Saturday, February 22, 2020

Jad Ganem: The Return of Unanimity

Arabic original here.

The Return of Unanimity

In a noteworthy but expected reply, the Patriarch of Georgia declined the invitation from the Patriarch of Jerusalem to participate in the "fraternal consultative meeting" that will be held in Amman at the end of this month with the goal of "preserving unity in Eucharistic communion."

He stated:

"We understand very well that your efforts are conditioned by your care about the unity in the Church and your desire to help heal wounds. It is also felt from your letters that you have not spared your efforts to achieve consent from the Ecumenical Patriarch to participate in it. However, as he and some of the primates of churches did not respond positively to this invitation, your objective, which is also the wish of us all, may have impediments on the way to its accomplishment.

We share your position and according to the seriousness of the present circumstances and in connection with the problematic issues, we consider that the convocation and mutual discussion is very necessary. However, if we seek the attainment of the desired result, it should take place with the participation of every Church; but if this consent cannot be attained, we will refrain from coming to the gathering.

Here we should also note that we would be gladly participating in any of the events organized within the framework of religious celebrations or international conferences as we have always done.

We hope that with God's blessing the synaxis of the primates of the Orthodox Churches will be attained, and the issues, which do harm to our unity, will be evaluated according to the canonical norms of the Church. Also, we should add here that it will be the best outcome for us all if the goal is achieved before long."

From this letter, which was composed with great care and precision, it appears that the Patriarch of Georgia:

-- does not consider the right to call pan-Orthodox meetings to belong exclusively to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, contrary to the positions issued by the churches of the Greek world and the Archbishop of Albania.

-- believes that there must be a return to the principle of unanimity which had guided relations between the churches and which Constantinople demolished during the Council of Crete when it held this council in the absence of four churches representing the majority of the Orthodox world.

There is no doubt that the Patriarch of Georgia's position stems from a fundamntal axiom that has been stressed by several local Orthodox churches, including the Church of Antioch: the unity of the Orthodox world requires consensus-building with regard to shared issues and anything that has repercussions for the entire Orthodox world. Departure from this consensus only leads to inflaming conflicts and increasing fragmentation.

Does Constantinople understand the importance of this position and realize that it must return to the principle of the unanimity of the local churches when approaching common issues when there is no posibility of pan-Orthodox councils based on the principle of majority vote? Does it understand that there is no life in Orthodoxy for decisions based either on the absolute authority of the primate or on the principle of victor and vanquished within the family of local churches?

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