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Posts Tagged 'bish'

New Jersey: “It was necessary to normalize the status of all bishops across the See of Antioch”

This gets less and less clear the more Met. PHILIP attempts to explain.

From Antiochian.org, in response to a letter sent by the Council of Presbyters of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America:

Beloved in Christ,

Greetings and Blessings to you during this holy season of The Great Fast!

We have received and reviewed your letter dated March 17th, 2009 in which you pose fifteen questions related to the February 24th, 2009 decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch regarding the status of all bishops across the Holy See of Antioch. We will try our best to answer these questions as follows:

1. Are there any other diocesan bishops, outside our Archdiocese, that are affected by the Holy Synod’s decision?

Answer: Yes. In the Patriarchate there are three bishops, the Bishop of Saydnaya, the Bishop of Qatana, and the Patriarchal Vicar. In addition, the Archdiocese of Akkar had the Bishop of Tartous and the Bishop of Marmarita & Al Hosn. The Bishop of Marmarita & Al Hosn was elected as Metropolitan for the Archdiocese of Western and Central Europe. The Bishop of Tartous was elected to succeed Metropolitan Paul Bendali in the Archdiocese of Akkar. He refused to have either diocesan or auxiliary bishops in his Archdiocese at this time.

2. There seems to be differences in tone and meaning between the Arabic original and the English translations of Articles 77 and 78. Can these be clarified?

Answer: The English translation was my best effort. If someone can produce a more accurate translation, this would be most welcome.

3. What were the intentions of the Holy Synod in formulating these amendments?

Answer: The intention was to have good order and consistency throughout the Holy See of Antioch by normalizing the status of all bishops.

4. Is the Pittsburgh Constitution binding, since it was duly approved and implemented by the legally binding decision made at special Archdiocesan Convention of July 2004?

Answer: The constitution is binding to the extent that it is consistent with the decisions of the Holy Synod of Antioch, which is the highest authority in the Church of Antioch. The Holy Synod has the prerogative to modify any decision that it had previously approved.

5. Since official Archdiocesan documents state that the provisions for self-rule, including those pertaining to the local synod of the Archdiocese, are irrevocable, as witnessed both by the Pittsburgh Constitution and the Patriarchal version of October 15, 2004, how can they be overturned by amendment of the Patriarchal by-laws?

Answer: We can find no language in any Constitution, or the original decision of the Holy Synod dated October 10, 2003 which indicates that the provisions of any constitution or by-laws are irrevocable.

6. Given that the granting of self-rule required that the Patriarchal Constitution be amended to reflect the self-ruled status of the North American Archdiocese, and that this constitution governs its by-laws, not vice versa, how could the Constitution be overturned by amendments of by-laws?

Answer: The Patriarchal Constitution was never amended to reflect self-rule status, so the February 24th decision is consistent with the current in-force Patriarchal Constitution.

7. What was the need, and why the urgency, for a special meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch? Were constitutional procedures followed for the calling of that meeting?

Answer: At the October 7th, 2008 meeting of the Holy Synod in Damascus, His Beatitude appointed a special committee which included the Archbishops of Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and Akkar to study the question of the status of bishops across the See of Antioch, and to make a recommendation which would normalize that status. The meeting of February 24th, 2009 was convened to hear this recommendation and to act on it. The Patriarch may convene a meeting of the Holy Synod at any time that he sees fit.

8. Given the fact that the mechanism of resolution for possible problems or disagreements is specified in our Constitution as belonging to the Local Synod of Bishops, with right of appeal to the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, why were these amendments necessary?

Answer: The February 24th decision was not a result of any wrongdoing by any bishop. It was necessary to normalize the status of all bishops across the See of Antioch.

9. We are not aware of any study, investigation, or report containing information regarding concerns of disunity or other issues of disagreement within our Archdiocese. What was done by our bishops that precipitated the Holy Synod’s decision? Did the Patriarch discuss these issues with our bishops when he visited in the fall of 2008?

Answer: Once again, our bishops did not do anything that precipitated this decision. It should not be viewed as a matter of discipline, since this was not the intention. To my knowledge, the Patriarch did not discuss this with our bishops during his visit in the Fall of 2008.

10. How can enthroned diocesan bishops be dethroned other than on specific canonical grounds?

Answer: To dethrone a bishop is to remove him from his episcopal throne. This has not been done. The status of the bishops  has changed from diocesan bishop to auxiliary bishop.

11. If there is no local synod within our Archdiocese, in what way do we retain our status of Self-Rule?

Answer: Our Archdiocesan Synod remains in place. The February 24th decision made no mention whatsoever of self-rule, or a change in status of the Archdiocesan Synod.

12. If Bishop BASIL, for example, is no longer Bishop of Wichita, what is his current title?

Answer: Our bishops will carry the title Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of (name of Diocese). As an example, Bishop BASIL carries the title Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America.

13. How are we to understand the status of bishops who were not only enthroned but also consecrated for specific dioceses, if they are no longer bishops of those dioceses?

Answer: They are Auxiliary Bishops who are overseeing a Diocese on behalf of The Metropolitan.

14. Are the dioceses which were created at the time of our becoming self-ruled now reduced to regions?

Answer: No. The dioceses remain intact and they retain their current names.

15. We understand that the decree was sent for approval to all the members of the Holy Synod. Did they all respond? What were their responses?

Answer: We are not privy to the individual responses from each member of the Holy Synod. Suffice it to say that the decision was approved by a majority of the Holy Synod.

It is our prayer that the remainder of your Lenten journey will be greatly blessed.

Your father in Christ,

Metropolitan PHILIP

Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America

Cc: His Beatitude, IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Bishop ANTOUN, Bishop JOSEPH, Bishop BASIL, Bishop THOMAS, Bishop MARK, Bishop ALEXANDER

There are, it seems to me, a number of key points here, but I’m curious about what everybody else sees before I offer my own half-baked analysis.

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New Jersey: “Most of the auxiliary bishops will remain where they are”

An update of sorts. From the Antiochian website:

March 4, 2009

Beloved Hierarchs and Clergy, Members of the Board of Trustees of the Archdiocese, Parish Councils and Faithful of this God-Protected Archdiocese:

Greetings and blessings during this Holy Lenten Season!

There have been some questions raised regarding the February 24th decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which addressed the status of bishops across the entire See of Antioch. The purpose of this letter is to try to answer these questions so that confusion may be avoided.

The first question deals with whether or not I am supportive of the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which was taken on February 24, 2009. I am supportive of this decision, for a simple reason. I am convinced that the institutional structure of our Archdiocese here requires it at this time. One of the greatest assets that we have been blessed with in this Archdiocese is our strong unity. We cannot take any chance that disunity would occur in the Antiochian Archdiocese. I believe that this decision supports maximum unity and guards against any fracture in the future. I approved the decision of the Holy Synod based on my background and personal experience. I came to this country in 1956 from a divided nation. I found in North America a divided Antiochian family: first between “Russy” and “Antaki”, and second between New York and Toledo. I worked very hard to unite this family at the cost of blood and tears. I will guard this unity with my life and I will leave to our future generations a strong and unified Antiochian family in North America. If we do not learn from the mistakes of history, we will be condemned to repeat the same mistakes. In my judgement, the models of other Orthodox jurisdictions simply do not work, and the examples are numerous. Most importantly, I do not see the action of the Holy Synod of Antioch as making that much practical change in the way we operate. Most of the auxiliary bishops will remain where they are. The auxiliary bishops will administer the dioceses on behalf of the Metropolitan. It is now clear that in the few instances in which the Metropolitan disagrees with the action of a bishop, that the Metropolitan has the authority to reverse that decision. While we have vacancies in some of the dioceses, it is important that the Metropolitan have the flexibility of moving a bishop to a place where the best interests of the Archdiocese can be served.

