Clergy of the Greek Church publishes an address on the “Ukrainian issue”
The clergy of the Greek Church published an open letter on the “Ukrainian issue” urging its hierarchs not to recognize OCU contrary to the position of other Churches.
On September 11, 2019, 179 representatives of the clergy, monkhood and laity of the Greek Orthodox Church published an open letter on the “Ukrainian issue” to Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and hierarchs, reports vimaorthodoxias.gr.
In their open letter 179 signatories, the clergy of the Hellenic Orthodox Church, declare they are aware of the pressure the Greek Church is facing with regard to the "Ukrainian church issue".
Nevertheless, according to them, despite the fact that the “Patriarchate of Constantinople has the right to grant autocephaly to any nation, this right should be exercised providing it is subject to clear and strict conditions foreseen by the church tradition and in line with Orthodox ecclesiology and canonical order”, in the case of granting autocephaly to the new Ukrainian church structure of the OCU, these conditions “were not met”.
The authors of the letter give the reasons thereon.
First, they say, “the Church of Ukraine, led by Metropolitan Onuphry, with 90 hierarchs, 12,000 parishes, 250 monasteries, 5,000 monks and nuns, and millions of believers, which is recognized by all Orthodox Churches, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, did not ask for autocephaly. The canonical Church, which has every right to do this, did not ask and did not accept autocephaly. Is it possible to force Her or to punish Her for rejecting it?”
“Whereas everyone, even the Ecumenical Patriarchate, recognizes the existence of Metropolitan Onuphry and 90 hierarchs (there is no canonical act on their exthronement / removal from the throne, or excommunication, or prohibition in ministry), a parallel church structure is being created next to the canonically existing one,” emphasizes the clergy.
In addition, in their opinion, “The Church of Ukraine canonically belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate, but not to the Ecumenical. All the acts of granting autocephaly by Constantinople prior to this one were performed within its jurisdiction.”
“Almost all Local Churches have serious doubts about the canonicity and legality of the priesthood of the new church. In addition, about 15 out of 50 of its hierarchs received their "dignity" be means of self-ordination! This has never happened anywhere! Not a single Orthodox Church recognized the autocephaly granted – an event unprecedented in the history of the Church!” the signatories specify.
The clergy writes, “We cannot understand how, without any joint decision of all Local Churches, a bunch of excommunicated, anathematized, self-ordained schismatics who even did not care to demonstrate their repentance, were reinstated by one act, patched together at the unification council and at the same time granted ‘autocephaly’, while the canonical hierarchs who constitute the canonical Synod, representing the canonical Church, were committed to contempt altogether."
The clergymen of the Greek Church emphasize, “It is extremely disappointing to realize that while earlier, despite political interests and extremely difficult times, the Ecumenical See and its holy Patriarchs fought for the unity of the peoples of Russia under a single spiritual and ecclesiastic administration, today it succumbs to temptations and transatlantic pressure, trying to forcibly split them, involving the Orthodox Church in geopolitical interests and turning the Church of Christ into a part of geopolitical processes and problems. The possible recognition of autocephaly by the Church of Greece, without a pan-Orthodox decision, will involve our Local Church in geopolitical chess.”
Below, the UOJ publishes the full text of the translation of an open letter. Link here to read the original version.
AN OPEN LETTER ON THE UKRAINIAN ISSUE
To His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, Athens,
Their Eminencies Metropolitans of the Church of Greece, in situ
Most Reverend Fathers,
Being members of the Orthodox Church and spiritual sons of your Episcopal and Fatherly hierarchy, we feel the need to address you as our spiritual and church fathers to express our concern about the non-canonical granting of Ukrainian Autocephaly.
We share your concern and serious canonical and ecclesiastic fears and doubts expressed directly and indirectly in the spirit of your pastoral judgment. We are also aware of the pressure experienced by the Greek Church and its Hierarchs from various sorts of ecclesiastic and non-ecclesiastic environment, which should not be the case. We want to believe that sound spiritual traditions of our bishops will be able to cope with external attacks.
Naturally, we have honor and respect for the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople, which has the advantage of honor and the first throne among the Orthodox Churches. Undoubtedly, the advantage of honor, granted by Ecumenical Councils, remains never-ending.
The prerogative of Constantinople exists and is carried out exclusively within the framework of the holy spiritual synodal hierarchical communication system of the Local Orthodox Churches, but not outside or beyond this: it consists mainly in coordinating the Orthodox Churches on the most important issues of inter-Orthodox interest, in chairing inter-Orthodox and pan-Orthodox meetings and Councils, as well as in expressing and implementing the decisions adopted further to pan-Orthodox discussions.
Excessive interference, even with a view to resolving a serious problem, into a foreign jurisdiction, without consent, or rather with unanimity in disagreement therewith, cannot be based on the Orthodox interpretation of the advantage of honor but is nothing else than its alteration and misinterpretation. Any attempt to impose such an interpretation will, unfortunately, lead to very serious ecclesiological consequences with the immediate loss of the honorary first throne. The example of the notorious primacy of Rome as the first throne in the ancient church history demonstrates the seriousness of this issue. Any distortion or attempt to transform the advantage of honor into the advantage of power undermines Orthodox ecclesiology and leads it to papism with all the harmful after-effects.
As Greeks by birth, we honor and respect the Patriarchate when it expresses love. We are saddened because today we see how, due to the wrong choice made by its leadership, it is in danger of being isolated and losing its coordinating role in Orthodox relations, as well as in expressing and fulfilling the will of the Local Orthodox Churches. Further insisting on the wrong choice will only have more adverse consequences for the throne.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has the right to grant autocephaly to any nation, to raise it to the level of autocephaly only subject to clear and strict conditions foreseen by the church tradition and in line with Orthodox ecclesiology and the canonical order that were not observed in this case.
We cannot share the opinion that the denial of the adoption of Autocephaly in Ukraine questions the autocephaly granted in the 19th and 20th centuries. This statement has no canonical or historical foundation. There is not the slightest resemblance between Ukrainian autocephaly and the canonical autocephaly of other Churches for the following reasons:
The Autonomous Church of Ukraine, led by Metropolitan Onuphry, having 90 bishops, 12,000 parishes, 250 monasteries, 5,000 monks and nuns, and millions of believers, recognized by all Orthodox Churches, even the Ecumenical Patriarchate, did not ask for autocephaly. The canonical Church, which has every right thereto, did not ask and did not accept autocephaly. Is it possible to force Her or to punish Her for rejecting it?
Whereas everyone, even the Ecumenical Patriarchate, recognizes the existence of Metropolitan Onuphry and 90 hierarchs (there is no canonical act on their exthronement / removal from the throne, or excommunication, or prohibition in ministry), a parallel church structure is being created next to the canonically existing one. We (as a Church – Ed.) blame and absolutely justly condemn parallel jurisdictions in the Diaspora, but now we are applying them within the Church?
The Church of Ukraine canonically belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate, not to the Ecumenical. All acts of granting autocephaly by Constantinople prior to this one were performed within its jurisdiction.
Almost all Local Churches have serious doubts about the canonicity and legality of the priesthood of the new church. In addition, about 15 out of 50 of its bishops received their "dignity" by means of self-ordination! There has not been such precedent anywhere!
Not a single Orthodox Church has recognized the autocephaly granted – an event unprecedented in the history of the Church!
