Blessing for Animal Welfare Staff and Sanctuaries

This Blessing was adapted by Fr. Simon for the blessing of the Argos Sanctuary in Cyprus. It can however be used by all.  We give our thanks to Professor Reverend Andrew Linzey for his permission to incorporate extracts from his book entitled Animal Rites- Liturgies of Animal Care into the blessing.

Blessing for Animal Welfare Staff and Sanctuaries

Blessed is our God, always now and forever and to the ages of ages

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and God saw everything He made and behold it was very good.

Almighty God we come together to thank you for beauty and the glory of your creation; to praise you and your holiness and grace; to acknowledge our responsibility to animals and for our use of the created world. But, first of all, we pray for your forgiveness for those who take part in sins of thoughtlessness and cruelty towards animal life.

Let us pray with the whole church and in the words of the saints, poets and theologians, for all those who struggle against the abuse of animals and for the strengthening of compassion in our hearts. Give those who work in this sanctuary the strength to continue to rescue and care for your creatures abused by others and to show the right path to all people.

For animals abandoned and abused
Give us new hearts O God
For the animals neglected and ill-treated
Give us new hearts O God
For animals cast out from homes
Give us new hearts O God
For animals hunted to death
Give us new hearts O God
For animals killed for convenience
Give us new hearts O God
For those companion animals who have died after giving us                                              love and the pleasure of their company
Give us new hearts O God

Holy God, your mercies are all over the earth, bless the creatures in this sanctuary and those that care for them and help us delight in the works of your hands.

Blessed before you O God, are those who struggle for peace and justice not only for human beings but for all of Your creatures. Strengthen their endeavours by the power of your Holy Spirit and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon them.

O Creator and author of all things, giver of all spiritual graces and bestower of eternal salvation, send down your Holy Spirit with a blessing from upon high for this animal sanctuary that, fortified by the might of your heavenly protection, it may fulfill its promises to the animals of [Cyprus[ and all who make use of it.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we in turn, send our praises and love both now and forever and to the ages of ages.


Animal Consciousness: New Report Puts All Doubts to Sleep

I have added this article from a post from Prof. Marc Bekoff – short bio below. It is a summary of a more detailed report by 16 well regarded scientists entitled Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. I have read both and confirm that their findings concur with my own conclusions which is also based upon scientific research in this field.

Animal Consciousness: New Report Puts All Doubts to Sleep

A thorough summary of what we know shows skeptics ignore solid scientific data.

I have no doubt that numerous nonhuman animals (animals) are conscious beings, and I know I’m not alone in taking this strong and uncompromising position. Whenever I publish something to this effect and write about a new study or review that clearly shows animals are indeed conscious, I often receive emails that go something like, “Gee, isn’t this reinventing the wheel and a total waste of time?” or “We’ve known this for centuries” or “Tell me something we didn’t know.” I couldn’t agree more that the real question at hand is why has consciousness evolved in other animals rather than if it has evolved. And, the position that it is unquestionable that other animals are conscious and sentient beings is not only or merely that of animal activists or pro-animal people. Indeed, the recent Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness signed by 16 well-known scientists, some of whom do or have done invasive research, concluded:

“Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

They could also have included fishes, for whom the evidence supporting sentience and consciousness is also compelling. For more discussion of consciousness in fishes please see “It’s Time to Stop Pretending Fishes Don’t Feel Pain” and links therein, as well as Jonathan Balcombe’s excellent summary of research on the cognitive and emotional lives of fishes called What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins and wide-ranging discussions in the journal Animal Sentience in which researchers and other scholars predominantly support the idea that fishes are sentient being. For more discussion of the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness please see “Scientists Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings” and for more on nonhuman sentience see “A Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience: No Pretending.

Source: Courtesy of Andrezj Krauze

For an essay I wrote for New Scientist magazine called “Animals are conscious and should be treated as such” about the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, there is a wonderful cartoon of animals, including a fish, sitting around a table discussing these issues (reprinted here with permission of the artist, Andrezj Krauze). The print copy was called “Welcome to our world,” and it’s about time we did so with open hearts.

“Animal Consciousness”: A comprehensive and current comparative review of what we know about consciousness in other animals

A few days ago I learned about a new and report called “Animal Consciousness” authored by 16 scientists (the complete study and an 8-page summary can be found here under the heading DOCUMENTS). It’s long and detailed, but I figured if they took the time to write it, I could take the time to read through it. I fully realize that many people won’t, so here I just want to summarize some of their findings. This comprehensive report was conducted by INRA, Europe’s top agricultural research institute, upon request of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). So, while the authors took a broad comparative view of consciousness in nonhuman animals, there was somewhat of a focus on so-called livestock because of how billions of these sentient beings are routinely and globally abused for human palettes. “Livestock” is a demeaning word I disdain because these are living sentient beings rather than merely “stock.” If anything, they should be called “deadstock.”

Concerning this exceptional report, at INRA’s website we read, “This INRA collective scientific expert report is based on a critical review of international literature on animal consciousness. 659 references selected from the Web of ScienceTM Core Collection (WOS) database were studied by 17 experts, including 10 INRA experts, from different scientific fields (biologists, cognitivists and philosophers). 75% of these publications come from international scientific journals, 33% of which were published after 2010. INRA’s Delegation for Scientific Expertise, Foresight and Advanced Studies (DEPE) coordinated the report.

Here are some snippets from this study to whet your appetite for more.

Caution is required before excluding consciousness in species not having the same brain structures as the mammalian ones as different neuralarchitectures may mediate comparable processes.

Considering the limited amount of data available and the few animal species studied so far, we conclude that different manifestations of consciousness can be observed in animals but that further refinement is still needed to characterize their level and content in each species.

… the overall picture obtained from the large range of species considered strongly provides evidence for different types of consciousness in both livestock and fish.

We provide a few examples of higher levels of consciousness in domestic livestock: in poultry, hens can judge their own state of knowledge suggesting they are conscious of what they know or do not know. Pigs can remember what events they experienced, where, and when. Several other examples of cognitive capacities potentially underlying consciousness in domestic livestock are also available, such as recognition of individuals in sheep and cattle. Collectively these studies and those on wild and laboratory species, clearly support the hypothesis that domestic livestock species are capable of complex conscious processing.

Livestock species, such as poultry, pigs, and sheep, exhibit cognitive behaviours that seem to imply levels and contents of consciousness that until recently were considered exclusive to humans and to some primates. That is even more the case for fish and invertebrates that until recently were not even considered as sentient.

It’s high time to stop pretending we don’t know if other animals are conscious and sentient beings: Bridging the knowledge translation gap

In the INRA report we read, and I quote directly because it is essential to acknowledge what the authors themselves conclude:

It is thus likely that what matters to animals is rather similar to what matters to humans. We believe that human sentience is the capacity to suffer and to feel empathy for the suffering of others, and deserves ethical recognition … Therefore, the same should apply to non-human beings supposed to possess a “sentience-like”. (my emphasis)

The level of respect due to the animals is driven by the understanding of the forms of consciousness accessible to different animal species. Broadly speaking, we can say that the development of the cognitive sciences has resulted in the recognition of cognitive capacities in many species of animals (particularly mammals and some birds), including the capacity to experience a range of mental states and thus the possession of a mental universe much richer than that of mere existence as a sentient being. And yet this scientific development has coincided with the development of contemporary livestock production systems in which animals are, in the view of animal welfare advocates, increasingly treated as mere machines. In laboratory research, animals are likewise treated as though they were nothing but tools. Inquiring into the cognitive capacities and forms of consciousness manifested by various animal species thus results in a tension between a “thing to respect” in animals, which tends to expand, and a human behaviour that in practice respects the animal less and less, at least insofar as the public opinion understands it.

All in all, similar to the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness and other documents, the INRA report provides conclusive evidence that nonhuman animals are conscious beings and it’s high time to put the debate about whether they really are conscious to permanent sleep.

The important question at hand, then, is what are we going to do with this information? In our book called The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age Jessica Pierce and I wrote about what we call “the knowledge translation gap,” referring to the practice of ignoring tons of science showing that other animals are sentient beings and going ahead and causing intentional harm in human-oriented arenas. On the broad scale, it means that what we now know about animal cognition and emotion has not yet been translated into an evolution in human attitudes and practices.

A sad and inexcusably self-serving example of the knowledge translation gap is found in the wording of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which explicitly excludes rats and mice from kingdom Animalia (even though a first grader knows that rats and mice are animals). We could also call the AWA’s slip up an “alternative fact.” In the 2002 iteration of the AWA we read:

“Enacted January 23, 2002, Title X, Subtitle D of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, changed the definition of ‘animal’ in the Animal Welfare Act, specifically excluding birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus, bred for use in research.”

For more on the idiocy of the AWA’s misclassification of rats, mice, and other animals, please see “The Animal Welfare Act Claims Rats and Mice Are Not Animals.” Where have all the scientists gone who know that rats and mice are animals? Why haven’t they spoken out en masse about this egregious and unscientific move? Most likely, it’s simply because it works for them to ignore it.

Let’s welcome other animals into our world and the arena of conscious beings

I hope that people who are interested in the general topic of animal consciousness will take the time to look at the INRA report. You can do so in different sittings.

All in all, this landmark report is a thorough summary of what we know about animal consciousness and it makes it extremely clear skeptics who say something like, “We really don’t know if animals are conscious” ignore solid science and are dead wrong. It’s time for them to go home and read available scientific studies, end of story.

These individual conscious and sentient nonhuman beings care about what happens to themselves and to family members and friends, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect for who they are, not what we want them to be. Recall what the authors of the INRA report concluded, namely, “It is thus likely that what matters to animals is rather similar to what matters to humans.” These animals’ lives are valuable because they are alive — they have what is referred to as inherent value — not because of what they can do for us — what is called their instrumental value. It’s about time that we welcome them into our world and the arena of conscious beings

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He has won many awards for his scientific research including the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Marc has published more than 1000 essays (popular, scientific, and book chapters), 30 books, and has edited three encyclopedias.

Bishop Isaias and animal suffering, part 2.

I am very satisfied that humankind has progressed and has found rules to keep us on a good path.  I remember a big debate in America, about the ways animals are killed and that the animals should not be tortured in any way.  Any killing should be done without pain and suffering to the animals. They have rules for how they breed them and how they kill them and I completely agree that such rules are necessary.  We should be respectful and treat them with kindness. There are laws for how animals are bred and killed and if people do not follow these rules they are bad people.

Violence and mistreatment – when you hear of this, apart from the suffering of the poor animals, we also think of the person who has done this act.  We ask who are these people and how could they do such things? The answer is because they have a bad heart.  It is a psychological and psycho-pathological problem.

Presbytera Christina: Yes father, there is much evidence to show that those people who perpetrate extreme violence to other humans have already exhibited the same extreme violence to animals when they were children.  In the past this connection was not made but now it is one of the key indicators for psychiatrists and the police in understanding a deeply disordered personality.

So Father, this is a great overview and a welcome and positive statement of the position of the Orthodox Church’s views about animals and their treatment.  Could we now look at the specifics of the research in Cyprus?  The original research showed that the Orthodox Church was thought of as not caring for animals.  That is not what my research into the early church has shown.  There, we have many examples of compassion for animals and so despite having a wealth of examples and texts, this appears not to be the practice on the ground.  For example, when people have written to the Church they have not received any response. This lack of communication has reinforced this misunderstanding of the Orthodox Church’s teachings.  Up until now, until my research, all that has been said recently has been on the environment -creation in its widest sense, but nothing has been said about the animals and how we should treat them. In my interview last week with Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, I have a clear statement on the Orthodox Church’s position on a variety of animal themes but until this meeting that we have today, we have nothing from the Orthodox Church in Cyprus, can you explain why this is?

Bishop Isaias: It is traditional for us as Orthodox to have a good relationship with the animals.  Our theology is favourable to the animals. We have never tolerated violence but we have never said anything because I think it was not seen as necessary.  Now, however, we see more and more the ill treatment of animals and it is true, it is time that we in the Church said something.  Before there did not seem the need but it is different now and this is why I am giving you this interview.

As Christians many of us have pets or had pets and many of us know the work of the groups who protect animals, some even helped in these groups. In the context of Cyprus we can do more and we should do more. That is why I am ready to do something. Now, when we see these instances of violence or people bring us information, we must do something about it.

I understand that there has been a lack of communication and I am happy to deal with this.  I believe that when we have gatherings or go to Christian societies and talk to people, we should mention things that are troubling people in their everyday lives, like the treatment of animals.  I am very disturbed to hear that some priests have misused animals and whilst this is not every priest, even if it is one priest – it is a priest and one bad priest can easily become two priests and so we must take care.

It is true that many of our teachings do not get through to the people but this is true for many other things as well as the animals.  It has to do with the nature of the individual person, some will listen and understand whilst others will go their own way, against the teachings. It has to do with their character and their own weaknesses. If you are a good Christian you will love the animals and they will love you back and there are many books showing this through the lives of the early saints as I said before. You cannot find a Holy man who has mistreated animals.

