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Gulf News

M M S Gulf Regional Conference in Abu Dhabi on December 3

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ABU DHABI: The first Gulf Regional Conference of Martha Mariam Vanitha Samajam will be held on December 3, 2009 at St. Thomas Hall of St. George Orthodox Cathedral Abu Dhabi, under the patronage of UAE Zonal Committee of MMS.

“Delegates are expected from 14 units of MMVS spread over 6 countries in the region (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.). Program will start at 6 pm on Thursday 3 November 2009” informed Fr. Johnson Daniel Vice President MMS – UAE Zone.

The discussions will focus on the problems of the NRI women members of the Church.

Metropolitan Zachariah Mar Theophilos, the President of Akhila Malankara Martha Mariam Samajam will be the Chief Guest.

The annual meet of Martha Mariam Samajam UAE zone will also be held on 4th December 2009 at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Abu Dhabi.

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News Southwest America

Koshy Vaidyan Visited Union Cabinet Minister Vayalar Ravi

Koshy Vaidyan- former council member of the American Diocese with Union Cabinet  Minister Hon. Vylar Ravi,  Chicago Consulate General - Mr. Asok Kumar Attri, present president of Malayalee Engineer's Association of North America- Sabu Thomas at  a  dinner meeting hosted by the Counsulate General of India in Chicago to honor the Hon. Minister.
Koshy Vaidyan- former council member of the American Diocese with Union Cabinet Minister Hon. Vylar Ravi, Chicago Consulate General - Mr. Asok Kumar Attri, present president of Malayalee Engineer's Association of North America- Sabu Thomas at a dinner meeting hosted by the Counsulate General of India in Chicago to honor the Hon. Minister.

Koshy Vaidyan was the first president of Malayalee Engineers Association in North America (MEANA). He is a member of Oak Park St. Gregorios Orthodox Church- Chicago and former council member of the American Diocese.

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Church News News

Global Meet of Orthodox Entrepreneurs at Kochi Concluded Successfully

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KOCHI: One-day global meet themed as Global Orthodox Vision “A Beacon into the Future” held on 27th November, 2009 at Ramada Resorts, Kochi concluded successfully.

The main intention of this global meeting was to formulate the opinion of a cross section of the members of Malankara Orthodox Church including the intelligentsia, entrepreneurs, businessmen and other professionals across the globe.

A large number of professionals from various walks of life across the globe attended the One-day global meet.

The detailed report will be included in the coming Malayalam Edition.

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Church News Episcopal Election News

Episcopal Election 2010: Surveillance on Episcopal Candidates

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KOTTAYAM: “In case any Episcopal candidate who has submitted his nomination engages in any sort of campaigning directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, the matter should be reported to the Chairman of the Monitoring Committee in writing with the name and address of the person reporting. We admonish you that it is the duty and responsibility of the Church to find out people of good repute and spiritual fervor for Episcopate”. Said the President of Malankara Syrian Christian Association Baselios Marthoma Didymos I in his encyclical dated Nov.24, 2009 vide No.482/2009.

To monitor the candidate’s moves, a Surveillance mode is established by the Malankara Metropolitan who is also the President of Malankara Syrian Christian Association.

His Holiness has constituted a ‘Monitoring Committee’ with Paulose Mar Milithios, the Catholicos Elect as the Chairman, to gather information from various sources to report to the Holy Episcopal Synod. Any sort of violation will result in the disqualification of his candidature.

The election process is governed by the criteria and code of conduct ( Nadapidi Chattam) approved by the Malankara Metropolitan.

“We admonish you that it is the duty and responsibility of the Church to find out people of good repute and spiritual fervor for Episcopate. We exhort you to pray for the successful conduct of the Association” Continued His Holiness in his encyclical.

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Gulf News

Sharjah St. Gregorios Orthodox Church to be known as ‘Marubhoomiyile Parumala’

sharjah-church
SHARJAH: Sharjah St. Gregorios Orthodox Church will hereafter be known as ‘Marubhoomiyile Parumala’. The declaration came from the Supreme head of the Malankara Orthodox Church Baselios Marthoma Didymos I, just after the consecration of the new church building on Friday 6, 2009. The declaration was read by the Metropolitan Dr. Mathews Mar Severios (Secretary-Holy Episcopal Synod).

