Friday, December 15, 2017

The parish website Venn diagram conundrum

Watch out world! The Manuels are coming!

Some of you are asking yourselves, "I want to do something to really get into the spirit of Christmas. You know, do good and help the Church, but I'm not sure what to do. I'm busy and it's hard to find the time to search out this sort of stuff, you know? Have any ideas, Father?"

I do!

Nothing says Christmas spirit like helping grow the Church by funding the efforts of two our our newest missionaries to Guatemala! Please consider donating by clicking here and pulling down "Thomas and Elizabeth Manuel" from the choices available. They are going to do some amazing work down there and you can be a part of it. A blessed Nativity Fast to you all and my sincere thanks in advance for your support both financial and in prayer.

Prayer for our Orthodox Missions

God of truth and love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. That they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness full of love, full of strength, and full of faith for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world. Through the prayers of all the missionary saints, Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

(OCMC) - Thomas Manuel, the son of Fr. John and Presvytera Karen Manuel, grew up at the center of Church life as while his father served first as a Youth Director and later as a Priest. During his first year in college in 2007 he took a OCF REAL BREAK trip to Guatemala City, Guatemala and while there sparked a lifelong desire to serve in the mission field. After graduating from James Madison University with a dual degree in International Politics, Spanish language and a minor in Latin American Politics he went to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He graduated with his Master of Divinity in 2014, and since then he has been serving as a Pastoral Assistant and Youth Director of the Annunciation Cathedral in Norfolk, Virginia.

Elizabeth Manuel, daughter of Stavroula Marshall, is a native of Norfolk, Virginia and grew up going to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a degree in Psychology, and is currently working as a Special Education Teacher at a local high school. Shortly after graduating college she felt called to the mission field and this was affirmed during a short-term trip to Guatemala in 2015. She is very active in her Church community as she serves as her parish OCMC Ambassador, teaches Sunday School, sings in the choir, works at the local Orthodox Christian Summer Camp as a co-director and generally assists in the many youth ministry programs.

Thomas and Elizabeth met in the summer of 2014 at Annunciation Cathedral in Norfolk. They were engaged in the spring of 2016 and married in January 2017. Serving as long-term missionaries has been a desire of both of them for many years and they are excited to be able to share this ministry together.

Since 2010 several thousand of the Mayan people in Guatemala have been coming into the church through the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Mexico. The Orthodox Church is now facing a challenge on how to serve the thousands of native people. There is only a small handful of priests available to provide for the people as well as a team of OCMC missionaries to aid in training future priests and skilled lay leaders. Thomas and Elizabeth are thrilled to have the opportunity to join the team down in Guatemala.

They have just begun raising support for their mission and hope to depart for the field at the end of the Summer 2018. They will mostly be visiting parishes in and around Virginia, North Carolina, and in the Mid-Atlantic region. To contact them and to see where they will be visiting, email them at Please consider becoming a part of their mission team by supporting them with your prayers and your monthly donations.

Weird times for the Greek Church in Toronto

I find the entire idea of a non-profit owning four Orthodox churches to be weird. Separate from all the allegations, these sorts of custodial relationships are always fraught with tension.

(CBC) - Money stolen from a church fundraiser for a sick baby, verbal and physical abuse by priests, and placements of known sex offenders in Toronto churches are all allegations being made against some of the most powerful members of Canada's Greek Orthodox community amid an ongoing Greek "turf war."

The board of directors for the Greek Community of Toronto (GCT), a non-profit charity representing more than 150,000 Greek Canadians, has filed a civil lawsuit against the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto, its metropolitan — the Greek Orthodox equivalent of an archbishop — as well as four priests, several members of one priest's family, and multiple other individuals connected with the church community.

It's the latest chapter in a complicated, years-long dispute between the GCT and the four Toronto churches it owns, which are staffed by priests appointed by the metropolis.

The GCT, which has roughly 6,000 paid members, has strived to ensure financial accountability and transparency surrounding donations made at those churches "with very little success" over three years of mediation efforts, said spokesperson Gina Tassopoulos.

"That's led us to believe the funds are being misappropriated," she said.

In the statement of claim, the GCT alleges the Greek Orthodox Metropolis and Metropolitan Sotirios Athanassoulas have personally benefited from a share of church donations, without declaring the money "as a taxable benefit or income to the Canada Revenue Agency."

George Karayannides, the lawyer representing Athanassoulas and the metropolis, told CBC Toronto that both are aware of the lawsuit but have yet to file a statement of defence. The allegations in the statement of claim are "wholly without merit and the claim will be zealously defended," Karayannides added.

Terry Maropoulos, a staff member with the metropolis, told CBC Toronto the organization will not be commenting.

In the statement of claim, filed on Oct. 18, the GCT also alleges that thousands of dollars in money raised through a 2012 fundraiser for a baby with a serious heart condition may not have reached the child's family. Donations totalled well over $50,000, the GCT alleges.

