"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Monday, 13 June 2016


Met. Hierotheos Vlachos
   my source: Pravoslavie.ru
The Great and Holy Council, which is due to gather in June of 2016 in Crete, was "the expectation" of many whose vision it was, and who tired in order to prepare for it, and now the Council finally moves towards its convocation. The question here put forth is whether the Holy and Great Council really is the one awaited by those who originally envisioned it.

Much has been written and said about this subject. Some express their joy, because the longed for hour has finally come. Others express deep concern, deep hesitation, and others feel complete disappointment. I will in this short piece limit myself to a few remarks.

1. Primates of the Synod

The soon to be convened Council has been termed the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, but will in reality be a Council of Primates of the Orthodox Churches.

I base this view on the fact that all important decisions were taken by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches. On the 6th—9th of March 2014 in Constantinople, the Primates decided that the Holy and Great Council was to be convened in July of 2016 and determined which themes were to be discussed. In Chambesy, Geneva, the Primates (except for the Patriarchate of Antioch) voted on the 27th and 28th of January 2016 on the Working Procedure and the prepared texts from the Committees, with the exception of one subject not signed by two patriarchates (Antioch and Georgia). Prior to the opening of the Holy and Great Council, the Primates will sign the message of the Sacred Council, which will be drawn up by one representative from all the Orthodox Churches.

The program of acts of the Holy and Great Council will be decided by the Primates.

Finally, the texts in their final form will be voted on and signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Church. Thus, as seen from the above, this Council is primarily a Council of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches. And this is not completely accurate, because the presence of Patriarch John of Antioch has until now been incomplete or non-existent, and thus his presence is for the time being disputed with regards to the work of the Holy and Great Council [We now know that the primate and delegation of Antioch, as well as those of Bulgaria and Georgia, and likely Serbia will not be present at the Council—O.C.].

Thus, this is not even a Council of all the Primates. Theoretically, of course, it is assumed that the Primates expressed or express the decisions of their respective Synods. But this is only theoretical. Although the system of the Orthodox Church is synodical, many subjects are not decided by the Synods.

I am not sufficiently aware of what happens in other Orthodox Churches, but I know well what happens in our own Church. The opinions of the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece were not sought with regards to the decision to hold the Holy and Great Council, which was taken in March 2014, or the with regards to the texts signed in January of 2016, nor were these discussed during meetings. As for the rest, such as the message which is to be published by the Holy and Great Council, I do not know whether it will have the consent and decision of our Hierarchy. Thus, the soon to be convened Sacred Council is a Council of Primates and not a Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Churches.

Furthermore, it must be stressed that I have complete respect for His Beatitude, Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens and All Greece, who leads the Church of Greece with respect for the Synodical system, listens to the views of the Hierarchs, and always accepts the decisions of the Hierarchy without seeking to manipulate it.

However, there is a Patriarchal Letter, which was sent to the Church of Greece on the 30th of September 1999, according to which the Church of Greece does not have a Primate, but rather it is the Sacred Synod which acts as Primate. Could this, perhaps be interpreted as a retraction, or otherwise? In any case, whatsoever the outcome of this Sacred Council, in the final analysis all pronouncements will be decisions of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.

2. The sidelining of Great Councils
This Council was planned and prepared as an Ecumenical Council and plans were first formulated in 1923, on the 1600th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council. About a hundred issues were put forth, which had arisen throughout the period of the second millennium, with the schism of the western part of the Roman Empire (eighth to eleventh century), the division also of western Christianity (fifteenth century), the development of various ideological currents, such as the Enlightenment, Romanticism, German idealism, existentialism, as well as the secularization of Christianity itself.

Eventually, all of the dreams of the "Fathers" of this idea resulted in it becoming, not an Ecumenical Council, but a Holy and Great Council which is still unable to find its identity, tackling just six issues that are vague, untimely, without a clear cut goal, and some of which are detached from the tradition of the Fathers. I have heard and read many claim that a Holy and Great Council has not been held for about 1,200 years and that it will now be held for the first time after such a large period of time. This claim raises serious concerns to all who are familiar with theological literature and the tradition of the Church.

This assertion gives the impression that there exists an ecclesiastical breach after the Seventh Ecumenical Council which had to be covered, despite the fact that great and important Councils have been held, such as that of Photios the Great (879-80), of St. Gregory Palamas (1341-1351), as well as other important Councils which took place between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries and made key decisions.
This assertion, consequently, gives the impression that all of these important Councils have been overlooked and marginalized.

I regard this on our part as an "insult" to our saints, Photios the Great, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Kallistos and Philotheos Kokkinos the Patriarchs of Constantinople, St. Mark of Ephesus and all the Orthodox Patriarchs of the East during the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.

These saints are naturally not slighted, since their teachings have reached ecumenical acceptance—the decision of the Ninth Ecumenical Council (1351) has been included in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, which is read every First Sunday of the Fast—but it is an insult and a fall on our part from Orthodox Tradition.

It seems that with this Synod an attempt is being made to mark a new age in our ecclesiastical withdrawal from the theology and terminology of the Ecumenical and Pan-orthodox Councils from the Seventh Ecumenical Council onwards.

Thus, it will appear that the Orthodox Church will be marked by a "blank memory," a "spiritual Alzheimer's." Certain points in the texts they have prepared cannot be explained otherwise, which is also true of the interpretative analyses of their supporters. It seems to be a pale imitation of the Seconnd Vatican Council. The Holy and Great Council as an idea began in earnest with the attempt to convene the Seconnd Vatican Council. Just as the Seconnd Vatican Council developed a "new ecclesiology", which passed from a concept of "exclusivity" over to "inclusivity" or "baptismal theology", so do some points of the texts prepared for the Holy and Great Council in an analogous way call for a "new ecclesiology" also in the Orthodox Church, to the extent that Mysteries outside the Orthodox Church are also recognized.

3. Lack of preparation

If we turn to our own house [i.e. the Church of Greece—trans.], we find that our Church was not adequately prepared for this Council. And this is a Church which has a high level of theology, vibrant monasticism and a well-organized ecclesiastical life. Using all this, our Church trains, through its theological schools, theologians and clergy of other local Churches, and has global influence, through theological and pastoral texts and many other things. When it came to the treatment of the texts to be signed at the Holy and Great Council, however, there was insufficient preparation and synodical decision.

In March 2014, at the Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Churches in Constantinople, it was decided that the convocation of the Holy and Great Synod would take place in June 2016. It was also decided by committee that the already prepared texts should be updated. From that time until now, these should have been discussed at the meetings of the Hierarchy, to give our representatives guidance which would result in decisive texts, in order for there to be discussions in the theological schools and gatherings of clergy and laity, so that the proposals of our Church be published and make their way into the final texts.

On the contrary, all of us Hierarchs were kept in the dark and only received the texts in their final form after they had already been signed by the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches in January, in Chambesy of Geneva, and were referred on to the Holy and Great Council.

Now that we come to debate these texts, there is little possibility to amend them. I have in my hand the reports of the representatives of our Church to the Special Inter-Orthodox Committee tasked with reviewing said texts, which were sent to the Permanent Holy Synod in the year 2014-2015. I also have the excerpts of the minutes of the meetings of the Permanent Holy Synod.

The representatives assured us with their reports that the texts were without problems. Furthermore, the Permanent Holy Synod distributed reports and texts to the Hierarchs for their consideration, without the minutes showing that there were discussions held or suggestions given for possible modifications or additions, except for one instance where a decision was taken with regards to a few lexical corrections. At the Meeting of Hierarchs in 2009 regarding the dialogue with the Roman Catholics, it was decided that: "1. It was necessary to more fully inform the Holy Synod of Hierarchs on issues of such importance. It was thus declared that the Hierarchy will henceforth be informed of all stages of the dialogue, and that no text will otherwise be binding on the Church. In any case, this constitutes the Synodical Governance of the Church."

The text of Ravenna, and the text which is to be discussed in Cyprus, are, synodically speaking, both in the same category with respect to their reference to, and need for confirmation by, the local Autocephalous Churches, and therefore also the Church of Greece. In practice, this means that nothing can be considered final without the synodical decision of the Hierarchy.

"The Hierarchs are the guardians of the Orthodox Tradition, as they confessed at their ordination to the episcopate" (Announcement by the Hierarchy, October, 16, 2009). If this applies to the Ravenna text, then it should apply all the more in this case, when texts are to be signed which are binding on the entire Orthodox Church. The hierarchy of our Church should therefore have convened immediately last year, in order for the texts to be studied by all of the hierarchs, that they might make specific recommendations and make decisions accordingly. This happened in other Orthodox Churches, from what I understand.

Therefore, what is happening today should have happened before these texts were signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in Chambesy, Geneva, in January of 2016. We should have listened to the views of the Theological Schools and Ecclesiastical Academies, as well as those of the priests, monastics and laity. The seriousness of each Council depends on the seriousness with which the subjects are treated.

Unfortunately, we bishops have limited ourselves only to a pastoral ministry with sociological relevance, while we have left the theological issues to a few people who are considered "experts." At least now at the "final hour", the "twelfth hour", let us demonstrate a high sense of responsibility in terms of ecclesiastical mindset and theological terminology, and distance ourselves from emotional "sensitivities" and various forms of ecclesiastical expediency. It does not matter who will represent our Church at this Council, but rather what our Church will be supporting with the positions which will be presented.

Today's convocation of the Hierarchy is therefore very important, because we have to accept the decision of the Permanent Sacred Synod and in reality decides whether we will accept positions which are defined by our tradition or will be affected by modern perceptions which distance themselves from the language and spirit of all the Ecumenical and Pan-Orthodox Councils of the second millennium. This is the challenge. We must also realize that it is not only the texts of the six subjects under discussion which are of major importance, but also the message which is to be formulated and read at the opening session of the Holy and Great Council.

It has been said that, even if the Holy and Great Council does not discuss or come to a decision on various issues, the main thing is the message which will be sent out to the whole world. Thus, we have chosen a Metropolitan to represent us at the drafting of the message. We should have already known its content, or its primary and central themes, in order for us to make any decision accordingly. From what I know, this text is already being prepared, and will be completed by the Special Committee which will gather in Crete a week before the convocation of the Holy and Great Council. It will be signed by the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches and will constitute the core message of this Council.

The question which arises is: Will the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece ignore this text and fail to familiarize itself with its content, when it is going to be of such great importance?

I, at least, and I hope also many other brothers, do not and will not give anyone the authority to write and sign such a text in my name unless I first read it.

With regard to this message, I suggest the following paragraph be added:

"The Holy and Great Council is the continuation of the Ecumenical Councils of the first eight centuries and the Great Councils of Photios the Great, St. Gregory Palamas, and the subsequent Councils of the Eastern Patriarchs."

These are the crucial and important subjects, not who will attend this Council and who will refuse to attend for alleged "reasons of conscience."

4. Ecclesiastical double-speak

When one reads some of these texts, they will notice that they breathe a spirit of double-speak.

The term double-speak might offend, but it expresses a reality when we are aware of the whole spirit which surrounds the relevant subjects. In another text of mine, I have pointed out the ambiguous subjects present in certain texts, as have many others—bishops, clergy, monastics, theologians, laypeople—and for that reason no one should be offended by this. This label is necessary if we consider that it concerns Pan-Orthodox Conciliar documents, which need to be precise. In our everyday communication and occasionally in our documents, certain words might be used which can give rise to concern. For example, we might write or say "Roman Catholic Church" or "Protestant Church", etc., but when confessional documents are being put together, texts which will remain as a decision of the Holy and Great Council, then we must exercise greater care. St. Gregory Palamas, during his theological struggle in the hesychast controversy, established the following basic principle: "ἕτερον ἐστιν ἡ ὑπέρ τῆς εὐσεβείας ἀντιλογία καί ἕτερον ἡ τῆς πίστεως ὁµολογία" ("a response for the sake of piety is one thing, confession of faith another").

This means that with respect to ἀντιλογία  (response, contradiction), someone may use any type of argument, but when one writes confessional documents, then the words have to be pithy and dogmatically precise, as did the holy Fathers who dogmatized "few words and great wisdom." Therefore, the texts which are put before us and are to be signed also by our Church, must be dogmatically clear, and not characterized by imprecision and confusion. Otherwise they will not be orthodox texts.

If one carefully observes the words used in the text is it clear that the aim is to conceal certain issues, as is unfortunately often the case with the laws passed in Parliaments, which are custom made for particular objectives. The aim is to shield beneath words of the text, which speaks of other churches, a particular yet ambiguous way of operating regarding certain ecclesiastical issues. I will mention three past examples of this methodology [in order to better understand it and put it into proper context]. The first is the matter of the actions taken in 1965, which took place at Constantinople and the Vatican, which conventionally have been referred to as the lifting of anathemas.

Allow me to remind you that Patriarch Sergius II of Constantinople, the nephew of Photios the Great, struck from the diptychs of the Church the name of Pope Sergius IV of Rome by conciliar decision in 1009, because he had in his enthronement letter included the Creed with the filioque clause, and since then the name of a single Pope has not been included in the diptychs. Hence, there is excommunication. Later, in 1054, Cardinal Humbert anathematized Patriarch Keroularios and two others, and they in turn anathematized him.

This means that excommunication took place even before the anathemas, and naturally the lifting of anathemas does not then repeal the act of excommunication.

The question which arises is: In 1965, was there a lifting of anathemas or a lifting of excommunication?

It is a crucial question, because in the Acts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the Seventh December 1965 it is written that that there took place a lifting of anathemas, and thus the excommunication still stands, whereas in the statement signed in French between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope, and which the Pope read on the final day (7th of December) and act of the Seconnd Vatican Council, it is written that a lifting of excommunication took place. I have this document in my possession in both French and English.

The second is a continuation of the former in that the ecclesiastical practice, unfortunately, not only acknowledges the Heterodox as Churches, but also that there exists ecclesiastical and Eucharistic communion! There is here therefore an ecclesiastical double-speak, ambiguity and confusion. I refer to a text of a Church, a text characterized as a "Confession" and officially adopted, in which there is a great depth of double-speak and confusion. While it speaks of One Church, at the same time it also refers to other confessions as Churches, which "make up the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." Furthermore, it evens speaks of all Christians receiving holy Communion from the same holy Chalice "for reasons of necessity and Christian Sacramental hospitality," as well stating that "through the same baptism, all Christians became members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church."

The third example is that I recently read the book of professor Anthony Papadopoulos, called "Theological dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics (history - texts - problems)," and found yet again that, during this dialogue and the declarations and joint texts between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Pope, as well as their representatives, there prevails a language and a spirit of "brotherhood made apparent by the sole baptism and the participation in the sacred mysteries" and that "our Churches acknowledge one another as sister Churches jointly preserving the faith of the one Church of Christ in the divine plan, wholly special in sight of unity."

The use of double-speak in official ecclesiastical documents is a painful reality which shows a movement away from the official ecclesiastical texts of two millennia. This should not happen with the texts of the Holy and Great Council.

5. The term "sister Churches"

In the text, "Relation of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world," although there is talk of the Orthodox Church as "the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church", it simultaneously states that the Orthodox Church "recognizes the historical existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions," whence arises a confusion as to the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church, for which reason a correction to this text has been proposed. This is a most serious issue, because in various theological dialogues between the Orthodox and Roman Catholics, as well as in official texts, there is talk of "sister Churches," between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and this term "sister Churches" has unfortunately developed a particular theology and ecclesiology.

This is not, then, a technical term, but a modern ecclesiological theology, which prevailed in the context of the ecumenical movement.

Regarding the term "sister Churches" and the origins of its use, a reference is made in the text issued by the Vatican's Office of the Committee for the teaching of the faith (30th June 2000), which was chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict. According to this text, this term appeared in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and was in later years used by Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. It was adopted by the Second Vatican Council and has since been used in papal documents, addresses, letters, encyclicals, etc. Furthermore, a theological analysis is made of this term in the text which was adopted by the Committee for the teaching of the faith, which shows how it is understood by the "Roman Catholics", namely that "the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church," by which is meant the Papal one, "is not a sister, but the mother of all particular Churches." This is the reason "one must avoid, as a cause of misunderstanding and theological confusion, use of expressions such as "our two Churches", which refers to the Catholic Church and all the Orthodox Churches (or one Orthodox Church)." However, the term "sister Churches," in this text, "may be used only for those church communities which have retained valid episcopal succession and eucharist."

It is obvious that the term "sister Churches" is used by the Papists with the theological and ecclesiological meaning of having valid sacraments and episcopal succession, and that it is not a technical term, adding that the mother Church of all Churches is the "Catholic Church." It is interesting that Pope John Paul II, in the speech he gave on the 5thof June 1991 in Bialystok, Poland, said concerning this issue: "Today we see more clearly and better understand that our Churches are sister Churches, not just as a form of polite expression, but in the sense of a fundamental ecumenical ecclesiological category." This stems not only from the Second Vatican Council, but also from the texts which were signed during the theological dialogues between the Orthodox and Roman Catholics in Monaco (1982), Bari (1987), New Valaam in Finland (1988) and later in Ravenna (2007).

I recall that in Munich a text was drafted on the subject of "The Sacrament of the Church and the Eucharist in Light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity". In Bari a text was drafted on the subject of "Faith, Sacraments and the Unity of the Church." In New Valaam a text was drafted on the subject of "The Sacrament of the Priesthood in the Sacramental Structure of the Church and the Importance of Apostolic Succession for the Sanctity and Unity of God's People." And in Ravenna a text was drafted on the subject of "The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesiastical Communion, Conciliarity and Authority."

These four documents were drafted and approved by the representatives of the Orthodox Churches, with the intention that these would be approved by the local autocephalous Churches upon the completion of the theological dialogue. Two important conclusions can be drawn from this. The first conclusion is that the term "sister Churches" and the term "Church" are not technical terms for the Roman Catholics, but signify a granting of ecclesiality to these Christian communities. The second conclusion is that the aforementioned texts were signed also by the representatives of the Church of Greece, but on the condition that it would eventually be submitted for approval by the hierarchy of the Church of Greece, that is, on the condition of ad referendum.

If, however, there remains within the text to be voted on by the Holy and Great Council in Crete the statement that "the Orthodox Church acknowledges the historical existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions" and other similar expressions, then the documents already signed by the representatives will be implicitly acknowledged, despite being problematic, without having been subject to the approval of our Hierarchy.

This is the reason the four documents must be approved, or discarded, by the hierarchy of the Church of Greece. 12 Therefore, it is essential that the document which will be discussed and voted on at the Holy and Great Council does not refer to other Christian communities and confessions as Churches.

6. The "validity" and "reality" of Baptism

Following on from the previous point is that many claim that the baptism of the heterodox is "valid" and "real", that is, that the charismatic boundaries of the Church do not correspond to its canonical boundaries. The older hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate made use of the canonical order with regards to the reception of heterodox into the Orthodox Church by strictness or by economy. They made a distinction, saying that for there to be sacraments outside the Church—which there aren't—is one thing, and the manner in which a heterodox is received into the Church, is another.

Strictly speaking, mysteries do not exist outside the Church; however, we may receive someone by economy through chrismation or confession, when their baptism was performed in the name of the Triune God, as understood in an orthodox manner, and by three-fold immersions in water. This is sits well with us. The view of some that economy should be transformed from a temporary lowering of strictness to something permanent is unacceptable. In this way many argue that the baptism of the heterodox-heretics is "valid" and "real", something which the seventh canon of the Second Ecumenical Council and the 95th canon of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council do not support.

However, apart from these two Ecumenical Councils, we must not overlook the fact that the Latin tradition has introduced the heresy of the filioque, the heresy of actus purus, other heretical deviations, as well as baptism by the sprinkling or pouring of water, avoiding the immersion in water of the one being baptized. Then one wonders, with this mentality, why Chrismation or the Eucharist of the heterodox is not "valid" or "real"? And why is the baptism of the heterodox "valid" and "real", when they are denied communion in the Spotless Mysteries, which is the underlying purpose of baptism?

In other words, according to certain theologians, is the baptism of the heterodox "valid" and "real," but without producing ecclesiastical results because it is inactive, as argued by Augustine, bishop of Hippo?

This view of "valid" and "real" baptism is connected to the question of Apostolic Succession, that is to say, a "valid" and "real" Priesthood. This position is paradoxical, because Apostolic succession is not a "magical" and mechanical act, it is not only a question of a chain, albeit unbroken, of ordinations, but primarily and above all a transmission of the apostolic way, as this apolytikion says: "By sharing in the ways of the Apostles, you became a successor to their throne. Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation, O inspired one of God; by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith, even to the shedding of your blood. Hieromartyr Ignatius, entreat Christ God to save our souls."

