Dedication, Restoration and Release

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. These are some of the stories making headlines the week of Friday, November 4th, 2016.
* City of Chicago Honors Greek Orthodox Metropolitan

*Christ’s Burial Place Exposed for First Time in Centuries

* Abducted Orthodox Christian Bishops are reported Alive in the ISIL controlled city of Al-Raqqah

Chicago Honors Greek Orthodox Metropolitan

The Chicago City Council has passed an ordinance officially adding the honorary title “Metropolitan Iakovos Way” to Burton Place in Downtown Chicago in recognition of Metropolitan Iakovos’ years of service to Chicago citizens.

A surprise to Metropolitan Iakovos, this recognition was unveiled at a private gathering at the Metropolis of Chicago offices on October 27.

Metropolitan Iakovos has served as the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago since May, 1979. Under his leadership the Metropolis has increased its efforts to assist the homeless and those in need, as witnessed in the labors of the Metropolis Philanthropy Committee. He has founded new Youth programs, established various local dialogues with other faith communities, and continues to work with area religious leaders in promoting justice in our society.

The Metropolis of Chicago oversees all Greek Orthodox Parishes within Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, as well as eastern Missouri and northwest Indiana. You can find more information on His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago on our website: www.chicago.goarch.org.

Christ’s Burial Place Exposed for First Time in Centuries

For the first time in centuries, scientists have exposed the original surface of what is traditionally considered the tomb of Jesus Christ.

Located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, the tomb has been covered by marble cladding since at least 1555 A.D., and most likely centuries earlier.

Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, a partner in the restoration project said “The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it”. He continued, “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.”

This burial shelf is now enclosed by a small structure known as the Edicule, last reconstructed in 1808 after being destroyed in a fire. The Edicule and the interior tomb are currently undergoing restoration by a team of scientists from the National Technical University of Athens.

The exposure of the burial bed is giving researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study the original surface of what is considered the most sacred site in Christianity.

An analysis of the original rock may enable them to better understand not only the original form of the tomb chamber, but also how it evolved as the focal point of veneration since it was first identified by Saint Helen mother of Emperor Constantine, in 326 AD.

“We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” said the Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou. “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ.”

Outside the Edicule, Thephilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, stood watching the events with a serene smile. “I’m glad that the atmosphere is special, there is a hidden joy,” said the patriarch. “Here we have Franciscans, Armenians, Greeks, Muslim guards, and Jewish police officers. We hope and we pray that this will be a real message that the impossible can become the possible. We all need peace and mutual respect.”

The National Geographic Society, with the blessing of the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem and the other religious communities, formed a strategic alliance with the National Technical University of Athens for cultural heritage preservation. For an exclusive look at the restoration project, watch Explorer on National Geographic Channel, coming up this month – November.

Abducted Bishops are reported alive in Al-Raqqah

Kidnapped Greek and Syriac Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim are reported to be alive. Abducted and missing since April 2013, by militants in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria near the Turkish border.

According to preliminary data, published by Sputniknews.com
out of MOSCOW, the Archbishops are alive and currently in the city of Al-Raqqah occupied by the Daesh militant group, said mother superior at the Monastery and Convent of Saint James the Mutilated, located in Qarah in western Syria.

Since their abduction over 3 years ago, many reports of possible scenerios have emerged about the well being and whereabouts of the two bishops, including one from December 2015, of their execution. No reports have ever been confirmed.

At a press conference last month, Mother Agnes Mariam Salib said, “We have received information from our sources that they are in Al-Raqqah, and we are concerned for their lives. We are praying for their liberation before the final attack on the city”.

On October 26, 2016 US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that an offensive to retake Al-Raqqah from ISIS will begin within weeks. Stating the Pentagon was already working with its allies on a plan to isolate Raqqa.

Historically the location of Raqqa has had strategic importance as it lay on the crossroads between Syria and Iraq and the road between Damascus and Palmyra.

The 6th largest city in modern Syria, its roots are traced to the Hellenistic period around 281 BC. The area surviving through various ruling eras was the center of Assyrian Monastism by the 6th Century with the Monastery of Saint Zaccheus becoming most renowned. A second most important “Monastery of the Column” became the seat of the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch.

By 639-640 the city fell to Islamic rule with the Christian inhabitants concluding a treaty with the new ruler allowing them freedom of worship in their existing churches, but forbidding them to construct new ones.

Fast forward to the present, ISIL took complete control of Al-Raqqah by January 13th, 2014 and proceeded with the executions of Christians, Alawites, and anyone not aligning with their beliefs. They destroyed the city’s Shia mosques and Christian churches including the Armenian Catholic Church of the Martyrs which has since been converted into an ISIL headquarters.

Mother Agnes Mariam Salib added that numerous Christian community members were praying for the liberation of the two bishops, as the ISIS occupied town of Raccah gets ready for the impending battle.

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Emmy Louvaris is the host of This Week in Orthodoxy,…
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