Top Orthodox News from September 16 to September 23

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In Bulgaria, the abbot of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church was expelled. On September 21, Bulgarian authorities obliged the abbot of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archimandrite Vassian (Zmeyev), to leave the country. The Bulgarian State Agency for National Security stated that the presence of clergy from the Russian Church in the country posed a threat to national security. In the Moscow Patriarchate, the expulsion of priests was described as an "outrageous act driven by Russophobic motives and a desire to undermine glorious pages of shared history." One of the hierarchs of the Bulgarian Church, Metropolitan of Vidin Daniel, expressed regret over the expulsion of the priests of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church and emphasized that the common faith in Christ is more important than political conflicts.

The Armenian Church called on the international community to protect Artsakh (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh) from Azerbaijani military aggression. On September 18, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan announced the start of local anti-terrorism operations in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian media report dozens of deaths and injuries, with Azerbaijani forces shelling the capital of the region, Stepanakert. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church stated that he prays for the military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh to be replaced by peace negotiations. Pope Francis also commented on the situation in Karabakh, calling for an end to hostilities and the search for peaceful solutions for the benefit of the people.

In the Kiev City Council this week, a project was registered regarding the potential demolition of 74 temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. If the project is accepted, they will be demolished within three months. The project documents list 74 UOC temples to be checked for the legality of their construction, and decisions will be made about their further fate, including possible demolition if necessary. In case it is found that these temples do not have the necessary permits, the city will demolish the temples itself and bill the religious communities.

In the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, the chapel dedicated to the icon "Praise of the Caves" and the spring "Tears of the Most Holy Theotokos" was desecrated. Vandals painted the walls of the church and the spring with paint. Unknown persons also drew symbols of a sword and the Prussian Iron Cross, which was used by Nazi Germany until 1945. The icon for which the chapel was built was presented to the Kiev Lavra by the Russian Emperor Peter I in the 18th century.

In Belgrade on September 21, a press conference on the protection of holy sites and the rights of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will take place. The discussion will consider the results of the Appeal of the Serbian intelligentsia in defense of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This document was signed three months ago by 109 Serbian cultural figures: actors, writers, directors, and scholars.

The Albanian Orthodox Church called on believers to participate in the population census on September 18 and to specify their religious affiliation in the questionnaire. The last population census in Albania was conducted in 2011. At that time, less than 10% of citizens identified themselves as Orthodox Christians. The Albanian Church did not accept this result and stated that the number of Orthodox Christians in Albania is at least 30% of the population.

The Cypriot Church supported the introduction of sex education lessons into the school curriculum. Recently, a law was passed in the republic making sex education mandatory, starting from preschools to the higher grades of both private and public schools. Before the start of the academic year, the Cyprus Ministry of Education began conducting seminars for teachers who will be delivering this course. The aim of the course, according to officials, is to "empower children so they can protect themselves." The head of the Cypriot Church publicly supported the introduction of sex education into the school curriculum and brought this matter up at the Holy Synod meeting. In the Synod communiqué, it is stated that the hierarchs would "closely monitor the content and method of teaching the course at all levels of education."

Greece continues to deal with the aftermath of the flooding that hit the central part of the country last week. The Hellenic Orthodox Church actively assists those affected. Meals are being prepared for the needy in parishes, and people whose homes have been flooded are staying in the churches. Additionally, the Church collects and distributes humanitarian aid: food, drinking water, and chlorine - in many regions, the water supply systems have been contaminated, leading to an increase in infectious diseases.

In Minsk, celebrations were held to mark the 230th anniversary of the formation of the Minsk Diocese of the Belarusian Orthodox Church. In this year, declared the Year of Peace and Creation, the celebration coincided with the state holiday - the Day of People's Unity. The central event was the divine liturgy at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk, led by the Primate of the Belarusian Orthodox Church. On the occasion of the holiday, the Holy relics highly revered in Belarus - the icons of the Mother of God "Barkolabovskaya" and "Zhirovichi", the Cross of Venerable Euphrosyne of Polotsk were brought to the cathedral.

During this week, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia visited the Petropavlovsk Diocese, which unites parishes and monasteries in the Kamchatka Krai. In Kamchatka, the Patriarch first visited the submarine base of the Pacific Fleet's submarine forces in Vilyuchinsk and consecrated the garrison church in honor of the Apostle Andrew. Then he laid the foundation stone for the church of Dmitry Donskoy in the military unit of the marine corps. On the next day, the Patriarch consecrated the Maritime Cathedral in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

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