, yes, they may even have some superstition about the faith, but they are there and they are open to the grace of God. I think that the Russian Orthodox Church, for all her weaknesses, has many, many devoted men and women who are working hard in the “field” to reach these people. Let’s pray for them and for the Russian people and our beloved Russian Orthodox Church to continue the missionary and evangelical work that has been ongoing since the fall of the atheistic-anti Christ regime. God will will give the growth!

    • Ken Miller says

      Well said. The fields are white for harvest both in Russia and around the world. What is needed is laborers who have the courage to show the self-sacrificial love of Christ and to challenge people to repent and to seek the kingdom of God above all that this world has to offer.

      • Carl Kraeff says


        I also think that all the heterodox missionary work in Russia will be extremely beneficial to the Russian Orthodox Church. Nothing like a little competition to get you out of your cocoon.

        • Ivan Vasliliev says


          I am a bit perplexed by this remark. It seems to me that heterodox missionaries divert resources that the ROC could be using for charitable works, education, health care (in a country that is rather desperate for good health care for the poor), the establishment of monasteries and other spiritual centers, etc. The ROC has hardly been in a cocoon since the end of the godless anti-Christ regime; it has been extremely active in all the areas I have mentioned. Though I have high esteem for some of the results of competitive market capitalism, I’m not at all convinced that it is the model for the Church’s evangelical mission. The heterodox, by definition, teach things “other” than the true faith. Their presence is manifestly not needed in Russia. I am not at all suggesting that they be overtly suppressed or oppressed, but I can’t imagine encouraging them.

          • Let each person believe what he will. Do not decide for them what they should believe. When only 65% of the population consider themselves Orthodox but only 2-4% of the population regularly attend services, I would think that the best expenditure of resources would be evangelize your own people and then evangelize the unchurched, the unbelievers. The heterodox evangelization is like a cold shower to shock the ROC to do what is needful.

            The ROC is doing many wonderful things but they falling way behind in the most important thing: to get people to be real Church members rather than nominal ones. By “real” members, I mean regular weekly attendance, frequent communion,keeping the fasts, keeping prayer rules, and contributing one’s wealth (tithing), time and talents. Let’s talk again when the regular Church attendance goes to 10% and I will tell you that the ROC is making progress. Let’s talk again when the rate is 50% and I will tell you that the ROC is a successful church.

            • Ivan Vasiliev says

              Except for the idea that the heterodox are helpful to the mission of the Orthodox Church in Russia (or elsewhere), I agree with you entirely. Mission is always to those closet to us first; evangelism begins at home.

              • Carl Kraeff says

                The problem with any organization is that after a while it becomes a bureaucracy, it ossifies. A little competition, however, keep the organization on its toes. Besides, if the ROC did not have the RC and Protestants to contend with, Her only alternatives would be Islam, agnosticism and atheism.

      • Met. Jonah said something at the AAC about the OCA not having enough resources to take care of all the baptized Orthodox Russians who have recently immigrated to New York. Maybe the OCA, ROCOR, and MP parishes in the area could all work together to reach out to them.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          Great idea. However, if the immigrants show the same degree of enthusiasm for Church that the natives do, the problem becomes much more manageable. We just had our annual Saint Nicholas Festival that we use as an outreach to the community at large. I was able to talk to many Russian immigrants who do not go to church at all, although they were indeed baptized. It came somewhat of a shock to me as many of our congregants are also Russian immigrants but they attend regularly. So, there are indeed two sorts of Russians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbians, Greeks, etc.., all of which are represented in our little congregation in addition to regular American converts. I have come to the conclusion that national background means little when it comes to piety and faithful participation. There are of course slight differences between converts and cradles, but when the cradle is “converted” those differences are not so obvious. That being the case, I do not know if we should restrict the universe of churches who can help Russian immigrants only to the OCA, ROCOR and MP representational churches. If the idea is to recruit folks to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else,” as Ken pointed out above, all Orthodox churches should be included. I really do not think that this is a matter of language or ethnic ethos; at least in our little corner of this planet, the local ROCOR Church (using English and Slavonic) came out of the OCA Church, yet the Russians by and large attend the OCA Church even though only English is used except for an occasional Mnogoya Leta and Vechnaya Pamyat.

