Patriarchate Rejects Legal Committee’s Recommendations

FILE - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (L) during the second international conference on "Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East", Athens, Oct. 30. 2017. Photo: Eurokinissi/Christos Bonis

CONSTANTINOPLE – The Holy synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its meeting on November 28, presided by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, rejected the Report of the Legal Committee of the Archdiocesan Council about the List of Candidates for High Priesthood and the election of the Metropolitan of Chicago as “unacceptable.”

An extensive discussion took place in the Synod. Finally, Patriarch Bartholomew intervened and said that the List will be revised by the Holy Eparchial Synod.

No specific names will be added to the List, but there will be a paragraph stating that ex officio candidates are all the hierarchs of the Archdiocese and all those hierarchs of the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who have served in America.

Archbishop Demetrios said that “even if it is done that way, in the end we are going to elect the one that we want.” That statement left a very negative impression on all the members of the Holy Synod, who saw a different side to Demetrios. Chicago is notgoing to have a new Metropolitan for Christmas. The election will take place at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on February 8.

Demetrios praised Bishop Sevastianos of Zela for over half an hour,about his credentials and his important ministry and success with the National Philoptochos, saying that he manages 25,000 women.

The essence of The Legal Report is that a hierarch who serves in a Metropolis abroad but who had served the Archdiocese in the past as priest cannot be a candidate. An attempt was made to exclude actually Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanelles, whom the archbishop does not favor.

The Legal Report, which was reveled in its entirety by The National Herald on November 27 on its website, thenationalherald.com, was written by Catherine Bouffides Walsh, Esq., Legal Committee Chair and Demitrios M. Moschos, Esq., Legal Committee Co-Chair and submitted on behalf of the following, concurring members of the Archdiocesan Council Legal Committee:Archon George Tsandikos (Direct Archdiocesan District) Archon William Marianes (Metropolis of Atlanta) Archon Peter Clyde Papadakos (Metropolis of Pittsburgh) George G. Demos (Metropolis of San Francisco) Maria Logus (Direct Archdiocesan District).

It stated, among other things, that “we have also been advised that a question was asked about the possibility of adding the names of Metropolitans serving Metropolises other than the Metropolises of the Holy Archdiocese of America.

“From a legal perspective, even if the barrier to changing the list after ratification did not exist, we see no authority in the Charter and Regulations to authorize the addition to the list of Metropolitans serving Metropolises that are not Metropolises of the Holy Archdiocese of America. The Charter does, however, include a provision that would allow a qualified clergyman of the Archdiocese who might be residing outside of the United States at the time of an election (for example, on sabbatical or pursuing studies outside of the United States) not to lose his eligibility during such period of time outside the country. Thus, the ‘residence’ reference in Article 14 e. of the Charter provides clarification that the physical location of an otherwise qualified member of the clergy of the Archdiocese would not prevent him from being on the list or the triprosopon.

“In contrast, there is nothing in the Charter or Regulations that authorizes a Metropolitan serving a Metropolis outside of the Holy Archdiocese of America to be included on either the list or the triprosopon. In fact, were there to be a legal challenge, the exact wording of the current Charter would most likely be viewed as supporting the proposition that such individuals currently are not considered eligible to serve as Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod.

“More specifically, and from an American civil law perspective, we call attention to the difference between the English version language pertaining to the election of a Metropolitan, and the language relating to the election of the Archbishop of America.

–Article 14, Section e., from ‘Election of a Metropolitan,’ states that those fulfilling the necessary conditions are eligible: ‘regardless o/the place o/residence during the time of the election.’

–Article 13, Section c., from “Election of the Archbishop”, states that those fulfilling the necessary conditions are candidates: ‘regardless o/the place 0/residence or service during the time o/the election (emphasis added).’

“The omission of the words ‘or service’ is an important fact in the context of the American legal system. In interpreting Charters and similar legal documents, the law requires us to acknowledge that words included in one section and omitted in another were intentionally included and omitted and must be interpreted to cause a different result because of such intention. Because, according to both the Charter and Regulations, the English text is the official version, the inclusion of the word ‘diakonia’ in both Article 13 and 14 of the Greek version of the Charter does not change this analysis.”

In another part, the Report favors the transfer from one Metropolis to the another. It states that “in connection with the Chicago Metropolis vacancy, we have been asked if an existing Metropolitan within the Holy Archdiocese can be transferred to another Metropolis within the Holy Archdiocese. We are aware that transfers of Metropolitans in the Holy Orthodox Church outside of the United States occur from time to time.

“In addressing this question of first impression in the United States from the legal perspective, under the Charter and Regulations, the internal transfer of a Metropolitan from one of the Metropolises of the Archdiocese to another Metropolis within the Holy Archdiocese of America is a much different matter than the addition of a Metropolitan from a Metropolis outside of the Archdiocese to the list of eligible candidates.

“Notably, each Metropolitan serving on the Holy Eparchial Synod has already (while a priest or Auxiliary Bishop) been determined to be ‘eligible’ to serve as a Metropolitan ofthe Holy Eparchial Synod. Indeed, all candidates from within the United States have been fully vetted and investigated through the required legal background and other checks, and their candidacy has been commented on by the Faithful in the United States through the conciliar consultation process. Following such diligent processes, each was recommended by the Holy Eparchial Synod in the United States and ultimately elected by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to serve as a Metropolitan within the Archdiocese.

“Additionally, there is nothing in the Charter that prevents the internal transfer of a Metropolitan from one Metropolis of the Holy Archdiocese of America to another Metropolis of the Archdiocese. By virtue of being elected a Metropolitan of the Holy Archdiocese of America and a member of the Holy Eparchial Synod by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a Metropolitan of the Archdiocese is, de facto, eligible to serve another Metropolis within the United States, barring any canonical prohibitions and subject to the recommendation of the Holy Eparchial Synod and election by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

TNH has learned that Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit wants to be transferred to the Chicago Metropolis.

Meanwhile, Paul Lillios, an attorney and retired judge from Chicago, although a member of the Legal Committee, did not cosign the Report, but instead he sent a confidential letter-report to Patriarch Bartholomew stating his views.

Lillios stated in his letter, among other things, that “in its Memorandum, the Legal Committee provides an interpretation of several provisions in order to essentially conclude that no Metropolitan, other than perhaps a current Metropolitan of the Archdiocese, may step in to assume the hierarchical responsibilities of the Metropolis of Chicago.

“I believe this approach is problematic because utilizing legal principles of statutory construction to answer an ecclesiastical question not previously contemplated or thoughtfully considered is difficult at best, and most certainly, fraught with peril. Given there are no provisions in the Charter or Regulations that even remotely cover this particular circumstance, the better course is to follow what Orthodox Church authorities have done for centuries when confronted with novel or untested new circumstances: refer the matter for decision to the entity best qualified to decide – the Holy Synod.”

Also attorney, Theodore Theophilos in letter to Bartholomew about the Report: “plainly said, I thought the letter was outrageous. I would never have expected such a communication coming from the Archdiocese.”

Theophilos also wrote that “the fact that the Archbishop turned to a committee of civil lawyers on this matter is a highly divisive action. The election of a Church Hierarch is not a matter that any civil lawyer should present a professional opinion without great deference to higher canonical authorities.”

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