5.26.09 Breaking News
Antiochian American Bishops
Invited to Damascus
• Metropolitan +Philip Will Not Attend Special Gathering
• Board of Trustees To Precede Damascus Summit
• Updated Timeline Published
Six of the seven American bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese will soon be in Damascus for discussions with Patriarch IGNATIUS IV concerning the current crisis in North America. The bishops are scheduled to leave for Damascus next Monday, June 1, with meetings between the bishops and the Patriarch on June 3 and 4. Metropolitan Philip, the Primate of the Self-Ruled Archdiocese, will not be attending the meeting. It is unclear whether he had not been invited to the meeting - or simply chose not to attend.
In addition to the special gathering of bishops from America, the Patriarch also announced that the regular Spring meeting of the Synod of Antioch will take place on Tuesday June 16, 2009. Metropolitan Philip is planning to be present for that meeting.
Unprecedented in Archdiocesan history, sources close to the Patriarchate confirm that the purpose of the special meeting is not punative, but to give the opportunity for the American bishops to dialogue with Patriarch Ignatius IV (and perhaps other members of the Synod) in an effort to find a solution to the current crisis in the Archdiocese.
According to these sources, the members of the Synod of Antioch were shocked to discover they had been misled by Metropolitan Philip, and that there was no “dissension and disunity” in North America - nor a widespread desire of the Faithful for a repeal of self-rule - aside from a small group of priests in the Upper Midwest. On the contrary, most North American Antiochians seemed well-content with the self-rule, and were thus confused by the Feb. 24 decision. Members of the Synod were even more greatly surprised, upon reading the facts and source documents in the Timeline offered by the Association of Orthodox Attorneys (read that Timeline here), to discover the constant "doublespeak" that has infected Archdiocese communications for so many years; a situation exacerbated by the recent legal opinion of the Archdiocesan Chancellors (read that Opinion here). The Synod will now seek to learn of the situation in Antiochian America directly from the other Bishops without the usual “filter” imposed by Metropolitan Philip.
The episcopal gathering in Damascus follows a meeting of the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees scheduled for the end of this week on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30th, at Antiochian Village in Latrobe, Pa. It has been reported that several Trustees have resigned in wake of the crisis, but none was willing to confirm this to OCANews.org. There is no question, however, that the major topic of discussion will be the ongoing-crisis, and more specifically, the fiduciary duties of the Board of Trustees relating to Self-Rule as laid out in the Opinion of the Chancellors. The American Bishops are scheduled to attend the Board of Trustees meeting prior to their departure for Damascus.
Finally, the Timeline of the Association of Orthodox Attorneys mentioned above has been revised and expanded yet again, after the Attorneys organization was flooded with additional source documents from concerned faithful from across the Archdiocese. Among the most important new exhibits are:
1) A 2003 article (translated recently from the Arabic) by the highly-educated and accomplished canonist Metropolitan of Mount Lebanon, George (Khodr), which sets forth the grounds for the Holy Synod’s approval of self-rule and thoroughly explains the canonically undesirable position of auxiliary bishops in the Orthodox Church (read that article here);
2) The text of the Order of Consecration used for the 3 “new” bishops in Damascus in 2004 that makes it clear these men were not being consecrated as auxiliary bishops (read the Order of Consecration here);
3) Hitherto unseen emails from the Lebanese Minister of Culture, Tarek Mitri, discussing Self- Rule and the Constitution of the Archdiocese and shedding light on Metropolitan Philip’s involvement in the “Pittsburgh vs. Damascus” Constitution situation;
4) Correspondence between Chancellor Robert Koory and Ms. Anne Mackoul of the Board of Trustees regarding the Constitution of the Archdiocese;
5) Additional correspondence between Fr. Joseph Antypas (one of the Detroit clergy whose public “apology” is posted on the Archdiocesan website) and Bishop Mark of Toledo with respect to the Feb. 24 action; and
6) Complete Minutes of Meetings of the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees (2001-2008).
Each of these new documents and series of documents significantly contributes to a more clear understanding of the development of the February 24th crisis and the issues surrounding it.
- Mark Stokoe