FW: Met. Philip: Autonomy Will Lead to Unified American Orthodoxy
- Published in "The National Herald" newspaper of Long
Island City, NY. July
21-22 Weekend Edition. Republished by the OCL with
permission of The
Antiochian Archdiocese Prepares for Autonomy
By Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald
BOSTON. - The Board of Trustees of the Antiochian
Archdiocese of America,
during its June 2 meeting, unanimously decided to
request autonomy from the
Patriarchate of Antioch.
Metropolitan Philip, the leader of the American
Antiochian Church, sent an
encyclical to the 235 parishes of his Archdiocese,
enclosing a resolution
and urging the clergy and laity to vote in favor of it
at the upcoming
Archdiocesan General Assembly this week in Los
In an interview with The National Herald, Metropolitan
Philip said that in
case Antioch refuses to grant autonomy he is prepared
for autocephaly: "We
will get together with all those in America who want
understand that in the Greek Archdiocese there is a
strong movement for
autocephaly" he said.
Philip also plans to approach Archbishop Demetrios and
ask for his
cooperation. In the event that Archbishop Demetrios
refuses to cooperate,
the Metropolitan said, he will go ahead without him.
In that case a new
order of Orthodox ecclesiastical affairs might be
created in America.
Philip said he is determined to go all the way, and
that he is not daunted
even by the possibility that he might be defrocked.
Following is the full text of his interview:
THE NATIONAL HERALD: How would you characterize the
decision of the Board of
Directors of your Archdiocese to unanimously request
from the General
Assembly to pass a resolution calling for a autonomous
from the Patriarchate of Antioch?
PHILIP: I thank you for the opportunity to speak to
your newspaper to
which I subscribe. I have been an Archbishop for 35
years and at every
General Assembly of our Antiochian Archdiocese we pass
a resolution calling
for Orthodox unity in America. We know from the past
that SCOBA was
organized originally to bring Orthodox people
together. Our people have
become extremely frustrated about the Orthodox
situation in America.
NH: Why doesn't Antioch grant you autonomy?
PHILIP:Antioch does not understand the implications.
They think that we are
going to separate ourselves from the Mother Church.
NH: Did you have an opportunity to explain to
Patriarch Ignatios what you
are trying to do?
PHILIP:Yes we did.
NH: What was his reaction?
NH: What did he say?
PHILIP:"This is not the time."
NH: Did he give you a time frame?
PHILIP:No, he keeps saying "this is not the time, this
is not the time."
NH: In this case what do you plan to do?
PHILIP:To go ahead with the resolution.
NH: The resolution will pass one more time, but
Patriarch Ignatios will
PHILIP:I am not sure that he will decline. The
resolution calls for
negotiations with Antioch.
NH: If Antioch says we refuse to negotiate. What is
going to be your next
PHILIP:The next step will be autocephaly.
PHILIP:We will get together with all those in America
who want autocephaly.
We have enough people in America who are seeking
autocephaly. I understand
that in the Greek Archdiocese there is a very strong
autocephaly. We have enough people who want to put the
Church in America in
order. We want our house to be order.
NH: How strong is this movement for autocephaly and
have you told this to
PHILIP:It is very strong and Ignatios is very well
aware of that.
NH: Your Eminence, please tell us who is going to take
the lead for
PHILIP:We hope the Greeks will. If not, we have the
Orthodox Church in
America (OCA) and if we are cornered in the Antiochian
reaching a dead end with Antioch... They (the Antioch)
cannot treat the
people in America the way they are treating them in
the Middle East. In the
Middle East the people have nothing to say in the
administration of the Church.
NH: Did you express these thoughts to Archbishop
PHILIP:No I have not. I have an appointment tomorrow
with His Grace
Demetrios of Xanthos.
NH: What are you going to tell him?
PHILIP:It depends on what he asks me.
NH: As you know Demetrios of Xanthos is only an
auxiliary Bishop. Demetrios
is the Archbishop of America. Do you plan to ask
Archbishop Demetrios to go
PHILIP:Yes. If we reach a dead end with Antioch and it
says that there is
absolutely no autonomy, then we will have to do
something and negotiate
with Archbishop Demetrios and others who want
NH: What if Demetrios refuses to discuss with you
PHILIP:We have others who want autocephaly.