Fundraising efforts for "Baby Alexander" made headlines that year; the eight-month-old needed urgent transportation from Greece to Toronto for heart surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children.

The GCT alleges the metropolis announced that $10,000 was being sent to the charity Global Angel on behalf of the child's family, without disclosing the "actual total amount of the collected donations."

"In fact, Global Angel only received the paltry sum of $1,450," continues the statement of claim, which alleges the metropolis "unlawfully and fraudulently" used the remaining portion of the donations for their personal benefit or the benefit of other charities.

But Gail Courneyea, founder of Global Angel, told CBC Toronto the charity's records show it did indeed receive $10,000 from the Metropolis.

"I really don't know where the numbers are coming from ... We were surprised that was mentioned, that we didn't get it," she said.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Russian Church holds first meeting with Syriac Orthodox

December 7-10, 2017 (ROC) – The Commission for Dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church held its first session in Cherepovets, Vologda region.

The agreement to establish this commission had been reached by His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, during the visit made by the Primate of the Syriac Orthodox Church to Russia from November 9 to 13, 2015. On May 11, 2017, the joint working group for preparing the dialogue met in Washington. On July 29, the membership of the commission was approved by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and in October of the same year, and an analogous decision was made by the Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

The Moscow Patriarchate membership of the commission includes Bishop Flavian of Cherepovets and Belozersk as co-chairman; Hegumen Arseny (Sokolov), representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), secretary for inter-Christian affairs, Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate (DECR); Mr. Sergey Alferov and Mr. Evgeny Bakhtin, DECR staff members.

The Syriac Orthodox Church’s members of commission are: Archbishop Mor Dionysios Issa Gurbuz, patriarchal vicar in Switzerland and Austria as co-chairman; Archimandrite Raban Jak Yakoub, director of the Patriarchal Youth Department; Archimandrite Roger-Youssef Akhrass, director of the Department of Syriac Studies; Deacon Imad Syryany, staff member of the patriarchal secretariat; Mr. Shadi Sarweh, executive director of St. Ephrem Patriarchal Development Committee (EPDC).

The commission defined the following priorities for the work in the nearest future: cooperation in humanitarian, informational, cultural and academic areas and studies on monastic traditions and church social service. For those unfamiliar, the Russian tack is not to seek "communion now" as is the proposed goal of many such bilateral discussions, but to find points of mutual interest where working together can be beneficial. Met. Hilarion has been very clear on this point. Simply because the non-Chalcedonians and Orthodoxy don't agree on everything doesn't mean they can't work together for the benefit of mankind. But that also doesn't mean that smiling across the table from one another is a sign that either side will budge on theological tenets for the sake of a false unity.

Pray for the Christians in Egypt this Christmas

(AINA) - According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) supporters of ISIS in Egypt posted on a call for Egyptian Muslims to attack and kill Christians and burn their churches and homes in Egypt this Christmas.

It reads:

Oh you Muslims in Egypt, the Christians have been insolent toward you. They cursed our prophet and called each other to fight you, and you are sitting! Oh you, have you forgotten who you are? Do you not know that you are their masters and they are the ones [who should be] humbled and subdued? By Allah... if you do not rise up [against them] Allah will increase your humility. So go forth, oh worshippers of Allah, blow up their churches and monasteries, kill their priests and monks, do not show mercy toward any Christian for they are all belligerent toward Allah's religion. 'They will never approve of you until you follow their religion.' So blood for blood, killing for killing. Revive the raids of heroes in Abbasiyah, Tanta and Alexandria until they know who the Muslims are.

It quotes two verses from the Qur'an: Surah (chapter) 2, which instruct followers of Muhammad to fight Christians and Jews until they pay the jiyzah (tax) and submit (Surah 2:9), and Surah 2:120.

It calls on Egyptian Muslims to commit acts of violence, referring to the ISIS bombing of a Coptic Church in the Abbasiyah district of Cairo during the Christmas 2016 season, and to the April 2017 Palm Sunday bombings and burning of Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Elements matter

(Telegraph) - An American man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple is the legal father of their daughter and must pay child support, a court has ruled.

A judge in the US state of Kansas decided that William Marotta, 47, was financially responsible for the girl who is now aged four.

The couple, Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer, had found Mr Marotta by advertising on the Internet and did not use a doctor in the donation process.

They signed a contract agreeing that Mr Marotta would have no financial responsibility for the child.

But when the couple encountered financial difficulties, and one of them applied for state benefits, the state of Kansas applied to a court to have Mr Marotta declared the child's father and made responsible for her.

The ruling suggests that in Kansas a man can only legally be considered a sperm donor if he goes through a doctor.
Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi said: "A parent may not terminate parental rights by contract even when the parties have consented.

