5/10/2013 - The Order of Saint Andrew expresses grave concern and outrage at the recently uncovered plot to assassinate His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on May 29th--the 560th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople.
The personal safety and security concerns of His All-Holiness have been conveyed to the highest levels of the U.S. Government, including the White House, State Department and the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Francis J. Ricciardone.
Turkey uncovers alleged plot to kill Orthodox patriarch
Turkey is investigating an alleged plot to assassinate Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, and has stepped up security around the patriarchate in Istanbul, his spokesman said on Friday.
Spokesman Dositheos Anagnostopoulos said the patriarch had not received any direct threats but had learned of the alleged plot from Turkish media, which was later confirmed to the patriarchate by Turkish police.
"Later in the day, police informed the patriarchate of a possible threat and dispatched additional police officers," Anagnostopoulos said.
Turkish broadcaster NTV said one man had been arrested in relation to the alleged plot, after state prosecutors in central Kayseri province received an anonymous letter saying there was a plan to assassinate Bartholomew on May 29, the anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of present-day Istanbul.
It said police were still searching for two men in relation to the alleged plot.
The Ankara chief public prosecutor's office, which local media said is leading the investigation, could not be immediately reached for comment.
There has been at least one previous assassination plot against Bartholomew in recent years but the patriarchate sought to play down Friday's reports.
"The patriarch is not taking this too seriously. He doesn't believe there is a serious threat," Anagnostopoulos said.
Known often by his full title Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the historical name for Istanbul, he is the spiritual head of worldwide Orthodoxy, which split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054.
Previous attacks on Christians have raised concerns about the safety of religious minorities in Muslim Turkey, which has around 100,000 Christians out of a total population of 76 million.
In 2010, a leading Catholic bishop was stabbed to death at his home in southern Turkey by his driver and in 2006, a Roman Catholic priest was murdered in the Black Sea town of Trabzon by a teenager with suspected links to ultra-nationalists.
In 2007, three members of a Bible publishing company, one of whom was a German citizen, were tortured and killed in Malatya in central Turkey.
(Reporting by Ayla Yackley; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Michael Roddy)
NEW YORK – In response to the reports in Turkish and world media about an assassination plot against His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Demetrios of America today wrote to President Obama urging him to exercise his good offices to ensure the safety of His All Holiness.
Noting the continuing crisis in Aleppo, Syria, where the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Hierarchs remain missing, kidnapped by terrorists, the Archbishop asked the President to protect His All Holiness, as the 1,700 year presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) is the highest Christian presence of a Christian leader in a Muslim country.
Today is Easter for the world's 350 million Orthodox Christians, who just completed their Holy Week of prayer and fasting which culminated in today's message of transcendent hope. But all last week and today, Orthodox Christians the world over have been reminded that politics trumps human rights. There's a cruel irony in the fact that Orthodox Christians--whose belief that all persons are created equally and distinctly in the image and likeness of God is a perfect expression of the contemporary view that human rights are universal--have been reminded, yet again, that the United States is unwilling to prioritize international law and justice over the worst kind of political cowardice and geopolitical calculations.
Two examples illustrate the repugnant fact that the US is willing to write off Orthodox Christians when it comes to making ethical choices to uphold human rights principles, instead opting to overlook gross human rights violations in the interests of realpolitik.
The first case concerns the abduction of the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi, on April 23 by armed assailants believed to be part of the opposition fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Well over a week after their kidnapping, the fate of the two religious leaders remains unknown; while no particular organization has claimed responsibility, all evidence points to the work of foreign fighters centrally embedded in the radical opposition, led by the al Nusra Front (officially designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department) calling for the implementation of a Sharia state in Syria.
Despite appeals from religious and political leaders around the world--including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' condemnation of the kidnappings; the call by the Office of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the immediate release of the detained Archbishops and their safe return to their communities; a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America; Pope Francis' call to peace in Syria and an entreaty for the release of the two Orthodox Archbishops; and calls from Imams across Damascus in Friday prayers on April 26 for the release of the Orthodox hierarchs and condemnation of their abduction as a violation of "the sanctity of Christian and Islamic clergymen"--the US has remained shockingly silent on the matter.
There's a compelling argument that Washington's moral authority (the "soft power" objectives of demonstrating that America's domestic commitment to religious liberty for all citizens is the best way to ensure that the Syrian opposition groups will endorse a post-Assad social and political compact that treats Sunnis, Alewites, Christians, Jews, and others as equal before the law) and strategic objectives ("hard power" considerations of preventing the consolidation of a Wahhabi-style, Salafist regime in Damascus and the establishment of an al Qaeda beachhead in Syria, both of which will cripple any possibilities for building a rule-of-law democracy in Syria and will contribute to a dramatic deterioration in the security environment of key US allies such as Israel and Jordan) would be best served by coming to terms with the harsh reality conveyed in the snatching of the two Orthodox prelates outside Aleppo: namely, the self-styled leaders of the Syrian version of the Arab Spring, especially the radical Islamists who have captured the opposition forces, have no interest in universal human rights, much less in the principles of tolerance which are foundational to any healthy democratic polity.
Unfortunately, the demonstrated indifference of the Obama administration, which has spent the last week fixated on whether or not the red line tripwire of chemical weapons-use by the Assad regime had been triggered, to the plight of the kidnapped Orthodox prelates sends a message that the US is less than interested in a human-rights plank in its foreign policy. Apparently, the foreign policy of red lines, which amounts to the Obama administration deciding whether to risk recreating in Syria the colossal error of the Bush administration in Iraq, has meant that Washington was also too preoccupied to develop a UN Security Council statement condemning the abduction of Ibrahim and Yazigi--it was Russia, which condemned the kidnapping in a recent session of the UN Security Council.
Paradoxically, Syria's Christians have been regularly chastised in US media circles for their expressed lack of enthusiasm for the opposition to the Assad government, and the consistent warnings of Ibrahim and Yazigi, that the tyranny of an al Qaeda-Sharia state in Syria would fragment the country and dwarf the oppression of the Assad dictatorship, was dismissed in Washington policy circles as the whining of Christian toadies of the dictatorship of the Alewite minority in Syria.
Hindsight may now be twenty-twenty, but Washington has only belatedly begun to realize the stupidity of a Syria policy built on the adage of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." In the meantime, Syria has begun to hemorrhage Christians, echoing the trendlines from Iraq. Orthodox Christians are disproportionately prominent victims of the overall cleansing of Christianity that has been a hallmark of the Arab Spring events, which has its analog in the annihilation of Christians in Turkey over that country's history.
Although certainly a violation of the universal human right of religious freedom, the abduction of the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop has been a non-event for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The USCIRF is the key US government agency tasked with monitoring international religious freedom in countries around the world, with designating countries that are egregious violators of religious freedom, and with making foreign policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress for remedies to religious freedom violations. The USCIRF has issued not a single word of concern, criticism, or condemnation of the snatching of Syria's Orthodox prelates.
But that's not the only disheartening news for Orthodox Christians during Holy Week. Equally outrageous was the release on April 30 of the 2013 Annual Report by the USCIRF, in which Turkey was given a free pass by the Commission and, by extension, the Obama administration and the Kerry State Department, for its ongoing, deliberate policies designed to eradicate Christians and their presence from Turkey.
The 2012 USCIRF Annual Report had identified "the Turkish government's systematic and egregious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief that affect all religious communities in Turkey, and particularly threaten the country's non-Muslim religious minorities," as the basis for designating Turkey a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). In an unprecedented volte face in USCIRF's designation of countries according to a three-tier system--CPCs (the world's worst religious-freedom violators), Watch List Countries (serious violators that require careful monitoring but which haven't reached the CPC threshold), and Other Countries and Regions Monitored (cases where there are some actions and policies detrimental to overall religious freedom conditions)--the 2013 USCIRF report leap-frogged Turkey from its position on the CPC list to a new spot on the list of Other Countries and Regions Monitored, based on the patently false claim that "Turkey is moving in a positive direction with regard to religious freedom."
Once again, Orthodox Christians (Greek, Armenian, and Syriac) are the main casualties of Washington's willingness to sacrifice universal human rights on the altar of a vulgar geostrategic calculus that positions Turkey as a supposed model for democracy, tolerance, and pluralism in Muslim-majority, Arab Spring countries. The USCIRF upgrade of Turkey is a case of outright appeasement vis-à-vis the government of Prime Minister Erdogan, which has spent the last decade spinning a narrative of openness to Turkey's Christian (and other) religious minorities, most of whom have been largely decimated by decades of "secular, democratic" policies implemented by the Kemalist Deep State--read, the contemporary inheritors of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whose paradigmatic act as founder of the Turkish Republic was the genocide of 2.5 million Armenian, Greek, and Syriac Orthodox Christians.
The Erdogan government's expert use of public relations flourishes (for example, widely publicized worship services at the Greek Orthodox Sumela Monastery in Trabzon and the Armenian Orthodox Aktamar Church were one-off events totally controlled by the Turkish government) and interminable promises (only a few weeks ago, when Secretary of State Kerry visited Istanbul on Syria-related business, Turkish officials reiterated their tired trope of reassurance that impediments to the re-opening of the Greek Orthodox Theological School of Halki are being addressed) have produced no changes in the constitutional, judicial, and security architectures that led the USCIRF to designate Turkey a CPC in 2012.
By the USCIRF's own report in 2013, Halki remains shuttered 42 years after its closing and 10-plus years into the Erdogan era; there has been no overhaul of the property rights regime used to economically disenfranchise the country's Orthodox Christian citizens and strip Orthodox foundations of their lands, so that the USCIRF charactereized random returns of property, as in the case of forest lands around Halki returned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as "commendable" but "not codified by law." The 2013 USCIRF report also cited rising fear amongst Armenian Orthodox citizens of Turkey, because of hate crimes committed against members of their community, the most grotesquely emblematic case being that of an 84-year-old Armenian woman who was murdered in her Istanbul home with a cross carved into her chest. The Commission obliquely commented that the "Turkish local police promptly launched investigations into three cases, but it is not known if any arrests have been made connected to any of these incidents."
As for Turkish-occupied Cyprus, the USCIRF acknowledges that there has been no progress on rehabilitation of the more than 500 churches, monasteries, and religious sites desecrated in the northern part of the island controlled by the Turkish occupation forces and the local Turkish-Cypriot administration. Likewise, the Commission reports that there continues to be no freedom of worship for Orthodox Christians (as well as for Maronite and Roman Catholic Christians) who wish to practice their faith in the Turkish-occupied area, given that access to religious sites for worship remains contingent upon permission from the Turkish-Cypriot authorities.
The facts on the ground (ironically, reported by the USCIRF) underscore that the Commission's 2013 upgrade of Turkey represents the unadulterated triumph of politics over human rights in US foreign policy. Commendably, four Commissioners dissented from giving Turkey a blank check to violate the religious freedom rights of its own citizens as well as those citizens of the Republic of Cyprus living under Ankara's four-decades-long brutal occupation in northern Cyprus. As the dissenting Commissioners succinctly state, "Since the 2013 report itself does not reveal significant improvements in the conditions that led to placing Turkey on the watch list (sic) in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and listing it as a CPC in 2012, we are at a loss to understand how Turkey can be described as 'moving in a positive direction.'"
It's worth mentioning that this latest episode in the politics of Washington's approach to criticism of Turkey for its religious freedom violations is actually the sequel to political pressures brought to bear when the USCIRF designated Turkey a CPC in 2012. As was widely reported in the US print media last year, a political appointee in the State Department reached out to suggest that the Commission "rethink" its CPC designation before the release of the 2012 Annual Report, and failing that, encouraged a member of the UCIRF to change his vote on listing Turkey among the world's worst violators of international religious freedom. Instructively, the three Commissioners appointed by President Obama dissented from the 2012 CPC designation of Turkey.
