Verebrate for priests: an acute problem or a temptation

The Greek publication reported yesterday that the Synod of the Church of Constantinople decided to allow widowed priests and priests, abandoned by their wives, to enter into a second marriage. MDA teacher and pstgu Archpriest Dmitry Pashkov – on existing practices in local Churches, when such a topic last time I was in Russia and what this could mean for all of the Orthodox Churches.


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  • The priests of the Patriarchate of Constantinople was allowed to enter into a second marriage: what does it mean

Archpriest Dmitry Pashkov. Photo:

First, it is not even news, and unverified rumors. We have seen the reprinting of website of American Newspapers published in the United States for the Greek-speaking Diaspora. The correspondent of the Greek newspaper in America, “Ministry of Κήρυκας” (“national Gazette”) found out from some unnamed sources that the Synod as if it has prepared a regulation that allows for widowed clergy or those who are unjustly abandoned by their wives, the entry into a second marriage. In this same newspaper says that in the next few days will be the relevant regulations, which will set out the necessary details.

But so far no official information about the decision of the Synod. We have only a reprint of the American newspaper portal All other publications refer to this publication, not ensuring the authenticity of the message. So what is to discuss, in essence, nothing.

– Did you raise such questions in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church?

Yes. The Holy Synod in 1795, discussed the question of the admissibility of the ordination starobechevo candidate (this is similar but somewhat different problem), but no decision was taken.

Prominent Serbian canonist Bishop Nikodim (Milash) at the end of life wrote an article called “the laying on of hands, as an obstacle to marriage”. The canonist had once a great reputation in Russia – his “Course of Canon law and commentaries on the canons” even during his lifetime was published in Russia in Russian. So, in this article he is trying from the point of view of theology and Canon law to justify the possibility of second marriage of widowed priests and deacons.

From my point of view, it was a very courageous article in which the author criticizes some of the ancient canons. It was translated into Russian language and published in the periodical scientific journal of the Moscow theological Academy, “Theological Bulletin” in 1907, despite the fact that in this work he contradicts his earlier statements. I’m very curious to know the history of this publication; it remains an open question about how the spiritual censor made her exit. In particular, Bishop Nicodemus argued in this article that every local Church has the right to resolve this question within their field, no Progresa against the fundamental principles of ecclesiastical law.

In preparation we have a local Council in print and on the Cathedral in the preliminary discussions the matter was discussed long and very emotional. The future Patriarch Sergius (Stragorodsky) was considered acceptable to acknowledge the right to join widowed priests in marriage, if they were widowed before 45 years. Young at that time Russian canonist S. V. Troitsky argued the impossibility of such permission. The Council supported the position of the Trinity and found it impossible to change the old order.

– As a matter of verebrate discussed in General in Universal Orthodoxy?

In the Serbian and Romanian churches in the nineteenth century, the second marriage of a widowed clergyman existed as a widespread custom. The bishops of these Churches were allowed such marriages, carefully considering each individual case. They were helped in this by the so-called “Church economy”. Let me remind you that oikonomia (from the Greek. “fellowship”) is a measure of appropriate (often temporary) derogation from the existing law for the sake of a clear conscious positive legal result. Oikonomia does not apply to the tenets of the faith (unchanging and unchangeable), it is applicable only to rules of law, and can only be used by legitimate Church authority.

In 1923 in Constantinople under the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV-th was held the pan-Orthodox Congress. However, it arrived not all representatives of local churches. Among other participants, it was attended by two prominent Russian Bishop, but they did not represent the Russian Church officially. The country began a persecution, so they did not have the necessary authority.

And so, at one of the meetings the Serbian and the Romanian delegation raised the question of the admissibility of a second marriage for priests; however, the Montenegrin Metropolitan Gabriel, head of the delegation, the future Serbian Patriarch and Confessor (prisoner of the Dachau concentration camp), emphasized the special urgency of this problem for the Serbs and asked for the opportunity to marry the widowed Serbian priests on the basis of above mentioned principle of oikonomia. Russian party Congress, the Kishinev Archbishop Anastassy (Gribanovsky) shied away from the discussions, pointing to the fact that Russian members of the Congress do not have sufficient authority to discuss this issue; in addition, he expressed the opinion that the decision on the second married priest, a widower can cause temptation.

