The Shepherd, April 2005

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THE PATRIARCH of Moscow, Patriarch Aleksii II, has addressed a long and excellent letter to the His All-Holiness Œcumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, regarding the situation of the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox parishes in Western Europe, the Paris Exarchate and, more generally, the broader situation of the Orthodox diaspora. In his letter he refutes the Constantinopolitan claim, based on Canon 28 of the Fourth Council, to exercise jurisdiction over churches that fall outside the territories of other national Orthodox Churches. This claim is one that has been urged by Constantinople since the 1920s. Apparently, Patriarch Bartholomeos had expressed the opinion that “Western Europe and all the lands recently discovered in America and Australia belong to the area of responsibility of the Œcumenical Patriarchate.” His brother in Moscow points out with sound reasoning that this claim seems “completely fictitious and is without canonical foundation.”


PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEOS, whose ecumenical overtures to Rome have scandalised many Orthodox Christians, has nonetheless spoken out against the erroneous Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. In an interview with 30Days, he pointed out that the Roman Catholic dogma stemmed from their mistaken teaching on original sin. He stated that “We in the Orthodox Church honour the All-holy Mother of God above all the saints, albeit we do not accept the new dogma of her Immaculate Conception. The non-acceptance of this dogma in no way diminishes our love and veneration of the All-holy Mother of God.”


THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY has decided to send a delegation to Greece to seek the dismissal of Patriarch Irenaios of Jerusalem, after allegations that he sold land to Jewish buyers. “All church properties belong to the Greek Orthodox Arab community. The Patriarch has no right, no jurisdiction and no legal mandate to sell them,” a member of the Legislative Council’s fact-finding committee, Hanan Ashwawi, said. For his part, the Patriarch has denied any connection with “this fictitious transaction.” A statement issued by the objectors expressed the wish to “arabise the Greek Orthodox Church, expelling the Greek Patriarch and appointing an Arab Patriarch.” The Greek government and Jordan are both investigating the allegations, and a warrant is out for the arrest of a former employee of the Patriarchate who was allegedly involved in the case. Apparently protesters outside the Church of the Resurrection have disturbed the Holy Week celebrations of the Roman Catholic and Protestant pilgrims. Daily protests are being held outside the Church by Arab Christians. Oddly enough, for a long period after his election Patriarch Irenaios was not recognised by the Israeli government, because he was considered to be too sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.


BISHOP ATANANASIJE has addressed a pre-paschal letter to a Western Rite group, Union des Associations Cultuelles Orthodoxes de Rite Occidental (UACORO). This group apparently derives from the Orthodox Church of France, a Western Rite community constituted by an ukase of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1936. Later the original group joined the Russian Church Abroad and, under the direction of St John of Shanghai (then Archbishop in Western Europe), Fr Evgraph Kovalevsky was consecrated for them as Bishop Jean-Nectaire of Saint-Denys. Later when the Church Abroad found certain irregularities in the Church, the latter transferred to the Romanian Patriarchate. In 2001, the Romanian Church deposed the then ruling Bishop, Germain, also for infringement of church rules. Subsequently UACORO was formed, comprising those parishes which refused to remain loyal, as some did, to the deposed Bishop. In September last year this group was invited to send a delegation to meet with Patriarch Pavle of Serbia and representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as UACORO had expressed a desire to be received into that Church within the framework of its Western European diocese. The group apparently represents ten parishes spread throughout France. The Patriarch responded by setting up a committee of the Holy Synod to investigate the petition. His Grace Bishop Atanasije and liturgics Professor Nenad Milosevic travelled to Paris in November to attend the general assembly of the group. Bishop Atanasije wished the group a successful path towards full unity with the Church, and emphasised that salvation lies solely in unity with Christ, which is to say in full unity with the Church, the Body of Christ. On 8th March this year, the Bishop sent the group a Pre-Paschal Epistle, in which he re-emphasises this crucial point. He urged the group not to to lose precious time and not to deny themselves full communion. He mentioned that difficulties had arisen in the dialogue, “coming less from our side than your own.” He warned the group against isolationism and expressed the hope that they would overcome their difficulties through repentance and that one day they would join the Serbian Church or some other Orthodox Church.

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