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Patriarchate of Antioch: Former Metropolitan of New York was defrocked by decision of the Holy Synod

The decision to defrock the resigned Metropolitan Joseph of New York and North America was taken by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

The Synod, which met the previous two days, led by His Beatitude Patriarch John of Antioch, examined the matter of the former Metropolitan of New York.

“To the dismay of the Synod Fathers, following his retirement, retired Metropolitan Joseph Zehlaoui wrongfully claimed rights over Archdiocesan property. Through his attorneys, he demanded from the Archdiocese a large sum of money and threatened legal action and public conflict with the Church, reflecting through his demands an improper attitude as a bishop with regard to monetary matters; and he ultimately filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese in U.S. civil court,” the statement of the Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch read.

The Holy Synod found Metropolitan Joseph guilty of canonical violations related to inappropriate actions of a clergyman (former Metropolitan) regarding monetary and ecclesiastical property issues.

He was also found guilty of initiating legal proceedings against the Church in a civil court.

For the above reasons, the Holy Synod decided to defrock the resigned Metropolitan Joseph Zehlaoui and return him to the ranks of the laity, praying that he would spend the rest of his life in peace and repentance.

In addition, the Synod calls on the Archdiocese of North America to take all necessary measures to preserve all the rights, interests and property of the Archdiocese.

It also addresses the flock of the Archdiocese of New York and North America, reminding them that it embraces them with a paternal spirit and inviting them to pray for their stability.

The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch even referred to the war in Gaza and Ukraine.

The Synod called on the faithful to pray for the peace of the whole world and for the people of Gaza, who are afflicted by the scourge of war, referring to “the injustice of decision-makers in the international community that seems to have lost its humanity”.

The members of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch call on the whole world to stop “the killing machine in Gaza,” to lift the blockade and bring peace. They also ask everyone to work together to prevent the consequences of this war in the region, and especially in Lebanon.

They also call on the faithful to intensify their prayers for the entire Orthodox Church and its unity “and for the confessing Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

The Synod’s statement once again addresses the ongoing situation in Ukraine, highlighting the conflict initiated by Russia against Ukrainian territories over two years ago. Additionally, it touches upon the measures implemented by the Ukrainian government aimed at diminishing the influence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onufry, which operates under the Moscow Patriarchate.

“This Church’s faithful are suffering from the cruel brunt of war, organised violence, and danger of extinction through unjust laws that aim at closing their parishes and transferring their churches’ ownership to other religious groups,” the Synod said.

Source: Patriarchate of Antioch