October 2011

Patriarch Theofilos

Patriarch Theofilos of Jerusalem

Dear readers,

In previous posts we have made reference to what constitutes priesthood in the Orthodox Church. Upon this foundation it is appropriate to present an example of an uncanonical member of the clergy, namely Prokopios Kanavas of St Nicholas’ “Greek Orthodox Church” Thebarton.

Below you will find an extract from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem highlighting Prokopios’ defrockment and his restoration as a “lay person”. In its contents mention is made of his “unacceptable behaviour as a deacon… contrary to the Holy Canons of the Church” which included amongst other things his involvement in “organizations of questionable and suspicious activities”. This led to Prokopios being “subjected to threats… forcing him to flee terrified to Greece where he discarded and gave up his priesthood”.

In response to people’s request we have attached below a scanned version of the original Greek document written and faxed by the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Aristarchos of Konstantini. The letter from Archbishop Aristarchos was addressed to His Grace Bishop Nikandros of Dorylaeon (the canonical Greek Orthodox bishop residing in Adelaide), and is stamped with the official seal of the Patriarchate.

In close we would like to say the following to the beloved people of GOCSA: be warned, this so-called priest is not what he seems. You have the right to know if your priest is canonically ordained, and you have the right to be served by a legitimate Orthodox priest – not to make do with the Orthodox Church’s leftovers or self appointed clerics. Demand that your community leaders do what is necessary to supply you with real priests. Do not settle for anything less.Jerusalem Patriarchate


(Extract from the letter of the GREEK ORTHODOX PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM to His Grace Bishop Nikandros of Dorylaeon, on 19th June 2010)

Your Grace,

With reference to Prokopios (birth name as Panagiotis) Kanavas, who represents himself in Adelaide as an Archimandrite, we advise that he was ordained and served within our Patriarchate as a deacon. He became involved without our knowledge in organisations of questionable and suspicious activities. As such he became subjected to threats and his own life was endangered thus forcing him to flee terrified to Greece where he discarded and gave up his priesthood. Following this, the Holy and Sacred Synod of our Patriarchate during its deliberations on 24th of June 2008, after considering his unacceptable behaviour as a deacon, which behaviour was contrary to the Holy Canons of the Church as well as his position as a member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Patriarchate of Jerusalem, defrocked the above mentioned deacon (Prokopios Kanavas) restoring him back to the classification of a lay person hence severing him from the said Brotherhood of the Holy Patriarchate of Jerusalem which has since then ceased to have any relationship or be in communion with him.

Your Grace, informing you on the above for the purpose of making them known to the faithful of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia, I convey to you and to His Eminence, Archbishop Stylianos of Australia, the blessings and brotherly love of His Beatitude Theofilos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, as well as my personal ones, and I wish you, from the All-Holy and Life-accepted Tomb, every strength from above in your burdensome pastoral work.

In the Holy City of Jerusalem, 19th June 2010.

With love in Christ and great honour,
Archbishop of Konstantini Aristarchos

Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Prokopios’ defrockment (scanned copy of original, in Greek)

Icon of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

Icon of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

Most glorious are You, O Christ our God!
You have established the Holy Fathers as lights on the earth!
Through them you have guided us to the true faith!
O greatly Compassionate One, glory to You! Troparion for the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

Every year, on the first Sunday after October 11th (according to the Greek tradition), we commemorate the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. This year (2011) this feast day fell on the 16th of October – ie, the Sunday just past.

As noted on the Orthodox Church in America website, the Seventh Ecumenical Council was most noted for its defense and restoration of the Holy Icons. One of the lesser-known facts about this Council, however, is that it also re-affirmed the canons (that is, the rules) of the Church. The first rule that the Council laid down was summarised as the following:

That the sacred Canons are in all things to be observed.

The full text of this rule can be found here. In short, they All Orthodox Churches around the world (both Greek and non-Greek) abide by the decisions of this Ecumenical Council (as with all Ecumenical Councils) and place themselves under the Rules (ie, the Canons) of the Orthodox Church – this is what makes us Orthodox. The Seventh Ecumenical Council is of particular importance in this regard because it was at this Council that many of the rules (canons) were defined and made binding on all Orthodox Churches everywhere – from the smallest parish right up to the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, all became subject to these canons. It has been this way ever since (ie, for well over a thousand years).

In order to be Orthodox, it is necessary for a Church to submit to the authority of these Rules. This is why the Parish-Communities of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (ie, those parishes that have their own legal identity separate from the Archdiocese itself) have clauses in their Constitution that explicitly place them under the authority of the Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Canons (ie, Rules) of the Orthodox Faith. Take, for example, this extract from a typical Constitution of one of these Parish-Communities:

2. The objects and purposes of this Association are as follows:- (a) To preserve teach and propagate in uncorrupted form the Christian Orthodox faith and traditions in conformity with the Doctrine, Holy Canons, administrative rulings, discipline, divine worship, usages and customs of the Church, stipulations according to the Holy Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Orthodox Faith as set and formulated by the Seven Ecumenical Synods [ie, Councils] of the Undivided Church and the decisions, regulations, encyclicals of the Local Synods as accepted and interpreted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its Canonical Church authority namely the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.

Following the Canons and the Seven Ecumenical Councils is the first stated purpose of the Parish-Community. Thus, as noted in our earlier post on Legal Entities, although the Parish-Communities of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese are separate legal entities, they are spiritually united to the Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese by including clauses like this in their Constitution. These clauses likewise bind the Parish-Communities and place them under the authority of the Canons and the Ecumenical Synods of the Church.

What about GOCSA? If they claim to be Orthodox, what is their position on the Seventh Ecumenical Council, and the Rules that this Council put forth? This is a very sad story. In 1972, GOCSA (paranoid about coming under the authority of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) amended their Constitution to insert clause 2A (1), which sets for the absolute independence of GOCSA. In particular, it states that “neither in its government nor in its administration shall the Community be subject to any ecclesiastical […] authority.” Which leads us to wonder: did the GOCSA parishes commemorate the Seventh Ecumenical Council yesterday, and if so why?

After all, the Seventh Ecumenical Council (as with all the Ecumenical Councils) was the ultimate expression of Church authority, and at this Council they explicitly decreed that all the rules of the Church must be respected. And yet because GOCSA is explicitly forbidden by its Constitution to be subject to any Church authority, this must mean that they are forbidden from being subject to this Council and to its Rules (or to any Church Council or Rules, for that matter). Presumably they celebrated this Council yesterday just as we did – but how can this celebration really be genuine if at the same time they refuse to place themselves under the Council’s authority? As pointed out above, we in the canonical Orthodox Church commemorate this Council because we are under its authority – but how can GOCSA commemorate it if they are not? And if they want to be under its authority, how can they when their own Constitution explicitly forbids them from doing so? And more importantly: What business do they have running Orthodox Churches if they can’t submit to the authority & rules of the Orthodox Church? These are not easy questions for the present members of GOCSA to answer or to deal with. Unfortunately they have been placed in this predicament by the amendments made way back in 1972, and the present members have been left with this difficult legacy by their predecessors. We pray that God will give them the strength and the will to sort out these issues so that they can once again commemorate the Seventh Ecumenical Council (and all Ecumenical Councils) without hypocrisy.

Dear all,

Things have been a bit quiet on our blog lately. Mainly because we bloggers have been busy with other priorities, but also because we’ve been doing some research which we hope will bear fruit in the form of more interesting blog posts in the coming days. In the meantime we thought we might put up another “reflections” post to look at what has transpired recently.

Cathedral of the Annunciation, Redfern NSW

Cathedral of the Annunciation, Redfern NSW

One thing that has occurred to us is that some people may have misconstrued our attacks due to some of the images we have put up. In an August blog on “canonicity”, we put up photos of the uncanonical churches with big red crosses through them in order to emphasise the fact that they are uncanonical. However, what we need to make clear is that it is not actually the buildings themselves that are at fault. We realise that many faithful Greek Orthodox of our city put their time, effort and money into building or acquiring these places of worship as an offering of love for and as a sign of their devotion to God.

But at the end of the day, a building is just a building. Just about any building can be used as an Orthodox temple, even if it was not built specifically for that purpose. The Cathedral Church of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in Redfern, Sydney, for example (pictured), was not originally built as an Orthodox temple, rather it was built by the Anglican Church and was later purchased by the Archdiocese. Similarly there are many Orthodox parishes in Adelaide and around Australia (and indeed around the world) of both Greek and non-Greek heritage that worship in temples that used to be places of worship for non-Orthodox Christians. Even the schismatic temple of Ss Constantine & Helen at Goodwood was not built as an Orthodox temple. So while elaborate, Orthodox-style temples are a beautiful tradition and a part of the Orthodox Faith, nevertheless they are not an essential part. It is possible to have Orthodox worship in a temple that once belonged to non-Orthodox Christians.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true – it is possible to have non-Orthodox worship in a temple that once belonged to Orthodox Christians. When it happens this is a great tragedy, but of course the building itself is not to blame – it is the fault of those who conduct their non-Orthodox worship services. It is this idea that we are trying to express by those photographs and in this blog in general – we are not against the temples, but against what is happening inside of them. It is the Greek pseudo-Orthodox worship services, and pseudo-Orthodox Baptisms and pseudo-Orthodox Marriages, conducted by Greek pseudo-Orthodox priests and headed by their Greek pseudo-Orthodox bishop – this is what we are against. We are against it because of the deliberate attempt to mislead people into thinking that they are Orthodox when they are not. Unsuspecting Greeks of Adelaide go to services at these buildings expecting true Orthodox worship and to be served by real Orthodox priests – not fake ones.  They deserve to have nothing less.

From now and in the future we will be making a concerted effort to stress that our criticisms are not directed at the properties themselves. It is our fervent prayer that, for the sake of all the Greek Orthodox faithful who built these temples that one day soon they will again become places of Orthodox worship. As His Grace Bishop Nikandros (the canonical bishop in Adelaide for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) said not too long ago: “[we] are not interested in the properties as only the people are the wealth of the Church” (see His Grace in this recent Neos Kosmos article).