Welcome to the official website of the CENTER OF ECUMENICAL, MISSIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES "METROPOLITAN PANTELEIMON PAPAGEORGIOU" (CEMES)
NEW July 15, 2021
A new Arab-speaking theological educational program dedicated to Metropolitan Georges Khodr (in Ecumenical Orthodox Theology in Arabic (PEOTA). In 2021, the International Hellenic University and the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies has started its Master Program in “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology” (MOET) of highest academic standards. The Program is offered in English, as it is addressed both for Orthodox and non-Orthodox graduate students wishing either to learn more about the Orthodox Theology or to deepen their knowledge through a mission-oriented and biblical and liturgically based theological education. Behind this program, the ambition of the founder is clear: to study the authentic Christian tradition, and at the same time reflect on how this can be implemented in the 21st century, with the view of including the widest possible scholarship as well as audience. Within this same spirit, Prof. Nicolas Abou Mead, a formerly professor of the University of Balamand, proposed an On-line program of theological education, carrying the same ambition, yet, addressed to the Arabic speaking Christians present all over the world. This program, which offers a diploma and certificate of attendance, shall include courses in the different fields of theological education, as well as public lectures and Symposia dealing with actualities relevant to the presence and witness of Arabic speaking Christians today, all mainly held in the Arabic language. The uniqueness of this program, if compared to other On-line theological programs offered by various Arabic speaking theological faculties or institutes, shall lie in its approach. While the existing programs are mainly bound to classical curricula of theological education, the Metropolitan Georges Khodr Educational Program in Ecumenical Orthodox Theology (PEOTA) shall focus on actualizing theological education for the Arab Christians, in a way that would help them bear an active and living witness in a world in which they are facing multiple challenges, such as living in a religiously diverse context not immune to hardships and where vital questions torment the Arabic speaking Christians, including those related to the Minority-Majority dilemma, engaging with non-Christians and being active members of their societies, while holding to the essence of their faith and legacy. These are matters that have pre-occupied the great Antiochian theologian, Metr. Georges Khodr, to whom this program is dedicated, who, in his writings and life, has set a path for an active Christian witness both in the Middle East region as well as in the rest of the world. Hence, I suggest that the program includes the following: 1. Courses in theological education: covering the main field of theology; Bible, Doctrine, History of the Church, Liturgy and Patristics. Yet, the courses shall be offered in such a way as to reveal the intrinsic links between these different fields, which are not separate monolithic blocs, but are profoundly interrelated. This interrelation shall be the main focus in the courses. For example, how liturgy interprets and echoes the biblical teaching? What led the fathers to formulate the faith in doctrinal formulas, how these formulas serve us today, and can they be actualized? How can the history of the Church be viewed from a biblical perspective and how can the historical presence of the Church be viewed against the teaching about the Church as the body of Christ? These and other questions shall be the leading factors in shaping the courses and their Syllabi. 2. Public Lectures: one or two monthly public lectures offered by experts in theology, religious sociology, politics, psychology, art, as well as the different fields of culture, that touch upon main issues relevant to actualizing the Christian theological education and revealing its interconnection with other disciplines and human activities. 3. Symposia: CEMES has had the courage to launch a series of Symposia dealing with crucial matters related to the Church’s life and theology, such as science and theology, ordination of women, interreligious matters, to name just a few. With the same spirit a yearly symposium can be held in Arabic, raising such actual and other similarly important issues. It is to be noted that all these activities shall be held on-line. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced us more profoundly to what technology can offer us in terms of communication and educational tools. Since the Arabic speaking Christians are present all over the world, the outreach shall be through online means. Exceptionally, physical symposia can be held in some countries, if the topic of the symposium is more relevant to any of these countries than to others. In this case, exceptional arrangements shall be made. Academic Community: a large number of Arabic speaking theologians may be contacted once this proposal is approved. I would suggest to include, besides Orthodox theologians, non-orthodox experts in the field of theology, who can, not only enrich the discussions, but also through their presence and participation, foster the ecumenical character of the program as well as the co-existence as a necessity for the Arabic speaking Christians in their different contexts. Schedule: Courses shall consist of 6 - 8 sessions per semester (fall: Sep. through Dec.; Spring: Feb. through June). Public lectures shall be held once or twice per month throughout the year. Symposia: once every year or every other year. Fees: This shall be agreed upon in agreement with CEMES, in a way that would not add to the financial burdens of people living already in dire financial situations. Participants with better financial means shall compensate for those who do not have these means. Final Remarks CEMES, with its ecumenical and missiological approach, is expected to be the cradle for programs that would carry the same spirit. PEOTA shall be enshrined in the underlying concept that theological education is first and foremost one of the aspects of Christian mission, and that this mission shall reach the ends of the earth.
INTER-ORTHODOX MASTER PROGRAM IN "ORTHODOX ECUMENICAL THEOLOGY"
The International Hellenic University has started an inter-Orthodox, inter-jurisdictional English-speaking post-graduate program on Orthodox Ecumenical Theology – the term “ecumenical” referring to the universal, catholic and ecumenical dimension of the Christian faith – to foster Orthodox unity at an academic level, in addition to providing high level academic services. The program is mission-oriented, biblically and liturgically-based, with a primary intention the implementation of the rich Orthodox Patristic tradition in the 21st century. The details of the program, originally planned for non-Orthodox, can be retrieved in http://hum.ihu.edu.gr/index.php/en/courses/masters/master-in-orthodox-ecumenical-theology. The program was originally planned and prepared by the scholarly and academic resources of CEMES and its friends. However, in order to make it as inter-Orthodox as possible we decided to invite scholars from all Orthodox jurisdictions as co-instructors as follows Programme Structure Students are required to complete the following courses (Core courses and elective courses): The Core Courses - First Term
The Elective Courses During the second semester, students should choose three courses from one of the following streams and one course from the rest of the two streams, according to their interests and their current and future career orientation: (a) Foundational Orthodox Theology
The Faculty (in red the CEMES members, in parenthesis the Orthodox Jurisdictions) \ Biblical Courses Petros Vassiliadis Miltiadis Konstantinou Ivan Zelev Dimitrov (BUL) Nicolas Abou Mrad (ANT) Dimitrios Passakos Georgios Adam (EVANG) Moschos Goutzioudis Mauro Pesce (CATH)
Liturgical Courses Pavlos Koumarianos (GRE) Michael Zheltov (ΜΡ) Niki Tsironis (GRE) Paul Meyendorff (OCA)
Systematic Theological Courses Georgios Martzelos Vassilios Karayannis (CYP) Emmanuel Clapsis (EP) Patristic Courses Metr. Kallistos Ware (ΕΡ) Metr. Hilarion Alfeyev (ΜΡ) Sebastian Brock (ANGL) Norman Russell (ANGL) Historical Courses Dimitrios Moschos (GRE) Tamara Grdzelidze (GEO) Theodosios Kyriakidis
Inter-Faith and Environmental Courses Nikolaos Dimitriadis John Chryssavgis John Ngige Njoroge (ALE)
Ecclesiological courses Metr. John Zizioulas (EP) John P. Manousakis (EP) Cyril Hovorun (OCU)
Social and Ethical Theological Courses Christos Tsironis Niki Papageorgiou Lukasz Nazarko (POL)
Modern, Gender and Bio-ethics Courses Petros Panagiotopoulos Denia Athanasopoulou-Kypriou Elizabeth Prodromou Inter-Christian Courses Nikos Kouremenos Rev. George Kondothra (ORIENTAL) Rev. Luca Bianchi (CATH) Rev. Theodore Kondidis (CATH) Right Rev. Rowan William (ANGL) Right Rev. Tom Wright (ANGL) Canonical Courses John Erickson (OCA) Theodoros Yagou (JER) Jovic Rastko (SER)
CEMES PROJECT ON UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX RECONCILIATION
PEACE ON EARTH AND ORTHODOX UNITY. AN APPEAL TO THE ORTHODOX ACADEMIC COMMUNITY The Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metr. Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES) faithful to its vocation and vision had started since September 1, 2018 a scholarly project under the pretext of the Orthodox unity, so vulnerable in our present-day Orthodox Church that started with the Holy and Great Council. As the Orthodox unity had suffered a serious blow by the last-minute decision of the Russian Church (together with Antioch, Georgia, Bulgaria) not to participate, so also it was later deteriorated after the decision of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) to break Eucharistic communion with the EP (and later with those Primates who recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, OCU). CEMES set up an ad hoc academic committee, consisting of the teaching staff of the anglophone inter-Orthodox, inter-jurisdictional Master Program in “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology” (MOET) of the International Hellenic University (IHU), assigned the task to examine the Ukrainian crisis from a scholarly academic theological, historical and canonical perspective on the issue of the granting autocephaly in a single and united Orthodox Church in Ukraine. CEMES also continued more fervently on the same principle the activities of the MOET program, officially started this academic year, continuing its quest for Orthodox unity. After all, MOET by its nature concentrates on this unity of Orthodoxy and of the entire Christian world. Now, 2 years after the official granting of Autocephaly to a united Church in Ukraine CEMES and MOET decided to focus in addition on the practical aspects of restoring Orthodox unity in Ukraine. More precisely, on how the broken unity in Ukraine can be practically restored. H.A.H the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has in numerous occasions affirmed this, and H.H. the Patriarch of Moscow Cyril quite recently in an interview to a Russian TV opened a small window by suggesting private prayer between himself and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, as the least he can do, in view of the unilateral breaking of the Eucharistic communion by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Orthodox academic theological community, as the prophetic conscience of the Church, cannot but follow their example. And as a first step to consider pragmatic proposal, based on the actual situation that is revealed at this specific time. Taking into consideration that the Ukrainian public is open to a closer relationship and even cooperation with their neighbour countries, the main feature for this rapprochement should be the idea of soft power. And what is at this stage needed is a cultural cooperation, exchange of ideas and engaging the younger generation for the mutual enrichment in humanitarian sphere. As to a canonical step a practical proposal, though not the only one, may be an interim solution of a double jurisdiction in Ukraine, i.e. the creating of a new ecclesiastical structure with mutual agreement by both the UOC-MP and the new Autocephalous OCU. Although a double jurisdiction may not be fully canonical, and even in the Orthodox diaspora is in the process of being overcome, it seems the only feasible solution that will diminish hatred developed during the past 20 years, exacerbated in the last two years. Only such a solution – or similar ones - can in a very short time reconcile all Ukrainian Orthodox making them embrace one another as an example not only to the rest of the Orthodox, but to the whole world, of what a Christian love is. This, of course, can only be achieved if the model of the 1928 agreement between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Autocephalous Church of Greece that allowed a century ago the so-called New Lands in Greece to be temporarily administered by the Autocephalous Church of Greece. In other words, if both the UOC-MP and the OCU leave aside for a short time their civil ecclesiastical war and agree in joining forces in Church administration. During this interim period, a Church administration can possibly be established, with a Permanent Holy Synod consisting of 6 hierarchs from UOC-MP and 6 from the OCU, and a Synod of all the Orthodox hierarchs, exactly on the model that perfectly operates in the Church of Greece. All these, hopefully by extending their synodality to the “royal priesthood” (both ordained and lay people) and at all levels of ecclesiastical life, until a full-scale reconciliation and maturity is achieved, and eventually a truly united Orthodox Church in Ukraine emerges. As a second suggestion, MOET, as well as IHU’s second inter-disciplinary program on “Geopolitics and Religions” (GRER), will invite scholars to give open internationally public lectures, as MOET has already started with all members of its academic committee. H.E. Metropolitans of Pergamon (EP), Targoviste (Romania), Kenya (Alexandria), Diokleia (EP), Constantia (Cyprus), Volokolamsk (Russia), and Petros Vassiliadis, as well as all the nearly 20 members of the teaching staff. CEMES now invites all interested Orthodox academics, despite any natural pessimism they may feel, to make similar recommendations for brotherly/sisterly discussion. The growing disrespect of the society at large for our Church after the experience of the pandemic is the right “kairos” for the faithful Orthodox academics to act.
