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Church of Crete Sends Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew Telling Him Not to Interfere

BOSTON – The Semi-Autonomous Church of Crete, through its Holy Eparchial Synod, sent a letter on Tuesday, April 30 to Patriarch Bartholomew in response to his inquiry about his rights regarding the Patriarchal Monasteries of the island, telling him not to interfere administratively with them, according to information obtained by The National Herald. Specifically, he was informed that he has no jurisdiction other than the commemoration of his name and simply to be informed by the Eparchial Synod of Crete about the changes that will be made to the Governing Councils. Furthermore, for any change to the Charter, two parties must agree, the Church of Crete and the Greek State, and Bartholomew has no say or role.

This move by the Church of Crete is based on what is stated in Article 89, paragraph 2 of its Charter, which reads as follows:

“The normal rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monasteries in Crete are maintained, with the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch commemorated therein, and the announcement of the election of the new Governing Councils being made by the Holy Synod of Crete through its President to the Ecumenical Patriarch. However, the administration of the monasteries and their overall management and control fall under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Church of Crete, which applies to these Monasteries the existing provisions for the other monasteries in Crete. However, the dissolution or merger of any Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery is always carried out after prior consultation with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The Holy Eparchial Synod of the Semi-Autonomous Church of Crete. Photo the Church of Crete

By decisions of the Minister of Religion and National Education, following a decision of the Holy Eparchial Synod of Crete, monasteries can be founded, merged, and reconstituted, as well as converted into parish churches, churches belonging to dissolved Monasteries.”

In a recent letter, the Synod of Crete asked Bartholomew to remove from Crete the former abbot of the Monastery of Holy Trinity in Tzagarolon, Bishop of Damaskinos of Dorileon.

Regarding Bishop Irineos of Eumenia, abbot of the Monastery of Gouverneto Our Lady of the Angels in Chania, there is no problem.

It is emphasized that the whole issue started with Patriarch Bartholomew himself, who, in violation of the canons and despite what is stipulated in the Charter and Greek state law regarding the administration and management of the monasteries, ‘elected’ and ordained two abbots of monasteries as his assistants. These bishops, theoretically belonging to the Archdiocese of Constantinople, nevertheless administered the monasteries with all the responsibilities for management and administration. These bishops are Damaskinos of Dorileon from the Monastery of Tzagarolon in Chania and Irineos of Eumenia from the Monastery of Gouverneto – Lady of the Angels in Chania. It is noted that Bishop Damaskinos of Dorileon, in addition to his abbotship at the Monastery, also served as the Chancellor of the Metropolis of Kydonia and Apokoronas, while enjoying the honor and trust of his local shepherd, Metropolitan  Damaskinos, under whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction the Monastery of Tzagarolon falls.

Metropolitan Damaskinos of Kydonia and Apokoronas, in the area of Chania, Crete. Photo Metropolis of Kydonia and Apokoronas

Meanwhile, various issues arose, including the sale of property of the Monastery of Tzagarolon, which raised questions, while the Metropolitan of Kydonia and Apokoronas Damaskinos decided to remove Bishop Damaskinos of Dorileon from both positions, that is, from the Chancery of the Metropolis and the abbacy of the Monastery of Tzagarolon.

It was decided by Metropolitan Damaskinos of Kydonia and Apokoronas that the Holy Monastery of Holy Trinity of Tzagarolon would be governed by a three-member committee consisting of the Chancellor of the Metropolis of Kydonia and Apokoronas, Archimandrite Nikiforos Eikosideka, the monk of the Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels in Gouverneto, Porphyrios, and the Archieratic Vicar General of the Metropolis of Kydonia and Apokoronas, Fr. Georgios Sergakis.

Strong divisions arose as to whether Metropolitan Damaskinos of Kydonia and Apokoronas had the authority and right to dismiss Bishop Damaskinos of Dorileon from the abbacy of the Monastery of Tzagarolon, given that he was essentially an assistant bishop of Patriarch Bartholomew, which was proven to be within his right according to the Charter and the State Laws since he is the ruling Metropolitan under whose ecclesiastical responsibility the Monastery of Tzagarolon falls.

Bishop Damaskinos of Dorileon, former Abbot of the Monastery of Holy Trinity Tzagarolon in Chania, Crete. Photo Monastery of Tzagarolon

At the same time, the Eparchial Synod of the Church of Crete gathered relevant evidence regarding the issues of the sale of property of the Monastery of Tzagarolon and either delivered them or is in the process of gathering evidence and delivering them to the Prosecutor’s Office of Chania to address the issues in accordance with the provisions of the Charter and the state laws. In a statement from the Provincial Synod, among other things, it was mentioned:

“The Holy Eparchial Synod of the Church of Crete convened in session today, November 28, 2023, in Heraklion, and dealt with the agenda items, among other things, with pastoral, administrative, and educational issues.

“Regarding the emerging administrative issues at the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Holy Trinity of Tzagarolon, the Holy Synod announces that, with a unanimous decision, it proceeded, in accordance with Article 89, para. 2, of Law 4149/1961 ‘On the Charter Law of the Orthodox Church in Crete’ (Government Gazette 41/A/16-3-1961), to all lawful actions against the competent Authorities.”

Meanwhile, Patriarch Bartholomew supported Bishop Damaskinos of Dorileon, but the law supports the administrative committee appointed by Metropolitan Damaskinos and not Bartholomew’s directives. After intense disagreements, Bartholomew brought the matter to his Synod last November, and it was decided to confine the two bishops, Damaskinos of Dorileon and Irineos of Eumenia, to their Monasteries. In a statement from the Synod at the Phanar, the following was noted: “As for the case of Bishops Irineos of Eumenia and Damaskinos of Dorileon, the Holy and Sacred Synod, after extensive discussion, unanimously imposed upon them the penalty of confinement to their respective Holy Monasteries, that is, Bishop Irineos to the Monastery of Gouverneto – Lady of the Angels and Bishop Damaskinos to the Monastery of Holy Trinity of Tzagarolon, both located in the region of Chania.”

Patriarch Bartholomew ordered Bishop Damaskinos of Dorileon to participate in the Holy Week and Easter Services, but the abbot and the administrative committee appointed by Metropolitan Damaskinos told him he was not allowed. He insisted that he is an assistant bishop of the Patriarch, while the others insisted that according to the law, he is not allowed, and a new confrontation ensued.

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