Saturday, June 25, 2016

Met Ignatius (al-Houshi) on Qatar and Antioch's Absence from the Council

Translation made from the French version, here.

What are the Reasons for the Patriarchate of Antioch's not Participating in the Great Council on Crete?

We need to point out, first of all, that from the moment when the idea for convoking a holy council was proposed, the Patriarchate of Antioch was greatly interested in it and completely understood its importance. Since then, it has played a great role in promoting the advancement of the preconciliar work that took place during the sixty years of preparation for the council.

Nevertheless, the violation and transgression of the territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem disturbed the relationship between the two churches.

What is the Qatar issue? It is a purely ecclesiastical issue and is in no way geo-political, as some people are characterizing it. Qatar is an Arab country in the Arabian Gulf, part of the territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch, which has been recognized on the basis of a decision of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. On this territory [i.e., the Persian Gulf region], there is an archdiocese that functions normally, with numerous parishes served by priests of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

On March 5, 2013, we were surprised to learn through the media that the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had elected, without giving prior warning, an archbishop of Qatar. As soon as we learned of this act of agression, we spoke to the Ecumenical Patriarch so that he might intervene for its resolution. In June of the same year, a meeting was held in Athens, during which it was agreed that first, the Patriarchate of Jersusalem recall the newly-elected bishop of Qatar; second, that it changes his title; and third, that it agrees not to further violate the territories of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

Today, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem does not recognize this agreement, which forced us to not place our signature below the decisions of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches that was held at the Phanar in June, 2014, thus demonstrating the existence of a serious problem at the heart of the Orthodox world. That is when it was agreed to convoke the Great Council in 2016.

We have exhausted all attempts by bringing up the issue without cease, so that we would not be prevented from participating in the council. Moreover, all the other Orthodox churches have repeatedly assured us that Qatar belongs to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch and it was promised more than once that the issue would be resolved before the council.

We took part-- out of economy-- in the Synaxis of January, 2016 in Chambésy, during which we once more brought up the question. It was ignored and no importance was given to it. We should emphasize here that we mentioned in writing that we were of a contrary opinion and that, among other things, we were not in agreement with the content of two texts, the one concerning marriage and the one concerning the internal order and decisions of the council.

At the beginning of April, the Ecumenical Patriarchate made a new initiative to resolve the Qatar issue, but while he recognized that we had made other concessions so as not to endanger the unity of Orthodoxy, we received an official letter from the secretariat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate dated May 3, informing us that the search for a resolution to this problem was postponed until after the council, thus depriving us of participation in the council's eucharistic liturgies.

It is therefore clear that our decision was not taken at the last minute and, furthermore, there was in no way consensus during the two years of preparation for the council.

No comments: