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Concerning the ’Historic Meeting‘ Between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis (May, 2014)

Banner image promoting the Apostolic Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

Dear Reader,

I am writing this small commentary one week before the so-called “Apostolic Pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” that is, the “Historic Meeting” Between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis. You can read all about it at the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Web site commemorating the event.

Until recently I was disinclined to post anything about this event. Another ecumenical meeting, more statements, etc. It’s getting old and tiresome. The Web site contains the usual heretical statements about our ecclesiology, the Roman Catholics, etc.:

  • “These spiritual leaders...are part of the ancient, Christian, undivided Body of Christ; like John Paul II said: ‘Two lungs of the same body’.” (Fr. Karloutsos in this video)
  • “During the past five decades, both churches have come to see themselves as ‘sister churches’ that have a solemn obligation to heal their division so that they may give a common witness to Christ and His Gospel.” (Pilgrims for Unity)
  • “...jointly responsible for the preservation of the One Church of God...” (Visits of Ecumenical Patriarchs to Rome and Popes to the Ecumenical Patriarchate")

OrthodoxInfo.com has a plethora of articles addressing this kind of thing (see some of these resources, below).

However, when I became aware of how much it was being promoted, especially in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), I decided that I should do what I can, however small. I am an ordained Reader serving in the GOA (Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Beaverton, Oregon). Should I keep silent?

The Ecumenical Patriarchate has obviously thrown a lot of resources at promoting this event. The Web site, ApostolicPilgrimage.org, is very well done. It is attractive and contains many articles, videos and photographs. There are beautifully designed flyers, bulletin inserts, and posters, Web and print media logos, graphics, and Web-buttons, a FAQ, a Press Kit, etc. It is hard to imagine what more could be done to spread the word and encourage support.

The GOA, too, has recently been sending out numerous emails to their clergy, strongly encouraging the dissimenation of these materials. These were forwarded to me by a GOA Priest. Reading them increased my concern, prompting me to post something. Here is one of these emails:

Screenshot of GOARCH email promoting the event

Thankfully the language makes it clear that although promoting this event is heavily encouraged, doing so is optional. (When it becomes mandatory we have a very serious problem calling for right-believing and courageous clergy to take a stand that may cost them dearly.) Nevertheless, it is disturbing that the leadership and communication organs of our Church are doing everything possible to encourage their members to embrace these union efforts.

I would like to suggest that everyone who is concerned or largely ignorant of these issues take time to compare the statements and articles on ApostolicPilgrimage.org with the suggested reading materials below, that is, past encyclicals of the Orthodox Church, the writings of the Saints – especially the recently glorified (canonized) Saint Justin (Popovich), who had much to say about ecumenism – and other articles critiquing these union efforts over the past many decades. Read the amazing letter to Pope Francis (April, 2014) by Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus (Church of Greece). Also, study false union attempts in Church history, such as the one in Florence, Italy in the early fifteenth century (see The History of the Council of Florence; excerpt). Then reflect upon the following:

  • Since the two famous encyclicals of the nineteenth century were written, the state of Roman Catholicism has only gotten worse.
  • You cannot find one living Holy Elder or Saint of the Orthodox Church supporting these union efforts.
  • The weight of Holy Tradition is overwhelmingly against what these ecumenists are doing and saying.
  • You should not be taken in by the “official” nature of all these efforts, or by the pomp and ceremony. Imagine what the propaganda machine might have been like if the Internet, modern printing, etc. existed during the time of the Council of Florence. Imagine watching the delegation of numerous Bishops sail off to Florence, looking so impressive and “official.” It would make you want to believe that this is all the Holy Spirit’s doing, that we should get behind this, that it’s clearly the will of God. Yet all but one of the hierarchs who went to Florence capitulated to Rome. Only St. Mark returned not having signed the union agreement; and he was later glorified by the Church as a “pillar of Orthodoxy”.
  • Finally, reflect on what you can do to resist these false union efforts, these muddying of the waters, this creation of confusion among the faithful by the many misguided, even heretical, leaders of our Church.

~ Patrick Barnes

Suggested Further Reading and Listening

Posted on 5/17/2014. Updated links on 6/10.2014.