In this country we have the Green party and they have spoken of the need to protect the environment and I agree with them. Some people have asked if it is possible to have a place where they can protect the animals in my district and I have said yes but I have told them that they must take care of them, not just put them there and leave them.

Now let me talk of the practical problems.  We see now that there is more mistreatment of animals this is because of the moral crisis and of the economic crisis. Again it is a spiritual thing.  It is covered in the teachings of the virtues. If there is any weakness in the person, evil will enter and this will be shown against the little children, the defenceless women and also against the animals.  I understand that there is research that shows this to be so.

Specifically on the subject of communication I would propose that there is a reservation from some Christian Orthodox groups to discuss with people from these welfare groups because some of these people are not Christians and some are seen as difficult.

Presbytera Christina: But father all this reticence does is reinforce the belief that the Orthodox Church is not interested or concerned about the suffering of animals and is therefore counterproductive.

Bishop Isaias: Well I believe that a good way to show this is not true and I have been thinking of this for some time, is to open a dialogue by establishing an Orthodox Church group within my Diocese for the protection of animals and I think we should have some training sessions for our priests on this theme and some talks for our Christian groups.

Presbytera Christina: Well I have to say that this would be a wonderful initiative for it would to my knowledge, be the first in the Orthodox World.  The Catholics have one, the Anglicans have one and the Muslims have one but as yet not the Orthodox Church and so this would be a very positive move. I will add that it is remarkable that this move would come from Cyprus who will now be seen as a leader in this field just as the Ecumenical Patriarch has been for his role in the environment.

Bishop Isaias: Many of my parishioners have cats and dogs and they love them and I am sure they will be happy to begin such a project.

Presbytera Christina: Well I expect they do have cats and dogs and I would like to bring up one related point Father and this is the need for clarity in Cyprus on the position of the Orthodox Church on the neutering of animals.  It is suggested that the Church forbids this practice or that as it is against the animal’s nature so we must not interfere with that nature. If this is not the position of the Church can you give us the correct Orthodox position on neutering?

Bishop Isaias: There is no such statement. There has of course never been any need before to make such a statement but I am prepared to say quite clearly that the Orthodox Church has no such teaching.  We do not forbid the neutering of animals.  We shall make a statement and we shall publish it to ensure people understand our position and not as you rightly say, use this as an excuse for not having their animals neutered.

Presbytera Christina: Father this is an excellent idea but before we continue, I would like to ask you something further on the research.  It is suggested that the Church has a representative or indeed representatives who are teaching in schools, that because an animal does not have a soul it does not matter how they treat it or, that because an animal does not have a soul it doesn’t matter if you are cruel to it or, that animals don’t feel pain. Can you make a clear statement on the Orthodox Church’s position on these ‘teachings’?  Should we use the criteria of an animal’s soul as the criteria for the way we treat it?

Bishop Isaias: This is certainly not the case – this is not Orthodoxy and I would like the name of that person if you can find it.  All creatures have a soul – this is the teaching from the earliest time.  We need to define what is meant by soul.  You mention Plato and Aristotle but these are philosophers not theologians.  Aristotle said that there were three kinds of souls but what he meant was ‘life-force’ and this is true. You mention Metropolitan Kallistos’ statements on this and he is right when he says there is no dogma in the church on this and so yes it is a matter of opinion but in general, we do differentiate between a human soul and an animal soul.  He is also right when he says that the issue of the soul in relation to how we treat animals only confuses the matter.  What we seem to have is some people taking a bit of philosophy and a bit of theology and they mix them up and come up with something which is not Orthodox.

Let me be clear – animals are the creation of God and we should treat them with respect and not be cruel to them and what kind of soul they have has no part of that discussion.  We should not be involved in this type of argument; it should not be used, as it only serves to confuse what should be very clear. We should not be cruel to animals – it is that simple. We should not be cruel, we should love.

Presbytera Christina: The next topic I would like to talk with you about Father is the matter of education, particularly theological education.  Met. Kallistos has said that often, all too often in fact, theologians meet at conferences and agreements are made but that this information or teaching rarely gets to the people on the streets or to the village priest.  He mentioned also that he had spoken with President Makarios and had asked him what he thought his biggest task was and his reply was that he wanted above all, to improve the education for the village priest.  That was forty years ago.  How do you think we can get these Orthodox teachings to the priests and their parishioners?

Bishop Isaias: President Makarios was correct. Now all of our priests who have chosen the priesthood as their vocation attend Seminary College but there are some who become priests later in life after a career elsewhere and these do not have that level of education, though we do have training courses for them.

Presbytera Christina: Are the priest taught anything on the environment or on the ethical treatment of animals?

Bishop Isaias: I do not think so, though I do know the Ecumenical Patriarch wants this. Perhaps he has something but let me say this, why do we not start this? We can make a programme for our priests here in Cyprus.

Presbytera Christina: Ok, but who has the knowledge on both Orthodox theology and the ethical treatment of animals and the environment?  Who will do this?

Bishop Isaias: This is a good question and again this is something I have been thinking of for a while. I think it is time that we had someone from here, one of my students to do a Masters in this subject – Orthodoxy and the Animal Kingdom, I think this would be a very good start.  We would then have the research available to us in Greek from which to write a programme for our priests, based on our research and in one year or two at the most, we can make a proposal to our Synod that this programme be taught in our seminaries. This would be for the new priests but we could also have training programmes for the existing Priests.

Presbytera Christina:  Well Bishop Isaias may I say firstly that I thank you for the large amount of time you have spent discussing this subject with me as I know you are a very busy man.  Can I also say that I am extremely encouraged by what you have said and feel that your comments, together with those by Metropolitan Kallistos, have enabled me to give a clear teaching of the Orthodox Church’s position on the welfare and treatment of animals in the 21st Century than would otherwise not have been the case.


Alexios Gennaris and the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

At the Orthodox Mission Conference at Oxford, in the UK,  we learnt of Alexios’ trip to Fr. Themi’s orphanage and of the work of the Tacugama Chimpanzee Santuary.  The sanctuary were supporting not only orphaned/rescued chimpanzees but also the human victims of the recent mudslide.  This is an edited article of his experience.

 Scene of the August 14th mudslide.

By going on a tour of the sanctuary I learnt so much from the guides, one of which, Moses, lost 7 members of his family during the August 14th mudslide. The illegal deforestation and house building in the area significantly increased the instability of the soil which led to the devastating mudslide and loss of life.


Essentially, the roots of trees weave into the soil to hold it together and prevent erosion.

The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Compassion for Humans. The prime objective of the Sanctuary is the rehabilitation of confiscated, orphaned and abandoned chimpanzees. After the recent mudslide the sanctuary initially supported the children left without parents by providing meals. It now sponsors their education but on a long term basis. Chatting to a woman at the airport, I found out that she works 7 days a week and earns $70 per month. She is a single mother supporting her 1 year old child, mother and cousin. Her cousin’s education, including books and uniform is $150 per year. So you can imagine the financial strain this must be putting on the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Compassion for Non-Humans. The orphaned chimpanzees problem started with the demand for bush meat. Adult chimps are killed for meat and the baby chimps are taken as an extra item to sell.

Despite the decrease in the price of bush meat, the price and demand for baby chimps has increased making them more valuable than the adults. Chimps are extremely protective of their young, so a hunter might have to kill at least 6 adults in order to capture one child. Chimps are now listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Chimpanzees (and many other species) are recognised by the scientific community as sentient creatures. They are highly intelligent beings who share the same range of emotions as humans; which includes suffering from mental trauma and grief at the loss of family members. A trained member of staff acts as a surrogate mother to these orphaned chimps.

The chimps’ rehabilitation begins with 90 day quarantine. This is to prevent any diseases being spread amongst the group. This period is also used to introduce them to their new diet and home. Medical data is also collated and the chimps are immunised against diseases such as tetanus and polio.

Sharing 98.6% of our DNA, chimps are susceptible to any common ailments that we might have. Once the vet gives the all clear, the chimps are introduced to other members of their new ‘family’. Younger chimps find it easier to fit it and adapt with their new siblings. The role of the surrogate mother gradually decreases at this stage.

Orphaned chimps socialising through play in the sanctuary

Young adults learning to forage for food

.Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is located in the Western Area Peninsula National Park by the Regent area of Freetown, S.L.

The sanctuary has several eco-lodges for an overnight stay. It can provide meals and breakfast. The isolation is perfect for anyone wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of Freetown, down below. I managed to record the sounds of the night and early morning whilst I slept. This will be used during the presentation of my photos. For more information on the work of the Sanctuary please visit their website:

Congo Dam

The Congo Dam is situated 100 metres up the mountain from the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Their tours usually need to be pre-booked and follow a specific route used by tourists. I was taken on the unofficial tour with a running commentary from my two guides. They spoke of the importance of conservation in the rainforest and the importance of all animals. Deforestation and poachers are the main areas of concern.

Food for the animals is picked up from beneath the trees and stored under rocks

This helps the guides to spot if hunters have been in the forest

The older of the two men,  Sa,

was very knowledgeable when it came to the wildlife

John knew a great deal about conservation.

The view from the Congo Dam

The lesson they gave me was worthy of any secondary/high school class. Both men spoke of their job with passion and pride.











Abbot Tryphon and his friend the Mountain Cat

The Abbot and I

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Hammi the Norwegian Forest Cat and his Norwegian Abbot Friend

Soon after moving our monastery from a rental house and into the temporary quarters of an old trailer house, Hammi arrived. We startled each other midway between the foundations of what is now the library and the trailer. I reached down to him and he came right over to greet me. Picking him up, I took him to the trailer and introduced him to Father Paul. Both of us had talked about the need of getting a cat as a mouser. This cat seemed to be ideal.

Father Paul was less enthusiastic, since we were both allergic to cat dander. Father was a bit upset when I opened a large can of salmon, giving a small portion to this visiting cat, yet within a week the cat was sleeping on Father Paul’s bed and we were wondering why we were not having allergic reactions to our new housemate.

From the beginning this cat was a real ham, so we named him Hammi. It was a number of years before we discovered Hammi was a Norwegian Forest Cat, known for having personalities similar to dogs, and NO cat dander. Perfect fit!

Anyone who’s ever visited the monastery has been met in the parking lot by our beloved Hammi. He always runs down to greet visitors, accompanying them up the steps to the courtyard. Whenever we are sitting on the porch or in the library, Hammi is usually nearby. If he sees one of us heading into the forest for a walk, Hammi is right there with us.

Hammi the Norwegian Forest Cat

Many Orthodox children are familiar with the book, The Abbot and I, a story told by a cat who resides in the cell of the abbot of a monastery. When children visit with their parents and meet Hammi and the Abbot, they are of course reminded of this book. I have a copy in my study and will gladly read it to visiting children.

Anyone who’s ever had a pet knows how important they can be to the life of a family. Children learn to be responsible and compassionate when caring for their pets. Older people, especially whose living alone, find companionship and unconditional love from their pets.

Our lives are enriched when we share our homes with animals, for that special bond which develops between we humans and our pets enriches and sustains us. Truly, pets are gifts from God.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Reducing marine mammal & turtle bycatch in EU fisheries through an effective new regulation on Technical Conservation Measures

This is a copy of the open letter from leading marine scientists to EU representatives regarding improving legal protection.

Reducing marine mammal & turtle bycatch in EU fisheries through an effective new regulation on Technical Conservation Measures

Dear MEP, EU Member State Representative, European Commission,

In the European Union all marine mammals and turtles are protected under the EU Habitats Directive. Yet, for decades, incidental catches of these species in fisheries have been a major conservation and welfare concern with high numbers continuing to die in this way each year. Despite existing EU legal requirements to monitor and reduce bycatch, monitoring has been insufficient in most fisheries and areas and has thus frequently impeded the application of effective mitigation measures 1 .

The Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on the Conservation of Fishery Resources and the Protection of Marine Ecosystems through Technical Measures (2016/0074(COD)) (hereafter referred to as the Technical Conservation Measures Regulation) currently under scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council provides an opportunity to build upon the EU measures that are currently in place, to more effectively monitor and reduce bycatch of sensitive species such as marine mammals and turtles.

As experts on cetaceans and fisheries management, we are concerned by what appears to be an unambitious tone being set during the negotiations on this proposed legislation. For example, proposals have been made in the European Parliament to (a) remove the ban on driftnets in the Baltic Sea (where recent scientific assessments cite evidence that bycatch in gillnets continues to adversely affect the critically endangered population of Baltic Sea harbour porpoises estimated to number less than 500 individuals) 2 and (b) remove all bycatch monitoring and mitigation measures in South Western Waters (ICES sub-areas VIII, IX & X – Union waters of the Bay of Biscay, Spain, Portugal and offshore, including waters around the Azores) and CECAF zones 35 34.1.1, 34.1.2 and 34.2.0 (Union waters around Madeira and the Canary islands).

Once adopted, the Technical Conservation Measures Regulation is expected to be fundamental for ensuring Union-wide action to minimize, and where possible, eliminate incidental catches of marine mammals and turtles through effective monitoring and mitigation, in accordance with the strict protection required under the Habitats Directive.

We therefore urge you to ensure that the Technical Conservation Measures Regulation includes requirements to:

  • more effectively monitor incidental catches of marine mammals and turtles, irrespective of vessel size, and report data annually to the EU;
  • progressively minimize and, where possible, eliminate incidental catches of sensitive species;
  • ensure that monitoring and mitigation are based on the best available science with credible assessment of their effectiveness;
  • ensure that EU standards and compliance measures are set in every sea basin; and
  • maintain the driftnet ban in the Baltic.

We call on you to guarantee that EU legislation is not weakened and that protection and conservation measures for sensitive species threatened by fishing operations are duly implemented and improved to minimise impacts on these species.


The undersigned cetacean and fisheries experts:

Name  & Affiliation

Professor Àlex Aguilar,Universitat de Barcelona, Spain;Dr Matthieu Authier,                    Observatoire Pelagis,Université de La Rochelle-CNRS, France; Dr Simon Berrow,          Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Ireland Galway-Mayo Institute ofTechnology, Ireland; Dr Arne Bjørge,Institute of Marine Research,Norway Co-chair,International Whaling Commission (IWC) Bycatch Mitigation Initiative Chair Norwegian Marine Mammal Scientific Advisory Board Member, ICES Working Group Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME) Member, IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas (MMMPA) Task Force, Norwegian delegate for IWC Scientific Committee; Patricia Brtnik, Deutsches Meeresmusem, Germany, German delegate for Agreement on the  Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS); Dr Kees (C.J.) Camphuysen, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea    Research, The Netherlands Utrecht University,The Netherlands; Ida Carlen, Chair, Jastarnia Group Coalition Clean Baltic, Sweden; Dr Julia Carlström, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden Member, Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) Member, Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) Swedish delegate for ASCOBANS; Professor Boris Culik, F³: Forschung. Fakten. Fantasie, Germany; Rob Deaville, Cetacean Investigation Stranding Programme, Zoological Society of London (ZSL),UK; Dr Geneviève Desportes, Former Coordinator for the ASCOBANS North Sea Harbour Porpoise Action Plan (2011-2015); Dr Peter Evans, Chair, ASCOBANS Bycatch Working Group University of Bangor, UK Sea   Watch Foundation, UK; Professor Antonio Fernandez, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,Spain; Dr Caterina Fortuna, Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research,Italy; Dr Alexandros Frantzis; Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, Greece; Luís Freitas,Head of the Science Unit, Madeira Whale Museum, Madeira, Portugal Portuguese delegate for IWC Scientific Committee;Tilen Genov, President, Morigenos – Slovenian Marine Mammal Society, Slovenia; Jan Haelters,Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium Belgian delegate for ASCOBANS;Sami Hassani, Océanopolis, France; Dr Helena Herr, Germany; Erich Hoyt,Co-Chair, IUCN MMMPA Task Force;Lonneke IJsseldijk,Utrecht University, The Netherlands; Dr Paul Jepson,Cetacean InvestigationStranding  Programme, ZSL,UK; Sara Königson Swedish University of Agriculture Science,  Sweden Member, ICES Working Group for  Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC) Member, Jastarnia Group Swedish delegate for ASCOBANS; Sven Koschinski, Meereszoologie, Germany; Dr Russell Leaper, UK delegate for IWC Scientific Committee; Dr Ana Marçalo, University of the Algarve, Portugal Member,ICES WGBYC; Dr Sandro Mazzariol, University of Padua, Italy Cetaceans Strandings Emergency Response Team, Italy Chair, IWC Expert Panel on Strandings Italian delgate for IWC Scientific Committee; Dr Sinead Murphy, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Ireland;Dr Simon Northridge, Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), University of St Andrews, UK Member, ICES WGBYC; Dr Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Co-Chair, IUCN MMMPA Task Force Deputy Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission,Cetacean Specialist Group Name Affiliation; Dr Simone Panigada, Tethys Research Institute, Italy; Dr Iwona Pawliczka, Prof.Krzysztof Skóra Hel Marine Station, University of Gdańsk, Poland; Dr Helene Peltier, Observatoire Pelagis, Université de La Rochelle- CNRS, France Member, ICES WGBYC; Dr Graham Pierce, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC), Spain Spanish delegate for IWC Scientific Committee Member, IWC Standing Working Group of the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative, Co- chair, ICES WGMME; Dimitar Popov, Green Balkans, Bulgaria; Dr Lindsay Porter, Co-Convener, Small Cetaceans IWC Scientific Committee SMRU (Hong Kong), University of St.Andrews, UK; Dr Violin, St.Raykov BlackSea4FishProject GFCM FAO Coordinator,Institute of Oceanology- BAS,Bulgaria; Dr Fiona Read, University of Aberdeen, UK Whale and Dolphin Conservation,UK Member, ICES WGMME; Dr Randy Reeves, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Cetacean Specialist Group; Professor Vincent Ridoux  Observatoire Pelagis, Université de La Rochelle-CNRS, France; Dr Meike Scheidat,Wageningen Marine Research, The Netherlands   Dutch delegate for IWC Scientific Committee; Mark Simmonds, OBE,Humane Society International; Dr Renaud de Stephanis, Conservation Information and Research on Cetaceans (CIRCE), Spain; Dr Nick Tregenza, Chelonia Limited University of Exeter, UK; Dr Adriana Vella,Conservation Biology Research Group, University of Malta, Malta; Dr Els Vermeulen,Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit, University   of Pretoria, South Africa Belgian delegate for IWC Scientific Committee.                                          



1 ASCOBANS. 2015. Report on the Expert Workshop on the Requirements of Legislation to Address Monitoring and Mitigation of Small Cetacean Bycatch. Bonn, Germany, 21-23rd January 2015. 37 pp.


BirdLife International scientists assess the conservation status of the world’s birds

This is an excerpt from a recent post concerned with the Red List of threatened bird species.
‘As new information arises, new threats to birds are identified and conservation actions are evaluated, BirdLife International scientists assess the conservation status of the world’s birds every year for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. According to the latest update of the Red List for birds, overfishing and climate change are pushing seabirds closer to extinction, while a formerly super-abundant songbird could soon go extinct if illegal trapping is not halted.
Overfishing and ocean changes caused by climate change have affected the availability and quality of the Black-legged Kittiwake’s key prey species, like sandeel. Without sufficient food, kittiwake colonies in the North Atlantic and Pacific are struggling to feed their chicks, causing disastrous chick survival in recent years. For the adults, exposure to other threats at sea such as bycatch in fishing gear, pollution, and unsustainable hunting all have contributed to the dramatic declines of this seabird. Globally, the species is thought to have declined by around 40% since the 1970s, justifying its uplisting to Vulnerable.
According to Marguerite Tarzia, European Marine Conservation Officer at BirdLife International, “The alarming decline of the Black-legged Kittiwake and other North Atlantic and Arctic seabirds, such as Atlantic Puffin, provides a painful lesson in what happens when nations take an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to conservation.” In Cyprus, little is known about the scale and the scope of the problems that seabirds face, but with the expert coordination of BirdLife Europe and together with other NGOs in Cyprus, BirdLife Cyprus will be involved in setting up a Cyprus ‘Task Force’ in 2018 to begin to tackle these issues and in particular that of incidental bycatch in fisheries.
Once super-abundant, Yellow-breasted Bunting has suffered frightening declines due to large-scale unchecked hunting (mainly for food). Sights of huge migrating flocks of this attractive songbird could soon be a thing of the past in Asia, paralleling scenes from North America in the 1800s of billion-strong flocks of Passenger Pigeon before they were hunted to extinction. The Yellow-breasted Bunting is now thought to have declined by more than 80% since 2002, and this year is uplisted to the highest threat category, Critically Endangered. Improvements in communication and transportation have exacerbated the hunting problem, a practice made illegal in China in 1997, but which continues on the black market today.
Apologists for illegal trapping of songbirds in Cyprus often cite the fact that Blackcap, the main target species, is not threatened, as a justification for their calls to decriminalise the practice. The fate of the Yellow-breasted Bunting demonstrates that no matter how common a species is, indiscriminate and unsustainable killing can have disastrous effects.
Happily, there is also hopeful news in the 2017 Red List of birds, with Dalmatian Pelicans in Europe recovering thanks to artificial nesting rafts and disturbance prevention; and in New Zealand, where two species of kiwi are now less threatened thanks to dedicated control of introduced predators, egg-rearing and community work.
According to Dr Ian Burfield, Global Science Coordinator at BirdLife International, “Birds are well-studied and great indicators of the health of the wider environment. A species at higher risk of extinction is a worrying alarm call that action needs to be taken now. Thankfully success in kiwi and pelican conservation shows that, when well-resourced and supported, conservation efforts really do pay off.”
You can find out more information about the 2017 IUCN Red List for birds on the BirdLife International website:′

New Patron of Pan Orthodox Concern For Animals.

We are thrilled to announce that Bishop Isaias is to join Metropolitan Kallistos as Patron of the charity Pan Orthodox Concern For Animals.  Below is a brief bio which will be translated into other languages due to the efforts of our friends Luda, Anka and our latest volunteer Ingrid.

Isaiah (Kykkotis) of Tamassos

His Eminence, the Most Reverend Isaias (Kykkotis) of Tamassos and Orinis is the Metropolitan of the Diocese of Tamassos and Orinis of the Church of Cyprus.

Metr. Isaias was born in 1971 in Strovolos, Cyprus of parents who had been  displaced from their home during the 1974 Turkeys  invasion in Cyprus. He attended and graduated from the Acropolis Lyceum. After his graduation he served in the army of Cyprus before enrolling in the Seminary of Apostle Barnabas in 1990 and, at the same time, joined the Kykkos Monastery as a novice.

In 1992, Isaias began his theological studies at the Moscow Theological Academy in Russia at the direction of Abbot Nikiforos of Kykkos Monastery, and graduated with Honors in 1997. He continued studies at the Moscow Theological Academy , completing his post-graduate work with a paper, “The Life and Works of St. Neophtos the Confined”. He then continued his post graduate education at the Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University of Thessalonica, completing a three year program in Ecclesiastical Archaeology. Isaias then returned to Russia as a nominee for Doctor of Theology at the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary . After acceptance of his dissertation, “The History and the Theological Content of the kolivades dispute  ( spiritual Renaissance 19th century  )  in Ayion Oros” he was granted, in 2003, the degree of Doctor of Theology by the Council of the Moscow Academy. In 2016 he completed a new master degree in church history at the theological faculty of Nicosia university in Cyprus!

In 1993, on a break from the seminary in Russia, Isaias was ordained a deacon. In 2000, he was ordained priest and elevated to the dignity of archimandrite by Archbishop Chrysostomos I.

Archim. Isaias was active as a representative of the Monastery of Kykkos. He participated in many theological, cultural, and humanitarian conferences in Cyprus and abroad as a member of the “World forum of Religions and Cultures.” He also participated in programs in the United States of America on the role of the Church in a modern multicultural society. Serving under Bishop Nikiforos, Isaias founded and supervised, for Kykkos Monastery, the Department of Direct Granting of Humanitarian Help and Spiritual Support of the disabled. This involved visiting and organizing help programs in countries that were affected by wars, hunger, or disasters. Archim. Isaias also served with the blessing of Abp. Chrysostomos I as confessor of non-Cyprian Orthodox prisoners in the Central Prisons.

After election by the clergy and people on June 9, 2007, Archim. Isaias was consecrated and enthroned Metropolitan of Tamassos and Orinis on June 11, 2007.

During his service us a bishop he founded the first Orthodox Christian environment and animal protection department of the Cyprus church in his diocese.


ἡ Α.Π. ὁ Μητροπολίτης Ταμασοῦ καὶ Ὀρεινῆς

κ. Ἠσαΐας

Ὁ Πανιερώτατος Μητροπολίτης Ταμασοῦ καὶ Ὀρεινῆς κ. Ἠσαΐας ἐγεννήθη εἰς τὸν Στρόβολον τὸ 1971, ἀπὸ ἐκτοπισθέντας γονεῖς. Μετὰ τὸ πέρας τῆς φοιτήσεώς του εἰς τὸ Λύκειον Ἀκροπόλεως, κατατάσσεται εἰς τὴν Ἐθνικὴν Φρουρὰν καί, ἀκολούθως, τὸ 1990 ἐγγράφεται εἰς τὴν Ἱερατικὴν Σχολὴν τῆς Ἐκκλησίας Κύπρου «Ἀπόστολος Βαρνάβας». Τὸν ἴδιον χρόνον ἐντάσσεται ὡς δόκιμος μοναχὸς εἰς τὴν Ἱερὰν Μονὴν Κύκκου, ὅπου ὑπηρετεῖ εἰς διάφορα διακονήματα. Τὸ 1992 ὁ τότε Ἡγούμενος τῆς Ἱερᾶς Μονῆς Κύκκου καὶ νῦν Μητροπολίτης Κύκκου καὶ Τηλλυρίας κ. Νικηφόρος τὸν στέλλει εἰς τὴν Ρωσίαν διὰ θεολογικὰς σπουδάς. Τὸ 1993 χειροτονεῖται διάκονος εἰς τὴν Ἱερὰν Μονὴν Κύκκου καὶ τὸ 1997 ἀποπερατώνει τὰς σπουδάς του εἰς τὴν Θεολογικὴν Σχολὴν Μόσχας. Τὸ ἴδιον ἔτος συνεχίζει καὶ τὸ 1998 ὁλοκληρώνει μεταπτυχιακὸν κύκλον σπουδῶν εἰς τὴν Μόσχαν, μὲ θέμα: «Ὁ βίος καὶ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ Ἁγίου Νεοφύτου τοῦ Ἐγκλείστου». Ἀκολούθως μεταβαίνει καὶ φοιτᾶ εἰς τὴν Θεολογικὴν Σχολὴν τοῦ Ἀριστοτελείου Πανεπιστημίου Θεσσαλονίκης, ὅπου παρακολουθεῖ μὲ ἐπιτυχίαν διὰ δύο ἔτη δεύτερον κύκλον μεταπτυχιακῶν σπουδῶν εἰς τὴν Ἐκκλησιαστικὴν Ἀρχαιολογίαν. Τὸ ἔτος 2000 χειροτονεῖται Πρεσβύτερος καὶ προχειρίζεται εἰς Ἀρχιμανδρίτην ὑπὸ τοῦ τότε Ἀρχιεπισκόπου Κύπρου Χρυσοστόμου Α΄. Ἐν συνεχείᾳ ἐγγράφεται εἰς τὴν Θεολογικὴν Ἀκαδημίαν Μόσχας ὡς ὑποψήφιος διδάκτωρ Θεολογίας καὶ ἐκπονεῖ διδακτορικὴν διατριβὴν μὲ θέμα: «Ἡ ἱστορία καὶ τὸ θεολογικὸν περιεχόμενον τῆς Κολλυβαδικῆς ἔριδος εἰς τὸ Ἅγιον Ὅρος». Μετὰ ἀπὸ ἐπιτυχῆ ὑποστήριξιν τῆς διατριβῆς του, τὸ 2003 ἀνακηρύσσεται Διδάκτωρ Θεολογίας ἀπὸ τὸ Ἐπιστημονικὸν Συμβούλιον τῆς Θεολογικῆς Ἀκαδημίας Μόσχας. Τὸ 2015 ὁλοκληρώνει μεταπτυχιακὸν κύκλον σπουδῶν εἰς τὸ Πανεπιστήμιον Νεάπολις Πάφου καὶ ἐκπονεῖ διατριβὴν ὑπὸ τὸν τίτλον «Ἡ ἱστορία τῆς Ἱερᾶς Μητροπόλεως Ταμασοῦ καὶ Ὀρεινῆς μέσα ἀπὸ τὶς πηγές».

Ὡς μέλος τῆς Ἀδελφότητος τῆς Ἱερᾶς Μονῆς Κύκκου, μὲ τὴν καθοδήγησιν τοῦ Ἡγουμένου αὐτῆς, προΐσταται τοῦ Τμήματος Ἀμέσου Παροχῆς Ἀνθρωπιστικῆς Βοηθείας καὶ Πνευματικῆς Στηρίξεως εἰς ἀναξιοπαθοῦντας ἐκ μέρους τῆς Ἱερᾶς Μονῆς Κύκκου. Τῇ εὐλογίᾳ τοῦ Μακαριωτάτου Ἀρχιεπισκόπου πρώην Κύπρου Χρυσοστόμου Α΄, ὑπηρετεῖ ἐπὶ ἀρκετὸν διάστημα ὡς πνευματικὸς τῶν ἀλλοδαπῶν ὀρθοδόξων εἰς τὰς Κεντρικὰς Φυλακὰς Κύπρου. Ὑπηρετεῖ, ὡσαύτως, ὡς Ἐκτελεστικὸς Πρόεδρος τοῦ Γραφείου Εὐρωπαϊκῶν χρηματοδοτήσεων τῆς Ἱερᾶς Συνόδου τῆς Ἐκκλησίας τῆς Κύπρου.

Τὴν 9ην Ἰουνίου 2007, ἐκλέγεται παμψηφεὶ ὑπὸ τῆς Κληρικολαϊκῆς Συνελεύσεως ὡς Μητροπολίτης Ταμασοῦ καὶ Ὀρεινῆς καὶ τὴν 11ην Ἰουνίου τοῦ ἰδίου ἔτους χειροτονεῖται καὶ ἐνθρονίζεται ὡς Μητροπολίτης Ταμασοῦ καὶ Ὀρεινῆς.

Interview with Bishop Isaias of Tamasou & Orinis, Cyprus. Animal Suffering Pt 1

This article is part of an interview with Bishop Isaias of |Tamasou & Orinis, Cyprus in response to social science research which indicated a lack of engagement/clarity by the Church on animal cruelty and suffering.

Presbytera Christina: Firstly I would like to thank you for this interview which will be part of my research for my PhD entitled: – Ancient Voices in Modern Theology: Orthodox Teaching and Practice in Animal Suffering and Welfare.[1]

Bishop Isaias: Let me give a general statement of our approach to animals and the Creation. From the time we realise that everything is from God, the animals, the plants, the earth, the planets, we are humbled before God and thankful for His Creation because of all this was created for us, for the service of mankind. Of course the main creation is the human life and everything else is to help the preservation of the human life.  This means that we must be thankful for this creation which is created for our well-being.

Presbytera Christina: Father if I may point out one problem here. The danger with that one approach or perspective is that this view alone leads to the situation we have today where the rest of creation is seen purely for our use and not there for us to protect and prosper as stewards or priests of God’s creation, which is now a common theme within Orthodoxy.

Bishop Isaias: Yes you are right they are connected. It is a combination of these together with a spiritual connection – you cannot separate them.  For example, sheep are used for my food but it is a creation of God that is now given for me to eat so that I survive.  I should protect it, firstly because it is a creation of God and secondly it is for my benefit.  I cannot mistreat animals that are used in the food-chains just because they are for that purpose.

Presbytera Christina: So to clarify what you are saying is that we need to protect them for three reasons:-

  • They are part of God’s Creation and we should love them for themselves.
  • We should protect them because some of them are also for our food.
  • We should protect them because if we abuse them this is bad for us in the spiritual context.

Bishop Isaias: Yes, there are several threads. We have a spiritual connection and how we treat animals is a spiritual matter. There is a special connection with the animals and plants because we are all part of the Holy providence.  God did not make anything by mistake, all things were made with perfection and as created beings we are all connected.  Yes there is a discrimination of levels.  We use hierarchical levels in tradition, so I cannot put the rest of the animal kingdom or planets in the same level as humans but this does not mean that humans should be disrespectful of the rest of the Creation. We must be proud that it is given for us and all of us must protect it. Otherwise we are not good curators and do not respect the Creation of God.

It is a spiritual thing because our intentions and our actions define who we are.  If you are violent to an animal you can easily be violent to human beings. If you are disrespectful to nature and to forests this too means that you will easily be disrespectful to humans because we are all connected.  Everything is connected.

Animals are our companions and they also give us food and they make the world more beautiful so we can see the beauty of God through the Creation. People feel comfortable near to animals and this is why they have pets and this is a good thing on many levels. It is important that people should try to stop the cruelty to animals and try to protect them, this is a good thing. It is also good that the people protect the nature, the forests – the green kingdom shall we say.

So whilst we say that humans are the main creation this is not to denigrate the rest of creation.  They are God’s Creation and we must respect that and treat them respectfully.

If you express negative thoughts or actions to the Creation this means that you are a bad person, a bad human being. Because man was created with a conscience of virtue – perfect and clear- you cannot or should not do bad things.  We have circumstances in the way we are brought up and this will affect us but our aim is to keep our conscience clear and to have a good heart.  This is why Jesus Christ said that if you want to inherit the kingdom of God you must become like the children.  Children have clear hearts and clear consciences – without destructions.  They have not learnt bad things, they have no hatred and they have no vested interests.  We can easily identify bad people because we see how they act – they will disrespect creation and also the people.  God gave man a conscience and this must be kept clear of bad actions, it must be without hatred and free of vested interests.

We have a tradition in the Church of Staretz – Holy people who have had a very good relationship with animals, even the wild animals.  These Fathers had a pure heart, a good heart and a good conscience.  They have shown us how we should behave and have given us clear examples of how to live our lives.  Not one of them did anything wrong to the animals or to nature – they understood their place and were connected to all of nature. Some examples are St. Mammas and St. Gerasimus, or Daniel in the cave with the lions and lately, Holy Father Paisius who used to talk to the animals. This shows us that people who have a clear conscience can become more approachable to animals, can have a closer relationship with animals because the animals recognise the love that is reflected in their life.  They have no fear of these men.

Of course the devil interferes with the animals and as we are tempted, so animals are tempted. You can see bad behaviour in animals as you do in humans. We see some people making bad use of animals and making them bad as they are bad and so we have to be careful of some animals but this is another subject.

Presbytera Christina: Yes father, this is one of the subjects the animal welfarists have to deal with.  The research would show that it is not the animal that was bad but the bad person who owned that animal that made it bad, they brutalise them and we can give for example the way animals are made to fight each other for the profit of some bad people.

Bishop Isaias:  Yes exactly. So temptation is everywhere, where there are bad actions and thoughts, there too is the devil. So we have to take care of our own actions to safeguard our own souls.

Presbytera Christina: From this you would seem to suggest that animals have their own consciousness.  Is that what you mean?

Bishop Isaias: Well yes, in a way. They have their instincts and they have their genes. We can bring up a lion with a kind heart from the time it is born but at all times we must understand that it is a lion and if it is provoked or it is hungry it may turn against us.  It is true that there is research which shows that many animals have intelligence and understanding and now we cannot say they do not but still we need to be aware of their innate character in this fallen world.

We can say that the animals have their justice and that is different from the justice in the humans.  We have a consciousness that is different.  For example an animal that is hungry will eat what is before it but a man who is hungry and needs to survive, must be tolerant. He must not mistreat other people and also he must not harm the environment because he has some needs. We have been given all by God but we must not misuse them.

We have been given our reason and our freedom and we are free to choose what we do, this is not so easily said for the animals that have strong instincts to act as they do.  This does not detract from what I said before, in fact it is more so.  We must choose to act for the benefit of all of the Creation not just for our own selfish will.  We must act for the good of all Creation. Unfortunately, we are mistreating this free will – or misusing this free will because everywhere we can see how we are misusing the Creation.

Now there are animals that have excellent reason and instincts and have very similar abilities to human beings, like the chimpanzees for example.  I have done my own research and I know that there are many studies now that show how close many species are to us and this is a good thing because it helps us to see how connected we are to the other animals in the kingdom of God.  This should help us to understand our connectedness and to treat them well.

So we must not idolize animals but at the same time we must take measures to protect them.  I think it is important to say that we understand the people who try to stop the cruelty to the animals do not idolize them but instead, they see that connection that many others do not see.

We have to be kind to all creatures.  Kindness should show no discrimination.  We must not discriminate against the animals. We must not have a selfish kindness; I mean here that we should not be kind to animals just because it benefits us, like for our food, or for our companions or that they decorate the world; we need to be kind to animals because it is who we are, we are made in the image of God and we must reflect the love of God in his kindness to all things and because they belong to God.

We have a conscience given to us by love, initiated by God who is love and we must use it to love all things. So human beings who are not kind and thoughtful, who are not protective of animals, are bad human beings. They are bad people because their violence and mistreatment of animals means that they have complexes – they have problems.  It is not the animals that are the problem but the people and the problems are inside their hearts.

1.] This was the original title of the thesis.


Christ’s Birth, Patristic commentary and Animal Protection.


Firstly, we send our love and blessings to all our friends and supporters.  We extend this to those across the world who show concern and compassion for animals, even if they do not know of His, or our, existence.  We do so because we believe they carry out God’s will for His Creation.

