Source: Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Moldova (OCM) met on October 25. The minutes of this meeting can be read at (link) However, before considering these minutes, it is helpful to review various events occurring prior to the meeting. On September 5, Metropolitan Vladimir of Chișinău and All Moldova sent a very strong letter to Patriarch Kirill with a long list of grievances. An English translation of the letter was provided in my last newsletter. See (link) (20 October 2023). The authenticity of this leaked letter has not been denied by either the Moscow Patriarchate or by the OCM. One of the many grievances mentioned in the letter related to the failure of the Patriarchate to approve the decision to the OCM Synod to elevate Archimandrite Filaret (Kuzmin) to be a bishop of the OCM. According to the September 5 letter, the candidacy of Archimandrite Filaret was rejected by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synod (MPS) “at the last moment by a decision that can be qualified as a disdainful attitude towards the Synod of the OCM.” Subsequent to the letter, the MPS held its regular meeting on October 11, 2023. Metropolitan Vladimir attended this meeting in Moscow and brought with him Archimandrite Filaret. (link) According to the foregoing link, Metropolitan Vladimir had also brought Archimandrite Filaret to the immediately preceding meeting of the MPS where he had been rejected based on the “files of the Patriarchate” which revealed that the Archimandrite had committed several “unchristian” acts. However, now at the MPS meeting of October 11 held after the September 5 letter, the MPS did approve Archimandrite Filaret as a new bishop. See (link) (Journal entry 97). The MPS left the location of the ordination to the discretion of Patriarch Kirill. On October 22, Archimandrite Filaret was ordained a bishop in the cathedral at Chișinău by Metropolitan Vladimir and other OCM bishops. (link) All of the hierarchs who participated in the Liturgy at the cathedral were part of the OCM, except for Bishop Ambrozie (Munteanu) of Bogorodsk (vicar of the Patriarchal Exarchate for Western Europe responsible for the many Moldovans residing in Italy). It was the first time in over 200 years that an ordination of the OCM occurred in Moldova. The day after the ordination, Metropolitan Vikenty of Tashkent and Uzbekistan, a permanent member of the MPS, was in Chișinău and met with Metropolitan Vladimir. The Metropolitans “discussed the life and activity of the churches in both countries.” (link)
The minutes of the meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCM are significant because of their silence. Journal entry 2 thanked Metropolitan Vladimir for his participation in the meeting of the MPS on October 11, but extended no thanks to the MPS for approving the episcopal ordination or to Patriarch Kirill for allowing the ordination to occur in Chișinău. With respect to the September 5 letter from Metropolitan Vladimir, the minutes are silent which indicates that Holy Synod does not disavow in any way the grievances expressed in the letter. The Holy Synod did defrock six archpriests of the OCM who had recently transferred to the Metropolis of Bessarabia (Romanian Patriarchate).
Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov), who was appointed Metropolitan of Simferopol and Crimea at the October 11 meeting of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Holy Synod, has now arrived in Crimea to assume his new duties. Subsequent to his arrival, he made several very interesting remarks. The Telegram channel of the Crimean Metropolis reported certain remarks of the Metropolitan at a meeting with journalists on October 21. (link) The report stated: “Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Simferopol and Crimea to think through and present proposals for important and necessary changes in the life of the Crimean people of the peninsula. Vladika Tikhon announced this during a press conference on October 21. ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich instructed me to think about what can be done here (in Crimea – ed.) that is worthy, interesting and important for people based on the priceless treasure – Chersonesus,’ said Metropolitan Tikhon.” This indicates that President Putin and Metropolitan Tikhon discussed the Metropolitan’s transfer and raises the possibility that President Putin may have actually been involved in the decision. It is also possible that President Putin wishes Metropolitan Tikhon, whom he trusts, to be a set of eyes and ears for him in Crimea. At the Liturgy the next day at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Simferopol, Metropolitan Tikhon stated according to the same Telegram channel: “The Crimean Metropolis is now stable compared to those dioceses that are on the front line and that are divided. And therefore, now the most important thing, from my point of view, is helping those who need this help, both here and there, in new regions. Spiritual help, material help and preservation of unity and peace here in Crimea.” This remark demonstrates that Metropolitan Tikhon believes his responsibilities are not limited to the Crimean Metropolis but also encompass providing spiritual and material help to “dioceses that are on the front line.” Presumably, this would include the dioceses in the Donbass region which have been very recently absorbed by the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria held its meeting at Balamand, October 16-21. At the close of the meeting, the Synod issued a statement describing the results of its meeting. This statement can be read in full at (link) (English). It includes the following very important decision:
Therefore, the Synod Fathers offer fervent prayers to the King of Peace and Lord of Mercies, to wipe away every tear from the eyes of the Palestinian people, and to remove all injustice, oppression, homelessness, and displacement. They call on all their children and Antiochian parishes to dedicate next Sunday to praying for justice, and for peace to prevail in the country of peace, and to collect aid for the relief of these afflicted people. Since the current circumstances require intensifying prayer and cooperation, the Holy Synod decided to restore ecclesiastical communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and to assign a committee in the Patriarchate to communicate with the brothers at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in order to find a solution to the issue of the ecclesiastical dispute over the jurisdiction of “Qatar” in a way that preserves the right of ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the See of Antioch over it. The Synod also decided to send a church delegation to visit Amman to express the love of the faithful in the Church of Antioch for the faithful in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and to stand by them in these difficult fateful circumstances.
As you may recall, the Holy Synod decided on June 29, 2015, to impose “ecclesial severance with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, until further notice” because of the dispute between Antioch and Jerusalem with respect to jurisdiction over the Orthodox parish in Qatar. (link) The Qatar dispute has a complex history. See (link) The parish was founded in 1997, and its first priest was the now-Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. In 2013, the Jerusalem Patriarchate ordained a subsequent priest at the Qatar parish as “Archbishop of Qatar.” The dispute between Antioch and Jerusalem then took on very serious dimensions. Antioch contended that the entire Arabian Peninsula including all of the Gulf States was under its exclusive jurisdiction. Efforts to mediate and settle the dispute over the course of many years have been unsuccessful. However, it is very encouraging that the Patriarchate of Antioch has now decided to remove the severance, which has been unsuccessful in compelling Jerusalem to cede jurisdiction to Antioch. It remains to be seen whether a solution to the Qatar dispute, which has been so elusive, will now be found. Still communion between the two Patriarchates has now fortunately been restored.
In Kyiv, a meeting was held on October 19 between Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal and the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. (link) However, representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is one of the founding members of the Council, were not allowed by the Ukrainian government to attend the meeting. (link) I personally suspect that one of the subjects of the discussion at the meeting was Draft Law 8371, which was submitted to the Ukrainian Rada by the Prime Minister and sponsored by him. As I previously reported, Draft Law 8371 was approved by the Rada on October 19 by a large majority. Rada deputies have 14 days after October 19 to submit proposed amendments to be considered by the Rada on the second reading. It is very possible that the meeting was held by the Prime Minister to obtain the “blessing” of the Council for his Draft Law. It would be interesting to know whether the churches and religious organizations present at the meeting (including the UGCC and the Latin-rite Catholics) simply “rubber stamped” the government’s proposal or whether the churches proposed amendments to remedy some of the major defects in the Draft Law.
In Rome, the first four-week session of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is drawing to a close. The Assembly (which includes voting laypersons for the first time) is devoted to the subject For a Synodal Church. Today, October 25, a letter from the Assembly “to the People of God” was issued. (link) (full text in English). I was personally pleased to see the following statement in the letter: “We have thus also experienced the importance of fostering mutual exchanges between the Latin tradition and the traditions of Eastern Christianity. The participation of fraternal delegates from other Churches and Ecclesial Communities deeply enriched our discussions.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA