Thursday, December 27, 2018

Jad Ganem: Does Constantinople Reject the "Council of Crete"?

Arabic original here.

Does Constantinople Reject the "Council of Crete"?

His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch never misses an occasion to mention the "great accomplishment" that was achieved during his tenure, the holding of the "Council of Crete", which dissipate years of joint Orthodox work and cooperation towards holding a Great Council of the Orthodox Church. But a little more than two years after the holding of this council, even as the literature coming out of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its Holy Synod doesn't stop talking about "the importance of this council", it escapes them that the importance of any council lies in the Church's subsequent reception of its decisions. Here it is noteworthy that the first one to reject the decisions of the "Council of Crete" in practice is the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which took the decision to permit the marriage of priests who have been widowed or abandoned by their wives," in blatant contradiction of the decision about "the Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments" issued by that council, which stipulates that "it is not permitted to hold a marriage after priesthood."

Constantinople's decisive rejection was, however, of the decision of the Council of Crete regarding "Autonomy and the Means by Which it is Proclaimed." This decision was formulated to make a fundamental distinction between the concepts of "Autocephaly" and "Autonomy". The autocephalous church has the exclusive right to grant autonomy to a part under its canonical authority falling within its geographical boundaries, taking into account that the granting of "autocephaly" is something that belongs to the universal Orthodox Church, according to what was agreed in the joint Orthodox work.

So if we concede for argument's sake that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the Mother Church in Ukraine, then according to the "Council of Crete" it cannot grant more than autonomy, and this only "after showing that it has fulfilled all necessary ecclesial, canonical and pastoral prerequisites."

But "In the event that two autocephalous Churches grant autonomous status within the same geographical ecclesial region, prompting contestation over the status of each autonomous Church, the parties involved appeal—together or separately—to the Ecumenical Patriarch so that he may find a canonical solution to the matter in accordance with prevailing pan-Orthodox practice."

Therefore, since the actions of the "unifiying council" in Ukraine blatantly contradict the principles decided by the "Council of Crete"-- to wit: the autocephalous church's competency only to grant autonomy; objective evaluation of all necessary ecclesial, canonical and pastoral prerequisites; appealing to the Church in a situation where two autonomous churches exist in a single geographic region-- it clearly proves that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has violated what it regards as a "Great and Holy Council".

Will the churches that participated in Crete move to save what they agreed on, or will they also acquiesce to a situation where the First without Equals is also above the Great Council?

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