          • Carl, how many ROCOR churches are there in the DC area? If it’s the one I’m thinking of, it did not come out of the OCA Church. Isn’t there a Slavonic service offered at the OCA church anymore. My theory is the ROCOR is more traditional and services are a bit longer. English service is at 0740 a.m. which only really started in the last 10 years or so. As for the Russians going to church and not going to church, I guess they have their reasons like everyone else. Many folks were baptized in the Soviet Union but never attended church for obvious reasons. I don’t know their ages or when/why they came to the U. S. , but the embassy is right around the corner.

            • Carl Kraeff says

              I am not in the DC area, but I think that my point holds. The differences between the OCA and ROCOR churches on the ground are minute and, to IMO, fairly insignificant. That said, I know that my brothers and sisters in ROCOR take those differences seriously and I would be happy to worship in a ROCOR church if an OCA one was not available.

              • Carl,
                Sorry, I misread your post. I thought you were referring to the St Nicholas Festival that was held
                at the DC cathedral.

                • Pravoslavnie says

                  In DC there is a ROCOR cathedral (St. John the Baptist) in the city, an English language ROCOR parish (Holy Apostles) in the suburbs that devolved out of it, and now a ROCOR female monastery. There is also an MP patriarchal parish not far away in Baltimore. In the suburbs there are several OCA parishes including Serbian and Bulgarian variants, several Antiochian, GOAA, and one Carpatho-Russian parish. Then of course, there is the OCA St. Nicholas Cathedral in DC. The area is well served.

              • Carl writes, “The differences between the OCA and ROCOR churches on the ground are minute and, to IMO, fairly insignificant.”

                The difference between DC’s St. Nicholas Cathedral (OCA) and DC’s St. John the Baptist (ROCOR) is the difference between Moscow and San Francisco. The clergy at St. John would never have knowingly communed women married to other women, as the clergy at St. Nicholas did for a good long while (until +Jonah finally put a stop to it), and the Americans at St. John would never have risen in defense of women married to other women as many Americans at St. Nicholas did when I forced the issue. Minute? Insignificant? I don’t think so.

                • Deacon Patrick, the most similarities I’ve seen between OCA and ROCOR have been between traditionally-oriented OCA parishes (priest in cassock, lots of confession, wouldn’t dream of communing a lesbian) and ROCOR parishes that are either convert-heavy or in the American South. These are where things are similar enough to be nearly indistinguishable, since the “traditional” elements of the OCA parish are de rigeur in all ROCOR parishes, while the ROCOR parish is kind of lightened up from ROCOR’s customary strictness by the predominance of converts or the Southern culture. These lighter ROCOR parishes will let you confess to your own priest instead of requiring you confess to one of theirs, for example.

                  I am guessing this is what Carl is coming from and what led him to say what he did. The OCA spectrum goes further liberal than that, while the ROCOR spectrum goes very uptight and ethnic. I mentioned my interesting experience at the ROCOR cathedral in New York – not the friendliest parish I’ve ever been to. And I’ve been to a thoroughly New Sketey OCA parish that would probably give you a stroke, Father Deacon, if you thought I was naughty for reading in church. 🙂

                • Dn, your point is well taken. However I would ask all of us to refrain from using the word “married” when speaking about two people of the same sex who are cohabiting and/or engaged in homoerotic activity. “Gay Marriage” is an oxymoron, kind of like “kosher pork.” It does not exist because it cannot exist. The lesbians in question are engaged in immorality, not marriage. (This is not to say that they are beyond redemption, certainly they can repent of their sins as a married couple can repent of adultery.)

                  I just want to make that distinction because increasingly on this blog I see the casual use of the word “married” to describe these homoerotic unions. In doing so, we concede the terms of the debate to those who would debase it further.

                  • Carl Kraeff says

                    I agree that we should not use the word “marriage” except for a man and a woman who have united in marriage, preferably in accordance with Orthodox precepts and blessed in a Church.

