Metropolitan Says This Should Be It For Charter

By Theodore Kalmoukos
Reprinted from The National Herald

Boston -- Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, the first ranking hierarch after the archibishop, is very clear when it comes to the charter: this is it, he says. "We should accept the charter as is, because it is the product of much agony, much work, much thought and certainly much prayer," he told The National Herald last week.

The charter, Iakovos said, is a sacred text, granted by the ecclesiastical authority, which, for the Church in America is the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Despite the fact that the patriarchate gave this Church the liberty to form committees comprised of hierarchs, clergy, and laity, and draft the charter text, he said, the final decision is still the patriarchate's.

The metropolitan said theological knowledge is key to understanding the way the Church and its traditions work.

"The charter cannot be the subject of discussion by many. Ecclesiastical charters are not similar to the ones of various associations, neither are legal documents. Ecclesiastical charter means knowledge of Church history, theology, ecclesiology and tradition. It is in these frames that an ecclesiastical charter is written," he said.

Iakovos expressed his satisfaction with the charter and said he was happy with the outcome of the four bilateral meetings that took place in Constantinople between the patriarchal and archdiocesan committees.

"We requested something more, knowing from the beginning it would be difficult to be granted to us," the metropolitan said. "Provisions such as the election of the archbishop and the election of the metropolitans are elements that constitute semi-autonomy or autonomy.  We experienced some difficulties during our extensive discussions [with the patriarchal charter committee] but at the end we agreed on the structure of the charter, and in that way it should have been given to our people."

Metropolitan Iakovos would not say whether the Church in America is ready for autonomy or not. "These huge jumps are not always profitable, nor constructive," he said.  "We should walk with much prudence so that we don't find ourselves in danger later and have difficulty coping."

The hierarch also talked about the issue of the dual commemoration of the names of the archbishop and the local metropolitans during the Divine Liturgy and other services. Metropolitan Iakovos said: "I personally know of one commemoration, according to our Orthodox ecclesiology -- the commemoration of the local hierarch. The laity who don't know ecclesiology simply mention various reasons concerning the infamous unity of the archdiocese by commemorating the name of the archbishop everywhere. I say, the archbishop is the elected one, he is the exarch of the Mother Church, he is the president of the Holy Synod, he presides upon the various organizations and bodies of the archdiocese, he receives the heads of states, no one diminishes his personality nor his archbishopric office. The Church should not enter into anti-canonical positions, because then it appears that she [the Church] doesn't believe in her canonicity. That of course applies even more to the Mother Church, which should be the rule of correctness and canonicity. The correct and most proper way of commemoration is that the metropolitans commemorate the name of the patriarch and the priests the name of their local metropolitan."

Asked whether he considers autonomy for the archdiocese unavoidable in the future, Iakovos said: "I do not wish to play the role of a prophet.  Let us allow history to take its course.  We should not hurry, because as Fr. Demetrios Constantelos says, 'we hurried to abolish the Greek language; now it is not used in our parish councils, neither in the philoptochos, nor in our Sunday schools."

Iakovos said he believes "the Church should use the Greek language, mainly in our worship, more than it does today, because the understanding and the participation in the prayer of the worship is not a linguistic matter, but rather it is a matter of faith and purity of heart," he said. "No matter which language is in use in the church, we stand in front of the Almighty Lord."

With the Clergy-Laity Congress taking place in July, Metropolitan Iakovos proposed that the event be convened every five years, instead of every two. He said the event has become too expensive for many parishes and that its cost may be one of the reasons why this year's expected participation is so low.

The metropolitan also said that by holding the event every five years the archdiocese will have the time to implement the decisions of every congress. "Plus the desire and the anticipation of the faithful for the next congress will grow, and also the financial burden will become less pressing."

"The small numbers of participants is a very serious matter and it has concerned the archdiocese in the past as well as presently," Iakovos said. "I should say that the way things are developing, the congresses have become a little too expensive.  It seems to me that the main obstacle for many parishes, especially the smaller ones, is finances."

However, Iakovos said he believes that these congresses have helped the Church in America progress in many areas of ecclesiastical life.

"I think the Clergy-Laity congresses constitute an important chapter in the history of our archdiocese for many reasons.  The first positive element I believe is the gathering of the archbishop, the hierarchy, the clergy, and the laity of our parishes in prayer and consolation for the advancement of our ecclesiastical life in a family atmosphere. The results are positive for those who go to the congress with good intentions, and with open heart and mind," Iakovos said. "Even the fact that we come together as a Church is a positive sign."

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