Initial Sorrowful Observations Regarding the Holy and Great Synod

Source: Pan Orthodox Council

June 27, 2016

From the Office of Heresies and Cults of the
Holy Metropolis of Piraeus

By way of the mass media we have followed with great
sorrow and pain of soul the Holy and Great Synod from its
inception at the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of
Pentecost. In what follows we offer some initial and
concise observations on the Synod for the benefit of the
people of God.

(1) We observe with sorrow the presence and joint prayer
of heretical Papists, Protestants, and Monophysites at
Matins and the Divine Liturgy of this great Feast of the
Lord in the Church of St. Menas in Heraklion. As everyone
is aware, this is prohibited by the Sacred Canons. The
Orthodox Primates and other participating Orthodox
Hierarchs trampled on the Canons of the Apostles and the
Synods, wishing from the outset to send a message to the
whole world, showing what great respect they have for the
decisions of the Oecumenical Synods and, by extension, for
the very institution of the Synod, about which they make
bombastic declarations.

(2) The presence, at the commencement of the proceedings,
of officially invited delegations of heretical Papists,
Protestants, and Monophysites was an unprecedented
innovation and one foreign to our Synodal Tradition. In
fact, Oecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed these
delegates as “representatives of Sister
Churches” before the Holy and Great Synod made any
decision regarding the ecclesiality or non-ecclesiality of
the heretical communities in question. Thus, Patriarch
Bartholomew, through a fait accompli, sent another message
to the members of the Synod: that he had no intention of
calling the heterodox heretics. Instead, he called them
Sister Churches. Never in the history of the Oecumenical
or local Synods during the Byzantine period were
“observers” present at such Synods, and as
dignitaries, to boot, whose heretical doctrines were
condemned by previous Oecumenical Synods. Heretics were,
of course, invited, but as persons subject to trial, in
order to defend themselves, and not as guests of honor. It
was only at the First and Second Vatican Councils that the
phenomenon of “observers” made its appearance.
The Holy and Great Synod is evidently copying Roman
Catholic models.

(3) The Holy and Great Synod began its proceedings in
violation of its “Organization and Working
Procedure,” which was signed at the Synaxis of the
Primates in January 2016. The document in question
prescribes that the Synod be “convened by His Most
Divine All-Holiness, the Oecumenical Patriarch, with the
consent of Their Beatitudes, the Primates of all of the
universally recognized local Autocephalous Orthodox
Churches” (Article I). Four Autocephalous
Churches—those of Russia, Bulgaria, Georgia, and
Antioch—justifiably disagreed with the convocation
of the Synod and asked for its postponement, thus, the
condition “with the consent of Their Beatitudes, the
Primates” was been fulfilled. Consequently, there
was no justification, on the basis of the aforementioned
“Organization and Working Procedure,” for
either the Oecumenical Patriarch or all of the remaining
local Churches together to convene a Synod, if they wished
to be consistent with the “Organization and Working
Procedure” that they signed.

(4) The Synod inaugurated its work without first ratifying
the Synodal Decrees (Ὅροι) and
Canons of all of the previous Oecumenical Synods, so that
the present Holy and Great Synod might be truly an organic
continuation of the preceding Synods. It should be noted
that such reference to previous Oecumenical Synods was a
standing procedure upheld by the Holy Fathers of the
Synods in question. Through this procedure the Holy
Fathers wished to proclaim that they accepted all of the
doctrines put forth by the preceding Oecumenical Synods
and that they were proposing to continue the work of these
Synods. A characteristic example of this is the
recognition by the Eighth Oecumenical Synod of 879-880,
under St. Photios, of the Synod of 787 as the Seventh
Oecumenical Synod.

(5) The Synod inaugurated its work on the basis of an
“Organization and Working Procedure” that was
not unanimously accepted by all of the Primates at their
Synaxis of January 2016, since the Church of Antioch did
not sign it. It also commenced its work on the basis of
the six unanimously accepted documents of the Fifth
Pre-Synodal Consultation, which basis proved to be
insecure and unstable. This is because the six pre-synodal
documents were unanimously approved by the representatives
at the Fifth Pre-Synodal Consultation and by the Synaxis
of the Primates (January 2016), but not by all the
Hierarchies of the local Autocephalous Churches. When
these Churches, and especially those of Bulgaria, Georgia,
and Greece, studied the aforementioned documents, they
found in them gaps, obscurities, and cacodox formulations,
for which they suggested emendations and corrections. For
these Churches which proposed the corrections and changes
in question it is self-evident that the pre-synodal
documents are no longer in force.

The fact that the Primates signed the six documents of the
Fifth Pre-Synodal Consultation does not mean that the
Hierarchies of the local Churches are bound by their
signatures to accept these texts as they stand. The
personal opinion of a Primate on any particular issue is
not binding on the Hierarchs in the Synod to which he
belongs and does not obligate them to fall in line with
his opinion. Were that so, the synodal institution would
be annulled and every Primate would be transformed into a
Pope. It is not the Primate, but the Synod of Bishops that
is the supreme administrative organ in the local Orthodox
Churches. In view of all that we have said, it is clear
that the following assertion by the Oecumenical Patriarch
in his opening address is completely erroneous: “We
proceed, then, with our work on the basis of documents
unanimously approved by our Churches, which each Church
has already endorsed.” By “documents
unanimously approved” the Oecumenical Patriarch
evidently means the documents of the Fifth Pre-Synodal
Consultation, which were signed at the Synaxis of the
Primates (January 2016), but which have no validity for
certain of the Churches after the corrections and changes
dictated by their Synods.

(6) The four Churches that did not participate in the
Synod were denigrated before an international audience.
Their absence was represented both by the Oecumenical
Patriarch and by other Primates in their opening addresses
as wholly unjustified and reprehensible. To a greater or
lesser extent these Churches were portrayed as being
responsible, by virtue of their absence, for creating
schisms and divisions. However, the Churches in question
did not take part, not because they were
“piqued,” but because they discovered
weaknesses in the pre-synodal documents after examining
them in synod. They naturally requested that the Synod be
postponed, in order to study the documents in greater
depth, make necessary corrections, and thus produce new
documents which would be unanimously approved by all of
the local Churches. Since their proposal for the
postponement of the Synod was not accepted, these Churches
understandably did not participate in the Synod.

(7) Most distressing among all of these observations is
the acknowledgement, in essence, by way of an obscure and
cryptic new formulation in the document “Relations
of the Orthodox Church to the Rest of the Christian
World,” of the ecclesiality of the heterodox. The
Synod unanimously accepted the formulation, “The
Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other
heterodox Christian Churches and Confessions,”
instead of the formulation, “The Orthodox Church
acknowledges the historical existence of other Christian
Churches and Confessions.” That is to say, the word
“existence” is replaced by the word
“name,” and to the phrase “Christian
Churches and Confessions” is added the adjective
“non-Orthodox.” Archbishop Hieronymos of
Athens proposed this change in the formulation after many
hours of discussions and deliberations, during which many
conflicting views were expressed.

Archbishop Hieronymos states that, by virtue of this new
formulation, “we have reached a synodal decision
that, for the first time in history, defines the
historical scope of relations with the heterodox not in
terms of their existence, but solely in terms of their
historical appellation as heterodox Christian Churches or
Confessions.” This raises a justifiable question:
“How is it possible for one to name something, while
at the same time denying the existence of that which he
names?” Likewise, from a dogmatic standpoint,
endorsement of the term “heterodox Christian
Churches or Confessions” is contradictory and
unacceptable. Heterodox Confessions cannot be called
“Churches” precisely because they accept
other, heretical doctrines and, as heretics, cannot
constitute “Churches.”

Most distressing also is the fact that the delegation of
the Church of Greece did not remain unshakably loyal to
the decisions of the Synod of Bishops on May 24-25 (2016),
as they ought to have done. The Synod of Bishops decided
that the phrase “the historical existence of other
Christian Churches and Confessions” should be
replaced by the phrase “the historical existence of
other Christian Confessions and Communities.”

(8) Finally, yet another sorrowful observation: all that
Oecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew proclaimed, indeed
braggingly, at the conclusion of the proceedings. Among
other things, he declared that “the Oecumenical
Patriarchate was a pioneer in the realm of the ecumenical
movement.” He also adverted to the pan-heretical
Encyclical of 1920, “which is characterized by many
as the founding charter of the subsequently established
World Council of Churches,” and that “the
Oecumenical Patriarchate was one of the founding members
of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam.”

For the time being, we confine ourselves to the foregoing
comments, although that does not mean that the list of
sorrowful observations ends here. In view of all that we
have mentioned above, the following question naturally
arises: What can one expect from a Synod that commenced
and proceeded in such a way?

As the Lord observes: ““For a good tree
bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt
tree bring forth good fruit; for every tree is known by
its own fruit” (St. Luke 6:43-44). Let each reader
draw his own conclusions.

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