From the proceedings of the Inter-Orthodox Scientific Congress on 20-24 September 2004 at the Ceremonial Hall of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Movement.
Ecumenism: Origin, Expectations, Disapprovals
Very limited time is provided for the development of such a big and significant topic which occupies in its entirety all the Orthodox Churches without of course having a common approach on the side of Orthodoxy, because each Autocephalous Orthodox Church, separately experiences and in different ways the consequences of the Ecumenical Movement, corresponding to the degree of interest of the heterodox in the geographic areas of our planet on which extends their jurisdiction.
For this I shall limit myself per force,
only on the general considerations of the topic as perceived by the martyric
Patriarchate of Jerusalem, quoting only the symptomatic events, characteristic
of the state of affairs on the "Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and
the Ecumenical Movement".
Above all I believe that we should dissociate the terms "Ecumenical" and "Universality" from the things that unfortunately are happening which with the passing of time become predominant. The Orthodox Church as the only Church that holds in its bosom unadulterated the faith to the "in Trinity One God" faithfully follows the command of her Divine Builder to teach all the Nations the characteristic of the Universality (Ecumenicity) of the Church. A property that cannot be removed by anyone. The Orthodox Church which besides is the only infallible Christian Church, has as her basic constituent the catholicity (universality). It cannot however nor should it be allowed to confuse the meaning of Ecumenicity with the imposing effort of the syncretistic Ecumenism which apart from the rest offends and tramples totally the rights of man, such as that of the freedom of conscience.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem as an Autonomous Church is active in the area of the Holy Lands, the greater Middle East to the Persian Gulf and the Arab Emirates. The "Order of the Important Ones" a development from which today is the "Hagiotaphitic Brotherhood" (Brotherhood of the Most Holy Sepulchre) has shouldered the protection, maintenance and care of the Most Holy Shrines, namely the places which are associated with the presence and life of the Builder of our Faith, Jesus Christ.
This property separates it from the rest of the Churches. For the mission of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is not only the pastoral care and the looking after its rational flock through the religious, social, educational and philanthropic activities but of the maintenance of the unique inheritance and heritage, the care of the Most Holy Shrines which were built and maintained through the centuries by the pious "Genus Romeans" (Greeks). In Jerusalem and in the Holy Land the magnificence of "Romiosini" may have shrunk but never extinguished.
Our grievance however remains, for the destructive polemic against the Church of Jerusalem has not come from foreign religions but from the heterodox and sometimes even from the faithful. The malicious polemics of the heterodox finds form in two prongs: 1. the draining of the Patriarchate from its flock and 2. The acquisition of rights on the Most Holy Shrines by adoption of illicit means which of course characterize the people, who if nothing else, cannot be called brothers. Relative to the first part, the Vatican played but also continues to play a dark role. And I ask you not to consider the characterization as exaggerated.
The Latin do not have in their tradition
the term "Patriarchate" or "Patriarch" but the term "Cardinal". However when
they conquered Jerusalem, they built the "Patriarchate of Jerusalem" with
obvious intentions, the causing of confusion to the faithful and gradually
They began to build schools in different cities and towns and created bethels (Welcoming houses), despite of the fact that all the inhabitants were Orthodox. In their propaganda the settled Franciscans used and continue to use the specially trained in this field Latin nuns and through manipulation of the dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics at the various common Conferences and the informal or formal get together, they planted in the simple people the saying "Koulou Ouahat", namely that "we are all one" and there is no difference between the Christian Churches since we all believe in the same Christ. This proselytizing activity intensified ever more with the development and advance of the Unia, which is used as an obvious by now "Trojan Horse" against Orthodoxy.
In the Latin schools the nuns force the Orthodox children to make the sign of the Cross in the Latin manner and demand that they attend Latin Churches on the threat of expulsion and deregistration from the school.
The going around from house to house to invite the little ones especially the children to teach them music and musical instruments, a very enticing for this tender age, and when these children go to these halls, they ask them to first make the sign of the Cross and any children that make the Cross in the Orthodox way, they hit their hands and show them, as if correct, the Latin manner.
They encourage the Latin children to attend church with their Orthodox friends in the Orthodox Church and to have communion from the Orthodox priests, only to advance in the eyes of the world the syncretistic so called union but also to criticize the refusal of the Orthodox priests to offer communion to the Latin, accusing at the same time the Orthodox for lack of love and cultivating dissension between people.
The attire of the Uniates with the same vestments of the Orthodox and the dishonesty of the ceremonial and Liturgical services, in combination with the appearance of co-liturgy of the Uniates with the Latins and the commemoration of the name of the Pope, has advanced to a large degree the destructive work of proselytism.
Seeing all these, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and aiming the protection of its flock, decided in 1989 to leave the World Council of Churches (WCC) and terminate generally any form of dialogue with the heterodox. This decision became a point of friction at an Inter-Orthodox level, for this stance of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem brought stagnation to the theological dialogue between Orthodoxy and the heterodox, but also caused the failure of signed agreements by the rest of the Orthodox Churches because these agreements did not have Pan-Orthodox validation, not having the acceptance of the fourth in order, first-born Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Characteristically I mention the signing of the Balamand agreement in Lebanon in 1992 between the Orthodox Churches- except of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and of the Monophysites- which was served also to the Church of Jerusalem, an agreement which was denounced by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to all leading Autocephalous and Autonomous Orthodox Churches, to the Holy Mountain, to the Theological Schools of Greece and to all the Orthodox people and declared it void, with the result of creating a negative climate and its non-implementation despite the proposing by the Orthodox Sitting leaders of the implementation of the agreement and at the same time the sentencing to isolation of the opposing Church of Jerusalem.
This measure however of 1989 unfortunately caused a great damage to our Patriarchate, for by having no representative at the different Inter-Christian Councils and Conferences, the many and diverse enemies of the Patriarchate would spread many falsehoods against it because there was no objection, with the result of the formation of a climate of mistrust at an international level and attempts to marginalize the Patriarchate with the ultimate objective its damage and calling into question its capability to care and protect the Most Holy Shrines.
So, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem decided recently to take part at the different Pan-Christian Conferences and meetings, through representatives, to defend the Patriarchate and respond to the different spurious falsehoods.
Regarding the second part, which concerns the Most Holy Shrines without any exaggeration, to give a fleck of the complete situation we would need to have days and months at our disposal. I shall however try to sketch a clear picture for the best possible and most complete updating, for you, the beloved conference members.
Originally the Pope of Rome Urban 2nd using lies as his banner of propaganda, launched the first Crusade, not to liberate but to conquer and exploit the Most Holy Shrines and in general the Holy Places, inspired by his immeasurable ambition to subjugate the Orthodox East preached to all those intending to join the Crusaders that they will receive full remission of sins of all their criminal acts.
The Crusaders, trampling every agreement with the Emperor Alexios, captured Jerusalem, and carried out what for them was a "Christian" act, the slaughter of 60,000 fighters as well as non-fighters and created the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem Symeon went to the Church of the Resurrection to perform the Divine Liturgy, the Latin forbade him to enter, with the result the true owner of the Sacred Shrines was forced to abandon Jerusalem and go to Bethlehem and from there to Cyprus where he reposed.
From then start the great hardships of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and of the Patriarchs, for they had to face many claims of the Latin but also of the Armenians and of the rest of the Monophysites, namely the acquisition and consolidation of rights on the Most Holy Church of the Resurrection but also on the Basilica of the Nativity at Bethlehem.
Following the capture of Constantinople and the fall of Romiosini (Greek culture), the heterodox had an abundance of gold for the purchase of the rights from the Turkish conquerors. The Latin in their efforts were strengthened by the West and especially by the Government and ambassadors of France.
The Patriarchate having no support except from the enslaved Genus Romeans (the Greek Orthodox) and the help of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, continued the titanic struggle for the preservation and securing of the inalienable rights of the pious Genus of Romeans (the Greek Orthodox) on the most Holy Shrines of our blameless Faith.
These struggles continue to this day. The objective is the same, but only the method has changed. Perhaps one would expect the progress and advance of the contemporary civilization to generally influence the lives of the people and to blunt the divisive conditions, cultivating a spirit of inclusiveness and unity. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem looks forward on people, respects the right of freedom of opinion and faith, co-operates in social areas with every well intentioned person, seeking the improvement of the standard of living of man and generally of the world.
However the aims, especially of the Latin in the vulnerable sector of the shrines "status quo" lands us in a different reality, of which I would not like to characterize but leave it to the judgment of each one on the following events.
It is well known to all from the mass media the events that took place at the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The information however was selective and no one dared to present publically the peripheral events which I believe the present members must know.
In the area of the Holy Land the situation is abnormal due to the fight between the Israelis and the Palestinians. At a clash some two years ago a team of armed Palestinians entered the Latin building to avoid a frontal clash and possibly its capture. The Franciscans told them that whatever may happen at that place no one from the International Community would pay attention to it, however if they occupied the Church of the Nativity then they would grab the attention of the world.
It is noteworthy that the Basilica of Nativity belongs to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Latin have next to the Church, the Monastery of Saint Catherine which connects with the interior of the Church through a small door at the end of the north wall. For the protection of the Church the central door and all approaches to the Church were closed except the door of the Latin which locks from their side.
Surely then the armed men came to the Church after some Franciscan monk invited them to their monastery and then opened the connecting door and let them enter in the interior of the Church and re-locked the door behind them and additionally sealed it with wood blocks on their side.
The hope of the Franciscans was that the Israelis would storm the Church to capture the armed men who would then blow up the Church of the Resurrection with the explosives which they had installed. Their "Christian" plans though failed due to the wise and timely handling of the situation by the Patriarchate and the success of obtaining the promise of the Israeli army that it would exercise patience and would not storm the Church.
The abhorrence is further increased from the details of this planning which cannot be mentioned within the allotted time.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem however struggles daily with the untold and baseless claims also of 1) the Armenians who among other wish to acquire rights to participate in the ceremony of the Holy Light, of 2) the Syrians who trampling the status quo wish to increase their official litanies at the Church of the Resurrection and of 3)the Copts who aim to extend their claims even for a few centimeters in the Rotanda of the Edicule of the Most Holy Sepulchre.
Through this concise introduction I attempted to give a representative picture of the activity of the Ecumenical Movement in the realm of the Church of Jerusalem.
In closing I would like to assure all of you, by interpreting the feeling of all the members of the Hagiotaphitic Brotherhood, that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem with a high sense of self sacrifice will continue within these aggravating circumstances its superhuman struggle and will not allow anyone to deduct even a speck from its inalienable privileges and rights on the Most Holy Shrines of which He is is the Founder and Builder, and will keep the gates open to all pilgrims, to whom with great love will offer hospitality within the limits of its jurisdiction, which the Church has implemented through the decisions of the Holy and Ecumenical Synods.