It is often asserted that Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis invented the idea that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has authority to extend its jurisdiction beyond its traditional boundaries into the so-called “diaspora.” This is the Patriarchate’s current interpretation of Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, which Meletios used in 1921-22 in order to justify his establishment of the Greek Archdiocese. He has received much criticism for this supposed invention.
Yet in 1908, when Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III (r. 1878-84, 1901-1912) issued a tomos transferring the Greek churches in America temporarily from his own jurisdiction to the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece, he wrote:
For, it is obvious that neither the Holy Church of Greece, having been granted by our Patriarchate the status of autocephality within strictly defined jurisdictional boundaries, nor any other Church or Patriarchate, could canonically extend its authority beyond the boundaries of its defined jurisdiction except our Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne; this both by virtue of the privilege accorded to it to ordain bishops in the barbarian lands which are beyond the defined limits of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and by virtue of its seniority to extend its ultimate protection to the said Churches in foreign territories.[*]
This is the same Patriarch Joachim who is supposed to have refused to send a Greek bishop to America because he recognized Russian authority there. The tomos was entitled “Concerning the Grant to the Most Holy Church of Greece of the privilege of canonical sovereign jurisdiction for the spiritual protection and supervision of all the Orthodox Greeks in the diaspora in Europe, America and other countries, excepting only the Orthodox Greek Church of Venice.”
Commentary: Posting this source should not be construed as agreement with its contents and/or canonical interpretations. This is simply meant to illumine the discussion on these two points:
- Whether Meletios Metaxakis invented this idea about the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1921-22.
- Whether Joachim really believed that America belonged to the Russians and not to himself.
[*]“O Patriarchikos kai Synodikos Tomos,” Ekklesiastike Alletheia 3 (1908): 183. Referenced in FitzGerald, Thomas E. The Orthodox Church. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1995, p. 134, note 13.
Also quoted in Trempelas, Panagiotis. The Autocephaly of the Metropolia in America. Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross School of Theology Press, 1974, pp. 25-26.