I did not sign the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”

Because of the confusion among faithful Christians
concerning whether I finally signed the text of the Holy
and Great Synod with the title “Relations of
the Orthodox Church With the Rest of the Christian
World”, I desire to inform those who are
interested that for reasons of conscience, because I
disagree with the text in its final form, I did not sign
it.

I am publishing here as well my written opinion which
was submitted to the Holy and Great Council regarding this
text.

I write these things simply to set the record
straight, always with great reverence and respect towards
all.

Metroplitan

[signature]

Athanasios of Limassol

30 June 2016

* * *

Written Opinion of Metropolitan
Athanasios of
Limassol, Church of
Cyprus

To the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Synod of the most holy
Orthodox Church,

Your All-Holiness, Your Beatitudes, holy primates, holy
brothers,

Concerning the text of the 5th Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox
Meeting which occurred in Chambesy-Geneva from the 10th to
the 17th of October in 2015 and which bears the title
“Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of
the Christian World”, I have to state the following:

I am in total agreement with the first three articles of
the text. However, from Article 4 onwards, I have made the
following observations: “The Orthodox Church has
always prayed ‘for the union of all'”—I
believe this to mean the return to and union with Her of
all those who broke away and distanced themselves from
Her, of heretics and schismatics, once they have renounced
their heresy and
schism and flee from those things with repentance and
are integrated and joined—united—with the
Orthodox Church in accordance with the teachings of the
sacred canons.

The Orthodox Church of Christ never lost the “unity
of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit” and
does not accept the theory of the restoration of the unity
of those “who believe in Christ,” because it
believes that the unity of those who believe in Christ
already exists in the unity of all of Her baptized
children, between themselves and with Christ, in Her
correct faith, where no heretics or schismatics are
present, for which reason She prays for their return to
Orthodoxy in repentance.

I believe that what is stated in Article 5 regarding
“the lost unity of Christians” is incorrect,
because the Church as God’s people, united among
themselves and with the Head of the Church which is
Christ, never lost this unity and therefore is not in need
of rediscovering or seeking it, because it always was, is,
and will be just as the Church of Christ has never ceased
nor will cease to exist. What happened is that groups,
peoples or individuals left the body of the Church and the
Church prays, and is required to try through mission, that
they all return in repentance to the Orthodox Church via
the canonical route. Put simply, if we wish to be precise
in our definitions, there are no other Churches; there are
only heresies and schisms.The expression “towards
the restoration of Christian unity” is incorrect
because the unity of Christians—the members of the
Church of Christ—has never been
broken, as long as they remain united to the Church.
Separation from the Church and flight from the Church has
unfortunately happened numerous times due to heresies and
schisms, but there was never a loss of the internal unity
of the Church.

I am led to wonder why in this text there are multiple
references to “Churches” and
“Confessions”? What is the difference? What
element characterizes some groups as Churches while others
are named Confessions? What is a Church as opposed to a
heretical or schismatic group or confession? [As for
ourselves], we confess [that there is] one Church and all
other groups are [merely] heresies and schisms.

I maintain that giving the title “Church” to
heretical or schismatic communities is entirely incorrect
from a theological, dogmatic and canonical perspective
because the Church of Christ is one, as also stated in
Article 1, and we cannot refer to a heretical or
schismatic community or group outside the Orthodox Church
as “Church.”

At no point does this text state that the only way that
leads to union with the Church is solely the repentant
return of heretics and schismatics to the One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, which according
to Article 1 is our Orthodox Church.

The reference to the “understanding of the tradition
of the ancient Church” gives the impression that
there is an ontological difference between the ancient
Church of the Seven
Ecumenical Councils and the genuine continuation of
the same until the present day, namely our Orthodox
Church. We believe that there is absolutely no difference
between the Church of the twenty-first century and the
Church of the first century, because one of the attributes
of the Church is the fact we also confess in the Symbol of
Faith, namely that it is Apostolic.

Article 12 states that the common purpose of the
theological dialogues is “the final restoration of
unity in correct faith and love.” This gives the
impression that we Orthodox are seeking our restoration to
correct faith and the unity of love, as if we had lost the
right faith and are seeking to discover it through the
theological dialogues with the heterodox. I maintain that
this theory is theologically unacceptable for us all.

The reference of the text to “the World Council of
Churches” gives me the opportunity to make a
complaint against theoccasional syncretistic, uncanonical
events which took place therein, but also against its
title, since it regards the Orthodox Church as “one
of the Churches” or a branch of the one Church which
seeks and strives for Her realization at the World Council
of Churches. For us, however, the Church of Christ is one
and unique, as we confess in the Symbol of Faith, and not
many.

The view that the preservation of the genuine Orthodox
faith is guaranteed only through the synodical system as
the only “competent and final authority on matters
of faith” is exaggerated and ignores the truth that
many synods throughout Church history taught and espoused
incorrect and heretical doctrines, and it was the faithful
people which rejected them and preserved the Orthodox
faith and championed the Orthodox Confession. Neither a
synod without the faithful people, the fullness of the
Church, nor the people without the synod of bishops, is
able to regard themselves as the Body of Christ and Church
of Christ and to correctly express the experience and
doctrine of the Church.

I understand, your All-Holiness and my holy brothers of
this Synod, that the use of hard or insulting language
cannot be made in ecclesiastical texts of this kind, nor
do I think anyone desires the use of that form of
expression. However, the truth must be expressed with
precision and clarity, though naturally with pastoral
discernment and genuine love towards all. We owe it also
to our brothers who find themselves in heresy or schism to
be entirely honest with them, and with love and pain to
pray and do everything possible to bring about their
return to the Church of Christ.

I humbly maintain that texts of such importance and
prestige as those of the Holy and Great Synod of the
Orthodox Church must be very carefully formulated with
theological and canonical precision in order that these
ambiguities or untested theological terms do not also give
rise to incorrect expressions which could lead to
misconceptions and distortions of the correct attitude of
the Orthodox Church. Moreover, in order for a Synod to be
valid and canonical, it must not depart in any way from
the spirit and teaching of the Holy Synods which preceded
it, the teaching of the Holy Fathers and Holy Scriptures,
and it must be free from any ambiguity in the precise
expression of the correct faith.

Never did the holy Fathers nor ever in the holy canons or
rulings of the sacred Ecumenical or Local Synods, are
heretical or schismatic groups referred to as churches. If
the heretics are indeed churches, where is the single One
Church of Christ and the Apostles?

I humbly express my disagreement with the fact that the
practice of all Sacred Synods until the present of
allowing each bishop a vote is abolished. There was never
before a system of “one Church, one vote,”
which renders the members of the Holy and Great Synod,
with the exception of the primates, mere decorative items
by refusing them the right to vote.

I have several other disagreements and objections
concerning other points in the texts [of the Synod], but I
do not wish to tire you any further, and for this reason,
I am limiting myself to those issues which I consider to
be of the utmost importance and [concerning which] I
humbly express my disagreement, my perspective and my
faith.

I do not wish with what I have written to grieve anyone
nor do I desire to appear to teach or judge my brothers
and fathers in Christ. Simply, I feel the necessity of
expressing what my conscience dictates to me.

I ask that my views be recorded in the acts of the Holy
and Great Pan-Orthodox Synod.

Seeking your holy prayers, I remain

The least among the brethren in Christ

[signature]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *