Sunday, March 24, 2019

The story of a Ukrainian village at a crossroads

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ecumenical Patriarch has long interview with Politika

This interview was posted in several languages before this English version was published by the EP. The machine translations were rather poor, so I am glad to be able to post it now. People have asked a lot of questions of the motivations and thinking that went into Constantinople doing what she did. This interview touches on many of these points.

(EP) - Thank you for your time and your noble intention to give readers of “Politika” answers to very sensitive issues that characterize the positions of Orthodoxy in the modern world, namely – as you feel and know well – answers to very interesting questions about the Church of Ukraine. We admit that among the Serbian public, your explanation for this situation and your arguments have not been presented to a satisfactory degree. In contrast to this, the view and attitude of the Russian Church is constantly repeated in the Serbian media, and readers are fully familiar with them. With this interview, I am taking the opportunity to clarify your positions and recent actions. In this interview, we would like to start with some general issues, and then move on to more specific questions.

Zivojin Rakocevic: How would you describe the position of Orthodoxy in the modern world? What is your role as Ecumenical Patriarch? I have in mind the Serbian theologian Stojan Gosevic, who once expressed the view that “if there was no Ecumenical Patriarchate, we should have to create it.” Could there be Orthodoxy without the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople?

Ecumenical Patriarch: First of all, thank you for your effort and your concern in visiting the Ecumenical Patriarchate and giving us, through this interview, the opportunity to communicate with the pious clergy and the Christ-loving Serbian people.

The position of Orthodoxy in the modern world is no different from what it was in previous years, beginning with the Upper Room at Pentecost. We may have new information today, socially, scientifically, etc., but the purpose and mission of the Church have not changed. The Church is the Ark of salvation and truth, as the Triune God revealed to the world. It is the place where the transformation of man is accomplished and his union with God is achieved. The Church, in other words, is “the Kingdom of God” in the world. Everything else that we see today, which can impress us and cause admiration, such as such as philanthropic, cultural, social, academic, or developmental works, as important as they may seem, do not cease to be ancillary to the basic purpose and goal of the Church. And, of course, they can by no means replace the sovereign and primary mystical and soteriological character of our Orthodox Church.

Regarding the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the world and in the Orthodox Church, I would prefer instead of formulating an answer to urge all your good readers to look at ecclesiastical history, the Sacred Canons, the teaching of the Fathers, and Holy Tradition, and they will find out what the role and responsibility of the Ecumenical and Apostolic Throne are. We, as humble servants and followers of the Apostle Andrew, do nothing more than what the Sacred Canons have bequeathed to us. This phrase of the well-known Serbian theologian Stojan Gosevic is verified by the acts of the Ecumenical Councils and the Tradition of our Church. Whatever the Ecumenical Patriarchate has it owes to the Church. We are not a self-created entity, but one that has developed through the Holy Spirit.

Interviewer: The world seems to be fully globalized. Does this globalization affect Orthodoxy, its essence and its coherence? On the other hand, is the general fluidity of all values ​​forcing some Orthodox communities to mutate into ghettos?

Woes at Holy Cross continue

BOSTON (TNH) – The faculty of the Holy Cross School of Theology wrote a letter dated March 8, 2019 addressed to Archbishop Demetrios of America and to the chairman of the Board of Trustees in which it expressed its great concern regarding three ‘notations’ imposed on the School by The Board of Commissioners of the Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting.

The professors wrote to the Archbishop “these three notations is of great concern to the faculty of Holy Cross.”.

They are also asking for a financial audit: “The first steps to address this notation would be to conduct a transparent audit, by outside experts, of the structural budgetary operation of the institution. This audit should be shared with administration, faculty and staff as well as trustees. We also recommend the immediate recruitment of highly qualified past and new high impact board members, either to serve on the board of trustees, or even as part of a presidential financial advising committee to assist in the strategic planning process with the board.”

The faculty’s letter is printed in its entirety below.

A Letter of Concern from the Faculty of Holy Cross regarding the Imposition of Notations by the Association of Theological Schools Addressed to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, Chairman of Hellenic College Holy Cross Board of Trustees

We greet you in the spirit of humility and forgiveness associated with the beginning of the Lenten season. It is with our deepest respect for your ministry to the Church of Christ and our acknowledgement of your love and concern for Holy Cross that we ask for your archepiscopal blessing and provide you with this letter.

