UOJ – 29/11/2019
Abp. Anastasios of Albania believes that time does not heal schisms but only deepens them, and therefore, calls for the urgent Council to resolve the issue of the OCU.
Primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, believes that the problem of resolving the pan-Orthodox crisis caused by the bestowal of the Tomos to the OCU should be urgently resolved. He wrote about this in an appeal, the full text of which is published on the Greek site “Romfea”.
Much has been written about the Ukrainian problem over the past months, but “What is most crucial and most necessary, however, is to emphasize Orthodoxy’s imperative of unity,” Abp. Anastasios writes, adding the words of the great St. John Chrysostom: “The name of the Church is not one of separation but of union and concord. The Church came into being, not that we might be divided, but that we might be joined together,” and, “Nothing exasperates God so much as a Church divided.”
A “new reality” has emerged from the ecclesiastical events of the past year, “with the obvious involvement of geopolitical interests and experiences.” Moreover, the granting of autocephaly to the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” “has not brought the desired Orthodox unity and peace,” the Albanian primate writes, “as happened with all previous cases of granting Autocephaly.”
Even “Patriarch” Filaret, the central figure of the Ukrainian schismatic-autocephalous movement has rejected the Tomos, and the divisions have only spread further, His Beatitude writes.
“The divisions have spread to other regions and to the Orthodox world in general. At the same time, the supreme sacrament of unity and forgiveness—the Holy Eucharist—has been used by the Patriarchate of Moscow during the confrontation as a means of applying pressure. The divisions have spread to other regions and to the Orthodox world in general,” Abp. Anastasios believes.
But, on the other hand, Vladyka emphasizes, “the question of the validity of the ordinations performed by the self-proclaimed “Patriarch” Filaret when he was excommunicated and anathematized continues to divide,” and “the painful consequences of this surgical intervention are all too well known, not only among the Orthodox circles but throughout the Christian world.”
“For the moment, a worrying silence prevails in most of the Orthodox Churches,” he continues, noting that political pressure on both sides is wounding the spiritual authority of the Orthodox Church. Moreover, “irresponsible persons” deride those who express differing opinions and flatter those whom they support, thereby debasing inter-Orthodox dialogue.
According to the primate of the Church of Albania, “Some ecclesiastical circles have expressed the expectation that all the Orthodox Churches will gradually recognize the recipient of the Tomos”. However, he emphasizes, “even if some autocephalous Churches do recognize him, several others have declared in their public pronouncements that they will continue to refuse to do so”.
Today we are faced with a “resulting ethnoracial fragmentation (into Greeks, Slavs, and those who desire harmonious relations with all),” the Archbishop expresses concern. “Time does not necessarily correct and heals ecclesiastical schisms; rather, it deepens and perpetuates them,” he adds.
“Finding ways to transcend this ecclesiastical polarisation is now a matter of urgency,” he writes, which must begin with de-escalation. Every attempt to resume dialogue between the primary parties must be made. We must follow the Lord’s commands to forgive and love, and “we will discern new pathways to overcoming the violence.”
The Primate of the Albanian Church is sure that “in order to face various conflicts in today’s world the first step is de-escalation. It is widely accepted and often repeated on the international stage that tensions can be faced only by means of serious dialogue.”
It means that “every attempt should be made to re-establish communication between the primary parties in the crisis as soon as possible, so that they may exchange creative proposals. Persons who can contribute to the immediate initiation of the deliberations exist in the Orthodox Church”.
His Beatitude Anastasios believes that “it is time to lay the foundations for new efforts on the truths of Orthodox tradition, which are rooted in Holy Scripture”, so only “following the commands the Lord faithfully we will discern new pathways to overcoming the violence”.
“Solutions exist,” he is sure. “They will not, of course, be achieved through exchanges of insulting and threatening texts, neither by extra-ecclesiastical interventions nor can they be imposed unilaterally or come automatically with the passing of time. Every delay deteriorates the already painful situation.”
His Beatitude Anastasios thinks that “even if ‘ultimately’ ‘in the future’ a solution will be found, many sorrowful pages will have already been accumulated in the history of Orthodoxy”.
The only answer is conciliarity, Abp. Anastasios emphasizes, as have so many other Orthodox primates, Synods, and hierarchs: “The fundamental principle of Conciliarity, which has always underlain the advancement of the Orthodox Church, is the only key to finding a way out of the existing crisis. Gathering together in the Holy Spirit, in mutual respect and with the sole aim of finding a peaceful arrangement, we have the possibility of reaching a solution acceptable to the whole Orthodox Church.”
Any delay only threatens more fissures in the Body of the Church, and modern technology “intensifies the clamor, the confusion, and the turmoil among the Orthodox and by this, the creditability of Orthodoxy in today’s world is decreasing”.
With the approaching feast of the Nativity, “the amazing initiative of the Father for the reconciliation with the human race, we humbly raise our supplication, our appeal, for a hastening of the steps towards reconciliation, so that we may be entitled to join all our voices in singing ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men’ (Luke 2:14)”.
While all the Local Churches bear responsibility for contributing to reconciliation, “The initiative for the healing treatment of the new reality undoubtedly is accorded to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” But he stresses that “all the Autocephalous Churches, all Orthodox without exception, bear the responsibility to contribute to reconciliation”.
To conclude, the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania said, “Reconciliation will bring peace to millions of faithful people. At the same time, Orthodoxy will confirm its spiritual ability to heal wounds, in the light of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Confirming the truth that she is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, whose Head is Christ the incarnate Son of God, ‘for whom and by whom all things exist’ (Heb. 2:10), who ‘…has given us the ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Cor. 5:18).”
We recall that earlier Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem invited the Primates of the Local Churches to discuss the issue of the OCU.