Patriarch Bartholomew and three signs of his pride

11 November 2021 22:41
Why did Patriarch Bartholomew Why did Patriarch Bartholomew "give a damn" to the unity of the Church? Photo: UOJ

The Phanar head said he "doesn't care" about severed communion with the ROC. Why did one of the most respected bishops of the Church say so, and what does it mean?

Speaking to distinguished members of the Greek Diaspora in the United States, Patriarch Bartholomew claimed he "does not care" that his name had been excluded from the diptychs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The phrase used by the Patriarch of the Great Church of Constantinople is quite dirty. According to the Russian-speaking Greeks, who are equally fluent in both languages, the words of Patriarch Bartholomew "σκασίλα μου" are close to rudeness, and their translation into Russian as "I don't care" is quite soft. The theatrical pause of the head of Phanar at this moment and the laughter of the Greek audience are also very revealing.

Pat. Bartholomew seems to have stopped literally one step away from using obscene language. It is possible that down the road he will say something “more” without restraint. Why do we think so? Because we have to state with big regret that once one of the most authoritative patriarchs of the world, the hierarch of the Church of Christ is gradually becoming a person who is increasingly departing from the Gospel and the teachings of Christ. This can be evidenced not only by his "I-don’t-care" response to the issue of the unity of the Church, but also by many other examples, which we will discuss below. Why is this happening and what has caused such outright spiritual degradation

“Stubbornness of the will” and acknowledgement of mistakes

One of the Church Fathers said that "heresy is not a delusion of the mind but stubbornness of the will." Indeed, a lot of heretics were well-educated people and could not help but understand that their teachings went against the teachings of Christ and the Church, but still adhered to their heresies. Why? Because of stubbornness of the will, i.e. because of pride.

In other words, admitting one's mistake requires abandoning pride, which has always been a painful solution for heretics, as evidenced by the history of the Church. After all, they believed that they were better than others, smarter, more educated, and therefore no one dared to teach or correct them. As a result, Arius, Nestorius, and Macedonius denigrated their names and entered the history of the Church as heresiarchs. It seems that the same problem concerns Patriarch Bartholomew.

By granting the Tomos to the OCU, he committed a deliberate canonical crime. The head of Phanar explained his action by the "need" and "benefit" for the Church. That is, according to him, the "autocephaly" of the OCU was to overcome the split in Ukraine, unite the "three branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy" and bring millions of Ukrainians to the Church of Christ (we will not mention the personal interests of the Patriarchate of Constantinople). However, none of that kind happened. And it is impossible not to see it.

There is not even an elementary thing – real unification of Ukrainian schismatics among themselves.

There is not even a basic thing in the OCU – real unification of Ukrainian schismatics.

As is known, one of the main principles of the Church's existence as an institution is the "one city - one bishop" principle, worded at the First Ecumenical Council. According to the logic of canon law, with the formation of the OCU, the dioceses of the UOC-KP and the UAOC in one territory had to unite into one, whereas one of the "ruling bishops" had to concede and make way for another. But nothing of that kind happened. There are still two dioceses and two 'bishops' in each regional center. Moreover, in Vinnytsia, where after the split of Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky), the former ruling bishop of the Vinnytsia diocese of the UOC, there are three dioceses in the structure of the OCU: Vinnytsia-Bar, Vinnytsia-Bratslav, and Vinnytsia-Tulchyn. Despite the difference in names, all three structures have their sees in Vinnytsia, with the ‘ruling bishops’ also based there.

In other words, the autocephaly of the OCU did not fulfill its mission for which it was issued by Phanar. Moreover, it has split the Orthodox world, as some Churches and bishops recognize its legitimacy, others do not. Does Patriarch Bartholomew see this? Yes. Does he understand what's going on? Of course. Then why doesn't he annul his decision on the Tomos of the OCU as, for example, he abolished the autonomy of the Archdiocese of the Western Parishes? We look above – "stubbornness of the will rather than delusion of the mind." It means that pride does not allow the head of Phanar to make the only right decision in this situation. What gives us the right to say this? Comparison of Patriarch Bartholomew’s actions with what the holy fathers say about pride.

The first sign of pride: exaltation

Pride is a mortal sin and passion, which has a progressive character, like any passion, and necessarily affects all aspects of a person's spiritual life. St. John Chrysostomos wrote that "pride is the beginning of sin", because "every sin begins with it and is rooted in it."

Abba John Cassian the Roman speaks of pride as follows: “This passion, although the last in the struggle against vices and in the order of calculation, is the first in importance and time of origin: this beast is the fiercest, most ferocious of all previous ones, and tempts particularly perfect and those who have almost achieved the top of virtue to destroy them with cruel remorse. Pride is such a great evil that deserves to have neither the Angel nor other opposing forces as its adversary, but God Himself. The Venerable Anthony the Great echoes him: "All sins are abominable before God, but the most abominable of all is the pride of the heart."

Anyway, how to recognize a proud person, what signs indicate that a person has succumbed to this passion? Let us listen to St. Basil the Great: “The beginning of pride is usually contempt. He who despises and considers others to be nothing – some poor, others of low birth, others ignorant, as a result of such contempt comes to the point that he considers himself wise, prudent, rich, noble and strong."

The beginning of pride is usually contempt. He who despises, as a result of such contempt, comes to the point that he considers himself wise, prudent, rich, noble and strong.

Saint Basil the Great

And now let us compare the words of the great saint with some of the statements of Patriarch Bartholomew. For example, commenting on the disagreement of the Russian Church with the recognition of the OCU, the head of Phanar said that it was "a slanderous campaign against the historical responsibility of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which brought them Christianity and made them civilized people."

These words savor of the exaltation, which St. Basil pointed to. It is confirmed not only by Patriarch Bartholomew, but also by his closest associates. For example, one of the oldest bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Metropolitan Apostolos (Dannilidis) of Derkoi, said literally the following:

“I read with disgust in the media the anti-church and anti-Greek statements of representatives of the Russian presence in Ukraine and with holy indignation, I answer: Put your hands and mouth down from the Successor of those who made you Christians! You owe everything you are to what you so disparagingly call: Istanbul! For us, it is the one City that has stood here for centuries now and only benefits all of you who celebrate the thousand, one thousand, and thirty-three years of your Christianity, without mentioning anywhere who was the one who baptized you and gave you what you boast you have. We have given you light, you are returning it to us in darkness! We gave you grace; you give us ungratefulness! We brought you culture, you insult us!"

We can cite other statements of Patriarch Bartholomew and other representatives of Phanar, who constantly appeal to their role in the history of the Russian and other Churches. Phanariots believe that the very fact of receiving the faith of Christ from the hands of the Greeks is already a sufficient reason to occupy a special position in the Church. But the main thing in the Church is not ethnic origin, the main thing is not to be the heirs of a particular nation or a civilization, but to be similar to the saints, to be of Christ's origin. After all, didn't the Jews tell Christ that "we are children of Abraham"? But do you remember what Christ answered them?

Didn't the Jews tell Christ that "we are children of Abraham"? But do you remember what Christ answered them?

The second sign of pride: craving for honors

Saint Basil the Great points to another sign of a proud man: “How do you recognize a proud man? It is known by the fact that he seeks preferableness."

Therefore, in addition to exaltation, the second sign of pride is the desire for honors and preferences. Let’s cite the words of Patriarch Bartholomew: "We have a responsibility to lead the Local Autocephalous Churches as an elder brother of one family." Or "Those who question the rights and responsibilities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in fact, question their very existence and identity, the very structure of Orthodoxy."

Elsewhere, the head of Phanar speaks of the place he thinks he should occupy in the Church: “I want to ask: isn't there a first diocese in every diocese? Isn't there a First in every church? Then why shouldn’t he (the First – Ed.) be in the Local Churches? Since there is the First starting from the smallest structure, which is a parish, to the Local Church as a whole, how is it possible that the Local Churches do not have their First?”

