Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Met. Basil's Presentation on the Episcopate

Here is Met. Basil of Akkar's presentation to the Holy Synod of Antioch about the role of the bishop (meaning primarily bishops who are not metropolitans) in the Patriarchate of Antioch. Below is my translation, graciously edited and revised by someone more competent ecclesial Arabic than I am. This document is very important, because it provides the basis for the reasoning behind the Patriarchate's recent decisions about the status of the North American bishops. The Arabic original can be downloaded as a pdf here.

The Office of Bishop in the Patriarchate of Antioch during the Modern Era

Speaking theologically about the office of bishop, it can be said that that anyone who receives canonical consecration to the episcopate is a “bishop.” Differences of rank among bishops are not a matter of priestly order or of dogmatic significance, but depend on the relative authority associated with a particular position. Such positions include the rank of auxiliary bishop (usquf musa3id), a bishop in charge of an archdiocese (sa7ib abrashiyya), a metropolitan (mutran),[1] an archbishop, and a patriarch (or head of an autocephalous church).

There has been no uniform arrangement of episcopal titles by their respective responsibilities in world-wide Orthodoxy to the present day. For example, in Russia, a metropolitan has wider administrative responsibilities and greater authority than an archbishop. In Greece, however, the archbishop is the head of all the Orthodox bishops of the Greek Republic. Likewise, the archbishops of Poland and the Czech Republic bear both the rank of metropolitan and the title of archbishop as heads of autocephalous churches.

The office of bishop developed within the Patriarchate of Antioch and as such it spread everywhere the Gospel reached. The ancient Christian document known as The Didache’ (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), affirms that the Apostles installed a bishop in every place where they won souls for the Lord. There was no differentiation in this earliest period between various forms of episcopacy within the Patriarchate of Antioch.

In time, the Church found it necessary to appoint bishops for rural areas (chorepiscopoi) to support the faithful in the face of spiritual challenges. Furthermore, the metropolitan system developed concurrently with the evolution of the Roman administrative system. This gave the bishop of the capital of a broad region with multiple bishops authority over all the bishops of his region, and subordinated them to him as their metropolitan. Thus the institution of the synod arose, a gathering of regional bishops headed by the metropolitan or by the bishop of the capital.

The metropolitan of Antioch was the first bishop to be called “patriarch” in a fully Orthodox sense. This ought not be confused with the way the Donatists used the title, or the way the term appears in the letters of St. Basil. The latter concerns certain monastic leaders who inappropriately claimed the ecclesiastical description properly given to heads of monastic groups.

The office of bishop in the Church of Antioch passed through two stages. The first stage stretched over approximately ten centuries, up to the time when the rank of rural bishops was practically abolished. The second stage lasted through the twentieth century, including the years between 1900 and 2010. We presented the historical and canonical information that we were able to gather about rural bishops and others in our previous study.

In these last hundred years, however, the situation has been different because the Fathers of the See of Antioch did not mention rural bishops at all in the synods of this period. Rather, they used the title of “bishops” to refer to auxiliary bishops and those who were consecrated to obsolete dioceses[2] (titular bishops). The first study along these lines appeared in canon 24 of the year 1906. It gave the patriarch the right to nominate three names, one of which would be chosen by the metropolitans as a titular bishop. The canon of the year 1929 stated that the agreement of the Synod was required if the patriarch wanted to appoint another titular bishop. The first titular bishop was called the patriarchal vicar, and the second, the head of the divan (ra’is al-diwan, perhaps ‘head-chancellor?’).

Here we must stop to look at history: “It was stated in the Travels of the Patriarch Makarios ibn Zaim that during his absence from the lands of the Christians, he made the Metropolitan of Homs, Athanasius ibn Ofeish, his vicar. Likewise the Patriarch Sylvester asked the Metropolitan of Hama, Neophytos, to be his vicar until he returned from the Holy Mountain. Thus the patriarchal vicar was not at that time the metropolitan of Damascus; the status of patriarchal vicar was given gratuitously. Damascus was the diocese of the patriarch and the use of a (auxiliary) bishop as patriarchal vicar existed in Antioch but had not been long-standing.”

Despite the fact that the canons of the Patriarchate of Antioch are not often concerned with ordering the affairs of (titular and auxiliary) bishops, they do reveal their existence. They also show their status and the status of those nominated for the metropolitanate to be equivalent.

In the countries of the Diaspora, the office of bishop has played a beneficial role in cementing relations between the people, their traditional homelands, and their new nations. Thus the office developed along with the growth of the Antiochian emigration.

Around 1860 groups of the faithful began arriving in the countries of the New World—North and South America, Australia, and finally Europe. The immigrants were concerned from the outset with their spiritual affairs, and thus requested priests from their homeland to perform weddings, baptisms, and services for the souls of their dead. They established churches, charitable organizations, and youth groups to teach the faith. Many of these immigrants created a prominent, visible, and deeply rooted presence in their respective countries of the New World. The first bishop of the immigration was Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny, recently glorified among the saints, who worked as an auxiliary bishop to the Russian metropolitan[3] in America ministering to the spiritual needs of Arabic speaking Orthodox Christians.

News of the emigrants and their successes in the New World eventually reached the ears of the Holy Synod of Antioch. The Holy Synod decided to care for the emigrants who were eager to communicate with their homeland regarding their spiritual affairs. They sent both bishops and metropolitans to them. The latter were dispatched to Brazil, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile. They also sent bishops as patriarchal representatives to the Arab Orthodox Christians that hailed from territories outside the boundaries of the old country archdioceses. The jurisdictions that were formally created in such places were directly under the authority of the Patriarch. Patriarchal representatives were placed in Chile, Mexico, Australia, and in Rio de Janeiro (according to some, the center of the Archdiocese of Brazil). After the death of Metropolitan Meletios Soueiti, patriarchal representative Kyrillos Doumat of blessed memory was placed in Argentina.

It appears that the Holy Synod of Antioch established representations and chose bishops for them in its regular sessions without creating provisions for their rights and responsibilities, retirement, travel funds, or other needs. Representative bishops, abbots of monasteries, patriarchal assistants, and titular bishops, where they existed, were all considered to be subject to the patriarch. They were personally under his direction as to where he needed them and subject to his wishes. Even Bishop Ghufrail al-Salibi, assistant to the Metropolitan of Beirut, Iliya al-Salibi, was a patriarchal bishop according to the canon that subordinates all (titular and auxiliary) bishops to the patriarch. The same was true of Bishop Elias Najim, auxiliary to the Metropolitan of Mount Lebanon, Iliya Karam – may God have mercy on them.

The status of the dioceses (usqufiyyat) of Tartous and of Pyrgou (Homs), was the same as the rest of the obsolete dioceses whose names were given at the consecration of titular bishops. Both Bishop Basil of Tartous and Bishop Yuhanna of Pyrgou were patriarchal representative bishops to help the metropolitan of Akkar in the two sections of his archdiocese situated within Syrian territory.

The majority of patriarchal dependencies were turned into metropolitanates by decision of the 1996 meeting of the Holy Synod at the Monastery of St. Elias in Shwayya. The last one to be so designated was the dependency of Australia. Similarly, both the dioceses of Tartous and Pyrgou were left vacant after the election of the bishop of Tartous as metropolitan of Akkar (succeeding Boulos Bandaly of blessed memory) and the bishop of Pyrgou as metropolitan of Western Europe (succeeding Ghufrail Salibi of blessed memory). Furthermore, the diocese of New York and All North America was considered to be a diocese dependent on the Patriarchate of Antioch. (Canon of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch of the year 1949). We do not know if this canon was put into effect or not.

The first auxiliary to a metropolitan in the overseas archdioceses of the Patriarchate of Antioch was Bishop Antoun al-Khoury, auxiliary to the metropolitan of North America. Later, the metropolitan of the North American Archdiocese acquired two more auxiliary bishops, Joseph Zehlawi and Basil Essey. Until the decision of the Holy Synod granting self-rule to the North American Archdiocese, these three bishops were patriarchal bishops assisting the metropolitan of North America. After the aforementioned decision, three other bishops were consecrated and assigned to American dioceses agreed upon by the Synod. They were all considered to be members of the synod of the Archdiocese of North America under the leadership of Metropolitan Philip Saliba.[4]

In spite of these developments, nothing was changed in the constitution of the Patriarchate of Antioch. It remained as it was regarding the subordination of all (non-metropolitan) bishops to the patriarch. The canon law of Antioch did not provide for auxiliary bishops dependent on a metropolitan until the Synodal decision of February 24, 2009. On that occasion, an explicit text was released distinguishing between patriarchal bishops and bishops assisting a metropolitan. It stated the latter are responsible to the metropolitan in the diocesan council, and the metropolitan is responsible for them within the metropolitan council.

