Your Holiness, WHAT "pan-Orthodox decision"?
by fr. Anastasios K. Gotsopoulos,
Parish Priest of St.George's Church, Patrae.
A letter by the Ecumenical Patriarch addressed to the Archbishop of Athens has been made public, in which the Patriarch is vigorously protesting against the composition and circulation of the "Confession of Faith against Ecumenism", which has been endorsed by a host of laypeople and clergymen, and by several Hierarchs.
His Holiness has not commented on the essence of the "Confession"; instead, he has placed the blame on the editors and all those who signed it, because:
1. In the "Confession" it apparently says -according to the Ecumenical Patriarch- that «all those who communicate with the heterodox....automatically place themselves outside the Church».
2. those who refuse the inter-Christian dialogue are opposing «conciliar decisions of all the Orthodox Churches without exception, including our Most Holy Church of Greece, as per the unanimous decision of the 3rd Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference (1986)».
Α. Except that:
1. Nowhere in the text proper of the "Confession" does it say: «all those who communicate with the heterodox» are culpable, but rather, it refers to those who have accepted and who preach in practice and in word the "pan-heresy" (in the words of fr. Justin Popovitch) of Ecumenism! To quote :
"This pan-heresy has been accepted by many Orthodox patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, clergymen, monks and laity. They teach it, «barefacedly»; they apply it and impose it in practice, communing with heretics in every possible manner - with common prayers, with exchanges of visits, with pastoral collaborations - thus essentially placing themselves outside the Church."
Nowhere does the "Confession" say that even the ecumenists «automatically place themselves outside the Church», as the Patriarch asserts in His letter! Quite obviously, the composers of the "Confession", being the well-versed theologians that they are, are fully aware that there is no such thing as an "automatic" exit from the Church !
The "Confession" very clearly says: ".....thus essentially placing themselves outside the Church" (paragraph 8).
There is a vast difference in meaning, between the words "automatically" and "essentially" !
2. The Patriarch states that «all the Orthodox Churches have approved communications with the heterodox, through conciliar decisions » and consequently, all those who criticize what goes on in the Dialogue are supposedly opposing Pan-Orthodox decisions!
We beg to be allowed - with all due respect to the Patriarch of our Nation - to also pose the following questions publicly (because privately sent letters are not responded to, by the pertinent officials of the Throne):
a. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» was it, that abolished the Encyclical by the Patriarch Athenagoras' Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in which common prayer had been outrightly condemned as "opposing the sacred canons and blunting the confessional sensitivity of the Orthodox?" Is today's attitude - by some - in accordance with this Encyclical by the Sacred Synod of the Patriarchate, on the matter of common prayer?
b. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» gave permission to the Pope to not merely attend, but to almost actively participate in a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy, dressed in his official vestments?
c. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» obligated the Ecumenical Patriarch to give and receive the liturgical embrace with the Pope during the Divine Eucharist of the Throne's Celebration in 2006?
d. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» was it, that gave the Pope permission to pray on behalf of the Orthodox fold during the Lord's Prayer in (may I be permitted to say) the most official of Divine Liturgies in the Patriarchal Temple?
e. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» had ever relinquished the Bema of the Patriarchal Temple so that the papal primacy could be barefacedly preached there? Imagine, fallacy being preached from that very same Bema of Saints Alexander, Gregory, Chrysostom, Photios, Filotheos!Isn't that sacrilege?
f. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» was it, that decided the heresy-persisting Pope should be lauded as "the venerable Pastor and President" - inside the very Patriarchal Temple itself, and in the presence of the Patriarch, no less?
g. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» was it, that permitted the lauding of the Papist heresy as "a venerable Church, the See of Peter", at the First Throne of Constantinople, and in fact inside the very Patriarchal Temple itself, and in the presence of the Patriarch?
h. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» was it, that abolished the 16 Sacred Canons (by Holy Fathers, Local and Ecumenical Synods), and ruled that common prayers with heretics thereafter would no longer constitute a canonical misdemeanor?
i. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» was it, that had approved the drafting of regulations for "confessional" or "inter-confessional" common prayer during the meetings of the World Council of Churches?
j. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» was it, that had sanctioned the provocative text of the 9th General Meeting of the World Council of Churches in Porto Allegre (2006), according to which, "Each church (of the 340 Protestant groups of the W.C.C.) is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches." ?! In that same document, ecclesiastic hypostasis was also recognized in all the Protestant heretical "churches" of the W.C.C., and it was accepted, that the plethora of their cacodoxies and fallacies were "legitimately different formulations of the faith of the Church" and "varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit"! Is it ever possible that a Pan-Orthodox approval for blasphemies such as these could exist?
k. Which «Pan-Orthodox decision» was it, that empowered the Ecumenical Patriarch to offer the Holy Chalice to the Uniate Archbishop of Athens? Wasn't Unia outrightly condemned, in "conciliar decisions of all the Orthodox Churches, without exception [...] as is the unanimous decision of the 3rd Pre-Conciliar, Pan-Orthodox Conference (1986)"? Why are these unanimously decided, Pan-Orthodox rulings so blatantly disregarded, when they have specifically condemned Unia? Why the selective use of "Pan-Orthodox decisions"?
I. Didn't our Patriarch stop to think when offering that Holy Chalice as a gift to the Uniate Archbishop, what a bitter cup it was for the Church of Greece, but also for the other Orthodox Churches, who even today are sighing under the methodical plans of Unia? How will this act by our Patriarch resound in those long-suffering - and still suffering - from Unia brethren of ours in Eastern Europe but also in the Middle East? Isn't that provoking Pan-Orthodox unity?
II. How would our Patriarch feel, if the Archbishop of Athens were to offer a Holy Chalice as a gift to "father Efthym" ? (My apologies, for the cruel parallel...)
And questions like these have no end to them.... but they also have no answers...
The above are just a small reminder, for the debunking of the excuse of the alleged "Pan-Orthodox decisions" ! If only those who lead the dialogue nowadays respected and upheld all of the Pan-Orthodox decisions! All of them, and not selectively! Because, there has never been a Pan-Orthodox Synod that has altered Orthodox Ecclesiology, or abolished Sacred Canons that have been validated by three Ecumenical Synods, or given the right to breach ecclesiastic tradition and order - which is what has been frequently happening nowadays in the space of Ecumenism. If that ever did happen, then any Synod whatsoever - even a "Pan-Orthodox" one - would be negating itself and turned into a "convention of the lawless" and a "synagogue of wicked ones". Besides, the "ecumenist" or "robber" character of a synod is not determined by the number and the representation of those participating in it, but chiefly by the decisions that it arrives at!
Β. Consequently, all those who accuse the ones exercising criticism (on the matter of the dialogues) - of supposedly being opposed to the dialogues per se - well, unless they are slandering by deliberately distorting reality, they are making a huge mistake!
Because NO! WE ARE NOT AGAINST THE DIALOGUE! There cannot be a Christian who refuses any dialogue. Because Christ Himself conversed with sinners. However, we need to be careful, because it was Christ Himself Who had also refused a dialogue: He had refused to talk, even when provoked: He had refused a dialogue with Pilate, the High Priests of the Great Sanhedrin, and with King Herod!
We therefore agree to dialogues, in the manner that our Lord did!
But we also oppose dialogues, in the manner that our Lord did: when certain prerequisites that have been clearly defined by ecclesiastic Tradition are not fulfilled.
Therefore, we are against the dialogue (the "useless game", according to the words of its 20-year-long co-Chairman, the Archbishop Stylianos of Australia), the way it is being conducted nowadays. I will indicatively mention three characteristic points only:
1. The systematic disregard for ecclesiastic tradition, with the ever-increasing and intensified common prayers! We have gone beyond ordinary common prayers, and have rapidly moved on to common officiating (incomplete, for the time being).... And what is even worse: we are striving to impose our iniquity as a law of God (refer to the opinion of Pheidas regarding common prayer)!
2. Certain «professionals» (in the words of prof.Veltsis) of the dialogue are deciding in absentia of the people of God (laity and clergy), and even in absentia of the very Synods of the Autocephalous Churches.
For example: Six Autocephalous Churches - in other words, almost half of Orthodoxy! - the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Church of Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Czech Republic and Slovakia - did not participate, and had synodically condemned the Balamand Statement (7th meeting of the Joint Commission, 1993), as entirely unacceptable from the Orthodox point of view, foreign to Orthodox Tradition, and contrary to the decisions of Pan-Orthodox Conferences (refer to the letter dated 8-12-1994 by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece addressed to Patriarch Bartholomew)! And yet, none of the «professionals» concerned themselves with these facts and the dialogue continues, with the Orthodox representatives regarding this statement as valid and a basis for discussions on the course of the dialogue!
