Facing A Schism and its Consequences for Greek Americans

BOSTON.- The ecclesiastical crisis that began some nine months ago, initially with the passing away of Panteleimon Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, a hierarch belonging to the so called Metropolises of the New Lands, does not seem to have an end. Although the Church of Greece has honored all the requests, or better, the demands of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to even allow his*nbsp; commemoration as Archbishop in the territories of the New Lands, the Patriarch took the recent elections of the three new Metropolitans of Thessaloniki, Elefteroupolis and Kozani, as a disobedience and canonical insult and he is getting ready to retaliate.

The Metropolises of the New Lands were given to the Church of Greece in 1928 simply because the Phanar was unable to administer them. Is the Phanar able today to administer those Metropolises is the crucial question that many ask.

Many believe that the government
of Greece…should tell
Bartholomaios to cool off.

After the liberation of Greece from Turkish slavery, the country became one, free, unified, and undivided politically, geographically, culturally, but not ecclesiastically. Five different ecclesiastical administrative systems are in effect today in Greece: 1) The Autocephalous Church of Greece, which includes basically southern Greece; 2) The 36 Metropolises of the so called New Lands, which belong canonically and spiritually to the Ecumenical Patriarchate but administratively to the Church of Greece with direct involvement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the recent disputes have proven; 3) The Metropolises of the Dodecanese, which belong directly to the Patriarchate; 4) The semiautonomous Church of Crete, giving the wrong impression that Crete is not part of Greece; and 5) The Holy Mount Athos, which belongs to the Patriarchate. These five administrative systems divide the very unity of the Church and further the Greek people. It is inconceivable and ethnically dangerous to have in the same unified country these five ecclesiastical fragmentations. Many serious ecclesiastical writings refer to this anomaly as an ecclesiological tragedy, which causes the slaves to laugh at us every time we dare to speak of canonicity and Orthodox Ecclesiological order.

It is understandable, the desire of Patriarch Bartholomaios, to try to hold on from somewhere, seeing the constant withering of his immediate flock in the natural boundaries of his see, Constantinople. The withering is a drama that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been going through since 1453, but today it seems to many people, that we are approaching an expiration date, although history is at the hands of God. It would be more profitable if we had the courage to sit down and at least discuss flaming issues such as where are we going in terms of biological renewal of the Patriarchate, instead of entering into civil wars with the Church and the country of Greece, which actually sustain, materially and otherwise, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It would be more beneficial if Patriarch Bartholomaios had followed on this issue of the New Lands the prudent line of his predecessors from Vasileios, to Athenagoras and Demetrios, and not opening an ongoing war with the Hierarch and the Greece. What a pity! Constantinople and Athens should have been of one breath and one soul, and not in the present unacceptable state of animosity, which in the end will be harmful to both the Patriarchate and the Church of Greece.

As this analysis is penned, Patriarch Bartholomaios is getting ready to retaliate by calling invalid the recent elections of the three hierarchs and interrupt communion with Archbishop Christodoulos, as he announced on Saturday, April 24, in his official communiqu*eacute; to the Church of Greece. He has called into a Synodal session all the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne who serve around the world for two reasons: 1) As a display of power; and 2) To place on the Synod the weight of those very heavy decisions which have been already decided. Many rightly asked did the Patriarch consult the hierarchs prior to announcing his intentions to sanction the Archbishop and the Church of Greece for not obeying his comments not to proceed to elections without his final approval? Why now?

Those who know the situation do not expect any dynamic stance in the Synod. They claim that the total agreement with everything the Patriarch wants is given. Archbishop of Australia Stylianos could have been an exception if he goes, but it is doubtful because of the very bad relations that exist today between him and the Phanar, after some most revealing letters he has sent to the Patriarch a few months ago concerning certain administrative practices of the Patriarchate.

The question that concerns us directly as Greek Americans is what could be some consequences in the event that a schism develops between the Patriarchate and the church of Greece. Unfortunately all the signs up to now point in that direction. 1) The hierarchs and the priests of our Greek Orthodox Church of America will not be able to co-Liturgize with Archbishop Christodoulos, hierarchs and priests from Greece. 2) The issue of validity of the sacraments may be arisen on behalf of the Greek-Americans who belong to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, since the Archdiocese is one of its Eparchies. 3) Our hierarchs from America, and naturally Archbishop Demetrios, are placed in an extremely difficult position because they are called to vote on the imposition of an schism with the Church of Greece. More difficult is the positions of Archbishop Demetrios because he comes directly from the Church of Greece. He belonged to the Church of Greece all of his life, except in the last five years that he became Archbishop of America. Archbishop Demetrios was all his life an auxiliary Bishop in Greece, first to Archbishop Ieronymos who ordained him Bishop. Ieronymos was appointed by the dictators in 1967. Then Demetrios continued under Archbishop Seraphim, who was also supported by the second face of the dictatorship, and finally he was an auxiliary bishop to Christodoulos. How is Demetrios going now to cry out crucify him (Christodoulos) and the Church of Greece?

At the same time, how is he going to disagree with Bartholomaios since he owes to him what he is today, Archbishop of America, the most prestigious Eparchy of the Patriarchate? After all, Archbishop Demetrios has shown that he is a man that flows where his interest is, and thus it is doubtful that he will raise his voice to Bartholomaios. If Demetrios tells Bartholomaios, you do not have my consent, or I resign right now right here in order to protect the Church and Hellenism of America, then things would likely take a new turn.

Many believe that the government of Greece, which supports financially and in every other way the Patriatchate, should tell Bartholomaios to cool off. The government should tell him to try to find a peaceful way out of this crisis and save face at the same time. We have so many other serious issues to concern ourselves with than arguing about who is going to have the final word on the list of candidates for election to Bishopric ranks. We have a country that we should protect and keep united and peaceful. If prudence does not prevail, I am afraid we are heading towards an ecclesiastical and ethnic disaster.