Statement of the Arab Orthodox Clergy of Jerusalem on Reforming the Patriarchate

Statement of the Arab Orthodox Clergy for Revival – 28/7/14

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

We denounce Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. We condemn the forced expulsion of the Christians of Mosul in Iraq. We pray for peace in Syria, neighboring countries, and the Arab world as a whole. We honor the fallen and the innocent children of Gaza. We come with a message of allegiance and love for His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Hussein, may God preserve him and we affirm our dedication to Hashemite guardianship over the Islamic and Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem.

Out of our zeal for our Church of Jerusalem, the Mother of Churches, and our unshakeable faith in the unity of our Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic Church, our confidence in the justness of our demands as clergy and laity, we reject the racist domination over our Church of Jerusalem that has been in a state of decline for more than five centuries, caused by the lack of pastoral care of her children; the squandering of her endowments given to her by our ancestors in order to prop up Greek hegemony over our Church of Jerusalem; the non-application of the Church’s pastoral regulations in their canonical, pastoral and administrative dimensions; the replacement of pastoral bishops of dioceses with patriarchal vicars; the prohibition on Arab clergy entering the monastic life; the cancellation of their salaries; their being banished from their parishes and monasteries as an act of revenge and personal score-settling simply because they are calling for spiritual revival and setting things right in our national church. This is all to say nothing of the neglect and marginalization of the Arab Orthodox flock who just a short time ago were the only Christian significant community in this country but who now because of the practices of the Church’s leadership do not even number half of the Christians.

These practices have continued until today. Our churches are displaced and the monasteries in Palestine have been emptied of their monks. The majority of our Orthodox people have been snatched away or driven out to other sects and heresies. Corruption has become rooted in the organizations and administrations of the Patriarchate. Schools at a lower level than average. Financial administration has gone years without a budget or an audit. Ecclesiastical courts are lawless. Patriarchal assets and income exist in a void, without oversight or accounting.

Today our people are being exterminated by the army of Israeli occupation while a priest comes to us with a plan to compel Christians to mandatory service in the army of Zionist occupation, under the cover and with the blessing of the Greek patriarch who has not once looked at the suffering of his people and his flock. He awards medals to an officer in the army of occupation while our people– women, children and elderly– are being targeted by the occupation’s artillery.

We are children of this country and did not come to it from outside. We are partners with our Muslim brothers in the unity and defense of our nation. We categorically reject the insinuations of Patriarch Theophilos that we are Greek remnants in our countries. No, we are genuine Arabs, Jordanians and Palestinians, no matter what they say.

Our desired goal is to reform our Orthodox Church, the Mother of Churches, and to restore her lost order in its ecclesiastical and patriotic dimensions, to restore her prestigious position, to rebuild the proper spiritual relationship between of the patriarch and the bishops to the priests and flock. We have often and repeatedly addressed those in charge of the Patriarchate, explaining the state of the flock and proposed the idea of reform, but this has been in vain. Unfortunately, we have faced punishment and marginalization from the patriarch.

Therefore we categorically reject the policy of the Greek patriarch Theophilos and his punitive decisions against us, the Arab Orthodox clergy who call for an Orthodox ecclesiastical revival that preserves the teachings of the fathers, the canons of the Church and her spirituality in its pastoral and patriotic dimensions.

Beloved children of the nation and children of the Orthodox flock,

We the Arab clergy are continuing along the path of our Orthodox revival. We are calling for administrative, canonical and ecclesiastical reform in the Patriarchate and the recovery of the rights that have been denied us. We declare that we have taken a step toward the truth, and the truth shall set us free. There is no going back from our movement, our demands and our ecclesiastical and patriotic struggle that is centered on the teachings of the Church and the Gospel. We cry out together, yes to recovering the rights that have been denied us!

We are a cry for truth, a movement for reform and we will close by summarizing some of our just demands:

1- Recognizing the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher as one of the monastic communities present within the structure of the patriarchate and limiting its activities to caring for the pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land, thus correcting issues in the administration of the Church of Jerusalem by returning to honorable canons for the proper organization and administration of the Orthodox Catholic Church.

2- Enacting a system of dioceses by granting full competencies to the pastoral bishops to undertake their ecclesiastical and pastoral duties, including the right to ordain priests, tonsure monks and nuns, build churches and establish monasteries, Orthodox schools and seminaries as well as permanent membership in the Holy Synod.

3- Working to call the bishops, archimandrites, priests and monks originally from the Church of Jerusalem whom the Patriarchate refused to accept because they are Arab but were accepted by other Orthodox churches outside our nation to return to their Church.

4- Requiring His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem to implement the promises and commitments he made at the time of his election as patriarch as regards reforming the state of the Patriarchate and the composition of the Holy Synod and maintaining the properties and endowments of the Church and not squandering or wasting them.

5- Activating the seminary at Sion / Jerusalem and opening its doors to accept sons of the flock after affairs are set right within it, applying a curriculum in Arabic and English in addition to Greek, and opening a seminary in Jordan.

6- Accepting the internal statute of the first Orthodox monastery in Jordan, the women’s Monastery of Our Lady of the Life-Giving Spring at Dibbeen, guaranteeing the rights and privilidges of the founder and builder of the monastery, within the applicable canons of the Church.

7- Implementing the Jordanian law pertaining to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, law number 27 of 1958 and acting according to it immediately, especially as regards forming the Mixed Committee.

8- Forming a canonical Holy Synod and drafting an internal statute for the Patriarchate, as well as forming an elected body of clergy and laity to represent the flock, participate in the general administration of the church and supervise the conditions and needs of the churches in cities and villages.

9- Preparing an annual budget for the Patriarchate to ensure the proper spending of money and knowing the instruments by which it is spent.

10- Drafting a canon for regulating ecclesiastical courts and modernizing the canon on personal status.

11- Forming a committee of clergy and laity specialists (including lawyers) to study the possibility of recovering the endowments that have been squandered in the past.

With this we encourage your concern and persistence in moving forward with the spiritual and ecclesiastical revival. We encourage His Hashemite Majesty King Abdullah II, may God preserve and guide him, and His Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas to look into this segment of their people, an authentic part of the country, and to work to realize our just demands…

We shall persevere in our struggle until justice is realized.

The Orthodox Club, Amman
July 25, 2014