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Statement issued by the Holy Synod of Antioch
March 13, 2013
The Fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch held a meeting on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, in the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand. The meeting was chaired by His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X. The Fathers discussed the situation arising from the election of Archimandrite Makarios by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem as the “Archbishop of Qatar”, on March 4, 2013. This election is against the Ecclesiastical Canons of the Orthodox Catholic Church. After deliberations and the approval of the Holy Synod Fathers in the Mother lands and abroad (Diaspora), the following statement was issued to be distributed to all the faithful and to all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.
In the midst of much suffering and pain that our region is going through, His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X convened the bishops of the Holy Antiochian See in the region and deliberated with the bishops who are abroad (Diaspora) about the hurt that has been caused by the election of Archimandrite Makarios as “Archbishop of Qatar” by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. His Beatitude began the meeting by sharing all the steps that he made as soon as he knew about the issue through the media. After discussing the matter with all the bishops of the Antiochian Holy Synod, His Beatitude sent a verbal message to His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem and His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch. He then sent a written letter to both primates expressing surprise “regarding the decision of the Holy Synod of Jerusalem to elevate the priest sent to Doha city to the office of the episcopate, giving him the title of the ‘Archbishop of Qatar.’ This has been without any contact with the Antiochian Patriarchate. Qatar falls within the geographical jurisdiction of Antioch. It is the lawful prerogative of Antioch to appoint a bishop to that land, especially since we have a canonical Metropolitan ruling all the Arab Gulf countries, His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine.” His Beatitude pleaded for a reconsideration of this decision, asking “not to allow this episcopal consecration to occur since our Antiochian Apostolic See cannot accept any bishop in its territory, coming from outside its canonical jurisdiction.” He also expressed that, “Our hearts are wide open to meet with you and deal with this subject, and all other matters, fraternally in Christ’s spirit Who alone unites us.”
Since His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X did not receive any reply to either of his letters, he later on sent a copy of the abovementioned letter to the primates of all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches. Despite these brotherly efforts and fraternal approach, the consecration of Archimandrite Makarios occurred on Sunday, March 10, 2013.
The Holy Fathers affirmed all the efforts undertaken by His Beatitude and declared unanimously the following position:
1- The decision of the Jerusalem Patriarchate to establish an Archbishopric on a territory which belongs to the Holy Synod of Antioch is, without question, an illegal interference from the Jerusalem Patriarchate in the territorial jurisdiction of the Antiochian Church, thus breaking the ecclesiastical canons that regulate the relationship among Orthodox Churches.
On the other hand, the Orthodox parish in Doha, Qatar, is composed of Orthodox faithful from various nationalities. We are grateful that Archimandrite Makarios provided all necessary pastoral care to this particular parish, but it was a temporary arrangement to facilitate this pastoral activity, no more and no less. This pastoral arrangement cannot be taken as giving any ecclesiastical privilege, of any sort, to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem or to any other Orthodox Church. Again, the Arab Gulf falls under the canonical and ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East.
The Antiochian Church refuses to accept the action taken by the Jerusalem Patriarchate, and will not recognize any bishop on the territory of the country of Qatar outside the authority of the Antiochian Apostolic See, and asks that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem should resolve this matter as soon as possible. The Antiochian Church hopes not to have to take a stand leading to the breaking of communion with the Jerusalem Patriarchate. She also hopes not to have to reconsider the principles governing the Orthodox Church relations and the Geneva agreement which have been set by the preparatory committees of the upcoming Great and Holy Orthodox Synod, especially those dealing with the Orthodox worldwide(Diaspora).
2- The situation which Christians are enduring today encourages us to set aside all that threatens the unity of the faithful and their common witness. The Arab Christians are called to strengthen their intercommunication in order to face the great challenges that threaten their countries, so that they might be the yeast leavening peace and fraternity. The Antiochian Church is aware of Her historic and leading role in the region and elsewhere and will persevere in that role.
3- The continuous disregard of the situation on the ground caused by the consecration of the Archimandrite Makarios as the Archbishop of Qatar will make it inevitable for the Church of Antioch to take certain actions which She is trying to avoid on account of the love that ought to govern the relationship among the Orthodox Churches. Since Love is “patient and kind” (1 Cor. 13:4), and in order to open the way for peaceful efforts to resolve the issues and return them to their natural and canonical state, the Church of Antioch is planning to intensify Her efforts with the Sister Churches in order to explain Her position and work on unifying Her work in facing all the dangers that are threatening the Orthodox Catholic Church.
Issued at the Patriarchal Residence in Balamand March 13, 2013