In 1998 I was told that The Autonomous Metropolia of Western Europe recently lost her bid to enter in communion with the Church of Georgia. Patr. Ilia had stated that he believed The Milan Synod to be the only canonical Old Calendar Church to have survived the various subsequent splintering of the GOC of Greece......
Since the Milan Synod has remained alone by necessity. Why? Because no other suitable jurisdiction or state (i.e., local) Orthodox Church was present. Either one was extreme in their Traditionalist observance or too excessive in their ecumenical and syncretic observances.
Father, the Milan Synod has tried to be accepted by many more other Churches
than simply Georgia. If you are a newcomer to Milan you may not be aware
of the complete history of its attempts to unite with 7 of the ancient Patriarchates,
both Old Calendar and New Calendar.
The information below was supplied by Fr Aidan (Keller) who was secretary to
the Milan Archbishop Hilarion (Williams) of Austin Texas
The following applications were made by the bishops of the Milan Synod to
major Patriarchates and Local Churches of Orthodoxy in the years after 1997
and up to about 2002 or 2003. My memory is shaky on exact chronology.1. Church of Constantinople
Milan's application to Constantinople occurred some years ago now.
Constantinople did a check on all of Milan's financial holdings, properties,
value of properties, and so forth. One bishop within that jurisdiction said
that the EP found insufficient "collateral" to make Milan of any interest to
them. During the negotiations one bishop, named Nektarios, went over to the
EP unilaterally. I don't know what became of him after that. If I recall,
the Vatican was very keen in protesting to the Phanar not to receive the
Milan Synod, but I don't think this protest was pivotal in the Phanar's
decision. After the negotiations fell through, Milan issued a strong
denunciation of the EP.2. Church of Russia
Milan's application to the Moscow Patriarchate occurred before that to
Constantinople since Milan preferred old-calendar jurisdictions. Many in the
MP were favourable but also many were unfavourable. Moscow finally offered
to receive the Milan bishops in rank, but not as ruling bishops. This was
found unacceptable to the Milan bishops. After these negotiations fell
through, one Milan bishop, Marco of Genoa, published a derisive denunciation
of the MP.3. Church of Bulgaria
These negotiations were among the most promising. The reception of the Milan
Synod as an autonomous or semi-autonomous metropolia under Sofia was
actually put on the agenda of the great sobor of the Bulgarian Church. The
Bulgarians were somewhat bewildered by the number of bishops Milan had per
capita, since the Bulgarian Church has extremely few bishops per capita.
However, the agenda item was placed at about item #100 (if I recall), near
the end of items, and so it was never brought up at that sobor, time
failing. Thus things fell through and Milan turned to other jurisdictions.4. Church of Romania
These negotiations seemed fairly promising, and friendly "on-the-ground"
contacts were established with actual bishops and their faithful in Romania.
As a result, a Romanian convent sewed some very beautiful vestments for
Metr. Evloghios, and the presence of many Romanians in Milan Synod parishes
must have been something of interest to the Romanian Patriarchate.
Friendships were made. However, in the end nothing came of these
negotiations. Some of their bishops were very much in favour, some were very
much not in favour. I can't recall exactly why these ones failed. I know the
calendar issue was
discussed, Milan people being very keen to keep the old calendar, and I
think this hurdle was cleared. I don't remember what was the chief sticking
point, prob. autonomy.5. Church of Serbia
These were very promising negotiations. There was a Bp. Luke [Serbian Bishop
of France] who was keenly interested in making a deal whereby, in one
stroke, both the Milan people and the people who were ECOF and were without
sponsorship, could together be received under the Serbian patriarchate, and
the more traditional Western rite people of Milan could have some oversight
over the WR people of France whose liturgical customs were more problematic.
Some of the Serbian bishops were enthusiastic about this, incl. the nephew
of St. Nikolai Velimirovich, a bishop John Velimirovitch. The other Serbian
bishops weren't as keen to make a bold move in France and in Milan, and the
Milan WR people actually
begged off being joined in any relationship to the ECOF people, since their
approaches to liturgy were so very different (also the calendar was a big
issue for the Milan people). In the end everything fell through entirely,
prob. over autonomy.6. Church of Georgia
These were the most promising negotiations of all. Georgia had had internal
problems with Greek Old Calendarist entry into their geographic boundaries.
Some Georgian negotiators felt that by declaring Milan to be the authentic
descendant of Auxentios, while taking it under their wing, they could
prevent further 'poaching' by other GOC-ists. The more traditional-minded
Milan bishops were very pleased that Georgia had withdrawn from the WCC, an
organisation they abhorred, and negotiations went so far that
the Milan bishops actually had plane tickets to travel to Tbilisi and be
received under the Patriarchate. At the last minute the Phanar discovered
these plans, they made rather severe threats of censure against Georgia
should it receive Milan, and as a result the Georgian Church suddenly
withdrew its offer.7. Church of Antioch
We should also not forget the Milan Synod's exploration of being received by
the Antiochian Patriarchate. The patriarchal representative who spoke to
Metr. Evloghios said that he knew the Milan Synod were pious Orthodox
Christians, but due to the fact that the Patriarchates counted Milan in the
number of "Slavic" or "Russian" churches culturally, and because the
Antiochian Patriarchate had a delicate role in stabilising problematic
relations between the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates, it would not
be possible for the Antiochian Patriarchate to assist the Milan Synod by
receiving them into their communion.
_____________________________________8. Syriac Orthodox Church
This is a Monophysite Church and so an application from the Synod of
Milan is quite extraordinary. It is no small thing for trhe Milan bishops
to be willing to jettison 4 of the Holy Ecumenical Councils.