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The Holy Community, Holy Mountain of Athos
Karyes, 30 December 2006
Protocol Number 2/7/2310
The recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Oecumenical Patriarchate
on the occasion of that Throne’s feast-day celebration of Saint
Andrew (30th November 2006) and thereafter the visit by His Beatitude
the Archbishop of Athens Metropolitan Christodoulos to the Vatican on
(14th December 2006) provoked a variety of impressions, evaluations and
reactions. We shall pass over those things that the secular press evaluated
as positive or negative, to focus on those things that pertain to our
salvation, for whose sake we left the world to live in the wilderness
of the Holy Mountain.
As monks of the Holy Mountain, we respect the Oecumenical Patriarchate,
to whose canonical jurisdiction we belong. We honour and venerate His
All Holiness the Oecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and we rejoice in all
that he has achieved and so laboured for, in a Godly manner, for the Church.
We especially commemorate his solid and untiring defence of the Oecumenical
Patriarchate, amid the many unfavourable conditions that exist, as well
as his support for impoverished Local Orthodox Churches and the care that
has been taken to spread the message of the Orthodox Church throughout
the world. Furthermore, we the monks of the Holy Mountain honour the Most
Holy Church of Greece, in which most of us grew up in and we respect His
Beatitude the Primate.
However, the events that took place during the recent visits of the Pope
to the Patriarchate and of His Beatitude the Archbishop to the Vatican
evoked deep sorrow in our hearts.
We desire and we struggle through our way of life to safeguard the trust
willed to us by the Holy Fathers, which was bequeathed to us by the holy
founders of our Sacred Monasteries and the blessed reposed fathers who
went before us. We strive to the best of our ability to live the mystery
of the Church and the unblemished Orthodox Faith, according to what we
are daily taught by the divine services, the sacred readings, and in general
the teachings of the Holy Fathers which are set out in their writings
and in the decisions of the Oecumenical Councils. We safeguard our dogmatic
conscience 'like the apple of our eyes', and we build on it, by applying
ourselves to God-pleasing labours and the meticulous study of the achievements
of the holy confessor and fathers, when they struggled against diverse
heresies, and especially of our father among the saints Gregory Palamas,
the holy martyrs of the Holy Mountain and the holy martyr Cosmas the First,
whose sacred relics we kiss with all honour and whose sacred memory we
celebrate. We are afraid to remain silent, whenever issues arise that
pertain to the trust that our fathers left us. Our responsibility, towards
the most venerable fathers and brothers of the overall brotherhood of
the Holy Mountain and towards the pious faithful of the Church who regard
Athonite monasticism as their non-negotiable guardian of Sacred Tradition,
weighs heavily upon our conscience,
The visits of the Pope to the Patriarchate and the Archbishop’s
visit to the Vatican may have secured certain benefits of a secular nature.
However, during those visits, various other events took place which were
not according to the lawful custom of Orthodox Ecclesiology, or agreed
commitments were made that would neither benefit the Orthodox Church,
nor any heterodox Christians.
First of all, the Pope was received as though he were the canonical (proper)
Bishop of Rome. During the service, the Pope wore a bishop's stole; he
was addressed by the Oecumenical Patriarch with the greeting 'blessed
is the one who comes in the name of the Lord', as though he were Christ
the Lord; he blessed the congregation and he was commemorated as 'most
holy' and 'His Beatitude the Bishop of Rome'. Furthermore, the Pope presiding
at the Bishop’s Throne while wearing a stole during the Orthodox
Divine Liturgy; also, the recital of the 'Lord’s Prayer', the liturgical
kiss with the Patriarch, are displays which go beyond simple common prayer.
And all of this, when the Papist institution has not at all retreated
from any of its heretical teachings and its policies; on the contrary,
the Pope is in fact visibly promoting and trying to reinforce Uniatism
along with the Papist dogmas on primacy and infallibility, and is going
even further, with inter-faith common prayers and the pan-religious hegemony
of the Pope of Rome that is discerned therein.
As regards the reception of the Pope at the Patriarchate, we are especially
grieved by the fact that all the media kept repeating the same, incorrect
information, that the hymns that were (unduly) sung at the time had been
composed by monks of the Holy Mountain. We take this opportunity to inform
responsibly all pious Christians that their composer was not, and never
could be, a monk of the Holy Mountain.
Then there is the matter of the attempt by His Beatitude the Archbishop
of Athens to commence relations with the Vatican on social, cultural and
bio-ethical issues, as well as the objective to defend mutually the Christian
roots of Europe (positions which are also found in the Common Declaration
of the Pope and the Patriarch of Istanbul), both of which may seem innocuous
or even positive, given that their aim is to cultivate peaceful human
relations. Nevertheless, it is important that all these do not give the
impression that the West and Orthodoxy continue to have the same bases,
or lead one into forgetting the distance that separates the Orthodox Tradition
from that which is usually presented as the 'European spirit'. (Western)
Europe is burdened with a series of anti-Christian institutions and acts,
such as the Crusades, the 'Holy' Inquisition, slave-trading and colonization.
It is burdened with the tragic division which took on the form of the
schism of Protestantism; the devastating World Wars, also man-centred
humanism and its atheist view. All of these are the consequence of Rome’s
theological deviations from Orthodoxy. One after the other, the Papist
and the Protestant heresies gradually removed the humble Christ of Orthodoxy
and in His place, they enthroned haughty Man. The holy bishop Nicholas
of Ochrid and Zhicha wrote the following from Dachau: «What,
then, is Europe? The Pope and Luther.... This is what Europe is, at its
core, ontologically and historically». The blessed Elder
Justin Popovich supplements the above: «The Second Vatican
Council comprises the rebirth of every kind of European humanism....because
the Council persistently adhered to the dogma on the Pope’s infallibility»
and he surmises: «Undoubtedly, the authorities and the powers
of (Western) European culture and civilization are Christ-expellers».
This is why it is so important to project the humble morality of Orthodoxy
and to support the truly Christian roots of the united Europe; the roots
that Europe had during the first Christian centuries, during the time
of the catacombs and of the Seven Holy Oecumenical Councils. It is advisable
for Orthodoxy to not saddle itself with foreign sins, and furthermore,
the impression should not be given to those who became de-Christianized
in reaction to the sidetracking of Western-style Christianity, that Orthodoxy
is related to it, thus failing to testify that it is the only authentic
Faith in Christ, and the only hope of the peoples of Europe.
The Roman Catholics are obviously attempting to disengage themselves from
the decisions of their pursuant (and according to them, Oecumenical) Councils,
which had legitimized the filioque, the primacy, the infallibility, the
secular authority of the Roman Pontiff, ‘created grace’, the
immaculate conception of the Holy Mother, and of the Uniats. Despite all
these, we Orthodox continue the so-called traditional exchanges of visits,
bestowing honours befitting an Orthodox bishop on the Pope and totally
disregarding a series of sacred canons which forbid common prayers, while
the theological dialogue repeatedly flounders, and, after being dredged
from the depths, it again sinks down.
All indications lead to the conclusion that the Vatican is not orienting
itself to discard its heretical teachings, but only to 'reinterpret' them
– in other words, to veil them.
Roman Catholic ecclesiology varies, from one Encyclical to the next; from
the so-called 'open' ecclesiology of the Encyclical «Ut Unum Sint»,
to the ecclesiological exclusivity of the Encyclical «Dominus Jesus».
It should be noted that both of the aforementioned views are contrary
to Orthodox Ecclesiology. Our conscience, duty- bound, declares the holy
Orthodox Church as the only One, Holy, Catholic (= overall) and Apostolic
Church, does not allow for the recognition of other, heterodox churches
and confessions as 'sister churches'. 'Sister Churches' are only the Local
Orthodox Churches of the same faith. No other homonymous reference to
'sister churches', other than the Orthodox, is theologically permissible.
The 'filioque' is promoted by the Roman Catholic side as yet another legal
expression of the teaching regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit,
and theologically equivalent to the Orthodox teaching that procession
is 'only from the Father' – a view that is unfortunately supported
by some of our own theologians.
Besides, the Pontiff maintains the primacy as an inalienable privilege,
as one can tell from the recent deletion of the title 'Patriarch of the
West' by the current Pope Benedict XVI; also from his reference to the
worldwide mission of the Apostle Peter and his successors during his homily
in the Patriarchal Church, as well as from his recent speech, which included
the following: «...within society, with the successors of the Apostles,
whose visible unity is guaranteed by the Successor of the Apostle Peter,
the Ukrainian Catholic Community managed to preserve the Sacred Tradition
alive, in its integrity» (Catholic Newspaper, No.3046/18-4-2006).
The Uniats are being reinforced and reassured in many and various ways,
despite the proclamations by the Pope to the contrary. This dishonest
stance is witnessed to, apart from other instances, by the provocative
intervention of the previous Pope, John-Paul II, which led the Orthodox-Roman
Catholic dialogue in Baltimore into a disaster, as well as by the letter
sent by the current Pope to the Cardinal Ljubomir Husar, the Uniat Archbishop
of the Ukraine. In this letter dated 22/2/2006, the following is emphatically
stressed: «It is imperative to secure the presence of the two great
carriers of the only Tradition (the Latin and the Eastern).... The mission
that the Greek Catholic Church has undertaken, being in full communion
with the successor of the Apostle Peter, is twofold: on the one hand,
it must visibly preserve the Eastern Tradition inside the Catholic Church;
on the other, it must favor the merging of the two traditions, testifying
that they not only can coordinate between themselves, but that they also
constitute a profound union amid their variety».
Seen in this light, polite exchanges such as the visits of the Pope to
the Patriarchate (in Istanbul) and the Archbishop of Athens to the Vatican,
without the prerequisite of unity in the Faith, may on the one hand create
the false impression of unity and thus turn away the heterodox who could
have looked towards Orthodoxy as being the True Church, and on the other
hand, blunt the dogmatic sensor of many Orthodox. Even more, they may
push some faithful and pious Orthodox, who are deeply concerned over what
is taking place inopportunely and against the sacred canons, to detach
themselves from the Body of the Church and create new schisms.
Thus, out of love for our Orthodoxy, but with pain as regards the unity
of the Church, and with a view to preserving the Orthodox Faith free of
all innovations, we proclaim in every direction that which was proclaimed
by the Extraordinary, Double, Holy Assembly of our Sacred Community of
the Holy Mountain on the 9/22 April 1980:
«We believe that our Holy Orthodox Church is the One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, having the fullness of Grace
and the Truth, and for this reason, uninterrupted apostolic succession.
On the contrary, the 'churches' and the 'confessions' of the West, having
distorted the faith of the Gospel, the Apostles and the Fathers on many
points, are deprived of sanctifying Grace, true mysteries (sacraments)
and apostolic succession...
Dialogues with the heterodox - if they are intended to inform them about
the Orthodox Faith, so that when they become receptive to divine enlightenment
and their eyes are opened, they might return to the Orthodox Faith –
are not condemned.
In no way should a theological dialogue be accompanied by common prayers,
participation in liturgical and assemblies of worship, by either side
and any other activities that might give the impression that our Orthodox
Church acknowledges the Roman Catholics (or any Protestant confessions)
as a complete Church and the Pope as a canonical (proper) Bishop of Rome.
Such acts mislead the Orthodox as well as the Roman Catholic (or Protestant)
faithful, who are given a false impression of what Orthodoxy thinks of
With the Grace of God, the Holy Mountain remains faithful - as do the
Orthodox people of the Lord - to the Faith of the Holy Apostles and the
Holy Fathers, and also out of love for the heterodox, who are essentially
helped, when the Orthodox with their steadfast Orthodox stance point out
the extent of their spiritual ailment and the way they can be healed.
The failed attempts for union during the past teach us that for a permanent
union, according to the will of God, within the Truth of the Church, the
prerequisite is a different kind of preparation and course, than those
which were followed in the past and appear to be followed to this day.»
By All the Representatives and Abbots of the Common Assembly of
the Twenty Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos
Monk Prodromos Gregoriates - Secretariat of the Sacred Community