Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Distinguished Leader Baron Dr. Norvell Vandervall Coots of Esne and Rottingen Passes Away at 65

Baron Coots of Esne and
Rottingen in the uniform
of a Lieutenant General
of the Pontifical
Walsingham Guard
ROME-RUTHENIA 18 June 2024 (NRom)

H.E. Baron Dr. Norvell Vandervall Coots of Esne and Rottingen, Lieutenant General, PWG, a distinguished figure in both the military and medical communities, died at Maryland's Shock Trauma Center on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, due to complications from injuries sustained in a horseback riding accident on US Memorial Day. He was 65 years old. A retired general from the U.S. Army, he was also a hereditary aristocrat as a member of the nobility of the Pontifical Imperial StatePontifical Imperial State, the French nobility, and the Moldovan nobility. The Pontifical Household has declared a period of mourning. 

A Life of Service and Dedication

Baron Coots was a man of many accomplishments in medicine, in the military, and in the Church. He was a Noble Companion of the Noble Company of the Court of St. Mary of Walsingham and held the office of Master of the Virga Rubea, a high-ranking office in the Pontifical Court of the Pontifical Imperial State responsible for escorting the Patriarchal Staff of St. Stephen in procession, which bears a relic of the saint.

In addition to his religious roles, Baron Coots was a Lieutenant General, the highest rank conferred, in the Pontifical Walsingham Guard, where he served as Chief of Medicine. (He was the only officer to hold that rank.) He was also a Knight of the Order of the Pontifical Imperial State, a Knight Grand Cross of St. Gregory the Great, and a Knight of the Legion of Honor of the French Republic. 

Distinguished Medical Career

Beyond his religious commitments, Baron Coots had a distinguished career in healthcare leadership. Most recently, he served as the Chair of the National Institute of Health's Clinical Center Research Hospital Board, which was established in 2016 to oversee operations at the NIH Clinical Center.  Prior to that, Coots led Holy Cross Health in Silver Spring, Maryland for seven years before retiring in 2024. Under his leadership, Holy Cross Health became a regional leader in comprehensive cancer care, and he established a program to address the specific healthcare needs of military service members, veterans, and their families.

Baron Coots retired from the United States Army in 2016 as a Brigadier General after 36 years of service and numerous awards and recognitions. His final assignments included serving as the Commanding General of Regional Health Command Europe and the Command Surgeon for the US Army Europe and 7th Army. He also held positions such as Deputy Commanding General of the US Army Medical Command, Assistant Surgeon General of the Army, and Surgeon General for the US Forces in Afghanistan. From 2008 to 2011, he was the final Commander of the historic Walter Reed Healthcare System and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Baron Coots (left) riding at the French Riding
Academy as a guest of the French Army

Remembering a Friend and Leader

His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I of Rome-Ruthenia, a close friend of Baron Dr. Coots, expressed his deep sorrow upon learning of his passing: "Baron Coots, or 'Van' as his friends called him, was not only a dear friend of many years, but also an exemplary leader in his religious, military, charitable, and medical endeavours. We were fellow horsemen and spent a lot of time talking about horses. I also always admired his strong dedication to tradition. His unwavering dedication to serving others and his commitment to his faith will forever be remembered. The world has lost a truly remarkable individual, and his presence will be greatly missed."

An Enduring Legacy

The legacy of Baron Norvell Vandervall Coots of Esne and Rottingen will live on through the countless lives he touched and the organizations he served. His contributions to the religious community, military, and medical field will continue to inspire others to follow in his footsteps of service and dedication. As we mourn the loss of this extraordinary individual, we take comfort in knowing that his impact will endure, and his memory will be cherished by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Pontifical Walsingham Guard at Italian Military Parade

By A. DiNardo

ROMA 2 June 2024 (NRom)

On June 2nd, Maj. Gen. Giancarlo Martini, representing the Pontifical Walsingham Guard and the Pontifical CourtPontifical Court of the Pontifical Imperial StatePontifical Imperial State, attended the Military Review for the Festa della Repubblica (the national day) of the Italian Republic. This annual event takes place at the Imperial Forum in Rome, in the presence of the Altar of the Fatherland and the President of the Republic, as well as other high-ranking government officials. Maj. Gen. Martini is a retired officer of the Italian Carabineri and continues to serve in the Pontifical Walsingham Guard. 

Despite the fact that it was pouring rain on the day of the celebration, the event was a memorable success. Maj. Gen. Martini's participation in the ceremony highlighted the importance of the Italian peninsula in the Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-RutheniaPontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia and the United Roman-Ruthenian ChurchUnited Roman-Ruthenian Church

The Festa della Repubblica commemorates the day in 1946 when the Italian people voted to establish the Italian Republic. It is a day of great national pride and celebration, with parades, military displays, and other festivities taking place throughout the country.

The Frecce Tricolori fly at the event.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Championing the Arts: Bishop and Dame of Rome-Ruthenia Attend Opera in Budapest

Dame Hanna and Bishop Rutherford at 
the Hungarian National Opera in Budapest
By M. Derosiers

BUDAPEST 22 May 2024 (NRom)

H.H. Bishop Rutherford and H.M. Dame Hanna of Rome-Ruthenia recently attended the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest, Hungary (formerly known as the Hungarian Royal Opera). This was a public testament of the Pontifical Imperial State's steadfast commitment to nurturing and preserving the arts around the world. It conveys the message that the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and its temporal wing, the Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia value the arts and their profound ability to enrich and transform lives. Art has an unparalleled power to inspire, educate, and unite people in shared experiences of beauty, meaning, and community. Yet, this commitment extends beyond just attending events; it involves promoting the development of artistic talent, ensuring the preservation of cultural heritage, and creating platforms for the arts to thrive.

The Hungarian National Opera House is a stunning architectural marvel that has long been a beacon of artistic excellence, captivating audiences with its world-class performances and unparalleled grandeur. Throughout the performance, the audience was treated to an enthralling display of operatic talent, creating a truly unforgettable experience.

A Reflection of the Pontifical Imperial State's Values

The arts have long been a cornerstone of human civilization, serving as a means of expression, cultural preservation, and societal advancement. By embracing and supporting cultural institutions around the world, the Pontifical Imperial State demonstrates its deep appreciation for the transformative power of the arts, recognizing their ability to inspire, educate, and unite people from all walks of life.

Throughout the years, the Pontifical Imperial State has recognized many outstanding people through its honors system. This includes the Pontifical Society. Fellows inducted to the Pontifical Society have included various great artists around the world. 

Historical Connection 

Hungary once held sway over a vast territory that encompassed not only present-day Hungary but also many modern-day nations, including Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia, among others. Some of these territories overlap with the traditional regions associated with the modern Pontifical Imperial State.  

Hungary's historical ties to the Pontifical Imperial State showcase the nation's significant role in shaping the region's past. For example, a Hungarian king, Andras II, ascended to the Ruthenian throne, which constitutes a major part of the Pontifical Imperial State's titular patrimony. Known as the King of Galicia during his reign, this Hungarian monarch's rule over Ruthenia demonstrated the fluid nature of power dynamics in medieval Europe. The interconnectedness of royal families and the shifting alliances of the time allowed for such unique crossovers in leadership.

As the Kingdom of Ruthenia (Old Russian State) faced its eventual dissolution, Hungary seized the opportunity to expand its territory. The Hungarian kingdom successfully incorporated some of the former Ruthenian lands into its domain, further strengthening its position in the region. Thus, Hungarian territories remain historically linked to the Pontifical Imperial State. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Delegate of the Gallican Rite Appointed in France

Mons. Hugo-Marie
M. Derosiers

MAYENNE 26 April 2024 (NRom)

In a move that underscores the deep reverence for tradition, His Excellency Archbishop Alejandro Paolo, Archbishop of Lyon and Primate of the Catholic Church of the Gallican Rite, appointed Monsignor Hugo-Marie as the Delegate of the Primate in France. This significant appointment, made on 25 April 2024, the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, marks a pivotal moment in the Church's history, highlighting the ongoing commitment to the Gallican Rite, one of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church's principal rites with a rich and diverse heritage. 

The appointment of Monsignor Hugo-Marie by Archbishop Alejandro Paolo received confirmation from Sire Rubén, head of the Royal Merovingian Dynasty, and from the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia. This double-confirmation underscores the unique position of the Gallican Rite within the Church, weaving together ecclesiastical authority of the Archbishop of Lyon with the temporal protection of the Royal Merovingian Dynasty. The co-involvement of these distinct yet interconnected authorities highlights the Gallican Rite's historical and contemporary significance.

Mons. Hugo-Marie, based at the Chapel of the Holy Family and St. Louis in the region of Mayenne, France, now assumes a role of great importance. His primary responsibility as the Delegate of the Primate in France involves not only administrative duties but also, and perhaps more importantly, the preservation and promotion of the ancient Gallican liturgy directly within the French territory. This liturgy, characterized by its ancient roots and eastern influences, represents a vital link to the Church's past and a beacon for its future.

Although the ancient Gallican liturgy is a Western liturgy, its origins and practices maintain a significant Eastern influence. This unique blend of traditions is a reminder of the universality of the Christian faith, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. The liturgy itself was founded by two Syriac-Greek bishops of Jerusalem and Antioch, who brought with them the rich traditions of Eastern Christianity, infusing the Gallican Rite with distinctive liturgical practices and theological insights. 

The appointment of Mons. Hugo-Marie as the Delegate of the Primate in France is more than a mere administrative change; it is a reaffirmation of the Church's dedication to its liturgical heritage and a statement of its commitment to preserving the rich traditions and heritage of the Gallican Rite. As the Church looks to the future, the role of Mons. Hugo-Marie will be crucial in ensuring that the ancient liturgy of the Gallican Rite continues to enrich the spiritual lives of the faithful and serves as a living link to the Church's storied past. As the Gallican Rite moves forward, it carries with it the legacy of its Eastern founders, the protection of the Royal Merovingian Dynasty, the spiritual unity of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, and the hopes of countless faithful who find solace and strength in its ancient practices.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

A Caring, Regal Touch in the Classroom - Grand Duchess Wanda Receives Teacher of the Year Award

By A. DiNardo

ROME-RUTHENIA 14 April 2024 (NRom)

Recently H.I.R.H. Grand Duchess Wanda of Rome-Frankfurt has been honored with a prestigious Teacher of the Year award, a testament to her unparalleled dedication and influence in education. Teaching English at a high school in the USA, she has not only imparted linguistic knowledge but also life-changing lessons to her students. Her selection for this award from a competitive pool of educators across 30 high schools underscores the profound impact she has made in her students' lives and in the educational community at large.

A Teacher Like No Other

A senior member of the Pontifical Court in the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, Grand Duchess Wanda's approach to teaching in high school goes beyond traditional methods. Her students, who have been vocal in their admiration and respect for her, highlight not just her dedication to teaching English but also to instilling valuable life lessons. "I believe that you have changed people's perspective on life," one student remarked, encapsulating the transformative experience of being under her tutelage. Her commitment to education is evident in the hours she dedicates to grading with quality, ensuring each student receives the feedback they need to excel.

What makes her shine even more is her consistent, positive demeanor. "Her mood is always amazing," commented another student, hinting at the encouraging and uplifting atmosphere she creates in her classroom. This positive environment fosters learning and personal growth, making every lesson not just educational but also a journey of self-discovery for her students.


More Than Just a Teacher

The Grand Duchess's dedication to her students' well-being and academic success is unmistakable. "It is evident that you care about each and every student as well as their ability to grow," said a student, shedding light on her personalized approach to teaching. This individual attention ensures that no student feels left behind, making her classroom a space where every student believes in their potential to grow and succeed.

Her teaching style, characterized by dedication, empathy, and a commitment to excellence, has not only helped her students excel academically but has also taught them valuable life lessons. The Grand Duchess has effectively used her platform and role as an educator to inspire her students, teaching them the importance of hard work, perseverance, and compassion.

The Grand Duchess's holds a unique position in that her role goes beyond that of a typical educator. Her dedication to education is an integral part of her sense of humanitarian service. And, her position within the church allows her to blend her passion for education with her commitment to serving others. 

For Grand Duchess Wanda, education is not just about imparting knowledge; it is about empowering young minds to become compassionate and informed individuals. Her commitment to education and humanitarian service sets an inspiring example for others. She believes that she can make a meaningful difference in the lives of her students and the wider community, and her recent teaching award shows her efforts are recognized and appreciated by both her students and her fellow educators. 

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

The Teacher of the Year award is a fitting recognition for Her Highness's contributions to education. However, her legacy extends beyond this accolade. Through her innovative teaching methods, some feel she has raised the bar for the way English is taught, making it more engaging, relevant, and impactful for her students. Her ability to connect with her students on a personal level, coupled with her dedication to their growth, has left an indelible mark on their lives.

In a time in which education can sometimes feel disconnected from the realities of life, the Grand Duchess has bridged that gap. She has shown that it is possible to teach not just academic content but also lessons that prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of life. Her achievement as Teacher of the Year is a beacon of excellence in the teaching profession, and her story is a powerful reminder of the impact a dedicated teacher can have on their students' lives. Most importantly, her commitment to education and her students' success stands as a testament to her character and dedication. 

The Grand Duchess is not just a teacher but a mentor, a guide, and an inspiration to her students, colleagues, and the broader educational community. In the end, it is clear that the historical legacy she maintains only enhances her role in the classroom, bringing a unique perspective and a deep-seated passion for education that has rightfully earned her the admiration of her students and the recognition of her peers as Teacher of the Year.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Easter Tradition: Bishop Rutherford I Blesses Wax "Agnus Dei" Disks

The Agnus Dei disks, some
immersed in water, some
already on a tray to dry. 

By. A. Hernandez

ROME-RUTHENIA 3 APRIL 2024 (NRom)

The sacred ceremony of blessing the wax Agnus Dei disks, a practice deeply rooted in the history of the Christian faith, was revived last year in the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and continues to signify the deep spiritual connection and continuity within the Church. The ritual was performed by His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I of Rome-Ruthenia, and the blessed wax disks will be distributed far and wide. 

The revival of blessing the Agnus Dei disks in the United Roman-Ruthenian Church is not just about bringing back an old custom. It is about reconnecting with a rich spiritual heritage and offering the faithful tangible tokens of divine protection and blessing. In a world that often seems disconnected from its spiritual roots, the reintroduction of this tradition serves as a beacon of hope and faith.

Blessing the Agnus Dei disks with
incense before they are immersed
in water.

The decision last year to revive the blessing of the Agnus Dei disks has been met with enthusiasm. It has sparked a renewed interest in the Church's ancient traditions and customs, bringing the faithful closer together and deepening their spiritual lives. The blessed disks have become cherished items, symbolizing unity, protection, and the enduring presence of God in their lives.

Removing the baptized Agnus Dei wax disks from the water.

Understanding the Agnus Dei Disks

The Agnus Dei, which translates to "Lamb of God" in Latin, is more than just a symbol within Christianity; it represents Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for humanity's salvation. The Agnus Dei disks are small, round wax pieces that have been blessed by the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia. These disks are traditionally made from the leftover wax and are embossed with the image of the Lamb of God. , symbolizing Christ.

H.H. Bishop Rutherford I
wearing the vestments
designated for this ritual.

The Ceremony of Blessing

The ritual, which typically takes place on Wednesday of Paschal Week, involves a special prayer and ritual, where the bishop invokes God's blessing upon the wax disks, asking for His protection over those who will use them. This ceremony not only highlights the continuity of the Church's traditions but also strengthens the bond between the pontiff and the faithful.

Before the ceremony, the prepared disks are placed on trays and laid on the altar or a table designation for the ceremony. The Bishop-Imperator begins the ceremony by invoking the Holy Spirit, asking for divine assistance in blessing the sacramental. The water to be used is blessed, and then fragrance and the Holy Chrism (one of the holy oils) are added to it. He then blesses the disks, also using incense, symbolizing purification and sanctification. Specific prayers are recited, asking God to impart His blessings upon the Agnus Dei and those who will use them. The disks are then baptized by being immersed in the water and oil mixture, after which they are removed and placed on trays to dry. The Agnus Dei disks are distributed and made available to the faithful as a gift of spiritual protection and grace.

The Significance of the Agnus Dei Disks

The blessed Agnus Dei disks carry a profound spiritual significance. They are considered sacramentals, objects that the Church provides to help the faithful sanctify their everyday lives. The disks are often kept in homes, carried as personal protectors, or given as gifts to provide spiritual comfort and protection. They are symbols of Christ's presence in the lives of believers, serving as reminders of His sacrifice and love.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Inside the Unique Governance of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church

By M. Derosiers

ROME-RUTHENIA 2 April 2024 (NRom)

The governance of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and its historic temporal wing, the Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia is a topic that captures the imagination of many. At its helm is the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia, a figure who combines ecclesiastical authority with sovereign dignity. This unique blend of roles is accompanied by an array of traditional auxiliary titles such as Prince of the Romans, Grand Duke and titular Karol of Ruthenia, and more. But who is the current head of the Church, His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I, and how is the incumbent of such a multifaceted position chosen? Is it a matter of bloodline, or is it an elective process? The answer lies somewhere in between, in a semi-hereditary, semi-elective ecclesiastical monarchy system that has roots in several historical precedents.

The United Roman-Ruthenian Church

St. Aftimios Ofiesh, Russian
Orthodox Bishop of Brooklyn,
one of the two Holy Fathers of 
the Apostolic See of the
United Roman-Ruthenian Church
The United Roman-Ruthenian Church is a canonical autocephalous patriarchal Apostolic Church of ancient Orthodox and Catholic origins, also with special status with the United Nations Economics and Social Council. It is also in hereditary descent from Rome and Russia and is considered the temporal successor of St. Peter. St. John Paul II relinquished the temporal claims of the Bishops of Rome, except for those pertaining to Vatican City, while St. Benedict XVI renounced the Patriarchal title. The succession to the temporal heritage of Rome now rests with the United Roman-Ruthenian Church as the next-closest heir in recognized and documented succession from St. Leo X in the Holy Roman Empire. The current structure and name resulted in 2023 when several jurisdictions merged. The modern diocese was established in 1978, with autocephalous status in 2008 and patriarchal status in 2011. (See more at the Frequently Asked Questions.)
Pope St. Leo X, Prince of
Florence, one of the two
Holy Fathers of the
Apostolic See of the United
Roman-Ruthenian Church

The Pontifical Imperial State

In the rich tapestry of history, the states of the Church transcend time and hold great significance. The Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia is the titular secular wing of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church. It is the combination of the historic Pontifical Roman State and the Pontifical Kingdom of Ruthenia and All Rus' to which the Church is heir, carrying a legacy that spans centuries. 

To foster a sense of unity and represent all the historical territories associated with the patrimony of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church (which include an empire, three kingdoms, several principalities, and more), the modern name - Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia - was chosen. Uniting these historic states and church jurisdictions under one banner of fellowship strengthens the bonds of collective heritage within the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and writes a new chapter in their shared history. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we are all part of a greater whole. Today the Pontifical Imperial States stands as an ethno-religious cultural nation without political territory that constitutes a state unto itself, representing people across multiple modern political countries.

Top Left: Roman the Great, Tsar of All Rus'
Top Right: Lev II, King of Russia
Bottom Left: Valentinian III Augustus
Bottom Right: Constantine VII,
Byzantine Emperor of Rome

The Church's continued claim over the Pontifical Imperial State may seem puzzling to some, given that it no longer possesses any actual political territory and does not seek to control any political territory. Historical significance, autonomy from secular authorities, diplomatic recognition, and protection of church assets all are contributing factors. Yet, the Church's claim is rooted in its historical significance, for the Church still recognizes its historical connection and significance to the areas that once comprised the Pontifical Imperial State, even though they now belong to other modern political countries. Also, by maintaining its claim over the Pontifical Imperial State, the Church asserts its autonomy and independence from secular authorities. This symbolic declaration reinforces the Church's position as a sovereign entity and serves as a reminder of its spiritual authority. That allows the Church to maintain diplomatic relations with other entities, participate in international affairs, and to function as a sovereign state unto itself, despite lacking political territory. Furthermore, this claim acts as a safeguard against any possible challenges or encroachments on historical assets.

Full coat of arms of the
Pontifical and Imperial Household
of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church

The Semi-Hereditary, Semi-Elective Monarchy Explained

St. Peter the Apostle vested
as a Bishop of the
Gallo-Russo-Byzantine Rite
of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church

The governance structure of The United Roman-Ruthenian Church and the Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia is neither purely hereditary nor entirely elective. This system mirrors the historical institution of hereditary bishoprics and nation-states governed by prince-bishops, with Montenegro often cited as a prime example. The current Supreme Pontiff, Bishop Rutherford I, holds his secular titles through his ecclesiastical office. Also, the several titles held by his family were bequeathed to the Church, thus making them now inseparable from the office of the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia. And, today these titles are symbolic and no longer refer to (or seek) direct governance of a civil state. Therefore they form an ethno-religious nation without borders that constitutes a state unto itself, representing people across multiple modern political countries.

His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I

Bishop Rutherford I
in uniform of the 
Pontifical 
Walsingham Guard
.

Bishop Rutherford of Rome-Ruthenia, elected as head of the Church in 2011, is a figure embodying humble service, dignity, and historical significance. His Holiness's lineage spans the great royal and noble houses of Europe, from the western realms to the eastern domains, including the Kingdom of Ruthenia that forms a major part of the Church's patrimony. He is part of the nobility of the Merovingian Dynasty, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire. And, in his role as Supreme Pontiff, he is head of the Pontifical and Imperial House of Johnson-Roma-Rus', the ecclesiastical dynastic successors to the Houses of Rurikovich, Romanovich, and Ivrea. The family is entrusted with the sacred duty of upholding the traditions and values of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia. Although the family is Roman-Russian, with strong Latin and Slavic heritage, it also has a long history in the British Isles, North America, and the Caribbean.

Bishop Rutherford I
in clerical habit

Despite his European roots, Bishop Rutherford I was born and raised in the United States, where he also descends from some of the most distinguished American families such as the Warren, Winslow, and Phillips families of Boston, among others. In addition to seminary, he holds degrees from Harvard University Extension School, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, and is also a behavioral scientist specialized in psychological economics. For Bishop Rutherford I, serving in his ecclesiastical role is more than a mere duty; it is the intersection of a profound familial obligation and a deeply-held act of faith. In 2025, the P.I. House of Johnson-Roma-Rus' will be celebrating 20 years of the restoration of the Roman-Russian dynasty. 

Historical Precedents of Hereditary Ecclesiastical Offices

Bishop Petar II, 
Metropolitan and
Prince of Montenegro
The concept of a semi-hereditary, semi-elective monarchy, as seen in The United Roman-Ruthenian Church and the Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia, is not without historical precedent. The prince-bishoprics of medieval Europe, (such as Montenegro, already mentioned) served as theocratic states where the bishop held both spiritual and temporal power. These prince-bishops were often appointed through a combination of hereditary succession and election by religious or noble bodies, reflecting a governance model that balanced inherited rights with the endorsement of peers or the clergy. Today prince-bishoprics that are actively-functioning civil states are Andorra (which lies between Spain and France) and the Vatican City. 

A Fusion of Heritage and Duty

The governance of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and the Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia is a fascinating blend of hereditary rights and elective processes. This unique system, rooted in historical traditions of prince-bishops and hereditary ecclesiastical offices, showcases the intricate ways in which spiritual and temporal powers can be united under a single leadership. The office of Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia embodies this fusion, bringing together a vast array of secular heritage intertwined with a deep commitment to ecclesiastical duties. The Bishop's duty is to uphold a legacy that is both ancient and perpetually relevant.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter Message from His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I: A Beacon of Hope

By J. DuBois

ROME-RUTHENIA 31 March 2024 (NRom)

The Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia's annual Easter Blessing Ex Urbe this year was a profound reminder of hope and transformation. Through his words, a pathway to peace and brotherhood is illuminated. His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I, Papa-Catholicos of Rome-Ruthenia urged introspection for those lacking peace, highlighting the Church's supportive role in personal transformation. "If you are not at peace, then look inside yourself at your beliefs and change them. The Church is here to help," he said.  Moreover, at its core, the United Roman-Ruthenian Church's mission is to foster global harmony. The Supreme Pontiff's message reiterates this commitment, standing as a beacon for peace and brotherhood in the world. The complete text of the allocution is as follows: 

Carissimi, 

Christus resurgens est! Христос воскрес! Christ is risen! In a world rife with uncertainty and turmoil,  people today seem to be on a never-ending quest for meaning. Indeed, people often feel lost and shackled by the complexities of life. However, amidst the chaos, there is a beacon of hope and freedom that has been guiding humanity for two thousand years. It is the Faith of Christ. At the core of our religion is the belief that true liberation and hope can only be found in Christ, particularly through the profound mystery of the Resurrection, which we celebrate today and will celebrate again on the 5th of May. 

Remember, brethren, that Christianity offers a path to inner peace through introspection and transformation of beliefs, with the Church playing a pivotal role as a source of support, for the Church stands as a testament to the ideals of peace and brotherhood. If you are not at peace, then look inside yourself at your beliefs and change them. The Church is here to help. 

At the heart of the doctrine of the faith is a promise that transcends the chains of worldly existence—freedom in Christ. This concept is not about physical liberation but rather a profound spiritual awakening that liberates us from sin, despair, and ultimately, death. The Resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of this belief, offering not just a glimpse but a concrete hope in life beyond this world, a life of eternal peace and joy in the presence of God.

The message of the Resurrection is powerful; it tells us that the trials and tribulations of life are temporary, and in Christ we have the victory over them. It is a message that particularly resonates with anyone who has felt the weight of suffering and seeks a reason to hope, for in our suffering, we united ourselves to Christ on the Cross. Yet, whatever our life path has been or will be, the Resurrection assures us that our struggles are not in vain and that in embracing Christ, we embrace a freedom far beyond the confines of our earthly limitations.

Let us consider also that inner peace is a state coveted by many but achieved by few. It is a journey that begins with a critical look at oneself, particularly one's beliefs. Our beliefs shape our thoughts, actions, and ultimately, our realities. When we are not at peace, it often signals a discord between our internal beliefs and the reality we live in. The key to resolving this is a willingness to introspect and adapt these beliefs. The Christian faith, through the teaching authority of the Apostolic Church, provides a framework for this introspection, for the faith teaches the inner peace, calm, and tranquility only comes through Christ. Thus we must examine our lives through the lens of the teachings of Christ and make necessary adjustments. This process is not about self-judgment but about aligning oneself more closely with the principles of love, forgiveness, and grace. The Church in her teaching authority is a community that offers guidance, support, and encouragement through this journey of self-reflection and growth. For those struggling to find peace and balance, look within, evaluate your beliefs, and never hesitate to seek the Church's timeless wisdom. It is a journey that can lead to profound transformations, bringing one closer to a state of peace that transcends understanding, for, once again, such a peace can only come through Christ.

Next, on this Paschal feast, We reiterate the United Roman-Ruthenian Church's commitment to the ideal of worldwide Christian unity and brotherhood, not just in words but in deeds. Through our various outreach programs, dialogues for peace, and other efforts, the Church actively works towards creating a world where love triumphs over hate, and unity over division. 

In a world in which governments and people talk so much about freedom and peace, the teachings of Christ offer a path forward. That path acknowledges our struggles but promises a victory in Christ. It is a journey that calls for introspection and transformation of beliefs; and a mission that seeks to unite us in love and peace.

The United Roman-Ruthenian Church, along with the broader Christian community, stands ready to guide and support all who embark on this journey. Remember that it is a journey not just towards personal liberation and peace but towards a world that reflects the kingdom of God—where love, peace, and brotherhood triumph, and our Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme. In embracing this path, we find true hope for the world. 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

A Time of Reflection and Resistance: The Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia's Holy Thursday Letter

By. A. DiNardo

ROME-RUTHENIA 28 March 2024 (NRom)

In an era where the fabric of faith seems continually under siege, the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia's letter to the clergy of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, as well as to churches in communion around the globe, serves as both a beacon of hope and a call to spiritual arms. Issued on Holy Thursday, a day that commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the letter from His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I is a poignant reminder of the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead for the Christian community, particularly the orthodox and catholic faithful.

The text of the letter follows: 

Dear Brethren in the Episcopate, Brother Priests, and Fellow Clergy around the World,

At the heart of Holy Thursday is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, a sacrament that encapsulates the essence of Christian faith, the true and living Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. It is a testament to the sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ, offering himself for the salvation of humanity. This day is important, not only as a moment, at the same time historical and timeless, of deep spiritual significance but also as a foundation upon which the faithful must stand firm, especially in times of adversity.

The era in which we find ourselves today sees the world at a crucial juncture. Earlier it seemed like a  comparatively golden period for freedom for the Christian Church, but we know such periods are fleeting. Now the world is overshadowed by increasing hostility towards Christian people. The orthodox and catholic communities, in particular, find ourselves at the forefront of these challenges. Attacks, both verbal and physical, on our religious freedoms have escalated, making the defense of the faith more critical than ever.

Today, as we celebrate the institution of the most powerful act on earth, the Holy Eucharist, We give an unequivocal call to the clergy and the faithful: to uphold the teachings and traditions of the Church with courage and conviction. This is a reminder that the journey of faith is fraught with trials, but also that these trials are not insurmountable. The history of the Church is replete with periods of persecution, yet it has always emerged stronger, buoyed by the resilience and dedication of its people and aided by Christ and the Saints. The Church is washed in the blood of the martyrs like Christ before. Many have tried to stop the Church. All have failed. 

In the face of these adversities, though, the coming celebration of Pascha is a source of hope and renewal for the clergy and the faithful alike. Pascha is not just a celebration of Christ's Resurrection; it is a reaffirmation of the victory of life over death, of faith over despair. This message of hope is particularly poignant for us clergy, who bear the responsibility of shepherding our flock through these turbulent times. Draw strength from the Paschal mystery, remain steadfast in your vocation, and to continue spreading the Gospel's message of love, peace, and redemption. We call on you not only to defend the faith but to live it fully, embodying the very principles that this holy time in the liturgical calendar represents.

Yet, we do not merely reflect today, but directly call for action. Both the clergy and the lay faithful must be vigilant. The clergy must educate themselves and their communities about the richness of their faith and fight opposition in accordance with Christian principles. Remember, though, that defending the faith does not only mean defence against attacks but also proactively living out the teachings of Christ in everyday life.

Most of all, unity within the Christian community, especially between the orthodox and catholic churches, is of utmost importance. In the face of external pressures, this unity is a formidable force, a testament to the strength and resilience of the Christian faith. It serves as a reminder that, together, the faithful can overcome the challenges of the present day, just as they have in the past.

This is Our call to the clergy and the faithful of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and its sister churches worldwide. Remember the significance of the Holy Eucharist and Pascha as cornerstones of the Christian faith, symbols of sacrifice, hope, and resurrection. In a world where the faithful increasingly find themselves besieged, remember the strength found in unity, the importance of defending the faith, and the ever-present hope that Paschal mysteries bring to the Christian community. As we reflect today on the institution of the Holy Eucharist and we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in a few days, let us also recommit ourselves to the mission of the Church in the world today.

In peace,

Rutherford Pp. I
Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Pontifical Household Responds to Tragic Bridge Collapse in Baltimore

By J. DuBois

ROME-RUTHENIAN 26 March 2024 (NRom)

In the wake of a catastrophic event that saw a Singapore-flagged vessel collide with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, the Pontifical Household has expressed its deep sympathy and concern for all those affected.

It was a scene that could have been plucked from the script of a disaster movie. The Dali, a massive cargo ship, was leaving the Port of Baltimore when it struck the Key Bridge, a vital artery for the city's transportation system. Officials report that the crew had issued a warning of a power issue and sent out a "mayday" call before the collision occurred. The footage that has since circulated online shows the harrowing moment when the ship collided with one of the bridge's columns, causing it to snap and collapse into the water below, partially landing on the vessel itself. A burst of flames and smoke could be seen rising into the night sky, painting a grim picture of the incident.

The aftermath of the collapse was nothing short of chaotic. Several vehicles, including those of contractors who were on the bridge repairing potholes, plunged into the river below. The water temperature that day was measured at a chilling 48 degrees, dangerously cold enough to induce hypothermia in minutes. Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld confirmed that two individuals were rescued from the icy waters. One was miraculously unharmed, while the other remains in very serious condition. The community and emergency services have rallied together in a display of solidarity and swift action, but the incident has left many shaken.

The Pontifical Household's Message of Compassion

In the face of such tragedy, the Pontifical Household has issued a statement expressing its profound sympathy and concerns for all those impacted by the bridge collapse. The message highlights the importance of community support and the power of collective prayer during times of crisis. It is a reminder that, in the midst of despair, there is hope to be found in human kindness and solidarity.

As the city of Baltimore begins to heal and rebuild, it is clear that this incident will not soon be forgotten, serving as a poignant call to action for all involved. The road to recovery will be long and fraught with challenges. However, with the support of the global community and the guiding light of compassion and empathy, there is hope yet for a brighter, safer future. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Imperial Russo-Italian Chronicler King of Arms Grants Coat of Arms to HRH Dominick Amodio, Grand Duke of Ravenna


From the Cronista Re d'Armi Russo-Italiano Imperiale

ROME-RUTHENIA 25 March 2024 (NRom)

The Cronista Re d'Armi Russo-Italiano Imperiale (Imperial Russo-Italian Chronicler King of Arms), the heraldic ministry of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and Pontifical Imperial StateUnited Roman-Ruthenian Church and Pontifical Imperial State, has granted a coat of arms to HRH Dominick Amodio, Grand Duke of Ravenna. 

The Role of the Imperial Russo-Italian Chronicler King of Arms

The Cronista Re d'Armi Russo-Italiano Imperiale is responsible for overseeing the granting and registration of coats of arms within the jurisdiction of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and Pontifical Imperial State. Registrations of existing coats of arms and grants of new coats of arms are made with a large, full-color document with large pendant wax seal. For more, please see this website.




Sunday, March 24, 2024

Embracing Unity: Bishop Rutherford's Message as Holy Week Begins

By A. DiNardo

ROME-RUTHENIA 24 March 2024 (NRom)

Amidst a world so often divided by differences, His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I addressed his people around the globe after the Palm Sunday liturgy, emphasizing the importance of fraternal love and the shunning of differences. Holy Week begins with the Palm Sunday liturgy, marking the commencement of the holiest time of the year for Christians. This period leads up to Latin Pascha (Easter) on the following Sunday according to the Gregorian calendar. Notably in the custom of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, there is a second celebration of "Eastern" Pascha, following the Julian calendar, which, this year, falls one month later. These celebrations underscore a shared heritage and faith that bind the Christian community across the traditional Roman-Ruthenian lands and across the globe.

The United Roman-Ruthenian Church: A Testament to Unity in Diversity

The ancient yet unique liturgy of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church is a vivid embodiment of Christian unity. Faithfully incorporating the heritage of the very diverse people in the traditional Roman-Ruthenian lands, the Church serves as a model of how diverse Christian traditions can come together in worship and fellowship. The United Roman-Ruthenian Church, with most of its members located in Europe, Africa, and South America, stands as a testament to the unity that can be achieved across borders. 

A Call to Action: Living Out the Message of Brotherhood

Bishop Rutherford's call for Christians to behave in a fraternal manner and to shun differences is particularly poignant during Holy Week. This time offers an opportunity for Christians, regardless of their geographic location or national affiliations, to come together in mutual respect, love, and understanding. As we reflect on the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, we are reminded of the core values of forgiveness, compassion, and unity that are central to the Christian faith.

In embracing these values, the global Christian community can set a powerful example of how differences can be transcended through shared faith and love. This Holy Week, Bishop Rutherford reminds us to celebrate our diversity while uniting in our common heritage and faith. By doing so, we can build a more understanding, compassionate, and brotherly world.

A Unified Path Forward

As the Christian community worldwide prepares to observe the sacred traditions of Holy Week and Pascha, Bishop Rutherford's message resonates with renewed urgency. In a world often divided, the example of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and the shared observance of this holiest time of the year remind us of the strength found in unity. Let us embrace this time of reflection and renewal with open hearts, committed to living out the principles of brotherhood, understanding, and love. Together, we can forge a path forward that honors our diverse heritage while celebrating our shared faith and humanity.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

2025: Celebrating 20 Years of the Restoration of the Roman-Russian Dynasty

Coat of arms of the dynastic house.
By Jean DuBois

ROME-RUTHENIA 20 February 2024 (NRom)

In an era where history seems to be forgotten in the fast-paced whirlwind of modern life, there remains a testament to the enduring legacy of our ancestors. The year 2025 marks a significant milestone — the 20th anniversary of a momentous event in historical restoration and recognition; the restoration of the Roman-Russian (also known as Roman-Ruthenian) dynasty, leading what is now known as the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia. ("Ruthenia" is a Latin-based word that simply means "Russia" or "Rus'.") The United Roman-Ruthenian Church, descended from the Apostles via Orthodox and Roman sources, has inherited a unique blend of Orthodoxy with Catholic heritage.

The Dawn of Recognition in 2005

The story in recent times began two decades ago, in 2005, when the House of Johnson-Roma-Rus' received formal acknowledgment in both the hereditary Roman and ecclesiastical nobility. This recognition was not merely ceremonial but served as a cornerstone for a series of further recognitions that would eventually lead to the full restoration of a lineage encompassing an impressive array of heritage - from the grandeur that was imperial Rome to the expanses of the Kingdom of Russia (Old Russian State, distinct from the later Romanov Russian Empire), and also the Imperial Kingdom of Italy. This fusion created what we now celebrate as a living continuum bridging past and present - a remarkable achievement highlighting how history can still breathe life into modern identity.

The Evolution into Rome-Ruthenia

Following its initial recognition, what started as a revival quickly transformed into an establishment with tangible influence and sovereignty - namely, The Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia. This entity symbolizes more than just a lineage; it represents an amalgamation of cultures, histories, and sovereignties under one umbrella. It pays homage to its roots through its governance structure, cultural preservation efforts, and even its legal framework. Over these two decades since its inception, Rome-Ruthenia has shown itself to be not just about remembering or glorifying bygone eras but about applying historical lessons to improve governance, social cohesion, and cultural enrichment today. (Read more at the Frequently Asked Questions page.)

A Living Legacy in Today’s World

In reflecting on this upcoming anniversary, it becomes clear that the dynasty today stands not only as a guardian over monumental legacies from Europe’s intricate history but also as an active participant in crafting contemporary narratives around unity, heritage preservation, and international diplomacy. The legacy lives on through educational initiatives, primarily organized through the Pontifical Court, aimed at understanding historical contexts better while fostering community engagement around these themes. Cultural events bring alive traditions once thought lost to time but now celebrated anew thanks to this restored dynasty's efforts.

Looking Forward

As we approach this significant milestone in 2025 – celebrating two decades since recognizing one family's dedication to their ancestral legacy – let us take inspiration from their journey. It serves as a powerful reminder that our pasts are not just chapters concluded but foundations upon which futures are built. In commemorating this anniversary, may we all reflect on our heritage's importance—no matter where we come from—and recognize its potential to shape identities in an ever-evolving world. Moreover, its lack of interest in territorial claims or political control allows it to focus solely on providing spiritual guidance and fostering peace among its followers. By embracing this unique perspective, the Pontifical Imperial State and its dynastic house offer a refreshing alternative to the power struggles commonly associated with contemporary politics.

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* Note: The Pontifical Imperial State and the Pontifical Imperial House of Johnson-Roma-Rus' are non-political entities. The Pontifical Imperial State and all its constituents are distinct from all modern civil states and other imperial, royal, and/or noble houses and dynasties. It does not seek territory or political control. Today they are an ecclesiastical ethno-religious nation without borders that constitutes a state unto itself. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Uniting in Prayer Across Borders: H.H. Bishop Rutherford I Marks the Start of Great Lent

H.H. Bishop Rutherford I gives the
solemn blessing at the end of
the Divine Liturgy
By M. Derosiers

ROME-RUTHENIA 14 February 2024 (NRom)

Today His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I of Rome-Ruthenia joined together with the United Roman-Ruthenian Church around the world and led the Divine Liturgy for Ash Wednesday. This day not only marked the start of Great Lent but also this year, according to the liturgical calendar, coincided with the Feast of St. Valentine, Priest & Martyr and the Feast of Saints Kirill and Methodius, Teachers of the Slavs. The divine liturgy resonated across borders as the United Roman-Ruthenian Church in different corners of the world observed this holy occasion. This ancient tradition serves as a reminder that life is fleeting, and it urges believers to turn away from sin and embrace a path of righteousness.

Ash Wednesday holds great significance for Christians worldwide, as it inaugurates a period of reflection, repentance, and spiritual growth leading up to Pascha (Easter). It serves as a reminder to embrace humility and seek forgiveness for past transgressions. The fact that feast of St. Valentine coincides with Ash Wednesday this year also reminds the faithful that love is at the core of their faith. It encourages them to extend kindness and affection towards others during this lenten season.

Furthermore, the remembrance of Saints Kirill and Methodius underscores the rich cultural heritage and shared history within the community United Roman-Ruthenian Church. These saints played a pivotal role in spreading Christianity among the Slavic people through their translation work and missionary efforts and are venerated throughout Christendom. 

This liturgy marking the beginning of Great Lent was an opportunity for fellow believers around the world to unite spiritually in prayer and reflection, inspiring them to acts of charity. May this season be an opportunity for personal growth and spiritual renewal as we seek reconciliation with God and one another.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Enduring Legacy of St. Aftimios Ofiesh: True Orthodoxy's Beacon

 By I. Butakov

St. Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh
Official Icon in the United Roman-Ruthenian Church

St. Aftimios Ofiesh is a name that resonates with controversy and reverence in the annals of Orthodox Christianity. As the successor to St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Aftimios was poised to continue a legacy of faith and dedication within the Syrian-Russian Orthodox community in North America and stands as one of the most intriguing figures in Orthodox history. However, his tenure as an Orthodox patriarch was marked by significant challenges and disputes that have led many to malign his contributions to this day, largely due to misunderstandings and self-righteous resistance from other Orthodox leaders. Despite these controversies, an examination of his life and actions reveals a steadfast commitment to authentic Orthodoxy and true Christian spirit.

Orthodox Spirit Amidst Adversity

Despite facing significant opposition, St. Aftimios remained steadfast in his commitment to authentic Orthodoxy and the true Christian spirit. His dedication was evident in his pastoral care, theological contributions, and efforts to establish a united Orthodox Church that transcended ethnic and national divisions. 

The backlash against St. Aftimios was swift and severe, coming not only from within his own jurisdiction but also from other Orthodox Churches globally. Critics accused him of abandoning traditional Orthodoxy for personal gain and innovation for its own sake—charges that were both unfair and unfounded. Despite these accusations, those who closely studied his works would find a man deeply committed to the core principles of Orthodoxy; love, unity, and faithfulness to Christ’s teachings above cultural or nationalistic divisions and above jurisdictional snobbery.

Discrimination against a Married Archbishop

St. Aftimios also faced discrimination due to his marital status as an archbishop. However, it is important to understand that his marriage was not inconsistent with Orthodox Christianity but rather a matter of jurisdictional discipline. While doctrine represents core theological beliefs that are unchangeable, discipline refers to rules and practices that can vary across jurisdictions. In some Orthodox jurisdictions, celibacy is required for bishops and some priests, while others permit or even encourage marriage among clergy members. St. Aftimios's decision to marry falls within the latter category, making it a matter of jurisdictional discipline rather than a doctrinal violation.

St. Aftimios and his wife, Mariam

Despite facing prejudice and criticism additionally for his marriage, St. Aftimios remained steadfast in his beliefs and practices. He firmly believed that marriage did not diminish his commitment to the Orthodox faith or compromise his spiritual authority as an archbishop. Indeed, he felt it enhanced it, and he promoted and authorized a married episcopate.  This courageous stance challenged artificial norms and forced people to question their assumptions about married clergy.

St. Aftimios's refusal to conform to discriminatory expectations demonstrates his commitment to authenticity and staying true to both his personal convictions and Orthodox tradition. His actions remind us that the true essence of the Orthodox faith lies in love, compassion, and understanding in the example of Christ.

The Legacy Lives On

The impact of St. Aftimios’s work is still felt today across several jurisdictions that hold apostolic succession from him. These communities continue to embody his vision of a unified Orthodoxy—free from ethnic barriers and open to all believers. Among the most prominent of these is the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, embracing its Orthodox and Catholic heritage; preserving its own ethnic heritage while breaking down barriers and being open to everyone in the spirit of Christ. 

A Misunderstood Shepherd

While many contemporary Orthodox leaders still view St. Aftimios with skepticism, perhaps out of jealousy or jurisdictional power games to which even the Church has never been immune, it is essential to recognize his pioneering role in shaping traditional Orthodoxy in the modern era. His actions were not those of division but rather attempts at reshaping the church to be more inclusive in the example of Christ. And, it is crucial to recognize the positive impact he has had on modern Orthodoxy—especially in North America.

Several jurisdictions descended from St. Aftimios bear testament to his lasting influence on the landscape of global Orthodoxy. These communities embody his vision for an authentically inclusive Church, transcending barriers, and remaining faithful to traditional doctrines. The ancient apostolic succession emanating from St. Aftimios is an unbroken chain that not only validates his own ecclesiastical authority, but also underscores the authenticity of his successors' faith and practices.

Reevaluating A Legacy

In spite of being maligned by some contemporaries and successors alike, St. Aftimios's authentic approach to Orthodoxy continues to inspire many believers across different jurisdictions worldwide. His life reminds us that genuine spiritual leadership often requires making difficult decisions that might not be fully understood or appreciated by one’s peers or even by generations immediately following them.

In reevaluating the legacy of St. Aftimios, it becomes clear that his contributions cannot be dismissed merely as controversial decisions made during tumultuous times. He was much more than a controversial figure; he was a divinely-inspired visionary who sought to bring genuine unity and spiritual depth to the Orthodox Church. His work should be seen as courageous steps towards realizing a vision of an orthodox Church truly universal (and indeed Catholic in its most true sense) in its embrace yet steadfast in its adherence to ancient truths—a mission undoubtedly relevant today as it was during his lifetime.  Despite opposition, his legacy, the very legacy preserved by the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, continues to inspire those who value true orthodoxy and Christian fellowship.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Volunteers in Central Chile Battle Aftermath of Devastating Wildfires

By A. DiNardo

SANTIAGO 6 FEBRUARY 2024 (NRom)

In a heart-wrenching development from central Chile, volunteers have commenced the grim task of clearing away the remnants of neighborhoods left devastated by wildfires that blazed across the region over the past few days. With the official death toll now adjusted to 123 and hundreds still unaccounted for, the scope of this tragedy is becoming increasingly clear.

The fires, which began their destructive path on Friday, seemed to have lost some of their ferocity by Monday morning. The eastern outskirts of Viña del Mar bore the brunt, but nearby towns such as Quilpé and Villa Alemana were not spared either. In a statement on Sunday, President Gabriel Boric revealed at least 3,000 homes had been destroyed.

An Update on the Catastrophe

In a somber update on Monday afternoon, Marisol Prado, director of Chile’s Forensic Medical Service announced an additional ten victims were confirmed. The condition of many bodies complicates identification efforts; however, forensic teams are diligently collecting genetic material from those reporting missing relatives to aid in this painstaking process.

The Community's Response

Viña del Mar’s Mayor Macarena Ripamonti reported at least 370 people missing within this city alone—a popular beach resort known for its picturesque landscapes now marred by tragedy. This disaster has highlighted both natural causes and human actions as potential catalysts for these fires. Dry conditions paired with strong winds greatly facilitated their spread—a situation possibly exacerbated by arsonists according to officials.

A Glimmer of Hope Amid Despair

Despite these harrowing circumstances, stories emerge of communities banding together. Schools and public buildings throughout Viña del Mar and Santiago have become donation centers—gathering essentials like water, food, candles, and tools to support those affected. In one particularly striking account, Priscila Rivero—a chef from Alto Miraflores—recalls how rapidly flames engulfed her neighborhood. Though she managed to ensure her children's safety initially upon witnessing the approaching danger; returning was met with despair as her home succumbed to fire.

Meanwhile, affected residents like Marco Delgadillo from Villa Independencia face the ruins of what once was their home with resilience. Despite losing nearly everything to flames that consumed his house built 25 years ago without formal permits—a testament to his hard work—he remains determined to rebuild with hopes for governmental assistance ahead of winter.

Moving Forward

The road to recovery will undoubtedly be long and fraught with challenges for those impacted by these wildfires. Yet through solidarity and continuous support from both local communities and international allies alike can perhaps mend what has been broken—rebuilding not just homes but spirits too. This story serves as a poignant reminder of nature's capacity for destruction but also humanity's capacity for kindness, resilience, and renewal in face of adversity.