Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem and his struggle for the preservation of the Greek character of the pilgrimage sites.
Patriarch Dositheos (Notaras) pastored the Church of Jerusalem from 1669 to 1707. He was from Arachova in the Peloponnesos and was born in 1641 (March 31) of pious parents, Nicholas and Anna. His godfather was the then Metropolitan of Corinth, Gregory Galanos, who supported him during his studies and later ordained him. In 1666 he was appointed as Metropolitan of Caesarea. In 1669, at the age of twenty-eight, he succeeded Patriarch Nectarios to the throne of Jerusalem after the latter's resignation.
His work for the Patriarchate and its Greek character was multifarious, arduous, and fortunately profitable and successful. He reorganized the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, traveled all over the then powerful nation of the Ottoman Empire, mostly in the Balkans - wherever Greek presence flourished. He founded schools, particularly in Romania and Palastine. He printed books on the few printing presses that existed at the time for the needs of the subjugated Orthodox, in order to counter the proselytizing efforts of the Latins and Protestants. He founded a dependent monastery of The Most-holy Tomb in Constantinople and endowed it with rare manuscripts. He traveled the whole Orthodox world, even to the ends of Russia, collecting money and gathering donations, as well as from the Greek leaders of the Danubian countries successfully paying off the massive debt of the Most-holy Tomb.
He accomplished all this in spite of the opposing efforts of the heterodox to seize the pilgrimage sites and to kick out the Greek-Orthodox guards from them. On many occasions he put himself (and even his life) in danger by confronting these attempts. Thus he was able to gather an impressive number of 140 of the Sultan's firmen, who made sure that the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher (that is, the Greek Orthodox) had possession of the pilgrimage sites - against the wishes of the Catholics and their leaders, such as the French priest Castagneves de Chateaunef, as well as the Frank Count Charles De Noitel, whose course of action we will take a look at. This count had already bothered the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, when after the Council of 1672 and the condemnation of the Calvinist confession of Cyril Lucarisi, he asked to learn the Patriarch's view on the transubstantiation of the Holy Eucharist. He claimed, one-sidedly of course, that the Church of Jerusalem had become latinized, seeing as it rejected the opinions of the Protestants. In the prologue to the council's proceedings the fathers replied:
"The mind of the Eastern Church is no other than the Divine Word, which was believed correctly and piously expounded on by the Holy Fathers, and the traditions passed on by the Apostles through word, which have been protected by the Fathers till our time."
The anti-Hellenic action of the dreadful count resumed in 1673 when he formally requested that the Ottoman government hand over the pilgrimage sites of the Holy Tomb to the Papists. Grand Vizier Ahmed Kioproulis, with the help of the great interpreter Panagiotakis Nikousios, declined the request and in order to win time until the Orthodox could organize their policy about the issue, he simply renewed the French-Turkish Treaty of 1604. Naturally, the scheming count was not intimidated, but prepared an official visit to Jerusalem, where he himself would head up his diplomatic mission. On this voyage, he was accompanied by Antoin Galland (an Asianologist), Jacques Carrey and Robert Faidherbde (artists), the Jesuit Sauger, and the intellectual Cornello Magni - a pack of lawlessness and illicitness. And though Charles De Noitel did not accomplish his first goal (i.e. the snatching of the holy sites), he managed to fill the museums and libraries of France with stolen archeological treasures, plunder of his trip.
The Papists in Jerusalem were exceedingly delighted when they heard about the coming visitor with his sonorous name and the carrier of protection of Frank Leader Ludwig XIV. In order to prepare an official reception, but also in order to pave the way to their claims, they attempted to decorate the canopy of the All-holy Tomb in sight of the upcoming Palm Sunday of 1674. The Greek brothers of the Holy Tomb realized that this was a ploy to take the pilgrimage site away from the Orthodox jurisdiction, and so they refused to consent to the undertaking. Instead, they proposed that they themselves decorate it. At that point the Catholics were outraged with the brothers and attacked them. One monk, Clement, was hit on the head with a rock by a Spanish friar and was killed on 3 March. They left another brother from Macedonia, named Macarios, half dead as they did the sacristan, Zacchaeus. The city's judges (as well as the Western historians) tried to cover up the incident with the excuse that they could not sort out who had started the clash. As for the murder of Clement and Macarios' fatal injury, they could not pronounce a judgment.
Afterwards with a spirit of impunity, Count Charles De Noitel and his fellow workers proceeded to new provocations. They entered the Greek monastery and attacked the fathers there and tore their skoufos (the caps monks wear). The count himself wrote a threat letter to the elder and ex-Patriarch Nectarios, an eyewitness to the incident, pushing him to leave Jerusalem and go over to Egypt. The new harassing action on behalf of the ambassador, which was to take over the church in Bethlehem, was unsuccessful. The cunning Frank was planning on taking over the church by surprise, but Abbot Cyrilii was made aware of this and he informed the Orthodox of Bethlehem, who filled the church and stayed until the danger passed.
De Noitel's next rapacious scheme was aimed at the column on which our Lord Jesus Christ was whipped. With every secrecy the Latins planned to take it on the night of Holy Tuesday when the Orthodox would be at the Jordan River. They hid in the Chapel of the Crown of Thorns. Their presence came to the notice of the fathers of the Holy Tomb and they informed the authorities, who intervened immediately. That is how this attempt of the wrong-believers was also unsuccessful.
Seeing as they were not able to accomplish what they had set out to do, by taking as many of the pilgrimage sites as possible, the Frankish envoys went to Constantinople in order to lay claim to their possession. At that time Patriarch Dositheos was in Belgrad. As soon as he was informed of the particulars, he wrote a letter to the Grand Vizier's depute, Kara Mustafa, with the proportionate bribe (500 golden coins) in order to predispose him in favor of the Greek Orthodox's rights. Afterwards he headed to Constantinople, passing through Serres, Meleniko, Philippople, and Andrianople. He arrived in Constantinople in November of 1674 and then went back to Andrianople since Sultan Muhamed IV and Grand Vizier Ahmed Kioproulis were there. The hearing on the subject was set to take place on February 1675. A multitude of faithful gathered there in support of the struggler Patriarch. Some others contributed in this effort of his, such as Philotheos and Constantine of Trapezoniii.
The Frank "princes" rushed to help the Catholics with the prestige of their ranks. They gathered together in the left wing of the hall while the Greeks gathered together in the right. In his address, Patriarch Dositheos used Turkish and Arabic, which he knew well and spoke fluently. He reminded the Grand Vizier of the agreement that Omar made with the then patriarch, Sophronios, during the negotiations regarding the surrendering of the city to the Arabsiv. According to this agreement, the Greeks were to maintain control of the holy sites. He went on to mention historical events calling to attention that when Saladin had drove the crusaders out of the Holy Lands, he abided by the aforementioned treaty. Sultan Salim did the same. Afterwards, he arrived to the present, underlining the criminal behavior of the Westerners: the murder of Father Clement and the fatal injuries of Fathers Macarios and Zacchaeus, as well as how many theiving raids they had carried out in attempt to seize the pilgrimage sites, and the commotion which they had caused in the Holy City. Finishing his address, he asked four things of the Grand Vizier: first, that the Holy Tomb be rendered to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; second, that the mysteries (sacraments) be performed by right and freely under the proprietorship of Brotherhood of the Holy Tomb; third, that all peoples be allowed to venerate; and fourth, that the scheming of the heterodox to come to a stop.
The Grand Vizier's reply was typically legalistic, asking for the more recent documents of the Ottoman sultans and running by the older ones and the older agreements. Unfortunately, Sultan Salim's decree was in Jerusalem. Dositheos had the firmen of Souleman and Murat IV at his disposal, who had secured the holy sites for Patriarch Theophan. Murat IV's firman had particularly stood up for the Greek Orthodox's rights. The Latins tried to dispute the above agreement, according to their favorite custom of presenting false documentsv, specifically an interpretation of the questionable pact of Grand Vizier Bairam with Sultan Murat. Dositheos, by the enlightenment of God, then used his knowledge of Arabic and Turkish to testify to the Westerners' delusive interpretation and he discredited outright the accuracy of their malicious interpretation, seeing as they did not know either language. He also accused them of bribing, invoking the wrath of the Grand Vizier, who postponed the Jik, which means the meeting was over. Thus the Latins were humiliated and were dismissed.
However, Dositheos knew the Franks malice, and for this reason he feared that there would be retaliation. Indeed, De Noitel was not disconcerted and with the support of the Austrian and English ambassadors to the Port, he prompted a demonstration that incorporated impudent threats. At the demonstration, Dositheos replied with the help of the great interpreter Panagiotakis Nikousios, presenting with great courage his own activity. The Grand Vizier stuck to his original decision, for the Latins to put forward a Sultan firman to present their requests. This was to no effect, seeing as there was no such decree. The patriarch waited in Andrianople for six months for the indicative decision. It was published on August 15th, but again money was needed for the decree's composition and it's announcement. The funds were raised with great effort due to the Greeks' poverty. The final decision was announced on October 26, 1675 and according to this the pilgrimage sites would remain in the possession of the Greek Orthodox. It is worth mentioning the help of Alexandros Mavrokordotis, a personal friend of Vizier Kioproulis, such as his statement to De Noitel, which reads as follows: "The French are undoubtedly friends, but I have found them everywhere with our enemies."
Having the requested decrees in his possession, Dositheos returned to Jerusalem in January of 1676, accompanied by a state official. The holy sites were rid of every sign of heretical presence, and the Latins were not able to react (openly) since there had been a decree. It is said "openly," since their reaction was focused on secretly planning the murder of the patriarch. The first murder attempt was made at Pascha and "was crowned" with failure. Another attempt was made when he was passing through Beirut and he was saved because the suspect was properly dressed in Turkish attire. He went to Adrianople a second time in order to renew the decree, seeing as he had been informed of secretive Western diplomacy pushing towards its repeal.
A joint effort by the ambassadors of France, Austria, and Venice was repeated in 1677 with an unusual amount of assistance sent from Poland. Dositheos spent 15,000 piastres (fruit from his time in Vlachia) in order to confront the diplomatic assault. He managed to procure new decrees which prohibited the doorkeepers of the Holy Church of the Sepulcher to interfer in such matters, obstructed the arbitrarinesses of the Latins, and upheld the rights of the Greeks in the All-holy sites.
The Latins' attempts did not stop and they were not dissuaded by their continual failures. Being theoclasts (those that war against God) they were not particularly bothered to become ecclesioclasts (those that war against the Church) as well, especially after their collaboration with the Armenians. They continued trying to take over the holy sites, using every legal and illegal means (since according to their heresy the end sanctifies the means), every political means, and even military pressure towards the Sublime Port. Those who at this point were fighting against Greek Orthodox rights would actually become "Protecting Forces" of Modern Hellenism a century and a half later (it was about a new name), but still restrainers of a revival of Greekness. These attempts to infringe upon the Greek Orthodox's interests and rights continue till this day with unimpaired intensity. To keep the Greek flag waving at the holy sites is in the interest of every Greek and is their duty, just as is material and moral support, to whatever means possible, to the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher and the Patriarchate.
2)Abbott Cyril received this information from one of the servants (of Greek descent) of the French ambassador. See Fr. John Romanidis for information about the term "Romios" and the servitude of Greeks in the West.
3)He came from a well-known family of the time and was learned in canon law. He had served Patriarch Paisios of Jerusalem of blessed-memory serving in the Holy Tomb and had helped a multitude of faithful with his knowledge.
4)This agreement put the Patriarchate of Jerusalem under the Greeks under the subjugation of the Arabs. Following this standing policy Muhamet the Porthetes put the Patriarchate of Constantinople under the Greeks under the subjugation of the Turks, eight centuries later.
5)Let us bring up some of the notorious instances of the West's fabrication, such as the Constantinian Gifts and the Pseudo-Isidorian Orders. The reader can visit the address and read more on these cases.
Written by Stefanos Hadjistamatiou
- 1) Katsaros, Tryphon (Hieromonk, Professor, Theologian), Dositheos: Patriarch of Jerusalem, Athens 1997.
- 2) Papadopoulos, Archbishop Chrysostomos, The History of the Church of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 1910.
- 3) Archimandrite Kallistos, "Patriarch Dositheos (1669-1707) and the Seizure of the Holy Sites by the Latins," New Zion 24, Jerusalem 1929, pp. 98-114, 162-171.
- 4) Karmiris, Ioannis, "Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem's Confession of the Orthodox Faith," from Theologia 19-20.
- 5) Karmiris, Ioannis, "The Council of 1672 in Bethleem and Jerusalem Under Patriarch Dositheos," New Zion 50, Jerusalem 1955, pp. 25-56.
- 6) Karmiris, Ioannis, Dositheos, ΘΗΕ τ.5 pp. 181-197, Athens 1964.
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