The following was published earlier today on the Facebook page of the Patriarchate of Antioch and the website of the Antiochian Archdiocese. We trust that the Holy Synod’s commitment “to examine the substantiality of the facts and listen to the parties concerned” includes communicating directly with the women involved (Orthodoxy in Dialogue has the names of two, in case the synodal committee needs them) and giving full weight to their testimony. We note that the Patriarch says nothing of Al-Zehlaoui’s status for the duration of the investigation or how long it is anticipated to last. We continue to call for the Metropolitan’s full suspension from all episcopal duties and the appointment of a locum tenens until the matter at hand is resolved. Al-Zehlaoui has already lost all spiritual and moral authority in the eyes of his flock and of the entire Orthodox Church.
It is gratifying to see Al-Zehlaoui summoned to the Patriarchate within two weeks of Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s initial reporting of what he had hoped to sweep under the carpet.
For context see the Metropolitan Joseph: The Scandal section in our Archives 2020-22 linked at the top of this page.
To our beloved in the Lord, the hierarchs, priests, deacons, and spiritual children of our Holy Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America,
During this difficult time that the Holy Archdiocese is facing, following the accusation that was put against the Metropolitan and the consequential turmoil, I feel it is my paternal duty to remain close to you as I mentioned in my previous letter. In the present letter, I wish to share with you some guidance that is based on the principles of the Church order that was handed over to us by the Holy Fathers, what characterizes our Orthodox Church.
I hereby put said guidance under two headings:
Firstly: The well-being and peace of the Archdiocese. When challenges face the Church at the level of the episcopacy, the believers come together in prayer, and they gather in support of each other as one body, both clergy and laity. This is to emphasize that the current crisis is neither between the church leadership and the faithful believers, nor between the Mother Church of Antioch and the Archdiocese. All the body of the Church of Antioch is concerned with this crisis. And redeeming this matter requires the protection of the well-being of the Archdiocese in order to preserve peace within the whole Church of Antioch. This is the vision guiding our action. We share it with you so that you be assured that the well-being of the Holy Antiochian Archdiocese of North America and her peace is the utmost priority superseding any other consideration. It is within the framework of this vision that we are liaising with you through the Bishops of the Archdiocese and the Board of Trustees, in consultation with the Metropolitans, members of the Holy Synod of Antioch.
Secondly: The procedural order to follow. When critical accusations are raised against the episcopacy resulting in a state of turmoil within the Archdiocese, the responsibility of addressing this matter falls within the hands of the Holy Synod. The Patriarch is responsible for convening the Holy Synod to examine the issue at hand, however not before conducting a thorough review of the facts, in order to examine the substantiality of the facts and listen to the parties concerned. If necessary, the Patriarch would appoint a synodal committee for this purpose, and the findings of the committee would then form the basic material to be seen by the Holy Synod.
We have informed you in the previous letter, that we were from day one and continue to be in direct contact with the people concerned in the Archdiocese, both clergy and laity. Within this procedural course, I shall also have a personal meeting with our brother, Metropolitan Joseph Zehlaoui, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese; and I shall then proceed to further proper steps following the procedural course described above. I hope that my words to you serve to bring unity in vision and prayer leading to the well-being of the Archdiocese and her peace, thus the well-being and peace of the whole Antiochian Church. This is what we pray and work for day and night. Do keep us in your prayers, as we keep you in our hearts and prayers.
Balamand, 4 September 2022.
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East