Tragically, the 2013 USCIRF report sends an undeniable message to Orthodox Christians fearing for their survival in their ancestral homelands in Turkey and Turkish-occupied Cyprus, just as Washington's resounding silence in the face of the kidnapping of the Syriac and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo by Syrian opposition militants reinforces the message that the United States views Orthodox Christians in Syria as expendable. As these Orthodox Christians try to focus on the message of hope symbolized in the Easter Resurrection, they will face the supreme challenge of their own faith--to turn the other cheek to those who bring them harm. In this case, suffering Orthodox Christians in the Eastern Mediterranean will be turning their cheek, from the deliberate persecution and harm of oppressors in the region, to the injustice and harm caused by the indifference and triangulation of the government of the United States of America.
Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou is the Director of International Affairs for the Hellenic American Leadership Council and Affiliate Scholar at Harvard University's Center for European Studies.
Listen below to Paschal Message of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios for 2013. Click below to listen.
By God's mercy
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the plenitude of the Church
Grace, peace and mercy from Christ risen in glory
Beloved concelebrants and devout, god-loving children of the Church,
Christ is Risen!
The proclamation of the Resurrection by the myrrh-bearing women to the disciples of Christ was considered delirious. Yet, the word, formerly conceived as delirious, was confirmed as Truth. The risen Lord appeared to His disciples on several occasions.
In our time, the proclamation of the Resurrection is again considered delirious by rationalists. Nonetheless, we faithful not only believe in but also experience the Resurrection as a profoundly truthful fact. Indeed, if necessary, we seal our testimony with self-sacrifice because in the risen Christ we transcend death and are liberated from its fear. Our hearts are filled with joy when we repeat: The Lord has risen. Our saints, who have died according to the world, continue to live among us, responding to our petitions. The world that follows death is truer than the world that precedes death. Christ has risen and dwells among us. He has promised to be with us to the end of the world. And so He is – as our friend, brother, healer, who bestows all good things.
Blessed is our God, who has risen from the dead, granting eternal life to all people. O death, where is your sting? Christ has risen, revealing and ridiculing the one who formerly boasted without end to be a mockery. (See the Canon of St. John Damascene, 4th tone, 9th ode) Everything is filled with light and our hearts are replete with limitless joy.
And more than joy, they are filled with strength. For whoever believes in the Resurrection is unafraid of death; and whoever is unafraid of death is spiritually unyielding and unbending inasmuch as what may be the most terrible threat for the majority and for the disbelievers is of little significance to the Christian; for it is the entrance to life itself. The faithful Christian lives the Resurrection even prior to his or her natural death.
The consequence of experiencing the Resurrection is the transformation of the world. It inspires the soul. And an inspired soul also attracts other souls to its ways, when these souls are moved by the genuine joyous experience of immortality. Christ's Resurrection and our own resurrection are not simply an abstract truth. They are a dogma of faith. They are a tangible reality. They are a force that overcomes the world despite the extremely harsh persecutions waged against it. "This is the victory, which has conquered the world, namely our faith" (1 John 5.4) in His Resurrection. Through the Resurrection, humanity is called to divinity through grace. Through the victory of the light of Resurrection over the impure passions, divine eros and a strange love, which surpasses human boundaries, are established in our souls.
Therefore, Christ is Risen! Our hearts are filled with the light and joy of the Resurrection. We approach the Risen Lord with authenticity and simplicity. For, as the royal Prophet David says, our God, who supervises our hearts from above, "will not despise a broken and contrite heart." (Psalm 50.19)
The Resurrection is our strength, hope, joy, and delight. Through the Resurrection, we transcend pain and sorrow for all the evils of this natural, worldly life. The Resurrection is God's response to the helplessness of wounded humanity before the suffering of worldly humanity.
We do not surrender to the difficulties and challenges of the modern world. The gathering of the Lord's fearful disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem encourages us. We are not afraid because we love everyone, even as He loved us and gave His life for our sake. Mysteriously and invisibly, the Lord accompanies us. We only need to have – and we do have – love. For though love, we understand the power of the Mystery; we know the Mystery itself.
