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News From Around the Orthodox World

• Chicago, IL: Second Assembly Meets

The second annual Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America (formerly SCOBA) gathered for its meeting in Chicago, May 25-27. A total of 45 bishops were in attendance - down from the 55 who attended last year. This lesser number can be explained by deaths, the absence of the Serbian bishops who were in Serbia for a meeting of their own Synod, and the fact that noCanadian or only a few Central American hierarchs joined in the meeting, preferring to participate in the Assemblies of their own choice (a Canadian Assembly, and the Latin American Assembly, respectively). Thus the Assembly is now really the conference of Orthodox Bishops in the USA.

This past year the Assembly focused on the establishing of the Secretariat and completing its initial tasks. This year it agreed to formally incorporate itself as an legal entity, and heard reports from each of its new committees. Nearly all of the 13 committees had either met prior to the Assembly meeting, or were able to meet while in Chicago. Sensitive to criticisms that the Assembly was exclusively episcopal, and included no clerical or lay participation, the bishops pointed out “ ...The work of these committees will constitute the principal service of the Assembly, meeting frequently and regularly in order – with the participation also of lay members – to materialize the remarkable unity of the Orthodox Churches in this region.”

In this regard, the Assembly expressed its desire “to define more carefully its relationship to the agencies and endorsed-organizations which it inherited from SCOBA. It was felt that the bishops should do more to enable the success of these ministries in North America, and they agreed that the guidelines previously used by SCOBA were not adequate for the Assembly.” In this regard the Assembly decided upon the need to develop clear guidelines for Orthodox Christian chaplains, and to create a single, unified endorsing agency for all Orthodox military chaplains with the Department of Defense.

Finally the Assembly endorsed three projected conferences to bring together Orthodox youth workers from all over North America, and to help create a common vision for youth ministry in the Church in North America. In their message at the end of the Assembly the bishops noted:

“In light of the designation of June as “internet safety month,” we exhort our priests and parishioners to raise awareness and secure appropriate protection for our children and communities from the many and diverse prevalent dangers, including pornography, cyberbullying, perils by predators, risks of geotagging, and in particular dissension in the Church. Technology is not sinful; but the abuse of technology is a sin and a crime. We encourage our faithful to disseminate relevant internet safety literature, organize internet safety classes, utilize parental controls, and take rigorous advocacy measures to pressure wireless companies and carriers to mandate protective options.”

The cost of the Assembly meeting itself was not covered by the Churches, but was covered by individual donors this year, as last. However, it was reported that each of the churches contributed funds for the work of its thirteen committees.

• Israel: Jerusalem and Romania Break Communion

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem announced on May 9, 2011 the breaking of communion with the Romanian Patriarchate. The cause of interruption in eucharistic relations was the establishment of a Romanian Center for pilgrims in Jericho, Palestine, without the authorization of the local Church, that is, the Jerusalem Patriarchate. The Patriarchate also defrocked the Romanian-born Archimandrite Ieronim Cretu, superior of the Romanian Settlements of Jerusalem, Jordan and Jericho for his role in the Center. A delegation of three hierarchs of the Romanian Orthodox Church was appointed May 19-20, during the meeting of the Romanian Synod, in order to meet with representatives of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem for a bilateral dialogue in order to find a solution to the schism. No date for that future meeting between the two Churches has been set.

According to the Romanians, preliminary discussions between the two Churches had already taken place in Jerusalem, on 15 April, in order to see "how we could solve this issue in an amiable way, in the spirit of the 'brotherly dialogue.' " Clearly, they failed.

The Romanian Church is aware that the existence of the Jericho Center, which includes a church, hostel and study center, is problematic in canonical terms, as it does not have the permission of the Local Church to exist. According to a Romanian Church spokesperson:

“Due to pastoral-missionary reasons one can make a derogation from the canons, because the canons are not dogmas, but pastoral rules. Their role is to show us how to organise the religious life so as not to have conflicts among Churches, but if such conflict appears, they may be overcome. The most serious thing appears when a deviation from the faith comes up. This could be the only serious reason for breaking up the Eucharistic or liturgical communion with a hierarch of a Church. Our reaction was that of surprise, but we also express our hope that a brotherly understanding could be reached so that we may overcome this spiritual crisis between Churches, He continued: “We know from history that the administrative issues could always be solved in an amiable way. But one thing is sure. The settlement is and will remain the property of the Romanian Patriarchate assigned to the pilgrims. We hope that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem will understand the need of its existence for pilgrims for pastoral-missionary reasons and recognise the fact that it does not cause them any damage, but the contrary."

According to the Romanians in a televised interview:

“The settlement of Jericho was built with much human and financial sacrifice of the faithful, of various sponsors, and even Romanian state authorities. Here is a centre of Bible studies which bears the name of Saint James the Hosevite. So, the settlement has a purely missionary pastoral character which proves in this way the care of our Church for pilgrims, not only for the Romanians who left and settled in the Diaspora, but also for the Romanians who spend one week or two in the Holy Land. We do not doubt the right of jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem over Israel, Palestine and Jordan, but we raised this settlement only for the Romanian pilgrims, not for the native Orthodox faithful who are under the direct care of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in the territory of the Holy Land, under Palestinian authority, and in Jordan.”

• New York, NY: OCA & ROCOR Hierarchs Con-celebrate for first time officially in 70 years.

As one schism was beginning, another was given a formal and symbolic ending.

Metropolitans Jonah and Hilarion, First Hierarchs respectively of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia [ROCOR], among other bishops, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint Nicholas Cathedral here on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. The Liturgy marked the first joint service of the OCA and ROCOR Bishops in 70 years. The celebration was the product of the labors of the joint OCA-ROCOR Commission established last year to promote cooperation between the two bodies who have had a contentious history.

• Washington DC: Changes Continue At +Jonah’s Cathedral

Following the removal of Fr. Fester from all duties in the wake of the Synod meeting in Chicago at the beginning of the month, the Parish Council of St. Nicholas Cathedral in DC sent out the following notice:

“With the blessing of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, a Search Committee has been appointed to draw up a list of priests whom the Search Committee thinks to be suitable and presumably available candidates for the position of Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral. To assist the Search Committee, any parishioner in good standing of St. Nicholas Cathedral may submit to Barbara Rhenish, in written form and by June 30th, no more than two names of possible candidates. When the Search Committee has reviewed the nominations and drawn up its list of selected candidates for approval by the Metropolitan, the Search Committee will submit the approved list to the Parish Council, who will choose preferably at least three candidates to interview. After the interviews, the Parish Council will rank the candidates interviewed and submit a recommendation to the Metropolitan. Throughout this consultative process, it remains the Metropolitan’s canonical prerogative to choose and appoint the Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral.”

On May 27th, following the meeting of the Episcopal Assembly in Chicago, Metropolitan Jonah informed the Parish President that he had decided he wanted to be the new Dean of his cathedral. As he had previously blessed the above search process, it is now unclear what will happen.

As reported earlier the Greek nuns who were staying in a Cathedral parish facility, with the blessing of Metropolitan Jonah, have now been required to leave by May 31st. Their future is uncertain.

Fr. Fester, meanwhile, according to reports, is drafting an apology to the Synod, and to Bishop Mark specifically, for his actions regarding recent events in Dallas. It has been reported to that he has obtained a conditional release from Metropolitan Jonah, and is currently seeking a pastoral position outside the OCA.

• Dallas, TX: Bishop Nikon meets with Southern Deans, +Mark Begins Tour, New Chancellor Appointed

The following press release appeared on the DOS site yesterday:

“During the meeting of the Holy Synod in Chicago, IL, on May 24-27, His Grace Bishop Nikon, as Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South, conveyed Bishop Mark’s request to be relieved of his duties as administrator of the Diocese of the South as well as other diocesan responsibilities given to him previously. The Holy Synod accepted Bishop Nikon’s recommendations concerning Bishop Mark. Bishop Mark remains as a guest in the Diocese of the South. In addition to his visits to the Dallas area, His Grace Nikon has visited with the clergy and faithful in the South Florida, Orlando, and Carolinas Deaneries.

On Monday and Tuesday, May 30 and 31, His Grace chaired a meeting of the deans to facilitate and finalize the procedures to be followed by the Episcopal Search Committee of the Diocese of the South. During this two-day meeting, Bishop Nikon appointed Archpriest Marcus Burch as chancellor of the Diocese of the South. Fr. Marcus’ duties as Rector of St John of the Ladder Orthodox Church in Greenville, SC, and Dean of the Carolinas remain the same...”

In short, Bishop Mark, at his request, is being relieved of pastoral duties at St. Serpahim’s Cathedral, where he was also serving as administrator of the Diocese, to give him time and opportunity to meet with clergy and laity in parishes throughout the Diocese, before a special election is held.

- Mark Stokoe




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