Bishop Hilarion: Ecumenical Patriarchate seeks to impose Roman Catholic model of primacy

From Interfax:

Moscow Patriarchate disagrees with Constantinople desire to play special role in Orthodoxy

MOSCOW (April 10) — Bishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s external church relations department, has criticized the Constantinople Patriarchate’s intention to control all church communities within the Orthodox diaspora.

“I see the situation in the inter-Orthodox relations surrounding the Constantinople Patriarchate’s claim to have some special role in the Orthodox Church as one of the key challenges today,” Bishop Hilarion said at a press conference at the Interfax main office in Moscow on Friday.

“What is happening is in fact an attempt to impose a model existing in the Catholic Church on the Orthodox Church to have as centralized church power as possible, with one bishop leading it as the head of the Ecumenical Church,” he said.

“There has never been such a model in the Orthodox tradition,” Bishop Hilarion said. He doubted that “we are entitled to revise our teaching about the Church.”

The leading hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate are calling for revising the principle of primacy in the Orthodox world, Bishop Hilarion said. This model presumes that the Constantinople Patriarchate “should administer all the churches within the so-called diaspora,” that is, that all the communities outside the borders of the historical canonic national churches should be within Constantinople’s jurisdiction, he said.

Bishop Hilarion said this issue will be discussed at an inter-Orthodox conference in June.

Also see “The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology” by Fr. Alexander Schmemann.


  1. I would would love to see a debate between Bishop Hilarion and Fr. Elpidophoros Lambriniadis from the Phanar. Bishop Hilarion would make quick work of the Phanriot moutpiece and send him home on the first airplane to Istanbul. It probably would not even be close.

    As long as Bishop Hilarion is in Cyprus in June we can rest assured that this latest delusion of grandeur from Phanar is a simple fantasy that is far removed from Orthodox reality.

  2. John in Tulsa :

    We need unity in America with ALL “jurisdcitions” and the “Orthodox Church of the Americas” should have its Patriarch in Washington DC. We can send the Old World Patriarchs a check every month to keep them happy. UNITY IS OVERDUE! We look like fools!

  3. George Michalopulos :

    John, Amen!

  4. Michael Bauman :

    Andrew, any debate would indeed be one-sided. +Hilarion’s clarity of mind, understanding of the Holy Tradition and ability to communicate would make any such debate meaningless.

    Clearly Moscow has the lead in the realm of world Orthodoxy. Just as clearly the EP feels threatened.

  5. I getting a lesson that saddens me greatly. Why would I want to be a part of a so called American Orthodox church if its members show the kind of bitterness towards my jurisdiction. This does not sound like reasonable dissagreement, but rather immature one upsmanship. This is also my problem with met. Jonah. He shows the same kind of bitter, chip on the sholder attitude.

    Orthodox unity is a long way off. The OCA and the AOCA will not join forces. It seems as though they are satisfied to just criticize the “Greeks” while their supporters ignore the fact that there has been no meaningful move towards unity on either of their parts.

    How sad.

    What great pearls of wisdom came from Bishop Hilarion’s comments posted above? It seems we see great wisdom in the things with which we agree while seeing buffoonery in the things with whih we disagree.

    How very sad.

  6. Michael Bauman :

    I would love to see the Greeks acting like Greek Orthodox. I would love to have their leadership for America. It would be crucial and invigorating and give substance to the words that Met. Philip has spoken for so long, evidently without meaning them. I hate the ethnic ghetto mentality (Greek, Arabic, Slav, or Anglo) because it means that so many will be driven away from the the Church. Until we abolish the separatist mentality, the Church will never be whole in this land. It is not Christian whatever nationality or ethos used to justify it.

    An American Church will be Greek, Arabic, Slavic, Anglo-Germanic, Hispanic, Creole, Afro-American, Asian, Polish, and Irish under one Holy Synod. Feel defensive if you want, but the supremacy of the Greeks is a figment of imagination. So far, I have yet to meet a single Greek Orthodox who is not deluded by it.