If others hesitate, "garnering their actions in thick sheaves" (Vespers of the Prodigal Son), yet we boast. And if we do not "winnow the chaff of our [sinful and passionate] actions with the wind of His loving-kindness or on the threshing floor of repentance," the Risen Lord is Love and disperses all forms of darkness and fear that surrounds us, entering our hearts and our world, even when the doors are closed. He "remains with us" permanently through the cross of love. His calling is peace, and He grants us His peace. The powerful of this world pledge and promise peace, but can never produce or realize it. Whereas the power of divine Love, Peace and Wisdom remains beyond all human panic. It is not found on the margins of reality or the surface of human convictions. Instead, it is the heart of humanity, the center of life, the lord of life and death. It is Truth.
The incontestable transcendence of Power invisibly controls the reigns and directs all things, especially at a time when "the minds of so many lie in darkness."
At this time of widespread dissolution throughout the world, the hope of all throughout the universe, the Wisdom of God, is the presence of the heavenly solution and harmony. At a time of collapse and anticipated death, we have the reality of Resurrection and the strength of our conviction in Christ.
The peace that derives from Him who trampled down death by death through his self-emptying, together with the joy of love, flow and heal our contemporary humanity that sighs and suffers as well as all of creation that groans and laments with us, who "await adoption and redemption" as well as "the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8.20-23)
Truly the Lord is Risen, beloved fathers, brothers and sisters!
Holy Pascha 2013
† Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God
Orthodox Christian Network is encouraging everyone to keep Archbishop Paul and Archbishop John, and all the people in the region in their prayers. Below are confirmed reports and communiques on this developing situation. Please visit back as this page will be updated as news becomes available.
Fr. Chris' Interview with Charles Ajalat - http://www.myocn.net/index.php/201305174526/ocn-now/4526-update-on-kidnapped-syrian-bishops.html
Letter from the Assembly of Bishops of North and Central America to Secretary of State John Kerry http://www.assemblyofbishops.org/news/2013/secretary-of-state-syrian-bishops
April 29, 2013 Update from Antiochian.org http://www.antiochian.org/support-abducted-syrian-hierarchs
Patriarch John X of Antioch's Encyclical for Palm Sunday http://www.myocn.net/index.php/201304294497/orthodox-news/4497-pastoral-message-of-patriarch-of-antioch-for-palm-sunday.html
Two Archbishops Kidnapped in Syria http://www.myocn.net/index.php/201304294497/orthodox-news/4497-pastoral-message-of-patriarch-of-antioch-for-palm-sunday.html
With God's mercy
To my brethren, the Shepherds of the Holy Church of Antioch and my Children throughout the Holy and Apostolic See
I address you today, at the end of Great Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, and at a time when we are being surrounded by much pain and suffering. Throughout our Antiochian lands, dangers threaten our homes, and political Conflicts storm our countries. As a result, man's livelihood, dwelling, and even life are at risk. We are tried every day by death or abduction, and our latest plight is the recent kidnapping of our beloved brothers, Bishop Paul Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, lskenderun and dependencies, and Bishop lohn Ibrahim, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, and the killing of the Deacon who was accompanying them.
I share the pain felt by a large number of believers in our Church as a result of these difficult circumstances. I strive with my brothers, the members of the Holy Synod, to lessen the impact of these conditions on our faithful and all citizens. This is an essential part of our Christian Witness. We, however, refuse to accept what man is undergoing today. We are working in that our rejection of this situation reflects the tenets of our beliefs. We reject this situation and condemn it. Since we are the children of the Resurrection, we are not afraid of Whoever takes violence as a way to achieve his purpose. To be killed, or kidnapped, or to have our institutions destroyed, will not change our resolve to uphold our civil life and our co-existence; to cling to our homeland and to seek the reign of justice and rights in our homelands. Therefore, each and every one of us, whether in the Antiochian motherlands or abroad, is invited to express his concern and personal rejection of the recent course of events, aside from any political realignment. Humanity is the object of Christianity, for our Lord Was incarnated for our salvation.
I take this opportunity to extend, on your behalf, in the motherlands and abroad, an appeal to the international community, urging it to do everything it can toward the release of hostages whose absence affects us deeply. The speedy closure of this issue is extremely important in order to avert the risk of terrible consequences that would follow. Our appeal also includes an urgent call for action in order to find a quick solution to the situation in our beloved Syria; for the salvation of the people who are the descendants of an outstanding human Civilization of thousands of years,and in order to prevent the risky consequences that could affect the entire region.
As we are entering the time ocfthe Holy Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, I invite you to reveal the unity of our Church who fervently gathers Her flock in all that is right and just.
In this time, let us exceptionally intensify our prayers and supplications. lust as our Lord was not afraid to walk on the path 0f Calvary; in the same Way we are invited to walk with Him along this path, being fully aware that by the Cross we shall conquer, because the Lord is risen from the dead and He will raise us with Him. Let us intensify our petitions as a living testimony, asking God to remove all injustice, praying for the quick return of our abducted hierarchs to their beloved ones, for the comfort of the bereaved, and for the deterrence of those people with cruel hearts, so that they may be inspired to refrain from harming their fellow human beings.
Therefore, I call on everyone, faithful and clergy, to approach Palm Sunday with a new spirit, remembering the passion of our Lord and connecting it with what we are living in today. Let the Resurrection occur in every human heart, as the Lord has raised Lazarus from the dead. Let us work to have Christ triumphantly enter into the world's heart through our service and ministry, as He entered Victoriously to Jerusalem. Let our processions be this year with candles tied with black ribbons, chanting the hymn: "To Thee O Champion Leader...," instead of the hymn "Rejoice O Bethany ___," asking the Virgin Mary to keep our Church as a fortified city.
I urge you to pray throughout this Holy Week with a broken spirit, being aware that in our trials, we have God as our refuge. God will not overlook His little flock. May love, service, and courage be the gateway to the joy of the Resurrection, a joy that cannot be taken away.
Issued at our Patriarchal Residence in the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, 0n April 27, 2013
Below are the official communique from the Patriarchal Office. Click on the language to download.
(Englewood, NJ) - His Eminence Metropolitan Philip is saddened to report that, in a telephone discussion that he had today with His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, it was learned that Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese Of Aleppo, and the brother of His Beatitude, as well as Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo, were both abducted by terrorists in a suburb of Aleppo as they were returning from Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) to Aleppo.
The deacon who was driving their automobile was shot and killed in the attack. As you know, Syria has been suffering from these acts of terror for more than 2 years.
We ask all of you to remember Metropolitan Paul, and Archbishop Gregorios in your prayers, asking the Lord to deliver them safely from this ordeal. All official information will be released from the Archdiocese Headquarters through official communication channels.
Below are the official communique from the Patriarchal Office. Click on the language to download.
WASHINGTON BUREAU: Terry Mattingly's religion column for 4/10/13.
Every year or so, editors are asked to sit patiently while market researchers dissect thick reports about what consumers say they want to see in their newspapers.
That was already true back when Harry Moskos was editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel. But he immediately noticed something strange, when handed the executive summary of one late-1980s survey.
Two words near the top of the subjects valued by readers caught his attention -- "religion" and "family." Yet the professionals interpreting the data offered zero suggestions for improving coverage of those subjects.
"I remember saying, 'Look at that. ... Those words just jumped out at me, primarily because I knew people in Knoxville tend to see those subjects as connected," said Moskos, 76, in a telephone interview. He recently ended his 60-year journalism career, with most of that work in Albuquerque, N.M., and Knoxville, Tenn.
Of course, he admitted, the fact he noticed the words "religion" and "family" also "says something about the life I've lived and how I was raised" in a devout Greek Orthodox family. "I just knew we had to do something ... to respond to that interest among our readers," he said.
Thus, Moskos asked his team to create a section on faith and family life. As part of that effort, he asked -- at a meeting of Scripps Howard editors -- if the newspaper chain could start a national religion-news column.
That's how -- 25 years ago this week -- I began writing this "On Religion" column for the Scripps Howard News Service. At that time, I was the religion reporter for one of the chain's major newspapers and then I continued this work while teaching, first in a seminary, then in two liberal arts colleges and, now, as director of the Washington Journalism Center.
Through it all, I have been amazed that many people still think religion is a boring, unimportant subject that can be relegated to the periphery of news coverage. The late Associated Press religion writer George Cornell once noted that -- year after year -- at least half of the items in that wire service's global list of the top news events have obvious ties to religion.
And what about that journalistic mantra, "Follow the money"? When hundreds of thousands of sports fans -- spending millions of dollars -- head to stadiums or face their televisions, news organizations respond, big time. What happens when millions of religious believers -- spending billions -- do the same? Not so much.
"Usually, where people put their time and money, that's where their interests are," Cornell told me in 1982. "Newspapers' attention and space are supposed to be geared to people's interests. Right?"
The other big mystery, for me, is why professionals who lead newsrooms rarely seek out experienced, even trained, religion reporters. Discussions of this topic often reference a religion-beat opening Washington Post editors posted in 1994, noting that their "ideal candidate" was "not necessarily religious nor an expert in religion."
Please note the word "ideal." Try to imagine editors saying their "ideal" candidate to cover the U.S. Supreme Court would be someone who is not an expert in the law. How about similar notices for reporters covering politics, education, sports, science and film?
"The religion beat is too complicated today for this kind of approach to be taken seriously," said Russell Chandler, who covered religion for years at the Los Angeles Times. I interviewed him for "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion," from Oxford Press.
"If you don't have experience you have to pay your dues and get some. Then you have to keep learning so that you get the facts right today and tomorrow and the day after that," he said. "I have never really understood what this argument is about. It's like saying that we want to sign up some people for our basketball team and we don't really care whether or not they can play basketball."
This logic also rings true for Moskos, who noted that he once interviewed five skilled sportswriters when seeking someone to cover the University of Tennessee football -- a quasi-religious subject for locals. Why not take that approach to religion news?
"If you send somebody out to cover the Oak Ridge National Laboratory," he concluded, "you'd better find yourself a journalist who knows something about science. ... If people are going to get the job done covering religion then they need to find some journalists who know a thing or two about religion."
Terry Mattingly (www.tmatt.net) directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.
Archbishop Demetrios member of Advisory Council
The two-day meetings took place at the Eisenhower Executive Building of the White House in Washington, D.C. The purpose was to submit the Council’s Final Report of Recommendations to the President concerning the building of partnerships between the government and faith-based and neighborhood organizations to eradicate modern-day slavery. Comprised by leaders from diverse religious and non-profit backgrounds, the task of the Council was to produce, in the course of several months, a report which addressed issues of human trafficking at home and abroad, that is, the exploitation of children, women and men for compelled labor or sexual exploitation through the use of force, fraud or coercion.
The Council worked in close cooperation with Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the Office of Faith- Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and his successor in the same Office Melissa Rogers.
The report contains 10 recommendations which, in partnership with the government, will help to combat and eventually eradicate modern-day slavery and bring healing and dignity in the life of those who have been victimized by it. Among the recommendations are the raising of public awareness to the problem, the appropriate education of the public, the sharing of information, the increasing support from the public, and the collaboration with federal agencies and organizations to combat human trafficking.
President Obama met privately with the Council members in the West Wing, and thanked them for their dedication and input in the preparation of the report and its recommendations.
The final report was officially presented to the representative of the government, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, for further utilization and incorporation in the policies of the Administration, and it is available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/advisory_council_humantrafficking_report.pdf.
3/17/2013 - In a historic development, it was announced that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will attend Pope Francis' installation Mass in Rome, Tuesday, March 19, the first time such an event as taken place since the Great Schism in 1054.
The Ecumenical Patriarch will be accompanied by Ioannis Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, as well as Tarassios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Argentina, and Gennadios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy.
Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue.
Under Benedict XVI, the dialogue picked up in earnest after a lull. In trying to promote it, the pope suggested ways to express the primacy of Peter's successor that could be acceptable to the Orthodox, finding his inspiration from the undivided Church of the first millennium.