LENTEN MESSAGE 2023 by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople

Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople - Wikipedia

Prot. No. 71


At the Opening of Holy and Great Lent


By God’s mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome

and Ecumenical Patriarch

To the Plenitude of the Church

May the Grace and Peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Together with our Prayer, Blessing and Forgiveness Be with All

Most honorable brother Hierarchs and blessed children in the Lord,

By the goodwill and grace of the all-merciful and all-benevolent God, already living in the blessed and reverent period of the Triodion, [this Sunday evening] we enter Holy and Great Lent, the arena of fasting and “venerable abstinence” that eliminate the passions, during which the depth and wealth of our Orthodox Tradition and the vigilant care of the Church for the spiritual progress of its children are revealed. As we are reminded by the Holy and Great Council of Crete (June, 2016), “the Orthodox Church, in strict conformity with the apostolic precepts, the synodal canons, and the patristic tradition as a whole, has always proclaimed the great significance of fasting for our spiritual life and salvation” (The Importance of Fasting and its Observance Today, para. 1).

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The following announcement appeared earlier today on the website of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. For context see the Metropolitan Joseph: The Scandal section in our Archives 2020-23 linked at the top of this page.
We at Orthodoxy in Dialogue pray that the Lord save and have mercy on His Eminence, guiding him in shepherding the Archdiocese through this tumultuous moment in its life. Many Years, O Master.

Metropolitan Saba (Esper)
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

His Eminence, the Most Reverend Saba Esper, is the Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East and the Holy Synod of Antioch elected His Eminence to lead the Archdiocese during its extraordinary session on Feb. 23, 2023 in Balamand, Lebanon. Read More


For context see the Metropolitan Joseph: The Scandal section in the Archives 2020-23 linked at the top of this page.

On February 3, 2023, Orthodoxy in Dialogue published Patriarchal Vicar: Antiochian Bishops Exempt from Sexual Misconduct Policies & Procedures, in which we quote a senior clergyman as having “no idea” where to find the Archdiocese’s sexual misconduct policy or what it says. This is the policy which the Patriarchal Vicar, Metropolitan Antonios, declared to the clergy of the Archdiocese has no bearing on Archdiocesan bishops’ uncanonical or criminal sexual behaviour.

Two days later, one of our sources disinterred the policies and procedures in the form of a letter dated September 1, 1999, from Metropolitan Philip (Saliba). The enclosed document itself is dated June 3, 1999. Our source states that there have been no updates since it was issued twenty-four years ago. There seems to be nowhere that clergy and laity can actually access and make use of the policies and procedures to report sexual misconduct and abuse—nowhere, except Orthodoxy in Dialogue now. 

The intent of the policies and procedures does, in fact, seem to focus on “parish workers,” including clergy, but not “Archdiocese workers,” such as the Metropolitan or the bishops. Unlike the much more contemporary policies of the Orthodox Church in America and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (see here), the Antiochian protocol offers access to no outside agency for the safe, confidential reporting of episcopal and clerical sexual abuse: victims in the Antiochian Archdiocese are forced to file their accusations exclusively with the “regional” bishop or with the Metropolitan himself. But what if the sexual abuser is the Metropolitan or one of the bishops?

We saw where this got the principal accuser in the Joseph Al-Zehlaoui scandal: precisely nowhere until Orthodoxy in Dialogue took over.

It is incumbent on the faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese to protect themselves and their children by demanding a safer, more efficient way to report, investigate, and discipline—canonically and/or criminally—sexually abusive church workers, including the hierarchs. The faithful must speak, first, with their pocketbooks; and failing that, with their feet out the doors of the Antiochian parishes.

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Early Photos From the Earthquake in Turkey and Syria - The Atlantic


Upon hearing news of the early-morning earthquake on February 6, 2023, the hearts of IOCC’s staff went out to all those affected. We then got in touch with partners in and around the affected regions.

Our local partners in Syria have indicated that basic needs (like food, bedding, and clothing) are most pressing right now. As we assess needs of those displaced by the earthquake and identify the most appropriate and effective response, please join our efforts by:

> Praying for all those affected in Syria and Turkey.
> Keeping up with IOCC’s response on our social media channels and in the “Latest” section of our website.
> Supporting our International Emergency Response Fund, which allows IOCC to mobilize aid quickly and effectively on the ground.
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