In one of my previous articles I wrote that the Pope and the Papists do not have priesthood, because with their heretic teaching of the Filioque and all the other heresies they created, they were cut off from the Church of Christ and therefore so were their apostolic succession and Tradition cut off. This has alienated some who claim that the Pope has priesthood.
I would like to make some additional explanations over this view. The Great Basil had confronted in his time various problems on how the Orthodox Church could receive in her bosom the heretics. Having made the distinction between heresy, schism and conventicle (non-conformist assembly), referring to the heretics who have declined, as Gennadios Skolarios says "either directly or indirectly", "about some of the articles of faith", he writes that "for those who departed from the Church, they no more enjoy the Grace of the Holy Spirit and they cannot pass it on, because the apostolic succession has been broken. Saint Nikodemos, the Agiorite, notes: "When a member of the body is severed, it immediately dies, as it can no more be provided with life giving power, similarly, those who at one time were torn away, immediately they lost both the spiritual grace and the energy of the Holy Spirit, as those can not be transferred through joints or associations, but only by the union with the Spirit".
It follows, that outside the Orthodox Church there are no mysteries, nor is there priesthood or true Divine Liturgy that can be performed. On this point all the holy canons are based , forbidding the praying with heretics.
The Orthodox Church maintains this stand and this is apparent from the following fact. When the papist "priest" or "bishop" wishes to become Orthodox, we do not accept the "priesthood" he had but we re-tonsure him. This even happens with the schismatics, with whom we do not have dogmatic differences but only "on some matters of ecclesiastical nature that can be easily resolved". Even for them the Church does not accept their "priesthood" when they came to the Church, but are re-tonsured, as the Ecumenical Patriarchate recently did, because the canonicity of the Arch-hierarchs who tonsured them had suffered. This means that if the Pope repented and wished to become Orthodox, then returning to the Church, he must be re-tonsured since by Aristin "he is heretic", that by faith he is a stranger but in the matter of curing he is schismatic.
This is the basic ecclesiastical position as expressed by Great Basil as well as the entire practice of the Church. Since we do not recognize the "priesthood" of the heretics we do not also accept the results that derive from their "priesthood". For this reason even the Pope is not considered successor of Apostle Peter, even if on the flag of the Vatican are displayed the keys of the Heavenly Kingdom, according to the false interpretation given by the papist about the saying of Christ in Matt 17:13-20.
From the magazine Theodromia, 3rd Year- !st Issue,
January - March 2001