In the Final Report on the Ukrainian crisis (1.4.2019), with the results of a critical theological analysis undertaken by CEMES foundation considers as its ultimate duty to humbly submit the results of its scholarly project, which examined the current Ukrainian crisis from a theological, historical and canonical perspective, providing at the end what measures at this specific moment seem feasible and necessary for the Orthodox unity, so vulnerable in the new era of the Orthodox tradition that started with the Holy and Great Council, affected by the last-minute decision of the Russian Church, together with Patriarchates of Antioch, Georgia and Bulgaria, and more recently by the decision of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) to break Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP), taking into consideration that this last canonical action is going to have tremendous consequences in the Orthodox diaspora, where the great majority of Orthodox from all jurisdictions have succeeded in establishing cooperation in the spirit of unity and common Orthodox witness.
This CEMES scholarly project, launched in mid-August 2018, was undertaken by its academic members, as well as the teaching staff of its inter-Orthodox post-graduate program on “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology”. As academic theologians, the members of this project were involved in the theological debate on the issue of the granting of autocephaly in a single and united Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which they decided to study in relation to the triptych: Primacy-Conciliarity-Autocephaly. Its final report was approved by the CEMES General Assembly of April 6, 2019.
In this report, some have argued that the Holy Canons, as canonical rules set in an old-time, cannot solve current more complex situations with political and geopolitical consequences. Those who follow this logic may not go as far as abandoning the ages-old canonical tradition that was established by the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, but in the back of their mind, they propose a model of church unity without a Protos, without primacy of honor and service (and with certain prerogatives). In practice, all Orthodox with no exception – and with no theological counterargument – follow a primacy at all levels of Church life (parish, diocese, autocephalous church), except at the universal one.
The committee did not insist that we must slavishly follow the holy canons with no contextualization of their content. They argued that we do need to keep our canonical tradition faithfully, but always dynamically interpreted. Otherwise, there is a danger to fall into a protestant-style confederation of independent Orthodox Churches, a situation almost inevitable with the alternative proposal. If that happens, we can no longer speak of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” we confess in our Church, but of something alien to Christian and authentic Orthodox ecclesiology.
Unfortunately, for many centuries after the Great Schism, the Orthodox have unconsciously developed a “negative” identity: we are not what our tradition has left us as legacy, but what the others, mainly the Catholics, are not. In other words, without a primacy, a visible expression of the Church’s unity, accompanied of course by synodality.
Regarding the future of Orthodoxy in Ukraine the Committee considered that all efforts should focus on the gradual restoration of the unity of the Orthodox in Ukraine. And after the creation of an uncanonical ecclesiastical structure (Exarchy) within the jurisdiction of the Ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria, also and foremost the unity of the Orthodox Church in her entirety.
For this reason, a webinar seminar is organized by CEMES within the series of this academic year’s Open Public Lectures “For the Unity of the Church of Christ” on:
SYNODALITY IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE ENDANGERED UNITY OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
Its Anglophone section (January 21, 5-8 pm), moderated by Prof. Dimitrios Keramidas, CEMES Vice-President, and Rev. Dr. Adalberto Mainardi, will have three 10-minutes presentations:
- The Conciliar Process in the Catholic Church. Model of an authentic ecclesiastical organization of the Church of Christ? (Rev. Dr Giacomo Pulighi, Director of Pro Unione),
- The Endangered Unity of the Orthodox Church with the Russian Exarchy in Africa (Archb. of Nigeria Alexander),
- Primacy, Canon Law and the “negative” identity in some Orthodox circles (Emer. Prof. Petros Vassiliadis),
and a half-an-hour panel, moderated by Archb Lazar Puhalo, with the participation of Rev. Prof. Cyril Hovorun, Prof. Elizabeth Prodromou, Archb. Prof. Job Getcha, Prof. Nicolas Abou Mrad, Rev. Georgy Kochetkov, Rev. Prof. Cristian Sonea, Prof. Ivan Dimitrov, and Rev. Profs. Andriy Dudchenko, Ihor Shaban, and Sergii Bortnyk, on:
4. Meta-ecclesiology, Geopolitics and Orthodox unity, Modern problems in contemporary Orthodoxy, Orthodox and Catholic views on Church unity and Canon Law, Ukraine between Rome and Moscow, and views of various autocephalous Churches; always within the framework of our common journey “Toward the Unity of the Church of Christ”.