Elder Sophrony on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism

szElder Sophrony of Essex

Forgive me; perhaps all this is superfluous. At this point, though, I would like to say a little about the fact that at the present time a significant part of the Christian world tends to accept one of the most dangerous heresies. What is consists of is people saying that in our days there is not one Church which has kept fully the true teaching of Christ; or which possesses complete knowledge of the mystery of the holy, grace-filled Christian life on the ethical and ascetic level. Supposedly, many of the Churches which are nominally Christian have equal grace, and because of that we should proceed towards the union of the Churches on the basis of some common program. One of the most frequent questions which one comes across is the question of who will be saved and who will not be saved. These people usually think that it is not only the Orthodox who will be saved (according to Orthodox teaching), not only the Catholics (according to Catholic teaching), but all virtuous people in general who believe in Christ. This viewpoint has passed from the Protestants to the faithful of other Churches. There are many among the Orthodox who hold this opinion.

Some people think that no single one of the existing Churches can receive the fulness of knowledge and grace, because each one of them in one or another degree has deviated from the truth. They think that only now ‘at the end of the ages’ they (these sages) have fully grasped the spirit of the teaching of Christ, and that the entire Christian world has been led astray for many centuries until now. That now the time has come when we must unite all the separated parts into one universal and apostle Church, which will have the fulness of truth in all its aspects, even though this union will only embrace what is common to all the Churches. What is even worse, some of them are pondering in their hearts a certain high, supra-ecclesial, mystical, understanding of Christian religion, which… I won’t say more about this.

I digressed into discussing this for one reason only: to tell you that I very much want you (and I pray to God for this) not to be deceived by all that, but to be convinced firmly in your heart and mind that on this earth there is one unique and true Church which Christ founded; that this Church maintains unspoiled the teaching of Christ, that she in her totality (and not in her individual members) possesses the fulness of knowledge and grace and infallibility. [I want you to be convinced] that what for several people seems to be incompleteness in her teaching is none other than the potential for some scholarly elaboration of her inexhaustible and infinite riches — this, however, does not contradict in any measure what I said above about her possessing the fulness of knowledge.

The definitive form of expression of the Church’s teaching at the Ecumenical Councils cannot be subjected to any change. All future academic work must obligatorily concur with what was given in divine revelation and in the teaching of the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. The same is true in connection with grace: only the one and unique Church can have the fulness of grace. All the other Churches, however, do have grace because of their faith in Christ, but not in its fulness. We can, furthermore, believe that in our days there are still people who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, are equal to the great Saints of the Church of ancient times. (I am saying this in connection with what I heard about several people in Russia.) [This is] because Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8). All this is the truth. Whoever departs from this faith will not stand. (Striving for Knowledge of God pp. 144-146. Letter 11)

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The Holy and Great Council: With Great Preparation but Without Expectations

Conclusions and Summary of the Theological-Academic Conference:

The Holy and Great Council: With Great Preparation but Without Expectations

holysynodbanneromhkseaInvoking the blessings of the Holy Trinity, on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in the Melina Merkouri Hall of the Peace and Friendship Stadium, in Piraeus, Greece, at Neo Faliro, the Theological-Academic Conference entitled “The Holy and Great Council: With Great Preparation but Without Expectations” began.

Sponsored by the Dioceses of Glyfada, Gortina, Kithyron, Pireaus and the Synaxis of Clergy and Monastics, as well as the Congregation of Priests and Monks, the conference was honored by the presence of many respected Fathers, priests, presidents of Christian Organizations, Professors of the Theological Schools, Theologians and about a thousand attendants. The Seminar was organized by the five-member Academic board: Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim, Archmandrite Athanasios Anastasiou, the former abbot of the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Dean Emeritus of the Theological School of Athens, Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis, Professor Emeritus of the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Demetrius Tselingides, Honored Professor of the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Present at the Conference, with greetings from the Church of Ukraine, was the Bishop of Bantsen, Logginos and Fr. Sabbas the head of the Great Lavra Monastery on Mount Athos. Also, representing Metropolitan Gabriel of Losetz of the Church of Bulgaria, was Fr. Matthew Voulkanescou, priest of the Holy Metropolis of Piraeus, who read his greeting.

The general theme of the Conference was divided into four sessions, with talks given by their Eminences, Seraphim of Pireaus, Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios, Paul of Glyfada, Seraphim of Kithiron and Jeremiah of Gortyna and Megalopolis, the university professors, Prot. Fr. George Metallinos, Prot. Fr. Theodoros Zisis, Dr. Demetrios Tseleggidis, Archamndrite Saranti Sarantos, having a doctorate from the Theology School of the University of Athens, Archimandrite Athanasios Anastasiou, Protopresbyter Fr. Peter Heers, having a doctorate from the Theology School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Protopresbyter Fr. Anastasio Gkotsopoulos, Theologian (Master Theology) and rector of the Church of St. Nicholas, Patra, Archmandrite Paul Dimitrakopoulos, Theologian (Master Theology), Director of the Office Against Heresies of the Metropolis Piraeus, Mr. Stavros Bozoviti, Theologian-Author, member of the Brotherhood of Theologians “Sotir” and Protopresbyter Fr. Aggelos Angelakpoulos, Theologian and priest of the Metropolis of Piraeus.

Based upon the lectures and the ensuing dialogue, the following resolution was drafted and approved by all:

1. The Theology of our Church is the gift of Divine Revelation, the experience of Pentecost. There is no Church without Theology and no Theology outside of the Church, theology which was spoken by the Prophets, the Apostles, the Fathers and the Holy Synods. When a Council does not follow Orthodox teaching, it cannot be a true Orthodox Council, acceptable to the Orthodox faithful. This can happen when the participants in the Council do not have the experience of the Holy Fathers or do not, at least, follow them without misinterpreting them. In that case, the members of the Council proclaim heretical teachings or become influenced by political goals or other agendas. The modern ecclesiastical reality has shown that today’s high ranking members of the church hierarchy are, in fact, often unduly and improperly influenced by political agendas. In many of the cases, we can see that an inter-ecclesiastical rivalry is created where national and political agendas predominate.

2. After a long period of preparation for the convening of the Holy and Great Council – 93 years – we see from the topics, the pre-council documents and the comments of the organizing committee, that there is a great loss of the true ideal of a council, a loss of theological fullness and clarity and, with respect to the ideas of the documents that will be discussed, an even greater problem with the theological ambiguity in which they are written.

3. The fact that not all bishops, but only twenty-four, from every local autocephalous church will participate in the Council, is foreign to our canonical and conciliar tradition. The existing historical records bear witness, not to representation, but to the greatest possible participation of bishops from all districts of the Church throughout the world. In addition, the fact that this council is not being characterized as Ecumenical because of the novel assertion that “Western Christians are unable to participate” (Patriarch Bartholomew) stands in direct conflict with the Holy Fathers, who convened the Holy Councils without the heretics in attendance. Consequently, it is unacceptable for its organizers to claim that its authority is tantamount to and on par with the Ecumenical Councils. But neither can this Council be called Pan-Orthodox, because it obviously doesn’t allow all Orthodox bishops to participate. What is equally without witness in our ecclesiastical and canonical tradition, and for this reason unacceptable, is the rule, one Church–one vote, with the necessity of unanimity between all of the local churches. Every bishop has the right to his own vote, since for non-dogmatic issues the principle “let the vote of the majority prevail” is in effect. We also believe that it is both unacceptable to predetermine the issues and for the Council to be organized without the ruling body of bishops of the local churches having synodically expressed their position on these issues.

4. The Joint Theological Dialogues between the Orthodox and the heterodox which have taken place so far have been a tragic failure, as the pioneers of these dialogues themselves now confess. The so-called offering of help, through the dialogues, to the heterodox for their return to the truth in Christ and to Orthodoxy is now known to be false and nonexistent. In the final analysis, these Dialogues serve and promote the goals of a move to a New World Order and of Globalization. An important reality currently being ignored, which the pre-conciliar documents present, is the fact that there is, strangely, no critical assessment of the progress made so far, both in the Joint Theological Dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian communities, or in the Church’s participation in the Ecumenical movement and the W.C.C. – something which was clearly present in the texts of the Third Pre Conciliar Conference.

5. The pre conciliar text entitled: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” presents a series of theological inconsistencies and even contradictions. Thus, the first article correctly declares the ecclesiastical self-consciousness of the Orthodox Church to be the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” However, the sixth article presents a contradiction to above article’s (1) formulation. It characteristically states, that “the Orthodox Church acknowledges the existence in history of other Christian Churches and confessions which are not in communion with her.” This raises the obvious theological question: If the Church is “One,” according to the Symbol of Faith and the consciousness of the Orthodox Church (Article 1), how then is there mention of other Christian Churches? It is obvious that these other Churches are heterodox. The heterodox “Churches,” however, can in no way be called “Churches” by the Orthodox. Theologically speaking, there can’t be many “Churches” with dogmatic differences and, indeed, with respect to many theological issues. Consequently, since these “Churches” remain steadfast in their faith’s cacodoxy, it is not theologically correct to impart to them any ecclesiality (especially in an official manner), while separated from the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” In the same article (6) there is found a second serious theological contradiction. In the beginning of the article the following is noted: “The unity by which the Church is distinguished in her ontological nature is impossible to shatter.” At the end of the same article, however, it is stated that the Orthodox Church’s participation in the Ecumenical Movement is for the purpose of “pursuing an objective goal – to tread the path to unity.” Here another question is raised: Since the unity of the Church is a fact, what kind of unity of the Churches is being sought within the Ecumenical Movement? Maybe what is meant is the return of the Western Christians to the ONE and only Church? This is not at all apparent from the letter and the spirit of the text as a whole. On the contrary, it clearly gives the impression that the Church is, in fact, divided and that the goals of the interlocutors aim at the unity of the Church.

6. The above text moves within the confines of the new ecumenist ecclesiology, which has already been articulated by the Second Vatican Council. This new ecclesiology posits the recognition of the baptism of all the Christian confessions as its foundation (so-called “Baptismal Theology”). The writers of the text call upon the seventh canon of the Second Ecumenical Council and the ninety-fifth Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, in order to lend canonical validity and synodical legitimacy to this cacodox ecclesiology. However, these Holy Canons only regulate the way in which repentant heretics are accepted into the Church, and no way do they speak of the ecclesiological status of the heretics, neither do they speak of the process of dialogue between the Church and heresy. Furthermore, they certainly don’t imply the “existence” of the sacraments of the heterodox, nor that such heresies impart saving Divine Grace. Never has the Church recognized nor proclaimed ecclesiality for those in delusion and heresy. The “portion of the saved” of which these Holy Canons speak is only found in Orthodoxy and not in heresy. The economy, which the above canons introduce, cannot be applied today to Western Christians (Roman Catholic and Protestants), because they lack the theological presuppositions and the criteria which these specific canons set. And, because economy can’t be applied in matters that concern the dogmatic self-awareness of our Church, the Western Christians are called upon to renounce and anathematize their heresy, to abandon their religious communities, to be catechized and, in repentance, to seek acceptance into the Church through Baptism.

7. There is also no mention, in the above text, of any specifically defined cacodoxy or delusion, as if the spirit of delusion was no longer at work in our days. The text doesn’t point out any heresy or distortion in the ecclesiastical teachings and practice of those in the Christian world who are outside of Orthodoxy. On the other hand, the cacodoxy and heretical departures from the teachings of the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils are characterized as “traditional theological differences, or possible new disagreements” (§ 11), which the Orthodox Church and heterodoxy are called upon to “overcome (§ 11).” The authors of this text desire the unity of the “Churches,” not unity in the Church of Christ. And it is for this reason that there is not found any call to repentance, nor to the denial and condemnation of the delusions and false teachings which have infiltrated the life of these heretical communities.

8. The above text references at length the W.C.C. (§§ 16-21) and it positively evaluates its contribution to the Ecumenical Movement, pointing out the full and equal participation of the Orthodox Churches and their contribution “to the witness of truth and promotion of unity of Christians” (§ 17). However, the image that is given to us by this text regarding the W.C.C. is false and artificial. To begin with, the very inclusion of the Orthodox Church in an organization which presents itself as a kind of “super church” [ὑπερεκκλησία], and it’s coexistence and cooperation with heresy constitute a violation of its canonical order and a breach of its ecclesiological self-understanding. The theological identity of the W.C.C. is clearly Protestant. The witness of the Orthodox Church in its whole has not, thus far, been received by the Protestant confessions of the W.C.C., as is apparent from its seventy year history. All of this makes manifest that the end result of the W.C.C. tends toward the homogenization of its confessions/members by way of a long, drawn out intermingling. This text hides the truth of what has really been going on during these dialogues with the Potestant confessions/members of the W.C.C. and the dead-end which they have reached. Besides this, the text doesn’t condemn the unacceptable, from an Orthodox point of view, common documents of the General Assembly of the W.C.C. (Porto Alegre, Busan etc.), and in addition, it neglects to mention the many degenerative phenomena that we find there, such as the “Liturgy of Lima,” intercommunion, inter religious common prayer, ordination of women, inclusive language, and the acceptance of homosexuality on the part of many confessions, and much more.

9. The changing of the Church’s calendar in 1924 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece was a one-sided, arbitrary act, for it was not a Pan-Orthodox decision. It fragmented the liturgical unity between the Local Orthodox Churches and caused schisms and divisions between the faithful. The change the calendar came about through the efforts of Patriarch Meletios (Metaksakis), heterodox confessions and Western governmental agencies. [Leading up to the Pan Orthodox Council] there appeared a commitment on the part of ecclesiastical leaders, which raised expectations among the faithful, that this Council was to discuss and resolve this issue. Unfortunately, during the long drawn-out pre-conciliar proceedings, the Papal Protestants and the Reformed Protestants posed a new issue for the Orthodox, the “common celebration of Pascha.” Consequently, the interest was turned to this new issue and the discussion regarding the healing of the wound of liturgical unity, during the celebration of the unmovable feasts, (something which was caused without reason or pastoral need) lost momentum. Even though it was the most urgent and burning issue, during the final stage of preparations for the Council, and without any synodical decisions made by the Local Churches, the calendar issue was removed from the list of issues.

10. The history of the Ecumenical Councils confirm that each time they were convened it was on account of some kind of heresy which was threatening the experience, in the Holy Spirit, of ecclesiastical truth and its expression by the Church’s body. On the contrary, the coming Council will be convened, not to define the faith in opposition to heresy, but to grant official recognition and legitimization to the pan-heresy of Ecumenism. The proceedings as a whole, the preparation and subject matter of the Council are the result of the imposition of an ecclesiastical oligarchy, which expresses an academic, ossified, limp and spiritless theology, cut off from the ecclesiastical body. The final judge of the rightness and the validity of the decisions of the Councils is always the fullness of the Church – the clergy, monastics and the faithful people of God – that with its watchful ecclesiastical and dogmatic consciousness, confirms or rejects all such decisions. However, this planned Council completely lacks this important parameter, since, as was officially stated, the bearer of the validity of its decisions will be its “conciliarity” and not the Orthodox plentitude.

11. Another basic prerequisite for the legitimacy of the Great and Holy Council is for it to recognize as Ecumenical, as does the consciousness of the Church, the VIII (879-880) Council, which convened under St. Photios and the IX (1351), which convened under St. Gregory Palamas, and which condemned the heretical teachings emanating from Papism. But this possibility has not even entered the subject matter of the Council or the pre-conciliar texts.

12. The Orthodox way of fasting is so firmly entrenched in the consciousness of the pastors and the people, that it needs no reduction or adjustment. It is the pastors of the Church who have the responsibility to acquire an ascetic mindset and to be educated in their Orthodox Faith in order to therefore discerningly teach their flock by example and by making use of the inconceivable wealth of the writings of the Holy Fathers. Our Orthodox Church benevolently applies economy, in all its grandeur, to all Orthodox Christians throughout the world. There are so many texts by the Holy Fathers on fasting and its passion-killing and saving effects that there is no need for the trivialization which this issue is undergoing at the hands of the post-patristic revisionists with their minimalist mindset, who pretend to care about modern man. If the coming Council imposes new reforms on the number of fasting days and types of food, it will be mimicking the totalitarianism that characterizes papal canon law, which officially and stiflingly regulates even economy itself.

13. Throughout the twentieth century Ecumenism degenerated and has now morphed into a pan-religious fantasy. The unending inter-religious meetings and common prayer services between Orthodox and the leaders of the world’s religions (e.g. Assisi) testify to the fact that the ultimate goal of Ecumenism is the mutual acceptance of all religions and their merging into one grotesque “religious” body, a pan-religious nightmare, which seeks to negate the saving truth of Orthodoxy. In light of this, it impossible to justify inter-religious cooperation. Neither can it be founded on Holy Scripture nor the teachings of the Holy Fathers. The God-inspired words of the Apostle are crystal clear: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” II Cor. 6:14). In addition, the ideal of peaceful coexistence, which is pushed by the inter-religious dialogues ad nauseam, is impossible, since it stands in direct contrast with the Lord’s words, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn. 15:20), and with the words of the Apostle, “all who desire to live godliness in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). Those who have participated up to now in these dialogues have, unfortunately, not been able to convey the unadulterated Orthodox Christian teaching, nor has their witness brought about the conversion of even one person of another faith to Orthodoxy. On the other hand, they have now reached the sorry state of being led astray into delusion and heresies, putting forward blasphemous declarations, scandalizing the faithful people of God, misleading into delusion those who are weak in the Faith and causing a great spiritual erosion and corruption in the Orthodox mindset. Besides this, despite the plethora of dialogues which have taken place up until now, not only has Islamic fanaticism not lessened, but it is growing more and more.

14. We must be inspired by the struggles of the Prophets of the Old Testament and by the Holy Fathers of our Church to guard the Sacred Trust [Παρακαταθήκη]. Like them, we are facing attempts to adulterate the Orthodox faith, like the Mosaic faith in the Old Testament, where first Canaanite and later Babylonian and Egyptian elements were threatening to contaminate the faith in the One God. Great men – prophets, kings, political leaders, and others – struggled valiantly to preserve this faith pure. They especially fought against the various false prophets who emerged from time to time.

In summary, we conclude that the coming “Great and Holy Council” will be neither Great nor Holy because, based on the facts as they now stand, it does not appear to be in accord with the synodical and canonical tradition of the Orthodox Catholic Church. It also appears that it will not truly function as a genuine continuation of the ancient and great Ecumenical and Local Councils. The way in which the Pre-Conciliar documents are worded, which are dogmatic in character, leave no room for doubt that the Council in question aims to grant ecclesiality to the heterodox and to expand the canonical and sacramental boundaries of the Church. However, no Pan-Orthodox Council has the authority to delineate the Church’s identity differently from that which has always been and now is. There are also no indications that the Council in question will move to condemn the modern heresies, especially the pan-heresy of Ecumenism. To the contrary, everything indicates that the upcoming Great and Holy Council is an attempt to legitimize and consolidate this pan-heresy. Nevertheless, we are wholly convinced that all decisions expressing an ecumenist spirit will not be accepted by the clergy and people of God, whereas the Council itself will be recorded in our ecclesiastical history as a pseudo-synod.

ORIGINAL SOURCE: http://epomeni-tois-agiois-patrasi.blogspot.com.cy/2016/03/blog-post_28.html

Translation: Fr. Nicholas K.
Editing: Fr. Peter H.

From the Second Vatican Council (1965) to the Pan Orthodox Council (2016)

Holy and Great Council Logo

                 Holy and Great Council Logo

Signposts on the Way to Crete [1]

by Protopresbyter Peter Heers

It is an overused but necessary cliché to state that the Orthodox Church is the Church of the Oecumenical Councils. It is more essential to state that the Orthodox Church not only held and lived through those Councils, it also lives daily by the words spoken by the Holy Apostles in that first of all Church Councils in Jerusalem: it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us (Acts 15:28); first to the Holy Spirit and then to the Apostles, and all the successors of the Apostles. This theanthropic way of being, which began in earnest in council on the day of Pentecost, is integral to, irremovable from, the life of the Orthodox Church and of Orthodox Christians.

It is the implication of this reality, or rather the absence of evidence thereof among those at the highest levels of the Church, which makes my presentation to you tonight all the more difficult, even painful.

The Orthodox Church stands just weeks away from the long awaited “Great and Holy Council,” which will convene in Crete on the Feast of Pentecost. This Council is unique in the history of the Church for the length of time it has been under preparation, but also for another first: the degree to which its preparatory meetings, organization and certain of its texts have, under the influence of a council of the heterodox, the Second Vatican Council, diverted from the Orthodox way.

This is the reason that, immediately upon the publication of the pre-synodical texts, a wave of objections arose on a pan-Orthodox level. Certain among the more fanatical enthusiasts of ecumenism have attempted to downplay the serious and studied critiques which have been levelled against the pre-synodical texts and the Council itself asserting the criticism is coming from “extremists” and “fanatics” who are “against the council,” have no respect for the conciliar system or an ecclesiastical ethos. These critics neglect the fact that objections to the ecclesiologically abysmal texts have been expressed on a pan-Orthodox level by:

  1. Professors of Theology from Orthodox Theological Schools.
  2. Monastic Brotherhoods, including the Holy Community of Mt. Athos, monasteries in Moldavia, which have also ceased commemoration of their chief hierarch because he accepted, under pressure from the Patriarch of Moscow, the pre-synodical texts, and monasteries in Greece, Georgia and Bulgaria have expressed sharp disagreement.
  3. Dozens of bishops from throughout the Orthodox world have expressed their categorical opposition to the texts as they presently stand. Among these are more than twenty hierarchs from the Church of Greece which have issued forceful statements opposing aspects not only of the pre-synodical texts but also the Council itself, some of which have, for reasons of conscience, declined to participate. In the much-embattled Orthodox Church of the Ukraine, the exceptionally beloved and highly honoured Bishop Longin ceased commemoration of the Patriarch of Russia after he pushed through the Holy Synod acceptance of the pre-synodical texts.
  4. Finally, but most importantly, the Holy Synods of Local Churches, such as the Church of Cyprus, have expressed sharp criticism of aspects of the pre-synodical texts. The hierarchy of the Church of Greece will meet next week to consider the objections of many hierarchs and publish either their rejection of the texts or recommendations for substantial changes. The Holy Synods of the Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia, in spite of intense external pressure exerted against them, have issued unanimous decisions which reject aspects of the pre-synodical texts. And the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has issued an extensive and well-documented critique of the pre-synodical texts along the same lines as the Local Churches mentioned above.

Hence, in our examination of the Council we do not stand alone but join a large and growing segment of the Orthodox hierarchy and clergy who are calling attention to serious problems with the Council and the texts hierarchs are being asked to endorse.

Let us now turn our attention to the matter at hand. In our analysis we will revisit a number of historical and theological “signposts” the Church has passed on its way to Crete, after which we believe the following will be clear: the way of the Pan Orthodox Council does not resemble the theanthropic way of the Apostles; and the ecclesiology the Council is being asked to embrace has never been recognized as “good to the Holy Spirit” or to the preceding successors of the Apostles, the Holy Fathers.

Signposts on The Way of the Pan Orthodox Council

1. The Beginning

The Second Vatican Council was announced by Pope John XXIII on January 25, 1959, and held 178 meetings in the autumn of four successive years. The first gathering was on October 11, 1962, and the last on December 8, 1965.

The first Pan Orthodox Conference, which was called in order to begin preparations for Pan-Orthodox Council, took place in 1961, just three years after the announcement of the Second Vatican Council by the Pope and one year before its commencement.

While today, “it is, in the final analysis, impossible to ascertain for certain which side influenced the other,” [2] that the two councils began in earnest together and the Orthodox side regularly compares its work to Vatican II is undoubtedly a signpost of significance.

2. Methodological Similarities

Although it may be contested that the Patriarchate, in calling the First Pan Orthodox Conference in Rhodes, was reacting to the calling of the Second Vatican Council, what is quite clear is that the methodology adopted in Rhodes and henceforth, was wholly taken from Vatican II. Indeed, it is undisputed in ecumenical circles that the organizers of the Pan Orthodox Council had as their model for the pre-synodical committees and the functioning of the Council itself the modus operandi of the Second Vatican Council.

This is the second signpost on the way to Crete which alerts us to a foreign source of inspiration for the Council.

As researcher Maria Brun, a Roman Catholic specialist on the Pan-Orthodox Council at the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Center in Chambessy, has written: “it is well known that the way in which the Second Vatican Council was carried served as the prototype for the work of the preparatory commission of the Pan Orthodox Council” and that “the Orthodox Church . . . had recourse to the Second Vatican Council for its inspiration.” [3]

Roman Catholic researchers of the Second Vatican Council and the Pan Orthodox Council are not alone in reaching this conclusion. The great Professor of Dogmatics and Saint of the Church, Justin Popovich likewise came to this conclusion. Far from praising matters, St Justin Popovich, in his 1976 memorandum to the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, saw in this approach to convening and organizing the Council a sure sign of its alienation from Orthodox Tradition and pledge of its falsity.

He wrote:

“In reality, all of this manifests and underscores not only the usual lack of consistency, but also an obvious incapacity and failure to understand the nature of Orthodoxy on the part of those who at the present time, in the current situation, and in such a manner would impose their “Council” on the Orthodox Churches – an ignorance and inability to feel or to comprehend what a true ecumenical council has meant and always means for the Orthodox Church and for the pleroma of its faithful who bear the name of Christ. For if they sensed and realized this, they would first of all know that never in the history and life of the Orthodox Church has a single council, not to mention such an exceptional, grace-filled event (like Pentecost itself) as an ecumenical council, sought and invented topics in this artificial way for its work and sessions; – never have there been summoned such conferences, congresses, pro-synods, and other artificial gatherings, unknown to the Orthodox conciliar tradition, and in reality borrowed from Western organizations alien to the Church of Christ.” [4]

3. Common Aims with the Second Vatican Council

A third signpost which alerts us that the Pan Orthodox Council is not following the Holy Fathers is the stated purpose of the Council. Imitating totally the Second Vatican Council, it shares with it the raison d’être for its calling: renovation or “renewal” of the internal life and organization of the Church. Like Vatican II, the Pan-Orthodox Council is being called not to confront dogmatic error, as has every previous universal council, but to renovate and re-organize the Church.

In an article dating back from when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was still a Metropolitan, in the journal The National Catholic Reporter, the Patriarch said the following, revealing his intentions for the Pan Orthodox Council:

“Our aims are the same an John’s (Pope John XXIII): to update the Church and promote Christian unity… The Council will also signify the opening of the Orthodox Church to non-Christian religions, to humanity as a whole. This means a new attitude toward Islam, toward Buddhism, toward contemporary culture, toward aspirations for brotherhood free from racial discrimination…in other words, it will mark the end of twelve centuries of isolation of the Orthodox Church.” [5]

4. “Free From Dogmatism”

Moreover, as has been stressed, this is – like Vatican II – a “non-dogmatic” council at which dogmas are not to be removed from the “storehouse,” as Patriarch Athenagoras is famously quoted as saying. [6] With this similarity with Vatican II we have arrived at the forth signpost on our way to Crete.

The First Pan Orthodox Pre-Concilar Conference in 1976 (to which St. Justin wrote in response) decided, perhaps inspired by the example of Vatican II (which the Pope wanted “free from dogmatism”), to not directly address the dogmas and the canons of the Church, but nonetheless to make decisions of a theological and ecclesiological (i.e. essentially dogmatic) nature based upon them. [7]

Thus, we have a double-minded, mixed-message coming from the organizers: one the one hand it is a “non-dogmatic” council (unheard of) and yet, on the other hand, decisions made will be of a theological and ecclesiological nature.

In effect, this sends a message to the faithful, not only to the laymen but also to clergy, even bishops, which mollifies them and neutralizes vigilance. It is as if to say: “nothing to see here, keep calm and move along,” when in actuality there is a new ecclesiology, a new dogmatic teaching as to what constitutes the Church, being expressed and sanctioned.

Contrast this with the approach of the Holy Fathers, both to the need to “dogmatize” in order to confront schism and heresy (there is no shortage of either in our day!) and to the purpose of the Oecumenical Council.

St. Justin explains:

“Historical reality is perfectly clear: the holy Councils of the Holy Fathers, summoned by God, always, always had before them one, or at the most, two or three questions set before them by the extreme gravity of great heresies and schisms that distorted the Orthodox Faith, tore asunder the Church and seriously placed in danger the salvation of human souls, the salvation of the Orthodox people of God, and of the entire creation of God. Therefore, the ecumenical councils always had a Christological, soteriological, ecclesiological character, which means that their sole and central topic – their Good News – was always the God-Man Jesus Christ and our salvation in Him, our deification in Him.”

The irony and tragedy of the matter lies in the fact that we are faced with “the extreme gravity of a great heresy” which has distorted the Orthodox Faith and is tearing asunder the Church and even depriving many of salvation. This heresy is, of course, the pan-heresy of the new ecumenist ecclesiology which denies the Oneness, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church. Instead of following Vatican II in embracing this new anti-ecclesiology a council should be called in order to decisively denounce it and clearly proclaim anew the diachronic patristic vision of the Body of Christ.

5. Support of the Ecumenical Movement

In direct opposition to such an appropriate and Orthodox response to syncretistic ecumenism, the Pan Orthodox Council is once again in harmony and in step with Vatican II in not only a positive assessment of ecumenism but continued and deepening participation in the movement. This alignment is the fifth signpost on our way to a proper understanding of the coming Council.

In spite of the fact that Orthodox participation in ecumenism has always been, and is today, a cause of division among Orthodox Christians, that two Local Orthodox Churches have long removed themselves from the World Council of Churches and that many bishops and clergy have consistently called for an end to continued compromise and humiliation of the Orthodox in that body, the organizers of the Council and drafters of its texts are unperturbed and unwavering in their support and promotion of it.

6. The Dominant Role Played by Academic Theologians

The sixth signpost which one can observe on the way Crete is the predominant role of academic theologians in the formation of the texts under consideration.

Following the example of Vatican II, the texts of the Pan-Orthodox Council have been prepared by a committee of academically trained theologians and hierarchs, sent as representatives of the Local Churches.

With regard to the Vatican’s council, it is widely recognized that the academic theologians “were the engineers of the massive reforms that were initiated at Vatican II.” [8] Their contribution “was remarkable. . . . The bishops of Vatican II were aware of the importance of the theologians.” [9] The Council extended official acceptance to their decades of work for the renovation of theology, and in particular, of ecclesiology.[10]

With regard to the Pan Orthodox Council, something very similar is at work. The entire pleroma of the Church – laity, monastics, clergy and even hierarchs and even the hierarchy of the Local Churches – have largely been left out of the process. A small group of academic theologians have been the guiding hand which has shaped the texts to be submitted for ratification in Crete.

Indicative of the limited participation of hierarchs, not to mention monastics or clergy, is the fact that the final texts, although approved in committee in October of last year, were not made known to the hierarchs and faithful until late January of 2016. This, however, did not preclude select academic theologians in Thessaloniki and Athens from gaining access to the final texts and presenting papers on them in December.

While the domination of academic theologians in the West, at the Second Vatican Council cannot be considered either a break with past practice or particularly problematic (indeed it is hailed as a great and positive contribution), for the Orthodox, for whom a theologian is one who prays, to have academic theologians guiding the bishops is an apostasy from Orthodox epistemology and a sign that Barlaamism has once again raised its deluded head. We must not forget that at every turn in the history of the Councils at which orthodoxy was proclaimed “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit” and to ascetic bishops – not to philosophizing scholastics who had no relation to neptic (νηπτική) theology and practice.

Ecclesiological Convergence: Following Vatican II, not the Holy Fathers

Let us now turn our attention to the essence of Pan Orthodox Council and in particular to the convergence one can observe with respect to the two councils’ approach to ecclesiological-dogmatic matters.

To begin with, one is struck with the convergence, or rather, total identification with regard to the stance taken on the various heresies. The texts of the Second Vatican Council, and those of the Pan Orthodox Council, make no reference at all to heresies or delusions, as if the spirit of delusion is no longer at work in our day. [11] The Fathers in every age and at every Local and Ecumenical Council had this one basic task: the awakening of the ecclesiastical conscience. They took care to direct the attention of the fullness of the Church to the adulteration and corruption of the Revelation of the Gospel from “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29), from those “speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:30), from “false prophets” (2 Pet. 2:1), and from “damnable heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). Both the Second Vatican Council and the Pan Orthodox Council stand opposite this established apostolic, patristic and synodical practice of the Church: they name no delusion, no heresy, no falsification of ecclesiastical teaching and life! On the contrary, in the proposed texts of the Pan Orthodox Council, and in particular, in the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church to the Rest of the Christian World,” heretical diversions from the teaching of the Fathers and Ecumenical Councils are characterized as simply “traditional theological differences” and “possible new disagreements” (§ 11), which the Orthodox Church and the heterodox are called upon to “overcome”! The influence here of the Second Vatican Council and its Decree on Ecumenism is obvious![12]

Secondly, the Pan Orthodox Council, following the Second Vatican Council and moving within “new circumstances” (§ 4) in which supposedly heresies do not exist, took the unprecedented initiative to officially invite to be present as “observers” at the Council, heterodox “representatives of Christian Churches or Confessions, with which the Orthodox Church conducts Bi-Lateral Dialogues, as well as from other Christian organizations.” [13] Never, in the two-thousand year history of the Church, have heterodox “observers” representing heresies which have been condemned by Ecumenical Councils and the ecclesiastical conscience been present at a local or Ecumenical Council. This novel idea of having “observers” was only introduced 50 years ago at the papal council, the Second Vatican Council. A Pan Orthodox Council, however, should not have as its model papal practices, methods and measures.

Another characteristic similarity between the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Pan Orthodox Council is the use of ambiguous and questionable terminology which allows for varied or even opposing interpretations.

The most famous of such contested phrases from the Second Vatican Council is found in the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium where a decisive change was made to the definition of the Church.

In order to be consistent with a new view of the separated churches, Lumen Gentium dropped an absolute and exclusive identity between the Church of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church, as had been traditionally asserted. [14] The preparatory commission to the council in its opening session of 1962 had made the following statements in the schema De Ecclesia: “The Roman Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ . . . and only the one that is Roman Catholic has the right to be called Church.” [15]

This simple identification of the Church of Christ with the Roman Catholic Church, which had also been repeatedly stated in papal encyclicals [16] . . . was replaced with the statement that “the Church of Christ “subsists in” the Catholic Church.” [17]

Not long ago, fifty years after the council, the head of ecumenical relations at the Vatican, Cardinal Kasper, was forced to admit that “the interpretation of [subsists in] amounts to ‘Desideratum’ [something still desired] and includes amphoteric elements which accept twofold interpretations; it is at once inclusive and exclusive.” [18]

Hence, it is not without reason, then, that many speak of a double standard and a duplicitous stance on the part of the authors of the Council’s texts. It cannot be an accident that the Second Vatican Council, especially in the texts of Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio, is claimed as the source for both those who advance an “exclusive” ecclesiology and those who advance an “inclusive” ecclesiology. For, as a leading ecumenist professor in Thessaloniki has written, “they use the same sources, but come to entirely different conclusions.” [19]

Allow me to provide another example from the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Although Lumen Gentium established new criteria for participation in the Church, even a new view of the Church itself, it did not discard the traditional view of the unity of the Church either; it simply no longer applies it to non–Roman Catholics. In Lumen Gentium, the two views follow one after another.

Hence, full participation in the unity of the Church, for Roman Catholics, is described in article 14 of Lumen Gentium. Immediately following this, in article 15, we read of the unity in Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the mysteries of the Church— the “multiple internal links” that establish the separated brethren in an incomplete communion.

In accord with this twofold unity, Rome continues to view itself as the only “concrete manifestation” of the Church—the Church willed by Christ—while non–Roman Catholic churches are churches only in a diminished way (see UR 3d and e).

However, strangely, no matter how “weakened” or “wounded” (See Dominus Iesus) they are supposed to be, these churches are said to have fully legitimate mysteries. [20] Fully united with Christ, their unity with and in the Church is, nonetheless, imperfect. Such a state, hitherto unheard of, is stated but left unexplained. Whatever may be lacking, they are a part of the Church. Schismatics and heretics can be united to Christ and become members of the Body of Christ without, however, being members of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox are all a part of the One Church, even if at varying degrees of fullness.

As Fr. Francis Sullivan writes, summing up the image of the universal Church of Christ created by the new ecclesiology:

One can think of the universal Church as a communion, at various levels of fullness, of bodies that are more or less fully churches. . . . It is a real communion, realized at various degrees of density or fullness, of bodies, all of which, though some more fully than others, have a truly ecclesial character. [21]

It is crucial to keep this idea of the Church in mind when I will read from the pre-synodical draft text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” In the warped ecumenical ecclesiological double-speak of post-Vatican II ecumenism, the mere identification of the Orthodox Church with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church does not preclude the simultaneous recognition of other Churches as possessing an “ecclesial nature” or even as being “more or less fully churches.” Such an unorthodox reading is, of course, quite likely when the text makes particular references to heterodox confessions as “churches.”

Before we examine the relevant portions of the Pan Orthodox Council texts and the ecclesiological convergence observed therein, allow me to pause and share with you a personal anecdote to throw our subject into relief.

Lest we think that the texts of the Council are rather insignificant and any possible ambiguity in them will play a minor role in the future life of the Church, listen to the following plea I received from a thoughtful Roman Catholic observer.

He wrote:

“To my friends in the Orthodox Christian Church, take extreme care for this Great and Holy Synod…otherwise it will be to Orthodoxy what Vatican II was to the [Roman] Catholic Church of the 1960’s. That is, because of the ambiguity of language of the documents of the Council it was the catalyst for the Apostasy we now face in the West… Most especially it is responsible for the false witness of our hierarchy up to and including this current Pope. Be vigilant, strong, and Faithful to Christ and His Church. Don’t let what happened … as a result of Vatican II, despite the best efforts of some clergy and laity, happen to the [Orthodox] Church. The few who remain Faithful within [our] Church have derisively been labelled “traditional” Catholics …their pre-Vatican II faith and practice is now openly mocked by the main body of the Novus Ordo, (or New Order of the Conciliar Church) and we have been and are increasingly marginalized in our services and fellowship with other [Roman] Catholics. I pray that you remain always faithful to the Orthodox, traditions, doctrines and Dogmas.

Note the order of things according to this observer:

The ambiguity of the texts are seen as the catalyst:

1. for apostasy
2. enabling of a false witness from some hierarchs
3. and a marginalization of the faithful

Let us now turn to the relevant portions of the most problematic text submitted to the Council, “Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian World” to see the same ambiguity at work as in the texts of the Second Vatican Council.

As has already been pointed out by venerable hierarchs and theologians, including Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktou and Professor Demetrios Tselingides, this pre-synodical text displays recurrent theological ambiguity, inconsistency and contradiction.

In the first article it proclaims the ecclesiastical self-identity of the Orthodox Church, considering Her to be the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” In article six, however, a contradictory statement is made, that the “the Orthodox Church recognizes the historic existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions not in communion with Her.”

The question arises: If the Church is “One”, as we confess in the Symbol of Faith, as is commemorated in article 1 this text, then what is meant by referring to other Christian “Churches” in a text purported to express Orthodox ecclesiology?

As Professor Tselingides has written, “Considering things from a dogmatic perspective it is not possible to speak about a plurality of “Churches” with different dogmas, and this, indeed, with regard to many different theological issues. Consequently, as long as these “Churches” remain firm in the erroneous beliefs of their faith, there is no theological justification to grant them ecclesial recognition —and this officially —outside of the “‘One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.’”

In a dogmatic text of this nature it should be obvious that the term “Church” must be used strictly in accordance with the Orthodox meaning of the word, so as to exclude any possible misinterpretation. Given the unorthodox ecclesiological paradigm of post-Vatican II ecumenism, which we alluded to earlier, there is sufficient basis for the hierarchs of the Local Churches to reject this draft text on relations with the Heterodox.

In this same article (#6), we find another instance of serious theological ambiguity and contradiction. At the outset we read that “According to the ontological nature of the Church, it is impossible for [Her] unity to be shattered.” At the end, however, it is written that, by Her participation in the Ecumenical Movement, the Orthodox Church has as its “objective aim the paving of the way which leads toward unity.”

This particular instance of ambiguity and contradiction reminds one of articles 14 and 15 in Lumen Gentium, mentioned earlier, where two opposing visions of the Church are presented successively.

In this instance, the unity of the Church is initially acknowledged as a given, only to be followed by the idea that unity is what is still being sought. Again, to quote Professor Tselingides: “What type of unity of Churches is being sought in the context of the Ecumenical Movement? Does it perhaps mean the return of Western Christians to the ONE and only Church? Such a meaning, though, does not emerge either in the letter or the spirit of the entire text. On the contrary, indeed, the impression is given that there exists a long-established division in the Church and that the prospects of the [Ecumenical] dialogues focus on the disrupted unity of the Church.”

Our final example is the theological confusion caused by the ambiguity in article 20, which reads:

“The prospects of the theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Churches and Confessions shall always be determined on the basis of Her canonical criteria of the already established ecclesiastical tradition (canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext Council).”

Why were these canons cited? These canons address the reception of specific heretics that had demonstrated their desire to join the Orthodox Church. However, as Professor Tselingides has pointed out, “it is apparent from the letter and spirit of the text, as judged from a theological perspective, that there is no discussion whatsoever of the return of the heterodox to the Orthodox Church, the only Church.”

So, why are these canons cited as basis for our theological dialogues with the Heterodox? The answer supplied by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktou and Professor Tselingides is that the aim of this article (#20) is to subtly insert so-called “baptismal theology” through the “back door” into the Council’s texts. Given the great ambiguity of the text, one may think that our answer is based solely upon our deductions. Rather, we were led to this conclusion based upon on the initial explanations given by leading ecumenist theologians Professor Tsompanides of the Theological School of Thessaloniki and Metropolitan Chrysostom of Messenia.

The recent reply of Metropolitan Chrysostom to our original criticisms presents us with another opportunity to show that the academic theologians in service of the Pan Orthodox Council are, like their predecessors at Vatican II, adept in the art of double speak.

Metropolitan Chrysostom, in his memorandum to the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church of Greece [22] regarding the text in question refers to article 20 and angrily insists that in no way is it related to “baptismal theology.”

Metropolitan Chrysostom, having sharply dismissed his critics as “theologically inept” for suggesting any adoption of “baptismal theology” on his part, then writes the following: “The ‘kat’oikonomian’ reception of the heterodox by the Orthodox Church, either by confession of faith or by Chrismation, implies the ‘kat’oikonomian’ acceptance of their baptism as valid and real, not, however, of all of the other mysteries or the particular Confession…”

This is, in fact, a fairly accurate description of “baptismal theology” which the Metropolitan insists he rejects. The Metropolitan could easily be mistaken as describing the common baptism theory of Vatican II, which views non-Roman Catholic baptism not only as preserving the form but as also communicating the reality of the mystery. His words also remind one of the uniquely Augustinian principle that heretics had the sacramentum (sign) but not the res sacramenti (the reality it conveys), with the decisive difference that the Metropolitan rather holds that they had both the sacramentum, or τύπος, and the res sacramentum, or reality of the τύπος.

In any case, what is clear is that Metropolitan Chrysostom and all who may hold that a valid and real baptism exists outside the Church – including the drafters of the pre-synodical text – cannot be mistaken for presenting the Orthodox teaching which refuses to divide Christ, refuses, that is, to separate the Mysteries, since Christ is all in all and every Mystery is an expression of the One Mystery, Who is Christ. Simply put, there can be no acceptance, even ‘kat’oikonomian’, of partial initiation or participation in the One Christ. For the Orthodox, an authentic Mystery takes place within the bounds of the One Church with full, not partial, fidelity to the faith and practice of the Church.

All of the foregoing (and much more which could be cited) supports the statement made by the Abbot and brothers of Karakalou Monastery on Mt. Athos concerning the texts of the Great and Holy Council, namely, that the pre-synodical texts are “ambiguous and allow for interpretations which divert from Orthodox dogma.”

In conclusion allow me to bring to your attention the following judgements made forty years ago by two ecclesiastical men of exceptional insight and discernment of the spirits of this age.

The first, Fr. Seraphim Rose, was at the time but a monk writing from the wilderness of northern California, far from the pre-synodical commissions and committees. Yet, his judgement has withstood the test of time and comes to confirm for us that little has changed from the first to the last with regard to the Council:

He writes in 1976:

“Measured by the sober standard of unchanging, Patristic Orthodoxy, the preparations for an “eighth Ecumenical Council” (now termed Pan-Orthodox Council) are exposed as un-Orthodox, lacking in seriousness, and profoundly unpastoral and irresponsible. Such a Council is a project rooted not in Orthodox wisdom and in heartfelt concern for the salvation of souls, but rather in the “spirit of the times”; it is intended to please, not God, but the world, and in particular the heterodox world. Judging from the experience of the Vatican Council and its effect on Roman Catholicism, such a Council, if it is held, will produce profound disorders and anarchy in the Orthodox world…the proposed “Ecumenical Council,” on the basis of the preparations that have hitherto been made for it, cannot be anything but another “robber council,’ a betrayal of Christ and His Church.”[23]

Writing about the same time (1976) and in total agreement, the great dogmatician and Confessor of the Faith, Saint Justin Popovich pleaded with his hierarchy to abstain not only from the preparations but from the Council itself, foreseeing the most bitter fruits from its convening:

“My conscience once more obliges me to turn with insistence and beseeching to the Holy Council of Bishops of the martyred Serbian Church: let our Serbian Church abstain from participating in the preparations for the “ecumenical council,” indeed from participating in the council itself. For should this council, God forbid, actually come to pass, only one kind of result can be expected from it: schisms, heresies and the loss of many souls. Considering the question from the point of view of the apostolic and patristic and historical experience of the Church, such a council, instead of healing, will but open up new wounds in the body of the Church and inflict upon her new problems and new misfortunes.” [24]

Reverend Fathers, beloved in Christ,

This powerful prophetic voice of the great Confessor of our Faith, Saint Justin, remains today, after forty years, exceptionally relevant and authentic. The events of the last four decades have only confirmed the right judgement of the Saint. Moreover, all that has been presented to you tonight, namely,

· the beginning and the methodology of the Council,

· the insistent avoidance of discussion of the dogmatic challenges facing the Church (including ecumenism),

· the absence of experiential (true) theologians,

· the characterization of heresy as “Churches”, the invitation of the leaders of the heresies to be present as “observers”,

· the recognition of the baptism (and by extension other mysteries) of heretical confessions, as well as their “ecclesial nature”,

confirms the apprehensions of many that the Pan Orthodox Council does not fulfil the presuppositions to be received in the ecclesiastical consciousness as “following the Holy Fathers.”

On the contrary, as we have shown above, the Council has been decisively influenced by the ecclesiological positions and practices of the Vatican and, on this account, tends toward being received by the Faithful as merely “following the Second Vatican Council.”

[1] This lecture was delivered to the Diakideio Institute for the Education of the People in Patra, Greece, May 18, 2016.

[2] «Το ποιός, σε τελική ανάλυση, επηρέασε ποιόν, σήμερα δεν είναι πλέον δυνατόν να διαπιστωθεί.» (Maria Brun, «O αντίκτυπος της Β′ Βατικάνειας Συνόδου στην Όρθόδοξη Εκκλησία», στο περιοδικό Θεολογία, Τόμος 86, Τεύχος 2, Απρίλιος – Ιούνιος 2015).
[3] Brun, «O αντίκτυπος της Β′ Βατικάνειας Συνόδου στην Όρθόδοξη Εκκλησία».

[4] See: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/stjustin_council.aspx.

[5] Council Coming for Orthodox”, interview by Desmond O’Grady, The National Catholic Reporter, in the January 21, 1977 edition. See also: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/towards.aspx.

[6] This also reminds one of the famous expression of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, himself responsible for calling the first Pan-Orthodox preparatory meetings: “The age of dogma has passed” (a statement by Patriarch Athenagoras; see Akropolis [29 June 1963]) and “Dogmas are the power of the Church, her wealth, and for this reason we keep our wealth in a vault. But this in no way impedes us from minting a new coinage with the other Churches: ‘the coinage of love….’” (Declared after the meeting between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI (Jerusalem, January 6, 1964).)

[7] «H Α ΠΠΔ αποφάσισε το 1976 να αφήσει αμετάβλητα τα δόγματα και τους κανόνες…και να λάβει, επί τη βάσει αυτών, θεολογικής και εκκλησιολογικής φύσεως αποφάσει» (Maria Brun).

[8] Swidler, Leonard, ‘The Context: Breaking Reform by Breaking Theologians and Religious,’ in The Church in Anguish: Has the Vatican Betrayed Vatican II?, ed. by Hans Kung and Swidler, ἔκδ. Harper and Row, San Francisco 1987, σσ. 189-192 (σ. 189), ὅπως ἀναφέρεται στὸν Gabriel, Yves Congar’s Vision, σ. 57

[9] Congar, Yves, Le Theologien dans l’Eglise aujourd’hui, σ. 12, as quoted in Gabriel, Yves Congar’s Vision, σ. 57

[10] Βλ: Mettepenningen, Nouvelle Théologie. «[Ἡ ἐπιρροή τους, ὅπως μποροῦμε νὰ δοῦμε ἀπὸ τὶς acta τῆς Συνόδου καὶ τὰ ποικίλα Συνοδικὰ ἡμερολόγια, ἀποδείχθηκε ἐξόχως σημαντικὴ» (σ. 6). Βλ. ἐπίσης: Guarino, Thomas G., Foundations of Systematic Theology. ἔκδ. T&T Clark, New York 2005), σ. 288

[11] The Third Pan Orthodox Conference (Chambessy 1986) did not dare to adopt the phrase “heterodox Christians.” According to the minutes of the meeting, Metropolitan George of Mt. Lebanon stated: “I was ready to suggest the term “heterodox Christians”, but perhaps we are able to find an even more moderate expression.” The president of the meeting, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Myron, responded: “Let us avoid using the term “heterodox.”! (Συνοδικά ΙΧ, σ. 251).

[12] See Unitatis Redintegratio § 3,4 and Protopresbyter Peter Heers, The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II (Uncut Mountain Press, 2015), 271-76.

[13] According to the decision of the Primates (Jan. 21-28, 2016) the following will be invited to be present as representatives: 1) two from the Roman Catholic Church, 2) one from the Coptic Church, 3) one from the Ethiopian Church, 4) one from the Armenian Church, 5) one from the Catholicos of Cilicia, 6) one from the Syro-Jacobite Church, 7) one from the Anglican Church, 8) the Archbishop of the Old Catholics of the Union of Utrecht, 9) one from the worldwide Lutheran Federation, 10) the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches and the Head of the Faith and Order Commission, 11) the President of the European Council of Churches, 12) the General Secretary of the Middle Eastern Council of Churches, and 13) the President of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany.

[14] The official explanation given to the bishops by the Theological Commission to explain this change shows that it was made to agree with the new consideration of the non–Roman Catholic mysteries and communions as such. The Commission said the change was made “so that the expression might better agree with the affirmation about the ecclesial elements which are found elsewhere.” Sullivan, Francis A., S.J. “The Significance of the Vatican II Declaration that the Church of Christ ‘Subsists in’ the Roman Catholic Church.” In René Latourelle, editor, Vatican II: Assessment and Perspectives, Twenty-five Years After (1962– 1987). Volume 2. New York: Paulist Press, 1989, 274.

[15] Sullivan, Significance, 273.

[16] For example, Pope Pius XII, in both Mystici Corporis (1943) and Humani generis (1950), made it very clear that the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church of Christ, and the Roman Catholic Church were one and the same thing.

[17] Lumen Gentium 8.

[18] Τσομπανίδης, Στυλιανός Χ. [Tsombanidis, Stylianos X.]. Η Διακήρυξη “Dominus Iesus” και η Οικουμενική Σημασία της [The declaration “Dominus Iesus” and its ecumenical meaning]. Πουρναρά: Θεσσαλονίκη, 2003, 122– 23.

[19] Τσομπανίδης, Ἡ Διακήρυξη Dominus Iesus, 82.

[20] This is apparent, for example, in UR 15a: “through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in each of these [Orthodox] Churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in stature.”

[21] Sullivan, “The Significance of the Vatican II Declaration that the Church of Christ ‘Subsists in’ the Roman Catholic Church,” 283 (emphasis added). Likewise, according to I. Spiteri, “[ from a reading of the encyclical UUS] a new image of the Church emerges, a Church which is constituted by a communion of Churches, in which, in some way, all Christian Churches belong.” Ἰ. Σπιτέρης, “Ἡ Καθολική Ἐκκλησία καὶ οἱ ἄλλες χριστιανικές Ἐκκλησίες” [The Catholic Church and the other Christian Churches], Θ. Κοντίδης (ἐπιμ.), (Ὁ Καθολικισμος, Ἀθήνα 2000), 246.

[22] See: http://www.amen.gr/article/ypomnima-tou-mitropoliti-messinias-gia-to-panorthodokso-keimeno-sxeseis-tis-orthodoksou-ekklisias-pros-ton-loipon-xristianikon-kosmon.

[23] The Orthodox Word, Nov.-Dec. 1976 (71), 184-195 (http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/towards.aspx).

[24] Ορθόδοξος Τύπος, 304/10.2.1978, σ. 4. In English: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/stjustin_council.aspx.

On Peace and Truth

St CyrilSt. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

I love peace; there is nothing that I detest more than quarrels and disputes. I love everybody, and if I could heal one of the brethren by losing all my possessions and goods, I am willing to do so joyfully; because it is concord that I value most… But there is a question of the faith and of a scandal which concerns all the churches of the Roman Empire… The sacred doctrine is entrusted to us… I am ready to endure with tranquility all the blame, all humiliations, all injuries provided that faith is not endangered. I am filled with love for Nestorius; nobody loves him more than I do… If, in accordance with Christ’s commandment, we must love our very enemies themselves, is it not natural that we should be united in special affection to those who are in the priesthood? But when the faith is attacked, we must not hesitate to sacrifice our life itself. And if we fear to preach the truth because that causes us some inconvenience, how, in our gatherings, can we chant the combats and triumphs of our holy martyrs? (Christological Dialogue on the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten, p. 15)

St. Cyril of Alexandria on Miaphysite Christology and Chalcedonian Dyophysitism

st_cyril_alexandriaThe following Fr. John McGuckin paper is a must-read for those interested in the ongoing dialogue between the Orthodox and the Anti-Chalcedonian Miaphysites. Fr. John is an expert on St. Cyril’s theology and all are encouraged to read, and re-read his magnificent “St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and Texts”; nevertheless, there are also some objectionable ecclesiological misstatements within the paper. Fr. John utilizes terminology like “separated brethren” typical of those who have embraced an errant form of ecumenism. This is the terminology of Vat II, therefore, he seems to imply that the Anti-Chalcedonians are to be numbered among the Orthodox. The Word says, “My dove, my undefiled is one; She is the only one of her mother” (Songs 6:9); consequently, “theosis has no sister”. There has never been any local Orthodox Church that has been repeatedly anathematized by the others in successive Ecumenical Synods and eucharistic ecclesiology cannot be stretched so far. The Anti-Chalcedonians have been cut off from the Church according to Orthodox dogmatic sources and the Saints. Likewise, the Orthodox and Council of Chalcedon have been anathematized by their dogmatic authorities. (refer to Christology and the Council of Chalcedon by Fr. Shenouda Ishak, Parts 5 & 6)

We long and pray for the day when we can unite with the Anti-Chalcedonians, and everyone else who has rejected Orthodox doctrine, however, this union can only occur via the path of repentance, rejection of error, embracing the Truth and adhering to the Orthodox dogmas set forth in the Ecumenical Synods and other sources of Orthodox Tradition. St. John of Kronstadt: “Unite in this faith all the great Christian societies, woefully having fallen aside from the unity of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is Your Body and whose Head art Thou and the Savior of the Body… grant unto their hearts to know the truth and salvific nature of Thy Church and to unite with it; link to Thy holy Church also those who are suffering from ignorance, delusion, and the stubbornness of schism… Draw all nations populating the earth to this faith, that they may all glorify Thee, the only God of all, with one heart and one mouth.” (Kizenko, ‘A Prodigal Saint: Father John of Kronstadt and the Russian People’, p. 54)

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Fr. John McGuckin

St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Miaphysite Christology and Chalcedonian Dyophysitism

The Quest for the Phronema Patrum

The critically important phrase which St. Cyril of Alexandria uses in his early Christological doctrine, Mia physis tou theou logou sesarkomene (One enfleshed nature (physis) of God the Word), is one that the Non-Chalcedonian (Oriental) Orthodox Churches return to with great insistence, as part of their historic position that Chalcedon 451 departed from Cyril’s authentically patristic theology of the Incarnate Union (of God and Man) in Christ’s own divine Person. It is therefore of the utmost importance in the ongoing discussion of the separated Orthodox traditions that this Cyrilline Miaphysite teaching should be understood (by all parties), for it is something that is the common faith of both the Byzantine and the Oriental Orthodox traditions. It is the thesis of this paper that the Byzantine Orthodox Tradition, offering as its confession of Christological faith a synthesis of the synodical teachings from Ephesus 431 to Chalcedon 451 and Constantinople 553 (the three can never be separated in the confession of the Byzantine Orthodox, since all are regarded as the authentic exegesis of the others) is that the Miaphysite doctrine of St. Cyril is as correct as the Dyophysite doctrine of Chalcedon. That this is not a hopelessly illogical stance is explained on the basis that the term physis is being used by Cyril in an archaic sense, as equivalent to the term hypostasis at Chalcedon later; and so the Mia physis can coexist as an important (and common element of universal Christian Orthodoxy) along with the dyo physeis, without being logically contradictory. The implications of this will be further argued to the effect that Cyrilline Miaphysites are not necessarily Monophysites (who have largely existed between the covers of heresiology books) no more than Chalcedonian Dyophysites must be either Nestorians or deniers of the wondrous effects of the Christological Union (henosis). However, the article also states as its thesis that the Christological difficulties between the separated Orthodox communions do not thereby disappear by lexicological magic, as if they never existed outside the realm of semantic confusion and misunderstanding. On the contrary, the discussion will address the charge of the Oriental Orthodox that the continuing insistence on two natures after the Christological Union means that Chalcedonians do not really take on board the implications that what the Word has made one in Himself (the two natures of Godhead and Humanity) cannot legitimately be spoken of, after the Union, as two.

