Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: An Abundance of Sectarianism... An Abundance of Corruption

Arabic original here.

An Abundance of Sectarianism... An Abundance of Corruption

An abundance of sectarianism, an abundance of religion, an abundance of corruption. This is the state of our country today.

Yes, we have distinguished between sectarianism and religion, since sectarianism has no relationship to religious faith, but rather expresses the group solidarity that emerges between individuals who are only brought together by the sectarian identity that they acquired at birth. As for religion, what is meant here is not only faith, but the manifestations of piety, worship, and rhetoric that have noticeably increased of late.

We have distinguished between sectarianism and religion because sectarianism is the means that the temporal leaders of the sects, in collusion with religious leaders, use to exploit exploit the religious feelings of believers for their own personal interests. As for religion, it is total devotion to God, faith in His teachings, and absolute submission to the will of the Most High.

It says in the Qur'an about the difference between declared religious affiliation and true faith, "The Bedouins say: ‘We believe.' Say: ‘You do not believe. Instead you may say: “We surrender,” but faith has not entered your hearts" (Surat al-Hujurat 14). The explanation of this verse is that the Bedouins outwardly declared that they were Muslims and were outwardly led by it, but true faith did not enter their hearts. Here we may highlight that what the verse is saying about the state of some Muslims also applies to the states of Christians, Jews and followers of other religions.

It is self-evident that corruption reigns in a time of sectarianism since without corruption, sectarianism has no life and no staying power. For corruption to reign alongside an abundance of religion, this is something that should arouse surprise.

Quite unfortunately, it seems that our distinction between religion and sectarianism is purely imaginary and only applies to a conscious society capable of distinguishing between them. Our societies have not yet arrived at this consciousness that is necessary for their advancement and development.

How can religious consciousness prevail with religious leaderships who have not been freed from the authority of kings and princes and which submit to politicians and the wealthy? How can religious consciousness prevail with religious leaderships who are themselves corrupt, making suspicious deals and keeping quiet about what they, those close to them and their entourages commit and, most importantly, who keep quiet about those who hand them money, those with whom they are pleased politically and do not work to displace them?

How could corruption not prevail, with religious leaderships who have excluded from their sphere of interests the poor, the wretched, the sick,  widows, orphans, refugees, and all who are tormented on the earth and have limited their demands to being given their sectarian slice of the state, from the top of the pyramid down to the bottom? How can corruption not prevail when concern for people and the environment is absent from the minds of the religious leaderships?

There is no doubt that the spread of corruption an its acceptance in a given society is evidence of the disappearance of religious and social virtues. However, cooperation on the part of people of good will who belong to civil society organizations-- among whom are believers motivated by the principles of their faiths, just as there are those among them who are not religiously practicing and are motivated by general humanitarian principles-- will inevitably lead to putting an end to corruption. This is what we saw today in the response by civil society organizations to how to deal with the trash collection crisis.

"If the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?," (Matthew 5:13) Jesus said to his disciples.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: Love is Mightier than the Sword

Arabic original here.

Love is Mightier than the Sword

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). We can say without any hesitation that this verse from the Sermon on the Mount constitutes the essence of Jesus Christ's message. Peace is a concept that has not applied more to any human being from Adam up to today than it applied to Jesus, whom Christianity sees as God incarnate, perfect God and perfect man.

In the shadow of the wars and struggles taking place in our countries and massacres that have claimed thousands of lives and cast millions out of their homes and villages, Jesus' followers must strive for peace if they want to emulate their Lord and Redeemer. No circumstance or incident can be permitted to prevent them from committing to work for peace because all direct involvement in the surrounding sectarian war can only be a scandalous betrayal of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Church's mission in the world. Here it should be stated that the Church must not, at the same time, lose her prophetic voice that speaks the truth without fear of anyone.

