by Efi Efthimiou
After the Amman “fiasco” in Jordan in February 2020, with the “gathering of Primates” finally taking the form of a “fraternal gathering”, the Patriarch of Jerusalem is taking a new initiative in order to “address the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the threat of schism in the body of the Orthodox Church”.
In particular, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem posted two announcements on its website announcing its intention to take action.
The initiative came after Patriarch Theophilοs of Jerusalem visited the Vatican to attend the celebration of the elevation of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pizzaballa, at the Holy College of Cardinals.
During his visit to the Vatican, he met with Pope Francis, “extending a hand of goodwill from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Mediation, in order to start a new dialogue to end the suffering and heal the wounds in the Orthodox family”.
Patriarch Theophilos refers to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem as the “Mother of all Churches”, a logic that reminds us of similar announcements from the Moscow Patriarchate, which question the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Mother Church.
And it recognises the profound impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, not only on Orthodox Christians but also on the entire ecumenical Christian community.
This new initiative – which is not elaborated on or given any relevant information about what it will involve – stems “from the rich history of reconciliation and peace efforts by the Patriarchate”.
Recognising the challenges and deep divisions, “the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is committed to the spiritual mission of dialogue and reconciliation. As St. Paul wrote, “Christ is our peace,” and the Patriarchate stands ready to help in every possible way to help end conflict and suffering.”
Patriarch Theophilos took a similar initiative in February 2020, when he convened in Amman, Jordan, first a “gathering of Primates” and then, seeing that the intention of participation was minimal, he called the initiative a “fraternal gathering”.
The vast majority of the Hierarchs refused to participate. Present were Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the late Patriarch of Serbia, Irinej, and Metropolitan Rastislav of the Czech Republic.
From the Church of Romania, Metropolitan Niphon of Targoviste was present.
It is worth noting the presence at that time of Metropolitan Onufriy in Amman, as head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who was seated at the right of the Patriarch of Moscow (see photo below).
The whole idea then was to present as an initiative of Patriarch Theofilos, a gathering of the Primates of Orthodoxy, something that had caused strong reactions in the Orthodox Church, as it is the responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarch to convene such a Synaxis.
It is characteristic that the Churches of Greece, Cyprus, and Albania had replied that they would not attend, as well as the Patriarchates of Georgia, Bulgaria, Alexandria, and Antioch.
The question that -reasonably- arises is whether this initiative of Patriarch Theophilos comes after consultations with other Primates about their intentions, who will be invited to participate in what Patriarch Theophilos presents as a movement of unity, and what are the expectations from such an effort.