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FW: Met. Philip: Autonomy Will Lead to Unified American Orthodoxy

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  • Fr. John Whiteford
    Published in The National Herald newspaper of Long Island City, NY. July 21-22 Weekend Edition. Republished by the OCL with permission of The National
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2001
      Published in "The National Herald" newspaper of Long
      Island City, NY. July
      21-22 Weekend Edition. Republished by the OCL with
      permission of The
      National Herald.

      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
      autocephaly. I
      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
      administrative status
      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.

      NH: How?

      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
      movement for
      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
      Archdiocese by
      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
      for autocephaly?

      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
      Archdiocese, without

      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
      Orthodox Archdiocese
      for autocephaly. Look how many trips they have made to
      Constantinople, how
      many times they presented their Charter and nothing

      NH: What if the Patriarchates of Constantinople and
      Antioch react
      violently? Let me be more specific, what if they
      defrock you?

      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
      ourselves autocephalous.

      NH: Are you saying that you do not care if they
      defrock you?

      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
      now Archbishop
      Demetrios has accomplished so much. We live in a
      different ethos.

      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
      Greek Patriarch,
      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
      Patriarchate of
      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
      of Archbishop
      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
      will be.

      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
      talking about?

      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
      characterize Ligonier?

      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
      proclaim autocephaly?

      PHILIP:I do not think we were ready to do anything for
      autocephaly, or
      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
      consecrated Archbishop
      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
      Washington D.C.

      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
      his omophorion?

      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
      early tradition?

      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
      it be?

      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 *

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