Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning the Balamand Agreement
Last year the seventh plenary session of the "Joint
International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the
Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church" was held from
June 17-24 in the Balamand School of Theology, Lebanon. The theme
of the conference was "Uniatism, method of union of the
past, and the present search for full communion." The
Co-Presidents were Cardinal Edward Cassidy and Archbishop
Stylianos of Australia. The fruit of this meeting was the now
infamous "Balamand Agreement," released by the Vatican
News Service which equated the Orthodox and Catholics as
The Statement is composed of two parts, the first being
ecclesiological principles and, the second, practical rules. The
part dealing with ecclesiastical principles expresses the desire
for the "re-establishment of unity between the Church of the
East and the Church of the West" [par. 9]. The belief of the
Orthodox that "only in her could salvation by found" is
dismissed as showing "little sensitivity" [par. 10].
The Catholics and Orthodox "once again consider each other
in relationship to the mystery of the Church and discover each
other once again as Sister Churches,"[par. 12] thus
"uniatism" is considered no longer acceptable, as there
is no longer a need or desire for missionary activity or
proselytism on either side. It is further stated that there
"is no question of conversion of people from one Church to
the other in order to ensure their salvation" [par. 15].
Finally, the two churches are called "on both local and
universal levels, into the dialogue of love, in mutual respect
and reciprocal trust..." [par. 16]
The second part consists of practical rules, as follows:
firstly, "to put an end to everything that can ferment
division, contempt, and hatred between the Churches" [par.
21]. Secondly, proselytism (missionary work) on either side is
rejected [par. 22]. Thirdly, history is to be forgotten, and no
conclusion are to be drawn from it [par. 23]. Fourthly, religious
freedom is to be upheld and philanthropic activities created
[par. 24]. Fifthly, "pastoral project[s] which may involve
the faithful of other Churches" are forbidden. Further rules
promote open dialogue, condemn rivalry and conflicts, encourages
education which would be "objectively positive with respect
to the other Church... be informed of the apostolic succession of
the other Church and the authenticity of its sacramental
life" [par. 26-35]. It is hoped that "In this way, the
dissipation of prejudices will be helped, and the use of history
in a polemical manner will be avoided" [par. 30].
The following delegates participated: from the Patriarchate of
Constantinople, Archbishop Stylianos of Australia; from the
Patriarchate of Alexandria: Metropolitan Dionysios of Nubia; from
the Patriarchate of Antioch, Metropolitan George of Byblos and
Botrys and Archimandrite Youhanna (Yazigi); from the Moscow
Patriarchate, Hegumen Nestor (Zhilyaev); from the Church of
Romania, Metropolitan Antonie of Transylvania, and Archpriest
Dumitru Radu; from the Church of Cyprus, Metropolitan Chrysanthos
of Morphou and Professor Macarius Papachristophorou, from the
Church of Poland, Hieromonk Barsanuphius (Doroszhiexicz; from the
Church of Albania, Professor Theodoros Papapavli; from the Church
of Finland, Bishop Ambrosius of Joensocu. The executive secretary
was Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy. The Patriarchate of
Jerusalem, and the Churches of Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece
and Czechoslovakia were not represented.
The Balamand Statement has been widely protested among
conservative Orthodox. The following letter to Patriarch
Bartholemew was written by the Sacred Community of Mount Athos.
It originally appeared in Greek in Orthodoxos Typos, March 18,
1994, and has been translated into Russian, Serbian and English.
It is here reprinted with permission from The Ark (Num.
39-40, August 1994), translated by its editor, George S. Gabriel.
+ + +
December 8, 1993
To His Most Divine All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, our
Father and Master, Kyr Kyr Bartholomew,
Most Holy Father and Master:
The union of the Churches or, to be precise, the union of the
heterodox with our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox
Church is desirable to us also so that the Lord's prayer may be
fulfilled, ... that they may be one (John 17:21). At any
rate, we understand and await according to the Orthodox
interpretation. As Professor John Romanides reminds us,
"Christ prays here that His disciples and their disciples
may, in this life, become one in the vision of His glory (which
He has by nature from the Father) when they become members of His
Body, the Church..." 
