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Nafpaktos, 5 March 2016

To the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece

Translated into English, original text (in Greek):

Ἐπιστολή πρός τήν Ἱερά Σύνοδο τῆς Ἐκκλησίας τῆς Ἑλλάδος γιά τήν Πανορθόδοξο Σύνοδο

Your Beatitude, Chairman,

With reference to Synodical document Ref. no. 755/351 / 16.02.2016, which calls upon us  to give our views on the documents that will be discussed at the Holy and Great Council, I have the following to submit.

In the texts which were approved unanimously at the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches (Chambesy-Geneva 21-28 January 2016) there are a few points that need further elaboration and correction.

Of course, according to the Organization and Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Article 11), amendments, corrections and additions to the texts can be made during the discussions of each topic in plenary session, following the submission of proposals for amendments, corrections or additions. The approval of the amendments, after completion of the discussion, will be in accordance with the principle of unanimous approval by the delegations of all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches during the proceedings of the Holy Synod. It is taken for granted that amendments which are not approved unanimously will not be accepted.

This means that every Church, including our Church, has the right to have an opinion and a vote on each issue raised in the texts and discussed. So freedom of expression is given for every point of view and we are, as Hierarchs, obliged to act accordingly.
I think that necessary corrections should be made mainly in two texts.

1. "Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world"

In this text we observe a confusion of terminology, which is probably due to the consolidation of two texts, namely the document “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world" and the document "Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement ".

However, if the necessary modifications are not made, then theological and ecclesiological “double language” will prevail in this text, something inappropriate in synodical texts and much more so in texts of the Holy and Great Council.

a) Terminology

The heading of the document, "Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world", is correct, because its terminology is exact, that is, "the Orthodox Church" on the one hand and “the rest of the Christian world” on the other. Also, many expressions in the content of the document are consistent with the heading,  such as, "The Orthodox Church, being the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, in its deep ecclesiastical self-awareness" (Art. 1), "with  those divided from it, close by and far away" (Art. 4),  “to those outside it" (Art. 6).

However, other expressions in the text, such as "the Orthodox Church recognizes the historical existence of other Christian Churches or Confessions that are not in communion with it" (Art. 6) should be brought into line with the title to avoid “double language”.

Therefore, the phrase "the Orthodox Church recognizes the historical existence of other Christian Churches or Confessions" needs to be replaced with the phrase:

"the Orthodox Church knows that its charismatic boundaries are identical with its canonical boundaries, and also knows that there are other Christian Confessions, who cut themselves off from it and are not in communion with it. "
The same has to be done with other phrases.

b) The unity of the Church

The phrase in the document referring to the unity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that "the unity of the Church" (to be added: Orthodox Church) "is unshakable" (Art. 6) is correct, because, as is correctly pointed out again, "the responsibility of the Orthodox Church for unity, as well as its ecumenical mission, were expressed by the Ecumenical Councils” which “particularly highlighted the inextricable link that exists between correct faith and sacramental communion " (Art. 3).

However, other phrases in the document, which imply that the unity of the Church has been lost and efforts are being made to restore it, should be corrected.

The phrase that the Orthodox Church participates in theological dialogues "with the aim of seeking, on the basis of the faith and tradition of the ancient Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the lost unity of Christians" (Art. 5) indicates that what is argued elsewhere, that the unity of the church "is unshakable" (Art. 6), is not valid.

Therefore, this sentence has to be corrected in order to avoid giving the impression  that there is “double language” in the decisions of the Holy and Great Council, that there is no clear teaching, and that “windows have been left open" for other interpretations.

It should read: "The Orthodox Church participates in dialogues with the Christians who belong to various Christian Confessions, for restoring them to its faith, tradition and life."

c) Theological dialogues, in relation to Baptism

In the document there is a paragraph which is reminiscent of "baptismal theology", which is a key position of the Second Vatican Council. This is the paragraph:
"The prospects of the theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Churches and Confessions are always determined on the basis of the canonical criteria of the already formed ecclesiastical tradition (Canon 7 of the Second and Canon 95 of Quinisext Ecumenical Councils)" (Art. 20).

Canons 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council and 95 of the Quinisext Council pronounce on the way in which heretical groups of that time are to be received into the Orthodox Church, by strict application of the rules and by economy.

Canon 95 of the Quinisext Council, which repeats Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council, decrees that the Eunomians "who were baptized with one immersion" should be rebaptized, and that the Montanists and Sabellians who "consider the Son to be the same as the Father, and do other unacceptable things and all the other heresies" should be rebaptized.  It clearly speaks of rebaptism when there is only one immersion, identification of the Father with the Son, and other heresies.

It is important that in 1756 the three Patriarchs of the East (Cyril V of Constantinople, Matthew of Alexandria, Parthenius of Jerusalem) published a decision (horos) that interprets these Canons with respect to the Westerners who come into the Orthodox Church. By this decision they receive the heretics from the West into Orthodoxy as “unholy and unbaptized”, apparently because there is a difference in the Trinitarian doctrine, due to the teaching about the filioque and created divine energy (actus purus), and there is also a difference in the form of the ritual, because there is no immersion, only "affusion" and "sprinkling" after the Council of Trent.

Therefore, in this decision of the Three Patriarchs there is a very clear interpretation of these Canons in connection with contemporary reality. The excerpt is cited:

"The Second and Quinisext holy Ecumenical Councils command that those that have not been baptized by three emersions and three immersions, calling aloud upon one divine person at every immersion, but were baptized in a different manner, be accepted as unbaptized in Orthodoxy. We follow those divine and holy decrees, and we consider heretical baptisms as inappropriate and foreign to the Apostolic divine commandment and the waters useless, as holy Ambrose and Athanasios the Great say, providing no sanctification to those that accept them, and useless for the cleansing of sins, and we consider them worthy of rejection and abominable. When those of them who were baptized without being properly baptized come to the Orthodox faith, we receive them as unbaptized, and without any danger we baptize them according to the Apostolic and Synodical Canons, upon which the Holy and Apostolic and Catholic Church of Christ, the common mother of us all, is invisibly based.  And with this shared judgment and declaration of ours we seal this decision, which is in accord with the apostolic and synodical decrees, certifying this by our signatures."

It is obvious that, with what is written in Article 20 of the document drawn up for adoption by the Holy and Great Council, there is an implicit attempt to revoke this decision of the three Patriarchs, which is founded on the whole ecclesiastical tradition.  As noted above, from the 8th century onwards the heresies of the filioque and the actus purus, and the improper baptism of the "Roman Catholics" by affusion and sprinkling, after the Council of Trent, and various other heretical views were introduced into various Christian Confessions.

Therefore, in order to have unity of thought throughout the document. in which it is written that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that unity "is unshakable," and that there are also people "outside it", this paragraph should be amended to read:

"The prospects of the theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Confessions are based on the faith and practice of the Orthodox Church, as determined by the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. The admission of non-Orthodox Christians into the Orthodox Church takes place according to the principles of strict application and economy. The principle of economy applies when a Christian Confession baptizes with three submersions and emersions according to the Apostolic and patristic form, and with the confession of the Holy, co-essential and indivisible Trinity. "

2. "The mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary World"

A few sentences which, though used extensively by the Orthodox, are nevertheless derived from modern existential philosophy and German idealism have found their way into this document.

These are the phrases: "value of the human person" and "communion of persons", which should be replaced with the words "value of the human" and "unity between people."

In the final version signed in Chambesy-Geneva (21-28 January 2016) some improvements was made to the previous text, which had been prepared by the 5th Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference (10-17 October 2015), but a few sentences remained referring to the "value of the human person" and further improvement is needed.

a) Human and not human person

Passages by St. Gregory the Theologian, Eusebius and St. Cyril of Alexandria are rightly referred to in the text, which speak of the value of the human and not the human person. There is also reference to the "protection of the value of the human" (A, Art. 2), and "the plan of God for humans" (A, Art. 1).

However, in the final text there remained a few sentences from the older version, such as "the value of the human person" (A, Art. 1), "common acceptance of the highest value of the human person" (A, Art. 3) “consideration of the human person"(B, Art. 3).

Therefore, the text should be consolidated and references to "human person" should be replaced with the word "human", which is well understood by everyone.

b) Communion of persons

In the document there is a problematic paragraph from the Orthodox point of view. It reads:
"One of the highest gifts of God to man, both as a specific bearer of the image of the personal God, and also as a communion of persons, reflecting by grace through the unity of the human race the life and the communion of the divine persons within the Holy Trinity, is the divine gift of freedom "(B, Art. 1).

This paragraph refers to "communion of the divine persons", to the unity of the human race as a "communion of persons" reflecting “by grace... the life and the communion of the divine persons within the Holy Trinity", and that this "is the divine gift of freedom ". These phrases are unacceptable theologically because they confuse what is created with what is uncreated, and the unity between people with the unity of the Triune God.

This paragraph needs to be replaced with the following paragraph:
"God created humans in His image and according to His likeness and gave them the noetic faculty and freedom to choose: "He Who created man from the beginning, left him free and self-determining, only bound by the law of the commandment" (Gregory the Theologian 14., On Charity, 25. PG 35, 892A). Freedom makes humans capable of progress towards spiritual perfection, but at the same time entails the risk of disobedience, autonomy from God and, for that reason, of the fall, hence the tragic consequences of evil in the creation ".

Justification for the replacement of terms

To justify why it is proposed to replace the term "value of the human person" with the term "value of the human" and the deletion of the phrase "communion of persons reflecting the communion of the divine persons" the theological views will be pointed out briefly.

1. The Fathers of the 4th century determined that the Triune God is Three Persons, having the same essence-nature-energy and particular hypostatic properties (unbegotten, begotten, proceeding). The person is defined as essence together with the hypostatic properties.

2. In the Triune God there is interpenetration of the divine Persons, not communion of persons. That is, the Father communicates His essence to the Son by begetting and to the Holy Spirit by procession. Thus, the Father communicates His essence to the other Persons, but not His Person and His hypostatic property.

Thus there is communion of nature-essence, mutual indwelling and interpenetration of the Persons, and not communion of Persons.

3. "The Holy Fathers identified hypostasis with person and individual" (St. John Damascene). Christ is one person who has two natures united in His person unchangeably, unconfusedly, indivisibly, inseparably. Thus, the person and the individual are one and the same. The word individual (atomo in Greek) consists of negative “a” and the word “cut” or “divide” (tomi in Greek) and means " not divided or separated into parts" (St. John Damascene).[The English word ‘individual’ has an exactly parallel derivation and meaning.]This means that, while Christ has two natures, they are not divided in the one person of Christ the Logos. The distinction between person and individual comes from Western philosophy.

4. For humans the Fathers mainly used the term anthropos (human being, man). There is a vast difference between what is created and what is uncreated.

Whatever happens in the Triune God does not happen in humans. The theological concept of the human is expressed in the phrase "in His image" and "according to His likeness", which means humans are  directed toward deification.
In some patristic texts there is reference to man as a hypostasis, but always in the theological meaning of “in the image” and “according to the likeness” of God, with the principle of hypostasis (Heb. 3:14). Elder Sophrony writes in this sense and not in terms of modern philosophy.

5. Vladimir Lossky, who introduced the notion that man is a person into Orthodox vocabulary, nevertheless observes: "For my part, I must admit that until now I have not found what one might call an elaborated doctrine of the human person  in patristic theology, alongside its very precise teaching on divine persons or hypostases."

6. The problem however is not only the term “person” for humans but that modern theories about the "human person" and even more about the "sanctity" and "dignity of the human person" associate nature with necessity and sin, and the person with freedom, will and volition, and love. Such views are reminiscent of Arianism and Monotheletism which have been condemned by Ecumenical Councils.

7. Volition and free will belong to the nature, not to the person. The person is the one who wills, the will is the appetite of nature, and the thing that is willed is the result of the will of the one who wills. When will or volition is considered as hypostatic, namely, as belonging to the person, then each divine Person has His own will, volition and freedom, which results in tritheism. The Sixth Ecumenical Council imposes deposition on bishops and clergy, and excommunicates monks and laypeople, when they accept a hypostatic will.

8. Thus, while scholastic theology identifies energy with essence, modern personalistic theories link energy and volition with the person and introduce a voluntaristic personalism.

Because of the existence of all these problems, the phrase “value of the human person” in the document should be replaced by the phrase "value of the human" and all related expressions should be corrected. If this does not happen, then the rest of the document will be contradicted and, most importantly, any decision of the Holy and Great Council will be different from and contradict the decisions of all the Ecumenical Councils from the Fourth onwards.
Bringing these points to your attention, Your Beatitude, and to the attention of their Eminences the Hierarchs, I remain.


Hierotheos Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios


Original text in Greek pdf:  Παρέμβαση καί κείμενο στήν Ἱεραρχία τῆς Ἐκκλησίας τῆς Ἑλλάδος (Νοέμβριος 2016)

In the last meeting of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece (23-24 November 2016), Metropolitan Theologos of Serres, read his presentation, titled "Briefing on the works of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church" and then followed a long debate on the content of the presentation and some decisions were taken.

The presentation had three main points, first the Conciliar Constitution of the Church and the preparation of the Holy and Great Council, secondly the contribution of our Church in the preparation and formulation of its texts over the time, and thirdly proposals for further actions. In reality, the presentation aimed at informing the members of the Hierarchy on the Council of Crete and on the decisions that had to be taken by our Hierarchy.

During the meetings I made two oral interventions and submitted a text to be included in the Minutes which further analyzed my views.

In what follows I will publish my main oral intervention made on the first day of the Council and the text submitted for the Minutes of the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy.


*   *   *



Intervention at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of the Church of Greece, 23-24 November 2016

I listened carefully to the presentation of the Metropolitan Theologos of Serres and Nigrita and I thank him for his effort, for the confession he gave at the beginning and for his proposals.
With what I will argue below I will make a few extensions on this presentation. I have written a text that I will submit to the Minutes, whilst necessarily I will highlight a few points briefly on the critical 6th text titled "The Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world."

1. Preparation for this Council was not adequate. The Hierarchy was not aware of the text drawn up by the 5th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference.  We received it after it had been signed by the Primates in January 2016. A discussion ought to have taken place in the Hierarchy, before the text was signed by the Primates.

Also, our representatives in the 5th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference informed the Standing Holy Synod that the final text entitled "Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world", "expresses perfectly the pan-Orthodox position on specific issues in a balanced way and within the Orthodox ecclesiology, as described and held by the patristic and conciliar tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

However, these confirmations are incorrect because the text, as many others have pointed out, was problematic and for this reason it was corrected.

2. The Council which convened in Crete, as I have repeatedly emphasized, was a Council of the Primates with their escorts.

In observing the whole work of the Council of Crete I note that there are positive points, which were reported in the presentation, and I have highlighted them in my published text.  We have to emphasize this.  The first five texts are generally good, they have some deficiencies, so I had to express my written reservations on two occasions. I signed two of the five documents with expressed reservations as to the concept of person and the ecclesiological consequences of mixed marriages.

3. The text which constituted the basis of the Council was the sixth, titled "Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world."  The final text has many problems, despite some generally good formulations.  When the Minutes of the Council are published, where the true views of those who decided on and signed the text are recorded, then it will be clear that the Council was dominated by the branch theory, baptismal theology and especially the principle of inclusiveness, i.e. a retreat from the principle of exclusivity to the principle of inclusiveness.

This sixth text was not ripe for decision and signing, and for this reason we suggested various corrections, but these were not accepted. I have pointed them in one of my texts, which have I sent to all members of the Hierarchy. It is characteristic that the text was corrected in the four languages even after the termination of the Council.

In any case, one notes contradictory points in the final text. In my opinion it is a diplomatic text, not a theological one. But the unity of the Church is not based on diplomatic documents, as history has proved in the "Ekthesis" of Heraclius and the "Typos" of Constans.

Then, during the works of the Council in Crete various distortions of the truth were said regarding St. Mark of Ephesus, the Council of 1484 and the Synodical text of the Patriarchs of the East of 1848, in relation to the word “Church” applying to Christians cut off from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

4. In the sixth paragraph of the sixth text, a new proposal submitted by our Church was accepted by the other Churches present.

Specifically, the decision of the Hierarchy was: "The Orthodox Church knows the historical existence of other Christian Confessions and Communities, that are not in communion with her."
Following a reaction from other churches, our Church offered a new proposal: "The Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox Christian churches and confessions that are not in communion with her".

To start with, we did not have the authorization of the Hierarchy to negotiate its decisions, as was said by many of the Hierarchs that were present.
Then, there was no discussion in order to accept this change, merely a vote and moreover with haste. Other proposals could have been adopted such as “rest of the Christian world”, “non-Orthodox”, “outsiders”, etc.

Furthermore, with this new proposal, some of the changes made are problematic in my opinion, namely:

The phrase "The Orthodox Church knows" was replaced with the phrase "The Orthodox Church accepts".

The phrase "the historical existence" was replaced by the phrase "the historical name". There is no name without existence, because otherwise an ecclesiological nominalism is expressed. Then, why not also accept the name Macedonia for the State of Skopje because it has prevailed for many years.

The phrase "Christian Communities and Confessions" was replaced by the phrase "heterodox Christian Churches and Confessions" [in the Greek language text]. The word "heterodox" in relation with the Orthodox Church means heretics. Therefore, attaching the adjective “heterodox” to the Church indicates an inconsistency.

The words of St. Mark of Ephesus are characteristic: "Church matters have never been corrected by the mean, the middle position. There is no middle position between truth and falsehood”.

It must also be noted that the term Church is not descriptive nor an image; it rather indicates the actual body of Christ, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul "and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1, 22-23). This means that the Church is identified with the God-human Body of Christ and because the head is one, Christ, and the body of Christ is one, so "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph. d, 4-6).

Thus, this new proposal is in no way aligned "to the spirit of the Hierarchy," as written in the Bulletin Press of that day (25-6-2016); it is rather a diplomatic proposal.

5. But what is most important in this case is that the new proposal, while prima facie it seems harmless, is anti-Orthodox. To support this view I will highlight two theological comments.

The first comment is that the view that a church can be characterized as heterodox-heretical was condemned by the Councils of the 17th century, on the occasion of the "Confession of Loukaris”, alleged to have been written or adopted by the Patriarch of Constantinople Cyrillos Loukaris. This is the phrase that "it is true and certain that the Church may sin, and adopt falsehood instead of the truth." The decisions of the Councils of the 17th century hold that the Church cannot err.

Thus, either there is Church without heretical teachings or there is an existing heretical group that cannot be called Church.

The second theological comment is that this new proposal expresses the Protestant idea of invisible and visible Church, which is a "Nestorian ecclesiology."

In the final text is written: "In accordance with the ontological nature of the Church, her unity can never be perturbed." Here the invisible church, which is united, is implied -- this is the meaning of “ontological”. Then, the phrase introduced by "In spite of this" and continuing "the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox [Translator’s note: the official English version says “non-Orthodox” while the Greek version says “heterodox”] Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her" implies the visible Church that is fragmented.

Luther, but mainly Calvin and Zwingli, developed the theory of the invisible and visible Church, to declare their identity when detached from Rome. According to this theory the unity of the invisible Church is given, while on earth visible Churches are fragmented and struggling to reach unity.

Lossky, commenting on this theory, argues that this view is a "Nestorian ecclesiology" when the Church is split into invisible and visible, as the divine and the human nature in Christ are supposedly separated. Other theories originate from this theory, such as the branch theory, baptismal theology and the principle of inclusiveness.

6. Proposal

After all these I think that, because the text has many contradictions, if the Hierarchy does not reject it, then at least it must maintain its reservations for its content and decide that it be further elaborated and revised by another Council which will convene in the future.

I support this for the following reasons:

a) Many people have understood that this text was written and decided in a hurry and is not complete, and in fact it was being signed by the Bishops on Sunday morning, during the Divine Liturgy.

b) The Council of Crete expressed the hope that such Councils are repeated regularly to resolve various issues. In any case, many issues have been left outstanding and they need immediate addressing.

c) The Church of Antioch considered this Council as Pre-Conciliar, the same is supported by the Church of Serbia, and recently the Church of Romania decided that the texts decided in Crete can be differentiated in part and developed by a future Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church and be perfected, without time pressure and with a pan-Orthodox consensus.

d) This is the usual practice in the Orthodox synodical system. In the Ecumenical Councils many meetings took place extending into many years. We also have the Quinisext Council that completed the 5th and 6th Ecumenical Councils on canonical law, the First-Second Council (861), and the Hesychastic Councils of St. Gregory Palamas (1341, 1347, 1351, 1368), considered as one Council.

Such a proposal will prevent schisms that may be created within the Church.


*   *   *


The Church of Greece in the "Holy and Great Council" of Crete

(Text submitted to the Minutes of the meeting of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, 23-24 November 2016)

The Council convened in Crete between 19-26 June 2016, while in the beginning was characterized as Ecumenical Council, eventually was titled as "Holy and Great Council". The four Churches not attending the Council, directly or indirectly rejected the title Holy and Great Council, and their final decisions are pending. So, the real name of this Council will be given by the consciousness of the Church, which is expressed by her Saints, who are the theoptic class in the Church, according to St. Dionysius Areopagite. We will see then how this Council will eventually be called, Council of the Primates, Holy and Great Council, Ecumenical Council, Pre-Council etc.?

In what follows I will call it Council of Crete, as we do with other Councils which are called by the name of the town where they convened, such as the Council in Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon etc.

I participated in this Council, representing, together with other brothers Bishops and laity, the Church of Greece, following a decision of the Hierarchy in March 2016 and accepted this mission, especially after the decisions taken by the Hierarchy in May 2016. According to these decisions we had to try and fight for the correction of the texts we had in our possession. With my participation I gained great experience but at the same time I left with deepest concern.

I will highlight a few points that are related to the new proposal made by our delegation to this Council.

1. Preparation of our Church for the Council

I can say that our Church’s preparation for participation in this Council was not the appropriate one.

a) The proposal of Chrysostomos, Metropolitan of Messinia

It is known that in our Synod of the Hierarchy in October 2014 there was a presentation by the Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia, in order to inform the Metropolitans on the agenda of the coming Council and on its whole work, as had been decided in the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in March 2014 at Constantinople.

The presentation was informative and basically traditional. It is significant that in the presentation reference was made to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to those Christians departed from her, that is, for those Christians outside her. A few points of this presentation will be highlighted regarding this issue.

His Eminence speaking about the dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the heterodox Christians notes:
"For the Orthodox Church, dialogue has always been and remains an essential and inalienable element of both her soteriological task, aiming at the return of schismatics and heretics in her bosom, and of her pastoral responsibility. For this reason she confesses powerfully and teaches that, in her self-consciousness, she constitutes the authentic continuation of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and the ark of salvation for those near and far.”[1]

In this text there is reference to the Orthodox Church, which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to the schismatics and heretics that departed from the Orthodox Church and should return to her and not about other Churches, which is in line with Orthodox ecclesiology.

Then it is stressed that local Orthodox Churches and the Orthodox members of the Theological Committees must possess this “ecclesiological self-awareness as an essential criterion of each Dialogue”, and also that the local Orthodox Churches, not only at the level of competent synodical organs but also at Pan-Orthodox Conferences, should monitor and assess these dialogues “with special critical attitude”. [2]

It also reports that "from the point of view of the very care and testimony of the Orthodox Church it is necessary... to mention both all serious novel deviations that exacerbate even more the severity of the acknowledged theological differences of the various Christian traditions and confessions, as well as the traumatic experiences of their historical relations." [3]

This means that the theological differences and the different Christian traditions must be pointed out, as well as all those events that have created traumatic experiences in the Orthodox Church.

Elsewhere in the presentation it is written:
"Certainly a confessional introversion of many years, in the operation of inter-Christian relations, does not allow, unfortunately, a sober assessment of the consequences of such a responsible projection of the Orthodox tradition to those near and afar, aiming at the treatment of confessional deviation and of the entanglements of various traditions of the Christian world of the West, as well as the confirmation of the validity of Orthodox tradition across time. This is why occasionally there appear justified complaints, objections, suspicions or reactions on the right or wrong course and the necessity of the aforementioned bilateral theological dialogues." [4]

Here it seen that the author is careful in his wording and does not use the word “Church” to describe the groups of Christians in the West; instead he speaks of confessional deviations and entanglements of the various traditions of the Christian world of the West. At the same time he notes that occasional reactions and protests by Christians for the course of theological dialogues are justified, because there has not been a sober assessment of the consequences of a responsible projection of Orthodox tradition.

b) The Reports of the Inter-Orthodox Committee for the Review of the Texts of Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences

After the meeting of the Hierarchy of October 2014 and following a request by some Bishops, we were given the texts of the Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences drafted until then, that had been elaborated by the representatives of the fourteen Orthodox Churches, thus including our own Church, without us having until then even an elementary briefing on the texts being prepared by these Conferences.

According to the decision of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in March 2014 the texts drafted until then should be reviewed by a Special Inter-Orthodox Committee consisting of representatives of all the Churches. In this Committee our Church was represented by Metropolitans Chrysostomos of Peristeri, Ignatius of Demetrias and Almyrou, and Chrysostomos of Messinia.

One thing that is observed is that while Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia in his presentation to the Hierarchy in October 2014 expressed the orthodox terminology for the relation of the Orthodox Church with other Christians, in the text that was prepared by the Special Inter-Orthodox Committee for the revision of the documents and by the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches to be discussed and eventually decided at the Council of Crete, there was a different terminology. That is, there was a reference to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, as well as to the other Christian Churches and Confessions, and it was also mentioned that, whilst the unity of the Church is given, there is need to make efforts for the unity of the Christian world. These points caused much debate when the texts were published.

Conferences were held by the representatives of all Orthodox churches to revise the texts. The Hierarchy was unaware of all this preparation.

From the research I did in the archives of the Holy Synod, following my petition and authorization by the Synod, I found that the three prelates who were representatives of our Church in the Special Inter-Orthodox Committee for the Review of the texts sent out their reports to the Standing Holy Synod with their comments every time they met. So the Synodical Bishops of the Synodal period 2014-2015 took note of the reports and documents which were prepared, without suggesting corrections, additions and changes. This happened only once when few, minimal, corrections proposed by the Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Churches Issues Synodical Committee were adopted. But the texts were not sent to all Hierarchs in order for them to express their opinion or even be informed, and a convening of the Hierarchy to address this issue was not proposed.

If that had happened, all Hierarchs, or those interested, would have been informed of the texts and we would have the opportunity to suggest corrections and additions before the text was signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2016. In my opinion, until the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, when all fourteen Churches participated, major corrections could have been made. Of course, it was possible to make corrections, additions and deletions during the Council of Crete, but with greater difficulty.

What is important is that our representatives at that time during the sessions of the Inter-Orthodox Committee for the revision of the texts sent their reports to the Holy Synod, in which they confessed that the texts were basically Orthodox.

For example for the new text titled "The Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian World", which originated from the merging of two previously different texts, in the report dated 20.12.2014 by our three representatives in the Special Inter-Orthodox Review Committee for the texts of Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox conferences, held in Chambesy Geneva from 29 September to 4 October 2014, there is a paragraph repeated in the other reports as well:

"After corrective interventions were accepted, the text was finally signed by all the heads of the delegations of the Orthodox Churches and it was decided to refer it ad referendum for approval and correction to the Holy Synods of the local Orthodox Churches and for final drafting in the about  to be convened 5th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference ". [5]

From the archives of the Holy Synod it is certified that this text together with the Report was given to the Synodical Bishops of the Standing Holy Synod of that period, and the Synod adopted some minimal proposals by the Synodical Committee of Inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian issues, but it was not sent, as it should have been, to all the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece, because the Hierarchy is competent to decide on such matters.

For example, in April 2015 some changes proposed by the Synodical Commission of Inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian Relations were approved. They were the insertion of the words "local", "participation in the WCC", "confessions", "according to the Nicaea-Constantinople Creed" and replacing the word "WCC" by the word "its", the word "such" with the word "in order to" and the word "but" with the word "and."

Besides this, the report found that:
"We consider that this new and consolidated text expresses absolutely the pan-Orthodox position on specific issues in a balanced manner within the framework of Orthodox ecclesiology as is defined and held by the patristic and conciliar tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Moreover it clearly depicts and reflects not history, but the present and the future of the state of the described relationships." [6]

Similar assurances are found in other reports too, when other texts which would be referred to the Holy Council were discussed.

Perhaps this assertion reassured the Synodical Bishops of that period, who anyway had to study the matter extensively and to bring it for consideration by all the members of the Hierarchy.

With hindsight this assertion did not prove to be a correct assessment, because many sides have pointed out the contradictory statements in the text. The text certainly did not express the self-consciousness of Orthodox ecclesiology, nor did it hold the patristic and conciliar tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is proved beyond any doubt by the fact that the Council of Crete made corrections and additions, even if incomplete.

When I read the texts for the first time I sent my views dated 18-1-2016 and 20-1-2016, before the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Church in Chambesy Geneva from 21st to 28th of January 2016, but I do not know why our delegates did not take into consideration the remarks I made in time, and did not raise the issue of the change in this Summit.  Probably these remarks were not given to them.

The Holy Synod sent the final texts signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Church in Geneva in January 2016 and the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, as Chairman of the Holy Synod, sent to all the Hierarchs of our Church a letter (755/16-2-2016), urging those who wished so to submit their observations, in order for the Hierarchy to take the relevant decisions.

In the Standing Holy Synod, after studying the comments of the Prelates who sent texts to the Holy Synod, we proposed some corrections, changes, additions and deletions in the May 2016 meeting of the Hierarchy. Therefore, some have a responsibility because they reassured us and did not inform us during this time, and as a result our participation in the Council of Crete faced difficulties.

The Standing Holy Synod of the year 2015-2016, as was obligated, convened twice the Hierarchy of the Church for this important issue, in March and May of 2016, and studied in detail these issues, first for the selection of members to represent our Church in the Council of Crete and secondly the proposals for the correction of the texts to be submitted to the Secretariat of the Holy and Great Council.

The decisions taken, as well as their outcome, I have included in another text of mine and there is no need to refer to them here.

Because there was concern among the flock of the Church, the Standing Holy Synod sent an encyclical letter that was read in all the churches. The letter said that the Hierarchy has "absolute faith in the teachings of the prophets, the apostles and Fathers" and respects "the conciliar polity of the Orthodox Church".

2. The new proposal of our Church for the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world

When in the Council of Crete, at its meeting in the afternoon of Friday, June 24th, the proposal of our church on the 6th paragraph of the text "Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world", referring to the determination of the Christian world outside of the Orthodox Church was read, referring to "Christian Communities and Confessions," there was a great debate.

Firstly I need to make a point. The phrase "Christian Communities and Confessions", proposed by the Church of Greece is not conservative or novel.  It has already been used by the representatives of the Churches in the discussion on this text at the Third Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference (1986), as shown in the Proceedings, i.e. "Christian families", "the Christian Communities outside the Orthodox Church". Furthermore there was discussion at that time about the need for us Orthodox to acquire our proper self-consciousness, and also that a study is needed of what can be said by the Church to the non-Orthodox and how to accept them. [7]

Also, the Second Vatican Council speaks of "Christian communities" in its texts, and Anglican Christians use the expression "Anglican Communion".

In any case, during the discussion, the Archbishop of Cyprus spoke in a provocative way about the Church of Greece. And although our Archbishop answered in a proper and sober manner, eventually this, together with the urging of the Ecumenical Patriarch to submit a new proposal, forced our Church to retreat.

