Ecumenical Patriarch Talks Candidly

The Great Church in Captivity

The Great Church in Captivity

It seems to me that this is even more fitting now!  Please click on the  link below and watch His All Holiness Bartholomew I interviewed by CBS News.

http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/60minutes/main3415.shtml

ISTANBUL – There are two front gates into the walled compound that protects the home of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Visitors enter through a door secured by a guardhouse, locks and a metal-screening device. They cannot enter the Phanar’s main gate because it was welded shut in 1821 after the Ottoman Turks hanged Patriarch Gregory V from its lintel. The black doors have remained sealed ever since.

A decade ago, bombers who tried to open this gate left a note: “We will fight until the Chief Devil and all the occupiers are chased off; until this place, which for years has contrived Byzantine intrigues against the Muslim people of the East is exterminated. … Patriarch you will perish!”

The capital of Byzantium fell to the Turks in 1453. Yet 400,000 Orthodox Christians remained in greater Istanbul early in the 20th century. That number fell to 150,000 in 1960. Today fewer than 2,000 remain, the most symbolic minority in a land that is 99 percent Turkish. They worship in 86 churches served by 32 priests and deacons, most 60 or older. What the Orthodox urgently need is an active seminary and patriarchate officials are convinced the European Union will help them get one, as Turkey races to begin the formal application process

The Door of Tears

The Door of Tears

Pray for the Patriarchate !!!

Christ is Born!

Glorify Him!

The Face of an Angel

The Angel of Ayia Sophia

The Angel of Ayia Sophia

Last week, I brought to your attention the news out of Istanbul that a mosaic of an angel’s face was uncovered in Agia Sophia Cathedral (Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας).  The latest news is that this mosaic was above what was the Holy Altar.  It appears the face was part of the Platytera Mosaic in the main apse. So from the six century until the end of the fifteen century, this angelic face gazed at the Theotokos and the Christ Child.  The faithful looked up for 916 years, that is from 537 AD when Justinian the Emperor finished the Cathedral to 1453 AD when the mosaics were plastered over. All those years the clergy, the laity and the imperial household chanted this hymn:

“All creation rejoices in thee, O Thou that art full of grace, both in the hierarchy of the Angels and the generations of men.  Thou art a hallowed temple, and a spiritual paradise, the glory of virgins, whence God was made flesh and became a little Child, He Who is from Eternity our God. For He made thy womb His throne, and formed Thy body to be broader than the Heavens.  All creation rejoices in Thee, O thou that art full of grace, glory to Thee. “

Now once again, the angelic face is visible. Waiting there to join with the heavenly host to sing praises to the Incarnate One and the Theotokos, who is “more honourable than the Cherubim; and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.” This is a manifestation of the true purpose not only of the angel, but also of the temple.  The way the angel was covered suggests that it may be the first to be uncovered and that more may be awaiting under the surface to be revealed.  From iconographic schemes, angels are usually not placed singularly, except for the Archangels. Our prayer is that this is the first, of many, we will see.  Just as we know that each of us is accompanied by our guardian angel, this uncovered angel has been as a silent guardian to the image of the Platytera and the Incarnate Christ.  Axios!

Platytera


The Hidden Angel

The Great Church in Captivity

The Great Church in Captivity

“A Turkish official says restoration workers have uncovered the never-before-seen mosaic face of an angel at Istanbul’s Haghia Sophia – a former Byzantine cathedral.”

