His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos, considered as one of the Orthodox Church’s foremost theologians today, published the letter he sent to the Church of Greece Holy Synod, in which he expresses his views on how the Church of Greece should respond to the decisions made by Patriarchate Bartholomew in Ukraine.

“The Church of Greece cannot contest the Ukrainian autocephaly”
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As Metropolitan Hierotheos points out, autocephaly tomoi and patriarchal rules were given by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to all newly established Patriarchates, at their request, and sometimes at the request of their political authorities. This means that they recognize the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephalous status and patriarchal rules. By examining the history of how the Churches that were not part of the old pentarchy became autocephalous, as well as the content of their respective autocephalous tomoi, and how the Constantinople Patriarchate granted them this autocephaly, he reaches the conclusion that the Church of Greece cannot oppose the decision made by Constantinople for Ukraine without questioning her own autocephaly.

Besides, according to Metropolitan Hierotheos, the Synod of the Church of Greece does not even have the right to examine the question, because that would constitute an interference in the affairs of another Church.
The Metropolitan introduces his remarks by specifying that he does not belong to any of the Synod committees for the examination of the Ukrainian question. His letter thus only represents his personal opinion on this issue. He writes: “The ecumenical throne has the same privileges as ancient Rome, and after its departure (from the Church), the new Rome became the first throne of the Church with special rights and prerogatives”, a statement agreed on by the local Orthodox Churches.

However, according to him, with the exception of the five original Patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) all the other patriarchates bear this title only through economy and the good pleasure of Constantinople. In a sense, they are not full and complete autocephalous Churches, as they were created at the sole discretion of the Constantinople Patriarchate, and have not been ratified by any Ecumenical Council.
In Metropolitan Hierotheos’s opinion, autocephaly means that the local Churches cannot interfere in the affairs of others, but he also states that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is not reduced to being a local Church, and therefore this restriction does not apply to it.
In addition, he says that everyone has always known and understood this, and that it is written in their own Tomoi of autocephaly, so why, he asks, should we now be surprised by the Ukrainian situation?
As a result, “the local Church of Greece has no right to oppose the decision made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding Ukraine,” writes the Bishop of Nafpaktos. The question of new autocephalous Churches should be dealt with by an Ecumenical Council, and not by individual Synods. The Church of Greece “can only endorse the choices (mentioned above) by expressing her common vision and position through her vote” at an Ecumenical Council, he says, adding that “not accepting the way in which autocephaly was given to Ukraine also calls into question the autocephaly of eight other Churches, including that of Greece”.

Metropolitan Hierotheos also addresses the issue of the acceptance by Constantinople of not ordained schismatic members in the clergy. It has been a matter of concern for several local Churches, including those in Romania, Cyprus, and Albania, and also for the hierarchy of other local Churches. He writes that this is a complicated issue that requires cooperation with Constantinople, but he reminds that the Tomos of the Church of Greece forbids her from questioning the decisions made by Constantinople. Along the same line, he notes that the Church of Greece cannot comment on the affairs of the Church in the “New Territories” of the north of the country, because this Church is attached to the “Most Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne” .

Sources 1 and 2 in English

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Beside an anthology on Cistercian texts, Emma Cazabonne has translated and published articles on Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She converted to Orthodoxy in 2008. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here https://wordsandpeace.com/contact-me/

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