sabato 21 novembre 2020

Death of Patriarch Irinej & other news

(Peter Anderson)
Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, age 90, died yesterday morning (November 20) at 7:07 a.m. in Belgrade. (link) (official press release with biography). He had been admitted to the military Covid hospital in Belgrade on November 4 without symptoms after a positive Covid CPR test. (link) It appears that his chronic heart insufficiency contributed to his death from the coronavirus. (link) He was a beloved chief pastor of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Condolences are already pouring in from throughout the world. (link) (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew); (link) (Patriarch Kirill); (link) (Patriarch Daniel); (link) (Cardinal Kurt Koch). The Patriarch’s funeral liturgy will be celebrated on Sunday, November 22, 2020, in the church of Saint Sava in Vracar. Under the constitution of the Serbian Patriarchate, the Holy Synod will assume the patriarchal responsibilities until a new patriarch is elected. The Holy Synod will be chaired by Metropolitan Hrisostom of Dabar-Bosnia. (link)Patriarch Irinej had been selected as patriarch in January 2010 as a result of the drawing of lots among the three finalists who received the most votes from the bishops. The other two finalists were Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and Bishop Irinej of Backa. (link) It is my understanding that the drawing of lots had earlier been used during the communist-era to prevent the communist authorities from dictating who the patriarch would be. The current constitution of the Patriarchate now provides for the election of the patriarch by majority vote. See (link) (Article 50)
Sadly, two other primates of Local Orthodox Churches are now hospitalized due to the coronavirus, both in the same hospital in Athens. The report yesterday is that Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece, age 82, is doing well and his temperature has dropped. (link) The news yesterday with respect to Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, age 91, is that his condition is stable. (link) The secular media has stressed that the hospital admission of Patriarch Irinej on November 4 occurred only three days after the Patriarch presided at the funeral liturgy of Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro. (link). The funeral occurred in a very crowded cathedral with thousands of people outside. Many were not wearing masks.
In Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos announced that the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus will meet on Monday, November 23. He stated that he would explain at the meeting his decision to recognized the autocephaly of the OCU, but that the recognition issue would not be put to a vote. (link) On November 8, the Archbishop gave an interview concerning his decision. He stated that he changed his mind on the Ukrainian issue after listening to the reasons given by the Ecumenical Patriarch during a visit to the Phanar in March 2020. (link) On November 4, it was reported that the four Cypriot hierarchs, who had very vocally attacked the recognition of the OCU, wrote a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch after the latter’s criticism of them. (link) (full text of the letter) The four stated that the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch was not a “primacy of power” but “a primacy of responsibility and ministry” for the unity of the Church, the right faith and love. (link) With respect to the topic of the primacy of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has given an interview to the National Herald in which he explained that without the concept of “first without equals,” there is a risk that Orthodoxy will become a Protestant-like confederation. (link)
In Moscow yesterday, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met (remotely) and issued a resolution relating to the recognition of the OCU by Archbishop Chrysostomos. (link) (Journal No. 77) The resolution notes that the recognition occurred without the consent of the Cypriot Holy Synod, that it was done in spite of the doubts previously expressed by that Synod as to the validity of ordinations of the OCU, and that it was contrary to statements made by Chysostomos to Patriarch Kirill in July 2018. The resolution that stated “the impossibility of commemorating the name of the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II in the diptychs, prayer and Eucharistic communion with him, as well as concelebration with those hierarchs of the Cypriot Church who will enter into church communion with representatives of the Ukrainian schism.”
On November 8, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew ordained as a bishop the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s exarch in Ukraine, Michail. (link) At the liturgy, Bartholomew stated the Ecumenical Patriarchate had long held a dialogue with the Moscow Patriarchate on the situation in Ukraine, but Moscow had constantly hampered progress and was a stumbling block to a positive resolution. He asserted: “That is why we have been led to the Ukrainian autocephaly, which no dispute or any effort by any Church can cancel.” Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, has recently stated in an interview that the liberalism of Constantinople is a major reason for the current division in Orthodoxy. (link)
In Belarus, a funeral was held yesterday at an Orthodox church in Minsk for Roman Bondarenko, a 31-year-old man, who died last week in a hospital from injuries inflicted, according to protesters, from security forces. (link) The church was surrounded by thousands of people. It reminds one somewhat of the emotions that erupted in the United States after the death of George Floyd. In the past few days, memorials of flowers, candles, and photos have arisen in various Belarus cities. These have then been destroyed by security forces or Lukashenko sympathizers, but are soon rebuilt. (link) (video of one destruction); On November 18, both Father Sergy Lepin, spokesperson for the Belarusian Orthodox Church, and Catholic Bishop Yury Kasabutski were summoned to the General Prosecutor’s Office and given official warnings for their statements on Facebook criticizing the destruction of memorials. It was alleged that this criticism incited hatred against the state authorities. (link) (story relating to warning to Lepin); (link) (story by Jonathan Luxmoore relating to the warning to Kasabutski). As far as I know, the criticism by Lepin was the first time that an official of the Belarusian Orthodox Church has made a negative remark about the Lukashenko regime since Metropolitan Veniamin became exarch of Belarus. On November 6, Metropolitan Veniamin gave a sermon where he acknowledged that the Church condemns lawlessness, injustice, and violence. (link) However, as far as I know, he has refrained from condemning any specific action by the government.
Metropolitan Veniamin’s caution may be caused in part by the fact that the Church includes strong supporters of Lukashenko as well as church members who are protesters. For example, the well-known Mother Gabriela, head of the monastery in Grodno, presented gifts to the heads of the Internal Affairs Department in Grodno on November 10. These included cakes, one of which was beautifully decorated with the emblem of the OMOH (the riot police). (link) She expressed the deep gratitude of her parish and most of the Orthodox Church for the employees of the Interior Affairs Department during these difficult times.
Metropolitan Feofan of Kazan, age 74, died yesterday as a result of complications from Covid-19. (link) He had worked so hard on the rebuilding of the beautiful cathedral at the Monastery of the Mother of God – located at the exact spot that Matrona unearthed the original Kazan icon in 1579. The completed new cathedral is tentatively scheduled to be dedicated by Patriarch Kirill on July 21, 2021. It is sad that Metropolitan Feofan will not be able to see this event that he so greatly anticipated. However, he will be buried behind the altar of the new cathedral. (link) Metropolitan Feofan served from 1984 to 1987 in Argentina and had met the now Pope Francis who was then a priest. The Vatican Kazan icon is also located at the Monastery.
In other news, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar and also with the apostolic nuncio for Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell, on November 18. (link) The government in Turkey expressed displeasure that Pompeo’s trip to Turkey did not include a visit with government officials in Ankara. With respect to the invitation by Ukrainian President Zelensky for the Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Ukraine, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil has stated: “We are opposed to Patriarch Bartholomew coming to Ukraine. It’s easy to foresee that his arrival will not serve peace in Ukraine, but may become a new impetus for more large-scale confrontations." (link) Lastly, a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate has stated that it has received more than one hundred appeals from priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria seeking to come under Moscow’s jurisdiction. (link) The dissatisfaction is caused by the recognition of the OCU by the Patriarch of Alexandria.
Peter Anderson, Seattle