ST. JAMES SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF AMERICA
P.O.Box 3254, Burbank, California 91508-3254
Tel. (818)563-1857. Fax (818) 563-1403.
"Have no fear of them; for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hidden that shall not be known.." (Matt. 10:26)
AN OPEN LETTER TO HIS HOLINESS PATRIARCH MOR IGNATIUS ZAKA I IWAS
FROM CHOREPISCOPUS JOSEPH TARZI, PH. D.
YOUR HOLINESS: WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?
As I write to you, Your Holiness, I know you do not read what people send to you. It is Bishop Elia Bahi, the Patriarchal Assistant in name, but the Patriarch in actuality, who reads your mail and verbally presents to you a distorted version according to his liking.
At the outset, I would like to thank Your Holiness for bestowing upon me the High Order
of Merit, that is, stripping me of Priesthood and excommunicating me. This is great a honor to me, indeed, because first, it is an unjust, inimical, tyrannical, and vengeful measure and not for any wrongful deed that I committed; and second, it comes from you, insistently requested by Bishop Eugene Kaplan with the support and participation of the two “much-loved” Bishops, Elia Bahi and Hazael Soumi. These three Bishops, together with you, Your Holiness, constitute a quartet that artfully exemplifies tyranny and oppression in the Church
Your Holiness: what you have done to me is nothing but a clear vengeance, and an act to
satisfy the wicked fancies of your beloved sadistic Bishop, Eugene Kaplan. This Bishop has
been burning with anger. He has lost his mind as a result of his failure, his people’s turning away from him, and the deterioration of his cathedral, especially after his scandal was uncovered. He disappeared for seven and a half months, deceived the Syriac (Syrian) people, embezzled millions of dollars from them and from the Church institutions around the world, and dealt with Nigerian crime organizations. He did all this with your knowledge, approval, and guidance, as he himself told a close friend of his, who in turn informed me. I am not going to mention his name to protect him against your strike. You and your Synod of September 11-15, 2007 acknowledged the heavy debts of the St. Ephraim Monastery in Holland, accumulated as a result of embezzlement of its moneys by Bishop Kaplan. In the minutes of the said Synod, it is written, “As for the situation of the Archdiocese of Holland, especially the Monastery of St Ephraim, which is sinking under the burden of huge financial debts… and the difficult financial reality it is passing through…” We have irrefutable documents provided to us by the late Bishop Issa Cicek that prove beyond any doubt the fact that Bishop Kaplan embezzled about 2 million Euros from the monastery resources in addition to 3 more million dollars embezzled from the Syriac people
around the world. This, Your Holiness, was and still is the basic problem in the Diocese of California. The problem is NOT Khouri Joseph Tarzi as you and Bishop Kaplan have been striving to make the simple ones among the Syriac people to believe, thinking that those people consider your words to have come down from heaven!
After the commencement of the opposition movement against Bishop Kaplan’s administration in October 2002, I kept ministering in St. Ephraim Church for the period of one whole year, that is until September 30, 2003. This means that the faithful of the Diocese did not revolt against the Bishop in defense of me, or in protestation to any injustice inflicted upon me because I had not been suspended yet. The congregation started its reformative movement because of Bishop Kaplan’s transgressions and wrongdoings. So, it is enough, Your Holiness, for misleading the people and trying to make them believe your untrue claim that I, Khoury Joseph Tarzi, am the problem in Los Angeles. For the last five years, you have been claiming that the dissenting people and I did this and that, but intentionally failing to tell the reasons for our actions. Your Holiness, it is also enough for covering up the disgraceful scandals of your Vicar, Bishop Kaplan. It is high time that you told the Syriac people the truth, which they deserve to know
And so the popularity of Bishop Kaplan has sagged, and the situation of his cathedral has deteriorated. This has resulted from inflicting injustice upon me and upon the people, and striking us with your own sword. You have supported and still are supporting him with all your weight. You have sacrificed hundreds of families, and slaughtered me on the altar of injustice and enmity so that you may reinstate and consolidate his position. You and he have spared no means to separate my people from me and isolate me from them, but you have failed. Truth about the number of people (350 families) who walked away from you has come to light. You finally realized that it was not only a few families, as you have been claiming all along. You lost the bet that they would break up and dissolve. And so, Bishop Kaplan was left with only one arrow, the arrow of excommunication, and he shot it with your hand. Ask your conscience, Your Holiness, is Bishop Kaplan, who has been wallowing in the slime of sin, and who violated the Constitution of the Church, especially Article 74; Sections (f) and (g), Article 75; Section (b), Article 72; Article 73; and Section (b), Article 70, in a position to demand that I, the innocent, be excommunicated? Is he whose house is built of glass in a position to throw stones at the house of someone whose house is built of solid stones on rocks?
Bravo, Your Holiness! You have satisfied the vengeful fancies of Bishop Kaplan and his two partners in plotting and conspiring, Bishops Elia Bahi and Hazail Soumi, and fired the last shot from your gun; all this for my refusal to submit to your will of servility and humiliation, and in disobeying the ordinances of God. Your Holiness: obedience to God comes first, and life is a stand of honor. Man’s honor is too precious to be abused no matter how severe and painful the injustices inflicted on him may be. The injustices you brought upon me and upon thousands of honest and honorable people are matchless in the history of our Church, even in the darkest ages; and thus it is right to say that the history of the Syriac Church has never known a patriarch who is more tyrannical than Patriarch Zaka Iwas. You have surpassed Patriarch Ismail of Mardin in cruelty, tyranny, and harshness. Patriarch Ismail was swift in excommunicating Bishop Sawa, the innocent, without any investigation and scrutiny. This led to the splitting of Tur Abdin from the Patriarchate of Antioch and the establishment of a second Patriarchate. This is exactly what you have been doing ever since you assumed the leadership of the Church. You listen to the rumors originating from tendentious and malicious informers, and then quickly take harsh arbitrary and disciplinary actions without careful consideration or investigation. You never hold any trial, and thus you deny the victims of your injustice their basic right of self defense.
Now that we are comparing you with some other patriarchs, we mention Patriarch Elias
III, who traveled to India to settle differences that had evolved there among the faithful at a time when travel to far-away countries was horrendous. Patriarch Elias sacrificed himself to bring peace to the Church. As for you, you turned down the request and pleas of the masses to come to Los Angeles to try and solve the crisis which erupted because of the transgression of your Vicar Bishop Kaplan. You did this despite the fact that you had involvement in the development of the crisis, and despite the ease of traveling in this modern age of flying on fast jets. Not only did you do this, but you also held more tenaciously to your guilty vicar.
You demonstrated power and strength over me, the weak priest, because I did not have a clan or a group of influential people to back me up, as is the case with most of our priests. More importantly, I did not have money to redeem myself. The strongest proof to this is the fact that you dared not punish those who planned to split from you in Europe. Those people had called for the meeting and made contacts with the independent Orthodox Syrian Church of India. Nevertheless, you could not do anything to them simply because they have tens of thousands of their clans backing them up. You were afraid they would separate from your administration or cut your source of income. In addition, you gave in to their pressure, and their threats to walk away from you, and thus you reversed your decision to divide their archdiocese in the last minutes before the conclusion of your Synod meetings. Furthermore, you put the blame on me and wrongfully claimed that I called for the meeting in Germany. The truth is the reverse, as I will show below. This has been your way always; you gather strength only when it comes to polite, well-mannered, educated, peaceful, dedicated, faithful, honest and upright priests, and strike them mercilessly making them examples for others. The Syriac people everywhere know about the Syriac priest who was convicted of raping minors in Germany and was imprisoned. You reinstated him in the same Church where he committed the shameful acts in exchange for a large sum of money, as it is said. But when it came to me, the innocent, you excommunicated me and around 350 families for upholding truth. For you, anyone who differs in opinion or goes against your will is immediately branded as a stray and misleader, and thus deserves the harshest punishment, as I said earlier.
I cannot but thank my beloved and magnanimous congregation, who stood by me in the darkest hours of my life. They embraced me and supported me in upholding the truth. May the blessing and the grace of God be with them, always and forever.
REFUTATION OF THE CHARGES LEVELED IN THE SUPPLEMENTAL
Your Holiness: allow me now to respond to your encyclical of excommunication, and start saying:
The reasons you gave for my excommunication in your supplemental encyclical were:
• “Violations and even transgressions against the Church Doctrine and its Traditions.”
• “Rebellion against the highest authority of the Church.”
• “Formation of a new group outside the Church.”
• “Contacting one of the bishops who broke away from our Church in India and joined those whom the Holy Synod of 1975 in Damascus had excommunicated.”
By all means, the excommunication you pronounced does not move a hair on us, let alone the fact that it is surely and totally void and null, not only for one reason, but for a host of reasons. These reasons are summarized below:
1. Thank God I and my congregation are not of your followers, and you have no jurisdiction over us whatsoever. It was not you who expelled us, although you pushed us to leave by continuously persecuting us. It was certainly your wish that we go. Despite all this, it was our people who voted by their free will to distance themselves from you and your tyrannical and destructive administration. A religious leader cannot excommunicate people who belong to another Church. Therefore, your excommunication is void and meaningless. It is an action that indicates recklessness resulting from desperation.
2. Your excommunication is baseless. It is not sanctioned or prescribed by any law, be it heavenly or earthly. You know very well that there are only few cases where excommunication could be justified in Christianity. These are unbelief, infidelity, atheism, blasphemy, doctrine distortion, and proclaiming a gospel that is contrary to what the Apostles proclaimed (Galatians 1:8). Otherwise, excommunication is a heresy in Christianity introduced by the clergy to intimidate simple people and subjugate them. All civilized Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, have abolished excommunication because it lacks any evangelical basis. My congregation and I adhere to the faith of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, to its doctrine, liturgy, and traditions more than you do, your Holiness, and we have never proclaimed a gospel that is contrary to what the Apostles proclaimed. For this very reason, we have joined the Syrian Orthodox Church of India and not other churches, to preserve these sacred principles.
We have not formed a “new group outside the Church,” as you claimed. Rather, we have formed a legitimate and legally-operated genuine Syrian Orthodox Church under the name of the great Syrian Orthodox Church father, the Malphan (The Doctor) St. James (Jacob) of Srough. This church is affiliated with a legitimate and genuine religious authority, which is the Syrian Orthodox Church of India. It gives us pleasure to introduce this church to our readers here:
3. The Autonomous Syrian Orthodox Church of India is identical to the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. You know this very well, your Holiness. You yourself ordained the Bishop who takes care of our spiritual needs, and he was very close to you. You expelled him together with 3 other Bishops because they wanted to work for the peace and unity of the Church in India under YOUR spiritual leadership. He is a messenger of peace, not a herald of division like you.
The autonomous Syrian Orthodox Church of India, that you claim has been excommunicated with its people and clergy since 1975, is a legitimate Apostolic Church recognized by all Christian Churches in the world, be it apostolic or non-apostolic. This includes the non-Chalcedonian Oriental Churches that are in full fellowship with us, such as the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, and the Ethiopian Church. It has a lawful head, who is the Catholicos of the East, whose priesthood was received in succession from the fathers of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. It has 22 prelates, 1600 parishes, and over 25 million followers. It recognizes the Patriarch of Antioch as its honorary spiritual Head and mentions his name in the Holy Mass. The excommunication issued by Patriarch Jacob III in 1975 is, therefore, void and null, because administrative autonomy, with strict preservation of faith, doctrine, liturgy, and tradition, has never been a cause for excommunication. When the Orthodox Church of Sudan, which was under the Patriarchate of Alexandria, became autonomous, the Pope of Alexandria did not excommunicate it. Rather, he helped it. This also was the case with the Antiochian Orthodox Church (The Arabic branch of the Greek Orthodox Church), which was under the direct administration of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate inDamascus. This Church became independent of the administration of the Patriarch in Damascus. The Patriarch in Damascus never excommunicated them. Rather, he cooperated with them. I remember when the Autonomous Catholicos of India came to Canada, the Coptic Church received him with honor. The late Mor Athanasius Yeshou Samuel complained to the pastor of the Coptic Church that honored the Catholicos about the fact that the Catholicos and his Church were excommunicated by Patriarch Yacoub III. The Coptic pastor contacted Pope Shenouda for advice. The Pope responded saying, “Receive the Catholicos with all due respect and honor offered to a head of a church, for their separation from the Syrian Church of Antioch is administrative only and not doctrinal.”
Your Holiness: Your excommunication of us because of our relationship with the Indian
Syrian Orthodox Church is clear hypocrisy. You claim that this church is excommunicated with its people and clergy, and yet your bishops talk to them in ecumenical gatherings and attend their Holy Masses. Clergy from both sides participate in joint spiritual services such as weddings, funerals, and the like. After all this, you excommunicate me because I “dared to contact one of their seceding bishops in India…!!” Why are you not excommunicating your bishops, who continuously and up to this day dare to contact the “excommunicated Bishops” in India?
Speaking of “excommunicated” bishops of India, it is quite shameful for Bishop Kaplan to spread rumors, and laughable and deplorable falsities products of his distorted mind among people that Bishop Meletius Yuhanon re-ordained me Chorepiscopus, after he, himself, had ordained me 8 years ago. He claims that he has a video tape to prove that. Why do you not produce that alleged video, “your Grace” and show us the truth? I am sure you saw a picture of me wearing the “Shadoyo,” that is, the shoulder cloak that Bishop Meletius brought to me as a gift from India, for he knew I was already ordained as Chorepiscopus. Or else, you may have seen the picture of him attiring me with it and thus your imagination revealed to you that he reordained me as Chorepiscopus. Think about this, my dear readers, and take it as an example of how Bishop Kaplan fabricated all his accusations against me. They are all the product of his hateful and malice-loving imagination, or built on rumors, fabricated stories, talebearing, idle talk and backbiting with no investigation, or deliberation, or scrutiny
Let me ask your Holiness: Did the Patriarch of Antioch excommunicate the people and
the clergy in Tur Abdin when they split from the See of Antioch and established the Patriarchate of Tur Abdin? If he did so, all the Syriac people and clergy who lived in Tur Abdin between the years 1293 and 1839 (546 years) lived and died in excommunication! If he did not, how dare you excommunicate a church that is about ten times larger than the Church of Tur Abdin with its head, the Catholicos, and 22 prelates? Furthermore, do we not excommunicate all the Chalcedonian Churches and yet sit with them, and accept their sacramental services? Do you not see this as outrageous hypocrisy and contradiction?
Have you not been establishing cordial relationship with the churches that disagree radically with the doctrine, tradition and sacramental practices of our Church? Do you and their Eminencies, the Metropolitans of our Church, not visit their leaders, and they in turn visit you? Did you not study and later on accept to receive an honorary Ph. D. degree from the General Seminary in New York, which has homosexual students and professors? Do they not have a licensed homosexual club within the seminary? Does the Episcopalian Church not ordain homosexual priests and priestesses and permit them to serve the Holy Sacraments? Does the Episcopalian Church not allow homosexual marriages to be solemnized in their churches? Does this church not ordain women bishops, including divorced ones? Did some of our bishops not study and graduate from this very seminary? After all this, you excommunicate the genuine Syrian Orthodox Church of India, which adheres so strongly and faithfully to the doctrine, tradition, and liturgy of the mother Church of Antioch, even more than the mother church does! Furthermore, you excommunicate us because we chose to be affiliated with this church after you expelled us from our Church. Your Holiness, what would you have done had we chosen to be affiliated with one of the above-mentioned non-Syrian Orthodox Churches such as the Episcopalian Church?
4. You wrote about me in your Synod minutes: “he misled a group of the faithful of our
Church, and thus they joined the administration of the excommunicated bishop, who is one of our excommunicated opponent bishops in India.” In response to this, I have to say: I have already talked about the excommunication of these bishops earlier. As for misleading, we have 350 families with us in our Church, St. James of Srough Syrian Orthodox Church. Among these, there are physicians, engineers, professors, lawyers, scientists, scholars, educators, school principals, teachers, highly educated businessmen and people who are well-informed about the Bible. Is it conceivable that just one priest can mislead all these people? Do you really think that our people would believe you? Why are you distorting the truth, your Holiness? Why are you not saying that you pushed us to join the Syrian Church of India? After walking away from your administration, for one whole year we remained independent and unaffiliated with any religious authority. Why did you or Bishop Kaplan not do anything to solve the problem? Not only did you do nothing, but you also prevented everyone who wanted to intervene or offer help or initiatives to solve it, including the prelates of our church, from doing so. You knew very well that we were going to join the Indian Church if you did not give justice to us. Yet you did absolutely nothing to stop us. This could mean only one thing: you did not care for us, but rather, you wanted to get rid of us. Why, then, are you shedding crocodile tears over this and using it as a pretext to excommunicate us? Your Holiness, be assured that our people discussed the matter for a whole year before they put it to vote. They voted democratically to leave your administration. I did not mislead them as you claimed. Any one who thinks or says otherwise is falsifying the truth.
Your Holiness: do you not remember, how with pure hearts and good intentions, we came to see you in Ma’arrat Saydnaya by your own invitation (May 23-26, 2005,) and offered allegiance (see our attached letter)? We accepted all your conditions and gave you everything you asked for. Our people even abandoned their basic demand to remove Bishop Kaplan and accepted reconciliation. Do you not remember how Bishop Kaplan refused to meet with us, and how he and his company emphatically rejected our return to our own church? You sided with them, Your Holiness. All you did was this: you lifted my suspension and the excommunication imposed by Bishop Kaplan on our people. You did not accept our pleas to issue an order that we
could go back to our Church. You promised us in writing that you would send one or more bishops to mollify the atmosphere and bring us back to the church (A copy of your letter is
attached), but you broke your promise and resorted, once again, to stalling and procrastinating until seven months passed after our meeting with you and after your written promise was made. You did this despite the fact that in response to the request of the General Secretariat of the Holy Synod represented by His Eminence Bishop Theophilus George Saliba, we submitted to you a petition demanding my return to St. Ephraim Church to refute the claims of Bishop Kaplan and his company, although we had already submitted two earlier petitions that clearly showed that the vast majority of St. Ephraim parishioners wanted Fr. Tarzi back to his position. We, nevertheless, organized the requested petition for the third time, and collected signatures from St. Ephraim Church parishioners and submitted to you, with copies sent to the concerned members of the Synod, inviting all the readers and examiners of the said petition to check and substantiate any signature therein, if they wished so. The petition carried the signatures of 535 families the number of whose members exceeded 1800 person (A sample page taken from the 535 pages of the actual petition is attached). This represents more than 85% of St. Ephraim parishioners. Like all previous petitions, this petition, too, was disregarded. It is worth mentioning here that Bishop Kaplan, after hearing of our petition, instructed his few supporters, after his return from Damascus, to organize a counter petition demanding that Fr. Tarzi be prevented from returning to his Church. However, their efforts failed miserably despite their repeated attempts over a period of several weeks. Their previous attempts before they traveled to Damascus had likewise failed.
Finally, you promised us that you would definitely see that a final solution was reached in the Synod meeting on December 13, 2005. Nevertheless, you crossed out the Los Angeles case from the agenda of the Synod on the morning of its convening, and only after insistent pressure from some bishops you reluctantly reintroduced it. When the fathers of the Synod were about to vote on the issue, you sensed the direction of their vote. You knew that they would vote almost unanimously in favor of having us return to our St. Ephraim Church. You stopped them and told them, once again, that you would personally deal with the issue and solve it once and for all very shortly.
We contacted Your Holiness after the Synod was adjourned, and you, once again, went back to procrastinating and stalling. We asked you, “How long would it take, in your opinion, before the problem is solved?” You answered harshly that there was no definite period of time, refusing to give us any glimpse of hope for waiting for the solution in the foreseeable future (I call upon our dear readers to read the final letter of separation to His Holiness, dated January 18, 2006, posted on the suryoyoreformer.org on Feb. 2, 2006). After all this, do you not feel any twinge of conscience when you say that you gave us a chance to come back?
And so you sided with the guilty party, Bishop Kaplan. You defended his wrongdoings, you covered up his transgressions, and you even rewarded him for his iniquities, his violations of the church Constitution and for tarnishing the reputation of the holy church. Going to the extreme of your cruelty and injustice, you severely punished the honest and faithful. Therefore, your excommunication is void, null, and meaningless.
You further wrote in the minutes of your last Synod meeting: “We took our time and did not make this decision before now in order to give him the chance to repent and return, but he went further in his rebellion. He carried out secessional activities, holding suspicious meetings in Germany and some other European countries, and thus some laymen drifted in his deception…”
One cannot but feel deeply sorry for this type and magnitude of distortion of truth. Pardon me, Your Holiness! You never gave me a chance for repentance and return. You had made up your mind to excommunicate and expel me from the church ever since the crisis started in California, according to someone who is very close to you. You hoped that my people would walk away from me and go back to Bishop Kaplan’s administration. This way you could catch me alone and strike me with your final fatal blow, and thus avoid stirring up the people and provoking their anger. However, when this did not happen, you became disappointed and frustrated, so you went ahead and acted on your decision. As for repentance, I have done nothing that calls for it. You and Bishop Kaplan have done a grave injustice in punishing me without any investigation or trial, giving me absolutely no chance to defend myself.
Regarding the matter of attending a meeting in Germany, you have grossly distorted the story so that you may justify your unjust decision. You may have also listened to some tendentious people and took your decision, once again, without any substantiation or examination, or without even hearing my version of the story. This is not surprising; for most, if not all of your decisions, have been arbitrary. The following is the truth of the matter, which can be substantiated by all those who were involved. I am presenting it, not because I take notice of your excommunication, or because I seek to acquit myself from any guilt, but to present the truth. Besides, I am free to travel anywhere I choose, and you neither have authority over me nor the right to interfere in my affairs.
Shortly after you suspended Bishop Hanna Aydin, he called me twice, asking me to go to Germany immediately. They had decided to split from you and establish a separate Patriarchate, he told me. He said that they would like to make use of our experience. Following his telephone calls, tens of other clergy and laity contacted me, insisting that I go to Germany to help them deal with the current situation. I am not going to mention names here in order to protect them from your strike. Before these developments, I had no contact whatsoever with any Syriac group anywhere in the world. My answer to all these requests was, “NO”. I told them I could not go lest it be thought that I was instigating them to separate from the Patriarchate. I did not want to interfere in their affairs. I further told them that they must make their own decision without any external influence. However, they continued to contact me, and every time I gave them the same answer.
About two months later, after Bishop Aydin’s delegation returned from Saydnaya, some clergymen and laity contacted me from Europe assuring me that they had made their final decision without any external influence, to separate from you. They further told me that they had called a meeting with the representatives of their church councils, and designated the time and place for the said meeting to coordinate their planned activities. They invited me to attend their meeting with the presence of a bishop from India, for the purpose of giving them a verbal report about the crisis in California. This meeting was also attended by certain clergymen. However, you purposely failed to mention this in your Synod minutes and only mentioned laymen, obviously because of your feeling of embarrassment.
The above is the exact and accurate account of the matter of my involvement in the situation in Europe. I never instigated anyone to separate from you. I had no involvement whatsoever in their decision to separate. I never called for or held any meeting. You have made me a hero, a leader, and a Superman capable of stirring and controlling the masses of people in Europe, and holding meetings at a time when I hardly knew any one of them; all this to find an excuse or a basis for excommunication. This excuse of yours is totally rejected. You know very well, Your Holiness, that there is a large number of clergymen and laity who have lost hope in your tyrannical and corrupt leadership. They are all yearning to walk away from you, but they do not have enough courage to do so because they are afraid of you striking. Your assistant, Bishop Bahi, and your special envoy, Bishop Hazael Soumi (much trusted by you and much despised by the Syriac people), have both been threatening the clergy and laity everywhere with your known weapon: excommunication. Bishop Bahi never hesitates to speak, using the first person pronoun “I,” as if he were the Patriarch, saying to many monks and priests: “I am going to do this and that to you…” The difference between those clergymen and me, Your Holiness, is that they are frightened by you. As for me, I fear no one except God, because truth is with me.
5. Since the beginning of the crisis in Los Angeles, you and Bishop Kaplan have been accusing me of mutiny and disobeying the orders of my superiors. It is high time for both of
you, after four years of expelling me from my church, to come forth and publicly reveal to the Syriac people in the whole world and to everyone else, with proof and substantiation, what order of yours I have disobeyed besides your impossible order to silence the opposition to Bishop Kaplan and defend his wrongdoings. I had already shown you the number and quality of the people opposing the administration of Bishop Kaplan, and the impossibility of stopping or silencing them even if I wanted to. On the other hand, how could you order me to disobey God by defending the wrong? You know very well, and teach us too, that obedience to God comes before all other obedience. How could I defend the transgressions committed by Bishop Kaplan? Would the people not accuse me of being his partner in his embezzlement scheme, and put me at his class and level? With the exception of your order to defend his wrongdoings and silence the opposition, do come forth, Your Holiness, and name one order that I disobeyed. Enough distorting the truth, Your Holiness, for this does not befit your position. In addition, our people, even the naïve ones, have become conscious of these manners, and these tricks can no longer fool them.
6. Your Holiness: do you not feel embarrassed or feel a twinge in your conscience when you accuse me of transgressing the doctrine and the traditions of the Church? Is there a Syriac priest who adheres to the doctrine and the traditions of the Church more than I do? Do you really expect our people to believe you? Which doctrine or tradition have I transgressed? My doctrine is whole, sound, and pure, and my adherence to the traditions is tenacious. Up to this moment, you have found not even one fault that calls for such an extreme and severe injustice that you have inflicted on me. I have not committed any disgraceful acts such as theft, embezzlement, morality crimes, tarnishing the honor and reputation of priesthood, drunkenness, revelry, telling lies, accepting bribery, simony, and love of mammon or other abominable acts. There are clergymen who committed such acts in the Church you are heading, yet you overlooked their acts, defended some of them, and covered up for others. Some redeemed themselves by paying money. You even reinstated those who committed immoral acts (raping minors and the like), as I mentioned earlier. As for me, the innocent, you have mercilessly thrown me out into the street and even tried to destroy the life of my children by cutting off the only source of my income. You did this to me when you very well knew that I set aside my Ph. D. degree and my career position to dedicate myself to my Church. Furthermore, I loved you, I did favors to you personally, and I defended you in public and in private, but you in turn responded with the harshest punishment. Your Holiness: this is your nature; you use people, and once you get what you want from them, you dump them.
7. You are the Father General of the Church. As such, you are supposed to be wise, loving, just, and impartial, personifying the teachings of the Lord Jesus in love and upholding truth. Where is this love and wisdom in you? A Father General tries to open a dialogue with his children. He tries to find a way to bring them back to the bosom of the Church. Instead, you have been looking for excuses and pretexts, and have been fabricating accusations to torture and humiliate your children in vengeance. For the most part, you have been doing this in response to the incitements of Bishop Kaplan, who is sunken in forbidden acts, with the support and encouragement of the two Bishops who stand behind him, namely, Elia Bahi and Hazael Soumi. These two bishops hate me because of the hate that Bishop Kaplan has for me.
8. Your Holiness: the real reason of excommunicating me and my congregation is quite
clear: to separate my people from me. You have taken this measure on the assumption that most Syriacs (Syrians) are simple and naïve. You think they fear excommunication and will not accept an excommunicated priest, regardless of the reason of the excommunication. You assumed that they would leave me immediately after they heard about the excommunication. However, allow me to remind you, Your Holiness, that your assumption that the Syriac people are naive is wrong; and even if some of them were naïve in the past, they are no longer so. They no longer believe in superstition and unfounded, void, and illegitimate excommunication. They will no longer be misled by erroneous clergy. They will never blindly follow this kind of clergy anymore.
9. I am a true Syrian (Syriac). I follow Christ, Your Holiness, and my path is His path. I say humbly: I am also a truthful, straightforward, sincere, and law-abiding person, obedient to my superiors, except in matters defying the will and the ordinances of God. My light is truth, and nothing is going to force me to abandon these principles. I do not need a license or certificate from you to prove my belongingness or my Syrian Orthodox faith or doctrine; for they are the faith, confession, and conviction of my forefathers, not yours. I will never keep silent in the face of tyranny, oppression, and injustice and I will never stop fighting those who order me to disobey God; for God is the Truth, and as long as I adhere to the truth, God will be on my side because “If God is for me, who is against me?” (Romans 8:31).
Your Holiness: you tried to escape the responsibility of my unjust excommunication. You tried to lay the burden on the Holy Synod for fear of being blamed for excommunicating an innocent priest. This way, you thought, you could come up with a statement in your encyclical that starts with, “The Holy Synod has decided…” despite the fact that you had the decision of the long-planned excommunication in your hands when you entered the room where the Synod meetings were held. You knew very well that it was not the responsibility of the Synod to look into the matter of excommunicating a priest. For this reason the Synod refused to vote on the issue. Consequently, you announced a weak and meager decision based on the wishes of your “Mini and Most Holy Synod,” comprising of the triad, Kaplan-Bahi-Soumi, under your chairmanship, or perhaps under the chairmanship of Bishop Bahi. Tell us, Your Holiness, was it the Holy Spirit Who instructed you to take the decision of the excommunication, just as He guided Bishop Kaplan to embezzle the money of the people, do dealings with the outlaws, and invoke curses with the Holy Cross upon his people and their children from the Holy Altar? It seems that your mini Synod met again on Sunday afternoon, September 16, 2007, taking advantage of the absence of the members of the Holy Synod, and decided to change what was agreed upon by those members. Accordingly, you ended up issuing an addendum to your first encyclical, which did not mention me by name. This was surely to quench your thirst for revenge on me. You people love vengeance, indeed, and carry hate-laden hearts inside you. However, after pressuring you into issuing the above-mentioned addendum that mentioned my name explicitly, and included our congregation in your excommunication, Bishop Kaplan cowered and backed away in fear of the adverse reaction of the people. Consequently, he decided to forge your encyclical. He retyped it, deleting the phrase, “and his followers,” announced the forged copy in his churches, and posted it on his website. The forged encyclical was, of course, devoid of your stamp and signature. At the time of writing this letter, the forged encyclical was still posted. This is not surprising, for Bishop Kaplan is a well-known expert in forging documents. Earlier, he forged the minutes of the Synod of March 29, 2005 (Copies of the original and forged documents are attached, and also posted on suryoyoreformer.org). Even before that, Bishop Kaplan forged the financial statement of St. Thomas Church of San Jose issued by Bank of America. A copy of the forged statement is available for those interested.
Your Holiness: Thirteen years ago, in 1994, when you were sitting on my chair in my office at St. Ephraim Church in Burbank, Los Angeles, and we were talking about the Church affairs, you said to me: “You are paying the price of your intelligence, success, integrity and honesty.” Today, I have paid for all these virtues a very high price, indeed. You kept praising me for the length of 20 years in all your circles and showering me with compliments. You commended me for my knowledge, conduct, moral values, faith, uprightness, for my love to my Church and for dedicated services to it and to you personally. I was the first priest upon whom you bestowed the holy Cross for free: that is, I did not have to purchase it by money, as some other clergy do, and before I was ordained Chorepiscopus, contrary to the observed custom. All of a sudden, I have become a stray and a misleader! Your Holiness, I am the same person whom you described as having the above-mentioned venerated qualities. I have never changed. But, it seems that anyone who does not submit to your will of disobeying the ordinances of God, and of standing with the wrong is, in your eyes, a stray and a misleader no matter how honest and wise he is. Furthermore, it seems that only hypocrites gain your acceptance and find favor with you. You always want people to throw themselves at your feet and beg for mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of sins or wrongdoings that he never committed.
The slavery and servility era of throwing oneself at Your Holiness’ feet and begging for mercy and compassion, and of repenting for uncommitted and imaginary transgressions has ended for ever. The church of Christ is built on love. It is the church of love and not the Church of hate, spite, vengeance, and invoking curses with the Holy Cross in the name of the Holy Trinity. That is your church, Your Holiness, not ours.
The era of looking at priests as insects crawling on the ground to be trodden upon and crushed mercilessly, whenever Your Holiness wishes, is also gone for ever with no return. Also Gone is the era of brandishing the weapon of excommunication, and making the clergy and laity tremble with fear. This fear from unfounded excommunication used to cause people, especially the clergy, to fall down before you and ask for mercy. No, Your Holiness, I do not belong to that group. Nevertheless, if I were at fault, I would have apologized or offered my “repentance” as you love to call it; but I will never apologize for wrongs that I have never committed, and for unfounded charges thrown left and right. Your Holiness: you denied my request to grant me my natural rights. You leveled no charges against me formally, never questioned me, assembled no jury, and held no trial. This is unheard of even in the most vicious and oppressive secular systems, let alone a religious system. Had you convened an impartial spiritual court and gave me a chance to defend myself, and the court found and proved me guilty, I would have accepted its decision and apologized or offered my “repentance,” according to your terminology.
Your Holiness: may the Lord forgive you just as He forgave His crucifiers, for, just like them, you do not know what you do.
Los Angeles, October 20, 2007
Khouroyo Joseph Tarzi, Ph.D