Siniloan, Philippines, December 29, 2020
The Patriarchate of Constantinople’s senior-most priest and only hieromonk serving in the Philippines has come under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Fr. Philemon (Castro) was one of five priests serving under Constantinople. One of the three parishes under his care also moved with him to the Russian Church.
Fr. Philemon and his family began their journey with the establishment of the Orthodox Catholic Church in Siniloan in 1980, which was canonically received into the Orthodox Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Dionysios of New Zealand in January 1994. After laboring as a catechist, Fr. Philemon was ordained on April 2, 1995, at St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Seoul, South Korea. In addition to the Holy Cross Church, he founded two more parishes.
On December 23, Fr. Philemon wrote on Facebook:
The Holy Cross Orthodox Church is now The Orthodox Church of “The Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross of the Lord” with the pastoral administration of Fr. Philemon Castro with the *Decree from Metropolitan Pavel of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Manila-Hanoi, and Metropolitan Sergiy of the Metropolitanate of Singapore and Southeast Asia, and with the blessing of HIS HOLINESS KIRILL Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Glory to Jesus Christ. (*November 15, 2020)
In response, Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia suspended Fr. Philemon and warned his flock of the danger of “non-canonical ‘Orthodox Churches.’”
“The Orthodox Metropolitanate informs all the Orthodox faithful that a certain Felipe Balingit has been excommunicated and he is not a canonical member of the Orthodox Church and a certain Philemon Castro is a suspended priest and has no the right to act as a priest of the Orthodox Church. Also, the chapel of the Holy Cross in Siniloan, Laguna, is not a canonical Orthodox church,” the Metropolitan writes in an official communiqué from December 22.
“Beware of disinformation, false and fabricated news. As Apostle Paul says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58),” Met. Nektarios warns.
The other priest mentioned, Hieromonk Felipe (Balingit), is a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, currently studying at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville. Although, Met. Nektarios refers to him as non-canonical, Fr. Felipe has been a member of the Russian Orthodox Church since well before the present schism between Moscow and Constantinople.
As a hierarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Met. Nektarios believes that anyone not under his omophorion is non-canonical, which in the Philippines includes the clergy and faithful of several jurisdictions, including the Moscow Patriarchate, ROCOR, and the Antiochian Church.
Since the beginning of Constantinople’s present invasion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, several clerics and parishes have left Constantinople to join the Moscow Patriarchate directly or the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The entire Jamaican Orthodox Mission was received into ROCOR. And in November of last year, the Archdiocese of Russian Churches of Western Europe, which was dissolved by Constantinople, reunited with its Mother Church in Russia.