The chief celebrants for the consecration of the newly renovated church building were Metropolitans Dr. Mathews Mar Severios, Dr. Joseph Mar Dionysius (Delhi Asst) and Dr. Yuhanon Mar Diascoros (Chennai).

Read more

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Church News Episcopal Election News

Episcopal Election 2010: 7 Nominations Declared Invalid

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KOTTAYAM: After the first sitting of the Screening Committee for the Episcopal Election 2010, 7 nominations those do not come under the purview of the Nadapidi Chattam had been declared invalid.

27 nominations were received by the Catholicate office on November 9, 2009.

The existing 20 candidates will be reviewed by the Screening Committee after receiving the confidential reports from the concerned sources.

Since the screening process is on the way, we are are not giving any details other than the names of the candidates. Now the first round sitting is over and 20 nominations are considered for further process.

1. Fr. Dr. John Mathews
2. Dr. M.S.Yoohanon Remban
3. Fr. Dr. O. P. Varghese
4. Fr. V. M. James
5. Fr. Mathai OIC
6. Rev.Dr.Nathaniel Remban
7. Rev. Thomas Yohannan Elavukattu Remban
8. Fr. Zacharia O.I.C
9. Rev Geevarghese Ramban
10. Fr. Dr. M. O. John
11. Fr. Mathukkutty Chengamanadu
12. Rev Yoohanon Ramban
13. Fr. K. Geevarghese Chengamanadu
14. Fr. M. K. Kurian
15. Fr. Dr. Sabu Kuriakose
16. Fr. Dr. George Pulikottil
17. Fr. Dr. P.C.Thomas
18. Fr. Dr. V. M. Abraham
19. Fr. Alexander Daniel
20. Fr. Simon Lukose

To read more, visit today’s Malayalam Edition (Nov.27)

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Church News News

Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Puthuppady Ashram begins Today

golden-jubilee-puthuppady-ashram
PUTHUPPADY: Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos-I will preside over the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the St Paul’s Ashram and Bala Bhavan at Puthuppady near Kozhikkode on Friday November 27, 2009 at 3 pm.

Addressing a press conference, Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios, senior Metropolitan of Malankara Orthodox Church, said the Jubilee celebrations will be inaugurated by the former chief Minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy and the Jubilee souvenir will be released by M.V.Raghavan M.P.

According to Mar Osthathios, who is also the president of the St Paul’s Mission Society, all the projects undertaken by the Ashram is going well because of the well wishers and sponsors willful support. The press conference was attended by the Director of activities – Ramban K.I.Philip, Malabar Diocesan Secretary Fr. Geevarghese Ponnola and Paul Manalil.

Mar Osthathios will preside over the Alumni meeting of the former inmates to be held on November 26, 2009.

The foundation stone for the St. Paul’s Ashram and Balabhavan in Puthuppady which comes under Calicut district was laid on 16 November 1958. In 1959 Puthuppady Balabhavan began its functioning. Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Osthathios, the founder of the Puthuppady Ashram started this Balabhavan in 25 acre land donated by Manamel M.P.Cherian and his family.

Mar Osthathios is also the founder of a good number of charitable programs, mission centers and institutions which include Marriage Assistance Foundation, Sick Aid Foundation, Save A Heart Foundation, House Building Aid Fund, Mission Training Centre, M.G.D Ashram & Balabhavan Karunagiri, Haripad Mission Centre, Yacharam St. Gregorios Balagram, Bethanya Bhavan, St.George Balikagram Pune , St.Paul’s Balagram Itarsi, NAMS Snehasadan Bangalore. He is a world famous theologian, profound writer, orator, and owner of a very versatile personality

Ramban K.I. Philip and Late Ramban P.M. Thomas were the chief officers since its inception.

To read an inmate’s memoir, visit Today’s Malayalam Edition (Nov.26)

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World News

International Orthodox Psychotherapy Conference in 2010

retreat-center-chicago
CHICAGO: International Orthodox Psychotherapy Conference will be held on June 21-25, 2010 at Cenacle Retreat House, Chicago. The International Orthodox Psychotherapy Conference is held every two years in venues across the globe. The purpose of the conference is to bring together Orthodox psychotherapists, counselors, social workers, clergy, students and lay persons for a professional level gathering of Orthodox who provide mental health care.

The conference provides the opportunity to share information, learn new approaches to problem solving, offer support to Orthodox professionals and interested clergy and laity, network and better apply Orthodox principles to their work.

