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Ecumenism and the New Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece

Metropolitan Ierotheos of Nafpaktos

"There are numerous dialogues, today, between our
Church and other Orthodox Churches, other confessions,
and other religions. Is it possible for the Hierarchy to remain
uninformed in this regard...?

Exactly one year ago, after a meeting of the innovationist (New Calendarist) Hierarchs of the Church of Greece (October 1998), His Eminence, Metropolitan Ierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Hagios Vlasios expressed the opinion that any Synod of the Church of Greece that is convened in the future must deal with more serious, more substantive, and more theological issues.1

Expounding further on his observation, he underscored four broad categories of subjects which should be slated for discussion at Synod meetings.

What interests us more, here, is the first category of subjects, which—as His Eminence very aptly writes—includes so-called dogmatic issues.

His subsequent elucidations are indicative of his theological insight and Patristic conscience and they boldly put a finger into the print of the nails [St. John 20:26—Trans.].

We know that dogmas are not metaphysical formul, but the limits of life and death, the boundaries of man's healing of infirmity.

I believe that in our age, it is necessary for us to confront, not only the question of Christology, but also that of ecclesiology. I am referring, here, to the determination of the limits of the Church, to deviations from Orthodox ecclesiology, and to dialogues with other confessions and religions.

There are numerous dialogues, today, between our Church and other Orthodox Churches, other confessions, and other religions.

Is it possible for the Hierarchy to remain uninformed in this regard, not to express their views, and not to define their stand regarding these confessions and religions?

Likewise, is it possible for the people to remain in ignorance and not be adequately informed?1

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In speaking about the determination of the limits of the Church and deviations from Orthodox ecclesiology, His Eminence, Metropolitan Ierotheos certainly knows fully well to whom this pertains, and he is undoubtedly referring to views which he has clearly expressed in the past.

For example, in 1981, he wrote and declared the following, among other things:

The Church and Orthodoxy are identical. Assuredly, the Church is Orthodox and Orthodoxy is the only Church.

Since the Body of the God-Man Christ is one, there are not many Churches, but one.

If we maintain that there are many Churches, we commit an error and blaspheme the Head of the Church, Christ.

We cannot speak of dialogue or union of the Churches.

The Church is never sundered; rather, individuals break away and depart from Her, thereby forfeiting eternal life.

Since there is one Church, She expects those who have departed from Her to return, in order to attain their salvation.

In our days, thanks to the ecumenical movement, which operates within a humanistic framework, there is a tendency to forget the great treasure that we possess and to acknowledge that we Christians are all striving together, as brothers, to discover the truth; there are concerted efforts to deprive us of our self-awareness and to alter the conviction, held by all of the Fathers, that Orthodoxy preserves the truth in the Holy Spirit.

This is a great sin, for it is akin to believing that the true Body of Christ has died and that the Holy Spirit has failed to guide the Church into the wholeness of truth, as the Lord proclaimed.

The reality, nonetheless, is that the Church exists and that She is the Orthodox Church; and, furthermore, that we are waiting for the errant, the heretics, to return to Her in repentance and to acknowledge the truth as our Holy Fathers have handed it down to us.2

With regard to the people remaining in ignorance and not being adequately informed about ecumenical contacts, he noted, with particular emphasis, the following:

The Grace-endowed people are the ultimate criterion of Orthodoxy, and it is their acceptance of a Synods decisions that establishes the correctness and recognition of that Synod.

This is what the Fathers understood the Baptized and those of firm belief to be, and they have declared that the guardian of Orthodoxy is the Body of the Church, that is, the people.

The Grace-endowed people of the Lord (clergy and laity) constitute the vigilant conscience of the Church; no dialogue should take place, and no decision should be made, unless this vigilant conscience of the Church (the Grace-endowed clergy, lay people, and monastics) agrees to it.3

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Metropolitan Ierotheos eminently theological and well-grounded perspective on the first subject category—with which a future Synod of the innovationist Hierarchs must deal in the most serious, substantive, and theological manner—received reinforcement in what has now become the well-known and momentous Memorandum Concerning Ecumenism, which was submitted on September 23, 1998, to His Beatitude, Christodoulos, Archbishop of the New Calendar Church; signed by a number of eminent and respected Abbots, Archimandrites, Priests, and professors,4 it superbly encapsulated—despite its admitted weaknesses—the anguished conscience of the Grace-endowed people.

Strangely enough, nonetheless, despite the fact that, one year ago, the Synod, as a body, had such strong incentives for dealing with an agenda more doctrinal in nature, the subject of ecumenism was not so much as raised at the most recent meeting of the innovationist Hierarchy; it appears that—notwithstanding the many other direct or indirect factors that would impel them in this direction—, for His Beatitude and the Hierarchy, ecumenism is not an issue!

Last year, we pointed out to the innovationist Archbishop Christodoulos some very serious omissions in his Enthronement address, 5 reminding him of his obligation to make it his paramount priority, even at the cost of his Archepiscopal throne, to restore the unity of the Orthodox Church—which is split and divided on account of ecumenism—, thus emulating the Holy Fathers.

St. Tarasios, to cite an example of such a Father, made it a necessary condition for his elevation to the majesty of the Priesthood that an Œcumenical Synod be convened in order to unify the Church, which was split and divided; if this does not come about, the Saint said, it is impossible for me to consent, lest I be subject to anathema and find myself condemned on the Day of the Judge of all men and of righteousness, when neither kings, nor Priests, nor rulers, nor even a multitude of people will avail to deliver me.6

It behooves us, once more, to remind His Beatitude, Archbishop Christodoulos that his Orthodoxy will have full credence only when he properly brings the issue of ecumenism (and that of the calendar question, which it encompasses) before the Synod, surely acting, in this manner, in accord with the synodal and Patristic tradition of our most holy Church and on the basis, moreover, of his own public admission that ecumenism is indeed a heresy.7

Endnotes

1. To Bema (15 November 1998), p. A17.

2. Archimandrite Ierotheos Vlachos, "Phili Orthodoxia" [Beloved Orthodoxy], in Anatolika [Essays on Eastern Orthodox Themes], Vol. 1 (Athens: 1989), pp. 378, 379, 380.

3. Ibid., p. 382.

4. Published by the periodical Parakatatheke, 2nd ed. (Thessaloniki: 1999), pp. 7-53.

5. Hagios Kyprianos, No. 284 (May-June 1998), pp. 59-60 and 67.

6. Mansi, Vol. XII, cols. 987E-990A; Praktika ton Hagion kai Oikoumenikon Synodon, ed. Spyridon Melias, Vol. II (Holy Mountain: Kalyve of the Venerable Forerunner Publications, 1981), col. 724a.

7. Orthodoxos Enimnerosis, No. 30 (October-December 1998), pp. 1 and 4.

The reference, here, is to St. Thomas, who, when he affirmed his belief in the Resurrection of Christ by thrusting his hand in the Lords side and his fingers in the prints of the nails, initiated us into this Mystery (cf. third Sticheron at the Aposticha of Vespers for the Sunday of St. Thomas).

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol XVII, Nos. 2 & 3 (2000), pp. 22-24. Translated from the Greek original in the official periodical of the True (Old Calendar) Orthodox Church of Greece (Holy Synod in Resistance), Orthodoxos Enimnerosis, No. 34 (October-December 1999), pp. 141-142.