OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
Telephone: LEhigh 4-1601
A SECOND SORROWFUL EPISTLE
HOLINESSES AND THEIR BEATITUDES,
THE PRIMATES OF THE HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCHES,
THE MOST REVEREND METROPOLITANS, ARCHBISHOPS AND BISHOPS.
The People of the Lord residing in his Diocese are entrusted to the Bishop, and he will be required to give account of their souls according to the 39th Apostolic Canon. The 34th Apostolic Canon orders that a Bishop may do "those things only which concern his own Diocese and the territories belonging to it."
There are, however, occasions when events are of such a nature that their influence extends beyond the limits of one Diocese, or indeed those of one or more of the local Churches. Events of such a general, global nature can not be ignored by any Orthodox Bishop, who, as a successor of the Apostles, is charged with the protection of his flock from various temptations. The lightening-like speed with which ideas may be spread in our times make such care all the more imperative now.
In particular, our flock, belonging to the free part of the
As a result of this, our Bishops, when meeting in their Councils, cannot confine their discussions to the narrow limits of pastoral and administrative problems arising in their respective Dioceses, but must in addition turn their attention to matters of a general importance to the whole Orthodox World, since the affliction of one Church is as "an affliction unto them all, eliciting the compassion of them all" (Phil. 4:14-16; Heb. 10:30). And if the Apostle St. Paul was weak with those who were weak and burning with those who were offended, how then can we Bishops of God remain indifferent to the growth of errors which threaten the salvation of the souls of many of our brothers in Christ?
It is in the spirit of such a feeling that we have already once addressed
all the Bishops of the Holy Orthodox Church with a Sorrowful Epistle. We
rejoiced to learn that, in harmony with our appeal, several Metropolitans of
Yet, two years have passed since our Sorrowful Epistle was issued, and,
alas! although in the
In the Sorrowful Epistle, we depicted in vivid colors to what extent the organic membership of the Orthodox Church in that Council, based as it is upon purely Protestant principles, is contrary to the very basis of Orthodoxy. In this Epistle, having been authorized by our Council of Bishops, we would further develop and extend our warning, showing that the participants in the ecumenical movement are involved in a profound heresy against the very foundation of the Church.
The essence of that movement has been given a clear definition by the
statement of the Roman Catholic theologian Ives M. J. Congar. He writes that
"this is a movement which prompts the
In our first Sorrowful Epistle, we wrote in detail on how incompatible with our Ecclesiology was the participation of Orthodox in the World Council of Churches, and presented precisely the nature of the violation against Orthodoxy committed in the participation of our Churches in that council. We demonstrated that the basic principles of that council are incompatible with the Orthodox doctrine of the Church. We, therefore, protested against the acceptance of that resolution at the Geneva Pan-Orthodox Conference whereby the Orthodox Church was proclaimed an organic member of the World Council of Churches.
Alas! These last few years are richly laden with evidence that, in their dialogues with the heterodox, some Orthodox representatives have adopted a purely Protestant ecclesiology which brings in its wake a Protestant approach to questions of the life of the Church, and from which springs forth the now-popular modernism.
Modernism consists in that bringing-down, that re-aligning of the life of
the Church according to the principles of current life and human weaknesses. We
saw it in the Renovation Movement and in the
It was just modernism which was the basis of the Pan-Orthodox Conference of
sad memory in Constantinople in 1923, evidently not without some influence of
the renovation experiment in
This tendency to introduce reforms, regardless of previous general decisions
and practice of the whole Church in violation of the Second Canon of the VI
Ecumenical Council, creates only confusion. His Holiness, the Patriarch of
Serbia, Gabriel, of blessed memory, expressed this feeling eloquently at the
Church Conference held in
"In the last decades," he said, "various tendencies have appeared in the Orthodox Church which evoke reasonable apprehension for the purity of Her doctrines and for Her dogmatical and canonical Unity.
