Appeal for Unity and Dignity of the Orthodox Church

Translated from the original French

We, the descendants of various migrations of the 20th century or people of Western origin, have inherited from our forefathers an Orthodoxy that is “the Church of Christ on Earth”, a reality that is greater than any form of social, cultural or national rootedness. The Orthodox Church, in all situations in which she exists, is called to be incarnated in local cultures, because, as “the new life in Christ”, the Church is universal. But this universality is never abstract: it is tangible in each place, in each Eucharistic community where the faithful, gathered in a diversified unity, share the same Orthodox faith received from the Apostles and transmitted by the Fathers.

In Western Europe, Orthodox Christians of different origins have lived together for four generations, and we have understood that it is our responsibility to witness together to Orthodoxy, in a fraternal dialogue with other Christians, in a world that hungers for God. For fifty years, the Orthodox Fellowship in Western Europe, among other aims, has sought to enable a gathering of all the Orthodox in a Eucharistic unity and a canonical structure that is in conformity with our ecclesiology. This ecclesiology is territorial, in which there is no form of “nationalism” or competition among dioceses, but which does not renounce the place of cultures, languages or peoples. In his sense, the establishment of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France in 1997 was a significant step forward.

In this context, we have learned with great sadness of the “Appeal to Unity and Romanian Dignity” of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church on the 11 February 2010. In this message – which contains no reference to God, to Christ or to the Holy Spirit – the Holy Synod of the Romanian Church, claiming that it is following the Russian and Serbian examples, appeals to all the Romanian Orthodox clergy and faithful abroad, who may find themselves “without blessing” in other sister Orthodox churches, to restore their “direct communion” with the Patriarchate of Romania. We understand the pastoral concern of the Patriarchate of Bucharest for the Romanian faithful who find themselves isolated in foreign lands. Nevertheless, is it not shocking to present this concern as a prerogative of the faithful of Romanian nationality, wherever they live, in a way that is contrary to Orthodox ecclesiology? In this way, the reference made to the Council of Nicea is not valid, as the Council Fathers reject the idea of dioceses that are defined on ethnic criteria, and refer, as do the Apostles, only to the territorial criterion.

Coming at a time when, in the context of the preconciliar process, all the Orthodox churches are committed to a promising joint reflection on the future of the communities of the so-called “disapora” (despite this being a concept which is largely obsolete), we are troubled by this appeal which implies that all Romanian Orthodox should, when abroad, naturally prefer “direct” communion with the Orthodox Church of Romania. However, there is only One Church, the Church of Christ, and we all commune directly with His body and His blood. Do not the sister churches of the Church of Romania, in which some Romanian faithful in the West may find themselves as a result of their life circumstances and the unpredictability of relations among churches, share the same fullness of the Orthodox faith? Are they not exactly the same Church of Christ? On which criteria should the multi-ethnic Orthodox communities in the West be dismembered, sending foreigners back to his or her mother church? These initiatives destabilize our communities that seek to witness to the resurrection of Christ in a world that is fragmented and indifferent; they are a source of suffering, of tensions and of national rivalry among the faithful.
We fear that this approach will not only affect the dignity of those churches that choose this direction, but will also affect the unity and Catholicity of the Church. We recall the prophetic concern of the Fathers of the Council of Constantinople of 1872: “We reject and condemn ethnophyletism as against the teaching of the Gospel and of the Holy Canons of our Fathers, that is, discrimination based on ethnic criteria, as well as the quarrels and differences of national character in the Church of Christ.”

The Church of Christ cannot be instrumentalized in the service of the unity and dignity of a nation. As the Ark of salvation that gives access to the Kingdom of God, the Church does not belong to any particular nation. Striving, despite our unworthiness, to witness to the reality of this Salvation, we call for the unity of all Orthodox Christians in the West and elsewhere, and to the defence of the dignity of the Orthodox Church, which starts with the respect of Apostolic ecclesiology: since Pentecost, “there is neither Greek nor Jew… Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Christ is Risen!

Paris, on Sunday the 11th of April 2010, Sunday of Thomas

Les 28 signataires :

Nicolas Behr, retraité, membre du bureau de la Fraternité orthodoxe en Europe occidentale, Paris,

P. Boris Bobrinskoy, doyen honoraire de l’Institut de théologie orthodoxe Saint-Serge, Paris,

P. Hildo Bos, prêtre de la paroisse Saint-Nicolas-de-Myre, Amsterdam,

P. Jean Breck, professeur à l’Institut de théologie orthodoxe Saint-Serge, Paris,

Denys Clément, médecin, membre du bureau de la Fraternité orthodoxe en Europe occidentale, France,

Sophie Clément-Stavrou, maître de conférences à l’Institut de théologie orthodoxe Saint-Serge, membre du bureau de la Fraternité orthodoxe en Europe occidentale,

P. Christophe D’Aloisio, recteur de la paroisse de la Sainte-Trinité et des saints-Côme-et-Damien, Bruxelles, président de Syndesmos, organisation mondiale de la Jeunesse orthodoxe,

P. Michel Evdokimov, professeur émérite de l’Université de Poitiers, recteur de la paroisse Saints-Pierre-et-Paul, Châtenay-Malabry, France,

P. Alexandre Fostiropoulos, recteur de la paroisse Saints-Pierre-et-Paul, Clapham, Londres,

P. Jean Gueit, doyen pour les paroisses du sud-est de la France (Archevêché des églises russes en Europe occidentale), aumônier de la Fraternité orthodoxe en Europe occidentale,

Jean-Marie Gourvil, enseignant, membre du bureau de la Fraternité orthodoxe de l’Ouest, France,

P. Claude Hiffler, médecin, recteur de la paroisse Saints-Côme-et-Damien d’Avignon, France,

Jean-Jacques Laham, coorganisateur du Festival de la jeunesse orthodoxe, Paris,

Daniel Lossky, enseignant, membre du bureau de la Fraternité orthodoxe en Europe occidentale, Belgique,

P. Nicolas Lossky, professeur à l’Institut de théologie orthodoxe Saint-Serge, archiprêtre de la paroisse Notre-Dame-Joie-des-Affligés-et-Sainte-Geneviève, Paris,

Ana Palanciuc, enseignante à l’Université de Paris VII,

P. Ignace Peckstadt, recteur de la paroisse Saint-André, Gand, Belgique,

Jean-Claude Polet, professeur à l’Université de Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgique,

Noël Ruffieux, chargé d’un cours à l’Université de Fribourg, Suisse,

Cyrille Sollogoub, enseignant-chercheur au Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, président de l’Action Chrétienne des Etudiants Russes,

Matthieu Sollogoub, professeur à l’Université de Paris VI, membre du bureau de la Fraternité orthodoxe en Europe occidentale,

Michel Stavrou, professeur à l’Institut de théologie orthodoxe Saint-Serge, Paris,

P. Alexis Struve, recteur de la paroisse de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris,

Daniel Struve, maître de conférences à l’Université de Paris VII-Diderot,

Anca Vasiliu, directeur de recherche au CNRS (Centre Léon-Robin, Paris-Sorbonne),

P. Dominique Verbecke, prêtre de la paroisse Saint-André, Gand, inspecteur de l’enseignement orthodoxe en Belgique,

Bertrand Vergely, maître de conférences à l’Institut de théologie orthodoxe Saint-Serge,

P. Vladimir Zelinsky, recteur de la paroisse Notre-Dame-Joie-des-Affligés, Brescia, Italie.