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• San Juan, Puerto Rico

According to a report released yesterday (March 9) from the General Secretariat for Pan-Orthodox Ministries
of the Archdiocese of Mexico of the Ecumenical Patriarchate “...Msgr. Andrés Girón and Msgr. Mihail Castellanos of the independent Iglesia Católica Ortodoxa de Guatemala (ICOG)” were received into the Orthodox Church by clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in January 2010. “At that time, guidelines were also established to facilitate the reception of the ICOG’s 527,000 members, which are overwhelmingly indigenous. The former ICOG has 334 churches in Guatemala and southern Mexico, 12 clergymen, 14 seminarians, 250 lay ministers, and 380 catechists. It also has an administrative office on 280 acres, a community college and 2 schools with 12 professors / teachers, and a monastery on 480 acres. Fourteen students from Guatemala are now enrolled in the St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Theological Institute Licentiate degree program.”

The St. Gregory program is an on-line Spanish theological course run by the Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisi?), a priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, currently working out of Puerto Rico, who is responsible for the receptions.

In February 2010 Archimandrite Vujisic “returned to Guatemala and met with clerics and others who assist in the Church’s pastoral work and outreach. He discussed mission and ministry priorities, and economic development with Msgr. Andrés Girón and Msgr. Mihail Castellanos. He met and encouraged the faithful who collaborate in the diverse ministries in Guatemala, visited schools and institutions, and spoke at length with seminarians regarding matters related to the Orthodox faith, especially the importance of the development of an Orthodox phronema, praxis, and liturgical life. (He) inspected places of worship, liturgical vessels, vestments, etc. in order to assess the needs of the Church in Guatemala. Twelve full sets of vestments for Priests were given to Msgr. Mihail Castellanos. Catechisms were distributed to the lay ministers and catechists.

Archimandrite Vujisi? also visited Holy Trinity Monastery (Antiochian Orthodox Church), where he held lengthy discussions with Abbess Inés and Mother María, traveled to Guatemala City and visited the orphanage, Hogar Rafael Ayau as well as held meetings with additional ‘Orthodox seekers’...”

The report states that the mission will return to Guatemala after Pascha for follow-up meetings and discussions.

Asked by about relations between the Giron Church and the OCA, which had been widely reported following the Metropolitan's interview in Russian and Archbishop Giron’s visit to Syosset last Autumn (read that story here), Fr. Peter DiLeo-Vulic of the Secretariat stated that “Metropolitan Jonah told me personally on the telephone that the OCA could NOT (emphasis in original) receive Msgr. Girón” because it would cause difficulties “with the Ecumenical Patriarachate. After that, Metropolitan Jonah lost interest ... It is very disappointing.”

• Athens, Greece

The Ministry of Education of the Hellenic Republic (Greece) has recognized St. Tikhon’s Seminary as equal in standing to the schools of theology in the universities of Greece. The Greek Ministry of Education has also affirmed that the Master of Divinity degree conferred by STS is equivalent to the first degree in Theology conferred by the Faculties of Theology in the Universities of Athens and Thessalonica, and therefore renders the holder eligible to pursue the graduate studies programs or the doctoral programs (Th.D.) in those universities. By virtue of Greece’s membership in the European Union, the recognition extends to all schools and religious faculties of the universities within member states of the European Union.

In related news, the Search Committee seeking a new Dean for St. Tikhon's Seminary meets this week as it considers a successor to Bishop-elect Michael Dahulich.  Fr. Alexander Atty, an Antiochian priest from Louisville, KY who is a member of the Board of Trustees, is considered the prime candidate.

• Paris, France
It was reported on February 24th by the Russian news service “Interfax-Religion” that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has “returned to lay status” the retired Bishop of Amphipolis, Basil (Osborne). The former administrator of the Russian diocese in England (Sorouzh) and successor to Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), Bishop Basil was a key figure in the controversy that led most of the parishes, clergy and laity of the Sorouzh diocese into Constantinople’s Russian diocese in Western Europe three and a half years ago. Bishop Basil, a widower, retired from active ministry last Autumn, and reportedly requested laicization so that he could marry again.

Relations between Constantinople’s Russian Diocese and the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe remain tense, even with the retirement and laicization of Bishop Basil. Constantinople’s exarch in Western Europe, +Gabriel of Komana, quoted above, recently withdrew the invitation he had previously extended to Metropolitan +Hilarion (Alfeyev) to serve Liturgy in the historic Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris. +Gabriel cited the recent court decision in regards to the contested Orthodox Cathedral in Nice in his decision to withdraw the invitation. Early this year the French court finally decided to return the Nice Cathedral, reputed to be one of the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe, from the Constantinopolitan Russians to the Russian Orthodox Church after more than eighty years. The case has been appealed.

At the same time, the Russian government has announced the purchase of a landmark building in Paris near the Eifel Tower for the purposes of constructing a new “religious-cultural” center, i.e. a massive new Russian Cathedral in the heart of Paris.

• St. Petersburg - New York
The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, meeting in St. Petersburg on March 5th announced that the new Overseer of the Russian Patriarchal Parishes in the United States will be Archbishop Justinian, the former Archbishop of Tiraspol. Tirsapol is the second largest city in Moldova, but is the capital and administrative centre of the de facto independent breakaway Russian region of Moldova that calls itself the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria).

• New York, NY

The 65 Orthodox Bishops in the Americas received their invitations to attend the first Episcopal Assembly to be held under the new Chambesy agreement  last week. Writing to all as the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Demetrios stated:

“Therefore, in order to comment the process to which we have all been called within the designated region “North and Central America”, I invite you to participate at the first Episcopal Assembly of the region that will be convened in New York City on May 26 and 27, 2010. Preparations are under way in order to facilitate your participation. Ground transportation, lodging, all meals, and meeting facilities are currently being readied. It is requested that you arrive on Tuesday, May 25th in order to be present for the First Session of the Assembly the morning of Wednesday, May 26th. In order that we may two full days for the Assembly, please make your travel arrangements in order to leave on Friday, May 28th. All three nights in New York City will be provided to you...”

The new Assembly will replace SCOBA. One of the major differences between the new Episcopal Assembly and SCOBA is that all the bishops will be invited to attend, not just representatives; and that voting will be by local churches - not jurisdictions. Thus all the jurisdictions under one local Church (e.g. the Albanians, Ukrainians, Greeks and Carpatho-Russians, all under Constantinople) will cast one united ballot. For the purposes of the Assembly the OCA will be one of eight local Churches, rather than just another one of 23 jurisdictions.

• Chicago IL
The annual OCA Midwestern diocesan clergy convocation, usually held in Lent, has been postponed.The new dates will be August 23-25 at the Carmelite Retreat Center outside Chicago. “The change in the time of the convocation will allow for our episcopal candidates to be present at our Clergy Convocation, giving a tremendous opportunity to our clergy to worship with and get to know each candidate better,” said Fr John Zdinak, Chancellor.

• South Canaan PA
In a moment of Lentern serendipity, some 100 clergy and lay delegates to the Eastern American Diocesan Lenten Retreat and Pastoral Conference, headed by Metropolitan Hilarion, visited St. Tikhon’s Monastery, even as the 30+ clergy of the OCA’s Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania were gathering for their Lenten retreat. Fr. Sergius (Bower), new Abbot of St. Tikhon’s monastery, welcomed the visitors, pointing out the "importance and necessity" of applying effort so as to gain an understanding of  "our common past." In reply Metropolitan Hilarion of ROCOR expressed his hopes in the joint OCA-ROCOR Synodal commission that will be exploring ways of future cooperation between the two Churches. The nearby parish in Mayfield, formerly an OCA parish, and now in ROCOR, provided lunch for all the participants.

• Washington DC & Dallas TX
Fr. Constantine White has resigned as Chancellor of the new DC diocese. The Metropolitan has asked Fr. Gregory Safchuk to replace him. The new diocese is currently seeking to reincorporate legally. The former Articles of Incorporation were allowed to lapse when the diocese was subsumed into the Diocese of Washington and New York under Metropolitan Herman.

In related news, the Metropolitan has announced another change in his chancery in the Diocese of the South. The Metropolitan writes: “I hereby appoint Archpriest Joseph Fester as Dean of St. Seraphim Cathedral and Archpriest John Anderson as the Associate Pastor. While at this time Fr. Joseph is also the Chancellor of the Diocese, I request the parish council to see how they can transition him into the full time position of Dean. This means that eventually he will relinquish being chancellor. His work has been very valuable as chancellor; but I believe the pastoral work of the cathedral is more important...”

-Mark Stokoe




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