Fr Touma Bitar on the Situation in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem

patriarch-jersualemThe other day, I received the following plea from a group of concerned Arab Orthodox in the Middle East. They asked me to publish it as is.

The gravamen of their concern should concern all Orthodox, even those of us here in America. To my mind, it’s stunts like the ones they’re describing which make jurisdictional unity a near-impossibility. The fact that certain Greeks feel that they can get away with stuff like this is shameful and only makes it harder for the other jurisdictions to trust us. This has got to stop, otherwise we will never manifest the love of Christ.

Source: Notes on Arab Orthodoxy

Arabic original here.

“They cannot ask us to be their followers merely because they have
inherited apostolic succession. We must follow the good and distance
ourselves from evil successors of the apostles.” – St Irenaeus of Lyon

The See of Jerusalem
Submissiveness that Kills

“Do you love me, Peter? Feed my lambs…” The Lord said this to Peter three times. The idea is that Peter is disavowing his denial of the Lord three times though his love for Him. That is, through feeding His sheep. He wept bitterly, with regret and repentance, and God accepts those who repent. But not feeding His lambs is a denial of Him and ungratefulness towards Him that fall under woe. Woe to anyone who causes one of these little ones to stumble! Woe to those who feed themselves but do not feed the sheep!

The lambs of the See of Jerusalem do not have anyone who feeds them! Why? Because they are Arab! Any revival there to rise beyond the level of spiritual impoverishment and ignorance is forbidden!

They are only allowed to move between misery and ignorance, between forced spiritual illiteracy and rituals. This is more reassuring! They have no share in anything more than a few crumbs! Forever treated with suspicion! Neglected and marginalized! Accused of revolting against the See of Jerusalem! Between the hammer of military occupation and the anvil of ecclesiastical occupation, a process is underway to marginalize them, to incapacitate them, to stifle their impetus, to enslave them in their own church, to exclude them from every meaningful decision, whether in their own land or elsewhere!

One of the faithful from Amman came to do a retreat with us. He relayed to us news of the latest chapter in the tragedy of his oppressed church and Christ’s rejected flock there. Some of the Arab clergy, out of zeal for the House of god, are working for revival among the Arab Orthodox! This is something natural! In northern Jordan, some renewal has appeared, and people are rejoicing at the return of life of the Church! There is a monastery in Dibbeen named after the Life-Giving Spring. It is about 12 kilometers to the north of Amman. It is as though it was born via caesarian section– prehaps because it is for women. The people are thirsting for the spring of the Spirit, starving for the word of life. But as soon as there appeared someone to give the Arab Orthodox streams of the water of eternal life and to break for them the bread of heaven, the instrument of the intruders who hold power over the See of Jerusalem acted in order to put a stop to the risk of revival  that was appearing on the horizon, to cast out those who were bringing it about, and to extinguish the flame of the Spirit there! Those responsible for what is regarded as weaving a “suspicious conspiracy” for revival are being driven out and are being replaced with those who will effectively ensure that the Church will be as dessicated as possible among the Arab Orthodox and that nothing will reach the point of revival.

Demonstrations have been held protesting the behavior of those in charge of the See of Jerusalem in front of various church and civil establishments. But is appears that no one wants to listen!

What fault is it for the Orthodox there that they are Arabs? Is it not the case that in Christ there is neither Arab nor Greek, but rather Christ is all in all? It is natural that there are Arabs, Greeks and Slavs in the Church. A person cannot step out of his own skin. We praise God, each in his own language, land and culture, just those upon whom the Holy Spirit descended did in the Book of Acts. However, for the Church to become a vehicle and a support for nationalism and racism, this is unbelief! This is regressing back to the paganism of the ancient gentiles! Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s! If Christ is not the one who brings us together, then nothing brings us together! If we are not prepared to drive every thought toward obeying Christ, then we have no part in Him! At that point, we set up idols next to Him in our faith! At that point, we have come to resemble the words of the One who said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” At that point, we kill Christ in ourselves and in others, while claiming that we are offering worship to God!

Unfortunately, those who watch over the See of Jerusalem watch more over dust and stones– and themselves– while the people are something closer to slaves to them! They hide behind canons while violating their spirit! They trade in power and money! In what way are they any different from the high priests of Israel who conspired against the Lord and gave Him over to the gentiles to be killed?! Are the lambs of Jerusalem not being given over to be slaughtered with negligence? They aggrandize themselves with their robes, their crosiers their titles and their grandiloquent speeches, while the flock is forced to lap at their feet! They traffick in Christ and His sheep, without any feeling for faith or belief! Perhaps some of them submit to the status quo there, feeling pain for the situation of Arab Orthodox, but they do not lift a finger! The issue is not in their hands. This is what the patriarch and his crowd wants! Do not these words of the Lord apply to them, “My house is called a house of prayer and you have made it into a den of thieves”?!

No, we are not supporting the Arab Orthodox in Jerusalem because they are Arab. Nor are we supporting them because we want to Arabize authority and the Holy Places there! The Lord did not die for the sake of soil and stone but for flesh and blood! They are first and foremost our brothers in faith! “You are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells within you”! Our protest is not over authority that has been robbed from us or over Arab culture that is insulted. It is not over political confiscation, even if we reject injustice! Our protest is churchly: it is over the disregard, indeed the abandonment of care for Christ sheep, the abandonment of preaching the Gospel of Salvation! “Feed my lambs,” no matter what the flock’s cultural identity might be!

The insensitivity and indifference in the Orthodox world toward what is going on in the See of Jerusalem staggering. No one is taking action to motivate those who are indifferent. It is as though this were something that does not concern us! The simplest of our Holy Fathers’ teachings is that right belief, wherever it may be, concerns us and concerns us directly! A bishop, for example, is a bishop of of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in every place, not only in that part that he is bishop over! Naturally, no one should intervene in the manner in which a bishop conducts the affairs of his diocese, so long as those affairs are governed according to right belief and the canons of the Church. However, as soon as a bishop strays from the Orthodox faith and the canons of the Church,  every Orthodox bishop in every place should not only be concerned with the infraction in order to correct it, but it is demanded to do this– and here I stress the word “demanded.”

Treating issues in terms of what is regarded as “church politics”, as though they are separate from virtue and excellence, is unbelief and treachery! The sees considered to be “Greek” turn a blind eye to the spiritual massacre that is occurring in the See of Jerusalem in order to close ranks amongst themselves, as though they were a worldly political party! They themselves individually know that what is going on in the See of Jerusalem is unacceptable and they will say this in their closed meetings, but they will not admit it openly! In practice, they prefer the bond of their racism to the bond of Christ’s Church! What kind of behavior is this? Is it not hypocrisy? Are we entrusted with our nationalism and our racism or are we entrusted with Christ’s Church?! The state of insensitivity to this issue is horrible and terrifying! And this is not limited to the Greek sphere. Unfortunately, it goes beyond that to every sphere: Slavic, Antiochian and others! How many of Christ’s churches in every place are oppressed on account of the nationalism, racism, politics, tribalism, of groups and leaders within the Church! They are not so much concerned with pastoring the Church as they are with who extends his authority, in the name of Orthodoxy (!), over what and over whom and who makes material and symbolic gains by wielding authority over the Church in this place or that!

The worst examples of exploiting the Church, the pastoral care of the faithful and the preaching of the Gospel in this context is the situation in the diaspora– and not only the dioceses in North America! We have discarded all ecclesiology so that the so-called “Mother Churches” can keep their hands on the Church there! We use sin as an excuse and we don’t even care! They say that they are waiting for the future Orthodox ecumenical council? This will not be able to bring about a solution because it is in an atmosphere of asking who will take control over what, at the expense of the believers. Everyone, unfortunately, treats the diaspora like their milk-cow! Our last concern is the Church! Our concern is with what belongs to us!

For this reason, no good can be hoped to come from any solution, in the foreseeable future, that comes from outside those who are suffering! Our visitor asked me, “What is it possible for us, the Arab Orthodox flock in the See of Jerusalem, to do?” I told him: If you are waiting for a solution to come to you from the outside, then you are mistaken, because nothing is going to come! Those among you who are zealous for Christ in love, righteousness and humility should take their fate and the fate of their church into their own hands! Demand, as you have demanded! Warn, as you have warned! Then, finally, if those in charge of the See of Jerusalem do not pay attention to your demands after one, two, three times, then let them be for you like the pagan and the publican! They are the ones who are fallen and you are the ones who are demanding justice, if you know that you are keeping yourselves loyal to the Lord God! If they insist on their blindness, let them hang in the pit of their sins, but as for yourselves, make the light of Christ your point of reference and walk towards Him! If they hold on to their endowments, leave them and leave the endowments to them! Your Christ is enough endowment for you, His Spirit enough inheritance and His love enough soil!

The same should be said for all the churches that or oppressed or in the diaspora. Those who take up Christ are in the right, while unfortunately no one in this evil time gives them what belongs to Christ in them or is zealous for them in the Spirit. The Church, whether in Antioch, Russia, the Balkans or any other place has never received what is hers except forcibly. They have never been recognized or accepted as sister churches except after a separation. This is the sickness of authority!

The churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria and the diaspora in general– not to speak of others–  must know and behave according to what it helpful in Christ!  Anyone who supports you also does good for himself. Resist anyone who resists you and tries to bind you to flimsy pillars belonging to this world, and pay him no heed. In truth, however, he might return to his senses because God is with you and the Spirit of the Lord is supporting you! We were not born in Christ in order to be servile, nor for any worldly gain! You know the truth, and the truth will set you free! “I am your inheritance,” says the Lord.

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)
Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Silouan the Athonite
Douma, Lebanon
July 13, 2014


  1. Roger Mann says

    Nice words! Quite applicable to our situation in the U.S. Why should we have outside bishops telling Americans how to run our churches? Look at the travesty in the Antiochian Archdiocese. 2 great American born and well-educated Arab/American bishops passed over for a Damascus toady. This is a disgrace! “Self-ruled,” baloney. Time to throw off all foreign bishops control in the U.S. Way past due.

    • Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

      Oh yes, because American-born clergy are inherently superior. I despise American exceptionalism, especially in the Church. And while *you* and a few others may think Metropolitan Joseph is a bad choice, I believe the majority of us are very pleased. I don’t want my beloved Archdiocese to turn into the OCA. Indeed, we see the “superiority” of an American born and raised hierarchy in the OCA, don’t we? We aren’t ready in this country for an autocephalous Church. Saiedna Basil and Saiedna John would’ve been good choices too. We were blessed to have three excellent choices. American born clergy are not inherently superior to any foreign member of the clergy and the reverse is true. There are many foreign clergy who can effectively serve and guide an American flock and there are many who can’t. It depends on the person not where they come from. I would take Metropolitan Joseph over Metropolitan Tikhon any day of the week, for example. The election of Metropolitan Joseph is not an “outrage” or a “scandal” to anyone except bigots or people that have their own agendas and could care less about the Archdiocese.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        As an immigrant and naturalized citizen of the United States of America, I am saddened to come across folks who seem to detest my adopted country. Folks who can spew things like “I despise American exceptionalism!” I happen to think that the USA is pretty unique, if not exceptional, in that it is often driven by her ideals, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. It is exceptional in the sense that it has a Constitution that seeks to limit governmental power and maximize the power of individuals. It is exceptional in the sense that she has freedom of conscience, speech and religion. Exceptional in the sense that in its culture it is not closed but fairly open. I cannot think of a better example than cuisine. In Southern Italy where I once lived, there was only one non-Neopolitan restaurant, a Chinese one by a US naval base. Indeed, in all of Italy, about the only non-regional dish served was the Neopolitan pizza. In contrast, in my medium sized metro area of Columbia South Carolina, we have a variety of restaurants: French, Italian, Southern, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Greek and Ethiopean. In short, I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America, particularly when the rights of her detractors are cherished and protected.

        I agree that no clergy of any particular jurisdiction is inherently superior. However, there is no reason for the (minor) clergy of one jurisdiction to disparage another. I would hope that Subdeacon Matthew would rethink his egregious insult to the OCA. Finally, comparing +Tikhon to +Joseph is such a meaningless comparison, so off the left field, that I am curious why it even came up. Could Subdeacon Matthew enlighten us?

        • Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

          No. I won’t rethink it and I will let it stand until the OCA puts its own house in order. We all know what they did to Metropolitan Jonah so my insult (which is very tame in comparison to anything else written here) is valid. Maybe not to you..but who are you to me anyway? I was comparing a “home grown” Bishop to one from the “old country”, so given the context of the rest of my statement, it’s not out of left field. And those freedoms you are enjoying here are being slowly taken away. I was born and raised here and there was a time when we were much more free than we are now.

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Dear subdeacon–You should have stopped after “…while *you* and a few others may think Metropolitan Joseph is a bad choice, I believe the majority of us are very pleased.” I have no idea why you brought in the OCA into the discussion. Roger Mann may be in any of the multitude of jurisdictions in the USA. His view is not limited to folks inside the OCA. There is a mature way to argue Mann’s point, but neither he nor you succeeded. Since you have taken a potshot at my jurisdiction, I am tempted to respond in kind, but I think that the timing of such a pssing contest would be awkward as I have enthusiastically supported the decision of the Antiochian Holy Synod. That said, I assure you that I have plenty of facts to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that not one of the top three jurisdictions in the USA are pure and blameless. I really do wish that you quit being rude and crude, not for my sake but for your own.

      • Pere LaChaise says

        No, Sdn. Matthew, it’s not a disgrace or outrage that Joseph was elected Metropolitan, but it is a disappointing reminder that AOCNA as run by the Patriarchate out of Damascus is not interested in meeting Americans half way. Their selection indicates that the orientation of the Archidocese will remain Middle Eastern. Perhaps it is impossible for them to see forward these days, for local reasons easy to comprehend.
        Basically, the American Moment was already over on the day Metropolitan Jonah was elected Primate of the OCA, and his short tenure, with its rapid decline, was just catch-up. About 7 years after the OCA received its Tomos of Autocephaly, the elite of this nation began their squeezeplay on the mainstream of workers, giving us the Rust Belt and the collapsed demographics that define XXI c. OCA church rolls.
        So I can’t blame Patr. John & his Synod for voting against an Americanizing Metropolitan for AOCNA. I’m not happy about this outcome, but I see its significance.

        • Fr Patrick says

          Pere, Greetings with all respect (assuming you to be a presbyter).
          You are very misguided in your view regarding the election of Archbp Joseph. I am born & raised New Jersey boy (now in my 60s). I’ve been under +Joseph’s omophorion for almost 20 years. He has the apostolic spirit we Americans sorely lack, and he has always labored intensely to understand and pastorally to address us. I have never known even the slightest sense of being a 2nd tier priest, due to any cultural or ethnic category. In fact, I assert that Antioch is America’s best hope for Orthodoxy!
          When I have a little more time, I shall opine at length on this head.
          For now, rejoice, Ye children of the Lord!

        • Archpriest John W. Morris says

          You seem to forget that the convention of our Archdiocese in a free vote nominated Metropolitan Joseph. He was not forced on us.
          I just spent a week with His Eminence and the Bishops and clergy of the Antiochian Archdiocese. I was very impressed with the way that Metropolitan Joseph expressed himself. He is not prejudice against non-Arab clergy. He made it clear that he wants to get to know all his priests and that he is open to every one of us. He spoke of the necessity of spiritual growth and the development of a full monastic life in our Archdiocese. I believe that the Holy Spirit led the Holy Synod to elect him and that he was an excellent choice. I could care less where he was born. He is my Metropolitan and I will obey and respect him.

          • Stepan Hatting says

            Because Salt Lake City’s Antiochian parish has such a diversity of people from all different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, I was impressed when he said that when he comes to visit, he feels like he is visiting all those different countries (e.g. Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Etc.). But what impressed me the most was his genuineness when he said that despite all linguistic and ethnic differences, we all had at least one thing in common: we are Orthodox. And thankfully God didn’t pick favourites when it came to salvation in Orthodoxy. I don’t quite understand why people are already throwing punches at Metropolitan Joseph or Patriarch John; especially when they aren’t true. While I don’t know either of these men extremely well, I am familiar with who they are and their teachings through homilies, etc., and I have yet to see or hear either of them propogate any kind of ethnocentrism.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Mr. Hatting, the punches are being thrown in favor if an ethnocentric ideology that rejects “foreign bishops” and wants an “American” Church.

