Thursday, January 14, 2016

A highly suspicious news story (bogus Orthodox bishop?)

St. Rocco’s Church in Pittston reopens as St. Irene Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

PITTSTON — After being vacant for more than three years, the former St. Rocco’s Roman Catholic Church on the corner of Tompkins and West Oak streets has reopened its doors as St. Irene Russian Orthodox Outside Church of Russia.

The church plans to open more doors in the community by purchasing homes in the Greater Pittston area for parishioners in need.

Leader of the church Bishop Ramzi R. Musallam, whose orthodox name is Bishop Elias, wants the new church to have a positive impact on the community, which includes a program that provides housing in apartments and single family homes for those in need.

Read the rest at the linked site.

This so called bishop has no connection  with ROCOR and I seriously doubt he is even Orthodox. His background is pretty murky but as far as I can tell he is some kind of Catholic episcopus vagans. Why he is claiming to be affiliated with the Russian Church Abroad is a question I would like to hear an answer to.

In the meantime, see this old post.

When "Orthodox" is Not


Nathaniel said...

The claimed succession is:

Ramzi Musallam (vagante, PA)
Listed here:

David Bells (vagante, England)

Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez (vagante, Brazil)

Carlos Duarte Costa (excommunicated, Brazil)

Nathaniel said...

Also, the housing plan sounds sketchy. I wouldn't be surprised if the houses are owned by him as a way for the communities to "help the poor" by giving him equity.

Prior Martin said...

Dubious at best-

Prior Martin said...

And this-

David said...

On August 19, 2015 Ramzi Musallam posted a photo on his Facebook page claiming: "Former Archbishop Ramzi R Musallam now Father Ilianos and Catholic Church of the East is now Russian Orthodox Church ROCOR".

Now in this linked article from the Times Leader of Northeastern Pennsylvania, posted onJanuary 13th, 2016, he is referred to as "Bishop Elias" ?!! ("Leader of the church Bishop Ramzi R. Musallam, whose orthodox name is Bishop Elias" . )

Also , see this photo on his Facebook page which may be a Photoshop composite:

His Facebook page also had a "Merry Christmas" greeting from the new "St. Irene" ROCOR parish in Pittson, PA posted on Dec. 24 , new calendar , which is quite odd for a "ROCOR" parish, even if it's supposedly Western Rite, because all of ROCOR, including the Western Rite, is on the old calendar. (Later he edited the post to mention "celebrating on January 7", but it was originally posted Dec. 24th with no mention of January 7.)

This supposed "St. Irene ROCOR" parish would be Western Rite from the looks of it , but there is no listing of a "St. Irene" parish in Pittson, PA on the ROCOR Western Rite website.

It is worth noting that there is still an active website for his organization called the "Catholic Church of the East" and Ramzi Musallam still refers to himself as an "Archbishop" of the CCE . It seems extremely irregular that a newly ordained priest in ROCOR would continue referring to himself as an “Archbishop” on his Facebook page and that the website for the Catholic Church of the East continues to be maintained as if it is still an ongoing concern, rather than having a note of explanation on the main CCE homepage that the CCE no longer exists and has now been received into a canonical Orthodox Church, ROCOR. If Ramzi Musallam and his CCE parishes had truly been received into ROCOR I would have thought that the CCE website would be taken down or at the very least modified so that it automatically redirects to the ROCOR website.

David said...
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David said...

Also on Ramzi Musallam's Facebook page there was a photo of one of his "Catholic Church of the East" parishes in Pottsville , PA , which had been known as "Saint Ann's Cathedral CCE" , which he is now referring to as the “Cathedral Church of the Palestinian Christian Orthodox Church under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia” .

Again, it seems so very odd that a newly ordained priest in ROCOR would be maintaining a "Cathedral" that is supposedly under ROCOR (so the question naturally arises: what ROCOR bishop is supposed to be associated with this “Cathedral Church of the Palestinian Christian Orthodox Church"? A thorough search of all of the ROCOR websites will find no listing of this parish or any mention of Ramzi Musallam or the "Catholic Church of the East" being received into ROCOR.)

I posted a question to Ramzi Musallam on his Facebook page where this photo was posted of the alleged “Cathedral Church of the Palestinian Christian Orthodox Church under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia” , asking him : ‘Can you point me to where the "Cathedral Church of the Palestinian Christian Orthodox Church" is listed on the ROCOR website as a parish that is under ROCOR ?' and in another post I asked him who is his bishop in ROCOR ? ... at which point he immediately banned me from his Facebook page and sent me a private message saying:

“We are the new group come under ROCOR. You need to ask Metropolitan Hilarion or Metropolitan Jonah then ask me. Go get more information from ROCOR. Don't be a trouble maker.”

I didn't think asking straightforward questions that should have straightforward answers was being a "troublemaker" , but there you have it, so draw your own conclusions why that would get me banned from his Facebook page.

I did send an email to Metropolitan Hilarion ,and the Dean of the Western Rite , Fr. Mark Rowe, inquiring about Ramzi Musallam's status with ROCOR , but have received no reply to this date. It seems to me that if Ramzi Musallam and his "Catholic Church of the East/Arabic Catholic Church" denomination had been received into ROCOR then it should be a simple answer: "Yes, the former Archbishop of the Catholic Church of the East Ramzi Musallam is now a priest in ROCOR and his former CCE parishes are now under ROCOR". I also think this would not have been done in secret and there would be some notice of it on the various ROCOR websites under "News". The ROCOR Western Rite website was recently updated , but the listing of ROCOR Western Rite parishes on that website has nothing about "St. Irene" in Pittson, PA . (from the photos posted of this "St. Irene, ROCOR" parish it would be a Western Rite parish if it were actually in ROCOR.)

Here's another news article (with video) about "St. Irene" in Pittson, PA :


David said...

But then this gives one pause … here in a video published on August 25, 2015 by the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John The Baptist in Washington,DC (ROCOR) , a sermon by Hieroschemamonk Elias (Musallam) -

David said...

Sorry for the multiple posts, but here is another news story about St. Irene ROCOR and Fr. Elias Musallam -

(although the news story still refers to him as “Bishop Ramzi Musallam of the Catholic Church of the East.”

Hmmmm ... am I the only one who is having trouble believing that the ROCOR hierarchy is ok with a recently ordained Orthodox priest not taking more care with how he represents himself to the media and not being more careful to clear up any misconceptions that he is “Bishop” and to stress that there is no longer any such organization as the “Catholic Church of the East” (which if it had actually been received into ROCOR would no longer exist).

Prior Martin said...

Readers may recall the ROCOR Western Rite Vicariate debacle. ROCOR originally received a variety of clergy from different groups, some proved to be a problem and ROCOR hierarchs promptly halted all scheduled ordinations until it could be sorted out. They were less than honest in their news releases concerning the creation of and the dissolution of the WRV. ROCOR has always been the refuge for ecclesiastical oddities, James Toombs being a fine example. Ramzi Musallam is just one episcopus vagans in a very long line. Perhaps Musallam is reluctant to take down his old websites in the event things do not go his way. Once you loose a domain name it can be very expensive to retrieve it. If I were advising him I would suggest he keep all proper and real estate in his name. Events at ROCOR can turn on a dime, better to be safe than sorry.

David said...

Prior Martin -

If things are as you say with ROCOR WRV that does not bode well. It looks like they may have ordained someone to the Orthodox priesthood without thoroughly examining him and checking his background (or worse they do know all about his background and are willing to look the other way ... ?) It seems that Musallam is seeking legitmacy from ROCOR that will take him out of the murky shadow realm of the episcopus vagans, but he's still an episcopus vagans at heart because he's keeping his options open.