                    We could also make a distinction between (a) persons of the same gender living together without carnal activity, (b) those who have SSA, (c) those whose SSA results in carnal activity. I think some folks needlessly jump to conclusions, as if they have cameras in everybody’s bedrooms or have a bug in the Holy Gospel used during confession. I am saying this because I am reading about Evagrius Ponticus and his delineation of the eight deadly thoughts or passions, which are not sins themselves but precursors to sins.

                • Father Deacon BP Mitchell, is ROCOR’s St. John the Baptist in communion with the MP? It’s hard at a distance to keep up with which subgroups of ROCOR/ROCA etc. are in, or out of, communion with the schismatic/heretical graceless or non-schismatic/non-heretical grace-filled.

                  Does your own ecclesiology hold that the current tenant of the MP is the undoubted choice of the Holy Spirit? Is it borderline heretical even to entertain questions about this, do you think? I am very confused.

                  I’m curious whether, in your learned ecclesiological view, the Holy Spirit condones the elevation of KGB operatives to the “renewed” patriarchate of Moscow — in the latest case, one made rich from an intimate association with the import and duty-free sale of tobacco, alcohol and, some claim, even guns, under the non-taxable exemption of the ROC, into Holy Mother Russia, “for humanitarian purposes”?

                  Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on these questions.

                  • When I was growing up the issue of KGB operatives at the Patriarch of Moscow was a subject spoken about at coffee hours.I remember my greatgrandmother,who fled St.Petersburg during the Revolution telling us to be careful what we said to a priest because he could be a “Bolshie KGB” . Lots of paranoia in the air back then.
                    I also remember my mother rtelling me during the Cuban Missle Crisis that I was “Orthodox” and not “Russian Orthodox”. They also took the “Russian” off of our sign at CHurch…

                  • St. John the Baptist cathedral in DC is part of the ROCOR that is part of the Moscow Patriarchate.

                    There are a couple of vagante sects which also use the same or similar names to ROCOR, including a sect headed by Agafangel, former bishop of Odessa, which split itself off from the Church in reaction to ROCOR’s rapprochement with the MP.

                    Any “ROCOR” not currently headed by Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) is an unorthodox sect.

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      Amen to that Helga.

                    • Amen to what, George?

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      “Amen” to what Helga said. She was praising ROCOR.

                    • Pravoslavnie says

                      The schismatic group headed by Bp. Agafangel now styles itself as “The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad” or ROCA. It’s understandably confusing to many who have also referred to ROCOR as “The Church Abroad”. There is a very small ROCA parish in the Northern VA suburbs of DC which should not be confused with ROCOR’s St. John the Baptist Cathedral in DC.

                  • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                    Mike Myers inquired; “Does your own ecclesiology hold that the current tenant of the MP is the undoubted choice of the Holy Spirit? Is it borderline heretical even to entertain questions about this, do you think? I am very confused.”
                    I’m always appreciative of someone admitting he is confused. I assume that when Mike Myers asked about “your own ecclesiology” he meant Orthodox ecclesiology. No ecclesiology holds that any incumbent Bishop is ‘the undoubted choice of the Holy Spirit.
                    It is not borderline heretical to say no one knows if any Orthodox hierarchs are the undoubted choice of the Holy Spirit. We believe that, WHETHER OR NOT a candidate for the episcopate is “the choice of the Holy Spirit,” the laying one of hands in the Apostolic succession confers the Divine Grace upon the man and he becomes (no matter how unworthy a candidate he was) “worthy” of being a steward of the Gifts of the
                    Spirit. The Church proclaims this NEW worthiness as soon as the laying on of hands tasks place (but not before), with Greek word for worthy; ‘Axios.”
                    Mike asked another simple question: “whether, in your learned ecclesiological view, the Holy Spirit condones the elevation of KGB operatives to the “renewed” patriarchate of Moscow ” We try to express no judgment at all on what the Holy Spirit may or may not condone. We are not Muslims of the fatalistic sort who declare every event, good or evil, the result of God’s will. We do know that persecute groups throughout history have resorted to various subterfuges to survive infiltrating hostile governments and their agencies. One may assume that the Orthodox Church behind the old “Iron Curtain” was as likely to have “plants” in higher government or police circles as the Roman Catholic Church and its various orders was. For example, I heard from someone close to the administration of the Pochaev monastery in the old days, that the local or nearby Ukrainian KGB was more likely to support the monastery than Metropolitan Denisenko in Kiev, who could not be relied on for any help whatsoever against local hoodlums or militant atheists, he being, it must be assumed, one of the real “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in the hierarchy of the Russian Church of whom the Church was only able to rid itself after Glasnost, etc.
                    It’s true, as well, that the notorious hierarch, Agathangel (Ukr. Ahatanhel), is considered to be an “Orthodox” hierarch in the pocket of the CIA who, like the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, has the mission of squelching and preventing any and all movements toward rapprochement between Russia and Ukraine, and all activity which strengthens the Church of Russia abroad, such as the unification of ROCOR and MP. Why, I believe that ambassador may have even gone to the big council in San Francisco to try and personally stop the unification. His subordinate, Ahatanhel, is still at it. Now, if Mike Myers wants to ask if the “undoubted choice of the Holy Spirit,” he ahould ask Ahatanhel’s supporters. THEY may dare to utter such nonsense, I never could.

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      Thank you again, Your Grace for your bracing correctives. And for cutting through the sophistry of those who are “concerned” about whether the Holy Spirit condones this or condones that.

                    • Your Grace, what’s your take on Fr. Thomas Hopko’s assertion that the Holy Spirit was not at work in the election of Metropolitan Jonah in 2008?

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      Helga, that judgment by someone improbably honored with the rank of Protopresbyter is best evaluated by the colloquial standard counsel: “consider the source.’
                      I mean, anyone who dares to say “Here It is,’ or ‘Here It isn’t,” shouldn’t even be blessed to read aloud in our Churches, lest the reading be unto his own destruction..

            • Lola J. Lee Beno says

              There are 2 services at St. Nicholas – English at 9 and Slavonic at 10:45.

            • Pravoslavnie says


              I came into Orthodoxy through OCA and I’ve noticed many differences between OCA and ROCOR parishes, some subtle and others quite stark. The biggest difference is that OCA is on new calendar while ROCOR is on the old calendar so the feast days and major holidays are two weeks apart.

              Both jurisdictions use the same liturgy, but with English translations that have subtle differences, most noticable in the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer (e.g tresspass/es vs. debts/debtor….deliver us from evil vs. deliver us from the evil one).

              Confession is taken much more seriously in ROCOR where it is generally forbidden to take communion unless you have prepared yourself, and confessed within the last week.

              I had never heard of Molebens, Akathists, and Panakhida services before I moved to ROCOR. Also weekday services marking various feasts, fasts, and saints are much more common in ROCOR.

              I had never heard of the tradition of baking and distributing prosphora bread before I moved to ROCOR.

              It seems to be “de-riguer” for ROCOR priests and deacons to wear riassas, even when outside of church. OCA clergy often dresses down into clergy suits with collars which I have never ever seen in ROCOR. ROCOR priests also tend to sport full beards and long hair, whereas OCA clergy is generally more clean cut, sometime beardless like their Antiochian bretheren although there are exceptions.

              There may be other differences, but that is off the top of my head. You will probably find much more Slavonic in use in ROCOR, but many parishes also have English services. Until recently ROCOR was a church in exile, and the character of many parishes sometimes reflects that. Many OCA parishes were started by first wave 19th century emigrants and their children, while ROCOR parishes often started with second and third wave emigrants in the early to mid 20th century. As in all the juridictions, changes are happening quickly in ROCOR as the older emigrant community dies off and their American-born children take charge. ROCOR also welcomes converts and many parishes are greatly influenced by their presence.

              • another one says


                Where in the country do you reside, if I may ask?

                With the exception of the calendar, and perhaps the confession immediately preceding the reception of communion, I saw none of the other differences you describe. The first short haired clergyman I saw was Bishop Mark Maymon, and although the services are in English (oops, another difference!) we have Russian speaking priests who can and do support the Russian speaking faithful.

                Riassas I’ve seen, but never have seen an OCA priest in a collar and suit. So perhaps the differences might be regional?

                • Pravoslavnie says

                  Another One,

                  Note my disclaimer regarding exceptions. I’m in the mid-Atlantic area. Maybe it is a regional thing, but (other than the bishops) 90% of OCA clergy I’ve seen outside of church services in the community have invariably dressed in clergy suits and collar sans Riassa, and had trimmed beards and hair, sometime no beard at all.

                  • If you go back to the 1950s and probably even before then (that’s as far as my memory extends) , you’ll find Metropolia clergy routinely dressed in suits and had short hair – and excellent priests they were. Today you find even married ROCOR clergy with short hair sans beard…but no suits, I grant you.

                • I’m from all over the place, and I’ve seen at most two or three OCA clergymen in suit/collar arrangement. All Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, though. I have seen a few more with trimmed/absent beards and short hair. But that is not always for a bad reason.

                  The translation of Our Father, the mini-prosphora, and all those differences save the ones Another One mentioned, are all things I’ve seen vary between OCA parishes. However, the strictest confession rule I’ve ever heard of at an OCA parish has been once per month.

                  • Jane Rachel says

                    “But that is not always for a bad reason.”

                    Peter Lorre is Fr. Raphael’s doppelganger?

                    • Interesting observation, JR. 🙂 I just thought I should point out Fr. Raphael since he’s about as seriously Orthodox as they come (Russian schemamonk), but he can’t grow a beard. Sometimes Orthodox priests simply can’t grow one, or if they do, it looks horrible and scary and his matushka demands he get rid of it.

                    • By the way, I did not mean to imply that Fr. Raphael being from Russia means he’s more “seriously” Orthodox, only the schemamonk part. I meant to edit that but ran out of time. I only mentioned he was Russian to give another identifying detail.

                    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                      People of Asian descent generally are capable of growing only a very sparse beard, or none at all. This includes American Indians.

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      I don’t think Father Raphael would mind if he knew that he looks like Peter Lorre, who was a great actor. 🙂 But now I’m totally off-topic.

                  • Pravoslavnie says


                    Maybe it is a Northeastern phenomenon. All of my experience and encounters with OCA parishes and clergy have occured in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast because it’s where I’ve lived. I’ve never been to an OCA parish outside of the Diocese of Washington, and Eastern PA. I wonder if the local OCA bishop sets policy on clergy attire? I have read that in the AOAA Metropolitan Philip has suspended clergy for wearing the Riassa outside of services, but I digress.

                    The OCA parishes here in the Washington area have many transient people. Elsewhere I guess that some older traditions and customs may linger that are closer to ROCOR depending on the parish. As far as translations, I’ve seen some variation in language between OCA parishes myself. I’m not sure if the OCA has an official translation although I seem to remember English language service books printed at one of the seminary presses and blessed by Metropolitan Ireny.

              • Pravoslavnie says

                Adding a few more differences that popped into my mind…

                In OCA I rarely saw women cover their heads, while in ROCOR the majority of women seem to wear head scarves, or hats. Some of the monasteries seem to get picky about women wearing hats and may have a trunk full of scarves and wraparound skirts handy for the clueless.

                Also in ROCOR it is generally frowned upon for women to wear slacks to services although I’ve sometimes seen women wear wraparounds over slacks to services that they remove later on at coffee hour. In OCA people’s church fashion didn’t seem to adhere to any custom .

                In many ROCOR parishes the congregation separates themselves with women on the left side of the church and men on the right. This is done through custom and I’ve never seen it enforced. On major holidays with a full church it is generally impossible to do this anyway.

                And lastly, Mrs. Pravoslavnie may blush, but she has informed me that some women in ROCOR abstain from taking communion when they are in the midst of their monthly period. This custom seems to have roots in the old country, and lingers on with more recent immigrants. We never heard of it while we were in OCA.

                ROCOR And MP customs seem identical based on my observations. Over the last half century OCA seems to have become a fully American church grafted onto an old Russian root.