              Aside from the fact that their ideas are quite vague, they come across as being hateful and silly.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          I must disagree. If there was a consideration other than the most qualified candidate, I don’t believe that it was related to anything that has happened or is happening in the United States. I think that there is a serious existential crisis confronting the Patriarchate of Antioch. The Islamists of the Middle East are making the area a living hell for Christians. Granted that the RCs and the OO are also suffering; nonetheless, the Patriarchate must draw its wagons together and figure out how to survive. In this struggle, the Antiochian archdioceses all over the world must also be intimately involved and mutually supportive. If such a consideration was given by any member(s) of the Holy Synod, I am completely sympathetic. As much as i would like to see an administratively united, autocephalous American Church, I think that it must await the resolution of this great existential threat to the Patriarchate of Antioch.

      • Steve Knowlton says

        It’s not about whose bishops are better or worse. It’s about the dysfunction of having parallel churches based in distant provincial cities. We’re enabling this confusing situation, and people like you who change the topic to “whose bishops are worse” are the prime culprits in the dysfunction.

        This by the way was one of the few things that Metropolitan Philip said that ever made sense. He INSISTED that the Old World churches have no interest in a healthy situation here. I recall his colorful story of the Metropolitan and the couple that was trying to get a divorce. Anyone remember that speech?

        • Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

          I cause this dysfunction? That might be the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever read. You’re obviously not to be taken anyone.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        We aren’t ready in this country for an autocephalous Church.

        No, we’re not.

        And I, for one, think the very concept of “autocepahlous churches” should be dumped in the nearest ash can.

    • Fr. George Washburn says


      • Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

        What I said or what Mr. Mann said, Fr. George? I can hardly figure out who is talking to whom in this particular format.

      • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says


        • Fr. George Washburn says

          Rubbish as to Mr. Mann only. At the time i wrote his was the only comment visible. My mistake in being so brief as to be ambiguous. I was trying to give his stuff the very short shrift it deserved.

  2. Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

    As to the article, very well written and very accurate. However, we cannot compare what is happening in Jerusalem to what is happening in least entirely. Jerusalem is an ancient Patriarchate, America is still a mission Church, I know most of you don’t want to hear that but it’s true. All people deserve a say in their Church. The Arabs in Jerusalem and Alexandria (as well as the native Africans in the Church of Alexandria) deserve the same rights, privileges, and respect as any Greek. The same is true in America. Americans deserve the same rights and respect as any Greek, Arab, Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Bulgarian, Georgian, Ukrainian…if I’m leaving anyone out forgive me. No ethnicity or national identity should or can be placed above the Gospel but it’s happening. We have an oligarchy of Greeks, lording over the majority of their people and treating them like second-class citizens. This has to stop in Jerusalem and Alexandria and it has to stop in America. And it’s not just the Greeks who are guilty in America, I know this, but it has to stop across the board, everywhere.

    • Steve Knowlton says

      All very true, except that “Antiochian” church is yet another form of “Greek oligarchy” as you put it. It’s the same team, they just speak Arabic.

      • Archpriest John W. Morris says

        I just came from the clergy Symposium of the Antiochian Archdiocese and felt no prejudice against me because I am a non-Arab. The exact opposite was true. I felt complete acceptance from the new Metropolitan, our Bishops and my brother Priests. The Antiochian Archdiocese is not controlled by an Arabic speaking oligarchy.
        I could not have been more impressed by our new Metropolitan. He showed a sense of humor, speaks English well, and was accepting and loving towards all his clergy. Metropolitan Joseph is certainly not prejudice against his non-Arabic clergy. None of our Bishops or my brother Priests are. I came home very impressed with our new Metropolitan. He spoke eloquently about the importance of spirituality, monasticism, and our liturgical life. He made it clear that he wants to get to know each priest personally. We would have done well with any of the three nominees that we sent to the Holy Synod. We will do well with Metropolitan Joseph. May God grant him many years!
        The Antiochian Archdiocese is not a society for the preservation of Arabic culture. Even our late Patriarch, Ignatius IV, lectured the clergy on his first visit years ago telling us “we are not here to preach Arabism.” He expressed great pleasure that we do our services in English. Neither was the late great thrice blessed Metropolitan Philip prejudiced against non-Arab clergy. He put many converts in positions of authority. Whenever I spoke with him one on one, he made me feel that he considered my opinions very important. May his memory be eternal!

        • steve knowlton says

          Is the Metropolitan required to speak Arabic? Someone said that this requirement was “waived.” Which means that it’s still a requirement.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Mr. Knowlton: Since all of the Holy Synod speak Arabic, it makes sense that as a member of the Holy Synod a fluency in Arabic would be a seem to be a good idea. It would also be a good idea to for any Metropolitan to be fluent in Arabic, Greek and Russian as well as the language of the land. In this case Arabic and English seems to be a minimum.

            Met. Silouan of Argentina for instance is fluent in his native language of Arabic, French, Spanish and English as well as having been an engineer before becoming a bishop. When he visited my parish during the preparation for the election, he was able to be humorous in his 4th language.

            Hey, who knows, a Metropolitan might be able to encourage and actively supervise further translations of Orthodox spiritual material still in Arabic only into English as well as being able to communicate effectively to the other members of the Holy Synod.

            Are we suddenly a bunch of anti-intellectual pietists intent on being ignorant Americans?

            How silly!

            But you will likely hold onto your vision of doom and destruction no matter what, just like the dwarves in Narnia as described in “The Last Battle” Enjoy your stables.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            The Holy Synod waved the requirement that candidates for Metropolitan of North American
            “have a working knowledge of Arabic.” The names of all our Bishops and every Priest that met the requirements was placed on the ballot. The candidates obviously have to be celibate. They also have to have graduated from an Orthodox seminary, and must have served in the North American Antiochian Archdiocese. They have to be over 33. The Synod of Antioch has a requirement that a candidate for Bishop or Metropolitan must be under 65, but this was also waved because at least three of the candidates were over 65.

