||FIRST, THE NEWS:
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH FACING UKRAINE SPLIT
from The Moscow Times
(09 Jun) President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that he considers Russians and Ukrainians "a single people." He justified annexing Crimea and providing military and political support to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with the claim that he was defending the "Russian world." However, the conflict in Ukraine is the greatest breakdown of that "Russian world" since the reunification of Ukraine and Russia at the Council of Pereyaslav in the early 17th century.
One of the main factors contributing to the collapse of that "Russian world" is the schism rapidly forming within the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). It now seems inevitable that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its parishes will formally break with the ROC. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ROC was the only institution to maintain its jurisdiction over the entire post-Soviet territory. That was due to the efforts of former Patriarch Alexy II. A gentle, reserved, quiet but very effective leader, he was able to steer the ship of the ROC through the storms of the 1990s.
It turned out that the largest "asset" of the ROC was the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). Of the 30,000 total parishes in the ROC, 12,000 are in the UOC-MP. In fact, the UOC-MP has 45 dioceses, 186 monasteries, 20 religious educational establishments and approximately 10,000 clergymen. As long as the UOC-MP is part of the Russian Orthodox Church, the ROC — headed by Patriarch Kirill — is the largest Orthodox church in the world. The withdrawal of the UOC-MP would spell disaster for the ROC along with Kirill, a tough, smart and ambitious man who wants to reign as leader of the Orthodox world. [read more...]
BELARUS: FROM RAID TO BAN IN 12 DAYS
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(15 Jun) On 31 May police in Belarus with OMON riot police raided the Reformed Orthodox Transfiguration Church's meeting for Sunday worship, held in rented premises in Gomel. On 11 June officials banned the Church from renting premises, therefore banning it from meeting, church members told Forum 18 News Service. Police asked them: "Why do you attend this church and not a normal one?" Officials warned congregation leader Pastor Sergei Nikolaenko - who is already facing trial on Administrative Code charges -that he would be investigated on possible Criminal Code charges.
"You can watch a football match or discuss [the poet Aleksandr] Pushkin without permission, but for a religious meeting you need permission," Dmitry Chumakov, the official in charge of religious affairs at Gomel Regional Executive Committee told Forum 18. Two weeks earlier there was a similar armed police raid on the Soligorsk congregation of Council of Churches Baptists. "11 more armed police arrived and broke up the service, as if they were coming after bandits", Forum 18 was told. Two congregation members were fined in early June for meeting for worship without state permission. [read more...]
CATHOLICS WILL TRY TO ABIDE BY LAW ON FOREIGN-FUNDED RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
(17 Jun) The Embassy of the Vatican in Russia said it was prepared to abide by the law on foreign-funded religious organizations if it is passed. The State Duma's profile committee approved the relevant amendments on Tuesday. "If this bill becomes a law in the Russian Federation, the Catholic Church will live and act in compliance with the new law and try to abide by it," Cultural Attache for the Vatican embassy in Russia Giovanna Parravicini told Interfax-Religion.
"But this law should leave an opportunity for Christians to extend international, inter-Christian and interfaith aid to each other," she said. "In this sense the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government have always been caring and attentive, if we do think about Christians under reprisals in the East, in Asia and in countries where serious challenges have emerged to civilization and Christianity," Parravicini said. "In this connection I would like to find a response in the Russian Orthodox Church to international solidarity of all Christians. It is important for Christians and believers in this world, where everyone is in conflict with the other, to demonstrate solidarity and to offer aid that crosses the borders of all nationalities and all states," she said. [read more...]
BELARUS: ALTERNATIVE SERVICE LAW - "A BAD LAW. BUT IT EXISTS, AND THAT'S GOOD."
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(18 Jun) Belarus has for the first time adopted an Alternative Service Law, to take effect from 1 July 2016. The Law will allow some but not all young men who are conscientious objectors to perform a civilian alternative service instead of compulsory military service. However, Forum 18 News Service notes, only young men with a religious objection will be eligible to apply, not those with non-religious pacifist convictions. It is also unclear whether even all young men with religious objections to military service will be allowed to do civilian alternative service.
The new Law is silent on how objectors from communities which are not as a community formally pacifist - such as the Orthodox Church - will be treated. And the length of alternative service will be twice as long as the comparable military service. Human rights defenders and the Jehovah's Witnesses - who refuse to do military service - have welcomed the Law's adoption. Human rights defenders stress that they will continue to work to bring the Law into line with international human rights standards. [read more...]
SYNOD OF THE UOC-KP ANNOUNCES THE LOCAL UNIFICATION COUNCIL TO BE HELD ON SEPTEMBER 14
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(19 Jun) The issue of unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church –Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church into the single Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church was discussed on June 18 at a meeting of the Synod of UOC-KP. The Synod of UOC-KP thanked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for vesting the Constantinople Patriarchate hierarchs with the authority to act as observers in the dialogue between the UOC-KP and UAOC regarding association.
The presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate hierarchs as observers in the dialogue between the UOC-KP and UAOC concerning association is the evidence of attention and support for unification process from the Mother Church of Constantinople and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora (under the aegis of the Ecumenical Patriarch). The Synod approved the Final decision of the joint meeting of the Committees for dialogue between the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church with theUkrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate and of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church as of June 8, 2015 and announced the Local Unification Council to be held on September 14, 2015.
The delegates to the Local Council for Unification will be all bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate, and one delegate per each ofthe fifteen registered religious organizations in each diocese. To prepare the Local Council for Unification, the Commission for dialogue with the UAOC was vested with authority to participate in the joint pre-conciliar commission. The Synod of UOC-KP vested Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine with the authority to decide on additions or changes to the commission. [read more...]
POPE ENCOURAGES PUTIN TO ENGAGE IN 'SINCERE' PEACE EFFORTS IN UKRAINE
(10 Jun) Russian President Vladimir Putin was about an hour and 20 minutes late for his meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday. The two greeted each other in German and spent about 50 minutes in closed-door talks. On the topic of eastern Ukraine, the pope encouraged Putin to make "sincere" efforts to bring peace to Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists are battling government troops. The Associated Press reports: "There was no mention of any blame regarding Ukraine, although the protracted hostilities in that Eastern European nation bordering Russia was a main thrust of the discussion."
The United States had urged the pontiff to take a hard line with Putin over Ukraine, according to USA Today. The Associated Press report also says: "While Francis has deplored the loss of life in Ukraine and called on all sides to respect what has proven to be a shaky cease-fire, he hasn't publicly put any blame on Russia in an apparent bid not to upset the Holy See's delicate and often thorny relations with the Orthodox Church in Russia, where Catholics are a tiny minority." Putin and the pope also discussed the fate of the Christian minority in the Middle East, according to the AP report. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
RUSSIA: BANS DEMANDED FOR "RELIGIOUS SUPERIORITY," "RELIGIOUS HATRED"
from Forum 18 News Service
MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE APPROVES OF BILL CHECKING FOREIGN-FUNDED RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
SGA ASSISTS UKRAINE’S WAR VICTIMS
from Mission Network News
REPRESENTATIVES OF CHURCHES PROPOSE TO EXTEND RIGHT FOR LIFE AND FAMILY VALUES IN CONSTITUTION
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
MEETING OF POPE FRANCIS AND PATRIARCH KIRILL IS POSSIBLE IF VLADIMIR PUTIN WANTS IT VERY MUCH
from Deutsche Welle
DECR CHAIRMAN’S CONDOLENCES OVER THE TRAGEDY IN SOUTH CAROLINA
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
SUMMER BIBLE CAMPS - A SUMMER OF HOPE
from Mission Eurasia
RUSSIA: WATCHING THE ORTHODOX CHURCH FOR SIGNS OF DISSENT
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Our lead article RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH FACING UKRAINE SPLIT describes the dilemma facing Patriarch Kirill: he must stand by his earlier pronouncement that the Russian Orthodox Church is the foundation of Slavic unity, but by asserting this he identifies himself and the Russian Orthodox Church with Russia's agression against Ukraine... thus driving deeper the wedge of division between Ukraine and Russia. It is becoming increasingly clear that the vast majority of Ukrainians (except those few left in Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk provinces) want to align with western democracies and distance themselves from dependence on Russia. Many UOC-MP priests and their parishes have now left the Moscow Patriarchate and have joined the Kyiv Patriarchate. Thus Patriarch Kirill is gradually losing control of 12,000 Orthodox parishes in Ukraine, which will greatly diminish his standing in worldwide Orthodoxy.
In our news article SYNOD OF THE UOC-KP ANNOUNCES THE LOCAL UNIFICATION COUNCIL TO BE HELD ON SEPTEMBER 14 tells us that the UOC-KP is preparing to absorb the UAOC (Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church) in September, but other sources explain that the new UAOC Metrpolitan is insisting that the UOC-KP add the word "Autocephalous" to its name, or else the merger meeting will not take place at all. So the question of a merger creating a United Ukrainian Orthodox Church is still up in the air.
The meeting between Pope Francis and Russian President Putin (see our news article POPE ENCOURAGES PUTIN TO ENGAGE IN 'SINCERE' PEACE EFFORTS IN UKRAINE) is an encouraging sign that the Roman Pontif is pushing for a peace settlement but not casting blame on Russia for the conflict. Even though the international community (including the Pope) is aware that Russian military men and equipment are backing the separatists, it must be admitted that Russia has a vital interest in protecting its flanks on its western border. Our news headline MEETING OF POPE FRANCIS AND PATRIARCH KIRILL IS POSSIBLE IF VLADIMIR PUTIN WANTS IT VERY MUCH suggests that Putin could use a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill as a way to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.
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"Tradition and Transformation" - how could these two words possibly belong in the same sentence? In a recent blog article, Things You Can’t Invent, Fr. Stephen Freeman explains that nearly everything we have is something that has been handed down to us -
"Most of the things in our lives are not of our own making – they were given to us. Our language, our culture, the whole of our biology and the very gift of life itself is something that has been 'handed down' to us. In that sense, we are all creatures of 'tradition' (traditio='to hand down'). Of course, these things that are not of our own making and are the least controllable are also those things that we take most for granted. We may hate our culture and our biology, but will still have to use our traditioned language (or someone’s traditioned language) to say so. Tradition is simply the most foundational, inescapable aspect of human existence."
Lately we have been bombarded with instances in which certain public persons have tried to change their gender or race, resulting in something ludicrous if it weren't so sad. One can't re-invent oneself as a different race or gender - these are permanent characteristics we are born with, and they will be with us until death, if not beyond. Fr. Freeman goes on to say -
To continue reading Today's Essay, go to our Hosken-News Blog.
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.