Volos Academy for Theological Studies Summer School for clergy and lay theologians of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine
and visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate
June 30-July 14, 2019
From June 30 to July 14, 2019, the Volos Academy for Theological Studies carried out a training program (Summer School) of clergy and lay theologians of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the establishment of which marks a new era in the modern history of the country, and of global Orthodoxy. The decision of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the I and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, led to the treatment of a schism that prevented millions of believers from their communion to the ecumenical Orthodoxy. The long-standing ecclesiastical anomaly and the implied isolation for decades have created conditions that make clear the need for the clergy and theologians of the new Church to be trained.
Based on its many years of experience in organizing successful conferences and training programs of high academic quality and international recognition, the Volos Academy for Theological Studies responded to the challenge and undertook the training of a group of 15 clergy and lay theologians, professors and students, from the Theological Academies of Kiev and Volyn, as well as from the Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University. The provided educational program covered a wide range of theological, canonical and pastoral issues, while it included a number of substantial further activities.
The official reception of the clergy and lay theologians from the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine took place in Volos on June 30, 2019, at an event that was welcomed by His Eminence the Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias, the new elected Bishop of Olvia Epiphanios (Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine), the Director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, and from the side of the guests, by the Dean of the Volyn Theological Academy Rev. Dr. Volodymyr Vakin. Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, the Director of the Volos Academy welcomed the participants of the Summer School, insisting on the importance of theological education for the new established Church, and the overcoming of the effects of the schism, underlining the readiness of the Volos Academy to plan and to realize this demanding program (to read the full text of his Address click here). Metropolitan Ignatius highlighted the ecclesial and spiritual importance of the project, and its relevance for the future of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, while the Bishop of Olvia Epiphanius (newly elected auxiliary bishop for the Greek-speaking flock of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine) congratulated the Volos Academy for undertaking this initiative that substantially support the new Church in its first steps. On behalf of the Ukrainian participants, Rev. Dr. Vladimir Vakin said that: “We firmly remember and realize that we received the light of Christ’s faith from our Mother-Church – the Constantinople's throne. Thus, through this program, as well as the study of the Greek language, we return to the not distorted and original sources of the Church Fathers heritage” (to read the full text of the Address click here). Fr. Cyril Hovorun, Assistant Professor of the Loyola Marymount University, and Director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute in California, who taught in the Summer School, addressed also the audience highlighting the importance of the training program for the overcoming of the ecclesial and theological isolation of a great part of the Ukrainian Orthodox.
Lecturers and topics of the Summer School included (in the order of the program):
Rev. Dr. Cyril Hovorun (Mary Mount California University), Director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute, Post-Ecclesiology and the Scaffolds of the Church
Prof. Christos Karakolis (Athens University), Member of the Board of Directors of Volos Academy, Orthodox Biblical Hermeneutics
Dr. Nikolaos Asproulis (Deputy Director, Volos Academy), Lecturer at the Hellenic Open University, a) Fundamental Ecclesial Theology: Florovsky and Zizioulas in Dialogue; b) Hermeneutics and Orthodox Theology. An Introduction
Rev. Dr. Amphilochios Miltos (Academic Associate, Volos Academy), Synodality, and its Importance for the Church in East and West
Prof. Petros Vassiliadis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), President of CEMES, a) Orthodox Mission and Witness; b) Orthodoxy and Liturgical Renewal
Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis (Director, Volos Academy), Member of the Executive Committee of the European Academy of Religion, a) New Developments and Current Trends in Orthodox Theology; b) Orthodoxy and Modernity; c) Orthodoxy and Nationalism
Prof. Paul Gavrilyuk (University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, USA), President of IOTA, a) Twentieth-Century Neopatristic Theologies: Florovsky and His Followers; b) The Correspondence between Florovsky and Schmemann: Lessons for Contemporary Orthodox Leadership
Prof. Aikaterini Tsalampouni (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Member of the Board of Directors of Volos Academy, The Role of Women in the Church
H.E. Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias (Volos), Presentation of the Pastoral and Youth activities of the Diocese of Demetrias
Rev. Dr. Grigorios Papathomas (Athens University and St Sergius Institute), Member of the Board of Directors of Volos Academy, a) The Role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Inter-Orthodox Relations, the Church of Greece, and the European Union; b) Autocephalus Church, Synodality, and Canon Law Prescriptions
Mr. Georgios Vlantis, MTh (Director, Council of Christian Churches in Bavaria; Academic Associate, Volos Academy), a) Roman Catholic and Protestant Theology in 20th Century; b) Ecumenical Theology; Ecumenical Movement; The Dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Churches, and the other Religions
In addition, the participants joined a program of accelerated learning of the Modern Greek language (taught by Dr Gregorios Stournara) and participated in other additional activities, listed below chronologically:
- Visit to the church of Evangelistria in Nea Ionia, Volos, where it was possible to familiarize themselves with the organization and operation of a modern parish
- Visit to St. Demetrius, St. Sophia, and St. Gregory Palamas churches, and of Galerius Palace (Thessaloniki); Visit to the Vlatadon Monastery, and the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies
- Lecture by His Eminence, the Metropolitan of Pergamon John D. Zizioulas on the topic: “The Task of Orthodox Theology Today”
- Visit to the Byzantine Museum of Makrinitsa
- Visit to Meteora Monasteries
- Visit to Anatoli Monastery (Timios Prodromos), Aghia
- Visit to the Evangelical church of Volos where they were received by its Pastor the Rev. Meletis Meletiadis
- Visit to the Jewish Synagogue and the Jewish community of Volos.
The program reached its climax with a visit of the group to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Phanar. The participants were accompanied by the Director of the Volos Academy, Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, members of its staff, the President of the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA) Professor Paul Gavrilyuk, the Director of the Council of Christian Churches in Bavaria Mr. Georgios Vlantis, and members of the staff of the Volos Academy.
Among other things, the group had the opportunity to visit Agia Eirini and Hagia Sophia, the Chora Monastery and the Blue Mosque. Moreover, at the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi Balouklis, the group had the chance to venerate the graves of the late Ecumenical Patriarchs. On July 13, the participants visited the Halki island, the Holy Trinity Monastery and the Theological School, where they were received with great cordiality by the new Abbot, Bishop of Erythres Kyrillos and his brotherhood, while they were guided in the surrounding era. Addressing the guests, the Abbot spoke about the history and the overall contribution of the Halki Theological School while he referred to the problem of its decades-long closure, expressing his wish about the future and the prospects for further cooperation with the Theological Academies of Ukraine. Welcoming the work of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Bishop Kyrillos highlighted the challenges posed by the modern world to Orthodox theology, emphasizing the diverse ecumenical contribution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its ministry for pan-Orthodox unity. Archbishop of Anthidon Nektarios, Exarch in Constantinople of the Holy Sepulcher (Patriarchate of Jerusalem) was also present at the meeting. On his part he also cordially addressed the group from Volos and the new Autocephalous Church of Ukraine, underlining the special ties of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to the Church of Constantinople and the Theological School of Halki.
On Sunday, July 14, the group, led by the Metropolitan of Demetrias, Ignatios, visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate and participated in the Divine Liturgy, presided by His-All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the I.
Addressing His All-Holiness, Metropolitan of Demetrias, Ignatios, said the following: “Your All-Holiness, as you know the Volos Academy for Theological Studies functions for the last twenty years as an affiliated to our local Church, the Metropolis of Demetrias and Almyros. Within the framework of the Volos Academy, various opportunities for inter-Orthodox, cross-cultural and often inter-religious encounter and dialogue have been provided.
After your great and so important decision to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Ukrainian people, following your canonical right, we submitted to the Board of Directors and the Director of the Academy the thought, to create the necessary conditions for an encounter with our brothers of the new Ukrainian Church Orthodox, firmly believing that this could substantiate further the unity of communion in the one Eucharist. Thus, a program was planned to address professors and students of theology of the Ecclesiastical and Theological Schools of Ukraine.
This overall effort was supported by the General Secretary of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Education in Greece, Dr. Georgios Kalantzis, who realized the importance of the project and succeeded, thanks to the briefing of the Minister, Dr. Gavroglou, to receive a subsidy that allowed us to realize this Summer School.
Since the very first moment we had decided to conclude this Summer School with a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to receive your blessing. Thus, after 15 days of intense theological courses and pastoral experiences, we stand before you being glad that our Ukrainian brothers will return to their homeland having received your Patriarchal blessing.
Your All-Holiness, we consider this effort a ministry for the unity of the Orthodox Church. Please make a wish for the success of this present effort, so as to be able to repeat similar actions for the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine in order to further strengthen our mutual ties.
Your All-Holiness, we do not want to praise you, but we want to assure you that in all of this you remain the true inspirer. And you know very well, at least in what concerns me personally, that this has been going on since my very young years. Once again, we thank you and please pray to always minister our Church and its unity.”
Addressing His-All Holiness, and after briefly describing the actions of the program, the Director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis stressed that:
“One of the main goals of the Summer School was to familiarize with the life of the local Church of Demetrias in Volos, and got information and impulses from the multi-faceted pastoral work of our diocese, under the inspired guidance of Metropolitan Ignatios. The Ukrainian brothers had also the opportunity to visit the Protestant church of Volos and the Jewish Synagogue.
As you know better than any other, the new Autocephalous Church carries in its body the wounds of a long schism. The majority of its believers have previously participated in a non-recognized ecclesial structure, cut from the world Orthodoxy, without the possibility of a meaningful spiritual exchange and pastoral care. The stigma of the schism hindered the osmosis with other traditions, while at the same time encouraging introverted behaviors.
We fully support the decision of Your All Holiness and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant Autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine, and admire your courage and clairvoyance for which history will give you reason. By this bold and historic decision, the Mother Church of Constantinople granted the Ukrainian people its ecclesiastical dignity, healing a schism that struck a whole country, prevented millions of faithful, clergy and theologians from an essential communion with the world Orthodoxy.
With this Summer School, and its contact with the new Church in Ukraine, the Volos Academy wishes to contribute to the astonishing process of resurrection of canonical ecclesial life in this beautiful but so wounded country, a country that wants to leave aside the tragic memories of its Soviet past, to strengthen its democratic structures, and to exist and blossom in peace with its neighbors, not under the thread of war and the tyranny of heteronomies of any kind.
The Summer School of the Volos Academy is an act of appreciation towards the wisdom and courage of the Church of Constantinople, which did not wish to let its Ukrainian children in isolation and condemnation for sins for which they themselves were not responsible. It is an act of respect and fraternal love to the canonical new Autocephalous Church of Ukraine; we are happy to get to know and embrace our Ukrainian brothers who because of the schism were almost invisible to us. It is also an expression of the spirit of the Academy, which promotes high level theological thinking, dialogical openness and faithfulness to the genuine and generous tradition of the Eastern Church.
Your All Holiness,
A summer school on Orthodox Theology for brothers from the newly-established Church in Ukraine could not find a better close or a more honorable peak than the visit to Constantinople and the audience you provide to us. In the long and fruitful years of your patriarchal diakonia you always taught genuine and liberating Orthodox spirit, namely fidelity to the authentic Tradition, but also dialogue, generosity, unity, and courage. The Ukrainian crisis was an opportunity to realize once again the value of these virtues, which mark the task and the vision of the Mother Church. We express our gratitude for your inspiration and love and ask for your precious blessing."
On behalf of His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, Epiphanius, and the Ukrainian institutions involved in the program, the Dean of the Volyn Academy, Rev. Vladymyr Vakin, warmly thanked His-All Holiness for his hospitality and blessing. In his brief address he pointed out that “the program was organized in such a competent, diverse and useful way that we were able to get acquainted with the wonderful and original world of Greek Orthodox theology. We were very much benefited from the lectures given by leading contemporary theologians, as for instance by his Eminence Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas, whose theological works are under translation into Ukrainian and enjoy an unexpected reception and popularity in our context. For most of us, the personal encounter with him was a real spiritual feast. Moreover, by visiting parish churches, monasteries, holy places and museums we were allowed to dive deeper into the Byzantine cultural tradition. It was also extremely valuable to take courses on Modern Greek, a fact that in the near future will familiarize us with the study of the original sources of the rich patristic heritage and the work of modern theologians.
It is extremely important that we were able to receive not only theoretical knowledge, but more importantly to feel the particular love, concern and hospitality by His Eminence the Metropolitan of Demetrias Ignatios, the Director Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis as well as by and the entire staff of the Volos Academy. This is a true witness of our unity in Christ.
On behalf of the devout and grateful Ukrainian people, accept, Your All-Holiness, our prayerful wishes for good health, encouragement, inspiration, strengthening grace of the Holy Spirit and God-given wisdom for your patriarchal service on the Constantinople's Throne.
Your name now and forever has entered into the history of our country and has an imprint in the depths of our bottom heart.”
In his own address His-All Holiness, stressed, among others, the following: “We are particularly pleased that this training program (Summer School), rich in teaching, lessons and other actions, concludes with a visit to Constantinople and the venerable Centre of Orthodoxy. In the person of its Director, Dr. Panteleimon (Pantelis) Kalaitzidis, we congratulate the Academy of Theological Studies of the Holy Metropolis of Demetrias for its contribution to theology, the promotion of the dialogue and the encounter of Orthodoxy with the modern world and its many remarkable programs. [...] Theology is always a ‘theology in dialogue,’ an effort to express the truths of faith in the language of a particular era. The theologian must have felt the pulse of his contemporaries, to theologize in an existential way as the “fishermen,” as St. Gregory the Theologian used to say, according to the model of the Apostles.” In another point of his speech, His-All Holiness stressed further that “It is obvious that the theological work is particularly demanding. Theologians must be always in dialogue and communication, interested in ‘people's concerns’, sensitized by the adventures of human freedom, and record, in addition to the challenges, the positive perspectives of the civilization of the time. As it has been said, “the genuine theologian cannot despise education, science, art, and philosophy that is the language of the spirit of every age. Whoever does not love education and culture, whoever does not have the desire to study, cannot really love theological study and the education according to Christ.” The standard for the Orthodox theologian is the great Fathers of the Church, who are not a magnitude of the past, but a permanent point of reference for ecclesiastical life and theology.”
“In this spirit, the Orthodox Theology offers in our age its divine and philanthropic witness to the great contemporary technological, economic, social, political, cultural, moral and religious challenges, and the associated threats to the sacredness and beauty of the human person. It opposes to the individuality, the community and the relationship, to collectivism and transformation of man into measurable size and substitute object, the freedom and uniqueness and absolute value of each human being. It underlines, against religious fundamentalism, the peace-making force and the peace mission of religion and the necessity of interreligious dialogue according to the principle: "No peace of cultures without the peace of religions. No peace of religions without a dialogue of religions.” For us Orthodox Christians, the dialogue and the struggle for the protection of the human rights is a task that derives from the core of our faith. With impressive clarity, our blessed spiritual father, Metropolitan of Chalcedon Meliton, has expressed the importance of the Definition of Chalcedon for our philanthropic mission: “The Definition of Chalcedon constitutes a true ‘human rights charter’ because it unites God with humanity and ascribes humanity to the divine life’ (Chalcedonia, p. 211).”
After the Divine Liturgy, His All-Holiness received the group from Ukraine and Volos to a hearing and then invited them for lunch to the Patriarchal table.
The Summer School was implemented with the financial support of the General Secretariat for Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs and the Huffington Ecumenical Institute (California, USA).