The investigation of this ancient patristic phrase of the Mia Physis is thus more than an exercise in historical theology. It has direct and important implications for the communion of the Orthodox churches in fundamental ways today, as separated brothers and sisters begin to hear one another more clearly, and study the foundational texts more seriously than for many centuries past. What is at stake is a common search for a central value for all Orthodox, namely the true exegesis of what is the phronema patrum or patristic mindset and how this is manifested in synodical statements that are believed to be Oecumenical (that is of the whole Christian Oikoumene) precisely because these Synods themselves represent this essential phronema most purely.

On Sophiology and Russian Intellectualism

imageSt. John of Shanghai and San Francisco 1896-1966

A consequence of the fall of the Russian State was the arising of the Russian Diaspora. More than a million people were forced to leave their homeland and be scattered about the whole face of the earth.

A significant part of the Russians who went abroad belonged to that intellectual class which in recent times has lived by the ideas of the West. While belonging to the Orthodox Church and confessing themselves to be Orthodox, the people of this class in their world outlook significantly departed from Orthodoxy. The chief sin of people of this class was that they did not build their convictions and way of life on the teaching of the Orthodox faith, but rather strove to make the rules and teaching of the Orthodox Church conform to their own habits and desires. Therefore, on the one hand they were but very little interested in the essence of Orthodox teaching, often even considering the dogmatic teaching of the Church as being completely unimportant; and on the other hand they fulfilled the demands and rites of the Orthodox Church, but only in so far as this did not interfere with their more European than Russian way of life. From this comes their disdainful attitude towards fasting, their visiting of churches only for a short time, and this rather more for the satisfaction of aesthetic than religious feeling, and their complete lack of understanding of religion as the chief foundation of the spiritual life of man.

In the public realm this class likewise lived by the ideas of the West. Without giving any place at all for the influence of the Church, it strove to reconstruct the whole life of Russia, especially in the realm of State government, according to Western models. For this reason, in recent times an especially fierce battle was waged against State authority, and at the same time the necessity for liberal reforms and a democratic organization of Russia became as it were a new faith, not to confess which signified that one was behind the times… the intellectual class led Imperial Russia to its fall and prepared the way for the Communist power.

After the coming to power of Communism, the intellectual class was partially annihilated, and partially it fled abroad, saving its own life… Finding themselves abroad, the Russian people suffered great spiritual shocks. In the souls of a majority there occurred a significant crisis which was marked by a mass return of the intellectual class to the Church.

However, this positive manifestation also had its negative side. By no means all of those who returned to faith accepted it in all the fullness of Orthodox teaching. The proud mind could not agree that up to now it had stood on a false path. There arose strivings to make Christian teaching agree with the previous views and ideas of the converts. Therefore there was a whole series of new religious-philosophical currents, often completely foreign to Church teaching. Of these currents, especially widespread was Sophiology, which is founded on the recognition of the value of man in himself and expresses the psychology of the intellectual class.

Sophiology as a doctrine is known to a comparatively small group of people, and very few actually subscribe to it openly. But a significant part of the Intellectual class of the emigration is spiritually akin to it, for the psychology of Sophiology is the worship of man, who is no longer the humble slave of God, but is himself a small god who has no need to be blindly submissive to the Lord God. A feeling of refined pride bound up with faith in the possibility for a man to live by his own wisdom, is very characteristic of many people who are “cultural” in the modern sense, who place above everything else the conclusions of their own minds and do not desire to be in everything submissive to the teaching of the Church, looking upon it favorably in a condescending way…

In the future life the judgment will be most severe for those Russians who, being educated in superb colleges, become the fiercest enemies of Russia. One is forced to foresee already that in the future the Diaspora will give many conscious workers against Orthodox Russia, who will strive to make it Catholic or spread various sects, and likewise those who, while remaining outwardly Orthodox and Russian, will secretly work against Russia.

But Russia was founded on and grew through Orthodoxy, and only Orthodoxy will save Russia. (The Meaning of the Russian Diaspora)

 

On Islam and Salvation

iconof_stignatiusbrianchaninovSt. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

Vainly and erroneously you think and say that virtuous… Muslims will be saved, that is they will join intercourse with God! Vainly you consider the contrary notion a novelty, a brief error! No! Such is the eternal teaching of the true Church, both Old Testament and New. The Church has always confessed that there exists one means of salvation: the Redeemer! She has confessed that the most virtuous of the fallen really do descend to Hell. Did the righteous of the True Church, the illumined from whom shone the Holy Spirit, the prophets and wonderworkers, believers in the Redeemer’s coming but with the demise of the anticipated coming of the Redeemer, descend to Hell so that, as you wish, the Muslims who neither recognize nor believe in the Redeemer receive, because they seem to you good people, that salvation which is delivered solely– solely, I repeat to you, by means of — belief in the Redeemer? — Christians! Know Christ! — Witness that you don’t know Him, that you denied him in claiming the possibility of salvation without Him for some kind of virtue! Claiming the possibility of salvation without belief in Christ denies Him and, maybe not consciously, falls into the grave sin of blasphemy. “Therefore we conclude,” says the Holy Apostle Paul, “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28) “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-4). You will object: “The Holy Apostle James requires without fail good works; he teaches that ‘faith, if it hath not works, is dead’ (James 2:17).” Look again at what the Holy Apostle James requires. You will see that he, just like all God-inspired writers of Holy Scripture, requires the works of faith, and not the virtues of our fallen state! He requires living faith, confirmed by the deeds of the new man, and not the virtues of the fallen state, which are repugnant to faith. He cites the deeds of Patriarch Abraham, the work from which appeared the faith of a righteous man: this work consisted of offering as a sacrifice to God his only begotten son. To offer one’s son as a sacrifice– this is totally not a virtue according to human nature: it is a virtue as the fulfilment of the command of God, as a work of faith. Take a good look at the New Testament and in general all of Holy Scripture: you will find that it demands fulfilment of the commandments of God, that this fulfilment is called works, that from this fulfilment of God’s commandments faith in God comes to life, as functioning; without works faith is dead, lacking any movement. And contrary to this, you will find that virtuous works of the fallen state, done out of feeling, blood, impulses or tenderheartedness– are prohibited, repudiated! And namely for these virtues you like… the Muslims! To them, though it were repudiation of Christ, you want to give salvation. (Letter 203)

Turkey Pope Demo 01

You are blessed if you recognize the difference between the virtuous of the spirit and of the heart, between the virtuous peculiar solely to the New Adam, and virtuous which the old Adam is capable of joining: between the virtuous of the Gospel and the virtuous of our fallen state, the virtuous to whom are not strange idolaters, Muslims and all such people who shun the following of sacred Truth. (Letter 234)

Faith is sacred and true only when it is faith in the sacred Truth, when it is faith which yields on the earth the human form of divine Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ. Any other faith, except faith in the sacred Truth, is superstition. The fruits of superstition are ruin. Such faith is condemned by God: it is the faith of idolators in their idols, Muslims in their false prophet Mohammed and in the Qu’ran, heretics in their blasphemous dogmas and in their hereseiarchs, and rationalists in their fallen human intellect. With this faith will the Antichrist be believed by his followers. (Letter 236)