a result of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s appointment of two exarch bishops in Ukraine without any blessing from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church resolved at its extraordinary session today that His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will cease commemorating His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during the Divine Liturgy.

The primates of the world’s 15 autocephalous Orthodox Churches typically commemorate one another at various points during the Divine Liturgy.

They also resolved to suspend concelebration with Constantinople hierarchs and to suspend participation in all structures chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Department for External Church Relations, stated at a press briefing today, as RIA-Novosti reports.

However, these measures do not indicate a break in Eucharistic communion: “Eucharist communion between the Churches has not been interrupted. This decision does not deprive the clergy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church of the possibility of holding joint services,” explained Patriarchal Press Secretary Fr. Alexander Volkov.

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church previously stated that it will break Eucharistic communion with Constantinople in the case that it grants autocephaly to a Ukrainian church.

His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine also announced at the meeting today that the canonical Church will not be meeting with the exarchs, who have already arrived in Kiev, inasmuch as they have no blessing to be on the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.


This article was put forth to analyze the speech of the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, at the Synaxis (Council) of the Archbishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which was held in Istanbul on September 1-4, 2018.

In his speech—which was not disputed by any bishop of the Church of Constantinople, but was even met with general approval—Patriarchal Bartholomew at the official ecclesiastical level proclaimed the dogmatic position that the Constantinople (or “Ecumenical”) Patriarchate and its Patriarchs have the primacy of the sacral, administrative, and judicial-appellate1 power in the fullness of the Church of Christ.

These provisions are a recension [related to/in the style of—Trans.] the Latin Heresy of Papacy. Developed especially during the last century by the works of various Phanarite [Constantinople Patriarchate] theologians, this recension was called “Eastern Papism”. This means the claim of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to create a model of governance and authority in the Orthodox Church, similar to that of the Roman Catholic, only with the Patriarch of Constantinople in place of the Pope, and in place of the Roman Church—The Church of Constantinople.

The current Ecumenical Patriarch has declared the Primacy of Honor, which in the eleventh century Church the Patriarch of Constantinople possessed in place of the Pope in the Diptych2 of the Orthodox Church, to be a special institution with authorities, prerogatives, and privileges that were never known in Church Tradition.

Eastern Papism

Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew. Photo: Atilla Kisbenedek / AFP

It is lamentable to see how after so many centuries of struggle with Roman Papism, the Church of Constantinople itself is falling into the same heresy, the same seduction as papism. The imposition of power over the fullness of Orthodox by the Phanar, as it was with the Pope in its time, is a presumptuous and prideful attempt to seize the position of “Head of the Church” from Our Lord Jesus Christ, to revise the apostolic and patristic ecclesiology, to become above the Church, to destroy the canonical structure of the Church, and to deprive the Local Churches of the true freedom that has always been so characteristic and distinctive of Holy Orthodoxy. The Papism of the Phanar dares to disregard and nullify the podvig3 [valorous feat] of opposition to Western Papism, bathed in the blood of the martyrs and the suffering of the Confessors of the Orthodox Faith.

And so, in his speech, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople uttered the following:

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is, for Orthodoxy, a leaven “which leavens the whole lump” (cf. Gal. 5.9) of the Church and of history.”4

It is clear that the Patriarch of Constantinople wanted to express by these words that his Patriarchate is a special, sacred institution, a special force that forms the very Church and history itself, like leaven for a lump of dough.

It is difficult to imagine, however, a more unfortunate quote. What was quoted from the Holy Apostle Paul (Gal. 5:9) was in the context of a reproach addressed to the Galatians5. The Holy Hierarch John Chrysostom explains this as follows:

“And so, this slight error, if left without correction, has the power (as leaven has with dough) to lead you into complete Judaism.”

And here is the explanation of the Blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria:

“This seemingly insignificant circumstance causes significant harm. For leaven, small as it may be, can ferment and change the dough, so circumcision6, although it’s only a teaching, can lead you into complete Judaism.”

To compare the role of a Patriarchate in the Church with circumcision which can lead to Judaism is certainly bold, but in fact, we repeat, it is clear what Patriarch Bartholomew wanted to say.

Further in the text of his speech, the Primate of the Church of Constantinople more than once emphasized that his church, and he means his own throne, has a special sacred place in the entire Orthodox Church:

As the First Throne of Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate exercises a prophetic ministry, extending the mystery of the Catholic Church in Christ Jesus throughout the world in each era”7

In the beginning was the Word . . . in him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1.1,4) The beginning of the Orthodox Church is the Ecumenical Patriarchate; “in this is life, and the life is the light of the Churches.” The late Metropolitan Kyrillos of Gortyna and Arcadia, a beloved Hierarch of the Mother Church and personal friend, was right to underline that “Orthodoxy cannot exist without the Ecumenical Patriarchate”8

Patriarch Bartholomew is speaking everywhere, it would seem, about the Patriarchate, and not a Patriarch of Constantinople. Here we see an important caveat: A declaration of the Ecumenical Patriarchate “As the First Throne of Orthodoxy”.

That is to say, the speech was not simply about exclusive rights and privileges of the Church of Constantinople, in itself would be a serious digression from ecclesiastical truth, but rather, it went as far as speaking about being “The First Throne of Orthodoxy”, just like the “Apostolic Throne” in the Roman Catholic Church.

And so, according to Patriarch Bartholomew and his uncontested doctrine:

• The Synaxis of the Hierarchs of the Church of Constantinople,—The Thone of Constantinople—has an exceptional, unique position and prerogatives in the church, that no other throne or Local Church possesses.

• The prerequisite for the very existence of the Universal [Ecumenical] Church is the presence of the Throne of Constantinople in it; that is to say, its presence in the church is the very criteria of the truth of the latter. Without this throne, the existence of Orthodoxy is impossible! It is the leaven that forms the very Church of Christ itself and history.

• The Throne of Constantinople is the mystical beginning of the Orthodox Church, just as the God The Word was at the beginning of everything. And just like, In Christ “there is life” which “is the Light of Man”, so the Constantinople Patriarchate has a special life peculiar to it, being the light of the other Churches.

• Hence, the logical conclusion is that the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople has a unique right, unique only unto “the first throne of Orthodoxy”—the right to extraterritorial [outside of his jurisdictional territory],9 universal teaching throughout the world at all times.

The administratively papist pretensions of the Patriarch of Constantinople are expressed in these words of his speech:

…the Ecumenical Patriarchate … enjoys canonical jurisdiction and all apostolic privileges in its responsibility for safeguarding the unity and communion of the local Churches but also for the overall journey of Orthodoxy in the contemporary world and history. In this spirit, as President of the body of Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarch convened the Holy and Great Council in Crete in June 2016, the greatest ecclesiastical event in recent years.”10

The Ecumenical Patriarchate bears the responsibility of setting matters in ecclesiastical and canonical order because it alone has the canonical privilege as well as the prayer and blessing of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils to carry out this supreme and exceptional duty as a nurturing Mother and birth-giver of Churches. If the Ecumenical Patriarchate denies its responsibility and removes itself from the inter-Orthodox scene, then the local Churches will proceed “as sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9.36), expending their energy in ecclesiastical initiatives that conflate the humility of faith and the arrogance of power.”11

And so, the administrative authority of the Throne of Constantinople, in accordance to the doctrine of Eastern Papism [and outlined above—Trans.], includes:

1 Apostolic privilege and ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the whole church, in matters of the preservation of Church Unity, and the communion of the Local Churches. That is to say, without speaking in the “high” style of the Phanar, this means the Phanar is the establishing apostolic cathedra [episcopal seat], communion with which determines the belonging of a particular Local Church in the unity of the Orthodox Church. As such, the communion of the Local Church happens through the Cathedra of Constantinople. The term “canonical jurisdiction” emphasizes the subordinate position of the Local Churches to the Phanar in this scheme.

2 The Throne of Constantinople is the head or “President of the body of Orthodoxy” with the sole prerogative of convening Pan-Orthodox (and Ecumenical) Councils.

3 The Throne of Constantinople empowers itself with the vaguest yet most exclusive rights of “setting matters in ecclesiastical and canonical order12” It specifically emphasized that “it alone13” has this right out of the entire church, and the source of its “canonical privilege” is “the prayer and blessing of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils”. This in fact declares his unlimited power throughout the entire church, in as much as everything in it can be included under [the provision and pretext of] ecclesiastical order14. This particularly emphasizes the authority of the Phanar in canonical questions. The “Duty” of the Cathedra of Constantinople—establishment of “ecclesiastical and canonical order” throughout the Church—is “supreme15”; that is to say, it processes the highest and indisputable character.

4 The Church of Constantinople is the “Mother and birth-giver of Churches16”. It is not entirely clear what Patriarch Bartholomew wanted to say here: either that he alone has the exclusive power to grant autocephaly to any new Local Churches around the world, or that all Local Churches have the Constantinople Patriarchate as the source of their origin and genesis. Proceeding from the other materials of the Synaxis, one thing is clearly certain: The Patriarch of Constantinople declares he exclusively is the possessor of the right to grant and recognize the autocephaly of rising Local Churches, all while defining and changing the canonical boundaries of existing ones!

5 And finally, the crux of it all—the assertion that in the absence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “local Churches will proceed “as sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9.36)”. That is to say, The Throne of Constantinople is declared as the supreme pastor of the entire Orthodox Church, in relation to which the Local Churches with all their Patriarchs and Primates are simply a herd, sheep, obedient to the voice of the shepherd.

The last privilege which Patriarch Bartholomew assigned to his Cathedra was the highest ecclesiastical judicial-appellate authority in the Church of Christ!

…We imagine that all of the Hierarchs serving within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Throne know very well that the 4th Ecumenical Council, among other decisions, honored the exceptional privilege of “the right to appeal” (ekkliton) of the Throne of Constantinople with the decrees of its 9thand 17th Canons. Numerous instances of the exercise of this right to appeal by Hierarchs and clergy of other jurisdictions have been recorded through the centuries in the historical journey of the Mother Church. Worthy of mention here is the determination of the canonist Miodrag Petrovic, that “the Archbishop of Constantinople alone has the privilege to judge and adjudicate conflicts of bishops, clergy and metropolitans of other patriarchs.” (Nomocanon on the 14 Titles and the Byzantine Commentators, p. 206)”17

The right reverend Bishop Kyrillos of Abydos, Professor at the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, a devout scholar of the written and spoken word, will address the unique privilege of the Church of Constantinople to receive the appeal of Hierarchs and clergy seeking refuge from all local Orthodox Churches in his presentation, entitled “The Privilege of Eccliton (Right to Appeal): Historical, Canonical and Theological Perspectives.” We gladly await his analysis of this subject…”18

Such a deliberately expressed doctrine of the privileges and powers of the Throne of Constantinople bears the clear influence and symptom of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papacy. Of course, there is a difference, but the multiple similarities and relation of the two dogmatic doctrines clearly indicates that we are dealing with two subspecies of the same false teaching.

Let’s examine the Roman Catholic view of the Papacy.

Classical Roman Papism

The dogmatic constitution of Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council states:

“…And, so that the Episcopate also might be one and undivided, and so that, by means of a closely united priesthood, the multitude of the faithful might be kept secure in the oneness of faith and communion, He set Blessed Peter over the rest of the Apostles. And He fixed in him the abiding principle of this two-fold unity with its visible foundation… (Latin: perpetuum principium ac visibile fundamentum

…Therefore, it has always been necessary that each Church—that is, those who are the faithful everywhere—should agree with the Roman Church, because of the greater power of the principality that She has received, in order that, all being joined together in the unity of that Seat, from the veneration of which the rights of communion flows to all, might associate closely as members of one Head, in the compact unity of the body…

…We renew the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Florence, in virtue of which all the faithful of Christ must believe that the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff possesses primacy over the whole world, and that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and is the true Vicar of Christ, and the Head of the whole Church, and Father and Teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him, in Blessed Peter, by Jesus Christ our Lord, to pasture, to rule, and to govern the Universal Church; as is also contained in the acts of the General Councils and in the Sacred Canons…

…pastors and faithful, both individually and collectively, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world, so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one Supreme Pastor…

…And since, by the Divine right of Apostolic primacy, the Roman Pontiff is placed over the Universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all causes, the decision of which belongs to the Church, recourse may be had to his tribunal…

… the supreme power of teaching is also included in the Apostolic primacy which the Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, possesses over the whole Church…”19

The Papal Apologist Joseph de Maistre wrote “The Pope is indispensable. He is the single exceptional Father of Christianity…without him, unity disappears, and that means the Church too!”

The True meaning of the 9th and 17th Canons of the Fourth Ecumenical Council

In the conclusion of this “humble” analysis of the confession of the heresy of Eastern Papism, which took place at the Synaxis of the ruling Hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate, it is crucial to give answer to the false interpretation by Patriarch Bartholomew of the 9th and 17th Canons of the Fourth Ecumenical Council.

These are allegedly giving the Patriarchate of Constantinople the special right of [being] the supreme appeals court of the Church, including the right of revising the ecclesiastical courts of other Patriarchs and Primates of Local Orthodox Churches. Here are excerpts from the texts of these canons:

The 9th Canon:If, on the other hand, a clergyman has a dispute with his own Bishop, or with some other Bishop, let it be tried by the Synod of the province. But if any Bishop or Clergyman has a dispute with the Metropolitan of the same province, let him apply either to the Exarch of the diocese or to the throne of the imperial capital Constantinople, and let it be tried before him.20

The 17th Canon: “…But if anyone has been unjustly treated by his own Metropolitan, let him complain to the Exarch of the diocese, or let him have his case tried before the throne of Constantinople, according as he may choose…”21

This canon is reinterpreted in the sense that clerics and bishops are given the right to challenge the courts of their own Patriarchs through the Patriarch of Constantinople.

This misunderstanding is supported by the fact that the “Exarch(s) of greater diocese(s)22” are understood to be Patriarchs23. Only Aristenos adheres to this view of the three classical interpreters of the canons. But there is no reason to call other Patriarchs exarchs, nowhere else in the canons of the Ecumenical Councils does that occur.

Two other interpreters of the canons, Balsamon and Zonaras, clarify that when it says “exarchs” it refers to the Metropolitans of the well-earned and greater cathedrae—dioceses—in the body of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, whose canonical territory was formed precisely by the Fourth Ecumenical Council (see the 28th Canon of the Fourth Council24).

Therefore, this is speaking to the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s right as the court of appeals within its own Patriarchate, and not over other Patriarchates.

Otherwise, an absurd situation is purposed: that these canons give the Patriarch of Constantinople the right of being the highest judicial-appellate authority, in relation to the Roman Church, and the Bishops of Rome, who at that time [at the time of the Fourth Ecumenical Council—Trans.] undoubtably occupied the first place in the Diptych of the Churches.

Balsamon, interpretation on the 9th Canon: The Exarch of a Region (Russian: Okrug) is not, I think, a Metropolitan of every province (Russian: Oblast’), but the Metropolitan of the entire Region. And a region includes many provinces.25 Now the privilege/advantage of Exarchs has no effect; for although some of the Metropolitans are called Exarchs, they do not have other Metropolitans in their regions subordinate to them. So, most likely, in those days, there were some different kind of Regional Exarchs; or all the same, the privileges given to them by the canons have ceased to act.

Zonaras, interpretation of the 17th Council: Thus, the idea of this rule on the separation of the courts would be this: when a Bishop has a case with another Bishop, or a cleric with a Bishop, then the Metropolitan will judge them, whom the canons call the Exarch of the Region. But when a bishop has an accusation against his Metropolitan, then the canons entrust this to the court of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. But the Patriarch of Constantinople is not sent as judge over all Metropolitans without exceptions—just only over his subordinates. For he can not bring to his court the Metropolitans of Syria, or Palestine and Phoenicia, or Egypt against their will; but rather the Metropolitans of Syria are subject to the court of the Patriarch of Antioch, and the Palestinian ones to the court of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the Egyptians must go to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, from whom they received ordination (laying of hands), and to whom they are subordinate. Other Exarchs, for example, the Bishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia, Ephesus, Thessaloniki, and Corinth were also called Exarchs, who, therefore, were given the privilege of wearing the Polystavron26 in their churches.”

St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain more decisively breaks down the false interpretation of the 9th and 17th Canons in the famous “Pedalion” [which is usually translated into English as “The Rudder”], the canonical monument of the late 18th century, so authoritative, by the way, in the Greek Churches:

Like bees round a hive, various opinions have surrounded this part of the present Canon. For our own authorities, being opposed to the rule and primacy of the Pope, and desiring to honor the Patriarch of Constantinople, have inclined to exaggeration; Hence Makarios the Bishop of Ancyra understands by “exarchs of the diocese” the other Patriarchs, while to the Patriarch of Constantinople he refers the final appeal, and he wants him to be the chief and supreme judge over all the Patriarchs. Makarios was followed also by Alexios in “History”, and by Nicholas the bishop of Methone in writing against the principle of the Pope.

The Papists, again, wish to establish the monarchal status of the Pope, follow our authorities and concede that the Bishop [Patriarch] of Constantinople is chief judge over all, because the Bishop of Rome [Pope] is first [in honor] according to these same canons, over even the Bishop of Constantinople. So the Bishop of Rome is the ultimate and common judge over all the Patriarchs, and ahead of even the Patriarch of Constantinople in respect of jurisdiction; and accordingly, it is to him that appeal must be taken from all the Patriarchs of the inhabited earth (called in Greek the “occumene/Ecumene”).

All of these men, however, are wandering far astray from the truth. Constantinople has no authority to officiate in the dioceses and parishes (or districts) of the other Patriarchs, nor has this Canon given him the right of final appeals in the whole church. It is clear from the following:

1 In the fourth act of the present Council of Chalcedon, The Bishop of Constantinople Anatolius was blamed by the rulers as well as by the whole Council for overstepping his boundaries and taking Tyre from its Bishop – Photius, and handing it over to Eusebius, the Bishop of Beirut, having deposed and excommunicated Photius. Notwithstanding that he offered many pretexts, in spite thereof, whatever he had done was annulled and invalidated by the Council, and Photius was justified, and he received back the episcopate of Tyre. That is why Isaac, the Bishop of Ephesus, told Emperor Michael I Paleologos, the first of the Palaeologi: that the authority of the Bishop of Constantinople does not extend over the Patriarchates of the East (according to Pachymeres, Book 6, Chapter 1).

2 Civil and imperial laws do not state that only the judgment and decision of the Patriarch of Constantinople alone, are not subject to appeal, but merely says indefinitely (unlimitedly) of “any Patriarch or Patriarchates” in the plural case…

And so, according to the laws of these Emperors, which agree with the sacred Canons, the decisions of all Patriarchs are insusceptible of appeal, or, in other words, they cannot be carried to the court of other Patriarch for review, how then can the Patriarch of Constantinople grant them a hearing and revise them? And if the present Canon of this Fourth Council, like the 17th Canon, had the goal of giving the Patriarch of Constantinople the power to entertain appeals over the heads of the other Patriarchs, how could the emperors have decreed the diametrically opposite and contrary view, at a time when they well knew that civil laws which disagreed with the Canons were considered invalid?

3 If we agree with the aforementioned papists, that the Patriarch of Constantinople can judge the other Patriarchs, and that he can review their decisions and judgments, then, since the Canon makes no exception of any or which Patriarch, he is therefore to the logical conclusion considered to have the right to judge the Bishop of Rome himself, and thus, the Patriarch of Constantinople becomes the first and the last and the common judge of all the Patriarchs, and even of the Pope himself.

And so, seeking to justify the monarchy of Rome with these tricks, they are in fact wrecking and demolishing their own argument with these very tricks.

4 If no one—neither a Metropolitan or a Patriarch has the right to impose any thing upon churches outside his jurisdiction, but only the ones within the boundaries and subject to him, according to the 34th and 35th Canons of the Apostles, and Canons 6 and 7 of the First Ecumenical Council, as well as 3-8 of the Second Ecumenical, 20, 36, and 39 of the 6th Ecumenical, 3, 11, and 12 of the Synod of Sardica, 9 of Antioch, as well as others, how can the present Canon or others decide and ordain the opposite and contrary of all these?

5 If Constantinople had received any such privilege, how is it that the Patriarchs of Constantinople, when quarreling oftentimes with the Pope, did not claim any such right, but merely insisted that the privileges of all were equal? Or why is it that other Christians amid their quarrels and differences, ever say that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is greater than that of Rome?

And so The Lord Liveth! He Lives! The true explanation of the Canon is this:

The Exarch of the Diocese, according to Balsamon, is not the Metropolitan of the province (since a diocese comprises many provinces and metropolis), but the Metropolitan of the Diocese is also not the Patriarch, as can be seen from the test of the 6th Canon of the Second Ecumenical Council.

If anyone dishonors all the Bishops of the Diocese, which is the same thing as saying the Exarch of the Diocese, which indeed the present Canon does say; whereas a Synod of the Diocese and an Exarch of the Diocese occupies a different position from that held by each Patriarch together with the bishops subject to him.

And so the Exarch of a diocese is the Metropolitan of the diocese, who has some privilege over and above the other Metropolitans of the same diocese.

But this privilege of Exarchs is not today in effect. For although certain Metropolitans are called Exarchs, the other Metropolitans in their dioceses are not in fact subordinate to them.

Thus according to what Balsamon says, the Exarchs of dioceses lost their privileges either immediately, or not long after this Fourth Ecumenical Council was held.

That explains why Justinian fails to mention it in what he says concerning disputes between clergymen, notwithstanding that he enumerates the other courts or tribunals of clergymen.

So it is evident that the Canon means that if any bishop or clergyman has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of a dioceses, let him apply to the Exarch of the diocese: which is the same thing as saying that clergymen and metropolitans subject to the throne of Constantinople must have their case tried either before the Exarch of the diocese in which they are situated, or before the Bishop of Constantinople, as their own Patriarch.

