We continue to call the Patriarchate of Constantinople to dialogue—Patriarch John of Antioch

Moscow, January 30, 2019

Photo: pravoslavie.ru Photo: pravoslavie.ru

His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East arrived in Moscow yesterday for this weekend’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of the enthronement as primate of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. After being greeted by a Russian delegation at the airport, His Beatitude met with Pat. Kirill at his patriarchal residence in Moscow’s Danilov Monastery, where the two primates discussed the mutual joys and sufferings or their two Churches, reports the Department for External Church Relations.

“Your Holiness, you have quite rightly noted that we have a common pain, common wounds,” Pat. John said. “The first pain is connected with the situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and the second is the pain of the Antiochian Church and our brothers due to the situation in Syria.”

The Antiochian primate also spoke of the problems in relations with the Jerusalem Patriarchate.

Speaking about the crisis in the Orthodox world provoked by the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine, Pat. John emphasized:

We have called upon and continue to call upon the Ecumenical Patriarch and other high clergy to resolve the existing problems, including the problems facing our fraternal Russian Orthodox Church, through dialogue, through negotiations, through ordinary conversation. Since 1960, our work has been based on the principle of consensus, which should be observed today. And we continue to consider this principle … a kind of cornerstone of all our activities, aimed at bringing the positions of all the Local Churches together. We do not agree with the attempts to resolve a number of Church problems being undertaken unilaterally at the expense of world Orthodoxy, which are leading to a schism in this world. Therefore, the preservation of our Orthodox unity and the fact that we must continue to carry out our mission of peace, love, and cooperation should remain the basis of our activities in the future.

The Holy Synod of the Antiochian Church made a statement in early October, calling for Patriarch Bartholomew to convene a pan-Orthodox council on the matter and warning that unilateral actions and the establishing of parallel jurisdictions do nothing to solve divisions and unite the Church. Pat. John renewed the call for a pan-Orthodox council in his response to Pat. Bartholomew’s request to recognize the results of December 15’s “unification council,” though Pat. Bartholomew explicitly rejected this call.

A joint statement between Pat. John and His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia in October also called for a pan-Orthodox solution to the Ukrainian problem.

Further, His Beatitude noted that this position was expressed by all the participants in the Antiochian Church’s recent Bishops’ Council:

They spoke about the need for doing everything to achieve and maintain our unity. And we wanted that our voice of truth would be heard, because it is improper to be silent now. We absolutely must speak about it out loud. Therefore, we have called upon and continue to call upon the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the other Local Churches to return to the path of dialogue and cooperation. We must make this the basic principle of our activity… We must do everything so the pain would leave our hearts, so we would feel joy, so all the Local Churches, the entire Orthodox world would be united.

Speaking of the devastating war in Syria, Pat. John noted that they are still in pain, and that still nothing is known of the kidnapped bishops His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and the Syriac Metropolitan Yuhanna Ibrahim, “but we continue to hope that everything will end well.”

He also reassured the Russian Patriarch that the situation in Syria has improved somewhat, that new territories are being liberated, for which the Antiochian primate gives thanks to Russia for its political, military, and humanitarian assistance.

“We believe that our Church will continue to bear its mission, to carry out its work with honor, as it was before,” Pat. John said.

He also thanked the Russian Church in particular for its assistance in restoring churches that had been destroyed by terrorists, noting especially that the situation in Maaloula has largely normalized, with the St. Thekla Monastery reopening and pilgrims starting to come again.

Following his meeting with Pat. Kirill, Pat. John spoke with reporters about the news of external forces attempting to divide the Antiochian Church, assuring them that the Church’s unity is and will remain strong.

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