The recent decision (February 7-8, 2019) by the Board of Commissioners of the ATS Commission on Accrediting to impose three notations is of great concern to the faculty of Holy Cross. The imposed notations highlight three significant areas of concern, namely, finances, governance and institutional planning. These decisions are based upon the comprehensive evaluation conducted by peers from ATS Schools who visited Holy Cross from November 12-15, 2018, for which Holy Cross produced a detailed self-study.

In response, the faculty has met several times (Nov. 20th, 2018; Dec. 11th, 2018, Jan 8th, 2019; Jan 29th, 2019; Feb. 26th, 2019), in regular and special faculty meetings, to discuss the November 2018 visit, and to carefully examine both the ATS Report of a Comprehensive Evaluation Visit for Reaffirmation of Accreditation 11/12/18-11/15/18 (Visitation Report) and the decisions of the ATS Board of Commissioners (ATS Commission Letter) dated February 15, 2018.

EP delegation received by Patriarch of Antioch

(Romfea) - Metropolitan Emmanuel of France is in Lebanon since last Wednesday, in a series of meetings with the religious authorities of the country, along with Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianople.

Patriarch Ioannis of Antioch welcomed the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Monastery of Profitis Ilias, accompanied by the Metropolitan Siluan of Mount Lebanon (Batroun) and the Bishop Constantine of Chrysoupolis.

The two sides referred to issues of mutual interest and inter-orthodox relations, while the Patriarch of Antioch expressed his warmest wishes to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the mission of the delegation.

The meeting with the Patriarch Aram of Armenians and Cilicia was conducted in a good atmosphere.

There were discussed issues of the Christians in the Middle East, especially the progress of the Bilateral Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Ancient Churches of the East.

Helpful Lenten chart

Friday, March 22, 2019

Orthodox Synaxis fact checks Constantinople

Very little about Church history is absent from a search on the Internet. There is, of course, a lot of bad editorializing and no small amount of bad or intentionally misleading scholarship out there too, but if you know what you are looking for you can easily double check citations or quotations in minutes. My college and high school-aged children now take as a given that their professors will run their papers through plagiarism and citation filters, but it doesn't seem as apparent in some religious circles that what is proffered as fact is going to be checked by anyone and everyone who has the free time to do so. In this heightened post-Ukrainian Church reconfiguration environment every word of every patriarchate is being scanned line by line for error.

Stepping away from the issue at hand for a moment might prove illustrative. I have made a hobby of language (philology/etymology/phonology/etc. - not a glamorous pastime I grant you) and almost daily find people positing the most silly ideas they heard second-hand or read on some trivia page as fact. Sometimes things are half right and other times they are completely wrong. Still other times linguistic errors are done on purpose to shape public opinion; innocuous pop theorizing on the one side and propaganda on the nefarious other. Whether intentional or otherwise, either end of the spectrum irks me albeit not as strongly when done unawares.

After reading this article many people have also become quite irked. You may read it and find yourself among them. If you do, I ask you not start calling the Ecumenical Patriarch names or otherwise diminish the patriarchate with crudeness. Calling the Patriarch of Constantinople "Bart" or saying His All-Holiness is a "snake" or any such other thing convinces no one of any points you might make. If your facts are strong you don't need invective. Such additions actually weaken your arguments. Keep it civil.

(Orthodox Synaxis) - In his letter to Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, Patriarch Bartholomew spends a full paragraph on the “Meletian Schism” of Egypt (not to be confused with the unrelated Meletian Schism of Antioch in the same period). According to Patriarch Bartholomew, this Meletian Schism is an important precedent for the reception of schismatic bishops and clergy without re-ordination. The problem is that the Patriarch’s characterization of the Meletian Schism and its outcome is utterly and completely inaccurate, to the point of being blatantly dishonest. Here is the full paragraph written by the Patriarch:

While we do not wish to convey all of the cases delineated in the treatise, suffice it for us to note how the Holy and God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea resolved the Melitian schism with the articulation of Canon 8 that reflects the Novatians. The said Melitios, Bishop of Lycopolis in Egypt, was accused of committing a whole series of unlawful acts, including denying the faith and sacrificing to idols. He was defrocked around the year 302 AD. Rejecting the defrocking, he formed an opposition and created the so-called Melitian schism. When reconciliation was achieved, according to the account of Athanasios the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria, the saint’s predecessor, Alexander of Alexandria, submitted a register or list of those ordained during the period of this schism – which included bishops, priests, and deacons – all of whom were restored to their proper rank without re-ordination. This schism troubled the Church up until the seventh century, while those reconciled were admitted into communion with the Church without re-baptism or even through Holy Chrism, as Theodore the Studite informs us all in his Great Epistle to Nafkratios.

So much of this is false — the schismatic clergy in question were not “restored to their proper rank without re-ordination”; in fact, the First Ecumenical Council explicitly required them to be re-ordained. Meletios of Lycopolis was not defrocked for apostasy and idolatry, but for ordaining priests outside of his canonical jurisdiction. He was not restored unilaterally by Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria, but by the entire First Ecumenical Council. The references to Canon 8 of Nicaea and the Great Epistle of Theodore the Studite to Nafkratios are red herrings, not relevant to the question of reception of schismatic clergy without re-ordination. In this article, we will examine each of these crucial points.

Meletios of Lycopolis

Meletios of Lycopolis was defrocked for performing ordinations outside of his own canonical jurisdiction — not for “denying the faith and sacrificing to idols,” as Patriarch Bartholomew claims. Meletios refused to accept the repentance of those Christians who lapsed during the persecutions, and he set up his own church, in opposition to the legitimate Church of Alexandria. After being defrocked, he continued to act as a bishop and ordained numerous other “bishops” and “priests.”

The First Ecumenical Council

The First Ecumenical Council addressed the Meletian Schism in a letter to the Church of Alexandria, instructing Alexandria (and its Patriarch, St Alexander) on precisely how to handle the Meletians. (To read the full text of the letter, click here.) The Council cautiously accepted Meletios’ (apparent) repentance, and restored him to his rank as bishop, but without the freedom to leave his own city or ordain anyone. And then, the key part for our purposes — “The Council also decided that those who had been appointed by him, after having been confirmed by a more legitimate ordination, should be admitted to communion on these conditions…”

Final volume of Orthodox Christianity series published

(SVOTS) - Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev’s Orthodox Christianity, Vol. V is now available through St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS) Press, marking the completion of the monumental Orthodox Christianity series.

The five-volume series is a detailed and systematic exposition of the history, canonical structure, doctrine, social and moral teaching, liturgical services, and spiritual life of the Orthodox Church. The purpose of this series is to present Orthodox Christianity as an integrated theological and liturgical system, in which all elements are interconnected.

This fifth and final volume is dedicated to the mysteries (or sacraments) of the Orthodox Church—baptism, chrismation, the Eucharist, confession, ordination, unction, and marriage—in addition to the services of monastic tonsure, Christian burial, the blessing of water, and the consecration of a church building, which were also regarded as mysteries by some of the fathers of the Church. The book also explains the remaining non-sacramental church services or rites that fall outside the daily, weekly, and annual liturgical cycle, such as molebens and akathists, and various blessings for people, objects, and occasions.

Purchase Orthodox Christianity, Vol. V separately or as part of the complete set through

The series author, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, is the chairman of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. He has authored numerous works on theology and church history, and is an internationally recognized composer of liturgical music. Several of his works are available through SVS Press, including his other landmark series, Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching, and Christ the Conqueror of Hell.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others.

Hostility to free speech often hits religion directly. This is especially true on college campuses where an increasingly fragile student body thinks it is protecting itself from harm by not engaging with people with differing opinions - making them wholly unprepared for the real world. I'm all for mandating respect for free speech in all its forms in our schools.

(Fox News) - President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order to promote free speech on college campuses by threatening colleges with the loss of federal research funding if they do not protect those rights.

"We’re here to take historic action to defend American students and American values," Trump said, surrounded by conservative student activists at the signing ceremony. "They’ve been under siege."

"Under the guise of speech codes, safe spaces and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans like those here today," he said.

A senior administration official said the order directs 12 grant-making agencies to use their authority in coordination with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure institutions that receive federal research or education grants promote free speech and free inquiry. White House officials have said it will apply to more than $35 billion in grants.

Public universities seeking funding would have to certify they comply with the First Amendment, which already applies to them. Private universities, which have more flexibility in limiting speech, would need to commit to their own institutional rules.

