Source: Orthodox Christianity

Patriarch Theophilos [Photo: timesofisrael.com]

Jerusalem – Following his recent trip to Moscow, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem has reportedly come under serious pressure from hierarchs from the Patriarchate of Constantinople and elsewhere, according to the Telegram channel “PravBlog,” with reference to its sources in the Holy Land.

The Patriarch traveled to Moscow to last month to receive the Patriarch Alexei II Award for working towards Church unity from the International Public Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples. In his speech upon receiving the award, the Patriarch invited all the Orthodox primates to gather in Jordan to discuss the sensitive issue of Church unity.

Numerous hierarchs and Synods have declared the need for a pan-Orthodox council to discuss the Ukrainian issue, but the Patriarch of Jerusalem was the first to take the step of actually inviting hierarchs for such a council.

The Patriarch’s good intentions displeased those aligned with Constantinople. Archbishop Ieronymos immediately declared that only Constantinople can call a council and thus he refuses to attend the proposed council in Jordan.

Pat. Theophilos also concelebrated with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill while in Moscow. Pat. Kirill does not commemorate those hierarchs that have recognized the Ukrainian schismatics, while Pat. Theophilos commemorates all the canonical primates. To avoid the awkwardness of the situation, the two primates commemorated only one another.

Certain media outlets, including the U.S. State Department-backed Orthodox Times, tried to turn this decision into a scandal.

Upon returning from his trip, the Patriarch of Jerusalem has experienced pressure from hierarchs of Constantinople who have been actively visiting him, “PravBlog” reports. Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and delegations from Greece have also been working on him.

A source in the Patriarchate earlier reported to RIA-Novosti that the Patriarch is also under pressure from U.S. Democrats, including Joe Biden.

“PravBlog” also reports that Constantinople hierarchs are actively trying to prevent Russian hierarchs and clergy from serving at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. According to the channel’s source, whereas Constantinople hierarchs never showed such zeal for the Holy Sepulchre before, it is now practically an established norm that they serve there every week.

Due to this situation, Russian clergy cannot serve there, as the Moscow Patriarchate broke communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople due to its unilateral and anti-canonical invasion of Ukrainian Church territory.

Pat. Theophilos was also under heavy pressure in January to serve with Ukrainian schismatics on the feast of Theophany, though he successfully resisted the pressure.



  1. I’m a bit confused with this article. The Church of the Resurrection is an ecumenical house of worship and it’s open to Orthodox, of all kinds to worship and pray: Roman Catholics, Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians and others. So, what is the issue? Moreover, the source for this article is biased and ostensibly reports “fake news” in support of the Moscow patriarch and conservative “old calendar” adherents. Therefore, I would strongly urge OCL to fact check its proposed postings to ensure their veracity.

    The Orthodox Church is well known for its chaotic structure and its ostensible “organization”. It’s an amazing miracle that, so far, it still exists despite the fact that it is losing adherents and support among its remaining faithful. It may be time for a reformation and/or a reconstruction or a reconciliation with the so-called “heterodox”.

    • Hi Peter,
      I believe that unless a post is labeled as an OCL Editorial or an OCL-created article, many writings here are reprinted from a variety of sources in their original form. It appears that this site tries to include a broad range of Orthodox postings and publications complete with their specific opinions and set of facts (or non-facts, depending on one’s viewpoint).
      For one interested in US Orthodox unity, it’s helpful to see these varying, and often contradictory, unfiltered sentiments and judgments

      • Thank you for your comment. You are spot on. OCL republishes a wide range of articles in order to incorporate the voices of as many sides of issues as possible. If we miss your perspective, please make us aware of sources that we may highlight.

