Refugees, Webinars and Pulitzers

Refugees, Webinars and Pulitzers


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 April 22, 2016.

1. Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW, & Archbishop Ieronymos visit the Greek island of Lesvos

2. Orthodoxy in Cuba

3. Philoptochos Holds Training Webinar for Social Services

4. Jordan’s king to help pay for facelift at Jesus’s tomb

5. 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry goes to the Ozone Journal, focusing on the Armenian Genocide

Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW, & Archbishop Ieronymos visit the Greek island of Lesvos

First up, the Greek island of Lesvos has received hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past year. Located in the northeastern Aegean Sea and separated from Turkey by only a narrow Strait, refugees can make the short but risky journey from the Turkish coast with the aid of smugglers’ boats.

Most of the arrivals continue traveling through the Balkans to wealthier western European countries like Germany and Sweden, where they can file asylum.

That practice has all but stopped as nations along the so-called Balkan route shut their borders to transiting migrants in March, leaving thousands of people stranded.

The leader of the world’s estimated 2 billion Catholics arrived on Lesvos last week, alongside the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and the head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Athens Archbishop Ieronymos II.

On Wednesday Pope Francis said he and the Orthodox leaders intended “to express closeness and solidarity both to the refugees and to the Lesvos citizens and all the Greek people who are so generous in welcoming (refugees).”

All three have been outspoken on the refugee issue, and the Church of Greece has mounted a massive aid effort for those flowing through Greece as well as caring for Greeks impoverished by their country’s financial crisis.

Patriarch Bartholomew has been just as outspoken. In his Christmas message, he said the fact that children are forced to flee their homes in fear of their lives was “a disgrace for humankind.”

For his part, Ieronymos on Tuesday blasted European countries’ decision to build border fences to prevent refugees from entering and said Greece didn’t have the capability to offer shelter to all those fleeing their homelands and shouldn’t become “a warehouse of people.”

The three religious leaders greeted about 250 refugees who are currently on the Greek island. They also prayed for those who died on the journey to the island and threw floral wreaths in to the sea.

Later in their visit, they signed a joint declaration calling for the protection of human lives to be made a priority and for the international community to extend temporary asylum to those in need.

The visit by Pope Francis coincides with the implementation of a controversial deal between the European Union and Turkey aimed at stopping people attempting to reach Europe.

Under the deal, people who arrive in Greece in smugglers’ boats would be detained and deported back to Turkey unless their applications for asylum in Greece were successful.

Before setting off for Greece, he made this statement on Twitter. “Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories and need to be treated as such.”

Orthodoxy in Cuba

And Next, formerly atheist Cuba was the site of the recent two-hour private meeting of reconciliation between Pope Frances and Patriarch Kirill primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Cuba, also the home of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, to which 28 inquiring souls made a pilgrimage under the auspices of His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras and led by Pastors Nicholas Anctil and Nick Dassouras.

The church, a pristine Byzantine structure next to the Plaza de San Francisco, is enfolded within tropical plantings and a vegetated courtyard in old Havana. An outdoor step-down baptismal sacristy graces the grounds and has been the font for the baptism of more than 2500 Orthodox Christians.

Who are the parishioners of St. Nicholas? They are Cubans who have found the Orthodox Way. Their presence is changing the once almost exclusively Roman Catholic religious identity in this part of the world.

His All Holiness Bartholomew traveled to Cuba in 2004 to celebrate the consecration of St. Nicholas at the invitation of Fidel Castro. In addition to presenting the key to the city to His All Holiness, Castro donated the land to the parish on which the church was built.

Through Metropolitan Athenagoras, the Holy Spirit has planted the seeds of a vibrant Orthodox Community in Cuba. For his work, the Cuban Government donated to the church the shell of a large building ready for restoration.

Located next to the Plaza de la Catedral, St. Nicholas’ soup kitchen serves food to the poor of Havana, prepared by church volunteers. Those who enter this haven of faith receive not only nourishment for their bodies but also sustenance for their souls. When it comes down to it, what we all truly hunger for is God’s loving kindness―no matter in what part of the world we dwell.

Philoptochos Holds Training Webinar for Social Services

The Ladies Philoptochos Society, the philanthropic arm of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese for over 85 years, are often called in times of need with a variety of requests. With over 400 active chapters nationwide and 26,000 members, Philoptochos is able to respond immediately to needs and crises and works through National and Metropolis Boards.

Parish families can often be in great need of support and assistance but too embarrassed to ask for financial help. Some times friends may make recommendations, or hospitals will call the local Greek Orthodox churches when they have a Greek speaking patient.
How do the Local chapters of Philoptochos handle the communities needs? And what can they learn from each other to better meet the needs of their Community?

This is something that will be focused on by Paulette Geanacopoulos, National Philoptochos Director of Social Services and Eleni Constantinides, New Jersey Metropolis Philoptochos Philanthropy Chair, when they lead a Two-Part Webinar on providing social services through local Philoptochos chapters.

The webinar will review recommended procedures to respond to and provide local social services assistance to individuals and families including keeping records without breaching confidentiality. Part 1: Friday, April 22, 2:00pm – 3:00pm (EDT) and
Part 2: Friday, May 13, 2:00pm – 3:00pm (EDT)

For more information on how to register for the Webinar and to learn more about the National Philoptochos Society, visit

Jordan’s king to help pay for facelift at Jesus’s tomb

Jordan’s King Abdullah is to contribute an unspecified amount towards the upcoming renovation of Jesus’s Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Jordan Times reported. The work is expected to begin in May and to be completed in early 2017. The site will remain open to visitors during the refurbishment. According to the Jordanian news agency Petra, Theophilos III signed an agreement with the National Technical University of Athens in March to restore the tomb — where Jesus is said to have been buried before his resurrection — in cooperation with the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Franciscan missionaries in the Holy Land.

The shrine, several meters tall and standing under the church’s dome, has for decades been held together by a metal frame.
Its marble slabs have been weakened over the years in part by the thousands of pilgrims and tourists who visit daily.  It will be painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt during eight months of restoration work. The shrine was built in the early 19th century over the site of the cave where Jesus is believed to have been buried.

2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry goes to Ozone Journal, focusing on the Armenian Genocide


The Armenian Genocide is back in the news as part of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Ozone Journal is a collection of poems published last year by University of Chicago Press and was written by Peter Balakian, the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor in Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of Creative Writing at Colgate University.

The Pulitzer Committee stated, “In the dynamic, sensual language of these poems, we are reminded that the history of atrocity, trauma, and forgetting is both global and ancient…but we are reminded, too, of the beauty and richness of culture and the resilience of love.”

Ozone Journal is a sequence of fifty-four short sections, each a poem in itself, recounting the speaker’s memory of excavating the bones of Armenian genocide victims in the Syrian desert with a crew of television journalists in 2009.

You can watch a YouTube video from 2010: A Documentary by CBS about the 1st Genocide of the 20th Century – the Armenian Genocide by the Turks and a visit to the mass grave in Deir Zor 

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzers.

Look for this Pulitzer Award winning book on the OCN Bookstore 

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That brings another edition of “This Week in Orthodoxy,” to a close. Wishing you a Blessed Lenten Season, for everyone here in our OCN studios, I’m Emmy Louvaris. Let’s go forth in peace.


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About author

Emmy Louvaris

Emmy Louvaris is the host of This Week in Orthodoxy, the first weekly news show to cover the international Orthodox Church and community.