"Even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and the First Amendment," Trump said.

A solid Lenten lesson

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New martyrs to be glorified in Estonian Church

(Romfea) - The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to include in the canon of the Orthodox Church of Estonia those who gave their lives in martyrdom and those who are accounted as confessors for the Orthodox Faith between 1944 and 1955, following a proposal by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Estonia and its President, Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia.

The names of the new New Martyrs are the following:

Saint Petros, Bishop of Tartu and Petseri,

Saint Alypios, Archimandrite

Saint Vladimiros, Protopresbyterian

Saint Seraphim, Priest

Saint Ioannis, Priest

Saint Leonidas, Priest

Saint Andreas

Saint Alexandros

Their memory was decided to be celebrated on August 20.

The Orthodox clergy and people of Estonia accepted this decision of the Mother Church of Constantinople with great joy and spiritual contentment.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Serbian Church makes clear position on pan-Orthodox events

I must say that the pan-Orthodox Sunday of Orthodoxy events were very different affairs all over the country. Some priests continued to go, some chose to stay home, some went to alternative Sunday of Orthodoxy events held by ROCOR. Some priests I know who never go to such events who went to the pan-Orthodox icon procession just so they wouldn't look like they held any sort of animus. For my part, there were more people at this year's event than I had ever seen before.

(SOC-NASA) - During the first week of the Great Fast, as we are preparing to once again on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in a visible way with all other Orthodox Christians, celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy and the Restoration of Icons, the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church hereby notifies its priests and faithful to steadfastly maintain to the current practice of concelebration with other Orthodox bishops, priests and faithful from all the Orthodox Dioceses in the United States of America. In other words, that they do not interrupt any such common fellowship or concelebrations which they have been doing for decades on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, as well as on other feasts and times of the year. It is only through liturgical participation of the people of God which protects the communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:13)

Since some of our faithful, less familiar with the situation, have heard confusing and sometimes inaccurate information, in which is heard that the Serbian Church supposedly is not in communion with some of the Orthodox Patriarchates or autocephalous churches, we set forth following:

We recommend that all Orthodox believers entrusted to our Diocese, not to be subject to any disinformation regarding the alleged non-participation of our Church in Pan-Orthodox services. There are strange and contradictory attitudes coming from various sides whose messengers are somewhere claiming and somewhere suggesting that the Serbian church is supposedly recommending that we distance ourselves from those with whom, until now, we have been in communion. In this regard, we state that it is unacceptable to turn to an uncanonical separation from communion in the eucharistic-hierarchical unity with the other Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora and the whole world.

We remind everyone of the wise ecclesial words of the distinguished Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios (Yannoulatos) as well as those of Metropolitan of Dioclea, Kallistos (Ware), that the Holy Liturgy (communion) can never be allowed to be used as a tool in a fight against those who think differently from ourselves. Metropolitan Kallistos, who will also be the keynote speaker at the Church Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church in America in July 2019, expressed his concern that one church has decided to break communion with another church, and explicitly recommends that “this question should be decided in the spirit of brotherly love, without interrupting the Eucharistic community."

Therefore, we want to encourage our clergy, monastics and faithful to be more earnestly united in the prayer and Eucharistic communion with all Orthodox Christian faithful in America, and more specifically, with representatives of all canonical jurisdictions: Ecumenical Patriarchate (all of its hierarchs and its Dioceses of the United States), Antiochian Patriarchate, Moscow Patriarchate (including the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), Serbian Patriarchate, Romanian Patriarchate, Bulgarian Patriarchate, Georgian Patriarchate, and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). By this church-building unity and love, the Serbian Church in America, by action and participation in full fellowship in Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father, give a blameless example to other Orthodox Christians.

In conclusion, in this year when our Serbian Church celebrates 800 years of its autocephaly, we are invited all to act as such a jubilee prescribes: celebrating unity in an overall way and witnessing to the spirit of unity both among our people and in relation to other Orthodox Churches.

- The Bishop of West American Diocese Maxim

Sunday of Orthodoxy procession in Buramata, Burundi

Bracketology of our own

Happy to credit whomever might have made this. Comment if you know.

Friday, March 15, 2019

EP responds to letter from Albanian Church

Finally translated for us.