AN ONLINE TRANSNATIONAL, INTER-CULTURAL AND INTER-FAITH GRADUATE PROGRAM IN "GEOPOLITICS AND RELIGION"
The Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES), in cooperation with the global network of Theological Education, the World Conference of Association of/and Theological Institutions/Educators (WOCATI) and the Fletcher School of Tuffs University, is planning to launch an online distant Post-graduate Program in GEOPOLITICS AND RELIGION. It is an ambitious intercultural and inter-faith project, following the vision of a forward-looking intercultural program. It aims at applying the inevitable geopolitical effects on religious and cultural matters, primarily of Christianity but also of other religions. It will be following all international standards of excellence and the critical study pursued in modern academic scholarship. It has a threefold aim: (a) To provide research and education in the field of geopolitics and its effects in religious matters that meet the needs of the 21st century secular, deplomatic and religious research in an inter-cultural transnational environment. (b) To enhance understanding of the diplomatic, ecumenical, socio-economic, ecological and gender issues facing the communities of faith and society at large through teaching and research of highest academic standards. (c) To create an international, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and diverse student and faculty community to foster greater understanding between cultures, nations, and religious traditions. Its Academic Committee consists of renowned scholars of various disciplines: Professor Elizabeth Prodromou of Tuffs University, the former Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic, Professor Evangellos Venizelos, Professor of Constitutional Law, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; Emeritus Professor Paschalis Kitromilidis, Professor of History and member of the Academy of Athens; Emeritus Professor Metr. Ioannis Zizioulas, Professor of Orthodox Theology and member of the Academy of Athens; and Emeritus Professor Petros Vassiliadis, Professor of Biblical Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and President in Honor of CEMES The following professors will teach the following (in parenthesis) Core Courses of the Program: Paschalis Kitromilidis and Elizabeth Prodromou (Introduction to Geopolitics), Evangellos Venizelos (Geopolitics and Law), Paschalis Kitromilidis (Modernity, Religion and Geopolitics), Elizabeth Prodromou (Human Rights, Diplomacy and Geopolitics), Dimitris Stamatopoulos (History of Religions and Geopolitics), Petros Vassiliadis (Christianity and Geopolitics). Similarly, for the Elective courses: Cyril Hovorun and Augustinos Bairaktaris (Christian Ecclesiology and Geopolitics), Dimitrios Keramidas and Cristian Sonea (World Christian Mission and Geopolitics), Nikolaos Dimitriadis (Interfaith Dialogue and Geopolitics), John Chryssavgis (Environment and Geopolitics), Mark Lindsay (Ecumenical Relations and Geopolitics), Dimitrios Passakos (Bible, Social Studies and Geopolitics), Christos Tsironis (Ethics & Geopolitics), Niki Papageorgiou (The Church’s Structure and Geopolitics), Nikos Kouremenos (Eastern & Oriental Orthodox Churches & Geopolitics), Athanasios Papathanasiou (Contemporary Orthodox Mission & Geopolitics), Sergii Bortnyk (Orthodox Church and Geopolitics in Ukraine), Diogenis Karagiannakidis (Orthodox Church and Geopolitics in Mt Athos), Kostas Mygdalis (Orthodox Church and Geopolitics and IAO), Denia Athanasopoulou-Kypriou (Feminist Theology & Geopolitics). The online distant Master Program in Geopolitics and Religion is a 14-month program of study comprised of three parts over three semesters. Eligible for registration are holders of any under-graduate diploma from accredited higher education institutions. It is taught exclusively in English. Students are required to successfully complete 75 ECTS (the agreed European educational credit measure). The first semester covers a course on Introduction to Geopolitics (worth 6 ETCS) and 4 core courses (worth 6 ETCS each). The second semester covers one core course (worth 6 ETCS) and 8 elective courses (worth 3 ECS each), Each teaching term has 13 teaching weeks through distance synchronic and a-synchronic instruction and seminar work, followed by a 6-day examination period. The third period is taken up with work on the Master' s dissertation (worth 15 ETCS). The Master program is addressed to English-speaking graduate students of all disciplines, who wish to acquire or broaden their specialization through online instruction aiming at a profound knowledge of the effects of geopolitics on the religious and Christian communities and their life in secular and multi-religious and multi-cultural context. The Program offers a critical and multifarious study of the religious, inter-faith and ecumenical relations, affected by secular and various geopolitical factors and ambitions to focus both on the traditional understanding of any Faith tradition and on their witness to present day realities. The obtained skills that the graduates develop will allow them to work in secular and religious environments, in educational and business and academic institutions, in Church administration, and in other relevant areas.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CHURCHES AND THE WORLD (ISSUED BY THE SEMINAR ON COVID-19, ORGANIZED BY CEMES & IHU)
THE FINAL COMMUNIQUE OF THE INTERNATIONAL WEB-SEMINAR ORGANIZED BY CEMES ΑΝD IHU ON “RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES AND CHURCH IN Α PERIOD OF PANDEMIC” (Biblical, Liturgical, Historical, Theological, Ecclesiological, Ecumenical, Interfaith and Missiological Perspectives)
COVID-19: A MEANINGFUL STORM FOR RENEWAL IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH Final communiqué of AN INTERNATIONAL WEB-SEMINAR ORGANIZED BY CEMES ΑΝD IHU ON “RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES AND CHURCH IN Α PERIOD OF PANDEMIC” (Biblical, Liturgical, Historical, Theological, Ecclesiological, Ecumenical, Interfaith and Missiological Perspectives)
The Center of Ecumenical, Missiological, and Environmental Studies (CEMES) and the inter-Orthodox Master Program of the International Hellenic University (IHU) “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology (MOET) organized a week-long (6-11 April, 2020) Web-Seminar on “Religious Communities and Church in a Period of Pandemic,” a crisis that not only endangered public health, but the necessary precautionary measures taken worldwide have also challenged the core of the Church's identity. CEMES was encouraged in this by courageous statements of illumined hierarchs that “we the clergy – and, we could add, theologians – are responsible for the fact that our faithful people have no idea what the Eucharist really means. The time has come to look at our mistakes and to repent.” It also recalled what half a century ago the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann said about another crisis, when he spoke of a meaningful storm for ecclesiological renewal in the Orthodox diaspora. Therefore, it envisioned that the COVID-19 pandemic becomes a meaningful and blessed storm for an overall renewal in our Orthodox Church and beyond. The seminar brought together scholars from all over the world (15 countries from all five continents: USA, Russia, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Syria, Ukraine, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey, Georgia, Greece), to reflect on the present COVID-19 Pandemic and the way it affected the Churches. It was conducted by the CEMES teaching staff of MOET, and it was supported by the authorities of IHU that provided the electronic facilities, as an open space to reflect in common on the various aspects of the ecclesiastical life throughout the world by sharing information and scholarly views on the subject. It was attended by over 200 participants, with short statements offered by almost all (17) teaching staff of MOET, renowned scholars from abroad (10) and from other scholarly disciplines (Law, and History), one bishop, 7 academic priests and few younger researchers and Ph.D. and Master holders. All their presentations were discussed and evaluated in the 6th final day by the participants. Beyond the ways that the present pandemic crisis has endangered the public health, the precautionary measures assumed worldwide have also challenged our ecclesiastical life in two distinct, albeit interrelated areas: the enforced enclosure of the faithful, with consequences not only for the constitutional right of religious freedom, but also for the identity of the Church defined by the Eucharistic event as a community coming together “in the same place.” That is why the seminar opened with a Biblical and Liturgical session, particularly focused on the need for translated biblical readings, the biblical background for understanding the theological meaning of the Eucharist, as well as the priesthood of the faithful for a desired liturgical and ecclesiological renewal for a meaningful storm in our Church.
THE DETAILS OF THE SEMINAR
1. The Biblical and Liturgical session dealt with the profound nature and the various Christian practices regarding the Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist, as well as the Eucharistic event in the wake of physical (social) distancing. (coordinated by P. Vassiliadis and N. Denysenko, with presentations by M. Konstantinou, P. Vassiliadis, D. Passakos, P. Meyendorff, P. Andriopoulos and E. Venizelos) 2. The Historical session covered data and implications of major historical pandemics, both in antiquity (during the Peloponnesian War, etc.), and in particular the early church (during the persecutions) and of late Christian antiquity (the plague of Carthage), and especially the great plague in Justinian’s era (in Constantinople, etc.) and the great epidemics of the Middle Ages and modern times (coordinated by N. Kouremenos and G. Demacopoulos, with presentations by G. Dokos, Th. Kyriakidis, D. Stamatopoulos and N. Kosmidis) 3. The Theological and Ecclesiological session concentrated on the theological understanding of the mystery of the Church, the Eucharistic and Baptismal Theology and the experience and practices in a period of pandemic (coordinated by P. Panagiotopoulos and C. Hovorun, with presentations by G. Kochetkov, Z. Dashevskaya, St. Muksuris and P. Koumarianos). 4. The Ecumenical and Interfaith session covered various historical and theological attitudes of other churches and religions, primarily focusing on the journey toward the unity of humanity, the care for God’s creation and the visible unity of the Church (coordinated by J. Chryssavgis and E. Clapsis, assisted by N. Dimitriadis and with presentations by himself, P. Ladouceur, B. Gallaher, S. Boukis. Chr. Stueckenberger and V. Stathokosta). And 5. The Missiological and Pastoral session focused on the authentic meaning of witness rendered by the Christian world over the centuries in times of epidemics or pandemics and other similar crises ( coordinated by D. Keramidas and Chr. Sonea, with presentations by himself, Bishop Lazar, E. Voulgaraki, V. Xidias, M. Sereti and S. Karekla)
The Biblical and Liturgical Session
The first Biblical and Liturgical Session of the seminar started with a very optimistic perspective, and certainly hope, that the current pandemic can become a “meaningful storm” for a liturgical and overall renewal of our Orthodox Church. It was also encouraged by the statement of a hierarch of the Church of Greece that “we the clergy – and of course the theologians too - are responsible that our faithful people have no idea what the Eucharist really means. The time has come to look to our mistakes and repent.” Coordinated by the President in Honor of CEMES, and Director of the Inter-Orthodox Master Program of IHU “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology (MOET), Prof. Emer. Petros Vassiliadis, who was also acting on behalf of the ill Prof. of the University of Valparaiso of USA, and among the perspective teaching staff of MOET, Dn. Nicholas Denysenko, the seminar’s first session started with one of the founding members of CEMES. Prof. Emer. Miltiadis Konstantinou, former Dean of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, concentrated on the need for translated Bible readings in the Orthodox liturgy, especially during this special period of enforced enclosure, but also after the end of it. He presented the liturgical helps published by the Greek Bible Society, in cooperation with the Church of Greece. Second speaker was Prof. Vassiliadis himself. Having realized how serious problems had emerged for the Orthodox self-consciousness after the preliminary measures imposed concerning the core of the identity of the Church, the Holy Eucharistic, he decided to briefly present the scientific findings of biblical scholarship on the biblical Eucharistic data and the profound theological meaning of Eucharist. He concluded that the starting point for determining the deeper meaning of the Eucharist, is the teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of God, and he underlined the eschatological and covenantal character of the early common Eucharistic meals. As to the authentic understanding of the Christian sacramental theology, he reminded that in the Bible “μυστήριον” is the hidden plan of God for the salvation of the world. The Church, by extension, is considered a “mystery,” as the locus of God’s salvation. And only later the Divine Eucharist was characterized as a “mystery”, the Mystery par excellence. Until the 4th century AD, the term “Mystery” and its derivatives were not connected in any way with what later came to be called Sacraments. Third speaker was Prof. Dimitrios Passakos οf the Higher Ecclesiastical Academy of Athens, also a biblical scholar, who using a sociological analysis of the Pauline epistles provided a theological interpretation of the Eucharist in the Pauline letters. St. Paul by making the proclamation of Lord's death the locus of the eucharistic gathering, he understood the mystery par excellence of the Church as the opposite of "liturgical escapism" from everyday social problems. He did not simply connect the Eucharist with the eschatological event of Jesus' death, but with the proclamation of this death he inextricably connected the Eucharist with eschatology and mission. Next speaker was the Prof. Emer. of Liturgical Theology at St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary of USA, Paul Meyendorff. Making use of the biblical and the liturgical evidence he made a plea for an urgent rediscovery of the priesthood of all the faithful, not only during the present pandemic, but also in the overall ecclesiastical life. He reminded how important for the Church’s mission is the engagement of the entire “royal priesthood”, not jus the clergy, based on a Baptismal theology that will supplement our Eucharistic ecclesiology. Fifth speaker was the administrator of the semi-official website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, theologian and musician researcher Panagiotisς Αndriopoulos, who presented his research on the plethora of hymns and prayers composed in and for the present pandemic crisis. The first session ended with a presentation by the former Deputy Prime Minister of Greece and prof. of Constitutional Law at the University of Thessaloniki, Evangelos Venizelos on “Constitutional measures in democratic societies and the Church in a period of pandemic” He stressed that in Greece, as well as in the EU there is neither persecution of the faith, nor loss of religious freedom The church, as expressed by the synodal decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Church of Greece, the Church of Crete, he said, realized that «the pandemic does not threaten the faith but the faithful». The so-called heroic statements of some who are not afraid of the virus and want to take part in ecclesiastical gatherings of worship, despite the legislative prohibitions on freedom of movement, are deeply irresponsible and selfish. Solidarity and love are at the foundation of society (κοινωνία) but also of communion (κοινωνία).
2. The Historical Session The second session was dedicated to the historical dimension of the pandemic crises and the Church's over time response to the various challenges associated with them. The session was moderated by Nikos Kouremenos, research fellow at the Foundation for Religious Studies (Fscire) in Bologna, and George Decamocopoulos, professor of Orthodox Christian Studies at Fordham University. First speaker was Mr. George Dokos, a theologian and graduate student on Ecclesiastical History at the University of Athens, who referred to the so-called "Justinian's Plague" and its religious and cultural effects. He focused on the critical disposition of several historians and chroniclers of that time to accept the widespread perception that the cause of the pandemic disease was God's wrath for people's sins. At the same time, he presented examples that show the influence of medical terminology on theological treatises and the hymnography of that period. Particular emphasis was also placed on the impact that pandemic diseases exercised in the field of divine worship and popular piety with the spread of the veneration of doctor-saints as well as sacred relics and various types of amulets, the development of miracle collections as a special literary genre, etc. The painful effects of the pandemic, however, he concluded, together with the disappearance of large numbers of population, have weakened the Byzantine Empire and facilitated eventually the spread of Islam. At this point, the co-chair of the session, Professor George Demacopoulos, made a short intervention, referring to the personality of Pope Gregory the Great. This Pope ascended to the papal throne, when his predecessor, Pelagius II, succumbed to the epidemic that plagued Rome during the year 590. One of the first actions taken by the newly elected pontiff was to organize a large procession through the streets of Rome that was completed at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, dedicated to the Virgin Mary for the protection of the city. It was an innovative move, probably inspired by customs of Constantinople, where Gregory served as pope's legate, as until that time Rome's protection was linked in the local ecclesiastical conscience with St. Peter. Then, Theodosis Kyriakidis, theologian with PhD in Modern History and researcher at the Pontic Studies Center of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, referred to the historical witnesses and the recorded ways of dealing with epidemics in Pontus from the late Middle Ages until the end of the 19th century. Special mention was made regarding the withdrawal of people from urban centers and the role of the historic Monasteries of Pontus in the care and maintenance of people in dire straits. As far as worship services are concerned, the sources do not seem to testify clearly to the practice of suspension, at least regarding the Orthodox Church, in reference also to what happened with the Roman Catholic and Protestant missions operating in the area. Along with the epidemics, however, the veneration of specific saints was also spread, such as that of St. Charalambos as well as sacred relics, and icons in which the plague was personified in the form of a black demon. The next to take the floor was the professor of Balkan and Late Ottoman History at the University of Macedonia, Dimitris Stamatopoulos. Starting with the churches’ closure by Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysios V in 1890 in the context of the questioning of the privileges of the Patriarchate in the Late Ottoman Empire, the speaker referred to the broader issue of the Church's relationship with secularization and consequently with the modern state. The question directly related to the above issue has to do with which of the two institutions, the State or the Church, can guarantee the ontological security of the citizens. Already since early modernity, two different types of secularization have emerged: (a) the model of the Church's complete submission to the State according to Thomas Hobbes, and (b) the model of the Church's exit from the State and its integration into Civil Society according to John Locke. According to the latter view, the State has an obligation to restrict the Church when the latter questions civil rights. The modern state has the right to exercise and determine its health policy and the obligation to ensure the maximum life expectancy of its citizens and consequently the responsibility to stop any activity that endangers their ontological security. Finally, the Secretary General of the CEMES, Nikos Kosmidis, first referred to the pandemic of 1348-1353 and the catastrophic consequences for Europe with particular emphasis on religious phenomena that emerged at that time, such as those of messianism, religious fervor, anticipation of the end of the world, choreomani, etc. A typical example is the groups of wandering flagellants and the impact they exercised in late-medieval society. In the second part of his presentation, Mr. Kosmidis referred to the effects of Modernity and Rationalism on the view of death and in fact of the epidemic during the 19th century, such as the apparent decline of the religious and metaphysical dimension and the acceptance of death as a natural end and mourning as a social obligation. Special mention was made of the phenomenon of posthumous photography, which appeared in the second half of the 19th century, with which people tried to keep the memory of their loved ones imprinted and thus alleviate the pain of loss.
3. The Theological and Ecclesiological Session
Wednesday’s (8.4.20) session was dedicated to the theological and ecclesiological perspectives and questions raised by the current pandemic of COVID-19, but also to the way ecclesiastical thought and practice in general as well as a period of pandemic. The session was coordinated by the President of CEMES, Dr. Petros Panagiotopoulos, Assist. Professor at Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Fr. Cyril Hovorun, Assist. Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. All addresses in this session were presented in English. First speaker was Father Georgy Kochetkov, former Rector of the Christian Orthodox Institute “St. Philaret” in Moscow and the spiritual father of the Transfiguration Brotherhood of Russia. He developed the theme “A State of Emergency in the Church of Christ or: A Feast in a Time of Plague?” and referred to the need of expanding ecclesiastical boundaries in a state of emergency, like the present one. “When human lives are at stake, the cost is extremely high, and the canonical boundaries of the church expand,” he said. Both he and Ms. Zoya Dashevskaya, Subdean of the School of Theology at St. Philaret’s Christian Orthodox Institute and PhD candidate in the Department of Church History of the School of History at Moscow State University, pointed to the urgency of reviewing current liturgical practices of our Church. “There have been circumstances when lay men and women, could administer the holy gifts to themselves...It is entirely appropriate to remember the women presbyters and deaconesses of ancient times in this context. Women could also serve in the church in aiding with the celebration of the mysteries.” The next speaker was Fr. Stylianos Muksuris, Professor of Liturgical Theology and Languages and Chair in Department of Liturgy, Byzantine Catholic Seminary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who spoke on the theme “Back to the Future or Forward to the Past? Covid-19’s Positive Effects on Liturgical and Spiritual Renewal.” Quoting his Primate, Archbishop Elpidophoros, he suggested supplementing our conventional understanding of holy κοινωνία with a refreshingly new perspective of becoming communion for our suffering brothers and sisters. The need to donate blood, to check up on the elderly, and to provide for the material wellbeing and safety of the infirm, which is the horizontal aspect of the Church’s outreach, complements the vertical communion with God. He also stressed the importance of finding positive aspects in the current situation and activating the whole ecclesiastical body, especially women are tragically marginalized, to deal with needs that arise. The future needs “a more vibrant Church ready to be resurrected and reclaim its rightful place as the divine-human force to effect transformation of hearts and communities,” he said. The third speaker was Fr. Pavlos Koumarianos, Doctor of Theology and Teacher at the City University of Athens, who analyzed the concept of death in the Orthodox tradition, making extensive reference to St. Maximos the Confessor. The last main speaker was expected to be Fr. Ioannis-Panteleimon Manousakis, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts (USA). He was unable to join the session but sent the text of his presentation, the link of which was distributed to the participants but it was also very briefly summarized in Greek by the President in Honor of CEMES, Emer. Prof. Petros Vassiliadis, pointing out the way in which Fr. P. Manousakis took advantage of narratives and literature from the ancient Greek literature (Oedipus, Thucydides, Plato etc.) and modern philosophers and novelists (A. Camus, Derridas, etc), who dealt with the plague or the semantics of the Eucharist, comparing the accidental coincidence of the imposed Quarantine (referring to 40 days in Italian) to the Christian period of Lent (also of 40 days (Τεσσαρακοστή),and draw conclusions about the current state of emergency and the spiritual way it should be endured. The session ended with a round-up and interesting short intervention by the co-coordinator, Fr. Cyril Hovorun, who referred to the discussion on the Eucharist as it is developed in the time of the coronavirus pandemic by those who believe or don’t believe that the Eucharist kills the virus, calling it an Orthodox epiphenomenon of “Cultural War.” He opined that it is unhelpful to continue with this sort of culture wars, in a time when the virus, regardless of what we believe about it…will continue taking lives on both sides. Until an Ecumenical Council (and here he mentioned the recommendation at the Holy and Great Council for periodical Pan-orthodox such gatherings) decides which side is right, either view is a theologoumenon, a theological opinion, not a dogma.
4. The Ecumenical and Interfaith Session
On the fourth day of the online seminar on “Religious Communities and the Church in a Pandemic Period,” the speakers examined the theme from an ecumenical/ interfaith perspective. First Fr John Chryssavgis, Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, opened his reflection on how the pandemic has affected the way we speak to the world and the way we respond to the world. He identified the global state as a crisis, which is a significant term basically meaning judgement. He observed that the time has arrived to review our priorities and to question ourselves, especially the leaders in all sectors of life (political, religious, etc.) This crisis for Fr John Chryssavgis is an opportunity to move beyond narrow interests, stepping outside of where we feel comfortable. It is a time to start listening to the others, to the experts in every field. He closed his inspirational speech connecting this crisis to the challenge of the ecological crisis. Fr Emmanuel Clapsis from the Theological School of Holy Cross in Boston initially addressed the issue from a contextual and then from an interfaith perspective. He acknowledged that the Covid-19 crisis provides considerable opportunity for humankind to appreciate human solidarity and reassess and correct many of its social, cultural, political and economic practices. However, the virus has uncovered the fragile state of the present world. He also referred to how the World Council of Churches urged people and churches to give the highest priority to doing whatever we can to protect life and underscore the unity and interdependence of humanity. Lastly, he underlined the need for solidarity and care through faith. Dr. Paul Ladouceur Adjunct Professor of the School of Orthodox Theology at Trinity College in the University of Toronto (Canada) reflected on ecumenical and interfaith initiatives in Canada stimulated by the Covid-19 pandemic. He presented five activities addressed to Church and political leaders: a) a Statement by the President of the Canadian Council of Churches; b) a Joint Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau c) a Joint Statement from the World Council of Churches and Regional Ecumenical Organizations; d) an interfaith Message to Canadians from Religious Leaders in Canada in Response to the Covid-19 signed by 95 religious leaders entitled “Hope, Gratitude and Solidarity"; and e) a letter to the Prime Minister. He also outlined a project for a joint online ecumenical service, noting the complexity of organizing such an undertaking in a short period of time, such as the different dates for Pascha in the Easter and Western calendars. The next speaker was Dr. Vasiliki Stathokosta, Ass. Prof. for Orthodox Theology and the Ecumenical Movement at the University of Athens, who presented an ecumenical approach to the pandemic. She emphasized that the Church exists as the body of Christ, a reality that St. Paul’s description helps us to understand. Thus, it is absolutely essential for her being the gathering of the believers, namely her members, at a certain place (“epi to auto” = “επί το αυτό”) as well as the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. As long as the faith in the Triune God according to the Scriptures is the common faith of all the historical Churches that participate in the so-called ecumenical movement, Covid-19 seems to bother us equally. It is a threat to our church communities and to our need to worship our Savior. Prof. V. Stathokosta examined the ways historical Churches reacted to the restrictions of religious acts that Governments imposed because of the pandemic COVID-19, and she introduced several new issues and challenges that came out and enrich our ecumenical debate and our ecclesiological agenda. The Rev. Dr. Sotiris Boukis, ordained minister of the Evangelical Church of Greece and a member of the WCC Faith & Order Commission, spoke on the transformation of the church into an online “synaxis” as a result of the closing of the churches. His paper reflected on the ecclesiological, pastoral and ministerial challenges and opportunities emerging with this new reality, focusing on the example of the Evangelical Church of Greece as a case study. He also reflected on the Eucharist, observing that while usually the ecumenical dialogue focuses on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, now it is called to focus on the real absence of the believers. Finally, he reflected on the implications of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, underlining that this pandemic is a unique opportunity to cultivate the idea that every Christian is a representative of Christ in the world. Christoph Stückelberger, founder of Globethics.net in Geneva, underlined the importance of ethics needed in the current corona crisis. He connected the pandemic to a new debt crisis arising in the horizon. Then he talked about the question of solidarity and how the pandemic has helped us rediscover virtues, as well as exercise self-discipline and modesty. He mentioned the conspiracy theories that quickly emerged in the pandemic, making reference to the role of media ethics. He also said that we interpret the pandemic through the glasses of a specific worldview. Finally, he concluded by connecting the health crisis to climate change, saying that the pandemic shows that we have far more financial options than previously imagined. The fourth session ended with an interfaith reflection by the coordinator Dr. Nikos Dimitriadis, treasurer of CEMES and Adjunct Professor of World Religions at the American College of Thessaloniki. His argument was that Christians are called upon to take an active part in this global pandemic by now recognizing others who do not share the same beliefs as partners in dialogue in this mission of God and by selflessly offering the vision of a global society of love, overcoming self-centeredness and other such boundaries related to the self. “Interfaith dialogue,” Dimitriadis observed, “flourishes when it becomes a living reality in everyday life.” He also suggested that we could very easily compare the pandemic to the environmental crisis. His interfaith reflections were presented along with those of his students, most specifically on how the three major monotheistic religions are responding or should respond to the Covid-19.
5. The Missiological and Pastoral Session
The last session of the seminar focused on the missionary and pastoral aspects of the pandemic crisis. The retired bishop of Ottawa (Canada) of the OCA and leader of the Monastery of All-Saints, Vladika Lazar Puhalo, spoke of the need to re-activate the laity, as a "royal priesthood", in all the liturgical and, more generally, pastoral life of the Church. The liturgy, he said, is not a ritual, a “choreography”, but the altar through which all the people of God enter into the paradise. Brandon Gallaher, professor of Systematical and Comparative Theology at the University of Exeter (UK), spoke on “Corona as the Apocalypse of Orthodoxy: Judgement and Hope in the Age of Covid-19.” He argued that COVID-19 has stripped bare established Orthodox institutions, leaders and theologies (e.g. eucharistic ecclesiology). But any apocalypse also involves hope (Rev. 21:4) and he suggested that we use the present crisis as a God-given sign to recreate notions of community, outreach, holiness, sacramentality, empower the holy laity and force the Orthodox to finally come to terms with social issues they have long ignored, mentioning the newly published text "For the life of the world. The social ethos of the Orthodox Church", under the blessings of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as a testimony of the concern for the social witness of the Church, a witness and evidence of hope, optimism and not of despair. We are called to be creative as Church and allow this moment to transform us. To be an Orthodox Church in the moment of late modernity, to save creation, to speak the words of Christ to the world as it is now “We won’t return to normality, because normality was the problem," he concluded. In other words, about the need for the Orthodoxy Church to be open to the challenges of the world, without an apologetic attitude. Fr. Cristian Sonea, Professor of Missiology at the University of Cluj (Romania), and co-coordinator of this session, said that today a theological reading of history is necessary, along with an encounter with modernity, an assessment of the human body, a general awareness of the planet and an understanding of our mortality, which should be distanced from any form of fundamentalism and ideas about the “persecution” of Christian faith. How do we understand vulnerability today and what will the consequences be for our system of values in the so called post-COVID era? He asked himself. The destroying and saving of our planet depend on us. And he concluded saying, that the main lesson to be learned by the Churches and us is that of humility. Lecturer of Missiology at National University of Athens Dr. Evi Voulgaraki underlined that in the current circumstance of uncertainties due to the pandemic, there are many questions as to the day after; but there is also the certainty of the Resurrection and the true presence of the Resurrected in our eucharistic meal. This leads to the prophetic responsibility of all Christians to preserve life in its full meaning, to plea for both freedom and love in a dystopian environment and to turn our parishes into a true icon of the Body of Christ, where a variety of charismas will flourish and also shine to the people of our broader community, in particular the most vulnerable, implementing thus Liturgy after the Liturgy and linking martyria with diaconia and social responsibility. The theologian Vassilios Xidias noted that the crisis brings us in front of the need for a re-evangelization “outwards” but also “within” the Church. The liturgy is - and should be - a model of “celebration” for modern society, even in conditions of pandemic, he noted. He also offered specific examples how the Orthodox could respond to the present state of physical distancing during the period of the Holy Week and of Pascha, and beyond. Maria Sereti, PhD candidate at the Theology Faculty of the University of Thessaloniki, presented the Joint Statements issued by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis both for the current crisis (joint prayer on March 25), and for the ecological question, but also for the common witness of the two sister Churches. Finally, Sofia Karekla, PhD candidate in Journalism and collaborator of Orthodoxia.info spoke about the different tendencies within the Greek ecclesiastical and journalistic circles regarding the restrictive measures decided by the Government against the spread of the pandemic, by some received as an invitation of adaptation, by others, instead, viewed as a “confessional” resistance. The last speaker, Dr. Athanasios Papathanasiou, director of the Synaxis journal, and currently lecturing at the Open Hellenic University and the Higher Ecclesiastical Academy of Athens, was unable to personally attend the seminar, but sent his contribution for the final publication of its proceedings. The session and the ensuing discussion were moderated by Dr. Dimitrios Keramidas, member of the Executive Committee of CEMES and lecturer at Angelicum University, who opened the session with a short reflection.
6. Closing and evaluation session
The seminar was evaluated in the 6th and final session (Saturday, April 11) by all the participants, who unanimously expressed gratitude for this unique experience, requested similar events each month and decided to share the content of the seminar with their Churches and to the world at large with a communiqué and an open letter.
INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC SYMPOSIUM DEACONESSES: PAST - PRESENT - FUTURE (31 January -2 February 2020)
THE ECUMENICAL LEGACY FOR ORTHODOX BY METR. PANTELEIMON FROM 1948
MESSAGE TO THE 2019 ASSEMBLY DAY OF ST. PHILARET OF MOSCOW
My warmest greetings to Fr. George, Rector of St. Philaret’s Christian Orthodox Institute, as well as all its faculty and the members of my beloved Transfiguration brotherhood, on the Assembly Day of their patron Saint, St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow. With great joy and scholarly satisfaction, I was informed that this year’s Assembly Day, November 19, 2019, dedicated to this great hierarch of the Russian Church and important saint of our Orthodox Church, will focus on his contribution to the biblical - and to some extend liturgical – renewal of our Church. If during the 19th century the least a responsible pastor and ecclesiastical leader could do was to make the word of God, through the translation of the Bible into Russian, available to his faithful into a language they can understand, nowadays, in the 21st century, the progress of the biblical scholarship is the least we can do to follow his legacy. There are two elements that constitute the most urgent desiderata for the renewal of our contemporary Orthodox ecclesiastical life. And these two constitutive elements are what in fact substantially distinguish the essence and character of the Church from a legalistic secular institution (a result mostly of western scholasticism) and redefine her as a charismatic mystery, a "body of Christ", "people of God" and "communion of the Holy Spirit". These elements are: (a) the rediscovery of the word of God, of the gospel of Christ, recorded in the Bible, the matrix of Orthodox theology and life, scientifically of course validated and authentically interpreted; and (b) the rediscovery of the real and authentic meaning of the "Eucharistic event." These elements are known in the scientific field as "biblical" and "liturgical" renewal respectively. The keynote address by Gleb Yastrebov "On the Development Paths of Contemporary New Testament Studies," touches one of the cornerstones of our Church’s missional responsibility, the biblical renewal. And SFI’s achievements , most notably in the series of ecclesiological conferences, which will be presented by the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, our colleague Larisa Musina, touches the other cornerstone, the liturgical renewal. Especially at a period in which your official Church has just rejected the idea of the minimum of an Orthodox liturgical renewal, the translation of the liturgy, even as an assisting measure that would certainly help the faithful comprehend the riches of our liturgical tradition. Being one of the translators of the Bible into modern Greek, undergoing similar ordeal and reactions like St. Philaret, and instrumental in the setting up of the Synodical Commission on Liturgical Renewal of the Church of Greece, I feel more than privileged to be kindly requested to serve as a member of SFI Board of Trustees. On behalf of my colleagues at the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies (CEMES), dedicated to another holy and pioneer hierarch, Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Panteleimon Papageorgiou, of blessed memory, and as the Director of the Inter-Orthodox Post-graduate Master Program on “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology” (MOET), which will eventually start this coming Spring Semester, also in a distance-learning form, I wholeheartedly send my greetings to the organizers and all the participants of this year’s Assembly Day of SFI.
Emeritus Professor Petros Vassiliadis President in Honour of CEMES Director of MOET of IHU, and Member of SFI Board of Trustees
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” - 2 Chron. 7:14. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” - 2 Cor. 5:17-18 Preamble From 16 to 19 June 2019, 52 participants from 22 countries and from different confessional and faith traditions gathered in Wuppertal, Germany for a conference entitled "Together towards eco-theologies, ethics of sustainability and eco-friendly churches”.[I] In Wuppertal we were reminded of the courageous confession of faith articulated in the Barmen Declaration (1934) against the totalitarian, inhuman and racist ideology of the time. Barmen continues to encourage us today for "a joyful liberation from the godless ties of this world for free grateful service to his creatures” (Barmen 2). We shared stories from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and Oceania. We heard the cries of the earth, the cries of people vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially children and the elderly, the cries of youth demanding intergenerational justice and the concerns of experts over current trends. We recognize the urgency of the years that lie ahead, nevertheless express the courage to hope and are compelled to call the global ecumenical movement towards a comprehensive ecological transformation of society. Kairos: A decisive turn in the pilgrimage of justice and peace The ecumenical movement has long committed itself to a pilgrimage towards justice, peace and the integrity of creation. These goals will require urgent steps on the road ahead. The urgency of the crisis calls us to read the signs of the time, to hear God’s call, to follow the way of Christ, to discern the movement of the Spirit and, in response, to recognize the positive initiatives of churches all around the world. The symptoms of the crisis touch on all the building blocks of life and are there for all to see:
Fresh water is contaminated; glaciers are melting; oceans are polluted with plastics and are becoming acidic so that corals reefs are bleached (water).
Land is degraded through unsustainable agriculture and unhealthy eating habits, extractive economies ruled by global financial powers, deforestation, desertification and soil erosion; animals are groaning and creatures are being genetically modified; fish populations are depleted; habitat loss leads to the unprecedented loss of biodiversity (earth). Both the land and the health of people are being poisoned by industrial, agricultural, municipal and nuclear forms of waste and by pesticides and chemicals. An increasing number of people is forced to migrate and to become climate refugees.
Global carbon emissions are still increasing, greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere and climates are disrupted (air).
It is the still increasing use of energy from fossil fuels that is driving such changes (fire).
The delicate systems of balances in creation has been disturbed to an unprecedented extent in the Anthropocene. We have transgressed planetary boundaries. The earth seems no longer able to heal itself. Creatures are groaning in travail (Rom. 8:22). We have been unable to hold together ecumenical concerns over justice amid poverty, unemployment and inequality, over a participatory society amid various forms of violent conflict and over sustainability amid ecological destruction. Although humans have not contributed equally to the root causes of this crisis, as Christians we come together to confess our complicity and bondage to sin: • We have been arrogant in assuming that the whole earth centres around us humans and our needs (pride). • We have become trapped in an abysmal desire for unlimited material growth, driven by a pervasive culture of consumerism (greed). • We have exploited God’s gifts, resorted to violence against God’s creatures and violated human dignity (violence). • We have become alienated from ancestral land and indigenous wisdom, from animals as our co-creatures and from Earth as our God-given home (the privation of the good).
We have been overcome by folly, injustice, denial and greed (vice).
• We have been slow in coming to terms with our responsibility to address the defining crisis of our age (sloth). To make matters worse, the authenticity of ecumenical witness is being undermined by a range of distortions of the gospel, toxic narratives and theologies that legitimize a totalitarian logic of death and destruction. These include theologies of dominion in the name of differences of race, gender, class and species, the theological legitimation of patriarchal domination; dualist and reductionist ways of relating heaven and earth, soul and body, spirit and matter; the denial and ridicule of scientific expertise and insights in order to maintain the current order, the prolonging of myths of unlimited progress, putting trust only in technological solutions to ecological problems instead of realizing their cultural, moral and spiritual nature; the pseudo-gospel of emphasizing the accumulation of wealth and prosperity, self-serving ways of always blaming problems on others; and escapist ways of addressing the victims of ecological injustice. Hope: Courage in an age of anxiety and despair Amidst the unprecedented despair associated with an overwhelming ecological crisis, we proclaim a hope in the Triune God in the midst of a groaning creation, "for in this hope we were saved” (Rom. 8:24). God has not abandoned the earth. We hold onto God’s promises symbolized in the covenant that is made "with every living creature, for all future generations” (Gen. 9:12). We believe in God’s presence as revealed in Jesus the Christ amidst the mess around us. We are comforted by the power of the Spirit to "renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 104:30). In the face of economic and political narratives that distort our understanding of proper relationships between humans, creation and Creator, such hope may seem counter-intuitive. The hope that we proclaim not only critiques oppressive and patriarchal systems of dominion but inspires us to participate in the healing of creation (2 Chron. 7:14). Hope is not the same as blind optimism that trusts in the mere extension of current trends. Such hope is not cheap; it is costly. It springs forth despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary because it rests in the Triune God. It is such hope that encourages us and compels us towards a comprehensive ecological transformation of society. A call to the global ecumenical movement At the heart of the required transformation is a need for ecological conversion (metanoia), a change of heart, mind, attitudes, daily habits and forms of praxis (Rom. 12:1-2). This has implications for all aspects of Christian life: for liturgy and worship, reading the Bible, proclamation, the sacraments, congregational fellowship and practices, prayer, fasting, spirituality, doctrine, ethos, education, art, music, ministries and missions. This ecological reformation of all of Christianity has been encouraged by our fathers and mothers in the Christian tradition, by the examples of our sisters and brothers around the world and by ecumenical leaders such as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis, Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu and many other voices. We call upon the global ecumenical movement, Christian world communions and all other churches to plan for a decade of ecological learning, confessing and comprehensive action to re-orient the priorities of churches to the following commitments:
To renew the full range of liturgical and spiritual practices and ancient church traditions on creation in the light of the current kairos;
To reread the biblical texts and study them with ecological sensitivities;
To create frameworks for nurturing eco-congregations, providing them with the necessary staff and financial resources and supporting existing grassroots initiatives;
To promote gender justice in church and society given its multiple connections with ecological concerns;
To encourage youth to exercise leadership in church and society for the sake of a future that is theirs;
To mainstream eco-theological reflection across all levels of education;
To cultivate ecological virtues and nurture sustainable lifestyles in households and communities;
To equip the laity for their vocations in order to exercise ecological responsibility wherever they live, work and worship.
To engage in multi-disciplinary dialogue that can hold together and do justice to insights from the sciences, indigenous wisdom traditions and diverse theologies;
To advocate inter-disciplinary alliances, networks and partnerships with all levels of government, with business and industry, with civil society, with multifaith ecological networks, with other living faiths, and with all people who share a commitment to find sustainable alternatives to dominant forms of production and consumption.
In view of the forthcoming 11th assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2021 we recommend to the WCC, in particular, that it declares a "Decade for the Healing of Creation” with the following goals:
To mobilize member churches to re-orient their priorities to the commitments as indicated in the Wuppertal Call;
To engage with the UN’s agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through various alliances, networks and partnerships and to go beyond the SDG-agenda in order to redefine notions of growth, wealth and well-being which are not sufficiently clarified yet with regard to the existing planetary boundaries.
To advocate to global decision makers that the increase in global greenhouse emissions should be halted and drastically reduced as soon as possible in order to reach net-zero carbon emissions and to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
To promote UN processes to create a legal framework for a binding "Universal Charter of the Rights of Mother Earth” (Cochabamba 2010), an Earth international jurisprudence system, and explore the possibilities of a UN Council for the Rights of Nature and to explore recognition of ecocide as a criminal offence in the International Court of Justice.
These commitments follow from an understanding of the Kairos moment in history in which we find ourselves. The task ahead is immense and will require decades of dedication. The urgency of the situation implies that a comprehensive response cannot be delayed. The next decade will be decisive to allow the Earth a time of rest. The biblical motifs of Sabbath and Jubilee provide a unique source of hope and inspiration, an interruption in the cycle of exploitation and violence, expressed in the vision that there shall be "a year of complete rest for the land” (Lev. 25:5). Come Holy Spirit, renew your whole creation! 24.6.2019
ΝΟΤΕ [I] The conference was planned and organized together by Protestant Association of Churches and Mission (EMW), Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), United Evangelical Mission (UEM), Bread for the World, World Council of Churches
THE FINAL COMMUNIQUE OF THE CEMES GREEK-GEORGIAN SYMPOSIUM "ORTHODOX THEOLOGY AND WITNESS"
The Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies "Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou"(CEMES), between May 22-28, organized a theological symposium on “Orthodox Theology and Witness” with Georgian theologians. The symposium consisted of 3 parts: 1. A pilgrimage of the Georgian participants to Mount Athos, between 22-25 May: By the invitation of the Holy Kinotita, the Georgian participants have visited several monasteries on Mount Athos. The participants were given an opportunity to meet the abbot of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, Archimandrite Bartholomew. A long conversation was held between the abbot, the brotherhood of the monastery and participants about the spiritual – ascetical and daily life of the monastery. After the meeting, the pilgrimage continued with a visit to the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousi. The next day the participants had the privilege to visit the Holy Monastery of Iviron. At this monastery, the participants had the opportunity to see the museum and the holy relics of the monastery. In addition, as a sign of respect, the abbot gave his blessing for the participants to have a Divine Liturgy in Georgian, with the icon of Theotokos being located in the Church. After the Iviron monastery, the participants continued their journey to Vatopedi Monastery. The Pilgrimage Group Consisted: Hieromonk Irineos Shengelia, Hieromonk Ieronymos Katamadze, Hierodeacon Irakli Jinjolava, Deacon George Gibradze, Shota Kintsurashvili, Nikoloz Gurgenidze, Giorgi Geguchadze, and Grigol Tchezhia.
2. Meeting of Georgian Theologians and students of theology living abroad, between 25 – 26 May: After returning from Mount Athos to Thessaloniki more participants joined the Symposium. The Protosingelos of the Thessaloniki diocese fr. Iakovos gave a reception to the Georgian theologians and had a meeting with the participants. With the blessing of the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, His All Holiness Anthimos, the Georgian participants had a Divine Liturgy in Georgian and Greek. The Liturgy was held at the Church of Dormition at the old parish of 40 Ekklisies. After the Liturgy, the memorial service was held for those who have sacrificed their lives for the independence of Georgia. After liturgy and dinner, a dialogue was held between the Georgian theologians and students, at the monastery of St. Theodora, in Thessaloniki. During this dialogue, the participants spoke about the contemporary issues such as euthanasia, bioethics, the role of theology in secular social life, catechism, liturgy and theological educational missionary role for a better future of our Orthodox Church. Participants in the discussion were: 1. Hierodeacon Irakli Jinjolava (chairman) – University of Munich; 2. George Geguchadze (secretary) – University of Eichstätt; 3. Nino Sadzaglishvili (secretary) – University of Athens; 4. Sopho Gozalishvili – University of Vienna; 5. Hieromonk Leonide Ebralidze – Pontifical Oriental Institute of Rome; 6. Hieromonk Irineos Shengelia – University of Thessaloniki; 7. Heromonk Ieronymos Katamadze – University of Thessaloniki; 8. Deacon George Gibradze – University of Cambridge, IOCS; 9. Guram Chukhrukidze – University of Thessaloniki; 10. Grigol Tchezhia – University of Eichstätt; 11. Nikoloz Gurgenidze – University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki; 12. Guram Lursmanashvili – University of Athens; 13. Vano Shoshiashvili – University of Athens; 14. Shota Kintsurashvili – University of Munich. The Georgian group also received letters from those who couldn’t attend the symposium: Subdeacon Giorgi (Givi) Lomidze, Erekle Turkadze, and Alexi Mestumrishvili.
3. The Symposium proper on 27th May: The academic part of the symposium was held at Amphitheatre "Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou" of the St. Theodora Monastery, in Thessaloniki. The program was made up of 3 parts: Part One: • Introduction and Welcoming Address by the CEMES President, Prof. Emer. Nikolaos Zacharopoulos; • Introduction of the Greek-Georgian Orthodox Conference by Prof. Emer. Petros Vassiliadis, President of Honour of CEMES; • Introduction to the activities of CEMES by Dr. Nikolaos Dimitriadis, Prof. of IHU and ACT; • The History of the Church of Georgia at its origin by Rev. Dn. George Gibradze ⦿ Visit to the CEMES Museum. Part Two: • The Holy and Great Council and the Ukrainian Autocephaly as covered and scientifically analyzed by CEMES by Prof. Emer. Petros Vassiliadis, President of Honour of CEMES; • Orthodox Theology and the Orthodox Church of Georgia by Very Rev. Hieromonk Leonide Ebralidze; • The Beginnings of Monasticism in Georgia by Rev. Dn. Irakli Jinjolava ⦿ The participants of the Symposium were received by the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, His All Holiness Anthimos. Part Three: • The Orthodox Church and the Role of Women by Dr. Eleni Kasselouri, Prof. of IHU and OHU; • The Ordination of Deaconesses in the Orthodox Church by Prof. Panagiotis Skaltsis, President of the Theological Department of AUTH; • Orthodoxy and Science by Prof. Petros Panagiotopoulos, Vice-President of CEMES; - The Orthodox Church and Social Issues by Prof. Christos Tsironis, of the Theological Department of AUTH and CEMES • Conclusion and thanksgiving by Rev. Dn. Irakli Jinjolava. At the end of the conference, on behalf of the Georgian participants, Hierodeacon Irakli Jinjolava expressed his gratitude to the Greek side and as a sign of his gratitude presented a gift to them, a Georgian wine. On behalf of the Greek side, Prof. Petros Vassiliadis has presented a gift, of the Abbott of St. Theodora Monastery and member of CEMES, Fr. Barnabas Yagou, for the Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia, which is to be used on Holy Thursday for the washing of feet. The Theological symposium contained academic and informal discussions. According to the participants “the symposium was of a high level of importance”. Especially to the Georgians, it was very fruitful to have similar symposiums in the future. The participants from both sides have agreed to publish the materials of the symposium and to continue working together.
CENTER OF ECUMENICAL, MISSIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES“METROPOLITAN PANTELEIMON PAPAGEORGIOU” FINAL REPORT A critical theological analysis of the Ukrainian situation, and some thoughts to retain Orthodox unity The CEMES foundation (Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou”) considers as its ultimate duty to humbly submit the results of its scholarly project, which examined the current Ukrainian crisis from a theological, historical and canonical perspective, providing at the end what measures at this specific moment seem feasible and necessary for the Orthodox unity, so vulnerable in the new era of the Orthodox tradition that started with the Holy and Great Council, affected by the last-minute decision of the Russian Church, together with Patriarchates of Antioch, Georgia and Bulgaria, and more recently by the decision of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) to break Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP), taking into consideration that this last canonical action is going to have tremendous consequences in the Orthodox diaspora, where the great majority of Orthodox from all jurisdictions have succeeded in establishing cooperation in the spirit of unity and common Orthodox witness. This CEMES scholarly project, launched at mid-August 2018, was undertaken by its academic members, as well as the teaching staff of the inter-Orthodox post-graduate program from all Orthodox jurisdictions on “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology” it runs at the English-speaking International Hellenic University (IHU). As academic theologians the members of this project were involved in the theological debate on the issue of the granting of autocephaly in a single and united Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which they decided to study in relation to the triptych: Primacy-Conciliarity-Autocephaly. Its final report was approved by the CEMES General Assembly of April 6, 2019. After the catalytic evidence on the issue officially produced by the EP at the end of September (OMIΛOYN TA KEIMENA (https://www.ecpatr.org/ deltiotypou/…/final%20oukraniko-1.pdf) the CEMES committee eagerly expected the official counter arguments from the MP. At the beginning the MP followed a rather communication strategy, repeated in almost all speeches of His Holiness Patriarch Cyril the conspiracy theory, namely that the entire process was politically motivated and that it is all about evil forces wanting to destroy the Russian Church etc. Only anonymous comments and semi-official responses were published, the most serious being (mid-October) the one by prof. Mickail Zheltov, member of a MP synodical committee, with an older treatise, which naturally did not respond to the most recent arguments of the EP (https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/…/historical-canonica…). The main document on which this painful division in a large country, populated mainly by Orthodox, could be resolved was the 1686 Patriarchal act, by which only the right to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv was granted to the Patriarch of Moscow, because of the difficult situation at that time, on the clearly expressed condition to follow the decision of the Kyivan clergy-laity assembly, and most importantly to commemorate the EP, something that evidently proves that the Kyivan Metropolia still remained under his omophorion. Instead, the EP argument went on, the MP uncanonically annexed to its jurisdiction the Kyivan Metropolia and the entire Ukrainian Lands. Quite late (end of October) there was an attempt by the MP to officially respond https://mospat.ru/gr/2018/10/23/news167003/) to the arguments produced by the EP, and at the end of November the site of the MP DERC posted (https://mospat.ru/gr/2018/11/28/news167329/) a Greek translation of prof. Zheltov's treatise. Being a renowned liturgist, prof. Zheltov skipped the condition (see note 130) of the commemoration by the Kyivan Metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarch, a clear evidence to which jurisdiction the Kyivan Metropolitan belonged, interpreting this condition as “no more than simple good wishes”). Both the official MP response to the EP arguments and Prof. Zheltov’s long article rightly insisted on the unity of the Kyivan and Moschovite Rus. However, this is a past history by no means relevant to the present situation, where the vast majority of the Ukrainians consider now the Russians as aggressors of their country and the head of the MP as persona non grata. But even these later arguments were carefully refuted by the EP, first by an equally extensive treatise by Emer. Prof. Vlasios Feidas, posted on 29.11.18 (panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/11/1686_29.html…) and by Bishop Makarios of Christoupolis, speaking as Patriarchal representative at the European Union few days later (panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/…/12/blog-post_7.html…), as well as by the EP advisor, Prof. Dn John Chryssavgis, in a short but very convincing video presentation (panorthodoxcemes.blogspot. com/…/the-current-situati…). One cannot blame for the present regretful situation either the EP, which is canonically obliged to defend its ecumenically set rights, or even the MP, which is also trying to defend its canonical jurisdiction using whatever arguments it considers appropriate. The blame – with regard both to the Orthodox unity and, more importantly, to the Rus Kyiv-Moscow unity, on which the MP puts the emphasis – is exclusively to be placed on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), especially her leadership, which was slavishly following in all its decisions the Russian Church, both in refusing to meet the Constantinopolitan Exarchs, to whom they could request whatever conditions they wished and even condemn the EP decision, and also in repeating the MP arguments in its last synod at the Lavra of the Caves – instead of the meeting with the President of Ukraine as it was agreed, a synod considered by some as an ecclesiastical coup both in view of its sudden invitation and because of its decision to deny the right of a free conscious decision to its hierarchs, and we would add, of not considering the earlier October letter of the EP to her Primate, Metr. Onufrius (panorthodoxcemes. blogspot.com/2018/12/blog-post_49.html). In the committee’s view, by refusing to participate in its entirety in the unification process, the UOC MP lost a unique opportunity to secure to a large extent both their legitimate control of the autocephalous-in-the-process Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and – what is even more important – they would determine and retain the actual unity between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodoxy. The only blame on the MP was its decision to use the Divine Eucharist, the ultimate Orthodox characteristic of self-identity, for an administrative dispute creating, as it was noted, numerous problems in our effort to secure the Orthodox unity, especially in the Orthodox diaspora. But such spontaneous actions are numerous in our long history – in both the first and the second millennium – and in the course of time they were solved. The MP has used this measure also in the Estonian territorial dispute; but it lifted it after few years. This we also pray to happen again. Otherwise, and in view of the possibility of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church joining the new Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), after taking of course the necessary canonical steps, many devoted Orthodox would possibly prefer the unity with the Roman Catholic Church, especially with the Present Pope, rather than with the Russian Church, especially with her current Russkii Mir theory, which in very many respects is contrary to the more holistic mission document of the Holy and Great Council, under the title “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World,” a document for which the Russian Orthodox Church, after all, has officially the most reservations. In all similar cases in the past and the previous century canonical irregularities, resulting in schismatic situations – most notably in the Greek autocephalous Church – the Ecumenical Patriarchate intervened, following the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils, and healed the schisms bringing back millions of Orthodox to the canonical Orthodox Church by granting them autocephaly. This is what happened to all newer Patriarchates and Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. The committee has not dealt with the question of solving at a panorthododox level the issue of the Ukrainian autocephaly, because at that level – according to the Orthodox tradition – autocephaly is not granted but reaffirmed, and after all the reaffirmation of autocephaly is pending to all newer Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches, with the exception of the Church of Cyprus. Several other arguments have been unofficially presented against the decision of the EP to proceed to the Ukrainian autocephaly: “Why now?” But the real objection should be “why so late?” For three centuries the MP exercised authority over Ukraine, and none questioned this status, even if it was uncanonical. Of course, canonically – and legally in general – speaking, an irregularity does not change the canonical tradition. To be honest, the EP, despite being questioned in numerous occasions by the Russian Church as the “Protos” in the Orthodox Church, according to her canonical tradition – even though this created obstacles to the ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Catholics – he preferred not to halt the century-long prepared process toward the long-anticipated Pan-Orthodox Council. Another argument was that the schismatics and anathematized – measures that were imposed in a legalistic and semi-nationalistic way, and not in the philanthropic spirit of the oikonomia that almost all canonical decisions request– did not repent. The inability of the UOC MP to solve the problem, and thus retain Orthodox unity in the country, has inevitably forced the EP to act as it did: by revoking the 1686 act in its entirety, because its conditions un-canonically have never been met (we must admit that the MP has lately produced evidence to the contrary, but only to the participation of the laity in elections), by receiving the “ekkliton” appeal of the anathematized and schismatics, thus restoring Orthodox unity in Ukraine, by restoring its Stavropegia in Kyiv, and by returning again the Kyivan Metropolia under their omophorion. Others have argued that the Holy Canons, as canonical rules set in an old time, cannot solve current more complex situations with political and geopolitical consequences. Those who follow this MP logic may not go as far as abandoning the ages-old canonical tradition that was established by the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, but in the back of their mind they propose a model of church unity without a Protos, without a primacy of honour and service (and with certain prerogatives). In practice, all Orthodox with no exception – and with no theological counter argument – follow a primacy at all levels of Church life (parish, diocese, autocephalous church), except at the universal one. The committee did not insist that we must slavishly follow the holy canons with no contextualization of their content. They argued that we do need to keep our canonical tradition faithfully, but always dynamically interpreted. Otherwise there is a danger to fall into a protestant-style confederation of independent Orthodox Churches, a situation almost inevitable with the alternative proposal. If that happens, we can no longer speak of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” we confess in our Church, but of something alien to Christian and authentic Orthodox ecclesiology. Unfortunately, for many centuries after the Great Schism the Orthodox have unconsciously developed a “negative” identity: we are not what our tradition has left us as legacy, but what the others, mainly the Catholics, are not. In other words, without a primacy, a visible expression of the Church’s unity, accompanied of course by synodality. What is, finally, the most promising outcome of this crisis – the Committee’s report continue, now that the process toward the Ukrainian autocephaly reached its final stage – is that the EP is reviving an ancient ecclesiological ethos; the participation of the entire people of God (clergy and laity) in our Church’s decision-making process, which in our present day autocephalous Orthodox Churches is either forgotten or at best marginalized. In other words, the authentic version of synodality was brought back, hopefully to be followed not only at the top, but at all levels of Church life: parish, diocese, regional/national, universal. In his letter of invitation, the EP underlined the ancient conciliar process, and in the Ukrainian case in question, the pre-1686 tradition: “Bishops, priests, those who lead monastic life and laypeople will take part in the Unification Council on December 15 in Kyiv. All of them, the letter went on, will have the right to vote” (panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/ 2018/12/constantinople-finalizes-procedure-for.html). It is hoped, this will alert other Orthodox Churches in, which has quite recently experienced a similar crisis, in the face of which she refused, like the Greek and the Russian, among others, to allow themselves to break the chains of enslavement to their respective secular states. Recently a further issue arose, that of the validity of the ordination of those in an un-canonical status (schismatics, anathematized etc), and especially of the elected as Primate of the OCU, the Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanios. The Committee, after thoroughly studying both the reasonable concerns about the scandalized believers, as well as the arguments presented by renowned scholars in Canon Law, and Orthodox Primates, the Ecumenical Patriarch included, but especially the long history of the Ecumenical and other local Synods of the Orthodox Church up until the 20th century, concluded that the readmittance to the canonical status of the Orthodox Church clerics, including the hierarchs, are not re-ordained, and their believers are not re-baptized. The best documented of such appeals of appeasement of the perceived scandal of the faithful, the recent letter of the Church of Albania, rightly focuses on the persistent obsession and behavior of the former head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP). The Ecumenical Patriarchate, however, despite its background efforts, was unable to enforce without being accused as illegally interfering in the canonical process of a full-scale autocephaly. Regarding the future of Orthodoxy in Ukraine, as well as the unity of Orthodoxy as a whole, the Committee considers that all efforts should now focus on the gradual restoration of the unity of the Orthodox in Ukraine. Taking in to account that the MP seems to have settled with a double-jurisdiction in Ukraine, (i.e. the inevitable existence of UOC-MP and OCU), the only feasible and realistic proposal as an interim solution, though not the only one, would be to follow is the model of the famous “Patriarchal Act of 1928”, still functioning in the Church of Greece. Although a double-jurisdiction is quite un-canonical and has been scientifically criticized in the case of Estonia, and in the Orthodox Diaspora is in the process of being overcome, it is the only possible solution to reduce the accumulated enmity and continuous confrontation for more than 20 years. The co-decision for the creation of a Permanent Holy Synod as a supreme executive ecclesiastical body, consisting of 6 hierarchs from UOC-MP and 6 from the OCU, according to the model that has been in operation for about a century in the Church of Greece. The President of CEMES Emeritus Professor Petros Vassiliadis
Also in a pdf
THE CONTRIBUTION OF BROTHERHOODS IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH (with the participation of CEMES)
The theme of the conference is “Orthodox Brotherhoods in the History of Russia: The Phenomenon of Unity in a Scattered World” “The last year gives many reasons for thinking about unity in the Orthodox world. And it is important for us that the experience of informal unity, which was revealed in the church brotherhoods, should not be forgotten,” said Oleg Glagolev, chairman of the St. Elizabeth small Orthodox fraternity, welcoming the participants of the conference, which opened on February 7 in the Yekaterinburg pilgrimage center. The blessing of the Metropolitan of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Kirill to the participants was handed over by the head of the Missionary Department of the Yekaterinburg Diocese, Priest Daniel Ryabinin. “I am very pleased that the topics on the history of the Orthodox brotherhoods turned out to be in demand and, moreover, fruitful,” said the rector of the St. Philaret Orthodox Christian Christian Institute, priest George Kochetkov “After all, for our church now the most important question is how to arrange our inner life.” The special theme of the conference is the history of the Orthodox brotherhoods and spiritual unions during the Civil War. The conference organizers are obliged to this by the venue of the conference, connected with the tragic memory of the last days of the royal family, shot by the Bolsheviks. The report of the rector of SFI, who opened the plenary session, was devoted to the brotherhoods as a spiritual phenomenon of the post-Constantine era of church history. Father George noted that “although the church itself rarely felt the transitions between these epochs, because it required a lot of effort, creative self-knowledge and even prophetic revelation about itself,” over the course of historical time we all understand more acutely the difference between post-Constantine periods of church history. Thus, the emergence of monasticism with its new ascetic ideal and the practice of individual salvation, ecumenical councils, the system of canon law, rigidly formulated dogmatic teaching, the system of liturgical sacraments, the new system of church management and organization of life, and most importantly - the new attitude to the hierarchy and the so-called laity, and then to the state and the world - signs of the onset of the Constantine era. “All these characteristics began to change radically again when this period of church history began to end, starting with the non-Christian French revolution in the West and the anti-Christian October revolution in Russia,” Father George noted. “Spiritually sensitive, first of all, the Russian people felt this keenly, calling the new era post-Constantine.” Based on this historiosophical distinction, the Rector of the SFI shared his thoughts on what challenges the current era poses to churches and Orthodox brotherhoods and what should be rethought in connection with the new relationships of people with themselves, with God and their neighbors.
Before and after 1917, including the question of their relationship to power, the pro-rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy on scientific and theological work, Archpriest Konstantin Kostromin, will continue the theme of the differences between church brotherhoods on the last day of the conference. At the first plenary meeting, the reports of the well-known historian Kirill Aleksandrov “The Anti-Christian Meaning of Bolshevism and the Christian Significance of the White Movement”, the senior teacher of the Omsk Theological Seminary of Archpriest Dmitry Olikhov “The activities of the Brotherhood of St. Hermogenes in Siberia in 1919 as an example of spiritual opposition of the“ white ”and“ red "During the Civil War" and associate professor of the Don State Technical University Yulia Biryukova (Rostov-on-Don) "Activity of the Brotherhood of the Life-giving Cross and also Archpriest Vladimir Vostokov in the South of Russia during the Civil War (1919)”.
Distinguished Professor of Thessaloniki University, President of the Center for Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies (CEMES) Petros Vasiliadis (The Greek Orthodox Church) will talk about the movements of church renewal in the light of Orthodox ecclesiology on the example of Greek brotherhoods. The First Vice-Rector of the SFI Dmitry Gasak will present a report on the principles of presbyterian service in the Russian church tradition of the 20th century. Archpriest Peter Mangilyev, Vice-Rector of the Yekaterinburg Theological Seminary, will talk about the communal tradition in the Old Believers.
The main directions of fraternal services of the church and the world, the emergence of sober brotherhoods, fraternities and sisterhoods in the monastic tradition will be discussed. Its chairman Hamlet Zakaryan (Yerevan) will speak about the history and modern experience of the Brotherhood of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The conference was attended by historians, cultural scientists, sociologists, philosophers and theologians, in whose field of research interest is the phenomenon of Orthodox communities, fraternities, associations and unions. The III All-Russian Scientific Conference with international participation “Orthodox brotherhoods in the history of Russia: the phenomenon of unity in a scattered world” lasted three days. Its organizers are the St. Philaret Orthodox Christian Institute, the Transfiguration Commonwealth of Small Orthodox Brotherhoods and the Yekaterinburg Diocese (Missionary Department).
