The Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Self-Understanding

Patriarch Bartholomew’s Letter to Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus     

In April 2019, the heads of the ancient autocephalous Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus met in Cyprus to discuss the crisis facing the Orthodox Church. As agreed at this meeting , Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus attempted to act as a peacemaker and intermediary figure to seek a positive resolution to the crisis. Archbishop Chrysostomos has publicly stated that his efforts were not welcomed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The following letter, from Patriarch Bartholomew to Archbishop Chrysostomos, dated June 9, 2019, clearly expresses the EP’s own self-understanding of his role, rights and responsibilities in world Orthodoxy in such a way that it becomes evident why he would not welcome Archbishop Chrysostom’s mediation.

Greek original here.


Most Blessed and Holy Archbishop of Nea Iustiniana and all Cyprus, very much beloved brother in Christ God and concelebrant of our Mediocrity, Kyr Chrysostomos, we fraternally embrace you in the Lord, addressing you with great joy.

“Inasmuch as as the Great Church, the common Mother and caretaker of all, has reasonably established and the particular Church on Cyprus refers the pestilence that has befallen her, soul-destroying malady and spiteful abuse from certain malignant people, to this common Great Mother Church for relief and correction with the double-edged sword that the Lord has until now bestowed upon her…” (The Petition of the Cypriots on Behalf of their Archbishop Philotheos. Kallinikos Delikanes, Ἐπίσημα Ἐκκλησιαστικά Ἔγγραφα, vol. 2, pp. 586-587)

With these inspired words, the ever-memorable Metropolitans Joachim of Paphos, Makarios of Kition and Nikephoros of Kyrenia, along with twenty-one clergymen and an equal number of select laymen from Your blessed island appealed to our Great Church of Christ in the year 1759 for the resolution of an ecclesiastical problem among them at the time.

And we keep these things as sacred relics bequeathed to us by our illustrious predecessors, the Archbishops of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarchs, a whole series of honorable men who spent their entire life for the glory of God and service to the Church.

Through reading and scrutinizing such ecclesiastical texts, we are reconsecrated [literally, rebaptized: ἀναβαπτιζόμεθα] for the responsibility that we consciously bear as we minister from the seat of the martyric Phanar. For we are a great-martyr Church: indeed, not so much for external reasons, but especially because we always and everywhere have the responsibility from the Divine and Sacred Canons and from the sanctified practice of the Church to serve the truth alone, without calculations and second thoughts, without other impertinent concerns and unworthy expediencies.

We are the Great Church of Christ, who birthed all the newer ones, who has preserved your own autocephalous status since the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus, who has the responsibility of caring for every other Church, both the ancient sisters and the newer daughters who were weaned from our Canonical body, in toil, deprivation and distress, but also with concern and care, so that they could have their own internal autocephaly.

It is in this sense that we understand and recall with boasting, at this sacred and distinguished hour of the Feast of your See, Your forefathers’ declaration, most Blessed and holy brother, that the Church of Constantinople, the Great Church of Christ, is the “common Mother and caretaker of all.”

And so she is. She truly is. We regret that we have arrived at the point of repeating self-evident matters and matters of organization in the Orthodox Church, but we are forced to because on account of pastoral withdrawals, certainly in dark days of history, our passionate and noble attitude and our decorum with regard to a certain falsely-called (as it appears in the end) Pan-Orthodox unity made it seem that we had chosen for our See to resign from the responsibilities with which the Church has adorned it. But no.

Until the end of the ages, to the chagrin and shame of the recalcitrant spirit that hates the good and those inspired by him, in Constantinople shall live steadfast and immovable the most precious and holiest [possession] of our pious Race [τοῦ εὐσεβοῦς ἡμῶν Γένους] and our blameless faith, our Holy Great Church of Christ, the Mother and mistress among the Churches.

In Constantinople, there is not a coordinating body in the manner of a choir director, but rather she herself is the loving heart and clever mind of the Orthodox Church. The Phanar lives, Your Beatitude, and we have come here today to lovingly remind on the one hand Your Beatitude, who recognizes it and has love for us and on the other hand all those who hate us and love us.

The Phanar lives because the Lord of Glory wills it, He who was crucified and has not been brought down, who is risen and has ascended from us to the Heavens. It lives because it has the prayers of the God-bearing Fathers of the holy Councils, which granted it sacred, inviolable and non-negotiable privileges of service.

Therefore, with these feelings of love and respect, we take part with all our soul and mind in the splendid and eucharistic rites of the feast of your See, knowing that in this land watered with the blood of the pious children of the Church, from Apostolic times the Romaic consciousness and its devotion has lived in the hearts of our faithful children.

There lives the fragrance of the life in Christ. In Cyprus, there lives a precious part of Ecumenical Romeosyne, from this Great-Martyr Romeosyne, whose tree has taken root through the blood and sacrifices of her children for our blameless faith and lofty ideals.

We have come, through our representative, our most reverend brother the Metropolitan of France, Kyr Emmanuel, to embrace Your Beatitude and the holy hierarchs in the Lord and also to bestow our Patriarchal prayers and blessing from the Mother Church of Constantinople upon the Most Holy Church of Cyprus.

We have come to embrace You in an Apostolic spirit, as Andrew embraced Barnabas. Congratulating you heartily, we pray from the Phanar for every good thing of the Lord and that which is well-pleasing to Him, that He may keep Your honored Beatitude, the brother hierarchs around You, the righteous clergy and the Christ-loving people in health and many blessings. May it be so.

9 June 2019
Your reverend Beatitude’s loving brother in Christ

See also
Speaking the Truth in Love. On the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical Question. Second Reply Speaking the Truth in Love. On the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical Question. Second Reply
Abp. Anastasios of Tirana
Speaking the Truth in Love. On the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical Question. Second Reply Speaking the Truth in Love
On the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical Question. Second Reply
Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana
After the information (of March 26, 2019) that the Italian translation of the Patriarchal Letter of March 9, 2019 was inserted within the “category of texts of Dogmatic and Symbolic Theology” it was decided to make the related answer of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (March 9, 2019) public.
Ecclesiological Principles Cannot Be Ignored. The Albanian Church’s Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew Ecclesiological Principles Cannot Be Ignored. The Albanian Church’s Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew Ecclesiological Principles Cannot Be Ignored. The Albanian Church’s Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew Ecclesiological Principles Cannot Be Ignored
The Albanian Church’s Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew
It is universally recognized as a basic ecclesiological principle that the ordinations of heretics and schismatics, and especially of those who are deposed and excommunicated, as a “Sacrament,” celebrated by all the Churches, are invalid. This basic principle is inextricably bound with the Orthodox teaching on the Holy Spirit and constitutes an unshakeable foundation of the Apostolic succession of Orthodox bishops. It is our conviction that this principle cannot be ignored.
Metropolitan Onuphry to Patriarch Bartholomew: “Physician, heal thyself!” Metropolitan Onuphry to Patriarch Bartholomew: “Physician, heal thyself!” Metropolitan Onuphry to Patriarch Bartholomew: “Physician, heal thyself!” Metropolitan Onuphry to Patriarch Bartholomew: “Physician, heal thyself!”
The primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, has called on the Church of Constantinople to fix its own problems rather than interfering in the internal affairs of other Churches.
John9/13/2019 4:19 am
By prolonging this issue, it is only getting worse. If all Churches had immediately broken communion with Constantinople, it would have sent a strong and clear message. They would have been isolated and the relatively tiny Phanar would be faced off against the entire united Orthodox world. Instead, by prolonging this, the schism is becoming normalized and it is getting worse. The Greek Church now is on the verge of recognizing the schismatic structure. If they do that, and another year, or two, or three, goes by, and another one, or two, or three Churches end up recognizing them as well, then the schism will be severe and irreparable. The globalist/Masonic/Zionist plan to break apart the Orthodox Church (as outlined by such people as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Carroll Quigley) will have become successful. Seeing such depressing actions as Met. Tikhon of the OCA saying one day "we only recognize Met. Onuphry" and then the next day celebrating Liturgy with Bartholomew himself in Istanbul is almost more than I can take. May God give our bishops the strength to do the right thing.
Gary Cox9/12/2019 9:34 pm
To Anastasia, a big AMEN! Thank You! Gary Cox
Anastasia Zisimou9/12/2019 7:53 pm
It is time for all Orthodox faithful to learn the history of The Orthodox Church. This is not a time for personal opinions; we should instead be offering responses based on knowledge. The EP's behavior is truly unprecedented as there has never been a time in the entire history of our Church when one bishop rules as PB is currently trying to do so. The One Who rules is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The formula that PB is attempting to apply has already been tried in the Church; it was attempted by the Pope of Rome, and it failed. PB is welcome to join the Roman Catholic Church. For nearly a century now the EP has been slowly taking over local churches applying the 28th canon of the 4th Ecumenical Council and the remaining sister churches have allowed the EP to do so, in the interest of respect, not because it truly applied. Since when did the EP become the mother church? A mother church is one which starts another and eventually grants her autocephaly. The EP did not start the Church of Cyprus, nor the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, etc., It started the Russian Church, but it gave it autocephaly, etc. The lands we live in are not barbaric and the people who have occupied these lands are emigrants from Orthodox countries who have brought their faith with them. The political maneuvering that was applied in the 20th century by the EP to take over the local churches in Western Countries was just that, political, not Ecclesiastical. It is time for all Orthodox Christians to stand up and be counted and not allow this revisionist history of Our Church to become a reality. Our Hierarchs must step up and not allow this threat to the conciliar functioning of The Church to continue. They will be responsible for becoming the Devil's disciples if they do nothing, and they will take us all down with them. I live in America and even though I emigrated here as a young girl, I still took the time to study my faith and its history. All of us have a responsibility to pass on to our children the true faith, unblemished as we have received it. Looking the other way is not an option, and this is not about personal opinions and thinking that the church of Constantinople is the Mother Church. The Mother Church is One, not a specific jurisdiction. The Patriarch of Constantinople is the first among equals, not a dictator. The title was and continues to be one of honor based on the historical reality at the time that Constantinople became the New Rome after St. Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople, just as the Pope was the first among equals when Rome was the capital city. His role was to call synods when the Church was facing a threat and to preside over the synod. He gets one vote along with all the other bishops of the Church. He is not a dictator and never has been. We have allowed this nonsense to go on for too long. He's threatening a major schism of the Church and this must never be allowed to happen. The 20th century has been detrimental to the Church starting with Patriarch Meletius Metaxakis, who was placed by western powers and changed the calendar. Those who know history can fill in the blanks for the rest of the century which brings us to PB's latest threats to our Church. Bishops of The Orthodox Church, and abbots of all Monasteries, you all have a responsibility to step up to. Do not bury your heads in the sand and expect others to do it. Your salvation and the unity of The entire Church depends on it. It's time for a new St. Mark Evgenikos.
Daniel9/12/2019 7:52 am
Sounds like he has been learning from Pope Gregory VII.
Gary Cox9/12/2019 5:41 am
Let's all pray for our Patriarchs and Bishops to stand firm against this takeover attempt of our Church. And let's pray for Bartholomew to come to his senses. Gary Cox
Alex 9/12/2019 5:30 am
Could you please translate this article into English and add your comments to the original suggestions?
Mikhail9/12/2019 5:14 am
Enough is enough. The other Patriarchates must step to the plate. The silence is deafening. The Patriarch of Constantinople is out of control. How much longer must the faithful bear this inaction? How can one sleep at night while Churches are being raided and confiscated. How can one stand in front of the holy Icons of Christ and Panaghia while clergy and women and elderly are being beaten by the schismatics in Ukraine. End this madness! Lord have mercy!
Nicole9/11/2019 6:56 pm
The “common Mother and caretaker of all” is our Most Holy Theotokos rather than a human hierarch. Those who truly know the Tradition of the Church echo Theodoros above. May our Panagia awaken the Monks of Mt Athos and the Patriarchs of the local churches to enlighten and rehabilitate spiritually those drawn into prelest and to educate the spiritually ignorant who simply don’t know better, many of us converts likely. The fruit of this tree is apparent in the violence manifested in deeds toward the faithful priests and laity of the Ukraine and in the violent twisting of Orthodox teaching to achieve power in contrast to the faith and humility of Met Onuphry and his flock. Please PB resign and put yourself under or with the Pope of the Western Roman Church whose perspective you appear to share deeply. Praying that in God’s time we will see the restoration of the Tradition in the hierarchy through the courage of those equipped to effect it.
Theodoros9/11/2019 5:02 pm
Mr Lipper, The archbishop of Cyprus attempted to reach out to local churches to try to end the church crisis in Ukraine. Fanatical lay people pretending to be bishops and their supporters in Ukraine are terrorizing the faithful and clergy of the canonical church. The vast majority of orthodox churches oppose the phanars actions in Ukraine. In response to the archbishops honorable actions patriarch bartholomew writes a letter focusing exclusively on his own patriarchate while completely ignoring the havoc and chaos he has unleashed.
Joseph Lipper9/11/2019 4:12 pm
Thank God for Patriarch Bartholomew. These words of his evoke a gentle and loving spirit, reminding us as Orthodox Christians to preserve the well-ordained order of Holy Orthodoxy. Glory to Christ Jesus! "The Phanar lives because the Lord of Glory wills it, He who was crucified and has not been brought down, who is risen and has ascended from us to the Heavens. It lives because it has the prayers of the God-bearing Fathers of the holy Councils, which granted it sacred, inviolable and non-negotiable privileges of service."
Theodoros9/11/2019 2:25 pm
Patriarch bartholomew and his accomplice metropolitan Emmanuel of France must be deposed by a council. This letter is disturbing and completely incompatible with the conciliar tradition of the church. As a Greek it gives me no pleasure to criticize the Greek churches but when they are wrong they must Be held to account. The bishops of greece today need To emulate the courage of their predecessors. With The exception of some they appear to be afraid of patriarch bartholomew and the us ambassador. I am Appalled.
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