How Constantinople is making an “Eastern Pope” out of Bartholomew

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – NOVEMBER 30: Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)

The Patriarchate of Constantinople has recently been shaken by scandals. First, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France gets accused of pederasty, then Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa is appointed Archbishop of the Greek American Archdiocese (GOA) bypassing the opinion of American hierarchs, which causes sharp criticism among US clergy and laity. Now, the whole Orthodox world is watching in confusion a conflict in Bartholomew’s new-born organization – the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), whose leaders (“Honorary Patriarch” Filaret and “formal” Primate Epiphanius) are pushing the new autocephalous Church to a schism, first in its short history.

Many troubles which Constantinople has already faced and will face are the results of Patriarch Bartholomew’s thoughtless and spontaneous steps made amid ignoring any suggestion to discuss them. Constantinople is becoming more and more authoritarian and is forming a top-down command structure in its relations with the other Local Churches that envisages the Patriarch of Constantinople being “first without equals”.

It seems Bartholomew has completely lost himself in the concept of “Eastern Papistry” promoted by such pro-Phanarion theologians as John Zizioulas, Elpidophoros Lambriniadis or the author of the Ukrainian Tomos Vlasios Pheidas. For this concept, the interpretations of the Holy Canons are deliberately mutilated. Hierarchs of Constantinople assert the Ecumenical Patriarch has a universal status and refer to such a term as eccliton (ἔκκλητον) i.e. it is he, as the second Pope, who can hear appeals of the other autocephalous Churches since he is allegedly not the first among equals (primus inter pares) but first without equals (primus sine paribus).

However, according to the famous and respected canonist St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite, “The Bishop of Constantinople has no authority to officiate in the dioceses and parishes of other Patriarchs, nor has he been given by Canon 9 of Chalcedon to grant a decision in reference to an appeal on the part of the whole Church”. Joannes Zonaras also writes that Constantinople’s authority is limited: “The Bishop of Constantinople must hear the appeals only of those who are subject to the Bishop of Constantinople, precisely as the Bishop of Rome must hear the appeals only of those who are subject to the bishop of Rome” and that “The Bishop of Constantinople is not necessarily entitled to sit as judge over all Metropolitans, but only over those who are judicially subject to him”.

The concept of “Ecumenicity” so emphasized by the Phanar is far from reality. In Antiquity, the word “ecumene” (οἰκουμένη), which means “the inhabited [earth]”, was used as a term for the areas of the Greek civilization as compared to lands of barbarians; the Romans used it in political context as the synonym of the Roman Empire. The adjective “Ecumenical” in the title of the Patriarch of Constantinople does not refer to his worldwide jurisdiction, and this is the official point of view of the Orthodox Canonical tradition. So, it’s no more than a reminder of the New Rome’s ancient status as the capital of a once thriving political “ecumene” – the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine Empire.

In the Tomos for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Phanarian theologians ignored the commonly accepted interpretations and put the Ecumenical Patriarchate above the OCU though not Constantinople is the Head of the Church but God. The authors refer to Canons 9 and 16 of the Council of Chalcedon in accordance with which all hierarchs and clergymen have the right to appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but in fact, this is only relevant to Constantinople’s clergy. Besides, the servants of the new “Pope” assign him the right to grant autocephalies across the world without any coordination or consultation with other Local Churches.

The Phanar is trying to highlight its so-called exclusive status by all means. The Tomos for the OCU is another step to the status of the “Eastern Pope”. It secures the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s privileged role in the Orthodox world, and that’s why Constantinople is eager to get the Orthodox Church of Ukraine recognized. If it happens, the Phanar will undoubtedly take other, more violent steps to absolute power.

However, despite all efforts of Constantinople, it can hardly succeed. As Serbian Patriarch Irenej has claimed, the Serbian Church will stick to the Canons, and neither it nor other Churches will ever recognize the “Orthodox Pope”. The Phanar is opposed by Churches of Antioch, Albania, Poland, Serbia, and of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. Despite the pressure, the Greek Orthodox Church is not up to recognizing the OCU. And no matter how desperately theologians like Vlasias Pheidas (contradicting their early works by the way) or hierarchs like Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos are trying to convince the Orthodox Churches in Bartholomew’s “chosenness” and the righteousness of his actions, the world will always follow the principle expressed by St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite: “Only Christ is Ecumenical”.

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Will Georgian Orthodox Church recognize Patriarch Bartholomew’s Primacy in Orthodox World?

The Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church is about to convene in next few days. A group of hierarchs allegedly led by Metropolitan Daniel of Chiatura and Sachkhere is up to discuss the recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which was established in Kyiv in December 2018, and received autocephalous status from the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Constantinople is especially interested in the OCU recognition. If recognized, metropolitan Epiphanius and his organization can augment the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s power in the Orthodox world, weaken the Moscow Patriarchate’s influence and allow the Patriarch of Constantinople to make decisions on extremely important matters for Orthodoxy by sole authority.
Local Churches are in doubt: despite pressure, none of them has recognized the OCU yet. How could autocephaly have been granted to the Ukrainian Church if it still lacks unity, and some parishes seize the churches of other parishes? Why was autocephaly granted solely by Patriarch Bartholomew, without any discussion with the other Local Churches? Why there was so much haste with the Tomos, why did it happen shortly before the electoral campaign of Ukraine’s former president Poroshenko? Could the Ukrainian autocephaly cause a schism in the Orthodox world? These and other questions were addressed to Constantinople delegations by Local Churches before and after the OCU was established.
Some Local Churches have opposed Patriarch Bartholomew’s policy – including the Patriarchate of Antioch, which once granted autocephaly to the Georgian Orthodox Church; and the Patriarchate of Serbia, which claimed that the OCU hierarchy hasn’t got canonical succession. Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus and Archbishop Anastasios of Albania asked Patriarch Bartholomew to convene the Synaxis of Primates but he firmly refused.
The OCU’s future is uncertain; the relations between the groups which formed it are unstable. Even now there is a conflict between Filaret Denysenko, the honorary patriarch of the OCU, and its formal head Epiphanius. This conflict undermines the OCU unity and can lead to its breakup in the nearest future.
If the Georgian Orthodox Church recognizes the OCU, it won’t be able to independently deal with its own issues. Abkhazians have already asked to be allowed to join the Ecumenical Patriarchate and receive the status of autonomy. Metropolitan Emmanuel of France once hinted to the Catholicos-Patriarch at the fact that the Abkhazian plea can get a positive answer if the Georgian Church doesn’t support Constantinople. But now Constantinople pretends to have the right to grant autocephaly anywhere across the world. If we recognize the OCU, we will let the Greeks in to the canonical territory of the Georgian Church.
During the previous meeting of Constantinople hierarchs with Ilia II in Tbilisi, one of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s representatives, metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianopolis is said to have begun his speech with the words: “There is an opinion that the Orthodox Church is led by Jesus Christ. But in fact the Church is led by the Ecumenical Patriarch.” The Catholicos-Patriarch seems to disagree with this statement. Those Orthodox hierarchs who are famous for their spiritual experience and purity of their edifying life disagree with that either. For example, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, who restored his Church after communist repressions and who is already considered to be saint by many Greeks.

The Orthodox Church has never followed the suit of Roman Catholics. But those of spiritual clarity understand that the Orthodox Church is facing a new large-scale threat, and the Ukrainian issue is only a part of it.

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MBS Doesn’t Care About Human Rights. He Does Care About Google. — Political Violence at a Glance

Guest post by Corey Ray and Sofia Smith. US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stands with Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud during an honor guard ceremony at the Pentagon, March 16, 2017. Photo via James N. Mattis. The disappearance and assumed murder of activist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government,…

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Some thoughts on the Ukrainian autocephaly

I’ve recently watched a vlog by George Michalopulous published at his website Monomakhos.com on Sept 7. In the video he comments on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decision to grant an autocephalous status to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church basing on some historical arguments. They seem to be solid but as George says ‘are not necessarily true’.

There are some points I’d like to highlight:

  • First, the Patriarchate claims its exclusive right to grant autocephaly to the UOC. But it’s under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, so it’s impossible to declare the autocephaly without Moscow’s consent.
  • Then, the EP states that the letter of Patriarch Jeremiah II Tranos was signed under ‘great pressure’ of the Moscow Patriarchate so it cannot be considered legit. That’s a strange stance as for centuries Constantinople has recognized the paper.
  • There are also such repercussions as possible schism and bloodshed in Ukraine that can be caused by Patriarch Bartholomew’s actions.

A few days later Monomakhos.com also shared a 50 minute long video documentary of Mikhail Denysenko, the so-called Patriarch Philaret of Kyiv. After all the forgiveness that our Church has, shown with canonization of King David and Flavius Constantinus as saints, the blogger concluded that “if this defrocked bishop is recognized by Constantinople as a “patriarch” and his “church” as canonical, then that venerable See will have lost all moral authority.”

Anyway you can watch Michalopulous’ videos and decide whether arguments of him are stronger than those of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Constantinople has already been criticized by a large part of the Orthodox Christian community for its actions. For example, when Patriarch Bartholomew sent his controversial letter to Archbishop of Athens and all Greece Hieronymus in December, 2016, it caused a great turmoil and confusion among believers. At that, it is worth noting that some faithful lay people seemed to be even better in issues of Canonical law, church history and theology, or  wise and honest at least, than many of established experts and theologians on the EP’s side during those vehement debates.

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Hello Rejection, My Old Friend — Holland Rae, Writer

Well, this is it. This is the part of being a writer that sucks so much worse than the movies show. This part hurts.

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FemInEM — Discover

FemInEM is a vibrant community hub for women who work in emergency medicine — and for anyone else who cares about diversity and equality in the medical professions.

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“Broken promises”: is Ukrainians’ Criticism of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Fair?

In July, Kyiv witnessed the celebrations of the 1030th anniversary of Kievan Rus Christianization. Two largest Ukrainian Orthodox confessions – the Ukrainian Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC KP) and the Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) – traditionally held separate sacred processions on different days. The state-backed UOC KP’s procession was attended by President Petro Poroshenko, vast number of government officials and the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s delegates. Kyiv had assumed that the latter would come with the Tomos of Autocephaly (independence) for the Ukrainian Church but it never happened. And in his long speech, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France didn’t even hint at the date when this important for the Ukrainian faithful event could take place.

In April, President Poroshenko met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in his residence in the Phanar quarter (Istanbul). As it was revealed later, one of the main agenda topics was the bestowal of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. At the moment, the church situation in Ukraine is complicated. The country faces a fierce conflict between the UOC KP and UOC MP backed by Kyiv and Moscow. The UOC of the Kyivan Patriarchate broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1990s, when the independent Ukrainian state emerged. However, it still has been recognized by none of the Local Orthodox Churches.

Poroshenko is said to be setting up the new Autocephalous Church with this religious organization as its cornerstone. Obviously, the “hostile” UOC MP won’t be included in the Single Local Church and will witness even higher pressure than now when its property is being seized or desecrated by pro-government radical nationalists.

Nevertheless, for Kyiv and personally Poroshenko the autocephaly project is a thing that really matters. On the eve of the 2019 presidential elections in Ukraine, the Tomos (if granted by Constantinople) should become one of the aces up his sleeve in the election race. That’s why it was decided to boost the process.

Since April, Poroshenko kept claiming that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would likely become autocephalous on 28 July, when the UOC KP celebrates the 1030th anniversary of Kievan Rus Christianization. Many Ukrainians believed in their president’s words, and when the Tomos wasn’t granted, they lashed out not only at the government but also at Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew personally.

For example, the author of one of critical articles, expressing his indignation, not just accuses Constantinople of undermining the process of autocephaly bestowal but suggests that it should be proclaimed unilaterally, without the Phanar’s consent. Moreover, he blames Patriarch Bartholomew for his ties with Catholics and inability to make firm decisions.

Besides that, the Ukrainians fear that the Phanar is concerned only with the matters of property. In particular, another critical article even provides a list of churches, buildings and territories which can possible come into Constantinople’s possession. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s representatives will need a place to live and hold divine services in. No one really means confiscating the property of Ukrainian Churches and handing it to the “Greek intruders”.

Of course, not all Ukrainian media outlets criticize the Phanar, but such harsh statements like the above-mentioned aren’t rare. The Ukrainians seem to have been hurt by broken promises. But what can the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Patriarch Bartholomew be blamed for? They didn’t promise the Ukrainian people that the Tomos would be bestowed on a certain date, they only named it the ultimate goal. The Phanar clearly understands that against the background of the today’s conflict between the faithful in Ukraine, autocephaly can be granted only after finding a way to heal the division. Why don’t some Ukrainians understand this? Don’t they see that they are throwing themselves under the bus by criticizing the Mother Church? The whole thing can easily come to naught: watching how groundlessly it is being criticized, the Patriarchate can turn away from Ukraine and never realize the dreams for autocephaly…

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