Author: SOFIA ANDROSENKOPhoto: ALEXANDER VOLKOV
An interim report by an ad hoc CEMES committee
THE UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALY UNDER SCHOLARLY SCRUTINY THE PARTIES INVOLVED, THEIR ARGUMENTS AND THE LEGACY LEFT
The CEMES foundation has launched a scholarly project on Orthodox unity, so vulnerable in the new era of the Orthodox tradition that started with the Holy and Great Council. For the last three months, we focused almost exclusively on the Ukrainian issue. As the Orthodox unity had suffered a serious blow by the last-minute decision of the Russian Church, together with her allies (Antioch, Georgia, Bulgaria) not to participate in that long-awaited – and for nearly a century being prepared – Synod, an event considered as the ultimate expression of the Orthodox faith, so also now after the un-psychological decision of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) to break Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP), made us continue more fervently our quest for Orthodox unity. More so, because that canonical action of MP is going to have tremendous consequences in the Orthodox diaspora, where the great majority of Orthodox from all jurisdictions have succeeded in establishing cooperation in the spirit of unity and common Orthodox witness. For this reason, as academic theologians we were involved in the theological debate on the issue of the granting of autocephaly in a single and united Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which we decided to study in relation to the triptych: Primacy-Conciliarity-Autocephaly. After the catalytic evidence on the issue officially produced by the EP at the end of September (OMIΛOYN TA KEIMENA (https://www.ecpatr.org/deltiotypou/…/final%20oukraniko-1.pdf) we eagerly expected the official counter arguments from the MP, which delayed to officially present. Only anonymous comments and semi-official responses were published, the most serious being (mid-October) the one by prof. Mickail Zheltov, member of a MP synodical committee, with an older treatise, which naturally did not respond to the most recent arguments of the EP (https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/…/historical-canonica…). And we eagerly anticipated an equally strong official theological argument by the MP, if this great Orthodox Church was to re-enter the theological discussion on equal scientific footing. At the beginning the MP followed a rather communication strategy, repeating in the last speech of His Holiness Patriarch Cyril the conspiracy theory, namely that the entire process was politically motivated and that it is all about evil forces wanting to destroy the Russian Church etc. The main document on which this painful division in a large country, populated mainly by Orthodox, could be resolved was the 1686 Patriarchal act, by which only the right to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv was granted to the Patriarch of Moscow, because of the difficult situation at that time, on the clearly expressed condition to follow the decision of the Kyivan clergy-laity assembly, and most importantly to commemorate the EP, something that evidently proves that the Kyivan Metropolia still remained under his omophorion. Instead, the EP argument went on, the MP uncanonically annexed to its jurisdiction the Kyivan Metropolia and the entire Ukrainian Lands. Quite late (end of October) there was an attempt to officially answer the EP arguments (https://mospat.ru/gr/2018/10/23/news167003/); and at the end of November the site of the MP DERC posted prof. Zheltov's treatise translated into Greek (https://mospat.ru/gr/2018/11/28/news167329/). Being a renowned liturgist, prof. Zheltov skipped the condition of the commemoration by the Kyivan Metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarch, a clear evidence to which jurisdiction the Kyivan Metropolitan belonged (see note 130), interpreting this condition as “no more than simple good wishes”). Both the official MP response to the EP arguments and Prof. Zheltov long article rightly insist on the unity of the Kyivan and Moschovite Rus. However, this is a past history by no means relevant to the present situation, where the vast majority of the Ukrainians consider Russians as aggressors and the head of the MP as persona non grata. But even these later arguments were carefully refuted by the EP, first by an equally extensive treatise by Emer. Prof. Vlasios Feidas, posted on 29.11.18 (https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/11/1686_29.html…) and recently by Bishop Makarios of Christoupolis, speaking as Patriarchal representative at the European Union on 4.12.18 (https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/…/12/blog-post_7.html…). And finally, two days later by the EP advisor, Prof. Dn John Chryssavgis, in a short but very convincing video presentation (https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/…/the-current-situati…). One cannot blame for the present situation either the EP, which is canonically obliged to defend its ecumenically set rights, or even the MP, which is also trying to defend its canonical jurisdiction using whatever arguments it considers appropriate. The blame – with regard both to the Orthodox unity and, more importantly, to the Rus Kyiv-Moscow unity, on which the MP puts the emphasis – is exclusively to be placed on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), especially her leadership, which is slavishly following in all its decisions the Russian Church, both in refusing to meet the Constantinopolitan Exarchs, to whom they could request whatever conditions they wished and even condemn the EP decision, and also in repeating the MP arguments in its last synod at the Lavra of the Caves – instead of the meeting with the President of Ukraine as it was agreed, a synod considered by some as an ecclesiastical coup both in view of its sudden invitation and because of its decision to deny the right of a free conscious decision to its hierarchs, and we would add, of not considering the earlier October letter of the EP to her Primate, Metr. Onufrius (https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/12/blog-post_49.html). In our view, by refusing to participate in its entirety in the unification process they lost a unique opportunity to secure to a large extent both their legitimate control of the autocephalous-in-the-process Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and – what is even more important – they would determine and pursue the actual unity between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodoxy. The only blame on the MP is its decision to use the Divine Eucharist, the ultimate Orthodox characteristic of self-identity, for an administrative dispute creating, as we noted, numerous problems in our effort to secure the Orthodox unity, especially in the Orthodox diaspora. But such non psychological actions are numerous in our long history – in both the first and the second millennium – and in the course of time are solved. The MP has used it also for the Estonian territorial dispute; but it lifted it after few years. This we also pray to happen again. Otherwise, and in view of the possibility of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church joining the new scheme, after taking of course the necessary canonical steps, many devoted Orthodox would possibly prefer the unity with the Roman Catholic Church, especially with the Present Pope, rather than with the Russian Church, especially with her current Russkii Mir theory, which in very many respects is contrary to the more holistic mission document of the Holy and Great Council, under the title “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World,” a document for which the Russian Orthodox Church, after all, has officially the most reservations. In all similar cases in the past and the previous century canonical irregularities, resulting in schismatic situations – most notably in our own Greek autocephalous Church – the Ecumenical Patriarchate intervened, following the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils, and healed the schisms bringing millions of Orthodox back to the canonical Orthodox Church by granting them autocephaly. This is what happened to all newer Patriarchates and Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Several other arguments have been unofficially presented against the decision of the EP to proceed to the Ukrainian autocephaly: “Why now?” But the real objection should be “why so late?” For three centuries the MP exercised authority over Ukraine, and none questioned this status, even if it was uncanonical. Canonically, and legally in general, speaking, an irregularity does not change the canonical tradition. To be honest, the EP, despite being questioned as the “Protos”, according to the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church, by the Russian Church in numerous occasions – even creating obstacles to the ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Catholics – he preferred not to halt the century-long prepared process toward the long-anticipated Pan-Orthodox Council. Another argument was that the schismatics and anathematized – measures that were imposed in a legalistic and semi-nationalistic way, and not in the philanthropic one of the oikonomia that canons request– did not repent. The inability of the UOC MP to solve the problem, and thus retain Orthodox unity in the country, has inevitably forced the Ecumenical Patriarchate to act as it did: by revoking the 1686 act in its entirety, because its conditions un-canonically have never been met (we must admit that the MP has lately produced some evidence to the contrary), by receiving the “ekkliton” appeal of the anathematized and schismatics,thus restoring Orthodox unity in Ukraine, by restoring its Stavropegia in Kyiv, and by returning again the Kyivan Metropolia under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Others have argued that the Holy Canons, as canonical rules set in an old time, cannot solve current more complex situations with political and geopolitical consequences. Those who follow this MP logic may not go as far as abandoning the ages-old canonical tradition that was established by the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, but in the back of their mind they propose a model of church unity without a Protos, without a primacy of honour and service (and with certain prerogatives). In practice, all Orthodox with no exception – and with no theological counter argument – follow a primacy at all levels of Church life (parish, diocese, autocephalous church), except at the universal one. We are not saying that we must slavishly follow the holy canons with no contextualization of their content. We insist that we need to keep our canonical tradition faithfully but dynamically interpreted. Otherwise there is a danger to fall into a protestant-style confederation of independent Orthodox Churches, a situation almost inevitable with the alternative proposal. If that happens, we can no longer speak of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” we confess in our Church, but of something alien to Christian and authentic Orthodox ecclesiology. Unfortunately, for many centuries after the Great Schism we have unconsciously developed a “negative” Orthodox identity: we are not what our tradition has left us as legacy, but what the others, mainly the Catholics, are not. In other words, without a primacy, a visible expression of the Church’s unity, accompanied of course by synodality. What is, finally, the most promising outcome of this crisis – now that the process toward the Ukrainian autocephaly is approaching its final stage – is that the EP is reviving an ancient ecclesiological ethos; the participation of the entire people of God (clergy and laity) in our Church’s decision -making process, which in our present day autocephalous Orthodox Churches is either forgotten or at best marginalized. He brought, in other words, back the authentic version of synodality, hopefully to be followed not only at the top, but at all levels of Church life: parish, diocese, regional/national, universal. In his letter of invitation, the EP underlined the ancient conciliar process, and in this Ukrainian case the pre-1686 tradition: “Bishops, priests, those who lead monastic life and laypeople will take part in the Unification Council on December 15 in Kyiv. All of them, the letter goes on, will have the right to vote” (panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/12/constantinople-finalizes-procedure-for.html). We hope this will alert our Church in Greece, which has quite recently experienced a similar crisis, in the face of which she refused, like the Russian Church, to allow herself to break the chains of her enslavement to a secular state.
Petros Vassiliadis Emeritus Professor President of CEMES
THE PROGRAM ON "ORTHODOX ECUMENICAL THEOLOGY" AND THE FACULTY
() The International Hellenic University has started an inter-Orthodox, inter-jurisdictional English-speaking post-graduate program on Orthodox Ecumenical Theology – the term “ecumenical” referring to the universal, catholic and ecumenical dimension of the Christian faith – to foster Orthodox unity at an academic level, in addition to providing high level academic services. The program is mission-oriented, biblically and liturgically-based, with a primary intention the implementation of the rich Orthodox Patristic tradition in the 21st century. NEXT INTAKE: OCTOBER 2020 The details of the program, originally planned for non-Orthodox, can be retrieved in http://hum.ihu.edu.gr/index.php/en/courses/masters/master-in-orthodox-ecumenical-theology, and https://www.facebook.com/petros.vassiliadis.5/posts/1449698951842555). The program was originally planned and prepared by the scholarly and academic resources of CEMES and its friends. However, in order to make it as inter-Orthodox as possible we decided to invite scholars from all Orthodox jurisdictions as co-instructors as follows Programme Structure Students are required to complete the following courses (Core courses and elective courses): The Core Courses - First Term
The Elective Courses During the second semester, students should choose three courses from one of the following streams and one course from the rest of the two streams, according to their interests and their current and future career orientation: (a) Foundational Orthodox Theology
The Faculty (in red the CEMES members, in parenthesis the Orthodox Jurisdictions) Biblical Courses Petros Vassiliadis Miltiadis Konstantinou Ivan Zelev Dimitrov (BUL) Nicolas Abou Mrad (ANT) Dimitrios Passakos Georgios Adam (EVAN) Moschos Goutzioudis Mauro Pesce (CATH) Liturgical Courses Pavlos Koumarianos (GR) Augustinos Bairaktaris Michael Zheltov (ΜΡ) Niki Tsironis (GR) Paul Meyendorff (OCA) Systematic Theological Courses Georgios Martzelos Vassilios Karayannis (CYP) Emmanuel Clapsis (EP) Nicolai Mosoiu (ROM) Porphyrios Georgi (ANT) Historical Courses Dimitrios Moschos (GR) Tamara Grdzelidze (GEO) Theodosios Kyriakidis MissiologicalCourses Dimitris Keramidas Cristian Sonea (ROM) Athanasios Papathanasiou (GR) Evangelia Voulgaraki Rev. Gregory Edwards Ecumenical Courses Cyril Hovorun (OCU) Vassiliki Stathokosta Stelios Charalambidis Inter-Faith andEnvironmental Courses Nikolaos Dimitriadis John Chryssavgis (EΡ) John Ngige Njoroge (ALE) Ecclesiological courses Metr. John Zizioulas (EP) John P. Manousakis (EP) Cyril Hovorun (OCU) Social and Ethical Theological Courses Christos Tsironis Niki Papageorgiou Lukasz Nazarko (POL) Modern, Gender and Bio-ethics Courses Petros Panagiotopoulos Denia Athanasopoulou-Kypriou Elizabeth Prodromou Inter-Christian Courses Ivana Noble (ENAN) Nikos Kouremenos Rev. George Kondothra (ORIEN) Rev. Luca Bianchi (CATH) Rev. Theodore Kondidis (CATH) Right Rev. Rowan William (ANGL) Right Rev. Tom Wright (ANGL) Patristic Courses Metr. Kallistos Ware (ΕΡ) Metr. Hilarion Alfeyev (ΜΡ) Sebastian Brock (ANGL Norman Russell (ANGL) Medieval Theological Courses Abp. Elpidoforos Lampriniadis (ΕΡ) George Demacopoulos (EP) Canonical Courses John Erickson (OCA) Theodoros Yagou (JER) Jovic Rastko (SER) *Any student from an Orthodox jurisdiction registered will automatically activate the faculty member(s) from the same jurisdiction. Similarly, for the elective courses, for all recommending members of the faculty
Schedule The M.Th. in the Orthodox Theology is a 14-month full-time program of study comprised of three parts over three semesters. It is specifically organized for non-Orthodox, the Orthodox of the diaspora, Orthodox theologians from all Autocephalous Churches, as well as graduate students of other disciplines. Eligible for registration are holders of any under-graduate diploma from accredited higher education institutions. It is taught exclusively in English. Students are required to successfully complete 90 ECTS. The first semester covers an introductory course (worth 3 ETCS) and the 6 core courses (worth 5 ETCS each). The second semester covers 6 elective courses (worth 5 ECS each) from the above list shortened after a consultation with the students and the academic committee at the beginning of the program. The third period is taken up with work on the Master's dissertation (worth 27 ETCS) in one of the above areas. Each teaching term has 13 teaching weeks followed by a 6-day exam period. Target audience The M.Th. is addressed to English-speaking theologians, and graduates of relevant disciplines, who wish to acquire or broaden their specialization towards an effective application of the foundational doctrine of Christianity, especially the Orthodox (Biblical, Liturgical, Patristic, Systematic) to our secular and multi-religious and multi-cultural context. Ideal career path The M.Th. program offers a critical and multifarious study of Christianity, from the traditional focus of the Christian Faith to its witness to present day realities. The obtained skills that the graduates develop will allow them to work in Educational Institutions and Academies, concentrating on classical Christian Theology, to contemporary contextual missionary witness and Church administration.
A NEW INTER-ORTHODOX POST-GRADUATE PROGRAM ON "ORTHODOX ECUMENICAL THEOLOGY"
The International Hellenic University (IHU, ihu.edu.gr), with the blessing of course of H.A.H. the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and of most Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, has asked the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES) to set up an inter-Orthodox, inter-jurisdictional English speaking post-graduate program of highest possible academic standards, entitled Post-Graduate Program on Orthodox Ecumenical Theology. It was originally planned for non-Orthodox graduate students, wishing to learn more about the Orthodox Theology, not only as it was articulated during the past two millennia, but also as it addresses current contemporary issues. The program is mission-oriented, biblically and liturgically-based, with a primary intention to study the rich Orthodox Patristic tradition, but at the same time present and reflect on how this can be implemented in the 21st century. The Scientific Committee of the Program was decided to consist of renowned Academic hierarchs who serve, or have served, as Rectors, Deans, Directors of Orthodox Academic Institutions from all jurisdictions, i.e. Metropolitans John of Pergamon (Athens Academy), Kallistos of Diokleia (Oxford), Nifon of Targoviste (Rector of the University), Makarios of Κenya (Dean of Makarios III Seminary), Hilarion of Volokolamsk (Ss. Cyril & Methodius, Moscow), Elpidoforos of Proussa (Chalki). From the discussions among the members of the scientific committee it came out that the program in this present situation should primarily serve the unity of Orthodoxy at the basic level of Orthodox academic theology, with the goal to educate the younger generation of future Orthodox Church leaders from all canonical Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. This can be better achieved if students and professors from as many as possible Orthodox jurisdictions and Orthodox traditions (Greek, Russian, Slavic, Romanian, Arabic, African, but also Western diaspora) actively participate in the program. As far as the students of the Program are concerned, for the credibility of the inter-Orthodox character of the program it is suggested that ALL Orthodox Ecclesiastical jurisdictions send top theologians, and if possible contribute to the fees (3.000 euros for the entire program, courses, examinations, reading of the M.Th. thesis). The IHU has made provision of some scholarships on high grades criteria. And some dioceses and Ecclesiastical Institutions and Monasteries have pledged extra scholarships. In addition to that, the dioceses of the greater area of Thessaloniki will offer hospitality at their hostels so far for 10 students, so that the different jurisdictions can easier contribute to their students’ travel expenses and university fees. Also in consultation with the University authorities after the first two years of its implementation it was agreed - on the recommendation of some members of the scientific committee - the program to move to, and be hosted by, institutions of other jurisdictions – at least for a semester – if they wish to, and of course have the necessary infra structure. The participation of both professors and students from ALL Orthodox Autocephalous Churches is considered as of extreme importance. And for this reason, it must be brought to the attention of all Primates, and if possible as many dioceses and Academic Institutions as possible. Finally, and equally important, but independent of, though somehow related to, the program, it was recommended by Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste, that a request be submitted to Patriarch Bartholomew to bring to the attention of the next Synaxis of the Primates, that a Permanent Theological Commission be set up, consisting of renowned Orthodox theologians, Hierarchs and lay theologians with academic experience, if possible headed by a Primate, and the name of the Archbishop of Albanian Anastasios came to our mind. Prof. Emeritus Petros Vassiliadis Director of the Program
The Presidents of CEMES The Honorary President of CEMES The President in Honour of CEMES The President Metr. of Thessaloniki Anthimos Prof. Emer. Petros Vassiliadis Prof. Emeritus Nikolaos Zacharopoulos
The members of the E.C. of CEMES: Prof. Petros Panagiotopoulos, Vice-President, Nikos Kosmidis, Secretary General, Dr. Nikolaos Dimitriadis, Tresurer Dr. K. Drosia, Prof. Dimitrios Keramidas, Dimitrios Nikiforos, M.Th., Rev. P. Hanoglou, Maria Sereti M.Th,
A SHORT MESSAGE To the organizers and the participants of the Conference on: “Eastern Orthodoxy and Inter-Religious Encounter in a Secular Age” Thessaloniki, September 12, 2017 Your Eminence, President of the Volos Academy Dear colleagues from both the co-organizing institutions, Dear participants of the Conference, Sisters and brothers in Christ.
On behalf of the Honorary President, His Eminence Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, Mgr. Anthimos and all the members of the Center for Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES), I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, a pioneer Orthodox institution promoting the dialogue with the secular world, as well as the University of Exeter, for organizing this conference. Given the affirmation of the Orthodox engagement in the interfaith dialogues, expressed at the highest conciliar level of the Eastern Orthodox Church, but also the “paradigm shift” in world mission toward on “inter-faith dialogue”, and in particular on the basis of a theological contribution by the Orthodox, the articulation of an Orthodox "theology of religions" constitutes a responsibility of the Orthodox academic community to the Orthodox Church. These ideas were expressed at the final communique of a similar academic symposium – though confined only to the Greek speaking theological resources – held in Thessaloniki four years ago. The general conclusion of this symposium was that both in the Bible and in the Patristic tradition there are elements that present the other religions as human constructions, but there are also other testimonies that while recognize Christ as the unique Savior of the world and his church as the ark of salvation, they accept the saving presence of God beyond the boundaries of the Church. From a theological perspective, and especially within the frame of the Orthodox tradition, it was argued that a synthesis of the two positions is possible; after all they constitute equally substantial elements of our Christian faith. For this reason any Orthodox formulation of a theology of religions should be based on the catholicity of the Christian tradition and not on selective elements that in most cases reflect personal phobias and ideological conservative or liberal perceptions. The inter-faith dialogue is also a sine-qua-non in ours Church’s witness to the gospel, if our ecumenical efforts do not aim at an anti-modern front but at working hand by hand with the faithful of other religions and beliefs instead of fighting one another, thus enormously contributing to a tolerant, peaceful, just, and sustainable society. Its final conclusion was that from the viewpoint of Orthodox theology a "theology of religions" is possible, feasible, but also legitimate; it requires however further scientific theological investigation. And we hope and pray that this present endeavour will cover this need. Congratulating you again for your invaluable theological contribution we wholeheartedly wish you and all the participants the wisdom from above and a success in your efforts.
Petros Vassiliadis Prof. Emeritus of the University of Thessaloniki President of CEMES (www.cemes-en.weebly.com)
A SHORT MESSAGE to St. Filaret’s Brotherhood and the Conference on Eucharistic Ecclesiology https://sfi.ru/announcements/ievkharistichieskaia-ekklieziologhiia-sieghodnia-vospriiatiie-voploshchieniie-razvitiie.html May 5, 2017 Dear Fr. Georgy, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to St. Filaret’ Brotherhood and its Theological Institute for their invaluable contribution to the renewal .of the Orthodox ecclesiastical life. Your untiring efforts keep the Eucharistic vision alive, especially in your local Orthodox Church. The Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies is grateful to your work, especially because of your openness to the world, which is so neglected in our contemporary Orthodox life. We consider the festive conference you organize to honor Fr. Nicholas Afanasiev, a distinguished theologian, as a contribution to our Church’s effort to regain its unity and conciliarity. Driving force to promote a similar vision in our local Church, the Church of Greece, for more than two decades – unfortunately as a lonely figure in a conservative ecclesiastical and social environment – was the late Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Panteleimon Papageorgiou (1902-1979. To revitalize his vision and further contribute to the renewal of our Church, a great number of academic scholars, as well as some of his direct or spiritual relatives, established in his name the afore mentioned Center. This year CEMES finalized the proceedings of an international conference on the restoration of the Order of Deaconesses (or women deacons), which came to the conclusion that an institution so deeply rooted in the Orthodox tradition, theologically, historically and most importantly with conciliar and canonical validity, despite falling for the time being into disuse, must be urgently revived in order to support and strengthen the authentic witness of our Church in society and the world. Congratulating you again for your significant theological initiatives we wholeheartedly greet you with the Paschal XPICTOC ANECTH!
Petros Vassiliadis Prof. Emeritus of the University of Thessaloniki President of CEMES
THE FINAL COMMUNIQUE OF CEMES' INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON "INTEGRAL ECOLOGY AS THE NEW ROAD TO RECONCILIATION" (co-organised with AIESC and AUTH)
Communiqué de presse – Thessaloniki – le 5 Septembre 2016 Tournant dans l’effort œcuménique pour une Ecologie Intégrale Une importante conférence transdisciplinaire a eu lieu les 2 et 3 septembre a l’Université Aristote de Thessalonique sous le titre «l’Ecologie Intégrale comme nouvelle voie vers la réconciliation». De manière remarquable, cette rencontre était placée sous le triple patronage du Pape François, du Patriarche Orthodoxe Bartholomée, et de l’Archevêque de Canterbury, Justin Welby. Des messages des deux premiers ont été lus par des émissaires spéciaux tandis que le chef de l’Eglise Anglicane participait aux débats par vidéo. La conférence a attiré une cinquantaine de participants, laïcs et ecclésiastiques, d’une quinzaine de pays, aussi extra-européens ; des ingénieurs, architectes, sociologues, politologues, juristes et théologiens. Les organisateurs étaient l’AIESC (Association Internationale pour l’Enseignement Social Chrétien, www.aiesc.net), le SRCRC (Social Research Center for Religion and Culture – Université Aristote) et le CEMES (Center for Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies,wwwcemes.weebly.com), avec le soutien de Renovabis et de l’Université Aristote. Les discussions s’appuyaient naturellement aussi bien sur l’Encyclique « Laudato Si » que sur l’excellent texte du Saint et Grand Synode orthodoxe de juin 2016 « l’Eglise comme témoin du monde », mais aussi sur les apports des diverses disciplines. L’accent fut mis sur le fait que l’on ne pouvait résoudre les problèmes écologiques sans les dépasser largement. Paul Dembinski, le président de l’AIESC, souligna que la voie de l’écologie intégrale invite à aller «au-delà de l’écologie, mais surtout au-delà du matérialisme utilitariste». Le Rev. professeur Chrysostame Nassis, de l’Université Aristote, ajouta qu’il fallait d’urgence aller « au-delà des slogans » en matière écologique. Le professeur Christos Tsironis voit dans l’écologie intégrale « une réponse dynamique et multidimensionnelle, pleine de compassion et de responsabilité aux cris de la terre et aux cris des pauvres ». Le professeur Petros Vassiliadis souligne que les Chrétiens, en plus des droits de l’homme, doivent mettre l’accent sur les responsabilités humaines face à l’environnement. Quant au doyen de la faculté de Théologie, le Professeur Konstatinou, il conclut : «un changement radical des structures sociales est nécessaire. Il faut lutter contre le mode de vie consumériste et donc intervenir au cœur de la société». La signification de cet engagement de toutes les Eglises chrétiennes autour de l’écologie intégrale ne saurait être sous-estimée. La possibilité apparait que là où les politiques ont échoué, les Eglises peuvent donner une inspiration salvatrice, au niveau local comme au niveau global. Le chemin pour ce faire passe aussi bien par le principe orthodoxe de «réconciliation» (de l’homme avec l’Autre, avec la création et avec Dieu) que par la contribution de chacun à l’avènement de la «Civilisation de l’amour» - si chère à Paul VI et Saint Jean Paul II- c'est-à-dire du respect de la dignité de la personne humaine aussi dans sa vocation eschatologique. Il est à souhaiter que cette inspiration des Eglises chrétiennes, portée avant tout par les laïcs professionnels, pourra être prochainement étendue et partagée par les autres religions. Cette conférence historique de Thessalonique est donc avant tout un appel à l’espoir. Le conférence formule un appel pour qu’un cessez-le-feu universel soit observé le 20 septembre prochain, le jour de la Journée Mondiale de la Prière pour la Paix et de la réunion d’Assise des leaders religieux du monde. Pour une plus ample information veuillez prendre contact avec un des sous signés : email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON INTEGRAL ECOLOGY co-organised with AIESC and AUTH
A Letter of support and congratulation for the 25th anniversary of St. Andrew Biblical Theological Institute
ΚΕΝΤΡΟ ΟΙΚΟΥΜΕΝΙΚΩΝ ΙΕΡΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΙΚΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΠΕΡΙΒΑΛΛΟΝΤΙΚΩΝ ΜΕΛΕΤΩΝ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΙΤΗΣΠΑΝΤΕΛΕΗΜΩΝΠΑΠΑΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΥ Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou A SHORT MESSAGE on behalf of the Center for Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES), to St. ANDREW BIBLICAL THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE for its 25th anniversary
Dear Dr. Bodrov,
I would like to express our sincere gratitude to St. Andrew Biblical Theological Institute for the 25 years of its invaluable contribution to promote the theological renewal .and the ecumenical awareness of our Church. Your untiring efforts keep the ecumenical vision alive, especially in your local Orthodox Church. CEMES is enthusiastically grateful to your work, especially because of the biblical focus, which is so neglected in our present day Orthodox theological reflections. We consider the series of festive conferences you have launched this year to commemorate your small jubilee as a humble contribution to our Church’s titanic effort toward her Pan-Orthodox Synod next year.
Driving force to promote this vision in our local Church, the Church of Greece, for more than two decades – unfortunately as a lonely figure in a widely even to our days conservative ecclesiastical and social environment – was the late Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Panteleimon Papageorgiou (1902-1979), a close companion of the visionary Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. To revitalize his vision and further contribute to the ecumenical cause, a great number of academics, as well as some of his direct or spiritual relatives, established in his name the afore mentioned Center.
Last year one of CEMES’ international conferences came to a conclusion that not only inter-Christian but also inter-faith dialogue is a sine-qua-non in ours Church’s witness to the gospel. Even the articulation of a "theology of religions" from the Orthodox point of view is possible, and if our ecumenical efforts do not aim at an anti-modern front but at working together instead of fighting one another, can enormously contribute to a tolerant, peaceful, just, and sustainable society.
Early this year CEMES organized another international conference on the restoration of Order of Deaconesses (or women deacons), which came to the conclusion that an institution so deeply rooted in the Orthodox tradition, theologically, historically and most importantly with conciliar and canonical validity, despite falling for the time being into disuse, must be urgently revived in order to support and strengthen the authentic witness of our Church in society and the world.
Congratulating you again for the 25 years of your significant theological contribution we wholeheartedly wish you many happy returns and to your great jubilee.
Petros Vassiliadis Prof. Emeritus of the University of Thessaloniki President of CEMES
Thessaloniki, 22 September 2015
Further cooperation between CEMES and BOSE and a letter of gratitude
ΚΕΝΤΡΟ ΟΙΚΟΥΜΕΝΙΚΩΝ ΙΕΡΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΙΚΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΠΕΡΙΒΑΛΛΟΝΤΙΚΩΝ ΜΕΛΕΤΩΝ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΙΤΗΣΠΑΝΤΕΛΕΗΜΩΝΠΑΠΑΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΥ Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou Centro di Studi Ecumenici, Missiologici ed Ambientali Metropolita Panteleimon Papageorgiou Salonicco, 18.9.2015
A: Enzo Bianchi Abate del Monastero di Bose Stimatissimo e carissimo Fratello,
Desidererei anzitutto esprimere, a nome di tutti i soci e membri del CEMES, i miei sentimenti di gratitudine per l’ospitalità offertami durante il XXIII Convegno ecumenico internazionale di spiritualità ortodossa, dedicato al tema “misericordia e perdono”. Il Monastero è diventato, da diversi anni, per il mondo ortodosso un luogo indispensabile nella rivalorizzazione della spiritualità delle nostre Chiese.
Gli interventi presentati quest’anno hanno illuminato i diversi lati dell’etica del perdono e della riconciliazione, così essenziali per la fede cristiana. In modo particolare – e forse anche provvidenziale – il tema del perdono diviene oggi ancor più rilevante nel cammino ecumenico delle Chiese, in vista del Giubileo straordinario, indetto dal papa Francesco, dedicato, appunto, alla Misericordia, e del prossimo Sinodo Panortodosso che, deo volente, si svolgerà a Fanar il prossimo anno e che vuole essere una martyria di unità e di riconciliazione ispirata alla tradizione e spiritualità ortodossa.
Nel corso dell’ultimo concilio direttivo del nostro Centro (18 settembre 2015), ho presentato, in qualità di Presidente, un report sintetico dei lavori del convegno, nonché un prospetto generale sulle attività ecumeniche del Monastero di Bose. Tutti i soci del Centro hanno espresso il loro profondo ringraziamento per l’appoggio offerto da parte della Comunità di Bose (e Sua personalmente, con interventi sulla stampa italiana) alla nostra iniziativa “Pray for Greece” (cemes-en.weebly.com), un appello alle Chiese e ai cristiani d’Europa a pregare e sostenere, in un momento particolarmente difficile per il nostro paese, le idee di democrazia, di dignità, di solidarietà e di giustizia sociale che sono parte della sensibilità cristiana. Anche questo “incontro” è stato, in qualche modo, un’espressione tangibile dell’etica della misericordia e della riconciliazione, nonché di quella “parentela spirituale” di cui spesso parla il patriarca ecumenico Bartolomeo.
Il CEMES, fondato nel 2011, ha assunto, per Statuto e vocazione, sulla scia anche della missione della Comunità di Bose, l’incarico di promuovere e sostenere, in Grecia e altrove, iniziative e progetti di carattere scientifico, didattico ed editoriale al fine di favorire: lo spirito di unità tra i cristiani; l’accoglienza e il dialogo fraterno con i non cristiani; la tutela del creato come una massima responsabilità delle Chiese. Il nostro intento è, tra l’altro, quello di assistere alla formazione ecumenica di una nuova generazione di teologi e cristiani in modo che essi possano scoprire, testimoniare e condividere i carismi e il patrimonio diacronico della Chiesa indivisa.
Sulla base di questa vocazione e impegno comuni, il nostro Centro ha deciso unanimemente di partire da questo “incontro” per approfondire la nostra conoscenza e continuare con una più stretta collaborazione con la Comunità di Bose, nonché pensare concretamente a progetti per realizzare un sostegno reciproco al nostro lavoro comune. Le assicuro che, al CEMES, Lei e la Comunità di Bose troveranno la stessa accoglienza e ospitalità che anima lo spirito monastico dell’Oriente e dell’Occidente.
Con riconoscimento e auguri per la Sua missione e per la Comunità di Bose,
Prof. Emerito Petros Vassiliadis Dimitrios Nikiforos, M.Th. PresidenteSegretario generale
Call in a Time of Crisis in Europe
If one member suffers, all suffer together (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Respected ecumenical friends and partners in Europe, Dear, sisters and brothers in Christ,
In the spirit of the contemporary inter-Christian cooperation, churches have contributed to the development and establishment of a wider ecumenical spirit of reconciliation and collaboration – extremely necessary and significant for both Europe and the world. This spirit was particularly needed in challenging times, such as following the end of the World War ΙΙ and the rise of the divisive climate of the Cold War between the East and West. Since then, churches have worked to support a progressive, and sometimes even a radical Christian spiritual approach in addressing social, political, economic and environmental issues. In this spirit, as Christians and responsible citizens, we call the European churches, ecumenical organizations, religious institutions and various Christian movements in Europe to respond to our call to ensure a secure future of our common home by taking immediate actions.
The Greek crisis is a European crisis. Therefore we believe that only at the European level foundations for a sustainable and definitive solution to this problematic, injurious and particularly dangerous situation can occur. We encourage both the Greek government and the governments of the member states of the European Union to exhaust any margin of dialogue to reach an immediate agreement, ensuring equal participation of Greece in the Common Monetary Union, and leading up to a national economic recovery.
We recognize that the current adverse situation in our country is also relevant to the crucial issues related with the growth and development of particular political, economic and social systems during the political changeover, following the re-establishment of Democracy in 1974. Furthermore, we recognize that neither have we (as citizens and Orthodox Christians) risen to the occasion nor have done the self- reflection required. Today we are ready to recognize errors in our political and economic system and we take responsibility for our failures to overcome these unhealthy situations. However, we are concerned about the policies proposed by our partners, focused apparently on the need for reforms, without taking into consideration the systemic causes of the crisis, the debt crisis and the need to address the serious humanitarian consequences of the ineffective neoliberal policies applied in the recent years.
Despite our different political affiliations and interpretation of effective solutions, we all recognize that the position of Greece remains within the European family; a position that represents the overwhelming majority of Greek citizens. We call for actions that can ensure European identity of our country based on the principles of democracy, solidarity, social justice, dignity, mutual respect and implementation of the European principles. Based on these cornerstones of unity, cooperation and common progress of the European people, we invite you to work together in order to safeguard these values, because we recognize in these foundational principles common cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance of Europe. This inheritance must be preserved at all costs against powers that put our peaceful common path at serious risk; powers that impose the deification of the markets and aim to revive sad moments of the history of our continent.
Within this context, we welcome supportive statements by religious leaders and organizations. We appreciate especially comments of solidarity from His Holiness Pope Francis, pastoral letter of the distinguished members of the Presidium of the Conference of European Churches and the public interventions from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. We call upon all Christians of Europe, in a spirit of prayer and prophetic witness (martyria), to remind the European family, the greatest value of human beings against the value of profit. We are experiencing an unfortunate revival of division and intense polarization across Europe, which taints the process of making political choices, traumatizes coexistence of our nations and stigmatizes people's hearts. In the midst of this dark reality, we firmly believe that churches of Europe must - and are able to - become bridges of cooperation and dialogue, as post-war history has proven. We are part of our common spiritual and cultural heritage and consequently co-responsible for our common future.
Friday, July 10, 2015 It was signed among others by Vasileiadis Petros, Professor Emeritus of the Theological School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, President of the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou”
Saroglou Vassilis, Professor of psychology at the Université catholique de Louvain, President of the Académie internationale des sciences religieuses
Zaxaropoulos Nikos Gr., Deputy Dean, Professor of Theology, Head of the Master’s Programme in Theology, Neapolis University in Cyprus
Stamoulis Chrysostomos, Professor of the Theological School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Head of the Department of Theology
Kalaitzidis Pantelis, Director, Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Volos, Greece
Zorbas Konstantinos, Dr. of Theology and Sociology General Director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete
Papageorgiou Niki, Associate Professor of Theology at the Theological School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Tsompanidis Stylianos, Associate Professor of Theology at the Theological School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Dimitrios Moschos, Assistant Professor of Theology at the Faculty of Theology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Stathokosta Vassiliki, Assistant Professor of Theology at the Faculty of Theology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Kasselouri-Hatzivassiliadi Eleni, Ph.D., Lecturer at the Hellenic Open University
Papathanasiou Athanasios N., Dr. of Theology, Lecturer at the Hellenic Open University
Mitralexis Sotiris, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy (Bogazici University), Dr. of Philosophy (FUBerlin)
Nikiforos Dimitrios, M.Th., Secretary General of the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou”
Pekridou Katerina, M.Τh, Research Associate, Institute for Missiology & the Study of Theologies beyond Europe, Catholic Faculty of Theology, WWU-Münster
Papachristou Nikos-Giorgos, Religious editor / Amen.gr Student at the School of Social Sciences of the Pontifical Gregorian University / Rome with a scholarship of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity
Kosmidis Nikos, Former World Council of Churches youth commissioner, Political and ecumenical activist
12th Session 19:30-20:00 Greek Time (17:30-18:00 GMT) Conclusion of the Conference – Perspectives for the Future
COMMUNIQUÉ AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE: “DEACONESSES, ORDINATION OF WOMEN AND ORTHODOX THEOLOGY” with Appendix I & Appendix II “The Church is called to articulate its prophetic word . . . Our heart is set on the long-awaited Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church in order to witness to its unity as well as to its responsibility and care for the contemporary world . . . The Church does not live for itself but is obliged to witness to and share God’s gifts with those near and afar.” Bearing in mind this message from the 2014 Synod of the Primates of the Orthodox Church, as well as the recommendation by His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus on the same occasion that the Orthodox Church “should be also concerned with the role of women in the Church and strengthen her position on the issue of the ordination of women, while after a serious study and consideration of all parameters, restoring the order of deaconesses in the Church,” the Centre for Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES), together with the Theological Schools of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and Holy Cross of Boston USA, jointly organized an international theological conference on “Deaconesses, ordination of women and Orthodox theology.”
The conference was convened in Thessaloniki (22-24 January, 2015) at the premises of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, which graciously provided all electronic facilities for a live coverage, and at the Amphitheater “Panteleimon Papageorgiou” of the Holy Monastery of St. Theodora of Thessaloniki, which hosts the offices of CEMES, inaugurated in 2013 by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was dedicated to 94-year-old Professor Emeritus Evangelos Theodorou, who sixty years ago was the first among Orthodox theologians to initiate scholarly discussion on the ordination of Deaconesses to the Sacramental Priesthood in the Orthodox Church. Conscious that a thorough theological examination of all aspects of this issue, which have over the years been discussed widely and ecumenically, constitutes a primary responsibility of the Orthodox academic community to the Orthodox Church in general, the above academic institutions organized this conference along the same lines with the conference held two years ago by CEMES on the theme: “An Orthodox approach for a theology of religions” (14-15 June, 2013).
The Conference was initially placed within the context of a two-year-project of CEMES, entitled: “Humble Theological Contribution to the Orthodox Church on its Way to the 2016 Pan-Orthodox Council” Although the issues debated during the conference are not included in the official agenda of this long-anticipated Pan-Orthodox Synod, the intervention of the Primate of the Church of Cyprus prompted the inclusion of this conference within the overall framework of the project. It was symbolically launched on the day that the Orthodox Churches commemorate St. Mary Magdalene, equal to the Apostles, with an open invitation to all interested theologians.
The concept of the conference was an in-depth examination of the theological argumentation by Orthodox scholars, one generation after the Rhodes Consultation, in view of exploring the progress in recent biblical and theological scholarship. In other words, the centrality of “Orthodox Theology” in the title of the conference was stressed, alongside reference to “Deaconesses” as a central and parallel focus, without neglecting the overall question of the “ordination of women,” inasmuch as it nowadays poses a challenge not only from outside the canonical boundaries of the Orthodox Church but also from its ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological scholars.
The theological perspective of the conference was prompted by Metropolitan John [Zizioulas] of Pergamon, who has argued for a purely theological conversation of this subject, and especially of the thorny question of the ordination of women, which has divided Churches and Christian denomination both vertically and horizontally. As the official representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate addressing the Anglican Communion during its Lambeth Conference two decades ago, Metropolitan John warned all concerned that this problem cannot be solved by using either the argument from sociology or the argument from tradition. What is desperately needed is to address this delicate issue, which has resulted in painful divisions within and among almost all Christian traditions, on atheological basis.
Most of the papers focused on the Order of Deaconesses (or women deacons), the restoration of which was adopted by all speakers, participants and attendees. An institution so deeply, theologically and historically rooted in our Orthodox tradition and, most importantly, with conciliar and canonically validity, despite falling for the time being into disuse, must be urgently revived in order to support and strengthen the authentic witness of our Church in society and the world. This, of course, does not mean that the role of lay women in the Orthodox Church’s witness should not be vigorously encouraged.
All participants agreed that, in accordance with the current canonical restrictions, women are forbidden to enter into the sacramental or “hieratic” priesthood, except the “diaconal” one. For over a generation, the Orthodox Church holds a clear and concrete position on this matter, as explicitly expressed in the final document of the Rhodes Conference, which also patently recommends that “the apostolic order of deaconesses should be revived” (§ 32). Quite recently, however, a number of Orthodox theologians have expressed reservations concerning the theological validity of some arguments proposed against the ordination of women. The reformulation by Metropolitan Kallistos [Ware] of Diokleia of his seminal argumentation on the ordination of women; the tireless approach to the issue by the late Dr. Elizabeth Behr-Sigel, as well as her titanic struggle to upgrade the role of women in the Orthodox Church and its liturgy; and the theological views formulated by the late Prof. Nikos Matsoukas, one of the greatest Orthodox dogmatic theologians of our time; but also a number of Orthodox theological dissertations and post-doctoral studies as well as other scholarly contributions – all of these seem to have challenged the opposition to the ordination of women on the basis of Orthodox theology and tradition.
Apart from recommending that the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council consider the restoration of the Order of Deaconesses, our conference did not come to other conclusions, choosing to leave any final decision to the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities in the hope that they will also consider other relevant parameters. Speakers simply raised some serious theological concerns on all issues discussed (see Appendix I) and underlined the inconsistency in the conventional Orthodox view that appeals to “tradition” with regard to the overall question of the “ordination of women,” but ignores the same tradition in relation to the revival of the Order of Deaconesses and the participation of women in the sacramental diaconal priesthood of the Orthodox Church.
The nearly forty papers presented at the conference – in addition to the insightful messages from ecclesiastical (namely, the Ecumenical Patriarch) and academic authorities (from various theological schools) – covered almost all areas of biblical, liturgical, patristic, systematic, canonical, and historical theology. Although most papers focused on the issues from an Orthodox perspective, their sober analysis can provide theological argumentation for the wider Christian community, both to the Churches and Christian denominations that exclude women from the sacramental priesthood (such as Roman Catholics and some Evangelicals) and to those that have already adopted their ordination (such as Anglicans and mainstream Protestants). Other papers provided an objective and critical study of the history, experience and theological arguments of other Christian traditions from an Orthodox perspective. Finally, the conference did not omit to address the perspective of other non-Orthodox Christians (see Appendix II).
With regard to the issue of women’s ordination it was humbly suggested that from an Orthodox point of view the theological arguments used so far in the inter-Christian dialogue need to be reformulated; this is possible, feasible and legitimate, even if this requires further scholarly research.
All the papers delivered at this international theological conference will be published electronically on the official website of CEMES (cemes.weebly.com), and in printed form as part of the series of CEMES editions. Finally, all of our scholarly endeavor will be humbly submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all other Orthodox Churches.
From the Scientific Committee
THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL OF AUTH THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL OF HOLY CROSS, BOSTON USA CENTER OF ECUMENICAL, MISSIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES «METROPOLITAN PANTELEIMON PAPAGEORGIOU» (CEMES)