CRETE, GREECE – Geron Archbishop Demetrios of America, while attending the Holy and Great Council (also called the Great Synod) told TNH about his overall experience, about the Council’s work, particularly the topics that being examined and what they mean to us, the Archdiocese, and the Greek-American community.
His Eminence stated that “it really is a great experience which I would say is a great blessing of God for many reasons. The Council is a very important event in the way it was prepared, announced, expected and finally realized despite the difficulties and the pessimistic predictions that the absence of certain autocephalous Churches would create a major problem, which did not occur and therefore this is a positive first step. The second is that it is an experience because we are with priests from many parts of the world with which we had not previously met, it is the first time.”
He added that “we had three exceptional opportunities during the working procedure, a Vesper and two Liturgies.”
Speaking about the Council’s climate, Demetrios said “we are experiencing absolute freedom of opinion without limits, without difficulties, which provides great spiritual comfort. People do not feel tense, they can speak freely. Nobody has been interrupted or accused for something they say.”
Regarding the language used in the discussions, His Eminence said that “the language that dominates is Greek. There is simultaneous translation to English, French, and Russian and there was also an Arabic translation but I do not know if there still is since the Church of Antioch did not attend.” He added that “the interesting thing is that most of the speakers, the Serbs for example, are fluent in Greek.”
“We have proceeded with the themes of the Church in Today’s World, the Diaspora, Autonomy, we have already covered most of the material. The work is moving at a good pace, I must tell you that Patriarch Bartholomew is chairing the Synod in a truly masterly way because he listens without interrupting, he intervenes in very proper manner and thus the whole thing is proceeding without incidents or bumps.”
Regarding the four patriarchates of Antioch, Bulgaria, Moscow and Georgia, which did not attend the Council, he stated: “the impression that prevails is a negative one, in other words, we have not heard anything stated until now, either publicly or privately, that someone or other was right not to come. Instead, there are feelings of reproach and also the perception that it is a shame for them to have missed out on a great opportunity for which they will grieve later.
“The reasons [for why they did not attend] are many and varied and depend on how the depth and substance of the reasons and motivations is determined” and added “some things are clear, some were used as technical terms, i.e. since the differences between Antioch and Jerusalem were not resolved and there was no possibility for them to be resolved through the Synod, the Antiochians therefore stated they had no reason to attend.”
“There were actions which intended to cancel or postpone the Council because, according to one theory, they perhaps did not wish for the Ecumenical Patriarch or the Patriarchate to be given prominence.”
To the question “let’s speak bluntly Your Eminence, do you think that Moscow blatantly displayed its true subversive imperialist intentions?” Demetrios replied that “you are not asking a politician, you are asking an archbishop who is also an academic, I cannot use such language, but I can tell you that through this situation it became apparent that it was reluctant to participate in something that is collective, that is the Church as a whole, perhaps because they would like to have taken the lead.”
When TNH noted that “their absence also constitutes a sort of breaking of ties, what effect will it have on the local Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of America on which you preside? How will their representatives speak again of unity, cooperation and the like?” Demetrios noted that “this is a question with many possible answers. A phenomenon that exists at the moment is the phenomenon of contradictions, in other words how can you say one thing and do another.”
He added that “it is a strange mentality of contradiction, or a mindset of non-consistency, so I will not be surprised by absence, for them to not come or to come as if nothing is happening.”
When asked, “Your Eminence, allow us to remind you that Christ had labeled this inconsistency as hypocrisy, and made those exclamations of ‘woe’. How will they appear before you to talk about unity when their Primates refused to participate in the Council and are disruptors of unity?” he replied: “That is their problem, and will depend on how they will look at it. I had heard that there were significant differences in the stance they held, which I am sure will come forward in retrospect. ”
So, does the Council demonstrate that there is one Orthodox Church, or many?
“It shows that we are one Church and this manifests itself in various ways. You said ‘shows’, this is the epiphenomenon, if this is part of goodwill or a belief that is another matter. The language which is used is a unifying one; it is not a divisive or coercive language.”
As to the Council’s significance to the Archdiocese of America and to Greek-Americans, Demetrios said “in the past, meetings of an inter-Orthodox, inter-Christian nature were held with representatives and that was the end of it. Now, the themes and the atmosphere of the Council, the event of the Council as a unity, as well as the occurrence of the Council with the absence of some which means discrimination of a possibly dangerous kind, this is very rich material which is usable and we will do just that.”