Thursday, March 14, 2019

Jad Ganem: Conditional Love

Arabic original here.

Conditional Love

An Orthodox website has published an English translation of the speech given by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel, the Ecumenical Patriarchate's metropolitan in France during the enthronement of the head of the church created by the Phanar in Ukraine, Epiphany.

This speech that was given on behalf of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew repeats the very same positions of the Phanar, which regard the Ecumenical Patriarch has head of the patriarchates and autocephalous Orthodox churches, that he is the sole point of reference for a final judgment in ecclesiastical issues, and that Constantinople is the point of reference for judging between the churches for the sake of the salvation of the faithful.

This speech lingered on the issue of autocephaly and opined, "Only an Ecumenical Council can create a Local Church, as for example the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and the ancient Church of Cyprus. All the later Local and so-called autocephalous churches which were created by the Mother Church of Constantinople kenotically and out of love, is nothing other than proof that the Great Church of Christ, anxious with spiritual concern and observing the circumstances of the times, did not favor the domination of peoples, but gave various peoples the privilege to manage specific issues of the life of the Church in internal autocephaly, without understanding “autocephaly” as a spiritual and ecclesiastical emancipation, much less as indifference, forgetfulness and ingratitude toward the Mother Church that has granted this status.

One who reads these words cannot help but pause over certain points contained in them, including:

-- The distinction between two kinds of Orthodox churches: the four patriarchates and the Church of Cyprus, which are regarded as local churches and the other churches, which are regarded as so-called autocephalous churches.

-- The belief that the Church of Constantinople is the mother church of the other churches and that these churches enjoy the prerogative of managing their internal affairs by autocephaly alone. The belief that the autocephaly that these churches enjoy is subject to the vicissitudes of history and momentary circumstances.

At the same time, these words raise serious questions, the most important of which are:

-- Why did the Ecumenical Patriarchate refuse to include the issue of affirming the churches' autocephaly during the "Council of Crete", despite repeated requests made by the Church of Serbia regarding this before and during the council?

-- If the Ecumenical Patriarchate believes that an ecumenical council alone has the prerogative to establish a local church, why did it not include the question of granting autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine on the agenda of the "Council of Crete"? And what changed in the situation of the Ukrainian schism between the summer of 2016 and the spring of 2018 such that this matter was not discussed on Crete but a decision was taken by the synod of the Phanar individually, especially given that the schism has existed since 1991?

-- What transformed the Phanar into a loving mother of the Ukrainian people after thirty years of neglect? And why did it not show this love during the "Council of Crete", but instead it remained dependent on Moscow's participation in this council? And is this love limited to one group of the Ukrainian people, which abides in schism and is blocked from the others who remain within the communion of the Church?

-- If an ecumenical council has the prerogative to grant autocephaly, does this not mean a priori that granting autocephaly today requires the participation of the other churches in a mechanism that is closer to conciliarity instead of taking a unilateral decision in this regard?

Perhaps the unfortunate thing is that these words directly confirm that the decision to grant autocephaly to the church in Ukraine comes along with a desire for revenge against the churches that did not participate in Crete, confirming that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no desire to activate conciliarity in the Orthodox Church and that the future of this Church will remain dependent on the one who controls the council's convocation and agenda. There is no doubt that he prefers to keep playing his role by relying on prerogatives imposed by exceptional historical circumstances, a role that has come to resemble an eastern papacy.

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