IN DEFENCE OF THE TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF GREECE

Written by Vladimir Moss

IN DEFENCE OF THE TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF GREECE

Against the Attacks of Fr. Roman Pavlov

Vladimir Moss

Writing under the name of Protopriest Konstantin Fyodorov but without his approval[1], Fr. Roman Pavlov has posted a slanderous attack in the spirit of the Greek Matthewite schismatics on the True Orthodox Church of Greece led by Archbishop Chrysostom (Kiousis) of Athens, the so-called “Florinites”. Wishing to portray the True Orthodox Church as ecumenist or semi-ecumenist heretics and schismatics, Fr. Roman lumps together this rightly-confessing Church with the group known as “Synod in Resistance” or the Cyprianites, failing completely to make clear that the Cyprianites created a schism from the True Orthodox Church in 1984 on the basis of a confession of faith that the True Orthodox Church officially and formally rejected. Moreover, Fr. Roman slanders the reposed first hierarch of the True Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina (+1955), in a lamentable manner, distorting some important facts and completely omitting others. Through a carefully doctored version of history, he seeks to prove that the Matthewites have been the only canonical True Orthodox Christians in Greece since 1937, and that the Florinites are heretics and schismatics. From this he seeks to draw the conclusion that his own Russian Synod, avoiding the mistakes of ROCOR in its relations with the new calendarists and Florinites, should enter into communion with the Matthewite Churches of Greece and Cyprus.

But let us see what the facts actually are…

*

In 1924 the State Church of Greece adopted the new calendar. The resistance to this innovation was led at first by a few priests, mainly from Mount Athos, and some hundreds of thousands of laypeople. In 1935, however, three bishops returned to the Old, Julian Calendar from the State Church: Metropolitan Germanos of Dimitriades, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina and Metropolitan Chrysostom of Zakynthos. Having officially declared the new calendarist State Church to be schismatic and deprived of the grace of sacraments, the three bishops proceeded to ordain four new vicar-bishops. The impulse that these events gave to the Old Calendar movement alarmed the Greek authorities, who immediately began to persecute the bishops, and soon Metropolitan Chrysostom of Zakynthos and two of the vicar-bishops returned to the State Church, leaving two metropolitans and two vicar-bishops in True Orthodoxy.

In 1936 Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina travelled to the Middle East, where he tried to recruit the support of the Old Calendar Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem to convene an Ecumenical or Pan-Orthodox Council that would condemn the new calendar. On his return to Greece, Metropolitan Chrysostom, together with Metropolitan Germanos, the head of the Synod, began to declare that the new calendarists were only potentially, and not yet actually schismatics, and that they could be deposed and considered definitely out of the Church only as the result of a decision of an Ecumenical, Pan-Orthodox or, at any rate, large Local Council. This alarmed the two vicar-bishops, Matthew of Bresthena and Germanos of the Cyclades, who almost immediately (within a few weeks) denounced the two metropolitans as apostates, declared them excommunicated and deposed and started referring to them as, for example, “the former Metropolitan of Demetriades” or “Monk Chrysostom”.

Astounded by this extreme zealotry, which went, as they considered, far beyond the bounds of acceptable akriveia or strictness, the two metropolitans denounced the Matthew and Germanos, and so a schism was created in the ranks of the True Orthodox. In the early 1940s Metropolitan Germanos died in exile, while the two vicar-bishops separated from each other. In 1948 Bishop Germanos made overtures towards Metropolitan Chrysostom, and the two bishops eventually returned into communion with each other. Meanwhile, Bishop Matthew ordained on his own four new bishops and was promoted by them to the rank of “archbishop”. In 1950 Bishop Matthew died. Metropolitan Chrysostom then issued an encyclical in which he repented in very humble terms of his calling the new calendarists merely “potential” schismatics, and appealed to the “Matthewites” to return into communion with him. They rejected this overture, and continued to denounce him as an apostate until his death in 1955 (Bishop Germanos died as a confessor in prison in 1951).

Finding themselves without bishops, the so-called “Florinites” or “Chrysostomites” appealed to Archbishop John Maximovich to help them. He was sympathetic to their plight, and referred them to Metropolitan Anastasy. However, the metropolitan did not want to help for fear of angering the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with which ROCOR wanted to remain on good terms… In 1960, the Florinites sent their first candidate for the episcopate, Archimandrite Acacius (Pappas), together with his nephew, the present Metropolitan Acacius of Diauleia, to America, where Fr. Acacius the elder was ordained to the episcopate by Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov) of Chicago and Bishop Theophilus (Ionescu), a Romanian new calendarist bishop who was part of the ROCOR Synod. Since Metropolitan Anastasy had not blessed this ordination, it was clearly uncanonical – apart from the fact that Bishop Theophilus denied that he had participated in it. Later, in 1962, Archbishop Leonty of Chile travelled to Athens, where, together with Bishop Acacius, he ordained Archimandrite Auxentius and some others to the episcopate. This, too, was uncanonical, since it was done again without the metropolitan’s blessing. However, Archbishops John Maximovich and Averky argued that the ordinations should be recognized nevertheless, and eventually, in 1969, the whole ROCOR Synod led by Metropolitan Philaret officially recognized the newly created “Florinite” Synod.

