Voices from Russia

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Paffso’s Old Monastery to Face Wrecking Ball

00 point reyes monastery. 20.09.14

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An anonymous developer wants to tear down the remnants of an old monastery in Inverness Park CA to build six new structures, totalling 8,300 square feet of building area. The 17-acre parcel near the start of Drakes Summit had been the home of St Eugene’s Hermitage, a Christian community that lived in cramped cottages, made candles, and whispered prayers in a small white chapel since 1951. The monks departed in 2006 after repeated attempts to expand provoked neighbours’ ire, leaving the property unoccupied and littered with fir needles for the past several years. The new owners, Hidden Dragon, LLC, submitted designs to county planners last month to demolish the four existing structures and build a 5,494-square-foot two-story home, a second 750-square-foot residence for the caretakers, a 1,316-square-foot detached studio for art or writing, two garages, a lap pool, and a “meditation hut”. They also plan to install two septic systems, two 5,000-gallon water tanks, a 1,000-gallon propane tank, and four parking spaces for guests. They want to remove four dozen Douglas-fir, California bay, coast live oak, and madrone trees, 31 of which have protected status due to their size; they’d replant 28 California live oak big leaf maple and buckeye trees.

The Inverness Association’s design review committee will look at the application over the coming weeks, said Bridger Mitchell, the group’s vice president. The Community Development Agency is accepting comments on the application’s completeness and the project’s merits until next Friday, 12 September. Designed by Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects, whose other residences the New York Times described as “ruggedly elegant” and “uncomplicated” in form, the primary residence is a steel and concrete structure with a painted metal roof. Its walls would feature an aged-wood siding to match the dense forest around the home, and its rooms look out onto the landscape through large windows. Architect Steve Grim said that his design intends to be a transition between the meadow and the forest on the parcel, a mediation “between those two experiences while being in and of both”. It utilises a pavilion structure to reduce bulk and keep a low visual profile from the street. Inspired by the J B Blunk house, Mr Grim said that the design means to be “sustainable, healthy, and visually unobtrusive”.

Chris Stanton, who represents the titleholders through his San Rafael CA-based firm, Inverness Construction Management, wouldn’t disclose the names behind the limited liability corporation. According to the California Secretary of State’s records, the agent behind the LLC is Whitney Rugg, who lives in a luxury Presidio Landmark apartment recently remodelled from a dilapidated graffiti-painted hospital in San Francisco. The home will be their secondary residence for now, but the owners plan to retire here, Mr Stanton said (a young couple with a child who previously lived in West Marin will be the property’s stewards and live fulltime in the second cottage). In that sense, the property is returning to its oldest use… Inverness began as a hideaway, or a hermitage, if you will, for those in “the Establishment”, as historian Jack Mason wrote in Earthquake Bay. During the summer, “bankers, doctors, and judges from San Francisco and the Valley cities, and academicians from the Berkeley scene” retreated to their Inverness houses, which “reflected taste and affluence that set the town apart from the jerry-built summer colonies elsewhere in the county”.

James Cobb, who worked in the insurance business and lived in Berkeley with his wife and five children, built the first house on the parcel, which appears to still be standing, in 1920. During the summer town’s heyday… between the building of a horse-and-wagon stageline to Point Reyes Station in 1905 and the downturn after the Great Depression that bankrupted the hotels… the house was a vacation home, presumably, or even a rental. A later owner, Maria Lurie of San Francisco, gifted the property to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1951. She named it St Eugene’s as a memorial to her son Eugene Lurie, an infantryman killed on the last day of World War II only hours before the declaration of peace.

The first inhabitant, Rev Dimitri Egoroff, built two small cottages… one with a chapel suitable for one person to occupy and another with a kitchen and reception area for guests. In a 1956 sermon, Fr Dmitri recounted, “In the California forest, on the small hill on which the monastery stands, an air of detachment from one’s surroundings, which were somewhere down below, wafted. The place reminded one of something Athonite (a holy mountain in Greece with twenty Orthodox monasteries) and breathed an untroubled peace”. Under vows of poverty, chastity, and solitude, Fr Dmitri lived alone, praying the morning matins and the nightly even-song until his health began to decline after 18 years. At each sunset, his chanting, “Thou makes darkness and it is night”, echoed through the forest accompanied by floating trails of incense.

After the founder left, several monks trickled in and out until a group of nuns moved from Calistoga in 1983. They resumed a years-long project to build a small chapel suitable for services. Completed in 1988, they built it around the cupola from the belltower of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco, where the young Mr Lurie had been a member of the congregation before his death. A relic with a piece of a saint’s toe and painted icons of Jesus surrounded the walls, all lit by beeswax candles on silver bases. When the nuns could no longer care for the property and moved to Santa Rosa, the Monastery of St John took over operations in 1996. They continued to make candles in a rusting shipping container and pray in regular devotions, but the growing organisation of about a dozen monks needed to expand beyond the original dwellings, intended for one or two people, and had since fallen into disrepair due to crude construction and an infestation of black mould after years in fog. The monks’ plans faced continual rejection… “stymied by Marin County officialdom”… and eventually, fed up, they dismantled their small chapel, loaded it onto the back of a flatbed truck, and carried it off with them north to Manton, a remote town in Tehama County, in 2008.

Mr Stanton said the new owners, like the holy men before them, have “concerns” about how their plans will be received, saying, “I wouldn’t equate it with the chapel, a residence, and having 30 people at the site, but you know, it’s West Marin, and so we plan to see some objections raised”. One wonders how the men and women in black robes would react to seeing their cottages bulldozed, how the monks who renounced this world to instead plead daily for repentance would feel observing the new owners towel off from the pool and retreat into their own meditation hut. In his 1956 sermon, Fr Dmitri gave his own arguments justifying a “small, modest, secluded” life. He preached, “A person in the world becomes accustomed to the world and starts to live by its interests, but we know that everything in the world is temporary and swiftly passing. As for man, his days are as the grass… as a flower of the field, so shall he blossom forth. For when the wind is passed over it, then it shall be gone, and no longer will it know the place thereof”.

4 September 2014

Christopher Peak

Point Reyes (CA) Light

http://www.ptreyeslight.com/article/proposed-inverness-park-home-would-raze-historic-retreat

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

St Herman Monastery LIES and PUFFS UP Podmo’s Funeral

podmo funeral 02. 15.07.14

Podmo’s funeral at Holy Dormition parish in Santa Rosa CA… do note the lack of a proper iconostas

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A Cabinet member sent me this (hold on to your cookies… it’s off kilter and divorced from all reality)… no URL available, just copies of two e-mails:

E-mail One:

Fr Herman was buried in Sebastopol CA in the new Orthodox section of one of the cemeteries in the area. It was the decision of our Bishop Maxim to not allow his burial at the monastery. The below is a report sent out by one of the parishioners at the Holy Dormition Church. If you like, I’ll ask her permission to send you a link to the photos that were taken during the funeral and burial.

Yours in Christ,

The unworthy Hieromonk Paisius, secretary

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E-mail Two:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As most of you know, Fr Herman reposed in the Lord on the morning of 30 June 2014 in Minneapolis MN. The funeral for Monk Herman Podmoshensky, the former Abbot of St Herman of Alaska Monastery, was served at Holy Dormition Orthodox Church in Santa Rosa CA (USA) on Thursday, 3 July 2014. His Grace Daniil, Vicar Bishop of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Bulgarian Patriarchate), officiated. He was assisted by the clergy of Holy Dormition and Hieromonk Paisii of the St Herman of Alaska Monastery, and by nearly 20 priests, hieromonks, and other clergy of many canonical Orthodox jurisdictions, and by monastics and laypeople from all over America and from as far away as Mt Athos and Moscow.

