Who was Fr John Romanides (1927-2001) ?

Who was Fr John Romanides ?


”This outstanding university teacher and cleric has provided us with Dogmatics “of another kind”, beyond the familiar, scholastic models prevalent until that time; beyond academism and rationalism that were still weighing down our university theology.  His words rephrased patristic teaching – something that did not involve a mere quoting of patristic excerpts, but a deeper penetration into the patristic spirit and their experience, from within their cardian association with our Triadic God.

These testimonials on fr. John Romanides, along with my own findings from the researching of his works, have convinced me that we can actually speak of a “pre-Romanides” and a “post-Romanides” era, University-wise.  Because for the first time, university theology has become familiarized, through him, with its true linkage to the History and the Worship of the Orthodox Church, as the recording of the ecclesiastic body’s experience and its testification of life “in Christ”, and that theology is not the recording of an autonomized scientific knowledge that is devoid of any immediacy through the labours of the faithful for salvation.”

Protopresbyter Fr George Metallinos. (1940-2019).

Former Dean of the Athens University School of Theology.

In Fr John Romanides own words :

“My parents were from the Roman Castropolis of Arabissa, Cappadocia, where the Roman emperor Mauritius (582 – 602) was born, who appointed St. Gregory the Great (590-604) as Pope of Rome, and who in turn appointed Augustine as the first archbishop of Canterbury (597-604). I was born in Piraeus, on March 2, 1927. I left Greece and immigrated to America on May 15, 1927 with my parents, and grew up in New York City, Manhattan, on 46th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue.

I am a graduate of the Hellenic College of Brooklyn, Massachusetts, the Theological School of Yale University, Doctor of the Theological School of the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, and the School of Philosophy of Harvard University (School of Arts and Sciences). Emeritus Professor of the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Visiting Professor of the Theological School of St. John of Damascus of Balamand University, Lebanon since 1970. ”

We will add that he also studied at the Russian Seminary of St. Vladimir in New York, at the Russian Institute of St. Sergius in Paris and in Munich, Germany. He was ordained an elder in 1951 and has served as pastor of various parishes in the United States ever since. Between 1958 and 1965 he served as a professor at the Theological School of the Holy Cross, but resigned in 1965, protesting the removal of Fr. Georgios Florovsky from the School.

He was elected to the Dogmatic Headquarters at the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki on June 12, 1968, but was not separated because he was accused of being a “communist”! He was finally appointed in 1970. In 1984, for personal reasons, he resigned in full, but it was not considered good to award him the title of Honorary, which also reveals the dysfunctions of our theological community.


He has written numerous studies, many of which are still unpublished and must be published in a series of volumes. Its remnants need to be insured because they have a lot to offer and reveal. His doctoral dissertation on the Original Sin was literally revolutionary, opening new avenues in our theology, and his books on Romiosyni, which were of equal importance to the field of History, followed. In both of these areas, Fr. John renewed his research and understanding.

His work and contribution to science have been systematically explored in Andrew Sopko’s doctoral dissertation, Prophet of Roman Orthodoxy – The Theology of John Romanides Canada 1998.

Equally great, however, was his contribution and contribution to our Church with his participation in the Theological Dialogues with Heterodox, especially with Anglicanism, but also with strangers (Judaism and Islam). The fact that his mother tongue was American (English), provided him with the comfort he needed, to develop with all precision the positions of our Church. In the Dialogue with the World Lutheran Federation (1978 et seq.) I had the opportunity to get to know him more deeply, to connect with him with strong friendship and most importantly for me, to truly become his student, beyond his many years of continuous study. his works. These Dialogues showed his extensive knowledge of the patriarchal tradition, but also of its forgeries, in the East and the West, and especially the knowledge of the Theology of St. Gregory of Palamas, a cornerstone of the Orthodox tradition.

