Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Children

Arabic original here.


"Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14).

Don't prevent children from drawing near to the Lord Jesus, from coming to church. Some interpreters have seen in these words an echo of the practice of baptizing children in the early Church. Jesus' attitude toward children is not limited to a sentimental concern for children and the family.

Children's rights were trampled on in that era. A child, because he is weak, does not rely on his own capabilities, but trusts completely in those bigger than him. For this reason, he is more able than others to surrender to God's will. Thus the Lord Jesus says, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

Here too the Lord is not content with just a sentimental glance, but rather it is next to the innocence of children that His attitude can be seen, starting off from the fact that each one of us, no matter what his age, must surrender to God's will as an expression of trust and security in his connection to others, with his parents and especially with God. The child and the spirit of childhood accompany the life of a person who seeks the kingdom of God, not only with his own ability or with his own righteousness, as the Apostle Paul says, but also and especially by way of God's grace, which grants us trust, security, innocence, humility. All these things children have naturally in abundance.

In Matthew, the disciples pose the question to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matthew 18:1)

That is, who is closest to God. Do you think it is those who are knowledgeable of scripture and the Law? Or is it the great people in this world?

The Lord replies: no! Rather, it is the little ones "like this child" like this simple person who is humble, poor, relying on God alone. When He tells them, "unless you are converted and become as little children..." (Matthew 18:3), he means a process of constant transformation, a process of repentance, a constant return to God and submission to His will. Jesus once told Nicodemus:

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Here too there is a reference to the mystery of baptism, to constant repentance.

He also points to humility when He says, "whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4). That is, one who feels himself to be small like this child, small before God and before others. Small and humble.

Simple, poor. "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is the way of childhood that one acquires through divine grace, the way of new birth in the Spirit, the way of salvation with the Lord.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Jad Ganem: Before the Edifice Collapses

Arabic original here.

Before the Edifice Collapses

The prophetic cry of His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania in the letter he sent to His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew about the Ukrainian crisis, in which he said, "The expected peacemaking between Ukrainian Orthodox, who have in the past suffered various persecutions by atheistic regimes, has not yet been acheived," fell on deaf ears in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, whose champions have waged a vicisious campaign against him that has reached the point of accusing him of "slander and insolence."

But the development of events inside and outside Ukraine since that letter was written until today have proven the correctness of his position:

- Constantinople's decision has failed to realize the sought-after unity within Ukraine and indeed, it has deepened the wounds between members of the same people as a result of the campaigns of repression to which followers of the legitimate Church has been subjected and by provoking disagreement between followers of Epiphany and followers of Filaret.

- It has led to diferences between the local churches regarding the way in which to deal with Constantinople's decision, especially after the Church in Greece's recognition of autocephaly in Ukraine.

- It has inflamed disputes within the local churches themselves regarding the way in which to deal with this decision, even on Mount Athos itself.

But, even beyond this crisis situation, the universal Orthodox Church will find herself faced with:

- Either the choice of activating conciliarity to find a solution to this issue that is becoming more complicated as time passes, through a call to convene a general Orthodox council tasked with finding a solution that will make a judgment in the dispute after the Church of Moscow has tied the dogmatic struggle with the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Greece.

- Or the choice of consecrating the Orthodox schism and announcing a separation between of the Church of Constantinople and supporters of its decision and the Church of Moscow and supporters of its position regarding Constantinople's decision, especially given that its repercussions are changing the rules for dealing with matters on the level of the Orthodox world.

There is no down that the Church in Greece's recognition, which has provided cover for Constantinople's decision and its vision of its new role in the Orthodox world, has reduced the opportunities for finding a common Orthodox solution to the Ukrainian crisis, which has transformed into an Orthodox crisis opening the way to schism. Perhaps the decision which the fathers of the general Holy Synod of the Church in Greece made, to elevate Hellenic unity over Orthodox unity, will weaken Orthodox unity in the long term, something that will not end until everyone realizes that this dispute has caused Orthodoxy to lose much of its potential, that Greek and Russian Orthodoxy need their unity with each other, and that the split is a tragedy for them both.

Will the other local churches play the role of reminding them of this axiomatic truth or will they be dragged into deepening the split by supporting one side or the other?

Don't let this dispute grow until someone comes along in the future to write the history of this dark era of ours and say that the human errors of the leadership kept them from preventing the schism. By your Lord, don't fall into this trap that the leaders of this world have set for you. Be bigger than your own interests and bigger than your differences. Keep purity of faith and unity so that the whole edifice doesn't collapse on our heads.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil): Working together with Christ

Arabic original here.

Working together with Christ (2 Corinithans 6: 1-10)

Today's Epistle reading comes directly after a very profound theological teaching.

It is preceded by a touching discourse on the faith, in which the Apostle explains the greatness of God's grace that is directed to all humans so that they may transform out of their selfishness and fleshly self-love through participation in the event of Christ's death and resurrection. Our God in whom we believe is the God who came down and became "sin" and "condemnation" for our sake, so that in Him we may become God's righteousness (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

This event constitutes the essence of the Gospel to which the Apostle Paul was consecrated to preach and from which he draws all his decisions.

Therefore he says at the beginning of this Sunday's reading, "We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain."

These words epitomize the Apostle of the Gentiles' feeling of responsibility because of his certainty that his partner in work in none other than the almighty God and that his sole purpose is for grace to be fixed in those who have accepted the Gospel and have started the path of change in their life and their priorities. For their part, the believers must not disparage the grace of salvation that they have attained "at an acceptable time" for God.

When grace descends, we must not oppose it. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this, that we are not the ones who determine the appropriate time for God's work in our life and the time of our repentance.

The matter of times and seasons is in God's domain, since He is the one who is pleased, "at an acceptable time and in the day of salvation," to incline toward our misery and rescue us.

When grace touches our hearts, we must not harden our hearts, we must not procrastinate or delay. The Apostle continues, highlighting the responsibility of the evangelist to uphold believers in grace.

He says, "We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed." That is, that there not be suspicions about the motives for service that would scandalize the faithful and limit the enthusiasm of their commitment to their baptismal vow. For this reason, the Apostle informs the faithful of Corinth about his constant eagerness, along with his companions, to be truly servants of God. To achieve this endeavor, the Apostle does not care about his own personal needs, his circumstances or the hardships he is subjected to, since his inspiration his Christ who came down for our sake.

On the other hand, the Apostle struggles so that the clay vessel of his body may be pure, "in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left."

In this way, there does not remain any doubt about the credibility of his message to the faithful, who see his devotion, his self-denial and the holiness of his way of life among them. The enthusiasm of his spiritual struggle springs from his apostolic zeal and his love for the one who sent him, Jesus Christ, and nothing separates him from them.

He bears human ignominy for the sake of divine glory, curses and evil report for the sake of the praise that comes from God.

Perhaps some of them thought he was deluded, but he was truthful. He did not strive for fame, but rather wanted to remain unknown, so that he may be "known by God," as he says elsewhere.

He realizes very well that life is not in scrambling for money, power or lusts, but rather in dying to sin with Christ.

No matter how painful and burdensome the persecution and punishments, they will never be able to destroy him. He likewise proudly expresses his happiness at the sorrows that afflict him and the poverty that he experiences because of the grace of God that passes through him in order to reach people is a fortune by which many are enriched.

People see him stripped of the possessions that give their owner a sense of security, but he possesses the heavenly treasure, "here neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20).

We learn from the Apostle Paul that the service of the New Testament requires a firmer dedication than the consecration of the Levites and priests in the Old Testament. It requires wakefullness, struggle and holiness in order for us not to set obstacles before God's holy work. The Apostle Paul teaches us the priorities that must direct our thoughts and behavior. If these prevail among brothers, then peace be unto them and blessed are they, because their light will shine out before people and they will be confirmed in grace and will praise our Father in heaven.

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil)
Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology

Friday, October 4, 2019

Carol Saba on the Ukrainian Crisis and Orthodoxy's Impasse (V)

Arabic original here. Read part IV here.

An Orthodox Church or Churches?
Elements for Escaping the Crisis of Universal Orthodoxy

The crisis is unprecedented. Moscow boycotts the "council" of Crete in 2016 and Constantinople responds in its own backyard by granting autocephaly to the schismatics in Ukraine at the expense of legitimate Orthodoxy there, which has been tied to Moscow for three hundred years. Moscow rejected the decision and broke communion with Constantinople. The Orthodox churches were flabbergasted and their activity was paralyzed. Appeals to the Ecumenical Patriarch to hold an emergency synaxis received no response. This state of schism spoils communion between the Orthodox Churches and hurts their credibility as one, indivisible body.

In the twentieth century, Orthodoxy became globalized and went from being "Eastern" Orthodoxy to being "global" Orthodoxy  on all continents, without revsing its tradtional governance in order to catch up with this new geopolitical situation. The crisis today is two crises: a crisis of governance that is producing intractable crises (Estonia, Qatar, Czechia, Crete, Ukraine, etc.) and the crisis of an absence of mechanisms for conflict resolution.

The most difficult thing right now is that Constantinople is both plaintiff and judge. Exiting the impasse requires diagnosing the roots of the illness. Is Orthodoxy one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church or competing ethnic churches with no complementarity among them, despite Paul's request to the Corinthians, "...  there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other"? Yes, Constantinople fell before falling due to nationalist self-interest. And with time, the Orthodoxy of faith transformed into a nationalist Orthodoxy that searches for God's history in books of geography, geopolitics, and affiliations.

Metropolitan Georges Khodr foretold in August, 1991, as he was analyzing Orthodoxy's maladies, what is happening today in Ukraine: "Can the official Church which is subject to Moscow religiously preserve this allegiance if the Ukrainian Republic splits?" He continued, "No one can see the future because the historical custom, since the last century, is for those who obtain independence nationally to become independent ecclesiastically." "The historical custom" for Sayyidna Georges is only a painful indicator of the influence of nationalisms on Orthodoxy, which was condemned at the council in Constantinople in 1872.

Nationalism is not the criterion, but rather communion of faith. Until now, this "historical custom" has never been applied in Antiochian experience. The Orthodox in Lebanon did not seek to establish their own national church at Lebanon's independence and it is my hope that they will not seek it today. And they won't, despite all the talk about imminent dangers to Antiochian unity and that Antioch, like Serbia, is the target after Ukraine. Of course, there are problems of governance, sensitivities and estrangement, but they must all be dealt with under the roof of Antiochian unity, so dear to Christ.

Here lies the seriousness of the Ukrainian crisis: as an attempt to subject the governance and geography of the Church-- today more than ever-- to variable nationalist and geopolitical considerations. Did not the new president of Ukraine, Zelensky, withdraw from the invervensions of his predecessor, President Poroshenko, in the Church?

Historically, the Ancient Patriarchates were centers of communion of faith for circles of communion for flocks that transcend national, geographic and political considerations. Apostolic Canon 34 expresses this in the most marvelous way. However, with the rise of ideologies of national liberation in the 19th century under Western influence, there came the theory of the inevitability of ecclesiastical schism upon national indepdence, against the backdrop of the Greek national revolution.

The ideologue of this equation, which states that the boundaries of the Church, like the boundaries of the nation, should follow political boundaries and not the opposite, was the Archimandrite Theoklitos Farmakidis, the theorist of Greek autocephaly, which was declared in 1830 and recognized by Constantinople in 1850. Greek independence from the empire was also independence from Constantinople, which the leaders of the Greek Revolution accused of being dependent on the Sublime Port. But Farmakidis' analogy reversed the ancient ecclesiastical rule and subjected the church to variable geopolitical considerations, opening the way for nationalist Orthodoxies and the intertwining of the ecclesiastical and the political in Orthodoxy, especially for Constantinople and Moscow in the context of their struggle over leadership.

For example, the correspondence of Harry Truman's advisor Myron Taylor with Truman and the American ambassador in Turkey, as well as other documents of correspondence with the Vatican, show that during, before and after the election of Patriarch Athenagoras, there was an ongoing relationship between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the American administration in order to oppose Russia, Communism and, at the time, the Soviet Union. This relationship continues until today and one might point out statements from the US State Department in support of Constantinople's decision in Ukraine.

On the other hand, many documents also demonstrate the exploitation of the Church in Russia by the Soviet state and today the Church in Russia is accused of identifying with the politics of the Russian state.

Escaping the crisis requires both sides and all the Orthodox Churches to look critically at the intertwining of the ecclesiastical and the political in Orthodoxy, to make nationalist Orthodoxy submit to the Orthodoxy of faith rather than the opposite, and to put into place modern practices and rules for participatory clergy-lay governance that constructively and productively connects the dialectic of primacy and conciliarity.

As for escaping the Ukrainian crisis, this requires historical boldness and sacrifices on both sides for the sake of the higher Orthodox good. It requires:

1) A decision by Constantinople to "freeze" the tomos of autocephaly.

2) A decision by Moscow to suspend the decision to break communion in order to open the way for a meeting, discussions and negotiations between the two sides.