(Non-metropolitan) bishops[5] do not exist today in the Patriarchate of Antioch other than the bishops of North America and three patriarchal bishops. Even the representation of Rio de Janeiro is not currently led by a bishop because of the illness of its last bishop, Demitri Hosny. The male patriarchal monasteries are led by hieromonks with the rank of archimandrite.

For thirty years the fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch have affirmed the unacceptability of raising someone to the rank of titular bishop. They believe that it is more appropriate – even necessary – to create a geographic region for a bishop to head, even if he is authorized to perform other tasks. This conforms to the understanding of role of the bishop in Orthodox ecclesiology. We hope that the Fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch will reach a permanent, conclusive, and appropriate solution to the subject of bishops. If this is done, they will not remain vulnerable to intellectual conflicts or material and temperamental fickleness on various issues by those in ecclesiastical authority. Then, as is the case with heads of archdioceses, a clear and complete canon dealing with bishops (as7ab abrashiyyat) will have been codified, defining their relationship with their flocks, their finances, their retirement, and their relationships with the heads of their archdioceses (as7ab abrashiyyatihim).

At this point, we will propose a few suggestions on the basis of what is stated regarding rural bishops in the ecumenical and local councils and what has appeared in the constitutions of the Patriarchate of Antioch since 1900. Some of these appeared in our historical and canonical study of the rank of auxiliary bishop, and are also based on my experience in the Archdiocese of Akkar as an auxiliary bishop of Metropolitan Boulos Bandaly of blessed memory.

First of all, I see the following necessities:

1. Of identifying the archdioceses which need auxiliary bishops.

2. To define the number of dioceses [usqufiyyat] in each archdiocese in a carefully studied manner.

3. To define the functions which require bishops so that they can be listed.

4. To define the conditions in which auxiliary bishops may be placed in archdioceses which have no dioceses.

After defining matters in the above list, we could proceed to research the right to declare dioceses in archdioceses. Is it the right of the metropolitan synod or is it by its proposal to the Holy Synod of Antioch after a complete study?

A second question may be proposed regarding the promotion of clergy within the archdioceses of the Patriarchate of Antioch: Does this depend on the recommendation of the metropolitan of the archdiocese? Would he present it to a committee of clergy in his See for consent to his recommendation for promotion? Or has the bishop been given the power to do so individually?

As for the bishops, I propose the following:

1. The auxiliary bishop is elected from among the celibate clergy whose names are registered in the list of those eligible for the episcopate.

2. The people of the vacant diocese elect three eligible members of the clergy known for their piety and their pastoral life with the agreement of the metropolitan and the metropolitan council, if such exists. The metropolitan in turn submits the agreed-upon names so that an auxiliary bishop is elected from the names for the designated diocese [usqufiyya].

3. The auxiliary bishops attend the Holy Synod as advisors but they will have full membership in the metropolitan’s archdiocesan synod [abrashiyya].

4. The bishops commemorate the leadership of the metropolitan in the divine services. When he is present with them they commemorate his name, then the priests commemorate the bishop of the diocese [usqufiyya].

5. In cases where the bishop is serving by himself within his diocese, the priests commemorate his name alone, but in the rest of the parishes the name of the metropolitan is commemorated, followed by that of the bishop (for our father and metropolitan ….. and of our bishop… let us pray to the Lord).

6. The diocese annually offers a sum of money to the general fund of the archdiocese to help the metropolitan with his duties.

7. The bishops participate in the election of the metropolitan for their archdioceses [abrashiyyat], if the metropolitan see [markaz al-abrashiyya] for any reason becomes vacant. They likewise participate in the election of diocesan bishops [asaqifa usqufiyya] if there is more than one diocese [markaz usqufiyya] in the archdiocese.

8. The bishops head all organizations within their dioceses and periodically inform the metropolitan on how things are going either personally or in the diocesan council, if one exists.

9. He (the bishop) performs all the episcopal educational and liturgical duties within his diocese.

10. The metropolitan of the archdiocese convenes and presides over the spiritual court. He can also assign one of the auxiliary bishops as his representative.

11. In matters pertaining to the clergy, the bishop does not undertake any action except after the agreement of the metropolitan.

12. In administrative matters, he has freedom in directing existing departments (idarat), but the metropolitan must first agree to the creation of new ones.