    However, the Gospel read at The Bridegroom Matins tonight convicts us all, Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Matt 22:13

    That is how we will be judged not on our own ‘private’ salvation which is achieved by allowing the Lazarus starving at our door to go hungry as we feast on self-rigtheousness and mythic glory from the past or the triumphalism of the present.

    I am tired of the self-righteous apathy that whines, “Oh we Americans are just too immature….” As long as we remain momma’s boys, we will NEVER be mature. Yeah, Americans are adolescent, uncouth barbarians. That’s never going to change. Christ will use that, but we have to stop thinking we have to be someone else to be Christian, or Orthodox. That is hogwash.

    Don’t be ‘sad’ Tom. Do something! We have to stop being wimps. Christianity is a martial religion. The Greeks know that better than any, but it seems all that is in the past. Have you been tamed? We don’t need Dhimmi snobs! Christianity is radical, revolutionary and totally unique. Christianity is infinitely adaptable without ever loosing her essence. Why do we insist on dampening the fire we have been given?

  7. It is unfortunate and deeply troubling for me to seethe whole dispute over the Ecumenical Patriarchate becoming a Greek thing. I am also concerned about the prospective isolation of the Greek Orthodox from other Orthodox Christians in America.

    To Michael Bauman, I am a Greek and I have no idea what this “supremacy of the Greeks” is.

    To Tom Kanelos, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has lost its focus and direction, and needs to be restored to the purpose that the holy Canons and Orthodox tradition grant it. That is to the status of “First Among Equals” with a “primacy of honor” and should accurately reflect the interests of the Orthodox Churches rather than seeking to impose its will on them unilaterally.

    The Phanar needs to be reigned in. I believe the current Patriarch started out strong in March 1992 by convening a Synod in Constantinople that limited dialogue with the Vatican to the single of Uniatism.

    He went wrong after repudiating the 1994 gathering in Pennsylvania that would have opened the door for a united Orthodox Church in America, and then continued down the wrong road by intervening in the Church of Estonia and provoking the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Also, to anyone who believes this is a Greek issue I would like to remind all that the Church of Greece under the late Archbishop Christodoulos sided with Moscow in the Estonia dispute. Years later, Patriarch Alexy sided with the Church of Greece when Constantinople was involved with yet another feud with the Archbishop of Athens.

    Last July, the Archbishop of Cyprus refused to attend the Kiev celebrations out of respect for the sensitivities of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is not the only Greek Church, and its claims should not reflect the views of all Greek Orthodox.

    In February, the Metropolitan of Kalavryta in Greece wrote a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch expressing opposition to the Phanar’s dialogue with the Vatican. The Church of Greece which is quite traditionalist and conservative more accurately reflects contemporary Greek Orthodoxy than either the Phanar or the GOA.

    I believe in the Canons of the Church, and so an Autocephalous Church in America must come into existence which would embrace all Orthodox Christians of all backgrounds. I also believe in the Primacy of honor of the Ecumenical Patriarchate but not in the policies that it is pursuing at this time. I support its struggle against Turkish-Islamic oppression and violence, but not in its divisive claims with which it is wounding itself and others.

    The Ecumenical Patriarchate will thrive as long as all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches thrive and needs to listen to them. At the same time, the Autocephalous Churches should respect the heritage and history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which is the heritage of all Orthodox Christians.


  8. I am glad to hear that Bishop Hilarion doubts that “we are entitled to revise our teaching about the Church.” Hopefully all of them (or more than half at least) will have this in mind in June.

    Michael, I am surprised that you call national Churches sects. They are not necessarily the Pharisees and hypocrites that shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. Those who change the teaching of the Orthodox Church are the hypocrites.

    It is true that not everything is perfect. This is because we are imperfect. This Lent I could not skip the coffee for one single day. I’ll keep trying.

    I find this prayer appropriate for our state:

    O Lord, Look Down from Heaven…Visit this Vineyard and Perfect What Your Right Hand Has Planted.

  9. Michael Bauman :

    Eliot, unfortunately, the various ‘jurisdictions’ act like sects in this country, i.e., “distinctive system of beliefs or observances; party or school within a religion”

    If people are turn away from the Church not becasue they are offended by the truth of Christ but because they cannot see the truth of Christ in all of our foolishness, what are we?

  10. Michael,

    I am deeply saddened by the rhetoric on this site. It is not an issue of being whimpy or not. I see it as an issue of arrogance displayed by many on this site and certainly by Met. Jonah. Too many people are willing to assign motives to the Ep and the Greeok orthodox in the US with no basis in fact. Twisting of statements, sepudiations of claims with no back up, snide remarks about who will make short work out of whom. We are not acting like whuimpy Americans, we are acting like ugly Americans thinking we have all the answers.

    We are in a mess because we are in a situation never before seen in the history of the church. It will take some time to get out of it. But because WE hoosde to not doe what it takes to grow the Church and to work together, and Lord knows, we are Americans who know better and make no mistakes (I say this as a 3rd generation American who’s grandfather, as an immigrant, wore the uniform and shed his blood for this nation, my nation) it mus be the fault of the “Odl World Patriarchates”, yea, thats it!

    Come on, that is ridiculous.

    “I see the situation in the inter-Orthodox relations surrounding the Constantinople Patriarchate’s claim to have some special role in the Orthodox Church as one of the key challenges today,” (Bishop Hilarion). Well guess what, the EP does have a special role, and those who refute this are ignorant of the facts. It is NOT a special role of supremacy and jurisdiction over other autocephalous Churches and NOONE is saying that it is. But it is a special role of primacy and coordination (put very simply) which is recognized by every one of the autocephalous Churches.

    “What is happening is in fact an attempt to impose a model existing in the Catholic Church on the Orthodox Church to have as centralized church power as possible, with one bishop leading it as the head of the Ecumenical Church,” (again, Bishop Hilarion). When did the EP say this? There is a difference between the Roman model and what the EP is putting forth.

    We seem to be much happier to deal in assumptions about what the EP says or does, or about what one jurisdiction or another says of does, but when we are confronted with facts, we ignore them and go back to the same old worn out accusations. This reminds me of the Clinton administration where it was thought that if you repeat a lie often enough, eventually people start believing it.

    This is why I am sad Michael. Because the Orthodox in America aren’t even willing to get to know one another. We are not willing to try and learn each others histories and customs. We had a beautiful Pan_Orthodox Akathist service in the Chicago area last Tuesday. It has been sponsored by the Pan Orthodox Clergy Assoc of Greater Chicago. 99% in English with a few responses in Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Romanian etc. Bishop Peter of ROCOR brought the miracle working Kursk icon of the Theotokos to bless the faithful. There were only 12 priests and perhaps 200 faithful. That is typical of Pan-Orthodox events (except the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers which gets a larger crowd and more clergy). Some of the people who cry the loudes about Orthodox Unity, NEVER come to these events.

    How can we expect to work this out if the faithful do not even ket to know one another?

    Yes I am sad, because we would rather spew rhetoric against this bishop or that, against the “old World Patriarchates” etc. There is a fine line between boldness and rudeness. Between enthusiasm and arrogance. Too often we are willing to step over that line.

    As for me, I will continue to do as I have done. Support Pan-Orthodox events, get to know the Orthodox of other jurisdictions (and encourage others to do so), and pray that God will give us hierarchs to lead us where He wants us to go.

    What I will not do is throw up my hands and say “The failures of the Church here in the US are due to the Old World Patriarchates.” The old world patriarchates have not failed us, WE HAVE FAILED THEM. We have failed to live up to the evangelical zeal that they used to spread the Faith.

    In closing, as an illustration of my point that we would rather deal in accusations and assumptions than in fact, no one has answered many questions posted above and on other threads, which call for factual back-up to many claims. So you see, there is no reason for me to be anything but sad when I see this kind of animosity.

