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Cryptic Protest Alleging "Forgery"

of Synodal Decision Appears On Noted Lebanese Website

A mysterious message alleging "forgery" in the Antiochian Archdiocese, "unknown to most of the fathers of the Holy Synod (of Damascus)", appeared on Sunday, November 14th, posted by Archimandrite Touma (Bitar),the Abbot of the St. Silouan the Athonite monastery in Douma, Lebanon. Fr. Bitar is a noted spiritual writer and commentator in the Antiochian Church. An English translation of  his Arabic original was subsequently posted on the website "Notes on Arab Orthodoxy". Fr. Touma's message reads:

"The column "Dots on the Letters" will not appear this week in protest of the forgery of the Synod's recent decision about the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, unknown to most of the fathers of the Holy Synod. We ask our readers and our beloved in Christ to fast and pray for the preservation of our faithful brothers in that Archdiocese from the dangers and painful consequences resulting from the forgery.

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)"

(You can see a copy of the Arabic original, as well as links to the original posting here.)

No further information was provided by Fr. Touma as to what specifically he was referring; but subsequent speculation in the blogosphere suggests it may be related to an account of the recent Synod meeting in Damascus in mid- August. The summary of the Synod's actions on day two of that four-day meeting briefly appeared on the Patriarchal website, and then disappeared. Day two concerned North America and the controversial decision taken regarding the status of the bishops in that region. (You can read that original summary here.)

Questions of possible forgery concerning Synodal decisions are not new to the Archdiocese. In June 2009, following a previous Synod meeting in Damascus, the Archdiocese in Englewood posted what it purported to be a Synodal decision, complete with Patriarchal signature. Questions were immediately raised as to the validity of that text.  (Read that story here.) The following day the Patriarchal website in Syria posted an alternative version of the decision, complete with Patriarchal signature, denying the validity of the Englewood version. (Read that story here.) Englewood subsequently withdrew its version, but refused to post the Patriarchal version until  a decision signed by the Patriarch and all the Metropolitans of the Synod was produced.  The subsequent August 2010 decision of the Synod apparently had the signatures Englewood required, and was posted on the Archdiocesan website last month. (Read that story here.)

Is Fr. Touma now questioning that version?

- Mark Stokoe


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