Reverend Fathers, Your Graces,
Fathers and Brothers,
The content of this letter was written with much concern and anxiety over the future of the Orthodox faithful of the Church of Jerusalem and of the Orthodox Church in general, which today is facing enormous problems and challenges. However, these problems are being covered over by the slogan that a group of fanatical Arab Orthodox wants to Arabize the Patriarchate of Jersualem.
Instead of being met with thanks, those who are taking the initiative to reveal and explain what is happening in the Church of Jerusalem are being bizarrely threatened by the leadership of the Patriarchate with deposition, expulsion and persecution.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to tell the truth no matter the consequences because our motive is the good of the Church and not personal ambitions, since in the latter case we would have behaved differently, with the hypocritical obedience that is well-known in religious circles.
We are putting our future in the Church in imminent danger for the sake of the truth, so that the world will learn the reality of the problems. Afterwards, we leave judgment to God because we believe that other interests are being served by the indifference of those responsible, which causes us to doubt whether they are genuine shepherds for us, because good shepherds lay down their own life to save the sheep from the wolves. Therefore, we put the entire responsibility on their shoulders about what’s happening and what will happen since they will answer God on the Day of the Last Judgment.
Because we are members of the Arab flock and because we live the problems of the faithful and the attacks that they suffer from the heterodox on account of the indifference of the ecclesiastical leadership, we have repeatedly reported to our Patriarch Theophilos the concerns and anxieties of the people in the presence of the Chief Secretary and the other hierarchs of the Patriarchate. We waited long enough for the response of the Patriarch and the Synod, but in vain.
We have returned with love and humility, repeating our Old New demands, but we have been met with deaf ears. They have even begun to accuse us of being anti-Greek and of wanting to replace this patriarch with an Arab. We denounce this as a big LIE because we have no nationalistic motivation. We love Greece and we respect the role it has played in protecting the Holy Sites and Orthodoxy in the Middle East.
Our demands are purely spiritual, pastoral and canonical:
1. We demand that young men and women from the flock be able to become monastics. This is something that the current leadership does not allow, instead always keeping a small number of Arab monastics, in order to justify the excuse that not many of the locals, as they proclaim, are interested in monasticism. When one of the Arab faithful expresses a desire to become a monk, they create for him a thousand obstacles and wait years to approve his request, while someone of Greek origin is accepted and tonsured without any hesitation and without regard for his moral conduct, just because he is Greek. This has caused dozens of the Arab clergy and hierarchs, children of the Church of Jerusalem, to serve today in other Orthodox churches. Is this Christian justice and the loving care of the Mother Church?
2. We demand that there be priest monks – spiritual fathers who know the Arabic language so that all the faithful may be received to the great mystery of Holy Confession, guiding the life of the faithful towards perfection on the path of salvation, especially in the difficult social environment in which they find themselves.
3. We demand that the sole women’s monastery in Jordan founded by the late Patriarch Diodoros in Dibeen, built from scratch through the labors of Archimandrite Christophoros Atallah and hosting since 1999 several nuns and novices, a spiritual center in Jordan for thousands of believers, be recognized.
4. We demand that there be created a theological school and seminary so that the youth will receive Orthodox Christian education, that they be prepared for teaching Christian truth in schools, that they have the resources to combat heterodox propaganda, that they contribute in spiritual nourishment based on the Orthodox doctrine, and that Sunday schools be established in all villages and towns, because what currently exists is not enough. The absence of such schools causes many young people to seek Roman Catholic and Protestant seminaries, to our deepest regret ending up in the ranks of the Roman Catholic or Protestant clergy. But the Orthodox leadership does not protest and is not pained, and this makes us wonder whether they are real shepherds who leave the ninety-nine sheep to search for the one who is lost.
5. We demand that there be metropolises or dioceses (diocesan system), so that there will be spiritual activities and pastoral responsibility in addition to institutional ecclesiastical service, without everything waiting for the Patriarch’s approval, because unfortunately in our Patriarchate there do not exist pastoral metropolitans but only titular ones. Subsequently, this leaves the flock without a shepherd, which is disastrous for the future of Orthodoxy in our country.
6. We also demand that some members of the flock have a say in the administration of the Church. Today the ecclesiastical leadership works with and is represented by certain laymen. Who are they? Individuals who are ignorant of the Church. Even if they are Christians, they do not partake in or understand the sacred Mysteries of the Church. They do not commune after their baptism and they present themselves as “notables” who revel in being honored in society. We demand that faithful individuals who live the sacramental and spiritual life have a say in ecclesial affairs, that they not feel alienated, like foreigners in their own country and their Mother Church, where today foreign clergy who do not know the customs, the traditions and the language of our land and who appear as though they parachuted in have more rights. Some of these foreign clergy– unfortunately coming to us in recent years as unknown, already ordained clergy who are advanced in years- humiliate the local clergy and faithful with their shocking behavior, to the detriment of the memberless– and thus nonexistent– patriarchal seminary, which was the nourishment of our Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, where Greeks and Arabs coexisted, but today consists of only 7-8 children of Greek origin.
7. We demand that the Holy Synod to have a canonical structure. The structure of the current Synod is done in such a way that it only pleases the Patriarch, since he believes that the Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is nothing more than a committee of higoumens. The Patriarch appoints those he deems to be “qualified”. Thus the members of the Synod represent neither the people nor the dioceses, since, with the exception of two bishops, they have no flock and many of them are archimandrites. In order to hold onto their seat on the Synod and not fall out of favor with the Patriarch and in order for the archimandrites to become hierarchs, the members of the Synod become silent fish. If any member of the Synod dares resist the opinion of the Patriarch, he is immediately shown to the exit door. What hope then remains for a better future for our Church?
These are the demands that we are making to our spiritual leadership and for which we strive with humility and love for our ecclesiastical leadership, who for years has shut its ears and worse, has misread our intentions and distorted our motivations.
Whether these demands are anti-Christian and anti-Greek, you be the judge, and if you find them to be unjust and irrational from a pastoral, ecclesiastical and canonical standpoint; then we ready to suffer any retribution and persecution.
We are eager for any dialogue that will bring positive results, although we doubt it will be successful, after having tried in vain in recent years.
We know that the local churches do not interfere in the affairs of another Church.
However, here there is a catastrophic decline for the Orthodox Church in the Holy Land, which is a serious matter for the entire Orthodox Church.
If one member suffers then the whole body suffers. This should not be forgotten.
Two years ago, the flock and Orthodox organizations reported the problem to Ecumenical Partriarch Bartholomew in a letter signed by more than 6000 faithful, copy of which is attached.
Therefore, please intervene to put an end to the uncanonical method of administration followed by the Patriarch in the Church of Jerusalem in any manner that you deem fit, before we mourn Orthodoxy in the ruins of Holy Zion.
Archbishop Theodosios of Sebasteia
Archimandrite Christophoros Atallah
Archimandrite Meletios Bassal
Archimandrite Athanasios Kakish