Thursday, March 21, 2019

Orthodox Synaxis on "Ottoman Ecclesiology"

This historical dynamic is crucial for understanding current relations between Antioch and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.


In Antioch, the Patriarchate of Constantinople constantly used its position at the Ottoman court to exploit crises until, during the Melkite Schism of 1724, it finally managed to have complete control over the selection of patriarchs and began a process of replacing the local hierarchy with Greeks. As Robert Haddad explains, “During the two centuries before Constantinople’s assumption of direct control there was scarcely a patriarchal reign free of ill-advised Greek influence.”
    From the inception of Ottoman rule in Syria the ecumenical patriarch was established as the sole channel of communication between the Antiochian patriarchate and the Ottoman central government and, subject only to the latter’s discretion, the final arbiter of its civil and ecclesiastical affairs. Had the enormous power wielded by the ecumenical see as a department of the Ottoman central administration been intelligently and decently employed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the effect on the Melkites [i.e., the Orthodox] of Syria might have been salutary. But, for reasons which cannot detain us here, the Great Church in this period was not characterized by a particularly high degree of either integrity or stability. And until Greek prelates designated by Constantinople assumed, in the course of the eighteenth century, direct control over the Syrian see, the Greek Church played something resembling the role of well-paid but dishonest broker between contending factions at Antioch.
Much as in the Balkans, the chauvinism, corruption and mismanagement of Greek clergy proved to be a catalyst for the development of Arab nationalism, which began not among the Muslims of Syria, but the Orthodox. When the Holy Synod of Antioch finally after over 150 years elected a local Arab, Meletios al-Doumani, as patriarch in 1898, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not respond in the loving and self-sacrificial manner that Patriarch Bartholomew vaunts, but rather petulantly, refusing to add his name to the diptychs and suspending normal relations with Antioch until after his death.


 Read the whole article here.

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