Communique on the occasion of the upcoming Election Assembly
The upcoming Election Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, scheduled for January 22, is one of the central themes of our media scene. The Holy Synod states with satisfaction that one part of media deals with that issue seriously and responsibly, but notices with deep regret that an approach of great deal of media reporters and commentators is sensationalist, biased and partial, so they often use disinformation and obscure gossip, usually from anonymous sources, neither respecting the spiritual authority of the Church nor its late head. Also they do not care for the feelings and the dignity of our people, expressed at the send-off and the funeral of Patriarch.
In particular, there are inconsistent and contradictory reports on the participation of Bishops of the Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid in the electoral process, with the almost obligatory note that the Assembly has yet to decide about that. Actually on behalf of true reporting and with a goal to remove doubts or maliciously caused confusion (in which also are not innocent certain church and parachurch circles), the Holy Synod is obliged to present the public present its official position, or to provide authentic, ecclesiological and canonical only possible interpretation of the existing principal assembly decision on this matter (AS no. 2 and 3, record 48, from November 14, 2008.). The Assembly undoubtedly pleaded about that: hierarchs of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, like all others, participate in the election of the Patriarch of Serbia.
The theological foundation of the principal Assembly's stance is, in brief: In the Orthodox Church there is neither bishop nor a group of bishops that does not belong to the Assembly of one of the autocephalous Churches and does not have the same hierarchic rights and obligations, regardless of the existence or the absence of autonomous church areas. For the hierarchs of the Ohrid Archbishopric the denial of rights of participation in the election would mean that either we do not recognize them as our Orthodox brethren in the diocesan service, or we consider them members of some other autocephalous Church, which is pointless, or that we consider them an already recognized separate autocephalous Church, which is more senseless.
Individuals claim, "understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. (1Tim. 1:7): they can not elect because we do not vote for their head. This is incorrect. We very much choose" their " head so that his election confirms the Patriarch of Serbia. Without that confirmation his appointment is invalid. Without it there is no autonomous status. After all, the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference held recently in December last year, in Chambesy near Geneve, unanimously proclaimed that all autonomous Churches organically belong to the corresponding autocephalous Churches and that they are inalienable parts of the canonical area of each of them.
Furthermore, participation in elections of the autocephalous first hierarch by autonomous Churches is the primeval and universal Orthodox practice. As the opponents of the participation of the Ohrid Archbishopric generally do not like the examples from the coasts of Bosporus and the Aegean Sea, we are just giving an example from the coasts of the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, or the coasts of the great rivers like the Dnieper and the Volga until the Amur. All autonomous hierarchies within the Moscow Patriarchate - from Ukraine and Belarus, through Kazakhstan, until the episcopate of the Japanese Orthodox Church - participate in the election of the Patriarch of All Russia, although the Assembly or the Synod of Moscow does not elect them, but as in our case, the Patriarch of Moscow only confirms the election of an autonomous archbishop or a metropolitan. Moreover, the autonomous heads are automatically candidates for the throne of the Moscow Patriarchate throne (during the last election in Moscow Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev asked not to be a candidate for the health reasons). Let us add also that to the broad Russian Orthodox soul an ethnic origin of candidates was never an issue : German-Estonian origin of the late Patriarch Alexy II did not bothered him to become one of the most prominent patriarchs of All Russia in the recent history.
Finally, here is a common-sense question: if anyone still deny certain canonical rights of the certain bishops of our Church because they are from Macedonia, does it mean that tomorrow someone else will come up with the idea, having the same way of thinking, to deny these rights to others as well - to one who are from Bosnia, to others because they are from Montenegro, to the third because they are from Serbia?
In one word: a right and a duty of the election of the First in the Assembly of Bishops is the right and the duty of all the bishops, the members of the Assembly, without exception and regardless of the autonomous status or non-autonomous status of some dioceses.
Submitted by: Bishop Irinej of Bachka