During these days of Advent there are once again clear signs of a warming between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church in Russia. During a solemn Orthodox Liturgy on 19 December, Catholic Bishop Josef Werth of the diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Novosibirsk formally presented Russian Orthodox Bishop Aristarch of Kemerovo and Nowokuznesk (Siberia) with a relic of Saint Nicholas. This solemn Liturgy, which was also attended by the apostolic Nuncio in the Russian Federation, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, was being held to celebrate the Russian feast of Saint Nicholas in the Orthodox cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Kemerovo which, despite the fact that it was a weekday, was filled to overflowing.
A significant historic event has happened for the Orthodoxy in Africa. The biggest mass baptism ever has occurred in Johannesburg, South Africa. 42 newly baptized members of the local African population.
Day after the celebration of St. Nicholas of Myra, The Wonder-worker, the biggest mass baptism ever has been performed of the members of a local population in South Africa. It was presided by His Eminence Metropolitan Serafim of Johannesburg and Pretoria with the concelebration of dozen priests and deacons of the Metropolitanate of Johannesburg.
Over 200 people, from various jurisdictions, gathered together on Sunday, November 16 Minneapolis for the annual IOCC Benefit Dinner. His Grace Bishop IRINEJ of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand was the featured speaker and shared his personal experiences about working with IOCC. Also addressing the audience was IOCC Board Vice-chair Dr. Frank Cerra. A special musical presentation was made by music professor and composer Chris Granias and vocalist Emily Rakes. Granias composed a hymn titled "The IOCC Anthem" which was performed by Ms. Rakes.
By the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, there were nearly 600 newspapers and magazines throughout Russia devoted to Orthodox subjects. They were all shut down by the Soviet regime by 1918. Today, in a country that was officially atheist less than two decades ago, there are again hundreds of newspapers, magazines and newsletters covering the world's largest Orthodox church. There are also as many as 3,500 Russian Orthodox Web sites. Some priests are blogging.
By the Mercy of God
Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace, peace and mercy from the Savior Christ, born in Bethlehem
Beloved brethren and children in the Lord,
The great and sacred day of Christmas has dawned, the metropolis and mother of all feasts, inviting each of us to spiritual uplifting and encounter with the Ancient of Days, who became an infant for us.