Patriarchate to Hold Demetrios Responsible for Charter
By Theodore Kalmoukos
Reprinted from The National Herald
BOSTON -- The Ecumenical Patriarchate has warned Archbishop Demetrios that it will hold him responsible for any "possible developments that might occur to the Church of America because of the charter issue," Church sources told The National Herald.
A patriarchal committee, headed by senior Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Ephesos, issued the warning to Demetrios during a four-hour meeting on Holy Thursday afternoon, following the conclusion of the service of the Holy Myrrh. The meeting, which was later characterized as "cordial, but difficult," took place between the committee and Archbishop Demetrios alone, without the presence of the hierarchs from America. The Archbishop and most of the hierarchs of the Church of America (except Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver and Bishop Nicholas of Detroit) travelled to Constantinople to participate in the Holy Myrrh service, which takes place approximately once every decade.
The patriarchal committee expressed its disappointment with Demetrios for distributing the text of the charter to the parishes, along with a memorandum indicating the suggestions of the Archdiocesan Council of last November.
The Herald has learned that the patriarchate has interpreted Demetrios' move as an attempt to incite the parishes.
Aside from the president of the patriarchal committee, who used strong language, Metropolitan Panteleimon of Tyrolois and Serention, a professor of Canon Law at the Theological School of Thessaloniki, also warned Demetrios. Metropolitans Meliton of Philadelphia and Demetrios of Sebasteia kept a more moderate stance.
On Holy Wednesday, the committee had met alone and discussed the stance it would adopt in its meeting with Archbishop Demetrios, while Patriarch Bartholomaios was kept fully informed.
When asked during a telephone conversation with the Herald how he interprets the patriarchate's warning, Archbishop Demetrios replied: "I do not know who formulated that phrase. I do not even discuss it. We attend to the whole issue [of the charter] with attention, responsibility, and with all our good will to achieve the best possible solution. We had an extensive conversation and we have decided to go ahead in the best and most responsible way -- all those who are involved in this matter.
Asked to predict the outcome of the charter debate, Demetrios said: "The picture that I have on the charter is that a lot of work has been done up to now by all parties involved, by the patriarchal side, as well as on our own. I see that a tremendous effort has been put in, that there is an objective, planned way for the good and the essential progress of the Church and therefore I see the development as an absolute positive step and in no way negative."
The Archbishop said he was not concerned about the Archdiocesan Council because we have nothing to hide nor do we undermine anybody," Demetrios said.
The Herald's Church source said that the Patriarchate made it clear to Archbishop Demetrios that it "will remain steadfast to its positions concerning the charter," while the committee voiced its disappointment with the way Demetrios has handled the issue of the charter, telling him that he has put the patriarchate "in a difficult position."
The Herald has learned that the Patriarchate will not even discuss the issue of autonomy or autocephaly. The same sources told the Herald that the Patriarchate will protect its rights at any cost. They added that Demetrios was told that the decisions of the Archdiocesan Council or the Clergy-Laity Congress are in no way binding to the Patriarchate, which has the last word.
The committee also expressed its disappointment to DemtriosThe committee also expressed its disappointment to Demetrios for his withholding an explanatory letter by Patriarch Bartholomaios from the Holy Eparchial Synod and the Archdiocesan Council. The letter explains the positions of the patriarchate on the charter and other specific issues related to it.
On Holy Wednesday, Demetrios met with Patriarch Bartholomaios and they discussed the charter issue as well as related developments to this day. Demetrios told Bartholomaios, and later the committee, that the present situation in America is hostile towards the patriarchate: "The prestige of the patriarchate has suffered. It is necessary for the charter issue to be discussed at the Archdiocesan Council and the Clergy-Laity Congress with transparency for reasons of defusing [the negative feelings]."
The Archbishop expressed his desire to support the positions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and promised to reverse the present course by appealing to the members of the Archdiocesan Council. Demetrios promised to speak more warmly about the patriarchate and attempt to convince the council members "to appeal anew to the parishes with a new spirit."
There has also been a dispute between the Archbishop and the hierarchs-members of the Epiarchal Synod concerning the issue of commemoration of Demetrios' name during the Divine Liturgy and the sacred services.
The issue was brought up once again by Demetrios during his meetings with Bartholomaios and the patriarchal committee. The Archbishop believes that by commemorating his name in the Holy Services by the Metropolitans, the unity of the Archdiocese is secured and manifested. The metropolitans, on the other hand, disagree and insist that theologically and eccleisologically, the correct thing is to commemorate the name of the patriarch.
The Herald has learned that there is fear at the patriarchate about possible future developments at the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress in Los Angeles, because it is believed that "Demetrios will not be able to control the situation and thus the patriarchate will find itself faced with a fait accomplis."
There are those at the Phanar who talk about "a differing mentality" between Demetrios and the patriarchate and wonder "what was the purpose of that wide representation of the Church of America during the Charter meetings," as a source put it, and emphasize that a good 72 hours of hard work and negotiations were spent on the matter only for vagueness to persist.
Two years ago, the Church of America submitted a proposed charter to the Ecumenical Patriarchate which provided for a semiautonomous administrative status similar to the one that exists in the Church of Crete. The more essential points of the Charter which institute the semi-autonomy were: a. the Elevation of the Dioceses into Metropolises; b. the election of the hierarchs of America by the Holy Epiarchal Synod of America, and, c. the institution of the triprosopon (three-person ballot) of the candidates for the election of the Archbishop by the Epiarchal Synod.
The Synod of the patriarchate accepted only one of the three proposals -- the elevation of the Dioceses into Metropolises and consequently the naming of the Metropolitan after the Metropolises of their American cities, namely Metropolitan of Denver, of Boston, of Detroit, etc. The Phanar rejected the other two by claiming that "they affect historic privilegs of the Mother Church."
A patriarchal official commenting on the election of former Archbishop Spyridon, who provided the spark that started the fire towards autonomy and even autocephaly, said, "The Phanar has learned its lesson and it would be absurdity to repeat the same mistake."
The Herald has learned that it is not only people in the Greek American community and Greece who consider Patriarch Bartholomaios responsible for Spyridon's election, but that this view is shared by many within the Phanar.
"We lost too. We suffered also with that issue, but what can you do? It happened," a well-placed source in the Phanar told the Herald. "That is why today, even if the Patriarch wants to grant autonomy to America it will be impossible because the entire hierarchy of the Patriarchate is against it."