This is the classic representation of Christ’s birth:

Image result for icons of the nativity of our lord

From the earliest times, Eastern Orthodox Christianity has had a tradition which promotes God’s love and compassion for all created beings.  Church history informs us that the early Fathers wrote much of their work in order to dispute the various heresies of their time; two of which were the false teachings that God neither knew, nor cared for Man or the world he inhabited. Understandably, with so many heresies the non-human creation was not the primary focus of the early Church however, this does not mean that they failed to recognize the need to care and protect the non-human world. St. Irenaeus was one of the earliest to acknowledge the heresy of separating God from His Creation:

… among the “all things” our world must be embraced.  It too, therefore, was made by His Word, as Scripture tells us in the book of Genesis.[1]

There is also a tradition of recognizing that through Christ’s Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection all creation is sanctified [2]

               and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.[3]

 The Fathers also recognized that only the human portion of creation had sinned and that only humans were in need of instruction and repentance:

While all things were made by God, certain of His creatures sinned and revolted from a state of submission to God, and others, indeed the great majority, persevered,  and do still persevere, in [willing] subjection to Him who formed them.[4]

nothing in creation had gone astray in its notions of God, save the human being only. [5]

The Fathers also taught that Christ sanctified creation through everything He touched. [6]

For no part of creation is left void of him: He has filled all things everywhere.[7]

Basil of Seleucia states that Christ saved the world and liberated the earth [8] and recounts all the benefits of salvation including ‘a principle of purification for the world, a renewing of nature’. [9]

We find many examples of similar teachings in ecclesial texts:

The earth was sanctified, O Word, at Thy holy birth, and the heavens with a star declared Thy glory; and now the nature of waters is blessed by Thy baptism in the flesh, and mankind is restored to its former nobility.[10]

This tradition continues until today and is evidenced here in His All Holiness Bartholomew’s Patriarchal Proclamation of Christmas 2017 ( Prot. no. 1123)

This is the supreme truth about salvation. That we belong to Christ. That everything is united in Christ. That our corruptible nature is refashioned in Christ, the image is restored and the road toward likeness is opened for all people. By assuming human nature, the divine Word establishes the unity of humanity through a common divine predestination and salvation. And it is not only humanity that is saved, but all of creation. Just as the fall of Adam and Eve impacts all of creation, so too the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God affects all of creation. “Creation is recognized as free when those who were once in darkness become children of light.[11] Basil the Great calls us to celebrate the holy Nativity of Christ as the “common feast of all creation,” as “the salvation of the world—humanity’s day of birth.”[12]  …

 In the Church, we experience freedom through Christ, in Christ and with Christ. And the  very summit of this freedom is the place of love, which “does not seek its own” [13] but “derives from a pure heart.” [14] Whoever depends on himself, seeks his own will, and is self-sufficient—whoever pursues deification by himself and congratulates himself—only revolves around himself and his individual self-love and self-gratification; such a person only sees others as a suppression of individual freedom. Whereas freedom in Christ is always oriented to one’s neighbor, always directed toward the other, always speaks the truth in love. The aim of the believer is not to assert his or her rights, but rather “to follow and fulfill the rights of Christ”[15] in a spirit of humility and thanksgiving.

It is important therefore for us to remember that in addition to the traditional focus on Christ’s Incarnation for humans, there is another Eastern Orthodox tradition which links Christ’s Incarnation to the relief of suffering of the non-human creation. One example of that recognition is given here by St Ephrem the Syrian:

The lamb bleated as it was offered before the First-born. It praised the Lamb, that had come to set free the flocks and the oxen from sacrifices…O Babe, that art older than Noah and younger than Noah, that reconciled all within the ark amid the billows![16]

This Icon reminds us that Christ is the light which breaks through the darkness of the fallen world.

For those involved in animal protection or conservation, this darkness is witnessed each and every day.  Out of compassion for our readers it is impossible for us and groups like us, to share the many manifestations of evil which come across our desks but we can give you a glimpse into that world. In this past week alone we have had examples of animals being skinned alive; animals being beaten, burnt, killed and filmed and animals being hunted for fun and pleasure. It is often stated that those who care for animals are sentimentalists.  Such statements could not be further from the truth.

How then are we as Christians to stand against such manifestations of evil?  Those Christians involved in animal protection profess one voice on this and it may surprise some to find that it is the traditional teaching of the Christian Church. It is not through rights, philosophy or separatist theologies that will bring about the oft called for metanoia in the heart of man, but through our role as Icon – our reflection of the Image of a loving and compassionate God. That Image guides us to live virtuously and lovingly – in a godly way, within a process of perpetual striving (επéκτaσις) to regain our original nature. We are to be at peace and forego violence,[17] to exercise loving-kindness and the virtues. We are to acquire a contrite heart through repentance; to listen and follow God’s Word and to pour out compassion and love on ‘all things’, rather than indulging our passions in evil, violent acts which serve only to destroy other created beings, their environments and eventually ourselves – be that as individuals or collectively as a species. Bartholomew echoes that early wisdom:

This truth about the life in Christ, about freedom as love and love as freedom, is the cornerstone and assurance for the future of humankind. When we build on this inspired ethos, we are able to confront the great challenges of our world, which threaten not only our well-being but our very survival[18]

We send our love in Christ and Christmas blessings to all those involved in the compassionate care and protection of all God’s created beings.

[1] St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.2:5.

[2] Ibid 4.18.6.

[3] Ibid 3.9.1.

[4] Ibid 2.18.7; see also 3.9:1 ‘all flesh shall see the salvation of God’.

[5] St. Athanasius of Alexandria, St. On the Incarnation of the Word.  Inc. 43.

[6] St Gregory Nazianzen, 37.2, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. 2nd Series. Schaff, P. and Wace, H. (Eds) Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. (1994:338)

[7] St. Athanasius of Alexandria, op. cit., S8:1.

[8] Basil of Seleucia SC187:209.

[9] Ibid, 3rd Homily on Pascha, SC187:215.

[10] 5th January, Matins; Kanon 9.2; Menaion, p. 302.

[11] Iambic Katavasia on the Feast of Theophany, Ode VIII.

[12] St. Basil the Great, Homily on the Nativity of Christ, PG 31, 1472-73.

[13] 1 Cor. 13:5.

[14] 1 Tim. 1:5.

[15] Theotokion, Aposticha of the Ainoi, October 12.

[16] St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymn 5, Hymns on the Nativity

[17] St. Irenaeus, op. cit., 4.18.3.

[18] Bartholomew’s Patriarchal Proclamation of Christmas 2017. (Prot. No. 1123)


5 Saints and Animals

We thank our friend Luda for arranging permission for us to use the article from  Foma magazine – An English translation will be available soon.


5 историй о святых и их животных

Герасим и лев

Герасим Иорданский. Художник Елена Черкасова

Герасим Иорданский основал в египетской пустыне обитель с очень строгим уставом и сам был в обители первым подвижником.

Однажды Герасим встретил в пустыне льва. В лапу измождённого, больного хищника вонзилась колючка, лапа сильно распухла и нагноилась. Святой вылечил зверя и благодарный лев сильно привязался к монаху — стал мирным и кротким, всюду следовал за своим благодетелем. Герасим кормил его хлебом и всем, что ел сам. Другие монахи тоже полюбили льва, даже доверили ему охранять ослика, который приносил в монастырь воду из Иордана.

Как-то раз лев вернулся в обитель один. Герасим решил, что лев съел своего подопечного, и строго отчитал зверя, назначив его с тех пор водоносом вместо осла. Зверь честно исполнял свои обязанности. Но вот вдруг монахи увидели, как лев ведёт к ним того самого осла! Живого и невредимого! И вместе с ослом за узду — ещё двух верблюдов!

Оказалось, пока лев-пастух спал, ослика случайно увел проходивший мимо с караваном купец. Позже купец вновь проследовал тем же путём, вдоль берега Иордана, уже вместе с осликом. Лев заметил осла, бросился к нему, напугав погонщиков. Те оставили животных, поклажу и разбежались. Так лев смог возвратить пропажу Герасиму.

Когда всё прояснилось, святой простил льва и даже дал ему имя — Иордан. Ещё пять лет настоятель примечал и кормил Иордана. Когда святой скончался, лев долго не мог поверить в смерть своего благодетеля, отказывался от еды, искал его… Когда же монахи втолковали хищнику, что случилось, лев не смог пережить горя и умер на могиле святого Герасима.


Макарий и гиена

Макарий Александрийский и гиена

Преподобный Макарий Александрийский, живший в IV веке нашей эры, отличался аскетичностью и сверхтребовательностью к себе. Однажды он убил на ноге назойливого комара и тут же стал укорять себя. Святой терзался угрызениями совести до тех пор, пока не отомстил себе сам, отдав тело укусам несметного полчища комаров.

В другой раз к преподобному прибежала гиена и принесла в зубах своего слепого щенка. Святой поднял детёныша, плюнул ему в глаза, помолился Богу и щенок прозрел. Гиена, забрав малыша, убежала, а на утро вернулась, принеся огромную баранью шкуру. Макарий рассердился: «Откуда у тебя эта кожа? Разве ты съела чью-нибудь овцу? Если ты добыла её насилием, я не возьму её!» Гиена наклонила голову, встала на колени, положила шкуру к ногам святого. Но тот согласился взять дар гиены лишь после того, как заручился её «согласием» не обижать более бедных, съедая их овец.


Косма, Дамиан и верблюд

Погребение святых Космы и Дамиана. Художник Фра Анджелико. 1438—1440

Святые братья целители Косма и Дамиан Ассийские жили в Малой Азии около IV века нашей эры. Они исцеляли не только людей, но и животных. Ходили по домам, лесам и пустыням, находили больных зверей и помогали им. Благодарные животные следовали за врачевателями целыми стадами.

Однажды Косма и Дамиан повстречали в пустыне еле живого верблюда. Святые сжалились над ним, исцелили и отпустили. Через много лет верблюд отплатил братьям благодарностью. Косма и Дамиан дали обет никогда ни от кого не брать платы за своё занятие, но под конец жизни Дамиан вынужден был нарушить обет — он взял от исцелённой женщины три яйца во имя Святой Троицы. Косма очень огорчился, узнав о поступке брата, и даже составил завещание, в котором запрещал после смерти хоронить его и брата вместе. Но в ту же ночь Косме явился Господь: «Для чего ты скорбишь ради взятых трёх яиц? Они взяты не ради мзды, но ради клятвы жены в Моё имя…» Косма утешился, но никому не сказал о своём видении. Через какое-то время святой Косма с миром почил. Спустя ещё некоторое время скончался и Дамиан. Люди, чтившие их память, не знали, что делать с телом Дамиана, где его положить, чтобы не нарушить завещание. И вдруг к ним подошёл верблюд — тот самый, которого святые братья исцелили когда-то, — и заговорил человеческим голосом! Верблюд рассказал всем тайну Космы. Братьев погребли вместе.


Флорентий и медведь

Святой Флорентий жил в пустыне со своим духовником Евтихием до тех пор, пока Евтихия не избрали настоятелем ближнего монастыря. Флорентий остался в пустыне один, охранять церковь. Задача была непростая и опасная. Флорентий молился, чтобы Господь послал ему помощника. И вот однажды у дверей церкви святой встретил медведя. Зверь стоял, кротко опустив голову, показывая, что пришёл послужить монаху.

Флорентий повелел медведю пасти пять овец. Когда «пастух» возвращался со своим «стадом» с пастбища, животные кормились все вместе. В постные дни медведь возвращался с овцами в три часа дня, а до того — постился, как и его хозяин. В другие дни пас овец до двенадцати часов дня. Зверю было непросто, но «режим» он честно соблюдал и ни разу не возвращался раньше времени.

Скоро о чудесном помощнике святого узнали в окрестностях. Одни люди ценили Флорентия как человека Божьего, другие завидовали ему. Четверо монахов из монастыря Евтихия из лютой зависти сговорились и убили медведя. Однако, Господь покарал злодеев — все четверо умерли от страшной проказы.


Давид Гареджийский и олени

Cвятые Давид и Лукиан Гареджийские, 1993.
Автор Лаша Кинцурашвили

Святой Давид Гареджийский жил в VI веке в Грузии. Вместе с учеником Лукианом он удалился из Тифлиса в пустыню и жил в пещере, питаясь корнями растений и травой. Вскоре жара убила всю растительность и монахи остались совершенно без пищи. Лукиан впал в уныние, собрался даже вернуться в город. Давид утешал его, рассказывая о Промысле Божием. Как вдруг к инокам прибежали три оленихи с оленятами. Лукиан подоил животных, а Давид крестным знамением обратил молоко в сыр. Голод более не грозил монахам — молоко олених стало постоянной пищей отшельников. Олени поселились в пещере вместе с людьми.

Спустя некоторое время в долину пришли охотники, которые выследили олених. Охотники были поражены: пугливые животные кротко и смирно стояли рядом с отшельниками, как если бы они были домашними, а Лукиан доил их. Святой Давид Гареджийский просил охотников пойти охотиться в другое место. Те хотели остаться с иноками в качестве учеников, но преподобный направил их по своим домам.

Охотники возвестили всем о том, что видели и слышали от святого Давида. После этого люди стали посещать пещеру, чтобы увидить дивных отшельников и принять благословение. Со временем здесь возникла большая обитель.

Met. Kallistos of Diokleia interview pt.3

Presbytera Christina: Would you agree that if the Church does have compassionate views towards animals within the created order, then there appears to be a need for the Church to ensure that its teachings are both taught and practiced at grass roots, priestly level?  How could this be achieved, particularly in relation to Cyprus, where many people become priests after they retire without any formal theological education? Should all clergy attend courses on the environment/animal welfare and / or should we include such training in our seminary courses?

Met. Kallistos: There is need for education here at every level and we should start not with the people in theological seminaries but we should start much earlier with the children.  That the normal catechism teaching given in our Church Sunday School classes should include teaching about the Creation and about compassionate and Christian treatment of animals.  We should start with people when they are young.

The Orthodox Church should include such topics in the manuals that it puts out – the Church of Greece puts out plenty of books for teaching children and I know the Greek Archdiocese in North America has a programme with a lot of literature.  I think we should struggle to see that this literature includes as one of its themes, part of the essential Christian teaching of respect for the animal creation.