I think our Church could stick to the decision of the Hierarchy, submit its proposal, record its disagreement in the Minutes, and let other Churches decide what they wanted, so the Church of Greece would not have the responsibility.  Now it appears that this proposal originated from the Church of Greece and was adopted by all Churches.

On this subject I will emphasize three points.

a) Unsound arguments for the term Church for the groups of the heterodox

I think that the members of the Council in Crete were “misled” by those who argued that in the period of the second millennium the Orthodox characterized heretical groups as Churches, without referring comprehensively to this issue. The truth is that Western Christianity was characterized as a Church especially in the 20th century, when the Orthodox terminology and theology was differentiated from the terminology and theology of the past, in particular with the Proclamation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the year 1920.

It should be noted, as I remarked during the proceedings of the Council in Crete, that one can find in some texts of the second millennium the word Church, characterizing the Confessions, as a technical term.  But this was not the case when exact wording was used, and indeed our Fathers used also various other heavy (insulting) expressions.  St. Gregory Palamas clearly defined this issue, as shown in the Synodical Tomos of the Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1351. [8] He writes: "it is one thing to use counterarguments in favor of piety and another thing to confess the faith." That is, one should use every argument in countering something, while confession should be brief and doctrinally precise.

Also during the second millennium those separated from the Church were called Latins, heretics, Papists, heterodox etc. Indeed, St. Gregory Palamas, a great theologian not only of the second millennium but of all time, characterizes the heretics as atheists, because they believe in a God who does not exist, the way they believe him and preach him.

Unfortunately, some supported in the Council of Crete that St. Mark of Ephesus, the Council of 1484, which condemned the Council of Ferrara-Florence, and the Encyclical letter of the Patriarchs of the East in 1848 used the word Church for Western Christians. This is not actually true, so it I will make a brief presentation.

i. St. Mark of Ephesus

St. Mark of Ephesus wrote a letter to the Pope before the start of the dialogue expressing his sincere disposition for dialogue, which demonstrates his good-will, expressing also the will of the entire delegation of the Church of Constantinople. One cannot enter in dialogue and dispute and insult the other side.  However, when he realized the whole mentality of the representatives of the Latins, he expressed himself accordingly. Thus, St. Mark was courteous and a Confessor.

There have been important works presenting the life and theology of St. Mark of Ephesus. I highlight two of these, one by Irenaeus Bulovic (now Bishop of Backa) with the title: "The mystery of the distinction of the divine essence and divine energy in the Holy Trinity according to Saint Mark of Ephesus” and another by Fr. Dimitrios Keskinis titled "The Pneumatology of St. Mark bishop of Ephesus and its timeliness". Also, there is the doctoral thesis of Hercules Rerakis on St. Mark’s brother, John Evgenikos, titled "Dialogue of East and West for the union of the Churches in the 15th century according to John Evgenikos."

Reading carefully these three theses one gets to know the whole atmosphere prevailing at that time, and also the Orthodox patristic theology of St. Mark of Ephesus. I underline some points in particular.

First, St. Mark of Ephesus was a great theologian, bearer of St. Gregory Palamas’ teaching, whom he expressed wonderfully.

Second, still as a layman, before becoming a Cleric, he was inspired with the desire of the Union of East and West, and he was preparing with passion and zeal for this task. And while he began with longing for union, he was gradually overtaken by "the disappointment of the theological impasse."

Third, the relevant letter written by St. Mark to be given to Pope Eugene IV, in which there are some phrases for the divided body of the Church etc., was written at the instigation of Cardinal Julian and with great reluctance by the saint, with a view to a good outcome of the discussion. But Julian was not enthusiastic about the contents of the letter, because it pronounced the Pope as the cause of the schism by the addition of filioque, and rather than giving it to the Pope, he gave it to the Emperor, who became angry and banned henceforth communication between the Hierarchs and the Latins, and it was only through the intervention of the Metropolitan of Nicaea that St. Mark was not punished. In no case was this letter read in front of the Synod.

Fourth, St. Mark expressed the whole theology of the Ecumenical Councils, the terms of which he knew well, he limited the discussion to these terms from the beginning, and brought great embarrassment to the Latins, so the theological dialogue that started in Ferrara reached deadlock and the Synod had to move to Florence.

Fifth, the Orthodox representatives, including St. Mark, faced pressures and threats and deception and fraud. Indeed, John Evgenikos writes that we suffered a lot, not only because of the current and upcoming ills, "but also of the lack of freedom because we were restrained like slaves." He also speaks about the long-term deprivation of necessities, about “poverty” and “famine”.

Sixth, during the Council, St. Mark of Ephesus fought for unity with love, he submitted proposals that were not accepted, he struggled and remained tranquil. He had a sincere willingness to seek the truth. And after the Council his "polemics"  "were mainly directed to his Latin-minded compatriots, rather than the Latin papists."

Professor Ioannis Karmiris using views of the historians who were present at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, writes that St. Mark considered the Latins as heretics during the Council, too.

"In Florence, too, Mark Evgenikos said to the Orthodox delegates, ‘that the Latins are not only schismatics but heretics as well; and our Church kept this in secret for our nation was much weaker than theirs’ (J. Harduin, Acta Consiliorum, Parisiis 1715 Eq.), and ‘(those before us) did not wish to proclaim the Latins as heretics, looking forward to their return and negotiating their friendship’ (S. Syropuli, Vera historia unionis non verae, 9,5. p. 256).” [10]

According to the Acts and memoirs of the Ferrara-Florence Council, St. Mark of Ephesus always considered the Latins as heretics and he said so to the Orthodox delegation, but the delegation of the Orthodox Church did not want to express it publicly because of the difficult conditions of the time and as an expression of friendship, hoping for their return.

But, of course, St. Mark of Ephesus after that Council, when he saw the actual attitude of the Latins, expressed himself in harsh terms. He sent the well-known letter to the "Orthodox Christians everywhere across the land and the islands".

This letter begins with the phrase: "Those who kept us in dismal captivity and wished to draw us towards the Babylon of Latin morals and doctrines, but they did not manage to achieve this......". [11] He considers that he went to the Babylon of Latin customs and doctrines and that even during the Council they were taken as hostages. Elsewhere in the letter he writes: "as heretics we turned away from them, and for this reason we separated ourselves from them.... they are heretics therefore, and as heretics we cut them off". [12] Latins are heretics.

Those who seek to lie midway between the Orthodox Church and the Latins, that is, those who "follow the middle path", who praise some Latin customs and doctrines, and praise some others yet do not accept them, and do not praise some others at all, and who behaved almost like modern ecumenists, he calls "Greco-Latins" and recommends: "We must flee from them as one flees from a snake or from them [the Latins] themselves; as they are much more dangerous, being Christ-profiteers and Christ-merchants". And later on he writes about them: "Brothers, depart from them and from communion with them; they are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as Apostles of Christ".[13]

Professor Ioannis Karmiris observes:
"Because of the above doctrinal differences and deviations of the Latins ‘from the correct faith... and everything concerning the theology of the Holy Spirit,’ Mark Evgenikos characterizes them as heretics, verifying that the Orthodox Church during that time and possibly since the time of the Crusades considered indeed the Latins not only as schismatics, but as heretics as well, accepting those of them who came to Orthodoxy through chrismation with holy chrism, thus classing them with the Arians, Macedonians, Sabbatians, Novatianists and other heretics of the fourth century according to the 7th canon of 2nd Ecumenical Council, which he recalls in addition to the 16th Query of Theodore Balsamon ". [14]

St. Mark Evgenikos after the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438-39 and after what he saw there, no longer speaks of the Western Church nor even of a heterodox Church; he speaks about Latins and heretics. It is strange that some people involve St. Mark in an ecumenistic mentality and do not understand correctly, first, his courteous attitude before the Council, for the benefit of the Church and of the expected union, while expressing the entire delegation, and, secondly, the Orthodox treatment of the heretic Latins after this pseudo-Council.

Therefore, the selective and misinterpretative mentality of some modern theologians and clergy toward the Orthodox stance of St. Mark Evgenikos in Ferrara-Florence is unacceptable by any means, and when it is used by scholars it is unscientific. Fr. Dimitrios Keskinis writes: “a fragmentary approach, which unfortunately was cultivated either intentionally by western ‘scholars’ or naively by semi-educated Orthodox diminishes this great theologian of the Church and indeed offends our Orthodox conscience." [15]

ii. The Synod of 1484

The Synod of 1484 condemned the Synod of Ferrara-Florence of 1438/1439, which in the meantime had been rejected by the conscience of the church flock.

This Council, which was called Ecumenical, was summoned at the church of Pammakaristos by Patriarch Simeon in two phases. The first, i.e. in the years 1472 to 1475, issued a “horos” [definition] renouncing the Council of Ferrara-Florence, and the second, in 1484, issued a service for the Latins who wanted to return to the Orthodox Church. In this Council representatives of the other Patriarchs of the East participated too. [16]

This service was written by the Ecumenical Patriarch Simeon. In the heading the following is written: "Service published by this Holy and Great Synod, for those who return from the Latin heresies to the Orthodox and Catholic Church of Constantinople, but also to the three most holy Patriarchs of the East, i.e. those of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem”. In this phrase it is clear that a distinction is made between the Orthodox Catholic Church, and Latin heresy.

The service speaks of the "Latin heresy" encourages the Latin who is to become Orthodox to renounce "all the shameful and alien doctrines of the Latins" and "everything which is not in agreement with the Catholic and Orthodox Church of the East", and to anathematize those who add the filioque to the Creed. Also, in this service, by way of questions to the Latin converting to the Orthodox Church, the “horos” of the Ecumenical Council of 1472-1475 is essentially presented: "Do you reject and do you consider null and void the Synod, which was previously summoned in Florence of Italy and those fraudulent things, which that Synod erroneously embraced against the Catholic Church?”

In another question the Latin is prompted to turn away "completely from the gatherings of Latins in their churches, or of those who are Latin-minded". Here the phrase "the gatherings of Latins in their churches" obviously means the gatherings in church buildings, without attaching an ecclesiological meaning. The Latins are heretics and the gatherings in churches are the gatherings in church buildings, and it does not mean the Church of the Latins, as advocated by some.

In the service there is reference to the Orthodox Catholic Church and the Latin heresy. Once where the word church is used for the Latins it means the place where the Latins meet, that is, the church building, without having any ecclesiological importance. [17]

I consider it unscientific and ultimately misleading to claim as some do that even at the Council of 1484, which condemned the Council of Ferrara-Florence, there is reference to Western Churches.

iii. The Encyclical of the Patriarchs of the East of the year 1848

In the Encyclical of the Patriarchs of the East of the year 1848 signed by the Patriarchs Anthimos VI of Constantinople, Hierotheos II of Alexandria, Methodius of Antioch and Cyril II of Jerusalem, and the Hierarchs who were members of their Synods, the Orthodox Church is characterized as "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, following the steps of the holy Fathers, eastern and western"; elsewhere it is characterized as "Catholic Church", "as the divine fold of the Catholic Orthodox Church" as "Catholic holy Church” as "Orthodoxy", namely " the Orthodoxy of the Catholic and Apostolic Church." Elsewhere it is written that "Orthodoxy kept the Catholic Church as a virgin bride for her bridegroom among us, although without any worldly protection."

In contrast, the Western Christianity of Old Rome is characterized as "Papism" disturbing "the quiet Church of God”; those who are under the authority of the Pope and attack "Orthodoxy according to their custom" are characterized as "Papists". In the West the “virus of modernism" entered with heresies. The Church of Ancient Rome before separating from the Orthodox Catholic Church is called the "Roman Church", whereas it is replaced by "Papism", apparently because of the theories of the Pope’s primacy and infallibility, and once only it is called "Romana church" which is contrasted to the ancient Roman church. A few times Papism is referred to as "the Church of Rome" and "Western Church" without ecclesiological meaning.

Westerners were excised from the Orthodox Church, but "before departing from Orthodoxy to such heresies they possessed the same faith." In reality, then, it calls them heretics.

It is also mentioned that "savage wolves" have attacked this holy fold of Christ, the Orthodox Church. This holy fold of Orthodoxy, in which "the pastors and honorable presbytery and the monastics maintain this ancient charitable modesty of the first centuries of Christianity," "was attacked and is attacked as we see, too, by ‘savage wolves’.”  Then the Patriarchs of the East invite the faithful to feel the "mutual painful feeling of a mother loving her children and children loving their mother, when men that are wolf-minded and soul-mongers study and scheme to kidnap these as slaves or snatch them like lambs from their mothers".

These are very harsh expressions used by the Patriarchs of the East in order to characterize the Latins. It is also very important that in this Encyclical letter it is mentioned that the holy Fathers teach us "not to judge Orthodoxy from the holy throne, but to judge the throne and whoever is upon the throne by the divine Scriptures, by the synodical decisions and terms and by the preached faith, namely by the Orthodoxy of the timeless teaching".  This means that Orthodoxy derives not from the holy throne, but we judge the throne and the one sitting on the throne on the basis of the entire ecclesiastic tradition.

Also important is a remark made by the Patriarchs of the East, that the seats of all Bishops of the West remain empty, in anticipation of the return of the rebel shepherds along with their flocks. It is written characteristically: "... the canonical first-seat of His Holiness and the seats of all the bishops of the West are empty and ready; for the Catholic Church, awaiting the return of the apostate shepherds and their flocks, does not appoint intruders having only a nominal title, where in essence others have the authority, abusing the priesthood."

This is an important argument, that, although they are called "Churches of the West", this refers to their thrones, which were Orthodox previously and now are empty of Bishops, that is, those who sit on the thrones are not recognized by the Orthodox Church and it awaits the return of the shepherds that went away with their flocks. This means that no ecclesial meaning is given to the heretics who wrongly hold the old Orthodox Churches.[18]

Mainly the use of the word Church for Christians outside her began in the 20th century with the Proclamation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the year 1920.

Therefore, it is unscientific and misleading to say that even in this important text of the Patriarchs of the East with their Synods it is written that the "Roman Catholics" are a "Church".  On this subject I submitted my view to the Minutes of the Council.

b) The anti-Orthodox theory of "heterodox churches"

The remarkable thing is that, following the new proposal by the Delegation of the Church of Greece, without an authorization by the Hierarchy to make changes in the decisions, and after the decision was accepted by the other Orthodox Churches, the subsequent ecclesiological decisions of our Hierarchy were essentially not supported, except for a few details, as I presented them in another text of mine.

The final proposal of the Church on the 6th paragraph was as follows:
"The Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox Christian Churches and confessions that are not in communion with her...".

First I still do not know precisely the paternity of this new proposal, submitted during the night of Friday to Saturday, but what I realize is that he who conceived this idea does not know the dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church as will be made obvious further below.

Then, our delegation was not given sufficient time to study the new proposal and to assess it. The decision was taken within a few minutes under strain and without substantive discussion. It seemed that some bishops knew the content of the new proposal before it was announced by the Archbishop to the members of our Delegation, while I heard it for the first time at that moment. In addition, there was a written note that the content of the proposal is in the spirit of the decision of our Hierarchy and eventually was presented as a victory for our Church.

The rationale of the decision is the following:
"With this amendment we achieve a conciliar decision which for the first time in history limits the historical framework of the relations with the heterodox not to the existence, but ONLY to their historical name as heterodox Christian Churches or Confessions. The ecclesiological implications of this change are obvious. Not only they do not adversely affect in any way the age-old Orthodox tradition, but rather protect in a very clear way the Orthodox ecclesiology."

On the Press Release of the Church of Greece that day (25-6-2016) the view was expressed that the Delegation of our Church proposed the new proposal "in line with the (sic) spirit of the Hierarchy."