Primary Organizers of this conference are Dr. Frank Johnson, an Orthodox gynecologist and professional counselor in Newcastel-upon-Tyne, England and Fr. Stephen Plumlee, Orthodox priest and psychotherapist in Sarasota, Florida. The first conference was initiated by Dr. Frank Johnson and Fr. Stephen Plumlee at St. Albans in the UK in 2001. Since then attendance has grown significantly for the next conferences. 2010 conference will attract Orthodox clergy and professionals from every corner of the world.

For more information contact Fr. Stephen R. Plumlee, Ph.D, MDiv (941-954-2125)
Email: srqplum@imagopsychotherapy.com. visit website

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Articles Youth And Faith

The Twelve

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Christians have often been called as “ordinary people with extraordinary claims”. And in many ways this appellation is true!

The word of God says “But Jesus looked at them and said to them “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. Mt. 19:26, (Lk 1:37, Jer 32:17). The incarnated Word of God chose a few ordinary people with no extraordinary skills or endowments. After the resurrection of Jesus Christ they preached and witnessed him. They literally turned the world upside down. Now the majority of the total population of the world is Christians, as the amazing result of the labor of these few men.

Let us first consider why our heavenly father chose them for propagating His Good News.

The Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ

Twelve men were called by Jesus Christ to be His disciples. The word ‘disciple’ means pupil; and is commonly used for a follower of any religious teacher, especially for the twelve followers of Jesus Christ. When they were called, they left behind their family, friends, familiar values, aim and priorities. For them the call of Jesus Christ was a new beginning.

These twelve disciples of Jesus Christ were also called “Apostles”. The literal meaning of ‘apostle’ is ‘like an angel’, ‘a messenger’, ‘a delegate’, ‘an ambassador’, one commissioned etc.

Jesus called them so that they may bear witness to Him i.e. they must give a first hand testimony. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus selected twelve men as eyewitness to the events of His life, as carriers of His Word, and witnesses of His resurrection. Even though the purpose of ‘calling’ was this, they did not comprehend Jesus and His mission until His death and resurrection, thinking that Jesus’ kingdom was of this world, they dreamt that they would be elevated to high places in it. (Mt. 20:28). This kind of presumption made them desert him at Gethsemane and Calvary.

The real transformation of the twelve apostles actually happened at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon them as Christ had promised. (Acts 2). When they received Holy Spirit they could understand Christ and his mission better and also the real meaning of His words. Christ became comprehensible to the twelve. From this point onwards these ordinary men were earnestly at the task of propagating the Gospel which was like life-breath to them. Their ever increasing conviction about Jesus Christ made them strong.

They dedicated themselves as ‘Vessels’ in the hands of God. God became the content of these twelve vessels. Then onwards these vessels were overflowing with the ‘good news’ in all variety of situations. People from all the comers of the earth were fascinated by the ‘gospel’ they preached and many joined them day by day and became ardent devotees of the risen Christ. Thus the church was established as Jesus has promised.(Mt. 16: 18). The Word of God started spreading rapidly through the -twelve and thousands of believers embraced the new faith. The church grew day by day. No body could stop, for God was with them. The meek became mighty. People were amazed by their eloquence even though they were uneducated men with no extra ordinary skills. They performed miracles, healed the sick, cast out demons, and revealed the fact that every thing was possible with God.

Many of the Jews abandoned their community and got baptized to receive Christ. Thus the twelve became a threat to Jewish community. Jewish authority feared an impending danger to their community. They conspired against the twelve, joining hands with the temporal authorities and started persecuting them. But the twelve did not care even for their very life. Persecution only intensified their preaching and made the spread of the gospel easier. Except John, all others among the twelve became martyred. They all loved to die for Christ, for they tasted the selfless love of Christ who paid the price for them on the Cross.

The Great Commission

Jesus Christ entrusted the Twelve with a four fold ministry to follow as Bible says.

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. I am with you always to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:16-20) (Mk. 16:14-18, Lk. 24: 36¬49, Jn 20: 19-23, Acts 1:6-8) i.e. (1) TO WORSHIP HIM, (2) TO PREACH HIM, (3) TO BAPTIZE IN HIS NAME and (4) TO TEACH HIS COMMANDMENTS.

Jesus Christ empowered them to administer the sacraments on behalf of Him (Mt. 16: 19-20), by establishing His church here in this world.

Apart from the epistles the “Teachings of the Twelve” is another written document which is also known as the ‘Didache’ gives more clarity to the Word of God.