    Tom K

  11. Michael Bauman :

    Tom, unfortunately, the rhetoric about the Greeks is because the primary spokesmen for the Greeks so regularly stick their feet in the mouths, turn their backs on Orthodox morality to curry favor with worldly politicians, and act as if they have a right to own the Orthodox faith. The, “I’m Greek, you’re not, too bad for you” attitude I’ve gotten from every single Greek Orthodox person I’ve ever met (including one of my best friends) drives me crazy. When I see it in an ecclesiastic setting as often occurs, it is even worse. (BTW the attitude from my friend I never saw while she was an Roman Catholic, but it surfaced in spades as soon as she became Orthodox).

    Evidently, you and Met. Iakavos in Chicago are cut from a different cloth and perhaps Met Isiah in Denver since he has concelebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy Divine Liturgy with +Basil and with +Dimtri(OCA) the last two years.

    Believe me, I am under no illusion that Met. Philip, wants any unity that he is not in control of. I find it quite difficult to respect him in the best of times, let alone now.

    The path to unity here would be ever so much easier if the Patriarchs would lead us to unity instead of battling over us (that is the perception they give). If there were a dedication at the highest levels to seeing the American Church unified, it would happen with grace. If Pat. Bartholomew, Pat. Kyrill and Pat. Ignatius, the Romanian Pat. and the Bulgarian Pat. would agree to move toward U.S. unity under the the EP, for instance, providing all necessary assistance and direction within their respective jurisdictions; taking care to preserve the cultural continuity, we could get it done with minimal upheaval. If we are constantly put in the position of having to assert ourselves at every turn, it becomes much more difficult. There will always be recalcitrant reactionaries and unreasonable revolutionaries. Without the guidance and support of the mother Churches acting together, those two extremes will cause much more damange than otherwise.

    Right now all of the primary hierarchs are acting stupidly, at least we have that in common.

    On a worldly level any debate between Fr. Elpidophoros Lambriniadis and +Hilarion would not be a contest. There are simply too many objective realities on +Hilarion’s side, e.g.,the simple fact that he is a Bishop; his far greater experience; the body of his written work that frequently speaks eloquently to the task of Orthodoxy in our age, etc. Now, one can never account for the Holy Spirit and where He might land. However, it is one of those ruminations that is futile. Sorry I took the bait.

    However, the rhetoric on this sight is quite controlled compared to the rhetoric within the Antiochian Archdiocese right now. All of the old fault lines have reared their ugly heads with the Holy Synod’s latest decision. I’m sure festering sores as have been revealed within the Antiochian Archdiocese exist in all jurisdictions. Most of them continue to exist because of lack of real primacy (as Fr. Schmemann pointed out in his article) and a loving desire to heal the divisions. The same holds true for unity amongst the jurisdictions. (BTW, Orthodoxy already is Pan — that we have to add the adjective expresses more about our division than our unity)

    Without a functioning primacy, everyone goes his own way. Simply attempting to impose order through an Imperial, autocratic episcopate within competing jurisdictions, will never work. That is why we need unity and a genuine conciliar approach. An American autocracy would be no better than a Greek, Slav, or Arabic autocracy, so unity alone is no solution.

    In any case there will be strong words spoken as there should be. Everything we are as Christian’s and human beings is at stake. If we really want unity, we have to make quick and constant use of prayer, repentance and forgiveness.

    Please forgive me for any hurt I have caused.

  12. Michael Bauman:
    What you do looks like over-generalization – the presumed wrongdoings spread to the entire Church. I learned a valuable lesson from you: criticism is not the way to the Kingdom. What happened to you?

    I was close to falling into despair but this is not the way either. What about pointing out the good? Also keeping in mind that it is first our passions or indifference (and most often both) that can separate us from Christ.

