Today we learned that Theodoros, the Patriarch of Alexandria, has followed in the footsteps of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Archbishop of Athens in recognizing as Orthodox a body known as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), who the vast majority of Orthodox bishops continue to understand to be schismatic. By his actions, Patriarch Theodoros has also emulated Patriarch Bartholomew by standing on their head the views he has repeatedly expressed regarding the Church in Ukraine. Has he provided any explanation for this? The answer is “Yes.” He has written a short letter to the other bishops of the Alexandrian Church, who were not advised in advance of his actions. He wrote:
“In light of what we have discussed in detail and in person with all of you, and after ripe reflection and much prayer, having sought the assent of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, and being concerned for the unity of the Orthodox Church, we have been led to the decision to proceed to recognize the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and of Her Primate, His Beatitude Epiphanios, as the time has come.”
In essence this tells us nothing. How the assent of the Paraclete was sought and found remains a mystery. All his actions achieve is to add to the fog and confusion that presently engulfs us. To escape from this we must not be diverted by national and ethnic bias and address the two fundamental ecclesial questions that must be answered if further division is to be avoided and unity restored:
- Can universally recognized schismatics be received into the Church without public repentance and acknowledgement of their errors, followed by the administration of appropriate sacraments such as baptism, chrismation, confession and ordination?
- Is the Patriarch of Constantinople the first without equals of all the Orthodox bishops whose lead we are all ultimately obliged to follow, whatever directions this may take us in, be it good, indifferent or totally contrary to what Christians have always understood to be the commandments of their Lord and Savior?
Until these questions can be answered with oneness of mind we can only expect further fragmentation, with political expediency triumphing in the face of what is known to be true.