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Commentary on the Ukrainian Issue for the Cypriot Holy Synod

 

The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus issued a very diplomatic statement on the Ukrainian issue yesterday, though it was not signed by every bishop on the Synod. Without directly placing any blame, the statement is hard on the Russian Church while not criticizing any of the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Nevertheless, the Cypriot Synod did not recognize the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” as a legitimate church and has not entered into Eucharistic communion with them.

A translation of the Synodal statement is available on Orthodox Synaxis.

After the Synod’s statement was released, a personal statement from His Eminence Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos was published on the Greek site Romfea, which speaks much more directly about the errors of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine and the impossibility of having communion with the Ukrainian schismatics.

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From the moment that the question of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church first arose, we have openly spoken in its favor. In communication with various people—both Church and secular—I have insisted that, in essence, the practice that a politically independent country has its own autocephalous Church prevails in Orthodoxy today.

However, I had hoped that this—certainly desirable—autocephalous Orthodox Ukrainian Church would be established not in haste and in a rush, but gradually, with great attention and in agreement with Orthodox tradition, the sacred canons, and generally the totality of the Church-canonical law of our holy Orthodox Church.

Unfortunately, the entire process of proclaiming and recognizing the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church did not proceed by the democratic Orthodox conciliar process; it was not democratic and conciliar sentiments and tendencies that triumphed in it, but, as sad as it is to admit, authoritarian and autocratic.

Although His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople acknowledged and confirmed by his letter more than twenty years ago the deposition and excommunication of Metropolitan Philaret and his followers as schismatics from the Russian Orthodox Church and in general from the Body of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church; although three years ago, at the Synaxis of Primates in 2016, as His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill of Moscow reports in his open letter, the Patriarch of Constantinople promised that he wouldn’t do this, that he wouldn’t unilaterally grant autocephalous status to the Ukrainian Church and especially to schismatics—despite all of this, he completely without any reason began the process of granting autocephaly to the above-mentioned church. Moreover, what’s even sadder, after twenty years, and his own written agreement with the reprisals imposed on Philaret notwithstanding, he nevertheless restored the above-mentioned condemned person, contradicting himself and restoring those deposed and condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In my humble opinion, this action is anti-canonical from the point of view of the sacred canons, which say that any reproach, deposition, and excommunication can be removed only by that body which imposed it and only under the condition of the repentance of those condemned. Therefore, only the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate had the right to restore Philaret and the canonical jurisdiction to return him to the bosom of the Orthodox Church.

The biggest mistake made by the Ecumenical Patriarch, from my humble point of view, is the contemptuous disregard for Metropolitan Onuphry, the Metropolitan of the only Ukrainian Orthodox Church having general canonical recognition, and also the recognition, instead of him, of Epiphany, having no canonical ordination, as Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, and also the handing of a tomos of autocephaly to him while concelebrating with him.

Most blessed and most holy brothers!

I can draw only one conclusion. Sadly enough, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s granting of autocephalous status to the schismatic community of Philaret and Epiphany not only did not heal the existing schism in Ukraine, but on the contrary, aggravated it. Now, after the granting of the tomos, we see a tragic reality: In Ukraine there exists a canonical Church under Metropolitan Onuphry and a schismatic community under the leadership of the defrocked Philaret and Epiphany. Obviously, there is a danger that after three years of military confrontation, the Ukrainian people will now be divided by a religious confrontation. Even greater is another danger: The unhealed Ukrainian schism could affect, as many have already said, the entire Body of universal Orthodoxy, with which, alas, it proved to be connected.

Thus, I believe that we, the Holy Synod of the Cypriot Church, cannot recognize the schismatic Epiphany, having no canonical ordination, as the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine. It is even more unacceptable for us to have Eucharistic communion with unordained schismatics.

Thus, my humble proposals are as follows:

1. Our Holy Synod should not side with either the Moscow Patriarch or the Ecumenical, so as not to damage the mediation efforts of the Church of Cyprus to achieve a canonical solution to the problem.

