Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Enhancing" the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch

This article has everything. Papal role for the Ecumenical Patriarch. A detaching of the EP from his see in Constantinople to a throne of universal power. Diminution of the authority of other patriarchs to destroy conciliarity. Free rein to make important decisions about pressing, timely topics unilaterally. It's like this was taken out of the nightmares of people obsessed with supposed hegemonic Phanariot schemings.

The conciliar organization of the Church safeguards us from error and ensures that the entire body has a voice. That patriarchs would silence themselves at the altar of efficiency is a blessedly far-fetched idea. We have enough comparable examples of what the below leads to to make many readers rightfully shudder in discomfort. I don't use this term lightly: Anathema.

(National Herald) - The fact that the Orthodox Church is fragmented and operates without centralized control is well known. The Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Council held last year in Crete provided ample proof.

The Orthodox Church is a consortium of 14 Autocephalous (self- governing) Churches. Each operates independently of the others, but remains in full communion with them on matters of faith, sacraments, and canonical discipline. Governance in each case is by a Primate, selected by the Church’s Synod of Bishops. There is no “head” as such of the Orthodox Church to whom he and the other Primates of the Autocephalous Churches must report.

Because of the advantages autocephaly offered, it became the preferred form of church administration in the Orthodox East from the earliest of times. Autocephaly allowed persons of similar ethnic background to organize their churches, retain their own language in religious services, and be administered locally, without the requirement for outside oversight or direction.

It all made sense back then, but it no longer does.

Autocephaly is not responsive to many of today’s challenges. For one, there is no provision in its structure for a “head” of the Orthodox East to coordinate and promulgate the policies and activities of all Autocephalous Churches. The Ecumenical Patriarch currently has no such authority; he is merely the “first among equals” of the Primates of the Autocephalous Churches. In the absence of a “head” of the Church, issues of common concern need to be debated and agreed upon by all 14 Primates before they can be implemented — admittedly an extremely demanding task.

The Orthodox Church has also a huge diaspora problem today – a byproduct of autocephaly – as evidenced by the millions of Orthodox now residing and practicing their Orthodox faith outside the borders of their parent Autocephalous Church, but to which they still belong administratively. Enormous waste in Orthodox infrastructure and clergy resources, worldwide, are the result. Adversely affected also by the absence of an Orthodox Church “head” are the ongoing reconciliation dialogues with Rome and other Christian Churches. Despite the best intentions on both sides, in the absence of someone who can speak with authority for the entire East, results have been meager.

Even among critics of autocephaly, there is no desire currently to replace the present system with a different form of church structure. But the time has come, to alleviate certain major problems inherent in autocephaly that constrain Orthodoxy from fulfilling its worldwide mission.

These problems cannot be confronted, however, until the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch has been dramatically enhanced. The Ecumenical Patriarch needs to be elevated to the rank of “head” of the Orthodox East, with authority to act and speak for the entire Church. He cannot continue being merely one of the Primates in the Orthodox East. Every human activity involving large numbers of people, whether a commercial activity, social organization, or political institution, has a “head”- someone in charge who provides overall direction and control.

So, should also the Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarch needs to become in fact the “first” Primate throughout the entire Orthodox East, rather than a mere ”first among equals,” which is his present role.

To be able to fulfill effectively his duties as the “head” of the Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch will need to be freed of all responsibility for serving also as the Primate of the Church of Constantinople. This responsibility, for administering the Church’s holdings in Turkey, Greece, Western Europe, the United States, and Australia, should be assumed by a senior Hierarch of the Patriarchate, perhaps its Grand Chancellor.

Freed of this burden, the Ecumenical Patriarch would then be able to focus on activities designed to reunify Greek Orthodoxy. One such activity would be the convening annually of a conclave of the Primates of all 14 Autocephalous Churches. Such a body does not currently exist, but needs to be formally activated and serve as the senior policymaking assembly of the Orthodox East. Huge benefits should accrue from such regular meetings of the Orthodox Primates conducted in reverence and understanding.

Will the Primates of the Autocephalous Churches concur in the organizational changes proposed herewith? Only time will tell. Convincing them of the wisdom of the proposed changes will require patience and energy, but they must be persuaded of their need, if the Orthodox Church is to move into the 21st century in unity and purpose.

Orthodox faithful, worldwide, should participate in this regard (the Order of Saint Andrew comes to mind for the United States) by approaching doubting Hierarchs, in love and humility, with the rationale for an Orthodox “head” and the need for a conclave of senior Primates to address and resolve major Pan-Orthodox issues.

Enhancing the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch while also engaging the Primates of all Autocephalous Churches to resolve the major issues confronting Orthodoxy today will not come easy. Both actions will probably require a sustained effort of several years for acceptance. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, both should come to pass to the benefit of Christ’s Church on earth.

Dennis Menos is the author of several books and a writer on Orthodox and Hellenic issues. They didn't need to even add the Hellenic bit.


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  2. I wonder who they think the constituency for this would be??

  3. I really hope Dennis Menos is a Dennis-the-Menace inspired pseudonym!

  4. Well, rarely have seen such a fine example of aggressive, arrogant ignorance. This piece should be archived as a perfect example of the sin of hubris.

    Of course living in a nihilistic age, it will have far more traction than one would hope and expect.

    And that is the real problem -- addressing the demonic oppression of the nihilistic spirit of this age that permeates everything especially my own heart and soul.

    The Church has everything needed to do it and the first place to start is not with dialog and understanding it is with the anathema.

    Nihilism gives literally nothing with which to dialog. Any such attempt just gives it the energy it lacks on it's own.

    Give energy to what is right and Holy. Alms, repentance, prayer,fasting and worship.

  5. Oh, my. From bishop of nothing to bishop of everything....that's quite a promotion.

  6. Let him simply become the Uniate Patriarch of Constantinople, if he believes in the papal concept. Let those Greeks and any of his dependencies follow him into union with Rome if they wish.
    We're in need of a Byzantine Emperor, another Constantine, to kick butt. It may happen, because after the Turks "accident my" shot down a Russian place not so long ago, Putin allegedly said that he could make Constantinople a Christian city again, if need be.

  7. Accidentally, cell phone malfunction.

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  9. The poor fellow who wrote this article clearly has no idea what Orthodox ecclesiology is all about. He's literally clueless. End of discussion.

    1. Compare 28 minutes in.

  10. I'm wondering if this is a trial balloon...

  11. It is the National Herald. I don't know if they've published stuff worse than this, but it's not that much of an outlier.
    +Fr. Peter

  12. TNH's condemnation of the monasteries founded by Elder Ephraim is equally misguided.

  13. Food for thought:

    After the failure of the council of Florence (1439) and the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire (1453), the patriarchate of Constantinople (‘New Rome’) progressively assumed in the East the ecumenical privileges of the ‘Old Rome’ whose past prerogatives were thus indirectly recognized. At the council of Moscow in 1592, the ‘apostolic Throne’ of Constantinople agreed to the establishment of a patriarchate in Moscow but proclaimed itself “head and primate of the other patriarchates.” A few years later, the patriarchal and synodical tomos of 1663 contained the following question and answer:

    Q: Can the judgment of other churches be brought to appeal to the throne of Constantinople and can this throne resolve all ecclesiastical cases?

    A: This privilege was that of the pope before the tearing asunder of the Church by presumption and wickedness. But since the Church1 is now torn, all the cases of the other Churches are brought to the throne of Constantinople, which will pronounce the sentence inasmuch as according to the canons, this see as the same primacy as ancient Rome. Fr. L. Cleenewerck

    Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

    According to the doctrine of Christ’s Church as expressed in the decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the See of Constantinople is not only one of the Ecclesiastical Provinces but is considered as a constant element of the Orthodox Church in all its fullness, as an authority linked not only with its own diocese but likewise with the whole Orthodox Church throughout the world. This is why since the fifth century the Patriarch of Constantinople as Bishop of New Rome was recognized by the Ecumenical Councils as the equal in power and honor of the Bishop of Old Rome (Canon II of the Second Ecumenical Council and Canons XXVIII and XXXVI of the Fourth Ecumenical Council). And what is especially important, it was recognized that he had the right to receive the appeals of Bishops who were not satisfied with the decisions of regional councils (Canon XVII of the Fourth Ecumenical Council). In this latter sense the Patriarch of Constantinople is, in the eyes of Orthodox Christians in every country, the supreme judge. (Message to the Statesmen Assembled at the Lausanne Political Conference Dec. 1922-Jan. 1923. Fouyas, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism pp. 128-129)

  14. Nice try, buddy roe. Problem is the EP stavbe Russia in the back; while St. Tikhon the Patriarch was struggling for the church, the EP was supporting the heretical living church. So you'll pardon us if we don't buy into your BS. If it were not for Russia, most Greeks today would be speaking Turkish and praying to Mecca. Fact!

  15. Boris,

    I'm not trying support the EP per se; especially + Bart and his agenda. IMO the EP has been a scandal since before Metaxakis. Nevertheless, what I posted can't merely be ignored. The EP was granted the powers of the Pope of the first millennium by the Church. Therefore, these claims can't be disregarded so easily.

    St. John Maximovitch

    Such an outward abasement of the hierarch of the city of St. Constantine, which was once the capital of the ecumene, has not caused reverence toward him to be shaken among Orthodox Christians, who revere the See of Sts. Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian. From the height of this See the successor of Sts. John and Gregory could spiritually guide the whole Orthodox world, if only he possessed their firmness in the defense of righteousness and truth… (On the Decline of the Ecumenical Patriarch)

    1. This has been going on a long time. It's going to take more than dismissive pop apologetics to refute the EPs papal pretensions.


  16. Thanks Patriarch of Constantinople has been strangled by Islamic rule. It started with the EP being appointed the head of the Christian Rum in the Islamic empire therefore having to buy the office. IMO the EP ceased then.

    It should have been left vacant.

    I have not now nor have I ever had any reverence for the EP. To do that without acts of holiness is idolatry.

    I reverence my local bishop because he is a man with a heart for Christ and full of love. A Sheppard to his people.

    When the EP starts showing that instead of playing Kabuki Theater with his heretic buddy in Rome, and running around with all of the famous snti-Christians he can find, I would start to care. Unfortunately, in his desperate attempt to overcome his irrelevance he has become malignant. Of course that is what happens to body parts that have lost their blood supply.

    Faithful Greeks need to wake up and stop this nonesense.

  17. The universal claims actually started before the Turkokratia. And the claims were expressed by many Saints. I revere the office but I share your sentiments in re: to the contemporary EPs

  18. I will say this, the EP was helpful to those Orthodox living in countries that were part of the Russian Empire after the collapse of Tsarist Russia. For political reasons, ROCOR could not operate in Poland, Finland, or the Baltic countries. Thus, the EP gave autocephaly to the Polish church, autonomy to the Finnish church, and provided Metropolitans for Latvia and Estonia.
    On the other hand, Constantinople interfered with the Czechoslovak mission, which was part of the Serbian Orthodox church. The Czech bishop Gorazd, who was martyred by the Nazis, headed this church. The EP appointed a Czech bishop of their own, Savvaty. I suspect there may have been some Masonic skullduggery here; the Czech government with Presidents Masaryk and Benes, was full of them.

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