Athens, October 16, 2019
In the wake of the confusion following Saturday’s extraordinary session of the Bishops’ Council of the Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira and reportedly several other hierarchs of the Church are calling upon Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens not to concelebrate the Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Bartholomew in Thessaloniki on Saturday, October 19, as planned.
In August, the Holy Synod recognized “the privilege of the primate of the Church of Greece to further deal with the question of recognition of the Church of Ukraine,” and the Bishops’ Council reaffirmed this recognition on Saturday.
In his own presentation offered on Saturday, Abp. Ieronymos, who has been empowered to deal with the question on behalf of the Greek Church, recommended that the Greek Church recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU). For some hierarchs, this implies recognition, while others have rejected the idea that the Church recognized the OCU, as no vote on that specific question took place.
Thus, many are looking to Saturday as the day when the Archbishop’s position will become clear, as “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko of the OCU is sure to be commemorated at a Liturgy with Pat. Bartholomew. There are also rumors that Epiphany himself will appear in Thessaloniki to concelebrate, though as OrthoChristian has noted, he is already expected to be in New York to receive a human rights award from the Constantinople-serving Order of St. Andrew.
In his statement in which he detailed that no vote on the recognition of the OCU took place on Saturday, Met. Seraphim of Kythira calls upon Abp. Ieronymos and Pat. Bartholomew not to rush and not to exacerbate the situation by concelebrating with Epiphany.
“Allow me to conclude my address with a warm and heartfelt appeal to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and all Greece, with a request not to hurry and not to create a critical situation in the Church, and not to start joint hierarchical Divine services with the so-called ‘primate’ of the new ‘autocephaly’ until a pan-Orthodox discussion of this complex and, one might say, explosive canonical and ecclesiological problem,” His Eminence movingly writes.
Further, in an interview with RIA-Novosti, the Metropolitan expressed strong fears about aggravation of the situation that would arise from Saturday’s Liturgy.
“We are concerned that this situation will escalate and, I hope, it won’t come to that. If in a few days, when they will have a joint Liturgy in Thessaloniki, they commemorate Epiphany, I fear there will be an escalation,” he said, adding that he even feared bloodshed.
“There are exactly 11 of us who do not want the issue of autocephaly to go further. We say that a new Bishops’ Council should be held… Personally, I would not agree with anything on the issue of recognizing autocephaly,” Met. Seraphim commented.
He added that he also fears excesses on the Holy Mountain during the Patriarch’s visit there from October 19-22. There are only four monasteries that support recognition, while 16 are against it, the Metropolitan said.
Further, the Ukrainian Telegram channel Pravblog reports that its sources indicate that a group of bishops in the Greek Church “convincingly” called upon Abp. Ieronymos not to go to Thessaloniki on October 19 and not to serve with Pat. Bartholomew, who will commemorate Epiphany.
Abp. Ieronymos reportedly responded in a private conversation saying, “I’ll think about it, because I’ve been dragged into all this.”