Posts Tagged ‘Moscow Patriarchate’

It’s being noted in news coverage that Moscow Patriarch-elect KYRILL was “Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne” since shortly after the repose of Patriarch ALEXEI.  This concept is not unknown in Western Christianity … in fact, locum tenens is the traditional Latin-language term whose Greek or Slavonic counterpart I do not know, but seems commonly used by Orthodox jurisdictions in the English-speaking world at least.

A locum tenens is “the person holding the place” of another — in Christian contexts, the post of a bishop who has died, resigned, or been removed from office.  Sometimes traditionally in the case of a typical diocese, the local primate or metropolitan-archbishop would automatically become locum tenens upon the vacancy.  Sometimes he or the local synod of bishops might proceed to choose another bishop to be locum tenens more long-term, until a permanent successor takes office.  Currently in North America, Orthodox Church in America (OCA) primate, Metropolitan JONAH, is Locum Tenens of the Bulgarian Diocese, but their synod has named Eastern Pennsylvania bishop TIKHON Locum Tenens of the Western Pennsylvania diocese.*  Similarly, two of the Antiochian Archdiocese’s new local dioceses still await Bishops of their own, and so their primate, Metropolitan PHILIP, is serving as locum tenens of the Diocese of Worcester and New England, but Bishop JOSEPH of Los Angeles and the West is serving as locum tenens of the Diocese of Eagle River and the Northwest.  Relatedly, Metropolitan JONAH is also locum tenens of the OCA’s Alaska Diocese (since the retirement of Bishop NIKOLAI), but Bishop BENJAMIN of San Francisco and the West (who previously served in Alaska as a priest) is temporary Administrator of the Alaska Diocese, assisting Jonah with his responsibility.

The idea seems to be that a flock should never, or only very, very briefly if necessary depending on jurisdictional practice and guidelines, be without a shepherd in at least some capacity, considering that in o/Orthodox Christianity a Bishop is not only some kind of feudal lord or bureaucrat, but ideally spiritual father of the Church … and a local Orthodox Church, and Orthodox Christians, should always have spiritual guidance.

When it’s a Patriarchate or Autocephalous Province whose incumbent has moved on, similar procedures may be put in place, since he is not only his diocese’s spiritual father, but his region’s or country’s, and an important overseer of that Church’s central administration.  In the case of Moscow, Patriarch ALEXEI reposed on December 5, and on December 6 the Synod met and chose Metropolitan KYRILL Locum Tenens.  Thus, he remained Ruling Hierarch of the Diocese of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and Chairman of the Patriarchate’s external relations department, and also took on the Patriarchal locum tenentes, the state of being locum tenens.

Once again, the Western Christian post most comparable to Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow is Pope of Rome.  When a Pope dies (a few in the distant past have abdicated), that office is said to temporarily cease to exist, the state known in Latin as Sede Vacante, vacant See or Throne, a state accompanied by elaborate activities around the actual, dramatic suspension of Roman Catholic Church and Vatican State activity except the burial of the late Pope and election of his successor, as amply covered by newsmedia.  Some Latin commentators have even ventured that the RCC itself temporarily ceases to exist, since the Church is in the reigning Pope, there.  And this takes weeks or longer, especially in the age before telecommunications and air travel.  In the meantime leading Cardinals in Rome assume temporary administration of these activities, but to my knowledge, Locum Tenens theory is not technically employed: the Diocese of Rome and the churches in communion with it are without an actual shepherd for as long as it takes to elect a replacement.  I would gladly be corrected on this point; it seems to be a different approach, a different theory, a different attitude, a different theology, from Orthodoxy.

Locum Tenens theory early on was subject to abuse: an early Church council issued a Canon condemning locum tenens — obviously lower-ranking hierarchs — who used the temporary post to lobby for election to the vacant See as a means of careerist promotion not necessarily in that diocese’s or province’s own best interests.  Remember that this was also a time when local dioceses almost everywhere had the tradition of electing or nominating their Bishops, usually from among their own local clergy or laymen (even primatial or patriarchal Sees), more rarely from outside their own locality or district, and when provincial synods had the tradition of extremely reluctantly translating Bishops from one post to another  (normally a Bishop “married” his Church for life, and still today Orthodox refer to a vacant See as “widowed”), by Canon only in a case of anticipated extraordinary benefit to the destination-diocese.  So bishops maneuvering like chess pieces, angling for “promotion,” was officially heavily frowned upon; even today I don’t hear about bishop transfers in Orthodoxy nearly as much as I did as a Catholic … for good or for ill.

OTOH, locum tenentes of the Patriarchal Throne of Moscow seemed to be  all who held that whole Church together during the very darkest times under Communism.  Moscow’s 1917-1918 Council restored the Patriarchal dignity allowed to lapse by Tsar Peter “the Great” in the early 1700s.  St. Tikhon (Bellavin), former Archbishop of North America, was elected Patriarch by lot just in time to deal with the first flush of Revolutionary rule.  He was martyred in 1925, and leadership of the Church passed to locum tenens, Metropolitan St. Peter of Krutitsy, himself martyred in 1937.  When St. Peter was arrested at the end of 1925, deputy locum tenens, Metropolitan Sergius, effectively became primate of the Church under Peter’s nominal or technical locum tenentes, until assuming the full locum tenentes upon a premature report of Peter’s death in prison in 1936.  It wasn’t until 1943 that Stalin, feeling the need of the Church’s support for the war effort, allowed Sergius’ election as Patriarch, and lessened its harsh treatment.

(*–His Late Eminence Archbishop KYRILL led both dioceses simultaneously.  In November the assembly of the West. Pa. diocese nominated a priest-monk with area roots, Archimandrite Melchisedek [Pleska], for consideration by the Synod possibly in May to become their new Ruling Hierarch.)

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What’s a Patriarch?

The election just announced (“Новым Патриархом стал митрополит Кирилл” — with an icon streaming myrrh right there in the church in Moscow! More here and here temporarily. Good short biography here.) of a new Patriarch for around half of the world’s quarter-billion or more Eastern Orthodox Christians (after the repose last month of His Holiness Patriarch ALEXEI II of Moscow, All Rus, “and the Far North” as it was classically described at least once) — Metropolitan KYRILL of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Russia, widely considered the “frontrunner” (God grant you Many Years, Your Holiness!) — might raise the question of what an Orthodox Patriarch actually is.

And myself coming from a Latin background and living in the West, addressing mostly others living in the West, in English, very familiar with the Pope of Rome — if you’ll permit me, I’ll start off by saying that an Orthodox Patriarch is not normally a “little Pope” whose word is law among those whose Patriarch he is.  Although like all Orthodox Bishops he is officially a leading teacher of Orthodoxy, he does not “develop doctrine,” alone or with anybody else, but merely teaches together with his brother Bishops “that which was handed down from the Apostles,” ie, Holy Tradition (traditio, handing down), including Holy Scripture.

The Orthodox Church is organized into clusters of dioceses, a Tradition established after the First Ecumenical Synod aka the Council of Nicea in AD 325.  No Orthodox Bishop in communion with The Orthodox Church stands alone, but with his brother Bishops, normally on a geographic basis.  (The best comparison for our purposes might be the Anglican Communion’s normative structure, with separate Church Provinces in different countries or regions, each led by its bishops collectively as equals, based on this tradition.)  Such a cluster might be called an ecclesiastical province, a catholicosate (historically), a patriarchate, or other terms such as National Church, Local Church (with a big-L and a big-C), jurisdiction, or simply Church.  And some of these may be ‘clusters of clusters.’