Why Twelve?

When the New Jerusalem is described in the book of Revelation, it is written “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates and twelve angels at the gates, and name written on them, which are the name of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.” (Rev. 21:12)

“Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the name of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14)

“Around the throne were twenty four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crown of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4)

Reading of these verses makes one doubt why the rejected people of Israel are also having their twelve seats beside the mighty Lord in the heavenly glory?

We find that the Bible as a whole, whether the Old Testament or the New Testament, is a special revelatory account of the mighty redemptive act of Christ. It is the book of Redemption. It refers to deliverance and to the price paid for the redemption by God in our Lord God Jesus Christ.

In preparation for the act of ‘redemption’ selected two sets of people as His role models to attract every soul unto the last towards Him. The first set of people was the old Israel; And then the New Israel (The Church). New Israel is the continuation of the old Israel. Humankind as a whole is His children, never to be forsaken, but to be delivered from the bondage of Satan. It is a mystery to see whatever things are there with old Israel is repeated with the new Israel in a new way, with a new meaning and a new emphasis. Revelation means “unveiling”, the unveiling of Jesus Christ in His great glory, in His majesty and in His kingdom. So we could divine through St. John’s Revelation on the “Kingdom of God” that the Twelve of the Old Testament and the Twelve of the New Testament have their own places in the kingdom of God. One is described as the gate and other is the foundation.

According to the book of Revelation, The Twelve apostles of Christ are the foundation stones of the wall of Heavenly Jerusalem. God made the Twelve strong for the purpose for which they were called.

The Twelve

“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; first Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother. Philip and Bertholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus and Labbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus, Simon the Cannanite and Judas Iscarioth, who also betrayed him” (Mt. 10:24)

References

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Articles Episcopal Election We Believe

The Ministry Of Episcopate

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The word episkopos was used at first in Greek literature for one who kept a watch over a country or a people or even a treaty or an agreement. Later on it became the title for the official who was sent from Athens, the capital of Greek Empire, to its dependant states. The word was used in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, for overseers, officers and governors (2Chr 24,11; Neh 11,9; 12,42). The verb episkeptomai was used for God’s “loving supervision and solicitous care for the land of Israel” in Deut. 11:12. The Qumran Community used an equivalent term mebaqqer for its leader (1QS 6,12.20). This one was an expert in Law and was entrusted with the leadership over the community; he could make its final decisions, take disciplinary actions against its members and control its fund. He was considered as a fatherly figure in the Damascus Document: “He shall love them as a father loves his children, and shall carry them in all their distress like a shepherd his sheep. He shall loosen all the fetters which bind them” (CD 13,9).

The New Testament uses the term episkopos five times only:

1 Pet 2,25 describes Jesus Christ as the “guardian” (episkopos) of the souls of the believers along with his role as their “shepherd” (poimen).

The above two roles of Christ (episcopos and poimen) are ascribed to the elders of Ephesus in Paul’s speech to them in the Acts 20,28. This has an Old Testament background; when Joshua was elected Moses prayed to God to give Israel a “leader” and “shepherd”.

In the opening sentence of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians he addresses the “bishops” (episcopoi) along with the “deacons”(diakonoi).

In 1Tim 3,1 we read about the qualities of an episcopos of the early Church, which include sensibility, dignity, hospitality, scholarship, gentle behaviour, management skills etc.

In his letter to Titus St. Paul says that “a bishop (episcopos), is God’s steward” and he must be “blameless, hospitable, lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy and self-controlled” and he must not be arrogant, quick-tempered, violent, drunkard or greedy (Tit 1,7-8). He must “hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it” (Tit 1,9).

Functions of a Bishop:

Professor Karl Christian Felmy, a retired Lutheran Pastor of Germany and an expert in history and theology of the Orthodox Church, made a sarcastic comment once during a discussion; “the problem of the Roman Catholic Church is that it has got only one bishop, while that of the Protestants is that they have no bishops at all, and that of the Orthodox Church is that it has got many bishops”. This remark makes clearly the basis of Orthodox ecclesiology. As per the Orthodox understanding all bishops are equal in their status and the Patriarch or the Catholicos is called “the first among the equals” (primes inter pares).

We can say that Orthodox Church is episcopocentric, because everything depends upon the bishop and nothing can be done without him. But what actually is this “everything”? Does it include all sacramental functions of a parish like baptism, marriage and funeral? None of the Orthodox Churches has got the practice of our Church; one or more bishops attending the sacraments of a parish. Every day they have to travel at least hundred kilometres just to lead the funerals and weddings. Even though our bishops are suffocated with this hectic schedule, they are helpless, because it has become a custom especially in central Travancore to invite a bishop for personal functions. People consider the position of the bishops as a ceremonial one and they do not understand more than that about him. Does the above “everything” mean that the bishop should be consulted before each and every instance in the decision making process of a parish? This has become a practice in our Church since the dioceses have become small in their geographical area and since communication became easier. The parish priests have got the freedom and discretion to take decisions as per the constitution and canons and customs of our Church. Bishops can be approached only when things become “exceptional”. What then are the duties of a bishop?

According to Orthodox ecclesiology the bishop is the President of the Eucharist. Ignatius of Antioch says: “you should regard the Eucharist as valid which is celebrated either by the bishop, or by someone he authorizes. Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Smyrn. 8,1-2). The priests are just “vicars” of a bishop. However, this Eucharistic function of the bishop has been changed later. Zizoulas, himself being a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church and an authority on the topic says; “the Eucharist, from being the business of the episcopate par excellence, was later (it remains to be seen when) largely transformed into the principal task of the parish and the presbyter. While the bishop, from being par excellence the ‘president’ of the Eucharist was largely transformed into an administrator and a co-ordinator of the life of the parishes” (Eucharist Bishop Church, HCOP, Brookline 2001, p. 23).

The Eucharistic function of the bishop should not be considered as less important to other duties of a bishop. On the one hand the bishop is the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ with in the Church. But on the other hand he unites all the people. That is why we say there can not be more than one bishop within a local Church. Since the bishops represent Christ they have to possess a model life. Paulose Gregorios says; “On the analogy of both the consecration of Holy Chrism, and also the consecrated Chrism itself being sacraments, the consecration of a bishop as well as the consecrated bishop is a sacrament” (Glory and Burden, ISPCK/MGF, Delhi 2006, p.95). We have already seen the list of qualities, which St. Paul expected from a bishop (1Tim 3,1ff; Tit 1,7-9). St. John Chrysostom says; “The offences of the insignificant, even if made public, harm no one seriously. But those who are set upon the pinnacle of this honour not only catch every eye; more than that, however trifling their offences, these little things seem great to others, since everyone measures sin, not by the size of the offence, but by the standing of the sinner” (On the Priesthood, SVSP 1984, p. 85-6).

What distinguishes a bishop from a priest is his authority for ordination. It is his prerogative as a successor of the Apostles. Laying on of hands was originated in the rabbinic schools of Judaism. A candidate was ordained as a rabbi once he completed his training in interpreting the Torah. Early Church adopted this as a sign for handing over priestly authority. However, by ordaining somebody the bishop is transferring not just his authority for teaching, which was the practice of Jewish rabbis, but also the gift of the Holy Spirit. The ordained gets the divine charisma, which will be used for the edification of the Church. The deacon gets the charisma of service while the priest gets the charisma of forgiveness of sins and that of the authority for presiding over the sacraments.

Teaching can be considered as the unique function of a bishop. Even though the New Testament did not make a distinction between a priest (presbuteros) and a bishop (episcopos) in this regard, later on the bishop became the final authority for teaching. He is the one who declares a final word about a disputed matter of faith. He will decide what is “orthodox” and what a “heretical” teaching is. He does this not as an individual but as the member of the Holy Episcopal Synod. For this he needs a lot of time for learning the faith of the Church and for examining the writings of the Holy Fathers. However, most of our bishops do not get enough time for reading and reflecting because of their pre-occupations with ordinary functions like a wedding or funeral. The administrative duties can also become a hindrance for their study and meditation. Some bishops are exhausted by attending committees after committees.

Therefore the Church as a whole has to rethink about the rank as well as functions of an episcopos. He is different from a priest and a deacon not simply in the vestments but in his identity. This should be widely understood and respected. Once the whole Church acknowledge not only their apostolic succession but also their apostolic authority things will be quite different. Let each one do his own duty; the priests should perform all parish duties and the committees should fulfil their responsibilities. Bishops may stand at the top as Jesus Christ is the head of the Church.

The author (Fr. Dr. Reji Mathews) is the principal of St.Thomas Orthodox Seminary, Nagapur