Millions of Greek Orthodox wait for Vartholomeos next move on the decision by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece
Government and ecclesiastical officials in Athens wait for the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s reaction to the decision taken after a two-day extraordinary synod of the Hierarchy of Church of Greece. A letter explaining the decision will be taken to the Fanar by a delegation of the Church of Greece,. Until then Patriarch Vartholomeos keeps his cards closed. Both Holy Synods will meet this week. According to ecclesiastical sources, all possibilities are open. The worst case scenario is Vartholomeos on one hand to fully reject the proposal and Christodoulos move forward the process to fill the open Metropolis of Thessaloniki. Such a move will fuel a huge crisis and possibly a schism.
It is possible for Vartholomeos to call on all his Metropolitan around the globe to come in Constantinople for an emergency meetings. Among them, Archbishop Demetrios who is in Athens, to be officiated as member of the Athens Academy.
The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece’s Holy Synod on Thursday concluded an extraordinary three-day session by approving a measure to send a list of candidates for the election of bishops in northern Greece to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which will be able to add names.
The agenda included four main issues: the continuation of the dialogue with the Ecumenical Patriarchate; a commitment that the Patriarch’s name will be noted in the bishoprics of northern Greece; recognition of the Patriarchate’s spiritual jurisdiction over the bishoprics of northern Greece and the possibility of sending a list of candidates for vacant seats in northern Greece.
The Holy Synod, which includes all 75 bishops of the Church of Greece, voted on two motions, approving both, namely: – ”The Church of Greece respects, recognizes and adheres to the status quo of the 1928 (canonical) Act, which is in force to this day, with full respect to the articles of the Charter” – ”The list of eligible candidates will be sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate so that it can exercise its rights concerning the list, which are to recommend the inclusion of candidates, only in cases of the holy bishoprics of the ‘new territories’ (i.e. northern Greece and the eastern Aegean), abiding by the mandates of Articles 17 to 22 of the Charter”.
It should be noted that articles 17 to 22 allow the Ecumenical Patriarch to both add and delete names from the list of candidates submitted by the Church of Greece. Part of the conflict is the demand of the Church of Greece to approve the final list when that returns from the Patriarchate and before the vote.
According to a press release, 63 out of 75 bishops were present, of whom 51 voted for the first motion and 10 against, while 50 approved the second motion and 12 voted against.
Three absent bishops authorized Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos to act on their behalf, while another nine departed before the vote in protest. Two of those nine are bishops that hold seats in the so-called ”New Territories”.
The Metropolitans of Gortinia, Maronia and Neapoli provided authorization to the Archbishop, while the Metropolitans of Thebes, Nikopolis, Ioannina, Megara, Peristeri, Zakynthos, Igoumenitsa, Philippi and Lesvos departed before the vote.
Following the vote, Holy Synod spokesman Efstathios, the Metropolitan of Sparta, stressed that the leadership of the powerful Church of Greece has taken a responsible stance toward the ecclesiastical issue that arose unexpectedly over the summer in the wake of the Thessaloniki Metropolitan’s death. He added that the majority Holy Synod decision aims to resolve the dispute with the Patriarchate with respect to the legal and operational status of the ”New Territories”.
He also expressed his optimism over a resolution of the crisis, while responding to a question concerning the Patriarchate’s reaction, saying the Archbishop has the right to again convene either the standing Holy Synod or a plenum of the Greek Church’s leadership.
As for the election for the seat of the vacant Thessaloniki Metropolis, he said ”we have time, we are not rushing”.