Greek hierarchs of Alexandria punishing African priests who object to recognition of Ukrainian schismatics

Africa, December 26, 2019

Met. Makarios of Kenya, Metropolitan Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania, and Metropolitan Dimitrios of Irinoupolis Met. Makarios of Kenya, Metropolitan Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania, and Metropolitan Dimitrios of Irinoupolis     

Last week, an open letter from 27 African Orthodox priests from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia was published in which the signatories express their disagreement with their Patriarch’s decision to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and to commemorate its primate, Epiphany Dumenko.

The priests also note that the decision to recognize the schismatics was made without consulting the African clergy and laity, although they make up the majority of the Church.

The clerics write with respect and restraint: “We would like to express our opinion and say that we do not agree with the above decision. We respect our Patriarch and obey our bishops, but, just as many priests and even bishops in the Church of Greece expressed their disagreement with a similar decision on the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics, we believe that we have no less of a right to express our opinion.”

The day after the letter was published, OrthoChristian was informed by Fr. George Maximov, a missionary priest who is in contact with several African priests, that the priests were already facing threats of sanctions from their hierarchs, including the cutting off of their salaries, suspension in their priestly ministries, and excommunication.

A few days later, OrthoChristian was informed by one of the signatories that they were already suspended from serving. However, this priest, and others on social media, have stated that they will continue to stand with the canonical Church in Ukraine despite any threats or punishments.

In a video published on Tuesday, December 24, Fr. George specifies that the Greek hierarchs Metropolitan Makarios of Kenya, Metropolitan Dimitrios of Irinoupolis (Tanzania), and Metropolitan Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania immediately began to move against their priests who signed the open letter, demanding that they sign a statement in support of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”

“When they refused, they were suspended from serving and threatened with defrocking,” Fr. George reports.

Fr. George also notes that just last summer, Met. Dimitrios of Irinoupolis traveled to Kiev in honor of the 1,030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, where he expressed support for the canonical Ukrainian Church and its primate His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria also voiced his strong support for the canonical Ukrainian Church last year.

Further, Fr. George states that, as far as he knows, there have been no sanctions or threats from His Eminence Archbishop Jonah of Kampala (Uganda), one of the few African hierarchs of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, against his priests who signed the open letter.

In a Telegram post from December 19, Fr. George noted that many priests in the Greek Orthodox Church offered much stronger disagreement and criticism of the recognition of the Ukrainian schismatics but have faced no sanctions.

He states:

And the fact that African priests are being thrown out of the Church for a very soft and polite letter really shows the double standards of the Greek bishops, who treat their African clerics as second-class people. Of course, these defrockings are not canonical, because these fathers did not do anything with their letter for which they should be defrocked. They did not stop commemorating Patriarch Theodoros, they did not refuse to obey their bishops; they just expressed their personal opinion. But, according to the Greek bishops, the Africans do not even have the right to do this.

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emmanuel wanjala3/18/2020 7:48 pm
Greek hierachs have put Africans under stress. we are landlocked to these hierachs. Is asin for an African to cross to another patriarchate? where did the lord say that Africans stay to Greek bondage untill end Time? Greek hierachs dont want an African clergy and laypeople to make decisions, we are persecuted internally and phsycologically.
Timmy12/27/2019 3:19 pm
Racism is plain view. Greek bishops in Greece tolerate dissenting opinions expressed by other Greek priests & laypeople in respectful & at times disrespectful ways, but Greek bishops in Africa punish black African priests & laypeople who quite respectfully expressed their dissenting opinions. Same old, same old: "Of course, all races are equal, but Greeks are more equal."
Theodoros12/27/2019 8:13 am
All this is a dangerous escalation and is only the latest Fallout ffrom the insane actions of the phanar. The Greek bishops worldwide backing bartholomew have done a horrible disservice to the church of God. I am Greek. And I am absolutely stunned by the Greek bishops who are supporting bartholomew no matter The destruction caused in Ukraine and schisms fomenting in Greece and Alexandria as well as actions by elements in Montenegro to support the Schismartics there. how could it have come to pass That bishops in Greece have allowed themselves to Be dictated to by American officials. Dark days for Orthodoxy but especially dark for those bishops who Do not repent and end the madness.
Dr. Gerasimos KAMBITES12/26/2019 10:54 pm
Chrys12/26/2019 10:51 pm
May God grant these priests many more years for standing for the Truth! However, let me offer some small criticism of the comments extracted from "Father Maximos", as someone who has lived in Kenya, knows His Eminence Makarios and who has attended Churches in Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Nigeria as well. It seems unclear that anyone is being thrown out of the Church or defrocked, especially by Fr Maximos's own comments. Being asked not to serve as a censure is one thing, being defrocked is something else entirely. The latter requires a serious process, and Fr Maximos did not indicate that such a process was conducted. These priests are still priests, as far as we know right now. Furthermore, I think it is dangerous to bring in the race card here, just because it is convenient and just because it is something that has been thrown around in this entire discussion of Ukraine, in fairness, by the Russian side. Race might be a factor in the general management of the Alexandria Patriarchate, I would agree, but that does not mean it is the key issue here. Moreover, one thing we do know is that while race HAS OFTEN been a factor in Ukraine (i.e., e.g., where parades for Banderovas still take place), it is not seen as a primary factor in the schism (or has not been highlighted as such). At the end of the day, the canonical Church is comprised of Ukrainians. Nonetheless, if the Alexandrian bishops censured these priests for their letter alone, it is wrong: No one Orthodox can dispute that. That should be the focus. However, calling it racist because the bishops are of Greek descent (Cypriots really aren't Greek, I lived there) adds a layer of speculation that is unhelpful and potentially damaging. Priests in Greece were not censured, yes, but they were also not under these bishops. Thus, we have no idea how they would have been treated in this situation. Moreover, the record shows that the Greek Church has actually censured AND defrocked many Greek priests on other matters, including entire monasteries and sketes on Mt Athos, for not commemorating the Ecumenical Patriarch. My point: Let us not allow the devil, who has already created this split between the Moscow Church and several other Churches, to add to his victories. Again, this is no defense of the bishops's actions--which, if true, were wrong--but it is a plea for us to set Orthodox boundaries on the discussion. Those boundaries must involve a Christian concept of love which includes giving others the benefit of the doubt.
Alexios12/26/2019 7:45 pm
May our Lord God guide and protect these brave African clergymen!
Cathy12/26/2019 7:19 pm
Our Patriach of Alexandria is responsible for the threat of instability within the African church. This is not 1054 AD. We now have the internet, social media, and computers i.e access to church teachings - there is no guarantee that people will blindly follow a Patriarch. Like I keep reminding people - most of us are here for the Orthodoxy, not nostalgia about an empire that once was. May God bring repentance to us all, and may He continue to preserve His Church.
Peter 12/26/2019 5:14 pm
These Greek hierarchs are setting themselves up for a world of hurt when the native African clergy move over to the Russian Church
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