The second question deals with the exact status of our bishops. The decision makes it very clear that our bishops within this Archdiocese will now be considered Auxiliary Bishops. But we need to focus on the practical application of that change, and not just a title. in due time we will begin the work of editing the “Manual of Hierarchical Duties and Responsibilities” so that these changes will be clear. The Archpastoral Directive of March 3, 2009 made it clear that the Metropolitan is to be commemorated in all divine services. The auxiliary bishop will be commemorated only in the case that he is present at the divine service.

The third question deals with the impact of this decision on the provisions of our Self-Rule as well as certain articles of our Pittsburgh Constitution.

Our Self-Rule status remains in effect with regard to the relationship of this Archdiocese to the Holy Synod of Antioch. The decision of the Holy Synod is a narrow administrative decision, addressing only the standing of bishops across the See of Antioch. As we know from church history, administrative structures come and go as the needs of the church change over time. As you are all aware, there are still some differences that exist between the Archdiocese Constitution that was approved in Pittsburgh, and the constitution that was proposed by the Holy Synod of Antioch as an alternative. These differences will be addressed with the Patriarch, myself, and the Holy Synod in due time.

I pray that you will all have a blessed Journey to the Empty Tomb.

Yours in Christ,

Metropolitan PHILIP

Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America

These, I think, are the key lines:

“We cannot take any chance that disunity would occur in the Antiochian Archdiocese. I believe that this decision supports maximum unity and guards against any fracture in the future.”

“In my judgement, the models of other Orthodox jurisdictions simply do not work[.]”

“Most of the auxiliary bishops will remain where they are.”

“It is now clear that in the few instances in which the Metropolitan disagrees with the action of a bishop, that the Metropolitan has the authority to reverse that decision.”

“[I]t is important that the Metropolitan have the flexibility of moving a bishop to a place where the best interests of the Archdiocese can be served.”

I think this makes it reasonably clear what this is about. As I have said elsewhere — welcome to Lent. That’s no accident. Pray for your soul, your brothers and sisters, your priest, and your bishop and Metropolitan.

Patriarchate of Antioch: “All bishops within the Antiochian See are auxiliary bishops”

Posted to the website of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:

THE DECISION REGARDING THE AMENDING OF ARTICLES CONCERNING BISHOPS ACCORDING TO THE BY-LAWS OF HE PATRIARCHATE

CHAPTER VI, THE BISHOPS

Article 75: The Patriarch is the reference point of all bishops in Damascus, Patriarchal Monasteries and Vicariates; and they are under his authority[.]

Article 76: The Metropolitan is the point of reference of all bishops in his Archdiocese and they are under his authority.

Article 77: All bishops within the Antiochian See are auxiliary bishops and are directly under their spiritual authority.

Article 78: The Metropolitan defines the responsibilities of the bishops and the place where they should serve. The bishop does not do anything contrary to the will of the Metropolitan.

Article 79: The aforementioned articles 75, 76, 77 and 78 are applicable in all Antiochian Archdioceses and whatever contradicts these articles is null and void.

Issued by the Holy Synod of Antioch, Damascus, February 24, 2009

Signed by:

His Beatitude, IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch

His Eminence, ILYAS, Tripoli

His Eminence, ELIA, Hama

His Eminence, ELIAS, Tyre and Sidon

His Eminence, GEORGE, Homs

His Eminence, PAUL, Australia

His Eminence, DAMASKINOS, Brazil

His Eminence, ESPER, Houran

His Eminence, BASILIOS, Akkar

So, there is a great deal I could say about what this looks like to me, and there are a number of things which stick out like a sore thumb on which I could comment. Not just this text, but the language used in posting it:

Since this was a special Synod meeting with only one item on the agenda concerning the bishops, the proposed text of this decision was sent to the members of the Holy Synod, who were not present, for their approval. (emphasis in original)

However, before I shoot my mouth off, is there anybody familiar with the situation who would care to comment?

For potentially useful background reading, I suggest the interview with His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV in the December 2008 issue of The Word, pp. 5-8. I might also suggest His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP’s discussion of primacy at the American Conference of the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius last June.

I will be very curious to hear what people have to say.


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