It is extremely disappointing to realize that while earlier, despite political interests and extremely difficult times, the Ecumenical See and its holy Patriarchs fought for the unity of the peoples of Russia under a single spiritual and ecclesiastic administration, today it succumbs to temptations and transatlantic pressure, trying to forcibly split them, involving the Orthodox Church in geopolitical interests and turning the Church of Christ into a part of geopolitical processes and problems. The possible recognition of autocephaly by the Church of Greece, without a pan-Orthodox decision, will involve our Local Church in geopolitical chess
The region of Ukraine (in church sources it is mainly referred to as Little Russia) from 988 A.D. until 1686 A.D. belonged to the Ecumenical Throne. By the Patriarchal Act of Patriarch Dionysius IV, it got canonically subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate itself for 332 years interpreted the above Patriarchal Act as complete subordination to the Russian Church! This recognition was confirmed in various ways by the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, and was officially recorded in the Typics of the 17th century, in the Syntagmaties/Constitutions of 1797 (St. Gregory V), 1829, 1855, 1896, 1902, issued in Constantinople by the Patriarchal Printing House in the Patriarchal Yearbooks, including the one dated 2018 year! In these official patriarchal editions, the Ecumenical Throne accepted without any reservations the fact that Ukraine is affiliated canonically to the Moscow Patriarchate! The same confidence was recorded by the delegates of the Ecumenical Throne (archival holder K. Delikanis, teachers Metropolitan Kallistos (Weir) Dioclesian (Oxford), St. Theodore Zisis (Thessaloniki), Vasilios Stavridis (Halki), Gr. Larendzakis (Vienna), Vladyka Fidas (Athens-Zambezi), as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew personally, both in writing and in his official speech in Kiev. That is how the Patriarchal Act of 1686 used to be interpreted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate for 332 years!
And most importantly: this is how the Patriarchal Act has been interpreted by the pan-Orthodox church consciousness for 332 years! Starting from the famous Constitution of the Jerusalem Patriarch Chrysanfs (Notar) of 1715 to 2019, all Typics-Calendars-Yearbooks of the Local Orthodox Churches considered Ukraine to be part of the Russian Church. Who can disdain the core of pan-Orthodox ecclesiastic tradition and experience? Who has the right to stand above pan-Orthodox consciousness?
We express our utmost concern, since there was no convincing reponse regarding the canonically non-existent “holy dignity” of the new church. Naturally, subject to strict conditions, the Church can recognize consecrations in schism and heresy by the principle of oikonomia. But what does our Orthodox Church say about this? In the East, we do not have a papal throne which expresses its opinion, while others should obey! Instead, the Local Churches in the Council, chaired by the Patriarch of Constantinople, resolve to heal the schism and accept consecrations! However, when all the Local Churches refused to recognize such a “holy dignity", according to what canon law does the Patriarch of Constantinople claim that he represents the Church as the first throne and accepts schismatic ordinations by oikonomia? The Patriarch of Constantinople is no higher than the general opinion of all Local Churches. He is not the Pope who expresses the Orthodox Church ex cathedra, not taking into account the opinions of his other subordinates.
Unfortunately, the ordinations in the new church of Ukraine come not only from the excommunicated and anathematized Filaret, whose excommunication and anathema were recognized by the plentitude of Orthodoxy for 26 years (including the Ecumenical Patriarch), but also from the self-ordained former deacon who was never ordained either a priest or a bishop, liar and felon Viktor Chekalin. God Almighty, how is it possible for the Greek Church to recognize the self-ordained? After all, in the Lord we are proud of the apostolic succession of the Orthodox Archbishopric. Is it possible for us even after the recognition of Chekalin's “ordinations” to continue to preach the apostolic succession of Orthodox priests?
How then was the “holiness” of the self-ordained “healed”? Can only the patriarch of Constantinople with his sole act heal the absence of apostolic succession? The excuses given by supporters of autocephaly are so contradictory and self-refuting that they not only fail to convince the existence of the canonical ordination of the self-ordained schismatics, but confirm the absence of apostolic succession. Given that, with what inner hierarchical consciousness can a hierarch begin to recognize such “ordinations”? We are not talking about doubts about the moral purity of some individuals, but about the ontological absence of the very core of priesthood; we are dealing with not “moral”, but ontological “contamination” of the Body of the episcopate at the pan-Orthodox level.
We cannot understand how, without any joint decision of all Local Churches, a bunch of excommunicated, anathematized, self-ordained schismatics who even did not care to demonstrate their repentance, were reinstated by one act, patched together at the unification council and at the same time granted ‘autocephaly’, while the canonical hierarchs who constitute the canonical Synod, representing the canonical Church, were committed to contempt altogether.
The leadership of the new autocephalous church does not guarantee reliability, seriousness and church ethics (see the statements of “primate” Epiphanius about the United States, LGBT rights (homosexual movement, etc.), cooperation with the Uniates, his participation in exposing the “Metropolitan of Kiev”, Vasily Lipkivsky, and so on). The secession of the “honorary patriarch” Filaret and some “hierarchs” from the new church and his serious complaints demonstrate in the most tragic way the failure of healing the Ukrainian schism, because the schismatics never repented, which is the most necessary condition for healing the schism.
We cannot justify the bestowal of autocephaly as a punishment for the Moscow Patriarchate for its “arrogance”, “anti-church actions”, “disorder”, “secularization sentiments”, etc. It is impossible to use autocephaly as a punishment for the disobedient, because disrespect and violation of the holy canons does not lead to a genuine and permanent solution to church-related problems. After all – no matter what the problem between Istanbul and Moscow might arise, how does the former heal it (?): by declaring the whole Synod of 90 hierarchs non-canonical? Despising the whole Church with its 12,000 congregations and millions of believers? You, the hierarchs of Constantinople, – didn’t you concelebrate His Beatitude Onuphry and his Holy Synod when you would come to Kiev? Didn't you recognize him as the only and canonical Metropolitan of Kiev? How could you cross him out and recognize someone else instead? What canonical foundation do these actions have?
We stand before you with deep respect and express our inseparable sympathy and support to the millions of members of the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine who suffer grief and persecution because they want to stay in the Church in which they were born and nurtured. Organized actions and persecution by the state and non-state bodies against the canonical Church in Ukraine with the aim of forcing the clergy and believers to move to the new church (OCU – Ed.) show the failure of autocephaly and the fact that faithful people of Ukraine did not request it. How then will the Greek Church, instead of supporting persecuted believers, recognize what the vast majority of Orthodox Ukrainians have rejected?
Finally, the most alarming thing is that the church problem of Ukraine is turning from the problem of canonical structure into a big ecclesiological problem with a continual attempt to change the primacy of honor of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the primacy of power in the papism style.
Unfortunately, the Ecumenical Patriarch in the case of Ukrainian autocephaly refuses the recognized tradition of his coordinating role in the expression and implementation of the synodal decisions of the Local Orthodox Churches; therefore, he refuses to convene a Pan-Orthodox Council or a Council of Primates.
On the contrary, like the Pope He:
- acts in excess of its authority, in a foreign jurisdiction being part of Russia as he himself until recently admitted;
- makes sovereign and independent decisions against the opinion of not only the Church of Ukraine , but also other Local Orthodox Churches;
- claims that the rest of the Orthodox bishops of the whole world are obliged to accept His decision;
- considers that His decision does not need to be approved by other Churches, nor can it be challenged or withdrawn;
- intervenes with his exceeding authority in the Orthodox Church of the Universe “as something taken for granted and obligatory”, “not only in relation to dogmas and sacred traditions and canons of the Church provisions or concerning general issues in the whole Body of the Church, but also in each relatively important separate issue of such interest or the Local Church” (Letter from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Archbishop Anastasius of Albania dated February 22, 2019). This Patriarchal phraseology resembles the famous Dictatus Papae (1075) of Pope Gregory VII, who demanded that all “causae majores” (serious questions) of the ecumenical churches be submitted to the pope for solution!”
It is more than obvious that if suddenly, God forbid, such an approach prevails, it will eventuate the most serious and bleak events in our Orthodox Church.
The unwillingness of the upcoming Permanent Holy Synod to quickly “close” the decision on such problematic autocephaly by shortened procedures and your subsequent statement that you “cannot” take responsibility for such a decision, demonstrate the prudence and great humility of our church leaders, but at the same time they show to us that in the minds of the Greek hierarchs, the oaths taken before the Sacred Altar during their ordinations as bishops are fresh, when they promised before God and His Church to observe the holy canons of the Church Order, as well as the unity of the Orthodox Church.
The abuse of the sacred institution of autocephaly which, instead of serving the unity and stability of the Holy Churches of our Lord Jesus Christ, seeks to blow up the true unity of our Orthodox Church, making it the laughing stock in the eyes of Her enemies, we believe, cannot be accepted by the Bishops' Council of the Greek Church. Why, in fact, should the Greek Church be the first to assume such a responsibility opposing the ecclesiastical consciousness of all Local Churches in order to satisfy the false and unsuccessful choice of Phanar? Why should the Greek Church embarrass the souls of millions of Orthodox Ukrainians who, through deprivation and persecution, struggle to remain faithful to their church tradition? Why, in the end, should it confuse the souls of millions of believers in all Local Orthodox Churches, who attach high value to the Greek Church in their minds and consider it a beacon? We believe that it will not render good service to itself, or to the Ecumenical See, or Ecumenical Orthodoxy.
We are confident that our spiritual fathers will not disappoint us and will show us Orthodox ecclesiology and canonical order as the only criteria for solving the Ukrainian problem.
THIS IS FOLLOWED BY SIGNATURES OF THE CLERGY, MONKS, LAITY
Archimandrite Maxim Karavas, Abbot of St. Paraskeva Monastery in Milochori, Ptolemaida
Archimandrite Pichos Chrysostom, Abbot of the Monastery of the Life-Giving Source in Langovardas, Pharos
Archimandrite Grigorios Hatzhinikolau, Abbot of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Ano Gazea, Volos
Archimandrite Chrysostomos, Abbot of the Monastery of Ven. Nicodemus Pendalofu, Kilkis
Archimandrite Grigorios Papasotiriou, confessor of hesychastirius of the Holy Transfiguration, Halkidiki
Archimandrite Athanasios Anastasiou, foreabbot of the Great Meteor Monastery, Kalambaka
Archimandrite Sarantos Sarantis, parish priest of the Temple of the Assumption of the Most Holy Theotokos in Amarousiou, Athens
Archimandrite Simeon Georgiadis, Holy Trinity Monastery in Ano Gazea, Volos
Archimandrite Ambrosios Gionis, Holy Trinity Monastery in Ano Gazea, Volos
Archimandrite Laurentios Grazias, Metropolis of Florina, Prespa and Eordaea, Florina
Archimandrite Paulos Dimitrakopoulos, Piraeus Metropolis, Piraeus
Archimandrite Ignatios Kalaindzopoulos, Monastery of St. Paraskeva in Milochori, Ptolemaida
Archimandrite Hierotheos Kokonos, Florina
Archimandrite Timotheos Papastaurus, preacher of Patras Metropolis
Archimandrite Nicodemus Petropoulos, parish priest of the Church of the Apostle Paul in Patras, Patras
Archimandrite Augustinos Syarras, Holy Trinity Monastery in Ano Gazea, Volos
High Priest Georgy Metallinos, Professor Emeritus of Theological Faculty of Athens, Athens
High Priest Theodore Zisis, Professor Emeritus of Theological Faculty of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
High Priest Angel Angelakopoulos, Piraeus
High Priest Photios Vizinias, Retired Professor of Mathematics, Thessaloniki
High Priest Nikolaos Gavalas, Temple of the Holy Apostles in Psalidi, Athens
High Priest Anastasios Gottsopoulos, St. Nicholas Church in Patras, Patras
High Priest Ioannis Dimitropoulos, Temple of St. Anthony, Iteon, Patras
High Priest Vasily Kokkolakis, Holy Cross Exaltation Temple in Hololargos, Athens
High Priest Nikolaos Manolis, Thessaloniki
High Priest Antonios Buzdekis, St. Nicholas Temple in Nicaea, Athens
Archbishop Eleftherios Palamas, St. Christopher Church, Eordaea
High Priest Ioan Fotopoulos, Temple of St. Paraskeva, Athens
High Priest Athanasios Tsambras, Temple of the Apostle Paul, Patras
Monk Seraphim Zisis, Thessaloniki
Monk Simeon, Kapsala, Holy Mountain
Nun Mariam, Mother Superior of St. Lawrence Monastery, Pilion, Volos
Nun Laurentia, St. Lawrence Monastery, Pilion, Volos
Nun Christonimfi, St. Lawrence Monastery, Pilion, Volos,
And others, all in all 179 signatures.