Pillager of Monasteries in Maaloula Found Dead

Pillager of Monasteries in Maaloula Found Dead

abu jafar1
On December 26, 2013 vocative.com published the article The Religious Spoils of War, which featured an interview with Syrian rebel Abu Jafar, leader of the “Battalion of the Martyr Abu Taan”, which is an offshoot of “Free Kalamoon”. Abu Jafar was revealed to be the one responsible with pillaging the Monasteries of Saint Thekla and Saint Sergius in Maaloula which he sold in Lebanon to support the war effort, and kidnapping the nuns of the Monastery of Saint Thekla. In the interview he claimed good intentions and that what he was doing he did for the war effort.
According to maaloula.org, reported just after midnight on January 14, on Sunday 12 January 2014 Abu Jafar was found mysteriously murdered. Local news says that all the members of his family were found dead as well. It is suspected there was some sort of disagreement between him and his “comrades”.
abu jafar2
With news of his death, other news has come to light. The Lebanese Calam reported on January 13 that “jihadists plundered the grave of Saint Thekla”. According to Father Makarios Gulwma, secretary of the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East for the Catholic Melkites told RIA Novosti: “The fighters of Al-Nusra and Free Sham removed the bells of the churches of historic Maaloula, torched the iconostasis of the Orthodox Monastery of St Thekla as well as the Melklite Catholic Monastery of Saint Sergius, and they plundered the grave of St. Thekla after digging it up. They burned all the crosses and destroyed them.” The same witness complained that they stole the bronze statue of the enthroned Jesus adorning the Monastery erected by the Orthodox Foundation of Saint Paul of Syria. The statue was sculpted by the famous Russian sculptor Alexandre Rukavhanikov. Fr. Makarios conveyed the indignation of this martyric town: “They stole our most important symbols, even the bells that call us to prayer. Men of Al-Nusra burned our homes. They want to extinguish the last vestige of Christianity and void out her existence.”
Stolen statue

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  1. It seems that these unholy infidel blasphemers recognise no boundaries or humanity, because they try to justify themselves by pillaging and desecrating that which they did not build or pay for, nor the sacredness or importance that it holds to the people who are associated with these sites. In terms of the world, whether one likes Christians or not, or agree with their views or not, it is incumbent on all that these historic cultural sites be protected at all costs. Otherwise one cannot continue to assert they are for human rights or demand human rights when they do not protect another person from such crimes against humanity.

    In any case the criminal acts of Abu Jafar and his ignoble death have now become another ridiculous footnote in this unnecessary and imbecilic conflict. Yet Abu Jafar’s reasoning as to plundering and desecrating Maaloula to support the war effort is as equally stupid, because it asserts that it is a war in the first place, and secondly where is the logic that the Christians of Maaloula would allow their most treasured historic, cultural and religious sites to be desecrated and plundered to finance foreign terrorists who are killing and beheading them, as well as their Muslim neighbours. Terrorists who we should cite are Hell-bent like a bunch of demon-possessed scum at persecuting and killing Syrian Christians because they are not Muslims or adhere to the terrorists’ blasphemous ideology. If people the world over, but especially in the nations of Europe and America which support and finance this whole disaster do not speak up and do something, then it is only a matter of time before the same things rightfully happen to them for their apathy or collusion.

  2. I know what you mean. They seem to wish to extinguish Christianity and Christian Civilization, like they did to the Byzantines or Eastern Romans. I still pray we get the Hagia Sophia back one day, as well as our other churches. It would be sad to lose all the holy places in Syria, too! It is very important as a country in the history of Orthodox Christianity. The Patriarchate of Antioch was found there, since Syria is close to Antioch, if I am not mistaken. They think they have won the battle, but they have yet to win the war!

    • With regards your comment, the city of Antioch is now located in an area that Turkey had seized from Syria in the 1920s-1930s and now constitutes part of southern Turkey, and has been one of many sites in the region of Iskendurun which in recent times has seen violence against Christians and ethnic groups which once were majorities and are now minorities. Antioch of course holds significance in Christianity, as the Scriptures and historical sources indicate that it was the first place where believers in Christ were first called “Christians”, and where Nazarenes (Jewish Christians) and Gentile believers (Christians) met and mingled in a positive cultural exchange. Antioch’s first bishop was none other than the Apostle Peter. Interestingly, Peter was never bishop of Rome as some claim, nor was he the founder of the Church of Rome, as St Paul had corresponded with Church of Rome and visited it prior to Peter’s arrival, something the Papists tend to neglect regarding the foundation of their episcopate! In any case, due to historical reasons the present patriarchate of Antioch is headquartered in Damascus which is one of the oldest Christian diocese in existence. The patriarchate is only a short distance down the road from where Apostle Paul was baptised on Sharia Hanania (Ananias Street). It is a place that I remember fondly as well as the characters who live there and are now living in a nightmare engineered by Western governments, Mossad, Saudi Arabia and the various Arab Gulf states.

      With regards to Syria, (and Asia Minor for that matter), it holds immense importance to the Christian story as it was where the first churches beyond Palestine were built and established; and when the Jewish and Pagan persecutions of the early Christians began in earnest, it was to Syria that many fled to and established communities. Maaloula’s inhabitants for example are the direct descendants of those very first believers who found refuge in the mountains away from danger. The houses they inhabit are merely facades to the caves in which those first Christians and Nazarenes sheltered and resided in. Some of the best examples of early churches are to be found in Syria, such as those of Maaloula, but also at Dura Europa (Dawr Al-Zawr as the Arabs call it) which has some of the earliest surviving examples of iconography.

      In any case regarding your third point, we Orthodox are stuck between the West and Islam, who neither have been friends to Orthodox Christians as each has tried via a myriad of ways to subjugate, enslave or convert us. Our lives as a people has always been one of walking a tightrope between two extremes. And as long as they are jostling for power with each other, no one is going to have peace and quiet on either side, let alone us!

      As for Hagia Sophia, forgive me for saying it, but it is wishful thinking. But to get it back would be great, but the problem is, what congregation has remained in Constantinople or all of Asia Minor. I myself reside in Australia far from the graves of my forefathers who are buried in Turkey, and who worshipped in the many churches which are now in ruins, stables, mosques, nightclubs etc. In any case all of these churches belonged to the Ecumenical Patriarchate but have been confiscated and sold off. Some of which have been bought by Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church. It would certainly be a better gesture if these other Christians actually backed up the Orthodox and petition that these lands and churches are returned, or if they purchase them to return them to us. This would be a gesture that would actually carry greater meaning and promote cooperation, rather than these stupid and empty “diplomatic” ecumenistic gestures that hide an ulterior motive than for genuine dialogue and exchange.

      • Those “Papists” as you call them are fellow Christians. Try opening your mind just a touch and stop showing intolerance in your language like the jihadists do in deeds.

        • Dear John,

          If your comment is directed to “orthodoxchristian2”, he does have a tendency to be overly zealous.
          But if your comment is directed to me, then I would indicate to you, to re-read my comments as they were a critique regarding the dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, with a particular reference to the inconsistency between the Vatican’s words and its PR contrasted against its actual actions towards Orthodox lands and peoples, both present and its past record. The critique is particularly focused upon Roman Catholic theology, practices and especially its hierarchy which has inspired or mislead sincere Roman Catholics. And I assure you, some of the critiques that I make, pale in comparison to the things that Roman Catholics (clergy, laity, theologians etc) have said or presently say.

          And yes, we may all be “Christians”, but we must remember, that Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ established One Church with One Faith. We as people, through our own logic, contrary to what the Lord and His Apostles taught, went and created divisions through schism or heresy, blurring the fundamental principles and dogmas which constituted our unity.

          Please take note of this point, in that historically, dogmatically and in practice, the unity of Christendom was constituted by the unity of Faith and not in uniform cultural and liturgical practices, nor by the Bible, nor by the presence of a single person with jurisdictional authority over the entire body of the Church with “infallibility”. A point which even pious Roman Catholic hierarchs opposed strenuously in being made into dogma at Vatican 1 Council. A council which I might add, merely rubber stamped what had already become a self-evident issue within the Church of Rome, with the rise of the Papacy.

          The ascent of this dangerous ideology and heresy of Papalism within Christendom has done great damage to the Church of Rome and all those around it. As a consequence, many changes and innovations were brought in, contrary to the teachings and practices that were set down by Christians of previous eras and expressed within the 7 Ecumenical Councils, and enshrined in the various Canons. It is this particular development which became the prelude for the formation of the multitudes of Christian denominations, theologies and I might add, headaches that all Christians experience till today.

          None of this was what the Lord intended, nor the common laity benefited from, but weakened and discredited Christianity, caused Christians to suffer, and gave way to our so-called modern global era with its ontological nightmare of a crass culture blighted by materialistic secularism, where narcissism and money are gods, and people are mere numbers within a “rat-race”.

          And if we ask the same questions that the ancient Christians asked, or as the Orthodox continue to insist upon in its discourse and in its theology, which is the quest for remaining true to the rule of Faith, then we need to ask:
          1. What was it that Christ taught and did?
          2. What did the Apostles receive and pass on?
          3. What was the belief and practice across undivided Christendom from the beginning?
          4. What do the sources of Holy Tradition and revelation cite?
          5. What have local and Ecumenical Councils affirmed?
          6. What do the canons indicate? And finally;
          7. What are the things keeping in the spirit of the abovementioned, and what is a divergence from it?
          It is through these questions that we can discern and identify issues and thus reconcile differences amongst Christians. An example we can draw upon, is the enforced celibacy of clergy as practiced in the Roman Catholic Church. If we apply the line of questioning to this example, we would find that there is no precedent within undivided Christendom in terms of practice or in theology. Furthermore, we would see that local and the 7 Great Ecumenical Councils condemned such a practice, which is also affirmed by the canons. And ironically, the figure of St Peter to whom Rome places great import upon, was himself a married man with family as the sources of Holy Tradition like Scripture attest to, (just as it attests to the fact that St Peter was the first bishop of Antioch but never the bishop of Rome).

          In any case, these things can be discussed and engaged, in a civilized manner, provided there is goodwill, and that those coming to the table for such discourse, do so without a political agenda but with a Christian ethos as our Lord instructed us to be contrary to the norms of worldly authority.

          From the Orthodox standpoint, there is a great desire and much goodwill in seeking to work towards reconciliation and the unity of all Christians. And let me remind you, it was the Orthodox who were the chief forerunners and architects for the original ecumenical efforts to bring all Christians together and to resolve their differences. The motivation for their effort was of course living under the conditions of dhimmitude in Islamic lands.

          But to date, the Orthodox have been gravely disappointed time and again with the behaviour and I might add, the sly, underhanded and authoritarian manner in which the Papal Church of Rome has conducted itself towards dialogue and engagement with the Orthodox. The ghosts of the past cannot be laid to rest if there is no genuine goodwill or actions forthcoming from Rome, despite the desire of laity on both sides. For example, the Roman Papal authorities need to stop sending in missionaries into Orthodox Christian lands and communities, who are dressed in Orthodox clerical clothing, or encouraging schisms within various Orthodox jurisdictions that have created the various Uniate churches (Eastern Rite Catholics).

          And to this effect, they need to cease from deceiving people into believing that Uniates are able to preserve their theology and liturgical practices unadulterated and not bound by Roman Papal practices and rites. The reality is on the one hand, we see the gradual “Latinisation” of many of the liturgical practices of the various Uniate Rites, particularly the Maronites. And on the other hand, we have the Eastern Code of Canons which was re-worked in recent times, and cites in a number of sections that key teachings that Rome advocates, but were rejected by Eastern Christians as deviations from the teachings of the 7 Ecumenical Councils and the consensus of Faith, are to be imposed upon Uniates.

          As the code highlights, Eastern Rite Catholics (Uniates) are bound by those beliefs and practices of Rome, and that the Roman rite holds precedence….thus meaning that Uniates are bound to accept things like papal infallibility, indulgences, the immaculate conception and a whole range of many other things without question. –(And I would add, in Roman Catholic schools they tend to avoid teaching about “Eastern Rite Catholicism” in any sort of depth, maybe one to three classes in religious education at secondary school).

          Mind you, this very point of Uniatism and Uniate evangelism amongst Orthodox lands and people, combined with the Vatican’s statements regarding governing authorities in Orthodox Christian countries, is what stopped the original Orthodox-Catholic dialogue back in the 1990s. Orthodox observers duly noted how the new dialogue which commenced some years later after, with the thorny topic of Uniatism removed from the agenda in the current dialogue. They also noted that the agenda shifted to questions regarding primacy, and specifically the primacy of Rome within Christendom and its claim to universal primacy.

