Friday, December 16, 2016

How did I miss this?

In unprecedented and uncanonical fashion the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, is demanding that the Archbishop of Athens and the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece depose and excommunicate leading hierarchs and clergy of the Church for their opposition to the "Council" of Crete and its innovative organization and decisions. The Patriarchal letter names first of all, the one-time representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, professor emeritus of Patrology, as the supposed "ring leader," but also implicates "those under him" who traveled with him to the Churches of Georgia, Bulgaria and Moldova before and after the Cretan gathering. The Patriarch demands that, in the event of their persistence in rejecting the "Council" of Crete, they be defrocked and excommunicated, according the canonical akriveia.

The Patriarch goes further and states that similar action be taken also against two well-known bishops, the Metropolitans of Piraeus, Seraphim, and Kalavryta and Agialeias, Ambrose (or Amvrosios), for their exposure of the Cretan "Council" as innovative and unorthodox in its decisions. If the Church of Greece refuses to act accordingly, the Patriarch informs the Archbishop, he and his synod will "sever ecclesiastical and sacramental communion with them." This last statement is perhaps the most significant aspect of the Patriarchal letter, for it would be unprecedented for the Holy Synod of a Local Church to cease communion with particular hierarchs of another Local Orthodox Church. It would raise serious questions as to status of communion between the two Local Churches and the reach of the canonical authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Furthermore, it may also actually serve to isolate not only the two hierarchs in question but rather the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, depending on the reaction of the Church of Greece and other Local Orthodox Churches. If early reports are indicative, which has the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece deciding not to respond at all to the Patriarch's demands, resistance to these Papal pretensions, and the Patriarch's further isolation, have already begun.               Read it all here. . . and the letter. . .

Could this be the undoing of the Orthodox Church?  It has long been accused that Orthodoxy is less a Church than a collection of national churches and that there has long been suspicion and contempt between these national churches.  It has all been magnified since the recent Council of Crete which some bishops chose not to attend.  This has brought all the cracks in the unity to light and created a situation ripe for breaking of communion.  Will it happen?  Who knows!  What we do know is that Orthodoxy has struggled with an Ecumenical Patriarchate whose life is controlled by the Turkish government, a Russian Church that was once nearly an entity of the Communist government and now is still allied with the government, and a jurisdictional chaos in the USA that begs for resolution but none has come forth.  The letter went out November 18, 2016.  I have yet to see responses.

Wow.  And we thought Lutherans had problems.  Wait and see. . .

6 comments:

Chris Jones said...

Could this be the undoing of the Orthodox Church?

No, but it could be the undoing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. If Constantinople is so foolish as to attempt to enforce the authority of its rump council by breaking communion, it runs the risk of being isolated from the rest of the Orthodox world. Few, if any, local Churches would likely follow Constantinople's lead and break communion with Greece.

Bartholomew is trying to throw his weight around, but he will probably discover that he doesn't have all that much weight to throw.

John J. Flanagan said...

The average Christian hates it when church politics causes divisions. This has happened since the days of the Apostles, and it is detrimental to the plain truth of the Gospel, which gets lost in the struggle.

Joanne said...

For a little depth and perhaps some historical anchoring, may I suggest approaching this jurisdictional flap to a previous one, i.e. The council of Ferrara (1438) - Florence (1439). Follow two personalities in particular, Plethon of Mystra, and his pupil Metropolitan/Cardinal/Latin Primate of Constantinople Bessarion. The council took place within ear shot historically of the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Emperor John was desperate to do whatever had to be done to get military aid, the Turks by this time had long overrun the Balkans, only a few islands remained of the Eastern Roman Empire, i.e. Tribizond, Constantinople, the Morea (Peloponissos), etc.

The nub is that the Emperor gave the Latins every point they broached, and he forced his Greek party to vote with him. When they returned to the Empire, John died within weeks. The forced agreement made in Italy was denounced and never received the "axios" of the full church. Plethon returned to the Morea, and Bessarion accepted a cardinal's hat and after a brief visit home, lived out his life with great honor as a Greek scholar in Italy, leaving his renowned library, know as the Marciana, to the Venetian Republic.

This council and these two lives will give you ideas about how this, as I term it, jurisdictional flap is likely to play out. Simply, more division. The more the church seeks unity, the more division it gets. Sad, but there must be some wisdom beneath this.

Joanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanne said...

There are of course other possibilities suggested by history. Anastasios of Constantinople (730-754) is an interesting idea. He comes in as second on the list of victims that I link to. I'm disappointed at not finding a good example of rhynotomy for patriarchs. I was sure I would find one. Sigh!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_mutilation_in_Byzantine_culture

Chris said...

As Chris has already said, this is not the undoing of the Orthodox Church but probably the undoing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The EP has no authority over the Church in Greece because it is autocephalous. The EP can make all the demands he wants, but he is not an Eastern version of the Pope of Rome. He has no authority. And considering that the Churches of Antioch, Bulgaria, Georgia and Russia all did not attend and the Serbs who did attend have major reservations about what took place, these Churches are considerably larger than the EP and its "allies" and wield much more influence. The EP is becoming irrelevant and the EP knows it. This is just a last ditch effort for people to pay attention to him. So, the EP can squawk all he wants, but it doesn't mean people are going to listen. Maybe his buddy, Pope Frank, will care but that's not really important.