The Romanian Patriarch issued an appeal on February 11, 2010 “…to all Romanian Orthodox clerics and faithful abroad, who are, without blessing, in other sister Orthodox Churches or in non-canonical church structures, to restore their direct communion with their Mother Church, under the canonical jurisdiction of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church.”
Taking what appears to be a page from the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s book, the Romanian Patriarchate asserts the universality of the Church (the “Catholic — or katholikos in the Nicene Creed’s “…only Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church) is derived not from the trans-cultural, trans-tribal, and trans-national character of the Gospel, but from ethnic identity and affiliation albeit without the accouterments such as the universality of Hellenism to buttress the argument.
Not everyone agrees. I’ve posted the response to the appeal first, and the original appeal second. Postings on this page are truncated (signers names have been removed for space) but you can read the response to the appeal and original appeal on separate pages.
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
Read the response to the appeal including signers.
Appeal to Unity and Romanian Dignity
At the beginning of the year 2010, proclaimed by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church as Anniversary Year of the Orthodox Creed and of Romanian Autocephaly, in the context of the 125th anniversary of the moment when the Romanian Orthodox Church became autocephalous and of the 85th anniversary of the elevation to the rank of Patriarchate, the hierarchs of the Holy Synod are reaching out and addressing a Heartfelt appeal to all Romanian Orthodox clerics and faithful abroad, who are, without blessing, in other sister Orthodox Churches or in non-canonical church structures, to restore their direct communion with their Mother Church, under the canonical jurisdiction of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
The realization of this desideratum is the fulfillment of the provisions of the Bylaw for the Organization and Functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which mentions that the Romanian Orthodox Church is the Church of the Romanian people and encompasses all Orthodox Christians in Romania and the Romanian Orthodox Christians abroad (article 5), and the canonical and pastoral organization of the Romanian Orthodox faithful outside Romania is ensured by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church (article 8). This principle is in full accordance with the decision of the Panorthodox Preconciliar Conference of Chambésy-Switzerland (June 6-13, 2009), which specifies that each autocephalous Church has the right to shepherd its own diaspora.
The above-mentioned principles are expressing the duty of the Romanian Orthodox Church and are based upon the 16th Canon of the 1st Ecumenical Council (325), which contains the principle that no diocese is allowed to receive under its jurisdiction Orthodox clerics and faithful, without the blessing of the Church (diocese) to which they belong.
To this end, we are mentioning that the process of returning of the clergy and faithful of different nationalities to their Mother Churches (such as in the Moscow Patriarchate and the Serbian Patriarchate) has already started for a long time and has shown that, through shared responsibility and ethnic Orthodox solidarity, the conjunctural historical feuds, based on past political motives, can be overcome.
Now, when 20 years have passed since the fall of the Communist regime in Eastern Europe, when Romania is a member of the European Union and of NATO and in the context of an unprecedented activity of the Romanian Orthodox Church abroad, through the reorganization and foundation of numerous dioceses across the world, we think that there are no more real reasons to reject the call of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church to unity and Romanian Orthodox communion.
We are confident that this attitude of Romanian Orthodox resurrection and reconciliation will consolidate and intensify the pastoral-missionary, social-philanthropic and cultural-educational ministry of the Romanian Orthodox Church everywhere, strengthening at the same time the Romanian Orthodox dignity, through the liberation of some Romanian Orthodox from considering themselves ‘searchers of canonical shadows’ among strangers.
We are regretting that, for several reasons, some of our Romanian Orthodox brothers have sought other Orthodox jurisdictions, during Communism, but what was understandable in the past has become unreasonable and regrettable in present times, amounting to estrangement of Romanians from one another, up to their church division.
Being confident that our appeal to unity and Romanian Orthodox dignity will be received with joy and responsibility, as a desire for communion and brotherly cooperation, we are sharing with everyone our utmost respect and fatherly blessing.
Bucharest, February 11, 2010
Read the original appeal including signers.