June 16, 2009

Orthodox Bishops Gather to Discuss the Diaspora

Orthodox bishops gathered in Chambesy, Switzerland to discuss the Orthodox diaspora

[The Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference met June 6-12 in Chambesy, Switzerland to discuss the problem of the Orthodox diaspora. This is the first of two meetings to be held in 2009. The official language of the communiqué is in French and the English translation is below. It should be noted these are preparatory meetings for a future Pan-Orthodox Synod. However there has been a significant change reported that could reflect the future resolution for the unity of the jurisdictions of the Orthodox diaspora.

As we know, currently the bishops of certain areas of the diaspora (America and France) meet to discuss issues within their jurisdiction which are lead by a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of that region (ex. SCOBA). At this first preparatory meeting it has been decided to extend this practice to all regions of the diaspora. This decision is logical since it would be difficult to resolve the issues of the diaspora if the regions of the diaspora are unaware of their issues. Of course, this means little to America and France who have this practice established already. It does, however, mean much to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to which the power to convene these meetings has been unanimously confirmed, even by the Russian Patriarchate. Could this delegation of a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the president of episcopal meetings in the diaspora foreshadow things to come in the diaspora? Only time will tell. - J.S.]

Full text of the Chambesy communiqué follows:

Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference
Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Chambésy, 6th – 12th June 2009

At the invitation of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, following the consensus of their Beatitudes the Primates of the most holy local Orthodox Churches, as expressed during their meeting held in the Phanar from 10th to 12th October 2008, the Fourth Pre-conciliar Pan-orthodox Conference met at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva, from 6th to 12th June 2009.

The work of the Conference began with the pan-orthodox con-celebration of the Divine Liturgy, on the day of Pentecost. They were held under the chairmanship of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon, delegate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the contribution of the secretary for preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Jeremias of Switzerland. The Conference was attended by delegates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, at the invitation of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

The Primates of Local Orthodox Churches greeted the participants at the Conference by messages sent or forwarded by their delegates. The members of the Conference have sent letters to all the Primates of the local Churches, asking their prayers and their blessings for the accomplishment of their task.

In accordance with the wishes of the Primates and representatives of the local Orthodox Churches expressed in the message published at the end of their meeting at the Phanar (October 2008), the Fourth Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference was charged to examine the question of the canonical organization of the Diaspora Orthodox. The Conference decided its agenda at the opening meeting of its work.

The Conference reviewed the documents prepared by the preparatory inter-orthodox commission at its two meetings in Chambésy, i.e. that of 10th to 17th November 1990 and 7th to 13th November 1993 and the document prepared by the Canonists’ Congress meeting at Chambésy from 9th to 14th April 1995. These documents, specified, corrected and supplemented, have been approved unanimously.

The Conference expressed the willingness of Orthodox Churches to solve the problem of the canonical organisation of the Orthodox Diaspora, conforming to ecclesiology, tradition and canonical practice of the Orthodox Church. The Conference decided to create new episcopal assemblies in some regions of the world to order the question of the Diaspora, i.e. the Orthodox faithful installed in areas beyond the traditional boundaries of the local Orthodox Churches. The presidents of the Assemblies are bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the given region, and in their absence, the bishops in accordance with the order of the Diptichs of the Churches. All the bishops of the Orthodox Churches who exercise their pastoral ministry in the communities existing in each of these regions are members of these Assemblies. The Episcopal Assemblies are for the mission to manifest and promote the unity of the Orthodox Church, to exercise pastoral diakonia to the faithful of the region and to render to the world their common witness. The decisions of the Episcopal Assemblies are taken in accordance with the principle of unanimity of the Churches represented within these Assemblies by bishops.

After amended and supplemented, the Conference also approved the Proposed Regulations of Episcopal Assemblies by defining the fundamental principles of organization and operation thereof.

The remaining topics of the holy and great Council, i.e. the method of proclaiming of autocephaly and autonomy, and the order of Diptichs, will be discussed in future meetings of the preparatory inter-orthodox commission and will be submitted for approval to the following Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences.

Chambésy on 12th June 2009.

The President of the Conference
†John of Pergamon