News of the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology

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.

Foto: POOL | Wesley de Wit


Lecture and Masterclass on Saint Grigor Narekatsi

At IVOC (Institute of Eastern Christian Studies) in Nijmegen on 21 and 22 November, Professor Theo Maarten van Lint lectured about the 10th century Armenian mystical poet Saint Grigor Narekatsi. Prof. Van Lint holds the Calouste Gulbenkian chair of Armenian Studies at Oxford University and is a fellow of Pembroke College. In his research, he focusses on, amongst other subjects, Armenian poetry and Armenian literature from the Middle Ages. In 2018, his Dutch translation of a part of Saint Grigor’s Book of Lamentations was published. In his lecture and masterclass, prof. Van Lint painted a picture of the early Armenian Church, the geography of the monastery of Narek, where Saint Grigor was a monk, and expounded on the aim Saint Grigor had in mind when writing his Book of Lamentation. Saint Grigor, in the 95 prayers the book consists of, tries to convey the mystical union with God, which he himself had experienced, by following a dynamic pattern of cataphatic and apophatic descriptions, or rather evocations of God, and man’s relationship to God. Prof. Van Lint lifted the veil on the not so well known Armenian Church and its Saint, Grigor Narekatsi.

Save the date!

On 31 January: Reading sessions led by Father John Behr for ACOT students and alumni, see this page.

On 31 January at 19.00 hrs. Father John Behr will deliver a lecture with the title Standing in the Temple: The Liturgical and Apocalyptic Context of Theology. See this page.