  3. Fr. Blues says

    Lord help us all if Eastern Orthodoxy ever becomes the dominant religion in the world! So how’s that Orthodox unity working out for everyone? What a bunch of hypocritical Pharisees!

    • Jackson Downs says

      “If we appreciate the cause of the almost continual tension between the different trends in the Orthodox Church, we shall see that the Sobornost of the Church requires from her members an incomparably wider experience than they have arrived at. In order to be a true member of the Church, each of the faithful must humbly recognize both his own responsibility and his inadequacy, and be ever watchful to accept each and every one as a potential channel for the Holy Spirit. And every time human passions appear in the place of a prayerful waiting on the action of grace, perfection of unity remains impossible, and an intellectual or psychological struggle sets in between the members of the Assembly.”

      ~Archimandrite Sophrony

  4. Abbouna Michel says

    Some years ago, when I lived in El Quds (Jerusalem), I witnessed a dramatic manifestation of the situation Archimandrite Touma describes. Patriarch Alexei was making a formal visit to the city. As he made his official entrance through Jaffa Gate, an elderly Arab gentleman stood up on an abutment, and started to shout, “An Arab Church for an Arab people.” This continued until he was dragged off by the Israeli cops. La plus change. . .!

  5. Gregory Manning says

    Wasn’t there some fracas several years ago between 2 claimants to the Patriarchal Throne of Jerusalem. Right about the same time there was some sort of Athos-wide protesting against the EP. I think the EP locked one of the bishops up and the one they have now is at the center of all this. I know I’ve got something on this somewhere on my computer.

    • Larry H. Puttgrass says

      Dear Mr. Manning and who ever else is interested,

      You may use this page as a starting point for your research. You are referring to Patriarch Irineos.

      Interesting to note that the Orthodox wiki on Patriarch Theophilos hasn’t been updated in a while and contains the interesting fact that he is related to former director of the CIA George Tenet. Also kindly note that the conspiracy to dethrone Patriarch Irineos just happened to coincide with the resignation of George Tenet from the CIA and his taking a private consulting job in Qatar that very same year. Makes me go hmmmm.

      Just a friendly suggestion to the Palestinian Orthodox Community in general: Make sure you haven’t got a wolf running amongst you. Just because he says that he is one of you doesn’t mean he is.

      • Larry H. Puttgrass says

        I put the incorrect link in my previous post. Hopefully this link works. My apologies.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        the conspiracy to dethrone Patriarch Irineos just happened to coincide with the resignation of George Tenet from the CIA and his taking a private consulting job in Qatar that very same year.

        This is a fascinating observation.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Fr, I’ve been told by people I trust that George Tenet is a close relative of the current Patriarch of Jerusalem.

          • Larry H. Puttgrass says

            I found this very interesting site which is worth a gander:

          • Larry H. Puttgrass says

            Make no mistake, I would like nothing better than to see the senseless disenfranchisement of Palestinian and Arab Christians come to a halt in their home land. Truthfully, I don’t see it happening any time soon and it isn’t only because of the greed of some Greek clerics. The Zionist agenda makes their greed possible and makes what is unlawful lawful. Israel is not going to sacrifice it’s agenda for a populace it despises and that it would just as easily put into gas chambers similar to Auschwitz and be done with if only it could. Survival for Palestine means cooperation and synergy with the church. There can be no other way. First thing the Palestinian community has to do is repent for it’s mistakes. They were wrong to demand his removal.
            Among other things, this report points out that the power of attorney that was signed was not signed in front of a witness making it invalid. It was written in English (Patriarch Irineos does not read, speak or write English – he was told it stated one thing when it stated another) . The contract to purchase disputed properties was entered upon without the consent of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre and without his knowledge making the contracts invalid.

  6. What precisely is the archimandrite’s complaint? Services are not being held? Confessions are not being heard? Marriages, baptisms, funerals not being performed? Are people being led toward theosis through their spiritual advisors? If not, whose fault is that?

    Or is this about “An Arab Church for an Arab people.”?

    Beware ethnic revolution. It may or may not be just, but holiness generally plays very little part.

    • Abbouna Michel says

      The archimandrite’s complaint is one that’s been heard over and over again in the Jerusalem patriarchate for several generations. It’s about Arab ordinands being actively discouraged from taking monastic vows, in order to minimize potential Arabic candidates for the episcopacy. It’s about badly educated and poorly compensated Arab priests doing the overwhelming majority of the heavy pastoral lifting while Greek expats rule the Church from their drawing rooms. It’s about the (fairly accurate) perception that the vast majority of the Greek hierarchs know little about the life circumstances, hopes, and fears of the Arabs who make up the overwhelming majority of the parish congregations–and care less. It’s about the feeling that the Jerusalem Patriarchate is largely about providing mitra’s for an endless succession of Greek monastic expats, and not about genuinely understanding, loving, and caring for the people under its care.

      Small wonder why the Melkite Greek Catholic Churches throughout the region, and those of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, led from top to bottom by clergy raised in Jerusalem and Beirut, Beit Jala and Salt, Ibillin and Maaloula, are populated mostly by folks who, historically, are Orthodox. Ditto with those of the Anglicans and Lutherans, as well as the little Protestant evangelical congregations that dot the landscape everywhere. It’s not so much about the ethnic origins of the clergy as it is about whether they’re perceived as being “one of us,” or not. That’s not the situation at all of Met. Joseph, who’s lived in the U.S. a long time, and, I think, genuinely understands his flock. It is, regrettably, of many of the Greek hierarchs of the Jerusalem patriarchate. Pope Francis has been quoted as saying that he’s trying to appoint bishops who have about them “the smell of the sheep.” If the only smell about the mutran is that of incense imported from the Holy Mountain, there’s a real pastoral problem, and it’s of that that Archimandrite Touma speaks so eloquently.

