Mt. Athos, November 6, 2019
Elder Gabriel of the Kelli of St. Christodoulos of Koutloumousiou Monastery has written a strongly-worded open letter to Patriarch Bartholomew, condemning his abuse and neglect of the sacred canons and Orthodox dogmas, both with regards to Ukraine and to his general ecumenistic disposition.
Fr. Gabriel was a disciple of the great St. Paisios the Athonite and is himself one of the most revered elders on the Holy Mountain today. As is characteristic of holy elders, he does not shy away from speaking hard truths when he believes the occasion demands it.
For example, he was one of several Athonites who addressed the abbots of the 20 ruling monasteries in 2006 after Pope Benedict XVI was permitted to liturgically participate in the the feast of St. Andrew in Constantinople that year. In 2016, he headed a group of fathers who called on the Sacred Community to reject the Crete Council, and earlier this year, he was among the 12 Athonite elders who addressed the Sacred Community in defense of the canonical Ukrainian Church, decrying the Patriarch’s lack of respect for the canons.
Conversely, Koutloumousiou Monastery, to which the Elder’s kelli belongs, is among the most vocal of the Patriarch’s supporters.
The Elder begins his letter by noting that he would like to show respect to Patriarch Bartholomew: “I very much wanted, during your recent visit to the Holy Mountain of our Mother of God, the Theotokos, to receive your blessing and kiss your feet, but I cannot do it, because it has long been immoral.”
“Would you like to hear why?” he asks before listing his points of grievance.
“In fruitless and devious dialogues with heretics,” he writes, “you have betrayed the One Church, Orthodoxy, many times recognizing the ‘diversity’ in the holy teachings of our Church and the ecclesiastical character in the sectarian gatherings of the Monophysites, the Pope, and the Theotokos-deniers, and Protestant iconoclasts.”
He also rebukes the Patriarch for his own rebuke of the great teachers of the Church, addressed to the visiting Roman Catholic delegation on the feast of St. Andrew in 1998: “Previously, you officially and irrevocably cursed the Holy Fathers as ‘unfortunate victims of the serpent who is the chief of all evils,’ to appear liberated from the need to obey their God-inspired exhortations.”
Pat. Bartholomew’s closeness with heretics is a very serious matter, in Elder Gabriel’s view: “You are an enemy of the Triune God and our Mother of God because you maintain an institutional friendship with conscious and unrepentant heretics and heterodox, subverted, and sinning, being self-condemned primates of heresies (Tit. 3:11).”
“You will have the same barren future with them, far from the Land of the Living, if you do not return to the faith,” Fr. Gabriel warns, adding a quote from the great preacher and expositor of the Orthodox faith, St. John Chrysostom: “He who receives the enemies of the King cannot be a friend of the King; he is not worthy of life.”
“Under your protection, any heresy and innovation has found refuge not only in the dioceses of the Throne, but also in the Church of Greece and in other places,” the Elder charges. While his clergy and the theologians awarded by the Patriarch, praise his “enlightened Patriarchate,” Elder Gabriel writes, they are, in fact, “all the pioneers and exarchs of all new theological delusions and institutional innovations, from post-Patristic theology and ecological and pagan earth-worship to the restoration of schismatics in Ukraine without repentance.”
“With you, all of these spiritual wolves find refuge and justification from the thunderous condemnation of the Orthodox clergy and flock, and you are their pastor and patron,” the Elder continues.
Further, he condemns the Patriarch’s consistent efforts at “cultivating in the fullness of the Church the perception that everything that … the Ecumenical Patriarchate wants, is the law of the Church… Like another Pope.”
“How strongly all the saints criticize you,” he adds.
In both word and deed, Pat. Bartholomew dishonors the canons of the Apostles, of the Local and Ecumenical Councils, and of the Holy Fathers, “which strictly forbid joint prayer, friendship, and joint worship with heretics,” Elder Gabriel believes.
Such disrespect for the canons is very revealing, Fr. Gabriel believes: “Thereby, you show that you do not believe in God, in the immortal soul, in the invisible world, in Paradise and hell, in the coming Judgment, and in retribution.”
“Perhaps, Your Holiness, your frequent meetings with representatives and benefactors from Masonic and other related orders testify that you hold inscrutable and high status and position that is incompatible and hostile to the Orthodox faith?” the Elder wonders.
And not only do Pat. Bartholomew and the Patriarchate push ecumenism, but they also isolate and silence those who do not agree, Fr. Gabriel writes. “Where possible, you use political interference, as was done on the Holy Mountain,” he charges.
Through his actions, and his emphasis on ethnic ties, the Patriarch has placed all faithful Greeks in a terrible situation: “You have forced the soul of every Orthodox Greek to resolve the dilemma: ‘To devote yourself to the love of the God-Man Christ or to the heresiarch, the Patriarch of the people?’” as St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote to the heretic Nestorius 1,600 years ago.
“And, of course, Your All-Holiness, the damage you have inflicted to the Body of Christ is a rebellion against the Savior Himself,” Elder Gabriel dares to write.
Pat. Bartholomew’ long reign has brought no peace or comfort to the hearts of the pious Orthodox, Fr. Gabriel writes, but only to those who wish to systematically destroy Orthodoxy with the Patriarch’s help.
Given the above, Elder Gabriel concludes with a call to “Repent and get off the wide and slippery path you are constantly moving along,” which damages millions of baptized souls and inter-Orthodox unity. The Patriarch will have to give answer for his deeds one day, and hell is full of unrepentant clergy and patriarchs, the Elder writes.
“The Divine Judgment first begins with us—Churchmen,” he concludes: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Pet. 4:17). Thus, Walk, Your All-Holiness, while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: when no man can work (Jn. 12:35, 9:4).”
In August, OrthoChristian reported that prayers are being requested for Elder Gabriel, who has been in poor health in recent months.