Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Jad Ganem: Crucial Questions

Arabic original here.

Crucial Questions

If the message should be read on the basis of its title, then the speech that His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople to the archbishop-elect of the Archdiocese of America portends the challenges awaiting the Orthodox presence in that country in the near future. His Holiness addressed the new archbishop in a speech in which he advised him to pay special attention to:

-- reorganizing Holy Cross School of Theology, which is experiencing an acute crisis that threatens to close it;

-- cooperating with universities located in the United States to strengthen education and spead cultural heritage;

-- organizing pilgrimages to Constantinople and visiting this center to foster spirituality and cooperation with the synodal committees concerned with matters pertaining to the Archdiocese of America;

-- establishing better relations with our non-Orthodox brothers and engaging in ecumenical activity;

-- establishing better relations with members of other religions, especially Islam and Judaism, with whom Constantinople has conducted a scholarly dialogue for years.

If one looks at this speech carefully, one will observe that in it His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew dealt with the priorities for the new archbishop's service within his archdiocese and limited them to matters related to the internal life of the archdiocese and relations with society and other religions. He omitted any engagement with or even any sort of hint of the issue of joint Orthodox cooperation within the Assembley of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States and of the issue of common Orthodox witness.

It appears noteworthy, in turn, that the new archbishop did not mention this issue either in his speech in response or in the message he sent to members of his new archdiocese.

Given that its purpose was to send a message to Orthodox in America, perhaps all the above means specifically:

-- that Constantinople no longer cares about the issue of Orthodoxy unity and joint Orthodox witness in the world and that it considers that strengthening its own house, opening channels of dialogue with American society and other religions should be the ultimate priority for new pastors, regarding them as the legitimate representatives of Orthodoxy in the diaspora;

-- that Constantinople still considers the Orthodox diaspora in America to be within its canonical territory on the basis of its interpretation of Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, and so consequently avoids talking about any cooperation among Orthodox in that country, lest such talk be regarded as an admission of the canonical existence of these churches and an acceptance of the status quo.

In a talk he gave at Holy Cross in Boston in 2009 while still an archimandrite in response to the metropolitan of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America and Metropolitan Philip Saliba, who had refuted Constantinople's interpretation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon, the new archbishop stated, "With regards to the United States, the submission to the First Throne of the Church, that is, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not only fitting with the American society and mentality but also it opens up the horizons of possibilities for this much-promising region, which is capable of becoming an example of Pan-Orthodox unity and witness." Constantinople chose the advocate of unifying Orthodoxy in the United States within the archdiocese belonging to Constantinople at a time when that archdiocese is suffering from decay and fragmentation. Will it be possible for the premier ideologue of the Phanar's authority to preserve the unity of his archdiocese and regain its former glory? What are the means that he will use to put his old ideology into practice? How will  this ideology be expressed within the the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States? What will be the consequences  of moving forward with this ideology for global Orthodoxy?

These are crucial questions and challenges confronting a global Orthodoxy that is being debilitated by authoritarianism.

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