The Jordanian Council: Hopes and Perspectives

His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem has taken the initiative to invite the heads of Local Orthodox Churches to assemble in Jordan, with the hope that some progress can be made to bring an end to the serious crisis in world Orthodoxy. Several primates have officially accepted the invitation, several have officially rejected it, while the rest have not yet made official statements of acceptance or rejection. Archpriest Vadim Leonov, Doctoral Candidate in Theology and Docent of the Sretensky Theological Seminary, who has deeply studied the history of autocephaly in the Orthodox Church, offers an analysis and plan for the council. But very importantly, the author shows the degradation of Constantinople tomoses over time, which have recently excluded the headship of our Lord Jesus Christ. Where is Constantinople trying to lead us?

Icon of Christ’s Church Icon of Christ’s Church     

A year has passed since the Phanar created the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (“OCU”). The Greek myths about how this structure would bring something good to the life of the Ukrainian people, that it would unite the Orthodox of Ukraine, have been entirely dispersed. The OCU could not even unite its own schismatics and self-ordainers. The Leader of the struggle for Ukrainian autocephaly M. Denisenko [Philaret], seeing that the OCU is in reality a vassal sub-department of the Constantinople Patriarchate (CP) has left it for his own creation the “Kiev Patriarchate”. As was obvious from the start, so it has turned out: By his actions Patriarch Bartholomew has initiated a worldwide crisis in the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, he has not stopped at this and continues to move in the same direction, trying to establish his own total lordship over world Orthodoxy. Now he is destabilizing the life of the Serbian Orthodox Church, interfering in the events in Northern Macedonia. The Montenegrin schismatics, encouraged by his actions in Ukraine, are also becoming active by putting that country on the verge of not only an ecclesiastical, but also a political crisis. The fraternal admonitions to Patriarch Bartholomew from the primates of Local Churches, bishops, priests, and laity have had no effect.

It is logical and unavoidable that the next step should be a Church Council, about which many hierarchs have spoken and which was in fact initiated by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. He offered all the heads of the Local Churches to “assemble before the end of February and before the beginning of the Holy Fast” in Jordan. Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew answered with a sharp refusal to this invitation by Patriarch Theophilos, seeing in it an attempt at his own primacy:

“There is no need to remind you of the position that Your Patriarchate holds in the order of the Diptychs of the Most Holy Orthodox Church, as well as the fact that, according to canonical order, which was always and until recently respected by all the Orthodox Churches, Pan-Orthodox Synaxes of Primates are always convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch, who presides over them.

“What sort of unity does Your initiative seek to serve if the First in the order of the Orthodox Primates is absent from the Synaxis proposed by You?”1

These words contain the lie that supposedly, according to a certain canonical order, Pan-Orthodox Councils can be called only by the Constantinople Patriarch. Such general ecclesiastical norms do not exist. If to Patriarch Bartholomew it seems that such a right proceeds from some kind of primacy, then it must be remembered that in the first millennium, primacy was held by the Roman popes, but they were not the ones who called Ecumenical Councils; rather it was the emperor who called them, and not because they were delegated such rights, but simply out of everyday necessity. After the disappearance of emperors, there were no canonical norms concerning this matter. Here we have before us yet another example of the Phanar’s canonical myth-making.

The same applies to his pretenses of precedence [at the Councils]. Proceeding from their respect for primacy of honor, Orthodox patriarchs have deferred the first place at Councils to Constantinople patriarchs. Nevertheless, if they [the Constantinople Patriarchs] were accused of ecclesiastical matters—and there have been very many such cases in history—precedence was conferred upon other primates or authoritative hierarchs.

In his response, Patriarch Bartholomew also expresses his resentment that Patriarch Theophilus’s epistle was written not in Greek but in English, although it is obvious that primate of the Jerusalem Church uses the English language not only in his personal correspondence but in performing general ecclesiastical acts, addressing other primates in the same language. In any case, people who communicate with each other appropriately, if they are concerned with the common benefit, do not make the matter of language a serious cause for indignation; but this does not apply to Patriarch Bartholomew, who writes:

“First of all, we are unpleasantly surprised by the fact that for the first time in the long history of our two Patriarchates, the rightly-called “Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem” corresponds with the Ecumenical Patriarch in a language foreign to our mother [tongue], as though he has suddenly stopped feeling of the same blood and sharing with us in the same historic and martyric Race [Γένος], which of course Divine Providence from of ages entrusted with protecting the sacred Pilgrimage-Sites of the Holy Land through the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher.”2

The letter of Patriarch Bartholomew, who bears the title “Ecumenical”, abounds with Greek nationalistic argumentation. He is very worried and opposes

“those attempts, well-known from History, at infiltration into the Holy Places by powers foreign to our Race3 (ξένων πρός τό ἡμέτερον Γένος δυνάμεων).

Patriarch Bartholomew is concerned about

“the consequences that this activity would have for the Church and the Race4 [διά τάς συνεπείας, τάς ὁποίας θά εἶχεν ἡ ἐνέργεια αὕτη διά τήν Ἐκκλησίαν καί τό Γένος].

Here it is very important to note that Patriarch Bartholomew arguments his refusal to participate in the Council as 1) humiliation of his own primacy, and 2) the denigration Greek national interests. Both of these points are heresies: The first is the heresy of papism, and the second is the heresy of ethnophyletism.

Just after his consultation with the U.S. ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, which took place on November 22, 2019, Archbishop Hieronyomos of Greece refused to participate in the Council. Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, who earlier fought for a conciliar solution to the contemporary crisis, quickly changed his views and will not attend the Council. As for the remaining eleven primates of Churches, certain of them have already supported the idea of calling a Council while others have not yet made their opinions public. Obviously, if the Council takes place it will not be complete; and the question naturally arises: Should it even be conducted in such a truncated format?

It is our deepest conviction that it definitely should. This is because it can decide several very important preparatory tasks, without which a constructive exit from this Church-wide crisis is not possible.

Strategic lines of discussion at the Council

In the first approximation, two thematic approaches for conciliar discussion can be examined.

The first approach—to examine the canonicity of Patriarch Bartholomew’s actions in Ukraine. Although this theme would seem to be the priority, it is in fact a dead end in many ways. We can talk endlessly about ancient grammotas, canons, schismatics and self-ordainers, presenting historical examples, citing the holy fathers, telling of the consequences, and we can persuade all the Council participants with these arguments, but Patriarch Bartholomew does not agree with them. He interprets these grammotas, canons, and an resolutions in his own peculiar way. An exchange of such opinions has already taken place—for example between him and the primate of the Albanian Church, Archbishop Anastasios; and regardless of the latter’s convincing argument, this exchange led to nothing.

We can go on in this style of dialogue indefinitely, because the canons’ interpretations differ and are applied in different ways under particular historical conditions; there exists a mass of precedents of departure from the canons, and therefore all of this information can be juggled to the point of exhaustion, but each will remain with his own opinion. Nevertheless, the particularity of the current situation lies in the fact that Patriarch Bartholomew has already completed his destructive action; it is taking root in the Ukrainian land, and the words of his opponents remain only words.

If someone turns his attention to Bartholomew’s age and illness, then it is necessary to take into consideration that his Phanariot successors will continue with his politics, which they have made clear more than once, and therefore any hope that these arguments will convince if not the primate of the Constantinople Patriarchate then his successors are absolutely utopian. Moreover, if we were to presuppose the absolutely fantastical situation that Patriarch Bartholomew, under the influence of the canonical arguments approved at the Jordan or any other ecclesiastical Council were to admit that he allowed a mistake to happen and take back his tomos, this would still not resolve the main problem and at the same time main cause of the current crisis—the Constantinople Patriarch’s striving to subject all of world Orthodoxy to himself. This would not change the Phanariots’ papist strategy, which pushes them to interfere in the life of Local Churches, ascribing mega-galactic rights to themselves. Without overcoming the problem of Constantinople papism, it is impossible to resolve all the other problems.

The second approach, having clear prospects for overcoming the current crisis, consists in concentrating discussion at the Council on the dogmatic plane and clearly recording that an ecclesiological heresy has arisen in the life of the contemporary Orthodox Church: papism. This heresy, well known from the history of the Roman throne, led to the falling away of Latinism from Orthodoxy; and now, 1000 years later, is being reborn by the patriarch of the New Rome, Bartholomew. It is easy to prove the presence of this heresy from his texts and actions.

According to Orthodox teaching, clearly expressed in Holy Scripture, Christ is the Head of the Church: and he is the savior of the body (Eph. 5:23). He is the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:22-23). All Christians, including the primates of Local Churches, are members of the spiritual body of Christ. Primacy throughout the Church belongs not to any person but only to Christ, for he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Col. 1:18). During the time of His earthly life the Lord judged His disciples’ striving for primacy and gave them an answer for all times: If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all (Mark 9:35), and therefore any thirst for primacy is a serious sign of spiritual degradation and theomachy (warring against God).

The participants in the Council and all world Orthodoxy must come to terms with the principal question: Who is the head of the Orthodox Church—the Lord Jesus Christ or the Patriarch of Constantinople? And depending upon the answer, it will be clear who we are: the Church of Christ, or a totalitarian sect under the rule of a deified leader in the Phanar.

In this vein of discussion, the main acts of the Council could be the following:

  1. 1: Confirming the well-known Orthodox teaching on the primacy and headship of Christ in the Church.

  2. Explaining the principle of conciliarity and acceptance of pan-Orthodox decisions.

  3. Condemning the heresy of papism in the Latin recension as well as in its modern manifestations.

  4. Recording the accusations against Patriarch Bartholomew of the heresy of papism, which are confirmed not only by a multitude of his speeches and documents, but also by his actions in the Ukraine and in other regions of the world.

Having specified these positions, the Jordanian Council could then address all the Local Churches with the demand that an Ecumenical, Pan-Orthodox Council be called in order to overcome the crisis brought on by the words and actions of Patriarch Bartholomew. Since accusations will be leveled against Patriarch Bartholomew, he will not have the right to call such a Council, but should be invited to it and appear at it as a defendant.

If anyone is worried that if the focus of the council is switched from the Ukraine to Patriarch Bartholomew then the Ukrainian crisis will remain unresolved, those concerns are in vain. It is precisely this approach that can essentially move the Ukrainian crisis out of its dead end. For, should Patriarch Bartholomew be recognized as a heretic, then not only will he be deposed, but all his decisions and actions that are conditioned upon papism will be nullified.

In part, the infamous Ukrainian tomos will become invalid, wherein it is directly stated, “The autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine accepts as its head (κεφαλὴν) the All Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne, as do other patriarchs and primates.” That is, there is an assertion present that the CP is the head not only of the OCU, but of all Local Churches, and that supposedly “other patriarchs and primates” accept this.

Undoubtedly, the accusation of heresy is a serious step, and possibly a certain fear arises at carrying it out. Nevertheless, ignoring this fact will lead to catastrophic consequences for world Orthodoxy, and it is impossible to correct the situation that has arisen without removing the main cause.

We have to recognize that papist claims have long been seen in the CP’s actions; they are fixed in documents, but they did not earlier bring such substantial harm to the Church. The qualitative difference in modern papism consists in the fact that the corresponding words have begun to take flesh in concrete acts by the CP. Not noticing this means subjecting the Church to further destructive acts by the Constantinople pope. Let us take a brief look at a few landmark documents in this history.

The genesis of Constantinople papism in documents on the autocephaly of Churches

Attempts to subject the Local Churches to himself and offer to them under the guise of autocephaly a vassal status is something that the CP has been doing for a long time now, but up until recent times they were successfully neutralized. For example, in the original Gramota on the confirmation of the Moscow Patriarchate of 1590, it is stated from the person of the Constantinople Patriarch that the Moscow primate should “commemorate our name and others, and hold as heads and rulers, and honor the apostolic throne of Constantinople, as also other patriarchs.”5 Just after receiving this Gramota in Moscow, there was unacceptable wording discovered in it and a mass of other inadequacies. Soon, in 1593, in order to correct them a Council was called in Constantinople of the Eastern hierarchs, who represented the fullness of the Orthodox Church at that time. Participating in this Council were the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria (temporarily ruling the Antiochian cathedra at the time), and of Jerusalem. The Council confirmed the granting of patriarchy to the Russian Church and in its final document completely removed Constantinople’s authoritarian wording of the original Gramota and resolved that the Moscow Patriarch should “be, and be called a brother of the Orthodox patriarchs, by force of his title, co-ranking and co-enthroned and equal in rank and dignity.6 There is no subjection here whatsoever; rather the relationship is built according to a fraternal principle, with equal rights. The Moscow Patriarch is “equal in rank and dignity” to all the Eastern patriarchs, which means also of Constantinople. The Russian Church is guided by this final conciliar Resolution to this day. Thus, that attempt by the CP to foist a papist relationship upon Moscow was eliminated. 7

In fact, there are no few ecclesiastical documents in which Constantinople Patriarchs renounced on the highest level the idea of papist domination over other Local Churches. For example, in the circular epistle of the Constantinople Church of 1895, it says:

“The divine fathers, honoring the bishop of Rome only as the bishop of the ruling imperial city, granted him the honored privilege of precedence, viewed him simply as the first among other bishops, that is, the first among equals, which privilege they later gave to the bishop of the city of Constantinople, when that city became the reigning city in the Roman Empire, as the 28th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical of the Chalcedonian Council testifies… From this canon it is obvious that the Roman bishop is equal in honor to the bishop of the Church of Constantinople and the bishops of all other Churches, and in no canon, nor for any of the fathers is there even a hint that the bishop of Rome is the sole head of the catholic Church and infallible judge of bishops of the other independent and autocephalous Churches.8

It is obvious that no primacy of power or judgment is acknowledged here—neither for Rome nor for Constantinople, and the principle of “first among equals” is clearly confirmed here. Unfortunately, we are forced to admit that the current Constantinople Patriarch and his inner circle have renounced by their words and deeds the clear, true Orthodox position of their forebears.

It is interesting to watch the development of papist tendencies in the example of the tomoses that the CP has granted over the past 170 years. In the documents on autocephaly of Local Churches, which were granted before 1990, a relationship of equal standing was always declared. Moreover, in the tomos of the Greek Church (1850), the Constantinople Patriarch not only did not claim headship of the Church, but recognized only the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head:

“The Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Greece, having as its Leader and Head, just as does the entire Catholic Orthodox Church, our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, to be henceforth lawfully independent…”

The Constantinople Patriarch views the Greek Church as equal and fraternal to itself:

“Established by this conciliar act we hereby acknowledge and pronounce the Holy Synod in Greece a brother in spirit… the Hellenic Church independent, and its Synod in Spirit our brother and of all other Local Orthodox Churches.”

Thirty-five years later in the tomos of the Romanian Church (1885), likewise emphasized is the immutable dogmatic truth that only the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, and there are not yet any attempts upon that title by the Constantinople Patriarch whatsoever:

“…so that the Orthodox Church in Romania would abide… independent and autocephalous… not recognizing in its own inner rule any other ecclesiastical authority, other than the very Head of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the God-man Redeemer, Who alone is the chief cornerstone and eternal Hierarch and Archpastor.”

The Constantinople Synod accepts it as equal to itself, and as its subject:

“We pronounce its Holy Synod a beloved brother in Christ, enjoying all the advantages and sovereign rights of an Autocephalous Church… Thus, on the basis of all this, our holy and Great Church of Christ blesses from the depth of its soul its autocephalous and beloved in Christ sister, the Romanian Church.”

The was the last autocephaly document of the CP in which church resolutions are built upon clear and correctly worded dogmatic foundations. In tomoses granted later this truth is not pronounced.

In the unification tomos of the Serbian Church in 1922, the striving is not yet expressed for universal headship of Constantinople, which accepts

“the Holy Autocephalous United Serbian Orthodox Church that has arisen, as a sister in Christ, which possesses and enjoys all the rights of autocephaly, in agreement with the rights and construct of the Holy Orthodox Church.”

However, the Headship of Christ over the Church is no longer mentioned.

In 1924, an analogous relationship, without pretenses to headship, is formulated in the tomos of the Polish Church:

“we give Our blessing that it would be ruled henceforth as a spiritual sister and decide its own matters independently and autocephalously, according to the rank and unlimited rights of other Holy Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, recognizing as its Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority the Holy Synod, consisting of Orthodox canonical bishops in Poland, having each time as Primate His Eminence the Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland.”

There is nothing stated here about any supreme judgment, appellation to the CP, or it headship.

In 1937, one of the smallest Local Churches, the Albanian Church, at receiving autocephaly also acquired a relationship of equal rights with Constantinople and other Churches:

“This Church, which is our spiritual sister, shall henceforth conduct its self-rule independently and autocephalously.”

In 1945 the Bulgarian Church likewise was called a “spiritual sister”, and its head is not the Constantinople patriarch, but the Bulgarian Synod with it primate:

“Henceforth it is recognized as our spiritual sister; let it rule and institute its affairs independently and autocephalously in accordance with the order and sovereign rights of all the other Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, acknowledging as its supreme ecclesiastical authority the Holy Synod, which consists of hierarchs and whose Primate is the His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Sophia and Exarch of All Bulgaria.”

In 1990, complete independence and an equal relationship is declared with regard to the Georgian Church:

“We acknowledge it [the Georgian Church] as our spiritual sister, which possesses full power to rule and conduct it internal affairs independently and autocephalously.”

However, with the ascension to the Constantinople throne of Patriarch Bartholomew (1991), the wording in the tomoses change substantially. In 1998, in the tomos of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (CCLS), there is no talk of equal rights. Here for the first time in documents of such a high rank, the CP declares its pretenses to the entire world diaspora:

“All who are located in the barbarian lands, that is, all Christians located outside the borders of the Holy Patriarchal and Autonomous Churches, are under the spiritual care exclusively of the great throne of the New Rome.”

The CP places ecclesiastical judgment of this Church under its own control, conferring upon itself the right of supreme judgment over the clergy of the CCLS:

“Deacons and priests are subject to judges of the second level, hierarchs to the judges of the first level, and for all matters of their duties they are subject to the judgment, according to the holy canons canonically instituted to synodal judges, for the work of which shall be invited, according to the agreement with the Ecumenical Patriarch, hierarchs exclusively from the jurisdiction of the Mother-Church, that is, the Ecumenical throne. Judgment of hierarchs with appeals for final decisions may be addressed to the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

That is, the ecclesiastical courts of this Local Church are empowered if they have “hierarchs exclusively from the jurisdiction of the Mother-Church, that is, the Ecumenical Throne”. There can be no talk of this Church’s independence.

Precisely this discriminatory situation in this tomos became the cause of a profound internal crisis in the CCLS in 2012, when the hierarchs of this Church refused to fulfill the above-cited section and entered changes into their constitution. Patriarch Bartholomew threatened Archbishop Christopher with nullifying the tomos and making the CCLS no more than part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Unprecedented pressure was placed upon Met. Christopher, and he was forced to retire. Patriarch Bartholomew did not recognize the new primate until the latter gave a written agreement to bring the constitution into agreement with the text of the defective tomos, within the framework of which relations with all the rest of the Orthodox world and the resolution of inter-Orthodox matters also should be carried out by the CCLC only by agreement with Constantinople. There is no expression in the text that would show relations of equal rights, but to the contrary, subbordinationism is stressed. Now the CP is no longer the “fraternal Church”, or the “sister Church”, but the “Mother Church”, which tightly controls its “child”. In essence, a subordinate church structure is created, but there is not yet any talk in this tomos of the CP’s headship over the Local Churches and world Orthodoxy.

The apotheosis of the CP’s self-exaltation and at the same time degradation of its addressee is the infamous Ukrainian tomos, granted in Janarary of 2019. Here we have assembled not only everything from the past, which allows it to emphasize the second rate status of the Ukrainian “autocephaly”, but also much exclusivity, which was devised precisely for this event. In the text of the Ukrainian tomos is declared without any convincing rationale:

  • it is the right of the Constantinople Patriarch to have supreme and peremptory judgment not only over all the clergy of the OCU, but also over all Local Churches;

  • subordination to the Constantinople Patriarch of the entire Orthodox diaspora throughout the world and limitations on the activities of Local Churches to within the framework of borders of the original national states;

  • acknowledgment that the CP has supreme authority in the resolution of dogmatic, canonical, and other ecclesiastical matters;

  • acknowledgment of the CP’s right to interfere in the internal affairs of the OCU and all Local Churches;

  • the CP’s right to have an Exarchate in Ukraine and a large number of stravropegia;

  • and the most outrageous: a replacement of the headship of Christ in the Church with the headship of the CP: “The Autocephalous Church of the Ukraine acknowledges as its head (κεφαλὴν) the All-holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne, as do also other Patriarchs and Primates.”

As has already been discussed above, representatives of the CP attempted to legalize this formulation with regard to the Russian Orthodox Church back in 1590, but that attempt was neutralized at the Constantinople Council of 1593. After that, this papist idea was not encountered in a single tomos, but it is again written into the tomos of the OCU. This phrase destroys the autocephaly not only of the given structure, but also of all Local Churches, because it proclaims that “also other Patriarchs and Primates” acknowledge CP as their head. That is, the effect of this principle, according to the tomos, extends to all the Local Churches and to all primates, and that supposedly they recognize this.

It is unthinkable that the head of an autocephalous Church should be the primate of another Local Church. Furthermore, in proclaiming itself the head of all autocephalies, the CP makes itself the head of all Orthodox Churches; and who then is Christ in the Church? This excerpt is one of the documented confirmations of the CP’s heresy of papism.

The Byzantine subterfuge in the Ukrainian tomos consists also in the fact that it is inconvenient for other Local Churches to refute the text, because it was not addressed directly to them; however, by recognizing the OCU, they implicitly accept its content as being in force, fall under its determinations, and become participants in the spread of the heresy of Constantinople papism.


Thus, the Council in Jordan is the first real attempt to overcome the crisis in world Orthodoxy, but the further progression of ecclesiastical events substantially depends upon the chosen strategy at the Council. If there is success in clearly determining the main problem and calling all the Orthodox to participate in it resolution, then the Council will be successful no matter which primates participate in it. Furthermore, the Council participants who have stood up to defend the purity of the Orthodox faith and the teaching of the Church will become the natural center of consolidation for Orthodox people of various nationalities and countries, for whom the Church is not a rudimentary organ of the collapsed Byzantine Empire, but the living Body of Christ.

Besides which, the Jordanian Council can:

  • Become an example of the rebirth of living conciliar activity in the Church, where rubber-stamped resolutions are not passed beforehand, but where ideas are born in the course of straightforward dialogue and discussion;

  • Delineate the problem areas of modern Orthodox life throughout the Church;

  • Record the dynamics and results of those changes in Ukraine that have occurred after the tomos was granted to the Ukrainian schismatics;

  • Point out the causes of the contemporary Church crisis, distinguishing which of them should be overcome as a first priority;

  • Work out a “roadmap” out the crisis that can be submitted for discussion to all the Local Churches.

The fulfillment of even one of these points would justify a Council in Jordan, and the absence of Patriarch Bartholomew and the primates dependent on him would allow an opportunity to move the critical process out of its dead end.


Contributions from the Orthodox Faithful

We would like here to offer some input we received at the end of November, 2019, outlining what one reader would like to see happen at the council. We find it interesting that this reader (who has also contributed articles to, who has had no contact with the author of the above analysis, shares an almost identical point of view. We see this as an indication that Orthodox Christians are united in the mind of Christ, and that those who have studied the faith can see the grave error of the emerging Eastern papism.

Offered by Dionysius Reddington:

That a Council will eventually be held, under the auspices of one Patriarch or another, seems inevitable. In preparation for it, I propose for discussion the following formula. Obviously, I am not suggesting that the wording as it stands is correct, and I hope that more qualified theologians will improve it (and weed out any error or heresy which I may inadvertently have introduced). Nevertheless, I propose that the Council issue a statement along the following lines. (Note that I have plagiarized the seventh proposition from an excellent recent essay by Bishop Irenei of London.)


We affirm:

  1. That the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is truly the Body of Christ.

  2. That Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of His Church.

  3. That He is alive and present among us, and therefore requires no Vicar.

  4. That the Holy Spirit is also alive and present among us, having inspired the Holy Scriptures and the seven generally recognized Ecumenical Councils.

  5. That the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father, not from the Son, and that any contrary statements in the Holy Fathers, if not reflections of human fallibility, must refer to something other than this eternal procession.

  6. That the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas and the hesychastic fathers concerning the Uncreated Light is true.

  7. That the Son is always the Son because He is always begotten of the Father; the Spirit is always the Spirit because He always proceeds from the Father; and the Father is always the Father because He always substantiates the Son’s sonship and the Spirit’s procession as sole source.

  8. That the Father, like the Son, requires no Vicar.

  9. That the primacy assigned to any ecclesiastical leader within the Church derives not from the monarchia of the Father within the Trinity, but rather from the order established by Christ for His Own Body; and that while an ecclesiastical primate may be first among equals, he is no wise first without equals, a title applicable only to God.

  10. That traditional ecclesiastical titles such as Supreme Pontiff, Ecumenical Patriarch, and Judge of the Universe, refer to the role of Patriarchs as living icons of the Son, who is the Bridge from earth to Heaven, the visible Image of the Father, and the Judge of the living and the dead.

  11. That such titles, when applied to the men who hold them rather than to the Son, are hyperbolic honorifics and do not imply any extraordinary special rank beyond the episcopate.

  12. That, since the era of the Resurrection, no people or nation except the Christian race as a whole has held any special or extraordinary pre-eminence in the eyes of God, although every people and nation is loved by Him.

  13. That autocephaly, once granted, does not give the mother church a perpetual right of interference in the affairs of the daughter church, unless the very Orthodoxy of the daughter church is at stake; and that the reverse is also true: a daughter church may interfere in the affairs of the mother church only when the continued Orthodoxy of the mother is at stake.

It may be objected that the Formula says too little about Ukraine, and too much about things on which everyone agrees. However, it is remarkable that many of the most important Orthodox teachings are not to be found explicitly in the records of the Seven Councils, because they were articulated in response to later crises. Affirming these teachings (or the local Councils which endorsed them) is a necessary task of any legitimate modern Council, as was pointed out in vain during the recent failed Council in Crete. I have written the 13th proposition not only with Ukraine in mind but also expressly to justify what I believe will soon be necessary, or is already: an intervention by some of the younger Orthodox churches in the territory of certain senior Patriarchates.

Archpriest Vadim Leonov
Translation by
Dionysius Reddington


1 The author translated the text from, which reads: “To begin with, we are surprised, not pleasantly, by the fact that for the first time in the centuries-long history of the two Patriarchates, the ‘Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem’ corresponds with the Ecumenical Patriarch in a foreign language and not our mother tongue, as if he has suddenly stopped feeling consanguineous and that he belongs in the same historic and suffering Nation… What has led your Beatitude to sent us this other than honourable circular letter in English instead of following the centuries-old standard correspondence between our Churches?”

We have used the English text from the translation on Orthodox Synaxis


3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Cited from: A.Y. Shpakov, State and Church in their mutual relations in the Moscuvite state, chap. 2: The reign of Feodor Ivanovich. Institution of Patriarchy in Russia (Odessa, 1912), 351-353 [Russian].

6 “Acts of the Constantinople Council of 1593, by which Patriarchy was instituted in Russia”, Works of the Kiev Theological Academy, 1865, v. III, 247 [Russian].

7 Some try to see in the text of the Gramota of Constantinople Patriarch Dionysios of 1686 on the transfer of the Kiev Metropolia to Moscow a similar claim to headship over the whole Russian Church. According to that gramota, the Kiev metropolitan appointed by the Moscow Patriarch was supposed to commemorate at divine services “from the first, the most honorable name of the Ecumenical Patriarch, as being the source and beginning and superior of all, who are in all inhabited areas and dioceses.” However, in this case they are talking about the Kiev Metropolia. Essentially, this is a reference to the historical origins of the Kiev Metropolia from the CP and denotes a desire to at least nominally preserve the latter’s authority over it. There is no demand here to consider the CP as the head of the entire Russian Church, never mind world Orthodoxy. The word, “head” here is absent in principle. From the text it is obvious that the expression, “as being the source and beginning and superior of all, who are in all inhabited areas and dioceses” (ὡς ὄντος πηγὴ κ(αὶ) ἀρχὴ κ(αὶ) ὑπερκειμένου πάντων τῶν πανταχοῦ παροικιῶν τε κ(αὶ) ἐπαρχιῶν) relates only to the parishes and dioceses of the Kiev Metropolia. The historical origin of Orthodoxy in Kievan Rus’ from the Greeks has never been disputed in the Russian Church (therefore the CP is the “source and beginning”), but the all-world papist tendencies of the CP are not expressed here and are most probably are not implied, which is in part confirmed by the fact that such a reading of it was ignored by the Russian Church, and this did not evoke any protest from Constantinople over the course of several centuries.

