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.

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NEWS 2020

  • 2 April 2020: Church leadership in the pandemic
    This time of the coronavirus pandemic is an important occasion for religious leaders to strengthen and guide the faithful.  This is being done by all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, including Patriarch Kirill and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  However, there is an appeal by one Orthodox bishop which has especially caught my attention and the attention of many others.  It is the homily given by Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov at his cathedral last Sunday.
    The 29-minute homily can be watched at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kfGzD25heQ .  According to the Russian news agency  RIA-Novesti, "his appeal to believers in a pandemic caused a resonance even among people far from the Church."   https://ria.ru/20200331/1569406729.html  
    Metropolitan Tikhon is well-known as the alleged confessor of President Putin and as a likely future candidate for Patriarch.  He is definitely a conservative.  However, in his homily, he forcefully attacks the belief of some conservatives that God will protect them in the continuation of certain religious practices during the pandemic.  In my opinion, it is an inspiring homily.  For those of us who do not understand Russian, the problem is that the text of his homily is apparently not reproduced in full on the Internet so as to allow a translation tool to be used.  Nevertheless, I have attempted at the end of this report to collect all of the quotations I could find on the Internet and to translate them with the use of the Google translation tool.  The translation is far from perfect, but hopefully you can obtain a sense of the homily.  The sources that I used were:   https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/36200-pskof-tuxon-pseutes-kai-asebeis-osoi-lene-den-tha-moluntho-stin-ekklisia;  https://orthochristian.com/129855.html;  https://vk.com/mitropolit_tikhon?w=wall-152013574_5197 .
    Among Catholic bishops, the leadership of Pope Francis has been the most evident.  As I previously reported, Pope Francis requested church leaders to recite the Our Father at noon on March 25 for an end of the pandemic.  The response was summarized at  http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2020/2020-03-25-pope-francis-our-father.html .  Those that responded included the Ecumenical Patriarch.   https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-prayed-for-end-to-pandemic/ .
    However, the most memorable event for Catholics was the one-hour prayer service by Pope Francis standing alone in the rain in St. Peter's Square last Friday, March 27.  You can watch the entire service with English commentary at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcUqLrbi9Cg .   An English translation of the full text of his appeal can be read at  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2020/documents/papa-francesco_20200327_omelia-epidemia.html .  
    It is an inspiring appeal which hit a very responsive chord in Italy and elsewhere.  John Allen, Jr., a well-known American journalist living in Rome, has written an article, "Francis on Friday delivered an iconic image that stirred a country’s soul."  He wrote:  "Twenty years from now, if you were to ask Italians to think back about what images stuck in their minds from the coronavirus, it’s a good bet that after Friday night, many would give the same answer. 'Papa Francesco standing alone in St. Peter’s Square, under the rain, praying for it to end,' they’d likely say."
    People in Italy continue to look to Pope Francis.  In a subsequent article, John Allen refers to the live broadcast of the daily Mass of Pope Francis.  He observes that "the pope’s 7:00 a.m. livestreamed Mass has become the most-watched daily event in the country beyond a 6:00 p.m. news conference updating statistics on the contagion, capturing an astronomic 24.85 percent audience share."   https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2020/03/pope-italian-pm-likely-talk-now-and-then-of-the-coronavirus/  
    In my opinion, it is wonderful that many church leaders of Orthodox, Catholic, and other denominations are stepping up to take a leadership role in the fight against the coronavirus.  The secular media so often forgets that this is not only a war that must be fought on the medical and scientific fronts but on the spiritual front as well.
     
    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
     
    GOOGLE TRANSLATION OF EXCERPTS FROM THE HOMILY OF METROPOLITAN TIKHON OF PSKOV:
    "Maybe I'm not the only one who wants to wake up in the morning and find that all this ordeal of the past few days is now a thing of the past or it was just a dream."
    "This is exactly how people thought during the last war. To be able to go out, come to the temple freely, not worry about those around us ... And yet we are all called upon to live. It's been 75 years since the end of the war. We are all getting ready for the anniversary events, reminiscing about the ancestry of our ancestors...."
    "After 75 years the word 'war' is heard again and even world war!  I'm not exaggerating at all. I'm not pressuring you to cause any particular anxiety or fear. Indeed it is. War. The war between humanity and this evil that has infiltrated the human race and against which we must truly fight. ”
    "And some people—doctors, people who provide security, and maybe we, simple people—are just like our grandfathers and fathers during the war,”
    “On February 20, 2020, the first outbreak of coronavirus was recorded in Italy.  On March 20, hundreds of people die every day. 700 to 900 people, not even a month and a half, are dying every day ... ”
    “My friend, an Orthodox Christian living in a small city in northern Italy in the Brescia Region—it has 7,000 residents—called me recently and said: ‘We didn’t even think this could happen—the entire generation of those over 70 has died out!’”
    "Both young people and middle-aged people get sick, everywhere. It's amazing.”
    "When, as Metropolitan of Pskov, I begged the Muscovites and residents of other cities to temporarily abstain from pilgrimage to the Pskov Cave Monastery, I was moved not by personal fear, but by fear for the inhabitants of the town of Pechory, where the monastery is located and with an average age of 60 or more. It's a vulnerable group."
    "There was a wave of indignation: ‘Why? How? Is it possible to get infected in a monastery?’  Young people who are asymptomatic carriers of the virus come to our monastery from Moscow and St. Petersburg, stand next to old women, sneeze, cough, and simply breathe. And at close range, a person becomes infected. And what passes unnoticed and without a trace for a young person becomes not just a threat to their life, but a real trial—perhaps fatal."
    "Those who say that it is impossible to get infected in temples and monasteries - they lie!  Knowing or not knowing, in knowledge or ignorance. They are wicked!  Because lying is wickedness.   Suffice it to recall the history of the Pskov region with repeated epidemics of plague (1352 and 1420). In 1654 the plague raged in Moscow with many victims. Then the entire Moscow monasteries were emptied… ”
    "The disease does not spare anyone - this is a general test, and to say that we will not observe sanitary obligations, that the Lord will take care of it -- God allows this disease [попущение воли]. Everyone, without exception, who feels healthy, can be a carrier of this disease. And, acting rashly and frivolously, can become an involuntary killer. Do not be afraid of anything. If the Lord allows us to die from this disease, then God's will. But, without fear of anything, one must fear what God hates, and he hates sin.  And sin - this is the very frivolity that can lead each of us to the fact that everyone can become an involuntary causer of evil. We must now behave as if each of us is the carrier of this disease - only this will be responsible behavior and a manifestation of love for one's neighbor.  We are not allowed to talk from short distances, to hug etc.”
    "One cannot deal with this evil that has been allowed by him. And this evil can only be faced by the Lord, as we heard in today's Evangelical passage.
    What the Lord has to tell us: "This kind of evil and disease does not come out except by prayer and fasting."  We are fasting now, but the disease does not stop. It is only that fast that God expects, when we sincerely repent, when we share our bread with the hungry, to break up any bond of injustice, hatred and condemnation. While the other fasts, according to the prophet Isaiah, God detests them if they are merely carnal without observing what He Himself wants us to do." 
    "You will tell me --  to find them persuaded, there are not many. I tell you that they will soon. Not everyone will have their jobs. Not everyone will receive their salaries.  As I also know from my Italian friends, now the main crime in Italy is the theft of food from the shops. No more money. They're done. Those who now want to feed the hungry, save your money. Thank God we are not hungry now and social services are helping.  But if things change as they do now on the Western front, then these alms will be very sought after ... ”
    "Well, fasting and prayer.  Where?  At home. You have my blessing as Bishop of Pskov to pray from your homes after the time has come ... For love, not for anything else, to prevent the spread of this infection ... Now that the week has been given to us by the state and it is even paying off, we are called to work during this war ”
    "We have to be in our own home, even though this seems hard. If many people become ill at the same time, most begin to die in serious condition. Why are they asking us to stay home? To prevent the outbreak of the disease in many people at the same time. To enable our doctors to cope with the flow of patients. If we override these strategic guidelines then we will become greedy.  We will get sick ourselves and help spread the disease ... ”
    “You don't need to congregate much anywhere now, including temples. You all have my blessing to pray from your home, first of all studying the Gospel, and even with writings, like the holy fathers. The disease will cease and this, beyond any doubt and exaggeration, is up to each of us today. To have courage, to have faith in God's Providence, to be fearless, fearing only sin ... "
    "In this Third World War we must be wise, brave, doing all we have to apply.  And then our case will be just, victory will be ours and the enemy will be defeated.”
  • March 2020: Prayer in the time of pandemic

    24 March 2020:

    Today, the Romanian Patriarchate announced a program of prayer to counter the pandemic including the recitation of the Our Father at noon on the feast of the Annunciation.  https://basilica.ro/rugaciune-comuna-la-mijlocul-zilei-in-toata-romania/  A Google translation of the announcement is as follows: Common prayer at noon, throughout Romania

    Because, in this time of difficult trial because of the pandemic, the Church's clergy and lay believers are physically separated from the point of view of prayer, yet they may be in communion especially through the common prayer at noon of the day.

    Therefore, the bells of all the Orthodox churches in Romania will ring for 1-2 minutes at 12.00 on the day of the Annunciation , then every Sunday and every day when there is a service in the churches in the parishes and monasteries.

    At that time of common prayer, at their homes, all the lay believers are urged to say the prayer of the Our Father , the kontakion of the Annunciation : Apărătoare Doamnă [Protecting Lady], as well as other prayers, and the priests in the parishes and monasteries will read in addition the Special Prayer for the end of the pandemic.

    Chancery of the Holy Synod

    In addition, the All-Ukraine Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (composed of Christian and non-Christian faiths) declared March 25, 2020, a Day of Common Prayer and Fasting for Ukraine.   https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/auccro/79379/  

      

    23 March 2020: Pope Francis:

    http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2020/2020-03-23-pope-francis-our-father-pandemic.html

    “When Christians pray together, the goal of unity seems closer...In the fellowship of prayer Christ is truly present; he prays "in us", "with us" and "for us" ( Ut unum sint 22)”.

    This is the sense of the initiative proposed by Pope Francis, at the end of the Angelus of Sunday 22 March, so that all the followers of Christ might respond together to the global threat of the pandemic.

    The Holy Father invited all Heads of Churches and leaders of Christian communities, together with all Christians, to simultaneously say the Lord’s Prayer, the  Our Father, this coming Wednesday, 25 March.

    The prayer can be said ideally at noon Rome time, or noon local time, or at any other convenient time of the day.

    Here are the words of the Holy Father:

    “In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together we lift our voices towards Heaven. I invite all the Heads of the Churches and the leaders of every Christian community, together with all Christian of the various confessions, to invoke the Almighty, the omnipotent God, to recite at the same time the prayer that Jesus, our Lord, taught us. I, therefore, invite everyone to do this several times a day, but all together, to recite the Our Father this coming Wednesday, 25 March, at noon, all together. On that day on which many Christians recall the annunciation to the Virgin Mary of the Incarnation of the Word, may the Lord listen to the united prayer of all of His disciples who are preparing themselves to celebrate the victory of the Risen Christ.”

  • 8 March 2020: Primate of Cyprus Church at the Phanar & other news

    Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, is just completing his visit to the Phanar in response to an invitation from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy with him.  On March 6 Archbishop Chrysostomos met with the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The welcoming remarks of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the reply by Archbishop Chrysostomos, and the additional remarks by the Ecumenical Patriarch can be read at http://ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=3031&tla=gr (Greek).  A shorter English-language summary for the Archbishop’s remarks is found at https://spzh.news/en/news/69279-dlya-menya-ne-problema-priznaty-predstojatelya-pcu--glava-kiprskoj-cerkvi  and https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-ecumenical-patriarch-welcomed-the-archbishop-of-cyprus/ .  The Archbishop stated in his reply that prior to the meeting, he had been contacted by primates, bishops, and friends concerning what he would do during the visit.  According to the Archbishop, he told everyone, “The problem of Orthodoxy for me personally, and I believe for His All-Holiness [Ecumenical Patriarch] too, is not whether I will recognize the primate of the Ukrainian Church. To me this says nothing. I could recognize him yesterday and today and tomorrow.  That is no problem for me.  The problem for me is the problems of Orthodoxy.”  With respect to the problem of Orthodoxy, the Archbishop stated during the March 6 meeting: “those that shout, if they really want a correct Orthodoxy, must come down to earth and forsake the big words because it is only through our humility that Christ, who gives us the fullness of life, can help His Church.”

    The additional remarks by the Ecumenical Patriarch include the following:  Now they want a Synod.  Let them recognize the Crete Synod.  If only they came there.  They didn't come.   Let them recognize its decisions.  Because the decisions of Crete were taken in Geneva unanimously, the texts are the same, with minor wordings and improvements.  We all signed these in Geneva in January 2016, and we went to Crete in the hope that all the Churches that signed these texts would be present.  And at the last moment "there came an excuse” [an apparent reference to Luke 14:18 – invitation to the banquet].  Moscow also lured away Antioch and Bulgaria and Georgia.  And we are still waiting for the decisions to be recognized. Because, they says, they were referred to special committees.  It's been four years since 2016, they are still studying Crete's decisions to make a decision.

    Today, March 8, the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop Chrysostomos celebrated the Liturgy together on the Sunday of Orthodoxy.  https://www.patriarchate.org/photo-galleries?p_p_id=flickr_WAR_goarchflickrportlet&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-3&p_p_col_pos=1&p_p_col_count=2&_flickr_WAR_goarchflickrportlet_id=72157707445357635&_flickr_WAR_goarchflickrportlet_action=openSet (English)  Although some may have expected that this would be an occasion for the Archbishop to take some action to recognize the OCU or its primate, this did not occur.  Rather, the Archbishop gave a strong endorsement of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch as the leader in the Orthodox world.  The text of the addresses by both the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop are set forth at http://ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=3032&tla=gr&fbclid=IwAR0OwwsuZTeUQeg9nCD1ZZ_R-dDAYYyQ5Qk-F0UqKoB_a4QAiTvWpoOv_2s (Greek).  A much shorter English­-language summary is found at https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-cyprus-to-ecumenical-patriarch-you-are-not-alone/ .  The latter includes the following quotation from Archbishop Chrysostomos:  If we look back into the past, there is no Church, which did not benefit from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.  In addition, it is the Ecumenical Patriarchate that established the new Churches.  It is ignorance to say something different….Had we not had a First in the Orthodox Church, we would search for one.  We do have a First, but there is equality.  The Orthodox Church has chosen him.

    Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, was in Montenegro from February 27 to 29 as a sign of support for the Serbia Orthodox Church there.  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/128973.html   On February 29 he led a huge procession of more than 100,000 in the capital city of Podgorica.  https://orthochristian.com/128957.html   While in Montenegro, Metropolitan Onufry gave a long interview to the church radio station Svetigora.  From my prior observations, it is very unusual for Metropolitan Onufry to give long interviews, and the long interviews in Ukraine are usually given by Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil instead.  The entire interview can be read at https://mospat.ru/ru/2020/03/02/news183614/.  One aspect of the interview particularly caught my attention.  Metropolitan Onufry continues to discount the appropriateness of granting autocephaly to the UOC-MP as a means of uniting the two churches in Ukraine.  In this interview, Metropolitan Onufry stated:  But the position of our Church is that first it is necessary to restore unity, and then, if appropriate, if it is useful for the spiritual development of the Church, raise the question of autocephaly, and not vice versa.  This has been the consistent view of the UOC-MP – namely, the OCU must first repent and return to the UOC-MP and only then can the question of autocephaly be considered.  To date, the UOC-MP has never decided or stated that it rejects the idea of being an autocephalous church.

    You may recall that Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus in his mediation efforts between Moscow and Constantinople seemed to be advocating autocephaly for the UOC-MP as a solution.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-cyprus-i-told-onufriy-to-ask-autocephaly-from-patriarch-of-moscow/  Without knowing exactly what Archbishop Chrysostomos had in mind, one possible scenario might be for the UOC-MP first to express the desire for autocephaly.  This would then set the stage for merger discussions between the UOC-MP and the OCU, especially if the OCU agreed to undergo conditional ordinations.  If merger discussions are successful, autocephaly would be granted to the united Ukrainian church.  Under this scenario, the OCU would never need to come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.  However, Metropolitan Onufry insists that the OCU must first become part of the Moscow Patriarchate before the question of autocephaly is considered.  As a practical matter, this means that the issue of autocephaly will not be considered by the UOC-MP in the foreseeable future because it is unrealistic to expect that the OCU would agree to repent and come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate even on a temporary basis.

    With respect to relations between the UOC-MP and the OCU, Metropolitan Onufry drew an analogy to Orthodox relations to the Catholic Church.  He referred to a conversation that he had with Archimandrite Gabriel (Bunge), a well-known Catholic priest and monk whose conversion to Orthodox in 2010 attracted considerable attention.  The Metropolitan stated: “Once we spoke with him [Archimandrite Gabriel] about the grace of the Holy Spirit, and he said that the Orthodox have the charisma of the grace of the Holy Spirit, but the Catholics do not.  Among Catholics, this charisma was destroyed through the regulation of all spheres of spiritual life.  Father Gabriel noted that the only way to return the charisma of the grace of the Holy Spirit is not dialogue with the Orthodox, not some common humanitarian interests, the only way – it is to return to the point of falling away from that One Holy Orthodox Church from which they once fell away and which has the charisma of the grace of the Holy Spirit, correcting the mistakes that were once made and beginning a new life.”  Metropolitan Onufry then added:  “I would say that this is an indirect answer to the question of normalizing the religious situation in Ukraine.  There is a mistake of Constantinople, which was made when trying to resolve the schism in Ukraine.  In order to eliminate the new schism that has formed, you need to return to the point where the mistake was made - to correct the mistake, and then everything will fall into place. This is the only way to eliminate the crisis that exists today in Ukraine.”  Apparently in the view of Metropolitan Onufry, the Ecumenical Patriarch must first admit his mistakes and withdraw the Tomas, and the OCU must become a part of the UOC-MP.  This view seems to preclude the consideration of any compromise solutions.

    At the Amman meeting, Metropolitan Onufry also stressed that autocephaly was not the answer.  https://mospat.ru/en/2020/02/26/news183424/  Furthermore, the scope of the Amman meeting and the scope of future meetings as proposed by Patriarch Kirill seem to preclude discussion of autocephaly for the UOC-MP as a possible solution.  As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate stated that the “aim” of the Amman meeting would be a dialogue “with respect of the privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”  https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2020/02/21/the-decisions-of-the-holy-and-sacred-synod-of-the-patriarchate-of-jerusalem/  Although most people probably believed that the purpose of the meeting was to solve the crisis in Ukraine, Ukraine was not even mentioned in the statement of the “aim.”  Similarly, during the Amman meeting, Patriarch Kirill identified six topics that should be the subject of the future dialogue among the Local Orthodox Churches.  All relate to the authority or lack of authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  With such an exclusive focus on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the topic of practical solutions to encourage a merger of the UOC-MP and the UOC through autocephaly or other means would not be part of the agenda.  For the Moscow Patriarchate, which does not desire to lose the UOC-MP through autocephaly, this strategy of not focusing on autocephaly as a solution makes total sense.

    On February 29, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated his 80th birthday at a vesper service at the Phanar.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-expressed-gratitude-to-the-lord-for-his-80th-birthday/   The Romanian Patriarchate has posted on its website a warm letter from Patriarch Daniel to the Ecumenical Patriarch congratulating him on the occasion.   https://basilica.ro/en/patriarch-daniel-congratulates-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-on-his-80th-birthday/ (English)  Bishop Melchizedek of the Georgian Patriarchate was present at the vesper service and read a letter of congratulations from Patriarch Ilia.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarch-of-georgia-to-ecumenical-patriarch-the-phanar-is-our-genuine-mother/  (text in English).  It is a very interesting letter and should be read.  A delegation from the Ukrainian government, headed by Volodymyr Borodyansky, Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports, whose responsibility also includes religious affairs, also came to the Phanar.  https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/2887083-vselenskij-patriarh-  blagosloviv-ukrainskij-narod.html   The Ukraine delegation met privately with Bartholomew.  After the meeting, the state news agency Ukrinform interviewed Borodyansky and quoted him as follows:  “They talked about the formation of the Ukrainian independent church, the granting to the Ukrainian church of the Tomos that the dreams of millions of Ukrainian believers came true when the Ukrainian church became a canonical church.”   Borodyansky also conveyed a letter of congratulations from President Zelensky.  https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/2887023-borodanskij-peredav-varfolomiu-privitanna-vid-zelenskogo.html  It appears that Zelensky continues to maintain a more neutral stance with respect to religious affairs than Borodyansky.

