By Efi Efthimiou
In a clarifying statement that changes the image created last week with the announcement of recognition of autocephaly for the Ohrid Archdiocese, proceeded the Romanian Church.
Specifically, the Patriarchate of Romania in a new, today’s announcement, stresses that “after the recognition of the original Synodal Tomos issued on June 5, 2022, by the Patriarchate of Serbia that granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of the Republic of North Macedonia, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church expects the Ecumenical Patriarchate to start consultations and issue a final Tomos of Autocephaly, in order to express a pan-Orthodox consensus on this issue of the recognition of autocephaly.”
It seems that even after the upheaval caused by the initial announcement, the Romanian Patriarchate is aligned with the pan-Orthodox order. That is, they expect the Ecumenical Patriarchate to issue the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ohrid Archdiocese.
In today’s clarifying statement, the Romanian Patriarchate states that it supports this decision regarding the issue of autocephaly, a view that was also presented at the Preparatory Commission Meeting for the Holy and Great Synod in Chambesy (2011).
According to this view, “the Holy Synod of the mother Church is the canonical authority that can grant autocephaly to a daughter Church through a Synodal Volume signed by the Primate of the mother Church together with all the bishops of the Synod. The recognition of the new autocephaly belongs to the entire Orthodox Church, and it is achieved by a volume of recognition of the autocephaly signed without any distinction by all the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, in the order of the Diptychs, at the Synod of Primates of the Orthodox Churches”.
This view was presented and recorded in a draft, which however never received the final approval to be presented at the Holy and Great Council in June 2016. In fact, in January of the same year, it was decided which issues would be accepted pan-Orthodox to be heard as a proposal at the Holy and Great Synod of June. And this text was not found after those that received approval.
It should of course be “credited” that the Church of Romania is the only one – among those who have so far recognized the “autocephaly” of the Ohrid Archdiocese – that recognizes that the final reason for the beginning of consultations belonged to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the one that has the authority to investigate whether the call for granting autocephaly to a Church meets the conditions (if this Church can be self-sufficient, has a Holy Synod of at least 12 members, has pastoral needs that justify autocephaly, etc), and then call the Primates and declare that it grants the Tomos of Autocephaly.
Read below the announcement of the Patriarchate of Romania:
On February 9, 2023, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church approved the recognition of the autocephaly granted to the Orthodox Church in the Republic of North Macedonia by the Patriarchate of Serbia through its synodal tomos issued on June 5, 2022.
During the synodal session, the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of May 9, 2022, to restore canonical and Eucharistic communion with the Orthodox Church of the Republic of North Macedonia, led by Archbishop Stefan, was taken into account. Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate entrusted the Church of Serbia with the regulation of administrative aspects concerning the organisation of the new Church in North Macedonia.
Another topic considered by the Romanian hierarchs was the issue of autocephaly and the means by which it is granted and recognised, which was analysed during several working meetings of the Inter-Orthodox Committee for the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.
The point of view of the Romanian Orthodox Church regarding autocephaly, which was also presented at the Meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Holy and Great Council in Chambesy (2011), is as follows:
“The Holy Synod of the mother Church is the canonical authority that can grant autocephaly to a daughter Church through a synodal tomos signed by the Primate of the mother Church together with all the bishops of that Holy Synod. The recognition of the new autocephaly belongs to the entire Orthodox Church, achieved through a tomos of recognition of autocephaly signed, without any distinction, by all the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, in the order of the Diptychs, within the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.”
Given this information, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church respected the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to receive into Eucharistic communion the hierarchs, clerics, monastics and believers pastored by Archbishop Stefan and to leave it to the Patriarchate of Serbia to regulate the administrative aspects between the two Churches.
After recognising the initial synodal tomos issued on June 5, 2022, by the Patriarchate of Serbia granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in the Republic of North Macedonia, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church expects the Ecumenical Patriarchate to initiate (consultations) and issue a final tomos of autocephaly to express a pan-Orthodox consensus on this topic of autocephaly recognition.