3) A decision by both sides for the necessity of cooperating with the request for Ukrainian autocephaly in an open, churchly manner through joint agreement on the terms and conditions of this autocephaly: including the special relationship with Russia and the historical relationship with Constantinople, bearing in mind both sides' historical rights and preventing any political exploitation of the issue.

It remains to wonder: the people of God or peoples of God? Church or churches? The future is close at hand. Kyrie eleison.

Carol Saba on the Ukrainian Crisis and Orthodoxy's Impasse (IV)

From yesterday's an-Nahar. Arabic original here. Read part III here and part V here.

The Suffering of the Orthodox Church during the Twentieth Century:
Internal and External Dangers Alike

The twentieth century was crueler to Orthodoxy than previous centuries. All the Orthodox churches were-- and continue to be-- along geopolitical fault lines, pulled in different directions by various countries' interests and hot and cold wars. After Eastern Orthodoxy's imprisonment in the Ottoman cage for four hundred years, there came the First World War, which started in the Balkans and went on to weigh heavily on all Orthodox societies.  This was followed in 1917 by the atheistic Bolshevik Revolution, which struck Russia, the largest Orthodox nation, and Orthodoxy was crushed between the anvil and hammer of Communism.

Before Stalin resorted to Orthodoxy and nationalist sentiment in 1941 to save Russia from the Nazi steamroller, around 600 bishops, 40,000 priests and 120,000 monks and nuns were killed and thousands of cathedrals, churches and monasteries were destroyed. Communism was defeated in 1988, and Gorbachev asked Patriarch Pimen to jointly organize the celebration of the thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of the Rus. Then, Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe was liberated from the Soviet cage when the Berlin Wall fell in 1990.

As for Greek Orthodoxy, it suffered repeated blows: in 1923, with the ethnic cleansing of the Greeks of Asia Minor; with the bloody events of September, 1955 against the Greeks of Istanbul to expel them; the invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus in 1974; the Greek economic crisis and its being under international trusteeship since 2008; and the efforts by the radical socialist, atheist government of Tsipras to tame the Church of Greece by force.

The rise of radical, Salafist Islamism on account of the weakness of Arab civil society has threatened the Middle Eastern churches and pushed their members to emigrate.  And let us not forget the suffering of Serbia, the Yugoslav wars since 1991, and NATO's campaign against it; the hostile situation for Serbian Orthodoxy and its historic sites in Kosovo; the seizure of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli struggle since 1948; "others' wars in Lebanon," in the words of Ghassan Toueini, since 1975; and the ongoing tragedy in Syria. Efforts to enervate and divide Orthodoxy continue with the Ukrainian crisis and attempts to split Orthodoxy in Macedonia and Montenegro from Serbia. In this way, the lines of fire shifted within the Orthodox space over the course of the twentieth century and they continue to do so, their flames biting at the body and flesh of Orthodoxy.

Blows have come from within and from the outside. Internally, with Orthodoxy's inability to coalesce and anticipate and cope with the transformations of the globalization of the twentieth century, and on account of the rivalry, deadly for universal Orthodoxy, between Constantinople and Moscow, which has opened the door for global powers to exploit the weaknesses of nationalist Orthodoxies, which has damaged the the Orthodoxy of faith which, even if the arrows have struck it and it has become a martyr, continues to bear witness. In the midst of these transformations (the West seeking to seize the East, religious radicalism, atheistic Communism and irreligious, secularized and globalized liberalism), Orthodoxy has tried to break the bonds around it.

Within the context of attempting to strengthen the Ecumenical Patriarchate because of the transformations that were weakening it, Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis called for a Pan-Orthodox Congress in Istanbul in 1923. He was also the originator of the idea of saying yes to Orthodox unity in the diaspora, but under the banner of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which was rejected by Moscow and a large portion of the Orthodox Churches. There followed meetings at Vatopedi Monastery on Athos in 1930, the first conference for Orthodox theological institutes in Athens in 1936, and the Moscow conference in 1948, which was held amidst difficult international circumstances and a growing cold war for leadership between Moscow and Constantinople. The latter rejected Moscow's right to call for Pan-Orthodox meetings and boycotted the conference, along with the churches of Jerusalem, Cyprus and Greece.

Then came the election of Patriarch Athenagoras, who opened a window of hope and whose star shined in the Orthodox space like a man of peace, striving "to bring the Orthodox together into one house, albeit with many windows." The path toward the Great Orthodox Council began on Rhodes in 1961 with hope and tribulations. It was followed, over some decades, by several Pan-Orthodox conferences and synaxes of the primates of the Orthodox Churches which should have, were it not for the pathologies of competition and primacy that prevented attention from being paid to the common good and to finding solutions to crucial ecclesiastical problems-- among them, the issue of Jerusalem's violation of Antioch's jurisdiction in Qatar. Confrontational positioning between the churches grew at the expense of true conciliarity, which accompanies and proceeds slowly and deliberately. The Crete meeting of 2016 was fragmented and not universal, given the absence of four large churches: the apostolic Church of Antioch, Moscow, Bulgaria and Georgia.

The competition and blockage has continued through the Ukrainian crisis of 2018.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Carol Saba on the Ukrainian Crisis and Orthodoxy's Impasse (III)

Arabic original here. Part one , part two and part four.

The Transformations of the 19th Century:
Laying the Groundwork for the Competition and Rivalry of the 20th Century

Istanbul, 1872. Let's go back a little... "In the Church of Christ, which is a spiritual communion that aims, through her Head and founder, to encompass all nations in one brotherhood in Christ, considers Phyletism and discrimination on the basis of ethnic and linguistic origin to be something completely foreign to the concept... when each ethnic church strives to realize what is particular to it, is a deadly assault on the dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church..."

Thus spoke the fathers of the famous Synod of Constantinople, which met in 1872 in response to the conflict that had been raging since 1856 between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Bulgarian dioceses in the Ottoman Empire, which were striving for ecclesiastical independence from Istanbul. For the Orthodox theologian Olivier Clément, this was "the last council of the Pentarchy." That is, the Church's ancient system of governance based on the principle of five patriarchates: Rome (which left it in 1054), Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. As for the Russians, they regarded it as a "Greek council" because all the patriarchs of the East and all the bishops who attended it were of Greek origin, an indication of the Greek ethnicity's domination over the patriarchates of the East.

Competition and rivalry in the twentieth century had as background the ongoing struggle between Moscow and Constantinople, which had become deeply rooted since the rise of ethnic and nationalist chauvinisms and European and Russian interventions in the Ottoman Empire shortly after the issue of the famous Ottoman Hatt-ı Hümayun in 1856, which spoke of reforms to the system and the rights and responsibilities of every millet, whetting the appetite of the Orthodox of the empire for independence from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

After the fall of Constantinople and the Sultan Fetih's recognition of its patriarch as the sole leader of all the Orthodox of the "Rum Millet" in the empire, Constantinople tightened its control over the empire's patriarchates and bishoprics, from the Middle East to the Balkans, including the Bulgarian lands. Theories developed, declaring that the Ecumenical Patriarch had inherited the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodoxy of Constantinople came to be a synonym for the "Hellenic nation", which encompassed many ethnic groups and languages. Greek became the holy language of Orthodoxy and any move towards independence was an attack on this Orthodoxy.

A "gerondist" (in Greek, geronda means 'elder' or 'senior') movement developed in Constantinople, establishing a conservative ecclesiastical aristocracy, which regarded the continued existence of the Ecumenical See over the course of history as being due to resisting change and preserving traditions and inherited prerogatives. It resisted all reformist movements in the See, accusing their followers of being creatures of western politics. And so Constantinople came to be "the Great Church" and "the Mother Church" which, even if it reluctantly accepted the independence of the empire's churches from it under the pressure of circumstances, continued to regard them as daughters dependent on it. These established relations characterized by an attitude of superiority and paternalism toward the churches, which continues until today, in defense of the prerogatives of byegone Byzantine and Ottoman times.

Nevertheless, movements of national liberation arose in the East, due to the European Enlightenment and Western influences, which threatened these methods of Constantinople's. Ideas of "national" independence from the Ottoman yoke developed among the peoples alongside ideas of ecclesiastical independence from submission to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The leaders of the Greek Revolution in 1821, which in 1830 won independence for Greece from the empire, demanded and declared ecclesiastical independence in 1833. They accused the Patriarchate of Constantinople of being attached to and dependent upon the Sublime Porte. Constantinople did not recognize the autocephaly of the Church of Greece until 1850 and there continue to be disagreements on various thorny issues between the mother and her daughter.

Greek independence whetted the Bulgarians' appetite. The shifting tides, the ecclesiastical, political and diplomatic negotiations and interventions and tug-of-war between Constantinople and Moscow continued from 1856 to 1870. Constantinople attempted to prevent the Bulgarian autocephaly that was declared unilaterally by the Bulgarians in 1870 and in 1872, the Holy Synod of Constantinople came out against the Bulgarian schism, to which it gave its assent in 1945.

The competition and rivalry over this issue testifies to the struggle between Moscow and Constantinople starting in that time, as does the role of the Russian ambassador to the Ottomans, Nikolai Ignatiev, in the Bulgarian issue. Then came Serbian autocephaly in 1879, which was recognized by Constantinople in 1920.

As for Antioch, the election of Meletius Doumani in 1898 as the first Arab patriarch of Antioch since 1724 provoked a crisis of his recognition by Constantinople, which saw Moscow's fingerprints on this election under the cover of Arabization. This delayed the sultan's confirmation of the patriarch for a year, so that his enthronement in Damascus took place on December 31, 1899.
Will the 20th century be any less cruel for Orthodoxy than those that preceded it?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Carol Saba on the Ukrainian Crisis and Orthodoxy's Impasse (II)

 Arabic original, from today's an-Nahar here. Read part one here and part three here.

"O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance."

Orthodoxy from the Fall of Constantinople to the Rise of Moscow

"O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance." This lament for Constantinople upon its fall is like weeping by the rivers of Babylon, words that mourn with nostalgia, sorrow, pain, tears and grief over the holy Queen City. Byzantium rose with Constantine the Great, it flourished and its wealth amassed for more than a millennium. It established a civilization that Europe has inherited. With its defeat on the walls of Constantinople on May 29, 1453, the earth shook and a deep wound was opened in Orthodoxy that still bleeds today.

Orthodoxy entered into the Ottoman era and experienced a state of historical stasis, during which its powers declined, its immune system weakened, and factors of worldly anxiety grew within it. The Ottoman sultanate encompassed it and enfeebled the Eastern Patriarchates and the churches of the Balkans over the course of four hundred years.

Nor was the West absent from efforts to weaken Orthodoxy, absorb it, and drain it of its blood through missions, biting off chunks, poaching, efforts to dominate the East and effectuating schisms within it. The Orthodox became strangers in their homelands and their theological and leadership capabilities for recovery and renewal declined. Their worldly anxiety pushed them to develop ethno-phyletist politics based on wedding Orthodoxy to nationalist chauvinism as a means of liberation from the Ottoman cage. The Orthodox were transformed from being masters of the house to being a closed-off protectorate. After having been the "people of God" in harmony with its patriarchal and imperial leadership, according to the idea  of "Byzantine symphonia" upon which Justinian's empire was based, the Orthodox turned into the Rum ethnic millet, which was seen as a minority that was closed in on itself and subject to certain privileges granted to it by the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

The Ecumenical Patriarch inherited the position of the Byzantine Emperor. A crown of imperial majesty, studded with precious stones, was placed on his head. There began a transformation of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch along with an effort to further develop canonically his inherited authority by way of the Patriarch Gennadios' agreement with Sultan Mehmet II Fetih immediately after the fall of Constantinople. The latter recognized the former as patriarch and "ethnarch". That is, as the temporal and religious leader of the Rum Millet.

After the fall of the empire, the Ecumenical Patriarch comprised in his person two authorities: ecclesiastical and temporal. He became the symbol of the double-headed eagle, responsible for defending religious and historical Orthodoxy. Over time, his synod was transformed into a "permanent synod" that incorporated the Orthodox patriarchs of the East, who were forced to reside in Istanbul for long periods of time because the Ecumenical Patriarch was their gateway, passage and intermediary before the Sublime Porte, because he was the only one recognized by law for Orthodox affairs in the sultanate.

The Greek element overwhelmed the leadership of the Eastern Patriarchates and the Ecumenical Patriarch became a "super-patriarch" who decided as he saw fit. In practice, this established a quasi-papal canonical hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority far removed from the universal Orthodox conciliarity that had constituted its governance since the time of the Apostles. The governance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was ottomanized and it became a "court" where Byzantine and Ottoman courtly practices and traditions were mixed. The patriarch became a sultan and he was characterized by sultanic manners of acting, which became for them an involiable Orthodox tradition.

In contrast, the rise of tsarist Russia began as the largest Orthodox nation numerically. The baptism of Prince Vladimir and his people, which took place in Kiev in 988, came as the result of Greek missions that had been evangelizing the Slavic peoples since the time of Saints Cyril and Methodius. The growth of the influence of Muscovy and its prince, however, came after Tatar invasions in the thirteenth century and the transfer of the princes of Rus from Kiev to Moscow.

Constantinople hesitated very much to grant independence to the very influential metropolis of Moscow that was dependent on it and which had for some time begun to elect its own bishop locally. Constantinople's recognition of Moscow as a patriarchate took place in 1589 after the mediation of Patriarch Joachim V of Antioch, "who visited Moscow in 1586," as Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim of thrice-blessed memory informs us, "and supported Tsar Boris Godunov's request to turn the Church of Russia into a patriarchate. He raised the issue with Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople, who after that visited Russia in 1589 and took part in the election of Job, the first patriarch of the Russian Church." Appended to the historical document of the tomos of autocephaly is his signature, in addition to that of Jeremiah of Constantinople and Sophronius of Jerusalem.
Thus, as Moscow rose, its military, diplomatic and political influence was magnified and its role as protector of the Eastern Orthodox grew, talk began of Moscow as "Third Rome", which laid the basis for the competition and tug-of-war between Moscow and Constantinople in the Orthodox world. This, alongside the transformations of the nineteenth century and the rise of ethnic chauvinism, continues to menace Orthodoxy's purity, its evangelistic momentum and the edifice of its catholic unity.

Jad Ganem: The New Tormentors of Christ

Arabic original here.

The New Tormentors of Christ
During the visit he made as the head of a delegation from his diocese to the Phanar, the bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Australia, Makarios, stated, "today we are living through a dark era in the the history of our church, where a number of our brother believers challenge our patriarchate because they do not accept the existence of a protos in the Orthodox Church." He indicated that all the problems that have arisen are "because of this erroneous notion regarding the protos in the Orthodox Church. They propose holding a Pan Orthodox synod to solve the issues that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has seen to over the centuries."

There's no hiding the fact that these words of His Eminence deal with the Ukrainian crisis and its repercussions, which have led to a break in communion between the Church of Moscow and the Church of Constantinople after the latter undertook to change the boundaries of the Russian Church and cancelled, at the stroke of a pen, three hundred years of history, ignoring the existence of the legitimate Church and granting-- in an act without precedent in the history of the Church-- autocephaly to schismatics who do not have apostolic succession. He also criticizes the position of most of the local churches which have called for holding a Pan Orthodox Synod to find a solution for this issue and the churches which have rejected the theory of primacy "without equals" and accept the primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople as first among equals.

Therefore, perhaps the best response to His Eminence is what Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) quoted in the section on the Great Schism in his book The Orthodox Church from an Orthodox author of the twelfth century, Nicetas, Archbishop of Nicomedia, where he expressed the Orthodox position regarding the papacy in a wonderful manner:

"My dearest brother, we do not deny to the Roman Church the primacy amongst the five sister Patriarchates; and we recognize her right to the most honorable seat at an Ecumenical Council. But she has separated herself from us by her own deeds, when through pride she assumed a monarchy which does not belong to her office... How shall we accept decrees from her that have been issued without consulting us and even without our knowledge? If the Roman Pontiff, seated on the lofty throne of his glory, wishes to thunder at us and, so to speak, hurl his mandates at us from on high, and if he wishes to judge us and to rule us and our Churches, not by taking counsel with us but at his own arbitrary pleasure, what kind of brotherhood, or even what kind of parenthood can this be? We should be the slaves, not the sons, of such a Church, and the Roman See would not be the pious mother of sons but a hard and imperious mistress of slaves."

Does His Eminence realize that the Orthodox world's problem is not with the Patriarch of Constantinople's primacy, but with Constantinople's distorted understanding of it and with the pride, haughtiness, cruelty, arrogance and ignoring others-- all others-- that have become the hallmarks of Constantinople's practice? Does he really think that primacy is exercised through sultanic firmans that are hurled upon the churches from on high and made known through the media? Does he really think that primacy is exercised outside of conciliarity, by a minority over the majority?

Has the time not come for him and for those like him to refrain from theorizing rigid authoritarianism and the self-importance of thrones in the name of history and special prerogatives? Has the time not come to refrain from dividing the faithful and stoking ethnic rivalries among them in support of one church or another? History will have no mercy for those who fuel the flames of schism and mutual estrangement, whether in the name of authority or under the pretext of numerical superiority, after they have become the shame of Orthodoxy and the new tormentors of Christ.