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6.23.09  Trouble in Antioch Redux

Did the Patriarch Really Say That?
Authenticity of Englewood’s Posted Documents Under Question

The trouble in Antiochian America just got worse.

Late yesterday afternoon the official Archdiocesan website at www.Antiochian.org published three documents, all purporting to be official texts from the Patriarchate in Damascus. The first document claims to be a fax of “official” English translation of the Synodal decision of June 17th, bearing the Patriarchal signature and seal. The second document, also a fax, purports to be the decision in the original Arabic, also bearing the Patriarchal signature and seal. but with the English word “Auxiliary” inserted into the Arabic text. The third document is yet another fax, this time of an Arabic version of the June 17th decision, also bearing the Patriarchal seal and signature on Arabic and French letterhead. (Read those documents here.) Serious questions have been raised about the authenticity of the first two of these documents, the publication of which were clearly intended to bolster the Metropolitan’s position in the crisis which has gripped the Archdiocese since February 24th.

The Undisputed Document #3

The fax copy of the Arabic text of the June 17th decision on letterhead in both Arabic and French (document #3) , is not in question. It matches the text received on Saturday, June 20th, by Bishop Mark of Toledo and distributed to his clergy that same day (read that letter here) ; and the text received by Bishop Basil of Wichita, who distributed it to his clergy the following day, June 21st.

The authenticity of the first and second documents posted by Englewood (The decision of June 17th in Arabic, on Arabic and English letterhead, and its English “translation”) are, however, coming under serious question from critics of Englewood, speakers of Arabic and bloggers across the internet.

Defenders of Englewood insist all three documents are authentic. They explain the appearance of the three documents as follows: “According to our sources within the Patriarchate who attended the meeting, it is reported that the first arabic document that was released indicated that the bishops were to serve to assist the metropolitan. in this document, the word auxilliary was not used as the meaning of auxilliary is to assist. (editor’s note: This is document #3) however, the holy synod meeting spanned over 3 days and more deliberation continued. there was worry that some may misinterpret what it means to “assist” the metropolitan (like bishop mark did in his statement earlier this weekend) and so the synod put forth the second document in arabic and in english to provide further clarification. the arabic and english versions are the official resolutions. all three were made available to show that the meaning of all documents are one and the same.” (see www.TheAntiochian.com)

If this was truly the case, and the intent, one can only say it has failed wildly. Releasing two versions of the same document, and then an English translation of  the second which contradicts the English translation of the universally accepted Arabic text, can only be called a misstep.

Nevertheless, while plausible, this scenario addresses none of the concerns raised about the the authenticity of the two documents.

The “Auxiliary” Document (Document #2)

Englewood, in its introduction to all three documents, writes: “The following Synodal Resolutions (one in English and two in Arabic, contained in a single PDF file) are being posted precisely as they were transmitted to the Archdiocese Offices in Englewood, New Jersey.” If these were direct faxes from originals, “precisely” is not fully accurate. If you look at the header “From:” at the the top of the page on the first and second documents, the fax number has been removed. Why bother? The fax number of the Patriarchate is no state secret - it is clearly posted on its website.

Perhaps, though, these documents were taken not from originals, but from already faxed copies, from which the fax number had been removed, for reasons yet unknown. But in that case, even more questions are raised. Bishop Mark has confirmed he received his copy of the undisputed Arabic text contained in the French letterhead document from Archimandrite Dauod, the Patriarch's Personal Secretary, via email. Englewood does not really say who these two documents are from. Re-read Englewood’s introduction to the documents carefully. They do not say they were transmitted “directly from the Patriarchate” - just that they were “transmitted to the Archdiocesan Offices in Englewood, New Jersey.” If these documents published by Englewood are copies of faxes, as they appear to be, and not faxes from Patriarchal originals, who are they from?

Equally puzzling is the date stamped on the top of the faxed copies of the first and second documents which reads “November 18, 2005 7:39 AM P2”. If these two documents really came directly from the Patriarch’s office, with his blessing, are we to believe that no one in Damascus is technologically capable of changing a fax header to the correct date? It is possible - but unlikely. The recent fax to Englewood from Damascus announcing the February 24th decision had the correct date on the top of its page. (View it at #56 on the Timeline of the Orthodox Attorneys here.)

The questions keep growing: if these are all faxes of original documents from the Patriarchate, why was their origin covered up? And if copies of faxes of original documents, from whom do they originate? When where they really sent, since the date indicated on them is clearly incorrect? And if authentically faxed from the Patriarchate, then they were not “posted precisely as they were transmitted”, for the sender’s name and numbers have been removed, etc.,etc.,etc.

