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Synodal Encyclical To the Sacred Clergy and Faithful of the Church of the GOC of Serbia

Posted by traditiaortodoxa pe August 28, 2011

Prot. No. γ-1489

In Athens
August 9/22, 2011

Encyclical

To the Sacred Clergy and Faithful of the Church of the GOC of Serbia

“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)

Beloved Children of the True Church of Christ,

Great tribulation came unto us from the recent self-severance of three clergymen and a group of faithful from the Serbian Church of the GOC, which is in the process of being reestablished, in order to arbitrarily declare their independence and to obtain a bishop of their desire ignoring you their brethren and us their spiritual parents. Great is our anguish because nothing is more sorrowful and distressing than the loss of beloved persons. Firstly, then, let us beseech God that, on the one hand, He grant to our estranged brethren understanding to see the consequences of their actions and sincere repentance; and that, on the other hand, He prevent our grief and sorrow from turning into anger and hate. Would that it never!

We do not know the judgments of God, but as with all evil things, it is certain that God allowed this for our testing, as the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, “I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). Let us confront this trial with the proper attitude, while remaining steadfast and unwavering in the canonical order. Let us love our brethren who have departed and pray for their return.

What they desired is good. Yet the way that they chose to achieve this was wrong. In Orthodoxy the end does not justify the means. This was the motto of the Jesuits. In Orthodoxy the words of Saint John Chysostom apply: “The good thing is not good if it is not done rightly.” The intention to restore the self-governance of the Serbian Church is good, while the manner of its achievement is evil, when it is accomplished through an unilateral decision of an elite group of clergy and laity that represent none but themselves. In past eras, unilateral and arbitrary decisions led to schisms and anathemas and other ills in the body of the Church of Christ. Let us call to mind two examples from among the many: the arbitrary pronouncement of the Archbishop of Serbia as Patriarch in 1346 and the arbitrary pronouncement of the Autocephalous Church of Greece in 1833. In the first case, the result was that the Church of Serbia was placed under anathema for 20 years; in the second case, the Church of Greece was pronounced schismatic for 17 years. Both of these cases were, however, the result of pressures from political leaders who took advantage of the Church in order to obtain their objectives. Today, we Genuine Orthodox Christians are disengaged from local political powers. Political leaders [today] do not drag along ecclesiastical leaders who create similar situations—which would be a mitigating factor. [Today, such ecclesiastical leaders] are moved by their passions alone.

There were good examples to follow, such as the declaration in a canonical way of the autocephaly of the Church of Serbia by Saint Sabbas, the First Archbishop of Serbia. Furthermore, when the independence of the Church of Serbia was abolished because of political reasons, it was recovered gradually and harmoniously initially with autonomy in 1831 and then with full autocephaly in 1879 through a consensus among the Mother and Daughter Churches.

Why do our separated brethren prefer to imitate those examples that are to be avoided instead of those that should be imitated? By using as their excuse various irregularities of the past they wish to justify their illicit acts. Their unfortunate attempt elicits a simple question: Does one irregularity from the past justify its repetition?

As we said above, for political reasons many times autocephalous Churches lost this status, while other autocephalous Churches were created. We must remember that the Church is one; the Dioceses, Metropolises, Patriarchates, Autocephalous, Autonomous and Semi-autonomous Churches are administrative divisions, which do not affect the essence of the Church and which change according the political circumstances of each era and the shifting of borders according to the maxim, “it is customary for the ecclesiastical to change together with the political.” An example of this is the Russian Empire’s absorption of the Georgian Kingdom in 1801 and the subsequent abolition of the autocephaly of the Georgian Church, whose autocephaly was restored again in 1917.

Let us remember, beloved children in the Lord, that in paradise the devil deceived the first-created, slandering their God and Creator that He did not desire good for them and that in order for them to reach theosis they should violate the commandment. God, however, indeed desired their deification but through obedience. Disobedience cast out the first-created from Paradise and it brought upon them death and corruption. Disobedience has cast out our separated brethren from ecclesiastical communion and it placed them in schism. What evil serpent counseled them that we do not desire good for them?

The group of estranged brethren declared that in coming into communion with the Russian Synod of Bishops under Archbishop Tikhon (with whom we are not in communion) they desired to maintain communion simultaneously with us as well. This is incongruous and they wrote it rhetorically: in order to claim that they did not break communion with us but that we cut them off. Furthermore, they claim that they do not desire that their rebellion result in the disruption of the rapprochement between the Church of the GOC of Greece and the Russian Synod of Bishops under Archbishop Tikhon. This is incongruous too, because they knew from the beginning that Archbishop Tikhon’s support of their rebellion would result in the breakdown of this rapprochement, which indeed happened. The saboteurs that blew up the bridge claim that they did not desire the break in traffic between the two banks! The Holy Synod now finds itself in the unpleasant position of discovering that the group of separated brethren in this way rendered itself schismatic, transgressing Canon 31 of the Holy Apostles.

St. Ignatius the God-bearer writes: “Abstain from evil plants which Jesus Christ does not cultivate, since they are not a planting of the Father. Not that I found a division among you, but exceeding purity. For all who belong to God and Jesus Christ are with the bishop; and all those who come into the unity of the Church through repentance will belong to God, so that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not be deceived my brothers; no one who follows someone creating a schism will inherit the kingdom of God.” (Epistle to the Philadelphians 3.1-3)

In regards to the resulting question—if we, the children of the Church of the G.O.C., are able to pray with these contemporary schismatics, who proclaim themselves as the “Serbian Orthodox Church”—let us receive our answer from St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, who, in demonstrating the gaping chasm between the Orthodox and every kind of schismatic, writes in the Sacred Rudder: “The present canon prescribes for us not to pray … with schismatics, that is with those Orthodox in their faith but separated from the Catholic Apostolic Church on account of healable traditions and customs”. (cf. Canon 1 of St. Basil and Canon 45 of the Holy Apostles).

As much as we sympathize with them, as much as we desire their forgiveness with all our being, we are not able to grant this to them without their repentance, in that “between us and [them] there is a great gulf fixed” (which they created). (cf. Luke 16:26)

What is more, in the document of their rebellion the severed brethren express their gratitude in words for everything that the Church of the GOC of Greece has provided them. But because we did not ordain for them as bishop the one whom a small group desired at the time that that group demanded, they decided to appeal to the Russians. What a concept of gratitude and obedience. They pay no heed to the bishops that ordained them because they will not promote a specific person among them. They set fire to their mother’s house and harm their brethren who remain faithful to her and then they utter into their mother’s ear, “thank you”.

They say, moreover, that the Greek Exarch did not visit Serbia for an entire decade. They are silent, however, on the fact that between 1998 and 2006 the Exarch of Eastern Europe was the late Archbishop Chrysostomos of Athens, who, on account of his advanced age, asked assistance from then-Metropolitan Kallinikos of Achaia in ordaining and training priests and supplying them with Holy Chrism and antemensia. In addition, Abbess Euphrosyni as well on 8 October 2003 declared before Bishop Chrysostom of the Serbian Patriarchate, “the genuine Serbian Orthodox Church is the Church of the GOC of Serbia and I only obey the true Archbishop of the Greek Old Calendarists, Chrysostomos.” The Abbess’ good witness was the cause for the eviction of the nuns from the Holy Monastery of Stjenik. In 2006, at the request of the late Archbishop Chrysostomos, the Exarchate of Eastern Europe was combined with the Exarchate of Central and Western Europe having as its Exarch then-Metropolitan Kallinikos of Achaia, who from that point began to visit Serbia or to send another Bishop in his place. They say, as well, in their documents that the Greek Exarch caused a division between the Serbian GOC. You all know better than any what caused the division among you and simultaneously the attempts of your Archpastor at reconciliation, as well as who refused to concelebrate with other Serbian clergy and perpetuated in this way the division.

You, those that have remained in obedience as faithful children of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, are “the remnant”. You are the ones upon whom depends the hope of the restoration and administrative reorganization of the Serbian Church of True Orthodox Christians through canonical procedures.

We too desire the rebirth of Orthodoxy in Serbia and the restoration of the autocephalous local Church of Serbia, understood in the genuine Orthodox sense. As we have declared in the past in writing, we have no plan to absorb the local Genuine Orthodox Church of Serbia. Moreover, in the memorandum our currently separated brethren submitted to us this past January, we did not set the small size of population as an impediment for the ordination of a bishop, but merely specified [as a condition] the better organization of the community of GOC of Serbia through the implementation of a Governing Council in which would be heard all views and which would truly express your voices. The separated brethren did not agree. They did not desire to have dissenters with them in this body. Why not, if they represented the majority? How would it have mattered, if there were a minority view? Did they fear that they really represented a minority view rather than the view of the majority? This is what in the end proved to be true. The system of sending away dissenters and of establishing deliberative bodies that prove to be merely cheerleaders of a leader suggests the totalitarian regimes of the past.

Our separated brethren and children attempt to make a parallel between their case and the case of the Greek GOC, when they found themselves without bishops in 1955. This parallel is incongruous. In 1955, the Church of the GOC of Greece was fully organized and formed as an organization and the 66 priests (with all of those able present) elected a twelve-member Council (Governing Ecclesiastical Council) through a transparent democratic process for their administration until they found Bishops. The term of office of the members of the Council was renewed every year by election. They chose their Episcopal candidates through an absolutely transparent process and secret ballot.

What elementary process did our estranged brethren follow that authorized them to speak for the Serbian Genuine Orthodox Church as they claim? They formed an exclusive group excluding those that disagreed with them; that is, they formed a faction (a transgression of the canons: Canon 18 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and Canon 34 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council) and arbitrarily proceeded to make decisions without consulting with you and, certainly, without Episcopal sanction. This is another difference between the cases of the Greek GOC in 1955-1960 and the Serbian GOC in 2011. You today, through the grace of the Lord, are not deprived of your bishops on account of persecution, as the Greek GOC were then. Accordingly all the activity of the priests of the GOC of Serbia should have been undertaken with Episcopal blessing, in that, as St. Ignatius the God-bearer writes: “The one who does anything behind the bishop’s back serves the devil”. (Epistle to the Smyrneans 9.1) Some priests ignore this maxim; but when they are ordained bishops they invoke it. Your bishops did not refuse to ordain a bishop for your better pastoral care. This, however, needed to happen at the right time and through canonical procedures. One cannot build a roof at the moment the foundations are laid. It is necessary, at least, to erect the columns to support the roof. The “columns” of the Serbian Church of the GOC are its better organization.

This action of our estranged brethren is even more condemnable in that they knew that on the agenda of the Synodal Meeting of August 3rd was a proposal for the Synod to adopt a time table for the ordination of a bishop of your choosing and the reorganization of the Serbian Church of the GOC immediately after the union with the Russian Synod under Archbishop Tikhon, with, moreover, the cooperation of Greek and Russian bishops. They did not await at all the result of the Synod, but the eve of August 3rd they ran to make their plan a fait accompli through their coup. The Holy Synod will not abandon the faithful children of the Church that remain in canonical order and will move forward with the reorganization of the Serbian Church of the GOC.

Toward this end the Holy Synod decided to call a Clergy-Laity Conference in Belgrade on Saturday, August 21/ September 3, 2011, in the present of His Beatitude Archbishop Kallinikos of Athens and All Greece. All Genuine Orthodox Christians of Serbia that remain in canonical order and recognize the Holy Synod, which from the beginning was responsible for the reorganization of the Serbian Church, will have a right to participate. In this conference, the current situation will be evaluated, you will elect a Governing Council which will truly express your desires, and you will freely address your legitimate hierarchy with your proposals and petitions.

In conclusion, we pray that our Lord Who stretched out his arms on the Cross unite the previously separated, that He shine on you richly the Divine Grace for the healing of the wound created by this schism, and that He grant the return of our separated yet much beloved spiritual children and brethren.

THE HOLY SYNOD

The Archbishop

†KALLINIKOS of Athens

The Members

†AKAKIOS of Attica and Diauleia
†MAXIMOS of Thessalonica
†ATHANASIOS  of Larissa and Platamon
†JUSTIN Euripos and Euboia
†PAVLOS of America
†GERONTIOS of Peiraeus and Salamina
†CHRYSOSTOMOS of Attica and Boiotia
†MOSES  of Portland and the Western United States
†GREGORY  of Christianoupolis
†PHOTIOS of Marathon
†THEODOSIOS of Bresthena
†CHRISTODOULOS of Theoupolis
†SERGIOS of Loch Lomand

~ † ~

CLERGY-LAITY SYNAXIS IN BELGRADE

On Saturday August 21st/September 3rd 2011 the Belgrade General Clergy-Laity Synaxis of the GOC Serbia convened under the presidency of His Beatitude Archbishop Kallinikos of Athens and all-Greece. All of the clergy who serve in Serbia and Bosnia were present: Hieromonks Methodios Zaharic and Charalambos Bukovic, Priest Slavisha Lekic and Hierodeacon Joseph Mikic, as well as those Serbian clergy who accompanied His Beatitude the Archbishop from Greece, Hieromonk Averky Zlatkovic and Priest Athanasios Kristic and Archimandrite Kassian Angelov and Priest Martin Stanchev from Bulgaria. The massive presence of Serbian G.O.C. (several of which remained until the end of the four-hour session) verify that some 2/3 of the faithful remain committed to the canonical order.

This General Clergy-Laity Synaxis:

1. Expressed absolute condemnation of the arbitrary, sectarian and separatist actions of three clergymen and a small group of laity who followed them in order to flee unto the Russian Synod under Archbishop Tikhon so that one of them may be ordained a Bishop. This faction does not represent the voice of the G.O.C. of Serbia.

2. It affirmed the loyalty of the majority of the Serbian G.O.C. to their canonical ecclesiastical leaders, that is, the Holy Synod of the Church of the G.O.C. of Greece, who from the beginning was responsible to reestablish the Church of the G.O.C. of Serbia.

3. It decided to reestablish the Serbian Church as the „Church of the G.O.C. of Serbia”, a title which it bore from the beginning and which even the those who are now divided used a few months ago before changing it.

4. It decided to reestablish the ecclesiastical council of the parish of Belgrade (with -now- Hieromonk Joseph Mikic as serving priest) according to the new reality; of Smenderevo (with Priest Slavisha Lekic), to establish a parish and ecclesiastical council for Sambac (with Hieromonk Charalambos Bukovic as serving priest) and the convocation of a council in Pirkovtsi, Bosnia (with Hieromonk Methodios Zaharic as serving priest). After the reorganization of the parishes and ecclesiastical councils, the central coordinating body will operate which will really and without compulsion express the will of the clergy and people of the Church of the G.O.C. of Serbia and will operate based on a set of by-laws.

5. It started the processes to find a proper place to build the central ecclesiastical offices in Belgrade, also for the agreement of certain lawyers so as to found an appropriate legal person for the protection of the religious properties and the defense of the religious rights of the Serbian G.O.C.

The next day, Sunday August 22nd/September 4th 2011 His Beatitude and those clergy present concelebrated in the church of St. Steven Miloutin, in the city of Smenderevo in the presence of many faithful who were able to attend.

http://ecclesiagoc.gr/en/news/168-klerikolaike-synaxis-veligradiou

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