Father John supported the relationship between theology and spiritual experience and the stations of the spiritual path of the Saints: purification – enlightenment – deification, as a condition of the Ecumenical Councils and their authentic acceptance, something that has been lost in the West, but also in our westernizing theological thought. This shift to paternity, as ecclesiastical authenticity, continued and complemented the corresponding move of Fr. Georgios Florovsky, whose course was followed in the ecumenical Dialogue, which was also often considered annoying and not an easy interlocutor. One day they will all write this, to show the superiority of the deceased, but also his true contribution to the international and universal presence of Orthodoxy, even if he often was left alone …


Considering his theological work, didactic, authorial, and militant, we are forced to speak of things, for a time before and after Fr. Romanides. Because it brought a real cut and rupture with our meticulous past, which served as a Babylonian captivity in our theology. His dissertation decisively sealed this renaissance, to the point that even these critics, for various reasons, or ideologically opposed to betraying in their writings the influence of Fr. John on their theological thought. Specifically, Fr. Ioannis:

a) He returned to the academic theological space the priority of the paternal empirical theology, setting aside the mental – contemplative – metaphysical way of theology,

b) He connected academic theology with worship and pro-Catholic tradition, demonstrating the interplay of theology and spiritual life and the pastoral-healing character of dogmatic theology.

c) He saw and adopted in the theological method the close link between doctrine and history and for this reason he was able to understand as few as possible the alienation and decline of theology in Western Europe, which took place with the Frankish conquest and imposition. A good knowledge of history, on the other hand, of Frankishness and Romiosyni (intended to be a professor of history at Yale) helped him to discern and analyze the difference between Frankish and Roman culture, introducing Roman keys to the study of our history and culture.

d) It thus helped the most complete research of Hellenism, outside the constructed western positions, with the correct – as fully substantiated – use of our historical names, their importance and dynamics in our historical course.


It is a fact that heterodox people recognized more than us the personality of Fr. John and his importance for Orthodoxy. He was considered the best Orthodox researcher of St. Augustine, who also helped Western theology in his understanding, and was described as “the greatest of all life of Orthodox theologians, whose writings are a critical study of Augustine’s work in the light of patriarchal theology. ” It should be noted that Fr. John’s owes a great deal of attention to the fact that the teaching of Barlaam of Calabria on the theological experiences of the prophets as “phenomena of natural, occurring and descended” dates back to the work of St. Augustine on the Trinity.

Against the filioque*: The Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed 381 AD.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light; true God of true God; Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures; And ascended into the heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who proceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets. In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the Life of the age to come. Amen.

“We”,was enacted at the Council at Nicea AD 325 and at Constantinople AD 381.

From the Jordanville prayerbook 2011.Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

* means: and the Son (Latin) Read about the filioque here and here

Who was St Photius the Great ?

Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, “the Church’s far-gleaming beacon,” lived during the ninth century, and came from a family of zealous Christians. His father Sergius died as a martyr in defense of holy icons. Saint Photius received an excellent education and, since his family was related to the imperial house, he occupied the position of first state secretary in the Senate. His contemporaries said of him: “He so distinguished himself with knowledge in almost all the secular sciences, that it rightfully might be possible to take into account the glory of his age and compare it with the ancients.”

Michael, the young successor to the throne, and Saint Cyril, the future Enlightener of the Slavs, were taught by him. His deep Christian piety protected Saint Photius from being seduced by the charms of court life. With all his soul, he yearned for monasticism.

In 857 Bardas, who ruled with Emperor Michael, deposed Patriarch Ignatius (October 23) from the See of Constantinople. The bishops, knowing the piety and extensive knowledge of Photius, informed the emperor that he was a man worthy to occupy the archpastoral throne. Saint Photius accepted the proposal with humility. He passed through all the clerical ranks in six days. On the day of the Nativity of Christ, he was consecrated bishop and elevated to the patriarchal throne.

Soon, however, discord arose within the Church, stirred up by the removal of Patriarch Ignatius from office. The Synod of 861 was called to end the unrest, at which the deposition of Ignatius and the installation of Photius as patriarch were confirmed.

Pope Nicholas I, whose envoys were present at this council, hoped that by recognizing Photius as patriarch he could subordinate him to his power. When the new patriarch proved unsubmissive, Nicholas anathematized Photius at a Roman council.

Until the end of his life Saint Photius was a firm opponent of papal intrigues and designs upon the Orthodox Church of the East. In 864, Bulgaria voluntarily converted to Christianity. The Bulgarian prince Boris was baptized by Patriarch Photius himself. Later, Saint Photius sent an archbishop and priests to baptize the Bulgarian people. In 865, Saints Cyril and Methodius were sent to preach Christ in the Slavonic language. However, the partisans of the Pope incited the Bulgarians against the Orthodox missionaries.

The calamitous situation in Bulgaria developed because an invasion by the Germans forced them to seek help in the West, and the Bulgarian prince requested the Pope to send his bishops. When they arrived in Bulgaria, the papal legates began to substitute Latin teachings and customs in place of Orthodox belief and practice. Saint Photius, as a firm defender of truth and denouncer of falsehood, wrote an encyclical informing the Eastern bishops of the Pope’s actions, indicating that the departure of the Roman Church from Orthodoxy was not only in ritual, but also in its confession of faith. A council was convened, censuring the arrogance of the West.

In 867, Basil the Macedonian seized the imperial throne, after murdering the emperor Michael. Saint Photius denounced the murderer and would not permit him to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Therefore, he was removed from the patriarchal throne and locked in a monastery under guard, and Patriarch Ignatius was restored to his position.

The Synod of 869 met to investigate the conduct of Saint Photius. This council took place with the participation of papal legates, who demanded that the participants sign a document (Libellus) condemning Photius and recognizing the primacy of the Pope. The Eastern bishops would not agree to this, and argued with the legates. Summoned to the council, Saint Photius met all the accusations of the legates with a dignified silence. Only when the judges asked him whether he wished to repent did he reply, “Why do you consider yourselves judges?” After long disputes, the opponents of Photius were victorious. Although their judgment was baseless, they anathematized Patriarch Photius and the bishops defending him. The saint was sent to prison for seven years, and by his own testimony, he thanked the Lord for patiently enduring His judges.

During this time the Latin clergy were expelled from Bulgaria, and Patriarch Ignatius sent his bishops there. In 879, two years after the death of Patriarch Ignatius, another council was summoned (many consider it the Eighth Ecumenical Council), and again Saint Photius was acknowledged as the lawful archpastor of the Church of Constantinople. Pope John VIII, who knew Photius personally, declared through his envoys that the former papal decisions about Photius were annulled. The council acknowledged the unalterable character of the Nicean-Constantinople Creed, rejecting the Latin distortion (“filioque”), and acknowledging the independence and equality of both thrones and both churches (Western and Eastern). The council decided to abolish Latin usages and rituals in the Bulgarian church introduced by the Roman clergy, who ended their activities there.

Under Emperor Basil’s successor, Leo, Saint Photius again endured false denunciations, and was accused of speaking against the emperor. Again deposed from his See in 886, the saint completed the course of his life in 891. He was buried at the monastery of Eremia.

The Orthodox Church venerates Saint Photius as a “pillar and foundation of the Church,” an “inspired guide of the Orthodox,” and a wise theologian. He left behind several works, exposing the errors of the Latins, refuting soul-destroying heresies, explicating Holy Scripture, and exploring many aspects of the Faith.

From OCA .

From the Synodicon of the Holy Spirit.

From the Synodicon of the Holy Spirit (to be read on the second day of Pentecost)

Background: This is subtitled: “A confession and proclamation of the Orthodox piety of the Christians, in which all the impieties of the heretics are overthrown and the definitions of the Catholic Church of Christ are sustained. Through which the enemies of the Holy Spirit are severed from the Church of Christ.” This Synodicon (a decision, statement, or tome either originating from a synod or council or possessing conciliar authority) is attributed to Patriarch Germanos the New (1222-1240). It demonstrates how the theology of St. Photios the Great became the Church’s definitive voice on the subject of the filioque. There can be no doubt that the filioque was judged to be heretical by the Orthodox Church. What follows are just a few of the anathemas from the Synodicon. (This background information, and the anathemas, are taken from On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, ibid.)