If the technical details surrounding the documents raise questions, the text themselves raise even more.

The undisputed text, received from the Personal Secretary of the Patriarch by Bishops Mark and Basil, and published by Englewood itself as such (see document #3), contains the verb “yusaa`doon” (“ to assist”) in the third paragraph. This second document has slightly altered this Arabic text, creating the adjective “musaa`doon” (“auxiliary”) instead.

The difference is of but one letter - and as Orthodox Christians know, one letter can make all the difference.

Englewood’s defenders say the change was intentional in Damascus, the decision of the Synod to “clarify” the undisputed text’s statement that “bishops are to assist the Metropolitan" really meant the bishops are his “auxiliaries”.

But a closer examination of the second document reveals peculiarities that cannot be so easily explained.

First, the two Arabic versions of the documents clearly used different Arabic fonts. The undisputed text uses a font that is easily recognizable from past Patriarchal documents. The second document’s font is new and different. In the undisputed Arabic text of the “French Letterhead” (document #3) Arabic numerals in the Arabic style are used. In the second document, Roman character numerals are used for dates (2009, 24, 17....) in the Arabic text.

The question arises: why would anyone in Antioch send out two slightly different, “official” versions of the same text? Once again, Englewood’s defenders suggest that the second Arabic version is simply an “elaboration” of the first, undisputed text, one whose “elaborations” conveniently justify their position in the ongoing crisis.

But, if this is the case, confusing issues remain.

In the second document, all the commas used are facing the wrong way - in the western way, rather than the Arabic. It suggests someone less than expert in typing Arabic documents prepared them. This would hardly be the case if someone in the Patriarchate in Damascus had actually prepared them...

Then there is the sudden appearance of the English word (“Auxiliary”) at the end of this same paragraph in the second document. Does it clarify - or has it just been added?

Critics argue this would not be the first time “cut and paste” has been used by Englewood in an attempt to alter documents from Damascus to justify the positions of Metropolitan Philip. Exhibit 27 on the Timeline of the Orthodox Attorneys is a letter from Father George Dimas, the Patriarchal Secretary, to Metropolitan Philip dealing with the Pittsburgh Constitution as “corrected” by +Philip. Among the long list of complaints is one that states: “Printing the copy of all the Synod fathers’ signatures at the bottom of this modified text gave the reader the false impression of reading the official Synodal Resolution.” (Read the full letter here.)

Are these two documents a similar case of a “false impression” being given to the Archdiocese, one in contradistinction to the actual, undisputed decision contained in document #3? In short, are the two documents in dispute “clarifications”, or just plain forgeries?

If the Arabic text on which Englewood’s “official” English translation is based can be confirmed to be altered - in that it significantly differs from the undisputed Arabic text - how valid can its English translation be? There is no need to examine the first document then in detail - for it too bears the same hallmarks of potential fax fraud as the second document. Moreover, it contains the key phrase “or any Auxiliary bishop, under any circumstances” in its last paragraph that is not present in either of the Arabic texts on which it is supposedly based! Once again, the word “Auxiliary” has been interpolated into the text; making for three interpolations of that word in two of the three documents published by Englewood. Clarification - or falsification?

To interpolate words into a Synodal decision is deception; to then offer an interpolated “ official” translation of a corrupted text to the faithful who cannot read the original is more than deceitful. It strikes at the heart of the trust upon which any community depends for its common life.

There is deep trouble in Antiochian America today - and growing confusion and disbelief as “deception” is being cried across the internet. With the veracity of Englewood now under question yet again, there exist only two sources with direct personal knowledge of the truth of the recent Synod meetings in Damascus.

One is in America, the other in Syria.

In a statement issued on his website this morning, Bishop Joseph of Los Angeles, who represented the Archdiocese at the recent meeting posted the following: “By the grace of God, and by your prayers, His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH returned home safely to Los Angeles on June 22, 2009, after his 25 day trip to Damascus, Syria. Sayidna is grateful to all those who prayed for him during his trip. Sayidna will spend tomorrow, Tuesday, June 23, getting settled back home and it is requested that phone calls be held until Wednesday, June 24.”One can imagine he is indeed getting calls...

The other who could, and ultimately must, resolve this issue is in Damascus. And one wonders how many calls he is getting from America today? Sadly, this is the type of thing that if not addressed does not spur people to write or complain to their authorities; it simply encourages Americans to shake their heads, and the dust off their shoes, as they leave.

- Mark Stokoe

 

 

 
 

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