Can Tug-of-War Lead to Unity? The Future of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine

by Ines Angeli Murzaku

 

The death of Patriarch Alexei II marked the end of the “cold era” contacts between Moscow and Constantinople and started a new epoch in inter-Orthodox relations. Kirill’s first foreign visit since his January 2009 election as Patriarch of Moscow was to Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Unity and ecumenism were priorities for Patriarch Kirill, and the 2009 visit and his address prove it. He even attempted to put pressure on the Turkish government to reopen the Orthodox Theological School of Halki. But this was then. Now, the relations between Moscow and Constantinople have drastically changed over Ukraine.

In preparation for the independence celebrations, on April 10, 2018, the Ukrainian President Petro Porošenko made a request to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew to create a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church and grant autocephaly to end the abnormity of three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine. There are three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine: 1) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church), 2) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (established in 1992, headed by Filaret Denisenko) and 3) the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church (with the smallest number of faithful and parishes). Out of the three Orthodox jurisdictions, only the first is considered canonical, while the remaining two jurisdictions are considered “schismatic” and unrecognized by the Orthodox sister churches. Read More…

The Problem with the Kosovo “Solution”

by Fr. Sava Janjic

For most Christians residing in the West, the Kosovo “question” has long been forgotten. But for Serbs and other non-majority communities who live in Kosovo, the march of the international community toward ethnic zones in an independent Kosovo presents a genuine risk to our sacred shrines and our lives.

The lynchpin in the current international plan, wrongly supported by the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, calls for areas of “delimitation between Serbs and Albanians.” This would create ethnically pure territories within Kosovo, forcing over 80,000 Kosovo Serbs to leave their homes. This scenario would forever estrange our people from their historic sacred spaces and—as it has in all other instances across the globe—it will almost certainly lead to violence.

Those Serbs who believe that this compromise is necessary for the progress of the Serbian nation are not only forsaking their own cultural ancestry, but they are exchanging them for short-term gains that will neither create a better future for the Serbian people nor bring peace or stability for this region of Europe. This arrangement, in fact, is eerily similar to the one promoted by Milošević for Krajina, Croatia in 1995. We know only too well where that led: to ethnic cleansing and war. Continue Reading…

How to Be the Right Kind of “Fundamentalist”?

by Davor Džalto  |  ру́сский

“Fundamentalism” is a difficult concept to define. The difficulty does not primarily stem from the demanding task of describing certain actions, beliefs, and ideas and drawing general patterns that would help us differentiate “fundamentalist” phenomena from what they are not. The way the concept of “fundamentalism” is often employed, both in the public discourse and in academia, shows that the major obstacle consists in the underlying logic behind many implicit or explicit definitions of fundamentalism, which differentiates between actions and ideas that “they” propagate and do (which can be labeled as “fundamentalism”), and same or similar actions and ideas that “we” do. That means that the concept of “fundamentalism” is more often than not used as an honorific term, whose lack of descriptive value is compensated by a strong judgment value.

Take, for instance, the categories that Leonard Weinberg and Ami Pedahzur offered in their attempts to define “fundamentalism” in Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism (2004). They identified a couple of main types of “fundamentalist” groups and movements (such as “reactive” groups and movements; movements that “define the world in dichotomous and Manichaean terms…Choices between good and bad are always clear-cut and straightforward”; fundamentalists that hold the sacred texts to be “of divine origins and consequently inerrant and beyond questioning”; and so forth).

Certainly all of us can think of those religious radicals and fanatics who conform to some of these descriptions, or maybe to all of them at the same time. The problem, however, is elsewhere. Continue Reading…

Reconceiving Healthcare Philanthropia and the Vocations of Healing

by Chris Durante

In the Orthodox Christian tradition, God is described as being the “Great Philanthropos,” and Jesus Christ, as a healer of body and soul, is described as the “Great Physician.” Being adopted by early Christians, the Hellenic idea of philanthropia, or being an “unconditional lover of humankind,” was used as a way of describing God Himself and became intimately intertwined with the notion of diakonia, or service, which highlights the uniquely social and inter-personal dimensions of Christian love. Mimicking the life of Christ, philanthropically serving the needs of the sick was a central component of the lifestyle of the early Christians. Both the idea of diakonia and the institution of the diaconate were so foundational to the Church’s presence in the world that in the second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch described the diaconate as representing Christ on earth by performing his ministries of healing, teaching, and selflessly tending to the needs of the sick and the poor. In the fourth century, it was under the auspices of philanthropic diakonia that St. Basil the Great established hospitals and hospices as charitable institutions, a practice that spread throughout Byzantium and later in the West as well.

Coupled together, the empiricism of modern science and the financial corporatization of contemporary medical practice threaten to eradicate the relational, philanthropic, and ascetic dimensions of healthcare. What is needed is an outlook that views the sick as suffering persons and not as mere consumers of medical services, while it views healthcare providers as healers serving the health-related needs of the sick rather than functioning as “merchants of medicine.” Although all Christians are called to engage in diakonia, in a certain sense physicianship entails a special diaconical responsibility in that it entails healing and a transfiguration of persons’ states of being. In that Christ is the Great Physician and deacons are representatives of Christ on earth, the Church might consider reinvigorating the diaconate by reimagining the current purview of deacons’ responsibilities and expanding the role of deacons to include, for instance, a vocation of healthcare-provider or physician, where deacons trained in medicine could perform medical ministries. Continue Reading…