For this reason, whenever heterodox Christians visit us, to
whom we extend love and hospitality in Christ, we are painfully
aware that we stand apart in faith and, because of this, we are
not able to have ecclesiastical communion.
Schism, the division between the Orthodox and the
Non-Chalcedonians first and between the Orthodox and the
Westerners later, truly amounts to a tragedy about which we must
not become silent or complacent.
In this context, therefore, we appreciate efforts made with
fear of God and in accordance with Orthodox Tradition that look
to a union that cannot take place through the silencing or
minimizing of Orthodox doctrines, or through toleration of the
false doctrines of the heterodox, because it would not be a union
in the Truth. And then in the end, it would not be accepted by
the Church or blessed by God, because, according to the patristic
saying, "A good thing is not good if it is not
achieved in a good way."
On the contrary, it would bring about new schisms and new
divisions and miseries to the already [dis]united  body
of Orthodoxy. At this point, we would like to say that in the
face of great changes taking place in lands that have an Orthodox
presence, and before so many kinds of unstable conditions on a
worldwide scale, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, in other
words Orthodox, Church should have strengthened the cohesion of
the local Churches and given herself over to the care of her
terror-stricken members and to their spiritual stabilization, on
the one hand, and in her consciousness [as the One Holy Church],
on the other, she should have sounded the trumpet of her unique
redemptive power and Grace and manifested it before fallen
In this spirit, to the extent that our monastic office permits
us, we closely follow developments in the so-called ecumenical
movement and dialogues. We note that at times the word of Truth
is rightly divided and, at times, compromises and concessions are
made regarding fundamental matters of the Faith.
Thus, actions and declarations which representatives of
Orthodox Churches have engaged in, that were unheard of until
today and are altogether contrary to our holy Faith, have caused
us deep sorrow.
We shall cite first the case of His Beatitude [Parthenios],
the Patriarch of Alexandria, who, on at least two occasions, has
stated that we Christians ought to recognize Mohammed as a
prophet. To this day, however, no one has called for him to step
down, and this dreadfully heedless Patriarch continues to preside
in the Church of Alexandria as if there were nothing wrong.
Second, we cite the case of the Patriarchate of Antioch,
which, without a Pan-Orthodox decision, has proceeded to
ecclesiastical communion with the Non-Chalcedonians
[Monophysites]. This was done despite the fact that a most
serious issue has not yet been resolved. It is the latter's
non-acceptance of the Ecumenical Councils after the Third and, in
particular, the Fourth, the Council of Chalcedon, which in fact
constitutes an immovable basis of Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, in
this case, too, we have not seen a single protest by other
The gravest matter, however, is the unacceptable change in the
position of the Orthodox that arises from the joint statement at
the June, 1993, Balamand Conference of the mixed commission for
the dialogue between Roman Catholics and Orthodox. It adopted
anti-Orthodox positions, and it is mainly to this that we call
the attention of Your All Holiness.
First, we must confess that the statements which Your All
Holiness has made from time to time that the Uniate movement is
an insurmountable obstacle to the continuation of the dialogue
between Orthodox and Roman Catholics until now put us at ease.
But the above document [of Balamand] gives the impression that
your statements are being sidestepped. Furthermore, Unia is
receiving amnesty and is invited to the table of theological
dialogue despite the contrary decision of the Third Pan-Orthodox
Conference in Rhodes requiring: "the complete withdrawal
from Orthodox lands by the Uniate agents and propagandists of the
Vatican; the incorporation of the so-called Uniate Churches and
their subjection under the Church of Rome before the inauguration
of the dialogue, because Unia and dialogue at the same time are
Your All Holiness, the greatest scandal, however, is caused by
the ecclesiological positions in the document. We shall refer
here to fundamental deviations only.
In Paragraph 10 we read:
The Catholic Church... (which conducted missionary work
against the Orthodox and) presented herself as the only one
to whom salvation was entrusted. As a reaction, the Orthodox
Church, in turn, came to accept the same vision according to
which only in her could salvation be found. To assure the
salvation of "the separated brethren" it even
happened that Christians were rebaptized and that certain
requirements of the religious freedom of persons and of their
act of faith were forgotten. This perspective was one to
which that period showed little sensitivity.
