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

Image may contain: catImage may contain: cat
Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, indoor

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. Pt 1

This article is part of an interview with Bishop Isaias of |Tamasou & Orinis, Cyprus.

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.


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).