Intensive Pre-Master and Master students
On 21 December the intensive of the Pre-Master course Scripture in Orthodox Christianity took place. Some students took part virtually; one student sent in a video with his presentation from Armenia. The students presented their final papers and showed, amongst other things, how they learned an apocalyptic reading of Scripture, unveiling types of Christ in the Old Testament, such as Samson and Joseph.
On 20 December Father John Behr joined the Master students for their intensive on his course Life and Death, a multi-faceted module including the study of texts by St Irenaeus of Lyons and St Ignatios of Antioch, but also by modern-day researchers and novelists.
Pan-Orthodox endorsement agency in The Netherlands
The Orthodoxe Zendende Instantie (OZI, Orthodox endorsement agency) has been established as the official Orthodox body responsible for the endorsement of Orthodox chaplains in The Netherlands. OZI was founded on 16 December 2018 by Metropolitan Athenagoras, chairman of the Orthodox Church in the Netherlands (OKIN) and Bishop Arseny, chairman of the association of Oriental Orthodox Churches (SOKIN). OZI represents the approximately quarter of a million Orthodox in the Netherlands of both the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox church families at a governmental level. In practice this means the Ministries of Justice and Security, of Defence and of Education. OZI also will act as coordinating body for Orthodox chaplains employed by hospitals and similar private institutions. Finally, OZI will be the ecclesial authority for St Irenaeus Orthodox Theological Institute, which is currently being founded and will take the place of the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology.
On the road to independent Orthodox chaplaincy
On 6 November, OZI requested the minister for Legal Protection (part of the Ministry of Justice and Security) mr. Sander Dekker, for official recognition of OZI as endorsement agency for Orthodox prison chaplains in the Netherlands, a request that was originally filed in 2010. If the request should me approved, the Orthodox would become the eighth independent denomination within the Ministry of Justice and Security. For ten years already, a team of Orthodox chaplains have been ministering to those incarcerated in the Dutch prison system. The Orthodox team, in which both the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox are represented, however, is presently operating under the authority of the Protestant denomination.
Ordination of Eritrean Priest Markos by Coptic Bishop Arseny
Good news for the Eritreans in the Netherlands who have fled their country and seek an alternative for the canonically and politically difficult position their church is in. Their numbers have risen sharply over the last years. Pastorally, Coptic, Syrian, Russian and other Orthodox parishes have tried to help them, but ideally they should establish their own parishes. Since the situation in The Netherlands is similar to that in Sweden, we sought help from Fr Afewerki Tessfa, Episcopal vicar of the Eritrean clergy under the Coptic Bishop in Sweden, who is also a colleague at our sister institute Sankt Ignatios Theological Academy. The ‘Swedish solution’ is now being copied in The Netherlands: temporarily the Coptic Church, which well into the 20th century canonically headed the Ethiopian Church (and thus the Eritrean church, which received its independence in 1994), takes Eritrean clergy, upon their request, under her wings. Hopefully, this will help the scattered Eritreans in Holland to build communities and take their place in Dutch society. On the picture from left to right: Eritrean Priest Fr Maru, who will train Fr Markos in the Coptic monastery in Holland, Bishop Arseny, newly ordained Fr Markos and Fr Bavlos, Coptic priest in Amsterdam. Serving were many Coptic priests and Ethiopian priest Daniel. Present was, amongst others, Fr Michael Bakker.
The visit of Patriarch Bartholomeos
Between 5 and 8 November, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos visited the Netherlands on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the Archdiocese of Belgium and the Exarchate of the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The patriarch celebrated the Opening of the Saint Catherine church in Zaandam, a small town to the north of Amsterdam. The Saint Catherine parish is the successor of the historical Orthodox parish of Amsterdam, founded in the 18th century by Greek merchants.
In The Hague, the patriarch was received by king Willem-Alexander in audience, and in Rotterdam, on the last day of his visit, he celebrated Vespers in the Saint Nicholas cathedral, where he was joined by bishops from different Orthodox churches represented in the Netherlands.