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A Desperate Appeal by the Elder Philotheos

by St. Philotheos Zervakos

Translator's Preface: The author of this appeal is the best-known father-confessor and preacher of Greece—truly, a new St. Cosmas of Aitolia—who has traversed Greece on foot countless times in his 67 years of priesthood, being now in his 97th year. His spiritual children number in the thousands, not only in Greece, but in the United States, Australia, Europe, and other parts of the world as well. A truly apostolic man filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he is known especially for exorcising demons and giving spiritual direction. According to report, he has worked many miracles. He most vividly prophesied the destruction of Asia Minor in the early twenties, at a time when no one could believe what he was saying. Therefore the terribleness of his utterance in the present letter (p. 20), in which he foresees the terrible fall of the Ecumenical Patriarch if he does not repent.

Until recently Father Philotheos was many times invited by both Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Iakovos to visit Constantinople and the United States in order to hear confessions and to preach. On all occasions he refused, saying that he did not wish to concelebrate with shaven clergy who do not respect the traditions of the Church. Many times he has written his spiritual children, especially in the United States, to cease attending the churches of the Greek Archdiocese, and to attend rather the churches of the Russian Church Outside of Russia. He has written numerous books and articles, among which are: A Great and Marvelous Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Mount Sinai, The Wayfarer (his autobiography), Sacred War Against Blasphemy, and The Errors of Apostolos Makrakis.

FROM SOME TIME PAST I had purposed to write to Your All Holiness because of Your hasty and unhesitating dealing toward a union of the Orthodox Eastern Church with the evil-doctrined Papacy.

I did not write to You, because illustrious hierarchs, elect clerics, most pious professors and theologians, virtuous monks, learned, informed laymen have written clearly against this false union pursued in so hasty and servile a manner. [1]

I had hoped that the sufferings which have come from the sins of all us Greeks—both clergy and lay, men and women, small and great—would have brought You to Your senses, and chat You would have diverted Your audacious and (to the Orthodox Church) most soul-harming resolution into an effort to unite the divided portions of the Orthodox Church in Greece. One would have expected that the Primate of Greek Orthodoxy would have first preached repentance to all of the Orthodox Church and to the sinful Greek people; that he would have given the sign for a return to the All-Ruler; and that he would call for a union and friendship with the most loving—but also most just—Heavenly Father, from Whom, as disobedient and ungrateful despisers of His Divine commandments and precepts, we have broken away and are become, instead of His friends, His enemies. Likewise, one would have expected that You would have taken care to restore the unity of our Church from the division and schism caused by that thoughtless, pointless, untimely and diabolical innovation—the introduction of the Gregorian (Papal) Calendar by Your Masonic predecessor, Meletios Metaxakis, who misled the then Archbishop of Athens, Chrysostom Papadopoulos.

Unfortunately not, however. Not only did You have no provision and no concern for the above-mentioned primary needs and similar urgent sacred matters that should take precedence over every other endeavor, but instead, to the strengthening and widening of the schism within the Church of Greece, You hasten with swift step and slavish mind to the fulfillment of Your first dubious decision—that is, toward false union with the falsely-infallible Pontiff who summoned You, as someone in error, to return to the Papal fold.

It is precisely because I see that the Union above every other union—that is, the essential Union and Friendship with the Triune God—does not concern You (nor does the reestablishment of the unity of the divided and much-suffering Greek Orthodox Church) that I am obliged to write You, fearing lest I shall sin if I keep silent and do not profess the truth.

See, Your All-Holiness, how by means of dissension the wolf seizes and scatters the sheep of Your own flock which the Lord has entrusted unto You and for which He shed His Blood. And You have no concern for the sheep. You are only concerned at all cost to achieve union and friendship with—and Your own and Your flock's submission to—the Pope.

But take care, Your All-Holiness, because the good and rational sheep of Christ's flock will not follow You, in accordance with the word of the Gospel: And a stranger they will not fol1ow, but will flee from him... (St. John 10:5). Those that will follow You will be such as are outside of the fold of Christ, who are of Papal and Luthero-Calvinistic sheep pens, those whose minds are heterodox.

The first to speak already were the most righteous Fathers of the Holy Mountain, who gave the watchword, the good and honorable example, in imitation of their holy Orthodox Fathers who did not hearken to that other voice like Yours—that is, to the voice of the alien Latinizer, the Patriarch John Beccos. [2] Those Fathers preferred death to false union. And not only do the present Athonite Fathers not follow You, they have even ceased to commemorate You in the Divine services. You must know, Your All-Holiness, that there are not only the Holy Mountain Fathers, but also myriads of other Greek clergy and lay people, genuine Orthodox, some of whom have disavowed You and others who are ready to disavow You in so far as You persist in devious and deliberate false union.

By Your unconsidered and impatient endeavor You have scandalized myriads of souls of elect Orthodox Christians. If it is better for him who has scandalized one of the least of these little ones to hang a millstone upon his neck and be sunk in the depths of the sea (St. Matthew 18:6), then what, Your All-Holiness, will be the punishment for Your sin? For You have scandalized not only one of the least, but myriads of the great—bishops, priests, priestmonks, monks, theologians, both men and women.

Understand this truth that others also have pointed out to You. Before anything else, it is Your job to bring peace and unity to the Orthodox Church, which has been literally shaken by the innovation [the Gregorian Calendar] which—in a manner that was anarchical and without the agreement of all Orthodox Churches—was introduced into the Church of Greece in the year 1924; an innovation that overturned the ecclesiastical order and Tradition established from ages past, that brought about dissensions and divisions, that destroyed unity of worship and created a religious schism among Orthodox everywhere. First take away this schism, and then turn toward the West. Then, and only then, open the portals of the Orthodox Church, and with pure and unfeigned love say unto the Pope and to the heretics, "You desire union? We also desire it and long for it ardently. Behold, we receive you gladly once you have previously cast off your evil doctrines and errors and cast away all that is against the sacred Canons and patristic Traditions of the seven Holy Ecumenical Councils."

But, Your All-Holiness, nowhere do we have any indication that the Church of Rome has clarified her position regarding rapprochement with the Orthodox Church and the other Christian confessions. To the contrary, rather, we have occasion and cause to believe unwaveringly that the Papists persist stubbornly and unchangingly in their evil doctrines and arbitrariness. Even today they announce categorically and unblushingly preach that "Union of Christianity means nothing else but submission to Rome, to the sole Vicar of Christ on earth," and that "the Primacy and the Infallibility are not ecclesiological decrees which the Church can invalidate, but dogmas that no one can shake" (Catholike, the Roman Catholic newspaper of Athens, Oct. 16, 1963); and furthermore that "the Catholic Church is not about to sacrifice any of her truths"— say rather, her errors. To what end, therefore, is this ostentatious diligence on the part of the Orthodox? "The union pursued on both sides cannot be a true union, nor one that is permanent or stable, since it is not based upon unity of doctrine. It is quite clear that since inner union is impossible, external union is impossible also—that is, any rapprochement of the two churches without dogmatic unity in such a way that the followers of the one could partake of the mysteries from priests of the other without hesitation. This external union, which is based upon religious indifference, will have as its result not true union, but the confusion of the churches. The Eastern Church has never permitted, nor will it ever be able to permit, her members to receive the pseudo-mysteries and the (supposed) grace of the Holy Spirit from the clerics of a heterodox church. Whoever thinks otherwise is assuredly not an Orthodox Christian. " [3]

But the whole subject has been made marvelously and superbly clear, leaving no doubt whatever, by St. Nectarios of Pentapolis [4] in his God-enlightened book, An Historical Study Concerning the Causes of the Schism... Concerning the Impossibility or Possibility of Union. It would be most beneficial and to the enlightenment of the faithful if we quote the text verbatim. The Saint says on page 9: "The terms of union are such that they render the sought-for union impossible, because they have no point of contact. Each seeks from the other nothing more nor less than the denial of itself and the basic principles upon which the whole structure of the church is founded. For on the one hand, the Papal church is based on the primacy of the Pope according to their understanding of this point; and on the other, the Eastern Church is founded upon the Ecumenical Councils. Because of this, the terms of union brought forward by either side are impossible of acceptance since they overturn the churches from their very foundations. Hence the ineffectiveness of any concessions either side can make. The primacy of honor which is given by the Eastern Church to the Pope is a useless concession because it lacks the power to hold the fabric of the Western Church together. The concessions given by the Pope to the Eastern Church—that is, her remaining in her own dogmas, customs and disciplines—are not in the least considered as "concessions" by her but as legitimate in themselves, since they are founded on the Canons of the Church, for which reason alone she abides in them. But she demands also that the Pope himself with all the Western Church return to her bosom, renouncing their former life, and come in repentance to her. Therefore the apparent concessions have no meaning whatever, since they are not actually concessions. For union to come about, it is necessary that the concessions remove the main causes of separation. The concessions will truly be such when the Pope gives up his own ways, and not when he simply tolerates those things that have been well-established in the Church. Since the main causes of the separation remain as such, the churches persist in their own ways, and union is impossible. For union to be established, it must be made secure upon the same principle. Otherwise every labor is vain."

Let there be union, Your All-Holiness, but in the way Christ wishes it: far from every worldly purpose and every compromise. Your desire regarding the evil-doctrined Papal church should be an Apostolic desire, a God-bearing and holy desire. Because, as the sacred Canons proclaim: "The things which have been transmitted in Orthodoxy are not 'Yea and Nay,' but they are 'Yea' in truth; and they remain unbroken and unshaken unto eternity." Concerning the middle way of compromise, St. Mark Evgenikos said that not even the idea of it should deceive anyone, because between two opposite doctrines a true middle way of compromise cannot exist. "For these reasons, those who proclaim the middle way of compromise and teach that there is nothing stable or definite and certain, but like hypocrites by means of concessions adapt and waver between each other's opinions, must be avoided. Neither say, Your All-Holiness, that we are pursuing merely an external rapprochement and unity for the formation of a united front of love against hunger, against misfortune, against atheism, against Communism, against war, etc., since union must first be a triumph of truth, and then a triumph of love which springs forth from the unity of faith. And again, neither under the cover of achieving peace should You endeavor as You do, since as that great defender of Orthodoxy, St. Mark Evgenikos, says again, "It is impossible to restore peace if the cause of the schism is not previously removed, and the Pope, who is declared to be equal to God, does not come to self-realization."

Your All-Holiness, the whole history of the efforts for union, from 867 (and especially from 1054) and onward, assures us that the West has always offered to the East the longed-for union of the churches in order to pursue unadmitted Papal plans for the submission of the Orthodox Eastern Church. Furthermore, we are made even more hesitant by the lamentable face that in our midst there exists—as there ought not—the Unia, which, according to the ever-memorable Chrysostom Papadopoulos, "craftily seeks to lead the people into Papism and gradually and imperceptibly to Latinize them." Since it is precisely because of their deceitful posture that the Uniates poison the relations between the two churches, You, Your All-Holiness, should have laid down as a primary condition for union the immediate disbanding of the Unia.

Of course, no true Orthodox Christian, cleric or layman, remains unmoved by the Christ-desired blessing of union as long as deceit and shameful enslavement are not hidden beneath its most sweet name. But a more serious study of the situation as it has taken shape during ten centuries of schism and complete separation, proves that matters are not so simple that with a mere dialogue in the hallways of the Lateran Palace we shall be able to achieve the longed-for union. And a dialogue on equal terms, at this moment being belied by the facts, is shown to be a utopian fantasy. The Western Church must take not merely steps, but giant leaps, in order to reach the place where it formerly stood as a sister to the Eastern Church. Otherwise, if the Church of Rome continues to persist in the principles of Papism and seeks through various means to extend her dominion over the whole ecumene, swallowing and assimilating all, it would be utter folly for us Orthodox to open discussions with men who have no intention of moving from their positions—not even in the slightest—but on the contrary show tendencies to swallow up all the other churches. The healthy and incorrupt conscience of the Orthodox rejects such purposeless and vain discussions.

Take heed, Your All-Holiness, lest with Your untimely endeavors You tear the Church asunder and divide the Orthodox even more than they are divided. Do You take the responsibility for breaking up the unity of the Greek people and shattering their spiritual bonds with the other Orthodox? Why should You force the Holy Mountain Fathers, or five to ten Metropolitans of Greece, to split the Church tomorrow in order to preserve her from an untimely "union"? What do You think You have achieved by Your unique," but wholly uncanonical and unprecedented meeting with the Bishop of Rome? Most simply, You strengthened the Latin position on the schism. And what did Your melodramatic, far-fetched salutation, Your clinging embraces, and Your uncanonical exchange of gifts achieve? Precisely to increase the danger—the danger that the awareness the faithful now have that Papists are heretics will be blunted. Dialogue, prayers together, receiving of gifts, and "liberalizing" innovations are unforgivable according to Orthodox prescription, because they adulterate and change what has been transmitted through the holy Apostles, the holy Fathers, and the Ecumenical and Local Councils. You have infringed on those things "in which it is not permitted to add nor to subtract." And how is it that the contents of page 929 of the second volume of the Tome of Union escape Your attention and do not terrify You?—that is: Unto those who disdain the sacred and divine Canons of our sacred Fathers who had the oversight of the Ho1y Church, which adorn the whole manner of Christian life and guide all to divine reverence: ANATHEMA.

All Your endeavors (and especially chose inadmissible encounters, which do not bear looking into, with the spiritual heads of the "churches"), bring only confusion and turmoil. No, Your All-Holiness; do not "lead us into an evil captivity, and do not aim to drag us down into the Babylon of Western customs and dogmas." [5] Do not; because You will meet resistance. Glory be to God, there exist in this land of martyrdom a love of Orthodoxy and a spirit of resistance. Like an ocean wave, Orthodox thought will overwhelm and sink Your skiff on its course toward a servile, anti-Christ union (submission) with the superheresy of Papism. Florence shall never live again in any form whatsoever. We will tolerate no kind of betrayal. The Greek people, a people who has once given birth to many like St. Photios, Patriarch Michael Cerularios, and St. Mark Evgenikos, will not tolerate betrayal. God has swept away the betrayers.

Abide in the Apostolic decrees and patristic Traditions. Flee innovations as though they were dictated by the devil. Remain within the sacred Canons. If you remain in them you shall be saved and shall have peace, but if you disobey, you shall suffer torments and you [the bishops] shall have everlasting war with one another, receiving as reward a fitting judgment for heedlessness (the Holy Apostles, Epilogue to the Sacred Canons). May You, Your Holiness, respond in such a manner and proclaim to all quarters, both by word and deed, that we also might rejoice and take courage:... We rejoice over them as he that has found great spoil, and press to our bosom with gladness the divine Canons, holding fast all the precepts of the same complete and without change, whether they have been set forth by the holy trumpets of the Spirit, the renowned Apostles, the six Ecumenical Councils, by councils Iocally assembled,... or by our Holy Fathers... And those whom they placed under anathema we also anathematize; those whom they deposed, we also depose; those whom they excommunicated, we also excommunicate; and those whom they delivered over to punishment, we subject to the same penalty... (First Canon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council).

Your All-holiness, The Lucifer of Rome having become exceedingly puffed up and having placed his throne above the stars, be zealous and cry out: Let us stand aright, let us stand in the venerable Traditions of the Fathers. [6]

Let us not be hasty to come to general and enthusiastic conclusions because of a few demonstrations. And especially, let us not deceive ourselves. Still distant—indeed very distant, unfortunately—is the union toward which all turn our hopes.

All things, Your All-Holiness, proclaim the perils we undergo by dialogues with stubborn heretics. And all things oblige us to keep watchful vigil. By remaining rooted and immovable in our Orthodoxy we also give an opportunity to any of the heretics to awaken and to be incorporated into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, so that they might find their salvation.

Do not flatter them, because by doing so You harm them. Let this be our primary and main concern: How we shall propitiate the Lord Who already is wrathful because of our sins; and how, with a pure repentance, we shall render Him kind and placable. Because, confessedly, I fear that concerning the unfortunate Ecumenical Patriarchate (and also in other cases) the word of Scripture is repeated: the priests have set My law at naught and have defiled My sanctuary. Between the holy and the profane they have not discerned. It is terrible for me even to say it, but I see with the spiritual eyes of my soul and I hear with the ears of my heart the angel of Revelation saying to the leader of Greek Orthodoxy: Bring to mind from whence thou hast fallen, and repent... but if not, I come unto thee quickly, and shall remove thy lamp from its place if thou repent not. What a fall! What a catastrophe!

Your All-Holiness, what has come to pass has come to pass. "To fall is human; to persist is satanic." Correct the wrong. Have pity on the wounded Christian faithful. Make steadfast and unite the Orthodox people, who are troubled and divided on each occasion—on one hand by the gross anti-canonical endeavors and aces of such-and-such a Patriarch or Archbishop who violates the calendar (and with it, ecclesiastical order and harmony), thus destroying the unity of the faithful in the matter of external worship; and on the other hand by rash and inadmissible meetings with heretics, and seeking an untimely and thoughtless union with them for the purpose of satisfying selfish desires and dark pursuits that do not look to the benefit of God's Church. We beseech You fervently: Put an end to scandal, "for the path which You have chosen, if it should further bring You into union with the Roman Catholics, would call forth a division in the Orthodox world; for undoubtedly many of Your own spiritual children too will prefer faithfulness to Orthodoxy above the ecumenical idea of a compromising union with non-Orthodox without their full agreement in the truth. [7]

Endnotes

1. See, for example, in The, Orthodox Word, 'The Ecumenical Patriarchate," by Theoklitos, Monk of Dionysiou (vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 31 ff.); and "An Open Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch'' by Archimandrite Epiphanios Theodoropoulos (vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 141 ff.).

2. Who lived in the 13th century. See The Orthodox Word, vol. 3, no. 4, p. 138.

3. K. Dyovouniotes (a theologian of the last century at the University of Athens).

4. Recently Patriarch Athenagoras designated St. Nectarios as "The Patron Saint of Union"! On the contrary, as the present quotation reveals, he was a champion of Orthodoxy.

5. From the Encyclical of St. Mark of Ephesus to all pious Orthodox Christians after the Council of Florence; see The Orthodox Word, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 53ff.

6. From the "Praises" of Orthros for the feast of St. Photios of Constantinople.

7. Letter of Metropolitan Philaret to Patriarch Athenagoras (see The Orthodox Word, vol. 2 no. 1, p. 30). As the present citation indicates, this letter was very well received by pious Orthodox Greeks.

This originally appeared in The Orthodox Word, Jan.-Feb., 1968, 11-20. The Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos will soon be glorified a saint by the State Church of Greece. A book on this great confessor is now in print as part of the Modern Lives of Saints series by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos.