Amidst Ukraine and Africa ecclesiastical crises, Albanian Church urgently calls for pan-Orthodox council

Tirana, Albania, March 13, 2023

Photo: Romfea Photo: Romfea     

As it has done several times over the past few years, the Albanian Orthodox Church is again urgently calling for a pan-Orthodox council to address issues of Church unity.

In its statement issued on Saturday, the Holy Synod specifically mentions the ecclesiastical tragedies in Africa and Ukraine.

The statement came out just a day after it became known that the Ukrainian state intends to completely expel holy Orthodoxy from the Kiev Caves Lavra by the end of the month. Recall that the Albanian Church continues to stand by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, refusing to recognize Constantinople’s schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” organization.

Regarding Africa, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stopped commemorating Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria during the Divine services in December 2019 in response to the latter’s unilateral recognition of the Ukrainian schismatics. Two years later, given the Alexandrian Synod’s failure to reject the decision of Pat. Theodoros and following his concelebration with Epiphany Dumenko—the head of the Ukrainian schismatics—the Russian Synod resolved to create an African Exarchate covering the entire canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, beginning with 102 priests from various African countries who requested reception into the Moscow Patriarchate in protest of Pat. Theodoros’ communion with schismatics. Since then, the Russian Church has been receiving clergy and parishes and establishing new communities throughout the Patriarchate of Alexandria’s territory. In November 2022, Alexandria responded by defrocking Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, the Russian Church’s African Exarch, and Pat. Theodoros also dropped Pat. Kirill from liturgical commemorations.

Given these tragic situations, the Albanian Church is calling for a pan-Orthodox council as soon as possible. An English translation of the Synodal statement was published at the Mystagogy Resource Center:

On the occasion of recent publications on the internet, the Church of Albania clarifies that it will not be drawn into the method of counter-complaints, rebuttals, insults, inaccuracies and slanders, as attempted by incompetent laymen on internet sites.

The Albanian Orthodox Church, therefore, declares in all directions that it is not prepared to publicize on the internet and in general in the mass media its opinions and judgments, regarding the attitude and behavior of other Local Orthodox Churches and their primates.

The painful ecclesiastical problems that have arisen in recent years and recently in Africa, as a result of the clear cracks in the relations of the Local Orthodox Churches and the widespread concern of the Orthodox believers, cannot be solved by the method of chain retaliation by specific Churches and by collecting a consensus from the rest through the mass media.

The responsible opinion of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania is expressed through official ecclesiastical correspondence, in the announcements of the Archsecretariat and will be directly submitted to the competent body, the Pan-Orthodox Synod or Synaxis, which, in accordance with the principle of synodality, is the only one empowered to resolve basic problems and to ensure the unity and peace of the worldwide Orthodox Church.

As the unprecedented calamity of Orthodoxy in Ukraine intensifies and the unspeakable suffering of the Orthodox believers peaks, a Pan-Orthodox response is required as soon as possible.

However, despite his repeated calls for a pan-Orthodox council, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania chose not to attend the pan-Orthodox gathering hosted by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 2020, because he believes only the Patriarchate of Constantinople has the authority to gather hierarchs together.

Thus, the Albanian Church’s new statement concludes:

A Pan-Orthodox Synod, as is known, is convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch, which convenes and acts, even if some Local Churches are absent, as was the case with the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church in Crete in 2016.

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Theodoros 3/16/2023 2:39 am
The Albanian Church is saying that Patriarch Bartholomew should preside over a council. That is a problem in itself because Patriarch Bartholomew instigated the entire crisis. The Churches of Alexandria and many (if not all) bishops in Greece and Cyprus have supported Patriarch Bartholomew. Will these bishops reverse themselves and repent for entering into communion with schismatics? I would hope so but since they are politically under the influence of Washington this is less likely. If Patriarch Bartholomew convenes the council, he may try to dictate the outcome as he did in Crete in 2016 which would make the council pointless. Since Patriarch Bartholomew has compromised himself a council should be presided over by either the Patriarch of Antioch or the Patriarch of Jerusalem who convened the Amman gathering in 2020.
Dionysius Redington3/14/2023 3:45 am
If a council is held, both the American and Russian governments will do everything in their power to influence it to achieve their respective this-worldly goals. However, I suspect that God may be just a wee bit stronger even than they. The question is: Have we repented enough that God will act? --Dionysius Redington
Theodoros 3/13/2023 8:30 pm
A council that is free and holy cannot occur under the present circumstances. The war in Ukraine must end and the Churches of Constantinople, Greece, and Cyprus must be free of American influence otherwise what is the point? If these Churches are under the corrosive influence Of the State Department they will go with a political agenda that could enforce the schism. The Churches must be free for a real council to gather.
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