Bishop of Zimbabwe: Constantinople started the crisis, Moscow continues it—we need a council

Zimbabwe, February 8, 2022

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The Patriarchate of Constantinople created the problem of Church unity by ignoring conciliar Church decisions, and now the Russian Church is invading Alexandrian territory, His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe writes in a new reflection.

In this situation, the Church needs to reclaim its synodal process, with the participation of all Local Churches, allowing the voice of the majority to prevail under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Met. Seraphim has repeatedly stressed the need for a council to heal the crisis in the Church and has spoken against the creation of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and its recognition.

What’s happening in Kenya, with the “forcible occupation of our holy churches with the guidance of our Russian brothers” is tragic, the Metropolitan opens his article, published by the Orthodoxia News Agency.

World leaders who are in power too long tend to drag their people, and the whole world with them, into disaster, and it’s sad that “the spiritual leadership follows them in everything on the path of self-destruction.” Arrogance is as easily transmitted as the coronavirus, Met. Seraphim laments, and “this is the case with the presence of our beloved Russian brothers in our Patriarchate in Africa.”

We need our Orthodox primates to play the role that befits them and to protect the visible unity of the Church. And may we all pray for peaceful dialogue to prevail for such protection of unity, as occurred at the First Ecumenical Council, when the Holy Fathers laid down the principle that the voice of the majority should prevail (Canon 6).

However, this principle was violated when four Local Churches didn’t attend the Crete Council in 2016, Met. Seraphim writes, and then “without taking into account the texts of the work of the Inter-Orthodox Meetings on the subject of autocephaly,” Patriarch Bartholomew granted autocephaly to the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and this began the threat to the visible unity of the Local Orthodox Churches, the Zimbabwe hierarch writes.

Even those who support the autocephalous church of Ukraine disagree with how it was accomplished, and it must be remembered that 10 Local Churches continue to insist on dialogue with the participation of all Churches.

Thus, there should be a synaxis of the primates, to consider all matters with love, sure of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Met. Seraphim proposes.

Perhaps a small inter-Orthodox committee, consisting of representatives from Constantinople, Alexandria, Moscow, and other Church that so desires, could be formed to record the positions of the Local Churches on the issues that face the Church today. We also have to change how inter-Orthodox meetings worked from 1960-2016, the Metropolitan believes, in favor of allowing the voice of the majority to prevail.

It is noteworthy that Met. Seraphim acknowledges that the Antiochian Church didn’t attend the Crete council because of its dispute with the Jerusalem Patriarchate over the territory of Qatar, whereas Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and other hierarchs have repeatedly insisted that Antioch backed out only under pressure from the Russian Church.

It would be good to continue the work of Crete every seven years, as was proposed by the primates of the Serbian and Romanian Churches, the Alexandrian hierarch states.

When the Moscow-Constantinople crisis began, the Churches of Alexandria and Cyprus initially insisted upon dialogue, Met. Seraphim recalls, but this didn’t happen, “and what happened happened.” Now we need prudence, humility, and love, with respect for the Synodal character of the Church.

Everyone acknowledges that as the second largest Orthodox country, Ukraine has the right to an autocephalous Church, but its autocephaly must be a cause for unity both in Ukraine and in the entire Church, Met. Seraphim encourages.

Further, the importance of the modern missionary ministry should be emphasized and supported by all the Local Churches.

And if the Churches are able to come together in dialogue, this will show the primates as the successors to the Apostles, who worked conciliarly, under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, finding solutions where people didn’t think they existed.

Finally, the institution of the universality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Local Orthodox primates would be preserved and strengthened in such a difficult time for the world.

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Popsy2/11/2022 9:46 pm
@ David: I believe the "$$$" that you're talking about is only an added benefit, if it's true that Alexandria Patriarchate (AP) had financial issues and that MP is going tho treat the priests better than that. The main reason priests in Africa are leaving AP is (as I understand) the fact that they don't want to be forced to serve with schismatics and to commemorate bishops that have no problem serving alongside schismatics, without a protest. So what they're doing is trying to preserve their chance at saving their souls and that of their parishioners. This was not merely a "disagreement" with their bishop. This was their response to an action on their bishop's part that could endanger their salvation. Maybe this was not the best course of action, but this way hopefully, the bishops of AP would convince patriarch Theodoros to renounce his recognition of the schismatic OCU. Or even better, force an Ecumenical Council or at least a Sinaxis of the patriarchs, where the Ukrainian issue would be discussed and solved, solving -in turn- the situation in Africa.
David2/11/2022 10:42 am
"Fairly justifiable" reasons? Your use of "fairly" is revealing, as is the special pleading and whataboutism the MP is engaged in to justify this action. This "looks bad," and the MP's tone on this issue tells me that there is opposition to this move within the Russian Church, and so HE Hilarion and others are "explaining" the situation to their "friends and compatriots" and attempting to justify themselves. I said before that this would blow up in their face. All of these "new" priests suddenly had a pang of conscience on Ukraine? The "$$$" is speaking here, too, Basil. The Alexandria Patriarchate has problems it would seem, and the priests in question made the decision that they will get "a better deal" with the Russians. That the MP is "willing" to set them up with a regular salary and logistical support would in another circumstance be praiseworthy----even if you deplore what the EP did in Ukraine, how is taking in disgruntled and destitute priests en masse without a release in this way Canonical or right? If the MP was so concerned about their financial situation, they could provide the support without tearing the Alexandria Patriarchate apart. As for my analogy which you didn't like, here is another one: Rue Daru accepted Father Andrew Phillips and a bunch of others without release. ROCOR broke communion with Rue Daru over it. Was that right? Priests who have disagreements or issues with their Bishops can't just go shopping for another Bishop who will give them "what they need" and then bail without a Canonical Leave. What sort of Ethos is the Moscow Patriarchate establishing here?
Basil2/10/2022 6:22 pm
David; specious reasoning. The fake Ukrainian Church begged and nobody listened (until $$$ spoke) because they were schismatic, anathematized, or unordained. The African priests were all canonical and in good standing. Moscow made a pastoral decision to take in these priests and their flocks for fairly justifiable reasons. Again, they didn't set up exarchates in Greece or Cyprus because there are no clergy there begging to be brought under Moscow's omophorion. Different situations require different responses.
David2/10/2022 2:55 am
Basil: And for decades, the "schismatics" of Ukraine begged the EP to take them under their "wing." Just because someone asks a Bishop (or Patriarch) for something, doesn't mean it should automatically be granted. I am not a gambling man, but if I were, I would bet money that the vast majority of these African priests who left are not leaving because of Ukraine. Ukraine is the pretext for them to justify departing, because of some other issues they have with Alexandria. The "oath" that the MP is having them sign is also reprehensible (and rules out any reconciliation or conciliar solution). Additionally, one of the main reasons the MP is giving for setting up the Exarchate is the lack of dissent in Alexandria on the Ukraine issue. This article and the surrounding circumstances show this to not be the case, and that in fact there is dissent on this issue within the Alexandria Patriarchate, as there is in Greece and Cyprus. Metropolitan Hilarion's statements imply that the MP is not "doing anything" in Greece and Cyprus because this dissent exists. That brings me back to my original question: Why was Africa not afforded the same respect? The MP didn't have to do anything in Africa. If the MP was thinking with Christ, they would have held back here also, for "the sake of the 10 righteous." They did not do so. Why? The MP can't unilaterally declare a Patriarchate in Schism. Broken Communion is not the same as Schism. What exactly is the MP doing here?
Basil2/9/2022 6:30 pm
David, it's because almost 200 priests in Africa begged the MP to take them under their wing. That didn't happen in Greece.
Antiochene Son2/9/2022 3:41 pm
