Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hosni Mubarak

1 Degree
Pope John Paul II and Hosni Mubarak 

The Egyptian dictator of the past 30 years seems to be in a spot of trouble these days.  It appears that a revolution is brewing in Egypt.  Dictatorships have never been a good long-term solution, yet The United States has made friends with many such governments over the years.  (Click these links to learn about Nicaragua, Iran, and Iraq) The pretense for these friendships is that they may be evil, but they are less evil than Communism (although lately, the US is trying to become allies with Communist China, a very evil country by any measure.)  The popes of the 20th Century and now would most certainly disagree with this foreign policy.  For them, it is not an either or, but a both and argument.  You cannot support either a dictatorship nor a communist government. 

Conversation is the beginning of peace.  If the Vatican is in conversation with a leader or a government, it is not necessarily condoning that leader or government.  A message cannot be sent through closed lines of communication.  The popes have encountered....
Yasir Arafat, head of a violent organization that has a
history of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish activities,

Hamid Karzai, corrupt dictator of Afghanistan.
Here he is at Pope John Paul II's funeral.  President
Karzei's government is oppressive of women,
Christianity, and individual freedoms.

Staunchly anti-Fascist, Cardinal Pacelli, (later Pope Pius XII)
signs a Concordat with Germany in order to insure religious
freedom for Catholics living in the lands of the Third Reich.
He is careful to define "Catholic" as anyone with a baptismal
certificate.  Hundreds of thousands of Jews were saved during
the years that this concordat was honored by Hitler.  The Catholics
printed baptismal certificates continuously.
My fear for Egypt during this revolutionary time is for the Coptic Orthodox Church.  The Coptic Church has been out of communion with the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches for many hundreds of years due to a linguistic misunderstanding.  Patriarch Shenouda III of the Coptic Church has openly supported the Mubarak dynasty with support of Gamil Mubarak as the next Prime Minister.  
Gamal Mubarak, son of Hosni, and Patriarch Shenouda III of the Coptic Church

Now that the Mubaraks seem to be losing their grip on power, will the Coptics be slaughtered in the streets and driven out of Egypt as the Iraqi Christians were?  

Please pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Egypt.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Improv Everywhere, Charlie Todd and friends

Charlie Todd
Did you see this on Modern Family?

Ever seen a flash mob?
Ever wish you could be in one?

You need to contact this guy.  He is seventh (or third) degree, Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere, a flashmob theater group based in New York City.  Charlie also is founder of The Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre.
If you'd like to study up on how to create a flash mob, buy Charlie's book, "Causing a Scene."  Mr. Todd insists that these are not "flash mobs," but that term's meaning hasn't settled yet.

Let's enjoy some of Charlie's scenes.

Frozen Grand Central
The guy with short brown hair who pokes the frozen woman is Charlie Todd.

Here is another favorite of mine.
Shirtless in Abercrombie and Fitch

Seventh Degree, ABC's Niteline featured Charlie's, Improve Everywhere in February of 2008.

Nightline recently did a story on the Catholic (it exists in the East and the West) rite of exorcism.

Sixth Degree, Barbara Gangi produced a film on exorcism through the Catholic production house, Paulist Productions.  The film is mentioned in the Nightline piece.  Ms Gangi also produced a TV film which starred
Here is Betty White (left) and Barbara Gangi (center)
Fifth Degree, Betty White.  We first connected Betty White to Pope John Paul II in the Dick Clark post from New Year's Eve.

Alternate 2 Degree Connection for Charlie to John Paul

One of Improv Everywhere's scenes involved U2 and first degree, Bono.  The video clip below shows the mission, it looks like fun.  

A word about Exorcism
I normally comment on major Catholic vocab words as they come up, but I don't have a lot to say about this one.  I've spoken with many Orthodox priests and Roman Catholic priests about exorcism over the years and they all say the same thing.  "Satan is real.  What I saw was terrible.  You don't want to see it."  Other than that, I don't have much to add.  Perhaps we'll get a priest or two to comment on the new movie, "The Rite," which came out yesterday.   Here's a trailer.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Carrie Bradshaw

5 Degrees

Although I could have done this in fewer degrees, I got to the papacy through the Eastern Orthodox Church in .  The videos at the end are amazing.  What a way to end Greek month!  Enjoy!

Fifth Degree: Carrie Bradshaw
The iconic character from HBO's "Sex and the City" loves fashion.  So does Pope Benedict.  For that post click here.  
Fourth Degree: Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah played Carrie Bradshaw for years.  Here she is discussing that role on The View.
Carrie Bradshaw

Third Degree: George Stephanopoulos
Sarah Jessica Parker is married to Matthew Broderick, a Broadway star and movie actor.  The couple naturally live in the New York metropolitan area and go to very fancy parties with very fancy people.  Here they are with another power couple, the Stephanopouloses.
George Stephanopoulos, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ali Wentworth (Mrs. Stephanopoulos),
and Matthew Broderick
Second Degree: Robert George Stephanopoulos
Father Robert George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos is the son of an Orthodox priest.  The Reverend Doctor Robert George Stephanopoulos wrote a book about Archbiship Iakovos.  To read more about Father Stephanopoulos click here.

Second Degree: Archbishop Iakovos
Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Iakovos

First Degree: Pope Paul VI
Archbishop Iakovos accompanied Patriarch Athenagoras to Rome to meet with Pope Paul VI when the two brother patriarchs lifted the excommunications that have separated the Orthodox and Catholic churches for over 1000 years.  read about Iakovos here  

The documentary below shows Iakovos with John Paul II.  What a wonderful man.
Iakovos or John Paul?
Yes!  Both!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Simon Cowell

A loveable Teddy Bear, remember, bears bite!
1979 with members of the Zimmelstern family in Antigua.
This is the answer to the January 11 post.
Fifth Degree: Simon Cowell
The judge of American Idol.  He's not at all averse to Greeks or Greek culture as evidenced in this clip of "Stavros Flatley" in Britain's Got Talent, the year Susan Boyle was discovered.  (Bonus video of Stavros Flatley meeting Michael Flatley at the end of this post.)

Simon judged and advanced David Cook in the 2008 season.

Fourth Degree: David Cook
His first post-American Idol single was co-written by Chris Cornell.

Third Degree: Chris Cornell 
Chris Cornell had his baby baptized at St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles in April of 2009.
Chris Cornell and his son's godmother.  He had his
son baptized Greek Orthodox at St. Sophia Cathedral
in April of 2009.
Second Degree: Archbishop Demitrios 
Archbishop Demitrios celebrated a liturgy in honor of the 100th anniversary of St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles in June of 2009.  

First Degree: Pope Benedict XVI 
Archbishop Demitrios had breakfast with the pope when he visited New York in 2008.
Benedict and Demitrios in 2008
Fun fact about icons.
Have you ever kissed the picture of a loved one and smiled?  That is what Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics do when they venerate a holy icon.  Icons, statuary, relics, crosses, and the hands of priests are not worshiped in any branch of the Catholic Church.  Rather, they are shown love and devotion as representations of Our Beloved, God.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

George Stephanopoulos

2 Degrees

George Stephanopoulos will be mentioned in the last post of this month, "Carrie Bradshaw."  Watch for it!  He is two degrees from Pope John Paul II through two first-degreers.
President Clinton

Michael Stripe, Bono (first degree, see the post here), and George

George brings others a degree or so closer. 
Charlie Rose

Michael J. Fox

Barbara Walters (far right), we'll see her again in April,
the month of fools, in the Gene Wilder post.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Anne Geddes

4 Degrees
Foruth Degree: Anne Geddes, baby photographer extrordinaire,
 hosted a party in1985 at her home in San Francisco

Arianna Stassinopoulos and Michael Huffington met at
that party, they married soon after.

The two became a political power-couple and founded
The Huffington Post

Hob Knobbing with powerful people is a big part of what the Huffingtons
do.  Here Michael is next to First Degrees: Archbishop Methodios,
Archbishop Dimitrios, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley.  
Huffington is
the tallest in the photo, Methodios is to his left.

Will Cardinal O'Malley become Pope Patrick someday?  
Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Clergy blessing Pope John Paul II's coffin.  They begin by singing "Christos Anesti," (Christ is Risen), the Easter Hymn in Greek three times.  There is then Byzantine chanting.  The Eastern petition is much different than the Latin one.  You will recognize "Kyrie Eleison," (Lord have mercy).  The priest is praying for the repose of the soul of the pope and he is answered with "Lord have mercy." You can hear an Eastern bishop pray for John Paul, listen for "Ivano Pavli, Papa Romus".  He's praying in Greek.  When he breaks into song, it's in Arabic or Aramaic.  The Eastern hymn is sung three times in Greek again.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
of Arizona
We have all put our foot in our mouth, but when a person is a public figure, that foot has a lot more gravitas.  President Obama learned that when he referred to a Cambridge policeman as "stupid" for his treatment of a black man.  That gaff led to the "beer summit" at the White House.  When politicians misspeak like this, they end up feeling terrible and having to do extensive damage control.

3 Degrees
Told via gaffs and misstatements 

Third Degree: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
A week ago, the Congresswoman was in perfect health, much as she is in the video above.  Now, doctors are considering removing her breathing tube so that she can speak again after being shot in the head at a supermarket political meeting.  Representative Giffords is a moderate Democrat in the House.  She is in favor of some gun control, but she is staunchly pro Second Amendment.  Our prayers are with her, her families, and the families of the fallen.

Second Degree: Sarah Palin
Ms Palin published this crosshair map through her political action committee (PAC.)  The map "targets" members of the United States Congress.  This poster as well as the tweet, "Don't retreat, RELOAD!" is the gaff that Ms Palin will be known for for the rest of her life.  I am sure that she is very remorseful for publishing it, and I do not think that the gunman who tried to assassinate Congresswoman Giffords did so to satisfy it, but Sarah Palin knew better.

Ms Palin received tens of millions of votes in the 2000 election.  On American Idol, that kind of support would make her a celebrity.  As a Vice-Presidential candidate, that makes her a stateswoman.  The poster is not that of a stateswoman, but of an inflammatory lobbyist.

President Bill Clinton
First Degree, President Bill Clinton knew that the NRA is "in the long end game," and will never give up its fight to end all controls on firearms.  He said that the other side needs to begin a long end game too.  He said we need to do this through conversation.  Now, President Clinton has made many gaffs in his presidency, but here, he's right on point.  Gun advocates need to know the terror that people in inner cities face and the horror of being a victim of gun violence.  Progressives need to realize that hunting and firearms are intricately woven into the fabric of our culture, and that this is not only healthy, but good and right.

I believe that liberals and conservatives can agree on this point.  YOU NEVER POINT A GUN AT A HUMAN BEING UNLESS YOU INTEND TO USE IT!!!!  This poster is an abomination. It paints conservatives as gun-toting yahoos who lack common sense and judgement to such a degree, that liberals have to do the thinking for them (in the form of more laws, regulations, and oversight offices.)  That kind of thinking is what conservatives resent about liberals.  The poster lowers the national dialog by polarizing the sides and reinforcing stereotypes.

Now for President Clinton's most famous gaff.  
President Clinton and Pope John Paul II
Bonus Gaff
Congresswoman Giffords can also be connected to Pope John Paul via President Obama.  Obama met Pope Benedict XVI, a great friend of Pope John Paul II.  Here are two Obama gaffs and some commentary by Father Robert Baron.  
Calling a policeman "stupid" might be okay if you are a congressman, but NOT as leader of the free world!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tom Hanks

This is the first in a series of January posts about the Greek connection to John Paul II and the papacy in our time.  Enjoy!
3 Degrees

Third Degree: Tom Hanks married Rita Wilson in an Orthodox Christian ceremony in 1988.  Here are a few pictures from their wedding reception.   They had a big fat Greek wedding with this guy as their DJ and emcee.
Greek dancing at their wedding in 1988

The happy couple in Life magazine

After a childhood dabbling in Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and various Protestant sects, Tom Hanks grew into the Orthodox Church via his love for Rita Wilson.

Second Degree: Father John Bakas, Dean of St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles, California.

Tom and Rita have received the body and blood of our Lord and Savior at the hand of this man, Father Bakas.  Father Bakas is a fascinating character to me.  I attended St. Sophia for the years of my graduate school education and a few beyond.

The tradition of the cathedral was to change priests every 4-6 years.  Father Bakas came to St. Sophia just after I moved from Los Angeles in 2000 and has been there ever since.  He seems to possess that illusive combination of piety and flash that is needed to survive the crowd in L.A.  The people of his flock are amazingly wealthy, demanding, and can be very difficult at times.  Father Bakas has struck a balance to lift every heart higher and challenge his flock spiritually without alienating them or rejecting them.  This is truly a great gift from God and my hat is off to Father Bakas!

First Degree: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
Father Bakas told me through email that he met the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople (Istanbul) on several occasions.  His All Holiness was good friends with John Paul II. Click here for video of the two men. 
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope John Paul II
Did you know?
There is "one, holy, and apostolic church," and the Roman Catholic Church is just one part of it.  There is an Eastern branch as well.  Some elements of this branch are in full communion with Rome, they are Byzantine Catholics, Eastern Catholics, Maronites, Melikites, Chaldeans, Babylonians, and dozens of others.  Some elements of the Eastern branch are not in communion with Rome, these are the Orthodox Churches.  

The split (schism) between the Orthodox east and the Roman west took about 500 years to complete and began around 900 AD.  In that process  there were many betrayals and sins committed by both sides against each other.  One of the most egregious was the Fourth Crusade of 1205.  In that event, Roman "pilgrims" sacked Constantinople in a gleeful, frat-party-like spree.  The women were raped, men were killed for sport, holy sites were looted and desecrated, and the city was burnt to the ground.  The photo above of Bartholomew and John Paul II is of a liturgy in celebration of the return of the relics of St. Gregory the Theologian to the Orthodox Church.  Those relics were stolen during the Fourth Crusade.

As in any family, cruelty, indifference, arrogance, and lack of both humility and forgiveness are habits that feed upon themselves.  The centuries of sinful separation, between the Eastern and Western churches, that precede us cannot be undone by a mere 50 years of good will and friendship.  But, with the Holy Spirit, it is doubtful that we will have to wait 1000 years for a complete reconciliation.  
John Paul II is the pope in apostolic succession from Saint Peter.  Bartholomew I is the patriarch in apostolic succession from Saint Peter's brother, Saint Andrew.  It is unnatural and very wrong that brothers should be out of communion.  Both men strive to reunite the churches.  John Paul II as a saint and Bartholomew as the current Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guess Who?

Greek Month
Opa!  This month we'll feature Greeks or Eastern Orthodox Christians or both in the posts.

This man will be a featured Degree in a post this month.  Do you recognize him?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Robert Louis Stevenson

A story in sumptuous pictures.
6 Degrees
Sixth Degree: Robert Lois Stevenson
The poet of my childhood.  His verse sent me and millions of children on a magical journey of texture in words.  I've always loved the poetry, but he is better known for his novels Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde.  
Fifth Degree: John Singer Sargent, painter
Sargent in his studio painting "Madame X"
Madame X's upper body (detail)

Sargent painting of Sargent painting
Fourth Degree: The Right Honorable Lord Russell of Killowen, Lord Chief Justice of England
The first Catholic to be a chief justice in Centuries!  Well done, Lord Russell.  
Portrait of Lord Russell by John Singer Sargent
Third Degree: George S. Batcheller
Lord Russell was a guest in the Saratoga home of George S. Batchellor around the turn of the 20th Century.  Perhaps you would like to be a guest there too.  It's been turned into an historic B&B.  
Batcheller B&B in Saratoga Springs, NY

Batcheller family tomb in Saratoga

Union Colonel George S. Batcheller
Second Degree: George S. Batcheller
We can give him many titles; Colonel in the Union Army, Judge for International Tribunal of Egypt, U.S. Minister to Portugal, and Assemblyman for the State of New York.  He also wrote the occasional article in the New York Times.  Here is the article he wrote about his meeting with....
First Degree: Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII was the Pope who gave St. Theresa "the little flower" permission to become a nun at the age of 15.  
Portrait of Pope Leo XIII
Dramatization of St. Theresa and Pope Leo XIII

St. Theresa of Liseaux, patron of those with
AIDS and florists

Guess Who named Theresa of Liseaux a Doctor of the Church?
Here he is with another Theresa, Mother Theresa took her
name from The Little Flower

Bill Cosby

Fourth Degree, Bill Cosby was interviewed with New York restaurateur, Gianni Gavelli, by David Susskind in April of 1986.  Cosby is a legend of American comedy.  I cannot say enough about him.  Enjoy the video.

Third Degree, David Susskind interviewed Nikita Khrushchev on the ninth of October, 1960.  Interviewing the Soviet Premier was so controversial, that there was violent reaction to the interview even taking place.  Susskind's children were threatened by anti-Communist Americans.
David Susskind and Nikita Khrushchev
October 9, 1960
Time-Life invited figures, who had graced the cover of their magazine, to a summit luncheon in 1962.  Among the invitees were Premier Khrushchev and Pope John XXIII.  Other notable people invited were Pablo Picaso, John F. Kennedy, and Charles de Gaulle.  (Information obtained from the book,"John XXII: Pope of the Century" by Peter Hebblethwaite, Margaret Hebblethwaite)

Second Degree, Nikita Khrushchev invited Pope John to some event or meeting.  I am not sure what that event or meeting was.
It may have been the Time-Life luncheon, but it is probably mentioned somewhere between pages 220-242 in 
"John XXIII: Pope of the Century."  Whatever the case, The Holy Father felt obliged to respond to the Soviet 
Premiere.  He rejected the cold letter offered by his secretary of state, and penned this response to Khrushchev.

Cordial thanks for the courteous message and good wishes.  We return them from the heart in words that come 
from on high: Peace on earth to people of good will. 
We bring to your attention two Christmas documents from the year which call for the consolidation of a just
peace between peoples.
May the good Lord hear and respond to the ardour and sincerity of our efforts and prayers.  
Fiat pax in virtutue tua, et abundantia in turribus tuis. ["Peace within your walls, and security within your towers": 
Psalm 122.7]
Joyful good wishes for the prosperity of the Russian people and all the peoples of the world.
 (letter, p. 438) 
Second Vatican Council
First Degree, Pope John XXIII: opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962.  A council attended by Pope John Paul II.

Or you could just link Khrushchev to Fidel Castro.
Guy Love

There have been many times when I'm writing a post, that I go off on several different tangents.  One of these tangents leads back to John Paul II, and that is the one I publish.  But often, there are interesting story lines that aren't published.

Here's one.

Discovering David Susskind's interview videos was really fun.  I had heard Alan Sherman refer to him in his music, but never actually seen one.  Here is a line of connection that I may pursue at another time.  Hope you enjoy the video.  I sure did!

David Susskind interviewed President Harry Truman, mentioned in the John Adams post.  In this interview, President Truman confessed that Chopin's Opus 42 Waltz in A flat major was his favorite piece of music.
Let's listen to that marvelous piece of music, played by the best person to interpret Chopin's music, Sergei Rachmoninoff.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

Rachmoninoff first recorded for Edison Records, one of the earliest record labels.  Edison didn't care for Rachmoninoff's touch and referred to the pianist/composer as a "pounder."  Listen to a clip of one of those early Edison Diamond recordings.  Here, Rachmoninoff plays his Prelude, opus 3, number 2.