13. If it is determined that the bishop is incapable of administering church properties, and that he will endanger them by his behavior, then the metropolitan may forbid him to administer them and form a committee to oversee church properties. This committee is composed of five members, two from the clergy and three from the laity who have expertise in this field.

14. The bishop cannot punish a clergyman in his diocese for more than three months.

15. The metropolitan cannot belong to secret societies or political parties; this also applies to the bishop because the name of Christ is the sufficient and most sure guarantee for our life, our dignity, and our salvation.

16. In case of a bishop’s disability, his diocese has the responsibility to support him until his last breath. The diocese will cooperate with the metropolitan in such matters as placing him in one of the monasteries of the archdiocese or in a care center for the elderly.

17. The canons of the Church and the decisions of both the Synod of Antioch and the Archdiocesan Council apply to everything pertaining to local matters in accordance with the laws of the Church.

18. The bishops have the right to be nominated to fill vacant metropolitan sees.

19. After a specified number of years have passed in honorable service as a bishop, it is possible that he be given the title of titular metropolitan in cases where he is not transferred to lead a metropolitan see.

20. He (the bishop) does not have the right to accept clergy from other dioceses or archdioceses permanently or for a long period of time unless he receives written permission from the metropolitan.

[1] Translator’s note: this could also be rendered ‘diocesan bishop, mutran- metropolitan’. However, throughout the translation I have translated ‘abrashiyya’ as ‘archdiocese’ and ‘usqufiyya’ as ‘diocese’ which seems to be a distinction that the author consistently makes. It is unclear if ‘mutran-metropolitan’ is an appositive for ‘sa7ib abrashiyya’.

[2] Despite the fact that the Holy Synod of Antioch in many of its sessions and constitutions has only mentioned the matter of bishops in a very cursory way, it has mentioned them in passing with much interest. For example in the canons of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch that was decided in the session of the Holy Synod of Antioch that was held at the Patriarch’s complex in Damascus on April 2, 1952 it says the following: “What is said in paragraphs four and five of this canon regarding the election of the bishop and his rights and responsibilities, including the assistant bishop (usquf mu’awin) to the patriarch, his nomination is that patriarch’s” The assistant bishop is called the patriarchal vicar, as decided by the basic canon of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, which was decided by the general Orthodox congress meeting on the November 18-19, 1955. In this same canon it says for the first time that the fullness of the dioceses [kuliyyiat al-usqufiyyat] “is in all the dioceses and the connected agencies”. Here is the question, what are these dioceses? It appears that greater concern and regard for the matter of the bishops is in the internal order of the See of Antioch published on April 7, 1983 which dedicates to the bishop articles 75 to 81, with the content of 81 with the broad parallels it makes between the metropolitan and the bishop in numerous matters.

[3] Translator’s note: This information is erroneous. The Russian bishop at this time did not carry the title metropolitan.

[4] The archdiocesan or metropolitan synod includes the bishops of dioceses with the metropolitan of the capital of the region and meets under his leadership.

[5] Translator’s note: this sentence does not have an explicit subject in the original. Presumably the sense requires the subject to be ‘bishops (usquf)’ in the sense of ‘bishops who are not metropolitans’.


Fr. Yousuf said...

A correction to your correction in footnote 3.

Firstly, St. Raphael was consecrated in 1904 as a vicar bishop or auxiliary in a diocese (not an archidocese or Metropolia), consecrated as a vicar/auxiliary by the ruling bishop, St. Tikhon when the later was ruling the diocese with the title "Bishop of the Aleutians and North America". St. Tikhon had neither the title and function of Metropolitan, nor the title or function of Archbishop. The title of the see becomes "Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America", in 1905, so at that time it became an Archdiocese headed by a ruling Archbishop. It will not become a Metropolia until 1924, 9 years after St. Raphael's blessed repose. The relevant dates and titles are,
*part of the Irkutsk diocese- 1794 - 1799.
*vicar bishop of Irkutsk diocese 1799.
*part of Irkutsk diocese 1799 - 1840
*part of Kamchatka diocese 1840 - 1859
* Bishop of Novoarkhangelsk (Sitka) Auxiliary of the Kamchatka Diocese 1859 - 1866
*Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska 1870- 1900
*Bishop of the Aleutians and North America 1900 - 1905
*Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America 1905- 1922
* Metropolitan of All America and Canada 1922- 1934 ("temporarily" Autonomous Metropolia from 1924 - 1970).
* Archbishop of San Francisco, Metropolitan of All America and Canada (1934-50)
* Archbishop of New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada 1950 - 1970
*after which that title, or a variation thereof is born by the Primate of the autocephalous OCA.

Secondly, St. Raphael was not a bishop on the "Moscow Patriarchate". The Church in Russia had no patriarchate in his lifetime, but the Holy Governing Synod, a sort of state controlled collective primacy the uncanonicity of which is amply discussed elsewhere. The usage of the term Moscow Patriarchate becomes common later, firstly after the Patriarchate is restored in 1917, and secondly to distinguish the jurisdiction of Moscow from the other Russian jurisdictions, and is finally used to refer to the administration in Moscow of the Orthodox Church in Russia.

Having tried to read this report twice, I am left with as many questions as answers.

I suspect the idea that Abp Antoun (and others) was a vicar of the Patriarch and not of Met. Philip until "Self Rule" will strike some as revisionist, even if it really was technically the case.

Some parts of it read like the Apostolic Canon regulating a Metropolitan and the bishops of his Synod. For instance, it clearly means to set up diocesan hierarchs of some sort. I think the Synod would have been well served by exactly dilineating what they mean and how they expect it to be practiced in America.

Father Yousuf Rassam
St. Innocent of Irkutsk Church
Diocese of the West, OCA
Tarzana CA.

Benjamin Ekman said...

If you create an account on you can upload the pdf there and then easily link to it from your blog.

Dropbox is a great service, and you get 2 GB storage for free. I use it when I need to send big files to people, as well as backup for certain documents etc.

Thank you for your great blog!

Samn! said...

Fr. Yusuf,

Thanks... I added that footnote hastily as I was reading over the text towards right before I posted it, and I'm not sure why I was thinking it was referring to the current situation. I guess I only read the second half of the sentence.

123 said...

3. The auxiliary bishops attend the Holy Synod as advisors but they will have full membership in the metropolitan’s archdiocesan synod [abrashiyya].

Was this suggestions enacted? It would seem to imply that the bishops are full bishops with an equal vote within the Archdiocesan Synod, but they would be simply advisors to the Holy Synod of Antioch. Obviously, the Metropolitan retains a great deal of centralized authority in this situation, but it would seem the bishops are not simply assistants to the Metropolitan, at least when it comes to votes taken on the Archdiocesan Synod.

It seems rather convoluted to maintain what is obviously a mish-mosh of traditions, different today than they were not so long ago. The difficulty in figuring this all out is that the same terms have meant different things over the centuries. The Greeks have the same 'problem' of title inflation due to historical circumstances - so, such anomalies are not just for the so-called diaspora. It would seem eminently clearer to return to the ancient practice of the Church as retained in the Slavic churches - every diocese has a bishop, the bishop of the leading city in a region is a Metropolitan, Archbishops are senior bishops (instead of 'titular Metroplitans' who are just bishops, the leading Metropolitan of an area of multiple metropolitan regions is a Patriarch, and among the Patriarchs all know the ordering of the dyptichs; auxiliary bishops can be assigned to any level of the episcopacy as there is need (I'm not sure why there should be need for titular bishops when you can simply give them sees in existing dioceses - unless titular bishops are simply 'floaters' under the authority of the Patriarch.

Samn! said...


I think this is the most important question left unanswered (at least explicitly) by the Holy Synod. Clearly, from the bilingual resolution they released, they assume that an Archdiocesan Synod exists, but they don't specify its authority. They just say that the Metropolitan has to consult with them before transferring a bishop.

The problem here is that an Antiochian bishop is neither a bishop in the Russian sense nor an auxiliary bishop in the Russian sense. I don't think this is the last round of defining their role...

Anonymous said...

I think Metropolitan Basil has misread or mis-stated the situation in the early church.

A metropolitan DID NOT have AUTHORITY OVER the Bishops of the REGION.


He chaired the meetings as an elder brother.

Does the Holy Synod want to revise Church History as well.

If so, then they give good arguements to return to Papal Primacy.

His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos has said that the Greek Patriarchates, i.e., Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, under the Ottomans developd a more papal ecclessiology.

This abberation should not be considered normative but as imposed upon the church by the Ottomans.

Now Antioch wants to impose a Papal Ecclesiology upon the Church in North America and allow Pope Philip to separate the Shepherd from His Flock!

Canon 34 of the Apostolic Canons is very clear, the relationship of a bishop to the metropolitan is analogus to the metropolitan to the patriarch.

Basically this ecclessiology would make all the Metropolitans of the Holy Synod Auxiliary Metropolitans to the Patriarch.

Gee, I think I have seen this movie before.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, I meant Papal Supremacy!

Primacy I would gladly accept, supremacy no.

123 said...

Canon 34 of the Holy Apostles reflects a relationship between metropolitan and the bishops in his region as more than simply that of elder brother to younger brothers. It states: “The bishops of every country must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent...but neither let him (who is head) do anything without the consent of all.”

That is, neither can do much without the other, which is why it is important to understand how the Holy Synod of Antioch see the Archdiocesan Synod in America as functioning. Terminology is important since is a 'metropolitan' in the Canon above understood as what is now called an Archbishop/Metropolitan with various 'auxiliaries', or are the 'bishops' to be understood as full diocesan bishops (what is now called a 'Metropolitan' in the Greek churches, including Antioch) or as auxiliary/assistant/titular bishops who are completely beholden to the Patriarch, Archbishop or Metropolitan under whom they serve?

That is, will the Archdiocesan Synod's "consent" be required for the Metropolitan to do anything of consequence - in the same way the bishops under Met. Philip have to get his "consent" to do anything "of consequence" (it doesn't seem unreasonable to include ordination and transfer under this heading given that the Archdiocese foots the bill for seminary).

Hilarius said...

Samn! Obviously there are challenges in word choice in translation, and I commend all your efforts (I wish my Arabic skills were quick enough to be of any assistance) - but did you make a conscious decision to use the term Archdiocese and Archbishop rather than simply transliterate a known term which is consistent in Greek, Arabic, and English? Here, I am speaking of ابرشية (ἐπαρχίᾱ, eparchia)?

Just curious.

123 said...

Samn!, so "an Antiochian bishop is neither a bishop in the Russian sense nor an auxiliary bishop in the Russian sense", but it is more like an auxiliary bishop assigned a distinct territory within the Archdiocese?

It seems as if this is following the trajectory that led to the development of the diocesan presbyter. Whereas in the earliest churches the bishop was the regular celebrant of any Divine Liturgy with the presbyters and deacons 'assisting' (mainly the deacons, less the presbyters), over the years the presbyter stepped into the role of regular parish celebrant on behalf of a more distant bishop (due primarily to the profusion of parishes in even a single city not the removal of the bishop a major city in the area/diocese). This had the effect of elevating the bishop yet further by providing him with a host of regional 'assistants' dependent on him for their sacramental authority.

Samn! said...


In all official translations I've seen coming from the Antiochian Archdiocese or the Patriarchate, 'abrashiyya' is always translated as 'archdiocese'. Also, if you check the websites of all the abrashiyyat, 'archdiocese' is always used in their English version. Where I use the English 'archbishop' in the translation, I'm translating 'ras asaqifa' which is a calque of the Greek.

Anonymous said...

A very superficial and outcome oriented presentation.

There is nothing better than scissors and paste when it comes to doing theological research.

One may always find enough that can be twisted to suit what outcome you want.

Why not have the Metropolitan Philip look through several hundred bags of rice for a little rock.

Once he has found it he can delare there is no rice only rocks.

The shame this brings to the Patriarchate is incredible, as they know some of their own Metropolitan sees once had numerous Bishops.

The Metropolitans were not papal at the time.

Perhaps we could send the members of the Holy Synod Fr John Meyendorff's book on The Primacy of Peter.

As this brings SHAME they will never admit this was incorrect. They will defend it and only make themselves look more ignorant of their own history.

It is one thing them to soil themselves, it is quite another to admit they have and need to change their pants.

Anonymous said...

In translating the text of the resolution it seems the personal pronoun was provided by the translator rather than being from the Arabic itself.

Translation is always a matter of interpretation, but does the Arabic text explicitly say the metropolitan may transfer a bishop?

It is a very important distinction at this juncture to know if the intent of the Holy Synod was to imply "they, i.e, the Eparchal Synod may transfer a bishop" or "He, i.e., the metropolitan may transfer a bishop."

Have we also completely ignored the canons in that a Bishop not be moved without his consent?

George Michalopulos said...

when all is said and done, the purpose of Metropolitan Basil's research was to justify the decision to demote ordinary bishops to auxiliary status. This is egregious and outrageous from an ecclesiological standpoint and will have long-term negative effects on the Antichian jurisdication in particular, but American Orthodoxy in general. Lord have mercy.

George Michalopulos said...

Fr Yusuf, your clarifications are spot on. One minor quibble, in researching my own paper last year, I was informed by official sources that there is no such thing as an "archdiocese" in the Russian language, only "dioceses" and a "patriarchate." An archbishop is either the bishop of a large diocese or one who has been granted this honorific because of length of service.

123 said...

Is there a Russian word for 'metropolitan district' and 'autonomous church', too? Or, are they referred to as dioceses, as well, simply with additional rights given?

Anonymous said...

George wrote: when all is said and done, the purpose of Metropolitan Basil's research was to justify the decision to demote ordinary bishops to auxiliary status.

How do you know that? And please don't say that you "just know" or that it's "obvious," because that's not evidence but presumption and insinuation.

Please, tell us, what is your actual evidence for this analysis of the motivation behind Metr. Basil's paper?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this translation. I've been working on terminology of the hierarchies of the various Syriac churches. Often equivalents are given in Arabic, so this makes for a good comparison. Thanks.

George Michalopulos said...

Anonymous, you are absolutely right in the ontological sense, I cannot "know" what is in a man's head. However, I can deduce from several facts that the metropolitan's conclusions were not motivated by honest research. Here are just two reasons:

1) I suspect that as a metropolitan he has an advanced degree from an accredited Orthodox school of theology. The facts of history are plain to anybody anymore with access to the internet. We know what the office of metropolitan was and that bishops were equals and that auxiliaries did not exist (One caveat: chorepiscopoi were auxiliaries but as even this metropolitan knows --because he states it--this office eventually fell into abeyance).

2. If this was a burning issue, why did it not come out earlier? When the Syro-Lebanese bishops here in America were raised to ordinary status six years ago (and when the AOCNA was itself adjudicated to be "self-ruled"?) From a prudential view alone, Damascus should have realized that they would be openning a can of worms by this latest ruling. Are we to assume that they are that out of touch?

Ergo: something is afoot here and a reasonable man can assume that the negative consequences will outweigh the positive ones.

dcalvert said...

Having read the above analysis, as well as the constitution and bylaws of the Patriarchate (admittedly in English) and the Constitution of the AOCA (again in English), I am shocked by the inconsistencies that I see. all of these comments are based on documents from the Antiochian patriarchate and AOCA at If these are incorrect, please let me know.

First -

1.) the hierarchy of the patriarchate seems pretty simple - patriarch/metropolitan/priest. Very little mention is made of the bishop at all, and I don't think i saw the word diocese at all.

2.) the archdiocese is headed by a metropolitan in the patriarchal documents.

3.) the priest seems to be serve directly under a metropolitan in the patriarchal sees.

Interestingly, the duties of the bishop spelled out in the patriarchal documents are incredibly sparse.

Then, suddenly, in the AOCA constitution, the office of "diocesan bishop" is created. And now, we want to argue about "bishops who assist", vs "assistant bishops" - basically because the office of bishop has never been used in the Antiochian patriarchate.

Here's my question: Do you people realize how perilously close you are getting to sounding like a Marx Brothers routine? I'm serious - "Who's on First?" made more sense than this.

I love the Church, and pray for Orthodox unity in America every single day...but THIS is the kind of stuff that sends people SCREAMING out of the church, and down the street to the local Methodist Church.

We've been doing this for 2000 years...and THIS is the best explanation we can come up with?

We are making a mockery of a two thousand year old tradition. St Photios must be spinning in his grave.

R U Kidding me?

Dean Calvert

Apophatically Speaking said...

Someone explain to me how this episcopal subordination is not unlike Rome?

123 said...


Well, no one is claiming infallibility, or universal and immediate jurisdiction over all the Church, or claiming communion with them is a requirement of being in the Church.

This highlights the Orthodox not understanding the valid exercise of primacy within their own Church. The academic formulation of conciliarity (among local churches, bishops, and between bishops and the clergy/laity) familiar to western converts is not seen in the traditions of a goodly majority of the autocephalous churches, it seems to me. A study is being published later this year detailing the forms of primacy within the Orthodox Church.

123 said...

It struck me at Liturgy this morning that another important 'proof' for how the Synod of Antioch, Met Philip, the North American bishops and the Archdiocese understood the role of the now 'demoted' bishops is in the liturgical commemorations they used in each others presence.

There are differences here in Greek and Slavic practice that would point toward what the bishops were understood to be - patriarchal bishops (auxiliaries to the Patriarch sometimes assigned to serve a given Metropolitan), auxiliaries to the Metropolitan solely, diocesan bishops in Slavic parlance, or something else. These liturgical commemorations should be compared with how Bishop Basil of Tartous and Bishop Yuhanna of Pyrgou were commemorated liturgically prior to their elevation to Metropolitans.

Apophatically Speaking said...


You are right, my concern is that:

1.) It is leading up to it. Infallibility for instance was claimed by Rome late in the game.

2.) In practical matters effectually there ain't no, or not all that much, difference.

Wouldn't you agree?

123 said...

The closest the Orthodox get to papalism today is the idea that Orthodoxy = communion with Constantinople. That is wrong.

Otherwise, the fact that there are separate autocephalous churches that run in different ways internally seems to be a strong measure against full centralization of power. The pentarchy was a much more 'centralized' structure, especially prior to the Muslim invasions took Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem out from under the Empire and the West was allowed to drift away after Theodosius (?); the EP had very centralized control under the Turks, but Russia and the dissolution of that Empire cut back that power dramatically (almost totally).

All that being said, it's my understanding that within some autocephalous churches it is longstanding tradition that the primate/first hierarch has quite far-reaching powers over the Synod and/or his brother bishops (e.g., Moscow) - in other churches primacy is highly decentralized with the primate/first hierarch having next to no 'extra' powers or responsibilities than his brother bishops (e.g., Serbia). These are not 'new' autocephalous churches; they represent longstanding traditions of primacy and immediate jurisdiction by the primate.

I think not enough is known about how the various autocephalous churches actually practice primacy within their jurisdiction. I think there are some surprises to be found in a study of this vis a vis textbook conciliarity.

I am loathe to agitate too much against episcopal authority and prerogative because I am not interested in an elected episcopacy - we see how such elections work in the Episcopal and Lutheran churches, and it is not hard to imagine reasons why the weakest, least able would be elected as bishop so as to allow others even less 'elected' or visible to hold real power (e.g., chancellors, deans, diocesan councils, advisors of various kinds, etc.)

I would also note that while a bishop may not expect or proclaim his own infallibility, in practice, we are to follow our bishops except in matters of heresy and sin. This turns into a sort of 'assumed infallibility' due to the obedience required. There's no guarantee like Vatican I there, but it's also quite a long way to open, regular, expected questioning and second-guessing of one's bishop under guise of 'giving counsel' and 'advising' as a mandatory matter of governance - which seems to be many people's vision of what conciliarity is, i.e., rule by clergy/laity committee with the bishop simply the primus inter pares.

Apophatically Speaking said...

"we are to follow our bishops except in matters of heresy and sin"t

And yet without real transparency, input and accountability, it becomes (remains) a good ole boys club. Sin is covered up, and we are to blindly follow.

Our hierarchs walk on water, corruption somehow doesn't affect them.

Brian said...

I clearly remember asking +DEMETRI (when he was a ‘local bishop’) why we commemorated +PHILLIP instead of him since, as far as I knew at the time, he was our bishop. He explained that he was not actually our bishop but was instead titular bishop (of a city in Lebanon as I recall). I thought it was odd at the time, but I didn’t give it much thought beyond that. There was no reason to do so at the time that I could see.

I relate this story only because I think it is probably fair to say that in reality - and as a practical matter - this whole issue (for most common folk) has far less to do with ecclesiology and the episcopate than it does with the highly questionable behavior of +PHILLIP. We thought we finally saw light at the end of the tunnel when our bishops were ‘confirmed’ as diocesan. We thought this would reign in the Met’s ability to be an absolute ruler and that it might bring about some semblance of order and propriety in our jurisdiction. But now that our hopes are dashed we resort to arguments over the role of bishops. I am not saying it is wrong for us to so, for canonical order and the accountability of bishops to a synod is intended to help prevent precisely the sort of disorder and dysfunction we have seen in this archdiocese. But I do think that were it not for our increasingly justified mistrust of the motives of the Metropolitan, these questions over the role of the episcopate would never have been raised. We do need the canonical order, but we only need it because, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul, “the (law) canons were not made for a righteous man” but to mitigate the impact of deeds of the lawless.