The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its current composition, with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presiding. (Photo Ecumenical Patriarchate/Nikos Papachristou)
BOSTON – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, during the meeting of the Holy Synod in Constantinople last Thursday and Friday, July 21 and 22, received from synodal hierarchs an almost unanimous number of remarks, concerns, revelations, and complaints about the arbitrariness and actions of the Archbishop Elpidophoros of America which have put the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarch himself personally in a difficult position. It was one of the few times that so many hierarchs expressed themselves in this way.
They referred to the election of Alexander Belya of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate, which raised a storm of reactions and threats from hierarchs in America – heads of the Orthodox jurisdictions constituting Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. With their letters, written in a strong and revelatory style regarding Archbishop Elpidophoros, they threatened even the dissolution of the Assembly or their non-participation in it.
In Constantinople, the hierarchs mentioned the forced cancellation of the episcopal ordination, which was to have taken place in Florida at the end of July.
The National Herald reveals that the bishop-elect, Alexander of Nicopolis, had gone to the Phanar with his brother, and were waiting outside the Synod chamber for hours, until the meeting was over. Asked about this, the Patriarch reportedly replied that he did not have a chance to tell Elpidophoros not to send him.
The Charter of the Archdiocese of America was discussed, and the Synod accepted the request of the Eparchial Synod in the United States to lift the suspension of the Charter which had been done on October 8, 2020 at the demand of Archbishop Elpidophoros – without the consent of anyone, or even informing the Eparchial Synod, or the Archbishop’s Council, as provided for in Article 25 of the Charter.
The National Herald had revealed in its Greek language weekend edition of June 11-12 in the article titled ‘The Suspension of the Charter of the Archdiocese Will be Lifted; It Will Remain as It Is’ that “during the meeting of the Committee on the Eparchies Abroad of the Throne, which met in the Phanar on the afternoon of Thursday, June 9, 2022, it was decided to submit a request from the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese of America to the Patriarchate to lift the suspension of the Charter that was done on Thursday, October 8, 2020.”
TNH had also written that “subsequently the Patriarchate will accept the request of the Eparchial Synod and will decide that the Charter is still valid as it is, and if in the future the question of amending some of its Articles is raised, this will be done according to the procedure set out in the 25th Article of Charter.”
The Patriarchate, after the meeting of the Synod on Friday, July 22, issued the following Communiqué:
Announcement – The Holy and Great Synod, during the sessions of this current month of July, among other things, discussed the current issues of the Holy Archdiocese of America, after its recent 46th Clergy-Laity Congress, and unanimously approved the lifting of the suspension requested by the then Holy Provincial Synod of the Constitution of the Archdiocese and brought it back into force, following the ongoing process of revising it, and the composition of the Joint Committee established for this purpose will be announced soon.
In the Patriarchate, on July 22, 2022
From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod.”
It should be pointed out that Article 25 of the 2003 Charter, which refers to the process of revisions, contains the following: “The present Charter regulating the affairs of the Holy Archdiocese of America as an ecclesiastical institution, may be amended in its entirety or in part after a proposal of the Holy Eparchial Synod submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate following the appropriate procedure in the Archdiocesan Council and the Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress, and after the approval of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to which the proposal has been submitted.”
It was said by member hierarchs of the Synod of the Phanar at last week’s meeting at the Patriarchate that the whole attempt of Elpidophoros was a mistake, as was the verbal acceptance of his demand to change the Charter without following the prescribed procedure of in Article 25, which the Patriarchate itself had approved and ratified. It was also said that it was an unacceptable mistake to dethrone Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, without his having an opportunity to respond to the allegations of Elpidophoros, as was the failure to interrupt the meeting of the Synod on October 8, 2020 so that the Patriarch could personally ask Elpidophoros what he ultimately wished to be done.
Some hierarchs who did not have detailed knowledge of the events and discussions on October 8, 2020 of the meeting of the Synod at the Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring of Valoukli were extremely surprised.
A hierarch who is well versed in ecclesiastical affairs in America told the Synod that many priests do not want Elpidophoros, but are afraid to speak out because they will risk persecution and actions that will affect the well-being of their families.
There was discussion about what happened regarding the baptism that was done in Glyfada, a suburb of Athens, which led to an official complaint by Metropolitan Antonios of Glyfada, which was transmitted through the official channel of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece to the Phanar with a request “for further information.”
Despite the interventions of Synod members, the Patriarch ignored the matter and did not allow anything about it to be included in the announcements, sending the message in all directions that he is covering for and supports Archbishop Elpidophoros. The Patriarch is reported to have said that, “we cannot change Archbishops in America every three years.”
The National Herald is in a position to know that the whole situation at the Phanar has disturbed ecclesiastical circles in Athens and not only there, since the Church of Greece referred to the matter of Elpidophoros in an official announcement.
The report of the Patriarchal delegation that attended the recent Clergy-Laity Congress was read at the Synod meeting. It was, as was said, written in a “roundabout manner,” while Synod members suspect that the Patriarchal delegation had been instructed not to be ‘sharp’ in the report about what the Patriarch’s emissaries heard and experienced.
The National Herald has learned Patriarch Bartholomew is said to be very troubled and distressed by what is happening, as he is receiving complaints from everywhere about Archbishop Elpidophoros – and he doesn’t know what to do.
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