It did not say that if any clergyman has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of some other diocese, or if a Metropolitan has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of any diocese or parish whatever, they must be tried before the Bishop of Constantinople.

It also did not say, he must first appeal to the Exarch of the diocese, and then to the Bishop of Constantinople, as Pope Nicholas above distorts the Canon; but, on the contrary, it left it to the choice of the ones to be judged to determine with equal rights, whether they should go to the Exarch of the diocese or to the Bishop of Constantinople and be tried in precisely’ the same manner and equally well either before the one or before the other.

Therefore Zonaras, in his interpretation of the 17th Canon of the 4th Ecumenical Council says that the Bishop of Constantinople is not necessarily entitled to sit as judge over all Metropolitans but only over those who are judicially subject to him

And in his interpretation of the 5th Canon of Sardica, he also says:

“The Bishop of Constantinople can only hear the appeals of those who are subject to the See of Constantinople, precisely as the Bishop of Rome can only hear the appeals of those who are subject to the See of Rome.”

Now, however, that the Synod and the Exarch of the diocese are no longer active or in effect, the Bishop of Constantinople is the first and sole and ultimate judge of the Metropolitans under him, but not of those under any of the rest of the Patriarchs.

For it is only an ecumenical council that is the ultimate and most common judge of all Patriarchs, and no one else, as we have said about this.”

Archpriest Andrei Novikov

Translated by Matfey Shaheen


1 Judicial appellate power, or Appellate jurisdiction is the right of a court or judging authority, in this case a Patriarchate, to hear appeals made by “lower courts”. This includes reviewing their decisions and even changing them. In other words, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is allegedly regarding itself as the “Supreme Court” of the Orthodox world, able to review and change the realities of other national churches. This is not in line with Orthodox Canons, in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate has only a high honorific and symbolic position. As noted before on this subject “Symbolism and reality should not be confused” – Trans.

2 In this context Diptych does not refer to a folding icon, but it was rather a list, traditionally with two sides containing names for commemoration of the living and departed. In this specific context, it refers to the formal list of all Patriarchs and Primates of the Universal Orthodox Church, who are in communion with universal Orthodoxy. Their names are listed in order of their “primacy” among the autocephalic local churches, however that primacy is one of only honor, and each bishop is equally “prime” in his own jurisdiction under compliance with canon law. These names are then commemorated at Hierarchical services, or whenever all the primates are commemorated. The presence of a bishop’s name in this Diptych means that church is in communion with him, and the removal, as with the Pope after the schism, would indicate communion was broken. Here is an example of the Diptych in English, of the OCA:

3 Podvig is a Russian word often considered untranslatable, but roughly means a valorous feat or deed. This is the word which refers to the struggling of the martyrs, and also the national suffering and overthrowal of Nazism in the Great Patriotic War (WW2), which caused the deaths of at least 20 million people in the Rus’ lands. It’s use here only shows how very serious Orthodox people suffered and struggled for centuries against Papist oppression from Ukraine to Romania and the Byzantine Empire/Middle East during the times of the crusades.—Trans.


5 Saint Paul is warning (In Galatians 5) that Circumcision does not have any bearing on the Church of Christ. He says circumcision “will profit you nothing”, so Circumcision itself may be a small matter…but…if someone gets too radical and legalistic with it, i.e. either demanding it or forbidding it, this can lead to heresy.—Trans.

6 See above.


8 Ibid.

9 In Orthodoxy, a Bishop does not have the right to send representatives or otherwise interfere in any way with the canonical territory of another Bishop.


11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 In other words, by this logic, the Ecumenical Patriarch would be given the right to interfere in the activities of any church in the world, so long as he cites the pretext of “setting matters in ecclesiastical order.” Factually speaking, this gives him unlimited power, as almost any matter could be considered as such.

15 These quoted assertions about supreme duties and “it alone” possessing this “canonical privilege” are not the authors opinion or interpretation, they are taken directly from the linked speech of the Patriarch of Constantinople:

16 Ibid. (See above)


18 Ibid.

19 Taken from:



22 The Slavonic word “Oblast”, used in the original article does not mean in this context province, like the modern Russian word oblast, but rather “Diocese” hence the traditional Slavonic form of commemorating a bishop “имярек егоже есть область”. In a Russian Translation of the explanations of the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, the word “Dioceses” (Eparchy) is used, instead of the Slavonic Oblast, which has a different meaning in Russian (province)—Trans.

23 In other words, this gives the right to appeal decisions of the diocesan exarch within the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Patriarch of Constantinople. This does NOT mean an individual of another local church can appeal decisions of his Patriarch/Local Church Councils, to the Patriarch of Constantinople, because Patriarchs are obviously not common diocesan exarchs, they are the leaders of Local Churches.


25 Here, the modern Russian word “Oblast” is used, instead of Slavonic, and thus it was translated as province. The word Okrug is translated here as region. Okrug in modern Russian is often used as “federal district” where it refers to large regions of Russia, which contain many provinces, in a similar way to how English people used the terms: The Midlands, The West Coast, etc.

26 A special episcopal vestment with many crosses on it, hence the name.

A CANON AIMED AT MOSCOW? Nun Cornelia (Rees)

Last Friday, August 31, 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia flew to Istanbul to meet with His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Everyone who is interested in the problem of Ukrainian Orthodoxy was waiting with baited breath for the outcome of the meeting. Will Constantinople go ahead and fulfill President Petro Poroshenko’s request that an autocephalous Church be granted in the Ukraine, making that country separate from Russia not only in body but also in soul? Or will Patriarch Kirill come and dash all his hopes? That day, there was very little information in the official press releases to satisfy everyone’s curiosity.

The meeting between His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia with His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Photo:

From Constantinople:

His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the Phanar

On Friday morning, August 31, 2018, following his communicated desire, His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, accompanied by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Reverend Protopriest Nikolai Balashov and the Reverend Presbyter Anatoly Churyakov, interpreter, arrived at the Phanar in order to deliberate with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on matters of inter-Orthodox concern.

Patriarch Kirill was greeted at the airport by His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima and the Very Reverend Grand Archimandrite Vissarion, Archivist of the Patriarchate.

His Beatitude proceeded to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, where he was greeted by Their Eminences Metropolitans Emmanuel of France and Bartholomew of Smyrna, as well as the members of the Patriarchal Court, led by the Very Reverend Grand Chancellor Andreas. After paying his respects at the Venerable Patriarchal Church, he was received by His All-Holiness in the Chamber of the Throne, in the presence of members of the Holy and Sacred Synod and other Hierarchs, who had traveled to the Phanar to participate in the Synaxis of the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne on the feast of Indiction.

His All-Holiness warmly welcomed His Beatitude to the courts of the Mother Church, recalling their spiritual fathers, Elder Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon and Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad of blessed memory, and all those who have worked for bilateral relations between the two Churches, as well as inter-Orthodox relations in general. He emphasized the importance of dialogue as a God-given means towards overcoming emerging challenges. His Beatitude responded by expressing the deep emotion and vivid recollections of past visits to the Queen of Cities and his collaboration with His All-Holiness.

The two Primates then held a lengthy private discussion in the Patriarchal Office together with Their Eminences Metropolitans Emmanuel of France and Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations.

At the conclusion of their two-and-a-half hour conversation, His Beatitude departed for Moscow.

The end. No mention of the Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill is given the title of “His Beatitude”, in our language generally ascribed to the head of an autocephalous Church.

And from the Moscow Patriarchate:

Fraternal meeting of Primates of Church of Constantinople and Russian Orthodox Church


According to His Holiness, for the two years that have passed since the previous meeting of the two Primates, “much has happened in the life of our Churches, and the whole situation in the world has greatly changed.”

Having described the dialogue that took place between them as “a talk between two brothers”, Patriarch Kirill stated that they discussed “all the problems on the agenda”.

“I hope we will continue working together so that the world may become better”, he added.

“Without coordination with His Holiness, I would not like to let you into details, although there was nothing secret”, Patriarch Kirill specified, “it was a very correct talk—a talk between the Primates of two Churches who are aware of their responsibility for the state of Universal Orthodoxy and for the state of human souls in the places and countries under our responsibility.”

Speaking about a continuation of pan-Orthodox dialogue, His Holiness emphasized that “problems keep emerging, challenging Churches from the pastoral point of view. The world is changing very rapidly, and no Church can make decisions that would run contrary to the position of another Orthodox Church.

“Therefore, we are simply programmed for interaction and cooperation, and since the world is rapidly changing, this cooperation, too, should be dynamic enough,” His Holiness concluded.

Among the persons who accompanied His Holiness during his trip were Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the department for external church relations (DECR), Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, DECR vice-chairman, Rev. Nikola head of the Patriarchal Press Service, and Rev. Anatoly Churyakov, DECR staff member.

Again, no mention of the Ukraine—only an oblique statement that Patriarch Kirill would not be disclosing the details to the reporters, but that there was nothing secret.

However, that same day, the Synaxis of Hierarchs of The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople commenced. The Ecumenical Patriarch’s opening remarks were not posted on the website of the EP, but they were posted on the website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Very many of our readers may not be familiar with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. That would not be surprising since they are almost entirely Ukrainian, and serve in the Ukrainian language. Anyone who has the fortitude to delve into this subject more thoroughly can find that Church’s history here. It was a church organization that had its beginnings in a Ukrainian nationalist awakening in the early twentieth century, and found its self-realization fully only in the Ukrainian diaspora, where it was joined by a large number of Greek Catholic (Uniate) Ukrainians who desired to break away from the Catholic Church. For many years it was non-canonical, until it was received into the Ecumenical Patriarchate by Archbishop Athenogoras (later Patriarch of Constantinople) head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

So, here is what the Ecumenical Patriarch had to say in his opening address at the Synaxis of Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (for the full text posted on the UOC of the USA, see here):

… The Ecumenical Patriarchate is, for Orthodoxy, a leaven “which leavens the whole lump” (cf. Gal. 5.9) of the Church and of history… As time unfolds, we become conscious of the fact that something magnificent is taking place, something that can only be reckoned a divine gift since our very existence is grafted onto the culture of the Mother Church, while all things are transformed and conceived as strange; the heavens are opened, new life emerges, and our existence welcomes the good change of the right hand of the Almighty.

This is why the Mother Church assumes a leadership role in disseminating sacred scholarship and theological learning, not shying away from secular knowledge in its experience and practice….

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is, for Orthodoxy, a leaven “which leavens the whole lump” (cf. Gal. 5.9) of the Church and of history… As time unfolds, we become conscious of the fact that something magnificent is taking place, something that can only be reckoned a divine gift since our very existence is grafted onto the culture of the Mother Church, while all things are transformed and conceived as strange; the heavens are opened, new life emerges, and our existence welcomes the good change of the right hand of the Almighty.

This is why the Mother Church assumes a leadership role in disseminating sacred scholarship and theological learning….

No matter how much some wish to embellish the situation in Ukraine, history proves them wrong and presents indisputable arguments demonstrating that the origin of difficulties and reactions in Ukraine are neither a recent phenomenon nor something created by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Already from the early 14th century, when the see of the Kievan Metropolis was moved without the canonical permission of the Mother Church to Moscow, there have been tireless efforts on the part of our Kievan brothers for independence from ecclesiastical control by the Moscow center. Indeed, the obstinacy of the Patriarchate of Moscow was instrumental in occasionally creating repeated mergers and restorations of ecclesiastical eparchies, uncanonical elections of Bishops as well as schisms, which still afflict the pious Ukrainian people.

However, beyond all this, a study of the matter in the light of the sacred canons does not justify any intervention whatsoever by the Church of Russia. The Tome proclaiming Moscow as a Patriarchate does not include the region of today’s Metropolis of Kiev in the jurisdiction of Moscow. Moreover, after the well-known manner of proclamation of Moscow as a Patriarchate by Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II (Tranos), the canonical dependence of Kiev to the Mother Church of Constantinople remained constant and uninterrupted. In the year 1686, our predecessor, the late Patriarch Dionysios IV, following great political pressure from the harrowing circumstances and for peace in the local Church, was obliged to issue a letter granting Moscow the license to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev on the inviolable condition that every Metropolitan of Kiev would commemorate the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch as his ecclesiastical superior and authority, but also to demonstrate the canonical jurisdiction of Constantinople over this Metropolis.

As far as we know, no other act changing the canonical state of Kiev or revision of the condition to commemorate Constantinople has ever occurred; nor of course has there been any such change on the part of the Mother Church ceding Kiev completely to Russia. The uncanonical interventions of Moscow from time to time in the affairs of Kiev and the toleration on the part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in previous years do not validate any ecclesiastical violation. Instead, the terms of the 6th Canon of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea are precisely valid in this case, as the commentator Aristinos observes: “Each patriarch should be satisfied with his own privileges and not snatch the privileges of another eparchy, which does not lie within or under the authority of his jurisdiction. For this is the conceit of worldly power.” (Rallis-Potlis, Constitution of the Holy and Sacred Canons, Volume 2, p. 131) In this spirit, the Mother Church did not concede its canonical rights over Ukraine, but incorporated a special reference in the Patriarchal and Synodal Tome “about the granting of the status of autocephaly to the Church of Poland” (1924), noting that “the original detachment from our Throne of the Metropolis of Kiev and its dependent Orthodox Churches of Lithuania and Poland, along with their attachment to the Holy Church of Moscow did not at all occur in accordance with the conventional canonical regulations; nor were the agreed statements about complete ecclesiastical self-sufficiency of the Metropolitan of Kiev, bearing the title of Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne, respected . . .”

In any case, it is true that the occasional deliberate efforts of the Church of Russia to resolve this matter failed. Thus, since Russia, as the one responsible for the current painful situation in Ukraine, is unable to solve the problem, the Ecumenical Patriarchate assumed the initiative of resolving the problem in accordance with the authority afforded to it by the Sacred Canons and the jurisdictional responsibility over the eparchy of Kiev, receiving a request to this end by the honorable Ukrainian Government, as well as recurring requests by “Patriarch” Philaret of Kiev appealing for our adjudication of his case.

At our instruction, the right reverend Bishop and professor Makarios of Christoupolis studied the question of Ukraine for many days, and the fruit of his extensive research into this complicated matter was a document of over ninety pages, which His Grace offered to the Mother Church. We thank and congratulate him. And since he already has a firm grasp of the issue, we have asked him to address this Venerable Body on the ecclesiastical perspective of the timely issue of Ukraine, and we are certain that all of us will have much to benefit from listening to him…

We imagine that all of the Hierarchs serving within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Throne know very well that the 4th Ecumenical Council, among other decisions, honored the exceptional privilege of “the right to appeal” (ekkliton) of the Throne of Constantinople with the decrees of its 9th and 17th Canons. Numerous instances of the exercise of this right to appeal by Hierarchs and clergy of other jurisdictions have been recorded through the centuries in the historical journey of the Mother Church. Worthy of mention here is the determination of the canonist Miodrag Petrovic, that “the Archbishop of Constantinople alone has the privilege to judge and adjudicate conflicts of bishops, clergy and metropolitans of other patriarchs.” (Nomocanon on the 14 Titles and the Byzantine Commentators, p. 206)

The right reverend Bishop Kyrillos of Abydos, Professor at the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, a devout scholar of the written and spoken word, will address the unique privilege of the Church of Constantinople to receive the appeal of Hierarchs and clergy seeking refuge from all local Orthodox Churches in his presentation, entitled “The Privilege of Eccliton (Right to Appeal): Historical, Canonical and Theological Perspectives.” We gladly await his analysis of this subject…

At times, we confront trials and temptations precisely because some people falsely believe that they can love the Orthodox Church, but not the Ecumenical Patriarchate, forgetting that it incarnates the authentic ecclesiastical ethos of Orthodoxy. “In the beginning was the Word . . . in him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1.1,4) The beginning of the Orthodox Church is the Ecumenical Patriarchate; “in this is life, and the life is the light of the Churches.” The late Metropolitan Kyrillos of Gortyna and Arcadia, a beloved Hierarch of the Mother Church and personal friend, was right to underline that “Orthodoxy cannot exist without the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

During the first millennium, our blessed forefathers confronted the temptation of heresy. The great temptation of the second millennium, which was also bequeathed to the millennium we have now entered, is the status of jurisdictions. The source of this problem is ethnophyletism, the propensity to expansionism and the disregard of the boundaries defined by the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomes. The Ecumenical Patriarchate bears the responsibility of setting matters in ecclesiastical and canonical order because it alone has the canonical privilege as well as the prayer and blessing of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils to carry out this supreme and exceptional duty as a nurturing Mother and birth-giver of Churches. If the Ecumenical Patriarchate denies its responsibility and removes itself from the inter-Orthodox scene, then the local Churches will proceed “as sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9.36), expending their energy in ecclesiastical initiatives that conflate the humility of faith and the arrogance of power

This certainly sounds very different from the “fraternal meeting” of that same day between Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of Moscow. It is no wonder that it was not posted on the EP’s official site. Now we really don’t know what’s going on, but let’s look at a few points in the address in an attempt to interpret what is going on in the mind of His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew.

The Phanar. Photo:

1. The Ecumenical Patriarchate sees what is going on as a sort of new breath of the Spirit that confirms its position as the Mother Church of all Orthodox Churches, and renews their very existence. Located as they are in a once great Byzantine city that has been for many centuries part of Moslem Turkey, the Greek Orthodox population having been humiliated, and the EP not being entirely in charge even of the population of present-day Greece, one can see how it would long for renewal and territorial rights. Furthermore it sees itself as the leaven and guardian of the Orthodox ethos due to its preponderance of scholarly bishops. Apparently the Orthodox theological academies of other Local Churches are still in the foundling stage and cannot be trusted to come to reliable conclusions about Church canons.

2. The dire situation in Ukrainian Orthodoxy with its two schismatic groups, the seizure of and arson against Moscow Patriarchate Churches, and the total confusion in the West about the situation as a whole is no fault of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In fact, the Moscow Patriarchate is to blame for all of this. It, after all, has not managed to solve the problem. But how could the MP have solved the problem? Should it have just let Philaret take over and have an autocephalous Church in Ukraine? What does the opinion of all the other bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church matter (who voted against autocephaly at the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kharkov in 1992, and also voted that Metropolitan Philaret Denysenko be defrocked)? Philaret wants it, the Ukrainian government wants it, so why not just disregard the rest of the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? The Moscow Patriarchate obviously did not wield its power in the right direction. A mixed message comes out here, which makes things even harder to understand.

Of course the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church would not have joined this missed chance for a new Autocephalous Church, but no matter. Wait, what is the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church? You can read more about that here (but only if you have a strong nervous system and do not suffer from stress-induced migraines, in which case stop here and go no further), but we will explain briefly that in 1920, there was an assembly of Ukrainian Orthodox clergy and laity in Kiev that declared the establishment of an independent Church in Ukraine. The only problem was that no other Ukrainian hierarchs were willing to participate in this venture, and so this assembly came up with a creative solution. In 1921 a group of clergy and laymen together “consecrated” Archpriest Vasyl Lypkivskyj as a bishop, enthroning him as Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine. Since none of these clergy were bishops, and a bishop can only be consecrated by two or more other bishops, this new organization was not recognized by any other canonical Orthodox Church. He consequently “consecrated” other bishops for Ukraine and dioceses of the UAOC formed in Canada and the United States by Ukrainian nationalists and converts from Ukrainian Catholicism. And that is how the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA came into being. There is also, by the way, a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (about whom you can read more here) that resulted from this congregation.

As I said, the UOAC would probably not have joined this autocephalous Church because they supposedly already had an autocephalous Church—but unlike its daughter churches in the USA and Canada, it is not under the Constantinople Patriarchate (I warned you that it will make your head spin). Now, why didn’t the Moscow Patriarch grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church now headed by Metropolitan Onuphry? Well, perhaps because they didn’t ask for it. And to whom does the Patriarch of Constantinople want to grant autocephaly? He makes no mention of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Onuphry. This Church, the majority, canonical Church, doesn’t exist for him?

3. The Moscow Patriarchate is expansionist. We are to understand this to mean that Constantinople now considers Ukraine to always have been their canonical territory, and it is the Moscow Patriarchate who moved in, and not the EP. You really have to struggle with your own common sense and knowledge of both history and reality on the ground in order to placidly nod your head at this (unless of course you are in the Kiev Patriarchate or the UOAC). “As far as we know, no other act changing the canonical state of Kiev or revision of the condition to commemorate Constantinople has ever occurred; nor of course has there been any such change on the part of the Mother Church ceding Kiev completely to Russia.” This is as far as they know. After five hundred years of Church history in Russia and Ukraine, the Constantinople Church is now checking back to see if in fact they ever really did entrust the Ukrainians to Moscow for the long term, during a time of intense pressure involving outright persecution by the Polish government on the Ukrainians to accept the Brest Union that subjected them to the Pope of Rome. And even if they did, it wasn’t fair, because of course what could they have done? Constantinople was under the Turkish Yoke. Now the Turkish Yoke is over, and so let’s set things straight again. From Istanbul.

4. The canons state that only the Ecumenical Patriarch has the right to grant autocephaly. Anyone in the OCA (Orthodox Church of America) knows that. The OCA is still not recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople as an autocephalous Church, because that autocephaly was granted by the Moscow Patriarchate, from whence it came, and which they called their “Mother Church”. Now this is a conundrum, which brings us back to point 2. The Moscow Patriarchate should have solved the problem in Ukraine, presumably by granting autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine, but they completely flubbed it. Only, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is claiming that only it has the canonical right to grant autocephaly, so Moscow couldn’t have granted it anyway? It gets more and more confusing.

5. Because the Ecumenical Councils were held in Byzantium, the “beginning of the Church is the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit came down in tongues of fire to the disciples on Pentecost—a feast that is often called the “birthday of the Church”—or Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26), were not the beginning of the Church.

6. Those who are opposed to the EP’s activities (oblique reference to the Council of Crete, which the Moscow Patriarchate and some other Local Churches did not attend) do not love the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Anyone who does not love the Ecumenical Patriarchate, does not love the Orthodox Church. Ergo: The Moscow Patriarchate and those other Local Churches that did not attend the Council of Crete do not love the Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian nationalists love the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and therefore they love the Orthodox Church. So why not grant them autocephaly?

7. The biggest problem of the millenium is jurisdictions. Only the Ecumenical Patriarch can decide whose jurisdiction is who’s, and anything else is ethnophyletism. Thus, only the Ecumenical Patriarchate can satisify the demands of Ukrainian nationalists for a Ukrainian nationalist Church, which would by definition exclude all non-Ukrainians, and include all Ukrainians whether they want it or not. This is the only solution to the problem of ethnophyletism and the pride of the power-hungry.

Any reaction from the Moscow Patriarchate about these and other statements has been rather reserved. Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, who is the main spokesman for the Moscow Patriarch on the issue, stated to reporters from Rossiya-24 television channel:

In this particular case, we should certainly understand that the incumbent Ukrainian authorities have half a year before the next elections, there have been no real successes, the economic situation is grave, the political situation is extremely unstable, the people’s discontent is growing, and they need some loud success to elevate their ratings. And so they decided to bring to an end the project that the schismatics started quarter a century ago and didn’t succeed. [He is referring to the events surrounding the Council of Kharkov, at which Philaret Denysenko was defrocked by the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and his declaration of himself as the “Patriarch” of the “Kyiv Patriarchate”, supported by the new Ukrainian government after its break from the Soviet Union.—OC]. Political authorities often meddle in ecclesiastical affairs, which often harms the Church.

If, God forbid, the things develop this way, of which some are dreaming […], that is, if a tomos is granted and autocephaly is declared, this means most of the church people won’t accept this autocephaly—perhaps a bunch of schismatics would accept it, which would legitimate a schism. This would deal a serious blow to Orthodoxy in Ukraine. In fact, this would produce another schism, and what is most important, this would split the entire body of global Orthodoxy.[1]

In other Russian media, Metropolitan Hilarion assessed the Ukrainian press’s rejoicing over the tomos, which was not granted as they expected on the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, but will “certainly be coming this month”, as “wishful thinking”.

What is the “body of global Orthodoxy” that Metr. Hilarion says would be split? We have to read the statements made by heads of Local Churches to really understand the full impact:

Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem: “The unity of the Church is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and we are called to preserve and strengthen it. The destruction of this unity is a serious crime.”

“We condemn in the most categorical terms those who are committing actions directed against the parishes of the canonical Orthodox Church in the Ukraine. Not in vain do the holy fathers remind us that the violation of the Church’s unity is the gravest sin.

Archbishop Theodosius of Sebastia of the Jerusalem Patriarchate: “The Orthodox Churches of the world, including Jerusalem, only recognize the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, that it is headed by Metropolitan Onuphry; he is a member of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. We support all efforts to end the schism in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—the Church is a place of love, unity, and peace, and not hatred and schism.”

“The schism in Ukraine is very unfortunate, and I hope that the Patriarch of Constantinople and the other heads of the Orthodox Churches of the world will coordinate with the Russian Orthodox Church to advance initiatives for ending this unhealthy, unacceptable, and unjustified situation.”

Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa: “Let us pray to God, Who does all for our good, that He would instruct us all for a solution to these problems. If the schismatic Denisenko [the self-proclaimed “patriarch” of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate”—O.C.] wants to return to the bosom of the Church, then he must turn to where he left from. That which has fallen away must return to where it fell from. God is merciful to those who repent, and the Church forgives and receives in its motherly embrace all who repent.”

Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East: “The Antiochian Church stands together with the Russian Church, speaking against the Church schism in Ukraine.”

Patriarch Ilya of Georgia: “His Beatitude disagrees with the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning Ukraine, as he recognizes only the legitimate Church headed by Metropolitan Onuphry.”

Patriarch Irenej of Serbia: Referring to the Ukraine, the patriarch of Serbia characterizes as “very perilous or even catastrophic, probably as fatal for the unity of Holy Orthodoxy”, the act “of exonerating and of restoring schismatics to the rank of bishops, especially the arch-schismatic ones, such as ‘patriarch’ Filaret Denysenko of Kyiv, and of bringing schismatics back into liturgical and canonical communion, without their repentance and their return to the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church from which they detached themselves. And all without the consent of the Moscow Patriarchate and without coordination with him.”

Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church: “[T]he Assembly expresses full solidarity, in co-suffering brotherly love, with the martyred sister Church in Ukraine, exposed to the harshest persecution by the current regime in Kiev.”

Holy Synod of the Polish Orthodox Church: “We express the clear position of the Polish Orthodox Church, namely that the ecclesiastical life of the canonical Orthodox Church should be based on the principles of dogma and the holy canons of the Orthodox Church. Violation of this principle leads to chaos in the life of the Church.

“There are certain schismatic groups in Ukraine which must first repent and return to the canonical Church. Only then can we discuss the issue of providing autocephaly.

“We must not be led by the political climate in questions of dogma and the canons.”

Met. Rostislav of Czech Lands and Slovakia: “A schism, caused by man’s egotism, can be healed only through repentance and returning to the Church,” the primate noted. “The new autocephaly must be the result of a consensus.”

Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria: “I have always had a very good relationship with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry [head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—MP.—O.C.]. We know that he loves the Ukrainian people and humbly labors for the good of Ukraine and all Orthodox Christians. We will be praying that the Lord grant him health and strength to successfully bear the obedience he was given by the Lord, and which he bears with dignity.”

And from another source: “His Holiness said that the relevant issues had been repeatedly discussed at sessions of the Holy Synod of the BOC and he had repeatedly stated his position on the matter.

“General Secretary of the Holy Synod Bishop Gerasim of Melnik stressed that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is well acquainted with the Ukrainian situation and its complexity, but it is necessary to strictly observe the ecclesiastical canons, which the Orthodox Church has been following for many centuries.”

Metr. Gabriel of Lovech, Bulgarian Orthodox Church: “There is no grace of God in schism. And without the grace of God there can be no Church. People must return to the canonical Church, where there is the grace of God and where man can be saved. Schism is a very harmful and pernicious phenomenon.

“The basis of any split is pride. This is the only way—there can be no other, in my opinion.”

Metropolitan George of Kitros, Katerini, and Platamon (Church of Greece): “The Greek Orthodox Church and all other Orthodox Churches of the world recognize only one canonical Church of Ukraine—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.”

Metr. Athanasios of Limassol (Church of Cyprus): “First and foremost, this question should be resolved by the Patriarch of Moscow, in whose jurisdiction the Ukrainian Church is located, then—the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and then all the Orthodox Churches under the chairmanship of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” Met. Anathasios stated.

“But first of all, the first word is for the Mother Church of the Ukrainian Church, which is the Moscow Patriarchate. To it belongs the first word in this process.

“What relationship does the Ecumenical Church have to the Philaret schism in Ukraine? How can it be overcome?

“We desire that our brothers who are in schism would return to the Church under the leadership of Metropolitan Onuphry—it is the sole canonical Church in Ukraine, having communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, and with all canonical Orthodox Churches… We pray for this.”

Statement of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Support of the Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church: “With this statement, we express our complete support for His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry, together with his brother-archpastors, clergy, monastics and the faithful flock of the sole canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and with love we bow before their confessor-like struggles. No alteration to the life of the Church can be initiated or imposed upon her by secular authorities. The present attempts to influence the life of the Church from the outside reveal only the fundamentally non-ecclesial motives and goals of those attempting to implement them.”

Does this look global enough? The statements made by these primates and representatives of eleven Local Orthodox Churches are unanimous and unambiguous. With such a cloud of witnesses, we are left breathless when we ponder the possibility that the Ecumenical Patriarch really might go ahead and do what President Petro Poroshenko is asking of him. Besides the obvious fact of everyone’s inherent respect for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we have to wonder why there has not been a stronger reaction to this procedure. We can only offer the following possible reasons (from our own mind, of course):

• No one wants to be accused of not loving the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

• People are afraid of Ukrainian nationalists.

• People feel sorry for Petro Poroshenko.

• People feel sorry for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, like one would for his own father who everyone knows is “on the wane”, but nevertheless still demands obedience, even though his decisions are less than sound. However he is the only one who doesn’t seem to know that, and so no one knows what to do.

• People feel sorry for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, because he is living in nostalgia of past grandeur amidst the harsh reality of modern Turkey.

• People don’t believe that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will really go through with this, and that he is only being polite to the Ukrainian president.

• People don’t want to talk openly about the Ecumenical Patriarch’s connections with the U.S. government, which is possibly pressuring him to take this fatal step. The forces behind the Maidan revolution would like to see a complete and final separation of Ukrainians from Russians, in both body and soul.

False patriarch Philaret Denysenko.

Meanwhile, churches in Ukraine that have always belonged to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (which has by far the most adherents) are being seized and burned. Clergymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are being physically attacked for their “lack of patriotism”. Is that sort of violence a good recommendation for the religiosity of the perpetrators? What kind of church would these people form? Here is one example of a staunch member of the “Kyiv Patriarchate”, advisor to President Petro Poroshenko, Yuri Birykov: “I am truly an atheist. But an atheist, of course, of the Kyiv Patriarchate.[2]

And Philaret Denysenko made no bones about the fact that as soon as his “church” is legitimized, he will take over the two most revered monasteries of Ukraine, the Kiev Caves Lavra and the Pochaev Lavra, whether the monks like it or not. And if the government backs him, he can do it, but it would inevitably cause a great tragedy to unfold as believers struggle to defend their sacred sites.

Moreover the Western press most often gets the whole thing all wrong. The National Catholic Reporter, for example, writes[3] on the Ukraine subject:

Although Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of all Orthodox believers, his own church in Turkey and parts of Greece is small and poor. The Russian church, whose canonical territory covers the whole area of the former Soviet Union, is by far the largest and richest in the Orthodox world.

Moscow has influence on Constantinople… If the Ukrainian church is recognized, Moscow can break away from Constantinople and proclaim itself the new center of Orthodox Christianity.

Why does the Vatican have such a morbid interest in the outcome of this crisis? Because there is a third, shadowy figure that is also rallying against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church: The Greek Catholic (Uniate) church in Ukraine.

Of course we all know that the Patriarch of Constantinople is not the spiritual leader of the Orthodox believers in the sense that the Pope of Rome is the spiritual leader of Catholic believers. Therefore, any fear of Moscow “breaking away from Constantinople” and proclaiming itself the new center of Orthodox Christianity makes no sense to anyone with a basic understanding of the ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church. We can love the Ecumenical Patriarch and respectfully disagree with him at the same time. And this disagreement does not cancel our Orthodoxy, as the statements by heads of Local Orthodox Churches show.

May these respected hierarchs never cease their prayers for all of us, and for the resolution of this crisis without violence to the body of the faithful. And may Church canons be used to bring peace, and not to get revenge against political enemies.

Nun Cornelia (Rees)


[1] Translation from Interfax-Religion:



EP Bartholomew has gone mad of pride .


The website of the Ecumenical Patriarch Permanent Delegation to the World Council of Churches has announced that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has sent legates to the Ukraine:

“The Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced on 7 September 2018 that within the framework of the preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has appointed as its Exarchs in Kiev His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon from the United States, and His Grace Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton from Canada, both of whom are serving the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in their respective countries under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

It is still unclear just how the Ecumenical Patriarchate intends to structure an autocephalous Church in Ukraine, given that the canonical, autonomous Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, has not requested autocephaly, and is in no way party to this decision.

The President of the Ukaine, Petro Poroshenko, has requested the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to a combination of schismatic groups that currently exist in the Ukraine. Far-right Ukrainian nationalists have already in the recent past felt empowered to seize churches belonging to the canonical Church, in an expression of anti-Russian aggression.

As has reported repeatedly, twelve Local Orthodox Churches have formally expressed their disagreement with the EP’s intentions.

Other English language media such as the Greek Reporter and Ekathimerini have posted news on this announcement, but with factual mistakes. For example, the Greek Reporter states:

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, that is considered as First among Equals in the Orthodox Christianity, announced that it will start the procedure for the official recognition of the Church of Ukraine as Autocephalous.

“The Ukrainian Church belongs to the Patriarchate of Moscow and has asked for a separation via the recognition of its Ecclesiastical independence by being granted the status of Autocephaly.”

The glaring mistake lies in the fact that the Ukrainian Church that belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate has not asked for independence (because it is already independent) or autocephaly, and especially not from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Ekathimerini makes the same mistake, and adds also that the EP is the sole authority that can grant autocephaly—a point that is disputed by other Local Churches.

Concerning the Moscow Patriarchate’s comment on this almost unbelievable action, the Russian website Interfax-Religion has quoted Vladimir Legoida, head of the Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, who posted on his social network page this evening:

“The appointment by the Patriarch of Constantinople of his episcopal representatives in Ukraine, without agreement with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, is nothing but an unprecedentedly gross incursion into the Moscow Patriarchate’s canonical territory. These actions cannot be left unanswered.”

Interfax has also reported an official statement on this action from the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church:

“The Ukrainian Orthodox Church sees the appointment of two Constantinople exarchs in Kiev as a massive violation of its canonical territory and said responsibility for any possible negative consequences of that will rest with the Constantinople Patriarchate.

“The Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is authorized to say with the blessing of his Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine that the appointment of exarchs is a massive violation of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the DECR of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said in a statement released on Friday evening.

“The document said this decision made by Constantinople contradicts the second rule of the Second Ecumenical (Constantinople) Assembly, which states that bishops cannot cross the limits of their regions without being invited.

“According to the statement, the appointment of exarchs in Kiev took place without the knowledge of Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine “as the sole canonical bishop of the city of Kiev.”

“In this regard, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said that ‘responsibility for any possible negative consequences of that action rests with the Constantinople Patriarchate’.”


EP Bartholomew , the Non-Orthodox Patriarch

After the Synaxis, there will be another meeting, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarch / Photo from UNIAN

Hierarchs on September 2 held meetings (Synaxis) of the Hierarchy of the Ecumenical Throne Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, to consider the question whether the Church of Constantinople is authorized, without the consent of other churches, to grant autonomy, or autocephaly, to a church that has requested it.

Following the meetings, the answer was positive: “Yes, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is authorized to grant autocephaly without any consent [from other churches],” the Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske said.

Prior to that, the Ecumenical Patriarch recalled Moscow’s arbitrariness towards the Kyiv Metropolitanate, listing such examples in detail starting from the 15th century.

“Moscow for many centuries has controlled the Kyiv Metropolitanate, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, without the consent of Constantinople,” the Archbishop of Constantinople said.

On September 1, the hierarchs who arrived in Istanbul marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical year (the Orthodox churches start a new year on September 1).

The Synaxis in Istanbul started on September 1 and will last until September 3. Providing autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was on its agenda on September 2.

With support from most of the hierarchs, there should be no procedural obstacles to granting Tomos to Kyiv.

It is expected that after consultations with the bishops from around the world, the Patriarchate of Constantinople can finally determine the timing for providing Tomos, a charter that will declare a local, independent Orthodox church in Ukraine.

Read alsoBartholomew I tells Russia’s Patriarch Kirill about plans to grant autocephaly to Ukrainian church

Autocephaly is the status of a hierarchical Christian Church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop (used especially in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Independent Catholic churches). Autocephaly opens the way for the creation of a united Orthodox church in Ukraine, which will not be subordinate to Moscow.

After the Synaxis, there will be another meeting, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarch, where the decision to provide Tomos and the entire procedure are to be approved.

After that, Ukraine will see a merger of Ukrainian churches into one, local church as a legal entity. Experts estimate that it is a matter of several months.

Also, the Synod should consider an appeal against the imposition of anathema by Moscow on Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate.

The split between the Moscow and Kyiv branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church happened during the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine’s Primate Filaret broke with the Russian Orthodox Church. He argued that an independent Ukraine deserved a national church truly independent of Moscow. The Moscow Patriarchate whose parishes prevail in Ukraine has never recognized the Ukrainian Patriarchate.

UNIAN 02 September 2018 POLITICS

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JUST BEFORE THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL 2016 . (This false council may never be forgotten . Micke Stensson )

We are approaching the time when the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Churches is to be held in Crete to discuss the six texts which have been prepared in Preconciliar conferences, and to give a message of unity among the Orthodox Churches.

Many texts have been written recently by experts and non-experts, by those who are competent and those who are not, on this great event. Unfortunately, as I have pointed out in another text, in some of them we see that theology is mixed with politics, or rather, various ecclesiastical elements get involved knowingly or unknowingly in the aspirations of politicians, and politicians, too, use various ecclesiastical elements in order to implement their plans through the Church.

Of course, the Council of 1872 in Constantinople condemned racialism and nationalism as a heresy, but unfortunately racialism and nationalism use the Orthodox Church as a vehicle with varying results.

At present most of the discussion is about whether all fourteen Orthodox Churches will participate in the Council and what the impact of the absence of some Churches will be, and not so much about the content of the texts and corrections that ought to be made.

By a decision of the Standing Holy Synod and the Hierarchy the Church of Greece, I will be a member of this Holy and Great Council and I am possessed by a high sense of responsibility to the Orthodox tradition and to history itself. I am seriously concerned about the decisions that this Council will take and first and foremost about what will happen next.

This is said from the point of view that Councils were eventually approved by the theological consciousness of the Church. Just as the organism of the human body keeps the elements it needs from food and discards unnecessary elements, the same thing happens in the divine and human organism of the Church, since the Church over time confirms the truth of something or rejects it.

As a member of the Holy and Great Council, I would like to say something before the start of the proceedings. I will not mention here the reasons that led me to accept this proposal by the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece to take part in the Holy and Great Council, which I shall do later, but I will articulate some of my thoughts.

1. The self-awareness of the Council

With regret I hear and read some of the views expressed that, namely, the Holy and Great Council is the first Council to take place in the second millennium of Christianity. Others claim that it is the first Great Council since the ‘Schism’ which occurred in 1054, whereas the excommunication of the Church of Old Rome took place in 1009 with the introduction of the filioque. Still others say that the Holy and Great Council will convene after an interval of 1200 or 1300 years, that is to say, after 787, when the Seventh Ecumenical Council convened, and others dare to say officially too that it will be the Eighth Ecumenical Council!

The basis of this mindset is that the Orthodox Church has supposedly remained in a state of spiritual hypnosis and spiritual dementia since 787, and that all this time it has been a ‘dead’, ‘sleeping’, ‘museum’ Church.

Such a conception is not only an insult to the holy Fathers of the Church who appeared and taught during the second millennium, but it also undermines the Orthodox Church itself, which is a continuous Synod and is the true and living body of Christ.

Ecumenical Councils mainly dealt with dogmatic definitions and administrative and pastoral rules (Canons), as we see from their Proceedings. On the other hand, when reading the texts that are being elaborated for final approval by the Great and Holy Council, we cannot distinguish the dogmatic definitions from the Canons. Assuming that individual paragraphs of the text are considered to be Canons, thorough discussion is required on whether these ‘Canons’ are in agreement with the canonical tradition of the Church or whether they overturn the basis and heart of Church Canon Law.

The problem, though, is that if this Holy and Great Council is considered, wrongly in my opinion, to be a continuation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, then serious violence is being done to Orthodox truth. Because during this time Great and Ecumenical Councils and other glorious Councils of the Patriarchs of the East – that is to say, of the whole Orthodox Church at that time – were held, which discussed serious issues, and addressed important theological and ecclesiastical issues.

I have read that some people have used the views of the late dogmatic theologian Ioannis Karmiris to support views which are presented in the texts put forward for final approval by the Primates of the Orthodox Church. It would be advisable to study the two volumes of the book The Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church to see the pulse and vitality of the Orthodox Catholic Church until the nineteenth century. One finds there that until the nineteenth century there is basically one single language in ecclesiastical texts, and that the differentiation began in the early twentieth century.

I would like to mention some important Councils after the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which are unfortunately ignored.

The Council of 879-80 under Photios the Great is a great Ecumenical Council, which was convened by the Emperor. The representatives of the then Orthodox Pope were present and everyone accepted its decisions. The Council discussed the two types of ecclesiology, Eastern and Western, and the Eastern ecclesiology prevailed. It also pronounced on the primacy of the Pope and the heresy of the filioque.

There were Councils between 1341 and 1368, particularly the Council of 1351, which was convened by the Emperor in the presence of St Gregory Palamas and ruled that the energy of God is uncreated and that the Light of Christ which shone on Mount Thabor was uncreated. It condemned the heresy of Barlaam and Akindynos that the uncreated essence is identified with uncreated energy, which is known as the actus purus, and that God supposedly communicates with creation and man through created energies. So in reality the Council of 1351 condemned scholastic theology, which to a large extent is valid to this day in ‘Roman-Catholicism’.

The Council of 1484, with the participation of Patriarchs Simeon of Constantinople, Gregory of Alexandria, Dorotheos of Antioch and Joachim of Jerusalem called itself Ecumenical. It annulled the unifying Council of Ferrara-Florence and issued a Service, composed by Patriarch Simeon of Constantinople, for those returning to the Orthodox Church from the ‘the Latin heresies’. Although this Synod established that the Latins should return to the Orthodox Church by means of a written declaration and Chrismation, because at that time the standard ‘form of Baptism’ still prevailed, the Service composed for the return of Latins to the Orthodox Church clearly refers to the heresy of the Latins, the ‘disgraceful and alien doctrines of the Latins’, and states that those returning to the Orthodox Church should “avoid completely the assemblies of the Latins in their churches,” and anathematized the Filioque which they dared to add.

In this Service there is reference to Latins and to alien dogmas, among which are the familiar filioque, i.e the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, and the heresy of the actus purus, namely, that uncreated energy is identified with the uncreated essence in God and therefore God communicates with the world through created energies.

The Council of 1590, which called itself an ‘Ecumenical Council’, and its continuation, the Council of 1593 which was characterized as a ‘Holy and Great Council’ are important. Both are Councils of the Patriarchs of the East, and they decided to assent to the elevation of the Church of Moscow to the honor and dignity of a Patriarchate, which had been previously granted by the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1589 by the relevant Patriarchal Chrysobull or Tome.

The Conciliar decision in 1756 by the three Patriarchs, namely, Cyril of Constantinople, Matthew of Alexandria and Parthenios of Jerusalem, refers to the rebaptism of Westerners who enter into the Orthodox Church.

Although this decision did not last for long, because in practice the Church reverted to the decision of the Council of 1484, it has never been repealed by another Conciliar decision.

It is well-known that the topic of ‘Economy in the Orthodox Church’, referring to the reception of heretics and schismatics, was on the agenda of the Holy and Great Council, as is clear from the Preparatory Committee meeting in 1971 in Geneva. But ultimately it was removed from the agenda of the Council and the Holy and Great Council has not been given the possibility of ruling officially on this issue. So the question is: why was this issue not included in the agenda of the Holy and Great Council, in order that there might be a discussion with theological arguments on the validity and existence, or the invalidity and non-existence of the Baptism of heretics, which will now be dealt with in an indirect manner?

The Conciliar decision of the Patriarchs of the East in 1848, signed by the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem with their Synods, calls ‘Papism’ a heresy, compares it with Arianism and counts the basic Latin non-Orthodox teachings, such as the filioque, the primacy and the infallibility of the Pope, as other false beliefs related to baptism and the sacraments.

The Council of 1872 in Constantinople condemned racialism and nationalism in ecclesiastical life “that is, racial discriminations and nationalistic conflicts, jealousies and dissensions in Christ’s Church.” Racialism and nationalism are “foreign” to the tradition of the Orthodox Church, a “modernist virus”. It is significant that in the epilogue of the Conciliar declaration there is a prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ to keep the Church “immaculate and untouched by any modernist virus, firmly established on the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets.”

I have mentioned a few of the ‘Ecumenical’, ‘Holy and Great’ Councils – there are others too -that were convened after the Seventh Ecumenical Council and until the nineteenth century, and have been accepted by the consciousness of the Church. Indeed, the decisions of the Great Council of 1351 in the time of St Gregory Palamas have been included in the ‘Synodikon of Orthodoxy’, which is read on the First Sunday of Lent, and have been introduced into hymns used in worship. This represents the strongest proof that the Council of 1351 has been accepted by the consciousness and judgment of the Church itself as Ecumenical.

One should also mention here the very important three answers by the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II (1576, 1578, 1581) to the Lutheran theologians of the University of Tubingen. These are remarkable answers sent by Patriarch Jeremiah in cooperation with Orthodox clergy and laity, among them Damascene the Studite, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Arta, who is counted among the saints.

In these important letters of reply, on the one hand, the Orthodox faith is presented, and, on the other hand, the beliefs of the Protestants are called into question. In these replies the Orthodox faith is expressed on the basis of the Fathers and teachers of the Church, not resorting in them to the teachings of scholastic theology. Answering many questions and moreover specifying differences from Lutheran theology, in relation to Holy Tradition, Christology, the filioque, the man’s free will, predestination, justification, the number of sacraments and how they are performed, the infallibility of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils, worship, invocation of the saints, holy icons and relics, fasting, and various ecclesiastical traditions.

These letters of reply are considered important texts. They are mentioned in the Proceedings of the local Council that took place in 1672 in Jerusalem under Dositheos, and they are ranked among the symbolic books of the Orthodox Catholic Church.

After all these I wonder how it is possible for all these important Councils to be put aside for the sake of the Holy and Great Council which is to be held in Crete? How can some claim that the upcoming Council is the first Council of the second millennium? How is it possible and permissible to “trample underfoot” the entire Orthodox Ecclesiastical Tradition of 1200 years? Who directed journalists to speak of the Council of the millennium? How do some journalists who are not even particularly involved in Church reporting know this?

This question is very important. That is why I consider it necessary, at least in the Message that will be decided upon and published by the Holy and Great Council, that these and other Councils should be mentioned, to show the continuous action of the Holy Spirit in the Church. We cannot play with ecclesiastical and doctrinal issues and the whole ecclesiastical tradition.

Therefore, to say that the upcoming Holy and Great Council will be a Council convening after 1200 years is misleading. In fact it bypasses all these Great Councils, and ultimately ends in a “betrayal” of the Orthodox faith. Perhaps the aim is to create a new ecclesiology.

If there is no such aim, the Message of the Holy and Great Council ought definitely to contain a reference to these Holy and Great Councils of the second millennium. Otherwise this suspicion will be confirmed.

2. Western Christianity

It is known to those who follow Church matters and read Church history that in 1009 Pope Sergius IV officially used the Creed with the addition that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son (filioque). For that reason Patriarch Sergius II deleted the Pope from the diptychs of the Eastern Orthodox Church, so there has been excommunication since then. Thus a large part of Christianity was cut off from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Then, in the early sixteenth century, from this Western Christianity that was cut off from the Orthodox Church, other Christian groups broke away and cut themselves off. They were termed Reformers or Protestants, and many other names. Thus, the arbitrary actions of the Pope resulted in the secession of Western Christianity from the Church, but also to a further division among Western Christians themselves.

What is called Western Christianity is a sick, heretical system, having seceded from the Orthodox tradition of the first millennium. Of course, when we speak of Western Christianity, we do not mean the ordinary Christians who believe in Christ, pray and study the Bible. We mean the doctrinal teaching of Christian communities and Confessions. Similarly, when we speak of the Orthodox Church, we do not mean all Orthodox Christians, who, although baptized, may be atheists or indifferent, but the teaching as recorded in the decisions of Local and Ecumenical Councils.

Thus the doctrinal and confessional system of Western Christianity is largely sick and has even distorted Western society. The Latins (‘Roman Catholics’) have been changed for the worse by scholasticism, and the Protestants have been changed for the worse by some scholastic views that they inherited and the puritanism that was introduced, as well as by the study of Holy Scripture without the necessary interpretations of the Fathers, so they fall into various errors.

Scholasticism, which was developed in the West by the theologians of the Franks, mainly between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, blended the Christian faith with philosophy – what is known as the analogia entis. Some scholastic theologians used the theories of Plato and the Neoplatonists, others the theories of Aristotle, and others mixed both together. The main point is that they developed the view that scholastic theology is superior to Patristic theology and has surpassed it.

Protestant puritanism refuted the arbitrary views of scholasticism and reached the other extreme, while retaining some scholastic views, such as absolute predestination, the theory of propitiation of divine justice by the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and the study of the Bible using the analogia fidei.

In any case, both these Western traditions were influenced by the feudal system brought by the Franks into Europe. They regarded God as a “feudal lord” who is insulted by man’s sin, so He punishes man, who needs to propitiate God in order to return!

I do not want to analyze this further, but I would like to highlight the fact that all subsequent ideological currents that developed in the West, such as humanism, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, romanticism, German idealism, existentialism, psychologism, etc., were a reaction for different reasons to Western scholasticism, which was basaed on the omnipotence of reason and on moralism.

In Western theology we observe many theological distortions, which are related to the currents mentioned above. Let me recall some of them. God is characterized by selfish eudemonism; He directs the world through created means; He is the cause of death; He is insulted by man’s sin; Sin is considered as a reversal of the order that exists in creation; God predestined who will be saved and who will be condemned; Christ, through the sacrifice on the Cross, satisfied divine justice; The Pope is the representative of God on earth. The Pope has priesthood, which transmits to the other bishops, and he is infallible; Penitents are required to satisfy God’s justice; The teaching on paradise and hell is materialistic, and so on.

In theology these views are called distortions and heresies, which, however, have also affected the social sphere. All theological deviations have social consequences as well. This explains the Vatican State, as well as the identification of Christian and secular authority in some Protestants. The regime imposed by Calvin in Geneva is a typical case of this mentality.

What has been mentioned here is not fundamentalism, conservatism or fanaticism. One should read how sociologists interpret Western man following the influence exerted by scholasticism and puritanism.

I can recommend the study of the views of the famous sociologist Max Weber as recorded in his book: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. There one will find how Max Weber describes precisely and vividly the anxiety of the Western Christian to learn whether he is predestined by God to be saved. This is the inexorable dilemma of whether someone is “elect or condemned”. For, if he is not predestined, then he doesn’t need to struggle in his life to be a good Christian. And eventually he will learn how Western Christianity developed the spirit of capitalism, with absolute predestination, pious individualism, Protestant asceticism, utilitarianism of professions, and so on.

Orthodox teaching never succumbed to such distortions. It preserved the teaching of the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Fathers, not only of the first millennium, but of the second millennium as well, such as St Simeon the New Theologian, St Gregory Palamas, St Mark of Ephesus and all the philokalic neptic Fathers of the Church. Our more recent saints, like St Paisios Velichkovsky, who brought a renaissance in Romania and Russia, St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, St Kosmas Aitolos, St Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia, St Paisios the Athonite and many others matured within this theology.

Therefore, to try to bring these Fathers into the framework of Church life, who are teachers of the Church, for those of us who find ourselves in such “confessional” richness, and the variety of western Christianity with such theological and social issues is a major problem. Disregarding the theology of the Church expressed through these saints, in order to find some points in common with Western Christianity is a betrayal of the faith. I cannot find another milder characterization.

Moreover, with this sort of ossified Christianity, cut off from the Holy Fathers of the second millennium, we don’t help the Western Christians themselves, who are disappointed with the Western Christian tradition in which they grew up and are looking for the hesychastic tradition. Those Western Christians who become Orthodox are inspired by the Philokalia of the Neptic Fathers, the writings of St Silouan the Athonite and the teaching of the Fathers of Mount Athos. We cannot disappoint them all with insipid, tasteless and anemic texts.

3. Church – Orthodoxy – Eucharist

The Orthodox faith is not abstract and does not remain in the libraries of churches and monasteries. It is the life of the Church, which is experienced in the sacraments, chanted in the holy services, partaken of in the Divine Eucharist, revealed in prayer and ascetic struggle. This ‘theology of events’ is recorded in the confessional documents and decisions of Local and Ecumenical Councils.

There is no divergence between the sacraments and confession, prayer and daily life, the Divine Liturgy and Synodical conferences. The lex credendi is very closely linked with the lex orandi. If there is a split between the two, between doctrine and worship, this constitutes a deviation from the truth. This means that every Conciliar decision which contrasts with the theology of the prayers of the Sacraments and of the hymns is an anti-Orthodox decision.

In an important study entitled Church, Orthodoxy and Eucharist in Saint Irenaeus (see Atanasije Jevtic, Christ: The Alpha and the Omega, Editions Goulandris-Horn Foundation, Athens 1983, p. 109), the former Bishop of Herzegovina and Zahumlje, Atanasije Jevtic, records the link that exists between the Church, Orthodoxy, and the Eucharist as analyzed by St Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons.

Let me recall that St Irenaeus is an Apostolic Father who lived in Lyons during a critical period (140-202) when the Apostles had gone and the heretic Gnostics had appeared, arguing that they had received an “occult knowledge and “hidden mysteries”. Thus, St Irenaeus taught the close relationship that exists between Church, Orthodoxy, and the Divine Eucharist.

According to St Irenaeus, the Church preserves the faith of the Apostles. “The apostolic tradition is guarded in the Churches by their successors, the presbyters.” St Irenaeus does not use the term “Church” or “Churches” for Gnostics, but only the word “synagogue” and “place of teaching”. He also urges the presbyters to obey the successors of the Apostles, who have “the secure gift of truth” and he characterizes those who deviate from them “as heretics and people with corrupt judgment, or as those who rip (the Church) apart and are proud and insolent.”

Then, the Church is closely associated with Orthodoxy, the true faith. St Irenaeus writes: “The truth is preached in the Church” and “the apostolic tradition in the Church and the preaching of the truth.”

Also, the Church and Orthodoxy are linked to the Divine Eucharist. St Irenaeus writes: “Our opinion agrees with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn validates our opinion.” The Eucharistic prayers confess the mystery of the divine Economy, that is to say, of the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, and the mystery of the salvation of man.

Interpreting all these points, Bishop Atanasije Jevtic observes:

“According to the testimony of Irenaeus, in the awareness of the Church of his time there could not be any separation or independence between the Church, the Eucharist and Orthodoxy, because neither does the Church exist without Orthodoxy and the Eucharist, nor Orthodoxy without the Church and the Eucharist, nor again the Eucharist outside the Church and her true faith,” that is, existing outside of the truth faith they automatically and simultaneously find themselves “outside the Church” so, vice versa, those outside the Church are situated outside Orthodoxy (outside the truth) and outside the true Eucharist pleasing to God (communion in Christ’s Body) as long as the faith is the expression of true tradition and life of the Church and of its true eucharistic practice and assembly.”

This truth has some remarkable consequences. Some of them will be noted here.

a)   “The persistence of the Orthodox Catholic Church in the true faith and true practice and the true assembly of the Apostles and their true disciples, and as a consequence of this, the non-recognition of communion with any other “church” outside the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church is the best proof of the survival until the present of that same awareness of the Church as Irenaeus, and generally the whole ancient church, possessed.”

b)   “All the Ecumenical and local Councils of the Orthodox Catholic Church had as their ultimate aim the keeping of the apostolic tradition in the faith, life and worship of the Church, and the exclusion from ecclesiastical communion in the Eucharist of those who distort the redeeming “rule of truth”, which the Church received from the Apostles and their genuine disciples, the Fathers. This way the salvation of God’s creatures, human beings, is safeguarded.

For this reason, from the first centuries to this day, the Orthodox constantly underline that there is no salvation outside the Church, that is, outside unity with Christ and the communion of people and local Churches in the true and correct faith, in charismatic practice, in the eucharistic assembly and communion, and in the grace of the Spirit and His gifts. Salvation is union and communion with Christ, and this communion is realized only in the Body of Christ which is the Church, particularly in the eucharistic communion of those in every local Church who have right belief in Christ and are sincerely united around the Bishops as bearers of ‘apostolic succession’ in the Churches.”

c)   This “apostolic succession” of bishops is a succession of this very fullness of ecclesiastical communion of local Churches in the world with Christ, and between those who share in the true faith, in the true and sacred teaching, and in the grace of God’s Spirit and in the Body and Blood of Christ. Apostolic succession, according to Irenaeus, is not a succession of “ordination” alone, but a succession and continuity of the whole Economy of God for mankind, that is to say, of the whole substance and life of the Church, the whole of its fullness and catholicity.

d)   “In our ‘ecumenistic’ but not rightly-believing era, the theological and ecclesiastical testimony of Hieromartyr Irenaeus, Bishop of the ancient Church, in which the awareness of the indivisible unity of the Apostolic, Catholic and Orthodox and Eucharistic character of God’s Churches dispersed throughout the world prevailing always means for us Orthodox the living tradition of the mystery of the Church and its unity, from which we may not depart and which we may not change. We Orthodox do not change our traditional consciousness concerning the Church, because this would mean changing the Church—in other words, breaking up the historical catholicity of the Church of the Godman Christ, and interrupting our unity and communion with the Apostolic and Patristic Church of all the ages”.

Therefore, according to St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, there is no Church without Orthodoxy and the Divine Eucharist, and there is no Orthodoxy without the Church and the Eucharist; and there is no Eucharist without the Church and Orthodoxy. This is the tradition that runs through the Church from the time of the Apostles until today in the Church’s consciousness.

4. The decisions of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece

The Church of Greece is one of the fourteen Orthodox Churches. It received its autocephalous status with the Synodical and Patriarchal Tome of 1850, and several provinces were added to it over time, some by assimilation (1866, 1882) and others put under the ‘guardianship’ of Greece (1928).

As it was my duty, I studied the texts prepared by the delegates of all the Churches and signed by the Primates. While the Permanent Holy Synod and the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece were studying the texts, it was decided to make some changes, namely, corrections and additions with the intention of improving the texts. This was done in a spirit of unity, with unanimity in most cases, and very small minority votes in some cases, and one proposal with an open vote.

A result was reached that satisfied all the Hierarchs, and also those who learned about the decision. In what follows I will present the main elements of the decision.

The key point is that while in various sections of the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world” it was mentioned that the Orthodox Church “recognizes the historical existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions”, this was replaced with the phrase: “is aware of the historical existence of other Christian Confessions and Communities”.

Another important point refers to the unity of the Church. While the text said that the unity of the Church “is unshakable,” subsequent sections mentioned the effort to restore unity among Christians, as if the branch theory applied. Some corrections were made in the text, to the effect that the Orthodox Church believes that “the unity of the Church is unshakable” and participates “in the movement towards the restoration of unity of the other Christians” or “the lost unity of other Christians”, and that it is working for that day to come when “the Lord will fulfil the hope of the Orthodox Church by gathering into it all those who are scattered, that it may become one flock with one shepherd.”

Another important point is the one referring to the prospect “of theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with other Christian Confessions and Communities”. These dialogues “are always determined on the basis of the principles of Orthodox ecclesiology and the canonical criteria of the already formed ecclesiastical tradition, according to the sacred Canons of Ecumenical and local Councils recognized by the Ecumenical Councils, as are the Canons 46, 47 and 50 of the Holy Apostles; 8 and 19 of the First Ecumenical Council; 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council; 95 of the Quinisext Council; and 7 and 8 of Laodicea.”

A necessary clarification was also added: “It is clarified that, when practicing the reception of non-Orthodox by declaration and holy Chrism by economy, this does not mean that the Orthodox Church recognizes the validity of their Baptism and other sacraments.”

In the paragraph mentioning the condemnation of any disruption of the unity of the Church by individuals or groups, and the maintenance of the genuine Orthodox faith, which is guaranteed by the Conciliar system, the Canon 6 of the Second Ecumenical Council and Canons 14 and 15 of First-Second Ecumenical Council were added.

In another section mentioning the need for inter-Christian theological dialogue, without provocative acts of confessional competition, the Unia was added in parenthesis, which means that the Orthodox Church does not accept this hypocritical way of uniting the Churches, as the Unia professes in practice.

A significant correction was made in the section saying that local Orthodox Churches “are called upon to contribute to inter-faith understanding and collaboration” by adding the words “for peaceful coexistence and social coexistence of people, without this implying any religious syncretism”.

There was a long discussion on the participation of the Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches (WCC). The proposal of the Standing Holy Synod was to delete the relevant paragraphs referring to this. Following intense debate, the issue was decided by an open ballot (by a show of hands), with thirteen Hierarchs proposing to delete the paragraphs, sixty-two to retain it, and two expressing different views.

Thus, the majority of the Hierarchs was in favor of retaining these paragraphs in the text, and that the Church of Greece should in the work of the WCC in accordance with the necessary pre-conditions. In the debate and vote I argued that we should remain in the WCC as observers, but this was the only proposal.

Nevertheless, in this text the phrase that the Orthodox Churches in the WCC contribute “by all means at their disposal to the testimony of truth and promotion of the unity of Christians” was corrected by the phrase, contribute “by all means at their disposal for the promotion of peaceful coexistence and cooperation on major socio-political challenges and problems.” This means that the reason for our Church’s participation in the WCC is only for social purposes, and not for the testimony of truth and the promotion of Christian unity.

In the text entitled “The mission of the Orthodox Church in today’s world” there was reference to the “human person” and the “communion of persons”. At the same time there were repeated references to “man”. So, for theological reasons and to consolidate the text, the phrase “the value of the human person” was replaced with the phrase “the value of man.”

In the text entitled “Autonomy and the means by which it is proclaimed”, a paragraph was added: “Church Provinces for which a Patriarchal Tome or Act has been issued cannot ask for autonomy, and their ecclesiastical status remains unshakeable”.

In another paragraph of the same text, mentioning the granting of autonomy from the Mother Church to a province, the word “unanimously” was added.

These were the key suggestions by the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece for improving the texts.

I would like to express two points.

First, these additions and changes reflect a traditional ecclesiology, within the possibilities that the Hierarchy of our Church had to make such amendments. These decisions were basically unanimous and no one can argue that the “conservative” Hierarchs defeated the “progressive” Hierarchs!!!

Of course there were also proposals to withdraw completely the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world” for further elaboration, but they were not accepted by the Hierarchy.

Secondly, these decisions are binding for our Church, because they were accepted basically unanimously. This means that our delegation tithe Holy and Great Council has to support their inclusion in the text and has no possibility to retract.


Following the above, I conclude that the Holy and Great Council, with those Churches that will participate, should definitely mention explicitly the Ecumenical and Great Councils in its Message. The unhistorical, non-theological, anti-ecclesiastical “myth” that this Council was convened after 1200 years, or that it is the first Council after the Schism, must stop being spread.

With much respect, I beg and entreat the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, who will attend eventually, in particular His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who labored to bring things this far, to mention explicitly that this Council is a continuation of the Councils of Photios the Great, of St Gregory Palamas, of St Mark of Ephesus, of the Great Patriarchs of the East, their predecessors, some of whom were martyred for the glory of God and the Church. Otherwise there will be an additional reason for this Council to be discredited in the eyes of the Church faithful as an anti-Photian, anti-Palamite, anti-Mark (Mark Evgenikos), anti-Philokalic Council!

I feel that during the sessions of the Holy and Great Council there will be Council members who will be aware of the voice of the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers, the blood of the Martyrs of faith, the tears and struggles of the ascetics, the sweat of the missionaries, the prayers of “the poor in Christ”, the expectations of the pious people. Those who are neither aware of this nor understand it will be wretched.

Met. Hierotheos Vlachos

Holy Metropolis of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlassios