On the ‘gradual consolidation of the Orthodox diasporas’

Comments from Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk on the pre-conciliar deliberations at Chambesy, Switzerland, which was to address, in part, “problems in the Orthodox diaspora.” In this interview with the Russian news service Interfax, before leaving for the meeting, the archbishop talks about the “many faces” of the Orthodox ‘diaspora’ and the agenda setting process for a Great Council. The Chambesy meeting, scheduled for June 6-13, is the fourth Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference with the most recent one taking place in 1986, according to the news service.

Interfax: The forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference in Chambesy will deal with the Orthodox diaspora. What is today’s Orthodox diaspora in your view? Can we speak about even the smallest degree of its integrity or does it represent scattered local communities of the faithful of Local Churches whose ethnic and national ‘dividing walls’ reach as high as heaven?

Archbishop Hilarion: The life and order of an Orthodox community that exists outside its Local Orthodox Church is often a direct reflection of the picture of church life as it has developed historically within this particular Church. Along with parishes of various ethnic traditions – Greek, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, etc. – in the diaspora there are also multinational parishes, which seek to meet the needs of their parishioners whom the fate has willed to come under their responsibility. The Orthodox Diaspora therefore has many faces just as the Orthodox world itself is diverse.

But to say that Orthodox communities are utterly split would be to show real ignorance about the very life of the diaspora. It is characteristic of an Orthodox person to seek communication with a like-minded Orthodox person, and people would sometimes overcome great distances, language barriers and other obstacles to meet a particular Orthodox priest or attend a divine service. In this way the gradual consolidation of Orthodox diasporas takes place, which we think can lead in the future to the emergence of new Local Orthodox Churches.

Interfax: Will you name please the most obvious ‘painful spots’ of today’s inter-Orthodox dialogue and, of course, possible ways of healing them?

Archbishop Hilarion: The way of healing ‘painful spots’ is indicated in the question itself: it is dialogue, common discussion on arising problems, liturgical communion and fellowship in other church activities, introduction to the customs of every national tradition, free exchange of opinions and joint decision-making in the spirit of Christ, the Gospel and the Holy Tradition of the Church.

Today one cannot say that any particular problem presents a serious threat to the unity of Orthodoxy. What is on the agenda is the fostering of unity through common decisions on the dialogue with Catholicism and Protestantism, on developing possible unification in applying sacred canons in the modern world, on the regulation of church life in the Orthodox diaspora, on the understanding of the church institutions of autocephaly and autonomy and so forth.

Interfax: What are the specific intra-confessional tasks of inter-Orthodox dialogue, distinct from those of inter-Christian dialogue? How the Orthodox unity is important in itself, outside the fraternal relations with the Catholics, Protestants and other Christians?

Archbishop Hilarion: The most important task of pan-Orthodox dialogue has always lied in fostering the unity of the Church with preserving its Holy Tradition. To this end it is necessary to consolidate the theological self-awareness of the Orthodox Church, to exchange experience in catechism and education, to provide pastoral care and to ensure the Church’s participation in social work in today’s situation and many other things. The unity of Orthodoxy is also necessary for elaborating a common response to the challenges presented by the rapidly changing world. Among the forms of real expression of pan-Orthodox cooperation are preparations for the Holy and Great Council of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is to consider some pressing issues requiring a pan-Orthodox decision. The work of Councils should demonstrate the effectiveness of Orthodox ecclesiological tradition in the modern historical situation.


  1. Tom Kanelos :

    Well George, are you prepared to say that Archbishop Hilarion is a heretic because he clearly believe that there is an Orthodox diaspora?

  2. Perhaps he won’t, Tom, but I am willing to say that it is intellectually dishonest, ahistorical, unapostolic and unchristian.

    It plays with the word ‘diaspora’ like atheists play with the various meanings of ‘evolution.’ Hence, intellectually dishonest.

    There is no place in the history of the Church where it was used to refer to Christians. Hence ahistorical.

    I cannot even imagine the Apostolic community, or their successors ever using the word, or even thinking in this way. It is clearly used for power, not mission.

    AND I say it is unChristian. Very Jewish, perhaps, but unChristian, as it clearly implies there is a Christian homeland. Heaven in our Christian homeland, not a restored Byzantine Empire. Shame on ANYONE who supports the heretical Megali Idea.

    If Hilarion and the MP will continue making statements like this, then I’m afraid Orthodoxy is lying to converts, the world, and themselves about what Orthodoxy really is.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    Tom, to be honest with you, I can’t even begin to understand what that entire interview with Interfax meant. As I said, I am willing to cut Old World hierarchs slack regarding this term as to them, we look like dispersed flocks (again, not a good thing, nobody wanted to leave their homelands on their own.)

    My bugbear is that when WE use the term. When we use it, we are buying into a heresy in that we are burying the light of truth under a bushel, making sure that the “barbarians” don’t see it. When THEY use it, they are concerned because of the terrible things that happened to their people in the past (Bolshevik revolution, Armenian genocide, Balkan ethnic cleansings, etc.) and who are now living in N & S America, Western Europe, Australia, etc.

    Again, I’m being very charitable. Perhaps Archbishop Hilarion is using it in this sense, I don’t know. But I can honestly say that the Phanar couldn’t care le$$ about u$ as an aggrieved minority. We know what their concern$ about the “dia$pora” are. Otherwi$e, they never would have let the GOA go down the road of Ortho-protestantism from which it is doubtful we’ll ever come back (except for the monasteries). Personally, I would like to see Lambrianides put his money where his mouth is and go on a speaking tour of GOA parishes, telling them how unOrthodox their pews and organs are, how deficient their translations are, etc. I rather doubt he or anybody else from the Phanar ever will.

  4. Oh well, it looks like the OCA is going to sweat it out for another 6 months before the Patriarchates make any decisions regarding its autocephaly.

    Google translated:


    Release At the invitation of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Following the consensus of the Primates of the beatitudes most holy Churches local Orthodox, as expressed during their summit held in Phanar from 10 to 12 October 2008, the IV e Panorthodoxe preconciliar Conference met at Center of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva, from 6 to 12 June 2009.

    The Conference began with the concelebration panorthodoxe of the divine liturgy, the day of Pentecost. They were held under the chairmanship of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon, delegate Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the contribution of Secretary for preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Jérémie Switzerland. In the Conference was attended by delegates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, at the invitation of His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    The Primates of Local Orthodox Churches welcomed participants to the Conference of messages sent or forwarded by their delegates. The members of the Conference have sent letters to all the Primates of the Churches local, asking their prayers and blessings for their accomplish their task.

    In accordance with the wishes of the Primates and representatives of churches local Orthodox expressed in the message broadcast at the end of their meeting at Phanar (October 2008), the IV e Conference panorthodoxe preconciliar was to examine the question of the canonical organization of the Diaspora Orthodox.

    The Conference decided that its agenda at the meeting opening of its work. The Conference reviewed the documents prepared by the Commission Preparatory interorthodoxe at its two meetings in Chambésy, ie that of 10 to 17 November 1990 and from 7 to 13 November 1993 and the document prepared by Congress canonists Chambésy met from 9 to 14 April 1995. These documents, out, corrected and supplemented, have been approved unanimously.

    The Conference expressed the willingness of Orthodox Churches solve the problem of the canonical Orthodox Diaspora, PURSUANCE to ecclesiology, tradition and practice of canonical the Orthodox Church. The Conference decided to create new assemblies Bishops in some regions of the world to address the Diaspora, ie the Orthodox faithful installed in areas in outside the traditional boundaries of the local Orthodox Churches.

    The first bishops in the region are of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Presidents of the Assemblies and in their absence, the bishops following according to the order of dyptique Churches. All the bishops of the Churches Orthodox exercising their pastoral ministry in the community existing in each of these areas are members of these Assemblies. The Episcopal Assemblies are mandated to demonstrate and promote the unity of the Orthodox Church, to exercise all of the pastoral diakonia

    IV MPC Release 2 faithful of the region and make the world their common witness. The Episcopal Assembly decisions are taken in accordance with the principle unanimity of the churches represented in these assemblies by bishops. After amended and supplemented, the Conference also approved the Proposed Regulations Episcopal Assemblies of defining the principles basic organization and operation thereof. The remaining topics of the holy and great Council, ie the method of proclaim the autocephaly and autonomy, and the order of Ditpyques, will be discussed in future meetings of the Commissions interorthodoxes preparation and will be submitted for approval to Conferences panorthodoxes preconciliar following.

    Done in Chambésy on 12 June 2009.

    The President of the Conference
    † John of Pergamon

    (emphasis added)

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Joe, it seems like to me the only person sweating is the EP. Looks like all his ducks aren’t lined up in a pretty little row. The OCA is doing just fine under +Jonah (thank you very much). In fact, doing what a Local Church is supposed to be doing, evangelizing, teaching, administering the mysteries, etc. Oh, one thing hierarchs from the OCA won’t be be doing is holding “symposia” on riverboats with all the beautiful people.

  6. Michael Bauman :

    I have a question that I have yet to seen come up in the discussion of the OCA’s autocephaly. Where do they get their Chrism? If the Met. makes it and distibutes it, the OCA is spiritually independent from any other Orthodox body and that cannot be taken away. I assume it could be given up, but why?

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Michael, in any self-headed Local Church, the chrism is manufactured by the primate of said Local Church. As far as autocephaly being “given up” that has happened in the past but only in dire and unfortunate circumstances. Like when the Bulgarian and Serbian churches lost there autocephaly in 1767 thanks to the Turkish occupiers, or when the many autocephalous churches of the first millennium died out because of conquest by the Muslims. Examples would include Carthage, Hippo, Chalcedon, etc.

  8. George Michalopulos :

    Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev’s words appeared to have been prophetic, wouldn’t you say?

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