Friday, June 6, 2014

Arabic-Speaking Clergy announce a Final Call for Spiritual Revival

Greek original here.

Final Call for a Spiritual Revival in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem:
 The Requests of the Clergy and People of the Arab Flock

Your All-Holiness,
Your Beatitude,
Reverend Fathers, Your Graces,
Fathers and Brothers,

The content of this letter was written with much anxiety over the fate of the Orthodox faith of the Church of Jerusalem and of the Orthodox Church in general, which today is facing enormous problems. However, these problems are being covered over by the slogan that a group of fanatical Arab Orthodox want to Arabize the Patriarchate of Jersualem.

Instead of being met with thanks, those who are taking the initiative to reveal and explain what is happening in the Church of Jerusalem are bizarrely already being threatened by the leadership of the Patriarchate with deposition and expulsion.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to tell the truth no matter the consequences because our motive is the good of the Church and not personal ambitions, since in the latter case we would have behaved differently, with the hypocritical obedience that is well-known in religious circles.

We are putting our future in the Church in imminent danger for the sake of the truth, so that the world will learn the reality of the problems. Afterward, we leave judgement to God because we believe that other interests are being served by the indifference of those responsible, which causes us to doubt whether they are genuine shepherds for us,  because the good shepherds lays down his own life to save the sheep from the wolves. For this they will answer to God on the Day of the Last Judgment.

Because we are members of the Arabic-speaking congregation and because we live the problems of the faithful and the attacks that they suffer from the heterodox on account of the indifference of the Church's leadership, we have repeatedly reported to our Patriarch Theophilos the concerns and anxieties of the people in the presence of the Chief Secretary and the other hierarchs of the Patriarchate. We waited long enough for the response of the Patriarch and the Synod, but in vain.

We have returned with love and humility, repeating our demands, but we have been met with deaf ears. They have even begun to accuse us of being anti-Greek and of wanting to replace this patriarch with an Arab. We denounce this as a big LIE because we have no nationalistic motivation. We love Greece and we respect the role it has played in protecting the Holy Places and Orthodoxy in the Middle East.

Our demands are purely spiritual, pastoral and canonical.

1. We demand that young men and women from the congregation be able to become monastics. This is something that the current leadership does not allow, instead always keeping a small number of Arabic-speaking monastics, in order to justify the excuse that not many of the locals, as they call us, are interested in monasticism. When one of the Arabic-speaking faithful expresses a desire to become a monk, they create for him a thousand obstacles and wait years to approve his request, while someone of Greek origin is accepted and ordained without any hesitation and without regard for his moral conduct, just because he is Greek. This has caused dozens of clergy and hierarchs, children of the Church of Jerusalem, to serve today in other Orthodox churches. Is this Christian justice and the loving care of the Mother Church?

2. We demand that there be spiritual fathers who know the Arabic language so that all the faithful may be received to the great mystery of Holy Confession, guiding the life of the faithful toward perfection on the path of salvation, in the difficult social environment in which they find themselves.

3. We demand that the first and only women's monastery in Jordan founded by the late Patriarch Diodoros in Dibeen, built from scratch through the labors of Archimandrite Christophoros Atallah and hosting since 1999 several nuns and novices, a spiritual center in Jordan for thousands of believers, be recognized.

4. We demand that there be created a theological school and seminary so that the youth will receive Orthodox Christian instruction, that they be prepared for teaching Christian truth in schools, that they have the resources to combat heterodox propaganda, and that catechetical schools be established in all villages and towns, because what currently exists is not enough. The absence of such schools causes many young people to seek Latin and Protestant schools and to enter the clerical colleges of the Latins and Protestants, to our deepest regret ending up in the ranks of the Latin or Protestant clergy. But the Orthodox leadership does not protest and is not pained, and this makes us wonder whether they are real shepherds who leave the ninety-nine sheep to search for the one who is lost.

5. We demand that there be metropolises or dioceses, so that there will be spiritual activities and pastoral responsibility, without everything waiting for the Patriarch's approval, because unfortunately in our Patriarchate there do not exist pastoral metropolitans but only titular ones. This leaves the flock without a shepherd, which is disastrous for the future of Orthodoxy in our country.

6. We also demand that some members of the congregation have a say in the administration of the Church. Today the Church leadership works with and is represented by certain laymen. Who are they? Individuals who are ignorant of the Church. Even if they are Christians, they do not partake in or understand the sacred Mysteries of the Church. They do not commune after their baptism and they present themselves as "notables" who revel in being honored in society. We demand that faithful individuals who live the sacramental and spiritual life have a say in ecclesial affairs, that they not feel disconnected, like foreigners in their own country and their Mother Church, where today foreign clergy who do not know the customs, traditions and who appear as though they parachuted in have more rights. Some of these foreign clergy-- unfortunately coming to us in recent years as unknown, already ordained clergy who are advanced in years- humiliate the local clergy and faithful with their shocking behavior, to the detriment of the memberless-- and thus nonexistent-- patriarchal school, which was the nursery of our Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, where Greeks and Arabs coexisted, but today consists of only 7-8 children of Greek origin.

7. We demand the canonical establishment of the Synod. The composition of the current Synod is done in such a way that it only pleases the Patriarch, since he believes that the Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is nothing more than a committee of higoumens. The Patriarch appoints anyone he deems to be "qualified". Thus the members of the Synod represent neither the people nor the eparchies, since, with the exception of two bishops, they have no flock and many of them are archimandrites. In order to hold onto their seat on the Synod and not fall out of favor with the Patriarch and in order for the archimandrites to become hierarchs, the members of the Synod become silent fish. If any member of the Synod dares resist the opinion of the Patriarch, he is immediately shown to the exit door. What hope then remains for a better future for our Church?

These are the demands that we are making to our spiritual leadership and for which we strive with humility and love for our ecclesiastical Authority, who for years has shut its ears and worse, has misread our intentions and distorted our motivations.

Whether these demands are anti-Christian and anti-Greek, you be the judge, and if you find them to be unjust and irrational from a pastoral and ecclesiological standpoint, then we will suffer any punishment and expulsion.

We are eager for any dialogue that will bring positive results, although we doubt it will be successful, after having tried in vain in recent years.

We know that the local churches do not interfere in the affairs of another Church.

However, here there is a catastrophic decline for the Orthodox Church in the Holy Land, which is a serious matter for the entire Orthodox Church.

If one member suffers then the whole body suffers. This should not be forgotten.

Two years ago, the flock and Orthodox organizations reported the problem to Ecumenical Partriarch Bartholomew in a letter signed by more than 6000 faithful, copy of which is attached.

Therefore, please intervene to put an end to the uncanonical system of administration and arbitrary behavior of the Patriarch in the Church of Jerusalem in any manner that you deem fit, before we mourn Orthodoxy in the ruins of Holy Zion.

Archbishop Theodosios [Atallah] of Sebasteia
Archimandrite Christophoros Atallah
Archimandrite Meletios Bassal
Archimandrite Athanasios Kakish


Anonymous said...

What is going on with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem? We have the issue of the Patriarch naming a Metropolitan in Qatar and now this. I would have preferred the term "request" instead of all the demands; but I can see from their pain and love for the church why they would use the term "demand". Orthodoxy does not know ethnicities so I would love to see my Patriarchate drop the term "Greek" from the official title of the Patriarchate of Antioch. Greek applies to the church in Greece just as Russian applies to the church in Russia. The diaspora has spread ethnicities along with Orthodoxy. It is time to have Orthodoxy without the ethnicity. Orthodoxy is what we all have in common regardless of ethnicity. I pray for peace in all the Patriarchates in the Middle East. They definitely need all the prayers they can get.

Anonymous said...

The Patriarchate of Antioch describes herself as "Roman Orthodox" (not "Greek") but unfortunately this does not translate well in to English - people would think us some kind of uniate.

Anonymous said...

God bless those who wrote this letter of truth. As one of the Palestinian faithful said to me, “it is not just our land that is occupied our churches are also occupied.” What is happening within the Jerusalem Patriarchate in the Holy Land is a pitiful scandal. I fear there will be no quick resolution to this situation. His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew will do as he usually does, nothing! And the Greeks will continue to abuse their privileged position in the Holy Land. And the Greeks in the Church will contine to collect rent from the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) as the Parliament is constructed on Orthodox land. What a tangled web. God bless and protect Palestine and its peoples.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

If there was such a thing as "Orthodoxy without ethnicity" then it would be a matter of complete indifference whether a particular See was ruled by a Greek or a Palestinian or whoever, and the liturgical language would be whatever the hierarchs decided.

The EP cynically turns the much-ballyhooed "neither Jew nor Greek" statement on its head in order to justify Greek bigotry.

Rome deals with these issues by proclaiming universal jurisdiction. Orthodoxy attempts to deal with the new reality of people just picking up and leaving when the jobs disappear or the bullets start flying by declaring jurisdiction over people rather than geography.

It's a mess that has been allowed to fester for many, many decades. Basically, the Church has no idea what it's going to replace the Holy Roman or Byzantine Empires with.

Anonymous said...

It is true that they use the term Rum to describe the church and not actually "Greek". That is due to the fact that the Byzantine Empire was called the Roman Empire or Eastern Roman Empire as the term "Greek" has the connotation of the greek gods and paganism and the people thought of themselves as Romans. I pray the schism with the Oriental Orthodox can be healed and the Patriarchate of Antioch can merely be the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. I am a convert to Orthodoxy within the Church of Antioch and I'm sad to say in my readings I developed pessimism about the EP similar to what has been posted here. Unfortunately I hope for the best but expect the worst.