"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Sunday, 3 July 2016


Commonweal / www.commonwealmagazine.org / June 30, 2016
 this is being published thanks to Jim Forest
Only the Next Step: Assessing the Pan-Orthodox Council

By Jerry Ryan

From the outside, it would seem that the “Great and Holy” Pan-Orthodox Council, which began on June 19 and ended without much fanfare on June 26, was a painful and humiliating fiasco. Four of the fourteen churches that were to participate in this historic council withdrew at the last minute, claiming, among other things, that the approved working documents required more reflection and discussion: More time was needed, they said. This excuse did not seem very convincing. After all, the council was first proposed in 1909; it was convoked by Patriarch Athenagoras fifty years ago; multiple preparatory sessions had taken place; an agenda had been approved, a date fixed. In short, there had been plenty of time. Because of the last-minute cancellations, an event intended to be—among other things—an edifying display of Orthodox unity instead provided an instructive reminder of the many tensions threatening the Orthodox communion.

These tensions are partly theological. Antoine Arjakovsky, a French Orthodox theologian-historian, distinguishes three predominant mentalities within Orthodoxy. First there are the “zealots”—traditionalists who focus on the past and the preservation of the integrity of the faith. Then there are the “proselytes,” who encourage dialogue with other Christians and nonbelievers in an effort to get them all to convert to the one true Orthodox Church. Finally, there are the “spirituals,” whose vision goes beyond confessional boundaries and emphasizes the charity that should unite us all in Christ. Ideally, these tendencies (which also exist, mutatis mutandis, within Catholicism) should complement one another. In reality, they often end up in conflict. The zealots fear that a pan-Orthodox council will only provoke more schisms and weaken the already tenuous union of Orthodoxy, while the spirituals envisage a post-confessional Christianity. Proselytes fall anywhere between these two extremes. The working documents for the pan-Orthodox council issued by the preparatory commissions reflect compromises that left the more extreme tendencies frustrated. These documents play it safe for the sake of the greatest possible inclusiveness; they are certainly not “prophetic.” The Moscow patriarchate had agreed to participate on the condition that all the council’s decisions be made by “consensus”—that is, unanimously—which meant that a single bishop could derail the whole project. This had the predictable effect of knocking anything controversial off the agenda.

Besides the theological disagreements, there is also a more worldly clash of interests, a clash that can remind one of the debate among the twelve apostles about which of them was the greatest. There is, first of all, the rivalry between Constantinople and Moscow. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Constantinople—“the new Rome”—became the new center of what remained of the Empire in the East; its patriarch was recognized as having special privileges and responsibilities for the unity of the church throughout Asia Minor. After the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453, it set up “millets” (or “nations”) where the different minority groups within the realm would be free to follow their own laws and traditions. The Patriarch of Constantinople, known as the Ecumenical Patriarch, was the official head of the Christian millet. All of this came to an end when the Ottoman Empire was dismantled after World War I. Suddenly the Patriarchate of Constantinople lost political support for its preeminence among the Eastern Churches. The Russian Church, the largest in the Orthodox world with its 75 million adherents, began to see itself as the “Third Rome.” Later, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to the resurgence of “Holy Russia” and the renewal of religious liberties in other countries of Eastern Europe. But with this heartening rediscovery of the ancient faith has come the reemergence of “Holy Russia’s” dark side: a narrow conservatism, national and ethnic chauvinism, an exaggerated “symphony” with the State, which offers temporal prestige and certain practical privileges but also creates dependence. The Russian Orthodox Church began to act as though it possessed prerogatives hitherto reserved to Constantinople. (For example, it unilaterally granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of America without consulting the other patriarchates.) Moscow originally requested that the site of the Pan-Orthodox Council be transferred from Istanbul to Crete, and so it was. Then, just a few days before the council was to begin, Moscow demanded that it be postponed in order to allow further study of the preparatory documents. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople refused this last request. He affirmed that the council would take place as scheduled and that the decisions it made would be binding on all the Orthodox churches, whether they were present at the council or not.

As for the council’s agenda and modus operandi, the hardliners seemed to get their way in the preparatory sessions: only the bishops would participate in the working sessions of the council; theologians, lay people, and outside “observers” would be allowed to assist only at the opening and closing sessions; the Orthodox churches of the “Diaspora” would be represented only through their “mother churches,” which meant the Orthodox Church in America as well as many Orthodox Churches in Western Europe would be excluded.

ALL THIS IS A LONG WAY from the heady optimism following Vatican II, at which observers from the Russian Orthodox Church assisted in the debates and helped define positions, while Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople exchanged the kiss of peace and lifted the reciprocal anathemas. It was even proposed that they concelebrate a liturgy, and a secret Catholic-Orthodox commission formed to study the possibility found no theological impediments. The hard part was avoiding the suggestion that one side had yielded to the other. It would be better, some thought, if Paul VI first went to Istanbul or Crete to concelebrate in the Byzantine rite. This would be followed by a concelebration in the Latin rite in Rome. Alas, when the work of this commission was leaked, it provoked violent reactions in Greece and on Mount Athos. Because neither Paul VI nor Athenagoras wanted to provoke another schism, they agreed that a consensus within Orthodoxy was necessary before they could move forward. This was part of the impetus for the Pan-Orthodox Council, which was supposed to do for Orthodoxy something like what Vatican II did for Catholicism. But this was back in the 1960s, when there seemed to be an irresistible trend toward Christian unity. That trend has been resisted all too well.

Nevertheless, there is still reason to hopeful. The various difficulties that have beset the Pan-Orthodox Council should be viewed in the light of Orthodox ecclesiology and its distinctive conception of authority and conciliarity. For Orthodoxy, all authority belongs to Jesus Christ and finds its expression in the church as a whole. It is not vested in a person or an institution. The church is essentially a mystery, reflecting the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, with all their apparent contradiction and ultimate unity. This explains the Orthodox willingness to tolerate certain apparent contradictions within the church. Whereas in Western theology reason seeks to understand the faith, Eastern theology prefers to think of faith as illuminating reason. This distinction is subtle but far-reaching. There is also a distinction between Rome’s approach to authority and that of the Eastern Churches, which hold that all controversies should be resolved by conciliar consensus rather than the imposition of a majority over a minority. Here, too, there is a sort of blind confidence that the Holy Spirit will somehow work things out…eventually.

The Orthodox model of conciliarity also emphasizes the importance of “reception.” For the decisions of a council to be truly binding, they must be accepted by the whole church—a process that can take centuries. There is, the Orthodox believe, a certain instinct within the people of God that will recognize the truth after the faithful have explored the practical implications of conciliar decrees. A council, then, is just the beginning of a long process of clarification, rather than the end of one.

From this perspective, the Pan-Orthodox Council looks less like a failure and more like the next painful step in a very long journey. Intentionally and unintentionally, it has exposed the serious problems now facing the Orthodox Church. The solutions will require dialogue, patience, humility, time, and, above all, charity. This seems to be how Bartholomew views the council, which is perhaps why he was willing to carry through with it even after the Russian Church pulled out. It could be that he regards the council in Crete as only the first in a series of councils seeking consensus. In any case, he must have expected there to be a few unexpected problems, as there always are. If there were no problems, there would be no need for councils.

About the Author: Jerry Ryan joined the Little Brothers of Jesus in 1959. He lived and worked with them for more than two decades in Europe and South America. He and his family now live in Massachusetts.

Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol has officially confirmed that during the time of the meeting on Crete he did not sign the document adopted by it: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” It was precisely this document that caused the most acute controversy both before and during the Council.

“As there arose a misunderstanding in informing believing Christians that I didn’t sign the document ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’ of the Holy and Great Council,” writes Vladyka Athanasius, “I wish to notify all those interested, that my conscience would not allow me to sign. I didn’t sign because I don’t agree with the text of the document in its finalized form.”

Metropolitan Athanasius also published the text of his address to the Holy and Great Council concerning the document, which is available on the Greek portal Romfea.

Translated by Jesse Dominick


02 / 07 / 2016

The Council of Crete is a Pre-Synodical Conference

Source: Antiochian Patriarchate (Facebook)

July 1, 2016

At the end of the seventh extraordinary session which begun on May 25th 2016, the Holy Synod of Antioch convened on June 27, 2016 in Balamand. The Synod was presided by His Beatitude Patriarch John X, with the participation of the Bishops of the Holy See of Antioch,

The fathers congratulated their children on the occasion of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the holy, glorious and all-praised leaders of the Apostles, and the founders of the Holy See of Antioch. This See is where the disciples were called Christians first, and where its children continue to witness for the Risen Christ, especially in our beloved Antioch, and in Syria the martyr, in Lebanon the sufferer, in Iraq the injured, and in all the Gulf countries and the Archdioceses abroad, in the Americas, Australia and Europe. The fathers recalled their brother Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), the Archbishop of Aleppo who has been kidnapped for more than three years, amidst willful blindness by all. His Eminence Metropolitan Paul, along with his brother Metropolitan Youhanna (Ibrahim), and all those kidnapped constantly remain present in the prayers and supplications of the faithful and in the daily Church testimony. The fathers lift up their prayers for the repose of the souls of all those martyred because of being called Christian, and ask their prayers before the Divine Throne, that God may strengthen His Church and give His children the power and wisdom to faithfully witness, here and now, Christ Risen from the dead.

The fathers discussed the issue of the Great Orthodox Council, which the Orthodox Church has prepared to convene for more than fifty years. The Antiochian Church had asked to delay the convocation of this Council, in order to strengthen the Pan-Orthodox unity, secure Orthodox unanimity on the debatable issues of its agenda, and that the ecclesiological conditions open up for the participation of all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches.
Whereas the Antiochian request to delay the Council, along with the requests of the Russian, Bulgarian, and Georgian Churches, were not accepted, and whereas it was originally intended for the Council to be a pan Orthodox Council, but was convened in the absence of four Autocephalous Churches representing more than half of the Orthodox faithful in the world,

Whereas the call to this meeting has ignored the necessity of establishing Orthodox conciliarity on the basis of total Eucharistic communion among the Churches, which is the basis for the formation of this conciliarity, especially by ignoring to seek a solution to the Jerusalemite aggression on the canonical jurisdiction of the See of Antioch before the convocation of the Council, through a decision made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to delay the negotiation till after the Council,

Whereas the statements and declarations issued by the participants unjustly blamed the absent Churches, and did not blame the side that was leading the preparatory stage,

And after looking into the statements of the ambiance, statements, and positions made in the meeting at the island of Crete, and all the fallacies that circulated recently, the fathers made the following observations:

First: The fathers affirm that the common Orthodox work is based on the participation and unanimity of all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches. They like to remind that this principle is not a new Antiochian position, but is a fixed Orthodox principle established by the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Thrice Blessed memory upon launching the preparatory work for the Council. He was followed by his successor Patriarch Dimitrios of Thrice Blessed memory in whose era the regulations for the preparatory pre-conciliar meetings were formulated. The articles of these regulations clearly show that the call for any conciliar work, even if it was on the level of a preparatory meeting, is done by the Ecumenical Patriarch, after the approval of all the Churches’ Primates, and that all decisions are taken unanimously, by all Autocephalous Churches before they are submitted to the Great Council.

Second: The fathers recalled that His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had emphasized as well this principle during the pre-conciliar preparatory meetings. Particularly, he decided to suspend the works of the preparatory committee in 1999, because of the withdrawal of one church from the above-mentioned meeting. This issue resulted in putting off the preparatory works for the Great Council for a period of ten years. The fathers wondered about how could it be that one church’s absence led to the suspension of the preparatory work of the Council, while some consider that it is permissible for the “Great Council” to convene and meet in the absence of four autocephalous Orthodox Churches!

Third: The fathers noted that the principle of unanimity was reaffirmed upon the re-launching of the preparatory works of the Council in 2009. During the fourth preparatory conference held in 2009, the Antiochian delegation advisor Mr. Albert Laham of blessed memory emphasized the necessity of this principle in the process of decision taking, reminding that if there is no unanimity on one subject, this subject is deferred to the preparatory committee for further study, as the Rules of Procedure of Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences state. At that time, this proposal was welcomed by all participating Churches, including the conference chairman. This proposal had led to taking a decision about the issue of the Diaspora and the Episcopal Assemblies.

Fourth: The fathers reiterate that the Antiochian position calling for building up accord through assuring the unanimity of all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches on the subjects of the agenda had as a purpose to strengthen Orthodox unity in the preparatory phase, according to the Orthodox tradition. The Church of Antioch did not expect that this stable principle, which She just reminded of, would become a controversial issue, and this stable principle be defied by those who originally established it and defended it as a guarantee to Orthodox unity. This unity cannot be achieved if any of the Churches is excluded from the decision making process, or if Her proposals are ignored. Here, we would like to mention the fact that the Synaxis of the Churches’ Primates held in January 2014 has affirmed this principle when it decided to have all decisions worked during the Council and the preparatory period to be taken by consensus. The fathers ask how can this consensus be achieved with the refusal of the Antiochian Church to the decisions of the aforementioned synaxis (2014) and the Chambésy Synaxis (2016)? How could this consensus be achieved in Crete in the absence of four Orthodox Churches?

Fifth: The fathers reaffirm that the Antiochian position requesting the postponement of the Great Council's convocation in case of the absence of unanimity on its subjects was not a new position. The Antiochian Church has clearly expressed about her position throughout all preparatory phases of the Council during the last two years. This position was in accordance with the role of Antioch had, always refusing to ignore any Autocephalous Church in the common Orthodox work. Therefore, all that was published in the media about the implicit acceptance of the Antiochian Church to participate in the Council was incorrect, and all the analysis about the political dimensions of the absence of Antioch from the Crete meeting remains as a totally false political analysis. The acceptance of Antioch by economia to participate in the preparatory works does not mean concession on Her part about the aforementioned positions. Rather, Her participation was an effort to remove all obstacles which was, and still is, preventing the convocation of the Council.

Sixth: The fathers are surprised by the positions of some Churches which have recently called to bypass the principle of unanimity, or interpreting this principle in a different manner than what state the Rules of Procedure of Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences, adopted in 1986, signed by all representatives, and used accordingly even during the fifth preparatory conference held in October 2015. They are also surprised by all the positions that were recently declaring that the convocation of the Council on the specified date is more important than the conciliarity of the Church and Her unity. In this regard, the Church of Antioch would like to thank all the Churches that endorsed her rightful position, especially the Churches of Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

Seventh: The fathers would like to remind their brethren meeting in Crete of Article 17 of the Rules of Procedure of Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences adopted in 1986 which considers that, “In case one specific subject, discussed during the conference, is not accepted unanimously, the decision about it is abandoned and it is deferred to the Secretariat of the pre-conciliar preparatory meeting for further study and preparation according to the process known on the Pan-Orthodox level.” Also, the content of the fourth article of the same Rules of Procedure states that: “It is not allowed to remove or add any subject on this list of subjects which were prepared and agreed upon on the Pan-Orthodox level, at least till after its study ends. After that the Great and Holy Council convenes.” The fathers wonder how could the call to convene the Great Council be issued before completing the preparatory work on the subjects of the Agenda: two Churches have reservations about the document “Marriage and its Impediments”, and the Antiochian Church’s refusal to remove three main subjects from the Agenda (Church Calendar, Diptychs, and Autocephaly and its Proclamation).

Eighth: The fathers emphasize that facing the known reality lived by the Orthodox world as a result of the meeting in Crete, the unanimity of the Orthodox Churches remains the golden foundation to assure the unity of the Orthodox world. The fathers consider that this foundation is, and will remain, the solid basis upon which the repercussions of the meeting in Crete could be overcome.

Ninth: As for some of the voices that have considered the meeting in Crete an Ecumenical Council held according to the principals of an Ecumenical Council’s convocation, the fathers would like to remind those brethren that from the beginning of the twentieth century, the Orthodox Churches had decided to substitute the call to an Ecumenical Council with the call to a Pan-Orthodox Council. The latter’s agenda and work regulations were established by the meeting held in Rhodes in 1961. The preparatory work has continued for almost five and a half decades. The Churches agreed, because of the extraordinary character of this Pan-Orthodox Council, that not all bishops in the Orthodox world be present in it, as the Orthodox tradition requires, and that all its decisions be taken by the consensus of all the Autocephalous Churches on the basis of one vote for each Autocephalous Church. This process refutes any claim to consider the meeting in Crete an Ecumenical Council upon which the regulations of the Ecumenical Council apply. It also obliges its participants to respect the appropriate Rules of Procedure, in case they sought to consider it a Pan-Orthodox Council. This issue was not realized for the abovementioned reasons.

Thus, the fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch noted that the meeting in Crete does not even have the required conditions to convene the pre-conciliar conference for the Great Council, this according to the Rules of Procedure of Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences, adopted in 1986, and which is still valid to date. These Rules of Procedure state that the convocation of this conference requires the approval of the Primates of all the local Orthodox Churches (Article Two), and that decision taking during it is done by the unanimity of all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches (Article Sixteen), and these conditions were not available in the meeting in Crete.

The fathers of the Holy Synod unanimously decided the following:

1. Consider the meeting in Crete as a preliminary meeting towards the Pan-Orthodox Council, thus to consider its documents not final, but still open to discussion and amendment upon the convocation of the Great Panorthodox Council in the presence and participation of all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

2. Refuse assigning a conciliar character to any Orthodox meeting that does not involve all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, and to underline that the principle of unanimity remains the essential foundation for the common Orthodox relationships. Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses that the meeting in Crete be called a “Great Orthodox Council” or a “Great Holy Council.”

3. Affirm that whatever was issued in the meeting in Crete, of decisions and other things, is non-binding, by any means, to the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East.

4. Commission the “Committee for the Follow-Up on the Council’s Issues” to study the results and consequences of the meeting in Crete and offer a detailed report to the Holy Synod of Antioch in its next meeting.

5. Send a letter about the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch to all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, as well as to the civil and religious authorities abroad.

6. Call upon the faithful to accompany the fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch by praying for the preservation and the total manifestation of the unity of the Orthodox Christian witness in today’s world.

NB: The original Arabic text is the only binding text in case of any misinterpretation

Antiochian Patriarchate (Facebook)

Thanks to Pravoslavie/English

July 1, 2016
Agionoros.ru has published the main provisions of an open letter signed by the well-known Greek pastors, monastics, and theologians.

The authoritative Greek public organization “Union of Orthodox Clergy and Monks,” has commented on the results of the Crete Council. Agionoros.ru has published the main provisions of an open letter signed by the well-known Greek pastors, monastics, and theologians.

In the letter is noted in particular that the Holy and Great Council which took place on Crete in reality was “neither a council, nor great, nor holy.” It “is not a continuation of the Orthodox Councils, but presents itself as a deviation from the longstanding conciliar practices and as an unprecedented canonical innovation.”

“The Council was not holy, because some of the documents approved by it contradict the decisions of the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers made in the Holy Spirit, especially in relation to heretics. The Holy Spirit cannot contradict Himself: they condemned heresies and anathematized heretics at the truly holy Councils, but at the Crete “Council” they confessed them as churches… The Crete Council does not fight against heresies, but accords them the status of ecclesiality.”

According to the members of the Union of Orthodox Clergy and Monks, the Council was small and not great, as not all Orthodox bishops took part in it, which means “the fullness of the Church was not represented.” The Crete Council practically turned into a “small meeting of primates.”

The refusal of four Local Churches to participate diminishes the scale of the Council. Thus, the Council forfeited “its pan-Orthodox character,” and moreover “the authority of its decisions was diminished.”

The Union of Orthodox Clergy and Monks have criticized the primate of the Greek Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, who broke their obligations, not defending until the end the amendments proposed by the Holy Synod of the Greek Church (in particular, the proposal to replace “Christian Churches” with “Christian communities” in the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”).

“The Union of Orthodox Clergy and Monks” applauds the bishops who refused to place their signature on some of the Council documents: “They are the disciples of the confessors and Holy Fathers and are the hope for revising the decisions of the Crete Council in the future.”

Amongst those who signed the open letter are Elder Evstratios of the Great Lavra on Mt. Athos, the igumens of several Greek monasteries, and the well-known theologians Fr. George Metallinos, Fr. Theodore Zisis, and Dr. Demetrios Tselengides.

Translated by Jesse Dominick


03 / 07 / 2016

No comments:

Search This Blog

La Virgen de Guadalupe

La Virgen de Guadalupe


My Blog List

Fr David Bird

Fr David Bird
Me on a good day

Blog Archive