On the Tome of Leo and ‘Eastern Ecumenism’

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

I should like to be an advocatus diabolus because I feel the need. First, I am wholeheartedly in favor of a reconciliation between eastern churches, but I am not for over-emphasis on the East. Eastern ecumenism is a contradiction in terms. The West also belongs to the oikoumene. We cannot afford to forget the West — and the Tome of Leo. The Christian Tradition is universal. The Byzantine Church was afraid of precipitating a schism by rejecting Leo. We must also be careful. …I have also doubts about agreement on the basis of a one-sided Cyrillian formula. I think it is important to come to terms with the later Ecumenical Councils. (1964, Discussion on the Paper ‘The Problem of the Unification of Non-Chalcedonian Churches of the East with the Orthodox on the Basis of  Cyril’s Formula: “Mia Physis tou Theou Logou Sesarkomene’ by Professor Johannes N. Karmiris)


  1. “Eastern Ecumenism” seems more tempting to many. Why? Because we are dealing with people whose clergy dress similar, they repudiate papal power, and don’t use the filiqoue; they have icons, and their vestments look very similar to Byzantine vestments; they claim not to be Monophysites, and it looks very tempting. However, as Fr. Florovsky says, the Christian tradition is more than just the East; the Christian Tradition, being really Orthodoxy, is the West too, in so far as it belonged in one mind with the East before the Schism of the West. It is a seeming insult to Orthodox to say that our saints and Fathers and Councils just couldn’t understand they were all wrong for condemning the Anti-Chalcedonians; indeed, it seems an equal insult to the Copts and Syro-Jacboites to say they also didn’t understand. Despite the fact that in Syria, for example, that was a constant interaction between Orthodox, Jacobite, and Nestorian peoples (St. John Damascene for example dealt with them all; even dealing with the Monothelite Church remnant left, i.e., the Maronites); the 9th century Orthodox Bishop, Theodore Abu Qurrah, who wrote in Greek, Arabic and Syriac, was well-aware that the differences were not just simply ‘linguistic’ questions and no more.
    In the case of dealing with the Armenian Church, if you look at St. Photius’ work with them, and his bringing in at one time over 30 bishops from them into ORthodox (indeed, there is a circular letter St. Photius wrote to the West in attempting to ally with them against early attempts at Roman overreach in which St. Photius claims he had effected the reconciliation of the entire Armenian Church to ORthodoxy); St. Photius, in many places seems to regard their cases as being simply one of ‘heretical by accident’ or such, and thus not to be as bad as the Orthodox in their dealings with the Copts and Syro-Jacobites.

  2. Fr. Enoch,

    Thank you for commenting and for adding some historical context.

    Even the great Photios’ most-learned opinion is not respected by those pushing for a false eastern union. Fr. Meyendorff, in his comments during the 1964 dialogue, said that St. Photios’ letters to the Armenians were “too imperious and non-theological, and could hardly anticipate a theological reply.”

    Do you have a translation of his outreach to the Armenians?

  3. Maximos,

    I will try to deal with this in a future article. I’ll have to translate the letter from the Patrologia Graeca; I can read the Latin translation (since the Patrologia Graeca generally has the Greek original with a Latin translation on the other side), but, I want to make sure it is accurate and reflective of the Greek before an English translation is rendered. Until then, I’ll find some links to books on google books that mention the letter and add context, etc.

    I didn’t really find it ‘imperious’ other than he said they needed to submit to the Ecumenical Councils and become Orthodox; in fact, as I recall, St. Photius recognized that an Orthodox Armenian Church would be truly ‘autocephalous’ and not just a subject metropolitanate of Constantinople.

    In Christ,

    Fr. Enoch

Speak Your Mind