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Citing "Common Syro-Byzantine Tradition" +Philip Attempts To Offer Alternative Explanation For Last Minute Move of Seminarians

In a posting late yesterday afternoon on the Archdiocesan website, Metropolitan Philip attempted to justify moving three seminarians from the OCA's St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's Seminaries to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary by citing the "common Syro-Byzantine" liturgical and musical traditions between the Archdiocese and the Boston school. The statement reads:

"Statement Issued by Metropolitan's Office Regarding Placement of Antiochian Seminarians

From the Office of Metropolitan PHILIP:

Unfortunately, there has been much speculation and incorrect information on the Internet and elsewhere regarding our recent decision to send our incoming seminarians to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. This decision effected two students. The third new student was already planning to attend Holy Cross. Over the years we have tried to keep a balance between the distribution of our seminarians to various Orthodox seminaries here and abroad, especially St. Vladimir’s, St. Tikhon’s and Holy Cross. In fact, this year, we will have 10 students at St. Vladimir’s, 9 students at St. Tikhon’s and 6 students at Holy Cross.

It has been our primary concern over the years to insure a strong priestly formation for our future priests. While all three schools have helped us in accomplishing this task for generations of clergymen, we feel Holy Cross most closely mirrors the practices and customs of the Patriarchate of Antioch in general and the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America in particular. This is true for a variety of reasons, first and foremost being the common Syro-Byzantine liturgical and musical tradition that we share. Given the changing demographics of the majority of our seminarians and the reality that many of them are not rooted in this Syro-Byzantine expression of our one Orthodox faith from birth, we feel it is vital to immerse them in this tradition in a more complete way. It is our hope to have our own seminary in the future. In fact, much of the foundational work has already been done. Nevertheless, since we do not have our own seminary at this point in time, we feel Holy Cross is best suited to accomplish the task at hand.

At the same time, however, we will and have always assessed the common needs and concerns of both the seminarians and the Archdiocese and therefore leave all doors open for the future with regard to their placement."

Despite his criticisms of "speculation" concerning the move, the Metropolitan's statement did not address why this concern for "roots" manifested itself so suddenly, only three weeks before the start of the Fall term at both schools.  Even more puzzling however, is the Metropolitan's claim that seminarian Stephen Mathewes (and his pregnant wife) were "not rooted in this Syro-Byzantine expression of our one Orthodox Faith" such that he felt " it was vital to immerse them in this tradition in a more complete way" by moving them to Boston. Was the Metropolitan not aware that Byzantine chanting from Mathewes' father's parish was recently featured on a nationwide PBS broadcast? (Read the story on the website by clicking on the "more" link under news, and scrolling down to April 2009 stories. Or view the broadcast segment  itself  here.)

Rather than railing against websites, the Metropolitan might be better advised to check out his own.

-Mark Stokoe


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