This Week in Orthodoxy, February 16, 2015

This Week in Orthodoxy, February 16, 2015

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Hello, I’m Emmy Louvaris with “This Week in Orthodoxy,” the world’s only online video newscast focused on events in the life of the Orthodox Church.   These are this week’s top stories:

• The Halki Theological School gets center stage on a recent PBS documentary.

• The Antiochian Church in America remembers Rev. Deacon David Daumit

• The IOCC delivers much needed relief to Syrian Christians.

• A Palestinian Orthodox Bishop experiences persecution by Israel.

Segment 1: News from Around the Globe

PBS Documentary on Halki Theological School

First to Turkey where it’s been 43 years since the Republic of Turkey shut the doors on the Halki Theological School, which is known for producing many of the Orthodox Church’s recent patriarchs.

The school was closed after a Turkish Court ruled that all private colleges must be run and operated by Ankara. It also came at a time of ultra-Turkish nationalism when organizations associated with Greece saw heavy restrictions designed to weaken and diminish the Orthodox presence.

Currently, the school’s status has been a point of contention between Turkey and the international community. Since the late 1990s, the European Union has continually made the re-opening of Halki a condition for Turkey’s ascension into the E.U., and the United States Congress, along with several Presidents, have publicly urged Halki’s return as an operational theological school.

In the PBS documentary, Katrina Lantos Swett, Chairwoman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, called Halki “the most obvious symbol of false promises and broken faith on the part of the Turkish government when it comes to issues of religious freedom.”

In 2007, the Turkish Government nearly demolished the Chapel of Our Lord’s Transfiguration. Demolition was stopped via intervention by His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch.

The closure of Halki has forced many Turkish-born Greek Orthodox priests and metropolitans overseas to advance their studies. One bishop featured in the documentary, Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa, is a Turkish-born citizen who studied in Greece. When he was elevated to professor, he had to move yet again. All because Halki’s doors remain, to this day, shut.

Metropolitan Elpidophoros has been appointed by His All Holiness as abbot of Halki and has been tasked with reinvigorating a thriving Orthodox community within its walls.

All this talk comes amid rumors of the Turkish government’s desire to convert Agia Sofia, which now serves as a museum, into a mosque.

In recent months, President Erdogan has made assurances to the White House and State Department that Halki will open. However, such assurances made in the past have yet to be fulfilled.  Time will tell whether Turkey decides to honor its obligation to reopen the seminary.

Current estimates place the Greek population at less than 5,000. At one point, prior to the genocide of 1917 and the Anti-Greek pogrom of 1955, the Greek population was around 1.5 million.

Antiochian Deacon Falls Asleep in the Lord

Now we bring some sad news as we announce that the Rev. Deacon David Daumit fell asleep in the Lord on January 28, 2015. Deacon David was serving St. George Antiochian Church in Phoenix, Arizona after his ordination in March of 2010.

He held a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Religious Education from St. Vladimir’s Seminary.  Deacon David specialized in caring for the aged and infirm, and he founded the New Dawn Memory Care facility in Scottsdale, AZ.  New Dawn provides care for elderly patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Deacon David has been credited with developing, in conjunction with the greater Washington Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the first specialized activities programs for Alzheimer residents.

Viewing and Trisagion were held at St. George, and the funeral was held this morning at 10:00 a.m. local time.

The family asks that donations to St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church be made in lieu of flowers.  All memorial gifts will go towards the church’s ministry to senior citizens. The address to the church is 4530 E. Gold Dust Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85028

IOCC Aids Refugees in Winter Weather

In Lebanon, where some 400,000 Syrian refugees are living in vinyl tents, the International Orthodox Christian Charities has been delivering heating stoves and fuel vouchers to those in need.  Heavy snows, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, have already collapsed over 100 tents, and many more are at risk of collapse.

Lebanon is currently home to 1.2 million Syrian refugees, many of whom have fled due to the civil war and the rise of ISIS.  More than half of the 1.2 million refugees are less than 18 years old.

Since January of this year, Lebanon has been hit with heavy snows, and in the Bekaa region, where IOCC is currently operating, roads were cut off and the local government has been struggling to replace mattresses, blankets, and tools to help repair the collapsed shelters.

In addition to the immediate winter relief the IOCC is providing, the organization is also working to ensure a healthy and safe environment for Syrian and Lebanese school children.  Currently, the IOCC is rehabilitating 50 public school, bringing them up to code. These improvements are designed to assist the more than 7,500 current Lebanese school children and the growing Syrian child population, which is estimated at around 5,000.

Palestinian Orthodox Bishop Persecuted in Israel 

Finally, to Israel where Palestinian Orthodox Bishop Theodosis of Sebastia has highlighted the differences and similarities between him and Palestinian Muslims. Archbishop Theodosis, who is the only Palestinian Bishop in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, mentioned that he speaks Arabic and because he speaks Arabic many of the customary greetings are similar, if not identical, to those used by Muslims.  He notes that Allah is the Arabic word for the one God and points out that the word does not change depending on your faith.

In an interview with Russian Times, His Eminence points out that Palestinian Christians also say Allahu Akbar, which is used to praise the greatness of the Creator of the world, and that the Divine Liturgy also references God as Allah.

He takes pride in being a spiritual defender of a 2,000-year-old Christian faith and its continued presence in the Holy Land. However, he also states that, as a Palestinian, he can identify with the cause of the Palestinian Muslims because of the shared persecution he faces.

Archbishop Theodosis states that the Israeli government treats Palestinian Christians in the same manner as Palestinian Muslims, and they require the appropriate permits to enter Jerusalem. He even reports that the Israeli government has confiscated Orthodox Church property and equally has put pressure on Palestinian Christians to vacate their lands.

While he expresses frustration with Israeli policy, His Grace notes that they are not at war with the Israeli government or the Jewish people. He urges praying for those who disagree and to embody Jesus’ commandment to love one another.

“If we are to be true Christians,” he said in the interview, “it is our debt to love all people, and to treat them with positivity, and with love.”

Segment 2. News from OCN

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That is it for “This Week in Orthodoxy.”  For everyone in our 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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Dean Argiris

Constantine (Dean) Argiris is a lifelong Orthodox Christian from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago who has devoted his time to raising awareness of the 1915-1922 Asia Minor Genocide. His works on the Greek economic crisis have been published in international Greek diaspora news media outlets. Professionally, he works in the political scene as a Staff Assistant to a Chicago Alderman. Previously, he worked as a party-paid staffer for the Illinois Senate, a Regional Field Director for President Obama's "Organizing for America" and has run a number of federal and state level political campaigns as an independent consultant.