ATHENS.- GreekNews – A synod meeting of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul on Friday decided to suspend all relations with Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, after he arranged new ecclesiastical appointments without the religious authority’s consent. The synod led by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos imposed the penalty after Christodoulos held internal elections in Greece for the appointment of metropolitan bishops to head dioceses dubbed ”the new lands” that fall under the Istanbul-based religious authority’s jurisdiction.
Archbishop Christodoulos is expected to call a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece. Government Spokesman Thodoros Roussopoulos said the Greek Government will respect the laws of the land. Regardless Bartholomews reactions, President Stephanopoulos is expected to sign the presidential decrees necessary for the appointments of the Metropolitan to be valid.
Main opposition party, PASOK, criticized the government for not taking the necessary initiatives to defuse the dangerous crisis between the two Churches.
Vartholomeos and forty one senior clerics from around the world who attended the enlarged synod meeting – among them Archbishop Demetrios of America – voted unanimously to impose the ban on the archbishop. The clerics signed a text of the decision, which considers the elections held in Athens to be null and void.
The synod also agreed that the ban, which it terms ”functional and administrative”, should remain in place until Christodoulos complies with church law. In addition, it stated that the ban on communication applies solely to Christodoulos.
“We have exhausted all our efforts for peace and unity,” Bartholomew said. “So today we have taken this unanimous decision with pain in our souls.”
Amongst the provinces of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are several Greek Orthodox churches around the world, including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. 14 autocephalus Orthodox churches, including those of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Russia and Serbia recognize the spiritual supremacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Christodoulos has disputed Bartholomew’s control over more than 30 dioceses in northern Greece and on Aegean Sea islands.
Bartholomew threatened to also take over the administrative control of the 30 “new lands” dioceses.
As the Associated Press reports, the spat flared this week when Christodoulos appointed three metropolitan bishops without Bartholomew’s approval.
Bartholomew can’t dismiss the archbishop, but can attempt to isolate him abroad and within the Greek church.
In Greece, a shaken Christodoulos described the patriarch’s move as an “unjust decision.”
“Our actions have been in accordance with 75 years of peaceful practice — nothing more, nothing less,” he said with a shaky voice.
“Despite my personal bitterness … the Church of Greece will continue to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate just as it always has.”
Christodoulos did not make clear if he would give in to Bartholomew, who threatened Friday to scrap a 1928 agreement with Greece and the Greek church, and take direct control of the disputed diocese.
The warning was seen in Athens as a threat to effectively break off ties between the two churches.
“We cannot communicate with a brother who only in words respects the mother church,” he said.
“The mother church gave the Church of Greece … its house to look after, and now (Christodoulos) says the house should belong to him because many years have passed.”
A lengthy statement read out after Friday’s meeting said Bartholomew did not recognize the election of the three bishops and called on them not to take up their new positions.
Church of Greece prelates met for an emergency meeting on Monday that first voted in favour of an agreement with the Patriarchate that declared respect and acceptance of a 1928 act governing ecclesiastical administration of the ‘New Lands’. In a much more closely contested vote immediately afterward, however, the meeting decided to immediately proceed with episcopal elections for the vacant sees of Thessaloniki, Eleftheroupoli, Mesogaia and Kozani.
After fierce and sometimes acrimonious debate in which some metropolitans and bishops walked out, this motion was eventually passed by 35 votes for, 23 against, eight blank votes and five abstentions. After a marathon session lasting nine hours, in which those who walked out in protest were considered as ‘absent’, the Church Hierarchy approved the transfer of Metropolitan Anthimos to Thessaloniki, the election of Archmandrite Chrysostomos Avagianos in Eleftheroupoli, Archmandrite Pavlos Papalexiou in Kozani and Archmandrite Nikolaos Hatzinikolaou, head of the Bioethics Committee, for Mesogaia.
Bartholomew called on the new Metropolitans not to take office, threatening them with breaking communion. Metropolitan of Kozani, who served at St Demetrios of Astoria, as head priest for a decade, speaking to the GreekNews said he hope all sides remain sober and keep low tones. In a message to his former parishioners (many have traveled to Greece to attend his ordain) have sent his paternal love.
“I will always remember you and love you. The doors of the Holy Metropolis of Kozani will always be open for you”.