We offer below an English translation of Patriarch Bartholomew’s response to Patriarch Theophilos’ letter inviting him to a synaxis of primates in Jordan next month. Dishearteningly it fits the pattern of the former’s dismissive responses to other primates who attempted to take the initiative to find a conciliar solution to preserve Orthodox unity in the face of his actions in Ukraine. See, for example, his responses to the Patriarch of Antioch and to the Archbishops of Cyprus and Albania. So, while neither the tone nor the content of this letter is altogether surprising, two alarming aspects of this letter should be highlighted: its hypocrisy and its overt ethnophyletistic chauvinism.
It is staggering that Patriarch Bartholomew could write the words, “And what meaning would a Synaxis of Primates have, if during it joint celebration of the Divine Liturgy will not be possible…” when he himself refused to take any initiative to mend the break in communion between Antioch and Jerusalem before the Council of Crete, insisting that restoring communion could be postponed until after the council and blaming Antioch for acting according to the principle that he now cites!
It is equally startling, given the long and painful history of Greek clerical domination over the native Palestinian Orthodox, that Patriarch Bartholomew could complain about the use of English by Patriarch Theophilos, whose flock has almost no Greek-speakers, let alone to speak of care for the holy places being “entrusted” to the Greek race! It is, unfortunately, part of a larger pattern by Patriarch Bartholomew of expressing concern for ethnophyletistic Hellenic interests seemingly over all else in the Church.
The Greek original can be found here.
Your Beatitude, Most Holy Patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine, beloved brother in Christ God and concelebrant of our Mediocrity, Theophilos, fraternally embracing your honorable Beatitude in Christ, we address you with great delight.
We received and read with no small surprise Your Beatitude’s Letter from December 11, 2019, in which you invite our Mediocrity to a meeting of the Orthodox Primates in a location of Your jurisdiction for consultation “for the preservation of our unity in Eucharistic communion.” Our surprise, so as not to say consternation, at Your Beatitude’s letter is provoked by the following observations:
First of all, we are unpleasantly surprised by the fact that for the first time in the long history of our two Patriarchates, the rightly-called “Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem” corresponds with the the Ecumenical Patriarch in a language foreign to our mother [tongue], as though he has suddenly stopped feeling of the same blood and sharing with us in the same historic and martyric Race [Γένος], which of course Divine Providence from of ages entrusted with protecting the sacred Pilgrimage-Sites of the Holy Land through the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher.
Such an attitude and activity on Your part is greatly surprising to all those who know the travails of Your Beatitude’s celebrated Predecessors, who strongly opposed those attempts, well-known from History, at infiltration into the Holy Places by powers foreign to our Race [Γένος]. What, I wonder, led Your Beatitude to send this encyclical Letter, dishonoring to us, in English instead of the instead of the age-old established manner of correspondence between our Churches?
Second, we have difficulty understanding Your taking the initiative, unprecedented in the history of the Orthodox Church, to convene a Pan-Orthodox Synaxis. There is no need to remind you of the position that Your Patriarchate holds in the order of the Diptychs of the Most Holy Orthodox Church, as well as the fact that, according to canonical order, which was always and until recently respected by all the Orthodox Churches, Pan-Orthodox Synaxes of Primates are always convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch, who presides over them.
What sort of unity does Your initiative seek to serve if the First in the order of the Orthodox Primates is absent from the Synaxis proposed by You? And what meaning would a Synaxis of Primates have, if during it joint celebration of the Divine Liturgy will not be possible because one of them has broken Eucharistic communion with some of them?
Any implementation of this initiative of Yours would show everyone, friend and foe, that our Orthodox Church does not consist of an organic unity and has fallen into the state of federation or, even worse, a confederation of Churches of a Protestant sort. The responsibility that Your Beatitude shoulders through this unprecedented initiative of Yours is enormous before history and we are honestly at a loss as to how You decided to take it on, particularly during these critical times.
Third, the appeal perplexes us, as the purpose of the Synaxis proposed by you is the “preservation of Eucharistic communion in the Orthodox Church.” But Eucharistic communion in the Orthodox Church has never been broken, except by one sole Orthodox Church, and unilaterally at that, with all the other Orthodox Churches maintaining Eucharistic communion with it and with each other. It is to that Church, therefore, that any attempt to restore Eucharistic communion should be directed, and not to the rest of the Churches.
Moreover, one wonders what positive outcome a meeting of Primates could have without preparation. Never, not even among secular people, has any meeting of leaders been undertaken without preparation so that it does not result in a failure detrimental to the aim being pursued.
Therefore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in keeping with its responsibility, as the First See in the Orthodox Church, for the preservation of canonical order, as well as the serious consequences there would be for the unity of the Church if, contrary to that canonical order and tradition, the meeting of Primates proposed by Your Beatitude were to be realized, fraternally calls upon You not to persist in this initiative of Yours, which serves, perhaps unknowingly, age-old foreign goals undermining the all-sacred Ecumenical See and entails such an enormous historical responsibility for the consequences that this activity would have for the Church and the Race [Γένος].
Once more fraternally embracing Your Beatitude with a holy kiss, we remain with love in the Lord and particular respect,
Your venerable Beatitude’s beloved brother in Christ.
December 26, 2019