النشرة الأسبوعية .:. إعلان وظيفة .:. دورة تدريبية لمعلمي وإداريي مدارسنا السريانية بحلب .:. النشرة الأسبوعية .:. قداس عيد انتقال السيدة العذراء في كسب .:. افتتاح مبادرة " سوا بترجع أحلا " في حلب .:. افتتاح حضانة سيدة السريان بحي السريان الجديد .:. قداس عيد انتقال السيدة العذراء في كنيسة سيدة السريان بحي السريان الجديد .:. " سوا بترجع أحلى "... بمشاركة متطوعين من كنيستنا السريانية الأرثوذكسية بحلب .:. برنامج احتفالية عيد انتقال أمنا العذراء مريم إلى السماء .:.


The Concept of Jurisdiction and Authority in the Syrian Orthodox Church on Antioch

The Concept of Jurisdiction and Authority in the Syrian Orthodox Church on Antioch

Article by His Grace Mor Gregorios Johanna Ibrahim
Metropolitan of Aleppo and Environs The Rev. Fr. Monk Melki assisted with this translation

Part 1

Nobody in the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch (S.O.C.A.) has treated, in a separate study, the subject of jurisdiction and authority and how it is practiced today. An order may be issued concerning these two subjects from an authority in the church which is believed to be based on church canon law and its constitution, while the truth is something different. Going back to the sources of church canon laws gives a clear idea about the meaning of jurisdiction and how to practice authority in the church. Our church relies for its canon law on the following

1-The rules of the Old and New Testaments

2-The pseudo-apocryphal canons of the Apostles including the canons of some local and regional synods

3-The decisions of the three Ecumenical Councils which were held in Nicea (325 AD), Constantinople (381 AD) and Ephesus (431 AD)

4-The canons quoted from the letters of some famous church fathers who lived in the early centuries of Christianity and other canons prescribed by some church fathers as responses to questions they were asked

5-Also, the canons of the universal synods which are recognized by the S.O.C.A. after the event of the schism in the year 518 AD, which include decrees and canons enacted by patriarchs on different subjects

Fortunately a large number of these canons are preserved for us in the Syriac language in manuscripts scattered here and there. The Catholicos of the East, Mar Gregorius Ibn Al-Ibri (Bar Hebraeus, 1286) summarized them in his book known as Nomocanon which is the book the church still depends on and considers one of her most important canonical sources. After the time of Bar Hebraeus there were many efforts and numerous legal opinions, but the church had no occasion to enact a constitution, in which to define jurisdiction and how to practice authority, that was because of the difficult circumstances which the church passed through after the thirteenth century

The time of Hulagu (1217 – 1265) was the beginning of the destruction in the Syrian Orthodox archdioceses. Firstly, jurisdiction was significantly changed in its geographical form. For example, many important archdioceses were removed from the church map, other small archdioceses were newly formed, and authority was on many occasions connected to the power of personality of church authorities and how close they were to political power

I don’t want to enter into the details of what happened in the distant past (between the 6th and 18th centuries) so as to show how authority was practiced by the Patriarch to the extent of his jurisdiction and the scope of its effectiveness and his authority within the borders and jurisdiction of the Catholicos, because this subject needs separate research. But after World War I there were many developments forced on the church by political and security circumstances. These were the reasons for the changes of jurisdiction and geographical boundaries many times. The jurisdiction of the Patriarch, which had been limited to a number of Middle Eastern countries and India, was expanded because of the emigration of a large number of church members to the whole world, specifically to every Syrian Orthodox Church which was established on any of the five continents

The book Nomocanon, in which Bar Hebraeus treated the church, her sacraments and her feasts in the first 8 chapters, is not sufficient to clarify the meaning of jurisdiction and to describe how to practice authority in the church. Due to that a number of synods were held in this century, most importantly: the Synod of Alway in Kerala, India in August 1911 which issued 39 articles, and the Synod of St. Matthew Monastery (Iraq, 1930) which put in place regulations and some articles. But, more important than these two was the Synod of Homs which was held in February 1933 and set out a complete constitution for the church clarifying the jurisdiction of the Patriarch and the metropolitans and explaining how authority should be practiced by the Holy Synod, the Patriarch, the metropolitans and the bishops and what the place of the authority of laity is through the general board of trustees (which does not exist today) and the special board of trustees for each archdiocese. It has special bi-laws which the synod has decreed and the Patriarch has authenticated

There is another point that we will not elaborate on here which is the role of laity in our church (which needs separate research) and its authority which fluctuates from time to time and from Patriarch to Patriarch and from metropolitan to metropolitan

The articles of the Synod of Homs in the year 1933 became the basis for what is known today as the Church Constitution. In spite of this brief time many amendments have been made to this constitution by several synods which were held after that date. The last one was the Synod of Damascus in 1991 presided over by Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. We will rely on this updated constitution in our paper on the meaning of jurisdiction and how to practice authority in the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch these days

(A) (1) The Synod and Its Jurisdiction The Holy Synod is composed of all of the metropolitans and bishops of the archdioceses which come under the Apostolic See of Antioch in the countries of the Middle East, India and the diaspora in addition to the metropolitans who are patriarchal vicars, and the patriarchal assistant in Damascus. The head of the Synod is the Patriarch. From this point the extent of the jurisdiction of the Synod will become clear. Its authority spreads to the extent of the authority of the Patriarch, the metropolitans and the bishops. These decisions are taken whenever two-thirds of the metropolitans meet and the decisions are taken unanimously

(2) The Jurisdiction of the Patriarch The first article from the general rules in the church constitution says that: The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch is One, Universal, Holy and Apostolic Church. The old patriarchal headquarters was in Antioch where its See was founded by St. Peter, Head of the Apostles in the year 37 AD and its present headquarters (after 1959) is Damascus, the capital of Syria. The second article says: His Holiness the Patriarch is the supreme head over the church and its Holy Synod

In article 7 we read about the title of the Patriarch: His Holiness Mor Ignatius … Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church

It is clear from these articles that the jurisdiction of the Patriarch is like the jurisdiction of the Holy Synod: he is the supreme head over the church wherever her sons and daughters are spread, he has the right to be preeminent in the archdioceses that have legal metropolitans and his jurisdiction includes all of the churches whether they are independent or are patriarchal vicariates

Article 5 of the constitution says: The churches and the institutions and the Evangelistic Associations that are not included in the Syrian archdioceses mentioned in article 4, are administered directly by His Holiness the Patriarch. Since the Patriarch is the symbol of unity of the church and the universal father of all Syrians in the world, so it is necessary he be obeyed by the clergy at all levels and ranks, the deacons, the institutions, the active committees and the people altogether

(3) The Jurisdiction of the Catholicos The Catholicos (Maphryono) comes second to the Patriarch in rank in the S.O.C.A. and the Catholicos is elected from only those metropolitans who are under the See of the Catholicate, and he should be obeyed by the priests and deacons and the people in the Syrian Orthodox archdioceses in India. And just as the name of the Patriarch is mentioned in all the archdioceses in the world so the name of the Catholicos should be mentioned in all the archdioceses in India after the name of the Patriarch and before the name of the metropolitan of the archdiocese. According to article 20 of the constitution, the jurisdiction of the Catholicos of the East includes all the Syrian Orthodox archdioceses in India. The Syrian Indian diaspora in the Arabian Gulf area comes directly under His Holiness the Patriarch. And the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America also comes directly under the Patriarch

The subject of the Catholicate in India has undergone developments recently. Several synods have been held in the patriarchal residence and in India to resolve the causes of the differences and to return to the unity which had tied together the churches throughout India and the Antiochian See. This is another sensitive subject in need of separate research. Great efforts have been made these days for the sake of coming to an agreement between the two factions, by preparing a draft agreement in which we hope will be defined the jurisdiction of the Catholicate and its authority in light of recent developments, throughout this we have had new information on these two topics

(4) The Jurisdiction of the Metropolitan The Holy Synod consists of all of the active metropolitans. An active metropolitan is one who has an independent archdiocese which has its own entity and geographical boundaries, or is a vicar or a patriarchal assistant. The jurisdiction of each metropolitan is defined by the church constitution. The geographical boundaries of the archdiocese could include a whole city or part of it, or a number of cities in a state, or many states in one country, or many countries in one continent

