DIASPORA, INTER-CHURCH RELATIONS
AND THE ECUMENICAL HYPOTHESIS


In the recent past we have been witnesses of the Patriarchate of Constantinople's initiative in the attempt to introduce a new kind of relations not only among the autocephalous orthodox churches, but also in regard to their Diaspora around the world. These and similar issues of universal significance for all of Orthodoxy, in the past were discussed at the Ecumenical Councils which were convened in Byzantium by certain emperors, wanting to bring order and peace to both the Church and the state. However, today we are living in a world whose dominant powers, and consequently governments of certain countries, are not sharing the same feelings about the Orthodox faith as Byzantine emperors and moreover, many of them are not even on a friendly terms with the Orthodox Christianity as such.

Perhaps, this is the one of many reasons why, for a considerably long period of time, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has been attempting to play the role of “coordinator” and “loudspeaker” of all the other orthodox churches, and to become the center of Orthodoxy in both the canonical and administrative sense. In this way, some of the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are attempting to develop even a new Orthodox ecclesiology, promoting a new and strange interpretations of the ancient canons of the Ecumenical Councils.

It would be enough for one to visit the official website of “The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople” on the Internet (www.patriarchate.org) and choose any one of the many articles and texts offered there. In my view, they are written in such a way so that, without being too elusive, the “Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople”, presents itself as an Orthodox version of the Vatican, only much less politicized than the original. (The articles quoted here were published at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople - Internet presentation in the years 1998-9. However, their presentation is subject to change from time to time and a current texts could be somwhat differently worded. Nevertheless, this still remains the principal tone of the articles about historical and current role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople Internet presentation.)

The first and introductory text, “The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople”, begins with the words: “The Vatican is the heart of Roman Catholicism. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, is the heart of Orthodox Christianity!” The next one continues: “Its function as the principal center of unity in the life of the Orthodox Church is derived not only from its exceptional canonical prerogative of enjoying equal participation with the Church of Old Rome in the honor of the First Throne (Prima Sedes) in the order of seniority of the Patriarchal Thrones (Cf. the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils: 3 of Constantinople I and 28 of Chalcedon), but also from its age-long ministry of, witness to, guardianship and dissemination of the Orthodox faith.” (Perennial Ecclesiastical Ministry; www.patriarchate.org).

The Church of Constantinople, being the first throne among the autocephalous Orthodox Churches and having the historical and theological right and responsibility to initiate and coordinate actions of inter-Orthodox magnitude, continues to constitute also a local church whose jurisdiction is confined within specific geographical boundaries. This is something which, according to the canons, applies to all the Churches, including Rome, except that the Church of Constantinople has the exclusive privilege of functioning in a supra-territorial capacity with regard to the churches of the Diaspora and the right to arbitrate appeals. This right was granted the Church of Constantinople by Canon 28 of the 4th Ecumenical Council held in Chalcedon in 451 A.D.

 

“ORTHODOX GLOBALISM”

 

There is no doubt that these aspirations of the Patriarchate of Constantinople would be supported and even assisted by the powers of globalization in the international circles. It is indisputable that the globalistic tendencies in the world are in a strong motion, and as we have seen, these could be influencing even the ecclesiology of the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It is interesting that the other Orthodox Churches do not have much desire to involve themselves or even to react to a new wave of tendencies and newly fasioned interpretations of the canons. Nevertheless, to many it seems as though these tendencies of the Patriarchate of Constantinople encroach on the past, because perhaps, some “Byzantines” never gave up the idea of the one universal Church for all Orthodox (built on the model in Byzantium), under only one emperor and one single patriarch.

Also, adding to this is perhaps the fact that other Orthodox churches (in post communist countries) are temporarily preoccupied with events and situations in their local settings; currently, a modest arousal of the faith with the impoverished and disoriented peoples of East and South; the unstable and unclear political scene; constant economic, social and political pressure by the western globalistic and plutocratic powers etc. As a result of this we have wars in certain regions, catastrophic economies, refugees, orphans, the migration of tens of thousands of people abroad (into the Diaspora) etc. In this sort of atmosphere, created after the fall of Soviet Union and the Soviet Block, as well as after political overturns in the former Communist countries, Constantinople has reinforced their centralistic activities which it began way back in the 1930’s. Therefore, many think that the Phanar sees this as an appropriate opportunity for its expansion.

In any event, the other Orthodox churches (or at least the Serbian Orthodox) participates in the current inter-church events by merely sending from time to time their, mostly unprepared, representatives to a so called Pan-Orthodox conferences and pre-council meetings. It is important to note that the documents which they usually sign as "representatives" of their churches, include such items which explicitly obligate their local churches (see item no. 5 of the Conference for preparation of the Ecumenical Council, Chambesy 7-13 November 1993). However, in spite of this, due to the superficially or very poorly informed remainder, their participation at these gatherings is experienced as mainly "optional" and "informal". This is why the occasional public discussions or the appearance of texts, warning of these new tendencies, are thrown out as “alarmist”, “sensitive”, “not well intended”, etc.

