Piraeus, Greece, February 18, 2022
The Office of Heresies and Cults of the Metropolis of Piraeus of the Orthodox Church of Greece has issued another statement on the Ukrainian-African crisis, this time in response to the report of Metropolitan Gregory of Cameroon to the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, delivered on January 10.
Just last week, the Office issued a statement emphasizing that the recognition of the Ukrainian schismatics and ecumenism threatens the very existence of the Church of Greece.
Patriarch Theodoros and the Alexandrian hierarchs need to start listening to their African clergy, who are quite sensitive to ecclesiological issues, and convene a council to stop the decline of their Patriarchate and the spread of schism throughout the Church, the Office argues.
To begin its new statement, the Office pinpoints the cause of the current crisis in world Orthodoxy: Patriarch Bartholomew’s anti-canonical and unethical granting of autocephaly to an “insignificant minority of unrepentant, schismatic, unordained, and deposed” people brought about an “unprecedented ecclesiastical crisis in world Orthodoxy.”
The Phanar’s “unwarranted obsession with this new dangerous ecclesiastical regime which it created in Ukraine” and its refusal to convene a pan-Orthodox council continues to deepen the schism between the 10 Local Churches that refuse to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics and the four that do. Constantinople’s obstinacy has led to the “unacceptable establishment by the Russian Patriarchate of a Patriarchal Exarchate in Africa.”
The problem in Africa is deeper than first thought, the Office writes, given that clergy of all ranks in Alexandria opposed the recognition of the schismatics from the beginning. It’s also recalled that Patriarch Theodoros drastically changed camps and brought the Ukrainian schism to Africa. The creation of the Russian Exarchate “was the occasion for the problem to come to light,” the Metropolis writes.
The deeper dimensions of the problem were brought to light by a hierarch of Alexandria himself, when Met. Gregory presented his report to the Synod last month, noting that one of the issues that encouraged the establishment of the Russian Exarchate was the stance of some of the Alexandrian hierarchs against the recognition of Ukrainian autocephaly. Thus, the Metropolitan reveals that some bishops have expressed their clear rejection of the recognition of the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.” However, Pat. Theodoros unfortunately ignored their voices and unilaterally entered into communion with the schismatics.
This would seem to contradict Pat. Theodoros’ assertion that although he acted without a synodal vote, his recognition of the schismatics reflected the general consensus of the Alexandrian bishops.
Russian hierarchs have explained that the Moscow Patriarchate created its African Exarchate after waiting for two years for any Alexandrian hierarchs to publicly protest the recognition of the schismatics and to call for a Synod to discuss the matter. However, most hierarchs kept their protests out of the public sphere.
Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe is the only exception to the Russian Church’s argument that no bishops have publicly spoken out. In March 2020, a few months after Pat. Theodoros entered into communion with the schismatics, Met. Seraphim argued that “those who don’t have canonical ordination simply do not have the grace of the Holy Spirit and therefore they lead us to schisms and heresies.”
He issued another statement earlier this month, affirming that Constantinople’s creation of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” is to blame for the current crisis, which has been continued by the Russian Church in Africa.
And according to Met. Gregory, in addition to the negative stance of some Alexandrian hierarchs, there are rumors that when serving in Africa, Russian priests have long commemorated Patriarch Kirill instead of Pat. Theodoros; and if this is true and yet tolerated by Alexandrian hierarchs, then the Russian Exarchate is only the tip of the iceberg, and the problem is in fact an internal one for the Alexandrian Patriarchate.
If there are still bishops who think the Russian Church is doing well, “then we have a problem of identity and existence … a problem of faith!” Met. Gregory said in his report, as the Piraeus Office quotes him.
However, while Met. Gregory noted the dissenting bishops, he failed to mention the violation of the Synodal system, the Piraeus statement reads. “Woe to the Local Church in which the Synodal System doesn’t work, or doesn’t work properly!”
The problem is indeed within the Alexandrian Patriarchate, the Office writes, because it neglected to convene a Synod to discuss the Ukrainian issue, it neglected to consider the consequences for the Moscow Patriarchate if Ukrainian autocephaly is recognized, and Pat. Theodoros contradicted his previous principled position and recognized the schismatics unilaterally.
There may not be a problem of identity and existence, but there is certainly a problem with the operation of the Synodal system in Alexandria, according to the Greek Metropolis, and there is a problem of faith, given that the Patriarchate fully accepted the documents of the Council of Crete, which Metropolitan Seraphim and the Metropolis of Piraeus have strongly critiqued many times.
It’s very sad that Orthodox bishops today place geopolitics above their saving mission and Church unity, and the Metropolis of Piraeus prays that Pat. Theodoros will take seriously what Met. Gregory revealed about the tragic situation in the Alexandrian Church and will convene a Synod to condemn “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko and the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
It’s a pity that a Local Church with such impression missionary work for decades now should end in decline because of the Ukrainian situation, the Office of Heresies laments.
While the African clergy may not always have high theological training, “they are extremely sensitive to matters of an ecclesiological nature,” the statement continues. They understand that schism and heresy mean a loss of salvation.
The Metropolis’ respect for the African clergy markedly differs from those Alexandrian hierarchs who insist that their priests couldn’t even find Ukraine on a map.
In conclusion, the Metropolis’ Office calls upon Pat. Theodoros as the second-ranked prelate “to take substantial action to resolve the Ukrainian issue” for the good of both his Local Church and all of Orthodoxy, to listen to his African clergy, and to make every effort to convince Pat. Bartholomew to convene a pan-Orthodox council to deal with the pressing issues in the Church today. Otherwise, he could lead such a council himself.