Voices from Russia

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Pope, the Patriarch, and the Relationship of the Churches…

metropolitan-christodoulos-of-athens

Archbishop Christodoulous Pereskaveidis of Athens and all Greece (1939-2008), First Hierarch of the Local Church in Greece, ruled 1998-2008

My thoughts, which are presented below, are not a reproach against the person of His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Rather, they express the apprehension held by a large part of the faithful, so, I humbly make them public so that he could think and reflect on them. He is a wise man! The fact is, as we all know, the wise learn, they multiply their wisdom, by listening to all, even youths and earthworms.

As for me, I act according to the well-known axiom, “Plato may be my friend, but, the truth is even dearer to me”. I dare to speak the truth, when others keep silent; I speak the truth, when others issue flattery; I speak frankly, when others dissimulate. If the late Archbishop Christodoulous were alive today, he would confirm this. All too often, I caused him pain by my words, doing so in the name of love and truth. Christodoulous, who was given the cold shoulder by the mother-church after the dismal scenario played out in the Phanar! 1 Who can forget that truly terrible ceremony, which, unfortunately, was the work of the patriarch himself?

* * * * * *

His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew returned to the centre of public attention in relation to the theological dialogue between East and West, between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. As a result of his recent fourth visit to the Vatican in October 2008 to attend a conference of Catholic bishops, he provoked a climate of fear in our midst. Many noted his statement that his presence at the conference “was a manifestation of the action of the Spirit of God”. The impression is created that the patriarch is in a hurry; he is running, in a rush to combine the Churches. At least, that is how some of us understand his actions. We cannot ignore the protests of the pious faithful of the Church; we cannot by one stroke of the pen erase them all, saying to ourselves, “Let them leave! They are die-hard fanatics”. We must take into account that amongst them are bishops, priests, scholars, monks, teachers of theological schools, and many other worthy members of the Church of Christ.

The participation of our distinguished patriarch in a Catholic service and his joint prayer with the Pope of Rome causes not only apprehension, but, also, enormous grief. This is not allowed by the Holy Canons! Under the canons, he has already condemned himself for his dreadfully presumptuous actions in the Liturgy in Ravenna, done a few years ago. Yes, now, too, the canons condemn him. Patriarch Bartholomew overstepped the permissible boundaries in the communication between the East and West; indeed, the joint recitation of the symbol of faith is a liturgical act. Of course, it did not reach the level of participation in the common Chalice, in joint celebration of the Bloodless Sacrifice, but, the confession of faith does not cease from this to be the same. If we have such a difference in doctrine, if the theological dialogue at the last stage (Ravenna in 2007) gave rise to so much turmoil amongst Orthodox, our steps must be very careful and measured.

I understand that contacts between religious leaders are needed. Therefore, so that the efforts of their subordinates in the Church are successful, the leaders need to discover ways to do this. But, I cannot understand why it is necessary to ignore the limits laid down by the Fathers. I can attend the Catholic liturgy as an ordinary visitor or a tourist, but, as a bishop, I cannot give a blessing by saying “Peace be to all”. In addition, I cannot, along with the Catholics say “I believe”, even if it were the conventional text of Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Otherwise, it is a form of complicity in joint prayer, to which His Holiness has not received authorisation from the other Local Orthodox Churches. It is an action based on personal caprice.

Archbishop Stylianos of Australia protested with great vehemence against steps of this kind, and, in general, against the breaches of the limits he observed in the theological dialogue. He is a bishop of the Ecumenical throne, a great friend to our patriarch, a professor and long-standing moderator and co-chairman of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue. But, the fathers of Holy Mount Athos did not protest, even though we had expected that. I am simultaneously surprised and puzzled concerning their silence! Usually, in other cases, they were more vociferous than the rest of us, but, in this case, they were as silent as the fishes. Why is there such a double standard? Such behaviour is not worthy of emulation! The only (and most welcome) exception was the statement issued by the abbot of Xeropotamou Monastery, Fr Joseph, during the visit of His Holiness Bartholomew to his monastery. I shall cite below his wise and memorable words of greeting addressed to our patriarch.

xeropotamou

Xeropotamou Monastery on Mount Athos

“Let not the holy prayers of Your Holiness be maimed and distorted because of the weaknesses of our monastic witness of our faith, because everything that comes not from faith is sin, as the Apostle says (Romans 14:23). Here, Your Holiness, allow us to address you with filial boldness, and bring to your attention two themes that are close our heart and tempt our monastic conscience and the consciences of many pious Orthodox Christians who come to us. Firstly, one sees a continued acknowledgment by Your Holiness in official speeches, joint prayers in church, and appearances on television, of representatives of the incorrigible and uncorrected contemporary papacy. Secondly, some say that there is no ecclesiological and theological witness to Orthodoxy through the participation of our representatives to the World Council of Churches, thusly, bringing about a tacit adoption of Protestant ecclesiology, which defines the structure and functioning of this quasi-Protestant organisation.

Your Holiness, together with St John Chrysostom, we, your humble and unworthy servants, say to you, ‘Do not accept any false teaching under the guise of love’. We, the humble monks of the Xeropotamou Monastery, along with many pious people, share the concern that we should continue to abide in the faith given by the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers. In our love for the heterodox, we should extend to them our sincere assistance. We shall be able to help them only if the Orthodox point up the consistent position of the Church, indicating to them the scale of their spiritual sickness and showing them the way to healing.

With deep pain in our hearts, we most reverentially ask you that we do not accompany any further theological dialogue with joint prayers and participation in liturgical and prayer services of each other, as well as other actions that may create the impression that our Orthodox Church accepts the Catholics as a Church at present, and that the Pope of Rome is the canonical bishop of Rome. Such actions introduce error into the impression of the state of unity existing between Orthodox and Catholics, giving them a false sense that we think of them as being Orthodox. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but, the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13: 13). By your paternal love, please, forgive us this deviation into confessional issues, and look at the humble persons of our brotherhood, which looks upon you with great respect”.

metropolitan-amvrosios-of-kalavryta

Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta and Aegialia, of the Local Church of Greece, the author of this article

I stated the above as an introduction in order to turn to the other side of the question of the relations of Orthodox and Catholics.

  1. No, absolutely no, attempt at rapprochement will be able to bring results, if the Catholics do not cease to engage in proselytism among the Orthodox in Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and other countries of the former Eastern bloc.
  2. No attempt at rapprochement will be able to bring results if the Catholics do not abolish the Unia in Greece and elsewhere.
  3. No, absolutely no, attempt at rapprochement will be able to bring results if the Catholics do not repent of the blame, laid on their shoulders in recent years, when they shed the innocent blood of Orthodox in Bosnia, Croatia, and elsewhere. All of this was in the name of the faith and of Christ.
  4. No, absolutely no, attempt at rapprochement will not be able to bring results if the Catholics do not repent of the blame laid on them for the funding that the Vatican gave to the Muslims during the war in Bosnia against the Orthodox. This crime was committed only a few years ago.

When we brought aid into Serbia personally, we had the opportunity to visit the battlefield, at the frontline, in the zone of combat, when the Serbs were besieging Gorazde. I heard the words of the heroic General Mladić personally. He said that a) in the United Nations trucks carrying food for the Muslims, weapons and ammunition was hidden under the food, and b) the Vatican financed the purchase of the weapons! A little later, a senior official at the Ministry of Defence of Greece told me the very same information on a very confidential basis.

Even if the official visits between Constantinople and the Vatican continue, even if joint prayer and concessions continue, even if the Orthodox take steps of goodwill, there can be no real merger of the two churches if a repentance for all past crimes is not given first, which inevitably leads us to the recollection of similar cases and crimes going back to the period of the Crusades. Since then, it seems, nothing has changed.

stepinac

Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac (1898-1960), supporter of the Croatian Ustaše massacre of Serbian Orthodox in World War II (shown here with Ante Pavelich, the Nazi collaborationist ruler of Croatia). If Rome wishes to be our friend, they must remove this thug from the list of saints.

We found important documents relating to our subject. They deal with events that happened long ago in the Second World War in Serbia connected to Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac. They are of great importance, because they prove, at base, that Rome gave a secular foundation to the institution of the papacy and the church, Rome became the secular state of the Vatican. Over the centuries, it has not changed any of its methods or behaviour. The end justifies the means, up to the murder of infidels, that is, “wrongfully-believing” Orthodox. Lord, have mercy!

The Italian writer Marco Aurelio Rivelli wrote the book, Archbishop of Genocide (see: www.mkka.blogspot.com), which deals with the position of the Catholic bishop of the specific area in those years. A quote from the forward to his book stated, “Railway wagons full of prisoners were sent to the concentration camps. ‘Rotten Fruit’ was chalked on the exterior of the wagons, whilst, inside, they were loaded with Orthodox Serbs marked for death. In one concentration camp alone, some 700,000 Orthodox were done to death! This was the genocide of Stepinac! This ‘archbishop of genocide’, as he was aptly named, was recently added by the Catholic Church to the list of its saints! On what basis can we discuss church unity?” (From the Foreword to the book Archbishop of Genocide, written by His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos Liapis of Athens and all Greece, at the time, metropolitan of Thebes and Levadeia, 2000).

Even if the official visits of the heads of the churches to Rome or Constantinople continue, the union of the churches will remain an impossible and, therefore, misleading dream. Don’t worry about the “zealots” and the “super-super-orthodox!” The guards know everything! If it is necessary, we will all stand in defence of our faith. We will not abandon you, our beloved Orthodoxy.

Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavyrta and Aegialia

Translated from the Greek by Anatolia Churyakova

3 December 2008

Footnote:

  1. In 2003, dramatically worsened relations between the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on the one hand, and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece and Archbishop Christodoulous personally, on the other hand, came about as result of differences on the order of appointment to the episcopate in 36 dioceses, the so-called New Territories (Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, and Northern Aegialia). Since 1928, these were nominally under the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but, in practise, they were under the Local Church of Greece. On 30 April 2004, Patriarch Bartholomew broke Eucharistic communion and ceased commemoration of Archbishop Christodoulous. Amongst the accusations by the Phanar and were recriminations concerning the “collusion” of the Archbishop with the Russians with a view to weakening the influence of the office of the Ecumenical Patriarch. A month later, there was reconciliation and a restoration of relations was achieved on the conditions of Constantinople.

10 February 2009

Pravoslavie.ru

As quoted in Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=radio&div=1090

Editor’s Note:

Please, note the original source of this article in Russian. Pravoslavie.ru is the official website of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, one of the foremost publishing centres of the MP. Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov is the superior, and he is the confessor of the Putin and Medvedev families. Therefore, we are not talking of some individual’s website or blog. This site, for all intents and purposes, is a semi-official voice of the MP.

This piece was done in December, but, not published until February. In short, Fr Tikhon waited for the new patriarch to be installed. There is no doubt that this piece was passed to the DECR for its approval before posting. In short, the position of Patriarch Kirill is far less friendly to the papists than is supposed by the ignorant pundits of Zenit or Asia News or the International Herald Trib.

I believe it is safe to say that there shall be no “Florentine Union” any time soon (or, any time later, for that matter). Rome still arrogantly demands that its primacy be accepted, with all of the Roman innovations of the past millennium. The ones most hurt by this are the Uniates. Rome shall turn on them with a vengeance once they are shown to be not useful for the Vatican’s plans. I feel sorry for these people… they must toe the Roman line in everything (Rome bans married priests in the USA, for instance) and they must be obedient little “Stepin Fetchits” for the pope. I can’t understand why these people just don’t come on over to us… However, one cannot force a Prodigal to return, one must wait patiently for them to come on their own. May that day be soon…

BMD

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