Peter Anderson berichtet aus der orthodoxen Welt
Seit vielen Jahren verfolgt Peter Anderson aus Seattle USA die Entwicklungen in der orthodoxen Welt. Nicht im Auftrag einer Zeitung, sondern aus persönlicher Liebe zu den Ostkirchen und im Einsatz für die Communio von Ost und West gibt er Einblicke in neue Entwicklungen. Mit Zustimmung von Peter Anderson werden seine E-mail-Nachrichten auf der Homepage des Zentrums St. Nikolaus dokumentiert.
13 February 2020: Romania's decision on Ukraine and Amman & more news
The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Romania met today in Bucharest. https://basilica.ro/primele-decizii-luate-de-sfantul-sinod-in-acest-an-comunicat/ To avoid the impression that a synaxis of the primates is being held in Amman, it decided that Patriarch Daniel should not go, but only a delegation from the Patriarchate of Romania. The press release (not yet available in English) from the Romanian Patriarchate also stated that the Amman meeting was being held from February 25-27. It is also extremely important to note that the press release also stated: The Holy Synod also stated that it agrees with the granting of autocephaly for the entire Orthodox Church in Ukraine (not just a part), but this can only be achieved by a understanding between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Moscow and by a pan-Orthodox consensus. This decision coming from one of the largest Local Orthodox Churches and one that is not aligned with either Moscow or Constantinople can definitely affect the final outcome of the Ukrainian dispute.
Until the press release from the Romania Patriarchate today, the situation relating to the proposed meeting of the Orthodox primates in Amman at the end of February was confusing. On February 12, Metropolitan Hilarion told Russian journalists in Rome that the Russian Church will participate in the event, which should be held on February 20, and that he believes that the Russian Church will be represented by its head. Metropolitan Hilarion also stated: The Jerusalem patriarch took the initiative to invite the heads of local Orthodox churches to Jordan. Some of them have already responded positively, others have negatively. But as far as I know, the Jerusalem patriarchy continues to work on the invitation of the heads of local churches, including the Patriarch of Constantinople. https://ria.ru/20200212/1564626783.html On the same day in Moscow, Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the DECR, told the Russian news agency Interfax: We hope such a meeting will take place this month, and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill is prepared to attend. He also stated that the dialogue “does not promise to be easy” and my require more than one meeting. Unlike Metropolitan Hilarion, Father Nikolai only states that “we hope” that the meeting will occur this month.
On the other hand, the Greek website Romfea.gr stated that Patriarch Theophilos has sent a second letter to the primates. Although there were not many positive responses from the primates, the website states that “a possible date for the pan-Orthodox meeting seems to have been set for February 25th.” https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/35221-kanonika-tha-pragmatopoiithei-i-panorthodoji-stin-iordania The Greek website Vimaorthodoxias.gr has stated that a second letter (in English) has been reportedly sent by Patriarch Theophilos to the primates inviting them to Amman on February 25. According to the latter website, the churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Cyprus, Greece, and Albania have refused to participate, while the churches of Russia, Antioch, Serbia, and Czech Lands and Slovakia have agreed to come. https://www.vimaorthodoxias.gr/egrapsan-s-emas/osoi-pistoi-proselthete-stis-25-fevrouariou-i-synaxi-ton-prokathimenon-stin-iordania/
In the meantime, there is only silence from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem on the subject. Today, Patriarch Theophilos met in Jerusalem with Greek Minister of Tourism Charis Theocharis. https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarch-of-jerusalem-and-greek-minister-of-tourism-discussed-pilgrimage-tourism-issues/ As far as I can determine, it was the Patriarch’s first public appearance since January 29 when he was in London enroute to the United States.
Although it had been previously reported that Archbishop Anastasios of Albania would not be attending the Amman meeting, the Church of Albania has now confirmed this by posting on its website the Archbishop’s January 8 letter to Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. https://orthodoxalbania.net/index.php/el/lajme-2/blog/7043-epistoli-ston-patriarxi-ierosolymon (Greek); https://orthodoxie.com/larcheveque-dalbanie-anastase-decline-linvitation-du-patriarche-de-jerusalem-a-une-synaxe-des-primats-en-jordanie/ (French translation of entire text) The letter included the following statement: Your proposal for a meeting in Jordan, however, as is now evident, instead of contributing to the improvement of unity, will further complicate the necessary therapeutic treatment.
February 12 marked the fourth anniversary of the Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis. This year’s anniversary observance was held in Rome. Metropolitan Hilarion arrived in Rome for the observance on February 11 and met with Cardinal Kurt Koch that evening at the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican. Their discussion focused particularly on the international Orthodox – Catholic theological dialogue. https://mospat.ru/en/2020/02/11/news182823/ On the morning of February 12, Metropolitan Hilarion and Cardinal Koch chaired a meeting of the Joint Working Group on Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See. https://mospat.ru/en/2020/02/12/news182838/ The Group discussed a number of new projects in the cultural and social spheres for 2020-2021, particularly humanitarian assistance in Syria to those who suffered during the war. In the afternoon and evening, there were the two major events of the anniversary observance -- a conference at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas on the subject, “The Saints – Signs and Seeds of Unity,” and a subsequent concert at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, performed by the Synodal Choir of Moscow and the Papal Sistine Chapel Choir. http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2020/2020-02-07-concerto-in-occasione-del-iv-anniversario-dell-incont.html The conference, including the address by Metropolitan Hilarion, is described at https://mospat.ru/en/2020/02/13/news182850/ and https://www.vaticannews.va/it/vaticano/news/2020-02/papa-francesco-kirill-l-avana-ecumenismo-roma-koch-santi.html . With respect to holy people, Metropolitan Hilarion described the lives of St. Seraphim of Sarov and the Dr. Friedrich Joseph Haass (1780 – 1853), a Catholic known as the “holy doctor of Moscow.” On the evening of the concert, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an interview with Vatican Radio concerning the theme of the conference and his six-volume book on the life and teachings of Jesus. https://www.vaticannews.va/it/vaticano/news/2020-02/metropolita-hilarion-ecumenismo-papa-francesco-santi-cristiani.html
This morning, February 13, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Pope Francis. https://mospat.ru/ru/2020/02/13/news182873/ The conference and the meeting of the Joint Working Group were discussed. The Pope was given a book, published in Italian, concerning the visit of the relics of St. Nicholas to Russia in 2017.
On February 8, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. After the meeting, Zelensky stated: I invited him to Ukraine. I am sure he will be in Ukraine - not only in the capital. I said that in order to fully understand what was happening in the east, it was necessary to go to the east. https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/u-vatikani-vidbulasya-audiyenciya-prezidenta-ukrayini-ta-per-59689 The meeting lasted for approximately 30 minutes, after which the President met with Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state. https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2020/02/pope-ukrainian-president-talk-about-peace-freeing-prisoners-of-war/ The release of prisoners was one of the subjects discussed. A short video of Zelensky’s meeting with the Pope can be viewed at https://www.voanews.com/europe/zelenskiy-asks-pope-help-releasing-pows-eastern-ukraine .
The Holy Synod of the OCU met in Kyiv on February 4. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/vidbulosya-chergove-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-synodu-2/ Because of Filaret’s absence from six consecutive meetings of the Synod, his membership in the Synod was suspended. Filaret was also prohibited by the Synod from performing any ordinations. With respect to another matter, the Synod condemned the action of Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk and Volyn, who had in effect amended the church calendar so as to allow a Christmas liturgy on both December 25 and January 7. https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/30343860.html Also on February 4, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, delivered an address to Ukrainian society on the occasion of the first anniversary of his enthronement. The official English translation of the text of his address can be read at https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/address-of-the-primate-of-the-orthodox-church-of-ukraine-to-ukrainian-society/ .
Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, has returned to Cyprus from the United States following his successful surgery for liver cancer. Archbishop Chrysostomos informed the media that he had received a telephone call from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew wishing him a speedy recovery and inviting him to concelebrate with the Ecumenical Patriarch the liturgy on the feast of Orthodoxy, March 8, at the Phanar. https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-invited-archbishop-of-cyprus-for-feast-of-orthodoxy/ The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus met on February 12. https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/59607 From the short announcement, there is no indication that the subject of Ukraine was discussed.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
4 February 2020: Still waiting for dates of Amman meeting & other news
Although Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem issued an invitation for a meeting of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches for the latter part of February, there still has been no announcement by anyone as to the exact dates – as far as I can determine. There has also been no announcement by any of the Local Orthodox Churches that its primate is in fact traveling to Amman. In my last report, I conveyed the news from the usually reliable Orthodoxia.info website that Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Church of Poland, had declined the invitation to attend the Amman meeting. Subsequently, the Russian news agency RIA Novesti talked to “Father Georgy,” an assistant to the Metropolitan, and was informed that Metropolitan Sawa had not declined the invitation. https://ria.ru/20200127/1563945702.html The priest also stated that he thought that Metropolitan Sawa would participate if there is an official date. This confirms that the letters of invitation to the primates did not contain specific dates. It is, of course, possible that an official date has now been set but that the date has not been made known to the public.
In an interview on January 25, Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) acknowledged that he discussed the Amman meeting with Patriarch Theophilos in Jerusalem on January 22. In the interview, Metropolitan Hilarion stated that the “Church has responded differently to this initiative,” but the only specific response that the Metropolitan mentioned was that of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. https://mospat.ru/ru/2020/01/28/news182476/ Metropolitan Hilarion commented that the invitation was “not to any formal meeting, but to an informal friendly meeting.” He said nothing about the meeting being cancelled. However, the National Herald, the leading Greek newspaper in the United States, stated on January 29 that it is “in a position to know that Patriarch Theophilos signaled Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew that the synaxis will not take place.” https://www.thenationalherald.com/282757/pavlopoulos-urges-theophilos-to-stand-by-patriarch-bartholomew/ Since that time, there has been silence. On January 29, Patriarch Theophilos and his party were hosted in London by Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain (Ecumenical Patriarchate). https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-thyateira-hosted-dinner-in-honor-of-patriarch-of-jerusalem/ From the limited information available, there were no signs of tensions between Constantinople and Jerusalem in the London meeting. London was an “intermediate stopover” for Patriarch Theophilos on a trip to Washington, D.C. In the five days since that time, I have found nothing about the subsequent activities of Patriarch Theophilos, although I have used both English and Greek Google searches. Perhaps, his visit to the United States is purely private. However, this visit does not seem consistent with preparing for an important meeting of the primates in the latter part of this month.
In Montenegro, very large and impressive demonstrations against the new law on religion again occurred on Sunday, February 2. https://spzh.news/en/news/68380-nas-budet-vse-bolyshe-na-zashhitu-cerkvi-v-chernogorii-vyshli-sotni-tysyach-lyudej In a letter to Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, posted on January 28, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Duško Marković, stated that the Government is ready to start a dialogue on the preparation of a basic agreement on mutual relations between the government and the Metropolitanate.
http://www.predsjednik.gov.me/en/news/220001/PM-Markovic-invites-Metropolitan-Amfilohije-to-dialogue-It-is-time-and-opportunity-to-commit-even-more-strongly-to-harmony-unity.html (English) The letter does not indicate any willingness to change the terms of the law, but rather a willingness to entering into an agreement with the Metropolitanate to “eliminate any dilemma and doubt about the use of churches, temples and monasteries, or their future uses.” On January 30, Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro gave an extensive interview to the Belgrade publication Vreme. https://mitropolija.com/2020/01/31/intervju-mitropolita-amfilohija-za-vreme/ He stated that now is not the time to talk about contracts, but that the government must first state its willingness to change the terms of the law itself. On January 29, some dialogue occurred in Moscow when the ambassador of Montenegro to the Russian Federation came to the office of Metropolitan Hilarion for an exchange of views on the crisis in Montenegro. https://mospat.ru/en/2020/01/29/news182519/ Today, February 3, Metropolitan Amfilohije wrote a response to the Prime Minister’s letter. The full text of the response can be read at https://mitropolija.com/2020/02/03/pismo-mitropolita-amfilohija-premijeru-dusku-markovicu-postojeci-zakon-a-ne-nepostojeci-ugovor-predstavlja-uzrok-aktuelnih-drustvenih-problema/ . At the conclusion of the letter, Metropolitan Amfilohije states that “we agree to meet with you and hope that you are willing to finally start an essential and humane conversation, aimed at eliminating the law and all the discriminatory provisions it contains.” https://balkaneu.com/metropolitan-amfilohije-says-he-is-ready-for-a-meeting-with-markovic/ (good English translations of parts of the letter)
Presumably, the Montenegro government will argue that it is implementing arrangements similar to the famous Trinity Sergius Lavra complex in Russia and the Kyiv-Pechersky Lavra in Ukraine, where important cultural heritage property is owned by the state but used by the Orthodox Church under long-term contractual arrangements. This has some advantage to the church as state ownership often means that the state has the obligation to maintain these expensive properties. The Montenegro government confirmed to the Vienna Commission, and the new law seems to state, that the new law will only apply to “cultural heritage property.” The Serbian Orthodox Church, in arguing that over 650 church buildings will be turned over to state ownership, seems to be assuming that the government will designate every building constructed before 1918 to be cultural heritage property. However, to the best of my knowledge, the government has never said this. A dialogue could result in some clarity on this very uncertain point.
Within a period of seven days, separate assemblies of the Russian tradition churches were held in Paris by the Constantinople group under Metropolitan Emmanuel and by the Moscow group under Metropolitan John. The Constantinople group held a extraordinary general assembly on January 18.
https://orthodoxie.com/communique-du-ca-de-lunion-diocesaine-dans-la-juridiction-du-patriarcat-de-constantinople/ Although the intent was to elect a president (presumably the head of the legal corporation under French law), the assembly was unable to do so because of a lack of the necessary quorum. It is very possible that the lack of a quorum was due to the transportation strike which has made travel in France very difficult. However, those present did vote in favor of first exploring a negotiated settlement with the Moscow group with respect to control over the legal corporation rather than immediately initiating litigation. On January 24, the Moscow group under Metropolitan John held an ordinary general assembly and elected two new auxiliary bishops. The following day, an extraordinary general assembly was held at which the statute of the Archdiocese was amended in accordance with the prior agreement with the Moscow Patriarchate. The following is the communique issued after the two days of meetings: http://archeveche.eu/spip.php?article2504 The communique notes: “Despite the transport disruptions, 133 delegates out of 181 registered (75%) were able to participate in the work.”
On January 26, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin died suddenly of a heart attack at his parish in Moscow shortly before his 52nd birthday. https://mospat.ru/ru/2020/01/26/news182374/; http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=7&id=86460 His sudden and premature death came as a shock. He had served as deputy chairman of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate from 2001 to 2009. From 2009 to 2015, he was chairman of the Synodal Department for Church – Society Relations. In the latter role, he served as a spokesperson for the Moscow Patriarchate and became a very well-known personality. In December 2015, after a number of controversial public statements by Father Vsevolod, the Holy Synod abruptly enacted a reorganization which eliminated his position. He was clearly embittered by this sudden action. He subsequently became a rector of a parish in Moscow and became increasingly arch-conservative.
A video of the entire funeral service for Father Vsevolod, held on January 28, can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=ZYgdWEAcgeE&feature=emb_logo . There were many priests and faithful present, but no bishops. However, I believe that I saw Father Nikolai Balashov, present deputy head of the DECR, among the priests. In my opinion, it was nice that he was there in view of the fact that Father Vsevolod worked faithfully in the DECR for 19 years. It is reported that Patriarch Kirill and members of the Inter-Council Presence sang “Eternal Memory” for Father Vsevolod at the end of their meeting on January 29. https://ria.ru/20200130/1564078600.html When Father Vsevolod was deputy chairman of the DECR (2001 – 2009), I had occasion to communicate with him on a number of matters. I was very impressed by him. He worked so hard that it seemed that he never slept. I kidded him about the fact that his very prompt responsive emails would often be sent after midnight Moscow time. I always had the sense that in his role as deputy chairman, he worked very hard to improve relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. In recent years, as a very conservative Orthodox, he has taken a very anti-ecumenical stance (see, for example, his Facebook entry for January 23, 2020 at https://www.facebook.com/prot.v.chaplin). It almost seemed to me that he had become a completely different person than the one that I originally knew. Perhaps the change was due in part to the abrupt loss of his position in December 2015. I like to think that his true feelings about relations to the Catholic Church were those of his earlier years. May his memory be eternal!
In other news, Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, celebrated the Divine Liturgy yesterday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Charlotte, North Carolina (USA). https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-cyprus-celebrated-feast-of-presentation-of-jesus-at-holy-trinity-cathedral-in-charlotte/ He had undergone successful liver surgery for cancer on January 31. https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-cyprus-underwent-successful-liver-surgery/ What an amazingly fast recovery!! On January 29, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania met with a delegation of the UOC-MP. The Archbishop reaffirmed his prior statements that the ordinations performed by Filaret are not valid. https://orthochristian.com/127555.html On January 30, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia met with the same delegation of the UOC-MP. https://news.church.ua/2020/01/30/grupa-palomnikiv-upc-zustrilasya-z-patriarxom-serbskim-irinejem-video/ The Patriarch stated: “we condemn the intervention of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” Yesterday, Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, celebrated in Kyiv the one-year anniversary of his enthronement. https://orthodoxtimes.com/first-anniversary-of-enthronement-of-metropolitan-epiphaniy-of-kyiv/ Those present for the Divine Liturgy included Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Bishop Theodoros of Babylon (Alexandrian Patriarchate), a metropolitan of the Church of Greece, and elders from the Simonos Petra and Pantokratoros Monasteries of Mt. Athos. Today, the actual anniversary date, a prayer service was conducted in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/v-richnytsyu-intronizatsiyi-predstoyatel-zvershyv-moleben-u-sobori-svyatoyi-sofiyi-kyyivskoyi-ta-proviv-preskonferentsiyu/ Finally, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate) visited the ROCOR Cathedral in San Francisco to venerate the relics of St. John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai and San Francisco. https://orthochristian.com/127465.html It appears to be another effort on his part to build some bridges with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
23 January 2020: More primates reportedly decline Amman invitation & other news
The website Orthodox Times reported today (Thursday) that more Local Orthodox Churches have declined the invitation of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem to attend his proposed meeting of the primates in Amman, planned for the latter part of February. https://orthodoxtimes.com/flood-of-primates-rejection-to-invitation-of-jerusalem-patriarch-for-jordan-synaxis/ The same article was posted in Greek a few hours earlier at https://orthodoxia.info/news/%ce%b2%cf%81%ce%bf%cf%87%ce%ae-%ce%bf%ce%b9-%ce%b1%cf%81%ce%bd%ce%ae%cf%83%ce%b5%ce%b9%cf%82-%cf%84%cf%89%ce%bd-%cf%80%cf%81%ce%bf%ce%ba%ce%b1%ce%b8%ce%b7%ce%bc%ce%ad%ce%bd%cf%89%ce%bd/. These two websites are usually fairly reliable sources of information. The foregoing report does not give the exact source of its information. However, it states, for example, that Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Church of Poland, has reportedly declined to attend, saying that the Amman meeting is a good idea, but that the participation of all of the primates is necessary to make the meeting worthwhile. The article states that the Church of Albania has also declined to attend and that the Patriarchates of Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia have not responded to the invitation. It is certainly possible that Patriarch Theophilos, who has stated that a purpose of the meeting is to show the unity of the Orthodox Church, may cancel the meeting if a considerable number of the primates refuse to attend. However, in an interview with RIA-Novesti, Metropolitan Hilarion recently stated: To our knowledge, the Patriarch of Jerusalem’s proposal has been positively assessed by a number of Local Churches. We hope that this meeting will take place even if not all the Primates take part in it. https://mospat.ru/en/2020/01/22/news182234/ On January 22, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch Theophilos in Jerusalem and discussed a “wide range of issues of mutual interest.” https://mospat.ru/en/2020/01/22/news182241/
On January 22, the Episcopal Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro issued another statement. https://mitropolija.com/2020/01/22/episkopski-savjet-spremni-smo-da-se-o-zakonu-razgovara-ali-na-nacin-koji-ce-uvazavati-obe-strane-u-dijalogu/ In it, the Episcopal Council “expresses its full readiness to discuss the Law [on Religion], but in a way that will fully respect both sides in the dialogue. If the Montenegrin authorities feel that they can impose topics and solutions on their own, as they have done before and do today, calling for dialogue only on the implementation of the Law - we will rightly consider it a fake invitation for dialogue….” Both President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro are in Jerusalem for the Holocaust commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. At a dinner in Jerusalem, both presidents discussed the controversial law on religion. https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2020&mm=01&dd=23&nav_id=107835 According to this article: Vucic said that their positions and standpoints are very remote [far apart] and that it is not possible to reach a common position on these issues. He added that the conversation was long, rather difficult and complex. "At the same time, we spoke as civilized and responsible people, aware that Serbia and Montenegro should never be antagonized to each other and that it is necessary to continue talks as soon as possible, which would lead to further lowering of tensions and finding a solution," Vucic said. Another article (https://balkaninsight.com/2020/01/23/montenegro-govt-serbian-church-seek-dialogue-on-religion-law/) has stated:
While both sides have held fast to their standpoints, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic on Wednesday said that by the end of this week he will formally seek talks on the law with the Church’s senior bishop in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije. Markovic said that it was impossible to withdraw the existing law, which came into effect on January 8, but amendments were an option. “The SPC can appeal to the Constitutional Court [and] they can propose amendments to the law, or repeal the law and pass a new one. But it has to be in parliamentary procedure,” he told the public broadcaster.
In other news, there have been reports that a possible trip by Pope Francis to Greece in 2020 may be presently in the planning stages. https://www.avvenire.it/chiesa/pagine/il-papa-in-grecia-con-bartolomeo-i-sui-passi-di-paolo This might include a visit to Philippi with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. There is also speculation that the Pope might visit Montenegro and Cyprus as well. Although Pope Francis has not yet visited his home country of Argentina, he seems to be interested in visiting every Orthodox country that he can -- a sign of his great interest in improving relations with the Orthodox. It is also reported that Patriarch Kirill is planning a visit to Vienna for the dedication of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas on May 28, 2020. https://www.kathpress.at/goto/meldung/1847239/wien-besuch-von-patriarch-kyrill-voraussichtlich-am-28.-mai
Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, under-secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has written an article on the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue. https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2020/01/vaticano-le-relazioni-tra-chiesa.html It contains the news that the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches will be held in Rethymno, Crete in September. https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2020/01/vaticano-le-relazioni-tra-chiesa.html The Moscow Patriarchate again participated this year in the observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held at the Catholic cathedral in Moscow. http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=4&id=86409
To rebut false reports on the Internet, Metropolitan Hilarion has discussed in detail his personal finances. https://ria.ru/20200122/1563685617.html Metropolitan Makarios of Nairobi (Patriarchate of Alexandria) has written a stern letter to his clergy and faithful relating to “a few of our clergy” who “have fallen prey of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.” The photocopy of the letter can be seen at https://orthochristian.com/127319.html . In an interview with the Times of Israel, President Zelensky of Ukraine spoke about a number of topics including the Holocaust. https://www.timesofisrael.com/a-serious-man-zelensky-bids-to-address-ukraines-dark-past-brighten-its-future/?fbclid=IwAR3bqLtbosMYTD0Kc6peeQw_EIuaUCuxDte8Ly16I-W3ybkgvMXAXmU2jIs (English) He was also asked how important religion is to him personally. He stated: (Pauses.) I had one attitude when I was a boy, and another now. I never speak about religion and I never speak about God because I have my own personal opinion about it. Of course, I believe in God. But I speak with him only in those moments which are personal for me, and important, and where I feel comfortable in those places.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
19 January 2020: Mediation initiative for N. Macedonia & other news
On January 13, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met at the Phanar with Oliver Spasovski, who had assumed the office of prime minister of North Macedonia only ten days earlier. Also present was Zoran Zaev, the previous prime minister who had requested the meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch and to whom the Ecumenical Patriarch had addressed his response. Following the meeting, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a press release. https://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/34572-stin-ekklisia-ton-skopion-i-epomeni-autokefalia (Greek); https://orthodoxie.com/communique-du-patriarcat-oecumenique-au-sujet-de-la-visite-au-phanar-dune-delegation-de-la-republique-de-macedoine-du-nord/ (French). The release stated in part: The purpose of the visit was to examine the ecclesiastical problem of their country….To this end, it has been decided to invite delegations of the Church of Serbia and the Church of their country [the schematic MOC] to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the purpose of consultations and an attempt to find a mutually acceptable solution. The next day, Spasovski held a press conference in Skopje. https://faktor.mk/spasovski-sredbata-so-vartolomej-beshe-inicijativa-na-vladata?utm_source=daily.mk&utm_medium=daily.mk He stated that the purpose of the meeting was to establish “dynamic direct communications” with the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the hope that the Ecumenical Patriarch will encourage dialogue to find solutions. He also stated that he had invited the Ecumenical Patriarch to visit North Macedonia.
To date, the Serbian Patriarchate has been silent with respect to the idea of participating in a mediation with the MOC under the aegis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. However, a reporter of the major Serbian newspaper, Večernje Novosti, did contact the Serbian Patriarchate concerning the idea. https://www.novosti.rs/%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8/%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B0/%D0%B4%D1%80%D1%83%D1%88%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%BE.395.html:842008-%D0%92%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%B5%D1%99%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8-%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B0%D1%80-%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D1%81%D1%80%D0%BF%D1%81%D0%BA%D1%83-%D1%86%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%B2%D1%83-%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BE-%D0%B1%D0%B8-%D0%B4%D0%B0-%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%B0-%D0%92%D0%95%D0%9B%D0%98%D0%9A%D0%95-%D0%9F%D0%9E%D0%A1%D0%9B%D0%95%D0%94%D0%98%D0%A6%D0%95-%D0%BF%D0%BE-%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B3%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%BD The following is a Google translation of part of the article, posted on January 17:
The invitation of Patriarch Bartholomew, as well as the whole situation, will be considered by the Holy Synod, and if necessary by the Council [assembly of all diocesan bishops]. Only then will our position be known - we were briefly told at the Patriarchate. [...].
The Serbian Patriarchate formulated its "platform" for the status of church in Macedonia almost a decade ago. At its center is a dialogue with the representatives of structures in Macedonia, but in accordance with the ancient canonical order. The SOC offers the Macedonians only what was already on paper, and even accepted, during the 2002 negotiations in Nis - the broadest ecclesiastical autonomy in the dioceses in Northern Macedonia, as well as the right to their own ecclesiastical leader, whose choice the Serbian patriarch would only confirm.
The decision on participation in a mediation effort may not be an easy one for the Serbian Patriarchate to make. If the Serbian Patriarchate decides not to participate, will this open the door for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to take unilateral action, such as granting autocephaly to the MOC? If the Serbian Patriarchate does participate, could the Ecumenical Patriarch exert pressure on the MOC to accept a compromise solution acceptable to the Serbian Patriarchate? Presumably, the MOC is placing its hopes on the Ecumenical Patriarch. If the Ecumenical Patriarch told the MOC in no uncertain terms that a certain compromise solution is the “best deal” that it will ever get and that the MOC will never receive anything better from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, might the MOC reluctantly accept the compromise? It is possible that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will try very hard to obtain an agreement between the Serbian Patriarchate and the MOC. If the Ecumenical Patriarchate succeeds in brokering a settlement, it will earn the appreciation of the Serbian Patriarchate which generally is closely allied to the Moscow Patriarchate and often critical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. There are many other questions with respect to the decision that one could pose as well. It is a complex matter with many ramifications.
To the best of my knowledge, the Moscow Patriarchate has not officially commented on the mediation offer. Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for Church relations with society and the media, stated on his Telegram channel:
The Phanar is going to legalize another split. According to media reports, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople supported and accepted the appeal procedure of the unrecognized “Macedonian Orthodox Church.” Apparently, he decided to put on stream the service of political elites who use religion in their games. In fact, this is nothing other than a stab in the back of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is already threatened with persecution in Montenegro.
https://news.rambler.ru/community/43499377-legoyda-patriarh-varfolomey-reshil-legalizovat-novyy-tserkovnyy-raskol/ However, this brief comment does not directly address the issue of Constantinople mediating between the Serbian Patriarchate and the MOC. To further complicate matters, there may be unhappiness in Bulgaria with respect to what the Ecumenical Patriarchate is proposing. See https://faktor.bg/bg/articles/politika-hlyab-i-pasti-goran-blagoev-borisov-da-privika-svetiya-sinod-i-da-poluchi-otgovor-zashto-bpts-ne-otstoyava-balgarskite-tsarkovni-interesi .
There has also been silence from most of the Local Orthodox Churches as to whether their primates will attend the proposed meeting in Amman at the end of February. Moscow, Antioch, and the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia have stated that they view this initiative by Patriarch Theophilos with favor, but have not yet expressly stated that they have formally accepted the invitation from Theophilos. Presumably, the primates of these three churches would attend. On the other hand, it is clear that the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Churches of Greece and Cyprus will not attend. Archbishop Hieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, has specifically informed his Church’s Standing Holy Synod that he will not attend. https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-athens-i-will-not-attend-the-meeting-proposed-by-the-patriarch-of-jerusalem/ It is reported that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has telephoned Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, to thank him for his refusal to attend the Amman meeting and also to thank him for the presence at the Phanar of Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kyrenia (who concelebrated there with a hierarch of the OCU). https://www.vimaorthodoxias.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/to-doro-tou-patriarchi-vartholomaiou-ston-archiepiskopo-kyprou/?fbclid=IwAR2Wehy4TKg9hiwYCWuuz6RHaj0gQAQST2otnzud4xKcmfT76kvXaYWnnzY
In Montenegro, large peaceful demonstrations against the new law on religion are continuing unabated. On January 12, more than 10,000 people participated in demonstrations in Podgorica. http://www.spc.rs/sr/vladika_metodije_predvodio_litiju_u_podgorici; https://orthochristian.com/127032.html The Episcopal Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro has approved a plan for a legal challenge of the new law before the Constitutional Court of Montenegro. http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_poruka_episkopskog_savjeta_srpske_pravoslavne_crkve_u_crnoj_gori Archbishop Elpidophoros, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate), has written a letter on behalf of the U.S. Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops to U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo, urging him to take steps to protect the religious rights of Orthodox Christians in Montenegro. https://mitropolija.com/2020/01/18/americki-arhiepiskop-elpidofor-pisao-majklu-pompeu-u-crnoj-gori-se-krse-ljudska-i-vjerska-prava-pravoslavnih-hriscana/
In Paris, the Archdiocese of Orthodox Russian Tradition Churches in Western Europe (Moscow Patriarchate) has now posted a current directory of its churches, parishes, communities, and monastic institutions. http://www.exarchat.eu/spip.php?rubrique2 In November 2018, the directory listed a total of 115 such entities. At the present time, 67 entities are listed. The present number of 67 entities is 58% of the original number of 115 entities. Interestingly, the percentage of votes cast by delegates at the assembly held by the Archdiocese on September 14, 2019, was also 58% in favor of affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
10 January 2020: Reply of Constantinople to Jerusalem & other news
The correspondence between Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has now been made public. Last week, a photocopy of the letter from Theophilos to Bartholomew was posted. https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-letter-of-the-patriarch-of-jerusalem-for-the-synaxis-of-orthodox-primates-in-jordan/ The letter, dated December 11, 2019, was written in English and was very carefully worded in an attempt to avoid the impression that Theophilos was convening a synaxis of the primates. Rather than a straight-forward invitation to attend a synaxis, the letter states: “We open Our home…for hosting this ‘fraternal gathering in love.’ We wish the Almighty Lord to bestow on us the ability to congregate, before the end of February and before the start of Holy Lent, so that together we may be a witness to the Church, and to the world, of the unity of the Orthodox Church and our Orthodox faith.” Earlier in the letter, Patriarch Theophilos recognizes the “role, position and status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” and states that he is making available “the venue” for a meeting of the primates. Presumably, Patriarch Theophilos has also sent letters, perhaps with different wording, to the other primates of the Local Orthodox Churches. However, the texts of such letters have not yet been made public.
Today (Thursday), a photocopy of the response of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the letter of Patriarch Theophilos has been posted. https://www.orthodoxianewsagency.gr/patriarxeia/oikomeniko_patriarxio/mi-katanoiti-i-protovoulia-tou-patriarxi-ierosolymon-i-apantisi-tou-oik-patriarxi-sto-flegon-ekklisiastiko-thema-ton-imeron/ The letter is written in Greek and is dated December 26, 2019. A short English summary can be read at https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-to-patriarch-of-jerusalem-dont-persist-in-the-initiative-of-a-meeting/ The letter first asks why for the first time in history the Jerusalem Patriarchate communicates with Ecumenical Patriarchate in a foreign language (English) and not in their mother tongue (Greek). Bartholomew reminds Theophilos that pan-Orthodox synods of the primates have always been convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch, who presides over the synods. Bartholomew asks: “What kind of unity does your initiative want to serve, if the First of the Orthodox Primates in rank is absent from the Synod you propose?” Most importantly, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew calls on Patriarch Theophilos to recall this non-canonical initiative that serves foreign purposes and undermines the Ecumenical Throne.
As you recall, Metropolitan Christophoros of Amman (Jerusalem Patriarchate) met with Patriarch John of Antioch on December 28, two days after the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter, “regarding a meeting in Amman” to preserve Orthodox unity. https://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/his-beatitude-patriarch-john-x-received-his-eminence-christophoros-the-metropolitan-of-amman-delegated-by-his-beatitude-patriarch-theophilus-iii/2330/ Presumably, Jerusalem knew the contents of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter by the time of the December 28 meeting, although it is not clear that Antioch knew. The response of Antioch was to reaffirm the position of its synod that a synaxis of the primates was necessary “so that all Orthodox Churches collaborate in solving Orthodox issues.” This response does not squarely address the question of whether Antioch would attend the Amman meeting if the Ecumenical Patriarch and certain other primates refused to attend. In view of the very strong position now taken by the Ecumenical Patriarch against the proposed Amman meeting, there is a danger that new tensions will now arise in the Orthodox world between those Churches attending the Amman meeting and those who choose not to challenge the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch on the Amman meeting.
On January 7, Christmas day on the Julian calendar, President Putin made a surprise unannounced visit to Damascus for part of the day. The previous evening, he had attended services at the Transfiguration Cathedral (where President Putin had been secretly baptized as a child in 1952 by Patriarch Kirill’s father) in St. Petersburg. On Christmas day, President Putin first met with Syrian President Bashar Assad at the Russian military headquarters in Damascus, and then the two visited the Umayyad Mosque followed by a visit to the Orthodox Mariamite Cathedral, which is the seat of Patriarch John. https://www.rt.com/news/477670-putin-christmas-damascus-church-mosque/ Putin and Assad first met with Patriarch John in the cathedral and then in the reception room of the patriarchal headquarters. A brief video of the visit can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwFq5N961NM According to the RT report, Patriarch John thanked President Putin for Russia’s military assistance to Syria and stated that without such assistance, his cathedral might now be the headquarters of the Islamic State leader or some militant warlord. There are some who will probably say that Russia is exercising influence on Patriarch John with respect to the Ukraine dispute -- while there are some who contend that the United States is exercising its influence with respect to the autocephaly of the OCU.
A delegation of the OCU, led by Metropolitan Makary of Lviv, was at the Phanar, January 4-6, 2020, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the granting of the tomos to the OCU. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/delegatsiya-ptsu-vidvidala-konstantynopol-z-nagody-richnytsi-nadannya-tomosu/ The delegation of the OCU presented to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew an invitation from Metropolitan Epifany to visit Ukraine at a convenient time. On January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, Metropolitan Makary of Lviv participated in the Divine Liturgy with the Ecumenical Patriarch. Significantly, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kyrenia (Church of Cyprus) also participated in the same Liturgy. https://orthodoxia.online/%CE%B5%CE%BA%CE%BA%CE%BB%CE%B7%CF%83%CE%AF%CE%B1/%CE%B5%CE%BA%CE%BA%CE%BB%CE%B7%CF%83%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%84%CE%B1-%CE%AC%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CE%B8%CE%B5%CE%BF%CF%86%CE%AC%CE%BD%CE%B5%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CF%83%CF%84%CE%BF-%CF%86%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%AC%CF%81%CE%B9/ He is now the second hierarch of the Church of Cyprus to concelebrate with a hierarch of the OCU. The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus consists of: one archbishop (the primate), 9 metropolitans, and 7 bishops. https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/ierarxia The metropolitans of four dioceses (Kykkos, Limassol, Tamasos and Morphos) have issued strong public statements against the recognition of the OCU. However, it seems highly improbable that two metropolitans of the Church of Cyprus would have served with a hierarch of the OCU without the blessing of their primate. It also seems unlikely that the primate would have given his blessing to the concelebrations without sensing that he had a support of a majority (perhaps a silent majority) of the hierarchs of the Church of Cyprus.
In Montenegro, protests involving blockages of major roads and bridges have appeared to have ended. Instead, prayers and religious processions will be held twice a week (Thursdays and Sundays) in towns throughout Montenegro until the new law on religion is revoked. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/01/06/serbian-church-supporters-in-montenegro-flock-to-christmas-services/; https://mitropolija.com/2020/01/09/rijeka-podgoricana-i-veceras-u-molitvenom-hodu/ On January 8, thousands of people in Belgrade marched in protest against the new law. https://www.rferl.org/a/belgrade-protesters-rally-against-montenegro-s-new-religion-law/30367045.html On January 6, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia gave a Christmas interview to the Serbian publication Kurir. https://www.kurir.rs/vesti/drustvo/3388135/patrijarh-srpski-irinej-za-kurir-milo-urazumi-se-i-dozovi-pameti He expressed optimism that the dispute concerning the new law will be resolved in a peaceful way. He was also asked about the support given by Pope Francis to the Serbian Patriarchate in regard to the new law. The interview of Patriarch Irinej included the following questions and answers:
The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has sent you a letter in which he also referred to current events in Montenegro and provided support to the SOC [Serbian Orthodox Church]. How much does that support mean to you?
- That's very fair on his part. It is very honorable and honest that he did so.
Have conditions been created for Pope Francis to visit Serbia?
- We'll see more ...
The council for legal matters for the Montenegro Metropolis of the Serbian Church has prepared a 92-page memorandum which analyzes the law on religion and presents its legal arguments against its various provisions. https://www.eparhija.me/sites/default/files/dokument_vest/2019-12/FINAL-SA-POTPISIMA.pdf The council has kindly provided me with the English translation of the entire document, prepared for various international agencies. The English translation is not on the Internet. If you wish to read the arguments in English, just send me a reply email, and I will send you the entire English text as an attachment. The English document does provided the English translation of the statutory language specifying the properties that would be affected by the new law. The language is as follows: Religious facilities and land used by religious communities in the territory of Montenegro that have been constructed or acquired from the public revenue of the state or were state-owned until December 1, 1918, and for which there is no evidence of property rights of religious communities, as the cultural heritage of Montenegro, are state property. Religious facilities constructed on the territory of Montenegro through joint ventures of citizens until December 1, 1918, for which there is no evidence of ownership, as the cultural heritage of Montenegro, are state property.
During the January Christmas period, it has been interesting to survey the publicity given by the Ukrainian media to the activities of the OCU and the UOC-MP. Ukrinform is the state-owned information and news agency of Ukraine. Ukrinform had a considerable number of news items about the OCU and Metropolitan Epifany during the Christmas period. However, I did not see any coverage with respect to the Christmas activities of the UOC-MP and Metropolitan Onufry. On the other hand, the privately-owned television channel Inter TV broadcasted live the Christmas Liturgy of Metropolitan Onufry. According to the television channel, over ten million viewers watched its Christmas programming on Christmas day and eve. https://inter.ua/ru/news/2020/01/08/7361
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
2 January 2020: Chrysostomos' reaction to Amman invitation & Montenegro developments
Following the doxology for New Year’s day, Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, answered a reporter’s questions with respect to the proposed Amman meeting. The Archbishop stated that he did not respond to the letter of invitation from Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. As a reason, the Archbishop stated that he “did not take the action of his friend the Patriarch (of Jerusalem) seriously.” According to the Archbishop, “only the Ecumenical Patriarch and no one else convenes a Synod or Synaxis of the Primates.” https://aviketos.com/kyproy-den-einai-sovari-i-energeia-toy-ierosolymon/ (Greek with video); https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-cyprus-the-act-of-the-patriarch-of-jerusalem-is-not-serious/ (English).
This news strongly indicates that the “letter” received by Patriarch John of Antioch on December 28 was also an invitation and that presumably all of the primates have been sent letters of invitation from Patriarch Theophilos. Archbishop Chrysostomos now joins Archbishop Hieronymus of Greece in publicly stating with respect to the proposed Amman meeting that only the Ecumenical Patriarch can convene such a meeting. In response to the Amman invitation, the Antiochian Patriarchate stated that “Patriarch John X reaffirmed the firm position of the Antiochian Church announced by the Holy Antiochian Synod, which calls for the necessity of a meeting ΣΥΝΑΞΗ [synaxis] of the heads of the local Orthodox Churches, so that all Orthodox Churches collaborate in solving Orthodox issues.” https://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/his-beatitude-patriarch-john-x-received-his-eminence-christophoros-the-metropolitan-of-amman-delegated-by-his-beatitude-patriarch-theophilus-iii/2330/ Although the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch clearly endorsed a meeting “where all of the Orthodox Churches collaborate,” one wonders if this endorsement applies equally to a meeting where only some of the “Orthodox Churches collaborate.”
In a sense, a decision by a Local Orthodox Church to send its primate to Amman is, at least implicitly, a decision on whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the exclusive right to convene such a meeting. In my opinion, whether the Ecumenical Patriarch has such an exclusive right is an extremely important question that could affect relations between the Local Orthodox Churches for centuries to come.
In Montenegro, the protests against the new “Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Legal Status of Religious Communities” continue. However, the earlier reports of police forcefully removing protesters blocking traffic have been replaced by reports of prayer meetings. Hopefully, this will continue. For example, more than 5,000 believers participated in a peacefully prayer service on New Year’s Eve in Bijelo Polje. https://mitropolija.com/2020/01/01/hiljade-mladih-pripreme-za-novu-godinu-zamijenili-litijom/ Over 10,000 gathered in the city of Niksic for a prayer service. https://mitropolija.com/2020/01/01/niksicka-litija-put-vjere-nade-i-ljubavi-video-prica/ On December 31, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic came to see Patriarch Irinej of Serbia in regard to the Montenegro situation. The following is an excellent English-language article describing the meeting. https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=12&dd=31&nav_id=107730 In my opinion, the remarks of both the Serbian President and the Patriarch reflect calm and reason. On December 30, Prime Minister Duško Marković posted on the Montenegro government website a message stating that his door is open to dialogue. http://www.gov.me/en/News/219380/PM-Markovic-I-urge-clergy-and-Metropolitan-of-SPC-not-to-incite-riots-this-is-last-warning-State-will-protect-citizens.html After a stern warning against riots, attacks against police (four police were injured), and property damage, the posting stated:
The Prime Minister said that the invitation of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Littoral to dialogue was a knock on an open door. "Dialogue is the practice of this government, especially when it comes to this law," said PM Marković, recalling that he repeated this to Metropolitan Amfilohije on the day of parliamentary debate and suggested that the dialogue on the law implementation should begin immediately after its adoption, as well as the work on the conclusion of an agreement between the state and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Metropolitanate is knocking on an open door and on my public invitation already sent, said the Prime Minister.
According to a statement issued by the Serbian Church in Montenegro, “other traditional Churches and religious communities had already resolved the issues in a contractual way.” http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_episkopskog_savjeta_srpske_pravoslavne_crkve_u_crnoj_gori The above statement by Marković indicates that he is prepared to negotiate a similar contractual agreement with the Serbian Patriarchate.
It appears that the major news agencies have not accurately described the effect of the new law. The agencies have given the impression that all church property would become the property of the state unless there is evidence of ownership prior to 1918 for the property in question. The full text of the law can be accessed at http://www.gsv.gov.me/biblioteka/predlozi-zakona?alphabet=cyr (click on Предлог закона о слободи вјероисповијести или увјерења и правном положају вјерских заједница). The portion of the law relating to property, Articles 62-64, has been pasted at the end of my report. The Google translation tool may be used to translate these articles into English. However, the best understanding of the law with respect to church property can be obtained by reading pages 15- 20 of the June 2019 opinion of Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which reviewed the draft law in depth at the request of the government of Montenegro. The Commission also consulted with the churches in Montenegro. It is the function of the Venice Commission to provide legal advice to COE member states wishing to bring their legal and institutional structures into line with European standards and international experience in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The full text of the English-language opinion of the Venice Commission can be read at https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2019)010-e . In paragraph 53, pasted below, the Commission gives an English translation of the key provisions with respect to property becoming state property.
According to draft Article 62 (1) (VI Transitional and Final Provisions), “[r]eligious buildings and land used by the religious communities in the territory of Montenegro which were built or obtained from public revenues of the state or were owned by the state until 1 December 1918, and for which there is no evidence of ownership by the religious communities, as cultural heritage of Montenegro, shall constitute state property.” The second paragraph of the draft provision indicates that “[r]eligious buildings constructed in the territory of Montenegro based on the joint investment of the citizens by 1 December 1918, for which there is no evidence of ownership, shall constitute state property.” These provisions, as mentioned in Articles 62 and 63 and as confirmed by the authorities, only apply to cultural heritage property. [My emphasis]
It appears that the relevant statutory language quoted by the Commission has remained in the final law, except that the phrase “as the cultural heritage of Montenegro” has now also been added to the second sentence relating to the joint investment of citizens as well as appearing in the first sentence. The Commission did make certain recommendations to clarify various parts of the law. The government of Montenegro contends that draft document was amended in accord with these recommendations. The Serbian Church contends that appropriate amendments have not been made. A possible solution may be to refer the final law back to the Venice Commission for its opinion as to whether its recommendations with respect to the property portion of the law have been incorporated. In the meantime, implementation of the property portion (Articles 62-64) could be suspended pending the opinion of the Venice Commission.
On December 30, the Serbian publication Kurir posted an important interview of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. https://www.kurir.rs/vesti/drustvo/3384687/prvi-intervju-vaseljenskog-patrijarha-vartolomeja-za-srpske-medije-crna-goranikada-nece-dobiti-autokefalnu-crkvu The following are his answers to three important questions:
How do you comment on the situation in Montenegro after the adoption of the Bill on Religion, which also provides for the seizure of property of the SOC [Serbian Orthodox Church]?
- I absolutely support Metropolitan Amfilohije, at whose request I wrote a letter to the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović, urging him not to take further steps in adopting and implementing laws on religious communities. That law is not just. For the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the only canonical Church in Montenegro is the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Amfilohije.
And is there a possibility for the so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church to receive autocephaly?
- Miraš Dedeić can never get any autocephaly for his false church. And to allow something like that to someone we've defrocked. How can I now give autocephaly to someone I defrocked? To us, Dedeić is just a defrocked priest excommunicated from the church. I repeat, we will never give autocephaly to the so-called CPC [Montenegrin Orthodox Church].
And what if someone else came to the forefront of that church? What if then the Montenegrins demand autocephaly?
- No, no and no! The church in Montenegro is the Serbian Orthodox Church, and there will never be any change.
On December 28, Patriarch Kirill wrote a letter, approved by the Holy Synod, to Patriarch Irinej and others on the subject of the new law. The full text of the letter, which strongly condemns the new law, can be read at https://mospat.ru/ru/2019/12/30/news181663/ .
As expected, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, met with Patriarch Ilia in Tbilisi on December 29. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/%e1%83%a1%e1%83%a0%e1%83%a3%e1%83%9a%e1%83%98%e1%83%90%e1%83%93-%e1%83%a1%e1%83%90%e1%83%a5%e1%83%90%e1%83%a0%e1%83%97%e1%83%95%e1%83%94%e1%83%9a%e1%83%9d%e1%83%a1-%e1%83%99%e1%83%90%e1%83%97-134/ It was a very warm meeting. In his remarks, the Patriarch stated: The relationship between the Vatican and Georgia has been going on for many centuries. Pietro Parolin's visit to Georgia is very important. This is the continuation of this historic relationship…. Your visit is a continuation of the historical relationship we have had. In this hall I received Pope Francis, a truly brotherly relationship was formed, the Pope and I prayed. We believe, as a loved one, the Patriarchate has established a truly fraternal relationship. Today we have a brotherly relationship…. So your visit is very important, and we welcome you once again. https://tvalsazrisi.ge/%e1%83%98%e1%83%9a%e1%83%98%e1%83%90-%e1%83%9b%e1%83%94%e1%83%9d%e1%83%a0%e1%83%94-%e1%83%95%e1%83%90%e1%83%a2%e1%83%98%e1%83%99%e1%83%90%e1%83%9c%e1%83%a1%e1%83%90-%e1%83%93%e1%83%90/
On this first day of a new decade, I wish all of you a very blessed New Year! For those of you celebrating Christmas on January 7, may the Infant Christ bless you in every way.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
Articles 62-64 of the new Montenegrin law on religion:
Član 62 Vjerski objekti i zemljište koje koriste vjerske zajednice na teritoriji Crne Gore koji su izgrađeni, odnosno pribavljeni iz javnih prihoda države ili su bili u državnoj svojini do 1. decembra 1918. godine, i za koje ne postoje dokazi o pravu svojine vjerskih zajednica, kao kulturna baština Crne Gore, državna su svojina. Vjerski objekti koji su izgrađeni na teritoriji Crne Gore zajedničkim ulaganjima građana do 1. decembra 1918. godine, a za koje ne postoje dokazi o pravu svojine, kao kulturna baština Crne Gore, državna su svojina. U pogledu postojanja dokaza o činjenicama iz st. 1 i 2 ovog člana primijeniće se dokazna sredstva i pravila dokazivanja u skladu sa Zakonom o upravnom postupku i supsidijarno Zakonom o parničnom postupku.
Član 63 Organ uprave nadležan za poslove imovine dužan je da, u roku od godinu dana od dana stupanja na snagu ovog zakona, utvrdi vjerske objekte i zemljište koji su u smislu člana 62 ovog zakona državna svojina, izvrši njihov popis i podnese zahtjev za upis prava državne svojine na tim nepokretnostima u katastar nepokretnosti. Organ uprave nadležan za poslove katastra dužan je da upis zahtjeva iz stava 1 ovog člana izvrši u roku od 15 dana od dana podnošenja zahtjeva, o čemu, bez odlaganja, obavještava vjersku zajednicu koja koristi objekte i zemljište iz stava 1 ovog člana.
Član 64 Po pravosnažnosti odluke kojom se vrši upis prava državne svojine u katastar nepokretnosti u skladu sa članom 62 st. 1 i 2 ovog zakona, vjerska zajednica nastavlja sa korišćenjem objekata i zemljišta koji su predmet upisa do odluke državnog organa nadležnog za odlučivanje o državini, korišćenju i raspolaganju ovim objektima i zemljištem.