              • Carl Kraeff says

                I think the differences may be more acute outside the Diocese of the South. I had glossed over the main serious difference, at least in the South, and that is the standards for the Mystery of Penance. It is true that ROCOR has kept a pre-Schmemann regimen. This does not mean, however, in the OCA any given parishioner may not be required to confess on a weekly basis; it all depends on what his priest confessor may require and what the parishioner desires. As for the other differences, here locally the OCA and ROCOR churches have the following in common: no pews; strict observance of respective rubrics; weekly evening services, feast day liturgies, and a full slate of Sunday services that start with Saturday vespers; clergy attire and facial hair; the convert women and men tend to dress more modestly; agape meals after DL; and, regular observance of panakhidas. In addition to confession regimen, the differences are: almost all of their women cover their heads, while about half of ours do; there is a bit more Slavonic in their services; and of course the calendar difference that makes it most inconvenient for us all to celebrate the fixed feasts together.

                • Pravoslavnie says

                  Ah yes, the pews. I’ve never seen pews in any ROCOR church, but I’ve seen pews in every OCA church I’ve visited, except two, and that was at St. Vlads and St. Tikhon’s seminaries where I’d expect them to be absent. I’ve also seen pews in two GOA churches, and two AOAA churches I’ve visited here in the DC area. Pews seem more common up here.

                  As far as the DOS, I think there is some more uniformity and custom there due to the influence of Abp. Dmitri, his missionary outreach, and the presence of converts.

                  In my old OCA parish we rarely had weekday services outside of Holy Week, and Saturday night Vespers was thinly attended. Metropolitan Jonah has mentioned that OCA could be handling the Mystery of Confession a lot better, and that is one of the major differences I noted in my switch to ROCOR. At my old OCA parish many people confessed only once or twice a year, usually before Pascha.

                  • Well, ‘Pravoslavnie’ probably needs to get out more. One of ROCOR’s largest and most active parishes is just chock full of pews and those good people seem likely to keep them, as do some others.

                    None of the OCA seminary or monastery or cathedral churches has pews, and a great many more recently established parishes, especially (but only) in the eparchy of Dallas, do without them as well.

                    Some seating is provided in every temple just to be kind to the elderly and infirm, pregnant women, mothers with small children, etc., etc.

                    Fixed seating (aka pews) filling the nave is alien to our liturgical tradition. As one priest is fond of saying: ‘The church can’t breather when it’s full of pews.’

                    So, we admit that they’re less than ideal. But that doesn’t mean that we have to get ugly with each other over it.

                    • Pravoslavnie says

                      Fr. James,

                      I guess I do need to get out more! I wrote that my OCA experience has been limited to a number of parishes in two eastern dioceses from which I posted my observations. I stand by my observations. Generally speaking, the Russian influence is weaker in this diocese.

                      I sometimes express myself here. When I’m wrong or misinformed I admit it, take my lumps, and move on. When I learn new things I’m grateful to hear them and willingly stand corrected. I’m glad to learn that there is a lot more variation among OCA parishes than what I’ve experienced around here. I just wish our local OCA clergy would ditch the clergy shirts as they remind me too much of tacky leisure suits.

          • Well, Carl, of course I don’t think the OCA/MP/ROCOR group has some kind of monopoly on ministering to Russians, but to my way of thinking, these three jurisdictions are the most likely to have priests who speak Russian and know the culture that these immigrants know. What are new immigrant Russian Orthodox going to do with some clean-shaven convert priest in a collar? Come on. Each of those three jurisdictions has at least one parish in the NYC area that’s a little more culturally Russian: Russian schedules, Russian parishioners, part or all of Liturgy in Slavonic.

            Also, I don’t think the example you gave necessarily holds true for all ROCOR parishes. You said that parish came out of the OCA, so it probably imbibes some OCA tendencies whether they’ll admit to it or not. I’ve been to the ROCOR cathedral in New York, and they’ll be civil to someone who can’t speak Russian, but that’s it. Liturgy is all Slavonic, Russian homily, not even so much as an indicator of which priest might speak English for you to go to confession so you can have communion.

            • That would definitely not be a ROCOR church that I can be a member of. I truly cherish understanding every word of the services as I think we are called to worship in mind, body and spirit. It is also my responsibility and my privilege to provide the “amens” to the prayers that the priest is offering on our behalf; therefore, I would definitely feel diminished in a church where the prayers of the Anaphora are said “in secret.”

  12. Carl Kraeff says

    I must confess with shame that I have missed the elephant in the room and that is the Mospat/RU article on the ROC Conference on the Freedom of Faith: the Problem of Discrimination and Persecution of Christians. It is politically and ecclesiologically very significant that the ROC is now in the forefront on this issue: the mostly unpublicized persecution and murder of Christians by Muslims all around the world. If you recall, the ancient patriarchates had just met to discuss, among other things, this same topic, mostly in a regional sense. However, Moscow is addressing the issue in its worldwide manifestation–a more “ecumenical” appreciation so to speak. On the political side, Russia had been playing footsies with many Muslim countries in which such persecution is taking place and certainly would not mind replacing the USA as a patron in other such countries. For the ROC to take the lead on this issue may mean that Russia herself will have a more balanced foreign policy. Any way you look at it, bravo to the ROC and especially to Her most eloquent and capable DECR Chair, Metropolitan Hilarion.

  13. cynthia curran says

    While there was a lot of rules in the old testment, it was harder to enforced since the earliest form of government was the judges and the book of judges states that everyone did as he please which was closed to anarchy. William Devar who studied ruins of the early jews noticed that Judges is correct in that the early Jews had a weak central government and this is probably the reason for the development of the monarchy.

  14. cynthia curran says

    Your right that is the correct spelling. I forgot the spelling as usual.

    • I think that the article refers not to Russia as a whole but to the Russian Orthodox Church. There are reasons not to conflate the church with the state or even the nation. Certainly, one can quibble with the author’s favorable comparison of the Russian Orthodox Church to other churches. Nonetheless, it is quite probable that the only thing of lasting value in that failing state is the Church.

      BTW, Niall Ferguson’s article had an intriguing passage in it: “The Western media excitedly covered protests in Moscow, where the vote rigging was especially egregious. The government crushed these demonstrations, deploying the Interior Ministry’s Dzerzhinsky Division. It’s amazing to me that such a thing even exists: Felix Dzerzhinsky was Lenin’s butcher during the Russian Civil War, the first director of the dreaded Bolshevik secret police, the Cheka.” Amazing and something that should give pause to anyone before one rhapsodizes about Russia.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Dale, I was speaking about the ROC specifically. But the Russian nation itself –despite its troubles–is very resurgent on the international scene. Otherwise the Neocons wouldn’t be going as crazy as they are abou it.

      Is Russia in demographic free-fall. Perhaps, but so is all of Western Europe. We in America are barely holding our own.

      • Francis Frost says

        Mr Michalopulos:

        Resurgent Russia ? perhaps “Insurgent Russia” would be more appropriate.

        Just how is Russia resurgent? By invading its neighbors and murdering innocent civilians? By holding fraudulent elections? By impoverishing a nation while its kleptocratic mafiosi stash their ill gotten loot in London and Geneva?

        Perhaps you are unaware that last weekend 100,000 Muscovites came out to demand a retraction of the fraudulent Parliamentary elections. Just yesterday NPR broadcast an interview with one of those protestors, a young real estate attorney, a Mr Rayev. One thing he said struck me more than anything else. He said: “We Russians have re-discovered our dignity. We will not allow them to lead us like cattle anymore” May God bless the Russian people to recover their dignity, their freedom and their Orthodox faith !

        For more on the supposed “resurgence” in Russia see the following from the Wall Street Journal:

        Russian Spring Has Begun

        DECEMBER 14, 2011

        The Putin regime will never recover legitimacy, but financial interests mean it will hang on as long as it can.

        There is a remarkable consistency over the course of Russian history: Every authoritarian regime perished not because of destiny’s blows or enemy onslaught but because of internal disease. In the 20th century, it happened twice: the February Revolution of 1917 and Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika.

        The slow-motion collapse of Vladimir Putin’s regime is no different. After more than a decade of authoritarian rule, Mr. Putin’s self-described “glorious deeds” have become the object of contempt not just on opposition websites but increasingly on the streets of Moscow and in the mainstream media.