@Michael: It is not accurate to say Alexandria is now an "uncanonical church". No one has been deposed. Severing communion is a serious disciplinary action, not an anathema. Excommunication is not an automatic condemnation to hell in Orthodoxy like it is in Western Christianity.
Cornelius 2/9/2022 7:44 am
Respect, love, honour and humility is what is at stake. Let us give give to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Covid 19 has taught us that we can pray online. For the past two years, many people have discovered many churches and practices they hitherto didn't know about. It may be difficult to stop them but rather to provide the space of love to bear the burden of truth and reconciliation in whatever befalls us. Let's do more to remain in unity in our diversity. Going forth to the ends of the earth in the towns and villages of Africa that have not heard the true word of God. There is a greater problem around us beside the brokenness that we are experiencing now in our internal blossom, it is the problem of the misrepresentation of Christ in Christianity. This is the real threat we are faced with. No language, new to Africa will address this problem. We must address this malady first, and the choices will be clear. The lost sheep of the house of Israel should not be lost to the antichrist.
David2/9/2022 2:00 am
Wait....I thought no Alexandrian Hierarchs spoke out on the Ukraine issue? Apparently they have and do. Why the Russian exarchate? If Russia held back in Greece et al because there is disagreement, why was Africa not afforded the same respect?
Rdr Daniel2/9/2022 1:51 am
@Michael I agree with you regarding the council of Crete and the uncanonicality of the schismatics in Ukraine. However you write, "The patriarch of Alexandria should repent, now and without condition. Perhaps the Church of Russia will show mercy and restore the old order". Forgetting whether or not Alexandria's communion with schismatics justified Moscow's entry into lands of Alexandria's jurisdiction, were they to repent who is Moscow to show mercy or not? They would have to restore the old order having no reason to continue in Africa. The idea that Moscow can show mercy to another see as though its patron and has a choice in following the canons of the church is rather strong evidence of the Metropolitan's assertion regarding the arrogance of both Constantinople and Moscow.
Michael K2/9/2022 1:37 am
MP has followed in the same uncanonical footsteps as EP. Neither is correct undermining the established status quo. EP get out of Ukraine; MP get out of Africa!
Daniel Smith2/9/2022 12:14 am
Alexandria is in communion with schismatics. It's that simple.
Seraphim 2/8/2022 10:46 pm
Well said Michael! We all remember with joy and thanksgiving to God when first Bulgaria and finally and gloriously Russia pulled out of the 2016 Conference in Crete with its endlessly repetitive and banal talk of the "universal values of peace and social justice". The Orthodox Vatican II was averted. But they will try again of course. The problem is that this is all much deeper than a jurisdictional battle over Ukraine. There are those in the Church (especially the Greeks it has to be said) who want to 'drag the Church into the modern world'. They want to make a concordat with progressives and turn the Church into a kind 'Englightened Deism' whose main concern will be creating a secular paradise on this earth. It is no accident that this is also the doctrine of Freemasonry. You can read all about the Phanar's close relationship with the Lodges in this brilliant article by Fr. Seraphim Zissis:
Michael 2/8/2022 9:32 pm
The Crete Council was a Robber Council. The vast majority of world Orthodoxy was not represented. It was a vanity project for the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The Russian Church waited patiently for more than two years for the Greek Patriarchs to come to their senses. Thank God they have brought a canonical Church back to Africa. No one who communes with Epiphanius, the false bishop of Kiev is canonical.

If the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church wants autocephalous status it’s canonical head, Metropolitan Onuphry will ask for it. The OCU leaders appointed by the Patriarch of Constantinople are not even clergy and have ties to many shady groups including some with neo-Nazi ties.

The patriarch of Alexandria should repent, now and without condition. Perhaps the Church of Russia will show mercy and restore the old order.

Finally, it should be clear to all that the Patriarch of Constantinople is a petty, vain greedy man who is the biggest stumbling block to Orthodoxy unity. He should resign or be removed and absent that his dying See should just be ignored by the rest of world Orthodoxy.
Antiochene Son2/8/2022 6:34 pm
He has good things to say, but blaming on the four churches that did not attend Crete in 2016? Antioch was willing to attend if their concerns were addressed, but Bartholomew had to rigidly stick to his schedule and rubber-stamped process, rather than let the Holy Spirit truly move the council to do His will.
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