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News From Across The Orthodox World

•Belgrade, Serbia

The Electoral Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church met in Belgrade on January 22nd, when a new Patriarch was chosen by lot following unexpectedly brief preliminary balloting that determined the three final candidates.

Following a tradition established for the election of the previous Patriarch, the 37 Bishops able to vote cast their ballots until 3 candidates received a majority of votes. The previous election took more than 9 ballots over several days. In this instance the candidates emerged on the first day.   These were Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, Bishop Irinej of Ba?ka and Bishop Irinej of Nish. All three names were then placed in a chalice from which the name of 80 year-old Irinej (Gavrilovic), the long time Bishop of Nish, was chosen at random.

The new Patriarch, widely seen as a moderate, is expected to restore the shaken unity of the Serbian Synod, which saw in-fighting between nationalist, conservative Bishops and more progressive ones during the long infirmity of the former Patriarch.

According to Church rules the new Patriarch was immediately enthroned upon his selection. A second, more international and public enthronement has been scheduled in the ancient See and Cathedral of Pec, located in the former Serbian province, and new  internationally recognized  independent state, of Kosovo. The Serbian Church move is likely to inflame Kosovars, whose indepedence is not recognized, and hotly contested, by the Serbian state.

• Almaty, Kazakhstan

"Patriarch Blames Crime and Drugs for Haitian Quake

The Moscow Times, 19 January 2010
By Alexandra Odynova

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill said crime, drugs and corruption caused last week’s massive earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people in Haiti.

Kirill, speaking during a weekend visit to Kazakhstan, said the Haitian people bore responsibility for the calamity because they had turned away from God, the news agency reported late Monday.
“Haiti is a country of poverty and crime, famine, drugs and corruption, where people have lost their moral face,” Kirill was quoted as saying.

He compared Haiti with the Dominican Republic, which are located on the same Caribbean island. “I’ve visited the island divided between two countries, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. One of them is developing, while the other is affected by crimes, economic recession and political unrest. That part of the island was shattered by the earthquake,” he said.
The patriarch also compared Haiti with Kazakhstan, noting that Kazakhstan has not experienced any earthquakes recently despite its seismological position, the news report said.

Asked to clarify Kirill’s comments, a church spokesman said Tuesday that the news report had “misinterpreted” the patriarch’s words and “taken them out of context.” The spokesman, Alexander Volkov, could not immediately clarify, saying only that a transcript of the speech would appear “later” on the Moscow Patriarchate’s web site.

A church scholar said Kirill’s comments had astonished his foreign listeners in Almaty, but they were quite ordinary to the Orthodox faithful.

“For those who often listen to Patriarch Kirill, such statements seem quite ordinary, but I know that some people in Almaty were amazed,” said the scholar, Alexander Soldatov, editor of the religious web site

Kirill is known for his statements about large-scale disasters. Last year, he blamed the global financial crisis on the spiritual degradation of the world and called it a trial.

On Friday, the patriarch expressed his condolences to the Haitian president in a statement published on the Moscow Patriarchate’s web site.

Kirill isn’t the first religious leader to raise eyebrows over remarks about the magnitute-7 earthquake that destroyed the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, last Tuesday.

U.S. television evangelist Pat Robertson said last week that Haiti has been “cursed” because of what he called a “pact with the devil” in its history.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, which is overseeing massive relief efforts in Haiti, denounced Robertson’s statement. “It never ceases to amaze me that in times of amazing human suffering somebody says something that can be so utterly stupid,”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Repeated calls to the Kremlin’s press office for comment about Kirill’s comments went unanswered Tuesday.  President Dmitry Medvedev has sent a rescue team and humanitarian supplies on four cargo jets to Haiti.


• Guatamala

The OCA's discussion with the 50,000 member  Orthodox Catholic Church of Guatamala, led by Archbishop Andres (Giron), continued in a recent visit to that country earlier this month by Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and Fr. Michael Oleksa of Alaska, following a stop in Mexico.

• Chicago, IL
A group calling themselves “Greek Orthodox Christians of Chicago for Truth and Reform” have launched a new website ( “to sound alarms concerning the spread of the teachings assocated with the Elder Ephraim”. The website’s mission is “ educate people, especially the Greek Orthodox Laity, on the issues raised by Elder Ephraim and his followers that confront the institution of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.” According to its editors, “The website will monitor and publish the activities and teachings of Elder Ephraim and his Monasteries, and to expose their effect upon the institution of the Greek Orthodox Church and its laity.” In their mission statement the new group laments: “We are of the opinion that our current Hierarchs of the Metropolis of Chicago are complicit in allowing a cancerous cult to permeate the theology of our Church..”

