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5.1.09

An Open Letter

to Patriarch Ignatius IV 

Your Beatitude, the Holy Father of the See of Antioch and All the East, beloved Archpastor and Shepherd to the Rational Flock of Christ!

Many of the faithful and clergy of this God-protected Archdiocese of North America have been supremely troubled by the actions of you and the Holy Synod of Antioch regarding our Self-Rule and the loss of our
Diocesan Bishops. We believe you have been misinformed as to the importance of the Diocesan Bishops to us by certain people who have only a narrow experience of the Archdiocese or perhaps only self-interest at heart.

As a result of this action, your spiritual children have been provoked to anger and disappointment by your sudden action. Many have taken it as an unwarranted assault on us for no purpose other than the gain of Metropolitan Philip, who has become exceedingly distant from us over
the past decade. While you may come and preside over great banquets filled with people, a vast majority of the faithful of this Archdiocese have never seen  Metropolitan Philip, and even fewer have seen you. You may come here and be lavished with praises and gifts by a select few, but there are many more who labor hard simply to pay
the basic expenses of our parishes, while supporting the day-to-day costs of the Archdiocese through tithes and small donations. They cannot afford such privileges, and so they labor without recognition to maintain the
Archdiocese.

Because of the language barrier and enforced cultural barrier placed by Metropolitan Philip between us and the rest of the Patriarchate, neither our clergy nor our faithful benefit from the deep spiritual traditions of our Mother Church. We are prevented from founding monasteries, our clergy are set apart from other Antiochian clergy by dress, our seminarians never benefit from visiting our Mother Seminary at the Balamand. When you or other bishops of the Patriarchate come visit us, the reason presented only seems to be fundraising rather than a genuine desire to be with us.

There has been an utter breakdown in communication between the Patriarchate and we, the faithful and clergy of North America. His Eminence, our much-beloved Metropolitan Philip, has been unable to present a coherent and, frankly, believable explanation for recent events to neither us nor the remnants of what once was the Eparchial (Local) Synod.

After claiming the Diocesan Bishops were plotting to divide the Archdiocese and so forcing him to act, he then claimed to have virtually no involvement in this decision aside from giving his approval after the fact. Now, he begs them to sign a letter, signaling he now needs them to keep the Archdiocese from disintegrating.

His Eminence shows little regard for the bishops consecrated to serve this Archdiocese with him, and even less regard for you, since no division or rearrangement of the Archdiocese could be done without your blessing. His remarks belie his supposed love for the bishops or even the Patriarchate.

For the sake of the good order of the Holy Church, we request that Your Beatitude, on behalf of not only yourself but the Holy Synod of Antioch, bring an end to the controversy in North America regarding
your intentions toward us.  We have heard from His Eminence, and now we must, for the good estate of our Church, hear from you. The bishops expressed this need, and you will hear more and more demands from the
clergy and laity for you to speak.

Should you decide that our questions are inappropriate or do not merit a response, then you force us to come to our own conclusions. We seek your guidance, Your Beatitude, with all humility. However, if you refuse to lead us, and our Metropolitan has openly stumbled in his duties, then we will be forced through neglect to determine for
ourselves the motivations for these actions and the appropriate response.

If you do not bring us clarity, this situation is likely to further escalate and rupture our relations with the Patriarchate.

Please, we beg of you, respond to us in public without shame or ambiguity.  Otherwise, people will interpret it as secretiveness, which, to us is indicative of malicious intent and all forms of evil. We are trying hard to avoid such conclusions, and so your definitive, clear and unambiguous statements will certainly bring healing and hope to the countless tens of thousands of faithful and clergy who consider you our Father of Fathers.

1.    Since Metropolitan Philip has been ill for some time, would you please share with us the plans for the replacement of Metropolitan Philip after his death, incapacitation or retirement?

2.    Under what circumstances will the Holy Synod of Antioch retire or remove a Metropolitan?

3.    Will you please publish your list containing qualified candidates for the office of Metropolitan of New York, Archbishop of North America? If not, please explain why the list is being kept from the laity?

4.    Since this recent change in the By-laws of the Patriarchate indicate a level of irregularity within the North American Archdiocese, please explain to us what other changes you and the Holy Synod are considering for us to regularize our condition?

5.    Since the Archdiocese of North America restricts Sacraments only to Orthodox Christians and the Patriarchate permits Sacraments for all Christians regardless of their church membership, will the
Patriarchate seek to regularize the Archdiocese of North America by instructing us to give Sacraments to Non-Orthodox?

6.    Metropolitan Philip has stated, “Please be advised that anything can be discussed again by the Holy Synod except the Nicene Creed.” By this, he implies that the Holy Synod may make binding decisions on all
other Traditions, regardless of the Scriptures, Canons, Traditions, etc.  How do you understand the parameters of the Holy Synod’s authority?

7.    Since Metropolitan Philip has characterized your wearing of the kalymavvchi and cassock as ‘Turkish’ and thus not traditional, thus making our Archdiocese irregular in terms of clergy dress, are you planning to make changes regarding standards of clergy dress?

8.    Section 9 of the Patriarchal By-laws is not enforced in North America. Will the Patriarchate seek to regularize this as well?

9.    Under what circumstances will you and the Holy Synod of Antioch agree to release jurisdiction over the clergy, faithful and properties of the North American Archdiocese?

10.    Since the members of the Holy Synod were aware that Metropolitan Philip was blocking the adoption of the Patriarchate-approved Constitution by the Archdiocese, what was your opinion of Metropolitan
Philip’s rebellion against the Holy Synod?

11.    Please explain to us how the Archdiocese of North America can be represented on the Holy Synod of Antioch when Metropolitan Philip has
publicly refused to attend any further sessions of the Holy Synod? Do you consider this an appropriate model for Metropolitans to follow? Will you require him at some further date to attend?

12.    Will the Holy Synod provide us a copy of the Constitution it wishes us to adopt prior to the 2009 Palm Springs Convention? If not, please explain why.

13.    What was your understanding of the nature of Self-Rule vis-à-vis the necessity of Diocesan Bishops?

14.    What was your understanding of the nature of Self-Rule vis-à-vis the By-laws of the Patriarchate?

15.    Can you please explain to us what the ‘Self-Rule’ status means and how it differentiates us from any other Archdiocese of the Patriarchate?

16.    When did Metropolitan Philip first contact you to ask for the Diocesan Bishops to be demoted? What explanation did he offer? What did you tell him?

17.    Are you aware of any misconduct amongst the Bishops in the Archdiocese of North America? What are your plans to address such accusations if they have been charged?

18.    Are you aware that in 2007 numerous clergy received an anonymous letter stating that Metropolitan Philip was planning to demote the Diocesan Bishops and return Bishop Demetri to active ministry in Latin
America?

19.    Can you explain why you did not tell the Diocesan Bishops your concerns regarding their irregular status during your last visit to North America?

20.    Can you tell us at what point and how the irregular status of the Diocesan Bishops of the Archdiocese became a problem for the Holy Synod?

21.    Have you been approached by anyone other than Metropolitan Philip to make these changes?

22.    Has the Patriarchate of Constantinople contacted you regarding the Archdiocese of North America? What has been the nature of these communications?

23.    Please explain the urgency that compelled you to preside over an irregular session of the Holy Synod, which contradicted the normal procedures of the Patriarchate?

24.    Do you feel it is unnecessary to strictly follow such rules and procedures?

25.    Will you publish the minutes of this meeting?

26.    Are you aware that Bishop Demetri Khouri is a registered sex offender, a status that is for life?

27.    Are you aware that Bishop Demetri’s sex offender status extends to the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico?

28.    Are you aware that if the Holy Synod attempts to return Bishop Demetri to the Archdiocese of North America, there will more than likely be a significant scandal that would cripple the Archdiocese?

29.    Can you explain to us why the Holy Synod thought bringing Bishop Demetri out of retirement was a good idea?

30.    Did Metropolitan Philip tell you that he knew of Bishop Demetri’s drinking prior to his consecration as a Bishop? If so, what investigation did the Holy Synod conduct prior to the consecration? What were the findings?

31.    If Metropolitan Philip did not tell you, do you consider this an act of deception?

32.    Did you or the Holy Synod expect the level of public outcry against your decision to revise the By-laws as you have received?

33.    Are you aware that Metropolitan Philip instructed the faithful and clergy to disobey the Patriarchate and anyone else who sought to undo our Self-Rule during the 2007 Convention?

34.    How far are we to obey Metropolitan Philip over the Patriarchate?

35.    Would you consider speaking out against this decision an act of rebellion against God and the Church?

36.    Under what circumstances would the Holy Synod punish clergy and laity for speaking out against this decision? Will the Holy Synod
permit Metropolitan Philip to punish clergy and laity who have or will speak out against this decision and his actions as Metropolitan?

37.    Would the Holy Synod of Antioch consider it rebellion if the laity of the Archdiocese withholds donations to the Archdiocese or to the
Patriarchate? How would you and the Holy Synod of Antioch address the matter?

38.    Would the Holy Synod of Antioch consider it rebellion if the laity and clergy of the Archdiocese request that the Holy Synod retire Metropolitan Philip, either through petition or motion from the floor of the Convention?

39.    Much of the controversy of this decision appears to be that the Holy Synod, having carefully considered the matter and granted our status and structure as it has been implemented, suddenly changed it mind and rescinded its own will. Many interpret this as being a sign that the Holy Synod can or may change its mind at any time and violate its agreements with others without thought of consequence. Can you explain how the Holy Synod interprets the nature of its decisions and the changing of such decisions?

40.    To repair the damage caused by this decision, its miscommunication and the impossibility of its pastoral application, would the Holy Synod of Antioch consider elevating the present Auxiliary Bishops to the rank of Metropolitan?  Why or why not?

Your Beatitude, we realize that there are many questions here, but that you have a large staff to help you prepare responses in a timely manner.  In this day and age, information flows quickly. If you wait more than a week, you will lose any chance of preventing further damage. Slow responses brought down Metropolitan Herman of the O.C.A., and now Metropolitan Philip is making the same error by procrastination. We are not trying to intimidate you, but merely stating the facts of this situation.

Metropolitan Philip has forgotten the poor and needy, those Americans who do not understand his or your actions. We are the destitute and orphaned, who have left our ‘riches’ in other churches to be the poorest of the poor in the Holy Orthodox Church. Will no one have compassion for us?

By simply admonishing people to accept what they do not understand, His Eminence has undermined everything the Archdiocese once stood for, including explaining our Faith and Traditions to those who do not understand them. This elementary misjudgment to clearly explain the
thinking that went into this decision means that certain aspects of the Faith are simply unattainable for those branches grafted onto the vine of the Patriarchate.

We, Canadians and Americans, need to know if we are to be considered Second Class Citizens of the Patriarchate, forever obeying what we do not understand nor is taught to us, like an irrational flock. Please,
Your Beatitude, free us from such enslavement within the Church we have so diligently sought to be part of.

Your Beatitude, please do not forsake us at this critical time. Please show us the Love of our Lord Jesus Christ and address us as a father speaks plainly to his children. Let us trust one another.  Let us think of holy things and not politics.

- A Loyal Antiochian American Orthodox Christian

 


 

 

 
 

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