Is this attitude reminiscent of respect towards the Synods of six Autocephalous Churches? Does this behaviour perhaps display a respect for pan-Orthodox unity?
3. In Pan-Orthodox decisions, Unia is condemned repeatedly. And yet, participating in the dialogue are....Uniates! Where, therefore, is there a respect towards the Pan-Orthodox decisions, in the dialogue as conducted today?
Who, therefore, is showing disregard towards the Pan-Orthodox decisions? Those who are exercising criticism with a theological basis, or perhaps those who are actively involved in a "useless game"?
C. There are some who protested, because - as they claim - the "Confession of Faith against Ecumenism" will be .... "unchurching" them from the Church! (ousting them from the Church)
However, we all need to observe carefully, as follows:
1.No-one should worry, or be alarmed, because nobody can be "unchurched" with signatures! Regardless how many signatures by the laity and clergy and Hierarchs are collected!
2.But no-one should rest assured either, that with their signatures they are able to "unchurch" others and thus be done with their protesting! Any silencing whatsoever of the others' opinion cannot be an acceptable thing - not in the Church, and not in our society!
3.Each one of us must however remain alert, because there is the inherent risk of "unchurching" himself - not "automatically" (!) but "essentially", on account of his own utterings and attitude. An official case of "unchurching" may delay, or may not even manifest itself in this lifetime... but what about in the other life?
Let's not forget the case of Saint Maximus the Confessor: a simple monk who fought for the faith and our Church's tradition, against practically the entire Pentarchy (the Patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch) - the "official" "Church" - which had subjugated itself to heresy! He didn't "unchurch" a single one of them; quite the opposite: he was "unchurched", by the powerful (in this world) Patriarchs etc., and he died in exile! But along came a (post mortem) 6th Ecumenical Synod, which based itself on the theology of that simple monk, Maximus, and in fact vindicated that simple monk, and furthermore defrocked, condemned and anathematized SEVEN PATRIARCHS and other Bishops, AS HERETICS!
For the historical record, those condemned were :
· the Pope of Rome, Honorius !
· the 4 Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople : Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul II and Peter !
· the Patriarch of Alexandria, Cyrus !
· the Patriarch of Antioch, Makarios ! and
· bishops Stephanos, Polychronios and Constantine !
D. At the end of His letter, the Ecumenical Patriarch asks of the Archbishop of Athens and his attending "honourable Hierarchy to take an official stance, the soonest, opposite this "Confession of Faith against Ecumenism" and those of the clergy who had endorsed it!"
It is truly worth wondering why the Ecumenical Patriarch and His attending Synod are asking the Church of Greece to take a stance, and why they themselves did not tackle "those of the clergy who had endorsed it", the way that the ever-memorable Christodoulos had done in the past...
It would surely have circumvented possible problems of unity in our Hierarchy!
· Undoubtedly, it is especially sad when a Father confronts the agony of his children as if it were a hostile move, and places himself "opposite [...] those of the clergy" - in other words, his own children!
· It is especially sad, when the Father heads a dialogue outside his own home, with all the neighbors, near and far, but systematically refuses to talk to his own children about their justified - or even unjustified - reservations!
· It is especially sad, when he conducts a "Theological Dialogue" with the heterodox, but refuses to conduct a theological dialogue with His own, co-believing, co-deacons in the Body of Christ!
· It is especially sad, when he asks for measures "opposite" his children - I wonder, what measures would they be? Perhaps preventive censorship and a silencing of other opinions? Where is this going ?
However, woe betide the father who disregards the cry of agony by his children. He only manages to undermine his paternal authority in their conscience.... And let's not overlook the fact that paternal authority cannot be imposed by putting a gag on critique; it can only be inspired, even in "unruly" children. If this applies in biological paternity, how much more so, in spiritual paternity!
At any rate, let it be made absolutely clear to everyone that with the Hierarchs, the Hagiorites and the other Abbots with their Brotherhoods, as well as all the other clergymen and monastics and laity, from the many Orthodox Churches who, before God and our conscience, by endorsing the "Confession of Faith against Ecumenism", we are merely expressing our sorrow and our disagreement with the systematic disregard for our ecclesiastic tradition, as displayed in the space of Ecumenism. We are, and we shall remain, members of our Church, no matter what happens! Even if we are embittered by our Fathers and denied our filial status on account of their attitude, we shall remain members of our Orthodox Church!