Normally the Ruling Hierarch of the political capital, largest city, or leading diocese, serves as ex officio chairman of the Bishops of that cluster of dioceses — First Among Equals — as well as overseeing its central administrative offices and functionaries, providing stability and focus for the whole Church in that cluster.  Traditionally his diocese was called that cluster’s metropolis, and he, its Metropolitan, or Metropolitan Archbishop.  Today some are instead called Archbishop, primate, or Patriarch.*  In a cluster of clusters, still one of the primates is traditionally ex officio presiding bishop of the whole, with seniority over fellow Bishops of equal rank … although often in such a case the chief bishop is titled Patriarch, so it’s clear.  Orthodox have never recognized any Bishop with greater seniority than a patriarch, and maintain the ancient dictum, “A patriarch never submits to another patriarch,” but takes his turn in the traditional established order of seniority even among patriarchs, as an equal.

(This, naturally, is the [big-T] Traditional problem — ecclesiopolitically if you will — with the claim of the Patriarch of Rome to jurisdiction over other Patriarchs, even back when he was First Among Equal Patriarchs.  “Pope” was never recognized as a rank higher than Patriarch outside the Western Patriarchate; in fact, Christendom’s other Pope, he of Alexandria, Egypt — no unimportant city in the Roman Empire or the later Church — has never aspired to what Orthodox have come to call papalism, that universal, immediate, ordinary, supreme, full jurisdiction over every Christian, asserted by Rome.  Nevermind all the other problems with Rome’s claims, which are not the topic of this post!  BTW, Orthodox Bishops have differing titles, “ranks,” and seniority, only for purposes of order, honor to the dioceses they lead, and varying responsibilities.  That is to say, at every meeting of them their speaking order and chairmanship is predetermined, with the aim of making things run smoother than otherwise; also who presides at a Liturgy with more than one Bishop present.  And a Bishop’s basic responsibilities may be as an auxiliary bishop, or else a Ruling Hierarch, which latter may along with that serve as provincial primate, or primate of a cluster of provinces.)

Today 9  of Orthodoxy’s local primates are Patriarchs, those of Constantinople (Istanbul), Alexandria, Antioch (resident in Damascus), Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia (this last titled Catholicos-Patriarch).  Each is the lead Bishop for Orthodox in the area around his city or country, and some also elsewhere because of 20th-century expansion in Orthodox evangelization and mass migration.  As such, a Patriarch’s (or other primate’s) exact responsibilities vary from place to place.  Besides administering his own diocese, chairing local meetings of synods and councils of Bishops and other churchmen and -women, and overseeing central Church administration and institutions, he often visits throughout his Local Church and other Local Orthodox Churches to maintain ties of fellowship / communion (Greek koinonia) in person, serves high-profile Liturgies, preaches, writes, advocates for public wellbeing and improvement and traditional, Orthodox-influenced culture(s), meets with governmental and non-Orthodox religious leaders, provides overall leadership in his Church, leads in the Church teaching and formation of young people and future churchpeople, and overall tries to help his people be saved….  In short, it’s the work of any Orthodox Bishop, ‘writ large’ if you will.  But normally in a far more collaborative spirit than many Westerners might expect considering Orthodoxy’s ‘oldness’ and ‘conservatism,’ “long beards, robes, and services,” headscarves (often), lack of “praise bands,” dearth of agitation, exhortations to piety and humility, ‘cloistered’ or semi-cloistered monasticism….

It’s a commonplace in the field of  Church History that a Bishop’s “job one” was to ensure the unity of his local flock, protecting it from the divisions of heresy and schism.  A Patriarch’s (or other primate’s), then, is to also ensure the unity of his Patriarchate or Province.  This is similar to the role of ruling bishops and primates in other Churches similarly structured, such as Anglicanism, Catholicism (Western and Eastern, papal and “independent”), the Oriental Churches (ie, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac, Armenian, Asian Indian, etc.), and the Assyrian Church.  In this way, it’s not unique to Orthodoxy.  Even the title of Patriarch is used by other “Eastern” Churches besides us.

And why the title Patriarch?  Really, Patriarch is ‘just’ a primate and Local Church granted more honor and seniority by the Church, for whatever reasons.  It’s not strictly theological or ‘necessary.’  All Orthodox Churches are equal.  Another irony is that Pope Benedict XVI of Rome the other year dropped the one of his many historic titles — Patriarch of the West — that o/Orthodox Tradition can theoretically deal with!

Also, a Patriarch (or Primate, or any Bishop ideally) is revered by Orthodox Tradition as a sacrament, symbol, sacred embodiment of his Church, hence their vestments and their hand-kissing by laity.  He is in a sense the father of his Church; episcopal consecration is part of the “Mystery” of Holy Orders, after all.  The ultimate ‘icon’ of a Church is its primate presiding over Divine Liturgy alongside his clergy, surrounded by the faithful.  After all, it’s not just about pushing pencils!

(*–BTW, an Orthodox Patriarchate is not in the first place what feminist theorists refer to as a patriarchal structure.  In Orthodox usage the word patriarch derives not from Greek words for father-ruler, but country-ruler [in broad and religious senses] … patria as fatherland or motherland, meaning simply a sizeable territory.)

Just last week, the “fellowship” in Hong Kong associated with Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev, which I believe includes both ex-patriates and Chinese, was formally reactivated as a parish by the Moscow Patriarchal Synod, 36 years after its closure following the repose of its last pastor.  Many years to the new parish and its new rector, Fr. Dionisy!

This year has also seen the first public ministry since the Cultural Revolution, by China’s last two surviving native clergy, to whom God also grant Many Years!  This article,* I believe copied from HK’s South China Morning Post (scroll down for English), depicts the Priest Michael Wang up top hearing a confession, and the Deacon Evangel Lu beneath taking part in the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy (analogous to the Offertory Procession in Latin-Rite Masses).  The article notes that Fr. Michael and Fr. Deacon Evangel have applied to the Communist government for permission to resume regular ministry to Chinese on Chinese soil (as opposed to in Russian diplomatic facilities as they did at Pentecost).  Also, that even the PRC is seeing conversions to Orthodoxy from Protestantism.

And I read earlier this year somewhere that the new Greek Metropolitan of Hong Kong, NECTARIOS, wants to extend ministry to Greek mariners in (other) Chinese port cities.  I note that Greece has a consulate in Shanghai; IIUC PRC law would allow them to hold services there regularly for non-Chinese, as in the Russian diplomatic facilities.

(It’s true that Moscow and Constantinople dispute canonical jurisdiction in Communist China, between the MP’s Church of China [50 years Autonomous], straitened since the Cultural Revolution but not dead and now rebounding, and the EP’s Metropolis of HK and Southeast Asia, set up in 1996 to care for Diaspora Orthodox and evangelize from Afghanistan eastward.  [This year the EP Metropolis’ western and southern countries were set off as the Metropolis of Singapore.])

(*–On Fr. Dionisiy’s blog.)

According to a university in Russia (via the Patriarchate there).

I once read that they don’t plan to hold separate glorification (“canonization”) services for each of the – by some estimates – 60 million martyrs and confessors who suffered and died under Bolshevism, obviously.  But they do want to compile as much individual information and testimony as they can, rather than just do a ‘clump’ glorification without striving for details about what actually happened for the Faith.

As the news brief notes, for at least a decade it seems the number of reopened churches there has roughly kept pace with the number of compiled martyrs and sufferers – almost as if each reopened church has a second patron saint in heaven now watching over it!  (I believe that by “acting churches” they mean “active churches,” ie, reopened after being shut by the Communists.)

NB: IIUC, “Confessors” didn’t necessarily die for the Faith, but were persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, etc.  It doesn’t mean priests who hear confessions … or rather, not only them!

This is good news, because it represents closer cooperation of another “canonical” jurisdiction with the main grouping of other canonical jurisdictions.  Bishop MERCURIUS of Zaraisk, who administers around three dozen parishes in the U.S. – referred to sometimes as “the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA” – on behalf of the Patriarch of Moscow personally, has attended some SCOBA meetings in recent years as an observer.  AFAIK there has never been any question about the “canonicity” of the Patriarchal Parishes of the ROC in the USA (as they are also called) as such, ie, their Communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church, at least since Moscow and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) reconciled in 1970.  (Don’t ask me about before 1970 though; my history’s rusty.)