Then certainly later on when priests are given training, the courses the clergy are given should include teaching on the environment. The Ecumenical Patriarch has been saying this about the environment in general but this should also include teaching on the animals and how they should be treated.

In general then, we should be working on every level to educate people.  We should bring this before them as a point that they ought to think about.  We should encourage those who have this area of responsibility to educate the children and educate the priests so that they in turn can educate their people.

Presbytera Christina: Is anyone doing this – writing this material?

Met. Kallistos: I don’t know of anyone doing this at the moment. But we must encourage them.  What you are doing is important but the trouble is most people do not give priority to this issue and they don’t think it matters – but it does matter very deeply.

Presbytera Christina: Let me ask a question on this theme but from a different perspective. Isn’t the treatment of animals important not simply for the animals and to reduce their suffering but also for our sake also? What does it say about the heart of someone who is cruel to other creatures or indifferent to suffering of any kind?

Met. Kallistos: I think so.  If we misuse the animals, this will have a negative effect on our own character.  It will coarsen us and it will reduce our spiritual sensitivity. Misuse of the animals means that there is some ‘blind spot’ in our own understanding of God and our standing of our place in the world. So, yes we are harming the animals and this is very serious but we are harming ourselves as well.

Presbytera Christina: You are familiar with St Isaac the Syrian’s famous comment on ‘The Compassionate Heart.’  What is your interpretation of this passage, with specific relevance for Orthodox Christianity’s engagement and treatment of animals?

Met. Kallistos: Now I have here ‘What is a Merciful Heart’.

Presbytera Christina: Now that is interesting because I wrote to Dr Sebastian Broke about this title for I have seen both Compassionate and Charitable for the same text and these two meanings are quite different. As a specialist in Syriac I asked him for his opinion.  He was quite sure the correct translation was Compassionate.  I also wrote regarding the use of the phrase ‘irrational animals’ in this text and he said that the Syriac did say ‘irrationals’ and it was he who chose to put animals.  My response was to say that depending upon when this was composed and interpreted ‘irrationals’ may well have included women and slaves. What it does do is highlight the importance of having expert translators.

Met. Kallistos: Well yes.  Merciful Heart is not so different to Compassionate and yes, there have been Christians who have said that women are not made in God’s image but in my view that is a definite error. Women are in the image of God as much as man and women are baptised just as men are.

The translation I have here follow the standard translation and I quote:-

What is a merciful heart? ….. It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for the demons and for all that exists…. As a result of His deep mercy or compassion the heart shrinks and cannot bear to look upon any injury of the slightest suffering of anything in creation. That is why he constantly offers up prayers full of tears even for the irrational animals….. He even prays for the reptiles as a result of great compassion that is poured out beyond measure in his heart after the likeness of God.[1]

Well here we are challenged, for it is perhaps not so difficult to feel affection for squirrels but most of us perhaps do not like snakes.

Here is another example by a twentieth-century saint, the Russian monk St Silouan the Athonite:-

One day I saw a dead snake on my path that had been chopped into pieces.”

So obviously somebody had deliberately cut it up.

“Each piece writhed convulsively and I was filled with pity for every living creature, every suffering thing in Creation and I wept bitterly before God.” [2]

So here in Orthodox teaching across the centuries, is certainly a sense that the animals suffer and that we should mind about that; And not just the domestic animals but also the wild animals – not just the furry attractive creatures but also the animals we don’t like so much. 

Presbytera Christina: It is a subject fraught with difficulties for if you love the fox, what about the fleas or ticks on the fox?

Met. Kallistos: Yes what do we do with the wasps?  I find that if you sit still the wasps will usually go away – don’t pursue it, just let it be and it will go in due course. But yes, this is all part of our rich Christian inheritance – Biblical and in the Tradition both Eastern and Western and the thing is we are all too ignorant of this but we must go on emphasising these teachings to other people and to ourselves.

Presbytera Christina: Part of your answer to an earlier question touched upon the Church’s engagement – Christianity’s engagement and treatment of animals and my research in Cyprus shows there to be a complete lack of communication between the Church and the Animal welfarists.  They are ignorant of each other’s views and yet when you analyse what is said – and you have earlier ratified what the priest said to me – they are when analysed, saying the same thing. Yet I have evidence though I have not brought it out into the public discussions, of hostility between the two groups and definite fear of the Church. Fear by some that the Church will try to shut them down, stop them functioning, if they say anything negative about the Church.

Now I know through personal experience that some animal welfare workers can be extremely difficult to work with.  I have myself been insulted during my research in Cyprus as I was perceived by some of being from the Church. They can be very difficult to work with because of their passion and because of the daily reality of dealing with animal cruelty, poisoning and abandonment and I understand that completely, but any group would have to be carefully chosen to include those willing to work together and the same would be true for the Church.

I am seeing Bishop Isaias of Tamassos and Orinis in Cyprus on the third of March to talk about my research findings and I have no idea what he will say but one of the questions I asked the priest was whether the Orthodox Church might consider having a liaison officer to work with the animal welfarists.  In other faiths they have a Christian animal welfare group – the Catholics have one, the Anglicans have one, I am not sure if the Baptists would have one but certainly there are examples.

Is there any way that the Church can have an animal welfare group?  Do we have one voice for Orthodoxy here or would there be a need to set up ‘nationalist’ groups – a Cypriot group, a Serbian group etc. Would the Ecumenical Patriarch be open to the suggestion that there could be such a group – an Orthodox Christian Welfare group? How do you view that?  Where is the way forward here?

Met. Kallistos: Well there are several points here so let me try to answer them. Yes I would certainly say that one step forward would be to try and set up a group in the Orthodox Church similar to the Anglican and Roman Catholic groups you mention who are concerned with animal welfare. Possibly Cyprus would not be the best place to start but I may be proven wrong.  I feel that you are more likely to get a response to this from Orthodox in the western world, who have been more exposed to these sorts of ideas.

I think something could be done to try to interest Patriarch Bartholemew on this since he has written and said so much.  He is known as the ‘Green Patriarch’ because of his statements and actions concerning the misuse of the environment. He is concerned about the pollution of the water and the air but the whole problem of course is a single one and misuse of the animals goes hand in hand with misuse of the rest of the environment – it is all a single issue. So if there is going to be leadership it might come from him.

A possibility here is to contact Archdeacon John Chryssavgis who works with Patriarch Bartholemew on environmental matters. He has edited the different collections of Patriarchal essays. He was my pupil at one stage and I think he has been involved in the Patriarch’s statements. He would be worth contacting I feel and you have my blessing to do so.

Another possibility is this.  The Patriarch every year organises an ‘ecological cruise’. The delegates are Orthodox and non-Orthodox, from the worlds of economy, theologians and environmental scientists; because the question of the environment is not so much in having to persuade theologians as persuading the politicians and the large international businesses and they are much more difficult to reach.  He tries in these conferences on the high seas to bring people of influence together and to impress on each other, the urgency of these questions.  Perhaps they could devote one of these floating symposiums specifically to the question of animals. It has been in the past that as they are travelling in a boat they have concentrated on the seas but why not the animals, though it is a little difficult perhaps to relate to the fishes.

Presbytera Christina: Not if you dive Father, then it is easy to relate to marine life.  The myriad of species, forms and colour is a sensory delight and I can tell of the inquisitiveness of cuttle-fish and octopi from my swimming so regularly in the various countries I have lived.  I have wonderful video footage of the inquisitiveness of one particular octopus who lived in one specific coral just off my home in the Seychelles and cuttle-fish and squid are equally fascinating.  They will line up and watch you, signalling to each other the whole time and if you swim slowly towards them they will retreat to the same extent that you come forward.  If you retreat they will come forward and you can repeat this process several times – I usually then swim away as I do not wish them to become used to being around humans who are generally a danger to them.  I have frequently turned around from examining or observing the behaviour of some creature only to find myself the object of inspection by another creature, not I must add a shark but certainly barracuda, squid and many varieties of fish.

To come back to Fr. Chryssavgis, I was asked by the organiser of the forthcoming international conference on religion and animals that I am to present at later this year, if he would be worth inviting.  My reply was certainly do so because he has written extremely well in general  terms on creation as they all do, but nothing yet specifically on animals.

Met. Kallistos: Yes, it is curious how they have not carried that a step further because it is not a very big step.

Presbytera Christina: Well, sadly he could not come because his schedule is already full but he did respond by saying that he had wanted to write something for a long time and would like to be invited on another occasion.

Met. Kallistos: Well I am glad he is in touch with Professor Linzey because he I think [Fr. Chryssavgis] is a key person in that he is advising the Patriarch on such matters. So if you could contact him, you may be able to encourage him to discuss the issue of animals, their treatment and their place in the created order with the Patriarch that would be an excellent way forward. I am not aware of any Orthodox group that is concerned with this at the moment but like all things we have to start somewhere and this would seem to me a useful place to start.

I would certainly encourage you and bless you and when I next see John, I don’t know when that will be but then I will take this matter up with him, as a new step that the Patriarch might take.  The Patriarch has said plenty about the non-animate environment but what about the animate environment as well.

Presbytera Christina: Lastly Father, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you at length on this matter and to thank you for discussing what some will see as sensitive, even political issues, though I do not see that they have to be. From my research I can prove that the treatment of animals has been the subject of discussion in the Orthodox Church, though not a priority, from the earliest times.  My research however identifies a distinct gap between the teachings and the practice.  I do feel that the Orthodox Church has the wisdom and I would like to think the courage to lead the other religious groups as the Ecumenical Patriarch has done with the issue of the environment, if only they would focus their attention on the particular creature within, rather than the general overview of the environment. Certainly, your contribution today has started the conversation and I hope a wider and informed debate in Orthodoxy will follow.

[1] Homily 74, Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh  Wensinck, A. J. (trans) Amsterdam, (1923:386); also Lossky, V.  The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church Crestwood: NY, SVSP, (1976:111)

[2] Sakharov, Archimandrite Sophrony  Saint Silouan the Athonite  Tolleshunt Knights, (1991:367,469).


A Loving and Compassionate God, pt 2


Whilst I acknowledge that it is possible to have differences in the interpretation of biblical texts in this brief commentary, I follow the interpretation of the Fathers who express a theology grounded in the concept of an inclusive and all loving God.

I attempt to give a glimpse – an anamnesis – of an earlier theological understanding of the inter-connectedness of all creation which is loved and protected by God.

As previously stated the early Church Fathers had no reason to offer a systematic theological view on the position of animal suffering.  This does not mean that they were indifferent to the rest of Creation as Irenaeus’s teaching here indicates:

Now, among the “all things” our world must be embraced.  It too, therefore, was made by His Word, as Scripture tells us in the book of Genesis.[1]

Whilst the non-human creation was not their primary focus importantly, the Fathers did recognise that only humans had sinned and that only humans were in need of instruction and repentance.  Irenaeus is clear:

While all things were made by God, certain of His creatures sinned and revolted from a state of submission to God, and others, indeed the great majority, persevered, and do still persevere, in [willing] subjection to Him who formed them.[2]

Athanasius affirms this recognition:

Nothing in creation had gone astray in its notions of God, save the human being only. [3]

There is also a Patristic tradition of recognising that through Christ’s Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection and via the Eucharistic offering, creation is sanctified. [4]  Cyril of Jerusalem elucidates:

And do not wonder that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf.[5]

The Fathers taught that Christ sanctified the Creation through everything He touched. For example we are taught that Christ ‘sleeps in order to bless sleep’, ‘weeps in order to make tears blessed’ [6] and explicitly, the Fathers link Christ’s baptism with the sanctification of the baptismal waters.[7]

Basil of Seleucia for example, taught that Christ saved the world and liberated the earth[8] and recounts all the benefits of salvation including ‘a principle of purification for the world’ and a ‘renewing of nature’. [9]  Importantly, modern commentators like Theokritoff (2001, 2009) and Gschwandtner (2012) inform us that we may find similar teachings in many ecclesial texts.[10]

In summary, I have presented some evidence of an Orthodox tradition which is sympathetic to the notion of animal suffering and salvation.

[1] Irenaeus, op. cit., Against Heresies, 2.2:5 p. 9.

[2] Ibid 2.18.7, p. 81; See also 3.9:1, p. 19 ‘all flesh shall see the salvation of God’ and 4.4.3, p. 14

[3] Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word 43:3, CANNPNF2-04.

[4] Irenaeus, op. cit., 4.18.6, p. 50.

[5] Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Homily 13:2; See also 13:35 & 15:3.

[6] Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 37.2 On the Words of the Gospel CANNPNF2-07.

[7] Ibid, Oration 29.10 The Third Theological Oration. On The Son; also Oration 39.15-16 Theophany On the Holy Lights.

[8] Basil of Seleucia, Third Homily on Pascha, SC. 187:209 [online] available at:

[9] Ibid, SC. 187:215.

[10]  E.g. 5 January, Matins, Canon 9.2, Menaion, p. 302 cited in Theokritoff, E. ‘Creation and Salvation in Orthodox Worship’ Journal of Religion, Nature & the Environment January 2001, Vol. 5, Issue 10. pp. 97-108.