As Orthodox, we cannot accept this view. It was not as a
reaction against Unia that our Holy Orthodox Church began to
believe that she exclusively possessed salvation, but She
believed it before Unia existed, from the time of the Schism,
which took place for reasons of dogma. The Orthodox Church did
not await the coming of Unia in order to acquire the
consciousness that she is the unadulterated continuation of the
One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ, because she
has always had this self-awareness just as she had the awareness
that the Papacy was in heresy. If she did not use the term heresy
frequently, it was because, according to Saint Mark of Ephesus,
"The Latins are not only schismatics but heretics as well.
However, the Church was silent on this because their race is
large and more powerful than ours... and we wished not to fall
into triumphalism over the Latins as heretics but to be accepting
of their return and to cultivate brotherliness."
But when the Uniates and the agents of Rome were let loose on
us in the East in order to proselytize the suffering Orthodox by
mainly unlawful means, as they do even today, Orthodoxy was
obliged to declare that truth, not for purposes of proselytism
but in order to protect the flock.
Saint Photios repeatedly characterizes the Filioque as
a heresy, and its believers as cacodox [wrongly believing].
Saint Gregory Palamas says of the westerner Barlaam, that when
he came to Orthodoxy, "He did not accept sanctifying water
from our Church... to wipe away [his] stains from the West."
Saint Gregory obviously considers him a heretic in need of
sanctifying grace in order to come into the Orthodox Church.
The statement in the paragraph in question unjustly heaps
responsibility on the Orthodox Church in order to lessen the
responsibilities of the Papists. When did the Orthodox trample
upon the religious freedom of the Uniates and Roman Catholics by
baptizing them against their will? And if there were some
exceptions, the Orthodox who signed the Balamand document forget
that those who were rebaptized against their wishes were
descendants of the Orthodox who were forcibly made Uniates, as
occurred in Poland, Ukraine, and Moldavia. (See Paragraph 11)
In Paragraph 13 we read:
In fact, especially since the Pan-Orthodox Conferences
began and since the Second Vatican Council, the rediscovery
and the giving of proper value to the Church as communion,
both on the part of Orthodox and of Catholics, has radically
altered perspectives and thus attitudes. On each side it is
recognized that what Christ has entrusted to his
Churchprofession of apostolic faith, participation in
the same sacraments, above all the one priesthood celebrating
the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of
bishopscannot be the exclusive property of one of our
Churches. In this context, it is clear that every form of
rebaptism must be avoided.
The new discovery of the Church as communion by Roman
Catholics has, of course, some significance for them who had no
way out of the dilemma of their totalitarian ecclesiology and,
therefore, had to turn their system of thought to the communal
character of the Church. Thus, alongside the one extreme of
totalitarianism, they place the other of collegiality, always
motivated on the same man-centered level. The Orthodox Church,
however, has always had the consciousness that she is not a
simple communion but a theanthropic communion or a
"communion of theosis [deification]," as Saint Gregory
Palamas says in his homily on the procession of the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, the communion of theosis is not only unknown in but
also irreconcilable with Roman Catholic theology, which rejects
[the doctrine of] the uncreated energies of God that form and
sustain this communion.
Given these truths, it was with deepest sadness that we
confirmed that this paragraph  makes the Orthodox Church
equal to the Roman Catholic Church which abides in cacodoxy
Serious theological differences, such as the Filioque, Papal
primacy and infallibility, created grace, etc., are receiving
amnesty, and a union is being forged without agreement in dogma.
Thus are verified the premonitions that the union designed by
the Vatican, in which, as Saint Mark of Ephesus said, "the
willing are unwittingly being manipulated," (i.e., the
Orthodox, who also live under hostile circumstances ethnically
and politically today and are captive to nations of other
religions), is pushed to take place without agreement regarding
doctrinal differences. The plan is for union to take place,
despite the differences, through the mutual recognition of the
Mysteries and apostolic succession of each Church, and the
application of intercommunion, limited at first and broader
later. After this, doctrinal differences can be discussed only as
But once union takes place, what sense is there in discussing
theological differences? Rome knows that the Orthodox will never
accept her alien teachings. Experience has proven this in the
various attempts at union up to the present. Therefore, despite
the differences, Rome is crafting a union and hoping, from a
humanistic point of view (as her perspective always is), that, as
the more powerful factor, in time she will absorb the weaker one,
that is, Orthodoxy. Father John Romanides presaged this in his
article "The Uniate Movement and Popular Ecumenism," in
The Orthodox Witness, February 1966.
We would like to put these questions to the Orthodox who
signed this document:
Do the Filioque, [Papal] primacy and infallibility, purgatory,
the immaculate conception, and created grace constitute an
apostolic confession? Despite all of this, is it possible for us
Orthodox to recognize as apostolic the faith and
confession of the Roman Catholics?
Do these serious theological deviations of Rome amount to
heresies or not?
If they are, as they have been described by Orthodox Councils
and fathers, do they not result in the invalidity of the
Mysteries and the apostolic succession of heterodox and cacodox
of this kind?
Is it possible for the fullness of grace to exist where there
is not the fullness of truth?
Is it possible to distinguish Christ of the truth from Christ
of the Mysteries and apostolic succession?
Apostolic succession was first set forth by the Church as a
historic confirmation of the continuous preservation of her
truth. But when the truth itself is distorted, what meaning can a
formulistic preservation of apostolic succession have? Did not
the great heresiarchs often have this kind of external
succession? How can it be possible for them to also be regarded
as bearers of Grace?
And how is it possible for two Churches to be considered
"Sister Churches" not because of their pre-Schism
common descent but because of their so-called common confession,
sanctifying Grace, and priesthood despite their great
differences in dogmas?
Who among the Orthodox can accept as the true successor to the
Apostles the infallible one, the one with the primacy of
authority to rule over the entire Church and to be the religious
and secular leader of the Vatican State?
Would this not be a denial of Apostolic Faith and Tradition?
Or are the signers of this document unaware that many Roman
Catholics today groan under the foot of the Pope (and his
scholastic, man-centered ecclesiological system) and desire to
come into Orthodoxy?
How can these people who are tormented spiritually and desire
holy Baptism not be received into Orthodoxy because the same
Grace is supposedly both here and there? Ought we not, at that
point, to respect their religious freedom, as the Balamand
declaration demands in another circumstance, and grant them
Orthodox Baptism? What defense shall we present to the Lord if we
withhold the fullness of Grace from them who, after years of
agony and personal searching, desire the holy Baptism of our One,
Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church?
Paragraph 14 of the document quotes Pope John Paul II:
"The ecumenical endeavor of the Sister Churches of East and
West, grounded in dialogue and prayer, is the search for perfect
and total communion which is neither absorption nor fusion but a
meeting in truth and love."
But how is a union in the truth possible when differences in
dogmas are sidestepped and both Churches are described as sisters
despite the differences?
The Truth of the Church is indivisible because it is Christ
Himself. But when there are differences in dogmas there cannot be
unity in Christ.
From what we know about Church History, Churches were called
Sister Churches when they held the same faith. Never was the
Orthodox Church called a sister of any heterodox churches,
regardless of the degree of heterodoxy or cacodoxy they held.
We ask ourselves a basic question: have religious syncretism
and doctrinal minimalismthe byproducts of secularization
and humanismperhaps influenced the Orthodox signers of the
It is apparent that the document adopts, perhaps for the first
time by the Orthodox side, the position that two Churches, the
Orthodox and Roman Catholic, together constitute the One Holy
Church or are two legitimate expressions of her.
Unfortunately, it is the first time that Orthodox have
officially accepted a form of the branch theory.
Permit us to express our deep sorrow over this in as much as
this theory comes into screaming conflict with Orthodox Tradition
and Consciousness until now.
We have many witnesses to the Orthodox Consciousness that our
Church alone constitutes the One Holy Church, and they are
recognized as pan-Orthodox in authority. They are the:
1. Council of Constantinople, 1722;
2. Council of Constantinople, 1727;
3. Council of Constantinople, 1838;
4. 1848 Encyclical of the Four Patriarchs of the East and
5. Council of Constantinople, 1895.
These decreed that only our Holy Orthodox Church constitutes
the One Holy Church.
The 1895 Council of Constantinople summarizes all of the
Orthodoxy, that is, the Eastern Church, justly boasts in
Christ that she is the Church of the Seven Ecumenical
Councils and the first nine centuries of Christianity and is
therefore the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of
Christ, the 'pillar and bulwark of truth.' And the present
Roman Church is the church of innovationism and adulteration
of the writings of the Church Fathers and the distortion of
the Holy Scriptures and the decrees of the Holy Councils.
Justly and for good reason it was denounced and is denounced
as long as it persists in its delusion. 'Better a
praiseworthy war,' says Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, 'than a
peace separated from God.'
Representatives of the Orthodox Churches declared the same
things at World Council of Churches conferences. Among them were
distinguished Orthodox theologians, such as Father George
Florovsky. Thus, at the Conference of Lund in 1952, it was
We came here not to judge other Churches but to help them
see the truth, to enlighten their thought in a brotherly
manner, informing them of the teachings of the One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church, that is to say, the Greek
Orthodox Church, which is unaltered from the apostolic
At Evanston in 1954:
In conclusion, we are obliged to declare our deep
conviction that the Holy Orthodox Church alone has preserved
'the faith once delivered unto the saints' in all of its
fullness and purity. And this is not because of any human
merit of ours but because God is pleased to preserve His
treasure in earthen vessels...
And at New Delhi in 1961:
Unity has been broken and it is necessary that it be won
anew. For the Orthodox Church is not a Confession, not one of
the many or one among the many. For the Orthodox, the
Orthodox Church is the Church. The Orthodox Church has the
perception and consciousness that her inner structure and
teaching coincide with the apostolic kerygma and the
tradition of the ancient, undivided Church. The Orthodox
Church exists in the unbroken and continuous succession of
the sacramental ministry, of the sacramental life, and of the
faith. The apostolic succession of the episcopal office and
the sacramental ministry, for the Orthodox, is truly a
component of the essence and, for this reason, a necessary
element in the existence of the whole Church. In accordance
with her inner conviction and an awareness of the
circumstances, the Orthodox Church occupies a special and
extraordinary position in divided Christendom as the bearer
and witness of the tradition of the ancient, undivided
Church, from which the present Christian denominations
originate by way of reduction and separation.
We could also set forth here the testimonies of the most
distinguished and widely acknowledged Orthodox theologians. We
shall limit ourselves to one, the late Father Demetrios
Staniloae, a theologian distinguished not only for his wisdom but
for the breadth and Orthodox mindset of ecumenical perspective.
In many places of his noteworthy book, Towards an Orthodox
Ecumenism, he refers to themes that are relevant to the joint
statement [being discussed here] and bears Orthodox witness.
Through it, therefore, the disagreement between the positions
taken in the document and the Orthodox faith shall be shown:
"Without unity of faith and without communion in the
same Body and Blood of the Incarnate Word, such a Church
could not exist, nor could a Church in the full meaning of
"In the case of one who is entering into full
communion of faith with the members of the Orthodox Church
and is becoming a member, economia [dispensation] is
understood to give validity to a Mystery previously performed
outside of the Church."
"In the Roman Catholic view, the Church is not so
much a spiritual organism that is headed by Christ as it is a
nomocanonical organization which, even in the best of
circumstances, lives not in the divine but in the
supernatural  level of created grace."
"In the preservation of this unity, an indispensable
role is played by the unity of faith because the latter
wholly bonds the members with Christ and with one
"Those who confess not a whole and integral Christ
but only certain parts of Him cannot achieve a complete
communion either with the Church or with one another."
"How it is possible for the Catholics to unite with
the Orthodox in a common eucharist when they believe that
unity is derived more from the Pope than from the Holy
Eucharist? Can love for the world spring forth from the Pope,
that is, the love which springs from the Christ of the Holy
"There is a growing recognition of the fact that
Orthodoxy, as the complete body of Christ, reaches out in a
concrete way to take in the parts that were separated."
It is self-evident that two complete bodies of Christ cannot
Your All Holiness, one has to wonder why the Orthodox proceed
to make these concessions while the Roman Catholics not only
persist in but reinforce their pope-centered ecclesiology.
It is a fact that the Second Vatican Council  not only
neglected to minimize the primacy and infallibility [of the
Pope], indeed, it magnified these. According to the late
Professor John Karmiris, "Despite the fact that the Second
Vatican Council covered over the familiar Latin claims about the
Papacy's monarchical absolute rule with the mantle of the
collegiality of the bishops, not only were those claims not
diminished; on the contrary, they were reinforced by this
Council. The present Pope [John XXIII] does not hesitate to
promote them, even at inopportune times, with much
And the Pope's Encyclical, "To the Bishops of the
Catholic Church" (May 28, 1992), recognizes only Rome as the
"catholic" church and the Pope as the only
"catholic" bishop. The church of Rome and her bishop
compose the "essence" of all other churches. Moreover,
every local church and her bishop simply constitute expressions
of the direct "presence" and "authority" of
the bishop of Rome and his church, which determines from within
every local church's ecclesial identity."
According to this papal document, since the Orthodox Churches
refuse to submit to the Pope, they do not bear the character of
the Church at all and are simply viewed as "partial
churches." "Verdienen der titer teilkirchen."
The same ecclesiology is expressed in The Ecumenical Guide ("a
guide for the application of principles and agenda regarding
ecumenism") of the Roman Catholic Church, presented by
Cardinal Cassidy to the meeting of Roman Catholic bishops (May
10-15, 1993, one month before Balamand), with non-Catholics and
indeed Orthodox in attendance.
The Ecumenical Guide stresses that Roman Catholics
"maintain the firm conviction that the singular Church of
Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, which is ruled by the
successor to Peter and by bishops who are in communion with
him," in as much as the "College of Bishops has as its
head the Bishop of Rome, the successor to Peter."
In the same document, many nice-sounding things are said about
the need to develop an ecumenical dialogue and ecumenical
educationobviously to muddy the waters and draw away naive
Orthodox by that effective, Vatican-designed method of unity,
i.e., of submission to Rome.
The method, according to The Ecumenical Guide, is the
The criteria that were established for ecumenical
collaboration, on the one hand, are mutual recognition of
baptism and the placement of the common symbols of faith in
empirical liturgical life; and on the other, are
collaboration in ecumenical education, joint prayer, and
pastoral cooperation in order that we may be moved from
conflict to coexistence, from coexistence to collaboration,
from collaboration to sharing, from sharing to communion.
Such documents, however, that are full of hypocrisy are
generally received as positive by the Orthodox.
We are saddened to ascertain that the joint declaration is
founded upon the above Roman Catholic reasoning. Because of these
recent developments under such terms, however, we begin to ask
ourselves if those who claim that the various dialogues are
detrimental to Orthodoxy might be justified after all.
Most Holy Father and Despota, in human terms, by means of that
joint declaration Roman Catholics have succeeded in gaining from
certain Orthodox recognition as the legitimate continuation of
the One Holy Church with the fullness of Truth, Grace,
Priesthood, Mysteries, and Apostolic Succession.
But that success is to their own detriment because it removes
from them the possibility of acknowledging and repenting of their
grave ecclesiology and doctrinal illness. For this reason, the
concessions by Orthodox are not philanthropic. They are not for
the good of either the Roman Catholics or the Orthodox. They jump
from the hope of the Gospel (Col. 1:23) of Christ, the
only God-Man, to the Pope, the man-god and idol of Western
For the sake of the Roman Catholics and the whole world, whose
only hope is unadulterated Orthodoxy, we are obliged never to
accept union or the description of the Roman Catholic Church as a
"Sister Church," or the Pope as the canonical bishop of
Rome, or the "Church" of Rome as having canonical
Apostolic Succession, Priesthood, and Mysteries without their
[the Papists'] expressly stated renunciation of the Filioque, the
infallibility and primacy of the Pope, created grace, and the
rest of their cacodoxies. For we shall never regard these as
unimportant differences or mere theological opinions, but as
differences that irrevocably debase the theanthropic character of
the Church and introduce blasphemies.
The following decisions of Vatican II are typical:
The Roman Pontiff, the successor to Peter, is the
permanent and visible source and foundation of the unity of
the bishops and of the multitude of the faithful.
