COMMENT BY METROPOLITAN SOTIRIOS OF PISIDIA REGARDING THE CELEBRATION OF THE DIVINE LITURGY AT BELEK BY A RUSSIAN PRIEST WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE RUSSIAN CONSULATE IN ANTALYA

The Orthodox Church from the outset operates on the basis of the Holy Canons, which have been established by the Holy Apostles and the God-inspired Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Councils. Obedience and observance of the Holy Canons of the Holy Orthodox Church by all Orthodox Christians, both clergy and lay men is obligatory.

According to the Sacred Canons, Bishops and priests should not dare to go from their own Province to another and to officiate Church services in cities that do not belong to them. If it is proven that some priest did just that, he should be unfrocked. (35th Canon of the Holy Apostles, 3rd Canon of the Synod of Sardica that was ratified by the 2nd Canon of the 6th Ecumenical Synod, etc.)

In order to fully understand how important the Church considers this issue, namely that a clergyman should not go to another province and celebrate the Sacraments without the permission of the local Bishop, suffice it to say that even the Ecumenical Patriarch does not go outside Constantinople to another Metropolis, even if that Metropolis belongs to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, without the consent or invitation of the local Metropolitan!

From this example alone, every reasonable person understands how severe a misconduct is when a priest from another Patriarchate (in this case the Russian) dares to celebrate the Holy Sacraments in Belek, which belongs to the jurisdiction of Antalya (Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) without having requested the canonical permission of the local Metropolitan.

All these years, we gladly gave permission to all the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate, who contacted us, in order to celebrated the Divine Liturgy in our churches in Antalya and Alanya.

Likewise, the Russian priest, who wishes to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on December 22nd in Belek, should have contacted us and asked us, as he is obliged, to do so. As it seems, however, he does have such an inclination. Furthermore, because he feels he does not have the power to commit this uncanonical act on his own, he has asked for the support of the Russian Consulate of Antalya, if, of course, the online announcement is accurate.

In case this incident truly happened, it makes that Russian priest a transgressor of another holy Canon, that is, the 30th Canon of the Holy Apostles, which declares: “If a bishop (including the priests) uses secular rulers (politicians, statesmen, etc.) to occupy a church (in order to officiate services in it) he should be unfrocked and excommunicated as well as those who will be in touch with him.”

We are reminding all these in order to protect any priest from falling into the great error of performing the Divine Liturgy in the limits of our Eparchy, thus despising the local Metropolitan and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in violation of the decisions of the Holy Apostles and of all the Holy and God-inspired Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils of our Holy Church.

Our Orthodox Christians in Antalya and in the surrounding areas have access to a consecrated church and a canonical priest, where they have been attending church for all these years. Let no one try to break their ecclesiastical unity and cause a schism, because on the day of Judgement their responsibility will be huge.

St. John Chrysostom said: "Not even the blood of martyrdom can wash away the sin of schism in the Church" (11th homily, on the Letter to the Ephesians).

Particularly on this Christmas period, during which we expect to hear the Angelic Hymn "Glory to God in the Highest; on earth peace, and good will to men”, there is an absolute need for this peace. Let, therefore, no one dare to disrupt it by actions contrary to God's will, by using the Holy Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which is the Sacrament par excellence of Love, Peace and Reconciliation among the faithful and with Christ. Let them not use it as a weapon of lethal injury to the unity of our faithful and of the Church.

May God prevent such a devastating crime against the Holy Body of the Church of Christ.

+Metropolitan Sotirios of Pisidia


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