The graveside burial service took place in the Orthodox section of the Pleasant Hills Memorial Park in Sebastopol CA. The address of this cemetery is 1700 Pleasant Hill Road, Sebastopol CA  95472; it’s only a 15-20 minute drive west of Santa Rosa CA, deep in the countryside. After the graveside service, those who didn’t have to leave immediately to the airport gathered under the redwoods next to the Holy Dormition Church for a memorial meal. Bishop Daniil, who became a monk in Bulgaria when converted as a young man by the writings of Fr Seraphim Rose, never met Fr Herman, so many of those present shared dozens of stories about their encounters with Fr Herman.

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An interlocutor commented on the situation:

It happened at the OCA (sic) church in Santa Rosa CA, a bit north of San Francisco. If that’s their iconostas, how strange! … Did they do his funeral in their church hall, not in their church proper, for some reason? This church in Santa Rosa belongs to the Bulgarians; it’s a bunch of HOOMies.

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Another Cabineteer opined on California Fats, and why he’d avoid going to his guru’s funeral:

He won’t go… that type forgets the past and expects us not to bring it up… he also doesn’t honour his friendships.

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Firstly, here are images of the church and of its parishioners:

00 Holy Dormition 'Orthodox' parish. Santa Rosa CA. 15.07.14

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00 Holy Dormition 'Orthodox' parish 02. Santa Rosa CA. 15.07.14

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A careful headcount gives fifty people (including clergy) in this “parish”. For his miniscule conventicle, there are THREE PRIESTS and TWO DEACONS. I shit you not (click here for the proof). There’s no real iconostas in this “church”… NONE. One can tell that the funeral was in the church proper by the presence of the bema. The “About” section of the website doesn’t give the foundation date for the parish (odd… that’s one of the most important titbits on a normal parish’s site), but it does refer to the patronal feastday in 2007, so, this odd lot is at least seven years old, if not older.

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Here’s an image of the “crowd” at the funeral and of the trapeza after the burial:

podmo funeral 03. 15.07.14

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podmo funeral 01. 15.07.14

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podmo funeral 04. 15.07.14

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There are ten seats at each table; it looks like there are six or nine tables in all, not counting the clergy table (do note the empty seats at the tables… there may be another row of three tables out of sight). That is, at most, there could be 60 or 90 people at the funeral (but there wasn’t… the empty seats are mute testimony to that)… this tiny conventicle couldn’t fit that many, to be frank. My guess is that about 40 to 60 people, all told, attended this affair. I only counted six clergy in the images, and the largest number of laypeople in any one image was 33. There wasn’t 20 clergy present… that figure is fiction at best, a self-serving lie at worst. In short, a small bunch of groupies gathered for Podmo’s funeral. The OCA, ROCOR, MP, GOAA, Serbian, or Antiochian bishops and clergy were no-shows. None of ‘em showed up. NONE. Fatso didn’t show up, even though Podmo was his guru for years (including after his 1988 deposition… James Paffhausen went to Russia under Podmo’s auspices in that Russky Palomnik boondoggle, remember?). Note well that the Serbian bishop refused to allow the burial of Podmo at Platina. That means that he doesn’t trust the Seraphim Rose groupies. Maxim refused to come to the funeral… yet, the Platina brotherhood (and the nuns nearby) came to the affair. This means that they’re unrepentant and haven’t truly turned away from Podmo’s oddbod teachings. Actions DO speak louder than words do. Never forget, we live in a crank world where first impressions can be misleading. Have a care… there be dragons…

BMD

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Abbot Theodor Micka, Abbot of Holy Cross Monastery in California, Dies… Will be Buried at His Monastery Per His Last Request… Вечная ему память!

00 Archimandrite Theodor Micka. 18.06.14

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Editor:

As usual, oca.org did a shitty job on this story. I found the following after a quick Google search. Lil’ Mizz Ginny’s living down to her lazy reputation.

Do remember to light a candle for Abbot Theodor and do ask your priest to mention his name at Proskomidi and have Pannikhida said for him. We’re Christians, that’s what we do.

Вечная ему память!

BMD

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For nearly 35 years, Abbot Theodor Micka tended to the grounds of his 9-acre (3.65-hectare) monastery in Castro Valley CA. Now, the 75-year-old is asking state lawmakers for a rare exemption to California law that would allow him to remain at the monastery he co-founded after he dies. State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), whose district includes the monastery, said, “From the moment the request was made, we got on this immediately. We looked at the best way to address the request with all due haste so he knows his final request will be granted”. SB124 would allow Alameda County to issue a burial permit for Micka on the Holy Cross Monastery grounds. Existing state law requires a burial at a cemetery, unless a person is cremated. Because the monastery isn’t a designated cemetery, burying the abbot on the property would be considered a misdemeanour without the special law. With the legislative deadline to introduce bills having passed, Corbett employed a routine process known as a gut-and-amend, where new language replaces the contents of a bill. In this case, a bill to create incentives for the state to hire clean-energy contractors who use California products had stalled and was going nowhere.

Assembly Hearing

Now, the bill is scheduled to be heard Thursday in the Assembly, where it’s expected to pass and head to the Senate on Monday. Corbett said, “We’re hoping to have this on the governor’s desk by next week. This is something we should do so the abbot can rest in peace”. Ordained in 1964, Micka knew he wanted to build a monastery with the inheritance his mother left him. Micka and Fr Stephen Scott made a pact in 1970 to open the monastery, spending nearly a decade raising the additional money needed. The pair expanded the monastery over the years by buying properties next to their rural lot, surrounded by regional parks, wineries, and a few homes. Scott said Holy Cross is the only Orthodox monastery in the Bay Area. The monks provide weekly religious services, along with baptisms, weddings, and memorials for Orthodox Christians.

In April, Micka was diagnosed with advanced cancer at the junction of the oesophagus and stomach. Scott said Micka continued to deliver services up until recent months, when his condition worsened. Scott, who’s now Micka’s caregiver, said, “He’s restricted to his bed. He gets a lot of visitors. He’s very much loved”. Scott said he envisions the abbot’s final resting place to be somewhere near their chapel. After working with the Religious Liberty Clinic at Stanford University, Scott said they decided to pursue a narrowly crafted state law that allows Micka to be buried at the monastery.

Not Unprecedented

The state Legislature passed a similar exemption in 2005 that allowed Metropolitan Anthony Gerigiannakis, a spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, to be buried on the grounds of St Nicholas Monastery, which he founded in Fresno County. Gerigiannakis died a month before then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill. Scott said that he hopes to be able to tell Micka that his final request has been granted, saying, “We’re trying to get this done, while Fr Theodor is still alive, so he has the peace of knowing where he’ll be”.

20 March 2014

Melody Gutierrez

San Francisco (CA) Chronicle

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Abbot-s-last-wish-burial-at-his-Castro-Valley-5332773.php

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On Tuesday morning, his fellow priests awakened Abbot Archimandrite Theodor Micka with some good news. Governor Jerry Brown had signed legislation allowing the ailing 76-year-old abbot, who has terminal cancer, to be buried on the grounds of his Alameda County monastery. Micka said in a phone interview, “I’m in really high spirits now”. Despite continuing chemotherapy, he said, “I have strength that’s almost superhuman this morning”.

Micka spent decades developing an Orthodox monastery in Castro Valley, buying the first plot of land in 1979. In addition to daily prayer and study, Micka and other monks planted trees, tended gardens, and stacked stones for walls. Micka said, “I want to be part of the earth again. That’s why it’s important to be buried here at the monastery. It’s a place that I’ve laboured in, both spiritually as well as physically”.

Because the law requires the deceased to be buried in cemeteries, Micka needed an exemption to be laid to rest at the monastery. A legal clinic at the Stanford Law School and State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), whose district includes the monastery, pushed for legislation granting that exemption. It wasn’t lost on Fr Stephen Scott, who helped create the monastery with Micka, that the governor who signed the legislation considered becoming a priest himself before entering politics. Brown spent four years studying at a Jesuit seminary before attending UC Berkeley and Yale Law School. Scott said, “He probably understands what a sacrifice the abbot must have made in his life”.

