The Church of Greece, autocephaly, Russia, and “the Occupant”
by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis | October 15, 2019
The decision by the Church of Greece to recognize the autocephaly of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” was reached by a Special Synod convened on a day or two’s notice. Why the rush? We don’t know. All we know is that Archbishop Ieronymos did not accept a postponement, and he did not even allow a vote to be taken.
It has already been expressed that “the decision was reached along ethnic and emotional criteria.” What is shocking is that a number of the Hierarchs supported the Ecumenical Patriarchate because it constitutes “the most sacred institution of the [Greek] race.”1 I feel particularly sad after reading certain comments to the effect that Russia is responsible for the Ukrainian schism, along racist and ethno-racial considerations, and that certain observers referred to “pressures” exerted by Russian authorities to thwart the anticipated result, which they were ultimately not able to avert.
The real problem
The problem is not so much the Ukrainian fiasco per se, as the arbitrary decisions of the “Pope of the East”, Patriarch Bartholomew. Also, certain characterizations that have been made baffle us, like that by the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, who referred to the “hegemony” (“ἡγουμενισμὸ”) not of the see of Constantinople, but of Moscow! It is not Russia that is responsible for the schism. If it is, then Constantinople was as responsible for the Great Schism with Rome in 1053.
Let us recall that we were separated from the Pope of Rome on account of his claims to Primacy over the entire Church. For this reason Moscow cut communion with Constantinople. For the same reason, the true Orthodox people today are obliged to secede from the occupant of the throne of the once-upon-a-time capital of the Eastern Roman empire, Constantinople, until he repents and becomes once again primus inter pares and not primus sine paribus2.
We should also point out that the placement of Russian bishops in “lands around the world” does not constitute “expansionism.” All Orthodox churches have done this, and continue to do so, in territories of the schismatic and heretical Roman Catholicism. The ecumene (inhabited earth) and everything in it belong to the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 10:26 and Ps. 24:1), not to Patriarch Bartholomew.
The establishment of Orthodox churches in lands where Christians are in heresy or schism is not a violation of the holy canons, but an urgent need and necessity. Therefore the Russian Church would do well to establish bishops and priests everywhere the people of God need them. (I am available, especially in my hometown of Crete.)3
Reunion with Old Calendarists
Another issue circulating in the media is whether the Moscow Patriarchate is going to recognize the Old Calendar churches in Greece and establish communion with them. Can Moscow do it? Why not? As long as 1) these groups have canonical priesthood, or, if not, they accept to be ordained, and as long as 2) they recognize the sacraments of the Russian Church and of the Churches in communion with it, it would be a great joy to be re-united with the Orthodox Christians of the old festal calendar, something that the Greek Church should have done a long time ago.
After all, the Russian Church Abroad did not separate itself from the old calendarists (to whom it had granted apostolic succession!); it was the old calendarists who separated themselves from ROCOR when it was reunited with Moscow in 2007. Therefore it is up to them to accept or reject reunion.
A few are saying that this would consolidate the schism, and that this reunion must be avoided in every possible way.
When there is no unity in the faith, and when the dogmas and the canons of the Church are trampled upon, the Church cuts off its dead branches. This is what the Church has always done, and what it must do now, and not be reconciled with the falsehood of Ecumenism and Papism.
- This statement is so important and telling, that we share the Greek original: “τὸν ἱερότατο θεσμὸ τοῦ γένους”.
- first among equals, and not first without equal.
- Editor's note: Fr. Emmanuel was recently received into The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, leaving the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America where he was a priest for 30 years.
Article graphics and editing by Anthony Hatzidakis