Recent reports say delegations of the Romanian and Polish Churches would take part in the Pan-Orthodox meeting to resolve the issue of Orthodox unity, initiated by Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. Patriarch Irenaeus, head of the Serbian Church, also confirmed his participation. So we can assume that the meeting will ultimately take place, but in a completely different status than expected. Already, it can be argued that this will no longer be a meeting of all Orthodox churches in their entirety, since this initiative was abandoned by the Primates of Ancient Patriarchates, where a prominent spot belongs to Constantinople as an initiator and moderator of such events.
It is now known that the meeting will be attended by the Primates of Jerusalem, Russian, Serbian, and Czech Churches, and delegations of the Romanian and Polish Churches. So, it’s six out of fifteen, or less than half. However, the decisions of the Bulgarian and Georgian Churches on this issue are yet to be announced. We will not predict possible developments, but here are some interesting points.
The first thing we mentioned at the beginning is the status of this meeting. From the outset it was supposed to be a meeting of the Primates of the Local Churches, but the decisions of the Romanian and Polish Churches made significant adjustments to the format as the latter delegated teams of bishops, thus downgrading the status of the event.
Remarkably, the story repeats itself again. In one of our previous publications, we mentioned how in 1948 the Moscow Patriarchate, with the support of Joseph Stalin, tried to hold an All-Orthodox Cathedral to proclaim its primacy in the Orthodox world. The ancient Patriarchates, having learned of this goal of the ROC, deployed only delegations. As a result, what was supposed to be a Cathedral was downgraded to a “meeting” of the Churches and eventually brought no desired result. It can now be said that the forthcoming meeting in Amman will also have the status of a meeting, a more informal one. By the way, Metropolitan Hillarion Alfeyev, head of the External Church Relations Department at the ROC, has noted this several times. The synod of the Romanian Church also stated that it would send its delegation to a fraternal meeting, not to an All-Orthodox Council. Therefore, this means no official documents can be adopted at this meeting a priori.
The second thing is participants in the meeting. Noteworthy, the Ecumenical Patriarch and so-called “Hellenic churches” except Jerusalem and possibly the Patriarch of Antioch will attend. Most of those who agreed to partake are either in orbit of Moscow interests, or defending their own.
In particular, the Serbian Orthodox Church, which besides being considered a satellite of the ROC in church circles, upholds its own interests regarding Montenegro and Macedonia. The churches of these countries have been trying to acquire autocephaly for decades, but the Serbian Church recognizes them as their canonical territory and opposes their independence. Upon receiving the tomos by the OCU, the SOC fears that Macedonia and Montenegro may receive their own tomoses from Constantinople in the same way. That is why Serbian hierarchs are fighting autocephalous movements in these countries in every way possible. In this fight, the Serbian Church is supported by the Moscow Patriarchate, who is a friend in grief to them. So there’s no surprise in the Serbian Patriarch supporting the initiative.
Much has been said and written about the interest of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The very fact that Patriarch Theophilos voiced his initiative in Moscow, after meeting with Putin and receiving a prize from the ROC, speaks for itself.
Antioch Patriarch John could also be a potential participant in the meeting. The Antiochian Church has been receiving humanitarian and financial assistance from the ROC for some time, so the Primate of this Church will most probably also participate in the assembly in Jordan. Patriarch John himself positively responded to this proposal at the end of last year.
The Romanian Church has disputes with the ROC regarding Moldova, which both Churches include in their canonical territory. Therefore, as the Cerkvarium portal rightly noted, the Romanian Church is trying to maintain neutrality with its decision.
The Polish and Czech Churches are also in the orbit of the Moscow Patriarchate, but also have historical links with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which provided both with the tomos of autocephaly. But now they are playing along with the Moscow Patriarchate.
The third thing is the decision that could be passed at the meeting. As we have already noted, no official documents are supposed to be adopted, but if it was so, the even would hardly have sparked such a hype among Churches. It is clear that simple communication won’t give any opportunity to get out of the so-called “crisis”, which in our opinion should be called “Moscow crisis”. After all, apart from Moscow, no one has stopped communicating with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Alexandria, or the Church of Greece. At present, some Churches have not yet recognized the OCU, while some, as the ROC, consider it a “schismatic”. However, there have already been such precedents in history, and their solution was only a matter of time.
A similar situation is observed now with the Orthodox Church in America, to which the ROC has granted autocephaly in the last century, and which is still not recognized by Constantinople and a number of Orthodox Churches.
But let’s get back to the possible decisions to be taken at the Amman meeting.
It is already clear to many that the ROC, through this meeting, seeks to condemn Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and take over his place in the diptych, but it can already be said that Moscow will definitely fail to do this in Amman because, say, the delegation of the Romanian Church will not support this decision, like the other Churches that have come for brotherly meeting. It is also possible to state now that Moscow will not be satisfied with just “communication” and will try to realize its plan. Whatever is adopted and conceived by Moscow, it will need evaluation by other Local Churches, which could stretch for several decades, which may complicate the situation.
And the fourth thing is consequences. It is difficult to speak about the consequences today. Some have warned of a new split in the Church, and some have said that solutions will be found. However, it can now be assumed that every Local Church will give this meeting an objective assessment once it’s over. If indeed, at this meeting, the ROC proclaims itself a “Third Rome”, it is logical that it will provoke a strong wave of resistance from the Local Churches, and eventually be condemned at the Orthodox level. So far, these are only lush fantasies of the Danilo Monastery, but when precedent takes place, it is possible that the Ecumenical Patriarchate together with all the Churches will condemn such ambitions on the part of the ROC. But for now it is too early to state this. So far, it is clear that in Amman we will only see a simple meeting or a brotherly dinner of common interests, which will bring nothing to its organizers but crazy financial expenses.