Saturday, June 19, 2021

Jad Ganem: Patriarch Bartholomew's Criticism of Predecessors

 Arabic original here.

Criticism of Predecessors

On June 11, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople celebrated the feast of his patron saint with the participation of an official delegation from the Church of Cyprus, another from the entity that Constantinople created for the schismatics in Ukraine, and a number of bishops from the Churches of Constantinople and Greece.


During the Divine Liturgy, His Holiness gave a speech in which he stressed the role and privileges of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in which he said:


"We have, and we recognize that we have a singular responsibility among the Orthodox as Archbishop of Constantinople. There are those who consider these as privileges, which is why they envy the apparent glory of the resurrection, while overlooking the Golgotha of serving the Truth at any cost. We do not enter into dialogue about that which is self-evident and handed down to us by our forefathers. The responsibilities of our Throne are not negotiable. They cannot be surrendered. And they cannot be disposed. 


We will not allow any alienation from the blessed ecclesiology as clearly described in the documents of our history. We will not permit condescension, economia, courtesy, certain friendly concessions and actions of the previous century, initiated by some of our predecessors in the hope of unity, but unfortunately far removed from the authentic and ancient ecclesiology.


We will not allow them to overturn everything sacred that God’s providence has erected for the Throne of Constantinople. Constantinople is tantamount to sacrifice, responsibility, unceasing self-offering. But it does not amount to a chess-piece in the passing interests and opportunistic intentions of every historical circumstance."


All of this raises a number of questions:


What is the historical responsibility that has been placed upon the shoulders of the Patriarch of Constantinople? Is it a responsibility to coordinate between the local churches? Or is it a responsibility to lead or govern these churches unilaterally according to his personal view of things?
Who defines what Constantinople's historical responsibility is? Is it the Patriarch of Constantinople himself, with his group? Or is it the universal Orthodox Church?


If Patriarch Bartholomew himself has admitted that those who preceded him departed from "the ancient and original ecclesiology", then how do we know that he has not himself departed from this ecclesiology today?


If Constantinople's role is centered on a historical reading of events according to Patriarch Bartholomew, then which historical period should be the point of reference? The era of the Ecumenical Councils? The era of union with Rome? Or the Ottoman era?


Perhaps everything above confirms, now more than at any time in the past, that Constantinople's role in the Orthodox world has become a problem that must be solved in a conciliar manner, through a council that includes all Orthodox bishops, especially follwing Patriarch Bartholomew's having accused his predecessors of departing from ecclesiology in order to justify his current deviation from it and effort to apply the theory of "first without equals" which no one had previously claimed?


Is the universal Church going to take the patriarch's words seriously?

Monday, June 7, 2021

Jad Ganem: Our Forgotten Saints

 Arabic original here.


Our Forgotten Saints

On June 6, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America celebrated, along with all Orthodox in the United States, the naming of the city block where St Nicholas Cathedral is located in New York after Saint Raphael Hawaweeny, who established that church at the beginning of the last century.

Saint Raphael was born in Damascus and raised in Beirut. He studied theology at the Chalki Seminary and at the theological academy in Kiev. The Russian tsar then sent him, at the request of the Russian bishop in the United States, to provide pastoral care for Arab immigrants in particular. He was elected as an auxiliary bishop to Bishop Tikhon who later became the first Patriarch of Russia after the restoration of the Patriarchate of Moscow. He undertook the organization of the Antiochian parishes in the United States which later formed the foundation of the Antiochian Archdiocese. Bishop Raphael is regarded as the first Orthodox bishop consecrated in the Americas and he is called the "Evangelist of America" because of his evangelical work among the Arab, Greek and Russian diasporas, whose languages he mastered. The Orthodox Church in America declared his sainthood in 2000 and his feast is celebrated on February 27, while his relics were transferred to Antiochian Village in Pennsylvania.

The Holy Synod of Antioch has not yet made a decision to include him on the list of Antiochian saints and he is regarded as one of the unknown saints compared to the new saints that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has recently declared and in whose name new churches have been built in Antioch and whose stories, teachings and sayings have spread among the people.

This might perhaps raise a number of questions:

* Why, despite the promises it made at the expanded synod in 1993, when the sainthood of Joseph of Damascus was declared, has the Church of Antioch not continued to uncover Antiochian saints and work to inform the faithful about their stories and then to celebrate the sainthood of the confessors, martyrs, monks and teachers who have shone forth in her over the past centuries?

* Why do Antiochians seem to be estranged from the saints who have shone forth within their own church, while they flock to honor the saints who have shone forth in the Greek world? And what are the reasons preventing the spread of veneration for saints who have shone forth in the other local churches in Antiochian circles?

* Why has the Church of Antioch not yet come up with a synodal mechanism for including the veneration of saints who have shone forth in the other local churches on her calendar? Is it possible to arrange this at a time when we see churches being built in the names of new saints who have not been included in the Antiochian Synaxarion?

Perhaps the most important question remains: Has the time not yet come to initiate an Antiochian project to discover the forgotten saints in the history of this church and to declare the sainthood of those whose holiness shined forth in these lands, thus giving consolation to the faithful in these difficult times?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Video: Eastern Christianity in Syria and Palestine and European Cultural Diplomacy (1860-1948)

 


19 May 2021 | A Christian ‘Oriental question’ or an ‘Orient belonging only to Easterners’? 

In this webinar, the panelists will discuss European cultural diplomacy in Ottoman and Mandate Syria and Palestine, how it impacted the cultural identification of indigenous Christians, and the variety of Christian Arab agendas towards such policies, relying predominantly on unpublished sources. They will present some of the conceptual and archival challenges, and link the study of the micro-scale level of everyday cultural and religious life to the macro-narratives of global change affecting Christian communities, in a connected perspective.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Jad Ganem: Before it's too late!

 Arabic original here.

Before It's Too Late!


On the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of Patriarch Bartholomew's elevation to the See of Constantinople this year, the association of Archons in North America have launched a new organization named "The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation for the Sacred See of Saint Andrew."


The task of this foundation is " to grant economic independence to the Ecumenical Patriarchate so that it may fulfill its apostolic mission in perpetuity."


The activity of this organization will not be limited to North America, but rather, according to its founders, will extend to all dioceses of the Patriarchate of Constantinople throughout the world. This is because "the time has come for Orthodox Christians around the world to come together and ensure that the voice of the Apostolic Throne of Andrew never goes silent and the Spiritual Center of our Faith is able to lead Christ’s Holy Church for generations to come."


The foundation, which works under the supervision of the Metropolitan of North America for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, who is a statutory member of its board of directors, and was launched with around six million USD in capital, will undertake:


- to continuously provide financial resources to religious, educational and charitable institutions belonging to the mother church;


- to provide the necessary support to the Patriarchate of Constantinople in order to strengthen its presence in all regions of the world and increase its opportunities for dialogue with various global religious leaders, without any hinderance due to financial limitations;


- to support the Patriarchate of Constantinople with the necessary financial assistance in order for it to be able to hold international conferences and gatherings of different groups and in order to strengthen the unity of the Orthodox Church in all regions of the world;


- to provide moral and financial support to the Patriarch of Constantinople in his capacity as representative of the Orthodox faithful around the world, so that he will be able to lead charitable activities and help those in need.


This initiative not only indicates the scope of the vitality of the Archons in North America and the scope of their commitment to supporting the Patriarchate of Constantinople, advocating for its causes, and providing it with the necessary means to fulfill its role in today's world; it also gives the impression that a new phase has begin that requires activating this patriarchate's role and strengthening its capabilities for confronting the challenges that it faces and for serving the projects that it has in store.


It remains that the dioceses of the diaspora which depend on local churches that are subject to existential chalenges, among them the dioceses of the Chuch of Antioch, need to undertake similar initiatives in order to provide the church in the homeland with the ability to have an active witness and mission and to confront the existential challenges that are affecting her members and institutions, so that the connection to the mother church does not remain merely sentimental without any active expression.


Or is it not strange that no Antiochian association has emerged in the diaspora over the past decade, despite all the challenges endured by the faithful in the homeland? Does this fact not deserve to be examined and its causes studied before it's too late?

Lora Gerd: Russia and the Melkites of Syria: Attempts at Reconverting into Orthodoxy in the 1850s and 1860s

The most interesting takeaway from this article is the degree to which the ethnically-Greek clergy in the Middle East were opposed to receiving Melkite Catholics who wanted to return to Orthodoxy as it would've endangered their xenocratic control.

 

Abstract:

Having entered into union with Rome in the 18th century, the Melkite Arab community of Syria preserved their Eastern rites and traditions. The attempts at Latinization in the mid-19th century brought a split in the community and provoked a diplomatic effort by Russia to bring the Melkites back to Eastern Orthodoxy. The raise of Arab nationalism in the 1850-s and traditions of church independence created a fertile soil for separatism. The relative weakness and inconsistency of Russian support, and especially a lack of material resources and strong diplomatic pressure from France, resulted in most of the newly converted Melkites returning to Rome by the early 1860-s. The article argues that Russian church policy in 19th century Middle East, strongly bounded by the limits of Orthodox canon law was largely ineffective. The Melkite affair was the last attempt to integrate the Arab Christians in the traditional system of the “Greek” Patriarchates. Thereafter Russian diplomacy took the course of Arabizing the Patriarchate of Antioch. The episode did, however, contribute to the elaboration of a new Vatican policy towards the Eastern Catholics: respect for their rites and traditions.

 

Read and download the entire open-access article here.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Fr Alexander Treiger: Canonical Responses of the Patriarch Mark III of Alexandria

This article appears in Chronos 41 (2020), 1-35. Mark III is otherwise known for his having visited Constantinople, where he submitted 40 canonical questions that were answered by the titular Patriarch of Antioch, Theodore Balsamon. Those questions and answers have been translated by Fr Patrick Viscuso and published under the title Guide for a Church under Islam (reviewed here).


Unpublished Texts from the Arab Orthodox Tradition (4): Canonical Responses of the Patriarch Mark III of Alexandria to the Abbot George of Damietta

Abstract:

The fourth installment in the "Unpublished Texts from the Arab Orthodox Tradition" series makes accessible a neglected document from the Orthodox Christian tradition in Arabic: canonical responses of the Chalcedonian Orthodox patriarch Mark III of Alexandria (r. ca. 1180-ca. 1209) to his spiritual son George, the abbot of the monastery of St. Jeremiah near Damietta. The article includes an edition and an English translation of this text.


Read and download the entire article here.

Constantin Panchenko: Orthodoxy and Islam in the Middle East, The Seventh to the Sixteenth Century

Holy Trinity Seminary Press has just released Orthodoxy and Islam in the Middle East, The Seventh to the Sixteenth Century, by Constantin Panchenko, which is a revision and expansion of the first section of his essential book Arab Orthodox Christians under the Ottomans 1516-1831, covering Orthodoxy in the Levant in the pre-Ottoman period.

The publisher says:

Conflict or concord? The history of Islam, from its emergence in early seventh century Arabia and its explosive growth into the wider Middle East, is often portrayed as a story of the struggle with and conquest of the Christian people of Greater Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. Alternatively, the appearance of Islam is characterized as being welcomed by the conquered, whose existing monotheistic faiths of Christianity and Judaism were tolerated and even allowed to flourish under Muslim rule.

In this concise but in depth survey of the almost nine centuries that passed from the beginning of the spread of Islam up to the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Syria and Egypt beginning in 1516, Constantin Panchenko offers a more complex portrayal of this period that opens up fresh vistas of understanding, focusing on the impact that the appearance of Islam had on the many forms of Christianity they encountered, principally the Orthodox Christian communities of the Middle East. In particular he illuminates the interplay of their Greek cultural heritage with increasing Arabization over time.

This is essential reading for those who want to gain an understanding of the history of the Middle East in these centuries and of how the faith of Orthodox Christians in these lands is lived today.

 Order it here.