I also express the fear that the worst would happen—that the Slavic Churches would side with the Moscow Patriarchate and the Greeks with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. That would make it a long-lasting schism (to the great joy of the enemies of universal Orthodox).

2. Our Holy Synod should support the proposal of His Beatitude Patriarch John of Antioch to soon convene a pan-Orthodox council or (if it is difficult or even impossible) a Synaxis of the primates, where the Ukrainian issue can be discussed and a canonical resolution will be found in agreement with the sacred canons and Tradition of the Orthodox Church.

3. I believe that the Cypriot Church, having received autocephaly at the Third Ecumenical Council, endowed with authority and crowned with the light of the Eastern Church, can and should play a decisive mediating role in the implementation of the above proposals and the resolution of the problem situation.

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  • Сличан садржај

    • Од Ромејац,
      Knowing that the local faithful were planning to protest and block their entry to St. Andrew’s Church in Patras, the pilgrims of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” changed their schedule to visit the church without incident, but the faithful were already on-guard.
      Thus, a conflict broke out between the faithful Orthodox believers of Patras and the clergy of the Church of St. Andrew when the schismatic pilgrims, including “Metrpolitans” Simeon Shostasky and Alexander Drabinko, who abandoned the Church of Christ to become schismatics, were allowed inside the church, reports the Greek outlet Oukraniko.
      The schismatics also encountered trouble on the island of Aegina, not being allowed to enter the Holy Trinity-St. Nektarios and St. Minas Monasteries. They were warmly received, however, on Evia and in Fokidos.
      The OCU pilgrims were initially scheduled to visit the church this morning but decided to visit yesterday after lunch, as it was publicly reported that there would be a protest to block them from entering the church on Thursday.
      However, the OCU schismatics nevertheless “found the faithful of Patras who were on duty in case they [the schismatic pilgrims—Ed.] would appear outside their schedule,” as “there was a suspicion that they would change their program,” as they have been doing frequently during their trip.
      “The inhabitants of Patras were in the church and found the schismatics, and [a certain] Mr. Zorbalas just happened to come in at the same time and saw that the rector of the church, Fr. Skiaradesis, was conducting a tour for the schismatics. They were near the honorable head of St. Andrew just then.”
      Oukranki reports that “while the schismatics were shooting videos and taking photos to publish on the internet, a lively altercation began between Zorbalas and the rector, who was leading a tour for the schismatics. The conflict continued for quite a while, and, probably, the schismatics will have to shoot new videos.”
      It was also reported yesterday that the faithful of Patras were to gather this morning at 6:00 for a protest at the Church of St. Andrew.
      The faithful emphasized that “we say ‘no’ to the schismatics. We are on the side of our Orthodox brothers in Ukraine, who suffer because of them. The fight has begun! The schismatics will come again, as they did to the Holy Mountain.”
      Altercation erupts in Patras church over visit of schismatics
      ORTHOCHRISTIAN.COM The OCU pilgrims were initially scheduled to visit the church this morning but decided to visit yesterday after lunch, as it was publicly reported that there would be a protest to block them...  
    • Од Ромејац,
      Met. Chrysostomos of Dodoni (right) with Pat. Bartholomew (left)
       
      Several Moscow Patriarchate hierarchs and clergy went on pilgrimage recently to the Greek Ionian Islands, where they had a chance to meet with the Greek hierarchs of Zakynthos and Dodoni and to discuss current Orthodox events.
      During the course of the conversation, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Dodoni expressed his views on the Ukrainian issue, revealing the influence of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s particular understanding of the issue on certain hierarchs in the Greek Church.
      On Sunday, September 15, His Eminence Metropolitan Isidore of Smolensk and His Grace Bishop Seraphim of Bobruisk of the Belarusian Exarchate and two accompanying priests were warmly welcomed at the Monastery of Strofades and St. Dionysios in Zakynthos by His Eminence Metropolitan Dionysios II of Zakynthos and His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Dodoni, formerly the hierarch of Zakynthos, reports nyxthimeron.com.
      After visiting the sepulchral church of St. Dionysius, the guests toured the ecclesiastical museum, exchanged gifts, and were served a rich meal, during which Met. Chrysostomos, who has served as a bishop since 1976, expressed his nostalgic love for the two former Patriarchs of Moscow, with whom he had close ties, as well as several other historical figures of the Russian Church.
      However, the metropolitan revealed another attitude towards the Russian Church when the guests broached the topic of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. “With the boldness that distinguishes him, [he] pointed out that any problem could have been raised and solved at the Holy and Great Council of Crete (2016) if the Moscow Patriarchate had not refused, with various excuses, to attend, thereby sabotaging unanimity and unity, and even compelling other Churches. This is because Russia always has aspirations of being ‘Third Rome,’” nyxthimeron.com reports.
      Whether Met. Chrysostomos has simply grown fuzzy on the details in the years since the Council or whether he was intentionally distorting the timeline is unclear.
      The Bulgarian Orthodox Church announced on June 1, 2016 that it would not attend the Council; the Antiochian Church announced on June 6 that it would not attend; and the Georgian Orthodox Church announced on June 10 that it would not attend. Only after these three Churches had withdrawn did the Russian Church announce that it could not attend.
      Moreover, the Churches did not simply withdraw, but rather called for the council to be postponed so that their respective issues could be addressed. The Moscow Patriarchate specifically proposed holding an emergency pre-conciliar session for just this purpose, but Patriarch Bartholomew refused to do so, choosing instead to plow ahead with the council without full pan-Orthodox unity.
      While the Patriarchate of Constantinople blames the Russian Church for influencing the other Churches to withdraw, this has always remained groundless speculation, as are paranoid fears of a “Third Rome” ecclesiology. A position of respect for the other Local Churches allows them to speak for themselves, and each of the Churches expressed their own seriously-considered reasons for withdrawing from the Council.
      And despite Met. Chrysostomos’ contention, the Ukrainian issue would not have been addressed at Crete even had the Russian Church attended, as Pat. Bartholomew publicly acknowledged already in January of 2016 that it was not on the agenda. The official agenda for the Crete Council was published on January 28, and also did not include the topic of autocephaly and how to grant it.
      Pat. Bartholomew has referred to the fact that autocephaly was not dealt with at Crete to justify his claim to the right to grant autocephaly whenever to whomever, wherever.
      Meeting with the Russian hierarchs, the Metropolitan of Dodoni also stated that every nation has the right to self-determination and to Church autocephaly. Recall, however, that the Patriarchate of Constantinople claims large chunks of Greece for itself, thus there are two Local Churches operating within one nation.
      Met. Chrysostomos also noted that autocephaly is typically given by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as was the case with Russia, Greece, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria. It should be noted, however, that those territories were within the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople before they received autocephaly, whereas Ukraine has not been part of Constantinople for more than 300 years. Moreover, the Georgian Church received its ancient autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Antioch.
      Concerning the Russian clerics disquiet concerning “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko, Met. Chrysostomos again insisted that everything could have been settled if not for the Russian Church’s efforts to “torpedo” any pan-Orthodox council. Recall that His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch, and many other primates, hierarchs, and Synods, specifically called upon Pat. Bartholomew to summon a pan-Orthodox council to deal with the Ukrainian issue, and Pat. Bartholomew flatly refused, citing the failure of the Crete council.
      The Greek hierarch also criticized the Russian Church for ceasing Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, though reports did not mention if he detailed how he thinks a Church should respond to another Local Church non-canonically invading its territory and setting up schismatics as a new church.
      Met. Chrysostomos concluded with a very revealing remark, noting that the Church of Greece is of the same ethnicity and race as the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and thus it is inconceivable for it not to align itself with Constantinople.
      The Greek metropolitan is echoing the sentiment of Pat. Bartholomew and the Patriarchate of Constantinople with such remarks. Certain Greek and Ukrainian media outlets have repeatedly framed the Ukrainian issue as “Russia vs. Ukraine”
      or “Russia vs. Constantinople,” rather than considering it through the lens of Orthodoxy.
      In October of last year, Pat. Bartholomew himself declared that “Our Slavic brothers cannot tolerate the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and our nation in Orthodoxy,” and “Whether our Russian brothers like it or not, sooner or later, they will follow the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarch, because they have no other choice.”
      A similar attitude was displayed recently when Metropolitan Ephraim of Hydra, Spetses, and Aegina threatened to canonically punish three clerics who had written a letter of support to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. Viewing the matter as one of ethnic enmity rather than one of holy Orthodoxy, the metropolitan interpreted their support for Met. Onuphry as a declaration of loyalty to the Moscow Patriarchate, rather than as the declaration of loyalty to the sacred canons of which they wrote.
      Such an attitude stands in stark contrast to that of many other hierarchs, including His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who recently spoke of how the Serbian Church is autocephalous and equal to all the other autocephalous Churches, as racial or ethnic superiority has no place in the Church of Christ.
       
      Greek hierarch: We are the same race as Constantinople, we must side with the Patriarchate
      ORTHOCHRISTIAN.COM Several Moscow Patriarchate hierarchs and clergy went on pilgrimage recently to the Greek Ionian Islands, where they had a chance to meet with the Greek hierarchs of Zakynthos and...  
    • Од Ромејац,
      The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople unexpectedly decided to remove the exarchate status of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe, telling the parishes that they had to become part of the Patriarchate’s Greek metropolises.
      However, the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese then overwhelmingly voted to remain together as an ecclesiastical body. They are actively considering several options for their future, the most likely being to join the Moscow Patriarchate, which has the backing of the Archdiocese’s hierarch, Archbishop John of Chariopoulis, though there are certainly those members who actively oppose returning to the Russian Church.
      On August 9, the parishes of the former Exarchate received two documents, one with a proposal from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the other with a proposal from the Moscow Patriarchate. The clergy and parishioners have until September 7 to consider the two proposals, when the Archdiocese’s next General Assembly will be held to take a vote, “either to preserve its identity, specificity, and traditions under the Patriarchal omophorion of Moscow,” or “to abandon the past, becoming a vicariate without a future,” Abp. John wrote in his address accompanying the letters, reports the Independent Gazette.
      The 24-page document from Constantinople is, “in fact, the same statutes that the parishes of the Russian tradition live by today, but with all the references to the Archdiocese as a territorial and legal entity replaced with ‘vicariate,’ with the addition of ‘the Gallic Orthodox Metropolis, in the canonical jurisdiction of the Constantinople (Ecumenical ) Patriarchate.”
      Whereas the statutes previously proclaimed the independence of the Exarchate, they now note that decisions can be made only with the “consultation” or “approval” of Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul.
      Metropolitan Emmanuel previously sent a letter with a proposal for the churches within his territory to become a vicariate to the priests of the Archdiocese. His letter stipulated the “the preservation of the existing association, which will continue to manage the property belonging to it, and to function according to its own statutes, probably with some necessary adaptations.” The new Constantinople letter makes clear that the “necessary adaptations” are to strip the Archdiocese of its former freedom, as Abp. John comments.
      Moreover, both Met. Emmanuel’s letter and the present proposal apply only to the churches in France. No offer has been made for the parishes throughout the rest of Western Europe. “We are not talking about the preservation of the Archdiocese, but only about the preservation of its French part,” Deacon Alexander Zanemonets explained to the Gazette.
      Noting that Abp. John would be able to take actions only with the consent of Met. Emmanuel, Dcn. Alexander commented that “the proposal of the Russian Orthodox Church should be considered both in the context of the Romanian refusal and in the context of this Constantinople option.”
      As Dcn. Alexander explained, the Romanian Patriarchate offered the Archdiocese to join it only temporarily, and required a canonical release from Constantinople. “But since the Archdiocese is no longer part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, there cannot be any canonical release,” the clergyman explained.
      Meanwhile, as he notes, the Moscow Patriarchate’s latest offer “corresponds to what was originally discussed.” That is, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill’s winter letter and the final proposal are identical, with all the features of the entire Archdiocese being preserved, including the independence of the Archdiocese in all internal decisions. “That is, in fact, the only change is that the Patriarch of Moscow will be commemorated instead of the Patriarch of Constantinople, while the structure of the internal life of the Archdiocese remains the same,” Dcn. Alexander explained.
      And, importantly, the Moscow proposal allows the Archdiocese to quickly elect diocesan and vicar bishops. Abp. John’s age has been a point of concern for the Archdiocese, but there has been no hope of electing successor bishops under Constantinople.
      The Russian Church has even offered to amend its own statutes to accommodate the traditions of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches.
      http://orthochristian.com/123008.html?fbclid=IwAR3HtowjDzzE4_a-elqZ6iVnTD7ueCxwnDFDr0yrIRTnxJEbymxXBzW9lV4
    • Од Ромејац,
      On May 25, the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) celebrated the 19th anniversary of the restoration of St. Michael’s Golden-domed Cathedral in Kiev. The Liturgy was celebrated by a number of OCU hierarchs, about 100 priests, and two hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul and Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianople.
      As OrthoChristian reported on Thursday, also concelebrating was “Archimandrite” Boris Bojovic of the “Montenegrin Orthodox Church,” an unrecognized breakaway from the Serbian Orthodox Church that has long had relations with and enjoyed the support of the Ukrainian schismatics.
      The head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s public relations office told the French outlet Orthodoxie that given the large number of clergy present at the Liturgy, it was impossible for Met. Emmanuel to know who all of them are.
      While Constantinople was not responsible for Bojovic’s presence, it remains to be seen how the Patriarchate will deal with the fact that the OCU invited a schismatic cleric, causing the Constantinople bishops to inadvertently serve with him.
      Moreover, the “Montenegrin Church” is currently headed by “Metropolitan” Mihailo Dedeić, who was defrocked, excommunicated, and anathematized while serving as a priest of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Italy.
      Although President Milo Đukanović of Montenegro has publicly declared his intent to achieve autocephalous status for the tiny “Montenegrin Orthodox Church,” the public relations head stressed that Constantinople is in canonical unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church and recognizes only its jurisdiction on the territory of Montenegro.
      However, Constantinople also used to declare that it recognized only the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church and its canonical Ukrainian Church on the territory of Ukraine, while the events of the past year have shown that Constantinople can change its mind dramatically.
      The press service of Kiev Metropolia of the OCU has also responded to the reports about them serving with the schismatic “Archimandrite” Boris. Revealing a glaring lack of understanding about the Eucharist and the unity of the Church, the OCU explains that it has good relations with the “Montenegrin Church,” but argues that concelebrating and sharing the Eucharist with representatives of that church does not mean it has Eucharistic communion with that church.
      The OCU statement (published in Ukrainian and English) reads:
      Before receiving the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos of autocephaly, the Church in Ukraine had a communication with those, who among the Orthodoxy wanted to communicate with it. Upon receiving Tomos, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has and maintains church-canonical communication with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and only with the Churches with which the Ecumenical Patriarchate communicates. The participation of the aforementioned person in the Liturgy does not mean that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine will recognize the jurisdiction to which it belongs or whether the OCU has church-canonical communication with this jurisdiction. If someone was harmed by this event, then we assure you that this did not happen intentionally.
      In contradiction to the OCU’s argument, it is proper Orthodox practice to only share the Eucharist with those with whom there is Eucharistic communion.
      Further, the message states that the OCU hopes that all ecclesiastical questions in Montenegro will soon be resolved with the participation of Constantinople, and that the Serbian Church will soon recognize the OCU, “to which it is called by the Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarch.”
      http://orthochristian.com/121880.html

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