          The changing of titles of the Bishop of Rome to “universal patriarch”, and the refinement of the explanation and definition for Rome’s “particular gift of primal grace” also caused grave concern amongst the Orthodox who insist on the conciliar/synodical nature of Christendom’s hierarchy. The concern was magnified by the use of dialogues by Rome to set theological frameworks which would cause schism in other Christian Churches and allow the passage of parishes, communities, laity and clergy to enter into the Roman Catholic Church with the outward appearances of their particular form of Christianity, but under Rome’s authority. The recent example of the High Church Anglicans/Episcopalians and the conditions by which they can become part of the Roman Catholic Church while still maintaining their outward liturgical rubrics was a case in point.

          Then there are the close “diplomatic” ties that the Vatican cultivates with various governments in predominately non-Catholic or non-Christian countries to secure confiscated Eastern or Oriental Orthodox Church properties. And instead of working in conjunction to assist those Patriarchates and local Churches to lobby and regain their confiscated properties, we see them being utilized as Roman Catholic “tourist” pilgrimages, while at the same time serving as centres of evangelism to the indigenous Christian inhabitants. Note the irony here, that the indigenous Christians are the ones targeted for evangelism and not the non-Christian inhabitants who neither partake of the Holy Eucharist, nor strive to live the Christian liturgical and soteriological life and phronema.

          To add insult to injury, we see very chummy and close relations being cultivated between the Vatican and the same hostile authorities who were responsible for confiscating or desecrating the Church properties of the indigenous Christians. My mind thinks particularly of the example and circumstances of Middle Eastern Christians (of whom I am one myself, and know firsthand of many examples which verify such a point). Surely assisting and serving as an advocate, lobbying for those Churches and their faithful, who may not be part of Rome or the Roman Catholic Church, in lands where the authorities are hostile towards Christians and Christianity, would do more to promote goodwill and establish close relations for reconciliation, as we are all Christians as you say…

          Yet we see ulterior motives as the Vatican offers “peace plans” and “peace proposals” and “strategies” for various regions around the world, which have the express purpose of evangelism and marginalizing the indigenous Christians, or seeking to bring their respective Churches under Rome’s authority. The efforts by Rome to bait the Assyrian Church of the East to come under Rome’s “wing” is a present-day example, as the Assyrians are suffering in the face of immense persecution and possible extinction. And of course like any other peoples, who are in a difficult and desperate position, will take whatever lifeline can be extended to them, irrespective of what the consequences or conditions might be. Regretfully, this blatant opportunism has been a constant historical refrain that the Papal Church of Rome has turned to time and again. And it was this reality which was one of the key roots and causes for the Protestant Reformation, which led to further divisions amongst Christians, with further deviations from the path of the Apostolic-Nicene Faith that Christ imparted to us, with much sorrow, bloodshed and heartache following close behind.

          And yet, we have the public relation spin of things like papal visits which come across in the form of a rock-star making an entrance and not in the manner of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. Where grandiose gestures and empty words are made, overtures are offered to other Christians and other religions with the express purpose of winning over public support; or to signify the authority of the pope, or at worse, to marginalize or overshadow the local ecclesial authorities and indigenous form of Christianity. The late Pope John Paul II was quite adept at this tactic, particularly in engineering one of his last visits which was to Greece. He offered an apology for the 4th Crusade (but overlooking other Crusades) so as to allow his visit to occur and appear to be making efforts towards reconciliation. Interestingly, such a “gesture” came at a time when the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue had deteriorated, and Rome was trying to shift dialogue away from the main issues and towards a questionable agenda that raised concern as to their sincerity and commitment. And it was suspect given that in those years leading up to the Greece visit (and afterwards) a series of documents were written and compiled whereby Rome began re-packaging much of its papal ideology into a more subtle and not so obvious presentation as to why Rome should be the head of the Church and have universal authority. And as part of this effort, Roman Catholic ecclesial authorities and theologians began utilizing Orthodox Christian terms, terminology and spiritual/liturgical practices to try and “re-brand” themselves, while admixing all this with the secular culture of our modern era. The effort of course was to try and win back Roman Catholic believers to return to their churches and not turn to other Christian denominations, or to other religions or atheism; but it was also aimed at undermining the clarity between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox spiritual/liturgical belief and practice, and undermine the latter. Consequently, much of what has been taken or utilized, has been distorted to fit in with “papal ideology”, and hence devoid or its true meaning or context.

          The point here is, is that the Church of Rome could overcome many of its issues and bring back many of its faithful, and reconcile itself with other Christian groups, by addressing the many scandals and child-abuse issues that it faces, root out its Papalist ideology, return authority to local bishops and synods, return back to its spiritual-liturgical roots, and avoid secularism in its effort to adapt to the times and offer pastoral care. People do not want any more “PR” spin, they want, as Pope Benedict cited, spiritual authenticity and commitment.

          For the Orthodox, the Vatican has a long way to go before it reaches many of these goals, as it still has not clarified even its role and link with Fascist elements such as the Ustachi in Yugoslavia during World War II which wreaked immense evil against Serbs, Montegrins and Slav Macedonians. Nor has it clarified its links to Ukrainian fascists and Ukrainian Catholic extremists both past and present. Nor has any mention been made clarifying the Vatican’s links with Maronite and Melkite extremists in the Lebanese civil war that saw fit to exterminate fellow Orthodox Christians (a matter that some of us are old enough to remember). And yet there are many more examples that Orthodox Christians would like the Vatican to clarify its position or role within, but the thing that is of real concern is, what real efforts are being made for reconciliation beyond the “PR” spin and empty gestures. What efforts are being exerted to stop the double dealing with us, when the Church of Rome itself confesses and recognizes that what the Orthodox Church has to say, teaches and practices is authentic to the Apostolic Faith and does not deviate into any form of heresy. By extension, this means what efforts are being made to return to the Faith imparted by Christ to the Apostles towards all of humanity, and was the reason of why Christians exist today. And we are not talking about works of prayer and philanthropy which are great and noble in of themselves, but the Faith which constituted our original unity and the reason of why we do these works of Faith.

          This may sound like a diatribe, but in the limited space and time we have, we try to put some sort of points as to our critique and concerns regarding the Roman Catholic Church as an institution, not against faithful of the Roman Catholic Church or the tireless clergy and laity who serve in it, offering much to the world around them in love and peace. But Papalism is a spiritual illness that affects the Roman Catholic Church and is one of the key matters that has brought about many problems within Western Christendom that gave way to wars, bizarre philosophies and the rise of a secular atheistic global culture that is hellbent on not only destroying Christianity but everything that stands in its way.

          I apologise for the many words, but there are many things that I haven’t even begun to touch or explain with examples.

          With the sincere humble love of Christ,
          VM on behalf of Mode of Life

  3. Yes, I myself do not support ecumenism, either. I do not hate anyone, but I do not like it when the Catholic Church, for example, tries to cover up our differences, and pretend our churches are the same. Their are similarities, of course, like our both praying to the Theotokos Mary, the saints, and the angels as intercessors to God, our monasticism, bishops, and other things, but we are certainly not the same, not even close. We are closer to the Catholics than the Protestants, but that’s not saying much. Their adding of the Filioque in the 11th century to the Niceno-Constantinoplitan Creed is a start.The West was historically never as clever or as sophisticated or as educated in the past when it regarded Christology and Theology. And the mistranslations from Greek into Latin did not help, either! Fellowship sounds good to me, but not some strange Ecumenist Church with two beating lungs, the one of the West, and the one of the East. Either one would have to make compromises in their faith, and this would most probably end badly for the Eastern Orthodox, who are the less powerful and numerous of the two. We are not a small Church, but compared to 1.1 billion Catholics, we are! They won both times theologically in the past when re-uniting the main churches of the East and the West in both 1270 in Lyons, France, and in 1438-39, in Florence-Ferrara, which is of course modern day Italy. And neither times did the Catholics really come to our help, despite what the Catholics so profusely promised. 1453 could have been prevented If the Catholics just accepted we were and are different. 1204 was the worst crime they ever perpetrated against the Orthodox people, for example. Catholics might then turn around, and say that was because of the massacre of the Latins or Venetians in 1182 in the Latin quarter of Constantinople, but that was one of very few incidents. We were generally more peace-loving than the Church of Rome, definitely! And the Venetians were double-crossing the Byzantines at every turn, even though they were allies, and Venice was once apart of the Byzantine Empire. I wonder if they were ever Orthodox, though? Not sure.

    And Protestant churches ordaining of gay ministers is contradictory to both the Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and yet the Catholic Church wants the Protestants to be apart of this strange, global, not particularly interested in religious doctrines or the Bible, Church.

    But fellowship would be good, though, as well as cooperation. The Catholics and Protestants should help us possibly get back some of our churches at least, even if they were the less important ones. Chora might be a good church to start with, since most of the fresco icons are still intact, and no one is using it for worship. Plus, it is quite a small one, but very beautiful. But we need other Christians support to win. My country, Russia, since it is Orthodox, and a big and powerful country, should lead the Orthodox in re-establishing presence in Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey. But a problem with non-Orthodox, Western Christian countries is that they generally hate religion and Christianity. Atheism is a terrible cancer of the West, along with Darwinism, and many Westerners (who are usually not at all religious or agnostic) pretend like Christians in the Middle East and other parts of the world are not being persecuted at all, or hardly! Have you read Happy Holidays and other blasphemies in Freshly Pressed? They basically attacked me like they were the vultures, and I was some half-dead ox! They all denied these things happened, and defended Islam profusely, though I gave much proof that Islam, as a religion, never really liked Christians at all. It’s in the Koran and the Hadiths about the Muslim Prophet, Muhammad. They think we all should be subjugated to their religion, that we are half human, should be Dhimmnis paying Jizya tax if we do not convert to Islam, that it is a great thing to kill an Infidel for Allah, that we are idol worshippers, that we worship priests and monks, that monasticism is a sham, that church leaders are corrupt, that all Christians go to Hell for saying Jesus is Lord, and a myriad of other sickening things. I have read this Koran, and most of the hadiths of Sahih Bukhari so far, and it is the most horrible thing I have ever read. Not to mention that their rules and beliefs are absurd, and their claiming all the prophets in the Old Testament were Muslim is insane. Most of the prophets were Jews, apart from Balaam and a couple of others! There is no historicity to back up most of their outrageous claims.

    And yet the West fears and loves the Muslims, but maligns the Christians, and call us insane. Not all Muslims are bad, but boy does Islam itself suck. I have lived one time in Saudi Arabia, one of the worst of these countries, and it is one of the most horrible places I have ever been to! They destroy icons if they find them in your luggage, there is no church to go to, because it is strictly prohibited, all must be tried under Sharia law, regardless if they are Muslim or not, no proselytizing is allowed not proclamation of your faith, you get killed or jailed for saying against Islam, and the list goes on. But, America supports horrible places like this because of oil, and, as you said, diplomatic relations. I hope they run out of oil one day. The things they do against basic human rights is appalling.

    I also agree this fighting should just stop, but it never seems to, nor will it, probably. But I still pray for places like the Hagia Sophia, and that it will be filled with mosaic icons, candles, relics, an iconostasis, magnificent murals and gold walls, worshippers lighting candles, and priests and bishops officiating the sacraments of the Church and celebrating the liturgies. I know it is not realistic, but I believe in God and His Saints, as well as His Church, and I know that God can do things us human beings cannot begin to imagine. The fact He took on our human nature in His Second Person is a miracle in itself! He tabernacled among us, and felt our sufferings, and interceded to God the Father for us, to deify us to be like Him in His energies, and to save us from sin and other terrible things, like death. God and faith abounds in miracles that one would think is impossible. Prayer can do anything. We must act, of course, but we cannot just rely on ourselves. We must submit our wills to God’s, and work together to make things possible. When I went to Hagia Sophia for the first time, it made me cry profusely. All the icons are almost gone apart from a few, and most of the Christian character of this great and magnificent building is gone. Instead of being a glorious Patriarchal Orthodox Church, it is an ugly mosque, with fragments of it’s former Byzantine glory. I’m sure Justinian would not approve. It is an insult to Orthodox Christianity and our culture. It is the worst joke in history, basically. Praying to a false god in our beautiful church, doing their dirty ablutions with their feet, hands, mouths, and blowing water outside of their noses, bending themselves down with their behinds in the air when they pray, and also inhabiting a land that was once Orthodox Christian. And the Patriarchate of Constantinople is in danger from no longer existing in the next 75 years or so, because of Turkey’s political suspicion of the Patriarch, Bartholomew of Constantinople, their closing of the Halki Seminary College in the 1970’s, and the lack of Greeks in Turkey. I heard it has dwindled to something like 3000-4000 Greeks, and the Turks even wish to take churches that have been built very recently, that aren’t even Byzantine, and turn them into mosques. One former Orthodox Church was even used as a meeting place for the EU! No wonder the European Union will not make Turkey apart of Europe and the European Union! But it makes me wonder why the Ecumenical Patriarch is saying honing about the Turks hue and cry to re-convert the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque? Maybe he is afraid, and can’t do anything that would change the situation. All the 4 ancient patriarchates are governed by non-Christian powers, and it is a sad fact that fills me with a feeling I can’t describe.

    I am glad you see through the lies of the Western media: I certainly do! I love my faith so much, and God and His Church, and I wish to do everything I can to help others in the situation I am in. I study at a seminary in Rostov, next to our famous monastery that holds some remains of Saint Dmitry of Rostov. I plan to be a priest, and, if God desires, a Metropolitan one day. Would you like to read any of my blog, my Orthodox brother and friend? I have mainly written about the sacraments, and would love responses on how to improve my blog. I hardly get any followers or responses or likes, and need to spread the Orthodox Christian message to as many as possible. Get some life in my blog. You seem very knowledgable about the faith, from what I can gather.

    God bless you, and let your days be long and happy, as well as filled with holiness, blessedness and righteousness.

    Take care, and hope to hear from you soon.

    Your Orthodox brother in Christ.

    • You raise many matters which open many different topics.

      Firstly regarding inter-Christian dialogues. This is a subject I will write about in the near future. But the basic overview is that the Orthodox are expending too much energy and wasting time in dialogue with the WCC and with the Papal Church of Rome. These dialogues are fruitless and neither side seems ready to engage them maturely; and with regard the Papists and the WCC, there is an ulterior motive or agenda which is not positive.

      With regards the WCC, the whole concept is unworkable, for it took some 80 years to finally get members to agree to accepting that the Church is communion and that it is not an institution. -Something that should be self-evident even by reading Scripture, but there had to be arguments just to establish this simple ecclesiological truth. Yet the theologies and liturgics of these various Protestant groups is all over the place, with whom do you first begin dialogue with, and how does one arrive to a set of commonly held principles by which you can proceed? I suggest it would be far more effective to engage different groups 1 to 1, that way one avoids confusion and endless and pointless discussions.

      As for the Papists, the matter is far more serious and difficult because at all levels the differences are so jarringly obvious. Liturgically, the way we worship is the way we believe and vice-versa, and this is evident by the liturgical confusion within the Roman Catholic Church which expresses the differences of beliefs and visions. You have charismatic catholics speaking in tongues, you have opus dei advocates on the other, those who insist on doing everything in Latin and not in the local languages, the use of unleavened bread contrary to original Christian practice or belief, some use bread and wine, while others just use bread. Thus even at the level of worship, these differences express different theologies and movements. The only basis for their unity is a few creeds and the papacy. The unity of the Church has always been the unity of Faith, not a specific person.

      In terms of governance and structure how can one bishop have authority over another jurisdiction which has a local synod? And if they claim universal primacy, what is the context of that primacy? In any case I question as to what grounds can one claim primacy, because the Ecumenical Councils dealt with the matter very quickly and their reasoning does not always remain sound from a theological and spiritual perspective. I suspect that Jerusalem has a more solid grounding and claim for any such primacy than any other diocese in all of Christianity, including Rome, Constantinople or Moscow as some Russians would call for, as Jerusalem was where the Saviour Himself effected His ministry and the gift of salvation.

      In any case it is very clever that Rome shifted discussions from resolving the question of Uniatism (Eastern Rite Catholics) who had broken away from the Orthodox Church and submitted themselves to Roman supremacy, doctrine and canon law (cf. Eastern Code of Canons). Instead of dealing with resolving this very big issue in our relations, Rome chose to shift it onto matters of defining primacy, in that way they can develop some sort of formula by which they could force us to submit to Papal authority, just as they had developed systems and structures to accept High Church Anglicans into their midst and create further schism amongst the Anglicans!

      In any case both the Papists and the Protestants are losing people from their churches and are being discredited daily. This is a sad state of affairs in any case, but it is a reminder to us Orthodox to stick to our guns and remain steadfast, because we will without doubt be the last Church standing in the near future. So we owe it to those Churches and to the people who are there or leaving them to remain authentic to our calling, as quite a number are now coming into the Orthodox Church and begging us to not sway like the other Christians have. We are the only ones who can effect reconciliation amongst all Christians, but that is why we need to remain true to our calling and Faith.

      Yet the Oriental and Assyrian Christians whose theology and liturgics is closest to ours, and with whom we can resolve issues of unity, we do not puruse as Orthodox because they do not carry the same influence in terms of numbers, political clout or finances. But like us have weathered Islamism and in some areas Communism. If one looks to their Synodikons, their terminologies and doctrines carefully, one will see that the Eastern Orthodox, the Coptics, Syriacs, Armenians, Ethiopians and Assyrians should all be reunited. Unfortunately, there are not many Eastern Orthodox who are familiar with the liturgics, dogmas and writings of the Oriental and Assyrian Orthodox Churches, and it is to our shame this is the case because these matters are resolvable. One of the weblinks on this site deals with matters pertaining to the Assyrian Orthodox Church and its doctrines, I would encourage all Eastern Orthodox (Greeks, Arabs, Serbs, Russians, Bulgarians, Georgians etc) to read the articles therein. Instead of doing one’s head in by dealing with Western Christian theology which belongs to Churches which are dying and will disappear in due course because they have departed from their calling and origins; especially Rome which keeps on claiming we Orthodox broke away from them in their various secondary schools worldwide and keep on trying to proselytise our people. In Athens they keep using the Marist school there as an effective propaganda tool, just as Papal visits are used to similar effect. (Papal apologies similarly which are merely window dressing backed by no action. There was an apology for the 4th Crusade, but what about the other Crusades which did awful things as well? Was not Semlin burnt down over a pair of shoes, or Constantinople besieged during Holy Week, or the inhabitants of Nicaea’s environs massacred & looted, or Jerusalem massacred and the Holy Sepulchre desecrated on the 1st Crusade? -Have we forgotten?)

      As for the Hagarenes (Muslims), those of us who are from the Middle East and Greece, we have been living under or alongside this religion which is also a political ideology for 1,400 years. Suffice to say it, do not expect much from a people who are indoctrinated with belief in their own superiority and their right to rule, and blasphemously proclaiming “to kill in the cause of God”, as if God needs someone to defend Him or administer justice in His name. In this sense the Jihadists and the Crusaders share one thing in common. The difference is, that the Westerners have now dropped the pretence of religion, whereas the other side still invoke the name of God to justify their actions. Yet this is not different from what Christ was protesting to the Pharisees who were polluting the ideals and teachings of Judaism by adding traditions to it and perverting the Talmud and drastically altering the Canon of Scripture. But the doctrines of the Pharisees have created what we now call modern day Judaism and which many Jews are very dissatisfied with, reinforced by the event of the Holocaust, but averse to seeking out other religious confessions.

      In any case most Hagarenes do not know their own religion well, and are usually shocked when they learn what it actually teaches and believes. But it is difficult for them to learn what it does teach since the doctrine of taqqiyya (deceit/permissable lies) is often applied by many Hagarene leaders. They do this on the basis that the goal justifies the means. Much more could be said on this.

      As for Turkey, officially there is less than 3,000 Greeks in Asia Minor, but there are many crypto-Christians, and the Evangelical Christians have found fertile ground in Turkey. For the Orthodox the situation is critical, especially given that the Patriarch has to be a man born in Turkey and is a Turkish citizen, and who has done national service. And such a person will face daily death threats and attempts, and it will only be a matter of time before one of those is successful. That of course is ignoring the recalcitrant behaviour and duress which the Turkish authorities keep on applying upon the Church. Yet from 3,000 predominately elderly Greeks, a candidate must be found to fill the role, so how is the Patriarchate going to survive? The answer seems to lie in the new Orthodox Christian immigrants settling in Turkey and giving birth to children there who are Turkish citizens. In recent years there has been a growing number of Bulgarians (particularly), Russians, Ukranians, Belurussians, Romanians, Georgians and even Greeks within Constantinople which has helped save some of the local church parishes, bringing new life to them and supplementing the numbers of local Greek and Turkish faithful. The Patriarchate is reattaining in some measure something of its Ecumenical character as efforts are made to restore the different ethnic parishes that had fallen out of use, such as the church of the old Bulgarian neighbourhood. But the struggle is still a long one which has not reached its goal, especially in the face of a growing ideology of Neo Islamic Ottomanism.

      Regarding the call to priesthood and so forth, it should always be the objective of any seminarian to not seek it out, and definitely to never seek out hierarchical rank for it is a grave responsibility that has many headaches. Too many young men who study theology suffer from what I would call the “Messianic Complex” and lose sight of their real objective which is the salvation of their soul. I understand that there is a great zeal, but it is easy for that zeal to be distorted into self-will and pride that parades as piety, and the danger is even more so in places where the Faith has been tested severely as in Eastern Europe which is still recovering from the impact of Atheist Communism. The pastoral concerns of re-Christianising these lands is immense and presents many problems, in Russia for example one has to ask how and why did a country as vast as it is with its devotion to Orthodoxy change so quickly to Communism and atheism, only to swing back as quickly back to Christianity? Is Orthodox faith and culture firmly planted within the Russian phronema, or was it a mere veneer? If it was mere veneer, then what measures can be taken towards appropriate catechism and spiritual formation to avoid this event from occurring again?

      Without doubt I see a certain pious element amongst the Russians, but I see the inconsistency between a pilgrim willing to walk barefoot for 15 km only to return home to beat his wife up which is certainly not in keeping with the Orthodox ethos. It is a question that you as a theological student will need to confront, and if God desires that you assume the heavy burden of the cassock, these will be things you will need to consider and be mindful of. But remember God will call, so be open to that call, but don’t go chasing after it because there will be dire consequences for you as a person and to the people you would administer to, you might recall what St John Chrysostom, St Gregory the Theologian and others have said regarding priesthood. In any case one stupid hierarch or priest will do more damage to the Church than all the NKVD lackeys could ever do during Communism, and that view was echoed by St Anthony the Great when he prophesised that there will come a time when mules will stand around the altar. When asked what this actually meant, he explained thus, “A mule is an animal which is difficult and stubborn in its ways, but it is neither able to give birth to offspring. In like manner there will come a time when priests and bishops will be unable to give birth to or nurture spiritual children who will be disciples of Christ!”.

      Finally, regarding your writings, the first and most important thing to note is to ensure your command of English is correct and sound because in the online environment it is very easy to be misunderstood, especially nowadays where people are more inclined to be offended over the smallest of slights. This of course is pride, but an Orthodox must speak the truth in love and with patience and forbearance. Yet they must also be wise to the “Logomacheia” of people who only seek to argue incessantly even if they are wrong. So choose your discussions carefully and with whom, because if you sit down to respond to all, it would become a 24 hour preoccupation for 7 days a week, 365 days a year till the day you die. There’s no point wasting time over people who choose to be blind and deaf. Therefore it is better to engage people who will talk about matters of faith, culture, society, politics or whatever the subject may be, in a sensible, informed and mature manner, for they will learn from you, and you will learn from them, even if they are not of the Faith or share its views. And do not go with the intention of trying to convert them to Orthodoxy or convert their thought towards it, that is counterproductive and not the Apostolic and Orthodox manner of evangelism, for each person is at differing stages of their life and in their heart. How many I know have converted to differing religions or atheistic ideologies only to realise that it was only their mind that temporarily converted, but their actions and heart did not correspond with this change. But in returning to the blog, ensure that it is user friendly, clearly organised and categorised and measured in its wording.

      I hope this comment has she some light on the thoughts you pose.
      God bless and may wisdom enlighten your every thought and action,

      With the sincere humble love of Christ,
      Mode of Life Projet

      • Thank you for your reply, my brother. I am not trying to be arrogant, but I guess I just wish to help spread the faith, and I, most importantly, want to save myself too. To go to Heaven, and be in the presence of God, is my most important goal, after all. Sometimes I can be selfish, like anyone, and a sinner, and I wish for God to redeem and sanctify me. If He does not wish me to be a part of the clergy, I could always be a monk, which is difficult, but, I heard, has less chance of being problematic and too much of a burden to bear, with everyone looking up to you for spiritual guidance, since being a monk is about personal salvation, and you have less of a duty to worry about everyone else. That’s why I heard people like John Chrysostom preferred being a monk to all else. It is one of the highest callings in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and is where many great writings in our church have come from, like the Philokalia. It can bring great peace to one’s life, despite the spare style of living, which I am completely fine with adopting. Not that I can even begin to compare myself to such men. I’m too sinful. But what I lack in holiness, I make up for in faith and love, and I wish and pray to God and His Saints every day that He makes me even half as holy as His great Saints. I know I have been called to celibacy, but my question now lies in whether I become a celibate clergyman or a monk. Either way, I would be very happy. I know I do not deserve to be called a bishop, a priest, or even a monk, but I prepare as much as I can, fasting, praying, abstaining from evil, and whatever else I can do. I do believe, despite my country’s terrible track record, and pray for Russia and other nations salvation. But she is a beautiful country, and God has much in store for us, as well as all of His creation. I know everything has been ordained by God, and nothing can stop that. Whatever He wills will come to pass.

        And your right about the Orientals: they are the closest to the Eastern Orthodox Church out of all the churches. Monasticism was started in Egypt, for example, where the Christian population is primarily Coptic Christian, and great saints like Saint Anthony the Great lived, as well as St Athanasius, St Cyril of Alexandria, and St Alexander of Alexandria, who also refuted Arius’ heresy, just like Athanasius did. But, the biggest problem lies in Miaphysitism. For me, that is the only real major difference between us and Coptics, Ethiopians, Armenians, etc. Their hierarchy, liturgy, vestments, etc, are so much like ours, almost the same! If they just accepted Chalcedon and the other Councils, they would be reunited to us. We need people like this in our church. And they were never as hostile towards us as the Catholics, and they are less foreign to our way of thinking. If they were Chalcedonian, and dyophysite, there would be no problem at all. By the way, do you know the difference between Miaphystism and Monophystism? I can’t figure out the difference. I know how they are different to us, but mono next to mia confuses me. It is even more obscure and hard to understand.

        My confessor says I have potential, and he says I am a nice person, and I truly hope that is true. He says God could be calling my to be a part of His church. I can’t be certain, but I feel as if God is talking to me. I have a strong relationship to God, and I have had many dreams where I was serving God in the church in virginity. That’s why I am still a virgin all these years, and have never touched a woman apart from my mother, my sister and my grandmother. I am just not interested in relationships. My family always said I could be a married priest, but I am just not interested in that, never have been. I know marriage is good, but virginity is better, like St Paul said. Some make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (not meaning castration, of course.) Most importantly, I want to devote my time to God and His people, and talk to Him, submit my will to His, and love Him for Him. I would not have time for this if I were married, or even had kids as well. Evangelizing is harder, too!

        My parish nearby is open to me, and so is the monastery, and I have to make the choice myself, with God’s aid, on which to choose. Bishops do have a greater obligation to be good, and sin more grievously than other people when they give a bad example to others. If I am a bishop one day, then I hope I’m not like that, and I pray for and hope for people to get better who are. Only God can judge them.

        One thing’s for sure: I am meant to be an ascetic. There will be temptation, from the world, women, etc, but I don’t want any of these things. I just want the aid and grace and sanctifying power of the Holy Trinity. I have to be careful, and pray that I do not receive any fantasies from the Devil, of course, and pray to God to protect me from that. The Devil hates people who give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom of God. I hate wealth. I despise the person I used to be, who was so materialistic and obsessed with looking perfect, wearing fancy clothes and Rolex watches. I sold everything, apart from enough clothes to put on my back for a week, and gave the rest of the money to the Church and to the poor, as well as a contribution to my seminary. I also sold my 2 cars, and bought a cheaper model, just good enough to get me where I need to be. I know this is almost nothing, but it is a start. I could never wear the sack-like material I wear now 6 or 7 years ago, just before I started my education in Theology. I don’t know why I was so scared of the change at first: it feels like wearing nothing to me now! Many saints were better than me, and even wore hair on their bodies and breastplates! I do almost nothing. I despise how sinful I am. I am the worst of men. I am truly grateful to God every day for His daily saving and perfecting of me: I move so slowly, and make so little progress, and whatever little I do is because of God, not me. I think the demons love people like me. But the Divine Logos always saves me from them just in time, before I do anything I would regret later on. I would be in such a miserable state right now if it weren’t for Him and Mary and Joseph, as well as my patron saints Boris and Gleb.

        I even have one little bone and some strands of hair of Saint Boris which I keep in a little pouch, and kiss every day. I always feel so grateful to him, but not grateful enough, I don’t think. My confessor tells me so all the time. He says I should model my life on his. He says he is a role model to all Orthodox believers on how to live their lives.

        Who is your patron saint? And do you try to be like him as well? It’s very difficult, isn’t it?

        I pray that you become more holy every day, bring people into the church, be sanctified by God, redeem yourself daily, take up your cross, and follow Christ as perfectly as you can, or more. I hope you go to Heaven, and I hope I go to meet you there, too! The world is truly fallen. One cannot trust anyone but God and His Saints. His Word and word will only remain true and unchanged until the end. I thank God for making us Orthodox Christian. I truly believe our Church has Christ within her.

        It is frustrating Evangelicalism, isn’t it? We need to become better at evangelizing and spreading the faith. I know we have done some work in Japan, China, The USA, and the United Kingdom, but we must do more work to spread God’s Word and His Gospel. The Born again Christians are so anti-establishment and church tradition. It can be very hard convincing them, despite all the historical evidence, that the Church is the way it is. I do not hate them, but I hate how deceived they have become.

        Are you a priest or something of that sort, within the clergy? How did you prepare to do God’s Will?

        Love you with all my heart, my brother, and I pray for you, as I said before. Let everyone see your blog, and be changed in mind, soul, strength and heart, like you said, and really be converted, and not just their minds, like you said.

        God bless!

        • There is no assertion of arrogance from my part, if anything it is to bring to attention that one needs to always be mindful of what their purpose or intent is, because even the best of intentions can mislead us or turn against us because we become so obsessed by them. And I say that especially for those who study theology, because I have seen too many times, good men with godly zeal and love, being broken by the reality around them or betrayed by those in authority. Therefore I say to you, it is good that you have this love and zeal, but I suspect due to the innocence of that zeal, the key thing needing cultivation and grounding, is discernment. But we are going into very private matters which if they are to be discussed, should not be done via this public forum. The weblog has its own email address as cited in the contact section.

          Regarding the Orientals, you highlighted exactly what I cited in a previous comment regarding how little we Eastern Orthodox actually know regarding the Oriental Orthodox. The theology of the 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon is confessed by the Orientals using a different terminology, and according to some, this council is accepted and considered authoritative. It is the 5th Ecumenical Council they have problems with, since it is the council which anathematises them. An issue that the late Fr George Florovsky and Fr John Romanides highlight regarding the Orientals (amongst other commentaries they have made regarding them). Their works, along with the studies that Fr George Dragas has conducted is of immense importance for all Eastern Orthodox need to read. But just to highlight another example for you, the term “physis” as employed in Alexandrine philosophical and theological terminology means “hypostasis” which is the Antiochene term that was employed by the Ecumenical Councils regarding the persons of the Holy Trinity and the Christological dogmas that they helped discern and express. In actual fact, if you look to the theology of St Cyril of Alexandria, he uses the term physis in the sense of hypostasis, thus his famous phrase “mia physis sesarkomeni” does not mean “one nature incarnate” (which can give us either miaphysitism or monophysitism), but means “one person (hypostasis) incarnate”. He then goes n to say “from which two natures are present”, which subsequent Ecumenical Council’s utilised. The difference is, is that at Chalcedon they used the Antiochene preposition of “en” (in) as opposed to “ek” (from) which was what Cyril cited. The preposition may differ, but they are looking at the same matter from slightly different angles to say the same thing. Cyril’s emphasis is that Jesus is who He is by virtue of being Jesus, and that His natures stem from this fact, not the other way around. And it is Cyril’s teaching by the way that is one of the key foundations of Oriental Orthodox theology.

          But to complicate matters for you, we should then consider the Assyrians, who by virtue of the Persians and later by the Arab Muslims, were prevented from attending and taking part in the Ecumenical Councils beyond the Second. And yet according to their Synodikon, the decisions of subsequent Ecumenical Councils such as the 4th are considered authoritative and binding, and for that matter hold precedence over many of their own local councils. Yet they are called Nestorians, even though their theology does not confess any form of Nestorianism if you look clearly at their dogmatics. They do use the term Theotokos, but are far more careful in its use because of the philosophical and grammatical meanings this term has in their language, because they cannot call Mary the mother of God the Father or the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the writings of Nestorius that they do use, are the ones which do not contain any heretical teachings, but if we are to believe what ecclesial historians are unearthing, many of the heretical teachings ascribed to Nestorius were not authored or expressed by him. But this point I cannot affirm since my command of Assyrian, Syriac is not firm, and what exists in Greek shows signs of different sources being utilised, so this point still remains a mystery regarding whether Nestorius did or did not teach what was ascribed to him. Nevertheless according to the Church Fathers, with the evidence they had on hand, was that Nestorius was a heretic. Based on the evidence they had,there is no doubt about heresy, but the question remains since that time, was it in actual fact Nestorius’ teachings, and to this I cannot answer but submit it to the appropriate Church authorities and their experts to examine this matter. In any case, dialogue with the intent for unity with the Assyrian Church should be engaged in immediately, as their theology and liturgical practices do not go contrary to Orthodox dogmatics, ecclesial governance/structures or the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils. But as I said, many things need to be examined as there is much ignorance on our side regarding the Oriental and Assyrian Orthodox Christians.

          Either way the Papists have caused schisms in those Churches and were able to create Assyrian/Chaldean, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopian, Malabar and Syriac Catholic churches. And the basis for their establishment as the various Papal Roman synods have cited, was that they did not confess any of the heretical views to which has been ascribed to them. Thus the question arises once again based on even the findings of dogmatic commissions of the Roman Catholic church regarding these Christians, that they are not in error. The difference is, is that those who went over to Rome’s “omophorion” (pallium) were then forced to accept the additional teachings that Rome sought to impose on all Christians and were condemned by the Orthodox. This can be seen within the directives of the Eastern Code of Canons of the Eastern Rite catholics, who contrary to popular understanding, are required to believe in dogmas such as the Filioque, immaculate conception etc.

          Finally, in regards to your concerns about the Evangelicals, I would not worry about them too much. They have come about due to historical circumstances that pervaded Western European Christendom with the ecclesial rule of Rome and its many abuses. It is only natural that they would adopt an individualist mindset and approach, they would naturally rail against what they perceive as an “institution” “hijacking” Christianity and the Gospel message. But their “knee-jerk” response has created the problems they now face and the myriad of over 24,000 denominations or the countless individuals who call themselves Christians but who are neither baptised or worship in a community, but live with their Bibles alone. And if they actually did practice Sola Scriptura, they would have deacons, priests and bishops along with many other things that are missing from their Christianity. And these are things being said by Evangelicals, Charismatics and many others themselves. The need for an actual liturgical cycle that helps express and live their faith. Many of them are beginning to say very Orthodox things in reaction to the path their religion has taken, others have even converted to Orthodoxy as a response. This has created a dialogue of sorts where Orthodox and Evangelicals are beginning to see eye to eye and coming to appreciate each other, but of course we need to stick to our guns because they need us to do so, because it helps them to ground themselves firmly.

          In any case, you cannot expect people who see the Church as an institution to understand what is the Church. They do not have a clear ecclesiology for as we cited, that view is coloured by their historical experience. It has taken figures like Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis to cause them to concede or begin to acknowledge what does the word church mean, and what is a church. But nevertheless, people walk according to the light they have been given and the struggle is to come towards where there is clearer and better light. In any case you will not convince them by words, but by becoming that which the Scriptures (that they hold so dear) teaches, and you can plant some seeds by personal example or by using history to explain a point, but leave the rest to God, as they will come in their own time. And if they don’t come, maybe they are not ready, or whether God sees it is more profitable for their soul to not be held accountable to the Orthodox standard, possibly allowing them to be tested by Orthodox and in like fashion testing the faith of Orthodox, so as both can grow. But rest assured in due time they will all return home, for the Church is home to all.

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