    Metropolitan Epifany has announced the composition of the Holy Synod of the OCU for the period, March 1 to August 31, 2020.  https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/vyznacheno-sklad-svyashhennogo-synodu-na-litnij-synodalnyj-period/  The statute of the OCU provides for a rotation of Synod members.  For the new six-month period, four members of the Synod had ended their term and are being replaced by four new members.  One of the members who is leaving the Synod is Archbishop Yevstratiy of Chernihiv, the spokesperson of the OCU.  Before the period beginning September 2020, presumably five additional members of the original Synod will leave and be replaced.  Aside from Epifany, two other members, Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnytsia (previously from the UOC-MP) and Metropolitan Makary of Lviv (previously head of the UAOC), will continue as permanent members during the initial years of the OCU.

    On March 7, the Vatican announced that the next synod of bishops, scheduled for October 2022, will be devoted to synodality.  The exact title will be “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”  http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2020/03/07/200306b.html  As you know, Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed that the Catholic Church must learn more about synodality from the Orthodox.  See  http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/cardinal-koch/2019/conferences/vers-l-unite-de-l-eglise-en-orient-et-en-occident.html  Presumably, this latest development is a move by Pope Francis to make the Catholic Church more synodal.  In other news, the apostolic nuncio in Georgia has presented to Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria some relics of Pope Saint Clement and the martyr Saint Potitus as a gift from Pope Francis in remembrance of his visit to Bulgaria last year.

     http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2020/2020-02-28-dono-reliquie-ss--clemente-e-potito.html  Tradition links both saints to Serdica (ancient Sofia).  Finally, Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Church of Albania, was awarded the Klaus Hemmerle Prize for 2020.  http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2020/2020-02-19-koch-laudatio-archbishop-anastasios.html  The award is given every two years by the Catholic organization Focolare Movement.  Cardinal Koch made the presentation.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 February 2020: Moscow's detailed report on Amman

    The Amman meeting has now been held and the final press release has been distributed by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. https://orthodoxtimes.com/amman-a-pan-orthodox-dialogue-is-necessary-for-reconciliation-in-ukraine/   Apparently not completely satisfied with the brevity of this press release, the Moscow Patriarchate has today (the day after the Amman meeting) posted a detailed report on what occurred at Amman.  The report has already been translated by the DECR into English.  https://mospat.ru/en/2020/02/26/news183424/  The report contains quotations from the remarks of Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Onufry (UOC-MP) at the meeting and a short summary of the remarks made by Patriarch Theophilos (Jerusalem), Patriarch Irinej (Serbia), Metropolitan Rastislav (Czech Lands and Slovakia),  Metropolitan Nifon (Romania), and Archbishop Abel (Poland).  The most interesting aspect of the report, in my opinion, is the breadth of the subjects that Patriarch Kirill proposes should now be the subject of a “pan-Orthodox discussion.”   He listed the following six topics “in the order of importance”:

    First. The problem of understanding primacy in the Church; attempts to justify the claims to universal leadership through specially created theological argumentation; the absence of a system of conciliar control over the actions of the primatial see, the need for consensus in decision-making on the pan-Orthodox scale.

    Second. The threat to the institute of autocephaly in the Church; the lack of a common Orthodox mechanism, indisputable for all, of granting autocephaly; attempts to introduce inequality among “senior” and “minor” autocephalous Churches.

    Third. Attempts to challenge the canonical boundaries of autocephalous Churches, to review and revoke the once adopted documents of historic importance defining these boundaries.

    Fourth. The claims of the first among equals in the family of Local Orthodox Churches to a right to receive appeals from any Church, the threats to use these appeals as an instrument of interference in the internal life of other Local Churches, which, I believe, demand comprehension and discussion.

    Fifth. The development of an abnormal situation in which the primatial hierarch, contrary to the basic principles of canon law, acts as a judge in a matter in which he is one of the sides and presents himself as the last instance in considering the matter, and

    Sixth. The problem of creating the so called “stavropegic structures” in the territories of other Local Churches without their consent or against their will.

    These, of course, involve some of the major issues on which Constantinople and Moscow are sharply divided.  Patriarch Kirill does not address the key question on how these issues can be decided by the Orthodox Church as a whole when the Orthodox Church holds that pan-Orthodox decisions can only be made if there is a complete consensus among all of the Local Orthodox Church on the terms of the decision.  It is difficult to see that either Moscow or Constantinople will retreat from its respective positions on these issues in the coming decades.  If the crisis in Ukraine is to be solved in the near future, it is necessary to find a compromise solution which does not required either Constantinople or Moscow to retreat from its respective positions on these big issues.  Such a compromise should be possible.

    After the Amman meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion met with journalists as reported in the following article by TASShttps://tass.ru/obschestvo/7847521  The Metropolitan stated:  We hope that if the process of these inter-Orthodox consultations continues, then more and more churches will join them, because there is no alternative process now.  During a break at the Amman meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion also made certain comments as reported by RIA-Novostihttps://ria.ru/20200226/1565235942.html?in=t    He stated: Everyone speaks of his own, but many speak of the same thing.  And there is a general feeling that the churches want to have some platform for discussing accumulated issues….The pan-Orthodox platform that existed, it actually lost its meaning, since the Patriarch of Constantinople headed everything on that platform, and now he cannot help in resolving the conflict that he himself created.  He is a party to the conflict. The problems he created will be shared by all of us.  However, in the subsequent interview reported by TASS, Metropolitan Hilarion stated:  And I expressed the wish that Patriarch Bartholomew take part in the next such meeting.

    Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, talked to Interfax after the meeting.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=15495 (English)  He stated that Patriarch Theophilos chaired the first session of the Amman meeting, and Patriarch Kirill chaired the second session.  Father Nikolai also remarked that Metropolitan Onufry “delivered a great speech.”  In Ukraine, the UOC-MP has also emphasized the important role that Metropolitan Onufry played in the Amman meeting.  https://news.church.ua/2020/02/27/avtokefaliya-ne-zcilit-rozkol-v-ukrajinskomu-pravoslavji-predstoyatel-upc-v-ammani/  In his speech, Metropolitan Onufry stated: Autocephaly does not guarantee absolute unity.  And the autocephalous Churches in the world have their splits.  The Moscow Patriarchate has posted on YouTube a short video covering parts of the Amman meeting.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=gCgKSGx3B_k&feature=emb_logo  The follow is an article on the meeting of the primates and church representatives with the King of Jordan.  https://kingabdullah.jo/en/news/king-receives-primates-orthodox-churches-participating-amman-gathering 

    Archbishop Abel of the Church of Poland also made comments after the meeting.  https://spzh.news/en/news/69049-ijerarkh-polyskoj-cerkvi-pcu--malychiki-s-ulicy-odetyje-v-cerkovnyje-odezhdy  Although he expressed optimism that with God’s help the problems will be solved, he made the following very blunt comment:  And in the OCU, there is no apostolic succession – just some boys from the street were dressed in costumed church clothes.  Immediately before the Amman meeting, Bishop Irinej of Backa, a member of the Serbian delegation and a close friend of Metropolitan Hilarion, give an interview concerning the Amman meeting.  The entire interview has been posted in English.  https://orthodox-europe.org/2020/02/26/amman-interview-bp-irenei/?fbclid=IwAR0PEsCR0oBPu6bebx1hogiAKwl5rlPcHXUr1UFMIeVKdijx7ec8pZQws5A  In the interview, he is very critical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Bishop Irinej also states: In Amman, then, we see the convening of those primates and representatives of the Local Churches willing righteously and fearlessly to stand for the truth and follow the Orthodox path of addressing challenges in a conciliar way when they arise.   I have seen no interviews of the delegates of the Romanian Patriarchate.  The Romanian Patriarchate appears to proceed very quietly.  Over the past year, its official websites have provided very little coverage of the Ukraine dispute, although it has now posted the Jerusalem Patriarchate’s press release in Romanian.  https://basilica.ro/comunicat-de-presa-la-incheierea-intalnirii-fraterne-de-la-amman-iordania/

    Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech (Patriarchate of Bulgaria) has given an interview to Bulgarian National Radio concerning the decision of Bulgaria not to send a representative to the Amman meeting.  The text of the interview can be read at  https://ruskline.ru/opp/2020/02/26/mitropolit_lovchenskii_gavriil_samye_vazhnye_voprosy_v_cerkvi_reshalis_soborno  Although the decision was not discussed at a meeting of the Holy Synod, it appears that all of the metropolitans were contacted to obtain their views.  A majority of metropolitans expressed the view that it was better not to participate.  Metropolitan Gabriel believes that the rationale used by some of the metropolitans is that the Bulgarian Patriarchate has not yet reached a synodal decision on the Ukrainian issue.  It appears that four metropolitans, including Metropolitan Gabriel, were strongly in favor of sending a representative to Amman.

    On the day prior to the Amman meeting, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew wrote a letter with very strong language to Patriarch Theophilos concerning the unauthorized nature of the Amman meeting.  The entire text of the three-page letter in Greek has now been posted.  http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2020/02/blog-post_28.html?m=1  Unfortunately, the Google translation tool works very poorly on this Greek text.  Hopefully, a good translation will be available in the future.  A very short English summary with the Greek text may be read at https://www.ecupatria.org/2020/02/26/the-ecumenical-patriarchs-second-response-to-the-patriarch-of-jerusalem/#more-1346.  The latter article includes the following quotation:  The aim [of the meeting], if we are to be true to ourselves and consistent with God, is to tenaciously cling to the refusal of a local Church to follow the centuries-old accepted principles in the Orthodox Church while having the Russian Federation by its side.

    Constantinople and Moscow may now take some satisfaction in different aspects of the Amman meeting.  Constantinople believes that it was improper for Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem to call the meeting in the first place and may take some satisfaction that only three primates and two other churches accepted the invitation to come to Amman.  Moscow may take some satisfaction in that both Romania (the second-largest of the Local Orthodox Churches) and Jerusalem have joined in recognizing the need to resolve the Ukraine crisis on a pan-Orthodox basis and the need to hold another meeting before the end of the year.  This means that the chances are extremely remote that either Romania or Jerusalem will recognize the OCU in the near future. 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 February 2020: Final press release from the Amman meeting

    A few minutes ago, I received an email from Peter Welby, press representative for the Amman meeting, with the full text of the press release at the conclusion of the Amman meeting.  It does not appear to be a joint statement by all parties, but is issued on behalf of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.  However, presumably it was reviewed with the participants before it was issued.  The full text has been pasted below. 

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    Press Release – 26 February 2020 – Amman, Jordan
    Issued on behalf of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem

    Following the initiative for dialogue and reconciliation announced by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III in November 2019, the Amman Fraternal Familial Gathering was hosted today in the capital of Jordan, with attendance of Primates and Delegations from various Orthodox churches. The purpose of the gathering was to renew dialogue and promote unity between brothers within the Orthodox Communion.

    On the conclusion of the gathering, the Primates and Delegates issued the following statement:

    On February 26, 2020, a meeting of Primates and representatives of Local Orthodox Churches was held in Amman, Jordan, with the primary view of unity and reconciliation within Holy Orthodoxy. The participants noted their understanding of the anguish of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem for the imminent danger of schism within our Orthodox Communion.

    Participating in the meeting were delegations of: the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem led by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, the Russian Orthodox Church led by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Serbian Orthodox Church led by His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, the Romanian Orthodox Church led by His Eminence Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste, the Polish Orthodox Church led by His Eminence Archbishop Abel of Lublin and Chełm, and the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia led by His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

    The participants expressed their gratitude to His Majesty King Abdullah II, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Hashemite Custodian of the Christian and Muslim Holy Places in the Holy Land and to the people of Jordan for facilitating the hosting of this gathering in their capital city, Amman, noting His Majesty’s outstanding work in promoting interfaith dialogue internationally.

    The participants also thanked the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos for all the relentless efforts aimed at paving the way for dialogue and bringing brothers together in the precious spirit of unity, noting that the light that emanates from Jerusalem stands as a witness to that Holy City which continuously proclaims its multi-faith and multicultural tapestry rejoicing in its existence as the warm home for the three Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

    The delegations declared that this gathering was to strengthen the fraternal bonds between brothers and their churches, to promote the bonds of peace in Christ among them, to advocate for the unity of the Orthodox churches, and to renew dialogue in the prayerful hope of bringing reconciliation where there has been discord.

    In the atmosphere of fraternal love, those gathered for the meeting agreed that decisions concerning issues of Orthodox-wide importance, including the granting of autocephaly to particular Churches, should be finalised in a spirit of pan-Orthodox dialogue and unity, and with pan-Orthodox consensus.

    Concerning the current ecclesiastical situation in the Ukraine the participants also recognised that a pan-Orthodox dialogue is necessary for healing and reconciliation.

    In the matter concerning North Macedonia, the delegations stated that this matter is to be solved through dialogue within the Serbian Orthodox Church and with pan-Orthodox support.

    Regarding Montenegro, the participating delegations urged the relevant authorities to respect and uphold the fundamental right of ownership of property including that of the Church.

    The delegations agreed that they should gather as brothers, preferably before the end of this year, to strengthen the bonds of fellowship through prayer and dialogue. The participants hope that His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with his known seniority of honour (πρεσβεια τιμήs) will join this dialogue along with his brother Primates.

    The delegations embraced the call of their brother Patriarch Theophilos III to hold a prayer for the world, for an end to war, sickness and suffering, and for all the Christians as well as for the unity of the Orthodox Church. This prayer is to be held in the Mother Church, the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre) in Jerusalem, before the Holy Tomb of Christ, from which He rose and proclaims peace to the world.

  • 25 February 2020: The arrivals in Amman

    Today, Tuesday, February 25, is the day for the primates and delegations to arrive in Amman for the “fraternal meeting,” hosted by Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem.  Since the surprise announcement on Saturday by the Patriarchate of Antioch that it will not be attending the Amman meeting, there has not been any change in the list of Local Orthodox Churches that will be attending the meeting.  The list consists of six of the fourteen Local Orthodox Churches:  four represented by their primates – Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Czech Lands and Slovakia; two by delegations – Romania and Poland. 

    However, on Saturday these was another surprise, in my opinion.  The Patriarchate of Jerusalem posted a report on the meeting of its Holy Synod held on Friday.  https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2020/02/21/the-decisions-of-the-holy-and-sacred-synod-of-the-patriarchate-of-jerusalem/  (English)  The report includes the following:

    Decided the convocation of the Fraternal gathering of the Orthodox Churches in Amman of Jordan, with the aim of cultivating the dialogue and reconciliation, for the sake of the unity of the Church, with respect of the privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    According to this, the dialogue will focus on “the privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”  In my opinion many believed that the primary purpose of the Amman meeting would be to solve the religious crisis in Ukraine.  However, Ukraine is not even specifically mentioned in this report.  It is true that the Ukraine crisis does involve important issues relating to the powers of the Ecumenical Patriarch, such as whether the Ecumenical Patriarch can consider appeals from other Local Orthodox Churches and whether the Ecumenical Patriarch has the power to issue a tomos of autocephaly unilaterally.  However, the topic of the “privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” is a far broader and more sweeping topic than just the right of hear appeals and grant autocephaly.   In fact there are possible compromises relating to the crisis in Ukraine where it may not be necessary to decide definitively the powers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   Why has Jerusalem phrased the issue so broadly?  Today, Metropolitan Hilarion, on his arrival in Amman, stated that issues other than Ukraine may also be discussed. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=74324   

    None of the attending Local Orthodox Churches identified the membership of its delegation in advance.   However, with the arrivals, the composition is becoming known.  It appears that the following website in Jordan will be the source of the official photographs of the meeting:  http://www.orthodoxjordan.org/%D8%A3%D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B1.aspx  (Arabic – use the Goggle or Bing translation tool)

    The names of the delegates of the Serbian Patriarchate have now been posted.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/serbian_patriarch_irinej_his_delegation_left_jordan (English)  Aside from Patriarch Irinej, the bishops are Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, Bishop Irinej of Backa, and Bishop David of Krusevac.  In addition, there is one priest and three deacons.  You may recall that Metropolitan Amfilohije and Bishops Irinej were finalists in the election for primate, won by Patriarch Irinej in 2010 by the drawing of lots.  Patriarch Irinej usually includes these two hierarchs in important matters.

    The Romanian delegation is headed by  Metropolitan Nifon of Târgoviște.  See his biography at http://www.arhiepiscopiatargovistei.ro/biografia-ips-mitropolit-nifon.html  For many years, Metropolitan Nifon has frequently represented the Romanian Patriarchate at international Orthodox and ecumenical gatherings.  The delegation also includes Father Michael Tita, the key advisor to Patriarch Daniel on inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian matters.  From a photo, it appears that Metropolitan Nifon is the only bishop in the Romanian delegation. 

    The Moscow delegation arrived in Amman this evening.  The delegation is, of course, headed by Patriarch Kirill and includes Metropolitan Hilarion, Father Nikolai Balashov (deputy head of the DECR), and Vladimir Legoyda (head of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media).  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5597183.html  Photos of their arrival can be seen at https://foto.patriarchia.ru/news/vizit-svyateyshego-patriarkha-kirilla-v-iordaniyu-pribytie-v-amman-2020-02-25/ .

    It has been reported that Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, has also arrived in Amman, but he did not arrive with the delegation from Moscow.  https://spzh.news/en/news/68991-predstojately-upc-mitropolit-onufrij-pribyl-v-iordaniju; https://www.facebook.com/mykola.danylevych?hc_ref=ARQcnqYb606sFv9EC7giCmR2J0uheOsF0OWLwnpNNwCT4O7mPO92AadaBXvsf-A32x4&fref=nf&__tn__=C-R   If this report is true, it is not clear what role, if any, he will play in the meeting.

    Metropolitan Rostislav, primate of the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, arrived this afternoon.  https://spzh.news/en/news/68984-predstojately-cerkvi-cheshskih-zemely-i-slovakii-pribyl-v-amman  There are no other bishops in his delegation.  He appears to be accompanied by a monk, presumably the Metropolitan’s assistant.

    Although it is now after midnight in Amman, I have seen no report yet concerning the arrival of the delegation of the Church of Poland in Amman.  The Church of Poland has never officially stated that it was coming to Amman, but there have been numerous reports that a delegation headed by Archbishop Abel of Lublin will come.  https://ria.ru/20200226/1565202228.html

    It appears that the meeting will begin tomorrow (Wednesday) at 9:30 a.m. at the Fairmount Hotel.  In the first part of the afternoon, there will be an audience with King Abdullah II of Jordan.  In the latter part of the afternoon and evening, the meeting at the Fairmount Hotel will continue.  The latter session includes the preparation of a joint press release.  https://spzh.news/en/news/68981-stali-izvestny-mesto-provedenija-i-grafik-vstrechi-predstojatelej-v-ammane  If appears that the meeting will be highly confidential until the press release is made public.  In the meantime, there is a high degree of security with journalists being asked to leave the Fairmount Hotel and a film crew at a neighboring building being detained by police for seeking to film the arrivals.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=15491

    I hope to have more new tomorrow.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 February 2020: Antioch will not participate in Amman meeting

    The Patriarchate of Antioch has just made the surprising announcement that it will not participate in the Amman meeting.  https://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/a-statement-by-the-antiochian-orthodox-media-center/2354/ (official English announcement).  With this, the latest list of attendees consists of six of the fourteen Local Orthodox Churches:  four represented by their primates – Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Czech Lands and Slovakia; two by delegations – Romania and Poland.  The text of the announcement by the Patriarchate of Antioch is set forth below. 

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    A Statement by the Antiochian Orthodox Media Center
    Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
    Balamand, February 22, 2020

    Following the generous invitation of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem to His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch, to participate in a consultative meeting of Church leaders in Amman, Jordan, on the twenty-fifth of this month, the Antiochian Church declares that She will not participate in this meeting.

    The Church of Antioch acknowledges the concern of the Orthodox Churches’ Primates and their initiatives to what could contribute to finding solutions for the grave crisis that the Orthodox Church is witnessing today. However, She has decided not to participate in this meeting, based on the information that has been provided, and for Her care to avoid whatever increases divergence and deepens the rift between brothers. Her position does not mean that She is not eager to expedite necessary solutions for the reasons that led to the severance of communion between the Church of Antioch and the Church of Jerusalem, even after the Church of Antioch has showed readiness for everything that facilitates these solutions.

    On this occasion, the Church of Antioch reiterates Her firm position that the "unanimous consensus" between the Churches, based on the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition, is the essential rule in the Orthodox Church, with regards to general decisions on the universal Orthodox level, as well as in resolving outstanding issues. She also affirms Her endeavor, through the continuous communication with the Churches, to what yields an atmosphere of love and to a return to the mutual consultation and unanimity between the brothers, in order for Her to be faithful to the mission of joy, peace, and unity that the Lord wants from His Church.

    The Church of Antioch calls upon all of Her children to join together in prayer and work for peace in the Church and the whole world.

     

  • 21 February 2020: Important statements by Bulgaria and Jerusalem

    Next Tuesday, the primates and delegations who have accepted the invitation of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem to attend a fraternal meeting to discuss Orthodox unity and the situation in Ukraine will be arriving in Amman.  The primates and delegations will be holding their meeting and be accommodated at the Fairmont Hotel in Amman.  The actual meeting will occur on Wednesday, February 26 (Ash Wednesday for most non-Orthodox Christians).  These details were made known by a letter sent earlier this month by Patriarch Theophilos to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.  The letter was written in English, but the complete text is, as far as I know, only available on the Internet in Greek (https://www.ethnos.gr/ekklisia/patriarheia/89419_gramma-toy-patriarhi-ierosolymon-gia-ti-synantisi-sto-amman) and French (https://orthodoxie.com/la-lettre-du-patriarche-de-jerusalem-au-sujet-de-la-reunion-damman/).  The letter also states:  “Furthermore, given the fraternal nature of the meeting, it seems to us that the fact of taking part in it will not require participation in a common Holy Eucharist.”  This was obviously stated in view of the fact that Antioch has severed Eucharistic communion with Jerusalem over the Qatar jurisdictional dispute and Moscow has severed communion with Constantinople and with the primates of Greece and Alexandria.  The letter furthermore provides that “the Primates will be received in audience by His Majesty King Abdullah II at the Hashemite Royal Court.”

    With the countdown of days prior to the meeting, many are anxiously watching how many Local Orthodox Churches will be attending the Amman meeting.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate made it very clear that it would not attend because, in its view, only the Ecumenical Patriarch has the authority to convene such a pan-Orthodox meeting.  Jerusalem has countered that the Amman meeting will not be a formal synaxis of the Orthodox primates but simply a fraternal meeting of brothers.  Today (Friday), the Bulgarian Patriarchate announced its Holy Synod has decided “that it is refraining from attending the above meeting and will accordingly not send its representatives to Amman….”  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=313841  Although the announcement stated that the Holy Synod expresses its brotherly love to Patriarch Theophilos, it did not give a reason why it was declining to send representatives to Amman.  It is known that the Bulgarian Holy Synod is sharply divided on the issue of Ukraine.  It is possible that Bulgaria is declining to send a representative to Amman, because it has been unable to decide internally what the position of the delegation would be with respect to Ukraine.  The same observation might be true of the Patriarchate of Georgia which also decided not to send representatives of Amman.   In my opinion, it would be a mistake to assume that both Georgia and Bulgaria are now in the camp of Constantinople with respect to Ukraine.

    It is generally assumed that the Patriarchate of Antioch would be attending the Amman meeting.   Last week the Patriarchate of Antioch was contacted by RIA-Novesti, and it appeared that a final decision had not yet been announced.  https://ria.ru/20200219/1564969244.html?in=t   Today, the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate met.  After the meeting, the Secretariat issued a communique.  https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2020/02/21/patriarch-tehophilos-concrete-understandings-with-antioch-over-qatar-our-orthodox-unity-is-most-precious/  The communique states:

    In the Holy Synod convened today, Friday 21 of February, by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III various matters relating to the Patriarchate’s ministry were discussed, including the pending matter with the Patriarchate of Antioch relating to Qatar.

    It was asserted by Patriarch Theophilos that since the two Primates met together mid last year in Cyprus dialogue has been taking place between the two Patriarchates on the matter.

    In today’s Synod, Patriarch Theophilos positively commended the position of His Beatitude Patriarch John X in welcoming Jerusalem’s initiative for Orthodox Unity being held as the “Amman Fraternal Gathering” even though a resolution between both Patriarchates, regarding Qatar, had not yet been concluded.

    Patriarch Theophilos briefed the members of the Synod that, with gratitude to the Almighty, in the last weeks, concrete understandings have been reached with Antioch for a resolution to this matter.

    His Beatitude concluded that Jerusalem is looking forward to next week’s familial gathering of Orthodox Primates, with hope for continued dialogue towards the precious unity amongst brothers, as well as keenness for the opportunity to further discuss with His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch in order to reach a final agreement on the matter of Qatar.

    The above statement certain implies that Patriarch John of Antioch has now agreed to come to Amman.  Furthermore, the statement implies that his presence in Amman may result in a final agreement on the Qatar matter.  This certainly provides a strong inducement (probably intended) for Antioch to come to Amman.  Also, the settlement of the Qatar dispute, which would be extremely good news for everyone, would be a very positive result for the Amman meeting, even if the results are very disappointing with respect to resolving the Ukraine dispute.

    When Patriarch Theophilos presented in Moscow the idea of the Amman meeting, he stated his vision as follows: We take this opportunity, therefore, to declare open our home in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, for hosting this “fraternal gathering in love” 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.  https://orthochristian.com/125797.html   At the present time, it appears that only seven of the fourteen Local Orthodox Churches will be represented at the Amman meeting.  Five will be represented by primates (Jerusalem, Antioch, Moscow, Serbia, and Czech Lands and Slovakia) and two by delegations (Romania and Poland).  [It should be noted that Alexandria has not publicly stated its intention, but no one actually expects it to come.]  Unfortunately, the Amman meeting will not be “a witness to the Church and to the world of the unity of the Orthodox Church and our Orthodox faith,” as hoped by Patriarch Theophilos.  The obvious answer to this is that Amman will be only the first meeting and that hopefully subsequent meetings will obtain greater participation.  Today, RIA-Novesti posted an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate).  https://ria.ru/20200221/1565029554.html  He stated:  We hope that the meeting in Amman will mark the beginning of other similar meetings that our Orthodox family now needs.   With respect to the question of whether Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, will attend the Amman meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion stated:  The composition of our delegation will be announced later.

    A majority of the Local Churches represented at Amman will consist of Moscow and those Local Churches that have been the most vocal in their support of Moscow in the Ukraine dispute.  It is therefore possible that the Amman meeting may result in a statement very much in favor of Moscow’s position in the Ukraine dispute.  However, if the group truly wishes to attract more participants in future meetings, a strong attack on Constantinople, Alexandria, and Greece may not be the way to obtain that greater participation.  Their desire for greater future participation may result in a much more moderating statement at the end of the Amman meeting than would otherwise be the case.

    The Kremlin website has posted today an interview of President Putin with respect to Ukraine.  http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/62835 (English)   It includes his comments concerning the independence of the UOC-MP.

    On a completely different subject, you probably recall that after the Havana meeting, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican initiated annual “summer institutes” where clerics, primarily students, from Rome come to Moscow for two weeks to study the Moscow Patriarchate and a similar group from the Moscow Patriarchate come to Rome to study the Catholic Church.  The program has proven so successful that the Vatican has now initiated a similar program with the Oriental Orthodox Churches.  The first group from the Oriental Churches is now in Rome.  Like the Moscow group, they are guided by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, OP, from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  A great photo of the group can be seen at https://www.anselmianum.com/en/2020/02/17/first-study-visit-of-young-priests-and-monks-of-the-oriental-orthodox-churches/ .   Today the group met with Pope Francis.  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2020/2/21/delegazione-panortodossa.html  An English translation of the Pope’s remarks can be read at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2020/february/documents/papa-francesco_20200221_delegazione-panortodossa.html  The group prayed the Our Father together with the Pope, each in his own language.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 17 February 2020: Georgia's response on Amman; meeting in Montenegro

    The response of Patriarch Ilia of Georgia to the invitation of Patriarch Theophilos to participate in the meeting in Amman has now been posted on the Internet.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/georgia-said-no-to-jordan-primates-synaxis/  Patriarch Ilia’s response, dated February 7, 2020, is written in English and provides in part as follows:

    We share your position and according to the seriousness of the present circumstances and in connection with the problematic issues, we consider that the convocation and mutual discussion is very necessary.  However, if we seek the attainment of the desired result, it should take place with the participation of every Church; but if this consent cannot be attained, we will refrain from coming to the gathering….We hope that with God’s blessing, the synaxis of primates of the Orthodox Churches will be attained, and the issues, which do harm to our unity, will be evaluated according to the canonical norms of the Church.  Also, we should add here that it will be the best outcome for all of us if the goal is achieved before long.

    On February 15, a delegation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem came to the Phanar.  The delegation included Metropolitan Isychios of Capitolias, Metropolitan Timotheos of Bostra (Exarch of the Holy Sepulcher in Cyprus), and Archbishop Nektarios of Anthedon (Commissioner of the Sepulcher in Constantinople).  The delegation met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and also with the members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy Synod, which had just completed their regular February meeting.  After the meeting, the Press Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a statement.  The full text of the statement can be read at http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2020/02/blog-post_51.html?m=1.  According to the statement, the delegation briefed the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Synod hierarchs on the initiative of Patriarch Theophilos and a long discussion ensued.  In addition, the “Ecumenical Patriarchate strongly reiterated its well-known position on this unauthorized initiative of the Zionist Church….”  The Secretariat-General of the Jerusalem Patriarchate also issued a statement which included the following:

    The delegation assured H.A.H. [His All-Holiness] the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during a 2-hour meeting held today at H.A.H. headquarters in the presence of members of the Ecumenical Synod, that the Amman fraternal gathering does not constitute a formal Synaxis but rather a familial gathering of the Orthodox Primates for the purpose of dialogue.  The delegation carried a letter from H.B. Theophilos III in which he extended H.A.H. Bartholomew an invitation to the Amman gathering, and pointed out his sincerity in upholding the Holy Canons of the Church and respecting H.A.H the Ecumenical Patriarch’s acknowledged seniority.

    The website Orthodoxia.info has posted an article which claims to have more details of the meeting.  https://orthodoxia.info/news/%ce%b1%cf%80%ce%bf%ce%ba%ce%bb%ce%b5%ce%b9%cf%83%cf%84%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf-%ce%bf%ce%b9-%ce%b4%ce%b9%ce%ac%ce%bb%ce%bf%ce%b3%ce%bf%ce%b9-%cf%83%cf%84%ce%b7-%cf%83%cf%85%ce%bd%ce%ac%ce%bd%cf%84%ce%b7/

    Although I have not seen an official announcement, it is reported that Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Church of Poland, will not attend the Amman meeting because of health reasons.  Instead, a delegation headed by Archbishop Abel will be sent.  https://spzh.news/en/news/68708-polyskaja-cerkovy-primet-uchastije-v-sovete-predstojatelej-v-iordanii  There appears to be no word yet from the Bulgarian Patriarchate.  The website of the UOC-MP has reported that Patriarch Irinej of Serbia will attend the Amman meeting.  https://news.church.ua/2020/02/14/predstoyatel-serbskoji-cerkvi-vizme-uchast-u-vsepravoslavnij-naradi-v-jordaniji/  The website also states that Patriarch Irinej remarked that he hopes to see Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, at the Amman meeting.  At the present time, it appears that the Amman meeting will be dominated numerically by those who favor Moscow’s position on the Ukraine dispute (Moscow, Serbia, Antioch, Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia).  One wonders whether the Amman meeting will actually seek a compromise that might also be acceptable to the Ecumenical Patriarchate or will simply condemn the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s actions as uncanonical.

    The official English translation of the statement by the Romanian Patriarchate is now available.  https://basilica.ro/en/holy-synod-meets-for-first-time-this-year-sends-delegation-to-amman-communique/  Although the Romanian Patriarchate’s statement requires a consensus with respect to a solution in Ukraine, it does seems to emphasize the possibility of forming a single autocephalous Ukrainian Church.   It appears that the forming of a single autocephalous church was also the approach advocated by Archbishop Chrysostomos in his unsuccessful mediation efforts.  Father Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the UOC-MP’s DECR, has stated on his Facebook page that the OCU must first return to the UOC-MP and then a decision would be made on autocephaly.   https://www.facebook.com/mykola.danylevych?hc_ref=ARQcnqYb606sFv9EC7giCmR2J0uheOsF0OWLwnpNNwCT4O7mPO92AadaBXvsf-A32x4&fref=nf&__tn__=C-R   However, as a practical matter, the OCU will never agree to come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate even for a temporary period of time.  One therefore wonders if the UOC should now make a decision as to whether it wishes a future united Ukrainian Church to be autocephalous.  If so, it would set the stage for a merger of the UOC and the OCU.  Would the Moscow Patriarchate agree in advance to be bound by such a decision made by the UOC-MP?  Would the OCU agree to a form of conditional ordinations to alleviate concerns by the UOC-MP about a merger?  There are many questions. 

    There are hopeful signs from Montenegro.  On February 14, a meeting was held between Prime Minister Duško Marković, Metropolitan Amfilohije of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and others.  It was the first such meeting since the enactment of the new law on religion.  It appears to have been a good meeting, and there were smiles on the faces of the participants.   https://mitropolija.com/2020/02/14/zajednicko-saopstenje-vlade-crne-gore-i-episkopskog-savjeta-spc-u-cg/  At the end of the meeting, a joint statement was released. http://www.predsjednik.gov.me/en/news/221632/Joint-press-release-by-Government-of-Montenegro-and-Episcopal-Council-of-Serbian-Orthodox-Church-in-Montenegro.html  The statement provides in part:

    Today's meeting ended in a spirit of mutual respect with the assessment of both sides that the meeting was held in a constructive and open atmosphere.  Both sides fully expressed their views on outstanding issues related to the Law.  The Church continues to maintain the view that it is necessary to speak of amendments to the Law, not of its implementation, because in the Church's view, the Law is not in accordance with the Constitution or international standards.  The Government believes that through dialogue and mutual trust, as well as through the provision of additional and appropriate guarantees, this Law can be applied as a modern one and in line with the Constitution and European standards.

    Representatives of the Episcopal Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radović), submitted to the Government a proposal that included changes to certain provisions that the Church sees as controversial.  The Government took notice of this initiative, assessing that a comprehensive consideration of not only this Law but also of other opportunities offered by the legal system was required to provide an answer to this question.

    It was agreed that the talks would continue at expert level.

    At least a meaningful dialogue seems to be beginning.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 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 Kurirhttps://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.