The Announcement of the Extraordinary Joint Conference of the Sacred Community of the Holy Mount Athos
The Extraordinary Joint Conference of the Sacred Community on
Mount Athos, April 9/22, 1980, noting that the issue of the
relations of our holy Orthodox Church with the heterodox has
assumed a serious and resolute character, especially as it
relates to the dialogue with Roman Catholics, has resolved
publicly to state the opinion of the Athonite fathers on this
subject for general consideration:
1. We believe that our holy Orthodox Church is the One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, which possesses the
fulness of grace and truth and, in consequence thereof, unbroken
On the contrary, the "churches" and
"confessions" of the West, having in many ways
perverted the Faith of the Gospel, the apostles and the fathers,
are deprived of sanctifying grace, of real mysteries and
apostolic succession. That this is correct, His Eminence,
Metropolitan Maximos of Stavropolis stresses: "Orthodoxy is
not one of the churches, but The Church herself. She has
preserved precisely and authentically the teaching of Christ in
its pristine splendor and in all its purity. Over and above a
simple, unbroken histoncal continuity and consistency there
exists in her a spiritual and ontological authenticity. The same
Faith, the same Spirit, the same life. It is this which
constitutes the distinguishing feature of Orthodoxy and which
justifies her claim that she is and remains The Church" (Episkepsis, #227, March 15, 1980).
2. Dialogue with the heterodox is not reprehensible from the
Orthodox point of view if its goal is to inform them of the
Orthodox Faith and, thus, make it possible for them thereby to
return to Orthodoxy when they receive divine enlightenment and
their eyes are opened.
3. Theological dialogue must not in any way be linked with
prayer in common, or by joint participation in any liturgical or
worship services whatsoever; or in other activities which might
create the impression that our Orthodox Church accepts, on the
one hand, Roman Catholics as part of the fulness of the Church,
or, on the other hand, the Pope as the canonical bishop of Rome.
Activities such as these mislead both the fulness of the Orthodox
people and the Roman Catholics themselves, fostering among them a
mistaken notion as to what Orthodoxy thinks of their teaching.
The Holy Mountain is grievously disturbed by the tendency of
certain Orthodox hierarchs who have been invited to participate
in Roman Catholic services, celebrations and processions,
especially on the occasion of the return of holy relics.
Conversely, we congratulate those hierarchs who have publicly
expressed their alarm for the fulness of Orthodoxy.
4. We express our complete approval of what His All-Holiness.
the Ecumenical Patriarch said during the visit of the Pope to
Constantinople, namely that there exist various impediments
between Orthodox and Roman Catholics: "First of all, we have
serious theological problems which concern fundamental principles
of the Christian faith" (Episkepsis, #221,
Dec. 1, 1979, p. 17). These divergences in the
principles of the Christian faith requires that we do not advance
to participation in common liturgies and worship services before
oneness of faith is attained. The mystical character of the kiss
of peace during the divine Eucharist always presupposes harmony
of faith: "Let us love one another that with one mind we may
confess ... " We cannot pray together, especially during
the Divine Liturgy, when we do not believe in the same faith and
are separated by fundamental questions of faith. Only an
indifference to the faith could permit us to do so.
Moreover, the Holy Mountain cannot accept the opinion,
expressed in the joint statement of the Patriarch and the Pope,
concerning the "cleansing of the historical memory of our
Churches" and the partial opening, by means of a dialogue of
love, of the road towards "new movements in theological work
and a new attitude to the past which is common to both
Churches" (Episkepsis, ibid.,
p. 19). Actually, the heretics must cleanse their own historical
memory of all their own historically acknowledged deviations in
faith and practice from the true, evangelical Orthodox Faith. On
the contrary, the historical memory of the Orthodox, which is
based on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and on the constant
experience of the apostolic faith of the God-bearing Fathers,
must be lived by all of us in repentance and humility, and must
instruct us both in the present and in the future life if we do
not wish to fall from that faith. As Orthodox we must cleanse
ourselves by means of the historical memory of the Church, but
not "cleanse" her with an egotistical and
anthropocentric spirit, setting ourselves up as judges of the
Tradition of the Church.
5. The Holy Mountain is convinced, not without great anxiety,
that although the Orthodox are making many concessions and
compromises to the Roman Catholics, the latter antithetically
continue to adhere to their own errors which have served as the
cause of their schism from the Orthodox Church and later led to
the Protestant split. Thus, the Pope, during his visit to the
center of Orthodoxy in the patriarchal cathedral, did not in the
least hesitate to proclaim that he was coming to Constantinople
as the successor of Peter, "who as the ultimate authority
has the responsibility of superintending the unity of all, to
guarantee the agreement of the Church of God in fidelity and in
the 'faith which was once delivered unto the saints' (Jude 3)" (Episkepsis, ibid., p. 9).
In other words, the Pope defended (papal) infallibility and
primacy; and there are many other actions and manifestations
which the Pope has effected on behalf of uniatism. We remember
the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Greek
Government and the Vatican which, even though it may justify
papism, is unjust and strikes out at the Mother and Nourisher of
our [Greek] nation, the Orthodox Church.
6. The Holy Mountain also expresses its anxiety over the
constituency of the commission for the dialogue. Uniates comprise
a portion of the Roman Catholic delegation, a fact which is a
provocation for the Orthodox. The sensibilities and dignity of
the Orthodox delegation demand the immediate substitution of
others in place of the uniates in the membership.
No Orthodox whose manner of thinking corresponds to this faith
can agree to participate in a commission which includes uniates.
Likewise, the Holy Mountain is disturbed by the great weakness
and insufficiency of the Orthodox delegation. The most remarkable
Orthodox theologians are not participating. The Holy Mountain is
also not represented, despite the fact that it is the sole
monastic center which preserves the faith and the theology of the
Fathers, and which is far removed from the influence of
secularism and scholastic Western theology.
7. From the Orthodox point of view there is no justification
for optimism in regard to the dialogue, and for this reason no
haste should be exhibited concerning it. The Roman Catholics are
pressing the dialogue, hoping to strengthen themselves by
annexing Orthodoxy to themselves, for they are confronted by very
powerful internal disturbances and crises, as is well known. The
number of former Roman Catholics who have converted to Orthodoxy
also disturbs them. But Orthodoxy has no reason to hasten towards
dialogue since the papists remain so obdurate and immovable as
regards infallibility, uniatism, and the rest of their pernicious
Hastening the dialogue under such conditions is equivalent to
spiritual suicide for the Orthodox. Many facts give the
impression that the Roman Catholics are preparing a union on the
pattern of a unia. Can it be that the Orthodox who are hastening
to the dialogue are conscious of this?
The Holy Mountain maintains that for it there can be no
question of accepting a fait accompli, that,
by the grace of God, it will remain faithful, as the Lord's
Orthodox people, to the faith of the holy apostles and the holy
Fathers, impelled to this also by love for the heterodox, to whom
real help is given only when the Orthodox show them the vastness
of their spiritual sickness and the means of its cure by
maintaining a consistently Orthodox position.
The unsuccessful attempts in the past with regard to union
must teach us that steadfast unity in the truth of the Church, in
accordance with the will of God, presupposes a different
preparation and a path distinct from that taken in the past and
from that which, apparently, is now being taken.
All of the superiors and representatives of
the twenty sacred and pious monasteries of the Holy Mountain of
Athos at the Extraordinary Joint Conference.