25 March 2014

Chris Megerian

Los Angeles (CA) Times

http://articles.latimes.com/2014/mar/25/local/la-me-pc-jerry-brown-religion-abbot-20140325

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Abbot Theodor Micka, whose dying wish to be buried at his Castro Valley monastery was granted by California lawmakers, died Tuesday in the arms of a long-time friend. Fr Stephen Scott said in a message to friends of the monastery, “I was with him feeding him breakfast just five minutes after the hospice nurse left. Suddenly, his eyes rolled back and he sighed. Then, he breathed no more. It was a peaceful, painless, and blessed passing”.

Abbot Micka and Scott opened the Holy Cross Monastery in 1979, the fulfilment of what Abbot Micka called a lifelong dream. Monks provide weekly religious services for Orthodox Christians, along with baptisms, weddings, and memorials. Abbot Micka, 75, was diagnosed last year with advanced cancer at the junction of the oesophagus and stomach. When his condition worsened, the monastery sought the help of the Religious Liberty Clinic at Stanford to help Abbot Micka and Scott pursue an exemption to state law so the abbot could be buried on the 9-acre monastery property. State law requires burial at a cemetery, unless a person is cremated. Failure to do so is a misdemeanour. Because the monastery isn’t a cemetery, the abbot needed an exemption. State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), whose district includes the monastery, said it was important to get a bill through the Legislature and onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk as soon as possible. When Brown signed the bill in March, Abbot Micka said he was “filled with enthusiasm”. Abbot Micka’s funeral will be Saturday at the monastery.

18 June 2014

Melody Gutierrez

San Francisco (CA) Chronicle

http://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Monk-who-asked-lawmakers-for-special-burial-dies-5561582.php

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Schedule of Events:

Archimandrite Theodor will lie in state at the monastery through Friday, 20 June, when the Trisagion will be celebrated at 19.00 PDT (16.00 EDT. 21.00 BST. 00.00 Saturday 21 June MSK. 06.00 AEST). The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated on Saturday, 21 June, at 10.00 PDT (07.00 EDT. 12.00 BST. 15.00 MSK. 21.00 AEST), followed by the Funeral Service and interment. A memorial meal will follow.

The time in various zones is given so that priests and believers can coördinate their prayers with the service times in California, if they desire

BMD

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Popular Pope, But Same Old Church

00 Pope Francisco meets the Orthodox Grumpy Cat. 08.11.13

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It is impossible to ignore the impact of Pope Francisco, a modern-day pope who operates with humility and directness, who lives simply, who prefers to spend his time with the poor and the marginalised, and who sees his role as pastor, compassionate friend, and fellow sinner on the Christian journey. The photos of Pope Francisco embracing a man disfigured by neurofibromatosis and the scene of the little boy on the stage in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican as Francisco addressed pilgrims tell us all we need to know about the humanity and accessibility of our new pope. Some bishops are desperately trying to reassure their followers that nothing’s changing. Nevertheless, that’s a tough sell when the head of the Roman Catholic Church tells his bishops that they’re obsessed with abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage, and when he says he doesn’t judge gays and lesbians. Something’s changing. However, is this change simply one of tone?

Francisco’s comments on the appointment of bishops suggest that his criteria have less to do with loyalty and orthodoxy and more to do with pastoral experience and compassion. All the same, in his first American appointment, one that wasn’t in the pipeline before his papal election, he named Bishop Leonard Blair as the new archbishop of Hartford CT. Blair’s a true believer culture warrior and former Vatican official who led the charge against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious last year and earlier joined in the condemnation of Notre Dame University for having President Barack Obama as a speaker. In light of Francisco closing the door on female priests, many women theologians and lay leaders are wondering about his emphasis on a new role for women in the church.

