Welcome to the official website of the CENTER OF ECUMENICAL, MISSIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES "METROPOLITAN PANTELEIMON PAPAGEORGIOU" (CEMES)
NEW 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 Officers of CEMES The Honorary President of CEMES The President of CEMES The Secr. General of CEMES Metr. of Thessaloniki Anthimos Prof. Emeritus Petros Vassiliadis Dimitrios Nikiforos, M.Th.
The members of the E.C. of CEMES: Prof. St. Tsompanidis, Prof. A. Ziaka, Dr. N. Dimitriadis, Rev. P. Hanoglou, Dr. E. Kasselouri, Dr. St. Charalampidis
NEW 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 : firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
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)