      But of course, we all know that this is simply an isolated instance of Greek desires for ethno-ecclesiastical hegemony, don’t we? Did I hear someone whisper “Quatar,” or “The Assembly of Bishops?”

      • Fr. George Washburn says

        The perception is that the Jerusalem leadership has morphed St. Paul’s “kingdom of priests” into “dictatorship of foreign monastics.”

      • Steve Knowlton says

        Of course, we began to hear about this corrupt greek clergy a lot more during the years since the Intifada because, allegedly, the Patriarch sells land to Jews. So all of the complaints enumerated here may be true, but no one has cared about this for DOZENS of generations.

        • Fr. George Washburn says

          As to the last clause of the last sentence in your little message, Steve, several questions arise:

          1. Exactly what is it that no one has cared about for generations?

          2. How would you, from the friendly confines of Greater Seattle, know that no has cared? Wouldn’t it be a little more accurate to say no on has acted? Or to your knowledge acted effectively?

          3. Who should have ‘cared’ (or acted) who didn’t, and what, in the real world, could or should they have done that they were in a position to do?


          Fr. George

        • People have been caring about this issue for a very long time. The tension between the Greeks and their neglected flock is the main story of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem from the Ottoman period on. To take one example of an effort to return the patriarchate to local control that predates tensions over Zionism, take a look at what St Raphael Hawaweeny published on the issue in 1893:

          • steve knowlton says

            Ha! Well, that’s true, the LAST time anyone cared to rock this boat, 1893, was when a quite different political imperative required or perhaps incentivized a russian-sponsored bishop to “arabize” the church in the Levant. Give me a break. Why do you think Russians were so supportive of this initiative? Of course the situation there is lamentable, no one’s trying to justify it. The efforts to fix it, however, are helped along by political headwinds. Note that the #1 goal of the “Jerusalem Task Force” back in 96 or so, was to cease the sale of the Patriarchate’s land to the Israelis. That is restated in the link that Samn just posted. Please don’t shatter my illusions by telling me that generations of lebanese immigrants have been faithfully reading Raphael’s rather strange book, continuously, since 1893.

            • Stopping the Patriarchate from selling land in Jerusalem to the Israelis, or to *any* non-Orthodox, is a thoroughly worthwhile goal. In that part of the world, land = political power, and the Orthodox are sadly lacking in both.

              • Larry H. Puttgrass says

                Matt and others,

                I am sadly unaware of St. Raphael’s book and what it contains.

                The theory of land = political power is simplistic but sums up the entirety of the issue in a most profound way.

                Perhaps there are several factors which are not being taken into consideration. The most important being the ultimate failure of the international community to protect basic human rights. I am referring of course to the rights of the Palestinian’s and Arabs.

                I bring your attention to the following:

                Three countries that have publicly voted against this statute and refuse to submit to the authority of the international criminal courts are … ( hold on to your fez!) Israel, the United States and China!! The reasoning is that it would interfere with their autonomy. Translation: they don’t like being held accountable for their human rights violations- it’s oh so much more fun to act with impunity.

                In addition, we should take into consideration Israel’s consistent and willful misconduct in accordance With United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 which required Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories and to recognize the sovregnity of surrounding countries.


                The fact that Israeli government reserves the right to approve candidates for the Patriarchal seat, reserves the right to deny property sales of church land to Palestinians and in every other way limits the freedom of the hierarchy is a clear violation of this resolution. Do we even need to mention the continued occupation? Where are economic sanctions against Israel? Where are the rattling of sabres? Doesn’t it strike anyone as odd that no one seems to notice?

                There is no way the Israeli government is going to let Palestinian hierarchy rule the church of Jerusalem. There is no way the international community can force them because they have thumbed their nose at every human rights treaty that would hold them accountable. The Greek hierarchs are held to just as much of a disadvantage as the rest of the Palestinian population.

                What is required is a Greek hierarch that isn’t greedy. They had one in Patriarch Irineos and they hung him out to dry and they still have him closed up. Please see my previous posts.They need to work together if they wish to reform the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Truthfully, I don’t see another solution.

            • Well no, outrage about this issue in Palestine has been continuous for as long as anyone can remember. For another example, you can read the report prepared in 1931 by the British Mandate government of Palestine here:

              You can also take a look at the article by Fr Theodore Pulcini “Tensions between the Hierarchy and Laity of the Jerusalem Patriarchate: Historical Perspectives on the Present Situation” in St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 36 (1992), pp. 273-298

    • Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

      Services are being held in a language not understood by the majority of people. Arabs are refused to pursue monastic life or delayed in doing so a great deal longer than Greeks. There is no Arab speaking seminary, if you want to be a priest you are sent to a Greek seminary in Greece, if indeed you are allowed to enter the priesthood. And you can forget about Arabs, save one or two to keep up appearances, being admitted to the Episcopacy. Also spiritual fathers who speak Arabic? HA..not so much. And all this suits the Israeli government just fine. Arabs don’t have equal rights, period. And no, As Fr. Touma said more than once, it’s not about “An Arab Church for an Arab people.” It’s about Christ. If you want to call a priest of the Most High God a liar, be my guest, but you better have some evidence before you do so. I suggest you (and everyone else) take a look at this before you call it an “ethnic revolution”…

      • So just say that and spare us the “mother of all tongue lashings”. It may go over well there but not here. We like facts, things we can hang our hats on and make noise about, not sheer, undiluted, emotionally manipulative bs.

      • StephenD says

        Sounds like the GOA or those other parishes that have services in Slavonic or any other “old world” language in America..

        • M. Woerl says

          Doesn’t sound at all like ROCOR- where some parishes do services in Slavonic. If people want it, what’s the problem? Write your Congressman- maybe a law making it a felony to utter anything but “American” in church …

      • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

        Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Stamboul (Constantinople) are all abjectly subservient to the Greek Foreign Office which cares less for Arabs than it even does for Turks or Egyptians.

        • Tom Florentine says

          Was that “Damfool” or “Stamboul?”

        • Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

          Not sure why that got “thumbs down”, Vladyka. What you’ve said is true.

        • M. Woerl says

          That explains the Qatar jurisdictional dispute very well!

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            That explains the Qatar jurisdictional dispute very well!

            Indeed, it does. Until I read these relevant postings, I had no idea.

    • In fact, there are very few confessors who speak Arabic and Arabs are generally not allowed to become monastics or study theology in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The specific demands being made by the Arab clergy are spiritual and ecclesiological in nature:

      Here are two links that give a better picture of what is needed in Jerusalem:

    • See this article:

      Among other things, the near exclusive use of Greek (even in confession), the lack of Christian education (and subsequent apostasy to the Protestants and Latins who do offer it), the hurdles for non-Greeks to enter monastic and priestly life, and the papal ecclesiology of Jerusalem are some of the issues, apparently. Seems quite serious in my opinion, and worthy of protest.

      In that Arab Christians are suffering grave persecution from the secular rulers in the Church of Jerusalem’s territory, how can the Church be anything LESS than a strong support system and a safe haven? To persecute our own brethren, especially in this situation, is a grievous crime and a cancer of Christ’s body.

      Jerusalem seems quite the center of controversy in recent years—Romania, Antioch, now internally. How many more churches must break communion with them? Lord help us.

      • Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

        Actually, Ages, what makes it worse is Romania (as far as I know) was in the wrong and did the exact same thing Jerusalem is doing now. So it’s wrong when Romania does it, but it’s okay when Jerusalem does. Ah, hypocrisy! And it boils down to this, folks, according to the Eighth Session of the Holy Ecumenical Synod held in Chalcedon in the year A.D. 451, the proper jurisdiction of the Holy See of Antioch was established and it was declared that “the See of the Great City of Antioch, that of St. Peter, should have the two Phoenicias and Arabia, while the See of Jerusalem should have the three Palestines” and that this decision was in fact bi-laterally agreed to by both Patriarchs, Juvenal of Jerusalem and Maximos of Antioch, and it was further declared that this jurisdictional settlement was to remain in place “for all time to come”. Further in 1969, the Holy Synod of Antioch, elected and installed Archbishop CONSTANTINE (Papastephanou) as Metropolitan of Baghdad, Kuwait and its Dependencies, who has since been exerting all efforts to organize and minister his archdiocese and since his installation as Metropolitan has established 11 parishes throughout his jurisdiction. Jerusalem is in the wrong about this and the situation with the Arab Orthodox within their Church…and they don’t give a damn.

        • Sam Haddad says

          When the Muslims were attacking, killing Christians and destroying Christian sites, the Pat. of Jerusalem “voluntarily” gave himself and the Church over to Constantinople. The result is what we see today; Greek domination ignoring the Arab Jerusalem peoples. Typical mode of operation of Istanbul. Same with Alexandria. Here in the U.S., the Carpatho-Russians in Johnstown, PA gave themselves over to the Greeks back in the 1940’s. Today, they have a Greek bishop never to see one of their own again to lead their people. And this is exactly why the Episcopal Assembly pushing unity under Istanbul is a very bad idea that will fail big time. Autocephaly is the ONLY answer. As for the Antiochians, back to 1940 with a weak, inept puppet bishop of Damascus and Joe Allen.

  7. Do we know how large this group is? Also, is their criticism valid?

    I don’t mean to say that just because a group is small and critical, that means they should not be taken seriously. However, in this internet age any single person or small group can write a letter, post it to the web, and make it seem as if their grievance is the most egregious affront to humanity in the last 500 years.

    • Their criticism are very much valid and measured– they’ve been careful to avoid bringing up the more lurid and inflammatory aspects of corruption within the patriarchate. The protesters are being led by Metropolitan Atallah Hanna (the first Arab bishop in the patriarchate of Jerusalem in a few centuries– though note that all bishops in the Patriarchate are canonically only auxiliaries and few even live in their titular dioceses), Archimandrite Christophoros Atallah (spiritual father to the only monastery in the patriarchate that accepts Arabs, naturally it is a women’s monastery and has only been provisionally recognized by the Patriarchate), and several other priests. In the past 2-3 months, there have been regular protests with fairly large crowds of laity in Ramallah and Amman, and in the latest protest, held on Monday, several priests joined in and led prayers with the protesters– which is extremely significant, because there’s never really been a culture of allowing for open dissent among the clergy.

    • Larry H. Puttgrass says

      Not actually an unfair criticism GregF. However your reasoning is faulty. Consider please what business do individuals born and raised in Greece have going to run a church located in PALESTINE?

      Let’s consider the issue from another perspective. What if these same Greeks where to waltz into another ancient autonomous Church (let’s say Georgia for giggles) take over all the hierarchical positions, take over possession of all the property, collect income from that property but not reinvest in the local community and eventually sell it off to foreigners who aren’t even Orthodox all the while doing all services in the country of Georgia in Greek, not permitting Georgians who are interested the opportunity to pursue monastic formation and deterring their elevation to the priesthood?

      Do their numbers really matter in this case? How many people do they have to be before their grievance becomes valid?

    • Sdn. Matthew Dunn says

      That’s a fair question and point GregF. I have every reason to believe their criticism is valid and it’s a large group…pretty much all Arab Orthodox in Palestine (which makes up probably 95% of the Orthodox in Palestine).

  8. michael Kinsey says

    Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbtt,, perhaps the Bishop would like to check the spelling.?

  9. When the Greek Orthodox Antiochite-Byzantine Archimandrite Raphael came to the US in 1895 and later consecrated bishop, he was not under Damascus or Constantinople. That’s the way it should be today.

    • M. Woerl says

      Right! He was under the Russian Church …

      • Sam Haddad says

        “When the Greek Orthodox Antiochite-Byzantine Archimandrite Raphael came to the US in 1895 and later consecrated bishop, he was not under Damascus or Constantinople. That’s the way it should be today.”

        Yes, he was under the Russian Orthodox Church because they were the ones who organized the first established Orthodox Churches in North America. According to Orthodox Canon Law, this is proper procedure. After 1917, the Russian Revolution, all the Orthodox in America began to turn to their own ethnic patriarchs for support and the beginning of the many different ethic jurisdictions in North America. A non-canonical situation where today, the Greeks believe they should control all the Orthodox in America. Sorry, this won’t happen. Only an autocephalous American Orthodox Church is canonical without interference from ANY foreign bishop!

        • Archpriest John W. Morris says

          Because agents of the pro-Soviet Living Church were going to court to gain possession of the properties of the Church, the Russian Bishops of the Metropolia, encouraged every parish to incorporate itself s a separate corporation and the non-Russians to form themselves into dioceses under their mother Church. Before Antioch assumed jurisdiction in America in 1924, Antioch received the blessing of Moscow, the group of exiled Russian Bishops who eventually formed ROCOR and the Metropolia.

          • Michael Bauman says

            (Sarcasm on) But Father John you just don’t understand the power that the Arabists have and how subtle they are and how they have duped you. All of the converts are just pawns in the greater game being lead down the garden path to doom, doom I say!!!!(Sarcasm off)

            As if Americanization of anything has ever been a good idea.

    • Steve Knowlton says

      Effectively he was under no one.

      • Sam Haddad says

        “Effectively he was under no one.”

        Not true at all. Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny, was the first Orthodox bishop consecrated in America under the Russian Orthodox Diocese of North America. He was a vicar-bishop to Bishop Tikhon and was responsible for the Syrian Orthodox in the United States.

  10. J. Paul Ford says
  11. I assume that these hierarchs will eventually get their comeuppance. Looks like a bright opportunity for Moscow to nose in and make alliances.

    I’ve often wondered whether the Greek leadership even realize how much ill will (poisonous really) they are creating out of their arrogance? I doubt they do or care even if they do. All the better when the hammer finally drops.

    • Tina Hovsky says


      Moscow is done; ROCOR is done. The world has seen from Putin what Russian authority has to offer. Nothing but Russian operatives from Putin as clerics; lies regarding everything and wanting Russian domination. The Greeks are no better; let these two duke it out. As for North America, the only solution is an independent, autocephalous Orthodox Church free of any foreign bishops. Wake up people.

      • Good luck with that, Tina. A ROCOR parish about 1 1/2 hours from me just built a new church. They were packed full for almost every service in their old church. I saw the Kursk Root Icon there and they were lined up through the social hall and down the street.

        If you think Putin is playing to Western sensibilities, think again. He has never been more popular in Russia, over 80 percent. Europe can’t really mess with him too much because of their energy situation. America . . . well, who really cares what America thinks anymore? Anti-al-Qaida, pro-Assad, anti-Assad, pro-al-Qaida (in Syria), anti-ISIS, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, anti-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-military junta, pro-changing sovereign borders (Kosovo), against changing sovereign borders (Georgia, Ukraine), etc.

        It’s degenerated into a sick joke. As to an independent, autocephalous American church – I think it would probably get along with the rest of Orthodoxy about as well as the US gets along with the rest of the world, and for similar reasons. But I doubt the OCA will survive as-is for another 20 years.

        As for the Church of Russia, including ROCOR, I can’t imagine what force would displace the ROC in Russia or in America. Americans have short memories so even bad press (albeit dishonest and defamatory in large part) just won’t stick indefinitely. Europe just wants to kiss, make up and resume normalcy with respect to energy. I do wish Putin would either invade eastern Ukraine or publicly denounce the resistance there. Of course, he may have some scheme that just hasn’t unfolded yet. Stay tuned.

      • Engaged Observer says


        In all honesty your assertion is quite ridiculous. Putin’s government is far more tame than that of the murderous Bolsheviks who took power in Russia nearly 100 years ago, and the Church in Russia survived that (even with — or because of? — a myriad of trials, exiles, mass persecutions, murders, the “Living church” sham, etc.). Read about St Luke of Crimea, a bishop of the Russian church in the 1930s-1950s (and a prolific surgeon) who was persecuted mercilessly for his faith and exiled 3 times by the atheist regime. He is part of this church which you say is now “done,” as is St John Maximovitch, St Tikhon, St Matrona of Moscow, and countless others.

        By your own reasoning, should the OCA be held to account for the militantly secularist, inept, anti-life, and unAmerican policies of the Obama administration? Should Met. Tikhon be grilled on why he doesn’t camp out in D.C. and stand up to Obama?

      • Rdr. Thomas says


        I think perhaps you make the all-too-common error that many people do in conflating the Church with any given civil hierarchy. It is true that Emperors convened councils, but it is also true that more often than not Emperors and other civil authorities persecuted the Church and promoted heresy too.

        In this case, yes, I agree that it does seem like Mr. Putin may have some cynical use for the Church. It is also true that the Church in Russia disavows themselves of such a role.

  12. Michael Bauman says

    The picture is creepy. Is there a Worm-tounge just out of sight?

  13. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and I am
    waiting for your further post thank you once again.