Scholars of the Bible agree that peace is not merely the absence of war or the absence of violence, but rather that it is closely connected to the realization of social justice-- the necessities of a dignified life such as food, drink, security, protection, freedom, justice, equality, which bring people tranquility and peace of mind. Violence is not limited only  to wars, battles, military operations, killing, expulsions... it is also when the law of love is not put into practice with regard to those who need our assistance. For example, not sheltering refugees and not feeding the hungry are forms of violence.

There is no peace, then, without caring for the poor, the wretched, the widow, the orphan, the hungry, the prisoner, the refugee, the homeless, the oppressed... and every vulnerable and suffering person on earth. Therefore, those who strive for peace must continuously work hard to aid the needy. Noone's righteousness is complete without this direct commitment to realizing social justice in our societies: "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1:17).

The New Testament rejects every form of war, violence and vengeance. Christ did not come to establish a state or to enact laws. Rather, he brought one commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you." The principle of love is mightier and more effective than the principle of the sword and therefore Jesus said to Peter on the night he was arrested, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). In this context, we may also cite what the Holy Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).

Peace is an internal posture resulting from firmly-rooted faith in Jesus, our only Savior. Times of hardship, persecution and wars cannot make believers lose their spiritual peace and their commitment to the Lord's teachings. Our rallying cry is what the Holy Apostle Paul says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39).

There is no doubt that faith in Jesus Christ requires one to pay dearly. Even one's own life is not more precious than bearing true witness. We are living a time of great trial, so let us not lose Christ under any pretext, even if such a pretext is legitimate according to human instict!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos) on Orthodoxy

Arabic original here.


The word "Orthodoxy" means upright dogma,  correct tradition. It is a way of life based on asceticism, on simplicity in life-- "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God" (Matthew 5:3). The poor in spirit rely on God. The true Orthodox person constantly strives along the way of perfection, through purification and illumination to divinization. "Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Yes, Orthodoxy strives for the experience of divinization! It has been tasted fully by the friends of God to whom God has appeared, such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is the experience of the prophets, the Apostles and the saints. This experience informs us that we cannot know God in His essence. Spiritual struggle helps us only to participate in His uncreated energies. That is, what comes forth from Him by way of divine grace.

The Orthodox spiritual father acquires the virtue of discernment between what is created and what is uncreated. He discerns what belongs to God and what belongs to something else, to Satan, for example (cf. Hebrews 5:14 and 1 John 4:1). Heresy is the lack of discernment between the created energies of God and His uncreated energies. That is, between the Spirit of God and the spirit of the Evil One. Heresy comes as the result of a darkened, unenlightened and confused intellect. The darkened intellect starts off from intellectual imagination, not from divine inspiration.

There is a difference between the intellect as the human brain, which God created for humans to order the affairs of their life with, and as the heart, as the tool by which humans may connect with God.

The person who is pure in his intellect and in his heart alone can behold God with His saints through divine grace. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). There are many apparitions and dreams that come from the imagination or from the Evil One.

All of this causes us to give importance to the process of repentance and confession so that we may be purified of our passions.

* * *

The true Orthodox faith is acquired through experience, the experience of repentance, of illumination and  of beholding God, through purifying the intellect and the heart.

The loss and fragmentation of the intellect on account of selfishness, sin and personal interests distances people today from the love and knowledge of God and also from the love of others. From this come wars, stife between nations and people, and indulgence in vices and deviancies which keep people away from the salvation of their souls and from enjoying divine glory.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, Koura and their Dependencies

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Met Saba Esber Responds to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem's Statement

Arabic original here. English translation taken from the Patriarchate of Antioch's facebook page here.

This is in response to the statement issued by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which can be read here.

Your Pardon, my Christ!

A few days ago, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem published a statement "sincerely and truthfully informing the sister Orthodox Churches and its flock" of certain points that contain no truth about its attack on territory canonically and historically belonging to the pastoral care of the Patriarchate of Antioch according to Orthodox order. The first item summarizes the history of the emergence of the Qatar parish until the naming of an archbishop for it. It says in the beginning of the historical narrative that it "responded to an invitation by the Christians of Qatar, a geographical territory within its ecclesiastical jurisdiction," while in reality it is part of "All the East", the title of the Patriarchate of Antioch since the establishment of the first five Apostolic Patriarchates.

Every observer of Church history knows that the Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in Chalcedon in 451, decided "out of reverence for the Lord's Passion and Resurrection" to elevate the city of Jerusalem, which at the time was a bishopric subject to the Patriarchate of Antioch, to the rank of patriarchate. Over the course of time, Antioch gave her some of her bishopric so that she could have a patriarchal existence. We could mention, for example, that Haifa remained a bishopric of Antioch until the 18th century.

The statement mentions that services for the Christians of Qatar began "in house churches" and that "the Patriarchate of Antioch had no presence" there. The least that can be said about this is that it is a truth meant to express a falsehood. Services began in homes-- specifically in the home of the American ambassador, who at that time was Orthodox--because Qatar had not yet started to permit Christian religious services. This is what prevented the Church of Antioch, in the person of the shepherd of the diocese overseeing Qatar, Metropolitan Constantine Papastephanou, from providing regular liturgical services. However, he made numerous visits to Qatar, during which he held liturgical services.

If the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with the support of the American ambassador, was for years only able to provide regular liturgical services in homes and not in a designated building, then how can she allow herself to admonish her sister Church of Antioch and appropriate what is hers? Does not ecclesiastical, canonical and brotherly practice-- not to simply say love-- not require her to ask permission to provide religious services for the faithful living in that country, as the Russian Church did when she sought permission from her sister Church of Antioch to build a church in Sharjah for the Russians who are very numerous in the United Arab Emirates? And this is indeed what happened. Today, at liturgies in the UAE, the Russian priest, in accordance with Orthodox tradition, commemorates the Patriarch of Antioch alongside the Russian Patriarch, which is recognition on the part of his church that it is serving faithful on Antiochian territory. Then, we should wonder whether providing religious services to the faithful through a priest, a brother from a sister church, gives this church the right to consider the territory her own, to consecrate a bishop for it and to regard it as a dependency? Such a thing only happens between conflicting colonial powers!

In addition to this, it accuses the Antiochian Church of ethno-phyletism, when she is the one which serves all Orthodox found in the Gulf coming from various nationalities, using Arabic, Greek and sometimes Russian and Romanian in the Divine Liturgy. In North America and Australia, she uses English and the proportion of converts of non-Arab background is reaching fifty percent. In South and Central America, the divine services have long been translated into Spanish and Portuguese.
The Church of Antioch, which God has preserved from the temptation of ethno-phyletism and is acclaimed worldwide for the significant role she continues to play in realizing Orthodox ecclesiology, is falsely and slanderously accused in this statement of "placing the question on an ethnic-racial basis." Go ahead and laugh. We've really reached the end of times! You'll laugh even more when you learn that Jerusalem's statement bases its accusation on a letter that does not exist, attributed to Patriarch John X, that puts into his mouth words that no Orthodox person with even a modicum of sanity has ever said. They claim that he is demanding pastoral oversight of the Orthodox in Qatar because he "represents the Orthodox Community in all Arab countries, including for example Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Jerusalem, Egypt, Bahrain, the Emirates, Iran." Is Iran an Arab country? We hadn't heard about this. They've exchanged Persian for another language!

Likewise anyone who is in the least familiar with ecclesial reality knows that Egypt and all Africa belongs to the Patriarchate of Alexandria whose foundation is attributed to the Holy Evangelist Mark and is an ancient, apostolic patriarchate having the second place after Rome, before the foundation of Constantinople, which it continues to hold today among the Orthodox. As such, it goes ahead of Antioch, which holds the third place among the Orthodox.

As for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, she cares for the city of Jerusalem and, as we mentioned above, was with time given by Antioch bishoprics in present-day Palestine and Jordan. Among them are ten bishoprics in present-day Jordanian territory that belonged to the diocese of Bosra, which the Patriarch of Jerusalem suddenly woke up and started regarding as belonging to his patriarchate.
If not for the need to defend the right and honor of the Church, we would shy away from talking about these shameful realities.

