Meeting of Four Orthodox Primates and other News

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Source: Peter Anderson

Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus (left), Patriarch John of Antioch (center-left), Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria (center-right), Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem (right). Photo: antiochpatriarchate.org

Today (Thursday) [April 18, 2019], at the invitation of Archbishop Chrysostomos (primate of the Church of Cyprus), a meeting was held in Nicosia with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, Patriarch John X of Antioch, and Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem.  There was no advanced notice of the meeting.  The meeting was especially significant in that these four Local Orthodox Churches were all recognized as separate churches in the first millennium.  In the Orthodox diptychs, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem follow immediately after Constantinople.   In the last few minutes, the full text of the final communique of the meeting has been posted by the Greek website, Romfea.gr.  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/28367-to-anakoinothen-tis-sunantiseos-ton-prokathimenon-stin-kupro  Contrary to speculation earlier today, there was no major statement with respect to the specific disputed issues in Ukraine.  A translation of the portion of the communique relating to Ukraine is as follows:

They also looked into the problems that arose after granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.  His Beatitude Chrysostomos, Archbishop of Cyprus, briefed them on his personal initiative of mediation.  After listening to His Beatitude, the Primates of the three Churches gave their support for his initiative to carry it for the good of the unity of the Orthodox Church in Christ Jesus.   In this regard, Their Holiness and Beatitude called upon all people concerned to work, on the one hand, to achieve eucharistic unity, which constitutes the fullness of the Church in Christ Jesus, and on the other hand, to protect the faithful, their churches and their monasteries against all forms of transgressions and all acts of violence coming from any side, whatever the causes and motives are. 

However, today’s meeting did signal a possible breakthrough on another important dispute – the impasse between Antioch and Jerusalem with respect to jurisdiction over Qatar.  In this regard, the communique provides as follows:

In a private meeting between the Patriarch of Antioch and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Their Beatitudes discussed together in a spirit of sincerity, brotherhood and love, and exchanged views on the issue related to both Churches.  They expressed their sincere determination and good intention to overcome these problems in the nearest future, in order for both Churches to reach the sought eucharistic communion. 

The communique also discussed the situation in the Middle East.

With respect to a different topic, Orthodox leaders joined with many others in expressing their sorrow over the tragic fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent letters to both Catholic Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris and French President Macron.   https://www.patriarchate.org/-/menyma-sympatheias-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarchou-gia-ten-katastrophike-pyrkagia-ston-kathedriko-nao-tes-panagias-ton-parision  Letters were also sent by Patriarch Kirill.  https://mospat.ru/en/2019/04/16/news172806/   The primates of many of the other Local Orthodox Churches also sent messages.  See https://sofiaglobe.com/2019/04/18/notre-dame-fire-bulgarian-orthodox-church-expresses-deepest-support-for-the-french-people/   The blog of the Russian Orthodox Church in France (Moscow Patriarchate) has posted an article entitled: “Orthodox all over the world have suffered with their Catholic brothers.”  https://www.egliserusse.eu/blogdiscussion/Les-orthodoxes-du-monde-entier-ont-souffert-avec-leurs-freres-catholiques_a5693.html  The article states that the sacred objects of the cathedral were saved including the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God, given to the cathedral by Patriarch Alexei II.  Much of the credit for the saving of the sacred objects at the cathedral, including the famous crown of thorns, is given to the chaplain of the Paris firefighters, Father Jean-Marc Fournier.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/16/europe/notre-dame-chaplain-artifacts-intl/index.html

The beautiful copy of the Vladimir icon had been given to the cathedral by Patriarch Alexei during his visit to Paris in October 2007.  During the Patriarch’s visit to the cathedral, an Orthodox prayer service was conducted in the Patriarch’s presence before the crown of thorns. (Until his death, Patriarch Alexei was hounded by false accusations from Orthodox conservatives that he had engaged in common prayer with Catholics at this service.)  A video of the entire service, including good views of the crown of thorns, the Vladimir icon, and the interior of the historic cathedral, can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTjkV5XyjqM.  After the visit, the Vladimir icon was permanently placed in a prominent location of honor in the cathedral.  Subsequently, there have other been significant Russian contacts with the cathedral.  In the garden of the cathedral, there is now a magnificent statue of Pope John Paul II by the famous Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.  It was described as a gift from the Russian people.  https://eng.rah.ru/news/detail.php?ID=29396  For Christmas 2014, Russia provided a giant Christmas tree for the square in front of the cathedral.

The cathedral in recent years has become a gathering point for French Orthodox from the various Local Orthodox Churches.  According to a statement from the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France:  “The Orthodox liked to gather there, even to celebrate the memory of St. Denis of Paris, as a sign of our common past, or to venerate the holy Crown of thorns.”   https://orthodoxie.com/en/communique-of-the-assembly-of-the-orthodox-bishops-of-france-following-the-fire-at-notre-dame-de-paris/

The Vatican has issued an “updated” schedule of the Pope’s visit to Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia (May 5-7).  http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2019/04/17/0325/00655.html   The updated schedule includes two changes, apparently added to assure the Bulgarian Orthodox Church that there would be no common prayer.  The “private prayer” before the throne of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky has been changed to “prayer in silence.”   Also, the “prayer for peace presided at by the Holy Father in the presence of leaders of the various religious confessions in Bulgaria” has been changed to a “meeting for peace.”  See earlier schedule: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2019/03/07/190307a.html  The government of Bulgaria has established a special website for the visit.  http://www.popeinbulgaria.gov.bg/en

In other news, Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has given a long English-language interview articulating his strong views with respect to the establishment of a diocese for Korea by the Moscow Patriarchate.  https://theorthodoxworld.com/exclusive-how-the-moscow-patriarchate-tramples-on-church-canons-and-undermines-orthodox-unity-in-korea/   Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be meeting in Greece with Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, on May 23.  http://www.ekathimerini.com/239664/article/ekathimerini/news/archbishop-and-patriarch–to-meet-in-viotia-on-may-23   Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk (OCU), who was one of the three finalists in the election for primate of the new Ukrainian church, has been visiting Mount Athos with a group of pilgrims.  https://www.romfea.gr/ekklisies-ts/ekklisia-tis-oukranias/28320-sto-agion-oros-o-mitropolitis-mixail-tis-autokefalis-ekklisias-tis-oukranias

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

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