Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Mission Advancement at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Welcome to “This Week in Orthodoxy,” the world’s only online video newscast focused on events in the life of the Orthodox Church.
Segment 1: News from around the Globe
Patriarch of Georgia to become Godfather to 930 Children after Pascha
Our top story this week. Continuing a tradition started in 2007, His Beatitude the Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, will baptize 930 children in a special ceremony after Pascha, according to reports on GeorgianPress.ru.
Concerned about the country’s low birth rate, the Patriarch announced in 2007 that he would personally baptize any child born to an Orthodox Christian family – if the family already had at least two children.
The policy has reportedly spurred a national baby boom, with thousands of parents applying to have the Patriarch baptize and become their baby’s godfather.
The Patriarch reviews applications and conducts mass baptisms after major feasts of the Church, such as Theophany and Pascha. To date, he has become the godfather of 19,744 children.
In addition to his role as head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II is a major national figure, enjoying a positive favorability rating of close to 95% among the Georgian people.
Holy Week in Orthodox Churches around the World
We are currently in the midst of Holy Week, and our next story features some of the traditions and rich visual imagery of Orthodox Christianity around the world.
The Church’s Holy Week cycle of services began last Saturday, with the raising of Lazarus after four days in the tomb, and continued with Palm Sunday celebrations.
Many Orthodox churches held special processions and decorated their churches with palms or willows.
In Orthodox churches centered around the Mediterranean, where the climate allows for an abundance of palm trees, it is customary to decorate the church with palms and to fold them into the shape of a cross. In other Orthodox churches, including those in Russia and Romania, the faithful bring willows branches to church.
These pictures come to us from the Palm Sunday celebrations at the Protection of the Mother of God Monastery near Cluj, in Transylvania, Romania. Pilgrims, priests, and nuns carry a mix of palms, willow branches, and fresh-cut, spring-time flowers from the countryside.
The next phase of Holy Week services featured the Bridegroom Matins, with famous hymns and the procession of the icon of Christ as the suffering and humble servant of his bride, the Church.
We’ll have a more complete report on Holy Week in our next episode, featuring more of your pictures from around the world, and some footage of the annual miracle of the “Holy Light” (Agion Fos) in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Orthodox Churches Continue Humanitarian Response in Philippines
Working in cooperation with the Greek and Antiochian Orthodox churches in South East Asia, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is providing support for Pilipino families in need, who continue to suffer in the wake of last November’s devastating Typhoon Hayian.
To date, IOCC’s relief efforts in the Philippines have reached nearly 9,000 typhoon survivors with assistance, including food, medicine, emergency first aid, water purification tablets, and shelter repair assistance.
Most recently, IOCC has launched a cash-for-work program to repair 36 homes in some of the hardest hit villages.
The program provides much of the construction materials, but members from the 36 affected families also contributed construction materials that they were able to salvage or purchase.
Selected workers, supervised and assisted by skilled tradespeople where necessary, receive compensation for working side by side with members from the 36 families to help restore shelter.
Structuring the program this way provides much-needed jobs and income to local men, as they get the help needed to rebuild their family’s own home.
A major funder of these latest efforts has been the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which has given a total of $56,000 to support IOCC’s relief efforts in the Philippines, including a $40,000 grant for the home reconstruction program.
To learn more about the program, and to see how you or your church can help, visit iocc.org.
Segment 2: News from OCN
OCN Creates TV Ad for Pascha
OCN is excited announce that it will be running 30-second TV spots on various major channels, encouraging viewers to attend an Orthodox church this Pascha. Here’s a generic version of the ad, which can be customized by parishes around the English-speaking world to include information about their own parish.
Send Us Your Holy Week and Paschal Pictures and Footage
Real People. Real Faith. Real Living. We’d like to see photos and video footage of your parish’s reality this Pascha. We’ll be putting together another special segment on this videocast next week, sharing some of the best images and reports from around the world. Send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter.
That’s it for “This Week in Orthodoxy.” Let us know if you enjoyed watching. See you next week!