The loss of Orthodox revelatory faith, the introduction of scholastic theology as superior to apostolic and patristic theology, does not allow for Apostolic succession.

The words of St. Basil the Great are telling: "those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken" (First Canon). The following passage from the Canon of the Council of Carthage is also well known: "Among the heretics, where the Church is not, it is impossible to receive forgiveness of sins". Besides this dogmatic matter, the question of succession of ordinations is also of serious concern from a historical point of view, given that history tells us that Charlemagne and his successors appointed laymen to the bishopric without consecration, seeing them as administrative organs in the imposed feudal system. This resulted in protests, prior to 1009, even by the Pope of Rome against the German rulers. History has shown that, prior to the schism of Old Rome from New Rome, there was a schism of the provinces ruled by Charlemagne from Old Rome.

In the year 794, in Frankfurt, the Seventh Ecumenical Council was condemned as heretical, and in the year 809 in Aachen, the filioque was introduced, and all this also made its way into the Church of Old Rome when it was taken over by the Franks. In reading the Dialogues of Pope Gregory of Rome, also called Dialogos, one sees the Orthodox Church of Rome prior to the seventh century A.D., its theology and its hesychasm, the common points it had with the Fathers of the Church, the struggle of the Orthodox Popes, Bishops and monks against the heretical Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Lombards and even the Franks, as well as the martyrdoms, the slaughter suffered by the Old Rome at the hands of the Germanic tribes. And all of this happened from the beginning of the seventh century to the fourteenth century. Of what apostolic tradition and succession are we then speaking, when it is all theologically, ecclesiastically and historically problematic?

7. The un-orthodox teaching of the ontology of the person

The issue of the person is not "frivolous", in other words, not scholastic. It is of the greatest importance.

Something that has made its way into our terminology, and which we use often, is to speak about the "human person" and its "sacredness", about the difference between "person and individual" and many other things which constitute a rejection of the theology of our Fathers. I have read the joint communiqu? signed in Mytilene by the Pope, the Patriarch and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece. It speaks of the "protection of human life", of "humanitarian crisis," of the "violation of human dignity and fundamental human rights and freedom", but not of the "human person."

Unfortunately, the most beautiful and theological word "man" has today been replaced by the term person, human person, which reminds me of the older expression "socialism with a human face [the Greek word 'prosopo' can mean both person and face—trans.]," and in this sense we have moved from theology to a sociology of human rights. Of course, we respect human rights, but the theology of the Orthodox Church cannot be limited to just this. The words person and individual for humans and in relation to the "ontology of the person" have come from Thomas Aquinas via Kant, German idealism (Fichte, Selig, Hegel), Russian theology and existentialism, and is primarily used by certain Orthodox.

It is a form of "theological virus", which has infected our Orthodox theology. And perhaps it is possible for us to use this term in our daily speech, without realizing it, but when you enter this term into official conciliar and ecclesiastical documents, it constitutes a theological aberration. Modern theologians who use the term "human person", "necessity of nature," "will or freedom of the person" clearly violate Orthodox theology, which holds that nature is good, and not forced, that will-desire is an appetite of nature and not the person, and that the person is identified with the individual, etc.
The Elder Sophrony

The connection between will and person removes the Trinitarian God, brings in tritheism, and the connection between nature and necessity attach blame to God for the creation of man. The word 'person' therefore has to be replaced by the word 'man' in the text. How wonderful this word is, with its Orthodox content in image and likeness! Of course, we must naturally respect every man as a creature of God, and it need not be that we call him person in order to show respect for him. Because certain people cite Elder Sophrony, who spoke about the person, I want to point out that all that the Elder wrote bears absolutely no relation to that of the modern theologizing personalists.
The Elder identifies the person-hypostasis with the movement from image to likeness, and in reality "painted" St. Silouan with the term person.


The texts which have been written and signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, and which will be discussed at the Holy and Great Council, give rise [to objections] in certain instances, because in our days we see, even within the Church, a confusion between the teaching of St. Gregory of Palamas and his detractors.

The texts were drawn up without public dialogue and theological "open discussion", and for this reason caused negative theological reaction, and rightly so. However, some "clever" people speak harshly against those who rightly react with theological arguments and call them a "militant faction", "an ideological Orthodoxy" of "Orthodox ayatollahs." They address the "synaxis of enlightened and deified elders and spiritual fathers", and write: "The time has come for the responsible church leaders and all of us, to finish with this caricature of supposed fidelity to Tradition, with these orthodox 'ayatollahs', which are regarded as being responsible for worldwide Orthodoxy…".

The problem, then, is that there is an attempt at "emancipation" from the tradition of the Church, beginning after the Seventh Ecumenical Council right up until today, and a weakening and distancing from the teaching of our deified holy fathers, particularly St. Photios the Great, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Mark of Ephesus and all the other Philokalic Fathers.

If this is not the case, let them, in the message they are set to publish, confess their faithfulness to the Great Councils held after the Seventh Ecumenical Council, namely the Councils of St. Photios the Great and St. Gregory Palamas, and the Councils of the Patriarchs of the East held thereafter during the time of Ottoman rule.

It's that simple!

At the Sacred Metropolis of Nafpaktos and St. Vlasios

Sad Details of the Pre-Conciliar Process
Andrei Zolotov, Executive Editor (Europe) of Russia Direct, exclusively for Pravmir

In less than a fortnight, on the feast of the Holy Pentecost, the Bishops of the fourteen universally recognized local Orthodox Churches are supposed to show each other and the world their unity in Christ by serving Divine Liturgy together and spending the following week deliberating and adopting documents that express their unified vision of their Church and its mission in the modern world during the Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council on the island of Crete.However, today we, unfortunately, have to forget these lofty words.  The Council that has intermittently been in the making for almost fifty years is now on the brink of falling apart......
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Fr. Theodoros Zisis is Emeritus Professor of Patrology and former Chair of the Department of Pastoral and Social Theology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In the video below Fr. Theodore, known as a staunch defender of traditional, patristic Orthodoxy, discusses the recent about-face of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to the potential ecumenicity of the forthcoming Council. He demonstrates that until very recently the Ecumenical Patriarchate clearly held that the Great and Holy Council could potentially be an Ecumenical Council:

To illustrate the stresses and strains between different churches and factions in the Orthodox Church, here is a Ukrainian Orthodox complaint against the Patriarchate of Moscow.  I cannot check the accuracy of this: it is enough that the accusation is made.  

Why even the Pan-Orthodox Council isn’t common ground for Orthodox churches

Why even the Pan-Orthodox Council isn’t common ground for Orthodox churches 


An attempt to demonstrate the unity of Ecumenical Orthodoxy has shown, conversely, a deep split and rivalry between the various churches, with inter-church disputes throwing plans to convene in Crete into jeopardy.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, front right, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, front left, after the Divine Liturgy on Pentecost at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, 2010. Source: Sergey Pyatakov/RIA Novosti

In the middle of June, bishops of the 14 universally recognized local Orthodox Churches were supposed to show their unity by gathering on the island of Crete for the Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council. However, as of today the Council, which has intermittently been in the making for almost 60 years, is on the brink of falling apart.