8 Cited from: The Truth of Orthodoxy, Ed. S. V. Troitsky (Moscow: FIB, 2015), 231 [Russian].

Gavin James Campbell 2/6/2020 9:29 pm
This matter is not going to get resolved until we recognize that nationalism is to blame.
John Durka2/5/2020 6:34 am
Micheal-Let us try to reason together, not in the manner of‘Western academic and speculative scholasticism’,but as Orthodox Christians who love the Holy Fathers and wish to understand their teaching,and also as rational beings who do not accept the teaching of any modern "wise men," whether they be theologians,philosophers or“expert”scholars unless that teaching accords with the Scriptural and Patristic teaching and does not come from some foreign ideology,theology or philosophy. When we examine the controversies with Rome in the lives of St.Photios the Great and St.Mark of Ephesus(in the ninth and fifteenth centuries respectively),we find clear repudiations of Rome for her heresies—so long as she holds to them—and in the latter case, a rejection of the possibility for union with her for that very reason.In the eyes of the Orthodox Church—who not only canonized these men, but deemed them ‘Pillars of Orthodoxy’—their teaching with respect to Rome was vindicated over against papism,filioquism,and ecumenism.St.Photios’teaching against the Filioque and papal supremacy was formally affirmed by the Church at the ecumenical Council of Constantinople(A.D. 879–880),and St.Mark was vindicated and affirmed in the Church’s rejection of the false union of Basel-Ferrara-Florence. (See Evidence of the Ecumenical status of the 8th and 9th Ecumenical Synods from ‘The Ecumenical Synods’ the Document: The Encyclical Letter of 1848, in which the holy synods of the patriarchates refer to the 8th ecumenical synod very clearly, by its name.Indeed, those Councils were actually recognized as “Ecumenical, in the sense of their binding and infallible authority because of their charismatic character – under guidance of the Holy Spirit they have witnessed to the Truth in conformity with the Scripture as handed down in Apostolic Tradition.) From "An Open Letter to the Orthodox Hierarchy", by Fr. Michael Azkoul: "...If any have doubts that Papists and Protestants are heretics,let him have recourse to history,to the reputable and sagacious opinions and statements of councils,encyclicals and theologians.From the time of blessed Saint Photius,when Papism was coming into being,the Church of God has defined Her attitude towards this ecclesiological heresy even as She had towards the triadological and Christological heresies of ancient times. The Council of Constantinople (879-880) under Photius declared the various innovations of the West to be heretical (J.D.Mansi, Sacro.Council.nova et amplis. collect. Venice, 1759, XVI, 174C, 405C); and the Council of the same imperial city (1009)confirmed the decisions of Photius against the Papists(Mansi,XXXL, 799f).Theophylact of Ochrida condemned the Papal errors(PG 126 224)as did Nicephorus Blemnydes, Patriarch of Constantinople (PG 142 533-564). Of course, the heresy of the Papists and Protestants is a clear affirmation of the Orthodox Church as the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" as declared the Council of Constantinople(1672),the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848),the Council of Constantinople(1872),the Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895,the Holy Russian Synod of 1904,and the memorable words of[the]Patriarch of Constantinople,Joachim II,"Our desire is that all heretics shall come to the bosom of the Orthodox Church of Christ which alone is able to give them salvation ..."(in Chrestos Androutsos, The Basis for Union ... Constantinople, 1905, p. 36)." –Are Protestantism and Roman Catholicism Heretical? Church history will also show that the thirteenth-century Synodikon of the Holy Spirit—which is appointed to be read in every Orthodox Church on the second day of Pentecost—with its many anathemas against the Latin heresies, as well as the Sigillon of 1583—written on the occasion of Pope Gregory XIII’s introduction of the Gregorian Calendar and containing a short summary of numerous Roman errors, with an anathema following each, reaffirm the Church’s teaching that the Roman confession is heretical.
Nun Irinea2/4/2020 10:49 pm
To Michael: Papism, which has ruined Western Christianity, has been condemned as a heresy by no less than 17 local and ecumenical councils. The earliest of them were those of 867 and 879 in Constantinople under St. Photios (the second being considered by many as the 8th Ecumenical), followed by those of 1009, 1054, 1341, 1347 and 1351 (the latter 3 being the so-called Hesychast Councils, considered by many as the 9th Ecumenical, the Oros of which has been recognized as Canon of Faith by the whole Church), then the Councils of Constantinople of 1440, Russia 1441, Jerusalem 1443, Constantinople 1450 and 1484, Constantinople 1722 and 1727, then again Constantinople 1838, 1848 and 1895. For details of these councils see
Michael 2/4/2020 9:07 am
Interesting, Orthodoxy is exploding due to its lack of authority, and Catholicism is imploding due a takeover of its authority by hostile forces. A Council if true would have to walk a balanced path between Zealot Orthodoxy and Progressive Orthodoxy, and should seek to heal the Schism both between Rome and the East, Constantinople and Moscow and Antioch and Jerusalem. The polemical labeling of "papism" as a heresy when it has never been defined as such by any Ecumenical Council of the Undivided Church stinks to high heaven of a narrow--right wing sort of zealotry that will continue to chop the Church of Christ into little bits until there is nothing left--just like Protestantism. We must walk a careful path, the Royal Path of the Fathers, and not just cherry pick fathers to support our particular prejudices. The Catholics can give a very long list of Church Fathers and Councils that support Papal Supremacy in sharp contrast to the Orthodox list of Fathers against. A Conciliar negation of the Catholic Church would only do more harm to Orthodox credibility as the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We already suffer from terrible disorganization and nebulous interpretations of the Faith, as well as an incredible aversion to authority. Let us not steer the leaky ship into the dark shoals of anathema that would shatter her into a myriad of parties and factions, but let us take a critical eye to the polemical history we have received and through prayer and humility seek the will of God in the course to follow. Rome is an Apostolic Church and ought to be treated with Apostolic Charity, not a continued campaign of slander and schismatical school boy taunts.
Nun Irinea2/3/2020 8:28 pm
Second approach: Excellent! May the Lord grant that it comes to pass.
Ierom. Lavrentie2/3/2020 6:59 pm
1. If the goal is to resolve the panorthodox problems, the ecumenism should be on the list. It is the biggest and the root of all the Ecumenical Patriarch actions. The Synod of Crete is the origin of the dissensions in Ukraine and at the pan-orthodox level. So... it should be addressed. 2. The 7th footnote is interesting and important. But it don't think the meaning of the 1686 Gramota is so obvious because it refers to the "all parishes and dioceses from everywhere" (the correct translation of the ancient greek text). I subscribe to that explanation, but I think it is not self evident. The historical facts show no papal implications after that Gramota, but it is used in our days. The same thing is possible with the documents signed at the Synod of Crete if it is not rejected.
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