Piraeus, Greece, March 19, 2021
It is essential to cling to the right faith and reject and denounce all heresies, His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus of the Orthodox Church of Greece writes in his pastoral encyclical for the Sunday of Orthodox this year. Expressing his characteristic strict stance to the ecumenical movement, the fiery Metropolitan calls for the Orthodox to give up all such fruitless and harmful dialogues with heretics.
Opening his letter, Met. Seraphim reminds that the Sunday of Orthodoxy is dedicated to the restoration of the icons, but also to the Church’s triumph overall heresies and sects in general. The Rite of Orthodoxy includes anathemas against all heresies the Church has faced, His Eminence notes.
And it is no coincidence that the Church placed this celebration on the first Sunday of Great Lent. It was done, Met. Seraphim explains, to teach that our struggles to kill the passions and acquire the virtues are useless without maintaining the true faith. “There is no salvation outside the Church, even if man achieves all the virtues through fasting and ascetic struggles,” he states.
The wolf of heresy cannot harm us as long as we remain inside the Church, His Eminence continues, referring to the teaching of St. John Chrysostom.
He also refers to the story about Abba Agathon, who accepted to be slandered with every type of sin but refused to be called a heretic. “Heresy is separation from God, and I do not want to be separated from God,” the great elder explained.
The Holy Fathers struggled greatly to preserve the Orthodox faith, even to the point of martyrdom at times. “Their sensitivity is due to the fact that they realized that deviation from the truth of the faith means a transition to the state of heresy, means spiritual death and the loss of salvation,” Met. Seraphim writes. Even the slightest deviation has destructive consequences, the Holy Fathers teach, as His Eminence emphasizes.
“Therefore, there is no room for compromise in matters of faith, no room for economy, and no one has the right to add, or remove, the slightest thing from the content of Divine revelation, from the only surviving truth of Orthodoxy.”
And the truths of the faith are not mere dogmatic formulations, but refer to the whole ethos and life of the Church. And altering doctrine inevitably leads to altering morality, the Piraeus hierarch writes. The Holy Fathers fought not simply for the correct formulation of the Church’s truths, but first of all to personally experience those truths and to personally know the presence of Christ in their souls.
Likewise, it is the duty of all Orthodox to safeguard the truths of the faith, which is more imperative today than ever before, according to Met. Seraphim, because the Church is under attack by numerous heresies and sects, the most dangerous of which is Ecumenism, which has given rise to anti-Orthodox teachings like the branch theory, dogmatic minimalism, baptismal unity, the two-lung theory about the Orthodox Church and the Catholics, and more.
Such a movement reduces and degrades the heroic labors of our fathers in the faith, Met. Seraphim emphasizes. The return of heretics to the Orthodox faith is no longer seen as a necessary condition for the union of churches, and thus Sts. Photios, Gregory Palamas, and Mark Ephesus, champions of Orthodox against the Papacy, “are canceled and condemned in practice,” explains the Greek hierarch.
Ecumenism promotes a superficial unity, ignoring the “huge dogmatic differences that divide us,” and ends in referring to the heterodox as “sister churches” with “valid sacraments,” His Eminence states. Heresy and falsehood is thus respected equal to truth.
And, unfortunately, “this conspiracy” quickly spread even beyond the bounds of Christendom to include non-Christian religions, Met. Seraphim notes. Such unity, sought through conferences, meetings, dialogues, etc is one of the most essential goals of Ecumenism.
“The dialogues that have taken place so far have not only brought no results, but on the contrary have inevitably led to the decay and erosion of the Orthodox mind, to compromises and unacceptable concessions to our dogma and ecclesiastical self-consciousness,” His Eminence rightly warns. The Orthodox representatives in such dialogues lack spiritual experience, he notes, “Thus we came to the tragic phenomenon of Orthodox representatives making unorthodox statements and signing texts of common acceptance with heretics, foreign to the tradition and dogmatic teaching of our Church.”
And this “terrible diversity” that prevailed throughout the 20th century reached its peak at the “Council” of Crete in 2016, His Eminence writes, which did not condemn any heresies, but rather legitimized Ecumenism, “and filled the triumphant and militant Church of Christ with indescribable sorrow.”
The fact that Ecumenism still exists more than 100 years after its appearance underscores the debt that we all owe in the fight against it, as it prepares the world for the New World Religion of satan, Met. Seraphim exhorts.
Let the Church give up these harmful dialogues with heretics, and instead “proclaim that the only Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ, without Whom there is no salvation and life,” His Eminence concludes.
Speaking of the Ukrainian schismatics’ ecumenism with the Catholic church in 2019, Met. Seraphim remarked that they “lack the fear of God.” He has also condemned ecumenistic statements from the Patriarch of Alexandria and the participation of a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in an ecumenistic prayer service with Catholics and Protestants.