Patriarch Bartholomew on Autonomy, New Territories

FILE - In this Saturday, June 18, 2016 photo released by Holy and Great Council, Orthodox Partiarchs taking part in the historic Holy and Great Council celebrate Vespers of Pentecost in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. (Sean Hawkey/Holy and Great Council via AP)

CRETE, GREECE – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued a statement-intervention at the Holy and Great Council (also called the Great Synod) on Crete, while discussing the topic “Autonomy and the Means by Which it is Proclaimed,” stating that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not intend to grant Autonomy to the Metropolises of the New Lands of Greece.

With his intervention, Patriarch Bartholomew put an end to various rumors and conspiracy theories that have developed recently in Greece, even among some bishops and marginal circles.

It is stressed that the Metropolises of the New Lands amount to 37 and their ecclesiastical administration was assigned provisionally by the Patriarchal and Synodical Act of 1928 under the patriarchy of Basil III to the autocephalous Church of Greece, and established their status through the Constitution of Greece.

These Metropolises include the Northern Aegean, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace, are run by the Church of Greece, and the bishops are paid by the Greek state as all the bishops, but they have their canonical and spiritual reference to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

On June 22, the Patriarchate released the following announcement:

“Today, Wednesday June 22, 2016, debated before the Holy and Great Synod was the issue of Autonomy, on the relevant proposals such as amendments of the Church of Greece, His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew reassured that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no intention to grant autonomy to the Metropolises of the so-called New Lands and that they always fall canonically and spiritually under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the administration has been assigned provisionally to the Autocephalous Church of Greece, which His All Holiness has given thanks for such a service to the Mother Church.”

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 file photo, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians listens during an Epiphany ceremony at the Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey. Plans to bring together leaders of all the world's Orthodox churches for the first time in more than a millennium appear in jeopardy amid the wrangling over the meeting's agenda, with the Russian Orthodox Church warning that the gathering would make no sense if at least one church fails to attend. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, file)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (PHOTO: AP)

In the meantime, it was preceded by a relative publication on the website of the Church of Greece, which read:

“Statement of the Ecumenical Patriarch on the status of the Metropolises of the New Lands. In regards to the proposal by the Church of Greece for an amendment to the text ‘Autonomy and the Means by Which it is Proclaimed’ His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew reassured before the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church that fully respects the existing ecclesiastical regime of the Metropolises of the so-called New Lands of the Church of Greece and there is no intention to challenge or change the existing status.”

AUTONOMY

Meanwhile, the Council discussed the topic of the means by which Autonomy is proclaimed thoroughly studied the draft document which was reviewed and approved by the Primates or Representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches in the preparatory work throughout the years and formally during the Synaxis of the Primates the last of which took place in Chambésy, Geneva.

The text which the Holy Synod discussed also mentioned the following:

“A local Church that requests autonomy, after showing that it has fulfilled all necessary ecclesiastical and pastoral prerequisites, may submit its application to the autocephalous Church to which it has its reference, explaining the serious reasons prompting such a request.

Upon receiving the application, the autocephalous Church considers, in Synod, all of the prerequisites and reasons for the submission, and decides whether or not to grant autonomy. In the event of a favorable decision, the autocephalous Church issues a Tomos, which defines the geographical boundaries of the autonomous Church and its relationship with the autocephalous Church to which it refers, in accordance with the established criteria of ecclesiastical Tradition.

“Each autocephalous Church may only grant autonomy within the borders of its canonical geographical region. Autonomous Churches are not established in the region of the Orthodox Diaspora, except by pan-Orthodox consensus, upheld by the Ecumenical Patriarch  in accordance with prevailing pan-Orthodox practice.”