  2. Peter: You fail to understand that the “battle lines” are drawn between Istanbul & Moscow over Ukrainian autocephaly. It’s silly and ridiculous! The Canons are clear: in every territory, a separate & distinct autocephalous Orthodox Church is to be established. So, Ukraine had every right to have its own autocephalous church. Yet, Istanbul completely ignored the ROC’s integral association with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. WHY, because Ukrainian oligarchs gave millions of $$$ to + Bart for recognition. The ONLY way to clear the air is to have a Council where ALL involved parties and others partake. Such a council can be called by Moscow, Istanbul, both or outside parties. Even when Ecumenical Councils were called, they were not called by the Patriarch, but by the Emperor. There is no Emperor and the Patriarch does not automatically assume such responsibilities.

  3. George D. Karcazes on


    You are frequent participant on this website. That’s good!

    Hopefully, since you find this website meaningful to you, you will support OCL by clicking on the button to donate by Pay Pal to keep OCL financially able to continue its work.

    As far as your claim that “Ukrainian oligarchs gave millions of $$$ to +Bart for recognition,” one needs to ask: “Do you have any proof?” If you do not, then it is appropriate to ask: Is it responsible for you to make that claim…and publish it on this website … or anywhere else?

    If the canons are clear that: “In every territory, a separate & distinct autocephalous Orthodox Church is to be established”.. what do you mean by ROC’s integral “association” with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? Does that mean that an ascendant Russia under dictator Putin [after the collapse of the Soviet Union] should use the Church to lay claim to its former enslaved territories…Latvia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania…et al? Do you approve of Putin tearing Crimea away from Ukraine and invading and trying to destabilize eastern Ukraine? Are you an apologist for everything Russian?

    More questions:

    Did the ROC have the right to unilaterally grant autocephaly to the OCA? Or, should that have been submitted to a Council? Is it appropriate for the ROC to still have bishops and parishes in the territory of the US after it granted autocephaly to the OCA? Do you approve of the efforts of the ROC to claim “primacy” by trying to diminish the status of Constantinople as “first among equals’ within the worldwide Orthodox Church? Why did the ROC boycott the Council in Crete?

    Let’s agree on the following:

    1. The battle-lines between Moscow and Constantinople appear frivolous and irrelevant to the vast majority of Orthodox Christians living their faith in the territory of the US.

    2. The disputes between Moscow and Constantinople disrupt efforts of the Assembly of Bishops to unite the Orthodox in the US into a single Church.

    3. The continued division of our Church in the US into 14 “ethnic” jurisdictions hurts all of us.

    George D. Karcazes

  4. George:

    Let’s address your questions. The monies paid to the Phanar for “recognition” of the UOC as autocephalous is a claim verified by those within the Phanar itself. See if you can extract their bank statements. Money laundering is big over there.

    The Russ, the Russian/ Ukrainian peoples are cousins. Since St. Vladimir and the establishment of the Orthodox Church in greater Russ, these peoples were one. After Stalin, who murdered millions of Ukrainians, the lines were drawn. Ukraine for the Ukraine and Russia for Russia.

    Regarding the OCA, its former name, the Metropolia, was the ROC mission which began in Alaska and then to the lower 48. After 1917, Pat. Tikhon told all dioceses and missions to direct themselves. The Metropolia did so and in 1970, the MP recognized the FULL autocephaly of its daughter church, the Metropolia.

    The ROC knew that the Council in Crete, + Bart would try to usurp authority the entire Church would question. He wanted complete authority to decide which churches could be autocephalous and which could not. He wanted all decisions of autocephalous churches to be reviewed by his own council of bishops for acceptance or denial. (Sounds like the Pope, doesn’t it?)

    The format for unity of all the ethnic Orthodox Churches in North America has already been set and IT WORKS! The OCA is AUTOCEPHALOUS and has a council of ethnic bishops who make decisions jointly and choose their own Primate. So, why aren’t the American Greek bishops and Antiochian bishops members???

  5. George D. Karcazes on


    You claim to address my questions.. but not really.

    Are you a supporter/donor of OCL?

    Who within the Phanar verified “payments made to the Phanar?

    What proof do you have of “money laundering”?

    The history of the Metropolia and the unilateral grant of “Autocephaly” by Moscow to the OCA is well known.. but, why does Moscow keep parishes in the territory of its daughter church?

    Does every “Mother Church” have the right to grant Autocephaly to their daughters in the US? What sense is there in having 14 “Autocephalous” Churches in the territory of the US?

    The granting of autocephaly is obviously a matter in dispute.. it was unanimously placed on the agenda of the planned Holy and Great Council.. and then taken off the agenda because it was clear that there would not be agreement on the issue. ROC agreed to the calling of the Council and then boycotted it at the last moment. Sounds like ROC was acting the part of a spoiled bully.


  6. George: First off, you need to study the Canon Laws of the Orthodox Church. Let’s start again. In 1961, SCOBA, all the canonical Orthodox Bishops in America decided to work toward an AUTOCEPHALOUS Orthodox Church in America. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, was chosen to advise and lead the bishops in this endeavor, even by + Iakavos. The Metropolia was the DAUGHTER missionary church of the ROC that acted on its own accord since 1917 under the orders of St. Tikhon, Pat. of Moscow. In essence, the Metropolia was already an autocephalous church. However, Fr. Schmemann procured an official Tomos of Autocephaly from the MP and secured the Metropolia, now the OCA as the ONLY autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. EXACTLY WHAT SCOBA WANTED! The Bulgarians joined the OCA, the Romanians, the Albanians and others, BUT the Greeks and Antiochians RENEGED! So, George, if ALL the canonical Orthodox would have joined the OCA as they said they would, ALL the Orthodox in America would have been administratively united, as canon law dictates. ISTANBUL STOPPED THIS UNITY! + BART IS STILL THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO ORTHODOX UNITY IN NORTH AMERICA!

  7. George D. Karcazes on


    Happy New Year! I hope that 2020 will find you among the donors/supporters of OCL and this website you actively participate in!

    Fact check:

    SCOBA did NOT include all of the canonical Orthodox Bishops in America. It included only the heads of several of the “jurisdictions”. It was never sanctioned by all of the Mother Churches.

    The Assembly of Bishops on the other hand, includes all of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the US and it was sanctioned by all of the Autocephalous Mother Churches at a meeting in Chambessy, Switzerland more than a decade ago.

    Fact check:

    ALL of the Romanians, Albanians and Bulgarians Did NOT join the OCA, neither did the Serbians, Ukrainians, or America Carpatho-Russians.. so it wasn’t only the Greeks and Antiochians who didn’t agree to come under the umbrella of the OCA.. neither did ROCOR, which at that time was still not comfortable with the ROC under the yoke of the atheist Soviet Union. We can debate the past, but that will not solve the issue of Orthodox Unity in the territory of the US today.

    No one in the OCA leadership expects all of the other Orthodox in the US to simply join the OCA. OCA’s contested autocephaly can only be resolved if the Assembly of Bishops declares itself to be a Synod and elects its own head. OCA should never give up its autocephaly but I’m sure it would agree to be part of a truly autocephalous church in the US (independent of all of the Mother Churches abroad) that included all or most of the parishes of the GOA, Antiochians, Serbs and Romanians. Rather than waiting around for Moscow and Constantinople (and Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia) to agree on how and by whom autocephaly is attained, the Assembly should act like the Founding Fathers of our Nation and issue a Declaration of Independence from their Mother Churches.. not to sever their ties with their colonial masters, but to join them as a sister church.. unable to fulfill its mission to bring Orthodoxy to the American nation as 14 daughter churches. Ideally, the AOB could reach unanimity in doing this, but it must not be deterred by the tyranny of the minority. How many bishops are needed? 51%? 66.6%? 75%? Our founding fathers declared their independence from England in 1776 and it wasn’t until 1787 that they were finally able to agree on a workable Constitution. How long would it take for the autocephalous Church of the US to work out the details.. and how long would it take for the Mother Churches to recognize their sister Church? The Church of Greece declared itself autocephalous in 1821 and wasn’t recognized by Constantinople as autocephalous until 1850. The history of how and when the Mother Churches became autocephalous makes for interesting reading (for another day) but how does that help us in the US today?

    Is a declaration by the AOB that it is a Synod that has elected its own head and declared its autocephaly too extreme? Do you have a better answer other than your same old: Let everyone join the OCA?

  8. George: The Assembly of Bishops is a JOKE! The Greeks wanted SCOBA dissolved and replaced by the “Assembly” so THEY, the Phanar, could control it. They put THEIR bishop in N. America as the 1st bishop, the Antiochians as 2nd and then the ROC bishop. SCOBA, elected it’s own lead bishop WITHOUT outside bishop interference. Even Bishop Basil of Witchita wanted to completely remove himself from this FALSE ASSEMBLY! All it is, is a nice bishop’s tea!

    Now, regarding the OCA. Show me where and how the OCA is contrary to Canon Law? The Phanar did not “FORMALLY” recognize the OCA’s autocephaly WITHOUT DUE CAUSE. They used Canon 28 of Chalcedon to justify their opposition which is totally ridiculous. In fact, the only reason the Phanar “FORMALLY” recognized the UOC was because Ukrainian oligarchs gave the Phanar $75 million in totally. The OCA will not pay the Phanar anything.

    George, Orthodox Canon Law is clear, once an autocephalous church is established in a territory, ALL other churches are required to join it. EXACTLY WHAT ALL THE CANONICAL BISHOPS WANTED FROM 1961. Unity was halted by the Phanar and still is!

    2020 is the 50th Anniversary of the OCA’s Autocephaly. Isn’t it about time the Greeks & Antiochians joined what they originally agreed to?

  9. George: You must understand what ROCOR is, its history, and how it has evolved. The Metropolia, now the OCA, was the daughter church of the ROC in America since 1792. In 1917, Pat. Tikhon told all of his dioceses and entities to operate their own churches independently (persecution of the Church caused this). When the Russian Revolution began, many bishops and clergy left, establishing their OWN church, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). This church was proclaimed NON-CANONICAL by Pat. Tikhon. They established themselves in Serbia and later in Europe. They eventually, I believe in the ’50s, came to the U.S. All the while, they were waiting for Communism to be overthrown so they could RETURN to Russia as the ROC’s real leaders. This didn’t happen. Their image of the Church was strictly Russian, and once they came to the U.S., they did not wish to join the Metropolia but INSISTED that they and ONLY they were the REAL offshoot of the ROC. They were marginal in the U.S. and made trouble wherever they established themselves. They were still considered schismatics. Once Communism fell in 1989, ROCOR eventually made inroads to reunite with the ROC not under Communism. So, today they exist, keeping their strong Russian imprint, but marginal in the theology of their clergy and bishops. The OCA is in full communion with them, yet, they wish to continue to promote their RIGORIST, Russian view of Orthodoxy. Russian emigres are at home with them.

    • I’m not in a ROCOR parish, but the idea that their theology is “marginal” is absurd. They are the most stalwart defenders of canonical Orthodoxy in the United States on average.

  10. It’s always cheering to read here how people long for a single, united Orthodox witness in the US. But the Assembly of Bishops (AoB) is NOT designed to achieve that goal unless it is to bring all American parishes under the control of the Phanar. The Assembly is not capable of achieving the Phanar’s goal and accomplishes nothing from year to year. Since the Phanar’s rash and uncanonical actions in Ukraine, participation in the Assembly has fallen off. The Antiochians have long boycotted it because of Patr. Bartholomew’s ineffectual leadership which has not healed the schism between Damascus and Jerusalem over the church in Qatar. The second senior-most Archbishop of the OCA under its Primate, that is Abp. Benjamin of San Francisco and the West, now refuses to even countenance any dialogue with Greek bishops from whom he rightly cannot expect good faith negotiation. The Assembly is to all intents dead, and its only purpose is clear as an organ of the Phanar’s power. Because of the unilateral actions of its Patriarch and Synod, the EP in asserting itself as a unique actor among Orthodox Churches worldwide, has shown itself to be completely unsuited to achieving any real unity or agreement among churches, but rather to foist an imperialistic, even papal self-concept inimical to Orthodox historical norms. Continued innovations in doctrines describing its prerogatives move the EP ever further from harmonious and cooperative relations between autocephalies. So, sad to say, the EP’s pursuit of its own leadership goals has moved all of us much further away from unity and to the brink of schism. Any of its organs, such as the AoB, are now seen by all critical eyes clearly to have been erected for the extension of Phanar power, and the concomitant diminution of any whose goals do not line up with that extension.

  11. Steve: In response to what you said regarding ROCOR, “They are the most stalwart defenders of canonical Orthodoxy in the United States on average.” How do you do this when most of your clergy have the theological education of maybe 2 years of CHURCH SCHOOL? In fact, Bishop Seraphim, a Russophile who was asked to leave the OCA, went to ROCOR was asked why there. He said, “They have nothing. Their clergy are uneducated and maybe I can make a difference there.”

  12. Argo Georgandis on

    I strongly suggest that ANYONE seriously interested in the unity of the Orthodox Church in America, read George Karcazes’ response to “Nikolai” on January 2, 2020 (see above). This is a concise description of how it can happen with the incredible example of our own nation and its independence from England, and without stumbling on churches, assemblies, or other organizations along the way. It is certainly one I will keep for reference. Once again, George shows logic, discretion, and most of all, hope that this can happen.

    This whole discussion has been just amazing, and I encourage anyone who reads the articles on this web site to please think about joining Orthoox Christian Laity (OCL) [https://ocl.org/orthodox-christian-laity/support-ocl/]. We are a friendly group of people that welcomes those interested in keeping our faith viable and opening it up to everyone. Please come to our meetings where we have wonderful fellowship and great learning experiences by selected speakers from all of Orthodoxy. I look forward to meeting you! Please check the website (https://ocl.org) for further information. The meetings are in the Spring and Winter!

  13. Argo:

    In reference to the Jan. 2nd response you suggest everyone read again.

    1) “SCOBA did NOT include all of the canonical Orthodox Bishops in America. It included only the heads of several of the “jurisdictions”. It was never sanctioned by all of the Mother Churches.” — SCOBA DID include ALL the canonical Orthodox bishops in America. SCOBA DID NOT have to be sanctioned by any foreign bishops. SCOBA was organized so that all the bishops could work together and exchange information. The OCEC (Orthodox Christian Education Commission) was one of the GREAT things coming out of SCOBA ensuring Orthodox teaching materials for the young.

    2) “ALL of the Romanians, Albanians and Bulgarians Did NOT join the OCA, neither did the Serbians, Ukrainians, or America Carpatho-Russians.. so it wasn’t only the Greeks and Antiochians who didn’t agree to come under the umbrella of the OCA.. neither did ROCOR, which at that time was still not comfortable with the ROC under the yoke of the atheist Soviet Union. We can debate the past, but that will not solve the issue of Orthodox Unity in the territory of the US today.” — The MAJOR portion of the Romanians, Albanians and Bulgarians joined the OCA. The small remnant that stayed under foreign bishops is today almost gone. The Serbs remained ethnocentric. The Ukrainians were quasi-canonical. The Carps were under the Greeks and ROCOR was non-canonical.

    3) “No one in the OCA leadership expects all of the other Orthodox in the US to simply join the OCA. OCA’s contested autocephaly…” —- The OCA’s autocephaly is NOT seriously contested. Only the Phanar and its affiliates FORMALLY won’t recognize the OCA’s autocephaly because the Phanar, out of their HUBRIS, believes only they can be the top dog in the U.S. The OCA is in Communion with ALL canonical Orthodox entities throughout the world.

    4) 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the OCA AND IT WORKS! In fact, a new Romanian bishop under the OCA was installed in Cleveland, O. He will not only head up Romanian parishes, but ALL OCA parishes in his diocese. Furthermore, the Assembly of Bishops doesn’t work and is nothing more than an extension of the Phanar. It is a joke. No real independence or respect for the American Church, just tea get togethers for bishops going nowhere!

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