First, the Georgian, Serbian and Greek churches expressed a desire to amend the drafted resolutions and procedure of the event. An especially difficult situation has arisen in connection with the conflict between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem over ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Qatar.

But it was the Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church that dropped the bombshell on June 1 by asking for the postponement of the Council and saying that in the present situation, the Bulgarian delegation will not go to Crete.

An attempt to negotiate

Under these circumstances, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church proposed to Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of Constantinople, to hold an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox pre-Council conference no later than June 10 to resolve the contradictions.

But two days later, we learned of the decision of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to ignore this proposition, as well as the objections of the other Orthodox churches. The Istanbul-based Patriarchate received the positions of the sister Orthodox churches “with surprise and wonder” and said that “no institutional framework allowed” for the revision of the process.

Thus, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, drawing upon its primacy, resolved to push the Council through. Most likely it will not work. On June 6 the Synod of the Church of Antioch, which is based in Syria and Lebanon, also said that the Council should be postponed or it would not participate.

This Arab church perceives itself as a martyr under Islamist terror and was expecting support from its Christian brothers, but felt it did not get it.

Meanwhile, having undertaken to find a way to reconcile differences and received a brush-off in return, the Moscow Patriarchate will probably also be compelled to renounce the journey to Crete or downgrade the level of its presence.

Far from the ideal

Whatever the outcome of the last-ditch negotiations under way now, it is already clear that, sadly, the attempt to demonstrate the togetherness of the Ecumenical Orthodoxy has shown, conversely, a deep lack of unity. Unlike the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox churches do not have a centralized global authority and reject the papacy as a matter of doctrine. But the reality turned out to be very far from the Orthodox ideal of a family of churches dwelling in love.

The main problem of the Orthodox ecclesiastical structure is believed to be the rivalry between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, first in honor among all those of Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Patriarchate of Moscow, the largest in the Orthodox world.

By this logic, the Great and Holy Council, convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, was supposed to assert his primacy and influence, which would run counter to the interests of Moscow.

Some voices in the Orthodox blogosphere suggested that Moscow would try to sabotage the Council, while the decision of the Bulgarian Church to withdraw was explained as the work of the “hand of Moscow.” In the last few days, however, competent sources have explained that the conflicts between Sofia and Constantinople were the result of disputes over some holy relics.

Apart from the already resolved question of transferring the meeting place of the Council from Istanbul to Crete as a result of the deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey, it is hard to find any other global or local state policy factors in the current web of contradictions.  It all comes down to questions of Church politics, not any government pressures.

It is regrettable that in the lead-up to the Council the main discussions are about church politics, as opposed to theology. Yet it is even more regrettable that the fiasco of the Pan-Orthodox Council will strengthen the isolationist and reactionary tendencies that already exist in the Orthodox Church, and not just in Russia.

The opponents of the Council process and inter-Church cooperation, sectarians and scaremongers, acting under the banner of anti-ecumenism and eschatological fears, will think they have won, while the majority of the faithful, who feel comfortable in the shell of the “fathers’ faith” and of the national ecclesiastical bodies, will be quite happy that their provincial religiosity will not suffer from an uneasy awareness of being part of the Ecumenical Church of Christ.


Moscow, June 10, 2016
The Russian Orthodox Church's representative will not take part in the drafting of the message of the Pan-Orthodox Council, which should be ready one week before the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church is convened, a source from the Russian Orthodox Church told TASS on Friday.

"The representative of our Church won’t take part in drawing up the message," the source said, noting that the work was to be done by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's External Church Relations Department.

"He was to be in Crete these days, but under the circumstances when Churches are one after another refusing to attend the Pan-Orthodox Council, there isn’t much point to us taking part in work to draft the message from just several Churches," the source said.

Under the Pan-Orthodox Council regulations, texts or new issues that were not unanimously approved by Pan-Orthodox pre-Council conferences and meetings of the primates cannot be submitted directly for Council discussion with the exception of the Council’s message.

Its draft will be prepared by a special all-Orthodox Commission one week before the Council is convened and will be subject to approval by the primates of the Orthodox churches, the document says.

Over the recent days, Orthodox Churches have been one after another refusing to attend the Council.

Problems sprang up in the course of final preparations for the assembly recently, with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church saying its clerics will not attend the Council, since more preparations are needed.

The Georgian Orthodox Church, too, voiced objections against the documents on Christian marriage and the contemporary mission of the Church.

On Tuesday, Syria’s Antiochian Orthodox Church said it was unprepared to attend the Holy and Great Council. The Serbian Orthodox Church declared its refusal to attend on Thursday.

Should at least one of the 14 churches be absent from the Council, it will lose the Pan-Orthodox status. The Russian Orthodox Church proposed convening an urgent pan-Orthodox consultative conference before June 10 ahead of the Holy and Great Council. The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on June 6 made a decision to proceed with routine preparations for the Council, due in Crete on June 17-26.


Andrei Rogozinski

Disappointment and agony—thus can be characterized the reaction to the June 6 decision of the General Secretariat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate not to hold any supplemental consultations on the comments submitted by Local Churches concerning the drafting of the conciliar documents. The Holy Synod chaired by Patriarch Bartholomew received the positions and opinions voiced lately by a number of sister Orthodox Churches “with surprise and perplexity,” as is stated in the official Phanar report, but, alas, not with attention and understanding, and stated that a revision of the already-planned conciliar process … exceeds all institutional bounds. In short, “Objections are not welcomed, attendance is strictly required.”

The suggestion of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to hold an additional meeting of the pre-conciliar consultations no later than June 10 was categorically rejected. The Ecumenical Patriarchate “calls … in the previously established terms to take part in the work of the Holy and Great Council, according to the Pan-Orthodox decisions, as signed by the Primates at their meetings, and as authorized by the representatives of the Church during the course of the long process of pre-conciliar preparations.” Institutional frameworks turn out to be more important than trust. Thus is revealed the true price of assurance in brotherly understanding and closeness.

What is Constantinople’s diplomacy counting on in such a complicated situation? On the documents with their numerous contradictions and inadequacies that caused the sharpest criticisms turning out to be unexpectedly accepted by a general consensus? On a new rigorous negotiation process? But coordination and editing is the task of working groups and specially designated representatives. Disputes and confrontations in the presence of Church primates and numerous delegation members, the body of observers, press and invited guests is far from the best solution, especially if we are speaking about a demonstration of Pan-Orthodox mutual understanding.

“Hurry, slowly,” warns that ancient wisdom. The process of coordinating the agenda of the council, as per the witness of the participants in the negotiations, turned into a race of prestige for the main initiator and organizer of the event, the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Preparatory work has been underway for seven years, since 2008. It’s absurd and laughable that now not even a few months can be given for the main task—familiarization with the draft texts in the Local Churches.

