On the Direction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the 20th Century

Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Professor Emeritus of Athens University

The 19th century is especially important for every development, spiritual and political. Not merely were the nation states formed and with them the concomitant replacement of Orthodox Ethnarchy with national autocephalous states, but the ravages of multifarious Protestantism, as missionary activity, engulfed the Orthodox East, paving a way towards the Ecumenism of the 20th century. With the opening of this new period, there also began the progressively uncertain stance of Orthodoxy, particularly the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which hovered between Patricity, which had continued under Turkish rule, and the new choices, which would lead to compromise and, today, to identification with that delusion which had for centuries been rebuffed.

…The robust stance on the part of the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Leadership towards the heterodox West changed officially at the beginning of the 20th century, at the time of Patriarch Ioakeim III (+1912). This discontinuation is patently obvious merely from a comparison of the dogmatic and creedal texts from 1902 onwards with those of the 19th century…

The prelude to this change had already appeared in 1865, when the headship of the Theological School in Halki was transferred from the traditional and Patristic Konstantinos Typaldos, titular Metropolitan of Stavroupolis, to Filotheos Vryennios (+1918) who had studied in Germany and was later to become Metropolitan of Didymoteikhos. With Vryennios, a new stage was inaugurated as regards Western Christendom, which also reveals the change of heart within the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with which the School was always in step. “The voice of the School was its voice”, according to the statement of our Ecumenical Patriarch, Vartholomaios. But in what did the change lie? The spirit of admiration for the West and Europeanization intensified, as did the cultivation of ecumenical relations.

The re-evaluation of the attitude of the Ecumenical Patriarchate towards the West was a consequence of the change in the political relations of the Ottoman Empire with Western Governments. This change of tack, however, was not confined to the level of political and social relations, but also, unfortunately, affected theology. The re-adjustment of theology is clear in the path followed by the School, which reflected the policy of the Phanar. And here is the proof: according to the school archives, from 1855, when the institution of “Theses” and “Dissertations” began to function, and until 1862, thirteen of the studies by students were related to the Latin Church and, in particular, to the institution of the Papacy, in a spirit clearly of disputation and censure. In other words, some 1/5 of the student’s academic essays were critical of Papal primacy. This was the spirit of the School and of the Ethnarchy at the time. After Typaldos, the studies on the subject from 1869 to 1907 amount to a total of 21. From 1907, however, until 1922, there are no other texts of this nature, while from 1923 until 1971, when, “on the Lord knows what grounds”, the School closed, only three texts appeared. The complete change in spirit is confirmed by the dissertation by Kyriakos Koutsoumalis in 1968: “The Theological Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church in the Three Pan-Orthodox Conferences”.

But this means that, at the center of the Ethnarchy, a new attitude was inaugurated, in a positive spirit, towards the West, which had until then been repulsed. This spirit was Western-friendly and in favor of “ecumenical relations”. The main point of reference would henceforth not be the East, but the West, with whatever that meant. The boundaries of this change were laid out by three important Texts of the Ecumenical Throne: the Encyclical of Patriarch Ioakeim III in 1902; the Declaration of 1920; and the Encyclical of 1952. The first put into effect the ecumenical overture towards Western Christendom, while the others are of a purely programmatic nature, inaugurating and promoting the path towards Ecumenism with the “Ecumenical Movement”. The participation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in this led to today’s relations, which the Orthodox conscience censures. The change which followed is revealed by the language used. The “tendrils”, as the Western Christian groupings were called in 1902, became “Churches” by 1920, which, of course, is a matter of praise for Ecumenists, both Greek and foreign. But this has meant, however, a gradual equation of Western confessions with the One Church, the Orthodox. At this point, the last Pope was more sincere when, in 2008, he refused to recognize the Protestants as a Church, while he called Orthodoxy “wanting” since it did not accept his primacy.

With the Declaration of 1920, the Ecumenical Patriarchate presented the rule-book for the attitude to be taken by the Orthodox party within the Ecumenical Movement. If the Encyclical of 1902 opened the way for our participation in the Ecumenical Movement, the Declaration of 1920 prepared our entry into the WCC, while the Encyclical of 1952, under the tenure of Patriarch Athenagoras, operated as a completion and ratification of this planned course of action. For this reason, great Orthodox theologians, such as Ioannis Karmiris and Fr. George Florovsky, despite their attachment to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, felt obliged to express their reservations towards these overtures and the developments set in train by them.

For a short time, a brake was applied to this process by the “Resolution of the Conference in Moscow against Papism” in 1948. There, Papism was denounced for all the newly-appeared Roman dogmas. As the Delcaration says, the Popes “corrupted the purity of the teaching of ancient ecumenical Orthodoxy through their newly-introduced dogmas”. Papism is explicitly called “anti- Christian”. This marks a return to the pre-1900 spirit, though there was to be no continuation, as events proved. This was also contributed to by the language used to avoid scandalizing Church-goers. In the Encyclical of 1952, the Ecumenical Patriarchate says that “through its participation so far in the Pan- Christian Movement, the Orthodox Church has sought to bring to the attention of the heterodox and to transmit to them the wealth of its faith, worship and organization, as well as its religious and ascetic experience, and also to become informed itself of their new methods and concepts of ecclesiastical life and action”. Fearing, however, the relativization of the faith, Ioannis Kasimiris felt the need to stress that: “The participation of the Orthodox… and co-operation… has the meaning of communion of love and not communion in dogmatic teaching and the mysteries”, as if a “communion of love” could be possible without unity of faith (“faith working through love” Gal. 5:6). The true aims of inter-Christian Ecumenism are freely revealed by hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne such as Yermanos, Archbishop of Thyateira (Strinopoulos), who, referring at length to the Declaration of 1920, which he himself wrote, together with other professors of Halki, said: “There is a need for the Churches to realize that, apart from unity, in the strict sense of the term… there is also another, more inclusive concept of unity, according to which anybody who accepts the fundamental teaching of the revelation of God in Christ and receives Him as the Savior and the Lord, should be considered a member of the same body and not a stranger”. “Without going into an examination of the dogmatic differences that separate the Churches”, the Archbishop of Thyateira added, “we should cultivate precisely this idea of broader unity…”. What is clear here is the theory of the broad Church, which demands the marginalization of the faith and of the saving nature of dogma, in contradistinction to the Apostolic and Patristic tradition of all the centuries.

But another equally prominent Hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and one of its leading members, the former Archbishop of America, Iakovos, made this aim even clearer in an interview he gave in 1999: “What really made me cross was all the battles and then the relative failure of the Ecumenical Dialogue, which aimed at the union or rapprochement of the Churches and then, more generally, of all religions”. This is a genuine confession of the aspirations of the Ecumenical Movement and its connection with the inter-religious dialogue, as well as the New Age objectives for the achievement of a Universal Religion. But the Blessed Justin (Popović) expressed a responsible and objective critique, calling Ecumenism: “… a common name for the pseudo-Christianities and for the pseudo-Churches of Western Europe. Within it you will find all the European Humanisms, with Papism in the forefront. All these pseudo- Christians, all these pseudo-Churches are nothing more than heresy upon heresy. Their common evangelical name is All-Embracing Heresy”. And he wonders: “Was it therefore necessary for the Orthodox Church, this most undefiled Theanthropic body and organization of the Theanthropic Christ to be humiliated so monstrously that its theologian representatives, even hierarchs, should seek organic participation and inclusion in the WCC? Alas, unheard of betrayal”.

Fr. Justin was able to foresee the outcome of ecumenical relations, which culminated in the decisions of Balamand (1993) (= confirmation of the Papist heresy as a sister Church and of the Unia, which took part officially in the Dialogue) and of Porto Allegre (2006) (=acceptance of Protestant ecclesiology), as well as the de facto recognition of “baptismal theology”, “common service”, without unity of the faith, of “the expanded Church” and of “cultural pluralism”.

Ecumenism in all its dimensions and versions has proved to be a real Babylonian captivity for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all the local leaders of the Orthodox Church. The boasting and self-congratulation of our Ecumenists about a supposed “new era” which the Ecumenical Patriarchate opened with the Patriarchal Encyclicals of 1902 and 1920 are not justified because “what has been achieved is to legitimize the heresies and schisms of Papism and Protestantism”. This is the carefully-weighed conclusion of Fr. Theodoros Zisis to which I fully subscribe.

It is therefore clear that Ecumenism has now been proved to be an ecclesiological heresy, a “demonic syncretism”, which seeks to bring Orthodoxy into a federal union with the Western heretical panspermia. But in this way Orthodoxy does not influence the non-Orthodox world soteriologically, because it has itself been trapped in the pitfalls of Ecumenism, in the persons of the local leaderships who are working towards wearing it down and alienating it.

So, instead of following the example of our Holy Fathers in the preservation of Orthodoxy as the sole chance of salvation for mankind and society, our Church leadership is doing exactly the opposite: by confusing Orthodoxy with heresy within the sphere of Ecumenism and, to all intents and purposes, recognizing the heretical delusion, it has brought about the dilution of the criteria of the Orthodox faithful and is depriving them and the world of the chance of salvation.

It is precisely in this direction that the intervention of so-called “Post- Patristic Theology” proves to be demonic, in that it offers theological cover and support to our ecumenist hysteria and to the demolition of our Patristic and traditional foundations. This, of course, is not happening with a direct polemic against the faith of the Synods and the Fathers — on the contrary, this is often praised hypocritically and extolled — but, rather, by casting doubt on its neptic requirements, avoiding any condemnation of heresies, and thus the de facto recognition of them as Churches, i.e. of an equal soteriological weight as Orthodoxy. In this way, the Holy Fathers and their teaching are rejected, supposedly because they have overturned the faith and practice of the ancient Church. Post-Patricity, in other words, is in its essence anti-patricity, because this Protestantizing movement weakens the Patristic tradition, without which Orthodoxy is unable to withstand the maelstrom of Ecumenism and compliance with the plans of the New Age. And, to paraphrase Dostoevsky: “Without the Fathers, everything is permitted”! Whereas according to Saint Gregory Palamas: “In this lies piety: not doubting the God-bearing Fathers”. (From Patricity to Post-Patricity: 
The Self-Destruction of the Orthodox Leadership)

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