From the Congress, Archbishop Anastasios went to Serbia, where together with other hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad convinced the local Serbian bishops not to give this their usual norm of the status of positive law. The project was developed, which stated that until a full-fledged pan-Orthodox Council can act at the local level in accordance with this provisional act, which permits such marriages. By the way, the Greek theologian, Panagiota N. Trembelas reported in its report submitted in 1971, the Synod of the Greek Church referring to the Metropolitan Emiliana, former 25 years by the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the world Council of Churches in Geneva that “in the Serbian and Romanian churches, the thousands of parish priests living with girlfriends”…

– Do I understand that the decisions of other local churches are not required?

On the contrary, always required. But what was decreed 1923 had the status only of the bill, requiring a pan-Orthodox discussions in the future.
As far as I can tell, in recent years, the Greek Orthodox in the United States is actively discussing the theme of verebrate. In local periodicals (in particular, in the newspaper “national Herald”, from where he leaked these unverified rumors) from time to time publishes articles with regards to the official discussion of the issue.
Somewhere on the Internet you can find echoes of the discussion, and from the Holy Synod of the Greek Church. One gets the impression that the Greek hierarchs periodically reflect on this subject. And if one of the local Churches took this decision, there would be an interesting theoretical question, – how widely you can use oikonomia, not only as a tool of law enforcement practice, but also law-making principle. While I personally am not ready for this question to answer.

– And what exists on the level of custom?

The custom is legal, and sometimes illegal. The first corresponds to the rule of law and widely reproduced for a long time. Then he himself becomes the source of law, albeit poorly defined. It happens that customs sometimes contrary to the basic principles of the existing law. Then call them “unlawful”.

– The decision on veropedia accepted Local Church privately?

The era of Ecumenical councils over. Over time, when the Church took the decision of compulsory nature. The Church exists as a spiritual whole, consisting of self-sufficient and sovereign units, which we call local churches. Each of them has considerable freedom, particularly in the field of private lawmaking. Every Orthodox Church at its local level when compared to similar subjects of legal regulation, orders them differently.

– When we say private, we mean including the procedure for resolving individual cases themselves. Do you need official permission for second marriage? Or if the decision is made at the level of the Church of Constantinople, it is enough to act?

In this microscopic article in the American newspaper about rumors that the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will soon make a formal decision contains a couple of clarifying phrases. But again, it’s just a rumor that we are discussing. According to these rumors, first, the decision is based on the principle of oikonomia, that is, the appropriateness, and therefore is not in the abolition of canons, and to solve complex current problems. Second, in each separate case the local Bishop is preparing a dossier, which is sent to the Synod and each case will be considered by the Synod in particular. These rumours of some kind of norm which does not provide universal subjective, so to speak, right. It gives the ability to run some procedure with open and unpredictable results. Finally, it applies to only one Local Church, without affecting the order of other Churches.

– Monogamy – Canon. And the canons accepted by the entire Church, it means that they should be reviewed jointly by the local churches. If one Church is privately makes the decision, not whether it can cause failure of other churches to continue the dialogue?

No, it can only cause discussion. The issue of verebrate is not a reason for conflict. Nobody’s interests, I mean the interests of other local churches, are not affected and are not infringed.

There is, for example, the canons of the Ecumenical councils, prescribing to cross only those non-Orthodox who are very far dogmatically and liturgically separated from Orthodoxy. However, very soon after the time of Troubles in Russia, when Polish Catholics invaded the Russian Kingdom and had torn the Russian Church, was made at the local level of a conciliar decision about the crossing of the “Latins”. In Russia before they were not baptized, and took in the bosom of Orthodoxy through Chrismation or penance. It was a kind of “oikonomia rigor”, which operated for a limited time, several decades. Catholics began to cross, so they felt, so to say, how deeply they have offended us with their invasion.

What I’m about it ‘ bout now? The fact that the history of Orthodoxy, and, in particular, the history of the Russian Church tells us that the precedents “feasible” deviation from the canons has happened before. Another question that could theoretically arise, – how widely each Local Church can use this tool? If the relevant normative act of the Patriarchate of Constantinople still appear officially, we can conclude that she considers acceptable use of the principle of oikonomia quite widely.

Interviewed By Daria Rowena

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