Here are the words of Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianople: “There is an opinion that the Church is headed by Christ. But in reality the Church is headed by the Ecumenical Patriarch."

How do you recognize a proud man? It is known by the fact that he seeks preferableness.

Saint Basil the Great

However, in the Church the First, i.e. Her Head, has always been, is and will be the Lord Jesus Christ. Phanar's disagreement with this capitalized truth only points to the disease that has afflicted this once Great Church.

The third sign of pride: resentment

To the exaltation and desire for honors, St. John Chrysostom adds a third sign of pride – resentment: “A proud person is willing to take revenge for offenses. The proud cannot indifferently tolerate insults from either the higher or the lower; and whoever does not tolerate resentment calmly is unable to endure misfortune."

Again, in an interview with the Greek newspaper Politis, Patriarch Bartholomew stated literally the following: "We are definitely upset by the initiative to hold a ‘fraternal meeting’ in Amman." It would seem – why is the Orthodox patriarch upset because of the meeting of the Primates of the Local Churches? Because they do not agree with his decision to recognize the OCU, because he did not gather them, because some of them refused to take part in the Council of Crete, which was organized by Phanar.

In general, Patriarch Bartholomew has repeatedly hinted that the decision to recognize the OCU was prompted by the refusal of the Russian Church to participate in the Council of Crete. Here is just one of these statements: "Now they are asking for the Synod (in order to consider the decision to recognize the OCU – Ed.)! They should have recognized the Pan-Orthodox Council of Crete and they should also have come there. But they did not!”

How can we not recall the reasoning about the pride of the Venerable John Cassian the Roman: "Pride is characterized by the following signs: at first it’s loud in conversation, annoyed in silence, bursts into laughter in merriment, gets unreasonably upset in the time of sorrow, obstinate in the answer, frivolous in speaking; words are expressed without any involvement of the heart, recklessly. Pride has no patience, it is alien to love, boldly insults but cannot stand being insulted. It is not inclined to obey if something contradicts its desire and will. It is adamantly resistant in accepting admonitions; weak in renouncing its will, very reluctant to obey others, always tries to insist on its own opinion and averse to another opinion; therefore, having become incapable of accepting salvific advice, it relies more on its own opinion rather than on the judgment of elders or spiritual fathers." 

Pride as a spiritual disease

The Orthodox are now getting accustomed to the fact that there is a shocking statement from Patriarch Bartholomew every month or two. It is probably not worth quoting all those words when Patriarch Bartholomew resorted to bold insults, was reluctant to accept admonition, tried to insist on his opinion, and relied on his own judgment more than that of the elders or spiritual fathers. All these statements were vigorously discussed in the Orthodox community.

It is obvious that the spiritual state of the head of the Church of Constantinople is very similar to the one described by the Venerable John Cassian the Roman. But could it be otherwise? After all, having decided to issue the Tomos to unrepentant Ukrainian schismatics and then having communion with them, the patriarch simply could not avoid being infected with the spiritual disease all the schismatics suffer from – pride. It is this passion that prevents a person from saying one simple word "forgive me", it is this passion that does not allow him to admit his mistakes and prevents him from embarking on the path of correction.

If this is true when we speak of an ordinary Christian, then with regard to Patriarch Bartholomew the problem of spiritual dependence on pride is only exacerbated many times over. St. John Cassian wrote that “pride razes the high walls of holiness to the ground of vices and leaves no freedom to the conquered soul. Moreover, the richer the captured soul is, the more severely it is subjected to the yoke of slavery and is completely exposed by the pride in the end, all the property of virtues having been cruelly plundered."

We dare to say that Patriarch Bartholomew is a man who is captivated by passion and, according to St. Basil the Great, he "cannot be healed of this passion unless he gives up all thoughts of his preferableness", especially since he is a monk, and it is always salvific for a monk and a Christian to fight against exaltation and pride.

Because, as St. John Chrysostomos said, "there is no evil equal to pride," because "it turns a man into a demon – a brazen, blasphemous oath-breaker." Let's add: and into the one who "does not care" about the unity of the Church of Christ.

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