In the end, Patriarch Bartholomew and his closet advisors find themselves under a barrage of criticisms, and this very moment is turning out to be the most inconvenient for holding such an important historical meeting. Not everyone is able to publicly admit their own mistakes. In the artificial crisis that has arisen against the wishes of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Greek and Antiochian Orthodox Churches there exists the great temptation to provoke an open conflict and even the premature termination of the work of the Council with the most serious unpredictable consequences for the future of Ecumenical Orthodoxy.

It is entirely possible that Constantinople diplomacy deems exiting from this situation that has come about and is so unfavorable for it, as a path to scandal. Accusations have been formed against Moscow, as evidenced by many signs. Representatives of the Phanar have repeatedly exhibited their irritation. Unprecedented in terms of attacks and boorish insinuations was the publication of the article, “Is the Decision of the Georgian Church Appropriate, or Provocative?” by Protopresbyter George Tsetsis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In it he allows himself to argue that the Georgian delegates “tortured them,” that the behavior of the Georgian representatives would “exasperate and lead to a standstill.” Tsetsis allows himself such evaluations of the internal affairs of the independent and self-governing Local Georgian Church that we are taken aback. According to him, “The Georgian Church finds itself captive within fundamentalist circles.” The author uses worn-out clichés and intimidating figures of speech such as, “the return of the country to the Middle Ages.” Altogether, in the opinion of Tsetsis, who is, by the way, one of Constantinople’s central actors in the pre-conciliar process, there looms, as is apropos to the trendy political rhetoric, “the shadow of Moscow”.

Such attacks have caused righteous indignation in Georgia. It’s difficult to imagine a peaceful flow to the Council with such intense emotions. Using the same logic as Protopresbyter G. Tsetsis’s, it’s easy to wonder, to what circles does the Patriarchate of Constantinople find itself captive and what’s the value of the—in reality false—graciousness and brotherly love of the modern ecumenical theology of Metropolitan J. Zizioulas, and Protopresbyter G. Tsetsis.

The remaining days until June 19, the start of the Council, unfortunately, most likely, will set a reverse countdown to the start of a negative scenario. The initiative of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church contains within itself a realistic opportunity to save the situation. We pray the Lord to instill within His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew a true conscience, not the rhetorical “special responsibility for upholding the unity of Orthodoxy.”

Andrei Rogozinski 
Translated by Jesse Dominick


10 / 06 / 2016

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: the Council by no means should become a cause of division
ADMIN | 13 JUNE 2016

On June 12, 2016, 7-th Sunday of Pascha: The Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the church of Our Lady the Joy to All the Afflicted-in-Bolshaya-Ordynka in Moscow.

In his sermon after the service, Metropolitan Hilarion said in particular,

“Today we are facing the prospect of convocation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. There have been many disputes and bewilderments around it. And tomorrow the Holy Synod is to decide at its session whether our Church will or will not participate in this Council.

“It has happened so that the preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council has been carried out for 55 years. However, it was not an interrupted process half a century long as at times the Council was prepared, at the other time the preparation came to a standstill, then it began to be prepared again. And the closer we are approaching the Council the clearer we see that there is no unanimity and conformity of opinions on some issues among the Churches. Thank God, these are not theological issues – there is no heresy today for which an Ecumenical Council should be convened. All the heresies were rejected and overcome with the help of God by the fathers of the seven Ecumenical Councils. However, there are various questions posed by the Church and answers are to be given to them. And we see that the absence of unanimity has already led to the situation in which three out of the fourteen generally recognized Local Churches have refused to attend the Council. These are the Churches of Antioch, Bulgaria and, recently, Georgia. So now we have to decide whether we will or will not participate. It is a crucial decision that to a great extend determines the further destiny of the Orthodox Church: whether we will live in peace and harmony or in conflicts, disputes and quarrels with other Local Churches.

“We know that the Holy Spirit has always worked and will work in the history of the Church. And we believe that the Holy Spirit will prompt the right decision to us. We know that if the Council is convened to affirm the Orthodox faith in one mind and one heart, then everyone will assemble and no one will refuse to come. If it happens so that Churches, one after another, refuse to attend, it means that something has happened in preparing the Council, which has made everyone to become vigilant and reflect on whether we can now, at this stage in church life, make with one mind and heart decisions on the questions on the agenda.

“Throughout the 55 years of preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council, we have affirmed that it should be a factor of the unity of the Church and by no means become a cause of division. If we feel that the preparation has not yet been completed, that some questions have not yet been clarified, then it would be better to postpone this Council rather than to conduct it in haste and especially without the participation of several Local Churches. A Council cannot be pan-Orthodox if a particular Local Church does not attend it, the more so that there are already three such Local Churches.

“All this is to be thought over and considered tomorrow after praying to God and asking the Holy Spirit to help us in making the right decisions. But whatever decision may be made, we know that the Holy Spirit always guides His Church, that the people of God are the guardians of the Orthodox faith, that the Supreme Authority of the Church is installed by God to be custodians of church unity. Therefore, we will calmly accept this or that decision with prayer to God and will hope that the Church will continue living and developing, as the Lord Himself said about it: I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Mt. 16:18)”.

1,000 Orthodox Scholars Urge the Council to be Held in June 2016
ADMIN | 13 JUNE 2016

June 12, 2016
Feast of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council

An Open Letter of the Orthodox Scholars around the World

To the most venerable Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches
Your All-Holiness and Your Beatitudes,

We, the undersigned international group of Orthodox scholars, address this letter to the leadership of the Orthodox Church, to all Orthodox Christians around the world, and to all people of good will. We write out of profound concern for our Church, whose unity makes the new life in Christ visible to all humanity. We pray that the impending Council, so much anticipated and so long prepared, will bear forth the fruits of the Spirit, the first among them being the Pan-Orthodox unity. Hence, we support the agreement of the Orthodox leaders, publicly announced at the Pan-Orthodox Synaxis in January 2016, to gather together for the Holy and Great Council in Crete in mid-June 2016.

We believe that there are no insurmountable difficulties to beginning the Council in June, despite the significant questions that have been raised regarding the drafts of the conciliar documents and conciliar proceedings. We acknowledge the legitimacy of some questions, such as the request to reopen the discussion of the drafts of the conciliar documents. We also concur that there are many other issues dealing with the Church in the twenty-first century that would require future Pan-Orthodox attention. Nevertheless, we are convinced that the best venue for settling significant disputes today, as in the times of old, is the Council itself. To postpone the Council once again, is to fail to live up to the principle of conciliarity on a global level.

Nobody can expect the Council to settle all important questions and to heal all jurisdictional disputes in ten days. But we hope that this Council will be a beginning of the healing process and that it will usher in a new era of global conciliarity and unity. The representatives of the local Churches that wish to jeopardize the work of the Council by further delays should not intimidate the rest of the Orthodox leaders that wish to carry out the commitment to have the Council on this year’s Feast of Pentecost. In the last century, the Orthodox Church has witnessed to the world through a rich theological legacy and the blood of new martyrs. The Holy and Great Council occasions an opportunity to commence a new phase of Orthodox witness. As the eyes of the whole world are upon the Orthodox Church, we beseech all of our leaders to hear the Spirit’s call to conciliar unity.

Respectfully submitted and signed:

Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko, Loyola Marymount University (Orthodox Church in America)
Dr. Paul L. Gavrilyuk, University of St. Thomas (Orthodox Church in America)
Dr. Brandon Gallaher, University of Exeter (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Gayle Woloschak, Northwestern University (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Thomas Arentzen, University of Oslo (Paris Exarchate, Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Antoine Arjakovsky, Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (Ecumenical Patriarcate)
Sergei Chapnin, Arthos Fellowship (Russian Orthodox Church)
Anastasia Pamela Barksdale, Resurrection Theological Academy (Church of Albania)
V. Rev. Dr. John Behr, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (Orthodox Church in America)
Prof. David Bradshaw, University of Kentucky (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Rev. Dr. Bogdan G. Bucur, Duquesne University (Antiochian Archdiocese)
Dr. Peter Bouteneff, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (Orthodox Church in America)
Julian Chryssavgis, St. Andrews University (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Will Cohen, University of Scranton (Orthodox Church in America)
Dr. George Demacopoulos, Fordham University (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
V. Rev. Andriy Dudchenko, Independent Scholar (Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate)
Dr. Davor Džalto, The American University of Rome (Serbian Orthodox Church)
V. Rev. Dr. John H. Erickson, St. Vladimir’s Seminary (Orthodox Church in America)
Rev. Dr. Michel Evdokimov, Collège des Bernardins (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Carrie Frederick Frost, Saint Sophia Orthodox Seminary (Antiochian Archdiocese)
Dr. Tamara Grdzelidze, Ambassador to the Holy See (Patriarchate of Georgia)
Rev. Dr. Perry Hamalis, North Central College (Korea, Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Susan Harvey, Brown University (Antiochian Archdiocese of America)
Rev. Dr. Cyril Hovorun, Columbia University (Moscow Patriarchate)
Dr. Edith Mary Humphrey, Pittsburg Theological Seminary (Antiochian Archdiocese)
Dr. Philip Kariatlis, St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College, Australia (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Scott Kenworthy, Miami University (Orthodox Church in America)
Dr. Paul Ladouceur, University of Toronto (Archdiocese of Canada, Orthodox Church in America)
Dr. Alexander Lingas, City University London (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Daniel Lossky, Institut Orthodoxe de Bruxelles (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Rev. Dr. Andrew Louth, Durham University (Moscow Patriarchate)
V. Rev. Dr. John Panteleimon Manoussakis, College of the Holy Cross (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Smilen Markov, University of Tyrnovo (Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Prof. Georgios Martzelos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Church of Greece)
Rev. Dr. John A. McGuckin, Columbia University (Romanian Episcopate, Orthodox Church in America)
Dr. Sotiris Mitralexis, University of Winchester/City University of Istanbul Church of Greece)
Prof. Nikolaos Nikolakopoulos, Munich University (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Aristotle Papanikolaou, Fordham University (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. Peter Petkoff, Oxford University (Patriarchate of Bulgaria)
Dr. Walter Ray, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Orthodox Church in America)
Dr. Svet Ribolov, Sofia University (Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Rev. Dr. Gabriel Rochelle, New Mexico State University (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA)
Dr. Vera Shevzov, Smith College (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia)
Dr. Stephen J. Shoemaker, University of Oregon (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. James Skedros, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Prof. Helen Theodoropoulos, Loyola University (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Rev. Dr. Vasileios Thermos, Independent Scholar (Church of Greece)
Dr. Petros Vassiliadis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Church of Greece)
Dr. Anton C. Vrame (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Dr. John Yiannias, University of Virginia (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
And approximately 950 others who signed their names to the Petition


Source: Facebook

June 1, 2016

Minutes of the Session of the Holy Synod (5.25.2016):

On May 25, 2016, the regular plenary session of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Georgia was held at the Patriarchate of Georgia. The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II acted as the Chairman of the session.

Metropolitan Shio (Mujiri) of Senaki and Chkhopotsku was appointed Secretary of the session. The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II gave an opening speech in which he greeted the members of the Holy Synod and congratulated the Georgian nation on the Day of the Restoration of Independence.

Besides this, two deplorable facts, which took place recently in Georgia, were mentioned at the session. The first of them was the murder of Giorgi Otkhozoria, a resident of the Region of Gali, internally displaced from Apkhazeti. This atrocious crime took place in the village of Khurcha. The Holy Synod expressed their condolences to the family of the deceased and pray for his soul. Also, the Holy Synod expressed their disapproval of the incident which took place in the village of Kortskheli.

The Holy Synod called every political and social organisation to direct their efforts towards mutual respect and peace.

The Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia spoke on the significance of the Holy and Great Council and thanked the clergy and lay people who had participated in the preliminary work which preceded the Council. Following this, the floor was given to the hierarchs of the Holy Synod who were requested to express their opinions on the documents drawn up for the Council.

The representative of the Church of Georgia in the Secretariat of the Holy Council, Metropolitan Andrew (Gvazava) of Gori and Ateni, gave a short analysis of the mentioned documents. Metropolitan Theodore (Tchuadze) of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klarjeti spoke on the documents “The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to It” and “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World”.

The Holy Synod concluded that two places in the text of “The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to It” require alterations, which are, specifically:

Article 10 of the subchapter “Orthodox Marriage”; Subparagraph “a” of article 5 in the subchapter “Impediments to Marriage”;

Article 10 of the subchapter “Orthodox Marriage” reads: “The Church does not accept a marriage between her members of the same sex; neither does she accept any kind of living together other than that within the bond of Holy Matrimony. The Church directs all her pastoral efforts towards the goal that her members living within such bonds attain true repentance and love, blessed by the Church”.

This subparagraph must be changed in the following way:

“The Church cannot accept a sexual relationship between persons of the same sex, neither can she accept any kind of living together other than in Holy Matrimony, and condemns this sin. The Church is concerned about the eternal lot of the immortal souls of people who continue to live with such a sin, and directs all her pastoral efforts towards their help in cognizing the extreme grievance of this sin to depart from it by way of the true repentance”.

Subparagraph “a” of article 5 of the second subchapter of “Impediments to Marriage” reads:

“Marriage between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox is forbidden according to the canonical akriveia and is not blessed (canon 72 of the Trullo Council); however, it can be blessed through tolerance and loving-kindness, but only on condition that the children born within such a marriage will be baptised and brought up in the bosom of the Orthodox Church”.

In the aforementioned article, the first part of the text must be maintained, which reads: “Marriage between an Orthodox and a non-Orthodox is forbidden according to the canonical acribia and is not blessed (canon 72 of the Trullo Council);” but the second part, which reads: “however, it can be blessed through tolerance and loving-kindness, but only on condition that the children born within such a marriage will be baptised and brought up in the bosom of the Orthodox Church”, must be removed as it contradicts the 72nd canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

As is known, no council can contradict, cancel or alter any of the canons adopted by the Ecumenical Councils.

In the document “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World” the following alterations must be made:

From the main subtitle, which reads: “The Contribution of the Orthodox Church in the Cause of Attaining Peace, Justice, Freedom, Brotherhood and Love Among Nations, in Order to Eradicate Racial Discrimination, and Also to Eradicate Other Types of Discrimination”, the phrase – “and Also to Eradicate Other Types of Discrimination” – must be removed since it leaves room for a versatile understanding of the text.

Subparagraph 3 of subtitle “a” of the same document (“The Dignity of the Human Person”) reads: “A general acknowledgment of the dignity of a human person could be considered a precondition for a wider collaboration in this field. Local Orthodox Churches are called to put their mite in to inter-religious dialogue and collaboration; and while doing so, in prevailing over a manifestation of any kind of fanaticism in order to help promote friendship among peoples, freedom and peace in the entire world, for the benefit of every human being irrespective of their race and religious adherence. This implies that this collaboration excludes syncretism as well as attempts of violence from any religion over other religions”.

According to the provisions of the Synod, the aforementioned text should be formulated in the following form: “In this field, we could consider the general acknowledgement of the dignity of a human person as a precondition for a wider collaboration. The Orthodox Churches are called to put their mite into interreligious dialogue and collaboration, and while doing so, in prevailing over any manifestation of fanaticism, to help promote friendship among peoples, freedom and peace in the entire world for the benefit of every human being, with the objective of their purification, deification and salvation in the Kingdom of God, irrespective of their race or adherence to their religion. This implies that this collaboration excludes syncretism as well as attempts of violence from any religion over other religions. This, naturally, does not imply the denial of the missionary work of the Holy Church”.

In the first paragraph of subtitle “c” (“On Freedom and Justice”) the following text must be retained:

“The Orthodox Church primordially has acknowledged and declared that peace and justice take central place in the lives of peoples. In Christ this revelation is characterised as the “gospel of peace” (Ephes. 6:15) since Christ “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20), “preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near” (Ephes. 2:17). He became “our peace” (Ephes. 2:14). This peace, “which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), as our Lord Himself told His Disciples before the Crucifixion, is broader and more meaningful than that peace which is promised by this world: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you

(John 14:27)”.

But the second part of the same article which says: “The peace of Christ is a mature fruit of ingathering in it of everything: a human person, as the image of God, the expression of the dignity and glory of the human generation and Universe, the conventionality of the principles of peace, freedom and social justice, and lastly, the reaping of the fruit of Christian love among men and among the peoples of the world” – must be removed.

In the text also remains the last section of the text: “The true peace is the fruit of the consolidation of all Christian principles. This is the peace granted from Heaven which the Orthodox Church prays for in her everyday prayers, implores the Almighty God Who hears the prayers of those who come to Him with faith”.

Thus, the first article will be stated as follows: “The Orthodox Church has primordially confessed and proclaimed that peace and justice take central place in peoples’ lives. In Christ this revelation is characterised as the “gospel of peace” (Ephes. 6:15) since Christ “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20), “preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near” (Ephes. 2:17). He became “our peace” (Ephes. 2:14). This peace, “which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), as our Lord Himself told His Disciples before the Crucifixion, is broader and more meaningful than that peace which is promised by this world: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you (John 14:27)”. The true peace is the fruit of the consolidation of all Christian principles. It is peace given from Heaven which the Orthodox Church prays for in her everyday prayers, implores the Almighty God Who hears the prayers of those who come to Him with faith”.

Metropolitan Stephen (Kalaijishvili) of Tsageri and Lentekhi gave a talk on the document “The Attitude of the Church to the Rest of the Christian World”. Also were read notes written on the mentioned document by Professor Edisher Chelidze of Tbilisi Theological Academy and Seminary. On the text, various opinions were expressed by Metropolitan Anania (Japaridze) of Manglisi; Metropolitan Grigol (Berbichashvili) of Poti and Khobi; Metropolitan Nicholoz (Pachuashvili) of Akhalkalaki and Kumurdo; Metropolitan Peter (Tsaava) of Chkondidi; Metropolitan Ioane (Gamrekeli) of Rustavi; and Metropolitan Jacob (Iakobishvili) of Bodbe.

It was noted that the document had been from its inception unacceptable for the representatives of the Church of Georgia and that it had only been signed at the preliminary meeting because the following sentence was written in the text: “The Orthodox Churches of Georgia and Bulgaria left the World Council of Churches; the first of them left it in 1997 and the latter – in 1998, since they have their own opinions on the activity of the World Council of Churches which is why they do not participate in the events of the mentioned Council and other activities of the inter-Christian organisations.”

The Holy Synod has concluded that the mentioned document contains ecclesiological and terminological errors and requires serious alterations. If the alterations are not made, the Church of Georgia will not sign the text.

On the initiative of Metropolitan Grigol (Berbichashvili) of Poti and Khobi, the Holy Synod has determined: a theological group should be created which will present their proposals on a number of theological questions to the Holy Synod.

The Holy Synod heard the speech of Metropolitan Sabba (Gigiberia) of Khoni and Samtredia on the organisational questions.

The Holy Synod has named the members of the delegation of the Church of Georgia. The following is a list of those named:

The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II;

Metropolitan Kalistrate (Margalitashvili of Kutaisi and Gaenti;
Metropolitan Daniel (Datuashvili) of Sachkhere and Chiatura;
Metropolitan Anania (Japaridze) of Manglisi;
Metropolitan Giorgi (Shalamberidze) of Tkibuli and Terjola;
Abba Metropolitan David (Makharadze) of Alaverdi;
Metropolitan Sergi (Chekurishvili) of Nekresi;
Metropolitan Joseph (Kikvidze) of Shemokmedi;
Metropolitan Nicholoz (Pachuashvili) of Akhalkalaki and Kumurdo, and of South America;
Metropolitan Theodore (Chuadze) of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klarjeti;
Metropolitan Sabba (Gigiberia) of Khoni and Samtredia;
Metropolitan Gerasim (Sharashenidze) of Zugdidi and Tsaishi;
Metropolitan Andrew (Gvazava) of Gori and Ateni;
Metropolitan Stephan (Kalaijishvili) of Tsageri and Lentekhi;
Metropolitan Shio (Mujiri) of Senaki and Chkhorotsku and of Australia;
Metropolitan Ioane (Gamrekeli) of Rustavi;
Archbishop Spiridon (Abuladze) of Skhalta;
Archbishop Luke (Lomidze) of Sagarejo and Ninotsminda;
Bishop Michael (Gabrichidze) of Tianeti and Pshav-Khevsureti;
Bishop Dimitri (Kapanadze) of Khornabuji and Hereti;
Bishop Damian (Khupenia) of Samtavisi and Kaspi;
Bishop Grigol (Katsia) of Tsalka;
Bishop Dositheos (Bogveradze) of Belgium and Holland;
Bishop Sabba (Intskirveli) of North America;
Bishop Vakhtang (Liparteliani) of Nikortsminda;
Protopresbyter Giorgi Zviadadze;
Archimandrite David Chincharauli;
Archpriest David Sharashenidze;
Archpriest Kakhaber Gogotishvili;
Hieromonk Michael Bregvadze;
Monk Anthimoz (Javakhishvili).

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