This was a headline on the Fox News website. This really disturbed me, as it should all Orthodox Christians. “Never before seen,” what about those countless Christians who worshipped in the Church of the Holy Wisdom from the time of Justinian, until the fall of Constantinople. Don’t they count? This is revisionist history at it finest! The angel was not seen since the Ottomans plastered them over to hide the Truth. So, those Orthodox Christians who prayed in the Cathedral, who placed the mosaic are not to be heard. How sad! Where are the voices telling the world how false these assertions are? Who speaks for the Church in captivity, forced to keep it mouth shut to endure? Where is St. Maximos, St. Mark of Ephesus, the voice of the Church? We are a Church in captivity, a Church muzzled for the sake of political expediency. But, where are the voices in the West? Cannot we speak with a loud voice? The sad thing is the only time we scream with our voices is to criticise the Church and her leaders. The Patriarch did this, the Archbishop didn’t do this, our Metropolitan said the wrong thing. How very sad. Why can’t we speak with a loud voice to decry injustice and to say, this is not a dead Church. It was, is and always will be, at its heart a Church built to the Glory of God. That angel’s image should reminds us of the Seraphim that surrounds the throne God. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of Your Glory!”

Can We Rejoice?

The Holy Theological School of Halki

The Holy Theological School of Halki

In the last few weeks, we have heard from various sources that the secular government in Turkey is planning to allow the historic Holy Theological School of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, located on the island of Halki, to open, again.   The Monastery of the Holy Trinity on Halki was founded during Byzantine period. The establishment of the monastery can be traced back to St. Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople, (858–861 and 878–886). The Halki seminary was founded by Patriarch Germanos IV in 1844 at the monastery. It was intended to supply priests for the Ottoman Empire’s Greek minority, it expanded and grew in size and facilities. Set amid cool pines and palm trees, the seminary has the high ceilings, wide halls and well-worn wooden desks of schools built before computers and air conditioning; but this celebrated school has trained generations of scholars, priests and its graduates became bishops and future patriarchs. As a reaction to the Cypriot/Turkish/Greek crisis, the School was closed by the Turkish officials in 1971. For over thirty-five years, this violation of international law has caused great distress and generated calls for the reopening of the School by government, religious, academic and civic   leaders across the world.  In a past Reuters’ article, this comment was made on the closure: “We have not lost hope, despite the broken promises, because a person only lives as long as he has hope. Even on his deathbed, he resists the end,” His Eminence Metropolitan Apostolos (Daniilidis) of Moschonissia, Halki’s abbot, said from his office atop the “Hill of Hope” on Heybeliada (Halki). Perhaps, the moment we have hoped for has arrived!  Hope for the historic step was generated by statements from Turkish officials. “The Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada is to be reopened,” Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay said, and adding that they are searching for a formula to integrate the Orthodox theological school into Turkey’s university system. “Although we have not finalized a decision in the Cabinet, my personal impression is that we are going to open the seminary,” said Günay, speaking on Kanal 24 television over [last] the weekend.  This was not the first time a statement with the same tenor has been made by Turkish officials in the last few weeks.

The Holy Trinity Chapel and the School

The Holy Trinity Chapel and the School

The need for Halki is beyond question. Yes, there are good Orthodox Theological schools elsewhere in the world.  Students will attend these schools and get a good education to serve their local churches.  In my opinion, the need for Halki centres on two loci. One, the Patriarchate needs trained clergy and scholars.  These men and women, (yes, I believe Halki should train women theologians) should be prepared and educated, at the very highest level, with an international vision, which focuses on the needs of an international Orthodoxy for the future. In this world of mass media, global communications, and instantaneous change; the Phanar needs to train its own “specialists” in an academic environment that it designs and controls. This prerequisite makes the design of the curriculum critical.  Yes, students should receive the treasury (parakatatheki) of Tradition, but this must be transmitted with the tools of the twenty-first century. Additionally, the perspective of the “needs” of the Patriarchate are not the focus of any institution; Halki would provide this frame of reference. The School would also be a fount of post graduate and exchange student training. These students would come to Turkey from all over the world. Furthermore, the requirements of Turkish law make the training of clergy in Turkey imperative.  Without this source of clergy and future hierarchy, the Patriarchate is slowly strangled, it withers and dies.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Redone needs to be encouraged and thanked for his courageous stance.  We pray that this step occurs quickly.  The world community would, no doubt, look favourably on a government which corrects the errors of the past and looks to the future.