|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Essays about Orthodoxy|
An introductory speech by His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Hieronymos at the Convening of the Hierarchy
(on the 24-06-2008)
Beloved in Christ holy hierarchs,
Finding myself among you today, in the honorific and afflictive post of Presiding Chairman of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, as a brother among brothers, as the least among people and - by the Grace of God, through your honest votes – first among equals, I am bound, but I also desire, to express my gratitude firstly to the all-surveillant Lord our God for His obvious and His more subtle gifts and benefactions, to my person and then to all of you and to each one individually, for the love and the trust that you have displayed towards my insignificant person.
Undoubtedly, the convening of the Hierarchy for the purpose of electing new bishops in the Holy Spirit is one of the apical moments in the life of the Church and is of course one of the most significant and the most demanding and responsible of our Synodic system’s functions.
However, I would be
inconsistent with myself and my convictions, but also towards
whatever I have declared in writing and verbally, both in the
recent and the distant past, if I did not boldly state in
advance that my objective and my desire is that the Synods of
the Hierarchy not be convened with the election of
bishops as their sole objective.
I must confess that for a very long while, I have been tormented by the dilemma of whether the Synod should be convened at this point in time, or the elections be postponed, for a later date.
In the short period of time
that has passed from the assumption of my new duties as
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece and to this day, I have been
working intensively, studying in depth all the accumulated,
immense problems that we are facing - or will be called upon
soon to confront - both inside the Church as well as in our
relations with the contemporary, rapidly evolving and
de-Christianized world, with its cultural and social
developments, with the unprecedented moral and bioethical
dilemmas, and at the same time, with the agony of the people of
God but also of all those who are positioned well-meaningly
and critically opposite the Church and are waiting for words and
acts from us that will exude the fragrance of Divine Grace; that
will reveal God’s love and will show the people that there
continues to be comfort and hope in the resurrected Christ.
The more I update myself and the recording of all the problems become imprinted inside me, the more I realize their magnitude; the more evident the existing pending issues become, the more transparency they demand in their administration; the more demanding the need becomes for resolving issues that touch on moral, financial and administrative oversteppings and deviations, and at the same time, the more we realize the magnitude of the challenges that our rapidly de-Christianizing era spawns, the more these two basic convictions are strengthened inside me:
1, that current events do not permit us the luxury of segmental, rough, forced and unconsidered responses to the provocations and the pending issues that have accumulated both within and without our walls. Today, perhaps more than ever before, a sober, substantial, theologically consolidated, thorough and realistic planning is required as to how we must place ourselves before these events; in other words, how to stand with consistency in the face of the demands of this mission that God has entrusted to us, but also how we should minister to the needs, the agonies and finally, to the salvation of our flock, and how we shall confront History’s crisis
2, that there are no margins for individual planning and isolated initiatives of an autonomous nature. Our era, but also the ecclesiastic ethos and custom do not allow personal projections of a self-important nature or displays of personal choices on matters that are pending and demand a synodically processed and theologically substantiated handling - especially when these are matters that have accrued numerous questions and doubts with regard to the manner that we have handled and continue to handle issues that demand moral integrity, an ecclesiastic conscience, transparency, legitimacy and with respectfulness towards political and state authorities.
I want it to be clear, that my
silence so far was not a passive one, but a willful and
conscious choice, in a state of profound meditation and
realization of the problems and the challenges that we are
called upon to administer. There is a time for speaking and a
time for remaining silent.
The Church has never been afraid, nor is She ever afraid to stand up for Her truth, opposite any institution or person that presents itself as undermining or threatening Her; however, any isolated, “Don Quixote” types of overstatements and interventions, and autonomized, militant displays (and especially when it is not absolutely clear if they reflect mostly personal ambitions or objectives, which in the long run do not serve the best interests of the Church) are not considered positive input. Phenomena such as these endanger and undermine the validity and the seriousness of our positions opposite the current reality, inasmuch as they will be presumed to be among the ecclesiastic views and positions found in the various populistic or reactionary opinions – such as the ones offered by the Mass Media for consumption. The Church is not legitimized when uttering vacant words that make noises like a reverberating cymbal, but is obliged to offer a loving and salvific word, and certainly not a sloganeering, secular and disruptive one.
In short, we have an obligation to abandon the “I’ and move within the framework of “We”. It is necessary to be aware that there is no other path, and personally speaking, I do not feel that I have any other choice before God and the people, but to invite you all and each one personally, to a non-negotiable commitment for a sincere collaboration, for unity and for an incessant endeavor to understand each other “in a paroxysm of love and good works”. I want to invite you to utilize –in words and in actions- the blessed potentials that our synodic system offers and guarantees us, which we have an obligation to activate fully, and even more, to safeguard it.
This is precisely where the
core of my aforementioned major dilemma is located, with regard
to the convening of the Hierarchy at this point in time:
To avoid any
misinterpretations, I hasten to clarify what I mean by not yet
being ready, by posing two, simple questions:
2. Isn’t the non-essential utilization of synodic committees as well as other members of the Church who are more knowledgeable than ourselves in legal, national, inter-church, social, political or civil matters, who are supposed to enable us with their expertise and advice to opine synodically and appropriately, a sign of a shrinking synodicity, which, instead of being the Church’s way of life, has now become a mere administrative procedure of a pseudo-democratic character, thus making us appear in the eyes of the people as wiseacres, ad-libbers, or as ones who are totally oblivious, both to contemporary reality, but also to our very theology?
This deficiency in substantial
synodicity – in its broad and
essential dimensions that I alluded to previously – makes its
consequences obvious, with phenomena that are already evident in
our day and are preoccupying me personally, as I am afraid that
they will eventually damage our credibility seriously, or else
they will cause confusion in the people of God. Characteristic
examples of this are the issuing of announcements and the urge
to make statements which are frequently governed by problematic
theological views; or when expressions and formulations are
adopted, which raise legal issues or divide God’s people by
summoning them to group themselves around individuals who
project themselves as ethnically or morally more sensitive than
all the others.
I believe it is time we transcended our bad habits, our personal effusions, and rise up to the height of the circumstances and meet together at the point of “we”. This, I believe, can be accomplished and be facilitated institutionally, if we were to agree on certain basic principles, which I will try to summarize, in four areas:
1. I believe –as stressed right from the start– that the Synod of the Hierarchy should not be convened for the sole purpose of electing bishops, but systematically, twice a year, in order to process and to opine collectively and in a documented manner on more important issues.
2. We need to re-examine seriously and responsibly the manning, the structure and the function of synodic committees, so that they will actually function in a preparatory and substantial manner, by preparing the subjects in the Hierarchy’s agenda.
3. We must prepare and co-decide in time on the issues that need to be discussed, so that prior to the convening of the Hierarchy, the major part of the list of topics for the next Synod of the Hierarchy will have already been drafted.
4. It is necessary for us to be aware that we are not omniscient, and also that contemporary reality is far more complex, more demanding and far different to what we were familiar with and even to how we used to converse with in the recent past. Therefore, the utilization of as many members of the Church as possible to assist us in our difficult task is not only required by the synodic ethos, but also by objective reality.
The topics therefore of the forthcoming, regular convention of the Hierarchy in October will cover two areas: the manning of the Church and especially the Law pertaining to Ecclesiastic Education, and the utilization of the opportunities provided for the development of material infrastructures that will assist ecclesiastic ministry overall – these are matters that may seem technocratic, but in reality are profoundly theological and ecclesiastic.
At any rate, the issues that spring up on a daily basis are many and massive; issues that are ecclesiastic, inter-Orthodox, inter-Christian and inter-religious; issues that are social, or related to the quality of life and morality, or environmental issues. Harsh reality increasingly challenges us and beckons us, on a daily basis.
Each one of us has an
obligation to submit these issues to the corpus of the
Hierarchy, with a full awareness of the theological
prerequisites and the handling of the problems involved, and the
corpus should not merely record them or expound them or process
them theoretically, but should enrobe them with Christ’s robe
and render them useful for our ecclesiastic needs.
Translation by A.N.
Article published in English on: 11-7-2008.
Last update: 11-7-2008.