Friday, July 17, 2015

an-Nahar on Antioch's Decision and Jerusalem's Response

Arabic original here.

On Antioch's Decision and Jerusalem's Response
by Mazen Abboud

On June 27 of this year, the Holy Synod of Antioch, meeting at Balamand for its regular session, issued decision no. ع3-5/2015, cutting off ecclesiastical communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. It stated in its rationale that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had violated the geographical territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch by establishing a diocese in Qatar and installing an "archbishop" over it. Antioch stated that it had exhausted all eirenic means and noted that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had "repudiated what had been agreed upon" in the presence of delegates from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and promises that it had made to some of the heads of the sister Orthodox churches. In order to affirm its right to the Gulf region, it cut off ecclesiastical communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and confirmed the necessity of returning to what had been agreed in Athens in June 2013. It affirmed that any solution to the conflict must be based on affirming the Church of Antioch's insistence on the necessity of respecting the principle of consensus, whether in terms of the presence of all autocephalous Orthodox churches or in adopting decisions at any joint Orthodox meeting.

This was a measure that some may have considered harsh and the response from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem was quick. Jerusalem began its response by declaring its sorrow over the decision to break communion and stating that incorporating Qatar into its territory was "responding to an invitation by the Christians of Qatar, a geographical territory within its ecclesiastical jurisdiction." It then points out that in 1997 it sent a priest to hold liturgical services, the present-day Patriarch Theophilus of Jerusalem. After a careful reading of the response from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, I would like to discuss a number of points:

First, to my knowledge, there has never existed any letter from the Patriarchate of Antioch to the Foreign Ministry of Qatar claiming spiritual authority over Jerusalem and Jordan. Nor was there ever any direct communication between the two sides in this context. His Beatitude the Patriarch never asked to visit Qatar or to cooperate with it in educational and medical affairs, as the letter from the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Church of Jerusalem reports.

Second, who are the Christians of Qatar who invited the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to come there? Are they members of the Patriarchate of Antioch, for example?

Fourth, I think the least that can be said of the Church of Jerusalem's response to her sister church is that it lacks diplomatic tact and it definitely lacks the spirit of Christ. Accusing another church of ethno-phylitism and racial discrimination better reflects the state of the accuser, which is estranged from its flock because it refuses to deal with their issues, concerns and crises. Likewise, accusing Antioch of lying in an official response reflects the extent of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem's estrangement from Christ.

Fifth, does the presence of an archimandrite holding liturgical services in Qatar actually comparable to consecrating an archbishop over it? And does the fact that Antioch did not object to a priest from Jerusalem holding services entail not opposing his election and consecration as bishop of Qatar?

I am afraid that the Church of Jerusalem has started to look for external crises with other churches in order to hide its behavior and distract public opinion and the media from being concerned with its news, the way it treats its flock  and sales of land.

Finally, our Church, despite all her weakness, is not an ethnic church and will never be, even if once upon a time the Arabs granted her the title of "Patriarch of the Arabs".

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