Metropolitan Elpidophor: the more complexity – the greater the need to overcome them

Interview with a representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Metropolitan of the Prussian Elpidophor.

The question of granting the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Tomos of autocephaly of a Single Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, excited a few months ago by the authorities and politicians of Ukraine, remains the center of attention of the Orthodox world. Lots of talk about this by analysts, experts, politicians, Church leaders both in Ukraine and in Russia. The least heard voice of Constantinople, whose position on the Ukrainian question is not quite clear. Contrary to expectations and forecasts, the Synod of the Church of Constantinople on the 30th of may did not accept the Tomos of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. Comments from representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the media are streamlined in nature.
To clarify the position of Constantinople, a Greek journalist Athanasius Avgerinos interviewed one of the most authoritative hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – Metropolitan Prussian Elpidophor. We publish a translation of the interview in the hope that it will help to understand the extremely complex and painful subject of Ukrainian autocephaly, and will cause debate. “Pravmir” ready to become a platform for such discussion. I hope that the debate will be informative and constructive. Please send your feedback and judgment.

Metropolitan elpidophoros of proussa is considered one of the most influential hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and one of the most zealous defenders of its traditions, but almost never speaking in Russian media. Obviously such contacts is complicated by the fact that a prominent Bishop does not hide its unconditional support of the granting of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, considering the most probable development of the situation in the near future the proclamation of its autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Our meeting with the Metropolitan of Prussia took place in Thessaloniki at the recent international theological conference dedicated to including yet another question, complicating the relationship between Fanara and Moscow, namely the conduct of the Cretan Cathedral about two years ago. No matter how inflexible it may seem, the position of the Metropolitan Elpidoforos, in itself a rare opportunity of conversation with him specifically for “Orthodoxy and the world” has its meaning in our time, when at stake is the question of the unity of world Orthodoxy.

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate is convinced that, the more difficulties there are, the more we feel the need for councils and meetings and maintain a dialogue so we could spodobivka of the descent of the Holy spirit and the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, to overcome these difficulties,” says our source are regarded as “the manifestation of the theological and ecclesiological incompleteness of the absence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.” Describing the Church, who took the ultimate decision to not attend the Cathedral as “satellites of Moscow”, with the exception of the Department of Antioch, the Bishop claims that they simply summed the reasoning “under in advance taken by the Russian Church’s decision to take a course of isolation”. “It is generally recognized that the participation of Moscow and of other Churches was not due to their theological, ecclesiologically or canonical beliefs,” – said in this regard, the Hierarch.

At the same time, Metropolitan Elpidophor believes that “the ties have not destroyed, the channels of communication are still not blocked, but just ROC should make more of an effort to re-gain the trust not only of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but of the ten Orthodox Churches that grazed behind the scenes on her part that led to the participation of other Churches.” “This is a Church with a numerous congregation, with which the Ecumenical Patriarchate in difficult times and shared all the hardships of the way Orthodox Nations, so that behind the scenes actions can not serve as her example of Mature behavior,” stressed his Eminence.

Responding to our question about finally convened in June 2016, despite all the differences, the Cathedral, which gave the impression of the event held under the high patronage of the us Department of state, Metropolitan Elpidophor called these estimates “malohudozhestvennyh fiction” and explained that “the Ecumenical Patriarchate, carrying the burden of responsibility for the conduct of the Cathedral, was attracted to the organization of American Greeks, with relevant experience, including the order of the archons of the Patriarchate, consisting exclusively of Church leaders serving in the American Archdiocese and has no other relation to the public service, American or any other.”

With regard to the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, Metropolitan of Elpidophor spoke emphatically on the level of disagreement even with the same compromise position Fanara suggests including the consent of the other Orthodox Churches: “the Granting of autocephaly of the local Church for almost 1350 years subject to the exclusive jurisdiction and competence of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople.

However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, despite its right to grant autocephaly, does not ignore the rest of the local Church, as is testified by the history of the Church to this day. In the case of Ukraine it is entrusted to a special delegation that visits and conducting meetings with the primates of Orthodox Churches to disseminate objective picture of the status of the issue and, of course, in order to debunk misinformation and misleading information”.

“The criterion and goal for the mother Church in this case is not autocephaly by itself, as such, is not an end in itself,” he stressed and concluded: “However, it is preferred from the ecclesiastical point of view, as the best and most canonical solution, at the moment, because only this can serve the unity of the Orthodox people of Ukraine, which is known to be completely divided”.

To the question, what is the “spread of misinformation”, was given the following answer: “the same thing we heard ten years ago, in 2008 when I was preparing an official visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Ukraine under President Yushchenko and the Kyiv Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan). Then the Russian Church has developed exactly the same information campaign among all the other Churches, threatening schism, the Armageddon, the end of the world, claiming that the Patriarch goes to Ukraine, bringing the split, etc., etc. However, none of this happened, so at the moment I aren’t worrying about all this rhetoric from the Moscow Patriarchate.”

In response to the indication that Ukraine plunged into a civil war in which the government has been shelling the whole area, and the President himself, who filed a petition for autocephaly, hands stained with the blood of their fellow citizens, the Archbishop said that as a Bishop and as a man of the Church will not succumb to the temptation to comment on the political situation and political figures. “It is beyond my competence and my office,” – said the Hierarch said that “the solution of the Church question will not exacerbate an already worse position, which, as you described, there is at the moment in Ukraine, but, on the contrary, believe that it can contribute to peace, unity and calm of the passions surrounding religion.”

Metropolitan Elpidophor and journalist Athanasius Avgerinos

The Metropolitan stressed that a petition for the granting of autocephaly, filed by the President of the state is not a personal request: “We distort the essence, considering the question from this point of view. The President of Ukraine brought in Fanar petition of the Ukrainian people, upon approval of the Parliament by an overwhelming majority. Therefore, the autocephaly does not represent the object of desire of the President of the country, and the Ecumenical Patriarch at the moment is the issue that concerns not only the leader of this country.”

It was impossible not to ask His Eminence about what is this referred to his “ecclesiastical authority”, which was requested autocephaly, while none of the recognized canonical Church in Ukraine makes no such requirements, so in our opinion his position may cause various forms of opposition.

“If anyone anticanonical, this does not mean that it does not exist”, – said the Metropolitan of the Prussian and explained: “the fact that he was declared a schismatic, not takes away his right to ask about their rehabilitation and settlement of their defective position at his Church, and finding that his Church puts him in an unfair position to appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch, giving him the Church’s appeal, the so-called “ecklie”. It is because in Ukraine there are schismatics and uncanonical, which tried to appeal to his ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and was rejected, they may, in our opinion, it is legitimate to appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to review and revise their position by making not subject to appeal.

At the moment, of course, Patriarchy has not begun consideration of an appeal filed by someone from Ukraine. Perhaps in the future, the Patriarchate will proceed to the consideration of cases already filed such appeals. However, with regard to the petition of autocephaly, filed with the canonical Church, I believe that we should not place emphasis on this observation. I would prefer to put the question in another plane: whether today canonical Church in Ukraine to petition for autocephaly, even if they want to? We all know how things are in the Moscow Patriarchate. Who dared to take this step, would have been cast forth from the Church at the most simplified procedure”.

Along with the conduct of a controversy at the forefront of the debate about the relationship of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Autocephalous Church, Metropolitan of Elpidophor remains one of the most active bishops on Turkish territory in a purely Muslim environment. In any case, he even describes the revival of Christianity in Turkey as an “enormous historical success and boldness of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople”. “He became the first Patriarch after the Asia minor disaster of 1922, dared to re-open – if I’m allowed to speak – East, Asia Minor and the lands that encompass the cradle of Christianity – the city where he taught the Apostle Paul during his travels and where he masterstvo the great Church Fathers such as St. Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great, SWT. Nicholas of Myra, and others.”

Metropolitan Elpidophor and Patriarch Bartholomew

The Lord did not fail to recognize that “in the reign of Erdogan, minorities are going through their best times in Turkey.” According to him, their situation has improved in many respects and minorities first began to be perceived as full-fledged citizens. “Religious leaders and our Patriarch is respected by the Turkish authorities, who do not show respect to him no suspicion, no hostility, no malevolence, but rather surround them with esteem and courtesy that, frankly, flatters us and gives us the feeling of joy and satisfaction.

Another factor contributing to the resurgence of Christianity in the Turkish territory, is, of course, the presence of Orthodox Slavic origin who entered into mixed marriages, live and work in Turkey, energizing their participation was impoverished life of the parishes and metropolises, among them the Prussian metropolis, with about 1,000 families. For liturgical purposes by donation, the collection of which I organized abroad, in Greece and in other countries, was purchased by two of the Byzantine Church in the vicinity of the Prussians. One of them is the Archangel Cathedral in the district of Sigi (“Silence”) of the IX century, and the other is a temple of the virgin of the XIV century in Security Triglie,” – said the Bishop.

Metropolitan Elpidophor also manages the famous Theological school at Halki in the sea of Marmara, remaining closed on decision of the Turkish government since 1971, despite repeated appeals and protests to the renewal of her work that would restore the Orthodox believers in their rights under the Lausanne Convention.

“As a theological school that exists for around 170 years, located in a monastery with more than a thousand years of history, we, in anticipation of this blessed event, I decided to revive the spiritual life of the monastery. Joined our youth, picked up the brethren, the monastery was filled with monks, and our Church has received a dozen new clergy,” said Metropolitan of Prussia.

“At the moment, for me, has great importance to the mosaic of the Church of the Theological school of Halki, which employs over Ivan Mastropole was a master of Greek origin, born in Moscow and is currently a leading expert in the world of Byzantine mosaics,” – said the Metropolitan, adding that “there are some Italian master, which, however, far from Masterpuls and the level of skill and quality of work.” According to Bishop, he had to spend the whole investigation to come to the final result.

“Before you make a final choice in favor of Masterpuls, I asked him to make a sample of the apse of the altar. When Patriarch Bartholomew saw her, he was just numb for a long time looking at her and admiring. It’s really something incomparable, so we started the process. There is one benefactor, but the cost is very large, because first of all there need to decorate the whole Church,” – shared his impressions of our narrator, not hiding the gleam in his eyes in anticipation of a pleasant Outlook.

The next goal, he said, is the library of the Theological school. “This is one of the most important Orthodox libraries in General, since the former teachers of the Theological school on the island of Halki, he studied in Saint Petersburg, was a Russian-speaking, and their own libraries, mostly Russian-speaking, are now kept intact on the island of Halki. We are in the hands of great wealth, we have already started the digitization of books we processed one after the other. In the first phase we are compiling an electronic catalog, and at the final stage, performed restoration and conservation work to ensure the preservation of publications in the future. This is another huge work, the budget exceeds one million euros, which we expect from our supporters,” – said the Metropolitan, adding that the work is carried out with the participation of the Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki and Munich Libraries.

I catch myself on the fact that I, and apparently, my interlocutor would have been much nicer from the beginning to discuss such are the great works of creation and faith. Probably, our thoughts coincided and he said: “I don’t think this an unsolvable problem that arose at this stage manifests itself. I think that it is possible to build bridges and re-start the convergence. This can happen, you just have to review the criteria on the basis of which we act and make decisions, or rather to return to the purely ecclesiastical and theological criteria, based on which we build our relationships and make our choice. In the presence of sobriety and distance from any worldly and state intervention or recommendations that we are likely to receive from other centers of decision-making, non-religious but seeking a role to play in the game and makes the Church and Church structure in the means for achieving certain goals, we will have peace between the Churches. But if we remain dependent on these centers of power, then the Church is doomed to collision to the extent that an encounter between the interests of States”.

God grant that these good wishes were not only a reproach, but as a call to cooperative action by all parties. Amen.

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