The most hurtful thing is the false accusation that the Patriarchate of Antioch is lying. This is unprecedented behavior even for countries in conflict with each other, so how can it happen in the Church of Jesus Christ? The statement goes so far as to deny the agreement that was reached in Athens at the Greek Foreign Ministry in early summer 2014. Even uglier than that, it invokes "the testimony of the delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the Directorate for Churches" of course to confirm the non-existence of this agreement, which was announced at that time in the Greek media.

How far has the Church of Jerusalem, the "Mother of Churches", sunk and why is there this frantic effort to occupy the territory of a sister church?! Instead of practicing the words of the Apostle, "Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?" we find our brother practicing the following saying: "Who is weak and I do not devour him?" It is really a bitter farce, in the face of which words are useless. Whoever said, "Among the Orthodox, active love has become a dull tune," was right. It is no wonder then, that the other religious communities have become a haven for those fleeing the hell of those who claim to be the "Mother of Churches". You are truly a stranger and an outcast in Your own Church, O Lord!

Worst of all, the statement closes by declaring kindness and gentleness that impose continued "commemoration of the sister Orthodox Church of Antioch, for the sake of the unity of the Orthodox Church." As if the unity of the Church were a superficial unity achieved through commemoration alone, apart from truth and love. What unity is this apart from truth!? What unity is this in falsehood and slander?! What unity is this through bullying, using every means that belongs to this world, except the true Gospel of Jesus Christ!?

Do we still wonder why people are fleeing the Church?

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Announcement of an Agreement about Qatar in 2013

Greek original here, from June 21, 2013. Just for reference---

At the initiative of Deputy Foreign Minister Kosta Tsiara, a meeting was held today at the Ministery of Foreign Affairs between delegations between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem. The main subject of the meeting, in which a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate also participated, was the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Qatar.

Following the discussions, conducted in a spirit of mutual trust and understanding, the representatives of the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem confirmed that each Church respects the boundaries of the other's jurisdiction and they agreed to relay specific proposals that serve the common goal of the unity of Orthodoxy to the Holy Synods of the Churches.

In conclusion, the Deputy Foreign Minister praised the mediating role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and thanked them for the agreement and the constructive atmosphere in which the talks were held.

an-Nahar on Antioch's Decision and Jerusalem's Response

Arabic original here.

On Antioch's Decision and Jerusalem's Response
by Mazen Abboud

On June 27 of this year, the Holy Synod of Antioch, meeting at Balamand for its regular session, issued decision no. ع3-5/2015, cutting off ecclesiastical communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. It stated in its rationale that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had violated the geographical territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch by establishing a diocese in Qatar and installing an "archbishop" over it. Antioch stated that it had exhausted all eirenic means and noted that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had "repudiated what had been agreed upon" in the presence of delegates from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and promises that it had made to some of the heads of the sister Orthodox churches. In order to affirm its right to the Gulf region, it cut off ecclesiastical communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and confirmed the necessity of returning to what had been agreed in Athens in June 2013. It affirmed that any solution to the conflict must be based on affirming the Church of Antioch's insistence on the necessity of respecting the principle of consensus, whether in terms of the presence of all autocephalous Orthodox churches or in adopting decisions at any joint Orthodox meeting.

This was a measure that some may have considered harsh and the response from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem was quick. Jerusalem began its response by declaring its sorrow over the decision to break communion and stating that incorporating Qatar into its territory was "responding to an invitation by the Christians of Qatar, a geographical territory within its ecclesiastical jurisdiction." It then points out that in 1997 it sent a priest to hold liturgical services, the present-day Patriarch Theophilus of Jerusalem. After a careful reading of the response from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, I would like to discuss a number of points:

First, to my knowledge, there has never existed any letter from the Patriarchate of Antioch to the Foreign Ministry of Qatar claiming spiritual authority over Jerusalem and Jordan. Nor was there ever any direct communication between the two sides in this context. His Beatitude the Patriarch never asked to visit Qatar or to cooperate with it in educational and medical affairs, as the letter from the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Church of Jerusalem reports.

Second, who are the Christians of Qatar who invited the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to come there? Are they members of the Patriarchate of Antioch, for example?

Fourth, I think the least that can be said of the Church of Jerusalem's response to her sister church is that it lacks diplomatic tact and it definitely lacks the spirit of Christ. Accusing another church of ethno-phylitism and racial discrimination better reflects the state of the accuser, which is estranged from its flock because it refuses to deal with their issues, concerns and crises. Likewise, accusing Antioch of lying in an official response reflects the extent of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem's estrangement from Christ.

Fifth, does the presence of an archimandrite holding liturgical services in Qatar actually comparable to consecrating an archbishop over it? And does the fact that Antioch did not object to a priest from Jerusalem holding services entail not opposing his election and consecration as bishop of Qatar?

I am afraid that the Church of Jerusalem has started to look for external crises with other churches in order to hide its behavior and distract public opinion and the media from being concerned with its news, the way it treats its flock  and sales of land.

Finally, our Church, despite all her weakness, is not an ethnic church and will never be, even if once upon a time the Arabs granted her the title of "Patriarch of the Arabs".

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Territory of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem according to the Fourth Ecumenical Council

This is taken from Richard Price and Michael Gaddis, The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon. Liverpool University Press, 2005, vol. II, pp. 247-249.

Compare to this nonsense. For a map of the territories in question, see here. Notice that according to the Council of Chalcedon, most of modern Jordan should be part of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

Session VII (Session VIII in the Greek version of the Acts)


3. When all had taken their seats in front of the rails of the most holy sanctuary, the most magnificent and glorious officials said: ‘Our most divine and pious master, at the request of the most sacred bishops Maximus and Juvenal, instructed us to discuss with them the proposals that have been moved. The aforementioned most sacred men had a meeting and drafted a joint proposal in unwritten form, which, as they made clear even to us, appears to have been drafted justly by agreement. We therefore thought it essential that both of them should also inform the holy council, so that by our judgement and your decree that which has found approval may be confirmed.’

4. Maximus the most devout bishop of Antioch in Syria said: ‘After much rivalry the most devout Bishop Juvenal and I have decided in agreement that the see of the great city of Antioch, that of Saint Peter, should have the two Phoenices and Arabia, while the see of Jerusalem should have the three Palestines. And we ask that this be confirmed in writing by a judgement of your magnificence and of the holy council.’

5. Juvenal the most sacred bishop of the city of Jerusalem said: ‘I too have decided that the holy [church of the] Resurrection of Christ should have the three Palestines, and the see of Antioch the two Phoenices and Arabia. And I ask that this be confirmed by a judgement of your magnificence and of the holy council.’


7. Paschasinus and Lucentius the most devout bishops and Boniface presbyter, representing the apostolic see of Senior Rome, said {through the most devout Bishop Paschasinus}: ‘We recognize that this proposal resulting from an agreement between our brothers Maximus the most devout bishop of the church of Antioch and the most devout and holy Bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem was made for the sake of the benefit of peace,that is, that the bishop of the church of Antioch should have the two Phoenices and Arabia and the bishop of Jerusalem the three Palestines. May it be confirmed
in addition by the declaration of our humility, so that from now on no rivalry may remain between the aforesaid churches over this matter.’

8. Anatolius bishop of glorious Constantinople New Rome said: ‘May the agreement between the most God-beloved Maximus bishop of Antioch and the most God-beloved Juvenal bishop of Jerusalem be confirmed by my declaration also, that the most holy church of the great city of Antioch should have the two Phoenices and Arabia, and the most holy church of Jerusalem the three Palestines, so that in future the two churches should have no cause for dispute with each other over this question.’

9. Thalassius the most devout bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia said: The decision agreed between the most God-beloved and holy bishops Maximus and Juvenal we also approve.’

10. Stephen the most devout bishop of Ephesus said: ‘In accordance with the proposal of the most God-beloved and devout Maximus bishop of the city of Antioch and the most God-beloved Juvenal bishop of Jerusalem, that the most holy church of the city of Antioch should have the two Phoenices and Arabia and the most holy church of Jerusalem the three Palestines, I too confirm their joint proposal, so that both churches in future will have no cause for rivalry.’

11. Eusebius the most devout bishop of Ancyra in Galatia said: ‘We give thanks to the Lord God that the dispute between the two fathers has been ended by a friendly agreement, and we therefore wish that the proposal agreed by both parties prevail.’

12. Peter the most devout bishop of Corinth said: ‘We are delighted by the peace and concord between these two fathers, and approve the proposal.’

13. Julian the most devout bishop of Cos said: ‘In accordance with the agreement between both parties, that is, the most devout Maximus bishop of Antioch and Juvenal the most devout bishop of Jerusalem, that the most holy church of the great city of Antioch should have the two Phoenices and Arabia, and the most holy church of Jerusalem the three Palestines, I too pronounce that their joint proposal is confirmed, since the mediation of Christ’s love has brought them both into unity.’

14. Diogenes the most devout bishop of Cyzicus said: ‘I approve the proceedings of the holy fathers.’

15. Amphilochius the most devout bishop of Side said: ‘Since the divine dispensation has manifestly directed that the dispute between the most Godbeloved bishops Maximus and Juvenal should be settled by a friendly agreement, I too give thanks to Christ the Saviour for this peace between them, and approve their splendid decision.’

16. All the most devout bishops exclaimed: ‘We too say the same and agree with the statements of the fathers.’

17. The most magnificent and glorious officials said: ‘This too is the work of the holy Trinity and of the policy of our most divine and pious emperor, so that the dispute between those who appeared to be rivals should be cut short by an agreed policy. The accord that has been reached, then, through agreement between Maximus the most holy bishop of Antioch and Juvenal the most sacred bishop of Jerusalem, as revealed in their joint proposal, now that it has been confirmed both by our judgement and by the decree of the holy council, will last for all time, that is, that the most sacred Bishop Maximus and the most holy church of Antioch is to have the two Phoenices and Arabia under its authority, while the most sacred Juvenal bishop of Jerusalem and the most holy church under him is to have the three Palestines under its authority. This decision abrogates, according to the command of our most divine and pious lord, all mandates and all rescripts otherwise procured by the two parties and the penalties contained in them relating to this matter.’

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Carol Saba on the Rupture of Communion between Antioch and Jerusalem

French original here. Audio, from Radio Notre Dame, can be found here. It should be noted that Carol Saba is expressing his personal view here and is not speaking in his capacity of director of communications for the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France.

 "When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at his finger"!
What is the Affair of Canonical Jurisdiction over Qatar about?

 "When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at his finger"! The famous Chinese proverb was completely right. This teaching attributed to Confucius is very appropriate in this case. Especially when we read, here and there, commentaries on the affair of canonical jurisdiction over Qatar. In the same sense as the Chinese lesson, as they say in my country France, "the tree must not hide the forest". Everyone is looking at this affair from the perspective of the break in ecclesiastical communion that the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East was recently compelled to declare.  This break is only the visible consequence of a deeper cause which provoked Antioch's decision-- the ecclesiastical intrusion of of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 2013 into Qatar, on the ancestral territory of the canonical, historical and apostolic jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. It is not for nothing that this patriarchate has this name, the Patriarchate of Antioch --and All the East-- as its patriarchal territory extends over all the ancient East during the time of the Roman Empire and early Christianity. It was thus since the earliest apostolic times. As it has been since then and well before (historians and canonists must be reminded) the establishment of Jerusalem as a "Patriarchate" by the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. At that time, Jerusalem was only a simple episcopal see and did not have the rank of patriarchate. At that time it was under the metropolitan of Caesarea. The elevation of the See of Jerusalem to the rank of patriarchate (a patriarchate which also had a role that was somewhat sui generis, as a patriarchate of pilgrimage) was on account of the holy places on its territory more so than as a patriarchate with pastoral functions. Thus this elevation to the rank of patriarchate which was made at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, held at the Church of Saint Euphemia, was made (we must recall) by a concession granted by the Patriarch of Antioch at the time, Maximus, to the bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem, who already at that time, as the acts of the Fourth Ecumenical Council attest, was making multiple intrusions into the canonical territory of Antioch. Was not the agreement between Maximus and Juvenal (snatched from Antioch, and which many historians consider unjust for that patriarchate) the basis for forming Jerusalem's canonical jurisdiction? Was it not the Patriarch of Antioch who ceded his jurisdiction over the territory of Palestine to Jerusalem, while keeping (as is explicitly stipulated in the canons of the council) the See of Antioch and its region, as well as the two Phoenicias and Arabia? So how could the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose territory was taken from within that of Antioch, today claim to have a right to the jurisdiction of a patriarchate-- that is, Antioch-- which preceded it? Thus we see that the story is older than it seems. It has roots deep in history. It doesn't just date back to 2013! But let's set history aside and come back to the present day. Yes, the Patriarchate of Antioch could not accept without jeopardizing its historical, apostolic, canonical and ecclesiastical integrity for the priest Archimandrite Macarius of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who by economia was providing certain liturgical and pastoral services in Qatar, to be elevated in March 2013 to the rank of Archbishop of Qatar, a decision of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem which also created a new diocese of that patriarchate on the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch! For a church (i.e. Antioch) to welcome a priest of another church (i.e. Jerusalem) onto its territory out of canonical tolerance and pastoral economia is one thing, but it is something entirely different to accept a "bishop" of another church onto its own canonical territory. It's as if Cardinal André Vignt-Trois were forced to accept a second bishop of Paris from another church who came claiming the same title and the same episcopal rank as the Archbishop of Paris!

Yes, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East was compelled, with heavy heart and pain down to the very depths of its ecclesiastical being, to break ecclesiastical communion until further notice with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem on account of the affair of canonical jurisdiction over Qatar. I say "affair" and not "dispute" or "disagreement" because to speak of a dispute or disagreement-- and as a lawyer I should know this very well-- implies the existence of a doubt or a debate about the existence of a right. In this case, canonical, historical and apostolic jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch over Qatar and the entire Arabian Peninsula is not open to debate or interpretation. It was on this basis-- that is, explicit recognition by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the canonical right of the Patriarchate of Antioch over the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, including Qatar-- that an agreement was made in June 2013 between the two patriarchates. This agreement was made thanks to the mediation organized in Athens at the headquarters of the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, by that minister (in the presence of the minister and his advisers) and by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (represented by Metropolitan John of Pergamon and Archimandrite Bartholemew). I was there as part of the delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch led by Metropolitan Saba of Bosra and Hauran and I contributed to the formulation of this agreement. Unfortunately, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem subsequently reneged on this agreement and claims that it never existed. Nevertheless, this agreement was not only announced on the very day of the negotiations by an official communiqué of the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, a communiqué whose tenor and every word was validated by the delegations from the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem as well as the representatives of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Greek minister, by also by correspondence exchanged between the primates of the Churches of Constantinople and Antioch.

"When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at his finger"! Today we should not look at the finger, but at the moon! We should not look at the consequence, but at the cause! This is not a mere "territorial dispute" between two sister churches, but an issue that touches the very heart of the unity of the entire Orthodox Church, a unity that is based on the one hand on communion of faith and on the other hand on respect by all the Orthodox churches for the canons of the ecumenical councils as well as the taxis and praxis of the Orthodox Church. Thus any violation by a church of the texts of these councils and their canons wrongs not only the specific church that is being wronged,  but also the entire body of the Orthodox ecclesiastical family. The unity of the Orthodox Church is absolutely crucial today, especially with regard to holding the Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council which is supposed to be held in 2016, where the entire Orthodox Church must speak with one voice to meet the challenges of the contemporary world and must actualize its discourse and undertake its aggiornamento. Kyrie Eleison!