Οn the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the annual World Day of Prayer for Peace organized in Assisi on Sept. 18-20, 2016, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew released a statement in Italian to “Avvenire,” a newspaper of the Catholic bishops of Italy, entitled, “That all may become one, ‘ut unum sint.’” This year’s theme was, “Thirst for peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.” Before getting to the Patriarch’s message and my commentary I would like to offer a few introductory remarks.
At the first World Day of Prayer for Peace in 1986, 160 religious leaders were gathered, representing 32 Christian groups and 11 non-Christian religions, “spending the day together with fasting and praying to their God or Gods.” Pope Benedict in 2011 did not allow a common prayer, because he didn’t want to convey the impression “that theological differences have been reduced or are not consequential.” However, he concluded his own reflection saying, “In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth justice and forgiveness and life, love!”—a full syncretistic prayer, I should add. How could prayer be absent from an event that takes place for the very purpose of praying for peace? This year’s event gathered more than 450 religious leaders of different faiths.
Here follows the Patriarch’s statement and, next to it, my commentary:
The heretical Pope gave the start to unite all the religions under him, and our Patriarch readily and foolishly ran after him. This initiative sounds noble and innocent, but it constitutes a great deception. In the first place, the Patriarch doesn’t call it for what it is. It is not convened to “work and walk together toward global peace,” but it is a “day of prayer for peace.” There is a problem right there, because Orthodox people are prevented from praying together with non-Orthodox, especially with non-Christians! Besides, I don’t think the mission of the Church is to “work and walk together (with the religions of the world) toward global peace.” St. John the Theologian said, “he who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” (1 John 2:6) Christ didn’t work, and His followers the Saints didn’t “work and walk together” with the religions of the world. The Lord said, “If any one serves me, he must follow me.” (John 12:26) Who does the Patriarch follow? Who does he serve?In the second place, reflect on this year’s theme, “Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.” What is the purpose of this “dialogue”? It is not so much about peace as it is “to walk together” with the religions of the world, united under the Pope, so “there shall be one flock and one shepherd”—not Christ, but the Pope! No acceptance of the same Shepherd, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is needed. Everyone is free to believe whatever each one wants. Pope Francis is frantically working to unite all religions under him and create the One World Religion and the New World Order.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). Indeed, our Patriarch should be glad to be together with his brothers, as the psalmist says. The problem is, these were not his brothers. Christians have always addressed as “brothers” those who share the same faith with them. The Apostle Paul explained to the Corinthians that when he urged them “not to associate with any (immoral man) who bears the name of brother,” he didn’t mean the “outsiders.” (1 Cor. 5:9.11.12) “Brothers and sisters” is equivalent to being all children of God, treated in another post. We address as “brothers” only those who are united with us in faith, having become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ and baptism (see Gal. 3:26-27). Instead, our Patriarch persecutes the true Orthodox, rejoicing in the company of non-Orthodox Christians.But it gets worse. The Patriarch knows that at this particular gathering he is not only among his “brothers” of various Christian denominations, but also among “brothers” of other faiths. Again, let us repeat: this gathering is for the Babylon of Religions and Cultures of the world to Dialogue. So the question arises: how does our Patriarch reconcile these efforts with the words of the Apostle: “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14-16) I would love to have an answer from our Patriarch.
“Our”? “Beloved”? Aren’t these expressions of endearment going a little too far? “Pope”? So now we officially recognize the “usurper” (according to Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus) of the see of Peter as the legitimate Pope? “Guided”? Do we already accept the Pope as the first (primus), and follow him as our guide (pastor)? We do love everyone, as the Lord commands us, and we pray that everyone may come to the knowledge of truth, and thus be saved. But we should not give to heterodox (heretical and schismatic Christians) false hopes that being in heresy and schism (as they are), and being cut off from the Body of Christ (as they are) doesn’t matter. If we fail to evangelize them we fail in our mission.
The following words written by blessed Elder, St. Paisios the Hagiorite about Patriarch Athenagoras are also applicable in this case:
“My writings are nothing more than an expression of my deep pain for the line and, unfortunately, the worldly love of our father Mr. Athenagoras. As shown, he loved another woman, who is modern, called Papal ‘Church,’ because our Orthodox Mother does not impress him, because she is very modest… With such an almost worldly love our Patriarch arrives in Rome. And while he should show love first toward us his children and toward our Mother Church, unfortunately he sent his love very far. The result was to comfort all his secular children who love the world and have this worldly love, but scandalize all of us, the children of Orthodoxy, young and old, who have fear of God.”
Patriarch Bartholomew is a faithful follower of his predecessor, Patriarch Athenagoras, who has fallen madly in love with “the great harlot” (Rev. 17:1), wallowing with her in the mud.