The PPs aren’t officially a diocese, but are under the personal jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, though as far as I can gather, they function almost like a diocese.  (There’s a similar cluster of parishes in Canada with its own administrator-bishop under the Patriarch.)  They were part of a rival diocese Moscow launched here, also called The Exarchate, after the OCA, then referred to as the Metropolia, declared temporary autonomy as a result of the Russian Revolution and Civil War through the 1920s and the disruptions it inflicted on the Patriarchate.  IOW, Moscow officially didn’t always recognize the Metropolia between the ’20s and ’70, although OCA histories point out that at least a couple times they continued to submit their newly-elected Primates to the Patriarchate for confirmation, and it confirmed them, sometimes years later.  After 1970, these were parishes that didn’t wish to be merged into the OCA right away, when Moscow assigned its canonical territory here to the OCA, and so it was agreed they wouldn’t have to, and that Moscow would only facilitate their integration into the OCA when each parish desires it.

To my knowledge, essentially only two other local canonical “jurisdictions” are not in SCOBA now, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR, aka ROC Abroad / ROCA) and that of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.  AFAIK there is no question about their Communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church, it’s just that SCOBA membership isn’t mandatory.

A word about SCOBA itself is in order.  The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas* actually is comprised ‘only’ of the 9 member-primates of certain jurisdictions headquartered in the U.S., and now also the PP administrator vicar-bishop, Mercurius (at this writing SCOBA hasn’t updated this page yet).  Jurisdictions themselves technically aren’t part of SCOBA, and neither are the other Bishops of jurisdictions with Primates in SCOBA, although SCOBA has organized so far three meetings of many of their other Bishops here, in Ligonier, Penna., in 1994; in Washington in 2001; and in Chicago two years ago.  SCOBA also sponsors several officially interjurisdictional ministries or organizations.  SCOBA is not a synod or jurisdiction, but a voluntary working-group for greater collaboration among Orthodox here, with an ultimate goal of jurisdictional unity of the Orthodox here.  There are (or perhaps have been) similar organizations in Australia, Germany, and France.  SCOBA has its critics: some say they’re going too slow towards Orthodox unity, others say they’re too involved with the Ecumenical Movement.  The Primates convene twice a year; this is interesting because according to ancient Orthodox Church Canons (rules), a local (provincial) synod of bishops is supposed to meet twice a year.

(*–“Americas,” I believe, because at the time the Greek Archdiocese of America was “of North and South America,” although today a couple other groups have some parishes in South America also.  But most Orthodox there are not part of SCOBA.)

Many Years to Metropolitan HILARION (Kapral), till now Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand as well as of some of the Orthodox in Indonesia and South Korea, just confirmed by the Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), and Ruling Hierarch of its diocese of the eastern United States!

Metr. HILARION is a Canadian, the son of Ukrainian immigrants / refugees to Alberta province, and a Baby Boomer, born in 1948.  He succeeds Metr. LAURUS (Skurla), who reposed in March from the flu on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy at age 80.

Hilarion was elected by the Council of Bishops of ROCOR, the 11 of them, meeting in New York City Monday afternoon, subject to the Moscow Synod’s confirmation earlier today.  He is expected to be enthroned by his brother Bishops this Sunday in NY.  Since the reunion with the MP a year ago, ROCOR appears to function as an autonomous ecclesiastical province of the Patriarchate, whose approval is needed – and expected – for its Bishops’ elections; its Bishops are supposed to take their turns serving on the Patriarchal Synod.

BTW, ROCOR’s official name in Russian (or is it Church Slavonic?) sounds less redundant: “Russian Orthodox Church Zagranitsei,”  which last term I believe means simply “Beyond the Borders” or words to that effect.  They’re often called “the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad,” or ROCA for short.  (You don’t think Jay-Z is a highly-traditional Orthodox Christian, do you?!!!)