Jamie Manson, a Yale-trained theologian and a writer for National Catholic Reporter, suggested that we shouldn’t get too excited. For her, the bottom line is that, in spite of the warmth and sincerity of the Pope’s words, he isn’t indicating any change in church teaching. She points up that the pope said that the church doesn’t want to wound gays and lesbians, but “Francisco doesn’t seem to understand that it’s precisely the teaching of the church that’s doing the wounding”. Manson asks a broader question, “What good is a more pastoral church when, ultimately, gays and lesbians are still told their relationships are sinful, women are still barred from answering God’s call to ordained ministry, African-American women and men routinely affected by HIV/AIDS can’t get access to condoms, women in need of lifesaving abortions are forced to die, and starving families in countries like the Philippines are denied access to condoms?” Manson has a point. It’s possible that the most that Francisco’s words would accomplish would be to neutralise those bishops who lean whichever way the papal wind blows. Worse, the pope’s comments would provide protective cover for the more outspoken orthodox bishops. They might tone down their comments, but they’d not change their attitudes or their policies.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York may praise Francisco, but Dolan compared same-sex marriage to incest and declared that gays and lesbians “don’t have the right stuff”. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the American church’s cheerleader against same-sex marriage, hasn’t let Francis’ softer tone slow down his continued negative crusade. Cordileone and others like him are young enough to wait out Francis, organise before the next papal conclave, and put a true believer back in place. Pope Francisco might be a bridge builder, but, for now, no bridge is long enough to span the dichotomy between the church’s expression of love for gays and lesbians and the simultaneous condemnation of them when they act consistent with their nature. I’m a 73-year-old, white, heterosexual male, and I haven’t been on the receiving end of the ignorance, hate, and narrow orthodoxy that religious belief can still stir up. Yet, Jamie Manson and her partner have been. My son and his partner have been… and thousands like them, all made in the image and likeness of God, were on the receiving end of hate and ignorance, and in the context of our church, the maddening, wounding, mixed message of love and condemnation.

Until there’s an openness to new interpretations of Scripture regarding homosexuality, until the new thinking on natural law is accepted that sexual orientation isn’t a choice but part of the nature of the person, and until the growing number of moral theologians who offer compelling arguments that sexual acts should be seen in terms of harm or good to individuals rather than in terms of offending God, there’s no lasting change and the wounds remain open. What’s more, our new pope, unintentionally, might seduce many into thinking that things are getting better and provide cover for the Cordileones of our church to continue their campaign of condemnation and exclusion. On the other hand, I’ve learned from my own recent life experiences that God’s grace can mysteriously arise out of excruciating pain, so I don’t give up hope. Nor would I want to underestimate the potential grace of a modern-day pope who prioritises Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness over doctrine and orthodoxy.

8 November 2013

Brian Cahill

CNN

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/08/opinion/cahill-pope-francis/index.html

Brian Cahill is the retired executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities. He’s a volunteer suicide prevention trainer with the San Francisco Police Department. He writes occasionally for the San Francisco Chronicle and the National Catholic Reporter.

Editor’s Note:

I agree with Mr Cahill:

I’ve learned from my own recent life experiences that God’s grace can mysteriously arise out of excruciating pain, so I don’t give up hope. Nor would I want to underestimate the potential grace of a modern-day pope who prioritises Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness over doctrine and orthodoxy.

Pope Francisco Bergoglio is a sincere straight human being, with correct impulses as far as social justice and politics go. In fact, he’s in total agreement with HH on such matters. I’ve praised that, I praise it now, and I’ll continue to praise it. On the other hand, Francisco’s the “same old salesman with the same old shop-worn goods”. That is, in terms of Church doctrine and dogma, he’s still “Frankie Bag o’ Donuts” (as one of the Cabinet put it), with no new items to put on the table. In short, there’s no breakthrough in the offing… not now, not soon, not later… no way, no how. No Orthodox Christian wants a Unia… that’s all that Francisco has on offer concerning us.

I wish Francisco well and at least ten more years of active life to put some parts of the Vatican to rights. However, there’s no prospect of any healing of the Great Latin Schism… they haven’t repented of 1054, nor shall they. Ergo, “send us letters of friendship, only”… that’s the only thing graspable by human hands. God willing, we can do that, at least…

BMD

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