OODE Note: The complete text of the letter by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Archbishop of Athens Hieronymos is as follows:
A script titled «Confession of Faith» has come to the attention of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, signed by clergymen, monks, as well as certain laypeople, among whom are also certain Metropolitans of the Autocephalous Church of Greece, through which persons the division is being attempted of the Orthodox faithful, into "confessors of the Orthodox faith" , and into something like "lowest bidders" if they do not accept the positions of the said text's composers.
On this matter, and with a synodic opinion, We have been moved to express to You the serious concern of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and this, for the following reasons:
It is well known that for a long time there exist and are being cultivated - especially in the territory of the Church of Greece - certain zealot trends, which are expressed with sometimes acute and unfamiliar polemics - against the ongoing theological dialogues and contacts of the Orthodox Church and the heterodox. The Orthodox Church has never of course obstructed or censured the expressing of criticism pertaining to the actions and the decisions of the administrative Church, which is why We have also never protested about these trends, even though, as We mentioned, they have often been expressed in an unfamiliar, fanatic and even disrespectful manner. We would not therefore have addressed You, if it were merely a matter of criticism such as that - albeit improper and unfamiliar.
However, the instance of the said «Confession» presents certain peculiarities, which have caused Us concern, given that:
a) This text is self-titled «Confession of Faith» - as though comparable - or at any rate parallel - to those by the Holy and Ecumenical Synods, or to other «Confessions» tht bear the names of persons such as Peter Mogila, Dositheos of Jerusalem, e.a.. But, while the latter also bear a Conciliar validation, this instance of a «Confession» bears no such validation, and with its title misleads a part of the faithful people by appearing like a similar «Confession».
b) This «Confession» asserts in a paragraph that all those who communicate with the heterodox and pray together with them automatically place themselves outside the Church. This signifies that all the Patriarchs and remaining Primates of the Orthodox Churches, along with their Holy Synods, as participants in such communications and dialogues, have automatically placed themselves outside the Church!!! Those who have signed the «Confession» have in this manner proclaimed all of us as being outside the Church, that is, as schismatics, and it is a wonder that they have not yet interrupted sacramental communion with us, since we are - according to them - «outside the Church». At any rate, the seed of schism is inherent in the aforementioned expressions of the «Confession», and this should raise concern among all the pastors of the Church.
c) This concern is intensified, on account of the fact that the said «Confession» is signed - among others - by certain Metropolitans of the Autocephalous Church of Greece, as though the Confession (Creed) that they were given during their ordination was not enough for them. We want to believe that the signatory Hierarchs did this without fully realizing that in this way they are leading towards a schism within the Orthodox Hierarchy, given that all the Orthodox Churches have approved communications with the heterodox, through conciliar decisions.
Because it is inconceivable that these bishops, with their signatures on the said «Confession» on the one hand are proclaiming that all those who participate in communications with the heterodox «automatically place themselves outside the Church», but in their liturgical and their other life regard themselves as being in communion with them, and in fact even commemorating their name during the Divine Liturgy.
Communications with the heterodox, including the theological dialogues with them, are not the actions of certain Churches or persons, but, as We said, they are conciliar decisions of all the Orthodox Churches, without exception, including Your Most Holy Church of Greece, as per the unanimous decision of the 3rd Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Convention (1986) and the hereto attached photocopies of the sent agreements that pertain to the content of our dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.
The ascertainment that this detail has been forgotten by the signatories of the said «Confession» causes immense grief. The Church of Greece, by not condemning but instead silently condoning the circulation of texts appearing as a «Confession of Faith» - such as the one in question, through which all participants in the relations with the heterodox are placed outside the Church and in fact signed by bishops of Hers - causes concern not only to Her flock, but also to Her communion with the remaining Orthodox Churches.
We therefore ask Your Beatitude and your attending honorable Hierarchy to take an official stance as soon as possible, opposite this so-called «Confession of Faith» and those of the clergy who have endorsed it, bearing in mind the danger that this display of tolerance harbors for the unity of the Church, or, as it appears, the encouraging of such divisive actions by certain of Her bishops also.
Having announced these things to Your Beatitude, We also embrace You with a brotherly kiss and remain, with very much love in the Lord and special honour».