"The convening by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Pan-Orthodox
Conference and the Conference at Vatopedi, which had as their principal aim the
preparing of the Prosynod, violated the unity and cooperation of the Orthodox
Churches. On the one hand, the absence of the
"The unilateral introduction of the Gregorian Calendar by some of the local Churches while the Old Calendar was kept yet by others, shook the unity of the Church and incited serious dissension within those of them who so lightly introduced the New Calendar" (Acts of the Conferences of the Heads and Representatives of the Autocephalic Orthodox Churches, Moscow, 1949, Vol. II, pp. 447-448).
Recently, Prof. Theodorou, one of the representatives of the Church of Greece at the Conference in Chambesy in 1968, noted that the calendar reform in Greece was hasty and noted further that the Church there suffers even now from the schism it caused (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1969, No. 1, p. 51).
It could not escape the sensitive consciences of many sons of the Church
that within the calendar reform, the foundation is already laid for a revision
of the entire order of Orthodox Church life which has been blessed by the
Tradition of many centuries and confirmed by the decisions of the Ecumenical
Councils. Already at that Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1923 at
The strength of Orthodoxy has always lain in Her maintaining the principles of Church Tradition. Despite this, there are those who are attempting to include in the agenda of a future Great Council not a discussion of the best ways to safeguard those principles, but, on the contrary, ways to bring about a radical revision of the entire way of life in the Church, beginning with the abolition of fasts, second marriages of the clergy, etc., so that Her way of life would be closer to that of the heretical communities.
In our first Sorrowful Epistle we have shown in detail the extent to which
the principles of the World Council of Churches are contrary to the doctrines
of the Orthodox Church, and we protested against the decision taken in
Alas! Of late we see the symptoms of such a great development of ecumenism with the participation of the Orthodox, that it has become a serious threat, leading to the utter annihilation of the Orthodox Church by dissolving Her in an ocean of heretical communities.
The problem of unity is not discussed now on the level at which it used to
be considered by the Holy Fathers. For them unity with the heretics required
them to accept the whole of Orthodox doctrine and their return to the fold of the
Orthodox Church. Under the prism of the ecumenical movement, however, it is
understood that both sides are equally right and wrong; this is applicable to
both Roman Catholics and Protestants. Patriarch Athenagoras clearly expressed
this in his speech greeting Cardinal Willebrands in
The recent exchange of letters between Paul Vl, the Pope of Rome, and the Patriarch Athenagoras further elaborates and develops this unorthodox idea to our great vexation. Encouraged by various statements of the Primate of the Church of Constantinople, the Pope wrote to him on February 8, 1971: ''We remind the believers assembled in the Basilica of St. Peter on the Week of Unity that between our Church and the venerable Orthodox Churches there is an already existing, nearly complete communion, though not fully complete, resulting from our common participation in the mystery of Christ and His Church" (Tomos Agapis, pp.614-615).
A doctrine, new for Roman Catholicism but of long-standing acceptance for Protestanism, is contained in these words. According to it, the separations existing between Christians on earth is actually illusory—they do not reach the heavens. So it is that the words of our Savior regarding the chastisement of those who disobey the Church (Matt. 18:18) are set at naught and regarded as without validity. Such a doctrine is novel not only for us Orthodox, but for the Roman Catholics as well, whose thought on this matter, so different from that of the present, was expressed in 1928 in Pope Pius IX,s Encyclical Mortaliun Animos. Though the Roman Catholics are of those "without" (I Cor. 5:13), and we are not directly concerned with changing trends in their views, their advance nearer to Protestant ecclesiology interests us only insofar as it coincides with the simultaneous acceptance of similar attitudes by Constantinople. Ecumenists of Orthodox background and ecumenists of Protestant-Roman Catholic background arrive at a unanimity of opinion in the same heresy.
Patriarch Athenagoras answered the above quoted letter of the Pope on March 21, 1971, in a similar spirit. When quoting his words, we will italicize the most important phrases. While the Pope, who is not interested in dogmatical harmony, invites the Patriarch "to do all that is possible to speed that much desired day when, at the conclusion of a common concelebration, we will be made worthy to communicate together of the same Cup of the Lord" (ibid.); the Patriarch answered in the same spirit addressing the Pope as ''elder brother" and saying that," . . . following the holy desire of the Lord Who would that His Church be One, visible to the entire world, so that the entire world would fit in Her, we constantly and unremittingly surrender ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit unto the firm continuation and completion of the now-begun and developing holy work begun with You in our common Holy desire, to make visible and manifest unto the world the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ" (ibid., pp. 618-619).
Further on the Patriarch writes: "Truly, even though the Church of both east and west have been estranged from each other for offenses known but to the Lord, they are not virtually separated from the communion in the mystery of the God-man Jesus and His Divine-human Church" (ibid., pp. 620).
The Patriarch bitterly mentions that "we were estranged from reciprocal love and the blessed gift of confession in oneness of mind of the faith of Christ was taken from us." He says that, "we were deprived of the blessing of going up together to the one altar .... and of the full and together communion of the same eucharistic honorable Body and Blood, even though we did not cease to recognize each in the other the validity of apostolic priesthood and the validity of the mystery of the Divine Eucharist" (ibid.). It is at this point in time, however, that the Patriarch notes that, "we are called positively to proceed to the final union in concelebration and communion of the honorable Blood of Christ from the same holy cup" (ibid., pp. 620-623).
In this letter many un-Orthodox ideas are expressed, which, if taken to
their logical end, lead us to the most disastrous conclusions. It follows from
the quoted words that the ecumenists led by Patriarch Athenagoras do not
believe in the Church as She was founded by the
Savior. Contrary to His word (Matt. 16:18), that Church no
longer exists for them, and the Pope and Patriarch together would "make
visible and manifest" a new church which would encompass the whole of
mankind. Is it not dreadful to hear these words "make visible and
manifest" from the mouth of an Orthodox Patriarch? Is it not a
renunciation of the existing
In their common prayer in the Basilica of St. Peter, Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul Vl stated that they find themselves already united "in the proclamation of the same Gospel, in the same baptism, in the same sacraments and the charismas" (ibid., p.660).
But even if the Pope and Patriarch have declared to be null and void the Anathemas which have existed for nine centuries, does this mean that the reasons for pronouncing them, which are known to all, have ceased to exist? Does this mean that the errors of the Latins which one was required to renounce upon entering the Church no longer exist?
The Roman Catholic Church with which Patriarch Athenagoras would establish
liturgical communion, and with which, through the actions of Metropolitan
Nikodim of Leningrad and others, the Moscow Patriarchate has already entered
into communion, is not even that same church with which the Orthodox Church led
by St. Mark of
In a number of decisions of the Orthodox Church the Roman Catholics were
regarded as heretics. Though from time to time they were accepted into the
Church in a manner such as that applied to Arians, it is to be noted that for
many centuries and even in our time the Greek Churches accepted them by
Baptism. If after the centuries following 1054 the Latins were accepted into
the Greek and
Therefore, the statement that during those centuries "we did not cease
to recognize each in the other the validity of apostolic priesthood and the
validity of the mystery of the Divine Eucharist" is absolutely
inconsistent with historical fact. The separation between us and
The Savior says, "Verily I say unto you," and the Patriarch contradicts Him and declares His words to be untrue. It must be concluded from the Patriarch's words that, although the Latins were regarded as heretics by the whole Orthodox Church, although they could not receive Holy Communion, even though they were accepted into the Church over many centuries by Baptism—and we know of no decision in the East reversing this stand—still, they continued to be members of the Corpus Christi and were not separated from the Sacraments of the Church. In such a statement there is no logic. It evidences a loss of contact with the actual history of the Church. It presents us with an example of application in practice of the Protestant doctrine according to which excommunication from the Church because of dogmatical error does not bar the one excommunicated from membership in Her. In other words, it means that "communion in the mystery of the God-man Jesus" does not necessarily depend upon membership in the Orthodox Church.
In an attempt to find some justification for their ecumenical theory, they
are trying to convince us that membership in the Church without full dogmatic
agreement with Her was permitted in the past. In his
official statement at the Phanar, made when his letter to the Pope was
published, Patriarch Athenagoras tried to convince us that notwithstanding the
facts mentioned earlier, the Eastern Church did not rupture its communion with
One can indeed find some solitary instances of communion. In some places even after 1054, some Eastern hierarchs may not have hastened to brand as heresy various wrong doctrines that appeared in the Church of Rome.
But a long ailment before death is still a disease, and the death it causes
remains a death, however long it took for it to come to pass. In the case of
The exchange of letters between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome have made it necessary for us to dwell to no little extent upon the relationship of the Orthodox Church toward the Latins. But Patriarch Athenagoras goes yet beyond equating Papism with Orthodoxy. We speak here of his statement to Roge Schutz, a pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Switzerland. "I wish to make you an avowal," he said. "You are a priest. I could receive from your hands the Body and Blood of Christ." On the next day he added, "I could make my confession to you" (Le Monde, May 21, 1970).
Ecumenists of Orthodox background are willing to undermine even the authority
of the Ecumenical Councils in order to achieve communion with heretics. This
happened during the dialogue with the Monophysites. At the meeting with them in
Despite the categorical statements on the part of the Monophysites that on no account would they accept Chalcedon and the rest of the Ecumenical Councils, the Orthodox delegation signed a resolution recognizing it as unnecessary that the Anathemas be lifted, or that the Orthodox accept Dioscorus and Severus as saints, or that the Monophysites acknowledge Pope Leo to be a saint. The restoration of communion, however, would bear with it the implication that the Anathemas on both sides would cease to be in effect (ibid., p. 6).
At yet another conference in Addis Abbaba, the un-Orthodox statements of representatives of the Orthodox Churches were buttressed by Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and Rev. V. Borovoy, resulting in a resolution that the mutual Anathemas simply be dropped. "Should there be a formal declaration or ceremony in which the Anathemas are lifted? Many of us felt that it is much simpler to drop these Anathemas in a quiet way as some Churches have begun to do" (ibid., p. 211).
Here again we see in practice the Protestant concept of ecclesiology whereby the excommunication of one for dogmatical error does not prevent heretics from belonging to the Church. Rev. Vitaly Borovoy clearly expresses this attitude in his paper "The Recognition of Saints and the Problem of Anathemas" presented at the conference at Addis Abbaba, clearly asserting that both Monophysites and Roman Catholics are full-fledged members of the Body of Christ. He claims that Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Monophysites have "one Holy Writ, one Apostolic Tradition and sacred origin, the same sacraments, and in essence, a single piety and a single way of salvation" (ibid., p. 246). With such attitudes, is it any surprise that compromise reigns supreme in the relationship between the Orthodox promoters of ecumenism and the Roman Catholics, Protestants and Anti-Chalcedonians?
Outdoing even Patriarch Athenagoras, Metropolitan Nikodim, the
representative of the Moscow Patriarchate gave communion to Roman Catholic
clergymen in the Cathedral of St. Peter on December 14, 1970. He served the
Divine Liturgy there, while in violation of Canons, a choir of the students of
Yet, behind these practical manifestations of the so-called ecumenical movement, other broader aims are discernible which lead to the utter abolition of the Orthodox Church.
Both the World Council of Churches and the dialogues between various Christian
confessions, and even with other religions (such as,
for instance, Islam and Judaism) are links in a chain which in the manner of
thinking of ecumenists must grow to include all of mankind. This tendency is
already evident at the Assembly of the World Council of Churches at
According to ecumenists, all this could be accomplished by a special Council, which in their eye would be truly "ecumenical" since they do not recognize the historical Ecumenical Councils as being truly so. The formula is given in the Roman Catholic ecumenical Journal Irenicon, and is as follows:
1. The accomplishment of gestures of reconciliation for which the lifting of
the Anathemas of 1054 between
2. Communion in the Eucharist; in other words a positive solution to the problem of intercommunion.
3. Acceptance of a clear understanding that we all belong to a universal (Christian) entity which should give place to diversity.
4. That Council should be a token of the unity of men in Christ (Irenicon, No. 3, 1971, pp. 322-323).
The same article states that the Roman Catholic Secretariat for
This is where the Orthodox Church is being drawn. Outwardly this movement is manifested by unending "dialogues"; Orthodox representatives are engaged in dialogues with Roman Catholics and Anglicans; they in turn are in dialogue with each other, with Lutherans, other Protestants, and even with Jews, Moslems and Buddhists.
