Saturday, July 11, 2015

Carol Saba on the Rupture of Communion between Antioch and Jerusalem

French original here. Audio, from Radio Notre Dame, can be found here. It should be noted that Carol Saba is expressing his personal view here and is not speaking in his capacity of director of communications for the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France.

 "When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at his finger"!
What is the Affair of Canonical Jurisdiction over Qatar about?

 "When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at his finger"! The famous Chinese proverb was completely right. This teaching attributed to Confucius is very appropriate in this case. Especially when we read, here and there, commentaries on the affair of canonical jurisdiction over Qatar. In the same sense as the Chinese lesson, as they say in my country France, "the tree must not hide the forest". Everyone is looking at this affair from the perspective of the break in ecclesiastical communion that the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East was recently compelled to declare.  This break is only the visible consequence of a deeper cause which provoked Antioch's decision-- the ecclesiastical intrusion of of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 2013 into Qatar, on the ancestral territory of the canonical, historical and apostolic jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. It is not for nothing that this patriarchate has this name, the Patriarchate of Antioch --and All the East-- as its patriarchal territory extends over all the ancient East during the time of the Roman Empire and early Christianity. It was thus since the earliest apostolic times. As it has been since then and well before (historians and canonists must be reminded) the establishment of Jerusalem as a "Patriarchate" by the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. At that time, Jerusalem was only a simple episcopal see and did not have the rank of patriarchate. At that time it was under the metropolitan of Caesarea. The elevation of the See of Jerusalem to the rank of patriarchate (a patriarchate which also had a role that was somewhat sui generis, as a patriarchate of pilgrimage) was on account of the holy places on its territory more so than as a patriarchate with pastoral functions. Thus this elevation to the rank of patriarchate which was made at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, held at the Church of Saint Euphemia, was made (we must recall) by a concession granted by the Patriarch of Antioch at the time, Maximus, to the bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem, who already at that time, as the acts of the Fourth Ecumenical Council attest, was making multiple intrusions into the canonical territory of Antioch. Was not the agreement between Maximus and Juvenal (snatched from Antioch, and which many historians consider unjust for that patriarchate) the basis for forming Jerusalem's canonical jurisdiction? Was it not the Patriarch of Antioch who ceded his jurisdiction over the territory of Palestine to Jerusalem, while keeping (as is explicitly stipulated in the canons of the council) the See of Antioch and its region, as well as the two Phoenicias and Arabia? So how could the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose territory was taken from within that of Antioch, today claim to have a right to the jurisdiction of a patriarchate-- that is, Antioch-- which preceded it? Thus we see that the story is older than it seems. It has roots deep in history. It doesn't just date back to 2013! But let's set history aside and come back to the present day. Yes, the Patriarchate of Antioch could not accept without jeopardizing its historical, apostolic, canonical and ecclesiastical integrity for the priest Archimandrite Macarius of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who by economia was providing certain liturgical and pastoral services in Qatar, to be elevated in March 2013 to the rank of Archbishop of Qatar, a decision of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem which also created a new diocese of that patriarchate on the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch! For a church (i.e. Antioch) to welcome a priest of another church (i.e. Jerusalem) onto its territory out of canonical tolerance and pastoral economia is one thing, but it is something entirely different to accept a "bishop" of another church onto its own canonical territory. It's as if Cardinal André Vignt-Trois were forced to accept a second bishop of Paris from another church who came claiming the same title and the same episcopal rank as the Archbishop of Paris!

Yes, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East was compelled, with heavy heart and pain down to the very depths of its ecclesiastical being, to break ecclesiastical communion until further notice with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem on account of the affair of canonical jurisdiction over Qatar. I say "affair" and not "dispute" or "disagreement" because to speak of a dispute or disagreement-- and as a lawyer I should know this very well-- implies the existence of a doubt or a debate about the existence of a right. In this case, canonical, historical and apostolic jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch over Qatar and the entire Arabian Peninsula is not open to debate or interpretation. It was on this basis-- that is, explicit recognition by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the canonical right of the Patriarchate of Antioch over the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, including Qatar-- that an agreement was made in June 2013 between the two patriarchates. This agreement was made thanks to the mediation organized in Athens at the headquarters of the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, by that minister (in the presence of the minister and his advisers) and by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (represented by Metropolitan John of Pergamon and Archimandrite Bartholemew). I was there as part of the delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch led by Metropolitan Saba of Bosra and Hauran and I contributed to the formulation of this agreement. Unfortunately, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem subsequently reneged on this agreement and claims that it never existed. Nevertheless, this agreement was not only announced on the very day of the negotiations by an official communiqué of the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, a communiqué whose tenor and every word was validated by the delegations from the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem as well as the representatives of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Greek minister, by also by correspondence exchanged between the primates of the Churches of Constantinople and Antioch.

"When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at his finger"! Today we should not look at the finger, but at the moon! We should not look at the consequence, but at the cause! This is not a mere "territorial dispute" between two sister churches, but an issue that touches the very heart of the unity of the entire Orthodox Church, a unity that is based on the one hand on communion of faith and on the other hand on respect by all the Orthodox churches for the canons of the ecumenical councils as well as the taxis and praxis of the Orthodox Church. Thus any violation by a church of the texts of these councils and their canons wrongs not only the specific church that is being wronged,  but also the entire body of the Orthodox ecclesiastical family. The unity of the Orthodox Church is absolutely crucial today, especially with regard to holding the Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council which is supposed to be held in 2016, where the entire Orthodox Church must speak with one voice to meet the challenges of the contemporary world and must actualize its discourse and undertake its aggiornamento. Kyrie Eleison!


Anonymous said...

Could you summarize the position of the patriarch of Jerusalem, on how he sees his authority to appoint a bishop in Qatar? I'm not challenging you, I am just wondering ... You laid out very clear proofs in citations to the acts of Chalcedon, but what is "the other side of the story" so to speak.

As an outsider, as long as the rival bishop isn't a heretic ... is there anything wrong with compromising here? Again, not a challenge, just wondering.

Lastly, how many christians are in the flock in Qatar? Would be sad to see a division in an already small outpost of Christendom. This issue has already forced the antiochate representatives to split out of the conference of US bishops, has it not?


Patrick Constantine

Samn! said...

Hi Patrick Constantine,

The Jerusalem Patriarchate's arguments about their canonical territory can be found here:

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem claims some 12000 Orthodox in Qatar, which is off by around a factor of 10. All Christians there are expats, with the Orthodox being primarily from the Levant, then from Eastern Europe. The reason that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is involved in the first place is that the legalization of Christian services was facilitated by the Greek-American US ambassador to Qatar, Patrick Theros, who was connected to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, despite frequent visits by the Patriarchate of Antioch's Metropolitan of Baghdad and the Gulf. We should remember that Qatar's government is one of the primary sponsors of Islamist militants in Syria and so is hostile to the existence of Syrian Christians-- they are directly responsible for Jabhat al-Nura and Ahrar al-Sham.

From Antioch's perspective, the issue isn't so much about territory as about the blatant lies and duplicity of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, which I will document on subsequent posts, but which Carol Saba alludes to here.

The Jerusalem issue did briefly cause the Patriarchate of Antioch to withdraw from the regional episcopal conferences, but they are back to participating in them... for now. That could easily change if the Ecumenical Patriarchate remains indifferent to Jerusalem's misbehavior.

My Life In Poetry And Song said...

Thanks for the info.