The Official Statement from Mt. Athos on the Pope's Visit to the Phanar (2006)
Karyae, 30 December 2006.
The recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the occasion
of the feast-day of Saint Andrew (30th November 2006) and thereafter the visit by
His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens Christodoulos (14th December 2006) gave rise
to a multitude of impressions, evaluations and reactions. We shall bypass those
things that the secular Press had evaluated as positive or negative, to focus on
those things that pertain to our salvation, for the sake of which we abandoned the
world to live in the barrenness of the Holy Mountain.
As Monks of the Holy Mountain, we respect the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under whose
jurisdiction we fall. We honor and venerate the Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
and we rejoice in all that he has achieved and so diligently labored for, in his
love of God, for the Church. We particularly commemorate the stolid and untiring
defence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, amid the many unfavorable conditions that
exist, as well as the impoverished local Orthodox Churches and the care that is
taken to project the message of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. Furthermore,
we the Monks of the Holy Mountain honor the Most Holy Church of Greece, from which
most of us originate, and we respect His Beatitude the Primate.
However, the events that took place during the recent visits of the Pope to Fanarion
and of His Beatitude the Archbishop to the Vatican brought immense sorrow to our
We desire and we struggle all of our life to safeguard the trust of the Holy Fathers,
which was bequeathed to us by the holy Founders of our sacred Monasteries and the
blessed reposed fathers before us. We strive to the best of our ability to live
the sacrament of the Church and the unblemished Orthodox Faith, according to what
we are daily taught by the divine Services, the sacred readings, and the teachings
in general of the Holy Fathers which are set out in their writings and in the decisions
of the Ecumenical Synods. We guard our dogmatic awareness “like the pupil of our
eye”, and we reinforce it, by applying ourselves to God-pleasing labours and the
meticulous study of the achievements of the holy Confessor Fathers when they confronted
the miscellaneous heresies, and especially of our father among the saints, Gregory
of Palamas, the Holy Martyrs of the Holy Mountain and the Holy Martyr Kosmas the
First, whose sacred relics we venerate with every honor and whose sacred memory
we incessantly celebrate. We are afraid to remain silent, whenever issues arise
that pertain to the trust that our Fathers left us. Our responsibility, towards
the most venerable fathers and brothers of the overall brotherhood of the Holy Mountain
and towards the pious faithful of the Church who regard Athonite Monasticism as
their non-negotiable guardian of sacred Tradition, weighs heavily upon our conscience.
The visits of the Pope at Fanarion and the Archbishop’s visit at the Vatican may
have secured certain benefits of a secular nature, however, during those visits,
various other events took place which were not according to the customs of Orthodox
Ecclesiology, or commitments were made that would neither benefit the Orthodox Church,
nor any other heterodox Christians.
First of all, the Pope was received as though he were a canonical (proper) bishop
of Rome. During the service, the Pope wore an omophoron; he was addressed by the
Ecumenical Patriarch with the greeting “blessed is the one who comes in the name
of the Lord” as though it were Christ the Lord; he blessed the congregation and
he was commemorated as “most holy” and “His Beatitude the Bishop of Rome”. Furthermore,
all of the Pope’s officiating clergy wore an omophoron during the Orthodox Divine
Liturgy; also, the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer, his liturgical embrace with the
Patriarch, were displays of something more than common prayer. And all of this,
when the papist institution has not budged at all from its heretical teachings and
its policy; on the contrary, the Pope is in fact visibly promoting and trying to
reinforce Unia along with the Papist dogmas on primacy and infallibility, and is
going even further, with inter-faith common prayers and the pan-religious hegemony
of the Pope of Rome that is discerned therein.
As for the reception of the Pope in Fanarion, we are especially grieved by the fact
that all of the Media kept repeating the same, incorrect information, that the psalms
that were (unduly) sung at the time had been composed by Monks of the Holy Mountain.
We take this opportunity to responsibly inform all pious Christians that their composer
was not, and could never be, a monk of the Holy Mountain.
Then there is the matter of the attempt by His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens
to commence relations with the Vatican on social, cultural and bio-ethical issues,
as well as the objective to mutually defend the Christian roots of Europe (positions
which are also found in the Common Declaration of the Pope and the Patriarch in
Fanarion), both of which may seem innocuous or even positive, given that their aim
is to cultivate peaceful human relations. Nevertheless, it is important that all
these do not give the impression that the West and Orthodoxy continue to have the
same bases, or lead one into forgetting the distance that separates the Orthodox
Tradition from that which is usually presented as the “European spirit”. (Western)
Europe is burdened with a series of anti-Christian institutions and acts, such as
the Crusades, the “Holy” Inquisition, slave trading and colonization. It is burdened
with the tragic division which took on the form of the schism of Protestantism;
the devastating world wars, also the man-centered humanism and its atheist view.
All of these are the consequence of Rome’s theological deviations from Orthodoxy.
One after the other, the Papist and the Protestant heresies gradually removed the
humble Christ of Orthodoxy and in His place, they enthroned haughty Man. The holy
bishop Nicholas of Ochrid and Zitsa wrote the following from Dahau: «What, then,
is Europe? The Pope and Luther.... This is what Europe is, at its core, ontologically
and historically». The blessed Elder Justin Popovitch supplements the above: «The
2nd Vatican Synod comprises the rebirth of every kind of European humanism.... because
the Synod persistently adhered to the dogma on the Pope’s infallibility» and he
surmises: «Undoubtedly, the authorities and the powers of (western) European culture
and civilization are Christ-expellers». This is why it is so important to project
the humble morality of Orthodoxy and to support the truly Christian roots of the
united Europe; the roots that Europe had during the first Christian centuries, during
the time of the catacombs and of the seven holy Ecumenical Synods. It is advisable
for Orthodoxy to not tax itself with foreign sins, and furthermore, the impression
should not be given to those who became de-Christianized in reaction to the sidetracking
of Western-style Christianity, that Orthodoxy is related to it, thus ceasing to
testify that it is the only authentic Faith in Christ, and the only hope of the
peoples of Europe.
The Roman Catholics’ inability to disentangle themselves from the decisions of their
pursuant (and according to them, Ecumenical) Synods, which had legitimized the Filioque,
the Primacy, the Infallibility, the secular authority of the Roman Pontiff, ‘created
Grace’, the immaculate conception of the Holy Mother, Unia. Despite all these, we
Orthodox continue the so-called traditional exchanges of visits, bestowing honors
befitting an Orthodox Bishop on the Pope and totally disregarding a series of Sacred
Canons which forbid common prayers, while the theological dialogue repeatedly flounders,
and, after being dredged from the depths, it again sinks down.
All indications lead to the conclusion that the Vatican is not orienting itself
to discard its heretical teachings, but only to “reinterpret” them—in other words,
to veil them.
Roman Catholic ecclesiology varies, from one circular to the other; from the so-called
“open” ecclesiology of the Encyclical «Ut Unum Sint», to the ecclesiological exclusivity
of the Encyclical «Dominus Jesus». It should be noted that both of the aforementioned
views are contrary to Orthodox Ecclesiology. The self-awareness of the holy Orthodox
Church as the only One, Holy, Catholic (=overall) and Apostolic Church does not
allow for the recognition of other, heterodox churches and confessions as “sister
churches”. “Sister Churches” are only the local Orthodox Churches of the same faith.
No other homonymous reference to “sister churches” other than the Orthodox one is
The “Filioque” is promoted by the roman catholic side as yet another legal expression
of the teaching regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit, and theologically equivalent
to the Orthodox teaching that procession is “only from the Father”—a view that is
unfortunately supported by some of our own theologians.
Besides, the Pontiff is maintaining the Primacy as an inalienable privilege, as
one can tell from the recent erasure of the title “Patriarch of the West” by the
current Pope Benedict XVI; also from his reference to the worldwide mission of the
Apostle Peter and his successors during his homily in the Patriarchal Temple, as
well as from his also recent speech, which included the following: «...within the
society, with the Successors of the Apostles, whose visible unity is guaranteed
by the Successor of the Apostle Peter, the Ukrainian Catholic Community managed
to preserve the Sacred Tradition alive, in its integrity» (Catholic Newspaper, No.3046/18-4-2006).
Unia is being reinforced and reassured in many and various ways, despite the proclamations
by the Pope to the contrary. This dishonest stance is witnessed, apart from other
instances, by the provocative intervention of the previous Pope, John-Paul II, which
led the Orthodox-roman catholic dialogue in Baltimore into a disaster, as well as
by the letter sent by the current Pope to the Cardinal Ljubomir Husar, the Uniate
Archbishop of Ukraine. In this letter dated 22/2/2006, the following is emphatically
stressed: «It is imperative to secure the presence of the two great carriers of
the only Tradition (the Latin and the Eastern).... The mission that the Greek Catholic
Church has undertaken, being in full communion with the Successor of the Apostle
Peter, is two-fold: on one side, it must visibly preserve the eastern Tradition
inside the Catholic Church; on the other, it must favour the merging of the two
traditions, testifying that they not only can coordinate between themselves, but
that they also constitute a profound union amid their variety».
Seen in this light, polite exchanges such as the visits of the Pope to Fanarion
and the Archbishop of Athens to the Vatican, without the prerequisite of a unity
in the Faith, may on the one hand create false impressions of unity and thus turn
away the heterodox who could have looked towards Orthodoxy as being the true Church,
and on the other hand, blunt the dogmatic sensor of many Orthodox. Even more, they
may push some of the faithful and pious Orthodox, who are deeply concerned over
what is taking place inopportunely and against the Sacred Canons, to detach themselves
from the corpus of the Church and create new schisms.
Thus, out of love for our Orthodoxy, but with pain as regards the unity of the Church,
and with a view to preserve the Orthodox Faith free of all innovations, we proclaim
in every direction that which was proclaimed by the
Extraordinary, Double, Holy Assembly of our Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain
on the 9th / 22nd of April 1980:
«We believe that our Holy Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic
Church of Christ, having the fullness of Grace and the Truth, and for this reason,
an uninterrupted Apostolic Succession. On the contrary, the “churches” and the “confessions”
of the West, having distorted the faith of the Gospel, the Apostles and the Fathers
on many points, are deprived of the hallowing Grace, the true Sacraments and the
Dialogues with the heterodox—if they are intended to inform them about the Orthodox
Faith so that when they become receptive of divine enlightenment and their eyes
are opened they might return to the Orthodox Faith—are not condemned.
In no way should a theological dialogue be accompanied by common prayers, participation
in liturgical assemblies and worship by either side and any other activities that
might give the impression that our Orthodox Church acknowledges the Roman Catholics
as a complete Church and the Pope as a canonical (proper) Bishop of Rome. Such acts
mislead the Orthodox as well as the Roman Catholic faithful, who are given a false
impression of what Orthodoxy thinks of them....
With the Grace of God, the Holy Mountain remains faithful—as do the Orthodox people
of the Lord—to the Faith of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers, and also out
of love for the heterodox, who are essentially helped, when the Orthodox with their
steadfast Orthodox stance point out the extent of their spiritual ailment and the
way they can be cured.
The failed attempts for union during the past teach us that for a permanent union,
according to the will of God, within the Truth of the Church, the prerequisite is
a different kind of preparation and course, than those which were followed in the
past and appear to be followed to this day.».
By all of the Representatives and Superiors of the common Assembly of the twenty
Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Mountain Athos.
Promulgated by Monk Prodromos Gregoriates - Secretariat of the Sacred Community.
The Greek text can be found at www.agioros.com. Translation by: A. N.