The Church of Greece, autocephaly, Russia, and “the Occupant”

The Church of Greece, autocephaly, Russia, and “the Occupant”

by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis | October 15, 2019

On October 12th, 2019, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece recognized the autocephaly of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” granted by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Despite objections by certain hierarchs, it’s now history. What follows are a few comments in the aftermath of this historic event, which is bound to have lasting effects in the life of the Orthodox Church.

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 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.”

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.

Replanting territories

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.

Final words

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.

  1. This statement is so important and telling, that we share the Greek original: “τὸν ἱερότατο θεσμὸ τοῦ γένους”.
  2. first among equals, and not first without equal.
  3. 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.

3 thoughts on “The Church of Greece, autocephaly, Russia, and “the Occupant””

    • Dear Father Eusebios,

      I saw the interview and I heard what His Eminence Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia had to say. Is it certain that a decision has been reached? Yes, it is! Of course there are voices raised concerning the way this decision was reached by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Church of Greece, like those of the two Seraphims, of Piraeus and of Kythera, who are more documented than Metr. Nikolaos. Besides, the Synod has issued a Statement confirming its own decision.*

      Metr. Nikolaos does not say that the Synod has not decided or has not acted properly. To the contrary. His argument is that recognizing the new autocephalous Church is the prerogative of the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, not of the Synod. A special Synod could convene only in case of disagreement with the Archbishop’s decision. In a sense the Synod acted on this issue as an advisory body. The Bishops left the decision to the purview of the Primus. If anyone is not certain about it, it will become abundantly clear this Saturday, when the Ecumenical Patriarch will concelebrate with Archbishop Ieronymos, and the name of Metropolitan Epiphany will be broadcasted urbi et orbi.

      This issue should have been handled not by each autocephalous Church separately, but by a pan-Orthodox Synod. But because such Synod would not have been in the interests of the Ecumenical Patriarch he did not convene it, and he will not allow such Synod to convene in the future, for the same justifiable fear: that the power he claims to possess (which he does not) will be taken away from him.

      So, there will be a schism, and there will be two Churches claiming to be The Orthodox Church, just like there are already two Churches, the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic, both claiming to be The One Church established by Christ. And there are many other groups claiming to be the Church, or part of Her.

      There are, however, other things that bothered me with what the brilliant Metropolitan Nikolaos had to say, which, God willing, I will address in another post.

      * https://www.orthodoxianewsagency.gr/epikairotita/i-iera-synodos-gia-tin-anakoinosi-tou-mitr-kythiron/

  1. Thank you for courageously speaking the truth Fr. Emmanuel. More and more priests in the GOA are afraid to speak up against the course the EP is steering.

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