His Beatitude Patriarch John X

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East

Patriarchal Residence

Balamand

Koura

Lebanon

The Feast of St Nicholas of Myra

6 December 2023

Your Beatitude, the Patriarch, John of Antioch;

Bless!

Following the letter of Protopresbyter Matthew, I too wish to add a letter on similar matters as he has raised in his letter. 

We came together with thanksgiving into the diocese of Metropolitan Silouan in the UK as a stable place to continue as presbyters of the Holy Church for the good fight for the faith and to obtain the Holy Spirit to union with God along with the laity given to our care. We do this in unity with Metropolitan Silouan and with the great See of Sts Peter and Paul in Antioch of which you are now presently Bishop and Patriarch. We seek to be of one faith, one hope, under one Lord in one Church through one baptism all together with the same mind partaking of one Eucharist in one Spirit.

In recent times, questions have started to arise whether we are truly keeping to the Apostolic instruction on these points. Are we of one mind, in one Church, with one faith with one hope having been baptised with one baptism and partaking of one Eucharist? Are we keeping the Apostolic Tradition just as passed down to us from the Apostles by the Holy Fathers as affirmed in the definitions and canons of the Ecumenical Councils as guided by the Holy Spirit of Truth? The questions are even being raised in regard to the great Petrine Sees, the rocks of the Church, the stability of our communion and our Faith, just as St Peter confessed to the Lord. There are reasons to question whether the Great See of Constantinople, New Rome, having inherited the privileges of Rome, the first of the Petrine Sees, together with Alexandria and Antioch, has turned its way from the narrow path of the Fathers in proclaiming the council recently held in Crete as a Great and Holy Synod on par with the God-inspired Ecumenical Councils. We are aware, though, that the Great Patriarchate of Antioch did not participate in this council.

Given that, does the Patriarchate of Antioch receive the Synod of Crete in AD2016 as an Ecumenical Council as inspired by the Holy Spirit? If not, given that it claims to have such status that it is binding on all the faithful, is the Patriarchate of Antioch working to deny the council this status such as the Fathers fought against the councils of Ephesus in AD449, and Hiera in AD754 that claimed to be ecumenical councils? Also, if the Council of Crete is not received then what are the grounds of rejection, such as: was it only not properly constituted as an ecumenical council due to the lack of your presence or that of your legate; or was it that the council taught or ruled inconsistently with the Tradition of the Church as testified in the previous ecumenical councils?

Also, does the Patriarch of Antioch accept the right of the Patriarch of Constantinople to invoke an ecumenical council, which historically was the done in obedience to the authority of Emperor as civil ruler of the Empire and not according to the authority of any bishop even that of Rome?

On other matters of interest: I am unsure of the official position of the Patriarchate of Antioch with the non-Chalcedon communities in its territory. This issue is causing some scandal among the faithful here and some are tempted to join schismatics due to this. Does the Patriarchate of Antioch still affirm the decrees, condemnations and canons of the Fourth Ecumenical Council? Is it the case that the non-Chalcedon communities have officially signed documents anathematising those anathematised at Chalcedon such as Dioscorus and Severus according to Canon 95 of the Fifth-Sixth Council? Have the non-Chalcedon communities come under the bishops of the Patriarchate and repudiated their separated hierarchy consistent with Canon 8 of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea? There are some “agreements” written in Geneva in the early 1990s that seem to indicate dropping the anathemas and continuing in separated hierarchies while concelebrating. How are such agreements consistent with the ecumenical councils?

If there is some necessary economy for this, is the necessity of the economy limited to a certain region or does it apply to all regions such as in the UK and US?

Next, given the schism with Jerusalem due to the bishop in Qatar being a breach of the territorial jurisdiction of Antioch as Patriarch of the East, on what grounds is the Patriarchate of Antioch have bishops and dioceses in the West such as in the UK or in the USA? Is the Ecumencial Patriarchate unable to manage these regions? Is there a principle that because Old Rome fell into heresy that the West became the common territory of all without any territorial rule? 

Does the Church in Antioch still recognise Canon 95 of the Fifth-Sixth Ecumenical Council, which states that all heretics not named in the canon are to be received as Greeks, that is pagans, through baptism? Does the Patriarchate of Antioch accept the teaching of St Basil the Great when he states:

“Whence is it that we are Christians? Through our faith, would be the universal answer. And in what way are we saved? Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism. … Whether a man have departed this life without baptism, or have received a baptism lacking in some of the requirements of the tradition, his loss is equal.

(St Basil the Great On the Holy Spirit, Chapter 10) 

“In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the tradition of the divine knowledge the baptised may have their souls enlightened.” (Chapter 15)”?

Also, are the priests of the Patriarchate of Antioch required to obtain documents from those being received into the Church anathematising their heresy and all heresies including those condemned at Chalcedon from those coming into the Church as according to Canons 7 and 95 and Canon 8 of Nicaea: “ Above all, that it is fitting for them to confess to this in writing, to wit, that they will agree to and will adhere to the dogmas of the catholic and apostolic Church. …So that they may adhere to the dogmas of the catholic Church in everything. ?”

Is there a right of appeal in the Patriarchate without prejudice if one has contention with his bishop? Why has the Patriarchate of Antioch followed the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate last century to raise all bishops to the rank of metropolitan thus effectively denying the proper rights of metropolitans to ordain bishops in their provinces with the patriarch effectively taking the ordinations of all bishops by making them all metropolitans? 

“…It is arranged so that only the Metropolitans… shall be ordained by the most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople… each Metropolitan… together with the Bishops of the province, shall ordain the Bishops of the province, just as is prescribed by the divine Canons.” (Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council.)

This practice damages mission because it prevents establishing local synods in each nation to manage their own affairs in their own language while remaining in communion with and under guidance of the ancient patriarchs. It also forces the missions to be governed by bishops who are foreign to the local culture and unable to address local needs adequately because there is only the patriarchal synod and all bishops must speak in the local language of the Patriarch. Also, it also prevents local customs being established by a local synod in that nation, so mission becomes a conversion to an ethnic culture as much as to the Orthodox Faith. This is a scandal in places such as the UK and some people do not come into the Orthodox Church because they think that it is only an ethnic church for Greeks, Russians or Arabs.

In conclusion, how are we to be of one faith under one Lord, with one baptism, with one hope in one Church uniting around the one Petrine See in whose throne you sit, except we accept the same Ecumenical Councils and believe the same definitions of faith and condemn the same heresies and obey the same canons? How can the churches be united in many nations without this common confession and obedience? How can we be united to Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever, if we do not hold fast to the Apostolic Tradition passed down to us by the Fathers as testified by the God-breathed Holy Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers in one permanent and universal confession of the same Christ who is thus present in the Church? How can the Church become local to each place if it does not have a local synod of bishops but rather a confusion of bishops of different nations outside their canonical territories all divided from each other due to each one’s national customs?

A response will be much appreciated so that we may know if we are truly of the same mind and opinion as yourself and the bishops of the Patriarchate, that we are preaching the Gospel properly and not fighting nor running the good race in vain.

I look forward to your reply as one enthroned on the chair of Sts Peter and Paul, the Princes of the Apostles, the rock of the Faith and centre of communion of the churches.

Kissing your hand and asking for your holy prayers.

The unworthy presbyter in Christ,

Priest-monk Patrick (John) Ramsey.

St George’s Hermitage.

UK.