OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
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THEIR HOLINESSES AND THEIR BEATITUDES
THE PRIMATES OF THE HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCHES
THE MOST REVEREND METROPOLITANS, ARCHBISHOPS, AND BISHOPS:
THE HUMBLE PHILARET,
METROPOLITAN OF THE
The Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have exhorted us to keep the Truth of Orthodoxy as the apple of our eye. And Our Lord Jesus Christ, teaching His Disciples to maintain every jot and title of the Divine Law intact said, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. v. 19). He sent His disciples to teach the doctrines He gave them to all nations in a pure and unadulterated form, and that duty then devolved upon each of us Bishops, as the successors to the Apostles. We are also taught to do this by the dogmatic definition of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which says: "We keep unchanged all the ecclesiastical traditions handed down to us, whether in writing or by word of mouth." And the Holy Fathers of that Council added, in their first Canon: "The pattern for those who have received the sacerdotal dignity is found in the testimonies and instructions laid down in the canonical constitutions, which we receiving with a glad mind sing unto the Lord God in the words of the God-inspired David, saying: 'I have had as great delight in the way of Thy testimonies as in all manner of riches.' 'Thou hast commanded righteousness as Thy testimonies for ever.' 'Grant me understanding and I shall live.' Now if the word of prophecy bids us keep the testimonies of God forever and to live by them, it is evident that they must abide unshaken and without change."
Every one of us solemnly promises at his consecration to abide by our Faith and to obey the canons of the Holy Fathers, vowing before God to keep Orthodoxy inviolate from the temptations and errors which creep into the Church's life.
If a temptation appears in the fold of only one Orthodox Church, the remedy for it may be found in the same fold. But if a particular evil penetrates into all our Churches, it becomes a matter of concern for every single Bishop. Can any one of us be silent if he sees that many of his brethren simultaneously are walking along a path that leads them and their flock to a disastrous precipice through their unwitting loss of Orthodoxy?
Should we say in this case that humility commands us to keep silent? Should we regard it as indiscreet to lend advice to other descendants of the Holy Apostles, some of whom are occupying the most ancient and distinguished sees?
But Orthodoxy believes in the equality of all Bishops as regards grace, and distinguishes between them only as regards honor.
Should we be satisfied with the fact that every Church is responsible for itself? But what if the statements which trouble the faithful are made in the name of the whole Church, and therefore also involve our name, even though we have not authorized anybody to use it?
St. Gregory the Theologian once said that there are occasions "when even by silence truth can be betrayed." Should we not also be betraying the truth if, on noticing a deviation from pure Orthodoxy, we merely kept silence—always an easier and safer thing to do than speaking out?
We observe, however, that nobody in a higher position than our own is raising his voice; and this fact constrains us to speak out, lest at the Last Judgment we should be reproached for having seen the danger of Ecumenism threaten the Church, and yet not having warned her Bishops.
To be sure, we have already addressed His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras and His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos
of North and
We may be asked why we write about that Assembly only now, nearly a year after the closing of its sessions. Our answer is that on this occasion we had no observers present, and obtained information about the Assembly only from the press, the accuracy of which is not always to be relied upon. Therefore we were awaiting the official reports; and having studied them, we find it imperative to address this letter to all the Orthodox Bishops whom the Lord has appointed to take care of His Church on earth.
The report on the Uppsala Assembly shocked us greatly, because from it we could see more clearly than ever how far the error of Ecumenism is winning the official approval of a number of our Churches.
When the first steps were taken in the organization of the Ecumenical Movement, many of the Orthodox Churches, following the initiative of the Patriarch of Constantinople, began to participate in its conferences. At the time such participation did not cause any worry even among the most zealous Orthodox. They thought that the Church would suffer no injury if her representatives appeared among various truth-seeking Protestants with the aim of presenting Orthodoxy in the face of their various errors. Such a participation in inter-faith conferences could be thought of as having a missionary character.
This position was still maintained to a certain extent, though not always consistently, at the Evanston Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1954. There the Orthodox delegates openly stated that the decisions of the Assembly diverged so sharply from our teaching on the Church that they were unable in any way to join with the others in accepting them. Instead, they expressed the doctrine of the Orthodox Church in separate statements.
Those statements were so plain that, in fact, they should have issued in the logical conclusion that the Orthodox ought not to remain as members of the World Council of Churches on the same basis as others. The Protestants might well have asked them: "If you disagree with our basic principles, why are you with us?" We know that in private conversations some Protestants did use to say this, but the question was not raised in the plenary sessions. Thus the Orthodox remained as members of an organization the disparate origin of which they had just so clearly illustrated.
But what do we see now?
The Pan-Orthodox Conference in
We must be very clear as to what sort of religious union it is of which the Orthodox Church has been declared "an organic member," and what the dogmatic implications of such a decision are.
In 1950, in
The separate statements made in Evanston four years later on behalf of all
the Orthodox delegates somewhat improved the situation, because they clearly
showed that Orthodox Ecclesiology differs so much in essence from Protestant
Ecclesiology that it is impossible to compose a joint statement. Now, however,
the Orthodox participants in the World Council of Churches act differently; in
an effort to unite truth with error, they have abandoned the principle
If initially the Orthodox participated in ecumenical meetings only to
present the truth, performing, so to speak, a missionary service among
confessions foreign to Orthodoxy, then now they have combined with them, and
anyone can say that what was said at
We regard it as our duty to protest in the strongest possible terms against this state of affairs. We know that in this protest we have with us all the Holy Fathers of the Church. Also with us are not only the hierarchy, clergy, and laymen of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, but those members of other Orthodox Churches who agree with us as well.
We take the liberty of saying that it seems our Brother Bishops have treated this matter without sufficient attention, without realizing how far our Church is being drawn into the sphere of anti-canonical and even of anti-dogmatical agreements with the heterodox. This fact is especially clear if one turns to the initial statements of the representatives of the Orthodox Churches as compared with what is taking place at present.
At the Conference in
As for our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, her views were expressed with particular clarity upon the appointment of a representative to the Committee for Continuation of the Conference on Faith and Order on December 18/31, 1931. That decision was as follows:
"Maintaining the belief in the One, Holy, Catholic, and
Here everything is clear and nothing is left unsaid. This statement is essentially in agreement with what also used to be said at that time by official representatives of other Orthodox Churches.
What, then, has changed? Have the Protestants abandoned their errors? No. They have not changed, and the Church has not changed; only the persons who are now said to represent her have changed.
If the representatives of the Orthodox Churches had only continued firmly maintaining the basic principles of our belief in the Church, they would not have brought the Orthodox Church into the ambiguous position which was created for her by the decision of the Geneva Conference last year.
Since the Assembly of the World Council of Churches in
Who is speaking? Who gave these people the right to make ecclesiological statements not merely on their own behalf, but also on behalf of the Orthodox Church?
We ask you, Most Reverend Brothers, to check the list of the Churches
participating in the Ecumenical Movement and in the World Council of Churches.
Take, for instance, at least the first lines of the list on page 444 of The
There you will find the following names:
Is it necessary to continue the list? Is it not clear that beginning with the very first lines, confessions are included which differ greatly from Orthodoxy, which deny sacraments, hierarchy, Church tradition, holy canons, which do not venerate the Mother of God and the Saints, etc.? We should have to enumerate nearly all of our dogmas in order to point out what in our Orthodox doctrines is not accepted by the majority of the members of the World Council of Churches—of which, however, the Orthodox Church is now nevertheless alleged to be an organic member.
Yet in the name of this union of the various representatives of all possible heresies, the Uppsala Assembly constantly states: "The Church professes," "The Church teaches," "The Church does this and that ...."
Out of this mixture of errors, which have gone so far astray from Tradition, the published decision on "The Holy Spirit and the Catholicity of the Church" makes the statement: "The Holy Spirit has not only preserved the Church in continuity with the past; He is also continuously present in the Church, effecting her inward renewal and re-creation."
The question is: Where is the "continuity with the past" among the Presbyterians? Where is the presence of the Holy Spirit among those who do not recognize any mysteries? How can one speak of the catholicity of those who do not accept the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils?
If these doctrinal decisions were preceded by words indicating that one part of the Churches observes one doctrine, and the other a different doctrine, and the teaching of the Orthodox Church were stated separately, that would be consistent with reality. But such is not the case, and in the name of various confessions they say: "The Church teaches.... "
This in itself is a proclamation of the Protestant doctrine of the Church as comprising all those who call themselves Christians, even if they have no intercommunion. But without accepting that doctrine, it is impossible to be an organic member of the World Council of Churches, because that doctrine is the basis of the whole ideology on which this organization rests.
True, the resolution "On the Holy Spirit and the Catholicity of the Church" is followed by a note in fine print which says that since this resolution provoked such a great diversity of views, this decision is not final but only a summary of the matters considered in the Section. However, there are not such remarks regarding other similar resolutions. The minutes contain no evidence that the Orthodox delegates made any statements to the effect that the Assembly might not speak in the name of the Church in the singular; and the Assembly does so everywhere, in all its resolutions, which never have such qualifying remarks attached.
On the contrary, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, in his reply to the greeting of the Swedish Archbishop, said in the name of the Assembly, "As you well know, the Church universal is called by a demanding world to give ample evidence of its faith" (The Uppsala 69 Report, p. 103).
Of what "Church universal" did Archbishop Iakovos speak? Of the Orthodox Church? No. He spoke here of the "Church" uniting all confessions, of the Church of the World Council of Churches.
A tendency to speak in this fashion is especially conspicuous in the report
of the Committee on Faith and Order. In the resolution upon its report,
following statements about the success of Ecumenism, it says: "We are in
agreement with the decision of the Faith and Order Commission at its
The implication is clear in all these resolutions that, notwithstanding the outward separation of the Churches, their internal unity still exists. The aim of Ecumenism is in this world to make this inner unity also an outward one through various manifestations of such aspirations.
In order to evaluate all this from the point of view of the Orthodox Church, it is sufficient to imagine the reception it would find among the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. Can anybody imagine the Orthodox Church of that period declaring itself an organic member of a society uniting Eunomians or Anomoeans, Arians, Semi-Arians, Sabellians, and Apollinarians?
Certainly not! On the contrary, Canon I of the Second Ecumenical Council does not call for union with such groups, but anathematizes them. Subsequent Ecumenical Councils did the same in regard to other heresies.
The organic membership of Orthodox Christians in one body with modern heretics will not sanctify the latter, but does alienate those Orthodox from the catholic Orthodox unity. That unity is not limited to the modern age. Catholicity embraces all the generations of the Holy Fathers. St. Vincent of Lerins, in his immortal work, writes that "for Christians to declare something which they did not previously accept has never been permitted, is never permitted, and never will be permitted,—but to anathematize those who proclaim something outside of that which was accepted once and for ever, has always been a duty, is always a duty, and always will be a duty."
Perhaps somebody will say that times have changed, and heresies now are not so malicious and destructive as in the days of the Ecumenical Councils. But are those Protestants who renounce the veneration of the Theotokos and the Saints, who do not recognize the grace of the hierarchy,—or the Roman Catholics, who have invented new errors,—are they nearer to the Orthodox Church than the Arians or Semi-Arians?
Let us grant that modern preachers of heresy are not so
belligerent towards the Orthodox Church as the ancient ones were. However, that
is not because their doctrines are nearer to Orthodox teaching, but because
Protestantism and Ecumenism have built up in them the conviction that there is
no One and True Church on earth, but only communities of men who are in varying
degrees of error. Such a doctrine kills any zeal in professing what they take
to be the truth, and therefore modern heretics appear to be less obdurate than
the ancient ones. But such indifference to truth is in many respects worse than
the capacity to be zealous in defense of an error mistaken for truth. Pilate,
who said "What is truth?" could not be converted; but Saul, the
persecutor of Christianity, became the Apostle Paul. That is why we read in the
Book of Revelation the menacing words to the Angel of the
Ecumenism makes the World Council of Churches a society in which every
member, with Laodicean indifference, recognizes
himself and others as being in error, and is concerned only about finding
phrases which will express that error in terms acceptable to all. Is there any
room here as an "organic member" for the One, Holy, Catholic, and
The LVII (LXVI in the Athens Syntagma) Canon of Carthage says of the Church that she is "the one spoken of as a dove (Song of Songs, vi.9) and sole mother of Christians, in whom all the sanctifying gifts, savingly everlasting and vital are received—which, however, inflict upon those persisting in heresy the great punishment of damnation."
We also feel it is our duty to declare that it is impossible to recognize
Is it not to the influence of that Government that we must largely ascribe the political resolutions of the Uppsala Assembly, which repeat many slogans widely observable in Communist propaganda in the West?
In the concluding speech of the Chairman, Dr. Payne, it was said that "the Church of Jesus Christ must show actively the compassion of Christ in a needy world." But neither he nor anybody else said a word about the millions of Christians martyred in the U.S.S.R.; nobody spoke a word of compassion about their plight.
It is good to express compassion for the hungry in Biefra,
for those who constantly suffer from fighting in the Middle East or in
All this is certainly well known to anybody who reads the newspapers, but it
is never mentioned in any resolution of the World Council of Churches. The
ecumenical priests and Levites are passing by in silence and without interest,
without so much as a glance in the direction of the Christians persecuted in
the U.S.S.R. They are silent because the official representatives of the
These people are not free. Whether they wish to or not, they are forced to speak in obedience to orders from Communist Moscow. The burden of persecution makes them more deserving of compassion than of blame. But being moral prisoners of the godless, they cannot be true spokesmen for the Russian Orthodox Church, suffering, deprived of any rights, forced to be silent, driven into catacombs and prisons.
The late Patriarch Sergius and the present Patriarch Alexis were elected in violation of the rules which were instituted by the All-Russian Church Council of 1917 at the restoration of the Patriarchate. Both were chosen according to the instructions of Stalin, the fiercest persecutor of the Church in history.
Can you imagine a Bishop of Rome chosen according to the instructions of Nero? But Stalin was many times worse.
The hierarchs selected by Stalin had to promise their obedience to an atheistic Government whose aim, according to the Communist program, is the annihilation of Religion. The present Patriarch Alexis wrote to Stalin immediately after the death of his predecessor that he would observe fidelity to his Government: "Acting fully in concert with the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church and also with the Holy Synod instituted by the late Patriarch, I will be secure from mistakes and wrong actions."
Everybody knows that "mistakes and wrong actions" in the language
We can pity an unfortunate old man, but we cannot recognize him as the Head
Bishop Nikodim of
When one part of the Russian Episcopate, together with the late Patriarch
(at that time Metropolitan) Sergius, took the course
of agreeing with the enemies of the Church in 1927, a large (and the most
respected) part of that Episcopate, with Metropolitan Joseph of Leningrad and
the first candidate of Patriarch Tikhon for the
office of locum tenens, Metropolitan Cyrill of
Kazan, did not agree to go along with him, preferring banishment and martyrdom.
Metropolitan Joseph by that time had already come to the conclusion that, in
the face of a Government which openly had as its goal the destruction of
Religion by the use of any available means, the legal existence of a Church
Administration becomes practically impossible without entailing compromises
which are too great and too sinful. He therefore started secret ordinations of
Bishops and priests, in that way organizing the
The atheists seldom mention the
With no open churches, in secret meetings similar to the catacomb meetings of the early Christians, these confessors of the Faith perform their services unseen by the outer world. They are the true representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose greatness will become known to the world only after the downfall of the Communist power.
For these reasons, although representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate
participated in the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Conference in Geneva last
year, and particularly in regard to making the Orthodox Church an organic
member of the World Council of Churches,—we look upon that decision as having
been accepted without the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church. That
Church is forced to stay silent, and we, as her free representatives, are
grieved by the fact that such a decision was accepted. We categorically protest
that decision as being contrary to the very nature itself of the One, Holy,
The poison of heresy is not too dangerous when it is preached only from outside the Church. Many times more perilous is that poison which is gradually introduced into the organism in larger and larger doses by those who, in virtue of their position, should not be poisoners but spiritual physicians.
Can it be that the Orthodox Episcopate will remain indifferent to that danger? Will it not be too late to protect our spiritual flock when the wolves are devouring the sheep before their pastors' eyes, inside the very sheepfold itself?
Do we not see the divine sword already raised (Matt. x. 34), separating those who are true to the traditional faith of the Holy Church from those who, in the words of His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras in his greeting to the Uppsala Assembly, are working to shape the "new drive in the ecumenical movement" for the "fulfillment of the general Christian renewal" on the paths of reformation and indifference to the truth?
It seems that we have shown clearly enough that this apparent unity is not unity in the truth of Orthodoxy, but a unity that mixes white with black, good with evil, and truth with error.
We have already protested against the unorthodox ecumenical actions of His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Iakovos in letters which were widely distributed to Bishops of the Orthodox Church in various countries. We have received from different parts of the world expressions of agreement with us.
But now the time has come to make our protest heard more loudly still, and then even yet more loudly, so as to stop the action of this poison before it has become as potent as the ancient heresies of Arianism, Nestorianism, or Eutychianism, which in their time so shook the whole body of the Church as to make it seem that heresy was apt to overcome Orthodoxy.
We direct our appeal to all the Bishops of the Orthodox Church, imploring them to study the subject of this letter and to rise up in defense of the purity of the Orthodox Faith. We also ask them very much to pray for the Russian Orthodox Church, so greatly suffering from the atheists, that the Lord might shorten the days of her trial and send her freedom and peace.
Sunday of the Sixth Ecumenical Council,
14/27 July, 1969