"The parties' self-designation of (Mr Marotta) as a sperm donor is insufficient to relieve (Mr Marotta) of parental rights and responsibilities."

Ben Swinnen, a lawyer for Mr Marotta, said his client had only been trying to help a couple who wanted a child and he would appeal the ruling.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

GOARCH confirms St. Nicholas Shrine work shutdown

As promised, when I received corroborating evidence of the work shutdown at the St. Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center in New York, I am posting it.

NEW YORK (GOARCH) – Construction at the site of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at The World Trade Center in New York has been temporarily suspended. In light of recent financial difficulties at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and in order to make certain that all operations and funds are being correctly managed, this difficult yet necessary step has been taken. The Archdiocese is confidently hopeful that construction will recommence in the very near future and has been assured by Skanska —the construction company responsible for building the church— that they are looking forward to the rescinding of this temporary suspension to continue working together in cooperation with the Archdiocese for the completion of the building project.

During the temporary suspension of construction at the site of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center in New York, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) and BakerHostetler LLP have been retained to conduct an independent investigation of the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas. These firms will report to an independent committee. In addition, the Archdiocese will reevaluate its fundraising strategy moving forward and will continue to explore ways to cut costs, concurrently maintaining the historic vision of the church.

Even though construction will be temporarily suspended at the worksite in New York, development of integral aspects of the design and construction will continue in other places. The skylights in the dome are being constructed, as are parts of the marble and glass fused curtain-wall and lighting system that will encase the church and provide the glowing effect at night. Iconography is also currently being developed at Xenophontos Monastery on Mount Athos.

The Archdiocese remains committed to the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas and the fundraising efforts to support this important project and ministry.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Φῶς Χριστοῦ φαίνει πᾶσιν

Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Consultation meets in New Jersey

Paramus, NJ (SCOOCH) – After a one year hiatus, the US Roman Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Consultation reconvened on December 6-7 at New Jersey’s Mor Aphrem Center, hosted by H.E. Archbishop Dionysios Jean Kawak and the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Eastern United States on behalf of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches. The assembled clergy and lay theologians discussed a variety of issues relative to the two communions. Chief among them was the means by which each jurisdiction addresses the sad reality that in the modern day, many marriages end in divorce. Papers were presented on divorce and remarriage by Fr. Diran Bohajian of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Fr. Joseph Varghese of the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church, and Fr. Yacoub Ghaly of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Other topics discussed included the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, the efforts of Dr. Robin Darling Young and other academics to create a digital history of the Christian communities of the Middle East, the recent visits of the Roman Catholic Pope to Armenia and Egypt, and the statement produced by the International Eastern Orthodox-Roman Catholic Dialogue on Synodality and Primacy During the First Millennium and its ramifications for dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church. V. Rev. Chorbishop Anthony DeLuca also presented a paper addressing obstacles towards the retention of Christian youth in a given church in the modern day.

Over the course of the two day event, vespers and matins were prayed in the Syriac Rite, led by H.E. Mor Dionysios and his clergy.

Participating members of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches included:

H.E. Mor Dionysios Jean Kawak (Syriac Orthodox Church)
H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho (Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church)
H.G. Bishop David (Coptic Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Chamoun (Syriac Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Chorebishop Anthony DeLuca (Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Varghese (Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church)
Rev. Fr. Jerry Jacob (Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Moises Bogdhady (Coptic Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Yacoub Ghaly (Coptic Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Athanasius Farag (Coptic Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Dawoud Bebaby (Coptic Orthodox Church)
Rev. Fr. John Rizkalla (Coptic Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan (Armenian Apostolic Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian (Armenian Apostolic Church)
V. Rev. Fr. Diran Bohajian (Armenian Apostolic Church)
Rev. Dn. Gebre Kristos Nicholas (Coptic Orthodox Church)
Rev. Dn. Eric Vozzy (Armenian Apostolic Church)

The Church in Guatemala is making us look lazy

Thursday, December 7, 2017

joint Jesus-Mohammed birthday celebration at UK church

(Christian Institute) - A Church of England church in London has come under fire for holding a joint birthday celebration for Jesus and Mohammed.

The “Milad, Advent and Christmas Celebration” took place on Sunday at All Saints Church in Kingston upon Thames.

In a promotional flier, the church said the service was “Marking the birthday of Prophet Mohammed and looking forward to the birthday of Jesus”.

The hour-long service included time for Islamic prayer and was followed by the cutting of a birthday cake.

Prominent Christian blogger Archbishop Cranmer castigated the church for its lack of reverence for Jesus.

He said the church was “rejoicing in both, eulogising both, solemnising both, glorifying both, honouring both”.

Cranmer questioned this “sensitively missional” approach, saying that exalting Mohammed in churches effectively proclaims that Mohammed is greater than Jesus.

He wrote: “Every time a church accords Mohammed the epithet ‘Prophet’, they are rejecting the cruxifixion, denying the resurrection of Christ, and refuting that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, for Mohammed denied all of these foundational tenets of the Christian faith.”

The church organised the event alongside the Kingston Inter Faith Forum and the South London Inter Faith Group.

Earlier this year, a passage from the Koran denying that Jesus is the Son of God was read during a service at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow.

The passage claims that Mary was “ashamed” after giving birth and that Jesus spoke to her from his crib.

At the time, the Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden, then chaplain to the Queen, referred to the reading as “blasphemy”, saying: “There are other and considerably better ways to build ‘bridges of understanding’”.

A belated blessed feast of St. Nicholas to all!

Well, belated to some, anticipatory to others.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Report says St. Nicholas Shrine defaulted

On the lookout for corroboration.

(Pappas Post) - Construction at the site of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine at Ground Zero in New York City has been halted by the main construction company because the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has defaulted on payments, according to a letter sent by the company to its subcontractors working at the site.

The letter from the site’s main contractor, Skanksa USA Building, notifies its subcontractors to withdraw from the building site immediately. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Pappas Post by one of the project’s subcontractors that was working under Skanksa and the validity of the letter was verified by Skanksa.

St. Nicholas was the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11 when terrorists struck the World Trade Center. A massive fundraising campaign was undertaken to re-build the church, which was originally founded by Greek immigrants in the early 1900s when the Lower East Side of Manhattan was a thriving ethnic neighborhood.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has been rocked by a string of financial scandals over the past several months when it was revealed that monies from various restricted funds were “raided” to pay for day to day operations.

The complete text of the letter:

“Effective December 5, 2017, Skanska USA Building, Inc. (‘Skanska’) has terminated its contract with The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (‘GOA’), on account of GOA’s defaults in making payment under the Owner Contract. Skanska is demobilizing from the Project site.

Effective immediately, you are directed to stop all Work under the Subcontract, both on and off the Project site. Take measures to protect and secure your Work, demobilize from the Project site, and coordinate your efforts with Skanska’s project team.

If you elect not to remove materials or equipment promptly from the Project site, be advised that you may not be able to recover them later. Contact the Skanska project team concerning the transfer or cancellation of any permits you may have procured for the Project.

Skanska is continuing its pursuit of payment from GOA under the Owner Contract, together with any other remedies it may have on account of GOA’s breaches. We will advise you when there is progress toward a resolution with GOA.
Very Truly Yours,


Thomas W. Perry
Project Director

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Pope of Alexandria presides over Divine Liturgy in Moscow

His Holiness Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and all Africa Theodore II has presided over the Grand Catholic Orthodox Divine Liturgy in Moscow.

The Divine Worship was celebrated also by:

His Holiness Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and all Palestine Theophilos III
His Holiness Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Cyril
His Holiness Orthodox Metropolitan of Belgrade Serbian Patriarch Irenaeus
His Holiness Orthodox Archbishop of Bucharest Romanian Patriarch Daniel
His Beatitude Orthodox Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and all Cyprus Chrysostom II
His Beatitude Orthodox Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania Anastasios
His Beatitude Orthodox Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland Sawa
His Beatitude Orthodox Archbishop of Preshov and all Czech and Slovak Lands Rastislav
His Beatitude Orthodox Archbishop of Washington and all America Tikhon
Orthodox Bishops from the Moscow Patriarchate and other local Orthodox Churches.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Russian Church provides results of study on Crete event

(ROC) - As a continuation on the topic raised in the presentation of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at the session of the Episcopal Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and chairman of the Biblical-Theological Commission Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk spoke on the topic of the results of studying the documents of the Council of Crete (18th – 27th June 2016).

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church at its session on the 15th of July 2016 entrusted the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission with the task of, “upon receipt of officially verified copies of the documents approved by the Council of Crete, publishing these documents and studing them, taking into account the possible responses and comments of their Graces the bishops, the religious educational institutes and schools, theologians, clerics, monks and nuns, and to present the conclusions of this thorough study to the Holy Synod” (Journal no.48).

In touching upon the status of the Council of Crete in his speech, Metropolitan Hilarion reminded listeners that from the very outset of the pre-Conciliar process the principle of consensus among all the commonly recognized Local Autocephalous Churches was to be the basis for the taking of decisions at all events in preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council. However, by June of 2016 this consensus in relation to the convocation of the Holy and Great Council was absent for a number of reasons. In particular, the delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch did not sign the resolutions of the gathering if the First Hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches in Constantinople of 2014, among which was the resolution on the convocation of the Council in 2016, as well as the resolutions and a number of other documents (including the Council’s agenda) of the gathering of the First Hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches in Chambésy in 2016.

The draft of the Council document on the topic of marriage was not signed at the gathering of the First Hierarchs in 2016, nor by the delegation of the Church of Georgia.