Interview with Met. Kallistos of Diokleia, part 2

Presbytera Christina: Several of my questions relate to the suggestions that because an animal does not have a soul, it doesn’t feel pain or that they are irrelevant or that we should not concern ourselves with them.  Would you like to take each point in turn or would you like to cover them in a more general statement?

Met. Kallistos: I shall cover these points as I make my statements.   The idea that animals do not suffer pain – I find that quite extraordinary.  The evidence is so clear. Indeed we cannot see inside the animal’s minds but all the symptoms that humans display when pain is inflicted on them are displayed also by animals. So we have every reason to believe that animals experience pain as we do and to suggest therefore, that to inflict pain on animals is something morally neutral, I find abhorrent – it is a sin.

Presbytera Christina: How do we deal with this sin in the Church?

Met. Kallistos: Quiet, persistent teaching; but the difficulty is that all too many of the clergy in country districts, in Mediterranean countries particularly, don’t see that. Here as Orthodox Christians we have a marvellous theology for the Creation but the priests may be afraid to preach about this because such a message would perhaps be unwelcome to the farmers who are their parishioners. They may be afraid to incur in this way hostility but, and there is an important point to make here, the Church has always been called to take an unpopular line.

On the subject of souls, I will refer to a book in which I have previously written on the subject of souls and I did have a specific section on the souls of animals.  This is entitled From Soul to Self edited by James Crabbe, published by Routledge in 1999. On this question of course it is true, that in much of Christianity eastern and western, there has been a tendency to make a very sharp distinction between human and animals.  It is said that animals do not possess reason, more specifically, that they do not have immortal souls. The result of this approach has been that we are in danger of treating animals as objects and not subjects.

Now part of the question here, do animals have souls, depends on what you mean by the word soul. The Greek word psyche has a broader understanding perhaps than our modern understanding of the word soul. Aristotle said there are three types of soul – the vegetable soul, the animal soul and the rational soul i.e. the human soul. Now to speak of vegetable’s having souls would strike some people as facetious and they will make jokes about talking to your tomatoes. Well in fact there may well be subtle connections between humans and plants. After all, we do describe some people as having green fingers – these people seem to have a natural empathy with growing things and seem to be skilful in making them grow; however, the soul used in this way by Aristotle means ‘life force’. So from that point of view animals certainly do have a soul because they undoubtedly have a ‘life force’.  But do they have the same soul as humans?

Now many of the characteristics we think of as distinctively human are also found in the animals. In fact any attempt to make a very sharp delineation in light of modern research into animal behaviour and intelligence, doesn’t entirely work.

Do animals have the power of speech, well not exactly as we humans do but animals do make cries and sounds which communicate messages to the other animals, so they do communicate. There has been much research in this area, I can think specifically of dolphins and they have quite subtle ways of communicating to each other. Indeed, there is so much research now that we cannot say animals are inarticulate for they have all kinds of ways of communicating and this has implications for our view on thought.

To say animals don’t have reason is also questionable.  Again there is much research in this field.  For example if you put a banana behind a door with a rather complex handle to open the door, if the monkey is interested in it, he will test  and experiment with the handle and surely he is doing something very similar to what we do when we try to think and solve a problem. So it seems to me that you cannot make a sharp distinction here either.

Again, animals show deep attachment to one another.  Many animals are in fact monogamous and form unions throughout the whole of their life and we could say that they are better at this than some humans.

When an animal loses its partner it will show signs of bereavement and grief as humans do.  Here we can use as an example the research into elephant family groups. So it is much harder to make a sharp distinction between animals and humans than it once was.  Just to say animals have no souls is inadequate, in fact so many of the characteristics that are human are now found to some extent among the animals.

If we look at the Greek Euchologian, the Greek book of prayers, used officially in the contemporary Greek Orthodox Church we have prayers for animals. Here is one of them:

Lord Jesus Christ, moved by your own tender mercy, pity the suffering animals….            For if a righteous man shows pity to the souls of his animals (Pr 12:10), how should you oh God not take pity on them, for you created them and you provide for them? In your compassion you did not forget the animals in the ark….Through the good health and the plentiful numbers of oxen and other four -footed creatures, the earth is cultivated and its fruits increase; And your servants who call upon your name enjoy full abundance of the products of their farming.[1]

Well that prayer definitely shows compassion for animals and for their suffering and there are prayers specifically for sick animals.

Well you may say if you are a farmer it is very important that your animals shouldn’t die.  The death of your horse would have been a severe blow to peasant farmers in earlier ages. So, if we pray for animals and we say they have souls, we cannot say simply that they have no human characteristics at all – the line of demarcation is not so clear.

Now the normal view is that the animal soul is formed from the earth and therefore it is dissolved at death and doesn’t survive, yet the accounts in the Bible of the age to come make it quite clear that there will be animals there. The ox and the ass – the lion and the lamb will go together. The usual view is to say that they won’t be the same animals, but how do we know?

Do we have any right to say that animals do not possess immortality?  I think this is a subject where we can simply say, we do not have a clear revelation on this point in Scripture. I cannot recall anywhere where it says animals cannot survive into a future life, so why shouldn’t we leave that to God’s mercy and say that we don’t understand about this?

So perhaps the animals do survive. So in all of this, simply to say that animals have no souls is – inadequate. It is a matter of opinion as opposed to any dogmatic statement from the Orthodox Church. It is a subject in which we have not been given clear revelation or guidance in revelation.

Now it is true, that in the Orthodox Church, meat eating is allowed. It is considered that this only happened after the fall. In an unfallen world in paradise humans did not kill the animals. The eating of meat is seen to some extent as a falling away from original perfection. But we have never then been vegetarian as a matter of principle but it is interesting that monks and nuns usually abstain from meat. They do eat fish so it isn’t a vegetarian issue in itself.

But coming back to the question from which we started, to me it is unsatisfactory to say animals have no souls and we should avoid making such an assertion.

Presbytera Christina: Can I press for a specific answer to a point from my research. For example in my research it is suggested that because an animal doesn’t have a soul it doesn’t matter if they are treated cruelly or again, that because animals do not have a soul they cannot feel pain or suffer.  Should it matter if an animal has a soul or not – should that be our rationale to the way we treat it?

Met. Kallistos: I reject those kinds of statements. I think the whole discussion on whether animals have souls or not is in the end probably a ‘red-herring’.

The point is that animals are living creatures, all life is from God, and therefore we should treat the animals with respect and reverence.  They have their own characteristic dignity and we should respect that.

Now we can use animals for our service, use horses for ploughing though we do not do that so much now, but we should nonetheless with our domestic animals, give them enough to eat, we should not over-work them, we should keep them warm and clean. So in other words, in treating animals we should let them be themselves.

They should be as far as possible healthy without pain or discomfort and if we do kill animals for our food we should kill them in a humane way.  I know in some religious traditions you ask forgiveness from the animal before you kill it well, there is no such teaching in the Orthodox Church that you have to do this but surely it expresses something that we should respect and reverence the animals for what they are – as God has made them – for they are God’s Creation and we should not show contempt for God’s Creation.  They have feelings and we should not hurt those feelings.

Presbytera Christina: If I can stay with this subject for a moment, it seems that we have what I call a disconnect between the theory and the practice. If there is a perceived connection between what is thought to be Church teaching that animals do not have souls; that they are irrelevant and therefore it doesn’t matter if they are cruelly treated – how can we disseminate the true opinion of the Church as you have expressed it today in this interview? How do we make people aware of these teachings/ proclamations of the Orthodox Church’s view?

Met. Kallistos: We have to patient but persistent.  It often takes a long time for a message to percolate through to people in general but people’s attitudes can be changed and we have to work on that.

Clearly there are vested interests that will want to go on treating animals in the inhumane way that happens now, through battery hens or whatever, but we should quietly but persistently, combat those views. Opinions can be changed. There is in any rate, in our western society in countries like Britain and America, a greater sensitivity to the harm we are doing to the Creation and the need to change our ways of attitude.

We have a very long way to go and we are faced by certain very strong financial interests but if we hold fast to our message and go on preaching it, in season and out of season, about the value of the animal creation, this may result in a change gradually.

To quote a quite different situation, I can recall in my youth and I am thinking back to the 1950s, being told by a doctor friend of my family that there was a definite connection between smoking and lung cancer; But, she said, the tobacco companies are so powerful and they have such financial resources behind them, they will fight to suppress the evidence. Yes this did happen but nonetheless, in the last few decades there has been a fundamental change of attitude towards smoking and people’s opinions have been changed.  The anti-smoking lobby did not have big resources behind it and yet it has won.  There are increasing restrictions on where one can smoke and the cigarette packets have on them the message that smoking kills.  If you can change our attitude over smoking, can we not change our attitude over animals?

Presbytera Christina: Would you give us your opinion on why there is an apparent lack of debate from Orthodox academics, on the theme of animal suffering and related issues? 

Met. Kallistos: There ought to be, for it should be seen as a direct consequence that respect for the Creation, for the environment, carries with it more particularly respect for the animals; so we have a basis to work on there because a lot has been written by Orthodox.

It may not have permeated through to all the faithful but plenty has been said about the responsibility of humans for the environment, about the ecological crisis about the tragedy of what we are doing to the material creation.  The present Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has said many things and several volumes have been issued of his addresses and sermons on this matter. So we have a good basis there to work from.

This theology of creation that the Orthodox Church is deeply committed to – the deepness and beauty of Creation – has as a direct consequence, reverence for the animals.  Why we haven’t so far made the connection, I am not really sure but it is high time we did so.


  1.  Prayer of St Modestos in Mikron Euchologion i Hagiasmatarion Apostoliki Diakonia: Athens, (1984:297).  The prayer is attributed to Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain.



The research for my PhD and Cyprus Case Study has facilitated engagement on the subject of animal suffering by a priest and two hierarchs of the Orthodox Church. All offered interviews in order to address and clarify some of the problems highlighted in the research. This in turn led to further engagement by Bishop Isaias and resulted in a meeting with leading animal protectionists on the island – Cyprus Voice for Animals. At the end of this meeting the Bishop made a request for a formal letter outlining the problems in Cyprus.  This letter was presented by Bishop Isaias to the Holy Synod in Cyprus where discussions took place and led to a formal letter of response by the Holy Synod of Cyprus to the C.V.A. (see below). This declaration clearly states that cruelty and abuse to animals is of concern to the Orthodox Church in Cyprus and further, it notified the protectionists of the Holy Synod’s intention to inform their parishioners of the proper care for animals in a forthcoming statement.

holy synod letter 2014


Upon receipt of the Holy Synod’s letter, the C.V.A. made the following announcement:

Church of Cyprus and Animal Cruelty

On July 27, 2014, CVA President Mary Anastasi, Secretary Stella Stylianou and spokesman Mr. Dinos Agiomammitis, visited Bishop Isaiah at the Bishopric of Tamasou and Pera Orinis.  Accompanying us was Mrs. Christine Nellist who arranged the meeting and who has been striving for animal welfare and animal rights for many years.

Fearing the possible reluctance of the Church to tackle matters concerning animal welfare, a subject that is not popular and many times unpleasant, we were doubtful that this visit would prove otherwise.    It was indeed a great and pleasant surprise to hear Bishop Isaiah’s affirmation that animals are part of God’s creation and their welfare secured.  We left the meeting with the best impressions and hopes that the Church will finally embrace animals.  On the advice of Bishop Isaiah, we wrote a letter to the Holy Synod, explaining the current situation and asking the Church to address the people on the subject of animal cruelty.

On September 24, 2014 we received a letter from the Holy Synod, dated September 15, 2014, pledging that the Church of Cyprus will remind its Christian followers,  the proper way of treating animals!

This news is indeed a historic step in the right direction and one that we have all been striving to achieve.  We believe that the involvement of the Church in matters of animal welfare will bring desired changes in attitudes and to unorthodox practices.   We await with excitement to hear the so-long awaited announcement.

We would like to thank Bishop Isaiah for his most warm welcome and of course his positive views regarding animals and their welfare as well as his eagerness to present this subject to the Holy Synod. Of course we wholeheartedly thank Christine Nellist for her persistence with the church as well as her oratorical guidance of the clerics.

                                                     CYPRUS VOICE FOR ANIMALS





Interview with Met. Kallistos of Diokleia, pt 1.


This interview took place between Metropolitan Kallistos and Presbytera Christina (Dr. Nellist) on the 24TH February 2014 in Oxford, England.

Presbytera Christina: Firstly Father, may I ask you to comment upon the research I left with you last year. This was the comments made by the Orthodox priest in response to the outcomes of my research in 2012 which examined the opinion of Cypriot animal protectionists on the Orthodox Church in relation to various aspects of the animal theme.

Metropolitan Kallistos: Yes, well though I might slightly re-phrase what the priest says in one or two areas, in general there is nothing that he says where I felt ‘no this is definitely wrong’. So I can say that he is correct in his statements.  I can comment on one or two of his answers but I think some of those points come up in the further questionnaire you sent to me, so rather than comment on his statements I would perhaps make my own statement in due course.  The points that we need to discuss, not that I disagree with him, are the questions of whether animals have souls and of course, why the orthodox clergy that were written to did not to reply. I think one of the reasons may be that they didn’t quite know what to reply.  When you get an enquiry and there isn’t a simple and obvious answer to it, you tend to put it aside and not do anything about it. I think that may well be what’s happened here.

Firstly a general comment – it seems to me that a concern for animal welfare is a fairly recent thing in a country like Britain. Of course, in the Tradition and in the Old Testament you have Saints who have shown real concern for animals but animal welfare organisations specifically are I think a fairly modern thing.(1) So to me, some of the problems you identify are not so much a theological question, as a cultural one.  This subject has been a concern that people have felt in countries like Britain and America for some considerable time but culturally the traditional orthodox countries haven’t really caught up with this.  It’s not that they are taking a different stance but they are more in the situation perhaps that we in the west were in fifty or one hundred years ago.  Probably in the beginning of the 20th century we would not have found much in the way of animal welfare organisations even in the west, I may be wrong there but I see it more as a cultural and sociological thing rather than theological but that’s a matter for discussion.

Presbytera Christina: It wasn’t my writing to the Church; this was the general theme that came out in the Cyprus research.  Many people had written to priests and bishops and had not received any response.

Met. Kallistos: I think we have to admit that this isn’t a priority in the minds of most bishops and priests and they might say we are concerned with humans and to that my answer is ‘it is not a matter of either /or, you should be concerned with humans and animals. The one doesn’t exclude the other. Now of course my experience is limited as I have always had an urban upbringing so I don’t know in too much detail what goes on in farming but I have seen some things which have left me very disturbed.

Presbytera Christina: Well I do not eat meat not because I do not like the taste of it but because I object to the system which is very cruel and the only thing I can do is choose not to be part of that cruelty and I just hope that over time, the organisations that do focus on farming methods like Compassion in World Farming (2) for example, can change it.  Again, methods such as factory farming are rather new and I feel that if more people knew what happened they may well give up eating meat. Of course, it is easy to find out what goes on, there is plenty of visual and written material on the web and in the form of reports and research. So perhaps it is more that people don’t want to know, rather than not being able to access the information.

Met. Kallistos: Well exactly. People who live in towns like me eat the products but don’t know too much about the background and I think if I knew more about the background I might feel I might have to become a vegetarian but I am willing to say a bit about that later.

Presbytera Christina: Do you believe animal suffering is relevant to God?

Met. Kallistos: Yes.

Presbytera Christina: In your opinion, is the suffering of animals, something the Orthodox Church should be concerned with? 

Met. Kallistos: Yes.

Presbytera Christina: There appears to be a need for clarification of the Orthodox Church’s position on cruelty to animals. Would you be able to give us a clear statement of the Church’s position?

Met. Kallistos: The Orthodox Church to the best of my knowledge has never attempted to make dogmatic statements about this – statements expressed in the form of formal and official church teaching. The question of animals for example was never a matter discussed at the seven Ecumenical Councils. Yet, a reverence for animals, sensitivity to their position, their suffering, this certainly is part of our Orthodox Church faith. We start from the principle laid down in the first chapter of Genesis – that the world is God’s creation, God saw everything that He had made and behold  it was very good – Genesis 1:31. The world is God’s creation and it is a good and beautiful world. So the question of animals and how we treat them, links up with our view that animals are part of God’s creation and just as we should treat the whole of creation with reverence and respect, so we should more particularly, treat the animals with reverence and respect. Now it is said in the first chapter of Genesis that humans have a unique position in God’s creation because we are created in the image and likeness of God and that is not said of animals, though I would like to pursue that later on in our discussion but being created in God’s image and likeness gives us a responsibility towards the Creation as a whole and towards animals in particular. It is said that we are to have dominion as humans over the created order but dominion does not mean domination or ruthless tyranny. This dominion that humans are given is part of being in God’s image, so what this means is that just as God cares for His Creation and loves it, so we, after the image of God, are to care and love the Creation.  This to me is the basic position of the Orthodox Church in regard to animals.

Presbytera Christina: The Ecumenical Patriarch’s proclamation at Patmos[3] defined the misuse of animals as a sin. In my research it appears that the Church in Cyprus is reluctant to speak on animal abuse of any kind but particularly in the form of poisoning. Would you give us your opinion on the poisoning of animals in general and in particular as a form of population control or for unwanted animals?

Met. Kallistos:  I was present on Patmos at the time the Ecumenical Patriarch made his proclamation and of course, I fully agree with the affirmation that animals have their own proper dignity, that this is to be respected and therefore the misuse of animals along with the misuse of any part of the creation is a sin.  William Blake, that great eighteenth century prophet said ‘Everything that lives is Holy’, so the animals are Holy and therefore, the way we treat animals is directly relevant to our living of the Christian life.

I would condemn the poisoning of animals.  There will be situations where domestic animals do need to be put down because they are diseased or because they are breeding too many and there is not enough land to support them but poisoning would seem to me a cruel way of dealing with this problem; There are ways in which animals can be put to sleep that do not involve a long and painful death.

I think that we do have a responsibility some times to limit the numbers of domestic animals but not by poisoning.  Equally, I suppose we do need to keep down wild animals which may be praying on our flocks or herds – the wolves on Mount Athos for example were quite a nuisance; Unfortunately there are now no more wolves there, they have all been disposed of and I regret that but again, poisoning seems to me, an evil way to dispose of animals because it will usually involve a lingering and painful death. There are more humane ways of dealing with the problems.

Presbytera Christina: The neutering of animals is the practice of Animal Welfare Organisations throughout the world.  It is used to reduce the number of unwanted animals and also for health reasons in later life.  It has been suggested that the Orthodox Church forbids this procedure. Do you believe this reflects the Church’s position and if not, could you clarify its position?

Met. Kallistos: To my knowledge, the Orthodox Church, has never forbidden the neutering of animals and I consider that used in a responsible way, this is a good method of preventing unwanted animals and that there can be health reasons as well to advocate this practice, so I am not against the neutering of animals. Of course we do not approve of the neutering of human beings but for animals I do not think the Orthodox Church has ever been forbidden this practice.

Presbytera Christina: How is it that the Orthodox Church which has a wealth of texts relating to respect for God’s Creation, finds itself in 2011 and 2012 research, as being perceived of being indifferent to the suffering of a major part of God’s Creation? Is it ignorance in the clergy of Patristic teachings on the subject or is it more likely to be a lack of transference or application of their knowledge, to a priest’s or parishioner’s behaviour?  How are these problems to be addressed?

Met. Kallistos: Now that is very true, first of all, the Old Testament is full of regulations that were imposed and adopted by the Jewish people relating to the humane treatment of animals. I call to mind a very good book on this subject not by an Orthodox but by a Roman Catholic, Fr. Robert Murray and his book the ‘Cosmic Covenant’ where he shows that particularly in the covenant of Noah, the covenant made between God and humans, also involves the animal world. That I believe is the true Christian teaching and I accept that as an Orthodox.

Again if we look at the lives of the Saints, there are numerous examples of close friendships between Saints and particular animals.  I think of the collection of texts well known many years ago, made by Helen Waddell, called ‘Beasts and Saints’ and the examples she gives are both Eastern and Western, this is not only Orthodox but part of our common heritage. So from the tradition of the Orthodox Church, we have plenty of examples of close mutual understanding between humans and animals.  The trouble is whilst we have all this in theory we do not sufficiently apply it in practice.

Presbytera Christina: How is this to be addressed?

Met. Kallistos: There is a need for more education and we are up against the basic problem that all too many people, clergy and laity, think as Christians that this doesn’t matter – that the treatment of animals is not a moral issue. But as soon as you say that animals are part of God’s Creation and we humans have a God given responsibility towards the Creation, then at once, one sees that it is both a moral and spiritual question. That is why the Ecumenical Patriarch was so right to insist that the misuse of the Creation is a sin- but all too many people don’t see it that way.

There is a further problem in that people involved in agriculture might feel that the intervention by Christian clergy and others, suggesting humane ways of treating animals would diminish their profits- it would mean that they could not make as much money and that is an argument against organic farming in general.  This argument I don’t accept.  First of all, even if it did diminish your profits, perhaps you should not make evil profit from the Creation and I think also, that it is possible to practice organic farming and humane treatment of animals, in a manner that is perfectly viable economically; but I do see there could be objections here.

By way of illustrating this point, I remember visiting many years ago, a Roman Catholic monastery, though I will not say where, except that it was in the United States and they took me with great pride, to see a new appliance that they had installed for battery hens.  There were thousands of hens in this vast shed, all in tiny cages and subjected to electric light all through the night so that they would lay a larger amount of eggs.  Now there it seemed to me, that the desire of a larger profit was leading to an immoral use of living creatures.  Animals have their dignity their natural ways of behaving – hens wonder about picking up the food they find, picking it up in different places and they should be allowed to do this.  I was deeply shocked that a monastery, which should be sensitive to the dignity of Creation, should be showing such pleasure in this new installation. Well, their motive was to make profit; however, even if you can’t make quite such big profits, surely humane farming could be economically viable.

Presbytera Christina: Can you remember how many birds were in each cage?  Normally in factory farming there would be several hens in one tiny cage.

Met. Kallistos: That I don’t remember clearly but I noticed how in many cases, the birds had virtually no feathers.  I was appalled to see the naked skin of these poor birds and I was deeply shocked that the monks did not seem to see that there was something un-Christian, contrary to our faith in the beauty of God’s world, to do such a thing as that. So to summarise, I think it is a lack of teaching and a lack of spiritual imagination.

Presbytera Christina: On that point I can comment that I have very poor eye-sight and yet I am able to see the suffering of other creatures and what I do not understand is that others do not see it, even when it is pointed out to them.  This is why I was so upset at the suggestion that some priests were involved in poisoning animals – as Christians how could they do that?

Met. Kallistos:  Well, quite so.


  1. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals was established in 1824 by a few individuals including Arthur Broome, an Anglican priest; Richard Martin, a member of parliament, who in 1822 piloted the first anti-cruelty bill and William Wilberforce, a member of the aristocracy & M.P, who spent over 50 years trying to abolish slavery.

Editor’s note.

Part two of this interview will be posted in the near future.

Lament To The Beautiful Birds Of Cyprus


To the beautiful birds of Cyprus, oh where, oh where, have you gone?                                                 You brought such joy, to those who heard you and lifted our hearts with your song.                                                            

Oh beautiful birds of Cyprus,you also belonged to me.                                                                                   I cried out from my home and the fields that surround me but the blasts of the shotguns brought silence.                                              

To satisfy passions and gain evil profit,other devious souls use mist-nets and lime-sticks.                            Why do they not see that deaths such as these, sacrifice beauty yes, but also salvation?                                                          

Where is the Image of God in such works?

Man as Image, must reflect the type,which the Fathers teach us is Love.                                              So Man or Priest, beware of your souls,for nothing is hidden from God.                                                                        

Oh beautiful birds of Cyprus, the sound in the morning is silence;                                                        To be broken now, not by song, joy or love,but by gunshots, destruction and death.                                                                        


Editor’s note.

As you can see, we are having problems with the layout of this poem.  Bear with us whilst we try to iron out the glitch.

If you wish to learn more on the illegal hunting and trapping of birds in Cyprus see

If you have poems on relevant themes, please email them to us at

Fr. Themistocles, Sierra Leone Landslide Disaster and Tacaguma Chimpanzee Rescue Centre

Fr. Themistocles, Sierra Leone Landslide Disaster and Tacaguma Chimpanzee Rescue Centre

After meeting Fr. Themistocles at one of his recent fundraising meetings in the UK, one of our Orthodox friends Alexios Gennaris, was inspired to fly to Africa to visit Fr. Themistocles, in order to see the outstanding work the Orthodox Church does for the orphans and wider community in Sierra Leone.

(see for example

He will also report on the aftermath of the latest ecological disaster in the region, the recent landslide on Sugarloaf Mountain in Regent, which arose primarily as a result of unregulated and illegal human encroachment and deforestation of this area, which lies inside the ‘heavily protected’ Western Area Forest Reserve. The last six minutes of the Channel 4 documentary on this disaster – Africa’s Perfect Storm, describes the interconnectedness of unsustainable and illegal development and deforestation (some 8,000m2 in the last decade) and human, non-human animal and ecological destruction.


Alexios will also take the opportunity to visit the nearby Tacaguma Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a Charity supported by many including the world renowned Dr Jane Goodall.  Their overall aim is to provide a safe home for orphaned & endangered chimpanzees and protect them (and other species) from the cruel and wasteful pet & bushmeat trade. Tacugama also endeavors to protect and conserve the species in the wild by engaging with the public through environmental sensitization & training programs together with practical campaigns to reforest areas destroyed by the unregulated human encroachment and deforestation outlined in the Channel 4 documentary.

Two important points to make here are firstly, the interconnectedness of the destruction of human and non-human life as a result of human negligence and deforestation and secondly, that the staff at the sanctuary are also heavily involved in providing help to the human victims in this latest disaster, which is a classic example of those who care for animals, showing compassion and love towards their fellow humans. For more information see:

Alexios has promised to write a small article for us upon his return and send through some of the photographs from this trip which takes place in early December, 2017.