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Patriarchal Election - 2014

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  • drthomas_joseph
    Patriarchal Election in the Syriac Orthodox Church: An Overview for the 2014 Election Prepared by: George Kiraz. Gorgias Press Beth Mardutho: The Syriac
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2014
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      Patriarchal Election in the Syriac Orthodox Church: 
      An Overview for the 2014 Election 
      Prepared by: George Kiraz. 
      Gorgias Press 
      Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute 
      It is a new day in the history of the Syriac Orthodox Church. After the burial of the late Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I, the church's attention is now on the election of the new Patriarch. During the past week, I have been getting many inquires about the process, but I thought it best to wait until after the funeral is over to provide some answers. Please note that what follows is my own interpretation and is not an official posting by any means. 

      The process of electing the Patriarch of Antioch in the Syriac Orthodox church is outlined in the latest revision of the Church's Constitution which went into effect on September 14, 2002. This process begins as soon as the Holy See is declared vacant, which automatically took place on Friday, March 21, 2014 upon the passing away of the late Patriarch (Article 28.a). 

      The first step (Article 28) is for the Patriarchal Assistant (in this case, no one holds this position) and the Patriarchal Vicar of Damascus (in this case Mor Iwanis Paulos Alsuki) to seal the Patriarchal Quarters with red wax. As there is no Patriarchal Assistant, Mor Timotheos Matta Khoury, the Secretary of the late Patriarch, and other bishops performed the task. This took place both in Damascus and in Ma`arat Saydnaya in the presence of Mor Silvanus Petros Issa Al-nemeh of Homs & Hama as well as other witnesses. In addition, the Patriarchal Residence in Atshaneh, Lebanon, was sealed by Mor Yostinos Paulos Safar of Zahleh, Mor Clemis Daniel Malak Kourieh of Beirut, and Mor Philoxenos Matta Shemoun (retired), assisted with monks and nuns. The sealing was announced on the Patriarchate's web site (with pictures) and with a letter report sent to all bishops by Mor Timotheos Matta Khoury. Article 28 was fulfilled. 

      The second step (Article 29) is to convene a meeting of the Maphrian and the bishops to elect the locum tenens (literally "the place holder", Syriac "Qoyumo", Arabic "Qa`im Maqam"). The election of the locum tenens has to take place within seven (7) days by simple majority vote. The meeting in this case took place on March 27th and was chaired by the Maphrian. Mor Severius Jamil Hawa of Baghdad & Basra was elected locum tenens. Article 29 was fulfilled. 

      The locum tenens is not permitted to leave the Patriarchate. He is not permitted to make any changes to the Patriarchate, nor can he ordain or take part in financial transactions (Article 32). His main function is to act as a place holder and to convene a Synod to elect the Patriarch. 

      The election Synod must be convened within thirty (30) days per Article 33. The March 27th Synod that elected the locum tenens also set Monday March 31st at 10:00 AM as the day of the election Synod. 

      The rest of this post will explain the voting procedures. Please note that what follows is my own interpretation of the Constitution and is NOT an official document. 

      Who Can Vote? 

      Voting is restricted to: 

      1. The Maphrian Mor Baselios Thomas I (one vote). 
      2. Diocesan bishops and Patriarchal Vicars who are administering diocese (one vote each), excluding bishops of the Maphrianate of India. 
      3. Certain Indian bishops (one vote each). These are: 
          a. Knanaya Diocese (Mor Severios Kuriakose). 
          b. Patriarchal or Simhasana Churches in India (Mor Athanasius Gevargis). 
          c. Evangelical Association of the East (Mor Chrysostomos Markose or Mor Antonios Ya'qub; only one vote for both). 
          d. Malankara Diocese of North America (Mor Theethos Yeldho). 

      There are some votes that the Holy Synod needs to determine. The Patriarchal Assistant gets one vote, but no one holds this post. The Synod might grant this vote to Mor Timotheos Matta Khoury the Patriarchal Secretary as usually the Patriarchal Secretary, after some years of service, becomes the Patriarchal Assistant. In addition, Mor Timotheos Matta Khoury was assigned as Patriarchal Vicar to Egypt and this may grant him a vote. 

      There are other bishops of what may be called the Patriarchal "curia". For instance, there is a new post that was created in 2010 after the 2002 Constitution went into effect and hence is not mentioned in the constitution: Patriarchal Bureau (headed by Mor Dionysius Yuhanoun Aziz Kawak). Another new post that is not listed in the 2002 Constitution is Patriarchal Vicar of the Patriarchal Institutions in Atchane, Lebanon (Mor Chrysostomos Michael Shamoun). To the same category belong the Secretary to the Patriarch for Indian Affairs (Mor Thimotheos Mathews) which is also not listed in the Constitution. The Synod will determine the status of these votes. 

      There is also the vote of the Aleppo diocese whose bishop (Mor Gregoriose Yuhanon Ibrahim) is kidnapped. 

      Bishops who do not attend and who do not send their vote in writing prior to the Synod will loose their vote. According to my information, all bishops are present. 

      This means that there are just over 35 available votes if my maths is correct!! 

      Who Are the Candidates? 

      There is no formal process to nominate candidates. All eligible bishops are automatically nominated and their names will be listed on the election ballot. The main requirements to become eligible are two: 

      1. The candidate must be at least forty (40) years old. 
      2. The candidate must have been a bishop for at least seven (7) years. 

      There are also other requirements that are difficult to measure and may or may not affect whether one is listed on the ballot or not. The other requirements are: virtue, good administration experience, education, and "proficiency" in Syriac, Arabic and a living Western language (Article 34). 

      The list of candidates follows, listed in the order of their ordination dates. (Please note that while this is NOT an official ballot list, it was compiled based on data regarding bishops provided on the web site of the Archdiocese of the Western United States.) Each bishop is listed with the year he was ordained. The year of birth is also given to the recently ordained bishops: 

      Mor Severius Jamil Hawa of Baghdad & Basra (1970) 
      Mor Gregoriose Yuhanon Ibrahim of Aleppo (1979, kidnapped) 
      Mor Theophilos George Saliba of Mount Lebanon (1981) 
      Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktash of Tur Abdin (1985) 
      Mor Philoxenos Yusuf Cetin of Istanbul (1986) 
      Mor Julius Abdulahad Shabo of Sweden (1987) 
      Mor Eustatheos Matta Rohum of Jazireh (1990) 
      Mor Clemis Augen Kaplan of Western US (1991) 
      Mor Cyril Ephrem Karim of Eastern US (1996) 
      Mor Dioscoros Benjamin Atash of Sweden (1996) 
      Mor Dionesios Issa Gurbuz of Switzerland (1996) 
      Mor Severus Malke Murad of the Holy Land (1996) 
      Mor Silwanos Peter Al Nemeh of Homs (1999) 
      Mor Philoxenos Saliba Ozmen of Mardin (2003) 
      Mor Athanasius Elia Bahi of Canada (born 1973, 2003) 
      Mor Meleteos Malke of Australia (born 1971, 2003) 
      Mor Justinose Paul Safar of Zahleh, Lebanon (born 1971, 2005) 
      Mor Timotheos Mousa Al-Shamani of Deir Mar Matta, Mosul (born 1966, ordained 2005) 
      Mor Severius Hazail Sawma of Belgium & France (born 1965, ordained 2006) 
      Mor Athanasius Touma Dakkameh of London (born 1968, ordained 2006) 
      Mor Gregorius Malke Ãœrek of Adiaman (born 1959, ordained 2006) 
      Mor Julius Hanna Aydin of S. Germany (born 1947, ordained February 18th, 2007) 
      Mor Clemis Daniel Malak of Lebanon (born 1972, ordained February 18th, 2007) 

      The eligibility of Mor Polycarpus Eugene Aydin of The Netherlands (born 1971, ordained April 15th, 2007) depends on the date of the election and an interpretation of the Constitution. Article 33 states that the election must take place "within 30 days" but does not state when the clock starts ticking, although one would assume the moment of the departure of the previous Patriarch when the Patriarchate officially become vacant. Considering that the Patriarch passed away on March 21, 2014, the latest possible date for the election Synod is April 19th. There is only a 4-day window where Mor Polycarpus would be an eligible candidate if one is to read the Constitution literally. The Synod will determine if he is listed on the ballot or not. 

      There are also four other retired bishops. The Constitution does not prohibit (i.e., is silent regarding) the election of a retired bishop. These are: 

      Mor Athanasius Aphrem Barsom, former bishop of Beirut (1965) 
      Mor Greogrios Saliba Shemoun, former bishop of Mosul (1969) 
      Mor Timotheos Aphrem Aboudi (1972) 
      Mor Philoxenos Matta Shemoun (1979) 

      In addition there is one bishop without portfolio: Mor Nicholas Matti Abdulahad (born 1970, 2005). 

      This means that the minimum number of people who will be listed on the ballot is 23 and the maximum is 29. Again, the above is NOT an official list of candidates, but merely given to illustrate how the Constitution works. 

      How Do They Vote? 

      The Synod meets in closed doors (in this case on Monday March 31). As the Maphrian is present, he will chair the meeting (otherwise, the locum tenens). After prayers from the Service of Pentecost, each voter is given a ballot that has the names of all eligible bishops written in Syriac (recall, there is no process of nomination and all eligible bishops are listed). He then signs a document acknowledging receipt of the ballot, ascends to the altar, and places the sign of the cross in red ink next to his choice. He then puts the ballot inside the Chalice on the altar. 

      After everyone votes, the Chair (the Maphrian in this case) and the locum tenens (Mor Severius Jamil Hawa of Baghdad & Basra in this case), assisted with the two most senior bishops present (as Mor Gregoriose Yuhanon Ibrahim of Aleppo is kidnapped, it would be Mor Theophilos George Saliba of Mount Lebanon and Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktash of Tur Abdin), count each ballot after reading the marked name in a loud and clear voice. After recording the results, the ballots are burnt. However, the letters (or emails I guess!!) of voters who were not able to attend but sent their vote in writing are kept in case the election has to be repeated (Article 37). 

      The candidate with a simple majority of votes is considered the chosen candidate. The Chair (the Maphrian in this case) asks the chosen candidate if he accepts to become Patriarch. If the chosen bishop accepts, his name is announced to the Synod as Patriarch-elect. The bishops then stand and declare their obedience to the Patriarch-elect. All voters then sign the proceedings. The name is announced to the public. They then ring the bells of the church were the election takes place (Article 38). 

      If the person elected does not accept, the election is repeated. Also, if there was a tie, the election is repeated. 

      If a deadlock takes place after the second round, the bishops may choose any other method for the election provided that they agree on the new method. No one is permitted to leave the Synod until the election is complete. 

      When do They Install the New Patriarch? 

      According to Article 42, the installation is to take place on the nearest Sunday or Feast Day after the 40th Memorial of the late Patriarch. The 40th Memorial will probably be in early May. This means we may have a new Patriarch by Ascension (May 29) or Pentecost (June 8). 

      The Patriarch-elect is not a Patriarch until he is installed; i.e., his name is not read in the diptychs until after his installation. 

      The locum tenens (Mor Severius Jamil Hawa of Baghdad & Basra in this case) is still in charge until the installation of the new Patriarch. 

      How Can I Participate? 
      We all have a duty to participate in the election by offering prayers for the Maphrian and bishops who are gathering in the election Synod. May the Holy Spirit descend upon the members of the Synod to choose the new Patriarch. 

      Let us all pray for the Church and the Holy Synod and accept God's choice in the coming few days. 

      (I would like to thank those who double checked the information above. All mistakes remain mine. CAVEAT: This is not an official document of the church.)
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