Source: Orthodox Ethos
November 14, 2016
This is by far the most complete historical account and spiritual analysis of the "Council" of Crete to date, giving the reader both an overview and inside look at the events leading up and occurring at the "Council", with emphasis on the Church of Greece's involvement. The following translation into English makes this important analysis available to Orthodox Christians throughout the world. We hope that the text will now be translated into other languages, so that the entire Church can become well informed and take the appropriate measures to secure a universal, Orthodox response, and with it Orthodox unity in the face of a divisive heresy.—Fr. Peter Heers
A Note on the Author:
Archimandrite Athanasios, Proigoumenos of the Holy Monastery of the Great Meteora and theologian educated at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, is well-known for his active presence in the struggles for our faith and fatherland, as well his prominent place in giving witness to the Faith, authoring many articles, homilies, and other publications in the struggle to defend our spotless faith from the contemporary threat of Ecumenism.
In the text which is reprinted here, “The ‘Council’ of Crete, The Chronicle of a Premeditated Deviation”, Archimandrite Athanasios presents a series of events and testimonies which demonstrate that the results of the “Council” of Crete were pre-determined and pre-fabricated. It was the result of a coherent, organized, and methodical undertaking from the Ecumenical Patriarchate that began nearly a century ago within the framework of Ecumenism to distort and alter Orthodox ecclesiology and to replace it with a new ecumenical ecclesiology which will lead to the final “union of the churches.”
In the history of our Church, throughout the ages, the faithful people of God have always been the guardians and champions of the truth of our Orthodox faith; they are the final judges of the soundness and validity of the decisions of any Council. It is the people with their vigilant ecclesiastical and dogmatic conscience who approve or reject what the Councils put forth.
In this same manner the “Council” of Crete will be judged. All of us are called as faithful members of the body of the Church to give our assessment. It is incumbent upon of all of us to speak out. It is our duty to express our priestly and monastic conscience, to simply and humbly put forth our thoughts, to express our view before our Shepherds. It is our duty to take our share of the personal responsibility but also our responsibility to our spiritual children and the many faithful believers who entrust us with their agony, anxiety, but also their outrage surrounding the events of the “Council” of Crete.
What we have written here in the present work, as well as our writings on the same issues which preceded it and whatever writings, with the help of God, may follow, constitute our small response to the self-evident truths of our faith, to the deposit of faith handed down by the holy Patriarchs, bishops, clergy, venerable monastics, and lay confessors of our faith, in our duty to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. They constitute our obedience to our Holy Fathers who made clear to us that in matters of faith we must offer an account. Not an account based on personal opinions, but the account [of the Faith] of the Holy Fathers, the Holy Ecumenical and Local Councils, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the authentic and living word of our contemporary elders and of all who remain faithful to Orthodox tradition and continue “following the Holy Fathers.”
1. A Plea of the Saints and of Contemporary Bishops, Clergy and Professors of Theology
Saint Theodore the Studite clearly states that “It is a commandment of God that we not keep silence when the Faith is endangered… when it concerns the faith, we cannot say ‘Who am I? Am a priest? No. Nobleman? No. General? From where? Farmer? Not even this. I am a poor man, trying to secure only my daily bread. I don’t have learning, nor interest in this matter. Woe to you! The stones will cry out and you will remain silent and indifferent? Even the poor man on the day of judgment will have no excuse if he does not speak now, because he will be judged even for this alone.”
In particular concerning the witness of monastics on questions of faith, Elder George Kansans, of blessed memory, emphasizes that ‘when the faith is endangered, then the educated from among the monastics, and especially those monks entrusted with the pastoral care of [other] monastics, have a responsibility, both for the correct guidance of those in their spiritual life under their care, and to the dogmas of true piety, to speak, not in order to teach the Church, but in order to confess the faith in accordance with the commandment of the Lord: ‘Whosoever therefore shall confess in me before men, in him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.’ (Matthew 10:32). The Confession of Christ is not a work of service, but an expression of life. Christ does not say ‘whosoever confesses me,’ but ‘whosoever who confesses in me.’ The confession of Christ is an expression of communion with Christ—of the life in Christ. The life in Christ has as a natural result the confession of Christ. And the monks living in Christ confess and teach Christians in this way. They do this humbly, not in order to teach, but in order to confess. This is an historically justified tradition in Orthodox monasticism.”
Those who inspired and organized this Council undertook, in a violent and authoritarian way, to overthrow the patristic tradition of the Church and to elevate, without conditions, the institution of the Council alone to absolute authority. Their chief aim is the creation of a consolidated bishop-centered establishment—along papal lines and of papal provenance—so that unobstructed and unchecked, they can institutionalize their innovative and heterodox teachings—the attribution of ecclesial reality to heretical groups with the further aim of the “union of the churches” which will eventually lead to the uniting of religions foreseen within the New Age movement.
On the basis of this unilateral and consolidated system of decision-making, the foundations are being laid, as well, for a First-without-equals in the Orthodox East. This consolidating tactic is expressed in the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” where the following is written: “the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is ensured only through the conciliar system, which has always represented the highest authority in the Church on matters of faith and canonical decrees.”
According to professor of dogmatic theology, Demetrios Tselengides, in this way, “the Upcoming Holy and Great Council is prejudging the infallibility of its decisions … the synodical system by itself does not mechanically ensure the correctness of orthodox faith. This only happens when the Synod of Bishops has the Holy Spirit and the Hypostatic Way—Christ—working within it, and thus as “syn”—“odikoi” [i.e., “traversing together on the way”] they are, in practice, ‘following the Holy Fathers.’”
This consolidated, bishop-centered system is completely foreign to Orthodoxy. Equally foreign is the arbitrary and misleading impression which is being deliberately cultivated that supposedly the Church is identified with her Administrative body, that is to say, her Bishops. Based on this erroneous idea, it has become a common habit for many to repeat “whatever the Church says” or “we will be obedient to the Church” meaning the Bishops or the Synod of Bishops, even when those Bishops think and act contrary to the Orthodox faith.
According Professor Tselengides “there is a clear distinction between the Church in herself—as the Theanthropic mystical body of Christ—and the administration of the Church which really and truly only expresses the Church under particular and clear conditions.”
As Fr. George Florovsky observes, “the bishop has not received the full teaching authority from his flock but from Christ through the Apostolic Succession. But this teaching authority given to him is his power to bear witness to the catholic experience of the Church. It is limited by this experience. Consequently, in questions concerning faith, the people must judge his teaching. The duty of obedience ceases to exert power when the bishop departs from the catholic standard and in such cases the people have the right to condemn and even depose him.”
And the same great theologian also stresses that “the bishop must embrace within himself the entire Church; he must express and manifest its experience and faith. He must not speak of himself, but in and of the Church ‘ex consensus ecclesiae.’” And he concludes that “the whole body of the Church has the right to verify or to be more precise, the right, and not only the right, but the duty of “confirmation.” With this in mind, the Patriarchs of the East wrote in their well-known Encyclical of 1848 that ‘the protector of religion is…even the people themselves’”
His Eminence, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos outlines with absolute clarity the role of the lay-faithful in the Councils of the Church: “…and the lay-faithful are witnesses to the truth, they are shepherds (indirectly) of the people of God. They are co-workers of the Shepherds. They even participate as advisors at the Ecumenical Councils and furthermore they accept or reject the decisions of Ecumenical Councils. The people (clergy and lay) did not accept the union of the ‘Churches’ which occurred at Ferrara-Florence.”
Saint John Chrysostom sets forth with absolute clarity the boundaries of the obedience which the faithful owe to their Bishops on issues [where they act or speak] contrary to our faith:
“How then does Paul say, Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves? Having said above, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, he then said, Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves. What then (you say), when he is wicked should we obey? Wicked? In what sense? If indeed in regard to Faith, flee and avoid him; not only if he be a man, but even if he be an angel come down from Heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious…. Moreover, judge not that you be not judged concerns life, not faith…. Do you see that [the discourse] is not concerning doctrines, but concerning life and works?”
The divine Chrysostom referring at another time to the “human division” of the members of the ecclesiastical body into “sheep and shepherds,” he observes that “the distinction of sheep from shepherds is a human one—before Christ all are sheep both the shepherds and those being shepherded—all shepherded by the one high Shepherd.”
And the Elder George Kapsanis, of blessed memory, writing on the same issue says: “When it concerns administration and teaching, the participation of the people is fundamental, since it is spirit-bearing being also taught by God. It constitutes, alongside the clergy, the vigilant conscience of the Church which bears witness (judges, discerns, approves, and accepts, or condemns and rejects) the teaching and acts of the hierarchy as was put forward by the Patriarchs of the East in their Encyclical of May 6th 1848.”