The Lord said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27) Our request in our services (quoted above by the Patriarch) is to receive “the peace from above.” Peace is a surety given us from Christ, which springs from our faith and hope in Him and His promises. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body” (Col. 3:15). Yet the peace the Patriarch so ardently pursues is a worldly peace. Instead of turning his eyes to heaven to seek “the peace from above,” he keeps them on earth, and together with “the religions that work and walk together toward global peace” he strives to achieve earthly peace with human means, thus turning his back to the “Prince of peace.” (Is. 9:6)
This is the first of no less than four times the word “reconciliation” is used in this short statement. Unfortunately, the steps taken towards reconciliation are in the wrong direction. Do you know what our Patriarch means when he says reconciliation? As “unity in diversity.” There is only one way for reconciliation: for the Roman Catholics and all the heterodox to re-join the Orthodox (true) Church. Our Patriarch has not made a single step to encourage them to move in that direction. To the contrary, he tells his Roman Catholic “brothers” that they are fine where they are, the way they are, and that dogmatic differences are “misunderstandings.”
Correction, Your All Holiness: It is not an “urgent exhortation” of the Lord, but a fervent request to His Father. Please, reread His words: “I am praying for them [His disciples]; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me… keep them in thy name…that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:9.11) Christ prays for His disciples, that they may “remain united” (Prof. P. Trembelas), that they may maintain the unity they already have – not strive to achieve a unity they don’t have. The unity prayed for is unity of faith and love. The Apostle Paul says, “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 6:23)
Here is the great apostasy, here is a radical departure from the Tradition of the Church. The Patriarch has cleverly devised another kind of reconciliation. A reconciliation not based on faith but on action. Unfortunately, this other unity is a human construct, which noble as it may be is not the main mission of the Church, but a deviation and a departure from the unity and the reconciliation Christ came to bring us: “God…through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself…and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:18-20) This should be our top priority, and especially the top priority of His All Holiness. This “other reconciliation,” the “unity of action” he pursues, constitutes the greatest threat for the faithful, because it bypasses the truth (that is Christ), acting on a purely human level. He should examine himself, if he faithfully carries out this ministry, this diakonia – if he is a true ambassador for Christ or His betrayer.
So the “Great Commission” (“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20)) is marginalized and is being supplanted by the “principle,” “all human beings face the same challenges.” “Make disciples” is replaced by “mutual respect.” “In the end,” religions don’t make any substantial difference – the Orthodox Church included. The true Church founded by Christ is replaced by the belief in a “new humanity,” in a New World Order, promoted by the Patriarch’s guide, Pope Francis. (July 31, 2016 speech at the World Youth Day.) To both of them, one religion is the same as another. To remain firm in the faith the Patriarch calls it “isolation.” It is terrible to sacrifice our faith in Christ our true God on the worldly altar of the pseudo-religion of ecumenism and syncretism.
Peace and peace and peace; again and again. But what is peace? It’s the same as truth: Christ, “the Lord of peace” (2 Thes. 3:16). Christ spoke clearly: “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace.” (John 16:33) Yes in Him and in no one and in nothing else. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27) In all honesty, whose peace does Patriarch Bartholomew pursue, Christ’s or the world’s?Let us also point out the sober truth, that the Patriarch and his pseudo-council accepted other “heterodox churches,” as if the Lord has founded other churches, besides the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic, Orthodox Church. But that’s only the first step. The second step is to promote and achieve peace and reconciliation among all human beings, “regardless of religious beliefs.”
There are no “Churches of the West and the East.” We don’t subscribe to the heretical “two-lung” theory, which is called by Prof. D. Tselengidis “blasphemous.” The Joint Declaration of Lesvos stated that the aim of the participants is “to fulfill the Churches’ [note the plural] mission of service to the world.” The main task of the Church is not social welfare. Let’s not dilute its mission, which is the transformation of mankind and of the entire cosmos.
We are not opposed to dialogue the aim of which is to proclaim the truth to those willing to hear it. But this kind of dialogue is opposed, even condemned (!) by the ecumenists. Instead, the dialogue they promote is “to go beyond ourselves and what is ours,” meaning to cease to believe that the Orthodox Church is the Church, the one and only Church founded by Christ. Doing so is what they call “isolation,” even extremism.
It is precisely here where our Patriarch mixes up his priorities and departs from his Apostolic Commission to be Christ’s witness “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Lord charged His Apostles to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that He commanded them (see Mt. 28:19-20). Is our Patriarch making disciples of all the religious leaders who were present in Assisi?
As we said in another post, our Patriarch does not even believe in making disciples of the Nations, as expressed in his statement: “The Orthodox Church does not seek to convince others on specific perceptions of the Truth or of the Revelation, nor does she seek to convert them to a specific way of thought.” This is not the Martyria that the Lord expects.
Both our Patriarch and like minded ecumenists need to take the Great Commission seriously and make their own St. Paul’s aphorism, “Woe to me if I do not evangelize!” (1 Cor. 9:16)
Article graphics and editing: Tony Hatzidakis