If you have a proposal for the OPF Journal or BLOG, please send us a note on your proposed essay or topic with the form below.
If you have a proposal for the OPF Journal or BLOG, please send us a note on your proposed essay or topic with the form below.
Summer issue / July 2007
Dear In Communion reader,
This issue goes to the printer on the 16th of July. We hope it will be on its way to subscribers by the 20th, which on the Church calendar is the commemoration of St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris, along with several collaborators (Fr. Dmitri Klpinin, Yuli Skobtsov, and Ilya Fondaminksi) who also gave up their lives for daring to rescue Jews and others being sought by the Nazis in occupied France.
Behind Mother Maria’s brave actions was her conviction that each person bears the image of God. “If someone turns with his spiritual world toward the spiritual world of another person,” she wrote, “he encounters an awesome and inspiring mystery …. He comes into contact with the true image of God in man, with the very icon of God incarnate in the world, with a reflection of the mystery of God’s incarnation and divine manhood. And he needs to accept this awesome revelation of God unconditionally, to venerate the image of God in his brother. Only when he senses, perceives and understands it will yet another mystery be revealed to him – one that will demand his most dedicated efforts …. He will perceive that the divine image is veiled, distorted and disfigured by the power of evil …. And he will want to engage in battle with the devil for the sake of the divine image.”
Though I am unaware of her having written specifically on the topic of capital punishment, I have no doubt that she would welcome this special issue of In Communion with enthusiasm. As she said, even when the divine image is disfigured by the power of evil, it is still present. So long as a person remains alive, there is the possibility of repentance.
Would you take a moment to help keep OPF going? We need your support. Subscription payments and annual dues fall far short of our needs. We have two part-time staff members, myself and Sheri San Chico. We are paid very little for our many hours of work, but OPF’s income doesn’t justify more adequate payment. We also have a part-time web master, Michael Markwick. In addition there are all the usual expenses: office and publication costs, postage, telephone, travel, etc.
Note that donations can now be made via the OPF web site:
If you have made a recent gift or are one of those who makes regular donations or donates volunteer time, thank you! You are a God-send. If you aren’t, please consider becoming part of our community of committed donors. If you can’t manage a monthly or quarterly donation but can make an occasional special donation, please do so. Every gift helps.
We depend on our supporters to make at least one donation annually, but without those who give more than once a year, and give more than the minimum, we could not continue.
In Christ’s peace,
Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary
Dear In Communion reader,
In the Orthodox Church, one would be hard-pressed to find a baptized person over the age of five who doesn’t know at least fragments of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by heart. It’s not necessary to belong to the choir. From infancy onward, week after week we hear the service that bears his name. We reverence his memory and would regard a church without his icon as incomplete. Yet few of us are familiar with Chrysostom’s writings or the writings of other Church Fathers, as we call the body of theologians who not only defended Orthodox doctrine in the face of heresies, but endowed the Church with clear teaching about the social obligations of baptized people. For example here are a few challenging sentences from John Chrysostom that are quoted in this issue of In Communion:
Let us therefore, both poor and rich, cease from taking the property of others. For my present discourse is not only to the rich, but to the poor also. For they too rob those who are poorer than themselves. And artisans who are better off, and more powerful, outsell the poorer and more distressed, tradesmen outsell tradesmen, and so all who are engaged in the market-place. So that I wish from every side to take away injustice.
Not only are such writings largely unknown, but it’s a rare day when such themes are taken up in sermons.
Part of the work of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship is to search for ways to make the words and examples of the saints better known, so that when we see their icons, we are reminded of how they lived and what they had to say to their contemporaries – and to us. May we become such people in our own time.
Would you take a moment to help keep OPF going? We need your support. Subscription payments and annual dues fall far short of our needs. We have two part-time staff members, myself and Sheri San Chico. We are paid very little for our many hours of work, but OPF’s income doesn’t justify more adequate payment. We also have a part-time web master, Michael Markwick. In addition there are all the usual expenses: office and publication costs, postage, telephone, travel, etc. (Once again, postal rate have gone up.)
If you have in fact made a recent gift or are one of those who makes regular donations or donate volunteer time, thank you! You are a God-send. If you aren’t, please consider becoming part of our community of committed donors. If you can’t manage a monthly or quarterly donation but can make an occasional special donation, please do so. Every gift helps.
We depend on our supporters to make at least one donation annually, but without those who give more than once a year, and give more than the minimum, we could not continue.
Jim Forest, editor
* * *
Speaking in Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople urged all Christians to overcome division and work for unity.
“Separated and split, Christianity loses its credibility,” Bartholomew said in a speech in March after being given the Cardinal Koenig Prize, an Austrian award given annually to honor attempts at tolerance and reconciliation between religions.
“We can live in unity and harmony, without suppression, without fanaticism, without exploitation, without polemics and without arguments,” he said. He appealed to all branches of Christianity “to overcome the scandal of division and strive for the unity Jesus himself desires.”
Bartholomew spoke of Pope Benedict as “our very much-loved brother.”
“Now, in this phase of the reorganization of Europe, we must help Christians and churches together.”
He called on believers to assist the 100 million Europeans living in poverty.
Bartholomew expressed concern about climate change and pollution, rebuking the faithful “for letting God’s creation, which today suffers so much, become an object of exploitation.”
“The clock is already striking twelve! If we do not immediately recognize the signs of the times and act accordingly, we can expect ever more devastating natural catastrophes for which egocentric humans alone are responsible.”
The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation’s “haves” and “have-nots” continues to widen, according to a study published in February.
A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 – half the federal poverty line – was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.
The analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005 – 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period.
The review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large US counties, and similar increases in 28 states.
Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.
These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation’s 37 million poor people into deep poverty, the highest rate since at least 1975.
About one in three severely poor people are under age 17, and nearly two out of three are female. Female-headed families with children account for a large share of the severely poor.
Nearly two out of three people (10.3 million) in severe poverty are white, but blacks (4.3 million) and Hispanics of any race (3.7 million) make up disproportionate shares. Blacks are nearly three times as likely as non-Hispanicwhites to be in deep poverty, while Hispanics are roughly twice as likely.
Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe in January, Bartholomew said that dialogue between followers of different religions is essential, “especially in times such as ours when our planet is facing many warfronts all over the world.” Both in the past and in the present, “religious reasons were put forth to edge individuals, or even entire peoples, to warfare.”
Bartholomew noted that “the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek-Orthodox minority in Turkey feel that they still do not enjoy full rights.” Still, he said, “remarkable steps” had been taken by Turkey in recent years. “We have always supported the European perspective of Turkey in anticipation of the remaining steps to be taken according to the standards of the European Union.”
Speaking on behalf of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk announced that the canonical conflict centered on Bishop Basil “has come to an end.”
“The problem arising from the transfer of Bishop Basil Osborne to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,” said Kirill on 27 March, “has now been canonically completely regularized. The problem arose because Bishop Basil moved to the Patriarchate of Constantinople of his own accord, without any request coming from Constantinople, and without the consent of the Moscow
Patriarchate. Now Constantinople has asked for his personal file, in which it is normal to include a letter of release. This means that the Moscow Patriarchate has granted canonical release to Bishop Basil. The canonical conflict has come to an end.”
“We release Bishop Basil. He will now legitimately represent the Constantinople Church. We shall be able to concelebrate with him,” said Metropolitan Kirill.
Kirill noted that the resolution of the “canonical misunderstanding” was the result of the meeting in Geneva this winter between a delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a delegation from the Patriarchate of Moscow.
Israel is demanding that the Greek Orthodox patriarchy conduct a census of all church property in Israel and the Palestinian territories ahead of its sale or long-term lease, and to give Israel the first right of refusal on the property. Israel is also asking that the property purchased by Jewish organizations in the area of Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate will “remain in the hands of the Israeli lessees,” according to a document that has reached journalists at the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz.
The document shows that a central issue for Israel is how to ensure that Greek Orthodox assets will be sold to Jewish bodies or to the state.
The document bears the signature of attorney Renato Yarak, a former senior State Prosecution official, attesting to the fact that Minister Rafi Eitan gave it to him. Eitan is a member of the ministerial committee dealing with matters pertaining to the patriarchy.
Yarak, the former head of High Court petitions in the State Prosecutor’s Office, and another attorney, Rami Mugrabi, said Eitan gave them the document on January 18. The two represent Theophilos, who was elected patriarch by the Greek Orthodox Synod about a year and a half ago, and who has since then been working to obtain Israel’s recognition as patriarch. Sources close to Theophilos said his attorneys were told that the acceptance of the clauses in the document were a condition to Israel’s recognizing him as patriarch. Theophilos’ attorneys rejected the conditions as an “illegal and extraneous” intervention in church matters.
The most problematic clause is the one dealing with properties at the Jaffa Gate. It states that the patriarch and the writer of the document must arrive at a process by which “the hotel” at the Jaffa Gate will remain in the hands of its Israeli lessees.
The property, consisting of three hotels, was sold to a company in the Virgin Islands, with members of the Ateret Kohanim association, which settles Jews in the Old City, acting as intermediaries.
The legality of the deal has been challenged in courts. Patriarch Irineos, who was dismissed from his post by the Greek Orthodox Synod after the sale of the hotels to Israelis came to light, claimed that he and the Synod had not approved the power of attorney as required by law. The demand by attorney Micha Kirsch, representing Irineos, that the deals be canceled, is now before the District Court in Jerusalem.
On the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, three American Catholic peace activists paid a discreet but significant visit to the Vatican. The representatives of the Indiana-based Catholic Peace Fellowship were in Rome in mid-March to promote the issue of conscientious objection to war.
“It’s been a miraculous trip,” said Joshua Casteel. “We’ve received great support and open ears here. It’s encouraging to see that we are part of a tradition that’s very sensitive to peace issues.”
Casteel served in an Army intelligence unit in Iraq in 2004 and was an interrogator at the Abu Ghraib prison. After concluding that systematic torture was being used against mostly innocent people and that his own participation in the war was compromising his Christian witness, Casteel applied for and received conscientious objector status and left the Army after six years in uniform.
Casteel met Pope Benedict XVI on March 14, along with two other CPF representatives, Tom Cornell and Michael Griffin. Benedict has repeatedly expressed opposition to the war in Iraq.
Cornell, Griffin and Casteel proposed that the Vatican take a new look at the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on war and conscientious objection. The catechism notes that public authorities should provide for alternative service for those who refuse to bear arms for reasons of conscience. But it says the main responsibility for evaluating the conditions of a just war “belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”
Griffin said that wording seems to imply that public authorities alone decide a war’s morality. It gives too little weight to an individual’s responsibility to evaluate the legitimacy of war in his or her own conscience, he said.
The CPF also visited the Congregation for Saints’ Causes to ask about progress in the cause of Franz Jgersttter, an Austrian farmer who was executed as a conscientious objector to service in the army of Adolf Hitler.
Jgersttter had a wife and three daughters. Many, including a priest and a bishop, advised him to think of his family and forget about resisting the military machine. He was also told he should follow the political authorities who had responsibility for such decisions. But Jagerstatter refused to serve, and after a military trial in 1943 he was beheaded. Before being executed, he wrote: “I am convinced that it is best that I speak the truth, even if it costs me my life.”
Conscientious objection can be a testimony of help and service to life, said the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life at a conference – The Christian Conscience in Support of the Right to Life – held in the Vatican in February.
“Not only is there a legitimate place for the Christian conscience in the pluralist society,” said Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy, but it is useful “for the whole society when the Christian conscience can express itself and offer its contribution.” This requires “among believers true, certain and upright consciences, conditions that in no way can be taken for granted, or that are the result of improvisation, but rather of reflection, dialogue and at times of valiant effort.”
He pointed out that conscientious objection “is not the only instance of the Christian conscience in the health field,” but that above all “conscience calls for positive testimony in the service” for life. “But precisely because of the service to life, an honor that corresponds to every living man, it is necessary to avoid evil and, when it occurs, to activate conscientious objection and protest,” the Vatican official said.
It is specifically in “the sector of life and holiness” where a whole series appears “of new situations where doctors and other figures linked to their activities are called to activate the claim of objection,” he said. “In a society that wishes to be genuinely democratic, conscience must be able to speak for those who do not have a voice or are unable to express themselves. The aim of Christians, therefore, is also this: to give voice also to those who do not have an electoral voice, or economic power, but who have the same dignity as each one of us.”
Nelson Mandela, who spent 28 years in prison for fighting apartheid before leading South Africa to multi-racial democracy as the country’s first black president in 1994, joined Nobel laureates and elder statesmen in calling for the “reinvention” of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent approach to solving conflicts. At a conference in New Delhi, India, in January, Mandela said Gandhi’s nonviolent approach, which won India freedom from British colonial rule 60 years ago, was an inspiration.
“His philosophy contributed in no small measure to bringing about a peaceful transformation in South Africa and in healing the destructive human divisions that had been spawned by the abhorrent practice of apartheid,” said Mandela.
Referring to Gandhi as “the sacred warrior,” Mandela said the Mahatma combined ethics and morality with a steely resolve that refused to compromise with the oppressor, the British Empire.
“In a world driven by violence and strife, Gandhi’s message of peace and nonviolence holds the key to human survival in the 21st century,” said Mandela. “He rightly believed in the efficacy of pitting the sole force of the satyagraha against the brute force of the oppressor and in effect converting the oppressor to the right and moral point.”
A decade or so ago, environmentalists coined the term “climate refugees” to describe future victims of global warming. Today, experts say such refugees may already number in the millions and could reach 200 million by the century’s end, stoking conflict.
They point to Inuit communities undercut by melting ice in North America and Greenland to the thirsty peoples around central Africa’s fast-shrinking Lake Chad and the many thousands displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. In the future, these ranks could be swollen by refugees fleeing flooded homes, parched farmland or wrecked economies, from small island states in the Pacific to tropical Africa and the Mediterranean rim.
“The issue of environmental refugees promises to rank as one of the foremost human crises of our time,” said Norman Myers, an Oxford University professor.
“There is going to be a lot of population movement linked to climate,” said Thomas Downing, director of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Oxford. “Not all will be permanent refugees, but when you add climate to other forces that push people beyond the capacity to cope, the numbers will increase.”
A Red Cross and Red Crescent study in 2000 said 25 million people had left their homes because of environmental stress, roughly as many as the refugees from armed conflict.
Myers, an expert on the link between climate change and forced migration, says the number could double by 2010 and reach as high as 200 million “once global warming kicks in.”
For fragile island nations such as Tuvalu in the South Pacific and Maldives in the Indian Ocean, global warming poses a triple threat. Warmer seas spell a threat to the coral upon which islanders depend to attract both fish and tourists; decreasing rainfall threatens drinking water supplies; and higher sea levels pose a threat by storm flooding or even inundation.
In the densely populated flood-plains of Bangladesh, rising seas will not only ruin fertile flood plains but stoke the storm surges that periodically ravage the low-lying nation.
Drought or water stress is another problem. According to one study, the crippling heatwave that struck Western Europe in 2003 and left tens of thousands dead is likely to be commonplace by 2100, a scenario that is especially bleak for people on the Mediterranean coast and its hinterland.
The United States has three-quarters of a million homeless people, filling emergency shelters through the year and spilling into special seasonal shelters in the coldest months, according to a government report published in February.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated there were 754,000 homeless people in 2005, including those living in shelters, transitional housing and on the street. That’s about 300,000 more people than available beds in shelters and transitional housing.
The 2000 Census pegged the number of homeless people at 170,700, but it was widely regarded an undercount.
Among the findings for people in shelters and transitional housing: nearly half were single adult men, nearly a quarter were minors, less than 2 percent were older than 65, 59 percent were members of minority groups, about 45 percent were black, and about a quarter had a disability.
Emergency shelters are more than 90 percent full on average nights, the report said. They would be over capacity if not for seasonal shelters.
“We ought to be looking for ways to move people from shelters into permanent housing,” said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Building shelter beds doesn’t result in these people being housed, but clearly, short of housing, everybody should have a roof over their head. This points out that we are not there, either.”
A quarter of the Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans treated with US government-funded health care have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to a study published in March by The Journal of the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine.
When psycho-social disorders such as domestic violence were included, the number of war veterans suffering from mental illnesses rose to 31 percent.
The instances of mental illness among recently discharged troops and members of the National Guard are significantly higher than those of a study published last year which examined active duty troops, the lead researcher told Agence France Presse.
That study found that while a third of returning troops were accessing mental health services, only 12 percent were diagnosed with a mental illness or psycho-social disorder.
“That’s a big difference,” said Karen Seal, a physician and researcher at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The most common diagnosis was post-traumatic stress disorder among 13 percent of troops, followed by anxiety and adjustment disorders among six percent of troops and depression and substance abuse among five percent of troops.
Of significant concern was the finding that 56 percent of those diagnosed had more than one mental illness, Seal said. “When people have more than one diagnosis they become more challenging to diagnose and, more importantly, we believe are more challenging to treat.”
With a backlog of more than 860,000 medical claims and waiting times of up to a year for treatment, many of those coming home are not getting the help they urgently need, said Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“War changes everybody and everybody is going to have to deal with it in one way or another. The military is not doing enough on the preventative side or the treatment side because the military’s role is to patch them up and send them to the VA [the Veterans Administration]. The VA is not doing enough because they did not prepare for the huge influx of new customers coming in from the wars and they haven’t budgeted for it.”
The researchers examined the records of 103,788 veterans of these operations who were first seen at Veterans Affairs facilities between September 30, 2001, and September 30, 2005.
About 29 percent of war veterans accessed VA health care facilities, the study found.
The troops most at risk were those aged 18 to 24, the study found, but mental illnesses were common among all subgroups.
A section has been added to the OPF web site that places on one page the articles on Peacemaking in the Parish that were published in recent issues of In Communion:
A similar page – Pro-Life Resources – has been added with links to numerous articles on the protection of human life from the womb to old age:
Also, it’s now possible to get an update message whenever new material is added to the OPF web site. Sign up at:
Our thanks to Michael Markwick, who maintains the OPF web site.
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web site: www.incommunion.org
When sending letters or checks to the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America, note it has a new postal address:
Orthodox Peace Fellowship
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Orthodox Peace Fellowship
c/o Seraphim Honeywell
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OPF received a letter yesterday in which a questionwas raised as to why St. Constantine is not on the calendar of saints in the Catholic Church, although he is in the Orthodox Church. “Does it concern you that this ‘man of war’ is honored in our tradition?” I responded by saying that my impression is that there are quite a few pre-Schism. No doubt a factor in his canonization was his decision to end all persecution of Christians and the influence Christianity had in encouraging him to reshape many laws in a more merciful direction. Many saints have taken part in war – none has been canonized for being a soldier. The calendar of the saints cension of the Lord. I think the timing of this feast was, consciously or uncon- sciously, a decision of great wisdom. Our Lord has gone up to rule over heaven and earth from the right hand of the Father. Part of His rule includes the kingdoms of this earth. Constantine was among the very first rulers to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over the State and to begin the process of transforming the laws and customs of this world to conform to the law and wisdom of the Lord.
We celebrate what the Lord has in fact accomplished; but we also celebrate what has begun. Constantine was not in fact the first Christian king (a king of Armenia preceded him). His sins were many and some of them serious; some of his accomplishments were not long-lasting; and some of his achievements were not even appropriate – the Constantinian union of church and state was in fact an unholy matrimony that has caused endless problems to the message and integrity of the Church. Even so, his accomplishments were great indeed. Perhaps more than any other saint of the ancient Church, he represents the task that Niebuhr called the transformation of culture. From that point of view, oddly enough, in light of his being chief commander of the Roman armies, he is close to the spirit of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship
David Holden [email protected]
The Byzantine Empire was culturally Byzantine, unique in all the ways cultures always are, with Hellenistic culture being but one influence. It is customary to refer to Byzantine culture as Greek, but that didn’t mean the same thing in pre-modern times that it does now. The marriage of blood, culture, and religion to create the modern conception of Greek ethnicity as something pure and inherent began in the eighteenth century. Byzantines didn’t think of themselves as Hellenes; neither Byzantines nor Hellenes ever being thought of themselves as an ethnic group. Hellenism was always a cultural phenomenon. It was the post-Byzantine culture under the Ottomans that recovered for themselves, from the pre-Byzantine past, their Hellenic identity. Prior to the development of nationalism in the 18th century, there was never any such idea as a Greek, or any other, ethnicity.
The migrations that led to large amounts of today’s mainland Greece being Slav took place between the 6th and 7th centuries, dates and extent of settlement being uncertain and debated by historians. Most of the cities remained Greek, and there was much intermixing of the populations. The peninsula was recovered and once more largely Greek by the 9th century. There is no evidence that there was anything like a large-scale population exchange, though Imperial policy was influential.
Constantine was certainly neither Serb or British, as neither of those ethnicities even existed then, Slavs being a completely unknown people to the Romans at that time. Slavs migrated into the Balkans in the 6th century as raiders and didn’t begin to settle in significant numbers until the 7th. They never supplanted native populations (assimilation, over time, may be more accurate, but such processes were so bi-directional that we can never say that the cultural end product was the same as at the beginning of the process). While there was a cultural influence in both directions, by the time the Greeks recovered dominance, the settled Slavs had been thoroughly “Grecified.”
Pieter Dykhorst [email protected]
Constantine’s significance in the East has largely to do with the importance we place on Ecumenical Councils, as distinct from a Roman-style Magisterium. His moving of the capital to Byzantium/Constantinople, the effect he had on establishing the emperor as the vital link between Church and State, the significance of the Nicene Creed from the Council over which he presided, his leadership in the Donatist struggle: all of this political influence – coupled with the fact that he was St. Helena’s son (is holiness genetic?) and introduced an impressive number of ethical and social changes into the life of the Empire, from tax relief and charitable works to endowing churches in the Holy Land and elsewhere – certainly contributed to the growth of popular veneration of his person. We are called to emulate Constantine’s virtues, not his vices – but that’s true with any saint, who, by the simple fact of being human, is also a sinner.
Fr. John Breck
Thinking a little bit about history, I was wondering, if one compared the Orthodox Byzantine Empire with other great world powers in history, is it the case that the Byzantines engaged in war mostly from a defensive and protectionist stance, to consolidate their position, rather than engaging in expansionist wars?
Certainly Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire of an earlier age, the Muslim Arabs, Genghis Khan, the Turks, all engaged in imperial expansionism.
The crusades too might fall in this category. But the Byzantines after Constantine seem rarely to have gone on wars of expansion. They did fight against the Persians, Arabs, Turks, Bulgars, but these were mostly attacks upon them.
After Constantine, the empire goes into a pattern of land lost by attrition and war. Pretty much the Byzantines lose interest in the territories of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century. In the 7th Century, the Arab Muslims gobble up huge portions of the empire. The Bulgars carve out their own empire. The Turks further diminish Byzantium until they conquer it.
The Byzantines seem to have engaged in some diplomatic efforts with the Arabs, Persians, Turks, Bulgars, and eventually with the Crusaders. But their war efforts were defensive rather than expansionist, except at times to regain lost territories.
I wonder if anyone is aware if any research has been done on the attitude of the Byzantine Empire toward war itself. After Constantine, did Christianity have an impact on the imperial attitudes toward war? Did this lead to the Empire being more defensive than expansionist?
For example, here is the Theotokian from Matins Canticle Nine for the Be-heading of John the Baptist:
Son of the Theotokos:
Go forth, ride prosperously and reign. Place the forces of Ishmael that fight against us, beneath our feet, and grant victory to the Orthodox
Christians over their adversaries by the intercessions of her who bore You, O Word of God.
It is interesting that Monk John, who wrote this hymn, does not call for the armies to go forth and conquer Arab territories, but only that Jesus would grant victories over those who are attacking the Byzantine lands.
Even the “Protection of the Theotokos” is more defensive than offensive.
It is a call to protection from aggressors, and not a call for the Orthodox to become aggressors. So though the Constantinian legend was that he would conquer beneath the Sign of the Cross, the later Byzantines seem to have relied more upon God as a protector than as an aggressor conqueror God. Is this perhaps part of the peace tradition in the Byzantine legacy?
Fr. Ted Bobosh [email protected]
There is a recent book by John Haldon, Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World (London, 1999). My guess is that the Byzantines mostly engaged in defensive wars, because they had little option for anything else. But under Basil II, there was expansionist warfare (though he probably thought of it as regaining lost Byzantine territory).
Fr. Andrew Louth
Just to let you know I’m unharmed. I left Lebanon twenty days before Hezbollah crossed the border, killed the soldiers, and took the captives. My biggest hassle in leaving the country was the fact that I was over my weight allowance. My priest told me not to buy books while I was there, but I didn’t take his advice. At this point, I’m unspeakably grateful that I decided against staying in Lebanon until September.
I have been in contact with many of my friends in Lebanon. I have spoken with Fr. Symeon by phone twice now. His apartment has what used to be a beautiful view of Beirut across the harbor. They’re far enough out of town and away from any potential targets that they’re as safe as anyone can be in Lebanon about now, but his wife and children are staying with her parents in a mountain village for the time being.
What grieves me even more than the scenes of devastation and death is the thought of yet another generation of scarred survivors. Fr. Symeon’s oldest child is three. One of my other friends from Canada who returned to serve the
Church in Lebanon has a young son.
Lord, have mercy!
Peter Brubacher [email protected]
Fr. David Ogan, who heads Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, has been doing a tremendous job by filling a void in the area of prison ministry. Sad to say, but few institutions in the United States provide religious services for Orthodox Christians, though there are exceptions. The jail where I serve as Supervising Chaplain provides 32 religious services each week to the inmate population, including Orthodox Christian liturgy and catechism. Prisoners who become Orthodox believers in our jail are connected with a local parish when they are released. However, at least 30 percent of the inmates are sentenced to penitentiaries where they will spend many years of their lives. Most US penitentiaries do not provide Orthodox Christian religious worship services simply because there has not been a voice from the Orthodox
Christian community calling for such service, and not enough clergy to provide the services. Therefore, the new Orthodox Christian believers behind bars have been relying on Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry and local parishes to keep them connected to their new faith without any formal worship experience.
I am not sure what we would do without that ministry. Thank you, Fr. David.
The need is so great and the door is wide open for Orthodoxy in our jails and prisons. I am in a position of influence in the state of Pennsylvania. I have been praying and trying to think of a way to enlist more Orthodox Christians in ministry to prisoners. Is this something that OPF might be interested in exploring?
Patrick Tutlella [email protected]
Inequality has been on my mind a lot recently. First, I read Tracy Kidder’s superb Mountains beyond Mountains, a profile of Paul Farmer, an American doctor who has established a health-care system in central Haiti. One small anecdote struck me especially. His clinic arranged to fly a boy with a rare
but treatable cancer to the US, and ended up having to pay $20,000 to fly him out (they’d meant to take him on a commercial flight, but his condition deteriorated). Some people in the organization wondered whether that money couldn’t have been better spent to serve more people – a legitimate question. Farmer recognized the issue, then pointed out that a first-year doctor in the US makes about $100,000 – but no one asks if that money might be “better spent” on other healthcare needs. A mere tithe on American doctors’ incomes would pay for a lot of medevac flights…
Then I read an issue of The Atlantic Monthly with two pieces on growing inequality in the US. One was mostly on why the average person’s pay hasn’t gone up, even while productivity has been climbing for decades. The other was a profile of the rapidly-growing business of providing services to the super-rich. Its concluding paragraph is haunting:
“Then, out of the blue during one of our later conversations, Natasha Pearl [head of one of the cater-to-the-rich companies] said something surprising:
‘If the income inequality persists, we could end up with real armed camps, like in South Africa.’ She said she was increasingly aware of the tension between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots,’ and she described a surge in demand among the ultrarich for real estate in out-of-the-way places such as New Zealand and rural Argentina – expensive insurance policies in case things go haywire for some reason at home. ‘The wise ones are thinking about it now,’ Pearl said. Indeed it might be worth planning ahead; I wonder what the going salary will be for a spot in an oligarch’s private army.”
John Brady [email protected]
John Brady raises a key point. The question is that often for people, equality of goods is not per se the issue but the ends they want to pursue. I don’t care that many people have lots more money than I do since all I’m interested in is having the resources I need to pursue the ends that interest me. I’m bothered by the fact that many – too many – people have lots, lots less than me not simply because they have less but because they are thwarted in pursuing the sorts of ends that seem to be part of a minimally decent life. On the other hand, many people are quite content with living very simple lives that require few material possessions – I know people that don’t have a television since they have no interest in watching one. But a “simple” life is not the same as one that is materially impoverished. Some saints and ascetics have so renounced the ends of ordinary life that they have virtually no interest in any material possessions except those required for bare survival and their religious devotion.
Such people don’t care that other people have a lot more. Once again, we are back to the questions of the ends that we pursue for ourselves and with reference to others. Most of the “goods” that we consider in terms of equality/inequality are merely means to those ends and they get their value and moral worth from those ends.
Christianity seems ambivalent on this score. On the one hand, there are the injunctions for a radical renunciation of the world leading to a life of extreme poverty (on any definitions of poverty) and, on the other, the legitimacy of engaging in the world (even if one isn’t “of the world”) and thus “acquiring” and using the wealth and goods which makes such engagement possible.
This past year, since I was “downsized” out of a job, has been a very positive experience for me, and I try to analyze just why it has been so. Clearly, it might have been more trying if our general financial situation had been more precarious; we had beenprudent (and, in some ways, just lucky) in setting ourselves up for retirement time, although we didn’t think it would come quite so soon. But, there are other elements that are even more important.
The loss of control: It is a good thing to be reminded that we are not in charge in this life, that the vagaries of fortune or providence can change things in a twinkling.
Free time: Time was suddenly available to help with family crises. One daughter had a problem pregnancy. Another needed to move to Atlanta with her toddler while her husband was doing research in Japan.
Time to give: I have been able to commit time to pro bono projects related to war and peace in which I could much more readily invest my deepest feelings than in any paying job I ever had.
Freedom: Suddenly I had freedom to look for what God really wanted me to be doing, rather than what “made the most sense” in some job-counselor/personnel office way.
Living on less: The realization that our (relative) “poverty” – regular pay-checks stopping – did not make our lives worse – and most days made them better. There has been more time to spend with my wife, more time to play the piano, more time to tend my flower garden, etc.
I am currently a candidate for a job that I am truly enthusiastic about. It is quite freeing to be able to go into my upcoming key interview with a sense that it is all about doing God’s work, not ensuring that we will have the income to take fancy vacations, add on to our house or give lots of gifts at Christmas time. God is good! I had to go on unemployment to realize how good!
Alex Patico [email protected]
A friend of mine here in Romania who is also interested in living out the Gospels has been reading Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. She was chuckling at his list of suggestions of things you could do to live more simply. There were things like “use fans instead of air conditioning,” etc. She said, “Well, we do almost all these things already whether we want to or not.” Air conditioning is rare in Romania!
“Simplicity” is often a thinly veiled disguise for figuring out how to save in one place just to spend it on something else. I wonder if the “wherewithal” does not come from a change in perspective where we see the contemplative and relational fruit from voluntary simplicity whatever degree it may take, rather than the supposed cost to our material abundance.
I think it was Wendle Berry who said something about what a shame it was that we now feel comfortable giving money instead of ourselves.
At times I can’t help but feel that I’m being judged by those who all but say that there is no place for an Orthodox Christian in the armed forces.
The circumstances that have brought me to this place are complex and pre-date my becoming Orthodox. No doubt my decision to incur a commitment to the armed forces would have been different if I had been Orthodox at the time, but God has put me here for a reason and I have to honor that.
There is no doubt that the military is a tough place to be an Orthodox Christian, but I feel the Church helps me navigate these things by maintaining a tension that encourages humility and respect for the image of God in others and does not allow me to participate in the glorification of violence.
The work I do is oftentimes mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting, but soldiers are real people with real problems and they do not need the “easy wisdom” of those who simply tell them to get out of the military at any cost even if it means being dishonest or somehow misrepresenting themselves and their circumstances. They need prayers, not man’s judgment.
Aaron Haney, MD
I am a seven-year Orthodox Christian, converted after twenty-four years as a non-denominational Protestant. I got out of the Army after nine years in 1985 as a conscientious objector. I have traveled a long and difficult road in search of what is true and right and good, as I trust we all are doing. I have come to the conclusion that honest dialogue between Christians does not always lead to agreement, regardless of the experience, wisdom, and maturity of the individuals.
Though I am convinced of my conscientious objector beliefs, rooted in Christian faith and practice, I honor my brothers and sisters who disagree with me and serve in the military for honorable reasons. I can’t wait till we can sit before God and sort this all out so that it makes sense.
The questions we raise about war are not an oblique way of putting people in uniform on the spot. Whatever we do in life, we are all implicated in the activities of the society to which we belong, but when we look at how individuals respond in their own lives, we may find some of those who best reveal the peace of Christ happen to be people in the military.
I recall the executive officer of the unit I was part of while in the US Navy who stayed up much of a night reading a book he borrowed from me – War and Christianity Today – and afterward decided to give me his public support in my application for a special discharge as a conscientious objector. What he did, in my opinion, required more courage than anything I had done.
He was a career officer who probably sacrificed promotion from commander to captain by his efforts on my behalf. I’ve always been grateful that my interest in peace issues initially took shape while I was in the military – the period of my life in which I found my way to Christian faith. The experience was a blessing in many ways and ever since has protected me from dehumaniz- ing people wearing military uniforms.
Jim Forest [email protected]
According to books I’ve been reading, Peter Maurin (Dorothy Day’s inspiration in many things) quoted a “fifth-century church council” that required bishops to set up houses of hospitality in all their parishes. (These would provide food, shelter and probably medical care for the poor).
I’ve tried to find out what council this was, and what it said, but haven’t
been successful. Does anyone know?
A canonist I am not, but I look- ed a little and here is what I found. I found a list of the Captions of Arabic Canons that are attributed to the Council of Nicaea (which is, of course, actually 4th Cent.). The caption of Arabic Canon 70 is: “Of the hospital to be established in every city, and of the choice of a superintendent and concerning his duties.” I also found incidental reference to a poor house (ptocheion) in Canon 8 and to a hospice (xenodocheia) in Canon 10 of the Council of Chalecedon (5th Cent.). These canons do not specifically command that such facilities be constructed, but assume that they exist; the point of these canons is that bishops should govern them and that clergy who have moved from one place to another should not meddle in the affairs of institutions they have left.
I know that there is not only no unity on the teaching of nonviolence which Christ gave us in the Gospel, but there are many who see nothing amiss in the current war in Iraq. I do not feel the Orthodox are especially blessed with true under- standing about nonviolence, but I know that it is what we are called to be as Christians.
In a recent sermon I heard, our priest said that for all intents and purposes Christianity in Europe is dead while Christianity in the US is now a political distortion. The responsibility for this situation lies in the unfortunate decision to align ourselves with political power, beginning with Constantine. To make ourselves comfortable in this world, we were quite willing to abandon the Kingdom of Heaven. We have no message of salvation, we have no Resurrection to reveal to our fellow humans. Wherever and whenever Christ through the Holy Spirit reveals that we have not succeeded in burying Him, we rush with planks and nails to entomb Him again.
Unless we begin to state the truth as baldly as this, we can expect no more of the Middle Eastern Muslims. Why should they lead the way to peace? And where would they begin to find it? Since Christ is our Peace and the Peace of the entire universe, if we bury Him how will the Muslims find Him?
It is because we live in a “post-Christian world” that the Orthodox Peace Fellowship has the task of exhuming the theology of the Gospel left to us by the Councils and Church Fathers, but buried by our eras-long alliance with military and government power.
Orthodox Christians who see nonviolence as unpatriotic are still living within the romantic delusion of Christian imperialism. How hard the Gospel is on that refuge of the deluded! Why shouldn’t the devout and fanatical Muslims continue their war against the “west”? They really believe in theocracy and practice it as well. As long as we see the Gospel as compatible with war and violence, why should we call the Koran into question?
The news report “Washington losing ‘war on terror'” (In Communion, Summer 2006) left me dissatisfied. The remarks by Alain Chouet, formerly of France’s foreign intelligence service, do not go far enough.
Chouet says that we should not be attacking the effects of terrorism but its causes, a remark with which it is difficult not to agree. But when I read that he attributes the causes of terrorism to Wahhabite ideology, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim brotherhood, alarm bells began to ring in my head.
To be fair, he went on (in a passage In Communion omitted) to say that: “US policy in the Middle East, which had turned Iraq into a new Afghanistan,’ was acting as a powerful recruiting agent for a generation of Islamic radicals.” He also said that “the continued US presence in Iraq, the atrocities committed by a campaigning army, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq and the grotesque US detention center at Guantanamo in Cuba all ‘provide excuses’ for violent radicals.”
It is good to see widespread recognition that the USA is its own worst enemy. It is also hard not to agree with the main thrust of Chouet’s remarks. But what about the things he and the other people in the report omit to say? What about Arab/Muslim anger at the appalling way the Palestinians have been treated by Israel year after year, Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, the USA’s unqualified support for Israel over several decades, the fact that jets and missiles made in the USA fall almost daily on Palestine, killing and maiming men, women and children in larger numbers than the Israelis who are killed by Hezbollah rockets?
What about US hypocrisy and double standards, confronting Iran over nuclear weapons it does not have while refusing to condemn Israel for its nuclear weapons program? Chouet mentions Wahhabite ideology, but what about the neo- conservative ideology emanating from Washington? Here Chouet appears to be buying into the US extreme-right ideology based on the “clash of civilizations,” in which “they” are portrayed as out to wreck “our” way of life and the values “we” hold dear.
His criticisms suggest US incompetence and stupidity while downplaying the extent to which the USA is in fact guilty of more serious, deliberate and premeditated crimes against humanity, in Israel, in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Perhaps this is why he mentions only “the continued US presence in Iraq,” omitting to mention that the US invasion of the country in the first place was a war crime.
There is a temptation to see all politicians in Western democratic countries as fundamentally well-intentioned but prone to blunders and apt to fly off the handle. Unfortunately I think the reality is more somber, and the prophecy about the “hearts of men growing cold” is being fulfilled in our time by cynical, hollow politicians among others.
Not only Hezbollah rockets and Islamist suicide bombers, but also bombs, bullets and torture made in the USA, have cheapened life and defaced the image of God that is printed on each one us.
What is the most appropriate Christian response to all this? As I say, I find it hard to keep up!
I had my picture taken last week with the President of the United States. For some this means I had my picture taken with one of the greatest men alive, to others it means being frozen in time with a war criminal. When my father-in-law first invited my husband and me to attend a fundraiser compliments of him, my first response was negative. I am not a sup-
porter of George Bush Jr.
I ran the idea past some of my friends at the homeless shelter where I volunteer.
These people are the poorest of the poor and would never have the chance to go to anything like this. “What would you say to the president of the United States,” I asked, “if you had a few seconds with him?” Suggestions ranged from asking him to resign to asking for money to telling him gently that we are all humans and make mistakes and perhaps he should take responsibility for the ones he has made.
Although the luncheon itself was not set until 11:30, we had to be at the hotel by 9 a.m. because they would be closing the roads for security reasons. We were greeted by cheerful volunteers, given name tags, and ushered into a room towait. After being taken through a metal detector, we were taken to another area where there were breakfast rolls, fruit, coffee and tea. We milled around while a buffet was set up.
At last we were told the president would be there soon and we should get into the velvet-roped line. Various Republicans ascended a platform and gave speeches in support of the Republican candidate, Mark Kennedy. The priorities of the Republican Party became clear to me. First it was the war (brave and noble), second it was the economy (getting better), and third it was family (bright and shiny). A vote for Mark Kennedy was not only a vote for security and continued wealth, but a vote for family. As my attention turned from the speakers, I looked around the room and a thought slipped into my consciousness.