2. The Techniques of the Ecumenist Task Force.
The people, the clergy, the monks, and the majority of the Bishops have been ignored, pushed aside, marginalized, and lied to by the “Council” of Crete. They have been silenced, taunted, cursed at, derided and threatened.
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, one of the participating Bishops, gives testimony which is telling and extremely revealing of the spirit which reigned in this “Council”: “At the very least, I [can attest that I] personally was subject to severe pressure and abusive treatment from the hierarchs for my stance, and I was informed that the other bishops of our Church were also subject to such pressures, as well. And, because I always [strive to] behave with calmness, sobriety, and freedom, I could not accept these insulting actions.”
The campaign of slander and terrorism engaged in by well-known circles both prior to as well as after the “Council” was truly unprecedented. It was a well-known establishment, the task force, which operates in the outskirts of the Phanar [the administrative center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate -ed.] and of the other ecumenist centers, which has systematically taken up the enterprise of promoting and propagandizing any innovative ideas and heterodox teachings which enter into the world of Orthodox theology. It is this closed group which is the chief bearer and proponent of cerebral academic theology, intellectual, a-liturgical, individual, unconnected to participation in the sacramental life of the Church, Spiritless, and ultimately a-theological—a theology of committees and “conferences” cut off from the ecclesiastical body, a theology westernized, secularized, modernized, and ‘post-patristic.’
It is not by chance that we encounter the same members of this closed group every time views are defended which distort and break down the Orthodox Ethos and Tradition. They support the deceitful liturgical “renewal,” the translation and reading of the liturgical texts in Modern Greek [trans.: as opposed to the ancient Greek texts used in Greece now], the change of the character (or rather total secularization) and the gradual abolishment of religion classes in schools. They give their support and promote the cause of the “reevaluation of the place of woman in the Church” so that we can gradually be lead to the ordination of women as in Protestantism. They pander to the various movements of different groups for the supposed “right to diversity,” free sexual orientation, and even the anti-biblical approval of homosexuality.
These same people — bishops, clergy, academics, theologians — are always designated as representatives of the Churches in the Theological Dialogues and at Pan-Orthodox Conferences. But also at the well-known media outlets, they are the guests, administrators of web pages, the applauders which inundate conferences, symposia, international forums and on the internet with posts, contributions, and articles.
It constitutes an absolute absurdity and obvious scandal that those who by their ecumenistic improprieties have established their problematic position within the Church find fault with the pious faithful and all of those who resist their ecumenistic deviations. They appoint themselves as judges and censors of all, punishing transgressions; they come out in support of defrocking and push for excommunications! They even call all those who would refuse to give up the faith of our Saints and Fathers as “abandoning the Orthodox Church and walling themselves off.” Let it be known to them that they work in vain. As much as they desire such a thing, by the grace of God they will be proved wrong.
We do not bow to threats, we are not cowed by terrorism, we will not be silenced, we will not retreat, and we will not depart or hand over to them the treasures of our Orthodoxy. We remain, with the help of God, faithful and unshaken in our Holy Church—we remain “following the holy Fathers”, steadfastly and firmly on the ramparts of the struggle for our unblemished Faith to the point of death.
Our great contemporary and Saint, Paisios the Athonite, as a light that shows the way, made clear in his prophetic and revealing manner: “Let us remember well that our Orthodox Church does not have any defect. The only defect which she shows is her lack of serious-minded Hierarchs and Shepherds with patristic principles. Few are the chosen.” Elsewhere, the same Saint pronounced with absolute clarity: “The Church is the Church of Christ and the He governs her. It is not a Temple built from stones, sand, and mortar by pious men and then destroyed by the fires of barbarians, but it is built by Christ himself. ‘And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.’” 
II. A Premeditated and Methodical Decision
A basic condition for any evaluation of the “Council” of Crete is that we trace its peculiarities noting where it differed completely from every Orthodox Synod. This particular “Council” was convened not to condemn some heresy, but to attribute ecclesiality to heresies , not in order to resolve canonical questions but in order to consciously violate the canons and to approve uncanonical decisions, not in order to strengthen and show forth the unity of Orthodox Christians but to impose a fabricated “unity” with heretics!!
As his excellence Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus observes: “A Council which does not distinguish ‘between the profane and the holy’ (the ‘Oros’ of the 7th Ecumenical Council), between Orthodoxy from heresy, between the truth of Christ and delusion from the demons, legitimizing heresy at an ecclesiastical level, cannot truly be Orthodox, but becomes a pseudo-council.” 
This “Council” was from the outset a part of a larger undertaking to deconstruct the Church’s unity in the Holy Spirit. This undertaking which began, with the cooperation of the Evil One, in the beginning of the twentieth century, at the behest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is many-leveled and is comprised of two fronts. It moves along two central axes:
1. The Theological Dialogue with the Heterodox
2. The Pan-Orthodox Meetings and Conferences (which were systematized in 1961) on the road to the “Holy and Great Synod.”
The common factor in both of these axes is ecumenism.
1. What is Ecumenism?
Ecumenism appeared for the first time in the second half of the 19th century in the heretical Protestant world as an attempt at rapprochement and cooperation among the various Protestant confessions.
Already by the beginning of the 20th century, at the exclusive initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, ecumenism appeared, spread, and gradually even imposed itself on the Orthodox Church as this movement which has as its aim, according its proponents, “the reunification of the divided Christians and Churches.” It concerns itself with a “reunion” undertaken devoid of theological presuppositions, ignoring dogmatic differences, Orthodox Tradition and the practice of the Holy Fathers, the decisions of the Ecumenical and Local Synods and their sacred Canons. It is an attempt at “reunification” which is based only on what unites us, on common points, theological or even purely social or political factors. For this reason, those who serve it “fall further and further into compromising-syncretistic tactics which violate fundamental principles of our Orthodox Faith” and violate the dogmatic consciousness of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
The “ecumenical vision” in its fullness is not limited only to the “union of the Christian churches” (Orthodox, Papists, Protestants, anti-Chalcedonians), but extends even to include the various “world religions.”
In the first phase, this includes only the so-called monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) with aim of later expanding this to include all of the others (Hinduism, Buddhism, et al.) We have not only an inter-Christian Ecumenism but also an inter-religious Ecumenism.
Ecumenism spreads, operates, and imposes itself with the terminology, means, and practices of the New Age. Its peculiarity in comparison to other well-known heresies which have appeared is that Ecumenism includes within itself all of the other heresies, and it was for this reason that St. Justin Popovich characterized it quite aptly as a "pan-heresy."
“Ecumenism is the common name for the pseudo-Christianity of the pseudo-Churches of Western Europe. Within it is the heart of European humanism, with Papism as its head. All of pseudo-Christianity, all of those pseudo-Churches, are nothing more than one heresy after another. Their common evangelical name is: Pan-heresy.”
Ecumenism does not challenge simply one specific truth alone, but the entire structure of the Orthodox Faith, without, however, appearing to cast it into doubt. The uniatizing dimension of the type of ecumenism which was established in our days is based on logic clearly derived from the New Age. It does not merely touch on the externals of Orthodoxy but strips it of its revelatory and soteriological character, while at the same time placing it on the same level with heresy which it recognizes as another version of the same truth.
The arbitrary tactics and choices of contemporary ecumenists, anti-Orthodox, and the actions of the traitors to the Faith work together toward the breakdown of the Church’s unity in the Holy Spirit, the promotion and imposition of a First-without-equals in the Orthodox East, the recognition of the ecclesial reality among heretics, the imposition of their false idea of unity, which will lead finally to the so-called “union of the Churches”, with the end goal of creating the pan-religion of the New Age.
All of these attempts at deconstructing the Church have been pushed institutionally and decisively at the “Council” of Crete. It is clear that the Canonical, Ecclesiological, and consequently dogmatic deviation of the “Council” of Crete was not only an erroneous dogmatic decision; it also did not come up suddenly and unexpectedly during the course of the Council’s proceedings. On the contrary, it constituted a specific decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its partisans; it was a premeditated, well-organized, methodical, purposeful deviation within the framework of the undertaking which we have described above.
2. The Preparation for the “Council”
The achievement of these aims demanded well thought-out handling. This is why it took an entire century to attempt it; an entire century full of abuses of power, unilateral activities and impositions; full of secrecy, threats, intimidation, extortion, and in general a complete lack of transparency.
With such practices, all of the necessary movements were prepared and completed step by step over the course of a century so that the ecumenist deviation of the Phanar which started in the beginning of the 20th century suddenly and without any theological stimulus could obtain pan-Orthodox authority and recognition.
The Patriarchal encyclicals of 1902, 1904, and 1920 definitively changed the stance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate against the heresies of the West, radically overturning and trampling on Orthodox ecclesiology.
“What is surprising,” observes Fr. George Metallinos, “is the language used in this text. Without any, not even the least, movement toward return by the Protestant world toward ecclesiality, and only thirty years after the dogma of papal infallibility had been defined as dogma at Vatican I (1870), the Christian heresies of the West are called ‘the two great branches of Christianity.’”
The Patriarchal encyclical of 1902 was addressed to all of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches and sought their views concerning the possibility of rapprochement with the Papists. All of the answers of the Orthodox Churches were negative toward this possibility. In spite of this negative answer, the Ecumenical Patriarchate returned again to the same theme in the later encyclical of 1920 (“Unto the Churches of Christ everywhere” “rapprochement between the various Christian churches and fellowship among them is not excluded by the doctrinal differences which exist among them.”
Despite the complete lack of theological support, the Patriarchal Encyclical suggests forming of a “League of Churches”—a forerunner of the W.C.C.—on the model of the recently founded “League of Nations.” He formulates eight basic points on which the necessary good relations and friendship among the “churches” will be built. It is quite telling that the presuppositions and methods from that time went on to be eleven points which constituted the basic “constants” of Ecumenism followed step by step with absolute fidelity until our own days. Every time one of these steps is completed, the preparation for realizing the next one begins. The Patriarchal Encyclical describes these points as follows:
1) “By the acceptance of a uniform calendar for the celebration of the great Christian feasts at the same time by all the churches. 2) By the exchange of brotherly letters on the occasion of the great feasts of the churches’ year as is customary, and on other exceptional occasions. 3) By close relationships between the representatives of all churches wherever they may be. 4) By relationships between the theological schools and the professors of theology; by the exchange of theological and ecclesiastical reviews, and of other works published in each church. 5) By exchanging students for further training among the seminaries of the different churches. 6) By convoking pan-Christian conferences in order to examine questions of common interest to all the churches. 7) By impartial and deeper historical study of doctrinal differences both by the seminaries and in books. 8) By mutual respect for the customs and practices in different churches. 9) By allowing each other the use of chapels and cemeteries for the funerals and burials of believers of other confessions dying in foreign lands. 10) By the settlement of the question of mixed marriages among the confessions. 11) Lastly, by wholehearted mutual assistance for the churches in their endeavors for religious advancement, charity and so on.”
The whole undertaking organized and begun in the first decades of the 20th century—the mutation of Orthodox ecclesiology—was then cultivated and confirmed systematically. For an entire century, pan-Orthodox institutional approval was yearned and sought after so that it could be pushed and used by the ecumenists as a pan-Orthodox decision. The “Council” of Crete accomplished exactly this at the institutional level: it attributed ecclesial status to heresies and recognized them as Churches.
We are essentially talking about the fulfillment of a contract agreed upon beforehand, since it is well-known that all of the events that played out during the past one hundred years were in absolute agreement and close cooperation between the Phanar and the Vatican and integrated within the framework of Ecumenism and the World Council of Churches.
The ecclesiological mutation with the institution of a new ecclesiology that would grant ecclesial status to heresies, recognizing them as “Churches,” was already pre-decided and agreed upon beforehand, just as the much promoted and well-presented “union of the Churches” has been pre-decided and agreed upon beforehand. But it is presented to the public piece by piece, in careful steps, so as to not provoke any great reaction among the Orthodox faithful and so that it can be more easily digested by unsuspecting believers.
In the lines which will follow, we will undertake, with the utmost brevity, to unfold and present one by one the links in the chain which for a century now—methodically and systematically—are threatening to encircle our Holy Church.
3. The First Attempts at the Convocation of a Pan-Orthodox Council
The first decision to convene the “Holy and Great Council” was made in the absence of the majority of Orthodox Churches in 1923 at the “Pan-Orthodox Convention” in Constantinople held under Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis—well-known for the monstrous and irreparable schism which he provoked in the Body of Christ with the blatantly illicit decision to impose the Gregorian calendar.
Next, there began the process of determining the list of issues which the Council would treat. An initial aim was to convene a new “Ecumenical Council” in 1925 on the 1600th anniversary of the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325. In the end, this was not judged to be feasible and is but another example of the disagreement and objections which surrounded this particular Council from the very beginning. The calling of the Council was then discussed within the framework of the “Preliminary Pan-Orthodox Committee” in 1930, which met on the Holy Mountain of Athos. This meeting, once again, ended without any results.
The entrance of the second half of the 20th century brought about a sharp increase and flowering of ecumenism connected to specific persons and events. We point to the foundation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1948 and the ascent to the thrones of Rome and Constantinople of two men with a prior history and personal acquaintance, with common goals, and a common style of communication. Cardinal Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope in 1958, known as Pope John XXIII and the Archbishop of America, Athenagoras, was elected Ecumenical Patriarch in 1948.
In exactly the same period, politics, specifically the American factor, entered into ecclesiastical affairs. It is in this time period that the Cold War comes to a head and the United States of America begins to actively strengthen the Phanar to counteract the influence which the Soviets desire to exert through the Russian Church in the Orthodox nations of Eastern Europe. From this angle, the western Governments support and encourage the “ecumenical dialogue” and its attempts for the “tightening of relations between the Churches of East and West.”
In 1948, Patriarch Maximos V is violently removed from the Ecumenical Throne because of supposed pro-Russian sentiments and activities attributed to him. The USA decides to act decisively and seeks to install in the Phanar a strong, trustworthy personality, suitable to respond to the above-mentioned needs and fulfill their particular purposes. In view of the election of the new Patriarch, the Turkish government removes all of the Hierarchs of the Standing Synod of the Patriarchate from the list of candidates so that with the agreement of the Greek and American governments, the candidate elected was Athenagoras of America.
4. The Imposition of a First Bishop on Orthodoxy
From that time forward, the USA provided—as a means of neutralizing the Russian factor—their support to the fixed aim of the Phanar of establishing its Primacy in the Orthodox East. The whole matter has been systematically promoted by the leading representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Metropolitan of Prousa came straight to the point in judging as heretics all those who do not accept the imposition of Primacy on the Orthodox Church.
“The refusal to recognize any primacy in the Orthodox Church, a primacy which cannot be embodied but by some "Protos" [First]—that is to say some Bishop, who has the privilege to be first among his brother Bishops— constitutes a heresy. What is usually said about unity among the Orthodox being guaranteed either by their common faith and worship or by the institution of the Ecumenical Council is unacceptable. Both of these models are impersonal, whereas in Orthodox theology, the principle of unity is always a person. Really, just as in the Holy Trinity, the principle of unity is not the divine essence but the person of the Father (the ‘monarchy’ of the Father); in the same way at the ecclesiological level, in the local church, the point of unity is not the presbyterate or the common worship of Christians but the person of the Bishop. Consequently, at the Pan-Orthodox level, the principle of unity cannot be based on an idea or an institution, but must be some person, if indeed we desire to remain consistent in our theology.”
It is clear that the views of the Metropolitan of Prousa reproduce those found in the theology of the Metropolitan of Pergamon [John Zizioulas] concerning the person. According to the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, “the whole strain of thought concerning the person, without risking saying too much, is a heresy, a continuation of Arianism, of Monotheletism, and came about through the influence of existential philosophy .” “The Church, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, is the Body of Christ; the basis of the Church is Christocentric and not Triadocentric, since Christ, ‘one of the Trinity,’ became man, took on human nature and divinized it. When the Church is characterized as an ‘icon’ or ‘according to the image of the Holy Trinity’ then from a strictly theological point of view a confusion of theology and economy occurs and a confusion of created and uncreated. Moreover, in the formulation of the Church as icon of the Holy Trinity many difficulties appear regarding the connection between the Churches and the hypostatic properties of the persons of the Holy Trinity.”
It is otherwise characteristic that with this theology of the person, the Church as icon of the Holy Trinity, and the use of this theology to support the imposition of Primacy, the Metropolitan of Pergamon goes beyond even the papal theologians! At the Conventions of the Mixed Commission of Dialogue in Amman of Jordan in September of 2014, it surprised even the papal representatives. “The latter, during the breaks between sessions were conversing with the representatives of the Orthodox Churches and they declared that the Roman Catholic Church had never supported the primacy of the Pope with the arguments like those put forth by the Metropolitan of Pergamon! The Roman Catholics remarked that they understood the Pope to be successor in authority to the Church of Peter, but that never had they expressed the view that the Pope is by analogy in the place of God the Father in the Holy Trinity, the position which the Metropolitan of Pergamon supports for Rome and Constantinople!”
Unfortunately the text of the Encyclical of the “Council” of Crete in Chapter 10 entitled, “The Church: Body of Christ, Icon of the Holy Trinity” contain the views of the Metropolitan of Pergamon. From the beginning, one of the aims of the “Council was, among others, the institution of the Ecumenical Patriarch as First-without-equals in the Orthodox Church. The unilateral activities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the issues of ecumenism - the sidelining, deprecation, debasement, and the marginalization of all of the other Orthodox Churches - created and instituted de facto this position of supremacy for the Phanar. The representatives of the Phanar, by following a unilateral strategy of systematically and persistently imposing their choices and decisions, exceeded the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as coordinator in the theological dialogues and Pan-Orthodox Conferences. They provoked in this way a justified reaction on the part of the other Orthodox Churches.
Referring again to the events of the past, we discover that the Church of Greece has always put up fierce resistance to the scheming of the Phanar refusing to accept or in any way recognize the monocracy it sought to institutionalize over the other Orthodox Churches. She has refused, in other words, to recognize the imposition of a "Protos" [First], not among equals, but without equals; the imposition of a Primacy of authority rather than a Primacy of honor within the Orthodox Church.
To illustrate our point, we only need to recall the intense reaction of the Church of Greece to the eagerness with which Patriarch Athenagoras hastily convened the Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1963 and his attempt to institute the primacy of his see over the other Orthodox bishops. The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece “condemned unanimously the way in which, without any regard for canonical order, the organization of the Inter-Orthodox Conference in question is pursued, hindered by the Holy Canons to recognize monocracy to any of the Primate Bishops of the Church.” Addressing Patriarch Athenagoras, it states to him that “[the Synod] has come to the irreformable decision to refrain from participating in the Pan-Orthodox Conference decided upon alone by your All-Holiness, the repercussions of which are working to destroy our most Holy Church.”
5. The Patriarchate of Athenagoras—The Agreement for “Union”
The Patriarchate of Athenagoras, with its unexpected and undesired ecumenistic overtures, unspeakable and outrageous contempt for, and trampling upon, the canons and order of the Church, the reckless and entirely excessive rapprochement with the Papists, “without limits and borders” as he himself described it, the incredible tragicomedy and gushing talk of love in their meetings together, and the communicative ploys and war of impressions, was a continuous provocation to the Orthodox ethos and the tradition of the Church and, as we could expect, it had in no instance the consent of the other Orthodox Churches.
Among his prolific ecumenical activities, Patriarch Athenagoras was responsible for re-initiating the process of convening the Pan-Orthodox Council. In this way, we see the obvious and immediate interrelation between the so-called Great Council and the aims and purposes of Ecumenism.
With his ascent to the Throne of Constantinople, Patriarch Athenagoras began official and private communications with the Vatican. “Behind-the-scenes negotiations were conducted with the Vatican by Athenagoras in order to arrange his meeting with the Pope. Intermediaries for the meeting were various personalities of the catholic world, but in particular Archimandrite Scrima the Romanian, a distinguished theologian.”
The close relationship and contact cultivated for years with Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, had led to agreements to promote together the “union of the churches.” For Pope John, “the union will be a union of hearts, a union of prayer: the fruit of the search of the one for the other,” which should be based on the principles of the French Revolution. “If the motto of the French Revolution shall not prevail: liberty, equality, fraternity, there shall be neither peace among nations, nor union between the Churches.”
This private agreement between the Phanar and the Vatican to promote the “union of the Churches” set in motion a series of gestures and initiatives of immense symbolic significance, chief among them the sensational meeting of Patriarch Athenagoras with the subsequent Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem in 1964. It was a totally new and unexpected decision of Patriarch Athenagoras which overthrew in a single moment everything that had been taken for granted in the Orthodox Church—her sacred canons, the principle of synodality, patristic tradition, her dogmatic and ecclesiastical conscience and so much else. And to think that this all done by a single man alone, without any prior pan-Orthodox agreement! The Church of Greece once again denounced the move: “The above views of the Ecumenical Patriarch… created a noxious impression… this decisive and unforeseen step of the Patriarchate, demanded to be set as an object of common discussion and decision among all of the holy Orthodox Churches.”
The meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch was invested systematically with the power of the image, of symbolism and perceptions. Public relations tactics, sensational publications, and an incessant stream of "love language" dominated the notorious meeting, as Patriarch Athenagoras himself revealed. At the same time, however, it included special meetings and the conclusion of hidden agreements between the Pope and the Patriarch: “The two of us went hand in hand to his room and we had a private discussion, the two of us. What did we say? Who knows what two souls say when they speak! Who knows what two hearts say when they exchange feelings of love!... What did we say? We made a common plan, with absolute equality, without any difference [of authority].”
This “common plan” is being implemented gradually, step-by-step, even today. The “union” was prescribed and pre-decided from that point on. There was a clear agreement for “union in common chalice” as is revealed by the fact that this was the chief desire of both sides. “And we said that we already found ourselves on the road to Emmaus,” Patriarch Athenagoras continues his description, “and we are going to meet our Lord in the common holy Chalice. In answering, the Pope gave me a holy Chalice as a gift. He did not know that I would speak about the Holy Chalice, nor did I know that this would be his gift to me! What is this? A symbol of the future.”
A major step toward this “union in the common Chalice” was attempted with the infamous “lifting of the anathemas” between the Vatican and the Phanar, which occurred at the end of 1965, a unilateral decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The reaction of the Church of Greece was characteristic: “with much displeasure it was informed of the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople His All-Holiness Athenagoras. No one has the right to move forward in similar actions. This right belongs only to Orthodoxy as a whole.”
In the Latin text of the “lifting of the anathemas” the term excommunicatio (a cessation of communion) is used whereas in the official translation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate this is translated as “anathemas.” The text, in other words, spoke about the “lifting of an excommunication.” As Protopresbyter John Romanides of blessed memory informs us, “The New York Times reported on the announcement from the Vatican and the Phanar on the 7th of December 1965 concerning the lifting of the excommunication (excommunication, not anathema in the Latin text) on the front page, as the end of the schism of 1054 and as the restoration of sacramental communion which had been interrupted then. It is clear that the Greek text announcing the lifting of the anathemas was deliberately misleading. It was intended to defend against possible negative reactions by the other Orthodox Churches.”
Confirming the agreement which had arisen to lift the excommunication is the fact that “Pope John Paul II before visiting the Phanar (11/30/1979)… expressed his certainty that unity had been restored through this action (In Tat war der wiederhesteung der Einheit der Christen).”
It was the deep conviction of Patriarch Athenagoras that the “unity in the common Chalice” would not be delayed and that the “unity of all Christians” would follow and then union between men of all religions, the pan-religion of the New Age. “I believe that it will come. Because it is impossible for it not to come, because it is already coming. Because already in America you commune many from the Holy Chalice and you do well in so doing! And I here, when Catholics or Protestants come and seek to commune, I offer them the Holy Chalice! And the same thing is happening in Rome as well as in England and in France. It is already coming by itself. But it must not be made to come by the laity and the priests. The Hierarchy and the Theologians must also be in agreement. For this reason, we are trying to have our theologians together, in order for this great reality to come, of Pan-Christianity. And together with this great reality, the day will come of our dream, of Pan-humanism.”
It is telling that whatever was decided in the private meetings and contacts between the representatives of the two sides (Vatican and Phanar), we [later] encounter it being developed as a design to be implemented gradually through corresponding choices and acts. This is stated by all of the champions of Ecumenism who confirm for us that “in reality, in recent decades, the leaders of our Churches, including Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew, have expressed not only in words their will to fulfil the desire of our Lord for the restoration of the unity of the Churches, but they have been moving forward through concrete deeds of hope and fraternity, full of love and mutual esteem, deeds demonstrating their sincere and honest intentions.”
The need for “the Hierarchy and the Theologians to be in agreement,” which Patriarch Athenagoras formulated, needed to be given a timeline for completion so that the sought-after “union” could be realized, receive institutional approval and validation by a Pan-Orthodox Council. Toward the accomplishment of this aim, paralleling to the “dialogue of love,” two “Great Councils” were designed—one to be convened by the Orthodox and another by the papists (Vatican II). Both of these “Councils” were indispensable in creating at an institutional level the necessary conditions and changes that would have to occur for the “union” to proceed.
III. Vatican II – Pan-Orthodox Council: Common Path and Aims
In the Roman Catholic world, we have the announcement, preparation, and realization of the Second Vatican Council; on the Orthodox side, we have the process by which the Pan-Orthodox meetings were followed as stages in preparation for the “Holy and Great Council.”
In private meetings with the representatives of Patriarch Athenagoras, Pope John XXIII revealed the intentions of the Vatican in sight of the Second Vatican Council that was about to begin its proceedings. “One of the goals of the new Council is the reunion of the Churches,” he declared. On the 25th of January, 1959, the convocation of the Second Vatican Council is announced. The proceedings of the Council were carried out in 178 meetings that lasted four years (1962-1965).
In 1961, the Ecumenical Patriarchate calls the first Pan-Orthodox Meeting in Rhodes. Many others follow (1961, 1963, 1964, 1968), as well as Pre-Synodal meetings (1976, 1982, 2009, 2015) following the same methodology as Vatican II. At one point, the Ecumenical Patriarch himself, Bartholomew, during his time as Metropolitan of Philadelphia, from 1977 onward, revealed the character of the then Council then being designed in an interview with the Roman Catholic periodical, The National Catholic Reporter, where he stated that: “Our aims are the same as John’s (Pope John XXIII): to update the Church and promote Christian unity… The Council will also signify the opening of the Orthodox Church to non-Christian religions, to humanity as a whole. This means a new attitude toward Islam, toward Buddhism, toward contemporary culture, toward aspirations for brotherhood free from racial discrimination…in other words, it will mark the end of twelve centuries of isolation of the Orthodox Church.”
From the very beginning these were their goals; this was their philosophy. It was this aim which the “Council” of Crete served and was meant to yield. It is ecclesiologically unacceptable and exceeds all ecclesiastical logic for such un-Orthodox positions to be formulated by an Orthodox bishop, never mind the man who holds the highest honor in the hierarchy of the entire Orthodox Church, that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is truly painful and incomprehensible, but that which Bartholomew envisioned as “the end of twelve centuries of isolation of the Orthodox Church” is not nothing more than the end of fidelity to the Holy Fathers of our Church—an end to the tradition and experience of the Holy Spirit. This is true “isolation” from the living truth of the Church of Christ!!!
Such words [as Patriarch Bartholomew's] confirm the revelation given to Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, of blessed memory, concerning ecumenism, namely the introducer of all wickedness is at work therein.
1. The Heresy of the New Ecclesiology
The great change which the two Councils had to impose as a necessary condition for the “union of the Churches” was the recognition, from both sides, of the ecclesial reality of the other side. The Roman Catholics had to recognize the Orthodox as a Church and, correspondingly, the Orthodox had to recognize the Roman Catholics. Toward this end, a new ecclesiology of ecumenistic origin and specifications was “discovered” and imposed. For the foundation of this new ecclesiology, it was necessary to turn away from the “ecumenism of return” and toward “an ecumenism of integration.”
The first radio homily of Pope John XXIII in October of 1958 can be considered the final movement before this particular turn, and his invitation to the Orthodox to return “to the house of our common Father.” “We pray, he said, that all return voluntarily, and may this occur shortly with the help of God…” This “call to return” seemed to bother Patriarch Athenagoras who in his New Year’s message of 1959 mentioned that the rapprochement between the two “Churches” will need to occur “in a spirit of equality, justice, spiritual freedom, and mutual respect.”
In the following two years, the appropriate climate formed so that Vatican II could give a theological foundation to the “ecumenism of integration” and the Vatican’s new ecclesiology. The “ecumenism of integration” based on a theory developed in 1939 by French Dominican theologian, Yves Congar articulated the idea that certain autonomous “elements” such as Baptism can be separated from the whole of the Church, while continuing to provide grace and to “effect in the soul of the schismatic Christian a spiritual integration (voto) in the Church” establishing the schismatic as member of the Church.
Theologian and interpreter of Scripture, Johannes Feiner, gives us a clear description of the new "communio ecclesiology" of Vatican II: “Because the Church is seen as a “communio,” or a “complex reality in the form of a communion, the unity of which has been brought about by numerous and various factors, the possibility remains open that the constituent elements of the Church may be present even in Christian communities outside the Catholic Church, and may give these communities the nature of a Church. Thus, the one Church of Christ can also be present outside the Catholic Church, and it is present…”
The many years of preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council were based on the exact same models and philosophy which would institutionalize this new ecclesiology within the Orthodox world as well.
2. The Main Points of the New Ecclesiology
The new ecclesiology is based on the idea that the Truth of the Apostolic Faith, or a part of it, is preserved [and spiritually experienced] in the other Christian churches and confessions. In this way, however, the very reality of the Church is violated, along with her identity and self-understanding.
With the reception of the new ecclesiology, we have the extension of the boundaries of the Church so that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is no longer exclusively identical with the Orthodox Church. We arrive in this way at proclaiming and confessing together with the medley of Protestant confessions and the controversial communities of the WCC, that “Each church fulfills its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches […] Apart from one another we are impoverished.”
As is clear, the new ecclesiology encompasses simultaneously the various, western anti-Orthodox ideas of the invisible church, the divided church, branch-theory, the image of the two lungs of the church, the terminology of sister churches, and post-patristic theology.
In the Second Vatican Council, and in particular in the “Decree on Ecumenism,” we find the first stones of the official foundations laid for the new ecclesiology, in a special chapter entitled “ the relations of separated brethren with the Catholic Church.” Therein it specifically mentions that “in the beginnings of this one and only Church of God there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly condemned. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection.”
It is truly alarming to observe the fidelity with which Orthodox ecumenists imitate Vatican II in their institutionalization of the new ecclesiology within Orthodoxy. The Archbishop of Albania, identifying completely with the decisions of Vatican II, says characteristically: “It is self-evident - no matter how easily it is ignored by some Orthodox - that the other Europeans didn’t choose on purpose to enter into heresy (the Christian confession to which they belong today), but they were born in a country where their confession has been dominate for centuries. E.g. The Norwegian to the Lutheran Church, the Scot to the Presbyterian. How can we judge them because they aren’t Orthodox?”
The Decree on Ecumenism also lays down the foundations of baptismal theology and the validity of the mysteries of “sister churches.” It specifically states: “For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect … even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.”
Further on the Decree continues: “The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.”
Essentially, the Second Vatican Council laid the foundations on the Roman Catholic side for the union of the Papists with the Orthodox, setting it at the vanguard of the new Ecumenism. The same basis was set down by the Orthodox ecumenists in the long process of preparing for the Great Council.
3. The Path to Ecclesiological Deviation
As we have already mentioned, the unwavering aim of this process of preparation was the gradual alteration of Orthodox ecclesiology. In order to accomplish it, certain necessary steps were necessary, which can be understood along the following general guidelines:
a. the reorientation of the canonical limits of the Church,
b. the reorientation of Orthodox ecclesiology and self-understanding,
c. their adaptation toward rapprochement and union with the heterodox, which is their final goal,
d. the acceptance of the validity of Baptism, initially, and then later of all of the mysteries of the Papists and other heterodox.
The many years of preparation for the Great Council turned on these central axes. In this regard, according to Archbishop Ieronymos, “The Ecumenical Patriarchate has convoked four Pan-Orthodox Conferences... in order to put forth canonical criteria of the Orthodox Church and determine the limits of its relationship with the heterodox Churches and Confessions.”
This need for a clear and straightforward redefinition of Orthodox ecclesiology as well the need to receive Pan-Orthodox approval, is emphasized by the Ecumenists. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinias stresses that “Orthodox must first and foremost make clear her positions and her relationships toward the outside world , so that doubts cannot creep in, no more equivocations, no more suspicions born in the other about her views, so that the decisions which will be taken are unequivocal and transparent and reflect Pan-Orthodox consensus and acceptance. Only in this way will our voice be heard and respected.”
In article 20 of the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” which was approved by the “Council” of Crete, it states: “The prospects for conducting theological dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world are always determined on the basis of the canonical principles of Orthodox ecclesiology and the canonical criteria of the already established Church Tradition.”
“In the present paragraph,” Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinias observes, “the limits of the Orthodox Church before the other Christian Churches and Confessions were defined at a Pan-Orthodox level, their reality was not doubted, by economy [kat’oikonomian] the reality and validity of their baptism were recognized , in accordance with the canonical tradition, . Thus in relation to the other Christian Churches and Confessions the principle of ecclesiastical economy is encouraged as an expression of the Orthodox Church’s love for mankind while the principle of exactness [akriveia] is loosened.”
With the term “established Church Tradition” in paragraph 20, they of course do not mean the patristic tradition of our Church inspired by the Holy Spirit over the last two millennia, but that “tradition” was formulated in the last century within the framework of the Ecumen(ist)ical Movement and chiefly over the past 50 years.
This new “established Church Tradition” of Ecumenism assumes the de facto acceptance and institutionalization of the anti-Orthodox baptismal theology knowing that the recognition of baptism has decisive importance for the acceptance of the ecclesiality of the heterodox.
Based on this ecumenistic idea, Bishop Kyrillos of Avydos states that “the Orthodox Church can be lead to recognize the reality of the baptism of the heterodox, when before all, she moves away from the arrogance of exclusivity. This exclusivity does not constitute a dogmatic teaching of the Orthodox Church.”
Professor of the Theological School at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and member of the Synodal Commission for Inter-Christian Affairs of the Church of Greece, Stylianos Tsompanidis sets as one of the principle aims of the Great Council “to define more convincingly and definitely the stance of the Orthodox Church within the contemporary ecumenical dialogue and to say to those with whom it is conducted that Orthodoxy experiences its relationship with them and what they are for Orthodoxy … It constitutes a mission of contemporary Orthodoxy, by means of the coming Council, to confirm the Orthodox desire to walk together with the other Churches and Confessions on the road which leads to Christian unity.”
Most of the participants of the “Council” of Crete worked in the same vein and specifically those who played the leading roles in the encouragement and promotion of these new ideas.
A select few undertook to act as precursors, as a task force, creating a climate of conflict, attacking insolently and without moderation any wishing to remain faithful to the tradition of the Church. It is a well-known offensive tactic, which attempts to cover its own guilt by projecting that guilt onto the other. In present case, we have the stigmatization and censure of those who resisted as zealots, fanatics, extremists, fundamentalists, egoists, psychopaths, and even as heretics.
Metropolitan Makarios of Christoupoli, “Special Advisor of the Patriarch,” in an interview a few days before the beginning of the “Council” of Crete stated: “Some are speaking about the heresy of Ecumenism…maybe the Church should occupy itself with another, new form of heresy which has been created today, the heresy of zealotism?... Those who are afraid of Ecumenism enter into the heresy of zealotism.”
On the same wavelength, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania in his homily in the opening session of the “Council” noted, “Certain people ask: In the great Orthodox Councils some heresy was confronted. What heresy is going to be dealt with by the Holy and Great Council? The answer is simple. The great heresy, the mother of heresies, egocentrism— personal, group, tribal, local, ecclesiastical, etc. –which all poison human relationships and every form of harmonious and creative coexistence.”
But even the Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos in the same session commented regarding the dissidents that “the field of the Church produces also weeds sown by the enemy.”
The post-patristic theologian, Giorgos Vlantis, research fellow of the Academy of Theological Studies of the Holy Metropolis of Demetrias [Volos], spitting bile and sarcasm at those fighting for the faith, writes concerning them that: “incapable of living the Church as road, “Orthodox” fundamentalists worldwide are condemned to experience it as a sidewalk… Their most vociferous ravings would be better dealt with by a psychiatrist than responded to theologically… In any case, more interesting than the bouts of anger from these deranged and illiterate men is the presence of an underlying heresy, known as fundamentalism…”
A string of similar references and commentaries, an unending stream of abuse which we will not reproduce here, exists which reveals the style and ethos of partisans of the Phanar. Moreover, the derision, pressure, threats, and intimidation constitute a constant policy in dealing with dissidents.
The pressure put on the Church of Greece with the threat of the New Lands and the complaint of the Archbishop that the “Church of Greece is being undermined” is very telling. Similar pressure is being exerted in the crisis in Ukraine, as the Phanar brandishes, as a threat to the authority of Moscow, the announcement of the autonomy of the schismatic Church in Ukraine.
It is also indicative that there is a persecution of the monks of Mount Athos because they express their opposition to the ecumenical overtures and the decisions of the “Council” of Crete. Finally, there is the fact that similar pressure—namely, the threat of lifting its self-governing status—are exerted on the whole Holy Community of the Holy Mountain so that they do not react against the decisions of the “Council.”
Moreover, this is not the first time that the Phanar has undertaken to violate the establishment of the Holy Mountain in order to silence the monks and to stop to their resistance to, and check on, the Phanar’s ecumenical deviations. Similar events occurred in 1994 after the traitorous Balamand Agreement, which, like the dialogue with the Anti-Chalcedonians, incited a storm of controversy among the Orthodox faithful and on the Holy Mountain. To suppress these reactions, the Phanar sent a Patriarchal Exarchate consisting of three Metropolitans with the claim to take part in the Double Synaxis of the Abbots and Representatives of the Holy Monasteries of the Holy Mountain, something clearly forbidden and a violation Athos’ self-governing status. The meeting proceeded in any case, imposing penalties “without trial or defense,” and even declaring the deposition of abbots and representatives of the Holy Monasteries “for disobedience and sedition against the Mother Church.”
4. The Stance of the Holy Mountain
All of this can, to a certain degree, explain the contemporary position of Athonite abbots, but it surely does not exonerate the Holy Community of Mt. Athos for its refusal to speak and its deafening silence which it continues to maintain on issues of faith - a stance which is diametrically opposed to the confessional mindset [phronema] and witness which the Holy Mountain has held throughout the centuries.
We are all waiting to hear what stance Mount Athos will take on the “Council” of Crete, which it has already provided legitimacy to by the participation of its own representative, the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Stavronikita. We await the reaction of the Holy Community to the fact that so many of its proposals for changes in the pre-Synodal texts were completely rejected by the “Council.”
What will be the final position of the Holy Community of Mount Athos regarding the heterodox? Will they recognize them as Churches, in accordance with the decisions of the “Council” or will they recognize them as “Christian teachings and confessions” as they did in their epistle-commentary of the 12th/25th of March 2016 to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew?
We will quote some characteristic passages from older treatments of this particular question by the Holy Community of Mt. Athos, which express in a clear and authoritative manner the Orthodox ecclesiology and self-understanding which was contravened by the “Council” of Crete. We await the reconfirmation of these positions from the contemporary Holy Community of Mt. Athos.
Announcements of the Holy Community:
1980: “…the departure from Orthodox Ecclesiology and the adoption of heterodoxy, that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church does not alone constitute the Church but that there are branches of the Church, namely Orthodoxy and Papism/Catholicism… convinces us that the situation has gotten much worse and that a de facto union as the Second Vatican Council designed and planned is already at the gates.”
1981: “The Monks of the Holy Mountain have been brought up by the God-bearing Fathers and the August Ecumenical Patriarchate to consider Papism as constituting a heresy, a heresy similar to Arianism…”
1987: “The Holy Mountain likewise does not share the view that outside of Orthodoxy there exist “Churches.” There exist only communities of heretics and schismatics which confess faith in Christ, but nevertheless differently and in opposition to that which the Holy Church of Christ confesses, the Holy Church of Christ which is one and identical with the Orthodox Church... The Roman Catholics are schismatics and heretics, without valid mysteries and divine grace.”
1994: “We are obligated, for the sake of the Roman Catholics and of the whole world, for whom unadulterated Orthodoxy is the last hope, to never accept union, or the characterization of the Roman Catholic Church as ‘sister Church.’” 
1995: “How is it possible that we are sister Churches, when we have dogmatic differences and when we do not have sacramental communion? This is a contradictory statement, new in the history of the Church, whose usefulness is not comprehensible. We are bound by the dictate of our conscience to declare that we will not accept the deluded theory of ‘sister Churches.”
5.The Stance of the Church of Greece
Even from the beginning of the Ecumenical Movement, the Church of Greece has been always wary of overtures toward the heterodox and maintained a clear distance from the Phanar’s escapades. In the very beginning, the Church of Greece had responded negatively to the well-known Patriarch Encyclical of 1902, written by Patriarch Ioakeim III and addressed to all of the Orthodox Churches seeking their opinions on whether the question of the “union of the Churches” should move forward. Archbishop Chrysostom II (Hatzistavrou) reacted sharply to the ecumenistic overtures of Patriarch Athenagoras in the ‘60s and the two men came into fierce conflict. Equally traditional was the stance of Archbishop Seraphim. We have in mind his conflict with the Government of Constantine Karamanlis on the founding of the Papal Nuncio (an embassy of the Vatican) in Athens in 1979.
The question remained in the background every time there was talk about “union of the Churches: “Is the Vatican a Church?” was the question, letting it to be implied from the interrelationship of the responses that it didn’t constitute a Church, but a secular state.
This traditional stance of the Church of Greece began to gradually be transformed and to slide into ecumenistic practices culminating in the visit of Pope John Paul II in Athens in 2001 and the corresponding visit of Archbishop Christodoulos to the Vatican in 2006.
After this we began to see the staffing of the relevant synodal committees with ecumenist Hierarchs and Academic Theologians. The question which arises is with what criteria are the representatives of the Church of Greece to the theological dialogues, the W.C.C. and inter-Orthodox meetings chosen. Is there an assessment of the quality of their work and how is this carried out? Are the texts of the dialogues approved by the Hierarchy? For, after they are put forth, by decision of the Hierarchy in 2008, they are “conditional upon the review and approval by all of the Autocephalous Churches.”
Indeed, the insistence of the Holy Synod to assign these particular representatives to the dialogues constitutes a monstrous provocation to the Orthodox sensibility of the faithful people, especially as the Synod knows quite well their explicitly ecumenist ideas. Characteristic examples are the Metropolitans Chrysostom of Messinias and Ignatios of Demetrias.
Even more so this constitutes a challenge after all that has played out at the “Council” of Crete and the overturning of the agreement of the Hierarchy concerning the modification of the text, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” The way in which the whole affair developed showed the absolute lack of transparency, covered in secrecy, ending in the imposition of a fait accompli for which the preparatory process of this particular “Council” gave the basis. A handful of people, a closed and select group of elect, a hard core of trustworthy and willing men, an oligarchy of Bishops and lay theologians managed to get away with imposing their will on the entire Church.
In particular, as regards the Church of the Greece, for many years the majority of the Hierarchs and pious faithful remained completely uninformed, unsuspecting as to what was being accomplished in secret all of those decades. As Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos has said, in his letter to Archbishop Ieronymos: “Our Church was not sufficiently prepared to deal with these issues. On the contrary, Hierarchs who occupied themselves with these issues reassured us that problems would not be created in the Church by the texts. However, there are in fact theological problems.” In another of his epistles to His Beatitude, he raises a series of questions which were never given to the Bishops: “The report from the Commission of Inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations to the Standing Holy Synod, and some guidance provided by the permanent session for the Committee on Inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations for the improvement of the text.”
A clear response is still needed and the whole truth must be presented. If the Hierarchs were not informed in a timely manner about the content of the texts, as many of them maintain, who is responsible for this? Who is responsible for hiding such important texts from the Hierarchy? Were those responsible for hiding the texts sought out? If yes, who was responsible?
If the other possibility is true, that the Synod had been informed in a timely manner and the Hierarchs knew the content of the texts, why didn’t they react in a more timely fashion, so that this reaction could have been more effective? Why wasn’t a single word said concerning such an important question? Why was there no public announcement, not a single text was written, not a single objection expressed, not even an observation, absolutely nothing was said to the faithful of the Church? It is obvious that the entire process, as it was carried out, had as its singular purpose the formulation and imposition of a fait accompli, of prefabricated decisions made in the absence of the Hierarchy and the pious laity.
During the Synod of Hierarchs on the 25th of May 2016, intense behind the scenes activity and discussion occurred, with raised voices and disagreements, the content of which was, of course, never announced. Characteristic of the lack of transparency and of the secrecy which shrouded all of this was how the Press Release, the Announcements, and the Encyclical to the People which were published by the Hierarchy, made no mention anywhere of what exactly was decided and what modifications would be proposed to the Great Council.
Sadly, the faithful were never informed of the modifications proposed by the Church of Greece - changed which were the subject of so much discussion at the “Council” of Crete. The only information we have to date comes from Metropolitan Hierotheos' published account of what occurred with regard to the texts, and from whatever was leaked to the mass media.
The first question which arises from the decisions and announcements of the Hierarchy is, how is one to understand the phrase: “the final decision of the Hierarchy (…) will be supported by his Beatitude during the sessions of the Holy and Great Council.”
What exactly did His Beatitude support at the “Council” of Crete and what was the basis of his argumentation? What was the theological basis he provided for his argumentation? Was it ever sufficiently developed?
Another important question is whether the Hierarchs who participated in the delegation of the Church of Greece had ever really adopted and accepted the amendments which they were supposed to support or if some of them simply folded, knowing in advance that, in the end, these amendments would not be accepted at the “Council” of Crete.
Besides, in accordance with paragraph 2 of article 11 of the Regulations of the Functioning of the Council, "an amendment that is not approved unanimously shall not be passed.”
Compromise Doomed to Failure
In any case, it was clear from the beginning that the suggestion of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece constituted an essentially tactical move and a compromise which it undertook in order to unify its delegation and to connect the opposing views which had been set forth by many Hierarchs. Indeed, it was a matter of appeasing the fierce reactions from the faithful of the Church expressed in heaps of articles, announcements, letters, publications, conferences, et al.
It is quite well-known that in matters of faith, there can be no compromise. This is why it had been stressed in advance that the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World” would have to be rejected in its entirety as it was problematic at a fundamental level and not susceptible to correction.
The suggestion of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece was doomed to failure in advance. Someone might observe in good faith, at least, that, in spite of this, the Hierarchy was willing and ready to improve the text. However, was this actually the case?
Undermined from Inside
A few days after the agreement of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece to propose modifications to the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian World,” on the seventh of June, 2016, the Synodal Delegate to the Pre-Synodal Sessions, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Messinias, gave an interview to the Italian newspaper La Stampa (in its electronic edition). Among other things, the reporter, Andrea Tornielli, asked him to comment on the information that several Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Greece were seeking to invalidate the term “Church” for the “Catholics,” addressing to him the question: “But, up until today, have not the Catholics been considered a real Church by the Orthodox?” “Of course they have been,” His Eminence Chrysostomos replies, and continues: “The Catholic Church has always been considered a Church. What you are referring to is a proposal put forward by some conservatives who do not want to place the Churches on the same level. But I think it is unlikely the proposal will go through. There are many others who do not agree with this amendment.”
We see, then, that immediately after the supposed unanimous decision of the Hierarchy concerning the proposed amendments, the very representative of the Church of Greece in the Pre-Synodal meetings distanced himself officially from the formal position of the Hierarchy. He stigmatizes as “conservatives” his fellow bishops and hastens to reassure the papist audience that this proposal will not be approved at Crete. He pre-judges and pre-announces the rejection of the proposal of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece.
The Overturning of the Decision of the Hierarchy
As we expected, the masks were not slow to fall away and reveal the true face of the Hierarchs in the delegation of the Church of Greece. According to the testimony of Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, who was himself a member of the delegation of the Church of Greece, “On the [previous] Friday when this particular text was discussed [at the Council], the conversation reached a dead end at the sixth paragraph, where there was discussion [of the above phrase] as how to refer to the Heterodox…. In a special meeting of our delegation on Friday afternoon, it was decided that we would abide by the decision of our hierarchy even though alternative solutions would be proposed, such as ‘the Orthodox Church recognizes the existence of the heterodox’ or ‘of other Christians’ or ‘of non-Orthodox Christians.’”
The delegation of the Church of Greece came together again on Saturday morning, at which time the Archbishop suggested that a new proposal be put forth, that “the Orthodox Church accepts the historical appellation of other heterodox Christian Churches and Confessions.”
According to the information leaked to the mass media, “an all-night debate [had] ensued between the Metropolitans of the Orthodox Churches.” In these overnight operations, Metropolitan Gavriel of New Ionia, along with Professor Vlasios Feidas participated and are widely held to be the authors of the new proposal which overturned the decision of the Hierarchy.
In the voting which followed, all those present [from the Church of Greece] voted for the new proposal except for the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos, who disagreed and decided not to sign the text, and “for the sake of unity [to] withdraw from further conversation.”
In the end, what happened at Crete was a complete reversal of the May 2016 decision of the Hierarchy in both substance as well as overall spirit, because the whole issue that concerned the Hierarchs was if the Heterodox could be considered to be Churches or not. In hours of discussion, full of recriminations, they agreed “all the phrases which characterize [the heterodox] as ‘Churches’ would be replaced. According to the decision-proposal of the Church of Greece, in those texts up for approval by the Great Synod, wherever the word ‘Church’ is used to refer to the Roman Catholic and Protestants, it would be replaced by the terms ‘confession’ or ‘Christian community.’”
Indeed, the Hierarchy agreed to support vigorously this proposal and without concessions. “Let us remain alone. Lone preachers of Orthodoxy. Genuine expositors,” declared the Metropolitan of Eleia, a chief mover of the issue among the Hierarchy, giving moment to this decision. The aim and the commitment which the Hierarchy by their agreement gave to the Archbishop and the other Bishops who made up the delegation accompanying him was clear: to not allow the term “Church” in reference to the heterodox.
The Archbishop and the other Bishops who participated in the delegation went forward with a brazen violation of the mandate they been given. They acted in an entirely anti-synodal fashion, exceeding the authority they had been given by the highest body of their Church, the Hierarchy in Synod. And this specific agreement did not include any provision for the possibility of changing the proposal.
And to think that Metropolitan Ignatios of Demetrias considers this overthrow of synodality and violation of all order and principle of democratic representation to be a show of unity! According to the Metropolitan, “The Church of Greece, with his Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and all Greece, demonstrated that it could proceed as one, to reconcile the views of those at variance and to contribute to the clarity and authority of the formulation of the message of Orthodoxy.”
Moreover the same Metropolitan, in an article in the newspaper Kathimerini, a few days before the “Synod” of Crete, wrote, among other things, that “…the decisions will be taken, as our tradition dictates: ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’ Those present, however make the decisions.” This is a statement susceptible to many interpretations and engenders any number of questions. Was the decision of the Hierarchy in May of 2016 “as the tradition dictates to us?” Were not the proposals violated in Crete also “in the Holy Spirit”?
And finally if “those present make the decisions” (meaning at the “Synod” of Crete), as Metropolitan Ignatios supposes, then what point did these decisions made by the Hierarch have? Did delegates present in Crete not represent the Hierarchy? Were they not also representing the other Bishops? Do we have an exclusion of the rest of the Hierarchs and a separation into two types of bishops, those who decide and those who accept the others’ decisions? Archbishop Ieronymos himself answered the challenges which the Archbishop of Cyprus put to him by pointing out that, in Greece “we have a Synod of 80 hierarchs.”
All that being said, the upcoming meeting of the Hierarchy in November remains of immense interest, as we shall all get to learn how the other Hierarchs shall deal with the overturning of their decision. What will they do? Will they continue to turn a blind and remain indifferent? Will they continue to accept the coup d’état of an Episcopal oligarchy which for years has systematically and methodically imposed its ecumenistic ideas, repeatedly taking over strategic positions on Synodal Committees and in dialogues with the heterodox? Will they continue to share the responsibility and the guilt for the crimes which are carried out against our immaculate Faith?
The “Council” of Crete not only failed to demonstrate and show the unity of the Orthodox to the world, as it claimed it would, but on the contrary it put the Orthodox through a painful trial. Instead of forging unity, it increased divisions and oppositions, rivalries, and antagonisms. The political games of the Primates, even if no clear victor emerged, did devastating damage to the Orthodox Church, leading her into an intense inner vortex with unforeseen consequences. The absence of four Patriarchates representing more than half of the Orthodox population worldwide, inflicted a deadly wound on the image of unity and also of the “Council” more generally.
As the analyst Victor Gaetan accurately observed, “through its refusal to participate in the council, the Russian Orthodox Church…foiled Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople’s dream of projecting global Orthodox unity.” Thus “leaving more questions than answers…”
The understandable question of greatest significance which was engendered by these events and which has been posed by the overwhelming majority of commentators, observing and analyzing the “Council” of Crete is this: why did Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew show such insistence on the realization of this “Council?”
Why did he insist that this "Council" be realized-a parody of a Council with the participation of a small minority of Hierarchs who represented not even the smallest part of the Body of the Bishops, most of whom were deprived of their right to vote and which entirely ignored the Body of the Church, the Orthodox faithful?
Why did Patriarch Bartholomew insist so intensely that this Council be realized - a farce where some refused to come, some expressed serious reservations, while others refused to accept or to sign the texts agreed upon, so others signed on their behalf such as the Archbishop of Cyprus, who signed on behalf of those Hierarchs of his Church which had refused to sign? Naturally this was done without their approval, overturning every principle of democratic expression and representation, even in its purely worldly meaning.
Why did the Ecumenical Patriarch insist on realizing this “Council” which blackened the image of the Orthodox Church, sending out mixed messages to the world, ultimately weakening the cohesion of the Orthodox Churches through its negative influence?
And finally why did he prefer to suffer a strategic defeat? Why did he accept a suicidal public relations stunt and the collapse of the grand design which he had worked nearly half a century to organize and carry out?
The answer, after everything we have said, is obvious. The goals of the “Council” were different; they were those which we described in detail and their accomplishment was prepared with great care, subterfuge, and cunning, over the course of an entire century and particularly in the past fifty years: It was the recognition of heresies as “churches”, the hastening of the process which will lead to the final “union of the churches” and to the “ common Chalice, ” which has already been decided upon, and the exaltation of the Ecumenical Patriarch as First-without-equals in Orthodoxy.
Furthermore, as has been demonstrated, everything was of secondary importance before the accomplishment of the chief strategic goals of the ecumenists. Likewise, the tradition of the Holy Fathers of the Church and Orthodox theology - inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself - was seen as of only secondary importance, ignored and rejected. A number of Ecumenical Councils were ignored and trampled upon - Councils which unambiguously censured as heretical various delusions which to this day all Papists and Protestants alike profess. In Crete these same delusions were acquitted when the "Council" recognized as “Churches” heterodox confessions who profess them. For this reason, Metropolitan Hierotheos observed quite accurately, “ The setting aside of the theology of the Church expressed through [Her] saints, in order to find some points in common with Western Christianity, is a betrayal of the faith. I cannot find a milder characterization.”
We will mention here only a few of the Councils which were trampled upon in the “Council” of Crete:
1. The Second Ecumenical Council (381) forbade adding or removing anything from the Symbol of Faith (the Creed). All of the later Ecumenical Councils reiterate this prohibition.
2. The 8th Ecumenical Council (879-880) under St. Photios the Great explicitly censured the papal heresy of the filioque and papal primacy.
3. The 9th Ecumenical Council (1341-1351) censured the papal delusions of created grace and energies of God.
4.The local Synod of the Lateran (649) and all of the local Councils of Constantinople in the years 867,1009, 1054, 1089, 1170, 1273, 1282, 1285, 1484, 1642, 1722, 1727, 1755, 1838 and1895.
5. The Council of Nymphaion in 1324, of Russia in 1441, of Jerusalem in 1443.
6. And, the Answer of the Patriarchs of the East to Pope Pius IX in 1848 and the Pan-Orthodox Conference in Moscow in 1948.
It thus also quite telling that there is not a single Saint of our Church who did not condemn Papism. There is not a single father or contemporary, holy Elder, from the most ancient times until St. Paisios the Athonite in our own day who did not condemn the delusions of the papists. They form a unanimous consensus in rejecting and condemning the tenets of Papism. The “Council” of Crete violated and brutally trampled upon all of the synodal decisions of the Church and the Holy Fathers throughout the ages.
The "Council" of Crete contravened Orthodox ecclesiology, broke down synodality, trampled brutally upon the decisions of the Ecumenical and Local Councils, ignored and rejected the tradition of the Holy Fathers of the Church and our Spirit-inspired Orthodox theology.
For this reason also, this “Council” is invalid and its decisions have no binding power upon the faithful. This is why the vigilant conscience of the pious faithful of the Church refused to accept the acts of this “Council.” It is why it has already invalidated them in practice. It is certain that a future, actually Pan-Orthodox Council will condemn all of its heterodox opinions and will restore the truth.
This “Council” is already non-existent in the consciousness of the faithful of the Church—it is a non-event—because it comes into blatant opposition with the Church’s living unity in the Holy Spirit. This unity leaves the operations of the Evil One and his companions ultimately powerless. This unity foils the plans and schemes of the ecumenists.
Those who inspired and organized the “Council” will continue their diabolical work in order to accomplish their ultimate goal which is the “union in the common Chalice” and eventually the recognition of the unity of all religions and their salvific nature ("pan-religion"). This is why in no case must there be inactivity, lack of vigilance, complacency, fear or cowardice on the part of the faithful. Courage and a confessional mindset is required, bravery, spiritual manliness, vigilance, mobility, information, and interventions such as this one, so that we may stand our ground before the ecumenist onslaught and hold back their pernicious activities.
We must rally together, coordinating and taking the initiative to inform our bishops, clergy, monks, theologians, and all of the faithful of the Church that “[we] have the right, and not only the right, but the duty of ‘confirming’” the decisions of Councils.
The faithful who are still vigilant in their ecclesiastical conscience remain—thankfully—unshaken in the Church alongside Christ as victors throughout the ages. Christ, through the Church “went forth conquering, and to conquer.” Those who inspired and organized the “Council” of Crete but also those others who undertake to deconstruct the unity of the Church must know that “it is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”
Let us remain therefore all steadfast and firm in Christ. Let us place before Him our agony and anxiety caused by what is going on within His Church. Let us intensify our prayer and repentance, ascetic practice, abstinence, the keeping of His commandments in our lives so that we may become partakers of His grace and mercy, that that our weaknesses may be healed and that we may make up for our failings.
In the end, the much touted and promoted “Holy and Great Synod” has proven to be another flash in the pan and has ended up another devastating defeat for its Ecumenist inspirers.
It also already certain that the “Council” of Crete in the conscience of the faithful of the Church is already a non-event. The Lord God lives!