Criticisms of the Elder’s teachings and the practices by some of his followers according to the website consist of his advocacy of aerial toll-houses, an insistence on re-baptism of non-Orthodox Christians seeking to join the Orthodox Church, marriage counseling by cloistered monks and nuns, the selection of spouses by the Elder, the rejection of the “New Calendar” and the suggestion that other Greek Orthodox priests and parishes follow a “watered-down” theology for not supporting such positions.

The members of the new organization have chosen to remain anonymous. They explain this decisions in reference to an earlier effort on Facebook, called Concerned Orthodox Laity of America (C.O.L.A.) where they claim those who criticized Ephraimite teachings and practices were “... insulted, attacked and berated” by supporters of the Elder.

Archimandrite Ephraim (commonly known as Elder Ephraim) is a former abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, a spiritual guide for several monasteries on Mount Athos and the founder of some 17 Orthodox monasteries throughout the United States. Born in 1927, a monk for the past 60+ years, he currently resides in Arizona, at St. Anthony’s monastery, which he founded. He is the author of one book “ Counsels from the Holy Mountain: Selected from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim” published by St. Anthony’s Monastery in 1999.

• Moraga, CA
The Jan-Feb 2010 issue of “The Voice of Holy Trinity,” the parish bulletin of Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Moraga, CA includes the following report offered by the Vice-President of the Diocesan Council of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church:

Father Gerasim (Eliel) of our Platina Monastery accepted a new prestigious assignment with the OCA, Orthodox Church in America. He is now the Bishop of Alaska for the OCA. Father Gerasim served liturgy at Holy Trinity on a number of occasions. He will be greatly missed by our Diocese, but his elevation is most deserved.”

The report anticipates, unless there is something no one has told the Diocese of Alaska....


Chicago, Il

In a letter widely circulated last week, TOUCHSTONE Editor Fr. Patrick Reardon challenged St. Vladimir's decision to confer an honorary Doctorate on Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Cantebury. Fr. Reardon wrote to Metropolitan Jonah as President of the Scardale, NY, school:

"Your Beatitude

I beg your pastoral blessing, please. You receive this letter as President and Chairman of the Board of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and I send it as a friend of the seminary.

I write to complain of the seminary’s decision to confer an honorary degree on Rowan Williams later this month.

Although the scholarly publications of Dr. Williams may be cited as adequate reason for his lecture at the seminary, news of the plan to honor him is already prompting a popular consternation and even scandal.

Outside of academic circles, this individual is chiefly known for his public support for sexual perversion within the Anglican Communion.

I write on behalf of two groups of people: First, I speak for the simple faithful who worship in our Orthodox parishes, those friends of the St. Vladimir’s who feel betrayed by the seminary’s decision with respect to Dr. Williams.

Second, I speak for thousands of loyal and believing Anglicans, in this country and around the world, for whom the public policies of Dr. Williams have been a source of pain and distress during the past seven years of his unfortunate tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Some of these Anglicans, in fact, have been pursuing a path toward membership the Orthodox Church. The seminary’s resolve to honor Rowan Williams is causing them to reconsider their hope to join the Orthodox Church.

I learned of an instance of this as recently as this afternoon. Indeed---if I am permitted a personal note---let me mention that in those dark days, a quarter of a century ago, when I was a struggling Anglican trying to find his way to the Orthodox Church, my weak faith could not have sustained such an offense.

If a major Orthodox seminary had conferred such an honor on such a man as Rowan Williams back then, I likely would never have joined the Orthodox Church.

Your Beatitude, I suffer no illusion about the seminary’s strength of resolve to honor Dr. Williams. I am confident, rather, that no contrary plea from me will be taken seriously.

I write only to satisfy my conscience that a grave moral duty has been met---to wit, the obligation to warn fellow Christians that they have embarked on a path that will lead only to scandal and disgrace to Holy Church. Indeed, this scandal is already in play.

I beg the forgiveness of your Beatitude if I have expressed myself intemperately. This is likely the case, I suppose, for this situation is truly heartbreaking.

Kissing the Sacred Omophorion, And seeking your Beatitude’s paternal benediction,

I remain,

Your faithful son in Christ our Lord,

(Very Reverend) Patrick Henry Reardon"

Fr. Reardon is a well-known Orthodox writer and teacher, currently serving as the pastor of All Saints’ Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is a senior editor of Touchstone Magazine.








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