NH: Would you go ahead without the Greek Orthodox
PHILIP:Yes we will. We would love to have the Greek
Orthodox with us and I
repeat there is a very strong movement in the Greek
for autocephaly. Look how many trips they have made to
many times they presented their Charter and nothing
NH: What if the Patriarchates of Constantinople and
violently? Let me be more specific, what if they
PHILIP:(Metropolitan Philip breaks into laughter).
NH: Why are you laughing?
PHILIP:If I am part of the autocephalous Church here
in America how can
they do that?
NH: Well, they will defrock you on the process.
PHILIP:They cannot, because I am going to have the OCA
and those who want
to become autocephalous and we are going to proclaim
NH: Are you saying that you do not care if they
PHILIP:Not at all. Not at all, because I know that
they are playing politics.
NH: Who are they playing politics?
PHILIP:Constantinople and Antioch and those who will
defrock us. For what?
We have been in this continent for more than 200
years, we have our own
Bishops, we have our own institutions. The only
dynamic Orthodox Church in
the world is the Church in America regardless of
jurisdiction. Look how
much you have accomplished in the Greek Archdiocese
under the leadership of
Iakovos. Believe me you have accomplished so much and
Demetrios has accomplished so much. We live in a
NH: How do you visualize the Autocephalous Orthodox
Church in America?
PHILIP:Just an autocephalous [church]. We, the Bishops
will get together
and will elect a Patriarch. And we hope we can elect a
because the Greek Archdiocese is a strong Archdiocese.
It has enough
parishes to be strong, enough institutions.
I have always said that the chairman of the SCOBA
should be Greek. When we
had a problem with Spyridon that time I begged him, I
said let us follow
the constitution of SCOBA because I want its chairman
to be the Greek
Archbishop. I think that our Mother Churches have
everything to gain by
recognizing our autonomy or autocephaly.
NH: Do you have any explanation as to why the mother
Churches do not want
to go along with that?
PHILIP:Because they live in an altogether another
NH: Are you saying that they do not understand?
PHILIP:No, they do not. In my Archdiocese we have a
Board of Trustees.
There is no one single Board of Trustees within the
Antioch, not one. Not one financial report is
presented to the people,
not one. And many times we go to the Synod without an
NH: Are you a member of the Synod?
PHILIP:Of course I am.
NH: Do you go there often?
PHILIP:Yes I go whenever my health permits me.
NH: How soon do you see the formation of an
autocephalous Church in America?
PHILIP:I really do not know. It depends how the
Patriarchate of Antioch
NH: Let us suppose that tomorrow you go public with
other jurisdictions and
proclaim the autocephalous Church without the consent
Demetrios. Do you think that there will be parishes
and Dioceses from the
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese that will follow?
PHILIP:I do not know that for sure, but I think there
NH: Let us assume that tomorrow we have an
autocephalous Church in America,
what are you going to do with it?
PHILIP:I want six million Orthodox in America to be
united together. We are
so insignificant in this country. We are like a dot.
NH: It seems to me that unity is not only
administrative uniformity, but, a
charisma of faith, a Eucharistic charisma. Don't we
have that already?
PHILIP:Yes we have that. Now we are seeking
administrative unity. Let us
not fool each other; we are not strong in this country
if we are not one.
Nobody pays any attention to us. You hear on T.V. so
many times about the
Jews, the Protestants and the Roman Catholics, but no
one pays any
attention to six million Orthodox.
NH: Do you think that each component of that
autocephalous Orthodox Church
will be able to keep its own cultural characteristics?
NH: Would you keep yours?
PHILIP:Absolutely. I am advocating unity with
diversity. I do not want the
Greeks to forget their glorious history, or glorious
culture. We are in an
unprecedented situation in America and we need
unprecedented solutions. We
have to be innovative and we have to be creative. We
can have a Synod in
which we can have an Antiochian Archbishop, and a
Serbian Archbishop and
this and that and we will have a chairman.
NH: Ecclesiologically and canonically speaking, what
would the position of
the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) be in this
Autocephalous Church we are
PHILIP:I assure you they will join us.
NH: But as they say they are autocephalous already.
PHILIP:Yes, but they are going to join us.
NH: Are you sure?
NH: Have you consulted with them?
PHILIP:I am sure they will join us.
NH: In what way was SCOBA successful so far, and in
what way was it not?
PHILIP:It was successful because it brought us
together as brothers in
Christ and Orthodox Bishops but we could have
accomplished much more on the
local level. Our people do not know each other on the
local level. We do
not have Pan-Orthodox or inter-Orthodox Clergy
Associations to work to
bring our Orthodox people together.
NH: Why do you think we were not able to achieve more
closeness all these
PHILIP:Because we did not have vision and the
Scripture says without vision
the people will perish.
NH: Who is to be blamed for that?
PHILIP:Us, the Bishops.
NH: Looking back, after seven years how would you
PHILIP:It was a moment of transfiguration.
NH: Then why was it not approved by the Mother
PHILIP:Because they misunderstood us.
NH: Did you miss an opportunity at that time to
PHILIP:I do not think we were ready to do anything for
autonomy. The mere fact was that we get together, we
pray together, we
discuss things together, that we mention the fact that
we are not in
Diaspora anymore. I told His Holiness Bartholomew when
he came to New York
at the Greek Cathedral that you misunderstood
NH: What did he say?
PHILIP:He did not say anything.
NH: Are we ready for autocephaly today?
PHILIP:If Antioch rejects us this time and tells us
that you people in
America do not know what you are talking about, you
are immature, then we
will have to discuss that. When we reach that bridge,
we will cross it. We
have a very strong lay organization and they have a
great deal to say.
NH: How are you doing in your Archdiocese?
PHILIP:Let me give you some statistics: when I was
in 1966 we had 65 parishes. Today we have 235
parishes. I have four
auxiliary Bishops. We are the fastest growing
Archdiocese in the world
because we opened our windows to America and we told
Americans this is the
faith which was given to the Apostles.
NH: You accepted the Evangelical Orthodox as well.
PHILIP:Yes, they are some of the best Orthodox that I
have in my Archdiocese.
NH: Do you ever regret for doing that?
NH: Even when you faced some difficulties with them?
PHILIP:Even despite that. The overwhelming majority of
them are wonderful
NH: Does Orthodoxy have a future in America?
PHILIP:As a matter of fact I do not see any future for
Orthodoxy except in
NH: What do you mean?
PHILIP:Look at what is happening in Constantinople?
How many Orthodox do we
have there? About three thousand.
NH: What about in Antioch?
PHILIP:People are leaving. They are immigrating to
North America, Canada,
and south America. Look at the Patriarchate of
Jerusalem. In Alexandria we
have nobody there. We have a missionary movement in
Africa which is great.
So the future of Orthodoxy is here.
NH: Would you like to see the Ecumenical Patriarchate
to relocate from
PHILIP:Absolutely. We have no future in Istanbul.
NH: Where could the Ecumenical Patriarchate be
PHILIP:Either to one of the Greek islands or to
America. We need an
Ecumenical Patriarch, but a strong one. Since the New
Rome is dead, we need
a New Rome some place. We need a New Rome in
NH: Do you think the Autocephalous Church of America
will be a New Rome?
PHILIP:It will be, if the Ecumenical Patriarch will
move to America and
lead the movement, all of us will follow.
NH: If Bartholomaios comes to America permanently,
would you submit under
PHILIP:If he is for Orthodox unity, absolutely. That
will be a blessing to
all of us.
NH: Are we mature enough to become autocephalous in
PHILIP:Of course we are. Look at how many bishops we
have, how many
institutions, how many theologians we have.
NH: What are your thoughts of married bishops? Should
we go back to the
PHILIP:I believe we should.
NH: What is your opinion of the second marriage of our
PHILIP:It depends of the priest and how old he is and
if he wants to remain
a widower or if he wants to be married. Because when
he got married the
first time he got married on the basis that he is not
a monk. We cannot
impose monasticism. I gave permission to one of my
priests when he became a
widower to remarry.
NH: Did you get permission from Antioch for that?
PHILIP:Yes I did.
NH: If you had a single message to transmit to your
patriarch in Antioch
before your upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress, what will
PHILIP:To think very seriously about our situation
here and not to consider
it a separation from the mother Church.
* Fr. John Whiteford IC -|- XC *
* ----|---- *
* St. Jonah Orthodox Mission | *
* Spring, Texas \| *
* http://www.saintjonah.org/ |\ *
* http://groups.yahoo.com/group/orthodox-rocor/ NI | KA *
Do You Yahoo!?
Make international calls for as low as $.04/minute with Yahoo! Messenger