Alarmed by the formation of this “rival” Synod, the Matthewites sent a delegation to New York in 1971, asking the ROCOR Synod to rule on the canonicity or otherwise of their single-handed ordinations by Bishop Matthew. In a carefully balanced judgement, the ROCOR Synod refrained both from condemning Bishop Matthew’s ordinations and from fully accepting them. The two bishops in the Matthewite delegation, Metropolitans Callistus of Corinth and Epiphanius of Kition, received the laying on of hands (cheirothesia in Greek, rukopolozhenie ruk in Russian) while wearing their episcopal vestments, and were required to perform the same sacrament on their fellow bishops on their return to Greece, who would then perform it on their priests. They were also required to enter into communion with the “Florinite” Synod under Archbishop Auxentius. Bishop Laurus, secretary of the ROCOR Synod, interpreted the cheirothesia as a full cheirotonia, implying rejection of the validity of Matthew’s ordinations. However, Metropolitan Philaret and Protopresbyter George Grabbe called it, at different times, “a prayer of absolution” (for the sin of Matthew’s one-handed ordinations) and “a blessing”.

On the return of the Matthewite bishops to Greece, the other bishops accepted cheirothesia from them, but most of the priests refused, being incited by the lay theologians Eleutherius Goutzides and Menas Kontogiannis (the future “Metropolitan” Kyrikos of Mesogaia) to reject the whole act as a Masonic plot designed to deny the validity of their apostolic succession and so destroy the True Orthodox Church of Greece.[2]

Eventually, in 1984, the Matthewite Synod officially declared the 1971 union and cheirothesia to be “a robber act, which had been previously constructed by the enemies of the Church.”[3]

Not content with this, in 2005 “Metropolitan” Kyrikos of Mesogaia went into schism from the main Matthewite Synod under Archbishop Nicholas, denouncing them as heretics who had betrayed the True Church of Greece by their acceptance of the cheirothesia in 1971…

*

So did Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina fall away from the True Church in 1937? Of course not! There is no precedent in Church history for a senior metropolitan falling away from the Church simply on the basis of his hesitating over the exact canonical status of an erring Local Church. How many Orthodox hierarchs in the centuries since 1054 have expressed themselves ambivalently in relation to the Roman Catholic heretics! And yet not one of them was brought to trial, let alone condemned, for such ambivalence! Only in the ecumenist twentieth century did the True Church take a stricter attitude in relation to such ambivalence – because by then ambivalence had been replaced by full recognition of the heretics (no talk of “potential schism” here!), praying together with them, removal of anathemas from them, and trampling on the dogma of the One Church for the sake of them. Metropolitan Chrysostom, it must be emphasized, did none of these things: he never concelebrated with the new calendarists (unlike some ROCOR hierarchs) and never removed the anathemas against the new calendar, but only wondered whether the Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece was competent to declare the new calendarists already anathematized.

The most that Metropolitan Chrysostom can be accused of is inconsistency: in 1937 he softened the very strict position he had taken in 1935. And yet his wavering was understandable: he was in negotiations with the Antiochian and Jerusalem patriarchates for the convening of an Ecumenical Council that would condemn the new calendarists, and he knew that these patriarchates, being still in communion with the new calendarists, would never accept that they were already condemned. Of course, from a Matthewite perspective, the attempt to win the cooperation of these patriarchates was in itself a kind of betrayal; for, in accordance with the words of St. John Chrysostom that they loved to quote, “he who communes with an excommunicate is himself excommunicated”; so the Antiochian and Jerusalem patriarchates – indeed, all the Local Churches – were, according to their reasoning, outside the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

If the two metropolitans had shown a certain inconsistency compared with their previous statement, this inconsistency pales into insignificance by comparison with the blatant contradictions of the strict Matthewite position.

Let us consider some of these:

1. On October 11, 1934 the Administrative Council of the Old Calendarists appealed to ROCOR to consecrate bishops for them. Nothing came of their appeal, but by this appeal the Old Calendarists (including the future Bishops Matthew and Germanos) showed that they still recognized the canonicity of bishops who remained in communion with the new calendarists – as ROCOR remained at that time.[4] Again, in May, 1935 the three hierarchs in official communications did not reject the Old Calendarist Local Churches that were in communion with the new calendarists (Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, etc.), but sought to “collaborate” with them.[5] So if these Churches still remained inside the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in spite of being in communion with the new calendarists, how was it possible to condemn Metropolitan Chrysostom, who was not in communion with the new calendarists?

2. If the new calendarists lost grace immediately they accepted the new calendar in 1924, then even the three hierarchs who later returned to the Old Calendar lost the grace of the episcopate at that time. But in that case, when they returned to the Old Calendar in 1935, they returned as simple laymen. And yet they were received in their existing rank by the community of priests and laity. They did not make a public confession of repentance, saying that they had been trying to work for the restoration of the Julian calendar from within the State Church. They were re-established in their sees through their public confession of the true faith.[6] In any case, a group of priests and laity, however large and distinguished, cannot confer the grace of the episcopate, nor restore it to one who has lost it. This shows that the three hierarchs were accepted by the Old Calendarists (including the future Bishops Matthew and Germanos) as being bishops in good standing in the period 1924-35.

3. The two bishops justified their separation from, and condemnation of, the two metropolitans on the grounds of the 15th Canon of the First-and-Second Council of Constantinople (861), which allows one to separate from a bishop even before a conciliar decision has been made about him if he pronounces heresy publicly. But what heresy did Metropolitan Chrysostom confess? Hesitating about whether the new calendarists are inside or outside the Church is not a heresy. In any case, for complete consistency, the cut-off point should not be considered to be the introduction of the new calendar in 1924, but the first official proclamation of the heresy of ecumenism in 1920. But in that case the Ecumenical Patriarchate must have lost grace as early as 1920… And in that case the whole Orthodox Church lost grace, because no Local Church broke communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate…

*

Such are the absurdities and contradictions to which the ultra-strict Matthewite position leads…

But there is a further, still more serious contradiction in the position of Fr. Roman Pavlov. By accepting the ultra-strict Matthewite ecclesiology, and the Matthewites’ condemnation of Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina, he is logically obliged to condemn also the whole course of ROCOR under its first two first-hierarchs, and to cast ROCOR into the same abyss of condemnation and gracelessness as he casts Metropolitan Chrysostom. For, as he himself documents, ROCOR did not make a radical break with World Orthodoxy until the time of Metropolitan Philaret and his anathema against ecumenism in 1983. Even then, hierarchs such as Archbishop Anthony of Geneva ignored and/or distorted the anathema, and continued both to recognize World Orthodoxy and to remain in communion with part of it. As late as 1994 ROCOR under Metropolitan Vitaly officially accepted the Cyprianite ecclesiology, which recognizes World Orthodoxy as being inside the True Church, at the same time that the True Orthodox Church of Greece had not only condemned Cyprianism, but had officially condemned the new calendarists as graceless no less than four times (in 1935, 1950, 1974 and 1991).

The new calendar innovation did indeed create a schism, and the new calendarists have truly fallen under the Pan-Orthodox anathemas of 1583, 1587 and 1593. This is the Orthodox confession, and all those who wish to remain within the True Church must join themselves to this confession. However, differences of opinion as to precisely when this or that group has fallen into schism and gracelessness are permissible, as they have always been permissible in Church history. The important thing is not mathematical correctness, but a correct attitude to innovation and heresy. The “zeal without knowledge” of Fr. Roman Pavlov does not help the zealot cause, but hinders it by falling into manifest contradictions and absurdities, and by slandering those hierarchs who, while erring at times like all men, confessed the true faith to the end of their lives and have earned eternal memory in the heavens…

July 16/29, 2010.



[1] The first part appeared as “РПЦЗ и Церковь ИПХ Греции и Кипра: история общения и проблемы его восстановления”, http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=lib&id=2759 (in Russian)

[2] Matthewite zealotry went even further. In 1980 the head of the Matthewite Synod, Archbishop Andreas, told the present writer that ROCOR had actually been schismatics from 1924 to 1971, and that the only sacrament actually performed in New York in 1971 had been performed by the Matthewite bishops on the ROCOR bishops, whereby the Matthewites received the whole ROCOR Synod (invisibly and without their knowledge) from schism into the True Church! The Matthewite metropolitans had not entered into communion with the Russians until they had confessed (orally) that the new calendarists were schismatics. By this oral confession they were, supposedly, invisibly restored to the True Church by the Matthewite metropolitans. Unfortunately, they fell away again in 1976 when the Matthewites broke communion with them…

[3] Kirix Gnision Orthodoxon (Herald of the True Orthodox Christians), March, 1984, pp. 102-103, Epistle 1897 of March 1 (in Greek).

[4] George Lardas, The Old Calendar Movement in the Greek Church: An Historical Survey, B.Th. Thesis, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, 1983, p. 17.

[5] http://www.genuineorthodoxchurch.net/images/GOCDemetrias1935eng.pdf; http://www.genuineorthodoxchurch.net/images/GOC1935DiangelmaBeng.pdf.

[6] Bishop Photius of Marathon, private communication, March 5, 2008.

‹‹ Back to All Articles
Site Created by The Marvellous Media Company