Even Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic in his report from 13/26 June 1921 to the Holy Hierarchical Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church (in regards to the decision of the Sabor on 10 - 12 - 1920) "On the condition, needs and wishes of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States of America", warns of the attempts of the Greek church circles, that the Diaspora be put under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Constantinople. There he says:

The view of the Greeks was best clarified to me by Metropolitan Meletios Metaxakis, who is now in America as a refugee, as well as Alexandar the Bishop of Rodostol, whom the same Metropolitan Meletios brought to America three years ago and delegated him to carry out the duties of the Greek Bishops of America.

Metropolitan Meletios says that according to canonical regulations, the supreme supervision of the church in America must belong to the Patriarch of Constantinople. He refers to Canon 28 of the IV Ecumenical Council, saying that in accordance to this Canon all churches in 'barbarian' lands belong under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. This jurisdiction, according to his thoughts, would be more honorary. Precisely, it would appear only in instances of appeal by one unsatisfied side.” (Bishop Nikolaj, Collected works, Vol. 10, Hilmestir 1983, p. 467)

(Metr. Meletios, a controversial person and an energetic fighter for the pan Hellenistic idea was banished from Greece in 1920. After giving his resignation he lived in America. The following year he was elected a Patriarch of Constantinople, February 8, 1921 - July 10, 1923, and after that the Patriarch of Alexandria May 7, 1926.)

In the meantime, the tendencies of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which are an offspring of the political movement of “pan-Hellenism” are developing to the extreme of a new kind of ecclesiology, a new teaching about the Orthodox Church. The Priest Zivko Panev, from Paris, in his article “The Question of the Diaspora” (manuscript), gives an example of the circulatory epistle of the Patriarch of Constantinople on the Sunday of Orthodoxy 1950:

The Church of the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, which in the beginning was so modest and small, has grown and spread, rising to the Ecumenical throne and the center of the Orthodox Church. This center and this divine foundation is held by all the local and autocephalous churches. They however, are managed by canonical economy in ecclesiastic affairs, and coordinated by this center, they make up the one and invisible body. The Ecumenical throne takes care of and watches over the other sister churches, whenever extraordinary circumstances would hinder their pastoral activities. No other way than through this Throne, in relation with it and in contact with it, are the local churches connected with one another forming the body of the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Orthodox Church, whose head is none other than He who is the beginning and fulfillment of faith, Jesus Christ…

If a seminarian would formulate the ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church in this way he would never receive a passing grade. One imagines that the professor would ask him, quoting the words of the Apostle Paul, “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (I Cor. 10: 16). However, it is here that we begin to see some new ecclesiology embraced by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In this light, reviewing the already published agenda of the future Ecumenical Council, (whose preparation is coordinated by the Patriarchate of Constantinople) it becomes more obvious to us what the overriding theme will be. The agenda is placed in this order:

1. The Orthodox Diaspora
2. Autocephaly and the way it will be proclaimed
3. Autonomy and the way it will be proclaimed
4. Diptychs
5. The question of the common calendar
6. Impediments for Marriage
7. Adapting the canonical regulations regarding the fast
8. Relations amongst the Orthodox Churches
9. Orthodoxy and the ecumenical movement
10. Contributions of the local Orthodox Churches in implementing the Christian ideals of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among peoples and abolishing race discrimination.

We see that, 7 of the 10 given themes relate to the organization and structure of the Orthodox Church, and the last three look as though they have been taken out of the one of meetings of the subcommittees for the United Nations (do not theese social ideas sound somewhat familiar: “peace, toleration, freedom, democracy, discrimination, human rights, ecology” etc.?)!

The question of the preparation and organization of the next “Ecumenical Council” of the Orthodox churches is neither new nor recent in our church history. This question was raised already in the time of the ill-fated Patriarch of Constantinople Meletios Metaxakis, a known conceited modernist, a reformer and creator of schisms in Orthodoxy, at his so-called “Pan-Orthodox Congress” in Constantinople in 1923.

From the acts and decisions of what is now referred to as the “First Pre-council Orthodox Conference”, which was held, for some unknown reason, in Geneva where there are barely a few hundred Orthodox faithful, it can be seen that it was prepared and selected one, now new, catalog of themes for the future “Great Council” of the Orthodox Church.

In all of this, not only is a simple inconsistency revealed, but also an obvious incapability and lack of knowledge of Orthodoxy on behalf of those imposing their “Great Council” on the Orthodox Church. There is an obvious ignorance and incapability of sensing and comprehending of what one true Ecumenical Council meant and also what it would mean now for the Orthodox Church and her faithful. For if they were able to understand and experience this, then they would know, first of all, that in the history and life of the Orthodox Church never was there a Council (especially one exceptionally beneficial, as the Ecumenical Council) searching artificially for issues and inventing themes for it’s work and agenda; it never held “pre-conferences”, “congresses” and similar false gatherings completely foreign and unknown to the Orthodox tradition, which are in fact copied from the worldly organizations, unfamiliar to the Christ’s Church.

 

THE CHURCH AS EXPERIENCE

 

Just recently in “Theological Perspectives” a lecture was published by the well known theologian, Metropolitan John of Pergamos (“The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Her Relations with the other Orthodox Churches”, Portokaras, Halkidiki, 23-28 Sept. 1993, Theological Perspectives No. 1-4 Belgrade 1998), who cries out complaining: “Oh, ecclesiology is truly undeveloped in the Orthodox Church!” At the end of his lecture he openly repeats the thesis of the Epistle of the Ecumenical Patriarch of 1950 and claims that the “new situation in the world is a contributing factor to the feeling of a deep need… for all turn to the center of the Church (meaning the Patriarchate of Constantinople) which will be able to act in times as a mediator in misunderstandings, but in any event as a coordinator and loudspeaker for the united Orthodoxy!

It could be said that the masses of “ordinary” priests, monastics and faithful sons and daughters of the Orthodox Church (especially those in non-Greek jurisdictions) would have no idea as to what is being spoken of here, nor where this is coming from. Constantinople may be taking a central place in Greek national folklore and tradition; and the Greeks, while accusing certain others of "ethno-filetism", may be for ever more identifying “Byzantine” with “Greek”, giving their religious and church nationalism some “special place” in Byzantine Christianity (which never thought of itself in any kind of nationalistic but in an universal, “ecumenical” manner; for it was not Greek but Eastern Roman Empire, where the official language was not Greek but Latin, with the capital called not a "New Athens" but “New Rome”). However, with the disappearance of this Byzantium and because of the historical circumstances, local churches took upon themselves the role of “national churches” - guardians and carriers of the Christian orthodox identity in various peoples. And now, as a replacement for spiritual belonging, the newly invented tradition of administrative and legal "jurisdictions" and "subordinations" attempts to even subordinate to itself the very essence of the Church.

Therefore, many would ask: since when has Constantinople, or Istanbul of today, become a “center” of the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church? Why are we now, after 2000 years of Christian history and after five centuries of the dissolvement of Byzantium, when it is no longer called Constantinople but Istanbul, to put our hope and trust in it, awaiting some sort of pan-Orthodox “coordination”, directives and a “mediation in misunderstandings”?

It is apparent, for the successors of Patriarch Meletios, that in order to give positive answers to these and similar questions they need a new kind of ecclesiology. This is, in fact, the origin of Metropolitan’s cry for “developing” an ecclesiology in the direction that would not be result of a living holy patristic experience of the Spirit of Christ’s Church, but - some new tradition of power and jurisdictional submission of one Bishop to another and one local church under another. This new kind of ecclesiology in the making is not a cry for freedom from this world, but exactly the opposite: a cry for the coordination and working together of “ecclesiastical administration” with this world, with its courses of events and plans.

The Very Reverend Alexander Schmemann in his book “Orthodoxy in the West”, warns us of the “…devastating influence of western mentality on the post patristic theology, an influence which has changed a focus of Orthodox’s ecclesiological attention from the Church as the Body of Christ to the Church as the ‘means of grace’; from the whole, complete and intact canonical tradition to various systems of canon law or, more precisely, from the Church to the Church administration!” (p. 119-120). He further states: “Christianity for the Holy Fathers was never a teaching or an idea - as one would conclude based on some ‘patristic’ studies of today which deal with ‘patristic ideas’ on this and ‘patristic teaching’ on that. For the Holy Fathers Christianity was, above all, a living experience of the Church, or more precisely – Church as an experience.

“Without this experience of the Church, patristic theology can not be understood in its true meaning, for it would be isolated and transformed into an external and formal authority to be quoted, or into ideas to be theologically “discussed”. This essential connection and joint dependence of the patristic theology and the experience of the Church is frequently overlooked because - as it has been said often – the Fathers did not ‘theologize’ about the Church. It seems as though they weren’t interested in ‘ecclesiology’, as we understand it today, as a theological discipline which has the Church as the object of its studies and research, with a goal of developing a complete and consistent teaching on the Church…. The appearance of ecclesiology, as a separate theological field, is the fruit of a doubt, a need for justification, inevitable and truly ‘normal’ in that theology which experiences itself firstly as being rationalistic, philosophical, legalistic or a practical justification of the Christian faith. This kind of justification, of which today we know very well, always leads to the evaluation of the “Church”, Her faith and life, according to the criterion of this world, its philosophy, trends and needs (for actually it comes from this kind of evaluation!), which as a result always has at its end the capitulation of the Church in front of the world” (p. 20-22).

Personally, I consider that the “problem” of the Diaspora belongs more precisely to the domain of this patristic understanding of the living experience of the Church as a reality which transfigures the world, but which is not of this world, rather than to a modern ecclesiological and legalistic system, which would be more suitable to the new world order and situation.

However, in the past decades there are more than enough examples to confirm that these attempts in a 'new ecclesiology' are not isolated cases, but rather a complete new direction accepted by the administration of the Patriarchate of Constantinople towards reorganization, not only of the Diaspora, but also of the relations of local churches amongst themselves and with Constantinople, the “Ecumenical Throne”, at the cost of entirely new concept of the canonical tradition and a new “development” of “Orthodox ecclesiology”.

This phenomenon can be approached from the viewpoint of several theological disciplines (ecclesiology, history of the church, canon law, etc.) but the supporters of these ideas cite mainly Holy Tradition and the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils. It is important to note that the tradition which they cite, does not proceed directly from the essence of the Church as a Divine institution, but rather from it’s relations with this world and the role which the Church has accepted in society, in certain periods of her history. I think that, on this question, Holy Tradition can be divided into two kinds:

1. historical (factual, written, canonical) and
2. living (practical sacramental experience of the Church, patristic spiritual experience)

First, the historical, or “canonical” Tradition, is orientated according to the second, living spiritual experience of the Church, without which the first could not even be understood. Accordingly, we have two kinds of jurisdictions: a jurisdiction of a Church administrator and the jurisdiction of a spiritual father. One based on governing the affairs and discipline in an organization, and the other based on a birth in Christ and a life in the Holy Spirit. However, if we accept the notion of jurisdiction as simply a geographical and territorial phenomenon, next we have to accept an extra-territorial category and someone's ambition as well, as a natural progress of this development.

However, since the advocates of the ideas of “extra-territorial authority and jurisdictional superiority of Constantinople in the Orthodox Church” mainly rely on the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils, I will limit myself here, in short, only on the canonical considerations of this teaching.

 

THE THEORY OF SUPRA-JURISDICTIONAL AUTHORITY
OF THE THRONE OF CONSTANTINOPLE

 

Patrons of this theory mainly cite the third canon of the II Ecumenical Council, as well as the 9,17,25,28 of the IV Ecumenical Council. In short, they say that the 3 canon of the II Council, which states that “The Bishop of Constantinople should have a pre-eminence of honor after the bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is the New Rome”, established by the Fathers “the equal participation in the exceptional privileges of the first throne (prima sedes)” which is to say “equality in the seniority”. (Perennial Ecclesiastical Ministry; www.patriarchate.org.)

In the further development of events, they say, the holy Fathers of the IV Council supposedly “recognized the exceptional privileges of the throne of Constantinople” for, according to them, “given that it was to this throne that all Bishops from nearly all the provinces of the East turned for the treatment of matters of faith and canonical order.” Then, "Canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council canonically secured this customary supra-jurisdictional authority of the throne of Constantinople in a well balanced formulation: 'But if any Bishop or clergyman has a dispute with the Metropolitan of the Province itself, let him have recourse either to the Exarch of the diocese or to the throne of the royal city of Constantinople and there let the case be judged.” (Rhalli Potli, Syntagma, ii: 237, 258-9)

However, this clause does not in any way indicate that this is to be an universal rule for the entire Holy and Apostolic Church everywhere, including Jerusalem, Rome, Asia and Africa - but only for the territory of the Patriarchate of Constantinople which has the right and an obligation to judge quarrels in their own metropolias. In spite of this, the text continues in the same fashion: “These two canons have always been the constitutional charter of the canonical right of the throne of Constantinople to accept the appeals of clergy from any jurisdiction of the East; they have been prudently employed by the Ecumenical Throne for the defense of the unity of Orthodoxy up to the present time.” – concludes in the end.

Even if this, supported by nothing claim, that “all the bishops from all of the provinces of the East turn to this throne,” was true, it would be hard to come to such conclusion which Constantinople's representatives further claim: “The issue of the ordinary administrative jurisdiction of the throne of the New Rome was finally settled through Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which conjoined the exceptional seniority of honor with an ordinary administrative jurisdiction”! (all quotes taken from: Perennial Ecclesiastical Ministry @ www.patriarchate.org).

Let us attempt therefore, to find in Canon 28 of the IV Council, the meaning which supposedly connects the seniority in honor with the supreme authority over and above “any jurisdiction in the East.” This rule states:

Following in all things the decisions of the holy Fathers, and acknowledging the canon, which has just been read, of the One Hundred and Fifty Bishops beloved-of-God (who assembled in the imperial city of Constantinople, which is New Rome, in the time of Emperor Theodosius the Great of blessed memory), we also do enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of Old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most pious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honored with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that in the Pontic, the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of the aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that, as has been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid Dioceses should be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to him.

There are two issues being dealt with here:
1. equal privileges to the most holy throne of the New Rome - Church of Constantinople, ranking it next after the throne

     of the Old Rome, and
2. ordination of the metropolitans in:
     - the Pontic,
     - the Asian, and
     - the Thracian dioceses,
     by the archbishop of Constantinople, and also such bishops as are among the barbarians of the aforesaid Dioceses.


In spite of our best attempts we can not imagine that the Fathers of the IV Ecumenical Council, by this particular rule and in such a manner, wished to give to the throne of Constantinople nothing less than a “supra-jurisdictional authority” of the entire Christian Church. For this is about the jurisdiction of archbishop of Constantinople on the territory of Byzantium, and certainly not in Rome, whole of Asia, Africa, Palestine, Europe, etc.

When the Fathers say that they “accepted equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome” they also justify the reasons for their decisions: “justly judging that the city which is honored with the Sovereignty and the Senate… enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome,” which proves the end of the same sentence: “and rank next after her”. Therefore in this canon there is no mention of equal by seniority” and even much less about “jurisdictional superiority” of Constantinople, for they, very clearly rank it “next after her”. It is obvious that the Rule twenty-eighth went no further than ratifying the third canon of the Council of Constantinople (381), and decreed that since the city of Constantinople was honored with the privilege of having the emperor and the Senate within its walls, its bishop should also have special prerogatives and be second in rank, after the Bishop of Rome. In consequence thereof he should consecrate the metropolitan bishops of the three civil Dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Cappadocia (Thracia).

From an Orthodox point of view, the logic of today’s interpreters attempting to construct that Constantinople not only shares “the first throne with Rome” but that she also has some sort of “supra-jurisdictional authority”, is even more strange, at least in two ways:

Firstly, the writers of these theories should know some basic things. For example, in Orthodoxy in general, it is accepted that Rome, because it fell into heresy, has fallen away from the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church and, therefore, cannot take any sort of ‘seniority of honor’. There is no need today, after so many centuries, to call on Old Rome in establishing some parallel, and on “prima sedes” with them, which is to say, “equal participation (of Constantinople) in extraordinary privileges of the first throne”!? One can only do this if a ground is being prepared for the ensuring of sharing of a same first place - or the same throne - on which both the Patriarch and the Pope would be sitting together?

Secondly, maybe some consider it possible that in the future we come to some sort of unity of “Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity” – as some refer to it in their texts. In this event, if Rome would keep it’s “prima sedes” Constantinople would rank second and subordinate to Rome. Perhaps this is why they rushed to secure at least the same meaning of seniority, and in addition to that, stressing - just in case - that all “jurisdictions are limited to a specific geographic boundaries …including Rome, except that the Church of Constantinople has exclusive privileges to act outside of her jurisdictional capacities in relations to the church in the Diaspora, as she has the right to judge in disputes”. (Canonical Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; www.patriarchate.org). In any event, strange reasons lead to even stranger explanations!

That it is not only the official web presentation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople under the title: “Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople”, filled with such absurd and newly composed interpretations, I’ll give an example from the already mentioned lecture of Metropolitan John, in which he states:

The ancient canonical principle established at the First Ecumenical Council (8th canon) states that in one city there can only be one bishop without regards to the already existing cultural or national differences among the inhabitants of that city. It is exactly this principle that has been trampled on in a most scandalous way from the Orthodox churches of today.

For a better understanding, it is necessary again to quote the entire text from the 8th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council, which reads: “Concerning those who call themselves ‘Catarrhs’, if they come over to the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that they who are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. Bit it is before all things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they will communicate with persons who have been twice married, and with those who having lapsed in persecutions have had a period (of penance) laid upon them, and a time (of restoration) fixed, so that in all things they will follow the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Whosesoever, then, whether in villages or in cities, all of the ordained are found to be of these only, let them remain in the clergy, and in the same rank in which they are found. But if they come over where there is a bishop or presbyter of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the Bishop’s dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Catarrhs shall have the same rank of presbyter, unless it shall seem fit to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honor of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then shall the bishop provide for him a place as Chorepiscopus, or presbyter, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.

Therefore, it is very obvious that this canon is regarding a specific situation of acceptance of the Catarrhs into the Church on their own terrain, and has nothing to do with some principle of “having only one bishop” in cities in the Diaspora, “without regards to the already existing cultural or national differences among the inhabitants of that city!

It is very strange that Metropolitan of Perghamos would use such a strong words for such a weak and even wrong example. Whether he was hoping that he was addressing the uneducated or not even concerned with the proper interpretation of this canon, will most probably remain a riddle.

Unfortunately, spreading of this sort of unfounded interpretations and arbitrary broadening of the meaning of canons is not an isolated case. There are many examples among the new “ecumenical hypothesis” where the canons of the Ecumenical councils are quoted along with a completely new categories, producing additional meanings, invented according to the need of the writer, whose basic goal is to somehow represent the Patriarchate of Constantinople as an “Orthodox center” which has an administrative jurisdiction over all of the Diaspora.

 

DIASPORA AND CANONS

 

The question of the Orthodox Diaspora was not much discussed in the canon law, says Dr Dimso Peric in his article under the title "Serbian Orthodox Church and its Diaspora". He explains: "The reason was simple. No one was asking that question until the former Metropolitan of Athens Meletios Metaksakis, an energetic promoter of the ideas of Pan Hellenism, did not become an Archbishop of Constantinople (1921-1923)". A movement of Pan Hellenism promotes the idea of the one orthodox state and the Church not only for the Greeks, but also for all other orthodox peoples in the surrounding regions "regardless of the existing cultural and national differences" - as John the Metropolitan of Pergamos would put it - just like in the former mighty empire of Byzantium. The "Ecumenical Patriarchate" in Istanbul today is full of the followers of Patriarch Meletios IV, who was the first to come forward with the idea of subjecting the whole of Diaspora to the Archbishop of Constantinople. No one in the Archdiocese of Constantinople or in the entire Orthodox Church ever before Meletios (the creator of the church schisms over the question of calendar) promoted such a theory. (See Sergie Troicky, Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction over the Orthodox Diaspora, Sremski Karlovci, 1932.)

We should note here that the question of belonging of any kind of Diaspora in itself is an illogical one, and as such must be removed from the agenda of the future Great and Holy Council of all the Orthodox bishops. For the Diaspora could be what it is - a Diaspora - only if it already belongs to a particular jurisdiction (for example: Serbian, Russian, Greek, etc.) otherwise, it could not be called a Diaspora but, the - orthodox population of various countries. The fact that it is called a Diaspora in the first place, already defines its jurisdictional belonging. Therefore, asking a question like: "To whom does a Serbian Diaspora belongs"? - would be the same as asking: "Whose children are the Savva's children"? At this point we are returning to the dilemma puzzling some ambitious minds producing an artificial question about the essence of the meaning of Church jurisdiction: spiritual fathership - or administrative rule? What would the Fathers' answer be to a question: "If the Savva's children move from A to B could they remain Savva's children? Could they be then administratively forced to belong to me for the reasons of geography, despite the fact that I do not reside there either?"

The spiritual children of various orthodox Churches who are spread all over the five continents today are being called a generalized name of "Orthodox Diaspora". However, they do not exist now, nor have ever they existed as one entity. If we could call all of them an "Orthodox Diaspora" and then decide their faith by a stroke of an administrative pen, why could not we tomorrow do the same thing with all the rest Orthodox in general?

This globalist generalization is an invention of the modern globalists who, I guess, would prefer to put everyone into one sack and do with them as they please. Therefore, the generalization like this would be better suited to a politicians of the new globalist tendencies, not only undermining and dismantling every notion of sovereignty, but also avoiding whenever possible to specify the states and nations, using instead geographic names or preferring words like "this region", "that block of countries", "our allies", "world community", etc. They seem to care about the whole of mankind, which in fact, is their proper and ultimate goal. While their care about particular nations and states, including their own, is generally reduced to the business of bringing them into the line of global trends by various processes of "democratizations", political and social "liberties", "open societies", etc. - all in the name of "human freedoms and progress of entire human race".

In a general race of a secularized people towards wealth and material growth, this way of thinking is being introduced into the orthodox Church. It is no wonder that we could hear the incompetent thoughts, such as: "So what? We, Orthodox should get organized for once! We have been enough lagging behind the others! We can not make it into the XXI century with the customs from the XIX century!" - and similar.

If we take into account that the "Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople" has its "Center" in Geneva (where there is not even a few hundred orthodox), as well as its permanent Bureau in Brussels within the European Union Parliament - although it is unclear who is providing funds for it and for what purpose - then we do not have to be guessing where these ideas are coming from.

From an orthodox point of view, the question should be formulated: Does the Archbishop of Constantinople want to extend his jurisdiction over all of the territories outside the boundaries of the national churches regardless of the population of these territories; or the descendants of Meletios IV claim the right to these people because they are already orthodox? To be more clear, is the proposal for taking over the Diaspora by the Archdiocese of Constantinople based on geographical or human factor?

As far as the Church Canons are concerned, we can find examples of a similar situations when the clergy and faithful of one local church were forced, due to the hardships, wars and plunders, to settle temporary or permanently onto the territory of the other local church. A record of one such example can be found in the Rule 39 of the VI Ecumenical Council, when the Archbishop "…John, head of the island of Cyprus, together with his people, for the cause of barbarian intrusions and in order to rid themselves of the godless slavery and to faithfully place themselves under the schyptre of the Christian-most state; have moved from the aforesaid island into the region of Hellespont… Therefore, we have considered it to be preserved unchanged what was given to the throne of the aforementioned husband by the God-bearing Fathers, assembled in Ephesus, that the New Justinianopolis and settled in it God-most-loved Bishop, should have the rights of Constantinople and to be the head of all the bishops in the region of Hellespont, and to be ordained by his own bishops according to the ancient custom. For the God-bearing Fathers have also judged that the customs have to be preserved existing in every church, and the bishop of the city of Kizic to be subject to the head of the aforementioned Justinianopolis, emulating all the other bishops subject to the aforesaid God-most-loved head John, by whom, if needed, the bishop of the very city of Kizic is to be ordained!" (Canon 39, VI Council)

It is obvious here, that the Fathers have judged a human factor to be prevalent over the geographical one. Although John has moved to Hellespont, a geographical territory under the jurisdiction of Constantinople, the Council is giving him same rights as Constantinople to be a head of all the bishops of this region. Furthermore, even the bishop of the city of Kizic to be subject to him and if a situation arises to be ordained by him. However, if Archbishop John dies his successor is to be ordained - not by Constantinople - but, by his own bishops. Why? "For the God-bearing Fathers have also judged that the existing customs have to be preserved in every local church!" This decree was signed by 174 bishops gathered in the royal palace in Constantinople, as well as the emperor, present at all the sessions and signing himself all the decisions of the Council. (Compare: Dr Radomir Popovic, Ecumenical Councils, Belgrade, 1997. pp 129) It seems to me that the Fathers have very reasonably judged not to prevent every local church's care about its children for the reasons of extraordinary circumstances, as well as not to abolish the spiritual authority or the dignity of their bishops out of purely geographical or the political reasons.

After all, even if it came to some kind of "uncanonical situation" or the "abnormal order in the Church", as contemporary subscribers of the Meletios' theory like to maintain, the Fathers have already established a principle in the previous Rule (37) of the same Council, reasoning: "For the need of time, preventing the exact preservation of right, does not have to reduce the limits of administration".

Seen in this light, the artificial question: To whom does the Diaspora belong? - could in a perfidious way serve only another ultimate goal, such as bringing under the question the entire consecrated canonical order of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, while introducing an entirely new and completely foreign to the Orthodox Church notions, like "supra-jurisdiction" and an "universal throne".

It is only logical that Fr. Justin Popovic had to say: "I can not escape an impression that behind all of this is a single and secret desire of certain people in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to impose this, first in honor Patriarchate in Orthodoxy, by means of such concepts and behavior, finally onto the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, to the rest of the Orthodox world, and to the entire orthodox Diaspora, sanctioning this neo-papist intrusion by an "Ecumenical Council"! For this reason, out of 10 items of the Council's agenda, selected as the first four are those testifying about the desire of Constantinople to subject to itself entire Diaspora, and the entire Orthodox world. To ensure an exclusive right for itself to grant an autonomy and autocephaly to all the Orthodox Churches in the world, both contemporary and in the future, giving them in the same time such order and rank as it pleases (the question of Diptych is not only an "order at the services", but the order at the councils etc.)!

 

WHERE DOES THE PATRIARCHATE OF CONSTANTINOPLE
FINDS AN EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO CALL ITSELF "ECUMENICAL"?

 

The Ecumenical Councils were rightly called "Ecumenical" (Greek: oikoumenikos - universal, the inhabited world; first element is Greek: oikos - house, dwelling) because they consisted of bishops and delegates of the entire Christian Church. One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is also rightly called Catholic (Universal, Ecumenical) for it not only extends throughout the entire inhabited world, but it is also a God's gift to the entire universe. But, where did the Patriarchate of Constantinople obtain the idea of an exclusive right to call itself "Ecumenical"? No Ecumenical Council ever mentioned this illustrious title, so where did it come from? Is this the reason why the Patriarchate of Constantinople wants now to "coordinate" a new "Holy" and "Great" Council so that this title could be finally and officially inaugurated?

One of the main differences between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church is the absence of the one center in the Orthodox Church, which would coordinate (manage, govern) the affairs of all the local Churches, as well as the one supreme arbiter, someone having power and authority to decide in a dispute, a universal (ecumenical) judge; just as the Rule 39 of the Council in Carthage orders: "The bishop of the first cathedra shell not be called an exarch of the clergy, or the supreme clergyman, or anything similar to this, but only: the bishop of the first cathedra"! The Rule 8 of the Council in Ephesus also states: "No one among the most God-loving bishops shell occupy another diocese which was not from ancient times and from the beginning under his hand or the hand of his representatives… so that the pride of worldly power does not creep under the name of priestly office"!

We know that the title of Patriarch is a highest office in a local Autocephalous Orthodox Church. It is customary that a Patriarch has the right and the duty to represent his Church before other local orthodox churches, to call other bishops to an assembly, to maintain the unity of hierarchy, to consecrate the diocesan bishops and to consecrate the Holy Myrrh for their dioceses. Therefore, what a new concept is created when One, Holy, Catholic (Ecumenical) and Apostolic Church possesses only one "Ecumenical Patriarchate", one exclusive "Ecumenical" throne and one single "Ecumenical Patriarch"? It is more than obvious that this was not from ancient times and from the beginning!

It is no secret that the Patriarchate of Constantinople's desires are to be an administrative center of all Orthodoxy with a universal (ecumenical) jurisdiction, and not only over the Diaspora. For it has to be admitted, despite of how it is interpreted, a notion of only one local church carrying the title of "Ecumenical" (universal) Patriarchate, inevitably carries in itself a notion of a universal (ecumenical) jurisdiction over the entire Orthodoxy.

The epistle of the Church in Smyrna from times of the emperor Antoninus, describing a martyrdom of its bishop, St. Polycarp, is addressed in this manner: "The Church of God which is in Smyrna, to the Church in Philomea and to all other Holy and Ecumenical Churches which are among other peoples…"

According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, all the bishops are equal among themselves, for no one has received a greater blessing from God than the others. The heads of the local Churches are also equal among themselves and "it is not accidental that St. Theophan the Confessor (+817) has addressed all patriarchates as ecumenical, which is the true reflection of the ecumenism (catholicity, universalism) of the Orthodox Church." (M. Petrovic, Orthodox Diaspora, Drzava, Belgrade, 1994.)

The apostles, which have handed the spiritual power to the bishops, did not have one representative or the spokesman or the coordinator among themselves, but all of them where universal (ecumenical) teachers. Consequently, either all of the bishops are ecumenical or non is. Either all of the local churches are ecumenical - or non is; for there, where one bishop is with his priests and faithful, that is where the entire One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church is, together with its center, and its coordinator and its Head which is Christ.

Therefore, it seems that confining this name, common to all of the Christ's Church, and its exclusive use by the throne of Constantinople, would finally open the way for a new ecclesiology desired by ever flockless Metropolitan John (Zizulas). For if only the Church of Constantinople is "ecumenical" and the others are not, than it is only natural to come to a misfortunate conclusion that only this local Church of Constantinople is that exclusive "Divine foundation, held by all the local and autocephalous churches... (which are) managed by canonical economy in ecclesiastic affairs and coordinated by this center"! - as being unorthodoxly and impiously taught in the 1950 epistle. Than, this would represent one horrible step towards the Roman heresy according to which only a pope is the Christ's representative on Earth and a center of unity of the Church.

Unfortunately, this exclusive use of the adjective "ecumenical", sneaking into the history through the back door, and its eventual official recognition as an "Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople" would be appropriate only in case of the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople extending over the whole world; and if one and only "Ecumenical Patriarch" had a right to ordain and appoint the bishops in the entire Orthodox Church. It seems that just like the old Rome, the Constantinople - a New Rome is becoming old and ready to follow in the same footsteps.

Consequently, there is a danger that on the basis of this title today an attempt is made to introduce an "orthodox pope" who would have a supreme powers: of a judge, of a coordinator (manager) and of a representative of entire Orthodoxy. That is why Fr Justin Popovic's is warning that: "In the last times the Patriarchate of Constantinople produced a vast number of bishops and metropolitans, almost all of them titular and fictive. Perhaps, a preparation is being made that by the numbers of titles at the future 'ecumenical council' a majority vote is secured for the neo-papist ambitions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Sometimes in the past, it was a living organism with millions of faithful, and able to quickly overcome an externally imposed crisis and temptations of sacrificing a Kingdom of God to the kingdom of this world. Today however, it has metropolitans without people, bishops with no one to oversee (Gr. episkopos - an overseer) and whom, as such, would want to hold a destiny of entire Church in their hands! However, today it can not, and it must not, come to any kind of Florence; neither to a behavior similar to that from times of many difficulties of Turkish slavery."

The renown and highly respected theologian by entire Orthodoxy, Fr Justin Popovic, who is regarded by many as a saint, continues: "By the power of God, the Church has grown into many local Churches of God. Therefore, the destiny of the Church is not, and can not be, any more in the hands of Byzantine Emperor or the Patriarch, or any one mighty in this world; not even in the hands of "pentarchy", or narrowly understood 'autocephalies'. The Church of God has grown into the series of local Churches of God with their flocks of millions. Out of these Churches many have, even in our days, sealed by blood their apostolic succession and their faithfulness to the Lamb of God!"

At this moment, in our inter-church relations, burdened by someone's planes for a "Holy and Great" council of hand-picked "representatives", but not of all orthodox bishops, that Patriarchate of Constantinople wants to call and coordinate as soon as possible, I think these are the hot issues awaiting a serious consideration and an orthodox answer.

Unfortunately, it is not known to me whether the Serbian Orthodox Church has made its reply to these questions, or whether anything at all is being done by our Church in regard to these issues? And what is supposedly being done, happens without any counseling and behind the back of the public. I remember that two delegates of the Serbian Orthodox Church, at an inter-church conference in Chambesy, Switzerland in 1993, have signed a document agreeing that all of the orthodox Diaspora should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The news about this has "leaked" into the public attention due to an alarming letter of the then Bishop of the West-European Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Considering the importance of such a document, scores of questions in many articles were then asked publicly in Serbia. However, it took another year before a very short public statement by our Patriarchate was issued, stating something to the effect that the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church at its regular session in 1994 has withdrawn the two signatures, for the reasons of those representatives not being authorized to sign such a document. However, no Serbian bishop, or the diocese, or any office outside the building of the Belgrade Patriarchate, despite insisting by many, ever received any document, or the official communiqué, or a copy of that mysterious decision - to this very day. The public mystery still remains: what if anything has been done in regard to this most important issue, what exactly has been decided at the 1994 session of the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church which supposedly withdrew the signatures of our two representatives in Chambesy in 1993 and finally, whether this decision has been forwarded to the competent office in Switzerland?

I do not dare to think how, when and if the times come, our bishop will again send to the "Holy and Great" council our eminent representatives, equally unprepared, which will represent us in issues that we have never considered. Shell we then try to justify ourselves by saying: "Let the Holy Spirit decide"?!? I think that already the Holy Spirit has decided a long time ago; but - why should I not say it openly - I am worried about the "representatives": are they aware of that decision? I am worried about the power and influence of this world to which us Christians are becoming less and less immune! How can we complete the task of transfiguring ourselves and this world if we become partners and even assistants in the world trends and affairs?

It is becoming more and more obvious that the aim and the effort of the powers of this world is to place everyone under their jurisdiction and coordination. That is why the warning of the apostle Paul sound even today very fresh and contemporary: "Do not harness yourselves in an uneven team with unbelievers! How can uprightness and law-breaking be partners?" (2 Cor. 6, 14)

"Founded upon the experience of Church as Heaven on Earth, theology of the Fathers was always free from this world and consequently able to face the world, to asses it and to change it. Fallen out of that experience, contemporary theology is in an identity crisis, in search of its own foundations, suppositions and methods, in search of its own legitimacy; however without creative effects equally in the Church and in the world!"(V. Rev. A. Schmemman, Orthodoxy in the West, Cetinje 1997, pp 23)

What is needed now for resolving such theological questions is most of all, a new but true and sober experience of our contemporary world, but liberated from its deadly influence. A sober assessment of contemporary reality, capable of renouncing of any unnecessary historical ballasts that do not express the essence of the Church but rather its reflections in society and in historical circumstances. For, the future of the Church can not be built upon the cooperation and partnership with this world, or even upon a shining past, but only with the Holy Spirit upon the true and real foundation laid once and for all, - which is Christ Himself.

 

V. Rev. Fr. Srboljub Miletich