Committee for Canonical Regional Planning 2014 Annual Report

Friday, November 21, 2014

Committee:

Archbishop Nicolae (Chairman), Bishop John (Moscow Patriarchate – since August), Metropolitan Iakovos, Metropolitan Nicholas, Bishop John (Antiochian Archdiocese – since August), Bishop Mitrophan, Bishop Daniil, Metropolitan Tikhon; 

Consultants: Fr Nicholas Apostola, Fr Joseph Abud, Fr Bazyl Zawierucha, Tatiana Veselkina, Jerry Dimitriou, Alexei Krindatch, Demitrios Moschos, Steve Radakovich; Secretariat Liaison: Protodeacon Peter Danilchick

Objective of the Committee
The Committee for Canonical Regional Planning is charged with formulating a proposal for a plan to organize all the Orthodox faithful of every jurisdiction in the Region on a canonical basis, in accordance with the Rules of Operation, Article 5.e of the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambésy. 

Activities and Status of Work: September 2013-August 2014
Assembly IV Presentations and Discussions

Archbishop Nicolae presented a summary of the Committee’s work at the Assembly IV meeting September 2013 in Chicago for discussion, reaction, and contribution of ideas from the member hierarchs – especially regarding the next steps to formulate the proposed reorganization plan. The Committee’s proposals are based on two important principles: one bishop in the same place and the concern to address the pastoral needs of Orthodox living in the region, including the diversity of national traditions. His Eminence outlined the leading model calling for the establishment of ecclesiastical provinces and ethnic vicariates as well as two other restructuring ideas.

Bishop Daniil, a member of the Committee, then expressed the position of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church that the presence of multiple jurisdictions in this country is not uncanonical and the Mother Church desires to maintain its jurisdictional presence in this country to provide pastoral care for her children. Support was received for this position from the Russian Church and ROCOR. Break-out sessions were held to obtain the Members’ feedback. There was a general sense that there was no consensus on the proposed model at this time, but that the model was a good starting point for further discussion and development.

The Assembly Chairman, Archbishop Demetrios, noted that this Committee has worked very hard already, and encouraged them to take the comments presented to move forward on revising the model and working towards a consensus.

A letter was sent in January 2014 by Archbishop Nicolae to the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate, ROCOR and the Bulgarian Church asking for specific proposals to remove whatever canonical anomalies exist. In response, in mid-February 2014, the Bulgarian Church, while maintaining her original positions, suggested that the Mother Churches receive an ecclesiastical province under their jurisdiction within a defined territory. As well, they would be able to have stavropigial churches outside that territory. The Moscow Patriarchate requested more time to consider her response. A letter was transmitted in January 2014 by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) which expressed the belief that the present multiplicity of jurisdictions was not uncanonical and that continued ties to the Mother Churches were appropriate to care for their faithful. It stated further that a real canonical problem/ anomaly is the multiplicity of pastoral practices in the USA.

A meeting was held under the auspices of the Assembly Chairman, Archbishop Demetrios, on June 10 at the Greek Archdiocesan headquarters in New York City to discuss among the hierarchs representing the above jurisdictions and the Chairman of the Planning Committee possible ways to achieve consensus. The meeting basically confirmed the previously expressed positions of the jurisdictions.

At the upcoming Assembly V in Dallas, the Committee will conduct a discussion of two proposals – which are significantly different in terms of content and timeframe - for responding to the Chambesy mandate “to organize all the Orthodox faithful of every jurisdiction in the Region on a canonical basis.” Descriptions of these proposals are to be distributed to all bishops about two weeks before the Dallas Assembly to enable advance reading and reflection. Hopefully, the Assembly will be able to consider and come to a decision by the close of the Dallas meeting (or within a short time thereafter) on proposed plan principles to be presented to the pre-Conciliar Committee for the 2016 Great and Holy Council.

These principles would be designed to attract reactions and comments from the various Mother Churches – which will serve as valuable guidance for our Assembly’s efforts in 2015 to present a final proposal to the Great and Holy Council in accordance with Chambesy.

In Christ,
Archbishop Nicolae, Chairman
Committee for Canonical Regional Planning