Editorial: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew ‘crossed the line’

From the Dec. 11 National Herald (HT: Orthodox Christian Laity):

Give us your property!!!

The demand – for that is what it is, in essence – by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to our Metropolitans, presented in a letter signed by him, to transfer ownership of at least one building from each one of them to the Patriarchate, is a terrible idea and the request should be withdrawn immediately.

If it is not withdrawn, then the metropolitans ought to make it clear to Barthlomew that for the sake of maintaining the unity of the church, and the ties to the Patriarchate, they will refuse to obey or even discuss it with the laity. If there should be a metropolitan who, acting to serve his narrow self interest, tries to pressure the parishioners into transferring a property of their community or the diocese to the Patriarchate, then the people should deny him his request and hold him in low esteem.

Because, should this outrageous demand be obeyed, it could lead to the breaking up into pieces of our Church, and to its being controlled by forces in Turkey, which would work toward its neutralization, if not its dissolution as an ethnic group.

We wish there was a nicer way to say it, but this demand by Bartholomew has crossed the line. It is so unacceptable and offensive, but also so revealing of his designs on our Church and its assets, that it raises many questions about his relationship to this community.

This newspaper – as well as our Greek language sister publication – has been very sensitive and supportive of the Patriarchate as a religious institution, with its long and important history. We have also been supportive of its continuing ecclesiastical authority over our Greek American Church.

However, we hold nothing more dear than the interests of our community.

It is to the community that we owe our total dedication and alliance.

The Patriarchate’s letter to the metropolitans does not serve its interests. It sounds innocent: Transfer ownership of “at least” one building to us from each metropolis so that we can, somehow – even if it is not very clear how – save the Patriarchate. It is hard to believe that a Patriarch would attach his signature to such a proposal.

Still, if all it took to save the Patriarchate from the reach of the Turks was transferring a number of buildings to it, we would probably be the first ones to support the plan. But of course it is not a transparent solution.

Thus, what Barthlomew is demanding is totally unacceptable, and raises a number of issues and troubling questions:

First of all, our people work too hard to come up with the money needed to buy the properties that belong to the communities and to the metropolises to give them away.

Second, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is – by political necessity – a Turkish institution subject to the interference, if not the control, of the Turkish state.

Even if the transfer of properties were to be hidden in a web of international corporations, at the end of the day, ownership would be traced back to where it would belong, to the Turkish State.

Third, by taking over at least one building in each metropolis – and one wonders why so many building are needed – the Patriarchate would establish direct ownership authority at a local level. In due time, they might ask for a second building and so on, thus moving towards controlling the finances as well of each metropolis and through them, the parishes.

Fourth, sending this kind of letter was made possible after breaking up our archdiocese into Metropolises, thus weakening its administrative cohesiveness and the office of the Archbishop.

Fifth, should a building be transferred to new owners, who would collect any income it might have or pay for its maintenance?

Finally, Bartholomew should learn to trust and communicate openly with our people. In our system and way of life, our leaders consult with the people, explain their proposals and ask for their approval. They do not use others to manipulate them.

The argument that Bartholmew uses to appeal to the metropolitans to do his bidding troubles us greatly: he appeals to the sense of indebtedness the metropolitans might feel toward him. “We do not doubt at all,” he writes, “that your Eminence too, in its known love and devotion to the Mother Church that fed you and made you what you are, that you will act, according to the above ecclesiastical decision as soon as possible, and inform us in writing, attaching all the signed related documents and title of ownership of a property or titles of ownership of properties so that we can file them in the proper place.”

How naive do they think we are?


  1. Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim :

    For a bishop who is supposed to be an “expert” in the canons, this is truly pathetic.

    Bishoprics (i.e. ecclesiastical dioceses) & metropolitan provinces have always been considered individual local churches & administrative divisions of a group of local churches. The patriarch is the bishop of his own bishopric and metropolitan of a province as well as exarch of a civil diocese (not to be confused with an ecclesiastical diocese as the bishoprics are so often called in modern times). This much has a strong canonical basis.

    However, I would appreciate it if someone would point out the canons that entitle a patriarch to literally own a piece of every metropolitan province. This request, in and of itself, is embarrassing, but when one considers that it has come from the pen of the universal primate of the world-wide Orthodox Christian Church it is even worse. Perhaps His All Holiness spent a little too much time in Rome in his younger years?

    On top of this canonical non-sense, he has the audacity use manipulative language in an effort to guilt the Archbishop & the Metropolitans into pressuring their flocks into complying with his “ecclesiastical decision”. It is completely shameful!

    How is this based upon the canons or, more importantly, upon love? Love does not coerce others in order to get its own way. Perhaps there is an ultimately good intention behind this whole effort. However, even if this is the case, where in the Gospels did our Lord ever teach us, by his words or his example, that the end justifies the means.


    I realize and accept the fact that without the bishop there can be no Church, but lately I find myself wondering if many of these hierarchs even bother to read the Gospel anymore. [Please excuse the upcoming sarcasm but I am trying to make a point.] Granted, I suppose it is challenging to find the time for such a relatively boring activity as reading the Gospel when one is so busy dressing up like the Byzantine Emperor and holding out one’s hand to be kissed by the peasant-laity, but there has to be something that anchors these bishops to fundamental Christian standards in the midst of the stormy waves of life in this world.

    Forget standing up, would the real bishops please make a prostration before the icon of Christ our Lord? Or is this too lowly for the dignity of a hierarch of the 21st century? Maybe the peasant-laity should sweep the floor first, and then roll out a nice soft orlets rug so that the prostration is not so uncomfortable for the hierarchs? Maybe we should close our eyes during the prostration so that that we do not see their episcopal behinds sticking up in the air when they are in mid-prostration? Of course, all this depends upon a bishop actually making a prostration in the presence of his flock.

    I thinks that it would behoove us to recall the reason why the bishops are supposed to be chosen from among the monastics in the first place. I am referring to true monastics who live in obedience to an elder’s will in the setting of a monastic community rather then men who have affiliated with a monastery for 5 minutes in order to legalistically fulfill the canons for episcopal election. A real monastic has learned from bitter-sweet experience how to die to the self-will & live in obedience to Christ, thus gaining the dispassion that empowers him discern between God’s will & his own will. Considering that we have become so legalistic in our selection of candidates for the office of bishop, how can we be surprised by all the hypocrisy that we are confronted with? Legalism & hypocrisy are opposite sides of the same ugly coin.

    Thank God for humble archpastors, like His Holiness, Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory, who inspire the faithful to freely & enthusiastically obey! May God grant us, His rational sheep, many more faithful shepherds of this ilk!

    O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners!

  2. George Michalopulos :

    Seraphim, your words sting with a true prophetic witness. I pray that they prick the consciences of certain bishops.

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