A rift has opened between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, over the selection process of the new Archbishop of America, following the resignation of Archbishop Demetrios.
On May 9, 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople sent a letter to the Council asking for its opinion on who the new Archbishop should be, as is mandated by the rules governing the relationship between the Mother Church and the Archdiocese.
According to the charter, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has full jurisdiction over the affairs of the Church in America, including the selection of the new Archbishop. The charter also states that the Patriarchate will seek the advice and opinion of the Archdiocesan Council and the synod of the United States, although the said opinion and advice is in no way binding.
A clergyman based at the Patriarchate who asked not to be named since he wasn’t speaking in an official capacity, told The Pappas Post that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was keen to speed up the selection process so the Archdiocese of America wasn’t left without a leader for an extended period, given the various issues that were “burning,” and needed immediate attention.
“The full council was already in session in Atlanta,” the clergyman said, adding that “Everyone has known for months that this change was coming and deliberations have certainly taken place both publicly and privately as to who the Council would like to see as their next Archbishop.”
In the letter to the Archdiocese Council that was sent on May 9, 2019, Bartholomew asked for the list of suggested names by 2:00 pm EST the following day.
Irked by the quick turn around time that was requested, the Council issued a resolution and sent a letter to Bartholomew, stating “surprise and concern,” and asking for a thirty-day time frame to fulfill their duties.
“To our surprise and concern, we were informed today, May 9, 2019, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has afforded the Archdiocese only until 2:00 pm Eastern time tomorrow, May 10, to commence and complete the advisory process required by the Archdiocesan Charter and Regulations–a time frame that makes it impossible for us to complete this task,” the letter to Bartholomew stated.
The letter was signed by George Tsandikos, Vice President of the Council, as well as Catherine Bouffides Walsh, Secretary; Elaine Allen, Treasurer; Dimitrios Moschos, Former President; and Constantine Caras, Administration Committee Chair.
But not all U.S.-based faithful agreed with the actions of the Archdiocesan Council.
Elias Damianakis, a prominent church member and iconographer from Florida who is also an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, expressed his concern in an open letter he shared.
He criticized the Council for taking time to adopt the resolution when instead they could have been fulfilling their responsibilities as requested by the Mother Church.
“The time and effort compiling these “documents” would have served the church far better accomplishing the task at hand fulfilling your responsibilities. It’s not like this situation fell out of the sky. Not a single member attending the council could have been unaware of its current responsibilities prior to the gathering in Atlanta. Nor is it likely that there haven’t been ‘backdoor’ discussions undoubtedly priming the members,” Damianakis said in his letter.
Damianakis also criticized the Council for “contradictions” that he claims appear throughout the resolution that was sent to the Phanar.
“Contradictions appear throughout the Resolution,” Damianakis wrote, adding that “You graciously recognize ‘the exclusive privilege and canonical rights’ underscoring them in a contentious tone, with a reminder to the Mother Church of the provisions of the Archdiocese’s Regulations, as if the Holy See is unaware.”
Another contradiction in the resolution that was sent to Bartholomew includes the Council’s request for a period of thirty days to complete the opinion and advisory process “diligently and with prayer and thoughtfulness,” while three paragraphs later, the Council states its request to the Patriarchate to “give every consideration to the esteemed and beloved members of our Holy Eparchial Synod… as candidates for election to the position of Archbishop of America.”
Photo: Archbishop Demetrios of America and George Tsandikos, Vice President of the Archdiocese Council, courtesy of Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
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