        Two events this year sharply accelerated the decline of trust in the regime among elites and the general public. The first was the shameful deal struck with President Dmitry Medvedev on Sept. 24 clearing the way for Mr. Putin to run next year for a third presidential term, which the Russian Constitution clearly forbid. The reaction across the country was explosive. Even the most thick-skinned citizens saw that turning the presidency into the object of a private swap made a mockery of the Constitution.

        The second event that greatly deepened the current political crisis was the clearly fraudulent Dec. 4 parliamentary election. Independent observers believe that 15%-20% of the votes were falsified in favor of the ruling United Russia party. This scale of vote-rigging was unprecedented even by Mr. Putin’s standards. The election violations began well before Dec. 4, when nine opposition parties were forbidden from participating in the election.

        These events have completely undermined the legitimacy of Mr. Putin’s regime and made it a laughing stock in the eyes of the general public. The presidential election scheduled for March 4, even if it results in an official “victory” for Mr. Putin, will likely be another major step toward the regime’s downfall.

        What is happening in Russia today is similar to the rejection of authoritarianism the world witnessed in what is now called the Arab Spring. As with the Mubarak regime in Egypt earlier this year, the Putin regime has lost the battle for the hearts and minds of its own people. On Dec. 10, more than 60,000 Russians turned out in the streets of Moscow to protest the regime. Among them were many young people who do not see any future under the current regime. After this protest, Russia will never again be the same. Though the rally was organized by the liberal Solidarnost movement, people of varying political creeds and from all walks of life participated, proof that a mature civil society has taken root.

        There is no way to hold back the growing wave of protests. Most Russians now understand that the current legal and economic system in Russia lacks the basic elements of a free-market system. The concept of private property is practically nonexistent and things can be easily taken away or awarded depending on loyalty to the regime.

        Although an impressive police and security apparatus exists, this only perpetuates the illusion that stability can be maintained by force. As we saw in the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, any attempt to fully employ the security forces will only lead to the delegitimization of the regime.

        “We perfectly realize what is going on,” one Kremlin ideologist told me recently. “But it’s too late to jump off the train. The new authorities will come after us and arrest us [if we lose power]. That’s why we have no option but to keep running like a hamster on a wheel.”

        The regime’s last resort is to inflate outside threats from Russia’s eternal enemies—NATO, the West and the United States. Mr. Putin recently claimed that Russians demanding his resignation receive instructions directly from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and are funded by U.S. sponsors. Mr. Medvedev has said that the U.S. intends to strip Russia of its nuclear capabilities. And Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, told Russian news agencies last month that “the pro-NATO and anti-Russian policies of the Baltic states and Georgia could lead to local and regional military conflicts including using nuclear weapons.”
        These claims of Western threats are primarily intended for domestic use. But there is one threat that the Putin kleptocracy takes very seriously—the threat to its multibillion-dollar bank accounts, assets and real-estate holdings in the West. People in the Kremlin took seriously the list compiled earlier this year by the U.S. State Department barring entry visas for Russian officials allegedly involved in the 2009 death under detention of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

        They realize that any extension of this list could directly affect them and their overseas holdings. To protect their assets and hang onto power, these people are willing to brandish a nuclear stick. Those who warn that the collapse of the Putin regime is fraught with unpredictable consequences have a point. But they are dead wrong if they believe that the preservation of this regime is less risky. A Putin dismissal is the only chance we have to save Russia from the gangrene of systemic corruption.

        Mr. Piontkovsky, a mathematician and one of the leaders of the Solidarnost movement, is author of “Another Look Into Putin’s Soul” (Hudson Institute, 2006).


  15. cynthia curran says

    Well, I not without criticsing of Byzantium, being verse enough I know the failings of both Constantine and Justinian and some of the rest of the Byzantine emperors but what about Peter the Great and Ivan the Great in Russian history. As for Julian in the Byzantine empire there were still a lot of pagans in the East, so it wasn’t surprising one more emperor would be pagan and Constantius murdered Julian’s father which of course turn Julian away from christianity. Granted, Constantius was Arian.Peter was at odds with the Orthodox church and wanted to forcefully changed Russia to become more like Western Europe. And their were priests in Russia that supportive the communists since they believe the communists would get rid of poverty.

  16. You clarified this for me, Bishop Tikhon. Thanks. You, and O Hamartolos in particular.