ISTANBUL, TURKEY [OCA] – March 2016
As reported earlier, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon had accepted the invitation of His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to concelebrate at the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar district here on the Sunday of Orthodoxy—March 19-20, 2016.
Earlier, Metropolitan Tikhon had accepted similar invitations from Patriarch Bartholomew. In December 2014, he visited the Holy Theological School of Halki and the Patriarchate with Archpriests John Jillions, OCA Chancellor, and Archpriests John Behr and Alexander Rentel of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY. In June 2015, Metropolitan Tikhon and Father Alexander traveled to the Patriarchate in connection with the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA.
Accompanied by Father John Jillions, Metropolitan Tikhon arrived in Istanbul on Saturday, March 19, shortly after a terrorist bombing had killed and wounded over 30 people in the city’s tourist district. They were met by Deacon Nephon, an American-born monk serving the Patriarchate as head of its English language secretariat since 2008. On Saturday evening, they attended Vespers at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George, at which Patriarch Bartholomew presided.
After Vespers, Metropolitan Tikhon and Father John were invited to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew in his office.
“Metropolitan Tikhon offered greetings on behalf of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America,” said Father John. “He and His All-Holiness discussed the approaching Great and Holy Council, His Beatitude’s recent visit to His Eminence, Archbishop Leo and the Church of Finland—an autonomous Church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate—the work of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the USA, and prospects for renewed formal dialogue with the Patriarchate with regard to Orthodox unity and regularizing the canonical situation of the church in North America.
“His All-Holiness, in turn, welcomed the discussion, recalling his involvement with these matters with the late Protopresbyter John Meyendorff and His Eminence, the late Archbishop Peter [L’Huillier],” Father John added. “It was understood that, while differences in understanding remain with regard to the nature of autocephaly, this does not present an impediment to communion and concelebration.”
After an exchange of gifts, Patriarch Bartholomew encouraged Metropolitan Tikhon to visit again in the future.
After the meeting, Metropolitan Tikhon and Father John dined with Patriarch Bartholomew and some of the members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy Synod, including His Eminence, Metropolitan John [Zizioulas] of Pergamon, before celebrating the Service of Preparation for Holy Communion.
On the Sunday of Orthodoxy—March 20—Metropolitan Tikhon concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Bartholomew and the members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy Synod, a number of whom serve in the United States and are well known to Metropolitan Tikhon through the Assembly of Bishops.
In addition to Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan John, serving in order of their ordination date, were His Eminence, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver; His Eminence, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta; His Eminence, Metropolitan Iakovos of the Prince Islands; His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph of Prikonisos; His Eminence, Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia; His Eminence, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France; His Eminence, Metropolitan Nikitas of the Dardanelles [Patriarch Athenagoras Institute, Berkeley , CA]; His Eminence, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco; Metropolitan Tikhon; His Eminence, Metropolitan Maximos of Selymbria; and His Eminence, Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianopolis. Also in attendance in the altar were His Eminence, Metropolitan Stefanos, Chancellor; His Eminence, Metropolitan Elpidophoros; His Grace, Bishop Adrianos of Halicarnassos, who was recently ordained to oversee 14 parishes in the Phanar. Father John served with the Grand Archimandrite Bessarion and Father Ambrosias, the Grand Syngellos.
After the Patriarchal Liturgy, a Memorial was celebrated for those who had suffered and died for the faith. The procession with icons, during which Fathers Bessarion and John carried the icon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council.
On Sunday afternoon, Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Tikhon drove to a local parish for the celebration of Orthodoxy Sunday Vespers. A brief concert, performed by a group of singers and musicians from the northern Aegean region, followed in the parish hall.
Patriarch Bartholomew offered a warm farewell to Metropolitan Tikhon and Father John before their departure on Monday morning, March 21.
Statement of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon
On His Trip to Constantinople
To the Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
I have just returned from a visit to Constantinople, where I was invited to concelebrate with His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, for the Feast of the Sunday of Orthodoxy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. One of my central responsibilities as Primate is to represent the Orthodox Church in America in its relations with other Orthodox Churches. This most recent trip is the latest in a series of official visits I have undertaken since my election as Metropolitan, including visits to the Churches of Russia, Georgia and Finland.
A concelebration by the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America with the Ecumenical Patriarch has historically never taken place and was made difficult primarily because of the differing understandings of autocephaly, and its granting, held by our respective Churches. Those different understandings remain, but since 2009, the new context of the Assemblies of Bishops has opened up opportunities for renewed dialogue about Orthodox unity in North America, which is a core commitment of the Orthodox Church in America and central to our vision for North American Orthodoxy.
The Eucharistic communion and concelebration on the Sunday of Orthodoxy showed visibly and publicly the often-expressed conviction of His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, that the Orthodox Church in America, her bishops, clergy, and people are included in the family of canonical Orthodox Churches, while at the same time maintaining the position that the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America is not recognized.
The Russian Orthodox Church, together with the Churches of Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, affirm and recognize the autocephaly of our Church.
Since the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America is not universally recognized, our Church has not been invited to the Inter-Orthodox conferences preparing for the Great and Holy Synod. We are not invited to the Great and Holy Synod itself. It is our hope and expectation that the Orthodox Churches will find an appropriate way to include our Church in the inter-Orthodox process in the future.
The Orthodox Church in America has maintained a consistent position on the subject of canonical unity in North America from the time of the Tomos [the official decree] of Autocephaly granted in 1970 by the Russian Orthodox Church, whose desire was to work towards “the normalization of relations among the various ecclesiastical jurisdictions in America,” with the hope that the granting of autocephaly “might serve the good of the Orthodox Church in America and the glory of God.” At the same time, we are called to “abide in brotherly relations with all the Orthodox Churches and their Primates as well as with their bishops, clergy and pious flocks, who are in America and who for the time being preserve their de facto existing canonical and jurisdictional dependence on their national Churches and their Primates.”
This most recent visit, at the invitation of His All-Holiness, was an opportunity to express our brotherly love and good relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while nevertheless humbly remaining steadfast in our vision for Orthodoxy in North America. In this, we are maintaining the ecclesiastical balance which is expressed by the conciliar nature of the Orthodox Church which, in the words of His All-Holiness, “recognizes only one authority: the Council of her canonical hierarchs. Beyond a conciliar decision, the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy is not possible. The Church’s dogmas and holy canons bear the seal of conciliarity. Orthodoxy is the conciliar Church.”
I ask for the prayers of all the clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America for all the Orthodox Primates and their Churches, together with their bishops, clergy and faithful in North America, so that we may fulfill the words of the Lord’s prayer: “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me” [John 17:21].
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada