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A letter by the clergy to the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece

concerning the letter by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew




8 October 2009


To the Venerable Hierarchy of the Church of Greece

Your Beatitude,
Most Reverend holy Hierarchs

       These last few days, in view of the upcoming Plenary Meeting in Cyprus of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, an attempt is being made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to smear, slander, intimidate and silence all those who have lately been expressing their opposition to the recent ecumenistic movements and the course that the theological dialogue is taking.

       This attempt has been officially expressed, in two letters: one by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, addressed to His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Hieronymos, and the other letter by His Eminence the Metropolitan of Pergamon, John (Zizioulas), addressed to all the Reverend Metropolitans of the Church of Greece.

       In both these letters, one observes the tactic of intervention, infiltration into the affairs of the Church of Greece, disorientation and selective reference to actions and decisions; also, a thorough absence of an argument and documented assertions can be observed.

       From the tone and the content of those letters one can perceive an underlying contempt towards the Church of Greece, Her Reverend Metropolitans, Her clergy and monks, Her Professors of Theology and Her faithful people.  These are all being upbraided for “zealot trends”, a schismatic disposition, a lack of knowledge, “negligence”, a “disregard of Conciliar decisions”, “malice, fanaticism or an obsession for self-promotion”…

       This is the well-known tactic of excommunication and an en masse condemnation that does not tolerate a contrary word, cannot even consider a second opinion and crushes anyone who dares to utter one. This is the familiar tactic, which relies on coercion, on marshalling forces, on having the absolute upper hand, on ecclesiastic servility.

       The disposition on the part of both of the high-ranking dignitaries to penetrate the internal affairs of the Church of Greece is obvious: the herding and managing of Hierarchs and the synthetic extraction of their decision is being attempted by means of outlandish representations and suggestions, indirect extortions and threats.

       The Church of Greece is called upon, in this manner, to essentially condemn Her very own Bishops, Her clergy, Her Monks and Her faithful people, who have signed – and continue to sign – the “Confession of Faith” because, according to the Ecumenical Patriarch, “by not condemning but instead silently condoning [the confession]…. raises concern not only to Her flock, but also to Her communion with the remaining Orthodox Churches.”  If the Church of Constantinople had a flock that was sensitized to the ecumenist activities, it would have been faced with the same disquiet and the same, well-meaning concern. The traditional Church of Greece not only does not cause any problems in Her communion with the other Orthodox Churches, our co-believing brethren always rely upon Her and Her sound and robust theological forces, as is apparent by the broad, inter-orthodox acceptance of the “Confession”.

       And we ask ourselves, with a grieving heart, whether the Ecumenical Patriarch has ever considered, not only the concern but also the profound sorrow, disappointment and intense scandal that he himself and his interactions with heretics has aroused in the Orthodox flock.

       He charges that allegedly within the text of the “Confession of Faith” “the seed of schism is inherent.” But we ask ourselves: how can the self-evident truths of our Faith with such ease be proclaimed schismatic?  Are the Saints and the Fathers of our Church schismatic, who had instituted and dogmatized the truth and the precision of our immaculate Orthodox Faith?  Could this be a verification of an older, unacceptable patriarchal stance, according to which “our predecessors who had bequeathed division to us were the unfortunate victims of the ancient serpent, and are already in the hands of the just Judge, God?”(Episkepsis, 30.11.1998).

       In both of the letters [mentioned above] there is a repeated invocation of pan-orthodox decisions, which pertain to the continuation of the theological dialogue with the heterodox.  These decisions were never questioned by those exercising criticism on ecumenism, although they are by no means divine laws, nor do they override the decisions of Ecumenical Councils and the dogmatic teaching and the conscience of the Church.

       The criticism that has been exercised chiefly pertains to the overtures, the actions and the documents that have not been based on any pan-orthodox decision and were never approved of in council [synodika], but on the contrary, were met with disfavor by the Orthodox. What it amounts to is the implementation and the acceptance in practice of the pan-heresy of Ecumenism.

       In his letter to His Beatitude Archbishop Hieronymos the Ecumenical Patriarch maintains that “all the Orthodox Churches have approved communications with the heterodox, through conciliar decisions.”

And the following questions are raised:  

  • Which conciliar decision of all of the Orthodox Churches has sanctioned the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Papist liturgies at the Vatican?  
  • Which Conciliar decision of all of the Orthodox Churches has approved the participation of the Pope, the first among heretics, in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy and in the liturgical greeting exchanged with the Ecumenical Patriarch?   
  • Which Conciliar decision of all of the Orthodox Churches has approved participation in the common prayers and worship services of the heterodox?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all of the Orthodox Churches has deemed acceptable to the Orthodox the heretical “branch theory,” the “sister churches,” the “two lungs” theory, and the acceptance [per se] of heterodox baptisms?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Orthodox Churches has recognized the Vatican as a Church and the Pope as a canonical bishop, and co-responsible for the shepherding of the flock of Christ?

       The persistent invocation of conciliar decisions and their entrenchment in them have rendered the argumentation of both letters even more untrustworthy, since it is apparent that the majority of their deeds were realized either void of, in opposition to, or over and above conciliar decisions.

        Let us also point out the well-known tactic they employ, namely that of sailing two courses at once: one purely orthodox course during Pan-Orthodox Conventions and when making the rounds to the Dioceses of Greece and on the Holy Mountain, and another, ecumenistic course during contacts with the heterodox. This is not a case of “yes” meaning “yes” and “no” meaning “no”; rather, a case of sometimes yes and sometimes no.

        For example, the decisions of the 3rd Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Conference (1986) that the Ecumenical Patriarch has invoked have repeatedly been violated, to such a degree that they have been rendered a blank letter.

       As a characteristic example, we can quote the final text of the 9th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Porto Alegre, which was co-signed by the Orthodox representatives and in which it is confessed in common [with the heterodox] that “We confess one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381). Each church (that participates in the World Council of Churches) is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches." (P­o­r­to A­l­e­g­re, February  2006).

       As for the bipartite theological dialogue with the Roman Catholics in the framework of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue, the deviation from pan-Orthodox decisions and commitments is obvious to all.  It is worth noting that the Memoranda of the Orthodox Primates which the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Pergamon has selectively invoked have laid down as a prerequisite for the continuation of the dialogue and a change in its theme the condemnation of Uniatism.

       To be sure, the matter of Uniatism was not discussed in the two previous Meetings of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue – in Belgrade in 2004 and in Ravenna in 2007. Indeed, the Ravenna document indirectly yet explicitly dissociates the matter of Uniatism from the dialogue under discussion during this phase. The Ravenna Document clearly states: “From 1990 until 2000, the main subject discussed by the Commission was that of “Uniatism” (Balamand Document, 1993; Baltimore, 2000), a subject to which we shall give further consideration in the near future. Now we take up the theme raised at the end of the Valamo Document, and reflect upon ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority.”

     Noteworthy, also, is the unacceptable and provocative suppression and erasing in Ravenna of the condemnation of Uniatism by decision of the Plenary Session in Freising of Munich in 1990. This shows just how irresponsible those in the Vatican vis-a-vis the Dialogue are, since they have accepted some decisions and rejected others, thus showing the utmost disrespect to us. It is also apparent that it is simply a pretext and an evasion on the part of the Metropolitan of Pergamon that the topic of Uniatism will be discussed in the near future, in the framework of the discussion regarding the Papal primacy. The matter of Uniatism should have been resolved, with the decision of Freising, Munich, where Orthodox and Roman Catholics had both endorsed the condemnation of Uniatism. Those who humiliated Orthodoxy at Balamand, Lebanon (1993) should be ashamed, and not further provoke matters, given that in spite of the absence of six autocephalous Churches (Jerusalem, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece and Czechoslovakia), we have been dragged into a new, redundant discussion regarding Uniatism. Giving into the demands of the Vatican, we annulled the decision of Munich (1990) and acquitted Uniatism of all charges. What is worse, [in Balamand] we embarked on serious concessions on matters of the faith: we ecclesiologically equated the Roman Catholic “church” to the Orthodox Church, thus denying that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  This alone should have been reason enough to confine the mouth and control the pen of those who dare to speak of respect towards conciliar decisions, which they have utterly disparaged.  In fact, we are continuing to accept Uniates as our interlocutor in the Dialogue [as members of the Roman Catholic delegation].

       With regard to the Ravenna document overall – which has received extremely caustic reviews from the Orthodox side because it has relinquished Orthodox ecclesiology to the heretics – to this day, there has been absolutely no briefing [of the bishops], no discussion, no decision or approval at a conciliar level by the Church of Greece.

       To which Pan-Orthodox decisions are these two dignitaries referring, when not even one of ten documents issued by the Joint Commission has received conciliar approval by the Church of Greece?

        How is the representative sent by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece supposed to represent his church in the drafting of the new document of the Commission, when the previous text has yet to be approved synodically – which, even so, comprises the very basis for the [next text in] impending dialogue?

       What kind of credibility can such a dialogue have (under the co-chairmanship of His Eminence John of Pergamon), when it is indifferent as to [securing] a conciliar approval of its findings from the Local Orthodox Churches that participate in it?

       Why are they protesting about theConfession of Faith, which is an example of conciliar participation of the body of the Church – something which they should be striving for, not banishing? This is not Orthodox Ecclesiology, but a papal hierocracy.  

       Is this the hierocratic «authority and prestige of Conciliar decisions» that the Metropolitan of Pergamon is defending? Is this the “ecclesiological peril” over which he is agonizing?

       The question which troubles us is indeed inescapable. It is not phrased, however, as the Metropolitan of Pergamon twists it, when he closes his letter asking himself: “can there be Orthodoxy and dogmas of the faith without conciliar rulings?” but as it stands in reality: can there be conciliar decisions without Orthodoxy and dogmas of the faith.

        This is what is truly being placed at risk: the preservation of the truth and the exactitude (akriveia) of our irreproachable Faith, expressed synodically by our Most Holy Church, in the framework of Her unimpeded functioning as an Autocephalous Local Orthodox Church.

        By the Grace of God, we shall not cease to defend that which is at risk and preserve it, uninfluenced and unbending in the face of intimidations, threats and extortions. The concerns and speculations of the two, high-ranking letter-writers are unfounded. Orthodox Ecclesiology is being assailed, by hierocratic tendencies that are oblivious to the body (pleroma) of the Church, by a disregard for the holy canonical and patristic tradition as demarcated in the Ecumenical and Local Synods vis-à-vis our stance towards heretics, but also by the recently intensified over-the-border involvement in matters of the autocephalous Church of Greece.

       With trust in the Venerable Hierarchy of our Church, we filially beseech His Beatitude the Archbishop and our Most Reverend Hierarchs to pronounce and express themselves synodically, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and to give reassurance to their flock in-Christ, which agonizes uninformed, waiting for the voice of its Mother the Church.


With the deepest respect,
On behalf of the Synaxis of Clergymen, Monastics, and Laymen, signers of the Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism

Archmandrite Mark Manolis, Spiritual Superintendent of the «Panhellenic Orthodox Union»
Archmandrite Chrysostom Pechos,
Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Loggovarda
Archmandrite Athanasios Anastasiou,
Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of the Great Meteora
Archmandrite Maximos Karavas,
Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Saint Paraskeva, Melochorion of Ptolemais
Archmandrite Theocletos Bolkas,
Abbot of the Sacred Retreat of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, Chalikidi
Archmandrite Gregory Hadjinikolaou,
Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Ano Gatzea, Volos
Archmandrite Sarantis Sarantos,
Parish Priest of the Holy Temple of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Amarousion, Attica
Protopresbyter George Metallinos,
Professor Emeritus, Athens University School of Theology
[OODE note: former Dean of the Athens University School of Theology]
Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis,
Professor Emeritus, Thessaloniki University School of Theology
Elder Priest-Monk Efstratios Lavriotes
Presbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos,
Parish Priest, St. Nicholas’ Church, Patrae



Translation:  K.N. & P.H.

Article published in English on: 15-10-2009.

Last update: 15-10-2009.