BOSTON – Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem sent a letter written in English dated February 24, 2021 to the Primates of all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches on the anniversary of the synaxis in Amman a year ago. Patriarch Theophilos noted that he is writing the letter on the anniversary of the meeting of the Primates and delegations of Local Orthodox Churches which took place in Amman, the capital of Jordan, on February 26, 2020.
Theophilos made his intentions known that he is willing to repeat the endeavor as soon as the pandemic eases. He wrote that “as we look forward to brighter days this year, we are reminded of our common commitment to gather for prayer and fellowship. We pray that this may be possible later in this year.”
Theophilos’ letter was revealed on the website of the Patriarchate of Moscow and it was even translated into Greek.
Theophilos called last year’s synaxis a “friendly meeting” in order to by-pass canonical and ecclesiological restrictions because only Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has the historic, canonical, and ecclesiological privilege to call Synods and Synaxeis and nobody else. Last year the only patriarchs who accepted Theophilos’ invitation were Kirill of Moscow and Irineos of Serbia; Archbishop Rastislav of Prešov, of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and representatives of Romania and Poland did as well.
Patriarch Theophilos wrote in his latter among other things the following:
“One year ago this week, we gathered in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to build our common fellowship in the pursuit of a dialogue of love for the sake of the unity of the Local Orthodox Churches. After two days of prayer and fraternal discussion, we emerged with greater determination to pursue deeper communion, and to address our common challenges together.
“None of us imagined that we were meeting on the cusp of a global health catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen in our lifetimes. We remember before God our late brother Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, who was with us in Jordan, and who is now asleep in the Lord. We pray that God may grant him rest with the saints in the place of refreshment and light. We pray daily, remembering each of you, offering our praise, thanksgiving, and intercessions, and knowing that His grace is sufficient for us, whose power is made perfect in our weakness (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9).
“This pandemic has required us all to look to our own communities, those whom God has called us to serve, to lift up their hearts from despair and turn to the Lord who gives us hope. For we know that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:8-9).
“Here in our own Holy City of Jerusalem, we have been strengthened and sustained by your prayers. As has been true across the world, our fellow human beings in the Holy Land have suffered hardship through the pandemic. We ask that you continue to pray for us, as we continually pray for you from the Life-Giving Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“God is merciful, and has given to his creatures the knowledge and skill to develop medicines and vaccines to end this deadly pandemic. As we look forward to brighter days this year, we are reminded of our common commitment to gather for prayer and fellowship. We pray that this may be possible later in this year.
“Let us continue to uphold one another in prayer, and seek ways in which our Local Orthodox Churches might bring hope, blessing, and joy to one another. We also join together in prayer for our brother, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and our fellow Orthodox primates, and we look forward to serving together to further the unity of our communion.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has not reacted thus far to the new attempt of Patriarch Theophilos to convene another synaxis of the Prelates. Last year Patriarch Bartholomew had written Theophilos a strong letter telling him among other things the following: “To begin with, we are surprised, not pleasantly, by the fact that for the first time in the centuries-long history of the two Patriarchates, the ‘Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem’ corresponds with the Ecumenical Patriarch in a foreign language and not our mother tongue, as if he has suddenly stopped feeling consanguineous and that he belongs in the same historic and suffering Genos … What has led your Beatitude to send us this other than honorable circular letter in English instead of following the centuries-old standard correspondence between our Churches?”
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew then reminded Patriarch Theophilos who it is that presides over the Orthodox Primates and who has the right to convene a Pan-Orthodox meeting (Synod).
He wrote that “it is needless to remind you of the position your Patriarchate holds in the rank of the Dyptichs of the Most Holy Orthodox Church, as well as the fact that, in the canonical order, which has always and until now been respected by all Orthodox Churches, the Pan-Orthodox Synods of the Primates have been always summoned by the Ecumenical Patriarch, who presides over these Synods. What kind of unity does your initiative want to serve, if the First of the Orthodox Primates in rank is absent from the Synod you propose?”
Finally, after stressing that the Eucharistic communion between the Churches was never interrupted, with the exception of the Church of Moscow, he called on Patriarch Theophilos to recall this “non-canonical initiative that serves foreign purposes and undermines the Ecumenical Throne.”
It should be reminded that Patriarch Theophilos traveled to Moscow at the end of November of 2019 to be honored with the Patriarch Alexios award. While in Moscow he met with President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kyrillos of Moscow. The next day Theophilos announced that he was going to convene a Synaxis of the Prelates of the Orthodox Churches in Jordan to discuss the unity of the Church. Theophilos has yet to recognize the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Archbishops Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece and also Chrysostomos of Cyprus announced that are not going to attend any Synaxis convened by Patriarch Theophilos.