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
Synaxis of Orthodox Churches Concluded March 9
Our top story this week. Ecclesiastical and secular media sources all had their eyes on Istanbul last week, as primates and other high-ranking bishops from Eastern Orthodox Churches around the world gathered at the Phanar.
The bishops came at the invitation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to demonstrate to the world Orthodoxy’s unity and to plan for a major council.
The bishops announced that they will hold the much-anticipated Great and Holy Council in 2016 in Istanbul at the historic church of Agia Irene, the site of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381.
The bishops also released a common statement, affirming their united concern and response to issues facing the Church and society today. Some highlights include [can put these on the screen]:
1. The suffering and martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East today, especially in Syria
2. A desire for the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine
3. The moral and spiritual causes of the global financial crisis
4. Orthodoxy’s need to respond in charity to those who are suffering and in poverty throughout the world
5. The sanctity of life, marriage, and the environment
The statement also confirmed the bishop’s common intention to increase preparations for the Great and Holy Council in 2016, at which they intend to express the unified voice of the Orthodox Church on these and many other topics of pressing concern.
The gathering was not without tension and controversy.
Speaking after the Synaxis’ conclusion, the Ecumenical Patriarch noted that all families have challenges, and there were some problems and difficulties at the Synaxis, “but by the grace of God and with good will we will overcome them.”
Orthodox Nuns from Maaloula Released
Thirteen Orthodox nuns and their three assistants, held in captivity for more than three months by a Syrian rebel group affiliated with al-Qaida, were freed on March 9, the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
The deal was brokered by Lebanese and Qatari authorities.
Smiling and healthy, but looking tired, the nuns were driven from a town inside Lebanon to the Syrian border. One nun, too frail to walk, was carried across the border by soldiers.
The news was met with rejoicing across the world and in the nuns’ home town of Maaloula, where the language of Jesus, Aramaic, is still spoken.
Orthodox Christians here in America rejoiced as well. According to a report on the Antiochian Archdiocese’s website, the cathedral in Booklyn, NY receive the news just before Holy Communion on Sunday morning. Parishioners began ringing the Cathedral’s bells loudly, chanting two popular hymns: “O Lord, save They people,” and “To Thee the Champion Leader.”
While the nuns’ case has reached a safe conclusion, other Orthodox Christians in the region remain in danger.
Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both of whom were abducted by rebels in April of last year, are still in captivity, despite continued efforts to secure their release.
Metropolitan Philip Suffers Heart Attack
A recent report from the Antiochian Archdiocese here in America announced that while in Florida and undergoing tests in the hospital, Metropolitan Philip suffered a minor heart attack on Sunday, March 9. According to the report, His Eminence is recovering but prayers are requested.
Metropolitan Philip has been the leader of the Antiochian Archdiocese since 1966 and is 83 years old.
Halki Seminary in the News
Last week, the Associated Press ran a feature piece on Halki Seminary, highlighting the desire of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to reopen its most important educational institution, forcibly closed by the Turkish government since 1971.
The article, “Orthodox seminary in Turkey awaiting reopening,” ran with pictures in several major U.S. newspapers.
His Eminence Metropolitan Elpidophoros, in charge of the Byzantine-era monastery that shares the seminary’s grounds, says in the story: “If the decision is taken today, tomorrow I am ready to host the first class.”
Many well-known Orthodox Christian clergy and theologians studied at Halki before its closure, including St. Raphael of Brooklyn, one of the most recent American saints.
Segment 2: Coming Up
Syrian Bishop to Speak at Hellenic College Holy Cross
Bishop Elias Toume, an Orthodox bishop in Syria whose diocese includes the war-torn city of Homs, will be speaking at an all-day event, “Christians in Syria at the Crossroads,” at Hellenic College/Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The event will take place on Friday, March 28, from 1 pm to 8:30 pm, in the Maliotis Cultural Center. A full description is available at hchc.edu.
Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir’s Seminary
In late May and early June, there will be a concert-lecture series at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, highlighting the relationship between world-famous Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Orthodox Christian faith and his creative art.
Drs. Peter Bouteneff and Nicholas Reeves of St. Vladimir’s Seminary have been working since 2011 to develop the “Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir’s Seminary” in collaboration with Mr. Pärt, whose works are the most performed modern classical and sacred music in the world, and who just won a Grammy for his work, “Adam’s Lament.”
Visit svots.edu for more information.
Segment 3: News from OCN
Beginning next week, we’ll have 2 new podcasts joining the OCN lineup! First, join author Veronica Hughes on Wednesday, March 19th, as she reads passages from the lives and teachings of the Saints, sharing her personal thoughts on each passage’s wisdom in her podcast, “Pearls of Great Price.” Check back in on Saturday, March 22nd, for “Stewardship Calling” with host Bill Marianes to learn what stewardship truly is and how to change the stewardship paradigm and substantially improve the results in your church and life.
That’s it for “This Week in Orthodoxy.” Let us know if you enjoyed watching. See you next week!