The scope of the geographical area does not necessarily determine the importance of the archdiocese. The boundaries of an archdiocese could be a whole continent as in the situation of Australia but its importance is less than other archdioceses which consist of one city in the Orient. Importance is usually given to the presence of the number of Syrian people, its active institutions and committees and different activities in the archdiocese

According to the constitution (1991) we have 20 independent archdioceses or patriarchal vicariates. After 1991 the Holy Synod decided to form four archdioceses as patriarchal vicariates. These are all the archdioceses

1: Damascus, the Patriarchate, its headquarters in Damascus includes the governorate of Damascus and its environs.
2: Homs and Hama and its environs, its headquarters is in Homs, includes the governorate of Homs, Hama and Tartus.
3: Aleppo, its headquarters is in Aleppo, includes the governorates of Aleppo, Idlib, Raqqa, and Latakia.
4: Jezirah and Euphrates, its headquarters is in Hassake, includes the governorates of Hassake and Deir Ez-Zor.
5: Beirut and Zahle, its headquarters is in Beirut, includes the governorates of Beirut and Bekaa.
6: Mount Lebanon, its headquarters is in Bouchrieh, includes the governorates of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli.
7: Baghdad and Basra, its headquarters is in Baghdad, includes the governorates of Baghdad and Basra.
8: Mosul and its environs, its headquarters is in Mosul, includes the cities of Mosul, Sinjar and Qaraqosh and the northern governorates of Irbil, Tamim (that is Karkuk) and Suleimaneye.
9: St. Matthew Monastery, its headquarters is in St. Matthew Monastery, includes Bartilla, Bashika, Bahsahne, Akra and Mergi.
10: Mardin and its environs, its headquarters is in Mardin, includes the villages of Mardin and Qelleth and the governorates of Diyarbakir (Amid), Malateya, Adiaman and Al-Aziz.
11: Turabdin, its headquarters is in Midyat, includes the villages of Turabdin, Beit Zebde, Nusaybis and its villages.
12: Istanbul, it is a Patriarchal Vicariate with its headquarters in Istanbul, includes the governorates of Istanbul and Ankara.
13: Jerusalem and its environs, it is a Patriarchal Vicariate with its headquarters in Jerusalem, includes Palestine and Jordan.
14: The eastern states of the United States, it is a Patriarchal Vicariate with its headquarters in Lodi, New Jersey, includes the eastern states of the United States.
15: The western states of the United States, it is a Patriarchal Vicariate with its headquarters in Los Angeles, includes the western states of the United States.
16: Canada, it is a Patriarchal Vicariate with its headquarters in Montreal.
17: Brazil, it is a Patriarchal Vicariate with its headquarters in Sao Paulo, includes Brazil.
18: Argentina, it is a Patriarchal Vicariate with its headquarters in La Palata, Buenos Aires, includes Argentina.
19: Sweden and the Scandinavian countries has its headquarters in S"dertälje, Sweden.
20: The Patriarchal Vicariate in Sweden has its headquarters in S"dertälje, Sweden.
21: Middle Europe and the Benelux countries, its headquarters is in the St. Ephrem Monastery in Losser, Holland, includes Middle Europe and the Benelux countries.
22: The Knanaya, its headquarters is in Chingavanom, Kerala, includes all the churches of the Knanaya in India.
23: The Churches of the See (Simhasana churches) and its headquarters is in the monastery of St. Ignatius in Omalloor.
24: As for the Catholicate of the East, the constitution has delimited its jurisdiction and authority with the following words: The Catholicate of the East, its headquarters being in Muvattupuzha, includes all the Syrian Orthodox Archdioceses in India except the archdiocese of the Knanaya, the churches of the Patriarchal See and the Evangelistic Associations of the East in India and the Honavar Mission in North Kanara, India.

It is not possible to add a new geographical area to or remove another from the archdioceses except by a decree from the Holy Synod and by authorization of the Patriarch. For example, our churches in Australia were included under article 5 of the constitution which orders that its administration goes back directly to His Holiness the Patriarch, despite the presence of a metropolitan in it who oversees its affairs as a patriarchal delegate. When it was necessary to make the archdiocese a patriarchal vicariate the Synod studied the request of the clergy, the organizations and the people in these churches. Then the Patriarch issued a decree joining it as a patriarchal vicariate to the list of archdioceses of the Patriarchal See