Ecumenical Patriarch's Letter Accompanying the New Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Your Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America, most honorable Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, beloved brother and co-celebrant of our Modesty in the Holy Spirit; Grace be with Your Eminence and peace from God.
Filled with joy, we send to Your beloved Eminence, and through You to the whole body of Your Holy Archdiocese of America, the new Charter, which has been prepared through a long process in cooperation with the representatives of the Archdiocese of America and the respective Committee of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and was approved by our Modesty and our Holy and Sacred Synod, and by whose regulations the Archdiocese of America will be henceforth governed. This new Charter constitutes a decisive step toward progress over the charter, which has been in effect since 1977, and will serve the administrative needs of your Holy Archdiocese up until such time when emerging needs will demonstrate the benefits of its change for the progress in Jesus Christ of the Christ-loving whole body of the Archdiocese.
Experience, going back to ancient history, has proven that all changes made to existing systems are smoothly assimilated when they consist of prudent, reasonable and gradual changes. This holds true for living organisms, which have serious difficulties adjusting to radically different, new situations, as well as for social organisms, which suffer great calamities when they face revolutionary, radical and turmoil-causing restructurings of their existing institutions. Therefore, the Holy Mother Great Church of Christ, following the wisdom of the Holy Fathers, and greatly caring for the smooth development and progress of the Holy Archdiocese of America, listened to and considered with great love and attention all of the opinions expressed by all people on this matter. The Mother Church, however, with equal love and concern has chosen and adopted from the suggested proposals the ones that encourage a prudent, reasonable and gradual transformation of the existing laws and regulations. A primary aim in this task was the offering of the possibility to the whole body of the Archdiocese of a smooth ascension to the new steps, so that when the proper time comes and the adjustment to the new conditions is successfully achieved, the Mother Church will proceed to offer other possible changes, if the situation at that time shows that such changes are useful for a desirable further development and progress in Christ of the Holy Archdiocese of America.
One of the proven useful and beneficial changes was the elevation of the Dioceses under the Holy Archdiocese to Metropolises, which followed the elevation that happened some time ago, of the ministering Hierarchs of these Dioceses to Metropolitans. By the assignment of the administration of the Metropolises to Metropolitans, who are appointed to them and carry the name of their respective Metropolis on their title, the very Archdiocese of America in her entirety is being elevated since from now on she is no longer comprised of Dioceses but of Holy Metropolises, and since the Archbishop of America becomes President of a Synod of Metropolitans and not of Bishops, as was the case until now, while he continues to retain precedence (προβάδισμα) over the Metropolitans of the Archdiocese. This elevation was realized with the clear and unambiguous understanding that the unity and integrity of the Archdiocese will not be affected in the least and that she will continue her vital function unobstructed as the indivisible ecclesiastical organism in America, an organism that is provided with special responsibilities and functions, which are related to her characteristics described above. In fact, the unity of the Holy Archdiocese of America is primarily a spiritual reality that derives primarily from the sense of unity that the faithful feel for their brothers and sisters, for their shepherds and for the entire Church of Christ, rather than from legal ordinances. Thus, this unity is neither hindered by distance, nor by any administrative structure of institutions. Moreover, institutional unity, which is based solely on administrative regulations, is very superficial and fragile, in contrast to spiritual unity, which is based on the will, the unity of the spirit, and the mutual love of the faithful that renders it unfaltering and unshakeable.
The new Charter also offers advantages to the whole body of the Church of the Holy Archdiocese in the issue of the election of the Archbishop. This happens because, despite the steady long practice according to which the election of the Archbishop has been the exclusive privilege of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, this Charter more clearly reiterates the consultative participation of both the Eparchial Synod and the Archdiocesan Council in that process, in regards to the choice of candidates. The designation of particular qualifications for the Office of the Archbishop, pertaining to the knowledge by the candidate of the local conditions and situations, is considered an additional element of progress.
An expression of the remarkable confidence, honor and love of the Holy Mother Great Church of Christ for the whole body of the Holy Archdiocese of America, is the fact that the new Charter, by-passing established practices for the election of Metropolitans, hands to the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Holy Archdiocese of America the privilege to recommend, with the cooperation of the Archdiocesan Council, three candidates in the event of a vacancy of a Metropolitanate Seat, out of which the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will elect one.
Judging from the above and many other provisions of the new Charter of the Holy Archdiocese of America, it is evident that the new Charter invites the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese, two fundamental and essential factors of the Church, to participate in a continuous, harmonious and productive collaboration on all levels and activities of the Archdiocese within the parameters of the canonical tradition of our Holy Orthodox Church. It is only through concord and cooperation that all good goals and purposes of Church members reach success.
For this reason, and in good hopes, we are sending to You and to the faithful the text of the New Charter ratified by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for its immediate application. Along with it, we are sending the Patriarchal and Synodal Acts concerning the elevation of the Holy Dioceses of the Holy Archdiocese of America to Metropolises. We pray that you, and the clergy and laity around you, celebrate the new year of the Lord with joy, peace and divine blessing. We also pray that He bring to you and all humanity the full knowledge of God and His Logos and Savior of the world Jesus Christ, Who was sent by Him and was incarnated and born in a manger in Bethlehem, and that He establishes peace on earth and the enjoyment of divine benevolence by all people.
Finally, we bestow upon the whole body of the Holy Archdiocese of America our wholehearted paternal and Patriarchal blessing.
January 18, 2003
Patriarch of Constantinople
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Beloved brother in Christ