But this new proposal of the majority of our delegation on the one hand diverged from the unanimous decision of our Hierarchy, and on the other hand it is heretical and anti-Orthodox.

i. Poor wording of the proposal

The new proposal formulated by representatives of the Church of Greece, except me, is problematic in the following points:
Firstly, the new proposal altered also another word of the decision of the Hierarchy. The Hierarchy reformulated the initial verb of the text "recognizes the existence" to the verb "knows", while in the new proposal the verb "knows" turned into "accepts". Of course, as it is understood, the verb “know” has a different weight than the verb "accept". So, there is a very clear differentiation from the decision of the Hierarchy on this point as well.

Then, the word "existence" was replaced with the word "name", as if the name does not declare the existence. There is no name without existence, because this expresses an ecclesiastical nominalism. This cannot be accepted even in national issues, and this is why Greece refuses to recognize the name "Macedonia" for Skopje, although this name has been by the State of Skopje for many years, and Cyprus refuses to recognize the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus ", although it has been occupied for a long time.

Moreover, it was considered that "heterodox Christian churches" is a historical name, whilst this is not referred to steadily in historical texts. In a number of texts the groups outside the Church are called by economy "western churches" but not "heterodox churches." The word heterodox means heretical and that is why neither the Catholics nor the Protestants describe themselves as heterodox. Quite the opposite happens, as seen in their official texts. It is a diplomatic and not a theological phrase, which mocks both the Orthodox and the heterodox.

ii. The “Loukaris” view on the erring Church

The view that there is a Church that becomes heterodox, i.e. mistaken, is written in "Loukaris’ confession" and has received strong criticism, because the Church does not err, and if some Christian group errs, this group is not a Church.

It seems that the "Loukaris’ confession" was written by Calvinists in their war against the Latins, but was adopted by Patriarch Cyrillos Loukaris and published under his name. The "Loukaris confession" was condemned by the Councils of the 17th century.

Among other things in this "Confession" is written: “it is true and certain that on the way the Church may sin, and choose falsehood instead of truth." [19]

The Council of Constantinople in 1638 anathematized Patriarch Cyrillos Loukaris for his view that the Church may sin and be deceived and choose falsehood instead of truth. [20]

The Synod of Constantinople and of Jasi decided the same in 1642, proclaiming "as alien'' “to our Eastern and Apostolic Church of Christ” what is contained in the "Confession" allegedly by Patriarch Cyrillos, in which among everything else he confused "the earthly and the heavenly church" and in which he declares that it is possible for the Church to sin. [21]

How, then, can we consider as a Church a heretical offshoot, and even call it a heterodox, i.e. erroneous Church? The dilemma is clear: either there is a Church without heretical teachings, which saves people or there is a heretical group, which cannot declare itself Church. To unite these two words -- heterodox and Church – in a unity with one being the cosmetic adjective of the other, is an erroneous act, because both the heterodox and the Orthodox are being mocked.

iii. The Protestant view on ontological unity and historical fragmentation of the Church, namely on invisible and visible Church

The new phrase proposed by our Church and adopted by all other present Churches, and in fact with applause, integrated within the whole spirit of the text is purely Protestant and represents a "Nestorian ecclesiology." This is probably a grave expression but is fully justified with what we shall mention below.

In the final text adopted by all the Primates, accepting the proposal submitted by our delegation it is written:
"In accordance with the ontological nature of the Church, her unity can never be perturbed. In spite of this, the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox [Note: the Greek text uses “heterodox” and the English text uses “non-Orthodox”] Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her…”.

I will present a brief analysis to demonstrate that this phrase is in error and is anti-Orthodox.

First of all what is an "ontological unity"? The word ontology refers to the theory of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle and this phrase was probably preferred in order to indicate the real rather than the apparent unity. And this is found in Protestant theories on the Church.

Then, the text makes an indirect but clear distinction between Church and Orthodox Church. Namely, it is written that the unity according to the real nature of the Church "is impossible to be perturbed," but "in spite of this, the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name...”. It seems as if the Church, whose unity is not perturbed, is something else from the Orthodox Church and the "Christian heterodox churches", who are separated. This reminds me of the principle of phenomenology of the 20th century, that investigates things as seen, removing from them any idea, image, opinion which have been formed about them. That is, they see things as they appear to people and try to see their essence.

However, this mainly refers to the theory about the invisible united Church and the visibly fragmented Church, which is pervasive in the Protestant world and appears in the texts of the World Council of Churches.

To explain this it should be stated that after their secession from the Pope the Reformers wanted to determine what exactly the unity of the Church is, and how we can characterize all these local Christian groups relative to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. As it is clear there was a serious ecclesiological problem concerning the self-description of the splinter Christian groups at that time. So they created the theory of the invisible and visible Church.

Within this perspective the unity of the invisible Church is given, its members are everywhere, only God knows them, like the lights of a big city that exist, but are revealed when they are lit in the night and lighten the darkness, while all visible historical Churches are fragmented.

Clearly, then, the division between the ontological unity of the Church and the historical name and existence of heterodox Churches refers to this Protestant theory which is unacceptable from an Orthodox perspective. Because in Orthodox ecclesiology the Church is both visible and invisible, and there is no split between these two forms of the Church. The Church is a "Concurrence of Heaven and Earth". St. John Chrysostom observes:

"Oh how great are Christ's gifts! Hosts of angels praise Him in heaven; in churches on earth human choirs imitate the doxology of the angels. Above Seraphim sing aloud the thrice-holy hymn; below the same hymn is sung by the human multitude; a common heavenly and earthly feast is celebrated: one thanksgiving, one rejoicing, one joyful ceremony. The indescribable condescension of the Lord has created this; the Holy Spirit has put it together; and this harmony of sounds was orchestrated with the Father’s good pleasure. From on high come harmonious melodies, and, moved by the Holy Spirit as though by a plectrum, pleasant and blessed music sounds, the angelic hymn, the unending symphony. This is the outcome of our striving here, this is the fruit of our meeting." [22]

Specifically, John Calvin in his book "Institutes of the Christian Religion" (1536) sets the foundations of the distinction between the invisible and visible Church. The invisible church refers to the fact that only God knows who the true members of His body are, something that people are not able to find out with certainty. He writes: "God wondrously preserves His Church, while placing it as it were in concealment".

At the same time he speaks about the "visible Church", "as it is seen by the eyes of fallible men."

Ulrich Zwingli expresses more clearly the distinction between the invisible and visible Church in his text "A short and clear exposition of the Christian faith..." (1531).

In the 6th chapter titled "The Church" he refers to the visible and invisible Church. According to him the visible Church is the one that comes down from heaven, recognizes and embraces God in the light of the Holy Spirit. "To this Church belong all those that believe throughout the whole world." It is called invisible Church "not as if they that believe were invisible, but because it is not evident to human eyes who those are who believe. The faithful are known to God and themselves alone.”

Then he writes that the visible Church consists "not of the Pope of Rome and all others who wear tiaras, but of all those throughout the world who have enrolled themselves under Christ [he means by the Baptism]. Among them are included all those who are called Christians, though mistakenly, because they have no faith within. Therefore there are in the visible Church some who are not members of the chosen and invisible Church."

Vladimir Lossky referring to this teaching of Protestantism writes that such a view is "Nestorian ecclesiology" because all Christological heresies are revealed in their teaching about the Church. Also, there is an opposite view called "monophysite ecclesiology." For the first case he writes:

"Thus, there arises a Nestorian ecclesiology, the error of those who would divide the Church into distinct begins: on the one hand the heavenly and invisible Church, alone true and absolute; on the other, the earthly Church (or rather ‘the churches’) imperfect and relative, wandering in the shadows, human societies seeking to draw near, so far as is possible for them, to that transcendent perfection." [23]

Nikos Matsoukas commenting on this Protestant view writes:

"The Church of Christ in no way can be understood as identical to the Protestant communities. This view is unconditionally accepted by all the theologians of the Protestant orthodoxy. The Church of Christ is something wider and more universal. So they never speak about an exit from the Church. They do not know its boundaries and never risk saying to any of their brothers who were condemned by the Church that they are outside of it. In this case the invisible Church that is fundamentally divided from the visible, according to Protestant theology, dominates the thinking and life of Protestants... But the dominance of the invisible Church over all human acts and historical events weakens the importance of the visible one. That's why later on and in our days the Protestants can very easily speak about many individual visible Churches and about only one invisible. The branch theory, developed within modern ecumenism, originates from this principle. Although current Protestantism has gone through many evolutionary stages and can comfortably be adjusted, it seems to show a particular favor for the teaching of the fundamental distinction and differentiation between the invisible and the visible Church." [24]

Therefore, the view that in accordance with the ontological nature of the Church her unity can never be perturbed but according to the historical name there are other heterodox Christian churches not in communion with her reflects this Protestant teaching about the invisible and visible Church. This is the basis of the branch theory, namely that all Christian Churches, including the Orthodox Church, are branches of the same tree, and everyone is looking for their unity. The essence of this view is that the invisible Church is united, whilst the visible Churches are divided and make mistakes.

Fr. John Romanides taught:
"The Church is invisible and visible, that is, it is composed of those militant on earth and those triumphed in the glory of God in heavens. The prevailing view among the Protestants is that the Church is only invisible, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are only symbolic acts and that only God knows the actual members of the Church. In contrast, the Orthodox Church emphasizes the visible part of the Church as well. Outside the Church there is no salvation." [25]

Thus, the new proposal submitted by majority by our delegation in Crete is problematic and anti-Orthodox.

iv. Ecclesiological questions

Overall the triumphalism of some people after the submission of the new proposal by the majority of the delegation of the Church of Greece, that for first time the Christians outside the Church are treated by a Synod not theologically, but only historically, and its acceptance by all the Churches, is unfounded.

This is because, among other things, the text is not theological, but rather diplomatic. And there are intense contradictions as to what the Eastern and Western Christians who are outside the Orthodox Church are. There are many questions:

Do Christians outside the Orthodox Church belong to canonical Churches or to heterodox ones? What does heterodox Church mean other than heretical? Then, why are they still called "sister Churches"? Why elsewhere in the text they are called simply "other Christians" or "rest of the Christian world"? Why elsewhere in the same text they are characterized as "the non-Orthodox Churches and Confessions" that diverged from the true faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? After all are they "heterodox Churches", "other Christians", "non-Orthodox churches and confessions" diverging from the faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? How are all these different phrases justified in a text and how can this text have a theological identity? Shouldn’t this text have a uniform terminology in referring to Christians outside the Orthodox Church? Shouldn’t this text’s content conform to its title?

The same can be observed for the reference to the unity of the Church. At one point it is said that the unity of the Church can never be perturbed; elsewhere that the Orthodox Church is aware of the difficulties in the course of dialogue with the other Christians “to the common understanding of the tradition of the ancient Church»; elsewhere that the World Council of Churches together with other inter-Christian organizations "fulfill an important mission by promoting the unity of Christendom"; elsewhere that the Orthodox Church is aware that "the movement towards the restoration of Christian unity takes new forms...". What is valid out of all these? The unity of the Church is given or is it looked for?

The least I can say is that this text not only is not theological, it is also not clear, it does not have a clear perspective and foundation, it is diplomatic. The way it is written it is characterized by a creative diplomatic ambiguity. Thus, being a diplomatic text, it satisfies neither the Orthodox nor the heterodox ones. I cannot understand how it will be accepted by other Christians who are called simultaneously "heterodox", that is, heretic, "rest of Christians" and "brothers", or it speaks simultaneously about "heterodox Churches" and "sister Churches."

All these problems exist in this text, because it was not ripe for decision and signing, especially since both the Greek text and the translations into other languages were still being elaborated late on Saturday night 25th June.

At this point I remember the saying of St. Mark of Ephesus: "Church matters have never been corrected by the mean, the middle position. There is no middle position between truth and falsehood, but as the one who goes out of the light is necessarily in the darkness, in the same way someone who has diverged a little from the truth we truthfully say to be subject to falsehood”. [26]

v. The World Council of Churches

These questions are related to the World Council of Churches (WCC). Specifically:
In the 19th paragraph of the text titled "Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world", adopted at the Council of Crete, there is reference to the ecclesial prerequisites of the Toronto declaration (1950), which as it is written, "are of paramount importance for the Orthodox participation in the Council” and the 17th paragraph of the same text mentions the "established criteria", which were proposed by the Special Commission, "mandated by the Inter-Orthodox Conference held in Thessaloniki (1998)."

As to the first issue of paragraph 19, I read the decision of the Central Committee of the WCC in Toronto, in English and in Greek, and found that, in addition to the section that is indicated in the text, there are other paragraphs which cannot be accepted from an Orthodox point of view. Among else it states that the WCC includes Churches, who believe that the Church is essentially invisible, and Churches who believe that the visible unity of the Church is essential; there is a distinction between the visible body of the Church and the invisible body of the Church; that apart from few exceptions the Churches accept that the baptism celebrated by other Churches is valid; that the Churches that are members of the WCC recognize "elements of a true Church", "traces of Church", in other Churches, and the ecumenical movement rests on them; that all Churches recognize "that there are Church members extra muros, that these aliquo modo belong to the Church, and also that there is "Church within the Church" " etc. That is, clearly in the WCC there dominates an anti-Orthodox view about an invisible and a visible Church, which overturns the whole Orthodox ecclesiology.

With respect to the second issue, in paragraph 17 referring to the decision of the Special Commission, there is a problem here, too. It is known to those involved in these matters that there was an Inter-Orthodox Conference in Thessaloniki (April 29 - May 2, 1998) on the "Evaluation of New Facts in the Relations of Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement”, in which representatives of all Orthodox Churches proposed, in view of the convening of the WCC in Harare, that "the W.C.C undergoes radical reform in order to allow a fuller Orthodox participation." It was proposed, therefore, to make changes in the religious gatherings and in common prayers, and in the vote process. It also stated that if there were not radical changes, "it is likely that other Orthodox Churches may withdraw from the Council, following the example of the Church of Georgia."

After this proposal by the Orthodox Churches, the General Assembly of the WCC in Harare Zimbabwe established a special committee to study the issue, whose final text was almost unanimously accepted at the meeting of the Central Committee of the WCC in 2002.

When reading this text of the Special Commission, signed also by our own representatives, in matters of ecclesiology, of common prayer, of the Eucharist worship, of the way of decision-making by consensus, etc. one is startled.

In this text there is reference to "confessional" and "inter-confessional" common prayer at meetings of the WCC, and through these prayers "churches have experienced progress towards unity, and some have succeeded in reaching agreements leading to "full communion""; to "Eucharistic worship" by "the brotherhood of the churches of the WCC "; to "some churches having an "open altar" for all those who love the Lord"; to "hospitality churches” that celebrate Eucharist together etc. It is confessed that "worship is the center of our Christian identity. Nevertheless in worship we also discover our breakup. In an ecumenical framework, common prayer can be a source of joy and sorrow"; there is reference about an "inclusive language" in common worship; that "as fellow pilgrims on the spiritual path, we participate as equals in inter-confessional common prayer" for the "brotherhood of the churches of the WCC" etc.

Everything in quotes refers to approved texts of the Special Commission of the WCC and in fact expresses the Protestant idea of invisible and visible Church. The decisions of the Special Commission endorsed by the WCC have passed into paragraph 17 of the text approved by the Council of Crete.

The view of Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Peristeri, delivered in the meetings of the Third Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference (1986) when the text on relations between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world, and on the theme of the WCC, was discussed, is entirely true. He said:
"The Holy and Great Council must deal with and decide if and whether it is better for our Orthodox Church to return to the old system of separate Declarations. Because, currently, the texts of the WCC are both Orthodox and Protestant and whatever else. They are syncretistic texts that please everyone and no-one. I humbly think that we will offer more services to the unity of the Churches with an Orthodox doctrinal Declaration". [27]

I will not write more on this subject, but I will analyze it in another work of mine. What we should note is that, unfortunately, when on May of 2016 the Hierarchy decided by a majority that we remain as members of the WCC it was not fully informed about the beginning, the evolution and the current situation prevailing in the WCC. I think that at some point there must be an informed presentation on what the WCC is.


It is clear and obvious that an Orthodox Hierarchy cannot adopt such a proposal, as set by our Delegation, because this would imply the acceptance of the theological error of speaking about Churches that are heterodox, i.e. heretical and erring. It would also accept the anti-Orthodox doctrine of visible and invisible Church, that is, a theory of a "Nestorian ecclesiology", which is the basis of the branch theory, which has been condemned by the Great Councils of the 17th century.

November 2016

Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and St Vlassios HIEROTHEOS

Translated into English, original text (in Greek):

Ναυπάκτου κ. Ἱεροθέου: Λίγο ΜΕΤΑ τὴν «Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Σύνοδο»

A few days before the convocation of the ‘Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church’, as it has been characterised in recent years, I wrote an article in which I presented my views on this Council. In the same way, now that the Council has met, I shall record my first comments, which are the result, not of speculations, but of my own observation, without exhausting this major topic.

1. Evaluating the work of Councils

The ‘Holy and Great Council’ has completed its proceedings and has been referred to the life of the Church and its history, where it will also be judged. History will also give it its real name, because we know that some Councils, although they were characterised as Ecumenical, were rejected by other later Councils; just as other Councils again, although they were convened as Local Councils, acquired an Ecumenical character. This depends on the decisions that they made and on whether or not they were accepted by the members of the Church.

Generally, Councils are judged by those who have an illumined nous and experience of divine vision, because such people constitute the vigilant conscience of the Church, as they have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

Some may be sarcastic about illumination and deification, but in fact this is the basis of Orthodox life, as Saint Dionysius the Areopagite analyses with divine inspiration in his treatise On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, and as all the Fathers of the Church emphasise.

The whole of the Orthodox biblical and patristic tradition confirms that the genuine preconditions for a Council are the hesychastic and neptic tradition of its members and their genuine empirical life. In the First Apostolic Council in Jerusalem, the Apostles had the confidence to say: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts. 15:28). They recognised the energy of the Holy Spirit, not in their rational faculty but in their heart, as the Apostle Peter expresses this experience when he writes of “the hidden man of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (1 Pet. 3:4).

The Apostle Paul writes in his Epistles about those people who are led by the Holy Spirit and sense in their heart the cry of adoption as sons, as well as psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, the witness of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:15-16, Gal. 4:6, Eph. 3, 16-19, Eph. 5, 18-19, Col. 3:16).

This apostolic experience of the Holy Spirit was the experience of at least the majority of the Fathers who participated in the Ecumenical Councils, as Canon 1 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council records.

This Canon, after referring to “the holy and blessed Fathers” of previous Ecumenical Councils, goes on to say: “[We decree] that the faith of all those eminent men in the Church of God, who were luminaries in the world because they held the word of life, shall be kept firm.” When it is written that the Holy Fathers were “luminaries in the world” who had “the word of life”, it means that they had experience of illumination and the divine vision, and this is the firm faith which we must safeguard and implement.

Father John Romanides had this in mind when he wrote:
“The basic precondition, not only for Ecumenical Councils but for Local Councils as well, is that those who attend a Local or Ecumenical Council should be at least in the state of illumination. But the state of illumination does not begin when they say the prayer at the start of an Ecumenical Council. That is not when illumination begins. Certain fundamentalist Orthodox – I don’t know how to describe it – imagine that the historical bishops were like bishops today, who have no idea about dogmas, but have dogmatic experts at their side, advisers who advise them about dogmas.”

In this sense no Council is above the Church, but each Council expresses the life and mind of the Church, that is to say, the experience and theology of the saints, and it is judged by them. In any case, the Apostle Paul’s words are well known: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6:2).

Reading the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils we observe that the phrase “following the Holy Fathers” is used everywhere. The Patriarchs of the East in 1848 stressed that “the defender of religion is this body of the Church, that is to say, the people themselves.” And, of course, the word “people” does not mean everyone who tries to judge things with his reason and from his own ideological perspective, but those who have the mind of Christ, because, according to St Dionysios Areopagite, the Orthodox people are “the class involved in theoria” within the Church, in other words, the deified, the saints.

Therefore, as the Synodikon of Orthodoxy writes, we proceed “in accordance with the divinely-inspired theologies of the saints and the devout mind of the Church.” The divinely inspired teachings of the saints are closely linked with the mind of the Church.

2. Present and absent Churches

The ‘Holy and Great Council’ was attended by bishops, clergy, monks and laypeople from almost all the Orthodox people who live in the world. One saw clergy and laity who work in the mission field and in the life of the Church under all sorts of different conditions (in America, Europe, Africa, Korea, the Far East, etc.), who set out their experiences of their ecclesiastical ministry. This Council was a window revealing how the Orthodox Church operates in the world.

We are able to see the conciliar way of life of the Church at the Metropolitan level with meetings between clergy and laity, and at a broader ecclesiastical level, as in the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece. But for the first time we had the opportunity to see the conciliar way of life of the Orthodox Church at the highest possible level, in the meeting of local Orthodox Churches, with their Primates and part of their Hierarchies.

Of course, four living Churches were missing, the Patriarchates of Antioch, Russia, Georgia and Bulgaria. I had a great desire to see representatives at this Council from the martyric Patriarchate of Antioch, which is soaked in the holy blood of martyrdom, so that they could share their own martyric experience. I was therefore distressed every time there was a negative reference to this Patriarchate, prompted by ecclesiastical jurisdictions (Qatar). I also wanted to have before me representatives from the Patriarchate of Russia, who have emerged from great persecution lasting about seventy years, so that they could bear witness to their faith. It is a very large Church, which no one can easily overlook, despite the problems that exist. I also wished I could see representatives from the Patriarchates of Georgia and Bulgaria expressing the experience of their lively flock.

Because my books have also been translated into these languages, I have visited these four Patriarchates, among others. I have seen their lively Church life, which I wanted to be vividly expressed at the Council, so that we could gain a more universal view of the Orthodox Church.

I still do not know whether, and to what extent, these lively Patriarchates will react to the decisions of ‘Holy and Great Council’. It would really be a difficult development if these Churches were to meet in another Council to judge the results of the ‘Holy and Great Council’, thus causing further ecclesiastical problems.

In articles that I wrote unsuspectingly earlier on, I identified the fact that in the Western world, especially in America, the Orthodox Church is expressed mainly by Greek-speaking, Russian-speaking and Arabic-speaking Christians, although there are other linguistic groups as well.

This seems very timely because it is possible that after the ‘Holy and Great Council’ a split and division may appear in the Orthodox Church along linguistic and national lines. Major efforts must be made to keep the Orthodox Church united, so that it can offer people the great treasure of its patristic and liturgical tradition.

3. Subjects discussed at the ‘Holy and Great Council’

Those who followed the work of this Council, either from inside the Council or through the media (who performed their task selectively), realised that six texts were discussed, which had been drawn up in the 1970s and 80s, and had been updated by a Pan-Orthodox Commission following the meeting of Primates held in Constantinople in March 2014. These six issues referred to the basic levels of modern ecclesiastical life.

Summarising these six topics, I could refer to the four levels of the agenda of the Council.

The first level referred to the inner unity of the Orthodox Church and its administrative organisation, such as the issue of granting ‘autonomy by Autocephalous Churches and the Orthodox ‘Diaspora’ with its Episcopal Assemblies. The second level referred to the pastoral care of Orthodox Christians, and included the issues of fasting and marriage. The third level referred to relations between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world located in the West and the East. And the fourth level referred to broader social, anthropological, ecological problems faced by people today. Basically, these subjects were treated according to the principle of economy and charity.

The same also applied to the speeches of the Ecumenical Patriarch at the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony, and at both the Patriarchal Liturgies, and to the addresses given by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches. It also applied to both the basic texts of the ‘Holy and Great Council’, namely, the Encyclical, which will be sent to all the Orthodox Churches, and the Message that was read during the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of All Saints in the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul in Chania.

4. Historical ecclesiastical continuity

In my opinion one of the greatest and most important points about the ‘Holy and Great Council’ is that it literally destroyed the myth that had been circulating for so long before the convocation of the Council, that this Council was being convened after an interval of between 1,000 and 1,200 years, thus making it appear that the Orthodox Church was in a state of hibernation for a millennium and was not concerned with pastoral and theological issues.

Repeatedly before the Council I emphasised this state of affairs and I publicly begged the Ecumenical Patriarch and the other Primates to rid us of this myth, which had probably been constructed for media purposes. During the work of the Council someone well-informed told me:  “We said that to stimulate journalistic interest!” Thus, a media ploy was used at the expense of the theology of the Church.

However, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made clear repeatedly in his speeches that the Church is a continuous council, just as the Divine Liturgy is also a council; it is a living organism that produces soteriological fruits. Due emphasis was also given to the great value of the Council of St Photios the Great and the Councils of St Gregory Palamas, which, in the consciousness of the Church, as we find in the writings of various saints, Patriarchs and scholars, constitute the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils.

The Encyclical of the ‘Holy and Great Council’, which was sent to the Churches after the end of the Council, mentions the following points:
“The Orthodox Church, in its unity and universality, is the Church of the Councils, from the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts. 15:5-29) until today. This Church is in itself a Council set up by Christ and guided the Holy Spirit, according to the apostolic words, ‘For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us’ (Acts. 15: 28). Through the Ecumenical and Local Councils, the Church proclaims, and continues to proclaim, the good news of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which was manifested by the incarnation of the Son and Word of God. This conciliar work continues in history without interruption through the later Councils, which have universal authority, such as, for example the Great Council in the time of St Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople (879-880), and the Great Councils convened in the time of St Gregory Palamas (1341, 1351, 1368), by which the same truth of the faith was confirmed, especially concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit and human participation in the uncreated divine energies. It also continues through the Holy and Great Councils in Constantinople in 1484, which rejected the unifying Council of Florence (1438-1439), in 1638, 1642, 1672 and 1691, which rejected Protestant beliefs, and also in 1872, which condemned racialism and nationalism as ecclesiological heresy.”

These Councils are clearly designated as Councils with “universal authority”, universal validity. They were recognised by the whole Orthodox Church, and they condemned the heresies fostered by Western Christianity.
I consider that this confirmation is the greatest positive work of the ‘Holy and Great Council’.

5. Ecclesiological considerations

The Ecumenical Patriarch himself, at the closing ceremony of ‘Holy and Great Council’, spoke of the difficulties that arose in the Council. As he said characteristically, “Not everything has been easy. Things have not always been rosy.” He talked about moments of “acrimony, tension, difficulty, pessimism about the outcome,” and he was also mentioned the prayer of the delegates and of many others.

I have already recorded some positive points that I noticed at this Council. Now, however, I should note some ecclesiological considerations that I find problematic, which arose not only from the texts put forward for discussion, but also from the interventions of the delegates and the views expressed by the Bishops who were members of the Council.

a) The Primates

In a text that I wrote before the Council met I noted that this Council could be described as a Council of Primates. This is a more recent institution which follows on from the meetings of the Patriarchs of the East that took place during the period of Turkish domination.

In the Council I found that this impression prevailed, although it was in fact an expanded Council of Primates. That is to say, the Primates attended with a number of Synodical Bishops from their Churches. The Primates spoke first, and they could develop their opinions with greater freedom and at greater length, but subsequently the Bishops also had the opportunity to speak. Occasionally they differed from their Primates and sometimes they were indirectly critical of them. So it was not the case, as some people had alleged, that the Bishops in this Council did not have the chance to speak or express their points of view.

Because each of the Primates set out his views in a particular way, they were judged by the delegates who were present. So I had the opportunity to judge and compare the overall presence of the Primates. Without setting out to do so, I evaluated the Primates’ words, silence, behaviour, views and many other things. It was not a Council of people with no voice.

For the sake of objectivity, the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew must be mentioned. He had an important role, firstly in convening the ‘Holy and Great Council’, and secondly in its operation.

On the first point, it was the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in particular who speeded up the final convocation of the ‘Holy and Great Council’. It is well known that the decision to convene it was made at the First Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes in 1961, and the agenda of the Council was established by the First Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambesy, Geneva in 1976. Since then there have been continuous Pre-Conciliar conferences, gatherings of the Primates, and many discussions. Because various problems came to light and because various objections arose, the convening of this Council was continuously postponed.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, from the first moment he became Patriarch, made it his aim to convene this Council. He speeded up the procedures, expending great efforts and making many journeys. Of course, the Ecumenical Patriarchate participated in all this preparation with its financial costs.

On the second point, Patriarch Bartholomew presided over the proceedings of the Council very well and directed the proceedings with his expertise, experience and special gifts. He let anyone who was interested speak, whereas until then it had been rumoured that the delegates would not speak. On some points he cleverly overruled the stifling Organisation and Working Procedures, and he commented on every intervention of the speakers.

As I have taken part in many academic and ecclesiastical conferences, I was able to appreciate the skill with which the Patriarch conducted the proceedings of this Council, saying a good word to everyone. He was tireless, gracious and courteous to everyone, even to those who commented negatively on some aspects of the texts. We need to be objective and recognise other people’s natural qualities and gifts.

b) The Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world.

The text ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world’, which produced the longest discussion and aroused the greatest concerns, was not ready and needed further work.

Those who closely monitored the preparation of the ‘Holy and Great Council’ are well aware that there were two subjects on its agenda, one entitled ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world’ and the other entitled ‘The Orthodox Church and the ecumenical movement’. These two issues were eventually combined into one text, and for that reason there were various contradictions in the final text. Thus it was a text that was subject to additions and changes, literally until the last moment before it was signed. This means that, on the one hand, it was not ready, and, on the other, that it will create various problems in the future.

This was the reason why some Churches officially raised the issue that the discussion should not be finalised and that this text should not be signed, but that it should be worked on further and put to the vote at a subsequent Great Council. This was not accepted.

I want to point out that the whole text has inadequacies and contradictions with regard to its ecclesiology, because it does not identify who is part of the Church and who is not; who has been cut off from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; and where the boundaries lie between the Orthodox Church and heresy. This is one main reason, among others, that I did not sign the final document. I did it deliberately.

The problem that arose during the debate was the exact identity of non-Orthodox Christians and the groups to which they belong. At the Ecumenical Councils the non-Orthodox and heretics, who had a different belief and faith from that revealed by God to the prophets, apostles and saints, were condemned, whereas at the Council of Crete for the first time an effort was made with regard to how to establish communication with the non-Orthodox.

 The question that arises is: Can we classify the non-Orthodox as being in schism or in excommunication? Is the group to which they belong, or their “Church”, in a state of schism or of excommunication?

To make this understandable we should realise what is meant by the so-called “rest of the Christian world”, to which the title of this text referred.

First of all there are the Christians of the East, that is to say, the Nestorians, the Monophysites, and the Monothelites, who are described by various names, such as Anti-Chalcedonians, Pre-Chalcedonians, Copts, Armenians, Maronites, etc.

The Nestorians were condemned by the Third Ecumenical Council (431); the Monophysites, Pre-Chalcedonians and Anti-Chalcedonians were condemned by the Fourth (451) and Fifth (553) Ecumenical Councils; and the Monothelites were condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680). Therefore these Christian groups were cut off from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Then there are those Christians who belong to Old Rome, who were cut off from the Church due to the introduction of the heresy about the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, firstly by the Franks and afterwards in Old Rome (1009). They were also condemned by the Council of 1351 for teaching about actus purus and for asserting that there are created energies in God through which He communicates with the world.

From within Western Christianity, which had been cut off from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, a large group, calling themselves Reformers, Dissenters and Protestants, broke away in the 16th century. This category includes the Lutherans, Calvinists, the followers of Zwingli, the Anglicans, and so on. These Christians, too, were condemned by the Orthodox Church, since they introduced many heresies.

The question therefore arises: Are all these Christians in a state of schism or of excommunication?
I do not think that we can use the word schism for them, firstly because, according to our faith, the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. It cannot be split and its unity is a given fact. Secondly, because they have already been condemned as heretics by Great Councils with “universal authority.”

Nor can they all be considered as being in a state of excommunication as regards the Orthodox Church, because the term excommunication has a special weight. This term designates those Orthodox Churches that are temporarily not in communion with other Orthodox Churches, as is the case between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem on account of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Qatar.

Therefore, for Christians who have introduced heresies into their faith, we cannot use either the term schism or the term excommunication. It is better to say that these Christians broke away or distanced themselves from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which maintains its unity.

In this sense the Local and Ecumenical Councils spoke of heretics, because they have a teaching which is different from the teaching of the Church. The Councils actually used very severe expressions in their Canons against them. Anyone who reads Canon 1 of the Quinisext Council will see exactly how the Fathers spoke in the Ecumenical Councils about those who corrupted the revealed faith.

The Fathers of Quinisext Council call Arius “impious”, because he taught the doctrine of “a diversity of gods or many gods”. Macedonius is called “profane” and they expelled him, together with previous “enemies of truth”, as a slave who dared presumptuously to express an unsubstantiated opinion about his Lord. Apollinarius is called “an initiate into evil”, Nestorius is called “raving”. Eutyches is characterised as “empty-minded”, and so on. In these cases they use the words “driving out”, “fallen away”, “let him be cast out”, “let him be excluded”, etc. At the end it is written that, if someone does not preserve the faith delivered to us and does not adhere to the dogmas of piety, if he does not believe or preach in this way, but attempts to act contrary to these things, “let him be anathema, according to the decree already promulgated by the previously mentioned holy and blessed Fathers, and let him be cast out and excluded as an alien from the number of Christians.” This means that it is the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils who are commemorated, and not simply the Councils. The Fathers did not accept reconciliation or coexistence with heresy, and did not face these situations with a relativistic attitude. In matters of faith there is no room of diplomacy.

For all these old and new heretical groups we cannot use the words schism or excommunication. Rather we should describe them as distanced from the faith and life of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The name for this is not conservatism, as some claim, but precision in matters of faith.

The words of Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov of blessed memory are characteristic: “There are three things that I cannot understand: 1) faith without dogma, 2) Christianity outside the Church, 3) Christianity without asceticism.” This means that there is no real faith in God outside the dogma established by the Holy Fathers. There is no Christianity outside the Church, which is the Body of Christ. And there is no Christianity without asceticism, without hesychasm.

In spite of this, I can say in all honesty that I very clearly saw a relativistic approach in the views expressed in the Council. From what was said and discussed, the branch theory was definitely going around, without being named as such. That is to say, the idea was apparent that there had been a split in Christianity and that Christianity had been torn apart, in the same way as “a priest’s gown had been torn” (!) and that everyone is seeking unity. The theory of inclusiveness, that all Christians have something in common, namely, valid baptism, in other words, baptismal theology; and the theory of non-theological moralism and non-theological pastoral care for people today were also in evidence.

The participation of the Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches, as a member and not as an observer, is a cause for concern. Because I cannot imagine St Athanasius the Great and St Basil the Great taking part in a council of the Arians, Eunomians or Macedonians of their time. Nor can I imagine St Gregory Palamas joining a council with Barlaam, Akindynos, Gregoras and their supporters to deal with various social problems of their time.

The view expressed by a Primate of one Church, which unfortunately was applauded by some delegates, that theological issues ought not to be discussed in the Council was, in my opinion, one of the most negative aspects of the Council. If such a ‘Holy and Great Council’ is not based on the theology of the Church, and if, when serious theological issues are mentioned, the delegates do not pay attention and even protest, then this Council is very problematic from the point of view of Orthodox theology and ecclesiology.

Indeed one Bishop in the Council expressed the view that we should officially condemn pietism, without of course there being any discussion about the distinction between piety and pietism. There was also talk against Orthodox ‘fundamentalism’.

Apart from this unfortunately superficial viewpoint, which neither defines nor clarifies what is meant by these terms, ultimately no text was published against pietism and zealotry. The Ecumenical Patriarch cleverly bypassed this unfortunate proposal. It is characteristic that Archbishop Savas of Warsaw and All Poland argued that in Poland and other northern and eastern countries these so-called zealots were those who kept the faith during the Communist era, and were imprisoned and martyred.

c) “The Church: Body of Christ, image of the Holy Trinity”

In the Encyclical sent by the ‘Holy and Great Council’ to the Churches, a serious theological problem is evident, because in it, apart from the fact that the Church is characterised as the “Body of Christ”, at the same time it is also characterised as an “icon of the Holy Trinity.” The Encyclical also writes that “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is a theanthropic communion in the image of the Holy Trinity.”

The Church, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, is the Body of Christ. The foundation of the Church centres on Christ, not on the Trinity, since Christ “one of the Trinity” became incarnate. He assumed human nature and deified it. When the Church is characterised as the “image” or “according to the image of the Holy Trinity,” then, from a strict theological point of view, there is confusion between theology and the Divine Economy, and confusion between uncreated and created. Moreover, when it is stated that the Church is the image of the Holy Trinity, many problematic issues arise regarding the interrelationship between the Churches and the hypostatic properties of the Persons of the Holy Trinity!!!

St Gregory Palamas writes that the inner workings of the Triune God “completely transcend knowledge and speech”, in other words, “what pertains to the essential union” “and what pertains to the hypostatic distinction”, but also “what pertains to the utterly unmixed and unconfused union of essence”. For human beings and creation, therefore, “it is completely impossible to share” in any of these things. This means that no example of the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity can be found in creation. “That is why no model of these things is to be found in the creation.” The Church is the “Body of Christ” and the “communion of deification”, and not an image of the Holy Trinity.

By way of explanation, I want to point out that the wording in the Encyclical of the Council, “The Church: Body of Christ, image of the Holy Trinity” has a different meaning from the statement in the same Encyclical that the Church is “a theanthropic communion in the image of the Holy Trinity.”

The first wording is also to be found in St Maximus the Confessor and refers to the Church as the Body of Christ and as a “type and image of God”, in the sense that the Church is a figure and image of God “as it has, by imitation and type, the same energy as He.” This means that the Church is not the image of the inner relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity, but that God Himself with His uncreated energy brought beings into existence and then “contains, gathers and limits them, and in His Providence binds both intelligible and sensible beings to Himself and to one another.”

God keeps everything united, without confusion. He takes care of created things and in fact, as St Maximus says, the Church leads all human beings to Christ for the purpose of their deification. This is interpreted admirably by St Maximus later in his text about how the Church holds and keeps everything in unity. St Maximus does not speak about human relationships as an image of the relations between the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The relations within the Holy Trinity are completely inaccessible.

The second version (“a theanthropic communion in the image of the Holy Trinity”), incorrectly according to some current interpretations, refers to relations between human beings as an image of relations within the Holy Trinity. Moreover, this interpretation was deleted as false by the ‘Holy and Great Council’ itself, in accordance with the proposal of the Church of Greece and with the agreement of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the text ‘The mission of the Orthodox Church in today’s world’.

The Epistles of St Paul, especially the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, and the writings of the Church Fathers make reference to the Church as the Body of Christ and the communion of deification, and they do not refer to relations within the Holy Trinity. God in His infinite love “has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4, 6). He unites us with His Church and in Christ we partake of the uncreated grace of the Triune God and share in the uncreated energies of God. The Apostle Paul writes in his Epistle to Colossians: “Giving thanks to God the Father, Who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).

The Church, therefore, is interpreted Christologically. Christ is the head of the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ. We are members of the Body of Christ and through Christ we share in the uncreated energies of the Triune God.

d) Canonical ecclesiological problems

It caused me deep concern when discussions took place about the ‘Orthodox Diaspora’, ‘autonomy’, ‘the mystery of marriage and impediments to it’, and the ‘importance of fasting and its observance today’. These are canonical issues, which constitute important points for the whole of Church life.

The decisions taken seem, at first glance, to resolve some issues. But if you examine things in more depth, you find that they provide preconditions for the fragmentation of the unity of Church life. I will quote a few examples.

The term ‘Orthodox Diaspora’ is very strange, because, as was also noted within the Council, the diaspora is mainly associated with nations and religions and not with the Church, which is created in each place by the grace of God and the zeal of the missionaries. Ecclesiastical jurisdictions, which were assigned by the Ecumenical Councils, especially by the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon, to the ancient, senior Patriarchates and to the Church of Cyprus (Third Ecumenical Council), do not justify giving ecclesiastical status to the cultural and nationalistic concept of the so-called diaspora. It is not possible, on the one hand, for racialism and nationalism to be condemned as heresy (1872) and, on the other, for a form of ecclesiastical racialism and nationalism to be created, especially by the decision of the ‘Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church’. And, although the Episcopal Assemblies may solve a problem which exists in the so-called ‘Orthodox Diaspora’, basically they are uncanonical and break up ecclesiastical unity, because they introduce the principle of racialism and nationalism

Then, the text about ‘autonomy’, that is to say, the possibility of every autocephalous Church granting autonomy to a region, will, in my opinion, as I argued in my speech, open up many ecclesiological problems. I mean this in the sense that it will give the opportunity to every new autocephalous Church to create autonomous ecclesiastical regions, following pressure from external factors and the actions of clergy who like to have the first place, despite the Canons that give this right to the ancient Patriarchates.

Also, the granting of autonomy by Autocephalous Churches to regions that belong to other ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and the ease with which autonomy can develop into autocephalous status, poses a danger to the unity of the Church, because it is an excuse for many splits. It is a great ecclesiological problem when autocephalous status is interpreted and understood as ‘complete self-rule’, especially in the context of national and cultural developments. The Professor of Canon Law at the Theological School of Athens, Archimandrite Fr. Gregory Papathomas, has written significant texts on the issue of the diaspora and autonomy with all the parameters set by such a Council, and particularly as a relativisation of the validity of the content of the Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council.

In addition, the possibility given to local Churches to exercise economy in the matter of fasting and the issue of impediments to marriage opens the way for a breakdown in the identity of ceremonies and asceticism in different Churches. This means that economy, which operates for a certain period as a temporary suspension of strict application of the rules, will be changed into canonical strictness and will split the ecclesiastical Orthodox ethos into different ecclesiastical regions.

Finally, listening to all the opinions of the delegates during the discussions on these issues, and carefully reading the texts, I am intensely concerned, and I cannot be carried away by the superficial enthusiasm of some elements in the Church, who speak emotionally and journalistically.

6. My Interventions

During the discussions on the six texts I asked to speak, and I set out my views with discretion and honesty. I spoke within the limited time available about the human person, the Orthodox Diaspora, autonomy, fasting, the ecclesiological consequences of mixed marriages, and about the Church.

With the first opportunity these brief and comprehensive interventions will be published. In this section I will set out what I said about the Orthodox Church in relation to the non-Orthodox, because I think that this was the central issue of this Council.

When we began the discussion on the text ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world’, after the text had been read out and before we entered into discussion about the articles, I was given the opportunity to make a brief intervention. I had heard some previous speakers and I felt uncomfortable about what was being said, because unfortunately they reached the point of using St Mark of Ephesus to support their views.

In my intervention I stressed two specific points.

The first was that at the First Pan-Orthodox Conference held in Rhodes in 1961 about a hundred issues were raised to be dealt with by this Great Council, which was at that time regarded as Ecumenical. However, at the First Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, held in November 1976 in Chambesy, Geneva, ten subjects were decided upon. Six of these, together with a seventh that was merged with one of these six issues, were discussed at the Council.

The same Pre-Conciliar Conference adopted as second priority four important issues to be discussed later on, following inter-Orthodox investigation. These issues are the sources of divine revelation; the codification of the sacred Canons and canonical provisions; the concept of the Church; and economy and strictness with respect to the way in which we receive non-Orthodox. Specifically on these points, the text records: “These issues are referred for particular consideration by the individual Churches, in order that they may possibly be included in future inter-Orthodox investigation.”

Thus the issues ‘concerning the Church’ and ‘concerning economy and strictness’ were omitted from the agenda of this Council. However, there remains an important book written by the then President of the First Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, the late Metropolitan Chrysostom of Myra and later of Ephesus, on The Recognition of the mysteries of the non-Orthodox in the continuing relations between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

The second point is that the Third Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held in October and November 1976 in Chambesy, Geneva approved the text ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world’. In one particular paragraph it writes that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it recognises the actual existence of all the Christian Churches and Confessions. Subsequently, however, there is a phrase which not many people noticed: The Orthodox Church “believes that its relations with them should be  based on their (the Christian Churches and Confessions’) clarification, to be made as quickly and objectively as possible, of the whole ecclesiological issue, and particularly of their overall teaching on the sacraments, grace, priesthood and the apostolic succession.”

This means that non-Orthodox Christians must clarify their teaching on the sacraments, on grace, on the priesthood and on the apostolic succession.

I concluded that issues concerning the Church are not matters for this present ‘Holy and Great Council’. They are irrelevant and not included in the Organisation and Working Procedures.

What is said about Karmiris, Trembelas, and especially about St Mark of Ephesus is unfair on them. It may be that in their writings, and in those of other people, the word ‘Church’  is used  as a technical term, but this Council cannot stop at technical terms. The term ‘Church’ is used both according to economy and according to strictness. Here strictness should be applied.
The time available for each speaker was very limited, so, as I said in my speech, I submitted a text for inclusion in the Proceedings of the ‘Holy and Great Council’ on this subject.

Because in this Council there were continuous references to St Mark of Ephesus, saying that he spoke about the Western Church, I will refer to an excerpt from an analysis by Professor Ioannis Karmiris, whose name was repeatedly mentioned in the Council. The late professor, commenting on the letter of St Mark of Ephesus entitled To Orthodox Christians throughout the world and on the islands, he writes about his attitude to the Council of Ferrara-Florence:

“On account of the above doctrinal differences and deviations of the Latins from ‘the right faith... and these issues about the theology of the Holy Spirit,’ Mark of Ephesus characterises them as heretics, confirming that the Orthodox Church at that time and possibly from the time of the Crusades actually considered the Latins not only as schismatics, but also as heretics, receiving those of them entering Orthodoxy by means of Chrismation with holy chrism, thus classing they with Arians, Macedonians, Sabbatians, Novatianists and other heretics of the fourth century, according to Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council, to which he appeals, together with the Sixteenth Question and Answer of Theodore Balsamon. Thus in the Encyclical it is declared, that the Orthodox ‘excised them (the Latins) and cut them off from the common body of Church…, as having improper and impious ideas, and unreasonably making the addition. Thus as heretics we have turned away from them, and therefore we have separated from them... they are heretics, hence as heretics we have cut them off...’ And in Florence Mark of Ephesus said to the Orthodoxy delegation, ‘that the Latins are not only schismatics but heretics as well. Our Church kept silent about this because their people are many and much stronger than ours’ (J. Harduin, Acta Consiliorum, Parisiis 1715 ff.), and ‘(those before us) did not wish to reveal the Latins as heretics, as they were waiting for them to return and they were trying to gain their friendship’ (S. Syropuli, Vera historia unionis non verae, 9,5. p. 256).”

St Mark of Ephesus, according to the Proceedings and memoirs of the Council of Ferrara-Florence always considered the Latins heretics and he said this to the Orthodox delegation. The delegation of the Orthodox Church, however, did not want to state it publicly on account of the difficult conditions of that time and as an expression of friendship, because they hoped they would return.

Also, St Mark of Ephesus, in a letter that he sent to the Orthodox after the Council of Ferrara Florence, as well as characterising the Latins as heretics and writing that they were cut off from the Church, at the same time writes about the “Greco-Latins”, that is to say, the Orthodox who accept Latin customs and doctrines: “We must flee from them as one flees from a snake or from them [the Latins] themselves; surely they are much worse than they  are, being Christ-traders and Christ-profiteers”!

I have referred to what St Mark of Ephesus said and wrote, as he was unfairly treated and ‘abused’ by some delegates at the ‘Holy and Great Council’.


Before I finish my first brief comments on the recent Council of Crete, I would like to stress two general points.
The first is related to the self-awareness of the Council. During the debates the view was put forward that this Council was not a Pan-Orthodox Theological Conference, but a ‘Holy and Great Council’. This means that the issues are not being discussed in an academic context, but that it is a ‘Holy and Great Council’, and is above every local Church, so its decisions must be enforced in all the local Churches.

Precisely this created an intense problem for me. First of all, discussions took place in a general, informative, conciliatory and balanced context, and not in the atmosphere in which the Local and Ecumenical Councils acted. Then, I do not know how some of the Council’s decisions will be enforced, either in the Churches that were present or in those that were absent, especially when the consequences of non-compliance with such decisions is not specified. As is well known, the Ecumenical Councils specified excommunication, deposition and exclusion from the Church for those who did not accept the decisions.

The second point to emphasise relates to the way in which those outside the Council were given information. Personally, I noticed that the briefing was selective, the giving of information was ‘manipulated’. Finally, it is dramatically illustrated that the Church is a divine-human organisation, the theanthropic Body of Christ, and the life of this mystery cannot be channelled into the suffocatingly narrow limits of the art and science of communication. Anyone who seeks to manage the whole of ecclesiastical life and theology in a journalistic and media-orientated way insults the mystery of the Church.

All the above notes have been written in brief, and they do not exhaust the subject.

July 2016


Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and St Vlassios


Translated into English, original text (in Greek):

ΠΡΙΝ τὴν Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Σύνοδο

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.  The self-awareness of the Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In these important letters of reply, on the one hand, the Orthodox faith is presented, and,on the other hand, the false beliefs of the Protestants are called into question. In these replies the Orthodox faith is expressed on the basis of the Fathers and teachers of the Church, without resorting to the teaching of scholastic theology. Many issues are dealt with, on which there had been disagreement with the Lutheran theologians, namely, the Holy Tradition, Christology, the filioque, the man’s free will, predestination, justification, the number of sacraments and how they are performed, the infallibility of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils, worship, invocation of the saints, their icons and their relics, fasting, and various ecclesiastical traditions.
These letters of reply are considered important texts. They are mentioned in the Proceedings of the local Council that took place in 1672 in Jerusalem under Dositheos, and they are ranked among the symbolic books of the Orthodox Catholic Church.

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

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

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

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

2. Western Christianity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attempting to move the teachings of these Fathers, which are the teachings of the Church, to the margins of Church life, in order to be “confessionally” closer to Western Christianity with its many theological and social difficulties, is a major problem. Disregarding the theology of the Church expressed through these saints, in order to find some points in common with Western Christianity is a betrayal of the faith. I cannot find another milder characterisation.

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

3. Church – Orthodoxy – Eucharist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interpreting all these points, Bishop Atanasije Jevtic observes:
“According to the testimony of Irenaeus, in the awareness of the Church of his time there could not be any separation or independence between the Church, the Eucharist and Orthodoxy, because neither the Church exists without Orthodoxy and the Eucharist, nor Orthodoxy without the Church and the Eucharist, nor again the Eucharist outside the Church and its true faith.  As those “outside the truth”, that is to say, outside the true faith, automatically and simultaneously find themselves “outside the Church” so, vice versa, those outside the Church are situated outside Orthodoxy (outside the truth) and outside the true Eucharist pleasing to God (communion in Christ’s body), as long as the faith is the expression of true tradition and life of the Church and of its true eucharistic practice and assembly.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was a long discussion on the participation of the Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches (WCC). The proposal of the Standing Holy Synod was to delete the relevant paragraphs referring to this. Following intense debate, the issue was decided by an open ballot (by a show of hands), with thirteen Hierarchs proposing to delete the paragraphs, sixty-two to retain it, and two expressing different views.
Thus, the majority of the Hierarchs was in favour of retaining these paragraphs in the text, and that the Church of Greece should in the work of the WCC in accordance with the necessary pre-conditions. In the debate and vote I argued that we should remain in the WCC as observers, but this was the only proposal.

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

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

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

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

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

I would like to express two points.

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

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

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


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

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

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

June 2016

Translated into English, original text (in Greek):

Κύριο ἄρθρο: Παρατηρήσεις γιὰ τὴν Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Σύνοδο

Preparations for the Holy and Great Council have taken over 110 years, divided into three periods, the first from 1902 to 1952, the second from 1952 to 1990 and the third from 1990 until today.  In 1961, when Pan-Orthodox Councils began, around 100 issues were raised. Over time they were reduced, so eventually six topics are included in the Holy and Great Council, namely: "The mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary world, the Orthodox Diaspora, Autonomy and how it is proclaimed, the sacrament of marriage and impediments to it, the significance of fasting and its application today, relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world" (Press report by Primates, 27.1.2016).

Since the convocation of the Holy and Great Council is a great event for the Orthodox Church, special attention is required and both the Council and its decisions need to be addressed theologically.

It is known that it has been agreed that in the Holy and Great Council two basic principles will apply. The first is that each Church will have one vote, and the second that decisions will be made unanimously, meaning that if a Church does not agree on an issue, a decision will not be taken on this issue.

Therefore, our Church should prepare itself appropriately for this Council, with all the theological potential it has, which is largely superior to that of other Churches. This is obvious from the fact that a large group of theologians in other Churches have studied and have received doctorates from Theological Schools in Greece, as well as from the fact that professors in our Theological Schools are used as theological advisors by other Orthodox Churches. This indicates that the presence of the Church of Greece in the Holy and Great Council will not be insignificant.

In what follows, two issues will be highlighted, which in my opinion are serious.

1. The identity of the Holy and Great Council

The Council which will be convened in the period of Pentecost has been designated as a Holy and Great Council. Many times I have wondered what the identity and self-perception of this Council will be. One interpretation is that it will be an Ecumenical Council. However, there are many who claim that it will not be convened as an Ecumenical Council, but rather as a Pan-Orthodox Great Council. This thought conceals the notion that after 1009 and 1054 AD an Ecumenical Council cannot be convened, because the Church is in Schism and "the Church of Old Rome" could not attend this meeting.

However, such an explanation immediately creates the ecclesiological problem that the unity of the Church, whereas it is a given fact, is considered as something that needs to be sought. So, the Church loses its self-awareness as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is able to meet and to make decisions, irrespective of whether some of its former members have distanced themselves from it.

The other interpretation is that it will be exactly what it is designated as: a Holy and Great Council. Indeed, it is said that no such major Council has been convened during the whole of the second millennium.  If this is correct, then the Holy and Great Council is perceived as a continuation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, convened in 787 AD in Nicaea. But in this case the Eighth Ecumenical Council in the time of Photios the Great (879-880), which dealt with major ecclesiological issues and above all with the heresy of the filioque, and the Ninth Ecumenical Council in the time of Saint Gregory Palamas in 1351, which dealt in particular with the heresy of  the actus purus, i.e., the identification of essence and energy in God and the assertion that God communicates with the world  through created energies, are bypassed and not taken into consideration.

Prompted by this, I think it was an error of the Church of Greece not to discuss the agenda items raised in the Hierarchy in October 2011 regarding the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils.  And although the ten agenda items of the Holy and Great Council had already been drawn up by then and other issues could not be added, those proposals ought to have been discussed by our Church, in order to establish the basis of Orthodox theology, that the Holy and Great Council cannot be regarded as a continuation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, circumventing the Great Councils of 879-880 and 1351, whose validity and authenticity no one can challenge.

2. Theological Comments on the drafted texts

As mentioned above, out of the ten issues that had been decided upon for discussion in the Holy and Great Council, eventually six of them will be discussed. First it should be stressed that I am deeply concerned about the way these texts were elaborated in the Preconciliar Conferences.

The draft texts were never brought to the attention of all the Hierarchs and they were never discussed in the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, at least in my day, that is, in the last twenty years.  The content of these texts was known to and elaborated by the Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations. It seems that occasionally this Committee would dispatch to the Standing Holy Synod of the time reports on the Preparatory and Preconciliar Conferences and the texts. The Standing Holy Synod took note of these reports and texts and usually filed them away in the archives without any further discussion.

I have asked to be provided with the reports of the Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations to the Standing Holy Synod, and any possible guidelines given by the Standing Holy Synods of the time to the Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations for the improvement of the texts, in order for me to obtain a clear view of the matter.

I already have a document dated 4 June 2015 from Metropolitan Jeremiah of Switzerland to the Holy Synod, in his capacity as secretary for the preparation of the Holy and Great Council, calling for "any comments and recommendations by your Holy Church with a view to preparing the dossier and submitting it to the Fifth Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference to be held soon, which will approve and send them in their final form to the Holy and Great Council". The Standing Holy Synod was supposed to answer by the end of July 2015.  From what I have learned, no response was given by the Standing Holy Synod and the text was finalized and submitted to the Holy and Great Council.

I also think that the presence of our Church in the elaboration of the documents which will be discussed at the Holy and Great Council has been deficient. This is testified to by the fact that, although the topics were pre-eminently dogmatic and canonical, such as what the Church is and how its unity is established, as well as issues relating to fasting, impediments to marriage, the Orthodox Diaspora, Autonomy and how it is proclaimed, they were nevertheless assigned to the Synod’s Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations and not, in parallel, to the Synod’s Committee for Doctrinal and Canonical Issues, the Synodal Committee responsible for these matters.

This means that our Church has not been adequately prepared to address these issues.  Yet, to the contrary, some Hierarchs who dealt with the issues actually reassured us that these texts would not cause problems in the Church. But there are indeed theological problems.

Many comments could be made, but I would like to limit myself to two. The first observation refers to the ecclesiological issue. Studying carefully the text "Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world", one notices the existence of two different languages. On one hand, the Church is considered to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and on the other hand, other Churches are recognized too. Also, in one part of the text it is said that the unity of the Church is a given fact, and elsewhere that the Orthodox Church is seeking the unity of the Church through dialogues.

Moreover, a serious issue arises about how those outside the Church return to it. Although, since the 9th century, the ‘Franco-Latins’ have introduced many heresies and the biggest problem is so-called scholastic theology, which clearly differs from Orthodox patristic theology, as well as the fact that baptism takes place with an altered faith and disregarding its canonical ritual, the text nevertheless speaks of accepting it by virtue of “economy”, in other words, of receiving Christians outside the Church by Chrismation.

This is the so-called "baptismal theology" which in recent years has been set as the basis for so-called union among the so-called Churches. The Second Vatican Council relied on "baptismal theology" to show that there is unity with all the Churches and Confessions, despite minor, according to them, shortcomings.  The problem is deeper, because many theologians and Bishops interested in the so-called union of the Churches do not identify the charismatic boundaries of the Church with its canonical boundaries.. This is a serious ecclesiological problem.

Therefore, for the acceptance of Christians who are outside the Church and their return to the Holy Church, one should not ostensibly invoke Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council and Canon 95 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council. In another text of mine I reminded readers that an authentic interpretation of these Canons was given by the three Patriarchs of the East in 1756, and this should be taken seriously into account by the Holy and Great Council in order for it to be an Orthodox Council.

This is the reason why double language should be removed from this text so as to reveal the Orthodox Church’s self-awareness that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that it was never divided, like the Eucharistic Body of Christ which "is broken and is not divided", and that those outside the Church who want to return must return through Baptism.  

The second comment concerns the issue of the person. In the text "The mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary world" the first chapter, entitled "The value of human person", forms the basis.

For sure, in the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches held at Chambesy-Geneva on 18-28 January 2016, at the last moment, I don’t know how, there was an intervention that improved matters, i.e., some views and phrases about the person were omitted.  However, the phrases "the value of the human person", “communion of persons on the model of the communion of the Persons in the Holy Trinity", etc. remained.

I have already recorded my views in another text, which was given to the Standing Holy Synod. The whole problem about the person constitutes, without being alarmist, a heresy, a continuation of Arianism, of Monotheletism, and it is influenced by the existential philosophy of Kierkegaard, Marcel, Sartre and the German idealism of Heidegger.  Today there is much talk about the "ontology of the person", about the "communion of persons", about the "dignity and sanctity of the human person", about the difference between an “individual and a person", the "communion of persons as a reflection of the Persons of the Holy Trinity" etc. All these are anti-Orthodox.

I have repeatedly pointed out that the Fathers analysed the concept of person with regard to the Triune God and not with regard to man.  Also, it seems very clear that the concept of the person is reminiscent of Arianism, Monothelitism, Nestorianism, etc. on two basic concepts, namely, in identifying nature with necessity, saying that everything from nature is also a necessity, and in associating the person with volition, will and love. That is, they speak of a hypostatic will, hypostatic love, hypostatic energy, things which were condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

Therefore, the whole problem of the concept of "the value of human person" is that it replaces and ignores the theology of man as being in the image and likeness of God, and is more focused on human rights. That is, it converts theology into sociology. No one denies, of course, the respect due to humans and their rights, particularly nowadays when rights are violated, but Orthodox theology cannot be secularized. I know there are some who teach the concept of the human person - such as Elder Sophrony Sakharov who spoke about man as a person - but who link it unambiguously with the theological concept of the human as in the image and likeness of God, and they neither associate nature with necessity nor do they end up with  voluntaristic personalism.

This is why I think that the term “person” needs to be replaced with the term “human”. Anyhow, all foreign theologians, the other Confessions and even people outside the Church understand the meaning of human, but they cannot understand the philosophical concept of the "human person", which implies the existence of man and something else, namely, the “human person”.

Concluding these observations, I emphasize that the Church of Greece with the lively theological teaching it has, with the academic competence found in Theological Schools, and the experiential, charismatic theology expressed by experienced monks and clerics, should play an important role in drafting the texts and in the decisions of the Holy and Great Council. This means that care should be taken especially regarding the following points:
1. That the unity of the Church is a given fact and self-awareness of this unity is something accepted, not something sought after.
2. Baptismal theology is not accepted as a basis for Theological Dialogues.
3. The term “person” should be replaced by the term “human”.
4. The Holy and Great Council is not to be regarded as a direct continuation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, ignoring the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils.

George Siskos, ThD (Doctor of Theology)

Translated into English, original text (in Greek):

Ἡ ὀντολογία τοῦ προσώπου καί ἡ Ἁγία καί Μεγάλη Σύνοδος

Article translated into Romanian:  „Ontologia persoanei” și Sfântul și Marele Sinod

An article with the title ‘Logomachy, Orthodoxy, and the Holy and Great Council’ dated 7/6/2016 by Protopresbyter Dr Doru Costache has been posted on the official website of the Press Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the Holy and Great Council ((https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/-/logomachy-orthodoxy-and-the-holy-and-great-council), criticising the views of Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St Vlassios regarding the theology of the person, in accordance with his intervention in the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece on ‘The Essential Problems with the Holy and Great Council’ (http://www.parembasis.gr/images/AGIA_MEGALH_SYNODOS_2016/NAYPAKTOY-IEROTHEOY_AMSOE-problemata-1.pdf (Article in Greek)).

The article by the Romanian writer, with obvious irony and a tinge of journalistic oversimplification, reproaches the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos for an “anti-personalist crusade”, which he considers is “out of place these days” with regard to the Holy and Great Council, and which, according to his impression, actually betrays “human, all too human, passions” and power games. Set firmly within the atmosphere of American-Australian ‘culture’, the Romanian writer gives his criticism of the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos with regard to the ontology of the person (which formed part of the official letters to the Synod of the Church of Greece) the title “Game of Thrones”, which is the title of one of the worst American television series, in which innumerable assassinations, intrigues and all kinds of psychological distortions and carnal perversions take place between royal houses.

The Romanian writer’s article presents, among others, the following views. “The attack [by the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos] contains the outrageous statement that the theology of personhood, with its trademark, the freedom of personal will as distinct from the necessary character of the natural will, annihilates the Trinitarian God.” “By opposing the language of personhood as theologically valid, Metropolitan Vlachos denies contemporary theology its task to convey the wisdom of the ecclesial tradition in ways that take in consideration our current circumstances and reach out to audiences of today.” “The opposition of the Metropolitan to contemporary person-centred theology has no traditional ground and seems to depend on foreign ways of thinking.” “The Metropolitan outrageously affirms that ‘the link between will and person destroys the Trinitarian God by introducing tritheism.’” “The statements of Metropolitan Vlachos  [are] attached to the Babylonian captivity of Orthodox theology to foreign, Western medieval ways of thinking.” “Metropolitan Vlachos is of the opinion, which derives from his naturalism or monophysitism (as defined above), that will belongs to nature and that there is no will of the person. Ecclesial tradition stands in firm and consistent opposition to his views.”

The Romanian writer’s obvious unawareness of the analysis of the rejection of personalistic vocabulary, which the Metropolitan made in the Synod (http://www.parembasis.gr/index.php/menu-teyxos-236/4432-2016-03-05) prior to the text “The Essential Problems with the Holy and Great Council”, is sufficient on its own to betray the ill-fated amateurism of the academic draft of the Romanian writer. The view of the Romanian writer that the criticism made by the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos is out of place and wrongly timed, and that it shows selfish interests and personal passions, unfortunately testifies that the consciousness of the Romanian writer himself is out of place and wrongly timed. The texts of the Council, if they stay as they are, are going to validate and institutionalise by conciliar decision a terminology, that of “the ontology of the person”, which has a series of theological significations for the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the concept of the primacy of the Orthodox Church, the concept of asceticism, the concept of nature, the concept of sin, the concept of deification, the concept of participation in the Trinitarian God, and many other things.

1. Methodology and Aim of Personalistic Hermeneutics

The way in which the Fathers adopted philosophical terminology has to do with innovating names in accordance with the truth of things in Christ. The method of personalistic hermeneutics, by contrast, is to adopt the patristic terms, change the patristic significations, and replace them with the significations of contemporary philosophy and every kind of contemporary thinking, which makes the personalistic fabrication attractive. Personalists often name this “pastoral sensitivity in imitation of the incarnation of the Word.” On the other hand, adhering to the patristic terms and their significations is characterised as love of antiquity, sterile historicism, and a museum display of dead civilisation.

The abyss of inadequate knowledge deepens when the personalistic narrative refers to the dialogue of the Fathers with the heretics of their age. This is an obviously over-simplified and tragically distorted version of historical reality, when one reads, for example, the prologues of the anti-heretical writings of St Athanasius against the Arians and of the Cappadocian Fathers against Eunomius, the letters of St Cyril to Nestorius, of St Maximus to Severus of Antioch and the Monothelites, and of St Gregory Palamas to the Latins.

The same applies, of course, to the other ideological tenet about the Fathers adapting themselves to the needs of their era by adopting philosophical terms. The Fathers themselves admit that they prefer the terms used in Holy Scripture, but they are obliged to use philosophical terms to refute heretics, as philosophical terms were being introduced unchanged, with all their first and last significations, by the heretics and were seeping into the Christian faith, altering its content. Classical instances of this are the philosophical preservation of the simplicity of the divine essence by the solutions of the dynamic and modalistic Monarchians; the philosophical introduction of ‘uncreatedness’ only for God the Father by Arians and Eunomians; and the philosophical axiom of the Antiochian tradition that every nature is necessarily manifested self-subsistently, which turned the Nestorians to terminal schism and the Anti-Chalcedonians to admit only one nature for Christ.

The method of specifically theological hermeneutics, which pervades the greater part of life in Christ, has existed only for a few decades, but it has already been subjected to very serious criticism by the Clergy and a considerable number of academics and theologians. The textual documentation for specifically theological hermeneutics is extraordinarily weak. Unfortunately, it is based on isolated passages that are linguistically suited its ideological aims. Of course, just by looking up the whole page of the passage referred to, one very soon notices the alteration of the meanings of the text in favour of the desired personalistic conclusions.

2. Person – Freedom – Will

The core of personalistic hermeneutics is the freedom of the Person. This is achieved in God Himself, through the will of God the Father, Who is freed from the necessity of His nature. The remaining Persons of the Holy Trinity exist from the freedom of the Father to beget the Son and to cause the procession of the Holy Spirit, whereas their existence remains free thanks to the communion of love, on account of the hypostatic will of each Person to choose this communion freely. Personalism speaks directly about three hypostatic wills. It comes as a surprise that the Romanian writer, with a thesis on St Maximus, is unaware (?) of the multiple references by St Maximus to the fact that three hypostatic wills entail tritheism and split the Triune God. If the will is hypostatic, as each hypostasis is different, the will of each Divine Person will also be different, which results in three different Gods. Lossky, to whom the writer refers, being honourable in his interpretation and a sincere Christian, mentions that the theology of the Person does not exist in the Fathers, but even more surprising is that he admits his perplexity in the face of the patristic attribution of the will to the nature.
Of course, personalists, including the Romanian writer, are so fatally attached to the priority of the person as against the nature, that they treat any assertion about natural will as Western essentialism. They are incapable of a balanced interpretation of nature and hypostasis. They verbally declare that there is no hypostasis without nature and vice versa, but in fact they remain so attached to the priority of the person, that every assertion about natural will and natural energies is stigmatised as scholastic essentialism. All the same, the natural origin of the divine will is asserted many times in the dialogue of St Maximus with Pyrrhus, in all the saint’s theological and polemical works, and above all in the anthology of the Lateran Council (649) and the Sixth Ecumenical Council, entitled On Natural Wills.

3. Nature and Necessity

The identification of nature and necessity, in other words, that everything natural constitutes a necessity, whereas the will that originates from the person is something free, was used by the Arians to demonstrate to St Athanasius the Great that the Son is begotten of the volition of the Father, in other words, He is a creature. It was used by Apollinarius of Laodicea to demonstrate that every human nous is necessarily sinful, so it is impossible that Christ assumed a human nous. It was used by Theodore of Mopsuestia to demonstrate that God does not dwell among human beings either according to His essence or according to His energy. It was used by Nestorius of Constantinople and Theodoret of Cyrrhus to demonstrate that the union according to hypostasis spoken of by St Cyril of Alexandria abolished the freedom of God the Word, therefore the only true union of God and man was the identity of volition between the two personal, hypostatic wills of the man Jesus and God the Word. It was used by the Monothelites to demonstrate that, if Christ had two wills, they would necessarily be opposed to one another, and that the human will would be sinful, so Christ must have one hypostatic will. What is more, it was used by the Monothelites to demonstrate that a human natural will, being subject to necessity, would bind Christ’s volition, so Christ must have one hypostatic will.

Personalism, by identifying nature with necessity, in other words, by asserting that everything natural constitutes a necessity, whereas the will that comes from the person is what safeguards freedom, often repeats the same arguments as the above. For personalism, the hypostatic will of the Father safeguards the freedom of the divine essence from any kind of necessity. The incarnation frees the Son from the necessity of His divine nature. The gnomic will of Christ (sic) is free from every necessity of divinity and humanity. And all this, although St Athanasius of Alexandria and the Cappadocians testify to the exclusion of any kind of necessity from the divine nature. In parallel, St Cyril of Alexandria and St Maximus the Confessor testify that no created noetic being is subject to necessity.

4. Identification of Createdness with Sin

In personalism, createdness is often identified with sin, on the basis of the interpretation of Romans 7: 14-24:

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practise; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practise. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

Personalists read into this passage the conflict between nature and person, that is to say, the conflict between innately sinful nature and the free person. Instead of seeing the law of sin that dwells in human beings, they see sin as human nature itself, from which they must be delivered. Most regrettably, the writer of the article himself affirms the truth of this by saying: “St Paul spoke to the Romans about the conflict of the ‘law of the mind’ and the ‘law of the body.’ Yes, he did not use the words person and nature, but one cannot expect that from a first century Christian anyhow. Nevertheless, is not his a distinction between personal freedom and natural determinism?” In other words, the law of sin is natural determinism. The question that easily arises is: Isn’t God who creates nature? Therefore, does God create sin? How far removed is this idea from Apollinarianism and its Manichaeistic consequences? The writer is not, of course, the only one who interprets in this way. It is obvious that these personalistic metaphors bear no relation at all textually to the theology of the Orthodox Fathers, never mind spiritually.

5. The Rejection of the Hesychastic Tradition

Over and above the unhistorical and textually arbitrary views about finding the relational ontology of the person in patristic texts, even so – textually arbitrarily, that is – no theological problem would arise with the specific significations and their use, if they did not serve to reject the meaning of the texts of the patristic tradition. By serving the view that the person is inconceivable without relationship, personalistic texts reject, for example, the Philokalia, the prayers before and after Holy Communion, and others, because in the opinion of the personalists these contribute to an individualistic salvation, which does not reveal the fundamental condition of the ontology of the person, namely, that the person exists in relation to another person. In other words, according to the personalist, these texts reek of an individualistic spirituality (as in the case of gurus), which serves the innate needs of instinctual religiosity.

6. The Marginalisation of Apophaticism and Theological Improvisation: Consequences

The distortion of facts and texts reaches its peak with citations of the type: “The critics of the ontology of the person are trapped in the Babylonian captivity of scholasticism.” Whereas the tradition of the Fathers of the Church, from St Athanasius the Great, the Cappadocians, St Maximus and St Symeon the New Theologian onwards, explicitly discourages every kind of intellectual interest in the mode of existence of the Divine Persons, personalistic hermeneutics is concerned with how the Divine Persons love each other, with the psychoanalysis of the Divine Persons, with the reason why God is necessarily Trinitarian, using scholastically specified outlines of the type: the Third Person is needed in order to transcend the egoistic love between the other two Divine Persons.

In this manner a personalistic anthropology and proposed way of life are drawn up, in season or out of season, which, completely by-passing the incarnate example of Jesus Christ and the apostles, martyrs, ascetics and saints who imitated Him, rests blissfully in the freedom of the relations of the Holy Trinity, according to which each one draws whatever anthropological conclusion that he wishes, and that suits him, for life in Christ, whereas with a parallel invisible and unincarnate (without Christ and His saints) doctrine of love according, once again, to the relations of the Holy Trinity, every anthropological problem is apparently solved, as well as ecclesiological issues about approaching other Christian Confessions. In this connection, sometimes in accordance with the personalistic perception, a faithful Christian who follows the writings of the saints, the Sacred Canons and the custom of the Church, is judged to be moralistic, Pharisaic, irrationally attached to and infatuated with spiritual elders, incapable of understanding the profound meaning of freedom in Christ, and reduced to the objectified forms of past tradition. Unfortunately, such things have been said even of recognised saints of the Orthodox Church.

On this subject, the Synodal announcement by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is interesting. It makes precisely the same criticism as the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos with regard to the ontology of the person (http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/92464.htm). One reads there:

“The problems contained in the document ‘The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World’ are more subtle and theological in character …
The heart of the problem lies in the document’s persistent use of the term “human person” where it ought to use “man”, and grounding its humanitarian discussion in elaborations on this phrase. Usage of the term ‘person’ for man emerges within Orthodox discussion in a notable way only from the time of V. Lossky, who himself acknowledged the novelty of his employment of it; and while it has become almost normative in contemporary discussions, the Holy Fathers are consistent in employing the Scriptural and liturgical language of ‘man’. The term ‘person’ is chiefly used in Orthodox language in reference to the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, in confessing the unique hypostatic being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as the singular hypostatic reality of the One Son in Whom both the divine and human natures co-exist ‘unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably’ (Definition of the Fourth Ecumenical Council). Almost never is the term applied to the human creature (in whom such distinctions do not exist), precisely as a way of noting the absolute distinction between that which is created and that which is Uncreated – for while man is ‘in the image and likeness of God’, he is in no wise comparable, in his createdness, to Him Who has no beginning…

The rise in misapplication of the term ‘person’ to man over the past seventy-five years has resulted in numerous perversions of theological language in the realm of doctrinal reflection, one of the most notable of which, the concept that there is a ‘communion of Divine Persons in the Holy Trinity’, is directly stated in the document… The precise theological discussions of the fourth and fifth centuries clarified that the Father, Son and Spirit are united in an eternal communion of essence (in the begottenness of the Son, the procession of the Spirit and the monarchia of the Father), but not a communion of Persons. Misapplication of the term ‘person’ to man has led, however, to considerations of the community of the human race being applied to the nature of the Holy Trinity in a manner that contradicts the clear teaching of the Fathers and Ecumenical Councils. Furthermore, such improper language of Trinity creates new anthropological problems that arise from seeing ‘the human person’ as ‘a community of persons in the unity of the human race reflecting the life and communion of the Divine Persons in the Holy Trinity’ (art. 2.i—one of the most problematic phrases in the document). While it is true that man’s freedom (the subject of Article 2) is a gift arising from his being created ‘in the image’ of God, neither his life in the broad community of the race of men, nor the freedom he exercises within it, are comparable to the freedom of the Divine Persons expressed in their eternal, mutual indwelling…

Yet when man is identified improperly as a human person reflecting an improper conception of a ‘communion of Divine Persons’ in the Trinity, his ‘lofty value’ is elaborated in necessarily inaccurate terms. Man’s value is indeed lofty, but the right foundation of his value lies precisely in his created distinction from the Persons of the Trinity, into Whose life he is nonetheless called and Whose image he yet mystically bears, rendering him unique among all creation in that he can attain the likeness of God through the deification of his nature…

The phrase ‘human person’ should be replaced throughout with the more satisfactory ‘man’, especially in key phrases like ‘the value of the human person’.”

7. The Case of Primacy in Personalism

Having done away with or, rather, given a new significance to the concept of apophaticism in the patristic tradition, the personalists, using Arian arguments, as they uphold a completely unsupported – textually – concept of the primacy of the person of God the Father (which has also been used lately by Muslims to uphold the monotheism of the Father and deny the Holy Trinity, that is to say, they use Orthodox texts to demonstrate the non-existence of the Holy Trinity), this concept of the primacy of God the Father over the other two Divine Hypostases is subsequently transferred to the bishop, in order to uphold a completely idiosyncratic primacy of the bishop and of the rank of the patriarchates in the Church. Mention is explicitly made to what is now a common personalistic position: that the primacy of the bishop, or of some patriarchates in relation to others, has a dogmatic foundation in the Holy Trinity. These were all inconceivable interpretations in the entire tradition until a few decades ago.

In Conclusion

A concluding question: Is it not obvious that conciliar approval for this terminology by the Holy and Great Council will uphold these interpretations, which are, at very least, untraditional? If the writer of the article is woefully unaware of all the above points, he cannot characterise criticism of them as a “Game of Thrones”. If he is unaware of the criticism of the ontology of the person, as a professional academic he should search the bibliography of his colleagues. Most importantly, however, as a priest he should reflect on his responsibility and study seriously the texts of the tradition that he has been called to serve.

A final postscript: It makes a tragic impression that the writer appeals to the departed Romanian Elder, Father Arsenie Papacioc. All those interested should search on the internet for video recordings of the opinions of the Romanian father on the ecumenical movement, the concept of primacy and the pre-conditions for ecclesiastical dialogues, and they should compare them with the text ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world’, as well as with the concept of primacy as this is expounded in Orthodox theological personalism. Perhaps they will discover there that the ‘logomachy’ is not about words but about the truth of things.