Wednesday, August 5. 2009
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400,000 people in the OCA?
More like 30,000.
Poverty for bishops? How about a salary from the OCA and a salary from the diocese of New York/New Jersey? How about a home at the chancery and a home in Bronxville?
How about no utility bills, food bills, no car payments, and no mortgage payments?
At last count the new Met. was pulling in close to $100k not including pension and healthcare benefits. With poverty like this, who wouldn't want the job.
Poverty? Give me a break.
Here's an idea, why not put up or shut up. Vladyka, if you want to preach about poverty and humility, why don't you donate just 1/2 of your salary back to the OCA and lose the salary from New York which you really shouldn't be getting now anyway since you have decided not to be the bishop of the New York/New Jersey diocese.
...Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.....
Lord Have Mercy!
#1 Anonymous Observer on 2009-08-05 15:42
Anyone else catch the "400,000-member denomination" figure in the story? Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose.
(Editor's note: And just think, two years ago we had 2 million.... Old habits die hard, I guess.)
#2 Anonymous on 2009-08-05 15:51
Just so I understand where you are coming from, do you have any idea how much of his salary his Beatitude does give back to the Church? Unless you do, I don't think you have any right to make such comment. And his Beatitude does not mention anything in the article about "poverty for bishops". What he does mention is humility, something of which he has a great deal, and something for which he prays and asks others to pray for on his behalf, as well. And this is something for which we should all pray.
#3 Ben Kjendal on 2009-08-06 10:16
1,600,000 reposed in just two years? Hell with the Church, I'm going into the undertaking business!
#4 no name on 2009-08-06 10:32
Dear Anonymous Observer:
I hear New York/NJ is an expensive place to live. And I think you've taken a really cheap shot at Metropolitan JONAH.
If you think the Metropolitan's digs are too posh, I suppose you have already voluntarily lived a life in poverty, devoted to prayer, fasting and charity, and from such a place cast this stone.
I have yet to find a Biblical distinction between poverty for "overseers" only versus poverty for "all who follow Christ". Seems if anything the expectation laid out for us is for the latter category.
And I confess I have yet to be willing to sell all and give to the poor. But that's not really your concern, is it?
#5 Rdr Alexander Langley on 2009-08-06 11:21
The Metropolitan asked us to pray for him and the other bishops. We do -- in every service, more than once. Since prayer is also doing, perhaps he's inviting us to speak honestly to them. That's one way to realize +Jonah's call for prayer for bishops. nd
#6 Nina Tkachuk Dimas on 2009-08-06 11:51
I don't publish my donations in the public domain - do you?
I do file taxes, and take the deductions for the donations I do make, but Publishing a list just to make curmudgeons happy? How do you know what the Metropolitan has or has not donated?
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
#7 just a matushka on 2009-08-06 12:45
Metropolitan Leonty,as old as he was,lived on the 3rd floor of the Pro-Cathdral in NYC (no elevator). Gave away more money than he ever received as Metropolitan. Metropolitan Laurus and those before him lived in the Monastery at Jordanville.(They were monks also). All is talk;all is vanity.
#8 anon on 2009-08-06 15:36
OMG! Thank you, OCAnews for making me see the light: We have a sinner in the White Hat. Oh, I can't bear it. I won't give any more money to a Church that tolerates sinners being in positions of leadership. How can I tell anybody about the Gospel when there is a filthy sinner at the helm of the church. I'm sure the Lord will understand why I keep silence. I'll just say: "Metropolitan Jonah made me do it. If there had been a holy person leading the Church I would have proclaimed the gospel to everyone, I would have given money to missionary efforts."
You know, now that I think about it maybe I don't want to be Orthodox anymore. This how I see it: (a) Metropolitan Jonah is a sinner (b) Metropolitan Jonah is Orthodox, therefore (c) The Orthodox Church is the "wrong" Church.
O Mark, thank you, thank you, thank you.
my point: It matter not who the leader is, it is still each and every person's responsibility to proclaim the Gospel. All this *&^& is just an excuse we use to justify our cynicism and complacency.
#9 Anonymous on 2009-08-07 07:19
another thing: Met. Jonah didn't say there were 400,000. That was the reporter's poor/lazy reporting. But, I'm sure Mark knew that, and was referring to the reporter with his "old habits die hard" bit.
Keep the synicism coming, Mark! I was just commenting to a friend how that there is just not enough of it going aroud in the OCA.
(editor's note: By definition, if I was cynical I would not be doing this. I would be laughing at the poor stupid shlock who was, the naif who believed that the Church can do better. But I am not laughing, and I am doing, and I do believe the Church can do better, so call me what you like, by cynical is not correct. If you don't like the news, make better. )
#10 Anonymous on 2009-08-07 07:28
Dear Mr. Stokoe:
It should come as no surprise that the current hierarchical selection process has been conducted in secret. The organizers of this process do not want their procedure to be affected by the kind of public outcry that derailed the installation of Hilarion Alfayev as the OCA’s Metropolitan. That was a setback for those who wished to re-Russify the OCA.
Never mind, with Metropolitan Jonah, they have done nearly as well. Since his installation, the new Metropolitan has poisoned the relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek Archdiocese and SCOBA, thereby, driving the OCA that much closer to the “Mother Church”. He has proposed the importation of a Russian monastery to the east coast of the US, and announced plans to install a Russian bishop on the OCA’s ruling Synod. Now has the chance to do just that, should it be a surprise that he doesn’t want public pressure to interfere with the process?
You have been diligent in publicizing the facts of the OCA’s on-going crisis. Please don’t miss the forest for looking at the trees!
It is no secret that the ROCOR-MP unification was personally engineered by Russian strongman, and FSB/KGB head, Vladimir Putin. That process consumed 12 years and multiple blandishments. Can anyone think that a similar effort might not be applied to gain control over the OCA?
Look at the history of your scandal. The missing money was all sent to Russia. The lack of records was explained as “that’s how things are done in Russia”. Perhaps you are unaware that your former chancellor and his supporters were meeting regularly with Bishop Merkuri, who personally interceded on the chancellor’s behalf with Metropolitan Herman. I was told by one of the former chancellor’s more ardent and vocal supporters that RSK would definitely be rehabilitated when the Moscow Patriarchate gains control of the OCA. Why do you think that the former chancellor still wears the Riassa, still collects a church salary, and is still addressed as “Father Bob”? It is because he and his supporters fully expect such a restoration by the Moscow Patriarchate.
Today is the first anniversary of this third genocidal attack against the Orthodox Christians in Georgia. This third invasion left hundreds if not thousands of innocent civilians dead. The exact number can’t be known since many were bulldozed into unmarked mass graves, and international observers and the press have been forbidden into the Russian occupied territories. Hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes, and 26,000 have been permanently ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homes. The Georgian villages of Tamarsheni and Ergeneti were centuries older than the city of Moscow! Please offer a prayer for the dead, the bereaved, the dispossessed and the homeless.
While contemplating the Putinistas' Anschluss on the OCA, you might take a moment to read the following articles to see what the pious Mr. Putin has done for the Orthodox Christians of Georgia.
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.
By Adrian Blomfield in Gori
Published: 6:19PM BST 01 Aug 2009
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
When the dull throb of homesickness becomes too overpowering to resist, the former inhabitants of Eredvi perform a bittersweet ritual.
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.
Explosion Near South Ossetia as War Anniversary Nears
By OLESYA VARTANYAN and MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
Published: August 4, 2009
TBILISI, Georgia — An explosion in Georgia close to its border with the breakaway region of South Ossetia injured a Georgian teenager on Tuesday, as both Georgian and South Ossetian officials traded accusations of cross-border shelling.
Russia on Tuesday also announced it had put its troops in the region on heightened alert, further raising tensions three days before the anniversary of last year’s war.
It was unclear whether Tuesday’s explosion was a planned attack or caused by a device left over from the war last August, Shota Utiashvili, a spokesman for Georgia’s Interior Ministry, said.
Georgian television showed footage of Ucha Giunashvili, 14, who was hospitalized after a detonator from a bomb buried in the hollow of a tree trunk exploded along the road to the village of Plavi. The bomb remained intact.
The Georgia Interior Ministry also claims that Plavi, a Georgian village close to the border with South Ossetia, came under fire on Monday night from the direction of South Ossetia.
“The fire was presumably opened from a hand grenade launcher,” the ministry said in a statement. “Two shells exploded not far from the police checkpoint, one in its immediate vicinity. The incident entailed no casualties.”
South Ossetian officials denied the charges, claiming that Monday night’s fire came from the direction of Plavi and landed in the South Ossetian village of Orteu, also causing no injuries, a statement on the separatist government’s Web site said.
A spokesman for the European Union monitoring mission in the region said on Tuesday that monitors found no evidence of firing on either side.
“There was no indication that Georgians have fired across the South Ossetian boundary line,” Steve Bird, the spokesman, said. “But there were also no indications that mortar fire landed somewhere close to the check point” on the Georgian side.
Despite an absence of independent confirmation on several recent reports of cross-border mortar fire Russia, which last year invaded large swaths of Georgian territory after Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia, has vowed to again use military force to protect the enclave. Shortly after last year’s war, Moscow declared South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia, independent, and was widely condemned internationally.
On Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced that Russian troops stationed in South Ossetia were on heightened alert.
“Currently, it is most important to prohibit escalation and stop exchanges of fire from developing into a larger-scale confrontation,” Andrei A. Nesterenko, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a statement. “For this we are doing and will do everything possible.”
Reporting contributed by Olesya Vartanyan in Tblisi, Georgia, and Michael Schwirtz in Moscow.
#11 Francis Frost on 2009-08-07 17:06
I worked for the Church and lived in poverty (way below average mean income for my profession) for many recent years.
Was glad to do so. It is possible, with prudence and frugality, to live in NY on a small income.
#12 Ever and anon. on 2009-08-08 07:45
I think this website has outlived its usefulness. It seems to me that it is doing more harm than good. At the very least you should change the name Mark. This website is no longer just about the OCA. Why doesn't this website have more than one man editing. I think it would be a good thing to have more than one man's perspective in the editing process; otherwise it lends itself to a cult personality.
#13 Matthew on 2009-08-08 20:24
And what now, praytell, is the basis of the assertion that the unification of ROCOR/MP was engineered by Russian strongmen, FSB/KGB, and Vladimir Putin???
What a colossal brainfart and an intrinsically disordered absurdity to posit such a claim.
Lord have mercy on the person making such a statement!
#14 Vladimir Bogoljubov on 2009-08-10 13:57
I wouldn't be so quick to trivialize people who DO lose faith over the scandals within the Church. It's great you have "super faith" and see scandals and corruption as just "business as usual" (actually that's probably NOT a great thing ), but not everyone can bear to see Orthodoxy in the state it is in and keep their faith. If it was just one Bishop I would agree, or just about money I would agree, and I doubt many people would be as hurt; but the corruption is through and through, in every jurisdiction, from the top on down the ladder, and in nearly every aspect of the Church, including the proclamation of the Gospel. (some even suggesting one must "convert" cultures to be Orthodox) It is these issues that are completely contrary to the Christian faith that make people question Orthodoxy, not merely a financial scandal. But the "theology" that is proclaimed such as neo-papalism, ethnocentric domination, blind obedience etc.
Indeed, you have kept your faith, but many people have not, (and no that doesn't mean it would be better to just cover all this up either)....but the truth is many people have lost their faith in Orthodoxy, or are close to losing it and it has nothing to do with this website. The site has helped MANY people, myself included work through this troubling time in the Church at large, and without the knowledge I was not alone, I too would have probably lost faith in the Church. (note I didn't say faith in Christ)
So please don't trivialize this sort of thing. It is not a joke when the validity or Orthodoxy's claims is called into question in someone's mind because of the corruption in the Church. You have your way of dealing with it, which BTW is quite cynical, others have a different way. I'll take the "get it out in the open and deal with it" path, as opposed to the acceptance of it. Different personalities have different means of coping. So please keep that in mind, and keep in mind that some people HAVE been wounded by the Church to the degree they cannot see Christ's Church anymore. We should pray for them rather than use their pain to make a sarcastic point.
#15 Chuck Shingledecker on 2009-08-11 08:32
The issue is: why is the Metropolitan given such a large salary in the first place? There is really no justification for a bishop to receive a salary and benefits far in excess of $100,000; regardless of how much of it he may or may not give away to charitable causes.
As members of the OCA, our donations are better spent funding seminaries and missions and the other work of the Church... not paying a bishop so he can decide what to do with it all.
I plan to make this an issue at the next All American Council - that is, if Metropolitan Jonah even lets us have one, since he is on the record as saying that the AAC has "outlived its usefulness."
#16 from NY on 2009-08-11 11:22
I would hardly refer to Met. Jonah's salary as a finacial scandal. Anyone have any idea what the bishops in the GOA pull in?
#17 Anonymous on 2009-08-11 19:45
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