Primates Meet to Resolve Ukrainian Issue

Meeting of Primates in Cyprus about Ukraine

This just in from Romfea:  three of the four ancient patriarchates (Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) met in Cyprus at the behest of His Beatitude Chrysostomos. (Cyprus, originally an archdiocese of Antioch, was the first autocephalous Church created by an Ecumenical Council.)

There are many things that are interesting about this. For one, His Holiness Bartholomew of Constantinople was not present. Secondly, the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem have not been in communion with each other ever since 2013 due to the issue of the establishment of a Jerusalemite Orthodox parish in Qatar, long believed to be the province of the Patriarchate of Antioch. Thirdly, Antioch is closely aligned with Moscow. And finally, Cyprus is closely aligned with both Israel and Russia.

The predicate for this is, of course, the Ukrainian imbroglio. My gut tells me that these four ancient Sees are signalling some face-saving way out for Bartholomew. Whether Constantinople will see it this way or accept a figleaf, remains to be seen. Regardless, the possibility of a council being called (without Constantinople) is not unprecedented. As you may recall, there was a large, well-attended council held in Russia a little over a year ago. Although His Holiness Kirill of Russia organized it, the place of honor at all events was His Holiness Pope Theodore II of Alexandria.

Anyway, we will see what we will see.


  1. I don’t believe that the CP is looking for a face-saving solution. Constantinople is dug in and they will never rescind their tragic tomos. There is only one solution. Follow Russia’s lead and break communion with Constantinople.

  2. Matthew Panchisin says

    I think they need to concentrate on the one thing needed, namely the spreading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Who among them is really going to care about territory when Christ judges the nations and not irrespective of who is in charge of whatever geographical location or even the God forsaken geopolitical considerations that Bartholomew pursues along with the enviable schisms that a first without equals type of patriarch presents.

    Perhaps it’s time to forget about the face-saving way notions and go with the souls saving way with vigor an determination. I think that is what the Russian Orthodox Church will do, unrestrained now by any consideration for the E.P.’s territory claims as he is now a schismatic.

  3. The English version of the Statement
    of Meeting of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in the Middle East:

  4. George Michalopulos says

    This rather longish piece is worth a read in that it explains in detail the problems of Ukraine since the US-backed Maidan coup and why a Jewish comedian who is willing to negotiate in good faith with Putin, is poised to win on Sunday against Bartholomew’s “Chocolate King”.

    • George Michalopulos says

      P.S. Ukraine is a playground for Ukrainian oligarchs as well: Poroshenko pays only a 5% tax on his holdings there as opposed to more than triple that in Ukraine.

      Follow the money…

  5. Monk James Silver says

    They’re probably not holding this meeting to discuss the ‘Ukrainian issue’ so much as to discuss Constantinople’s abuse of its authority by meddling in the internal affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow. If they let the Phanar get away with this, they expose their own churches to such predations, too.

    Yet, no matter what they addressed in their talks, these primates won’t dare even think out loud about the extra-ecclesial pressures being brought to bear on Constantinople by Ankara and Washington: Turkey wants into NATO, Constantinople wants Khalki reopened, the U.S. State Dep’t wants to use Ukraine as leverage against Putin, and Pat Bartholomew hasn’t the wits or the moral/financial wherewithal to stand up against any/all of them to do what is right. Bismarck’s _Realpolitik_ comes to mind.

    In the public release of the meeting’s conclusions, there’s no ‘there’ there. Typical, and disappointing. These are not the sort of witnesses whom The Church venerates as martyrs.

    • Monk James Silver says,
      ” and Pat Bartholomew hasn’t the wits or the moral/financial wherewithal to stand up against any/all of them to do what is right.”

      But, are we sure he wants to do what is right?
      was it right when he donated the “holy koran” instead of some other gift?
      was it right when he excommunicated Theologian N.Sotiropoulos when the second spoke against a bishop who said unorthodox things, and Sotiropoulos was not even allowed to defend himself, unlike a secular court of justice, and leaving that bishop alone to carry on?

    • Joseph Lipper says

      It sounds to me they’re mostly concerned about their home in the Middle East. My guess, admittedly I’m reading between the lines, is they’re concerned about the possible consequences of a dramatic change of the status quo in the nation-state of Israel, something probably forthcoming with Trump’s “peace plan” now slated for release after Ramadan in June.

      It’s worth noting that all four of these Middle-Eastern Patriarchates will most likely be affected by this “peace plan”, and perhaps not in a good way either. I’m glad that Antioch and Jerusalem are working to restore communion.

      • I am also pleased to see Antioch and Jerusalem talking again. We will need them together if Bartholomew is to be deposed.

      • Joseph you wrote,
        “It sounds to me they’re mostly concerned about their home in the Middle East. My guess, admittedly I’m reading between the lines, is they’re concerned about the possible consequences of a dramatic change of the status quo in the nation-state of Israel, something probably forthcoming with Trump’s “peace plan” now slated for release after Ramadan in June.”

        You may be correctly reading “between the lines”,
        but I am reading “over the lines” and I see an interesting similarity:

        the word “they” with the word “Bartholomew”
        the word “Israel” by Turkey, and
        the word “Trump” with “Putin”
        you get ‘more or less” the situation with Bartholomew.

  6. ” I’m glad that Antioch and Jerusalem are working to restore communion.”

    Me, too (and I mean that sincerely). Especially since Antioch’s appeal to the throne of Constantinople of some years ago has been left unanswered.

    Funny how the ‘right’ to hear such appeals (and there is indeed such an agreed upon right) seems to have a very selective sense of responsibility attached to it.

  7. Tod Mixson says

    Come on, People.
    Though the Ukrainian dispute represents the existential problem at hand, the real, substantive, ontological issue is how to restore the Orthodox Church’s order throughout the earth by attending to the formative, organically interrelated order of the Local Churches as established by quite early canonical provision, and as was disrupted by Islam and then by Communism.

    • Tod,

      On one level I agree with you 100%. The Ukrainian issue immediately at hand is merely a symptom of a much larger problem that few seem to want to face.

      On another level, I may either disagree or possibly applaud your use of the word “provisional” and thus express even greater agreement with you.

      By this I mean that if the good order of the Church can be disrupted by Islam, Communism, or any other political or social movement that is of this world, then our understanding of the foundation of that order is false, being grossly misunderstood by (perhaps) most as NOT being provisional (i.e., that which serves/served the Church’s need at a given time) but rather enshrined by the tradition of men as ‘holy’ in itself, almost rising to the level of dogma and thus not subject to alteration regardless of whether it still serves the Church’s needs and our salvation or not.

      Not being a radical myself, I am of two minds on this.

      I see no pressing need to change the existing, agreed upon order as long as it is understood for what it really is (and always has been) and is neither promulgated (falsely) as being on the level of unchangeable matters nor perverted into an order in which the CP is a “first without equals” (for that is patently false on Christological/ecclesiological grounds, as well as a clear distortion of the order our fathers established in their times).

      The Church does herself no favors and only perpetuates disorder if she is afraid to confront these perversions and distortions and correct them.

      But if she does, it could call into question the canonical order by which she has governed herself for centuries, possibly even overturning the decisions of some of the earliest and most revered councils. And most (I suspect), including me, are loath to ponder the possible outcome of opening such things up to debate which would likely result in even further division – primarily because neither we nor most of our bishops are worthy of the task, each of us being prone to seek our own advantage rather than what is needful.

      What I find particularly troubling and problematic is how on the one hand we so easily seem to fall prey to the idea that changes in worldly political structures and their corresponding ‘powers’ and ‘loyalties’ necessitate changes in Church order (as though the Kingdom of God were subject to the winds of change in this world), while on the other hand the order ‘enshrined’ in the canons (which was itself largely rooted in the political structure of the day) has come to be viewed as immutable rather than, as you said, provisional.

      There is not now, nor has there ever been, any place on earth where politicians can be trusted with stewardship of the Kingdom of God or the protection of His Church. I suspect I may receive some loud objections from some who think otherwise, but even if they are correct, they are thinking only of short moments in time – whether now or in the past. The powers of this world will inevitably either bend us to their will or make martyrs of us. And the order of the Church ought never be subject to their whims, even if it seems expedient at any given time. “My Kingdom is NOT of this world.”

      I would add as an aside that the CP’s insistence on (and, I suspect, many other Church’s insistence on his) remaining in Constantinople/Istanbul is an example of the ridiculous, albeit somewhat understandably nostalgic, associations of the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of this world. The office itself, as a practical matter in our time, has nothing to do with the earthly location of his throne. In fact, remaining in Istanbul with its requirement of Turkish citizenship and being at the mercy of Islamic sensibilities and oppression is precisely contrary to the rationale of our fathers for granting an exceptional dignity to the office as first among equals. “If they persecute you in one city, flee to another.” And so they did without ever ceasing to be His apostles. The Churches of Christ are always AT a place… “Paul…to the Church AT Corinth,” etc., and that place is always located in the political territory of some earthly ruler. But the Church herself simply is, regardless of where she is.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Brian your last point has resonance with me. The Patriarch of Constantinople is looked on by Islamic understanding even today as head of the Christian Rum. That was established by the Ottoman Empire. It gives worldly/institutional support to the idea that the CP is head of the Orthodox Church. Most RC people that I know simply assume the CP is the eastern pope.

        As a practical matter, there is no real See of Constantinople anymore. The Patriarch only has the authority granted to him by his bother Patriarchs and bishops.

        Keep in mind that the entire institutional order for both the Orthodox Church and the Roman Church comes from the governing structure of the Roman Empire.

        IMO it no longer has any value to the manner in which the Orthodox Church is actually governed. We are much more like the confederation of tribes in ancient Israel. Indeed our ecclesiology has always reflected that. The centralized hierarchical approach does not fit us well. Decentralized organic hierarchy with each bishop seated in a functioning parish actually works much better. That is truly where each bishop is equal.

        As I read the Bible God seems to prefer confederations over kingship precisely because confederations tend to limit the accretion of worldly power to one person or an oligarchy. Confederations are difficult to make work precisely because there are a lot of temptations to move to a more centralized form for efficiency’s sake, not to mention lust of power, greed and all of that. God allows us to have kings and emperors much like He allows us divorce–due to the hardness of our hearts. Let’s face it, the big pressure for a move to a centralized form of government over a confederation is because confederations do not make war very well.

        Despite the hardness of our hearts, God’s order has never left the Church. Orthodox tend to be an unruly bunch don’t you know and the Holy Spirit is still at work. The meeting in Cypress is a hopeful sign of that work.

        It is time to forgo the unfortunate understanding of synergy between the Church and government. It was, is and always will be a bad idea precisely because it masks the reality you mention. The Church is ultimately subsumed by government or martyred by it because we are not of this world. Worldly leaders, even the best of them, have a difficult time with that when it starts impinging on their exercise of worldly power.

        As much as I admire and profited by Fr. Seraphim Rose’s book Nihilism I have long disagreed with the his proposed solution of the restoration of a monarchy. Won’t work. Bad idea. Corruption followed by persecution is always the result. The Church needs to learn to stand on her own as a healthy confederation with only Jesus Christ as our King.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Very well said, Michael.

        • Michael,

          I’ve often pondered how events in the Old Testament are a foreshadowing of things fulfilled in the new, not only concerning Christ (who is, of course, the primary focus, fulfillment, and meaning of all the Scriptures), but even of events in the life of the Church.

          An example of what I mean by this are the Vesporal readings for the Feast of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council which include…

          “Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people…”

          If one considers all the events in the Scriptures such as, for example, the time of the Judges, Israel’s demand for a king, the fracturing of the tribes in the time of Rehoboam, the apostasy of the northern tribes, and later that of Judah (and I could go on…), it makes me wonder what other events might we have seen – or have yet to see – fulfilled.

          This is nothing I would ever try to ‘figure out’ or stake my life upon, but I do ponder it from time to time. What comforts me is that in the midst of all the chaos, turmoil, and overall apostasy is Christ -ever true to His promises, showing Himself strong on behalf of the faithful – and the remnant of faithful who trust in Him.

          “The light of Christ illumines all.”

          Christ is risen!

      • Michael Bauman says

        A further note: It is interesting to me that the Patriarchs meeting in Cypress are those who are “weak” in the sense that they have no institutional support from any government. In fact, each is at odds with the government in their lands to one degree or another.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Interesting observations, Michael. And one which I not only happen to agree with but strengthens my belief that (despite all our foibles) this is really God’s Church.

          This can’t be said enough: we don’t need a Vatican.

  8. Michael Bauman says

    Yes, Brian, there is a great deal there. The Old Testament readings from Holy Saturday–each one brought me back to Jesus words on His Ressurection: “…except a seed fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit…”