||FIRST, THE NEWS:
HOLY SEE, RUSSIAN ORTHODOXY MULL JOINT COMMITTEE ON UKRAINE
from - Sputnik News
(17 Feb) The Catholic and the Russian Orthodox churches could set up a joint committee to bridge a centuries-old divide over the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s External Affairs Department said. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church answers to the Vatican but follows the rites of the Eastern Church. It was established in the 16th century but claims to date back to 988 A.D. "There is an idea to create a committee to that purpose – proposed to us by the Catholic side... We are not opposed to setting up a committee like that," Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion told RIA Novosti in an interview.
The Russian spiritual leader and the Catholic pontiff met in Cuba last Friday where they signed a joint declaration on a wide range of religious and socio-political issues. The spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church added, however, that the existence of a committee on Ukraine was called into question by the leader of the Ukrainian Church himself and his "unguarded remarks" about the Holy See. His Beatitude Sviatoslav said in an interview, published by the UGCC website last Sunday, that the pontiff’s team behind the joint declaration was too weak to tackle issues outside the theological spectrum. He also lashed out at the Christian leaders for not inviting him to the talks.
The February 12 meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis at a Havana airport marked the first time a Catholic pope and an Orthodox patriarch met since Christianity split into western and eastern branches in 1054. [read more...]
GEORGIA: PROPOSED INSULTING RELIGIOUS FEELINGS LAW WITHDRAWN... FOR NOW
by Mariam Gavtadze, and Eka Chitanava - Forum 18 News Service
(23 Feb) A draft law in Georgia, that would have imposed fines for insulting religious feelings, has been withdrawn, Forum 18 News Service notes. Deputy Sergo Ratiani of the largest opposition party, the United National Movement, thought the Law might have been proposed as "politicians are using the subject in the pre-election period", he told Forum 18. "Withdrawal was the result of resistance from civil society," Giorgi Gotsiridze of the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association told Forum 18.
Journalists and artists - including artist Lia Ukleba threatened with violence for her painting attacking doing violence in the name of religion - also warned of the dangers to their freedom if the Law were passed. Baptist Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze told Forum 18: "the Law, which contains the unclear category of 'feelings', would serve as a tool against opponents in the hands of any powerful institution." Gotsiridze of the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association noted, "If the government decides that politically it needs a similar proposed Law, it might initiate it again in the future." A similar law backed by the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church was proposed in 2013. [read more...]
BISHOPS OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN THE USA MEET WITH THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
from - Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(23 Feb) On 18 February, Metropolitan Antony Shcherba with bishop Daniel Zelenskyj of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA had a meeting with His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew to discuss the conversations that took place in Geneva and to learn the truth about the Pre-Conciliar meeting of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches. "Following the recent Pre-Conciliar meeting of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, which took place in Geneva a few weeks ago, much information began to appear on the Internet about discussions and decisions that took place during the gathering. The source of this information was the press office of the Patriarchate of Moscow."
"Much of the information was extremely critical in reference to the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in the USA and Canada. Most of that criticism was completely false as was the quoted response of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the criticism, which had been stated during the Geneva meeting. We were not surprised to hear a completely different interpretation of the Geneva discussions, along with His All-Holiness' unchanging commitment to and concern about his spiritual children in Ukraine, since the Patriarchate of Constantinople remains as the Mother Church of Ukraine. We will be soon be preparing our own response to the false statements," reads the statement issued by the press service of the Ukrainian Orthhodox Church in the USA. [read more...]
RUSSIA: COMMUNITY SERVICE ORDER, 31 INITIAL FINES IN 46 CASES FOR PUBLIC RELIGIOUS EVENTS OVER 4 MONTHS
by Victoria Arnold - Forum 18 News Service
(22 Feb) In the last four months of 2015, at least 45 individuals and one religious organisation are known to have been brought to court under Administrative Code Article 20.2 for exercising their right to freedom of religion and belief in public space. Most were Jehovah's Witnesses offering religious literature on the streets, but Mormons, Hare Krishna devotees, Baptists and a Muslim were also prosecuted. These prosecutions led to 31 fines and one sentence of community service (before appeals), according to an analysis by Forum 18 News Service, continuing an increasing trend over 2015.
Fines were, in some cases, nearly two-thirds the average monthly wage and nearly twice the average monthly pension. These can place a heavy burden on the poor, elderly, and unemployed. Prosecutions at least partly stem from pressure from Russia's federal government to "minimize the public activity of citizens," Hare Krishna lawyer Mikhail Frolov commented to Forum 18. Despite legal changes in 2012 and 2014 which give judges concrete grounds for dismissing cases in which the law has been misapplied by police, the situation remains confusing. Different judges apply these changes inconsistently, which can result in conviction in one court and acquittal in another for identical offences. A clear discrepancy also exists between how religious adherents themselves view their public activity (as a "religious service") and how it is perceived by law enforcement (as "public events" on a par with political demonstrations, most often as picketing). [read more...]
PATRIARCH KIRILL CALLS ON BRAZIL'S CATHOLICS TO JOINTLY OPPOSE DE-CHRISTIANIZATION OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION
from - Interfax-Religion
(24 Feb) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has called on Orthodox Christians and Catholics to join efforts in the fight against the ousting of Christian values. "We still have some doctrinal disagreements, but no one is preventing us from struggling, hand in hand, to end the persecutions, the ousting of Christian values, to end the de-Christianization of the 21st century human civilization," the patriarch said, after conducting a prayer service near the Jesus Christ statue on Mount Corcovado, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the world's largest Catholic country, on Saturday. All travelers, especially seafarers, know, and not so much these days as they did in the days when the Americas were being discovered: when the human ability to weather a storm or other hardships runs out, there is always hope for the power of God, the Russian Church leader said.
Today, many Christians are being killed in the Middle East and Africa, their churches and monasteries are being destroyed, and whole settlements and towns of believers are being exterminated, all the while, the global community has been unable to work out joint approaches on how to combat terrorism, and "very often attempts to defeat terrorism involve the attaining of other ends far from this declared goal, thus instilling "the fear of a greater war."
Christians also suffer in Europe "where an evil political force disguised as tolerance is ousting Christianity out of the public life; when people are banned from wearing in public places, and especially at the workplace, the cross that was placed upon them when they were baptized; when some countries ban the use of the word 'Christmas,' and replace it with an incomprehensible one, or simply call it a 'winter holiday'; when a country passes legislation that justifies the human sin in the refusal to understand marriage as a sacred union between man and woman; when humankind still suffers from a huge number of abortions killing children, from the ever increasing number of divorces," said the Russian patriarch. [read more...]
FROM THE NEW WORLD, A POPE AND A PATRIARCH ADDRESS OLD-WORLD FIGHTS
from - The Economist
(13 Feb) GEOPOLITICS and spirituality have always intersected at strange angles. Millions of ordinary Christian believers, most of whom feel bewildered by ecclesiastical high politics, will take heart from the simple fact that two globally important champions of their faith have held a ground-breaking meeting at Havana airport. In that improbable venue, at secular premises in a Marxist-run island, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow embraced one another and affirmed the myriad things they have in common, including Christianity’s core beliefs in a triune God and the divine nature, and saving mission, of Jesus Christ.
But church diplomacy, like everything else on earth, takes place in a context, shaped both by history and present-day events. Discussions about a meeting between the Russian patriarch and the pope have been in progress, intermittently, for a couple of decades. It was the Russian church which baulked at the idea, saying that unresolved disputes over church authority in the former Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, made such an encounter impossible. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI would have welcomed an invitation to Russia but it never came. Pope Francis, in his happy-go-lucky way, said he was willing to meet Patriarch Kirill any time or any place; and a few days ago the Moscow Patriarchate said it had agreed to the meeting, despite unresolved problems in Ukraine, because the persecution of Christians in the Middle East was such an urgent matter for all leaders of the faith.
That set the tone for the meeting. In addition to hailing one another as Christian shepherds, the two prelates duly issued a joint statement which had been carefully prepared by their respective diplomatic services, both of which are pretty slick. They professed agreement in many areas where you might expect the leaders of two conservative Christian traditions to concur: in supporting traditional marriage and the family, in opposing abortion and euthanasia, in hoping that Europe would remain true to its Christian roots. They also, as expected, deplored the persecution and expulsion of Christians in the Middle East, where “churches [were] being barbarously ravaged, sacred objects profaned, monuments destroyed.” In the background to that statement is Patriarch Kirill’s open backing for his country’s military intervention in support of the Syrian government, along with the Catholic church’s more nuanced, but still broadly pro-government, line in Syria.
But the really sensitive part of the communique concerned church organisation in Ukraine, and it was clear that some hard bargaining had taken place. To cut a 400-year-old story short, that country has three main religious bodies which worship in an eastern-Christian way. The so-called Greek Catholics or Eastern-rite Catholics who follow the Orthodox style of prayer but owe allegiance to the pope; the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which, albeit with some autonomy, falls under the Moscow Patriarchate; and the unrecognized Kiev Patriarchate which aspires to form the nucleus of a fully independent national Orthodox church for Ukraine. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
POPE FRANCIS’S PREVARICATION OVER RUSSIA WILL DISAPPOINT UKRAINIANS
from Catholic Herald
KAZAKHSTAN: "WHAT WERE THEY AFRAID OF? WE DIDN'T TAKE ANYONE AWAY"
from Forum 18 News Service
WHAT IT TAKES TO BUILD INTO THE ROMA
from Mission Network News
THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES URGED THE WORLD COMMUNITY TO DEFEND UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
ORTHODOX AND CATHOLIC BELIEVERS SHOULD WORK AS BROTHERS, NOT RIVALS
HILARION: PATRIARCH AND POPE TOOK PATH OPPOSITE TO PATH OF UNIATES
from RIA Novosti
UGCC WAS NEVER OBSTACLE TO ECUMENICAL DIALOGUE — PATRIARCH SVIATOSLAV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
NO ORTHODOXY WITHOUT CHRIST - A DISMISSED ORTHODOX EDITOR WARNS OF FUTURE DANGERS
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
In the article FOR RUSSIA’S CHURCH LEADER, A TRIP TO ANTARCTICA IS NOT JUST A PHOTO OP as a follow-up to his historic meeting with Pope Francis in Cuba, Patriarch Kirill met with a colony of penquins in Antarctica. This took place at the Russian "scientific" outpost on that frozen continent, providing a bit of comic relief to the vastly mis-reported meeting in Cuba.
Russia is demonstrating its "boots on the ground" in Antartctica as well as in Paraguay, Brazil and Cuba. Russia has been expanding its claims both in the Arctic and the Antarctic in recent years. Though Kirill claimed - "Antarctica is the only place free from weapons, military activity or research into new means of human destruction. This is an example of ideal humankind and proof that people can live so, without borders or arms or hostile competition, that they can cooperate and feel like members of one family," an oceanographic research ship, the Admiral Vladimirsky, recently arrived there on a mission backed by Russia’s navy, and Russia has unveiled a new military maritime doctrine that expands its claims on these areas.
Our first news article HOLY SEE, RUSSIAN ORTHODOXY MULL JOINT COMMITTEE ON UKRAINE downplays what is clearly a done deal on Ukraine: they don't merely "mull" setting up a joint committee, it's going to be - period. This isn't the only bit of misinformation - or disinformation - in the article: it concludes by stating: "The February 12 meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis at a Havana airport marked the first time a Catholic pope and an Orthodox patriarch met since Christianity split into western and eastern branches in 1054."
First, this blatantly disregards the pope's recent meetings with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who is the "first among equals" leader of Eastern Orthodoxy. Second, no pope could have met with a Russian Patriarch in 1054 A.D. or afterwards for nearly 500 years, because the Russian Patriarchy simply did not exist until then. By ignoring Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and attributing to Patriarch Kirill a position entirely unwarranted by the historical facts, the article is tacitly endorsing the Moscow Patriarchate's claim if being the "Third Rome," the center and head of Eastern Orthodoxy (and of all Christianity), after Rome and then Constantinople fell to the infidels.
In our first news headline POPE FRANCIS’S PREVARICATION OVER RUSSIA WILL DISAPPOINT UKRAINIANS above, the article tells about an interview with the pope after the historic meeting in which the pope appears to have abandoned the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for the sake of reconciliation: "At no point does he acknowledge that the situation in the Donbass and in Crimea is the result of Russian aggression." Instead, he calls it a "fratricidal war" - as if it were a civil war merely between two Ukrainian factions. Why would Pope Francis take such a position? The persona he projects is one of caring for the poor and the disabled, kissing babies, living in a humble apartment instead of in the papal quarters, etc., etc.
We must, however, take into account this pope's support for Marxist "Liberation Theology," inviting its founder, Peru's Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, to a hero's welcome in the Vatican in February 2014: FOUNDER OF LIBERATION THEOLOGY HAILED AT VATICAN. And the historic meeting between Catholic and Orthodox leaders took place not in Argentina, but in Cuba, negotiated and attended by Cuban President Raul Castro. Fidel and Raul Castro during the Cuban Missile Crisis had urged the USSR to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against New York: “The victory of socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims,” their comrade Che Guevara had boasted.
At that very time, I was working in the U.S. Army Intelligence Headquarters in Europe, and was terribly aware of how close we came to all-out nuclear war: Soviet and NATO troops and tanks were lined up on the East-West border on full alert, ready to roll on a moment's notice. And we must bear in mind that it was Pope Francis who spurred on the negotiations between the Obama administration and the Cuban government for re-establishing diplomatic relations between these two countries. Also, the Obama administration has just announced its plans to close the prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by executive order bypassing current laws and Congress if necessary.
Strange events are happening these days, and press releases only give a superficial understanding of what is taking place behind the scenes. One thing is clear: PUTIN MAY BENEFIT FROM MEETING OF POPE AND PATRIARCH. Also, almost no mention was made of Henry Kissinger's latest meeting with Vladimir Putin: see PUTIN MEETS WITH FORMER US STATE SECRETARY HENRY KISSINGER (Tass) and more in-depth KISSINGER’S MEETING WITH PUTIN: THE PITCH TO BRING RUSSIA INTO THE NEW WORLD ORDER - Kissinger certainly was not merely sightseeing in Moscow. This is just the most recent of Kissinger's several trips to Moscow. Something very big is in the works.
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In June of last year I wrote an article on "Tradition and Transformation." God accepts us just as we are, but He does not want us to remain just as we were: His goal is to transform us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Christians we have received a great treasure of spiritual truths: doctrines and rules for living that can transform our minds and our lives.
In his letter to the church at Rome, St. Paul wrote - "Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:1-2).
Whenever you see the word "Therefore" in the Bible, ask yourself - "What is it there for?" In this case it refers to the previous chapter, where Paul writes about God's eternal plan for mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, concluding with "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen" (Rom. 11:36). Origen commented on this verse - "Paul declares that God is the beginning of the substance of all things by the words 'of Him' and the bond of their subsistence by the expression “through Him” and their final end by the term 'to Him.'"
Continue reading in our Hosken-News Blog.
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. - George Washington