Just recently, the Exarch of Patriarch Athenagoras in North and
We have already quoted the words of Patriarch Athenagoras that the Lord
desires that "His Church be one, visible to the entire world so that the
entire world would fit within Her." A Greek
theologian and former Dean of the Theological Faculty in
Although it is obvious to anyone with an elementary grasp of Orthodox Church doctrine that such a conception of the Church differs greatly from that of the Holy Fathers, we find it necessary to underscore the depth of the contradiction.
When and where did the Lord promise that the whole world could be united in
the Church? Such an expectation is nothing more than a chiliastic hope with no
foundation in the Holy Gospels. All men are called unto salvation; but by no
means do all of them respond. Christ spoke of Christians as those given Him
from the world (John 17:6). He did not pray for the whole world but for those
men given Him from the World. And the apostle
We are in no manner assured in Scripture of the triumph of truth on earth before the end of the world. There is no promise that the world will be transfigured into a church uniting all of mankind as fervent ecumenists believe, but rather there is the warning that religion will be lacking in the last days and Christians will suffer great sorrow and hatred on the part of all nations for the sake of our Savior's Name (Matt. 24:9-12). While all of mankind sinned in the first Adam, in the second Adam—Christ—only that part of humanity is united in Him which is "born again" (John 3:3 and 7). And although in the material world God "maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 4:45), He does not accept the unjust into His Kingdom. Rather, He addresses them with these menacing words: "Not everyone who saith unto me Lord, Lord shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven" (Matt. 7:21). Doubtlessly our Savior is addressing the heretics when He says: "Many who say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils, and in they name done many wonderful works? And them I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:22-23).
So it is that our Lord tells the heretics, "I never knew you"; yet
Patriarch Athenagoras tries to convince us that "they were not separated
from the communion in the mystery of the God-man Jesus and His Divine-human
Church." It is the belief in the renewal of the whole of mankind within
the new and universal church that lends to ecumenism the nature a of chiliastic
heresy, which becomes more and more evident in the ecumenistic attempts to
unite everyone, disregarding truth and error, and in their tendency to create
not only a new church, but a new world. The propagators of this heresy do not
wish to believe that the earth and all that is on it shall burn, the heavens
shall pass away, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (II Peter
3:1-12). They forget that it is after this that a new Heaven and a new Earth on
which truth will abide will come to be through the creative word of God—not the
efforts of human organizations. Therefore the efforts of Orthodox Christians
should not be directed to the building of organizations, but toward becoming
inhabitants of the new Creation after the Final Judgment through living a pious
life in the one true Church. In the meantime, activities aimed at building the
It must be understood that the circumstance which prompted our Savior to wonder if at His Second Coming He would find the Faith yet upon the earth is brought about not only by the direct propagation of atheism, but also by the spread of ecumenism.
The history of the Church witnesses that Christianity was not spread by compromises and dialogues between Christians and unbelievers, but through witnessing the truth and rejecting every lie and every error. It might be noted that generally no religion has ever been spread by those who doubted its full truth. The new, all-encompassing "church" which is being erected by the ecumenists is of the nature of that Church of Laodicea exposed in the Book of Revelation: she is lukewarm, neither hot nor cold toward the Truth, and it is to this new "church" that the words addressed by the Angel to the Laodicean Church of old might now be applied: "So that because thou are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16). Therefore because they have not received "the love that they might be saved," instead of a religious revival this "church" exhibits that of which the Apostle warned: "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (II Thes. 2:10-12).
It is, therefore, upon the grounds stated above that the Most Reverend Members of our Council of Bishops unanimously agreed to recognize ecumenism as a dangerous heresy. Having observed its spread, they asked us to share our observation with our Brother Bishops throughout the world.
We ask them first of all to pray that the Lord spare His Holy Church the storm which would be caused by this new heresy, opening the spiritual eyes of all unto understanding of truth in the face of error.
May our Lord help each of us to preserve the Truth in the purity in which it was entrusted to us undefiled, and to nurture our flocks in its fidelity and piety.
+ Metropolitan PHILARET