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• Sendai, Japan

The following was received by yesterday:

“Christ is in our midst!

...This terrible earthquake hit the whole East Japan diocese and devastated the whole city of Sendai, where the episcopal throne of the diocese exists, and almost all the regional orthodox communities which exist along the Pacific coast. By order of His Eminence Daniel, the Metropolitan Council has been trying to get information from the beginning of the incident but does not have enough exact information about the East Japan diocese, because the telephone and internet lines are not working properly. They are mostly destroyed and other lines are restricted by the national authorities for the emergency priority. However, by now we confirmed that at least the clergy of Sendai orthodox church including Bishop Seraphim is safe. According to Bishop Seraphim, most of the church buildings in Tohoku parish along the Pacific coast are severely damaged. There are 24 churches in Tohoku parish. These churches are ministered by 5 priests. Out of these 5, one priest is missing. We have no exact information about the safety of the parishioners.

Fortunately, the Holy Resurrection Cathedral of Tokyo and the building of the Metropolitan Council are totally saved by God’s grace.

His Eminence Daniel is praying fervently Christ our Savior have mercy upon Japanese orthodox faithful and Japanese nation, because the nuclear power plant in Tohoku parish is found in critical situation. Please remember us Japanese Orthodox christians in your fervent prayers.

We will provide further information as soon as the whole situation of the earthquake damage turns out clear.

With love in Christ

Fr Demitrios Tanaka
Director of External Church Relations
Metropolitan Council
Holy Autonomous Orthodox Church in Japan

• Istanbul, Turkey

The Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew , has become the "Number One Target" for Turkish nationalists, reports Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper on March 15th, quoting “U.S. strategic centers.” The same information
was published by Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper in the article titled “Patriarchs under threat of death”. The major Turkish newspaper reported that Armenian Patriarch Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan’s life was also in danger.

According to Kathimerini, Western diplomats, are intensely concerned about the security for Patriarch Bartholomew Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II. Quoting an unamed “experienced US analyst” Kathimerini reports: “It is clear that there is a plan to assassinate the representatives of various minorities “ by Turkish extremists. The same official pointed out that “when we talk of a threat against the Patriarch, we are not referring to the Gray Wolves and their constant, loud demonstrations against him. We are talking of paramilitary nuclei which cunningly use young people as assassins.”

The Turkish security services have taken additional security measures for the two religious leaders, including arresting two possible assasins, age 17 & 18, according to the Austrian Catholic News Agency.

This is what happened with (the Armenian writer) Dink, and with the Catholic priest Andoro in Trebizond. In order for anyone to reach from the young assassin to the head, one must past through three or four links, who are careful to eliminate any of their traces. These are hard core, well organized gangs, covered up by high ranking officers in the security services,” Kathimerini reports.

• Syosset, NY

According to sources close to Moscow, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfayev) has returned to the United States at the direction of the Patriarch of Moscow, Kyrill, to meet today (and possibly Wednesday of this week) with Bishop Melchizedek, interim Chancellor of the OCA, as well as other OCA officials (including, it is reported, Fr. Thomas Hopko).+Hilarion will receive a personal briefing on the recent troubling behaviour of Metropolitan Jonah. Two weeks ago the Metropolitan agreed, and then refused, a medical/spiritual retreat and evaluation. Since then his supporters, almost entirely from the Diocese of the South, have launched an increasingly hysterical internet campaign, claiming +Jonah was in danger of being “removed” as Primate. That claim was not evidenced anywhere in the Minutes of the recent Synod meeting, and has been dismissed by the Bishops in attendance.

In other news from Syosset, the Metropolitan Council has been discussing possible new dates for a May meeting, following the Metropolitan’s recent unexplained postponement of the previously scheduled meetings of both the MC and the Synod.

Chambesy, Switzerland/New York NY

On February 26th a meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission devoted to the future agenda of a possible “Great Council” adjourned after only four days. The meetings was attended by representatives from fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches, that included mostly bishops, and senior clergy. The OCA was not invited, nor were representatives from the autonomous churches of Japan or Finland. There were no Americans, from any jurisdiction, participating.

The Commission, whose task was to make a preliminary agenda for the “Great Council”, collpased, as widely expected, on the subject of the granting of Autocephaly, despite a lengthy discussion on the topic. In brief, the Russian and Romanian Churches objected to Constantinople's proposals. The Commission also discussed the Diptychs, and failed to reach agreement on that topic as well due to controversy with the Georgian and Cypriot Churches. According to Article 16 of the Statute for Pre-Conciliar Inter-Orthodox Meetings, the conferees must approve papers on all topics of the agenda unanimously.

In a press release issued yesterday,  Archbishop Demetrios of  the Greek Archdiocese in America, and chairman of the North American Episcopal Assembly (a product of an earlier Chambesy meeting) tried to paint a more positive picture:  "Archbishop Demetrios also appraised the member bishops that the fifth and latest meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission was held this past week in Chambésy, Switzerland. It is generally hoped that this meeting will conclude significant work for the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar process."

The failure of the Chambesy meeting must necessarily call into question the Patriarch of Constantinople’s desire to hold a Great Council not only in 2013, but anytime in the foreseeable future.

The Archbishop then announced that the North American Episcopal Assembly will hold its second annual meeting in Chicago, May 25-27, 2011.

According to the Archbishop Metropolitan John [Zizioulas], who chaired the recent Chambesy gathering may be present at the forthcoming meeting of the Assembly in Chicago to address the bishops about the progress of the Chambesy's work, and "provide the Assembly context for its own work."

- Mark Stokoe


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