Hello there, Fr. Joseph! This does pose a good question. I remember that you posted a very good article on the Internet years ago by Fr. Victor Melehov concerning HOCNA's dubious canonicity, particularly asking how HOCNA can claim to be autonomous without belonging to an autocephalous church. I thought at the time that you considered the subject of HOCNA’s self-appointed autonomy to be very problematic. How does this issue relate to your present circumstances?
Well, these are very good questions and may shed more insight into the historical thinking behind the Western Synod, but I don't think the HOCNA situation is totally applicable in the circumstances... I will see if I can help but the answers will probably not, in a quick post, be very satisfying.
First, let's touch upon the HOCNA matter, and why it became problematic. With the death of Archbishop Auxentios and the separation of Abp Maximos and Athanasios of Larisa, the HOCNA was in the unenviable position of having effectively three American diocesan Bishops (one reportedly made without Synodal permission, but I doubt that claim) widowed to elect a new Primate in Greece. Due to a dearth of candidates, the HOCNA (doing the best they could under their circumstances) declared Athens vacant and made Metr Makarios the locum tenens of the see. I believe that was in 1995 or 1996.
However, HOCNA's actions in 2001 which Fr Victor protested were that five years later, no mission work was done in Greece nor attempts to establish a first-hierarch, but without reason they dissolved the TOC of Greece
. (How true that is can be questioned, which I didn't consider. They did enter into negotiations with the Makarios Synod, and they are currently in negotiation with the Synod of Abp Kallinikos). Here we run into a question of motives. The HOCNA Bishops basically take the position that calling themselves the TOC of Greece was a legal fiction and that this would open the possibility for negotiation under another Synod. The reality is that both those things were true. Fr Victor's position was that because the TOC of Greece had become a legal fiction, they had a responsibility to make an Archbishop of Athens immediately, calling any other actions they took into question. Well, technically, that isn't true immediately after the fact but after five years the argument becomes valid. Giving themselves autonomy in that position lends credibility to his argument that this was grasping for power. Metr Moses' current position, however, seems to find balance between these two positions-- which is that after recognizing the validity of the TOC of Greece with Abp Kallinikos, it becomes a necessity to drop any pretense of independence until it is granted by the Synod of same. Of course, the TOC of Greece under Abp Kallinikos already has such a Synod in America, so it would simply be a matter of merging the two.
What autocephalous church is the Autonomous Metropolia of Milan a member of? If you are a self-governing part of an autocephalous church (according to your own ecclesiology), who is the chief hierarch of that autocephalous church?
First, the official name of the Church is "Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe and the Americas".
(Oh boy.... time for me to duck now before stuff gets thrown at me). Technically, both the sees of Lisbon (the previous primatial see) and Milan were fully autonomous national Churches, though for practical purposes those Churches were what we would call autocephalous today. The distinction between "autonomy" and "autocephaly" before the schism is considerably more blurry than today, and that ambiguity coupled with the unique situation of restoring old Western sees left the Autonomous Metropolia in the strange position of appealing to a Patriarchate because that confirmation normatively came from Rome (I say normatively because this isn't even formally true either; this developed largely in the last centuries before the schism and was not always used. In at least two cases I can remember, the Orthodox Bishop at the time of the schism in the West rejected the pallium.)
Thus, by the time of this writing, there were in fact three independent national jurisdictions in communion in the Western Synod: that of Milan, Spain, and Germany, America being under the care of Milan being the first see, particularly since Milan wavered between Metropolitan and Patriarchal status. In this regard, Metropolitan Evloghios' formal Tomos of autonomy raised the Americas (and, oddly, the British Isles) to an equal status as Milan. We were regarded not as a daughter Church, but as a sister Church. Abp Abundius' stated position was "they are now formally outside our jurisdiction").
Today's statement marks a decided change in the Synod's actions. Besides *retiring* everyone outside Italy in Europe (we are still investigating to see exactly how that occurred), the Bishops in Italy seem to be placing themselves under the MP in Moldova. This is the same volte-face we saw with the Portuguese Bishops in 1990, but the Synod remains, and we are therefore charged with the responsibility, however feasible, to restore a Metropolitanate in Milan. So one could in theory say that we are in the HOCNA's position of 1995, but we did not place ourselves in this position. The Bishops in Italy, through recent actions, have unfortunately done it for us.