→Territorial Jurisdiction According to Orthodox Canon Law. The Phenomenon of Ethnophyletism in Recent Years
By a decision (Canon 28) which is of universal status and validity, the 4th Ecumenical Synod confirmed a long tradition and action of the Church as regards the canonical jurisdiction and the territory of the Ecumenical Throne. The geographical extent of its own ground was extended to the then administrations of the Roman Empire in Pontus, Asia and Thrace, as well as to the “barbarian” lands, i. e. those which were outside the boundaries of the then Roman Empire: “... only the metropolitans of the Pontic, Asian and Thracian dioceses shall be ordained by the aforesaid Most Holy Throne of the Most Holy Church of Constantinople and likewise the bishops of the aforesaid dioceses which are situated in barbarian lands...”.
The adjective “barbarian” defines the noun “nations”, which is omitted from the text of the canon, but which is to be inferred, as Zonaras interprets it. Barbarian nations or countries are, as has been said, those provinces which lay beyond the Roman Empire at the time of the 4th Ecumenical Synod: “While it called bishoprics of the barbarians those of Alania, Russia and others”. The other barbarian lands, apart from Alania and Russia, are, in general, “the Barbarians”, according to the interpretation of Aristenos of Canon 28: “... the (bishops ) of Pontus and Thrace and Asia, as well as the Barbarians, are consecrated by the Patriarch of Constantinople...”.
According to the “Notitiae episcopatuum” (Συνταγμάτιον) bearing the name of Emperor Leo the Wise (886-912), but actually dating more or less to the llth century, the eparchies of South Italy, i. e. Calabria and Sicily, are also under' the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople. Besides, according to the “Exposition” of Emperor Andronikos II Palaeologos (1282-1328), which was generally valid until the 19th century, these eparchies were subject to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. With the passage of time, however, this dependence in fact weakened away because of the propinquity of these provinces to Rome and because of the impossibility of Constantinople maintaining communications with them, situated as it was within the Ottoman Empire.
“Let no bishop dare to go from one province to another and ordain anyone in church... unless invited to come by letter from the metropolitan and other bishops of the territory into which he is going. Should anyone so go without invitation and irregularly ordain someone in violation of the order of the things in the church... anything performed by him is invalid. He himself shall incur a suitable punishment for his irregular behaviour and his unreasonable enterprise, having already been deposed from office by the holy Synod” (Canon 13 of the Synod in Antioch).
Thus, according to Orthodox canonical teaching and ecclesiology, “each of the patriarchs should be content with his own privileges and not seize any of those of another eparchy, since from the beginning it is not under his hand. For this is conceit in secular power...”.
'''This canonical order of the Church, based on ecclesiological dogmatic conditions''', i.e. on ţhe teaching concerning the Church, its structures, its bishops, its work, its jurisdiction and so on '''is its official and unshakable position. It is based on Holy Scripture, the sacred canons and the decisions of Ecumenical Synods, which''', as expressions of the infallibility of the Church, '''are obligatory for all the local Orthodox Churches'''. Besides, the Orthodox Catholic Church, despite its administrative decentralization is still, one, with common faith and dogma. The same sacraments sanctify within it, the same synodical canons regulate matters of its life and order within it.
The Church was revealed by God to the world through Jesus Christ for the salvation of all people and of the world itself, regardless of race,and not to serve political or personal ambitions or other secular pursuits and opportunistic goals. The Church is not Russian or Greek, Serbian or Rumanian and so on, but the Orthodox Catholic Church in Greece, in Russia, in Serbia, in Rumania and so on. The boundaries of the local Churches are geographical and were defined not with national and racial criteria, but with administrative ones, following, in general, the civil administrative divisions of the Roman Empire (Saint Photios), in order to provide the best pastoral care for the people of God, irrespective of race, to bring them to salvation in Christ.
[[Ethnophyletism]] is a phenomenon which arose at the end of the 18th and the 19th centuries, a product of the Enlightenment and the French revolution. It was the new political theory, on the basis of which were created the nation states of Europe, and, in particular, those of the Balkan peninsula. This theory is, alas, still being applied in the Balkans today, with its familiar disastrous consequences on the lives of the people of the region and on peace.
The idea of “the nation” in the historical sources, in the lives of ordinary people and in the formation of states before the 18th century, i.e. before the French revolution, did not have the ethnophyletic meaning which is attributed to it today. In antiquity and until the 18th/19th centuries, “the nation” was defined by religion and culture, not by race. This was the politico-religious theory of the Persians, of the Ancient Greeks, of the pagan Romans and also of the Christian Romans (Byzantines), as well as of the Jews (as it still is to this day), and of the Muslims. When the latter, Arabs first and then later the Ottomans, conquered Roman (“Byzantine”) countries and territories, they applied an administration “by nations” (millet), i. e. by religious communities, not by race. The religious leaders of the communities within the Muslim states were also ethnarchs of these communities. So the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople was also the ethnarch of the Orthodox Christian “nation” within the Ottoman Empire, irrespective of race or language, as were the other patriarchs, metro-politans and other bishops locally. The Sultan/Caliph was the ethnarch of the Muslims, irrespective of the particular race, and so on. The ideas of the French revolution (1789) and of the Enlightenment created, as has been said, a new political theory, which ignored religion or culture as elements shaping communities and administrative units. States were now formed according to this dominant theory, on the basis of ethnophyletic criteria — either those already in existence or, mainly, those invented by means of politics or propaganda — with all the melancholy consequences we know today (ethnic cleansing and so on). Of course, for Christ and His Church, “there is neither Jew nor Greek... for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3, 28).
In brief, these general principles are as follows:
:“... in the Christian Church, a society which is spiritual and charged by its Head and Founder to include all nations in one Christian brotherhood, phyletism is foreign and completely unthinkable. And, indeed, phyletism, i. e. the formation of special national Churches in the same place, which accept all those of the same race, but exclude all those of other races and which are administered solely by those of the same race, are unheard of and unprecedented , though they are what the adherents of phyletism aspire to.”