It looks like Musallam's "Catholic Church of the East" website has recently been updated with this Announcement on the homepage:

"We are happy to announce that the Catholic Church of the East is now under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. "


We the faithful, in union with our Holy Father Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and with Metropolitan Hilarion First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, are through Baptism to share in the mission has entrusted to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the teaching of the Church, to celebrate the , especially the Eucharist, for the salvation of all, and to witness by grace to of God, so as to promote a culture of life, justice and peace."

On that same page what had formerly been known as "OUR LADY OF FATIMA CCE" in Mt. Carmel, PA has been changed to "OUR LADY OF THEOTOKOS RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD /CCE Western Rite".

But much of the CCE site has not been updated , because on another page the same parishes are still referred to as being "Catholic Church of the East" and with their CCE names such as "Our Lady of Fatima" , etc.

This all seems very peculiar.

Prior Martin said...

I agree, the whole things smells, however, it's not beyond the realm of possibilities where ROCOR is concerned. One of the trouble makers for the WRV was a priest with the surname of Monk, Nathan Monk. He had been an Old Catholic priest of some dubious jurisdiction and ran Saint Benedict's Mission in Pensacola. He had a certain local notoriety as an advocate for the homeless, a noble cause, yet he seemed to use it a a means of shameless self-promotion. He was constantly in and out of court on various charges one of which resulted in his arrest. He had many You Tube videos in which he promoted Old Catholicism. Then he announced he was quitting OC and converting to Orthodoxy via the Antiochian WRV. The Antiochians, being rather experienced in such matters, wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole. He then hoodwinked the ROCOR WVR and they took him in and properly ordained him. With the chrism still moist on his forehead he began to cause trouble, which he broadcast to the world via You Tube. He finally announced he was leaving ROCOR and the priesthood for the lofty goal of pursuing justice for same-sex couples, he was shocked that ROCOR didn't permit same-sex marriage. It all played out on You Tube like tawdry Mexican soap opera.

Guy Westover said...

Father Ramzi Elias has property and cash. Both speak loudly and clearly with the Metropolitan and Synod.

Prior Martin said...

If that's the case it would appear ROCOR is following the same playbook as AOCA.

Prior Martin said...

There are some very odd birds populating the world of wandering bishops, the links are to the websites of one who styles himself "Cardinal" and "Patriarch". He also claims to be the prince de jure of Etruria. Did I forget to mention he's a woman?

David said...

Despite the recent update on the website of Musallam’s “Catholic Church of the East” saying that the CCE is now under ROCOR , there is still not a word about the CCE being received into ROCOR , or “Fr. Elias” (Musallam) or “St. Irene” parish on the ROCOR website (which has many recent news stories from around the diocese from Sept. 2015 - January 2016 . ) I wonder if the ROCOR hierarchy has realized their mistake in ordaining this vagans (if in fact they did ordain him as he has claimed) and are practicing the classic Orthodox hierarchs’ damage control technique of “sweep it under the carpet and ignore it until it goes away” ?

The more I think about it , nothing about this situation makes sense, even if one accepts the view ROCOR has tended to be sort of a haven for ecclesiastical odd ducks . Re-read the article from the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. This paragraph makes no sense in terms of Orthodox ecclesiology:

[Keep in mind this is supposed to be an Orthodox priest speaking]

“We didn’t have any advertisements so we’ve just been having people come in,” Musallam said. “On the weekday Masses, we’ve been having people come and we’ve been having Sunday Liturgy where it varies. We had three Masses on Christmas Eve and all three had people in them.”

Musallam said he will temporarily conduct Mass and Liturgy until a permanent priest is appointed.

The religious practices of St. Irene Church are of the Orthodox faith, particularly the Western Rite Orthodoxy and the Eastern Rite Orthodoxy.”

So St. Irene ROCOR is a dual-rite parish with services in both the Western Rite and Eastern Rite ? Really ?! I don’t believe this is possible within Orthodoxy. When it says: ”Musallam said he will temporarily conduct Mass and Liturgy. it almost seems as if he’s saying he’ll be celebrating a Western Rite Divine Liturgy (“Mass”) and an Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy in the same parish on the the same altar on the same day.

Of course , he did say that they had “three Masses on Christmas Eve” … Really !? How does an Orthodox priest serve three Divine Liturgies (“Masses”) on one day ? This isn’t done within Orthodoxy. If he’s doing that (multiple Divine Liturgies on a single altar ) then this newly ordained Orthodox priest has already revealed himself to be totally ignorant (or contemptuous) of Orthodox practice and I don’t see how the hierarchy in ROCOR can turn a blind eye to that sort of heterodox behavior.

Another odd thing in that article is where it says:

”The Russian Orthodox Church purchased the building in September 2015 for $70,000 and the first Mass was held right before Christmas.”

Really ? So is the building purchased and owned by the ROCOR or purchased and owned by Ramzi Musallam ? My impression is that Musallam has been buying up a lot of old Roman Catholic church buildings that have been discarded by the Roman Catholics during his time as the patriarch of the “Catholic Church of the East”, so I think the property is all in his name. I expect that a little research of property records would reveal that the purchaser and owner of the former St. Rocco’s building is Ramzi Musallam, not ROCOR.

David said...

He’s making enough noise for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton, PA to take notice of the irregular goings on , so they have recently posted this warning for Roman Catholics.

[Posted on 01-14-2016 ] “After having received various inquiries, this notification is to inform the Roman Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Scranton that the community called Saint Irene’s Russian Orthodox Church—affiliated with an organization known as the “Catholic Church of the East” — is not in communion with the Holy See and therefore is not part of the Roman Catholic Church. Although the liturgies offered there are celebrated using Catholic liturgical books, particularly the Sacramentary in use before 2011, this is not a Mass which fulfills a Sunday or Holy Day obligation. Roman Catholics who receive the sacraments there would do so illicitly, and in the case of marriages or confession, also invalidly.”

Several of the news reports about the new “Saint Irene’s Russian Orthodox Church” that have appeared in recent weeks , have mentioned that some former St. Rocco’s parishioners (who would be Roman Catholics) have been happily attending “Mass” at their old parish (and receiving the sacraments there from a supposedly ROCOR priest?) , so their Roman Catholic bishop has warned them. It would be nice if an Orthodox bishop or metropolitan would make a public statement about the situation.

Prior Martin said...

I too questioned the multiple liturgies celebrated in one day, but how do we explain the You Tube video dated August 23, 2015 of him vested in Byzantine vestments at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist?

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Inquiries are being made.

Prior Martin said...

With ROCOR all strange things are possible.

Prior Martin said...
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Orthonomian said...

The venerable Roman Rite has many uniquely Latin and Western features that differ from those of the Greek East in various ways, and this is but one example. To give some useful historical context here, it is important to realize that the Three Masses of Christmas are not only Orthodox and Catholic in origin, but are themselves actually older than the Nativity hymns of St. Romanus the Melodist (+556). Furthermore, two of these three Roman masses for Christmas are virtually unchanged from what they were during the pontificate of St. Leo the Great (+461). These liturgies are deeply rooted in the piety of the Latin West.

There is the Missa in gallicantu (Midnight Mass), Missa in aurora (Dawn Mass), and Missa in die (Day Mass). Each of these divine services has its own cycle of chant propers and lessons that are designed, when combined, to be one unified exegesis and expression of Christ's Nativity. If you wish to know more, the internet is filled with plenty of historical, liturgical, and theological information on this subject (such as the Catholic Encyclopedia, et al), all of which is easily accessible. But please, do educate yourselves on the ancient orthodox traditions of Latin Christianity before commenting on them. It is only fair that the West should not be judged with Eastern prejudice, or vice versa.

As for the original discussion surrounding this apparent vagante bishop, I have no details to add. He seems like another strange character in the long line of characters who occupy the ecclesiastical fringes. May God have mercy upon him.