“So likewise do they who despise and disdain piety receive curses; wherefore, all we in unison, since we constitute the plentitude of piety, lay upon them the curse which they have put upon themselves.” [an excerpt from the Synodicon of Orthodoxy, read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy during Great Lent].’ To those who do not deign to consent to the unaltered and unadulterated holy Symbol confessed by the Orthodox, that one, I mean, which was evangelically formulated by the First and Second Holy Councils and confirmed by the rest, but who rather amend it and distort it to support their own belief, thereby not only corrupting the conciliar traditions of the holy fathers and of the holy and God-instructed apostles, but also the definitions of our true God and Savior, Jesus Christ, ANATHEMA.” …

“To those who in any way undertake investigations into new doctrines concerning the divine and incomprehensible Trinity and who search out the difference between begetting and procession, and the nature of begetting and procession in God and who increase words and do not abide and persist in the definitions handed down to us by both the disciples of Christ and the divine fathers; and who thereby uselessly strive to dispute over things not delivered to us, ANATHEMA.”

“To those who scorn the venerable and holy ecumenical Councils, and who despise even more their dogmatic and canonical traditions; and to those who say that all things were not perfectly defined and delivered by the councils, but that they left the greater part mysterious, unclear, and untaught, ANATHEMA.”

“To those who hold in contempt the sacred and divine canons of our blessed fathers, which, by sustaining the holy Church of God and adorning the whole Christian Church, guide to divine reverence, ANATHEMA.”

“To all things innovated and enacted contrary to the Church tradition, teaching, and institution of the holy and ever-memorable fathers, or to anything henceforth so enacted, ANATHEMA.”

Are the Heterodox Members of the Church?Prof. Demitrios Tselengidis.

Firstly, it is necessary to clarify that as Orthodox Christians we believe, in agreement with the Symbol of Faith (the Creed) of Nicene-Constantinople (381 AD), “in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”. According to the unbroken dogmatic consciousness of the Orthodox Church throughout the ages, i.e., according to her self-consciousness, this One Church is the Orthodox Church. 

The confession of the Symbol that the Church is “One” means that this is the basic attribute of her self-identity. In practical terms this means that the Church is not able to be divided – to be split apart – because this is the Mystical Body of Christ. Christ as the Head of the Body of the Church is neither able to have many bodies, nor to possess a divided one. In the Body of Christ even death itself is defeated. As such, whoever is placed within this Body also remains alive in it by the divinely-working mystery: the keeping with love of the commandments. They pass over from biological death to the eternal and everlasting life of the Triadic God. Just as the branches of the vine are not able to live and to bear fruit if they are cut-off from the vine, so also the believer – or even entire communities of believers, regardless of their numbers – who are cut-off from the Church, are not able to exist in Christ, nor to introduce another Church [into existence].

 The faith of the Church is inspired by God and non-negotiable. In agreement with Her clear faith, many divided churches are not able to exist since ‘one’ and ‘many’, or ‘one’ and ‘divided’, is a contradiction in terms. ‘Divided’ refutes, in practice, faith in the reality of the Church, which based on its own Orthodox self-consciousness is only able to be understood as ‘one and undivided’. When someone consciously speaks about a divided Church, it constitutes a denial of the Faith of the Church, a denial of Her self-identity and self-consciousness. As such, Orthodox Christians do not have any psychological self-identity complex as a result of the breaking-off of Western Christians from the Body of the Church. Certainly, though, the Orthodox do grieve, pray, and are interested in their repentance and return.

1. Apostolic Faith 

The incorporation and remaining in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, is not unconditional. It presupposes, at any rate, the acceptance – with conditions – and confession of the Apostolic Faith, just as it is defined and established by the decisions of the Ecumenical Synods of the Church. 

As such, when a believer (regardless of the institutional position that he holds in the Body of the Church), or a group of believers (regardless of their numbers) violate on principle the established faith of the Church, they are cut-off from Her Body. They are defrocked, whatever priestly rank they possess, while laymen are excommunicated, as is evident from the decisions of the Ecumenical Synods. This means that they are not able in the future to partake and to commune in the Mysteries (sacraments) of the Church. 

The Roman Catholics have officially fallen away from the Church in the 11th century. In 1014, they introduced into the Symbol of Faith their erroneous dogmatic teaching about the Holy Spirit: the well-known Filioque. According to this teaching the Holy Spirit as Divine Person has his procession both from the Father and from the Son. The dogmatic teaching of the Roman Catholics, however, overturns the Apostolic Faith of the Church in the Triadic God, since according to the Evangelist John the Spirit of Truth “proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26). Moreover, the 3rd Ecumenical Synod through its president St Cyril of Alexandria, concerning the Symbol of Faith determined prohibitively that “οὐδενί ἐπιτρέπεται λέξιν ἀμεῖψαι τῶν ἐγκειμένων ἐκεῖσε ἤ μίαν γοῦν παραβῆναι συλλαβήν” (“It is not permitted to anyone to add or to subtract even one syllable” from these which were set forth in the Symbol of Faith). All the subsequent Ecumenical Synods accepted the decisions of this 3rd Ecumenical Synod. 

It is evident, then, that the Roman Catholics – and by extension the Protestants who adopted the Filioque – have fallen away from the Apostolic Faith of the Church. It is because of this, not to mention all the subsequent innovations in the Faith on the part of Western Christianity (such as the Infallibility of the Pope, the Mariological dogmas, Primacy of the Pope, Created Grace, etc.) that these have fallen away.


2. Apostolic Succession   

With the Apostolic Faith is also inseparably joined Apostolic Succession. Apostolic Succession only possesses true substance within the Body of the Church, and it presupposes moreover the Apostolic Faith. 

When we speak of Apostolic Succession we mean the unbroken succession of the leadership of the Church from the Apostles. This continuation has a charismatic[1] character and is secured by the transmission of the spiritual authority of the Apostles to the Bishops of the Church, and through them to the priests. 

The manner of transmission of the spiritual-apostolic authority to the Bishops happens by consecration (xeirotonia). If, then, some bishop has received his consecration in the canonical-ecclesiastical manner and subsequently is found outside the Church because of his erroneous belief, he in essence stops possessing Apostolic Succession as well – since this succession only has meaning within the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.  

Consequently, if some bishop or entire local Church – regardless of the number of its members – falls away from the Faith of the Church, they cease having Apostolic Succession, just as was expressed infallibly in the Ecumenical Synods, because they are already found outside of the Church. And since Apostolic Succession is in essence[2] broken, it is not possible to speak about the possession or continuation of this succession for those who have fallen away from the Church. 

On the basis of the above, the Pope himself – as also the entirety of the Roman Catholic bishops – is devoid of Apostolic Succession, since being devoid of the Apostolic Faith, they have fallen away from the Church. Speaking about Apostolic Succession outside of the Church, therefore, is an unsubstantiated scholarly discussion – that is to say, a discussion not based in theology.  


3. Priesthood and the Other Mysteries 

The priesthood in the context of the Church is the priesthood of Christ, since Christ himself perfects the Mysteries of the Church through His Bishops and Priests. 

The priesthood presupposes its uninterrupted continuation from the Apostles. That is to say, it presupposes Apostolic Succession. Primarily, though, it presupposes the God-Man Christ as officiant in His Mystical Body, the Church. In the final analysis, the priesthood of Christ exists in the Church and is provided by Christ Himself through the Church and for the Church. An autonomous priesthood and Mysteries (sacraments) autonomous from the Church are not able to exist.

 The priesthood – just as for that matter, all the Mysteries also – is a liturgical manifestation of the Church (the Church “is marked by the Mysteries” according to St. Nicholas Kavasilas). This means that in order for the Mysteries to exist, the Church must exist first. The Mysteries are like branches of a tree; living branches that bloom and bear fruit are able to exist only when these are organic extensions of the tree, i.e., when they are ontologically connected with the trunk of the tree. 

It is theologically incomprehensible to maintain that the heterodox Roman Catholics and Protestants have even one Mystery, e.g., baptism. The fundamental question that must be raised here is: Who officiates the Mystery of Baptism? From where does the officiant find his priesthood? Who gave him the priesthood since this exists only within the Church? And where did the heterodox find the Church, since they, because of their erroneous dogmas of faith, fell away from Her?  


4. The Theory of the “Two Lungs” of Christ 

This theory has its origins in Roman Catholicism. According to this theory, Christ has as His “lungs” Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Church. 

Today, unfortunately, this theory has also been adopted rather uncritically by many Orthodox hierarchs and lay-academic theologians. And we say ‘uncritically’ because this theory, judged from an Orthodox perspective, is not only theologically unsound, but also blasphemy strictly speaking.

 The Orthodox Church is differentiated ontologically from Roman Catholicism for purely dogmatic reasons. As such, the Orthodox Church considers that only She preserves the character of the Church as the Theanthropic Body of Christ. Roman Catholicism fell away from the Church of Christ a thousand years ago. 

In addition, since the Church according to the Symbol of Faith is “One” and united, it is – theologically speaking – completely incomprehensible to understand, in agreement with the above theory, that Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are the “two lungs” of Christ, and equal members of the Body of Christ. In this case we are forced to hold that the other members of the Body of Christ either remain unaccounted for ecclesiologically,or are ecclesiologically made up from other churches – outside of the two [Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism]. Such a view, however, will lead us straight to the adoption of the Protestant ecclesiology of the “Branch Theory”.  

[When we say the “Branch Theory”, we mean the theory of the Protestants about the identity of the Church. The Church according to them is the invisible communion of the saints. All the dogmas of the different historical-empirical churches possess legitimacy and equality of existence, as branches of the one tree of the invisible church. The invisible church is the real church, which church is confessed in the Symbol of Faith. Consequently, no portion of the local church of whatever dogmatic confession embodies the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”. No local church is able to assert that she possesses the fullness of the revealed truth. The church of Christ is the total sum of her apportioned parts, i.e., all local churches of all dogmatic confessions no matter how they differ dogmatically between one another.]
This is completely unacceptable from an Orthodox perspective. 

Of Roman Catholic origin, the aforementioned theory concerning the “two lungs” of Christ is blasphemy when it is adopted by Orthodox Christians. Strictly speaking, it is blasphemy because it places within the immaculate Body of Christ Roman Catholicism as His organic members (as one of His “lungs”). And this is done at the same time that Roman Catholicism, in actuality, suffers both officially and ontologically as being outside of the Theanthropic Body of the Church.    

5. “Sister Churches” 

To begin, the term “sister churches” [as a term] can be viewed as indifferent to unacceptable. It is theologically indifferent when it is used in order to describe the relationship between local Orthodox Churches. But the term is theologically unacceptable when it is used to define the ontological character of the Orthodox Church and of Roman Catholicism.  

First of all, the term “sister churches” is not biblically founded, nor even justified. When the Apostle Paul mentions different local Churches, he doesn’t call them “sisters”, nor does he mean that there exists some Church as “mother” of these local Churches. He possesses an awareness that the Church is “One” and that she has a universal character with the concept of the fullness of her truth and life, the head of which – as we have said – is Christ Himself. So when [St. Paul] addresses himself to a local Church, he has the characteristic expression: “To the Church which is in… (e.g. Corinth)”. This means that the manifestation of the entire Church is able to occur in each place wherever the Eucharistic community of the faithful under its Bishop exists. It is certainly self-evident that the unity of these local Churches is held fast by the communion between them in this faith, life, and ecclesiastic order. The synod of their Bishops guarantees in practice the unity of the local Churches. 

From the above it becomes clear that since even like-minded local Churches within the bounds of Orthodoxy are not theologically justified in being called “sisters”, much more is there no theological-ecclesiological grounds for calling the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholicism “sister churches”. Furthermore, Roman Catholicism is not strictly speaking able to be called the Church after 1014 A.D. since from then the disciplinary proscriptions[3] of the Ecumenical Synods were spiritually in force for them as a result of their fall from the Theanthropic Body [of the Church]. 

Here it is necessary to note that the lifting of the above disciplinary proscriptions is not able to take place simply by any official personage of the Church – however highly he is found in the ecclesiastical hierarchy; these can only be lifted by an Ecumenical Synod. But even this can only happen in the event that beforehand the dogmatic teachings are rejected which resulted in Roman Catholicism’s fall from the Church [in the first place]. 

And so it is clear that officially from 1014 A.D., Roman Catholicism is not the Church. This means practically speaking that it does not have the correct Apostolic Faith or Apostolic Succession. It does not possess Uncreated Grace, and by extension does not have the divine-working Mysteries that render the Theanthropic Body of the Church, the “communion of theosis” of mankind. And so since the Church is not able not to be and remain “One” and “undivided” until the end of time, each Christian community outside of the Orthodox Church is simply heretical.

Translated from the Greek by: Matthew Penney

This paper was originally published in «Οικουμενισμός: Ιστορική και Κριτική Προσέγγιση», Συνείδησι (εκτάκτη έκδοση της Ι.Μ. Μετεώρου, Αγία Μετεώρα), June 2009, p. 78-83. [An English rendering of the title is: “Ecumenism: A Historical and Critical Approach”, Syneidisi (Special Publication of the Holy Monastery of Meteora) ].          

[1] [T.N.] ‘Charismatic’ in an Orthodox sense should be understood generally as referring to a ‘charism’ – gift from God.  It should not be confused with, or limited to, the various “charismatic” phenomena observed within the “Charismatic movements” of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.
[2] ουσιαστικά (ousiastika): “in essence” or “essentially”. The meaning above seems to correspond to “in actuality” or “in fact” based on its context.
[3] Literally ‘penances’.


REPENTANCE CANNOT BE REPLACED OR ANNULLED A Letter to the Holy Synod of Greece. About the Ukrainian Schismatic Church. Dr. Demetrios Tselengidis

DemetriosTselengidis is professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Thessaloniki. The Greek original of this letter is available here and a Romanian translation is available here. The English translation has been published by Orthodox Synaxis.


SUBJECT: Regarding the institutional legitimization of the schismatic church of Ukraine

Most Blessed Primate, 

Reverend Holy Hierarchs, 

With regard to the upcoming convocation of the Holy Synod of Hierarchs, as the least member of our local Church, but also as professor of the Church’s Dogmatic Theology, I would like—with a sense of responsibility—myself humbly to put into Your view some Dogmatic-Ecclesiological dimensions, as well as some soteriological ramifications of unconditionally accepting the schismatic Church of Ukraine into ecclesiastical-sacramental communion, in the event, of course, of an eventual Synodal decision by You to recognize its “autocephaly”. 

The first and most important issue is, in this case, the Ecclesiological issue, which is relevant to the “ecclesiastical construct” in question. First of all, it should be examined whether this “construct” fulfills the conditions of an Ecclesiastical Community. If, on the contrary, its “autocephaly” is recognized, then the ecclesiastical “legitimacy” of the Schismatic Church is automatically recognized. 

As is well-known, there has previously been Pan-Orthodox condemnation of the Schismatic Church of Ukraine with  defrocking and excommunication. This Pan-Orthodox condemnation has not been revoked. Finally, with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Tomos of Autocephaly (January 6, 2019), an institutional overreach of a spiritual and ecclesiological character occurred, which raises reasonable questions about its ecclesiastical legitimacy. And this is because, at least as far as we know, the fundamental patristic and spiritual conditions were not met, something that raises reasonable objections to the canonicity of the terms and conditions of the Patriarchal Praxis, so long as there has not been public repentance and renunciation of Schism. What we are saying in the case in question does not mean that we are calling into question the institutional competence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant Autocephaly with the consent, of course, of the entire of body of the Church expressed synodally. Here only the issue of the valid conditions for issuing the Tomos in question is being raised. 

According to scriptural testimonies (Matthew 4:17, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 2:6-8), as well as according to the Patristic and Spiritual tradition of the Church, the integration or reintegration into the one and indivisible body of the Church in any case presupposes a profound experience and sincere expression of repentance on the part of the member or wider community being integrated or reintegrated. 

The condition of expressing repentance is not invalidated or annulled by any institutional person or institutional ecclesiastical body. There exists no Ecclesiastical Economy that can replace or annul repentance. Repentance itself constitutes the fundamental condition and spiritual “key” to receiving and possessing the Economy of salvation, as well as the “key” to activating or reactivating it, in accordance with the testimony of Scripture: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). 

For precisely this reason, the Meletian Schism in the ancient Church was restored after not only expression of repentance, but also the anathematization of the Schism by the Schismatics themselves. And, as St Theodore the Studite characteristically notes, “anathematizing their own schism, as they say, they are received into the Catholic Church” (Letter 40 to Naukratios, PG 99 1053C). Only then did there follow the synodal Pan-Orthodox restoration at the First Ecumenical Council. 

In the case of the Schismatic Church of Ukraine, as it appears, no repentance was sought or expressed. Here, in practice, repentance was annulled, even though it is an explicit commandment of the Lord and the age-old practice of the Church. There can be no talk of Ecclesiastical Economy for this. In fact, this is a flagrant ecclesiastical transgression, which makes salvation impossible, not only for the Schismatics, but also for those who sacramentally commune with them, since they too become excommunicates (see Canon 2 of the Council of Antioch, which was validated by the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils). 

From the above, it becomes clear that the issue in question is essentially Ecclesiological-Dogmatic, with inevitable soteriological ramifications, as has already been very rightly expressed in the Letter of the Hagiorite Elders to the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain (March 2019). 

For this reason it is also essential that the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy decide on the identity of the Schismatic Church of Ukraine and to demand the application of the age-old ecclesiastical conditions for its reintegration. That is, repentance and the anathematization of the Schism. This spiritual responsibility is fully within the competence of the Hierarchy about to recognize the “Autocephaly” in question, which of course has other parameters of Canonicity, so long as it does not take into account the existence of the Canonical Church in the same country, under Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv, the Canonical Church from which it split. That is to say, “Autocephaly” has, in this case, been granted to unabashed schismatics. And this unprecedented matter, which is logically, canonically and spiritually unthinkable, is now being asked to occur with the Synodal consent of our Church. 

With the “rationale” for accepting the Tomos of “Autocephaly” of the Schismatic Church of Ukraine, we are in danger of possibly also being led in the future to the sacramental acceptance of Papism and other heresies without the fundamental conditions of repentance and the renunciation of their dogmatic delusions, something that Ecumenism attempts today, not only in theory but already in practice. So we wonder, essentially, whether the spiritual institutions within our Church have begun to “function” devoid of their spiritual foundation. We wonder whether in recent decades a “new ethos” has been introduced with the hidden aspiration to become the habitual ethos also in customary law, which will undermine the Canonical Tradition of the Church. Historically, we know that when such a mentality was consolidated in the West, the Western Church was led to Papism– with all its dogmatic deviations– and ended up cut off from the One and only Church. 

To summarize, we note that any eventual decision about the “Autocephaly” of the Schismatic Church of Ukraine cannot be unconditional. Because then– indirectly but clearly– it would mean in practice an illegal ecclesiastical-institutional “legalization” of the existing Schism, something that has no historical precedent in the Ecclesiastical Tradition of the Holy Fathers. Most importantly, the eventual recognition without spiritual conditions gravely harms the unity of the entire Church, something than which there is nothing more precious. The danger is clear– that of creating Schisms throughout the entire Church on account of your eventual assent to recognizing the “Autocephaly” of the Schismatic Church of Ukraine, something that we wish to avoid with all our heart. 

Finally, the spiritual solution to the current ecclesiastical problem is repentance. And unfortunately, at the moment this is lacking. Nevertheless, there is realistic hope. Those of us who love the Church in Christ, let us ourselves take the cleansing and deifying medicine of repentance and then Christ will give healing to the sick, according to the testimony of the Holy Fathers [see St Nicholas Cabasilas: “everyone marvels at God’s goodness, though no one escapes an illness when someone else takes the medicine, seeking to be released from chastisement while others suffer”  On the Life in Christ, Part 7, PG 150 700C) Here some may marvel at the goodness of God. No one can be rid of illness without taking the medicine. Can someone be rid of the consequences of sin when others do the work for them?] 

With the deepest respect, 

Demetrios Tselengidis
Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki