Istanbul, February 27, 2020
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem hosted a fraternal gathering in Amman, Jordan yesterday, where representatives from the Churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Poland, and the Czech Lands and Slovakia discussed serious issues of unity and persecution facing the Orthodox Church today.
A press release resulting from the gathering, in which it is stated that inter-Orthodox issues, including the granting of autocephaly, “should be finalised in a spirit of pan-Orthodox dialogue and unity, and with pan-Orthodox consensus,” was published late last night.
The day before the meeting began, Patriarch Bartholomew addressed a second response to Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, again austerely informing him that his initiative to gather his brother primates to discuss matters of Church unity would, in fact, bring serious harm to that unity.
Pat. Bartholomew already sent a stern response to Pat. Theophilos in January, largely focusing on the fact that the primate of Jerusalem chose to write his invitation letter in English.
Patriarch Bartholomew’s extreme displeasure is clear in the second letter as well, such that the Orthodox Times, an outlet funded by the U.S. State Department to “highlight the values we share with Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Patriarch,” describes every paragraph of the letter as “a slap in the face for the Patriarch of Jerusalem.”
“We are unable to comprehend the fact that His Beatitude [Pat. Theophilos—Ed.] underestimates, or even ignores the extent of the negative repercussions emanating from this initiative,” Pat. Bartholomew writes.
“My pain is growing because of the harm inflicted not only upon the Church of Constantinople, but also the Church of Jerusalem, and upon Orthodoxy as a whole,” writes the First Among Equals, emphasizing that Pat. Theophilos’ initiative aims only at “subverting the established norms and alienating the Orthodox Church from its ecclesiastical foundations.”
While the fraternal gathering in Amman emphasized that questions of autocephaly should be resolved on a pan-Orthodox level, as opposed to Constantinople’s unilateral actions in Ukraine, Pat. Bartholomew pinpoints the problem as being the Russian Church’s refusal to recognize the autocephaly of the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” “while having the Russian Federation by its side.”
“Numerical superiority has never been the quintessence of Orthodox morality—it has a qualitative rather than quantitative dimension,” the Patriarch of Constantinople added.
Recall that to date, 12 of the 15 canonical Local Churches have refused to recognize the schismatic OCU, not just the Russian Church.
If the Patriarch of Jerusalem had genuine concerns about “the challenges facing Orthodox society in critical times,” then he should have turned to the Patriarchate of Constantinople to address any issues that had not been handled at the Crete Council in 2016, “and we strongly believe that there would be an agreement,” Pat. Bartholomew writes.
“Of course we are concerned over the issue of pan-Orthodox unity,” the Patriarch of Constantinople adds, “but the Church is not an unstructured body without institutions.”
Recall that voices from within every Local Church, whether its Holy Synod, primate, or other hierarchs, have addressed Patriarch Bartholomew to address the Ukrainian issue and larger issues of Church unity, while Pat. Bartholomew has refused.
On December 31, 2018, Pat. Bartholomew specifically told His Beatitude Patriarch John of Antioch that he will not address the Ukrainian issue with his brother hierarchs precisely because it will only result in disagreement: “The Ecumenical Patriarchate has good reason to refrain from such a meeting at the Pan-Orthodox level, which would be useless inasmuch as it would only lead to agreement that the participants are in disagreement with each other.”