  13. Michael Bauman :

    Eliot, I’m sorry that you are stuggling and deeply regret if my words have added to your struggle. I don’t really think I’m being critical however. Some specifics:
    +Nicolai and Met. Herman of the OCA were removed from their positions in large part because of their autocratic approach to the office of bishop. The EP speaking through Fr. Lambriniadis says that everyone should come under Constantiople to be real Orthodox. The Holy Synod of Antioch demotes our dioscean bishops and effectively abrogates our self-rule without explanation, clear reason or consultation. Met. Jonah in his proposal to re-organize the OCA seems to put the bishops outside any accountablity in the process and tells everybody else to keep their hands off. Those are some of the specifics.

    I view what is occuring with a great deal of hope. Positive change is actually occuring. People are waking up and taking our faith seriously beyond the scope of our own personal confines.

    When you make the statement “the presumed wrongdoings spread to the entire Church” you misconstrue the nature of the Church IMO. The Church is one (despite our apparent disunity). That is an ontological fact and will continue to be so as long as the Holy Spirit is with us.

    The challenge with which we are faced is to recognize and incarnate the ontological unity we have been given by our Lord’s greater Incarnation. It is a unity that is eternal in nature uniting not only us here present but all those gone before us who lie asleep in the Lord and all those yet to come, the saints and the angelic host.

    As long as we continue to separate ourselves from one another for simply worldly reasons, we truncate our ability to experience and to live in the Kingdom; we diminish greatly our ability to communicate the truth of our oneness in Christ to others.

    We will always face the challenge of sin that wants to divide us, but we don’t have to cooperate with it so blatantly.

  14. Scott Pennington :

    Tom et al.,

    It seems to me that the fundamental problem underlying this dispute is the correct interpretation of Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council.

    I have tried to find some reasonable defense of the Phanar’s position on this subject. I have read the Canon and the comment in the Rudder. They do not indicate to me in any way that the EP has any claim to jurisdiction, based on that canon, beyond the three provinces mentioned and adjacent barbarian areas.

    I have also found no serious refutation of the charge that the whole question of jurisdiction over the whole “barbarian” world was cooked up originally under Patriarch Melitios (Metaxakis) in the twenties in order, essentially to grab power. Take some time to read about Melitios’ activities and you will see why no one should trust anything that came out of Constantinople during his Patriarchate.

    If someone has access to a serious defense of the EP’s claims based on longstanding interpretation of Canon 28 by church authorities (ideally both Greek and other) then please direct me to it.

    If not, then the EP’s claims seem absurd on their face. The full scope of what the Phanar is suggesting is that Constantinople would have had cause to prevent even Rome from forming missions in jurisdictions not named as its own. This and other arguments, like the phrase “after Rome” being construed to mean “replacing Rome” really make one wonder at the utter arrogance of the claims being made.

    Unless I’m missing something, this debate is totally one sided with the EP on one side making disingenuous claims even he and his synod can’t possibly seriously believe, and the rest of the Orthodox world just shaking its head and lamenting the gall of the proponents in the Phanar.

    That’s why you perceive so much animosity toward the EP, Father Elpidophoros, etc. They are not acting in good faith.

  15. Michael Bauman:
    “The Church is one (despite our apparent disunity). That is an ontological fact and will continue to be so as long as the Holy Spirit is with us.”

    I keep saying the same thing: we are in communion as long as we stand in the Truth. When you call national churches sects it means that the Holy Spirit is not there. I am sure this is not true.

    I am not too much concerned about administrative unity. Fr. David Hudson said that “all the things that here in America cause us to cling to the separation […] were (and still are) encompassed within a single local and national Orthodoxy. (comment #3)

    BTW, Fr. David’s conversion story is very interesting:

  16. Michael Bauman :

    Eliot, we tend to act like sects rather than the one Church. That is the impression we give to many. We are quaint, archaic culture clubs with good food and pretty pictures.

    A real move toward unity would be an historic and a great testimony in and of itself. We would be more accurately reflecting who we really are.

    Unity would not be a panacea, it would be difficult.

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