There were only one African-American in the room. No Hispanics or Asians. We were as white as the snow outside. I noticed the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, not far from me. “Governor,” I said, “look around. There are only white people here. Except for one person, I don’t see any people of color.” The Governor’s eyes moved around the room. He nodded. “It’s a little disturbing isn’t it?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, a bit hesitantly. “I am a volunteer at a homeless shelter in Minneapolis,” I went on. “We have diversity there, but here I see only one color. Do you think there is anything we can do about that?” The governor was vague, told me about a homeless initiative of his administration, then asked me a few questions about Peace House. I invited him to come and visit, writing down our phone number and address for him. “God bless you,” I said, as I moved away, “He has,” he replied, almost defensively.
Finally the moment arrived. We were in an area divided by long blue velvet curtains. On the other side we heard applause. The president had arrived.
Then things went quickly. Suddenly my husband and I were next in line. We walked toward the president standing in front of the bright lights of the photographer. I felt the president’s hand in mine.
We smiled. Camera flash.
I turned and sought the president’s eyes, and took his hand again. “Please,” I pleaded, “don’t forget the poor and the homeless.” His eyes seemed worried, he appeared to have braced himself. “I won’t,” he said staunchly. He looked like a brave little boy.
Rene Zitzloff [email protected]
A soldier who fled to Canada rather than return to Iraq surrendered October 4 to military officials. Specialist Darrell Anderson, 24, said he deserted the Army last year rather than fight in what he believes is an illegal war. “I feel that by resisting I made up for the sins I committed in Iraq,” Anderson said during a press briefing shortly before he turned himself in at nearby Fort Knox, Kentucky. Anderson risked facing a charge of desertion, but it is anticipated that he will be given a discharge other than honorable. At that point, he should be free from his military commitment and face no other charges, according to one source.
Anderson joined the Army in January 2003 and went to Iraq a year later with the 1st Armored Division. He was wounded and received a Purple Heart in A large majority of Iraqis want US-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their departure would make Iraq more secure and de- crease sectarian violence, according to polls commissioned by the State Depart-ment and independent researchers. The results were released by The Washington Post.
In Baghdad, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if US and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout. Another poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the US government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends to keep permanent military bases in the country.
“Majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas state that the Multi-National Force-Iraq should withdraw immediately, adding that the [military] departure would make them feel safer and decrease violence,” concludes the 20-page State Department report. The report was based on 1,870 face-to-face interviews.
“I really don’t like the Americans who patrol on the street. They should all go away,” said a young boy as he swept up hair in a barber shop. “But I do like the one who guards my church. He should stay!”
The word went out that there was refuge in a Christian village and thousands came. In a pilgrimage of fear, Shiite Muslims from the most ravaged towns along the Lebanese border fled for Rmeish, a hilltop hamlet along a road where Israeli shells were steadily falling, at times every 15 seconds. Once in Rmeish, they escaped to a church, and at the church, a basement lit by soft shafts of sunlight.
In it were the wretched of this war: children with dirty feet and a pregnant woman who feared giving birth in squalor, an 85-year-old man whose donkey, his sole possession, was killed by a bomb, and hundreds of others among the at least 10,000 who arrived in Rmeish, some drinking from a fetid pool and walking the streets in search of food and goodwill. “The safety of God,” said Heidar Issa, one of those here. “That’s what we were counting on.”
In a country fractured by faith, torn asunder by 15 years of civil war, they found refuge among the Lebanese Christians they once fought. Their politics often diverged, but they shared a plight. And in a common misery wrought by war, less than a mile from the Israeli border, there was fleeting coexistence rather than talk of strife. “Everyone is opening their doors to anyone who comes,” said Tannous Alem, a 43-year-old Christian resident of Rmeish, who had brought 120 people into his home over 12 days. “We’re all the same in times like these.” “They welcomed us with 100 hellos,” said Issa, who arrived 10 days ago with 26 people in his truck. “Bless them.” His friend, Hussein Rahmi, nodded. “It’s safer with the Christians,” he said.
On July 31, Metropolitan Philip, head of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, issued a statement opposing Israel’s offensive in Lebanon. “Indiscriminate killing is against the Geneva Convention, the UN Charter and all laws of civilized nations,” he said. “This savage war is between Israel and Hezbollah. Lebanon has no air force, no navy and no large military force. As a matter of fact, the Lebanese army is not involved in this war at all….
“Why is Israel bombing Lebanese cities, villages, bridges, roads and killing innocent men, women and children – in the south and north, east and west of Lebanon? According to UN statistics, more than 800 civilians have been killed, many of them children, and more then 800,000 Lebanese have been made refugees in their own country. Israel knows “We deplore the kill- ing and destruction on both sides. We know that Hezbollah has weapons which are causing some unfortunate killing and destruction in Israel. But Hezbollah does not have American weapons such as F-16s, F-15s, Apaches and smart bombs, etc. “When I saw the Leb- anese Red Cross retrieving the tender dead bodies of little children from underneath the rubble and I looked at their innocent faces and iconic eyes, I wept. I was indeed ashamed to see the extent of the cruelty and barbarism of our world. This morning, when the Lebanese Broadcasting Company showed pictures of the city of B’int-Jbeil which was completely leveled by the Israeli air force, I was reminded of the destruction of Stalingrad and Berlin during the Second World War. We and the whole world, with the exception of the United States, Great Britain, and Israel, are calling for an immediate cease fire. If we allow the law of the jungle to prevail, and if we allow our moral principles to be trodden on by barbarian feet, what will be left of our civilization?”
The Russian Orthodox Church leader in charge of inter-denominational contacts has said relations with the Roman Catholic Church have steadily improved sincethe ascent of Pope Benedict XVI. “After the election of Pope Benedict XVI our dialogue became more intensive,” Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, said in August. “And that’s why I have a much more positive attitude to the level of Orthodox tensions come to fore at meeting with Catholics An international gathering of Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders held in Belgrade offered signs of stabilizing Orthodox-Catholic relations than previously,” Kirill said. Kirill met Pope Benedict at the Vatican in May and spoke warmly of the pontiff in July at the World Summit of
Religious Leaders in Moscow. Pope Benedict did not attend that event, but Cardinal Walter Kasper led a large Vatican delegation. Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, spoke repeatedly of his dream to visit Russia, but met resistance from the Moscow Patriarchate, which accused the Vatican of seeking converts and infringing on its jurisdiction by creating Roman
Catholic dioceses in Russia. Kirill said the two churches had much in common in counteracting “the policy of pushing religion out of public life.” But he appeared restrained about prospects for a speedy meeting between the church’s leaders, despite the improved relations. “We will develop them and see what this realistically will bring to our churches, and then we’ll decide when, where and how the primates of our churches should meet.”
An international gathering of Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders held in Belgrade offered signs of stabilizing relations between the two traditions but also showcased intra-Orthodox tension between Moscow and Constantinople, participants at the gathering report. The Orthodox and Catholic leaders gathered in Serbia from 18 to 25 September to restart a dialogue that broke off in 2000 because of post-communist tensions in Eastern Europe over “uniatism,” or the role of Greek-Catholic churches that are in communion with Rome.
While no major breakthroughs were reported, the 30 leaders from each side discussed a document on the nature of the Church dating back to 1990, which was “carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine commitment to the search for unity,” a joint statement on the web site of the Serbian Orthodox Church noted. A committee was set up to bring a revised text back to another meeting in 2007.
The joint commission was established in 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited Istanbul, once the Byzantine Christian capital of Constantinople, and which is the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bartholomeos.
But after the collapse of communism, meetings of the commission were marked by tensions between Orthodox and Catholics in Eastern Europe and the former USSR.
Those conflicts are said to have eased markedly under Pope Benedict XVI, and the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate, which oversees the world’s largest Orthodox population, now emphasize common goals. Still, the meeting was marked by tension between the Orthodox patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople, which are in an increasing tug-of-war for dominance in the post-Soviet Orthodox world.
Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria lodged an official complaint to Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top official for church unity who is the commission’s Catholic co-president, the Interfax news agency reported.
Hilarion objected to the document’s definition of the status of Rome and the of Constantinople. He also rejected an amended text that had been suggested to try and take account of his objections. But when Cardinal Kasper proposed that an amended text be put to the vote, most Orthodox churches sided against Moscow and voted for the amendment.
The signing of the Act of Canonical Communion will ensure the future of the self-governing Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and place it on “a solidcanonical foundation,” according to Fr. Rev. Alexander Lebedev, secretary of the ROCOR Commission on the talks with the Moscow Patriarchate. In an article published in November on the ROCOR website, he noted that the earlier grounds for the ROCOR inde- pendent existence can no longer be justified, now that the Church in Russia is free.
Rejection of the Act, he said, “would mean the total break of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with all the Local Orthodox Churches, which will then have every reason to deem us schismatics.”
If this occurs, he continued, “the Serbian Orthodox Church, our last link with the fullness of canonical Orthodoxy, will doubtless refuse communion with us,” while the Church of Jerusalem may withdraw the blessing for our bishops and priests to serve in the Holy Land. Rejecting the Act would make us, in the eyes of the Russian OrthodoxChurch, schismatics, “and will exclude the possibility of participating inthe church life of our homeland.” If the act is not signed, he said, “not only the Moscow Patriarchate, but the entire Orthodox world would thereby be convinced that we cannot be dealt with seriously, that we ourselves prefer to be essentially sectarians, torn from the fullness of universal Orthodoxy, and do not wish to be united with our much-suffering Church in the Fatherland and with canonical Orthodoxy.”
“Adoption of the Act will serve to end the sorrowful division of the Russian Orthodox people.
“The participation of our clergymen and faithful in the work of the spiritual rebirth of the Russian people will rise to an entirely new level.”
In the world’s biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty in 2005, the US Census Bureau said in August, a figure virtually unchanged from 2004. The survey also showed 15.9 percent of the population, or 46.6 million, had no health insurance, up from 15.6 percent in 2004 and the fifth increase in a row. It was the first year since President Bush took office that the poverty rate did not increase. As in past years, the figures showed poverty especially concentrated among blacks and Hispanics. an entirely new level. In all, some 37 million Americans lived below the poverty line, defined as having an annual income below around $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a family of four.
Pope Benedict XVI’s November trip to Turkey will help calm recent tensions with Islam and advance his church’s struggle for religious rights, predicts Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Speaking to reporters in Istanbul in October, Bartholomew said the visit alsowould underline the pope’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue at a time when Catholic-Orthodox theological talks are resuming. “It’s an opportunity to cultivate dialogue and to remove misunderstandings. The circumstances at this moment make this visit more interesting, more necessary and more important than at any other moment,” he said. “The pope always underlines the principles of religious freedom and human rights … which are valid principles for democratic societies. So I think the pope in his sermon here will speak not only in favor of Catholics but in favor of all religious minorities,”
The governor of a Russian province gave workers an afternoon off and told them to go home and multiply in the most direct attempt yet by officials seeking to tackle the country’s growing depopulation crisis. Politicians have been dreaming up imaginative schemes to help reverse the trend ever since President Vladimir Putin identified Russia’s demographic crisis, caused in part by soaring levels of alcoholism, as the country’s biggest threat.
But few have been quite as blunt as Sergey Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, a depressed region on the Volga. In exchange for an afternoon of state-sponsored passion, his “give birth to a patriot” campaign, launched in September, offers parents who give birth next year on June 12, Russia’s Independence Day, a range of incentives from a fridge or washing machine to a four-wheel-drive vehicle, depending on how many children the couple already has. President Putin has promised to give €5,000 to every mother who gives birth to a second child.
A leading US climate researcher said in September that the world has a 10-year window of opportunity to take decisive action on global warming and avert a weather catastrophe. NASA scientist James Hansen, as dean of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.8 degrees F.
“I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change… no longer than a decade, at the most,” Hansen said at the Climate Change Research Conference in Sacramento, California. If the world continues with a “business as usual” scenario, he said temperatures will rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7.2 degrees F) and “we will be producing a different planet.”
On that warmer planet, ice sheets would melt quickly, causing a rise in sea levels that would put most of Manhattan and many other cities and towns under water.
If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global col- lapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting. The scientists, who report their findngs today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say.
But improvements must come quickly, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. Otherwise, he said, “we are seeing the bottom of the barrel.” The researchers drew their conclusion after analyzing dozens of studies, along with fishing data collected by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organiza- tion and other sources. They acknowledge that much of what they are report-ing amounts to correlation, rather than proven cause and effect. And the F.A.O. data have come under criticism from researchers who doubt the reliability of some nations’ reporting practices, Dr. Worm said.
Twelve scientists from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Panama contributed to the work reported in Science today. “We extracted all data on fish and invertebrate catches from 1950 to 2003 within all 64 large marine ecosystems worldwide,” they wrote. “Collectively, these areas produced 83 percent of global fisheries yields over the past 50 years.”
Men and women come to monasteries for many reasons. The primary reason is to welcome those who know they have been touched by God and want to respond by offering Him their whole life. A monastery is meant to be a place where such an offering can be made to God; where a person, having tasted the love of God, can seek to empty him or herself of his or her own fallen dreams, ambitions and agendas, in order to be filled with the love of Him who alone heals and transforms. All the ascetic disciplines of the monastic life are aimed at promoting this self-emptying, to “lay aside all earthly cares that we may receive the King of all.”
Yet a monastery is not the only place where this can or should be done. Before taking the first steps, one must test to be sure that one will be under doctors and not sick men; that the ship has a pilot and not just ignorant crew members. One who has made this discernment and decided that a certain monastery is indeed where one believes one is to live out this vocation of love and self-denial, must then accept that those who are the guides and teachers in that monastery must make a similar discernment. Just as a physician must sometimes judge that a very sick person cannot tolerate a certain drug or procedure, so those who have experience in living the monastic life know that certain people who want and need God’s healing are far too fragile for strong spiritual medicine. Many such fragile, wounded people come to monasteries. Some seek them out on their own; some are sent by friends or priests who may think that, even though they have problems, if they can put in a few rough years, they will get themselves straightened out with the help of grace and monastic discipline. They assume that anyone can persevere in a monastery if that is what they want.
Frequently, however, wounded people are not at all sure what they want. Usually they have a very distorted view of the monastic life: on the one hand, they are hoping it will be an escape from a life they have come to find intolerable, and on the other, they have real fears of its being a completely unnatural life, even resembling a concentration camp.
While a magical ability to take deeply disturbed people and have them instantly turn into saints is attributed to monasteries, the asceticism and prayer which have been the traditional means for turning sinners into saints are not popular. Americans especially live in a culture marked by extreme feats of physical endurance under unquestioning obedience to trainers for the sake of sports, conquering new realms in outer space, or simply returning to a “natural life-style.” Yet far too often much milder discipline is questioned as an aspect of the monastic life, let alone of parish life.
At least part of the reaction against asceticism may be because again, too often, disciplines have been uniformly imposed without discernment of personal, God-given needs and calling. Such arbitrary imposition of rules comes very close to the binding of burdens too hard to bear that the Lord condemned in the pharisaical direction of His day. Such an approach is far different from supporting another person in growing into what God desires, with the recognition that this differs for each one. For example, the basic ascetic discipline of obedience, if rightly under- stood, is a great safeguard against personal whims becoming one’s private religion. Yet a person in authority must exercise great discernment in the obedience he or she requests from others. Most people today, even if they do not seem to be deeply troubled or wounded, must begin the path of the ascetic life by practicing voluntary acceptance of the ordinary problems and difficulties of daily life: they should practice giving up their attachment to resentments, bitterness, the taking of offence at any questioning of their words or behavior; begin cultivating gratitude and taking up the old practice of counting one’s blessings daily. Only then can they even think of beginning to take on the silence and solitude, the prayer, fasting and other forms of self-denial that are the basic monastic medicines for the sickness of self-will and resistance to God and His love. Only those schooled in such forms of self-denial are able to accept, as further medicine, sufferings like those that many endure today in prison camps, war zones, or areas struck by natural disaster, poverty and famine, for to endure such suffering without voluntary acceptance does not lead to growth in love and grace, but only to bitterness and further wounding.
