Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and Bishop-elect Alexander Belya whose ordination to the episcopacy has been suspended.
BOSTON – New serious inter-Orthodox problems have arisen at the Archdiocese and consequently at the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding bishop-elect Alexander Belya of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate in the United States.
As The National Herald had reported in July of 2022, Fr. Belya’s ordination to the episcopacy which was scheduled to take place at the end of July in Miami Florida was postponed.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America had issued an official announcement stating: “In a spirit of the careful responsibility for the preservation of Orthodox Christian unity in the United States of America, the episcopal ordination of His Grace Bishop-Elect Alexander of Nicopolis has been postponed until a consensus has been reached. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America is committed to engaging in an open dialogue of brotherly love and understanding with the other heads of jurisdictions of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the U.S.A., while at the same time determined to prioritize constructive partnership and cooperation. The Assembly of Bishops is a unique venue where all the Orthodox Christian jurisdictions participate in the building of Christ’s Body in America through dialogue, joint program development, and concelebration. As Saint Paul proclaimed: ‘You were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all,’ (Ephesians 4:4-6).”
The Assembly of the Orthodox canonical Bishops of America had sent letters to Archbishop Elpidophoros asking him not to proceed with the ordination of Belya to the episcopacy, outlining the reasons and warning that the unity of the Orthodox jurisdiction in America and abroad will be in danger.
They wrote to Elpidophoros among other things the following: “Beloved Brother in Christ, our letter acknowledged the right of your Mother Church to elect Alexander Belya but, at the same time, lovingly asked you to reconsider this decision in light of the consequences for Orthodox unity. Curiously your letters to us merely restated this right (which we have never disputed) while completely ignoring our concerns.”
It is reminded here that Archbishop Elpidophoros is chairman of the Assembly of the Orthodoc Canonical Bishops in America as Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
We reveal today that on January 11, 2023 Bishop-elect Alexander Belya of Nicopolis sent a letter through his attorney Oleg Rivkin to the heads of the Orthodox Jurisdictions in America presaging legal action against them.
As soon as Archbishop Elpidophoros was informed of Belya’s actions, he directed him to immediately withdraw his letter. It was Elpidophoros who wanted to promote Alexander Belya to the Episcopacy and thus convinced Patriarch Bartholomew to recommend his election to the Holy Synod.
Belya, in a letter dated January 18, 2023 to the heads of the Orthodox Jurisdictions wrote, “at the direction of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, I hereby withdraw the letter in its entirety. I further humbly request that you please disregard it and sincerely ask that you accept my apologies for the inconvenience it might have caused.”
In the meantime, soon after the hierarchs received the letter from Belya’s lawyer, they retained their own lawyer, and in a latter to Archbishop Elpidophoros dated January 19, 2023, they wrote among other things the following: “We have received letters from Alexander Belya, who is under your authority, and who, at your direction, has apologized for the letters we received from Mr. Oleg Rivkin, his legal counsel, on January 11, which appeared to presage a legal action against us. Similar letters of apology should be sent to the Patriarchs who received copies of Mr. Rivkin’s letters. On the advice of our legal counsel, we also await a formal letter from Mr. Rivkin to the same effect, as we have engaged our own legal counsel as a group.”
The hierarchs also wrote to Elpidophoros: “Your Eminence, while we appreciate your admonition to Alexander Belya that he send a retraction and apology, this episode only re-confirms the concerns that we have repeatedly expressed to you, both in fraternal letters and conversations with you, regarding the proposed consecration of this man to the Holy Episcopacy, going all the way back to the establishment the “Slavic Vicariate” for him and his associates under your omophorion. Alexander Belya has, by his recent actions via his attorney, escalated the situation (even beyond the United States, to the point of sending letters to Patriarchs). It is unheard of that a faithful Orthodox Christian would take such an action against hierarchs of the Church. Equally astonishing is the fact that a man held to be a clergyman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be so insubordinate as to not only threaten the hierarchs of other jurisdictions, but to send letters to the Patriarchs of other Autocephalous Churches.”
In another instance they wrote: “Therefore, for the sake of the unity of our Holy Church, we reiterate our request that the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate find a suitable and final resolution to this problem, and we reaffirm the position expressed in our letters dated June 27 and July 12, 2022.”
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