New Rome in light of the Old: Where Ecumenical Patriarch primacy will lead

Patriarch Bartholomew claims supremacy in Orthodoxy. Photo: UOJ

How the Patriarchate of Constantinople inculcates its primacy in Orthodox world. 

“You said in your heart,
    “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.” 

(Isaiah 14: 13-14)

The main and major cause to have gradually led the Local Church of Old Rome to schism and separation from the Church of Christ and turned it into an anti-Christian synagogue [1] was the doctrine of the “Primate of the Pope” [2].

This unjustified claim was naturally manifested in the case of the “Bulgarian issue” (864-879). The Prince of Bulgarians Boris, who was baptized into Christianity in 864 with the name Michael, asked the Patriarchate of Constantinople (whose missionaries Christianized Bulgaria) to create their own Bulgarian Patriarchate, which the then Patriarch Photius the Great of Constantinople rejected.

Then Bulgarians turned to the then Pope Nicholas I, who sent two exarchs (Bishop Paul of Populonia and Formozo of Porto) and would establish the Bulgarian Patriarchate, if there were no discrepancy between him and Prince Boris-Michael regarding the personality of the new patriarch.

It was an intervention in the Bulgarian Church, which was the canonical territory of the Constantinople Patriarchate [3]. Although they tried to justify this intervention on the grounds that Bulgaria was once part of Eastern Illyria, the supervision of which the Pope regained during iconoclasm. But essentially it was a manifestation of the corresponding views on the "primacy of the pope". The Church coped with the “Bulgarian issue” synodally and it was decided that the Church of Bulgaria belongs to the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate [4].

In our time, unfortunately, we are experiencing not just a similar, but a completely identical case with an unknown outcome. The only difference is that in this historical déjà vu the main character is the then victim – the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

We are faced with the “Ukrainian issue”, which is developing as follows: the former President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, without addressing the Moscow Patriarchate, to whose jurisdiction the Church of Ukraine had belonged for the past centuries, asked the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew to grant autocephaly. But not for the canonical Church of Ukraine, but for the schismatic groups that usurped its name.

In the historical déjà vu of today the main character is the then victim – the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The Patriarch of Constantinople sent two exarchs to Ukraine – Archbishop Daniel of Pamphylon and Bishop Hilarion of Edmonton – and in the end illegally granted the Tomos on autocephaly.

This is an intervention in the Ukrainian Church, which is the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate [5]. Although they tried to justify this intervention on the grounds that once Ukraine belonged as the Metropolis of Kiev to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. And "this is essentially a manifestation of unprecedented views on the ‘primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople’ in the Orthodox Church".

In the past, some individuals sporadically expressed similar views. For example, Makariy Ankarsky and Nikolai Mefonsky – in order to fight the "primacy of the Pope". But the Orthodox did not accept them and criticized them as exaggerated and “far from the truth” [6].

But nowadays an attempt is made to theological justification of this heresy. Its main herald, who is called the "right hand" of Constantinople, is Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon. Claiming that the Holy Trinity is “the primacy of God the Father” (a position which even the papists did not dare to express), he tried to establish a kind of episcopocentrism that changes the purely Christ-centered character of the Church, since it establishes its unity “in the person of the bishop” and not Christ. This is the heresy that contradicts the teachings of the holy fathers [7]. This theory extends even further, since, in addition to the first hierarch of each Local Church, there must also be "the first among the first (and not among equals)", as the learned saint hierarch points out, analyzing this heresy [8].

Unfortunately, the aforementioned heresy is not just a personal opinion of one theologian; it was officially adopted by several orthodox theologians [9] and built on by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Patriarch Bartholomew himself, trying to justify the bestowal of autocephaly to the Ukrainian non-canonical Church, stated the following: “This supreme responsibility is entrusted by the Divine and Sacred Canons only to the Mother See of Constantinople, since its primate is the first among the Orthodox” [10].

However, the Orthodox Church rejects such positions as heretical. For more than a thousand years, the Church has struggled with the concept of “primacy” in the person of the pope, because She felt antipathy towards this principle itself [11]. Whatever the bishop – whether Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, or any other – chose to elevate himself to the position of the first, She would criticize and depose him.

Unfortunately, the heresy of supremacy is not just a personal opinion of one theologian; it was officially adopted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In the 16th century, the Lutheran theologians of Tübingen appealed to the then Patriarch Jeremiah II Tranos of Constantinople with the fear that they would meet the corresponding "Pope" in the East. The patriarch assured them: “There is equality among the four patriarchs, as truly befits Christian shepherds. For none of them is elevated above the others and none of them has any claim to be called the head of the Ecumenical Church” [12].

St. Meletios Pegas, Patriarch of Alexandria, in his famous work “On the fact that there is a true Catholic Church and who is its true head and against the supremacy of the Pope,” explains why only Christ has the primacy in the Church. So he condemns those who say there must be someone who is superior to others [13].

As the late Archimandrite George Kapsanis noted, “Accepting the primacy of jurisdiction in the Church as a whole, i.e. that one bishop is the head and beginning of the whole Church, even if he is burdened with ministry, is blasphemy in the face of Christ as the sole Head of the Church's body. The primacy of jurisdiction is a coup of Orthodox ecclesiology, according to which the Ecumenical Synod is above all the bishops. It is presided with love by the Roman bishop as equal to other fellow bishops, but in the middle of the bishops there is the Holy Gospel as a symbol of the presence of Christ, the sole Head of the whole Church” [14].

One does not need to be a prophet to understand where the obsession with the "Primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch" will lead. Where this obsession led Lucifer and the Pope: to fall and loss.


[1] “The old Roman Council was apostolic, Orthodox, and Catholic (in the sense of universal – Ed.) Church, while the new one is an apostate, heterodox, heretical and anti-Christian synagogue” (Nikolai Damalas, a university professor, “On Principles”, Leipzig, 1865, p. 163).

“Its system was Christianity – not as Christ taught, but distorted and completely unrecognizable, as much as it resembled the religion of anti-Christ” (Photis Kontoglou “The Grand Inquisitor”, Svoboda newspaper, March 15, 1964, p. 5).

[2] “The main cause of the great schism of the Churches of the East and the West (1054) should be sought both in the papal primacy, which was strengthened by the pseudo-Isidorian provisions, and in the papal claims to impose themselves on the whole Church” (Vlasios Fidas, a university professor, “History of the Church ΙΙ”, Athens, 1994, p. 95).

[3] Since Bulgaria extended mainly to the old Administration of Thrace, which was subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople by the 28th rule of the IV Ecumenical Council.

[4] Of course, they did not accept it and proclaimed only the Councils under Photius the Great (Endemic 867, VIII Ecumenical 879), but also the illegal Council of 869 year!

[5] Archpriest Theodore Zisis, a university professor, “Ukraine is the canonical territory of the Russian Church”.

[6] Saint Nicodemus, “Pidalion”, reference to the 9th rule of the IV Ecumenical Council.

[7] “The unity of the Church is not founded and does not consist in one person of one of the apostles, but in the person of Our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church” (St. Nectarios, “A Historical Study of the Causes of the Schism”, Athens, 1911, p. 69 ).

[8] Hieromonk Chrysostom Koutloumousianos "Face and Primate".

[9] Doctor of Medicine (and the student of theology of Fr. John Romanidis) Georgy Karalis, in his own texts relating to our subject, aptly calls them "primate-addicts".

[10] "The Ecumenical Patriarch: ‘The Power of the Great Church is Not Secular’."

[11] “And no one should think that this is said to be disgusting for the Roman court. But we boldly control and prevent its innovations and novelties” (St. Meletius Pigas “Church Lighthouse”, 57, 1975, p. 621).

[12] Karmiri Ioannou, a university professor, “Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments,” Volume II, Ed. II, Austria, 1968, p. 560.

[13] "But these deacons and deacons among them, one (says) must have the upper hand over all and, indeed, they call him the ‘lead deacon’. But even for them, one Christ is the beginning and the head of all, so that Christ, according to the Apostle, be the first in everything and among all” (Rejoice Volume, 1705, p. 577).

[14] The text of Ravenna and the primacy of the Pope.

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How do you assess the Phanar's statements about possible union with Catholics?
negatively, association with heretics is impossible
why not, we used to be one Church
this is the case of Phanar and the RCC, we have nothing to do with it
Total votes: 74


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