From Albania to Sudan: Orthodox News Around the World

Welcome to “This Week in Orthodoxy,” the world’s only online video newscast focused on events in the life of the Orthodox Church.

I’m Emmy Louvaris.

News from Around the World

Consecration of Cathedral in Albania
Our top story this week comes from Tirana, Albania, marking a major milestone in the rebirth of the Orthodox Church which survived totalitarian persecution from 1967 to 1990. The new “Resurrection of Christ” Cathedral was consecrated on Sunday, June the 1st by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and several other hierarchs including Patriarchs, Archbishops, and the head of the Albanian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Anastasios. Over an oppressive 23 years, the atheist regime destroyed a great number of churches and monasteries or turned them into store-houses, military barracks, and places of entertainment.

In 1965, the Old Cathedral in the central square of Tirana was torn down to make way for a 15-story hotel.

Presently the new complex of “The Resurrection of Christ” Cathedral is in the center of Tirana, with a Nativity Chapel, bell tower and Synodical Center, and it is clearly seen as the symbol of the Orthodox Church of Albania’s reconstruction since 1991.

Orthodox Woman Sentenced to Death for Faith
And next up from the Sudan, a story that’s been gaining more and more attention, thanks to reports in major news media outlets and social networks. Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year-old mother and wife in Sudan has been sentenced to death by hanging, for refusing to denounce her Christian faith, her Orthodox Christian faith to be exact.

She’s currently in prison and raising her 20 month old toddler and just gave birth to a baby girl last week on May 27th.

How can this be happening in today’s world? Well under the interpretation of Islamic law, the female takes on the father’s religion. Ibrahim’s dad was Muslim and therefore by default, she is considered a Muslim as well.

However, the father left her and her mother when Meriam was 6 years old. An Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, her mother raised her as such and Meriam has always considered herself an Orthodox Christian. Adding a twist to this story, Meriam married a Christian US citizen, which began a torturous legal proceeding when she was turned in to authorities who saw her marriage as invalid, and therefore accused her of being adulterous. As such, she was sentenced to 100 lashes, and asked to renounce her Christian faith by May 15th. She refused by stating, “I am a Christian, and I will remain a Christian.”

At the time, 8 months pregnant, in prison, with her wheelchair-bound husband forbidden to see her, the Sudanese court handed out its decision that she would die for apostasy against Islam, after giving birth to her baby, and allowing her to breastfeed for two years.

Because of the International outrage and increased pressure surrounding this unbelievable series of events, and with the involvement of Amnesty international, the Sudanese government has considered overturning the decision by taking it through the appeals process, which is currently on going. We will keep you informed in the following weeks of any updates.

Arvo Pärt Concert
The Arvo Pärt Project sponsored by St. Vladimir’s Seminary was a smashing success, culminating the 3 years of planning with a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, May 31st. With a sustained standing ovation, a capacity crowd lauded the music of the Estonian Orthodox Christian composer, after a stunning performance of five well-known compositions.

This collaboration included Maestro Pärt and his wife, Nora, who were present at the concert as he made his first New York appearance since 1984. Also traveling from Estonia were the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, The Estonian Philharmonic, and Conductor Tönu Kaljuste.

Known as the most performed classical and choral composer in the world today, Arvo Pärt is the winner of numerous awards, including a Grammy nomination for Adam’s Lament in the “Best Contemporary Composition” category, that won the 2014 Grammy for Best Choral Performance.

His trademark style has a broad appeal, as evidenced by Saturday night’s audience, which included not only high-ranking clergy from the Orthodox Christian Church, of which Arvo Pärt is a member, but also Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk, Vocalist Antony Haggerty, and actor Keanu Reeves, as well as hundreds of admirers from across the U.S. who came to fill Carnegie Hall, including myself.

Earlier in the day, Arvo Pärt received an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Music from St. Vladimir’s Seminary in recognition of his musical contributions to the faith.

The overall objective of the Arvo Part Project collaboration was well explained by Fr. John Behr as he prepared to introduce Dr. Peter Bouteneff, co-director of the Project: “The music of Arvo Pärt, I would suggest, is one of the greatest works of evangelism for engagement of culture of Orthodoxy in modern times. It has enabled countless people from radically different backgrounds and cultures to hear the divine harmony and silences of Orthodox spirituality. That we might be harmonized to the symphony of salvation.”

Coming Soon
His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, author of The Orthodox Way and an internationally recognized authority on Orthodox theology, will be in Philadelphia at the end of this month. In addition to leading worship at a local Orthodox church, His Eminence will deliver a public lecture at Villanova University on the state of Orthodox-Catholic relations.

You can find out more on OCN’s website, myocn.net.

And that’s it for this edition of “This Week in Orthodoxy.” For everyone here at the OCN studios, I’m Emmy Louvaris. Let’s go Forth in Peace.

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

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Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Development at OCN. He holds…
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