This religious submission of the will and mind must be
manifested in a special way before the authentic teaching
authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex
The Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, by
virtue of his office, possesses infallibility when,
strengthening his brethren (Luke 23:32) as the shepherd and
highest teacher of all the faithful, he declares a teaching
through an act of definition regarding faith or morals. For
this reason it is justly said that the decrees of the Pope
are irreversible in nature and not subject to dispensation by
the Church inasmuch as they were pronounced with the
collaboration of the Holy Spirit... Consequently, the decrees
of the Pope are subject to no other approval, to no other
appeal, to no other judgment. For the Roman Pontiff does not
express his opinion as a private person but as the highest
teacher of the universal Church, upon whom personally rests
the gift of the infallibility of the very Church herself and
who sets forth and protects the teaching of the Catholic
In the course of his responsibility as the vicar of Christ
and shepherd of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has the
fullest, highest, and universal authority in the Church,
which he is always empowered to exercise freely... There
cannot exist an Ecumenical Council if it is not validated or
at least accepted by the successor to Peter. The convocation,
presidency, and approval of the decisions of the Councils are
the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff.
Do all of these teachings, Your All Holiness, not fall upon
Orthodox ears as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and against
the Divine Builder of the Church, Jesus Christ, the only eternal
and infallible Head of the Church from Whom alone springs forth
the unity of the Church? Do these not utterly contradict the
Gospel-centered and God-Man-centered Orthodox Ecclesiology
inspired by the Holy Spirit? Do they not subordinate the God-man
How can we make concessions or co-exist with such a spirit
without losing our faith and salvation?
Remaining faithful to all that we have received from our Holy
Fathers, we shall never accept the present Roman
"Church" as co-representative with ours of the One,
Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ.
We consider it necessary that among the theological
differences the distinction between the essence and the energy of
God, and the uncreatedness of the divine energies be noted,
because if grace is created, as the Roman Catholics claim,
salvation and the theosis of man is nullified, and the Church
ceases to be a communion of theosis and degenerates into a
Deeply pained in our soul because of all the above, we have
recourse to you our Spiritual Father. And with deepest respect,
we call upon you and implore you, in your characteristic pastoral
understanding and sensitivity, to take this most grave matter in
hand and not accept the [Balamand] document, and generally to
take every possible action to stave off the undesirable
consequences it will have for pan-Orthodox unity if by chance
some Churches adopt it.
Moreover, we ask for your holy and God-obedient prayers so
that we too who are lowly inhabitants and monastics of the Holy
Mountain, in this time of spiritual confusion, compromise,
secularization, and the dulling of our doctrinal acuity, may
remain faithful unto death to that which was passed on to us by
our Holy Fathers as a form of doctrine (Rom. 6:17),
whatever that may cost us.
With deepest respect, we venerate your holy right hand.
Signed by: All Representatives and Presidents of the Twenty
Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos
PS. Note that this letter was also sent to the Churches that
participated in the theological dialogue and are, therefore,
directly concerned, and to the remaining Churches to keep them
+ + +
1. To complete the thought of the author we continue the
passage here: "... which would be formed on Pentecost and
whose members were to be illuminated and glorified in this
life... This is how the Fathers understand this prayer... It is
certainly not a prayer for the union of churches... which have
not the slightest understanding of glorification (theosis) and
how to arrive at it in this life." From a rebuttal to the
Balamand Agreement by the renowned Orthodox theologian, Fr. John
S. Romanides, Prof. of Theology, St. John Damascene (Antiochian)
Orthodox Theological School, Balamand, Lebanon; Professor
Emeritus, Univ. of Thessalonica, Greece; former Professor of
Orthodox Theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School,
2. In the Greek text that appeared in Orthodox Typos there
is an apparent typographical error and this word was simply
"united," although the context of the complete sentence
clearly implies the word "disunited."
3. In the Western context here, the supernatural which man
experiences or participates in, like created grace, refers to
something that is not uncreated: "What is received in
the creature must itself be created." Catholic
Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, New York, 1967, p. 815.
Editors' Note: For the full text of the Balamand Agreement see
Eastern Churches Journal, vol. 1, No. 1; for an additional
Orthodox commentary see The Balamand Union: A Victory of
Vatican Diplomacy (Center For Traditionalist Orthodox
Studies, Etna, CA, 1994).
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 44, No. 4,
July-August 1994, pp. 26-39.