"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
"The Orthodox Church is evangelical, but not Protestant. It is orthodox, but not Jewish. It is catholic, but not Roman. It isn't non-denominational - it is pre-denominational. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the Day of Pentecost 2000 years ago."
"Relatives outside the family home described Nodar Kumaritashvili as a devoted athlete, a respectful young man and a fervent Orthodox Christian believer who prayed at the local church just before leaving for the Olympics."
Nodar Kumaritashvili's family criticise luge track after tragic death at Winter Olympics
(Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/EPA) Flowers and candles surround a photo of the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the bottom of the Olympic rings in Whistler
The father of Nodar Kumaritashvili has questioned the safety of the luge track where his son died on Friday.
The 21-year-old Georgian rider died after he came off the track at 90mph and hit a metal pillar during practice at the Winter Olympics.
Officials concluded after an investigation that the accident at the Whistler Sliding Centre, 78 miles (125km) north of Vancouver, was down to the driver's mistake, even though they then made amendments to the track to reduce the risk of other riders being thrown off.
A joint statement from the International Luge Federation (FIL) and the games organisers said that the accident was a result of human error and there was no indication of track deficiencies.
Yet Georgian officials have raised concerns about the Whistler Sliding Centre track and the fact that athletes were attaining exceptionally high speeds.
Even the country's President, Mikheil Saakashvili, felt moved to add his concerns. “One thing I know for sure is that no sports mistake is supposed to lead to a death. No sports mistake is supposed to be fatal,” he said.
“Questions were asked about this place [the track]. We were told by other sportsmen there were some suggestions that the wall should have been higher there [at the site of the accident] because there was eventuality of this happening.
“The good news is that they have built it [a higher wall] now but I think the best news would be if in the future [we] listen more to the grievances of sportsmen, listen more to the sensitivities and we don’t have to do things in the aftermath.”
David Kumaritashvili, Nodar's father, who competed in the luge when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, agreed. "I don't know anything about why it happened, I don't know if it was the track or if it was a mistake," he said. "But I know that he should never have been going that fast. That kind of speed is too much in this sport."
Sir Clive Woodward, the British Olympic Association performance director, said that the other lugers at the Olympics were satisfied that the Georgian's mistake was the primary cause of the crash rather than the speeds being reached on the track.
"Now they've all seen it and the shock has gone away, I think it's fair to say they all as one say this was an error by a young luge athlete.
"Over 5,000 runs have gone on this track and it's been classified safe and I think the athletes all think it's a safe track. That was it, it was put down to driver error.
"Clearly they [the organisers] have done a few things – in tonight's two runs they started lower down where the ladies start and also they just built up that final bank. But it was just one of those things that happen in sport and I think everyone has accepted that."
Kumaritashvili's death overshadowed the opening of the Winter Games in Vancouver and plunged Georgia into mourning, no more so than in his home town, a well-known local ski resort and winter sports centre.
As a steady stream of villagers arrived at the family home to offer condolences, Kumaritashvili's mother, Dodo, sat in the family living room, surrounded by photographs of her son and wailing inconsolably.
"Our hearts are broken," David Kumaritashvili said outside the home in Bakuriani. "He was so young, his whole life was ahead of him.
"His whole life he wanted to be an athlete, it was his dream to be at the Olympics. He was so excited about going. I've never seen him so excited in his entire life."
Mr Kumaritashvili said he had heard that video footage of his son's tragic death was being broadcast around the world, but could not imagine watching it himself.
"I can't watch how it happened. My heart is weak, I don't think I could survive watching it," he said.
[b]Relatives outside the family home described Nodar Kumaritashvili as a devoted athlete, [size=12pt]a respectful young man and a fervent Orthodox Christian believer who prayed at the local church just before leaving for the Olympics[/size].[/b]
His cousin, David Bedushvili, said Nodar had been convinced he would do well at the Olympics. "Nodar said he would come home with a medal," Mr Bedushvili said, choking back tears.
Mr Bedushvili said he believed that a combination of Nodar's lack of experience and the track in Canada were to blame for the accident. "No one thing was to blame, it was just a tragic accident," he said.
Family members said they were anxious for Nodar's body to be returned to Bakuriani, where he will be buried in the local cemetery and where officials have said a new luge track will be built and named in his honour.
His All-Holiness wrote an amazing Opt Ed article for the Wall Street Journal: Our Indivisible Environment - If life is sacred, so is the entire web that sustains it. It will be in tomorrow's paper. View the article here at this link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704500604574485341504345488.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
Our Indivisible Environment
By THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW
Last week, 200 leaders in the environmental movement gathered in New Orleans for the eighth ecological symposium organized by the Orthodox Christian Church. Participants included leading scientists and theologians, politicians and policy makers, business leaders and NGOs, environmentalists and journalists. Similar conferences have taken place on the Adriatic, Aegean, Baltic, and Black Seas, the Danube and Amazon Rivers, and the Arctic Ocean. This time we sailed the mighty Mississippi to consider its profound impact on the U.S. and its fate within the global environment.
It may seem out of character for a sacred institution to convene a conference on so secular an issue. After all, Jesus counseled us to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:17). Climate change, pollution and the exploitation of our natural resources are commonly seen as the domain not of priests but rather of politicians, scientists, technocrats or interest groups organized by concerned citizens. What does preserving the planet have to do with saving the soul?
A lot, as it turns out. For if life is sacred, so is the entire web that sustains it. Some of those connections—the effects of overharvesting on the fish populations of the North Atlantic, for example—we understand very well. Others, such as the long-term health impacts of industrialization, we understand less well. But no one doubts that there is a connection and balance among all things animate and inanimate on this third planet from the Sun, and that there is a cost or benefit whenever we tamper with that balance.
Moreover, just as God is indivisible, so too is our global environment. The molecules of water that comprise the great North Atlantic are neither European nor American. The particles of atmosphere above the United Kingdom are neither Labour nor Tory. There can be no double vision, no dualistic worldview. Faith communities and nonbelievers alike must focus on the common issue of the survival of our planet. The natural environment unites us in ways that transcend doctrinal differences.
This is not to negate the need for action by nations, both individually and in concert with other nations. Quite the contrary—they are vital. The Obama administration has committed the United States to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by the year 2050. And there are growing expectations that meaningful progress can be made in the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled to take place in Copenhagen this December. There are in fact many promising developments on the political front. But it would be a mistake to treat human impact on the environment simply as a political issue. Not only does it have a profoundly spiritual dimension, as we have shown, but that spiritual dimension offers a huge additional lever that can be used to motivate our brothers and sisters around the world to take action on this critical issue.
This is why we call upon leaders of all faiths to involve themselves and their communities in one of the great issues of our time. Ours is a powerful voice. And our belief in the unity and interconnectedness of all things constitutes a strong argument for immediate action.
Is this an issue for Caesar or for God? We believe it must be approached in both its political and spiritual dimensions. Climate change will only be overcome when all of us—scientists and politicians, theologians and economists, specialists and lay citizens—cooperate for the common good.
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians. He is the author of "Encountering the Mystery" (Doubleday) and "In the World, Yet Not of the World" (Fordham).
Take Me Back to Constantinople How Byzantium, not Rome, can help preserve Pax Americana.
BY EDWARD LUTTWAK | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2009
Economic crisis, mounting national debt, excessive foreign commitments -- this is no way to run an empire. America needs serious strategic counseling. And fast. It has never been Rome, and to adopt its strategies no -- its ruthless expansion of empire, domination of foreign peoples, and bone-crushing brand of total war -- would only hasten America's decline. Better instead to look to the empire's eastern incarnation: Byzantium, which outlasted its Roman predecessor by eight centuries. It is the lessons of Byzantine grand strategy that America must rediscover today.
Fortunately, the Byzantines are far easier to learn from than the Romans, who left virtually no written legacy of their strategy and tactics, just textual fragments and one bookish compilation by Vegetius, who knew little about statecraft or war. The Byzantines, however, wrote it all down -- their techniques of persuasion, intelligence gathering, strategic thinking, tactical doctrines, and operational methods. All of this is laid out clearly in a series of surviving Byzantine military manuals and a major guidebook on statecraft.
I've spent the past two decades poring over these texts to compile a study of Byzantine grand strategy. The United States would do well to heed the following seven lessons if it wishes to remain a great power:
I. Avoid war by every possible means, in all possible circumstances, but always act as if war might start at any time. Train intensively and be ready for battle at all times -- but do not be eager to fight. The highest purpose of combat readiness is to reduce the probability of having to fight.
II. Gather intelligence on the enemy and his mentality, and monitor his actions continuously. Efforts to do so by all possible means might not be very productive, but they are seldom wasted.
III. Campaign vigorously, both offensively and defensively, but avoid battles, especially large-scale battles, except in very favorable circumstances. Don't think like the Romans, who viewed persuasion as just an adjunct to force. Instead, employ force in the smallest possible doses to help persuade the persuadable and harm those not yet amenable to persuasion.
IV. Replace the battle of attrition and occupation of countries with maneuver warfare -- lightning strikes and offensive raids to disrupt enemies, followed by rapid withdrawals. The object is not to destroy your enemies, because they can become tomorrow's allies. A multiplicity of enemies can be less of a threat than just one, so long as they can be persuaded to attack one another.
V. Strive to end wars successfully by recruiting allies to change the balance of power. Diplomacy is even more important during war than peace. Reject, as the Byzantines did, the foolish aphorism that when the guns speak, diplomats fall silent. The most useful allies are those nearest to the enemy, for they know how best to fight his forces.
VI. Subversion is the cheapest path to victory. So cheap, in fact, as compared with the costs and risks of battle, that it must always be attempted, even with the most seemingly irreconcilable enemies. Remember: Even religious fanatics can be bribed, as the Byzantines were some of the first to discover, because zealots can be quite creative in inventing religious justifications for betraying their own cause ("since the ultimate victory of Islam is inevitable anyway …").
VII. When diplomacy and subversion are not enough and fighting is unavoidable, use methods and tactics that exploit enemy weaknesses, avoid consuming combat forces, and patiently whittle down the enemy's strength. This might require much time. But there is no urgency because as soon as one enemy is no more, another will surely take his place. All is constantly changing as rulers and nations rise and fall. Only the empire is eternal -- if, that is, it does not exhaust itself.
Edward Luttwak is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.