(ARCHONS) - In a January 14, 2019 letter to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and all Albania called for a pan-Orthodox Council to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. His All-Holiness’ response, detailing the duties, responsibilities and rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, follows below.

Protocol Number 104

Your Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and all Albania, most beloved and precious brother, concelebrant in Christ our God of our Modesty: We address Your venerable Beatitude with exceeding delight, even as we greet you with a fraternal embrace.

We received and thoroughly examined your fraternal letter of last January 14, 2019, following our letter of December 24, 2018, related to the canonical ecclesiastical acts that we initiated in Ukraine, and we would like to respond herewith so that, in a spirit of sincere instruction – which, as by God’s mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, we bear responsibility before all holy brothers throughout the world – we may present the following:

The God-bearing Fathers, who through the holy and sacred canons have entrusted the Throne of Constantine with its universally recognized hallowed and dread responsibilities that transcend borders – not in the form of privileges but of self-sacrifice – foresaw with the guidance of the Holy Spirit the necessity for a definitive resolution to the problems emerging across the Local Churches, which are unable to settle them by themselves.

This legacy of our Great Church of Christ has been served without blemish throughout all previous centuries in a spirit of prudence and with fear of God, by our blessed and ever-memorable Predecessors, always within the sanctified and canonically immutable system of the Pentarchy of Ancient Thrones, through appropriate fraternal and reciprocal mutuality “united in spiritual concord and harmony, through love in the Holy Spirit, supporting one another.”[1]

In this constant reciprocal relationship, the preeminent position of Constantinople is universally declared without ever eliciting any reservation or consternation on the part of the other Patriarchates, since after all everyone knows very well that there has never been any danger whatsoever that “the cloudy delusion of the world would conceivably penetrate the Church of Christ, which offers the light of simplicity and dawn of humility to those who desire to see God.”[2] Indeed, as our late predecessor, Neophytos VII, explains, “supporting and inherently assisting the needs likewise of the other most holy Patriarchal and Apostolic Thrones is something that our own most holy Patriarchal, Apostolic and Ecumenical Throne has historically deemed very appropriate, without either seizing or coveting their rights out of a sense of greed – something we would neither act upon nor even dare to entertain. For the former is proper and right of itself, whereas on the contrary the latter is unjust and improper.”[3]

In the midst of such solemn declarations of respect for the canonical rights of internal administrative autonomy of the local sister Churches, we also record the decision of Anthimos VI to the Church of Antioch, according to whom “ . . . the Great Church, heaven forbid, never sought to abolish the canonical rules and rights possessed by the most holy Throne [of Antioch] by any interference or imposition, whether during a vacancy of its throne or any other time. On the contrary, it always supported the prerogatives [of Antioch] and provided ardent protection on numerous occasions of dire circumstance pertaining to the safeguarding of the Orthodox in the face of adversarial assault. There are countless examples that testify to such patronage and stressful protection of the Church [of Constantinople] for the Throne [of Antioch], including the recent restoration of the church in Amida, for which a considerable amount was and continues to be expended, but also previously the events in the Metropolis of Aleppo as well as countless other circumstances, when the Great Church has acted favorably – always without the slightest self-centered intention but with genuine self-sacrifice – from a position of authority, striving in manifold ways for the spiritual interests of the Throne [of Antioch] and the Orthodox who comprise it, while personally assuming many of its burdens.”[4]

All these points perfectly corresponded with the divinely and inviolably sanctified practice of the Church, which from the earliest times professed that “according to the custom prevailing from above, the most reverend Bishops residing in the illustrious City [Constantinople], whenever circumstances so demand, should convene and determine specific ecclesiastical affairs that emerge in order to honor the petitioners with appropriate resolutions.”

Accordingly, not only in cases of Doctrine, holy Tradition, and Canonical Church Regulations, or even of general matters concerning the entire body of the Church, but also in all matters pertaining to important issues of specific interest to one or another Local Church, the supervisory provision and protection of the Great Church of Christ intervenes – sometimes ex officio and out of obligation, at other times at the request of interested parties – in order to offer an effective contribution for the sake of arbitration and resolution of differences arising among the holy Churches of God, to settle differences between shepherds and their flocks, to avoid inflaming difficulties and facilitate the return of Ecclesiastical affairs to a Canonical path, to bolster the occasional inadequate ministry of spiritual leaders in certain Churches, to support the weak, wavering, or misled in the Orthodox faith, and overall never to delay or eschew suppressing all kinds of moral and material danger that threatens the stability of the most holy Churches.

Therefore, whoever thinks that this essential and completely necessary ministry of the Mother Church on behalf of the Universal Body of the Orthodox Church constitutes a product of later years is undoubtedly deceived because it undeniably derives its origin from much earlier times. In this regard, we submit, simply by way of illustration, the decision of Kallistos I in the matter of Germanos II of Tarnovo, who attempted to claim real patriarchal privileges beyond the mere title of “Patriarch” that he received from the Great Church. In response, Kallistos declared that “notwithstanding this, should the throne of Constantinople review and resolve, or advocate and validate the decisions of the other Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, as the sacred Canons have determined and the Acta have witnessed, how much more is the Throne [of Constantinople] also sovereign over the Church of the Bulgarians, by which it was honored with the name of Patriarch”?[5] Moreover, as Luke I Chrysoberges has stated, whoever appears before us as exercising the right “of overseeing, rectifying, and resolving judgments over disputes among other Thrones,”[6] is on the same basis qualified to invalidate the penalty of deposition against Bishop John of Amathous issued by Archbishop John of Cyprus and his Synod.

This ancient practice of the Church, which concurs with the Ecclesiastical Canons, is also explicitly confirmed by the four Patriarchs of the East, namely our own Predecessor Dionysios III, Paisios of Alexandria, Makarios of Antioch, and Nektarios of Jerusalem, in a Tomos of the year 1663, by which they settled twenty-five chapters of inquiries posed to them by clergy of the Russian Church. In the eighth question: “Whether every decision of other Churches may be appealed to the Throne of Constantinople for final determination in all Ecclesiastical matters?”, they replied that “This prerogative belonged to the Pope before he broke with the Catholic Church. . . . Since the Schism, however, matters of all Churches are referred to the Throne of Constantinople, from which they receive determination.” The same is repeated in responses to the twenty-first and twenty-second questions.[7]

Therefore, Your Beatitude, we can all appreciate what responsibility the Throne of Constantinople bears and how history has endowed him with exceptional prerogatives. From all these verified and established arguments, it may be unequivocally concluded that specific inter-Orthodox efforts and initiatives of the Holy Great Church of Christ during the previous and present centuries were perhaps erroneously interpreted by some as an abrogation of its unwavering responsibilities and at the same time ministerial privileges in the face of a parliamentary federation – as has unfortunately even been stated – of individual Local Churches, which supposedly decides on all matters with the Ancient Thrones.

The practice of the Mother Church has, in a spirit of kenosis, always aspired and continues to aspire to communion in love of Christ and clarity of heart among the local holy Churches of Christ for abundance of wisdom and grace, for guidance and comfort in pastoral matters, and finally for edification of the body of faithful. The newer so-called “autocephalies” were and are granted by the Church of Constantinople as the common source of nourishment of the Orthodox for a better and more orderly internal organization of Church affairs, but not for any modification of the holy commonweal of the Church, which emerged from the long and sacred canonical development of the Ecumenical Councils, or the creation of a false concept of self-sufficient local churches and division of the one and undivided Body of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

When autocephaly is isolated and exaggerated, it is rendered problematic inasmuch as it does not serve the purpose for which it was considered beneficial to the Church. We should add here that the status of autocephaly, which was ceded on certain conditions and in various ways by the Mother Church for the occasional and circumstantial vital needs of Her children throughout the Oikoumene, does not comprise an immutable or static system but is adapted to current pastoral needs of the time, with holiness and much circumspection.

These few thoughts have been highlighted by way of providing a correction about the preeminent and sacrificial character of the Holy Mother and Great Church of Christ and an expression of a wholesome ecclesiology overall, even as we stand in the presence of blessed personalities, who served before us as Patriarchs, so that we may not be judged by the Lord of History or by them as diminishing what they established and preserved in the midst of pains and labors and difficult times, bearing the cross of responsibility for the Church.

Since this is the truth about our ecclesiastical affairs, the canonically established appellate provision of our Modesty appears clear and indisputable, just it was also exercised in the case of the Most Reverend Metropolitans Filaret, formerly of Kyiv, and Makariy of Lviv. There is, Your Beatitude, an extremely important treatise by someone who performed miraculous signs while still living – a man cultivated in virtue and profound in matters of the sacred canons, namely, the late Metropolitan Basil of Anchialosand subsequently of Smyrna. This treatise, composed and synodally ratified in 1877, pertained to the validity of ordination of clerics by a deposed, schismatic, or even heretical Bishop. We are attaching it herewith for you because it describes in many and convincing arguments the timeless position of the Orthodox Church on this issue.

While we do not wish to convey all of the cases delineated in the treatise, suffice it for us to note how the Holy and God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea resolved the Melitian schism with the articulation of Canon 8 that reflects the Novatians. The said Melitios, Bishop of Lycopolis in Egypt, was accused of committing a whole series of unlawful acts, including denying the faith and sacrificing to idols. He was defrocked around the year 302 AD. Rejecting the defrocking, he formed an opposition and created the so-called Melitian schism. When reconciliation was achieved, according to the account of Athanasios the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria, the saint’s predecessor, Alexander of Alexandria, submitted a register or list of those ordained during the period of this schism – which included bishops, priests, and deacons – all of whom were restored to their proper rank without re-ordination. This schism troubled the Church up until the seventh century, while those reconciled were admitted into communion with the Church without re-baptism or even through Holy Chrism, as Theodore the Studite informs us all in his Great Epistle to Nafkratios.

Furthermore, in more recent years as well, when in 1945 our Holy and Great Church of Christ forgave the Bulgarians and their Church condemned by the Holy and Great Synod of 1872 – which not only defrocked but even excommunicated them – how did their restoration come about? Was it through re-ordination? Or were those forgiven perhaps the same as those condemned? Not only this, but those elected and chosen by them were also the same as those who succeeded them. And when the Church of Russia recently – under brazen political pressure – forgave the theretofore schismatic members of ROCOR, how did it receive them into communion? Was it through re-baptism or re-ordination?

Your Beatitude,

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for manifesting to us according to the likeness of the Triadic glory those things accomplished and established in the Church not only through Holy Scripture, like the Protestants, but also through the most honorable, kenotic, and sanctified holy practice of the Church over its two thousand-year journey on earth. This is why, in presenting the above, we understand that the tolerance and long-suffering stance of the Great Church of Christ has been construed by those who greatly benefited from Her as an abdication from the ongoing journey of the Church.

We are at a loss as to how this impertinence and slander against the Mother Church and our Modesty personally is tolerated by some and – wittingly or unwittingly – sometimes espoused in the form of affirmation or repetition of arguments by those who avenge their benefactor. Do these disciples love the Church and its unity more than their teachers? Surely not!

At the Phanar, we preach the genuine inheritance of ecclesiology because we draw from the wellspring of our Fathers and not from self-interest or other trivial motivations and political expediencies. Consequently, it is the responsibility of all others to assimilate these disclosed truths – not, of course, in order to validate them, inasmuch as they are already authentically validated by ecclesiastical practice, but rather to restore the precious and authentic experience of the Fathers, who hoped in God alone, to the proper and sanctified way. To Him be glory and dominion unto the ages. Amen.

February 20, 2019

Your reverent Beatitude’s

beloved brother in Christ

[1]Official Patriarchal Letter of Gabriel III on the election of Chrysanthos of Jerusalem, Kallinikos Delikanis, Official Documents Preserved in the Archives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, vol. 2, Constantinople, 1905, p. 468.
[2]Letter of the Fathers of the Council of Carthage to Pope Celestine, at the conclusion of the Canons of this Council.
[3]Kallinikos Delikanis, Official Documents, vol. 2, p. 217.
[4]Kallinikos Delikanis, Official Documents, vol. 2, p. 314.
[5]F. Miklosisch and I. Müller (eds), Acta Patriarchatus Constantinopolitani, vol.1, Vienna, 1862, p.438.
[6]Matthew Blastaris, Constitution according to Elements, Element 2, in G. Ralli and M. PotliConstitution of the Holy and Sacred Canons, vol. 6, Athens, 1859.
[7]Manuel Gedeon, Canonical Regulations, Athens, 1979, vol. I, pp. 341–346.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Protestant Reformation and the Orthodox Christian East