Beginners in the Christian journey have a faith far too weak to look upon any unpleasant situation, much less endure it themselves, without jumping to the conclusion that, at least in this case, God has made a mistake. Yet full Christian faith knows that God does not make mistakes. Everything, even our own sins and the evil done to us and to others, is part of the reality He has called into being and uses to work out His ultimate good purpose. This is why Orthodox Christians insist that salvation into the eternal kingdom of God from this world of sin and suffering was won only by God’s own suffering in Jesus as He hung upon the Cross.
This is also the reason for the strong tradition that the monastic life is a way to embrace voluntarily, in un- ion with Jesus Christ, an authentic form of living martyrdom. The Lord’s words that “He who would be a disciple of mine must take up his cross daily and follow me” and St. Paul’s dying daily to the sinful self that he might be alive to Christ, are at the heart of the Gospel message. Men and women in all walks of life have been made saints – have received healing and God’s eternal life – in no other way than through suffering, accepted in faith, while trusting entirely to Him.
Sometimes monastic community life, in an attempt to help those who come, lost and wounded, can turn into a non-ascetic, “therapeutic” environment. Indeed, many of the people who came and then left over the years have been greatly helped by monasteries through the grace of God. In the process, however, communities often come to realize that they cannot be the ones to help people who are not capable of digesting strong monastic medicine. Such beginners need special programs set up for them, but these programs may compromise community members’ own necessary efforts to live the monastic life and sometimes even tempt them to become merely psychological rather than spiritual trainers for those whose faith is not strong enough to accept the tools of ascetic healing that are a monastery’s heritage.
If a community does feel called to work with people who need such pre-monastic, therapeutic experience, it should be understood that this experience is not training for the life of the community. Such experience is primarily a chance to go back and grow up normally through some of the stages people went through earlier in harmful and damaging ways.
A very large part of growing up is finally leaving home or getting pushed out of the nest. Since the point almost always comes when leaving the community is the healthy next step for such men and women, such experience is better sought before attempting to leave home and parish life for a monastery.
While the monastic life is sometimes looked upon as a higher vocation, if God has something else in mind for a person’s life, being turned away from monastic life may lead that person to what is for them a higher calling. Christian marriage and family are not easy vocations in our world, and they are badly needed. Only parents who are struggling to grow in God’s love and the faith of the Church can raise up children to be healthy men and women.
Workplaces, not to mention homes and parishes, badly need the influence of Christians who are trying to bring God’s love and discernment into every word and action of their lives. Indeed, only such families and parishes can prepare men and women for the monastic life. God may, in His providence, have allowed the damage in the lives of some people who may be too wounded for family life or the workplace and be incapable of living with others in community, because He has something else in mind for them, also. An extreme illustration may be found in the lives of some of the “Fools for Christ,” a few of whom have been exceptionally sane and healthy people who, with the advice of their spiritual fathers, have taken on the exterior aspects of insanity as a form of asceticism in order to go beyond the purely social ego. Most, however, seem to have been mentally or emotionally damaged people, living in situations where no source of healing could be found for their state; where the Lord withheld the power to cast out the demons and leave them “clothed and in their right minds.” Some of them, by accepting the circumstances of their lives, have reached a real holiness. It has also been to the credit of some of those around them, that although they might not have had the skills to bring them healing, they have been able to include them in their society with care, compassion and even veneration.
Much will be expected from those who, through no merit of their own, have been given more capacity to grow and enter into God’s healing salvation. Those who see themselves as having been given lesser talents must in their turn learn to be faithful in little here in this life, in order to be accounted worthy of the fullness of healing and life in the Kingdom.
Whether or not we are following the monastic way, may we be given the strength gradually to grow into an acceptance of the limitations of our lives as well as the suffering and the cross we are asked to carry. With the saints, may we come to embrace these eagerly and joyfully.
May we see that the evil, sin and suffering around us and in our own lives can be voluntarily taken on through love, and become the means of healing unto eternal life in God’s kingdom of love.
Mother Raphaela Wilkinson is the Abbess of Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery in Otego, New York. She is the author of two books, Living in Christ: Essays on the Christian Life by an Orthodox Nun, and Growing in Christ, both published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
IN COMMUNION / FALL 2006
As it is not to be imagined that the fornicator and the blasphemer can partake of the sa-
cred Table, so it is impossible that he who has an enemy, and bears malice, can enjoy the holy
Communion…. I forewarn, and testify, and proclaim this with a voice that all may hear! Let no
one who has an enemy draw near the sacred Table or receive the Lord’s Body! Let no one
who draws near have an enemy! Do you have an enemy? Do not draw near! Do you wish to
draw near? Be reconciled, and then draw near, and touch the Holy Gifts! – Homily 20
We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil. With him never be reconciled!
But with a brother, never be at enmity in thy heart. – Homily 20
Praying against one’s personal enemies is a transgression of law.
– Homily: Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren
How great punishment must they deserve, who, far from themselves forgiving, do even
entreat God for vengeance on their enemies, and as it were diametrically transgress
this law; and this while He is doing and contriving all, to hinder our being at variance
one with another? For since love is the root of all that is good, He, removing from all
sides whatever mars it, brings us together, and cements us to each other.
– Homily 19: On St. Matthew: On the Lord’s Prayer
Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him.
If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but
also the eye, and the feet, and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the
hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the
eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ears by not
listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our broth-
– Homily III:8 On the Statutes
For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force
… it is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither
have authority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know
how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force,
but by choice.
– Six Books on the Priesthood
Cover letter for the Fall 2003 issue of In Communion:
It may be the most familiar of all icons: the Vladimir Mother of God. The Church regards this as one of the icons actually painted by the hand of St. Luke. The original is kept in a bullet-proof glass case in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Even in a museum setting, it inspires prayer.
The copy reproduced at the left — a lacquered paper print mounted on a thin piece of dark wood — has its own special history. It was a gift to OPF founder Mariquita Platov when she visited Russia in 1928. Quita — a young woman fresh out of college — had decided to visit the Soviet Union. It was then only a decade since the Revolution. The smoke from civil war was still in the air. Stalin was fully in charge. A nightmare time was underway in which Christians were suffering the worst persecution of the past two thousand years.
Quita was deeply touched by the wordless message of the icon: Christ embracing his mother; his mother supporting her son while drawing our attention to him; Christ’s bare feet — feet that walked on the same troubled world that we stand upon; the climate of love. Even in a copy, one can sense the history of Russia in the icon’s battered surface.
Until that trip, Quita had given very little thought to Orthodox Christianity. What most impressed her were not the Communist posters promising an earthly paradise but rather the way suffering believers gathered in any church that was still open, and the intensity with which they prayed. Her experience of Christianity in Stalin’s Russia marked the beginning of her journey to Orthodoxy. She was chrismated in New York City ten years later. (The icon was Quita’s gift to me when I was chrismated in 1988, not long before she asked me to serve as OPF secretary. For more of the story of OPF’s history, see the article “Learning to be Peacemakers” that starts on page 9 of the latest In Communion.)
It seems appropriate that this issue also includes an article about a Russian whose family was driven to the West by the Revolution. Metropolitan Anthony was one of the Church’s most remarkable bishops of recent times. An influence in shaping the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, he wanted us to be not pacifists but “men and women of peace.” You will see what he meant by this distinction in the article that starts on the first page.
While writing, let me once again appeal for your help to keep the Orthodox Peace Fellowship going. Subscription payments alone are not enough. Especially now that we have a staff person on each side of the Atlantic, we need to substantially enlarge our base of support. Please send a donation. There is already a community of donors who make monthly or quarterly donations. Might you join that core group? Without their help, OPF would have achieved much less. Could you manage 15 euros a month? Or 20? It would make such an enormous difference in our capacity to serve the Church.
Please help us take the next step forward.
in Christ’s peace,
Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary