By Katherine G. Valone
Community of the Holy Mount Athos
OPPOSES COMPROMISING THE FAITH
The well known periodical, ORTHODOX LIFE, in its NO. 1 2007 issue carries an open letter from all the holy abbots of Mt. Athos decrying the recent meeting of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI on November 30, 2006 and later meeting with the Archbishop of Athens, Christodoulos. The letter is signed by all of the Representatives and Superiors of the 20 Monasteries of the Holy Mount Athos (Agion Oros).
In addition to the open letter another announcement was included in the same periodical listing the reasons for the “immense sorrow to our hearts” that the Monks of Mount Athos have over this much – publicized meeting of the three hierarchs in Constantinople last November.
I will quote excerpts from these 2 articles to indicate the exact wording of the great disfavor of the Athonites.
“… the events that took place during the recent visits if the Pope to the Fanarion … brought immense sorrow to our hearts.”
“We desire and we struggle all of our life to safeguard the trust of the Holy Fathers, which was bequeathed to us by the holy Founders of our sacred Monasteries … to strive to the best of our ability to live the sacrament of the Church and the unblemished Orthodox Faith … We are afraid to remain silent, whenever issues arise that pertain to the trust that our Fathers left us. … 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 articles are too long to reprint here. We will quote just the highlights of their disapproval of the November meeting in 2006 in Constantinople.
“The visits of the Pope at Fanarion and the Archbishop’s visit at 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 customs of Orthodox Ecclesiology, or commitments were made that would neither benefit the Orthodox Church, nor any other heterodox Christians.
First of all, the Pope was received as though he were a canonical (proper) bishop of Rome. During the service, the Pope wore an omophorion; he was addressed by the Ecumenical Patriarch with the greeting “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” as though it were Christ the Lord; he blessed the congregation and he was commemorated as “most holy” and “His Beatitude the Bishop of Rome”. Furthermore, all of the Pope’s officiating clergy wore an omophorion during the Orthodox Divine Liturgy; also, the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer, his liturgical embrace with the Patriarch, were displays of something more than common prayer. And all of this, when the papist institution has not budged at all from its heretical teachings and its policy; on the contrary, the Pope is in fact visibly promoting and trying to reinforce Unia 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.”
“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 the man-centered 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 Zitsa wrote the following from Dahau: << What, then, is Europe? The Pope and Luther… This is what Europe is, at its core, ontologically and historically>>. The blessed Elder Justin Popovitch supplements the above: << The 2nd Vatican Synod comprises the rebirth of every kind of European humanism … because the Synod 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>>.”
“ The Roman Catholics’ inability to disentangle themselves from the decisions of their pursuant (and according to them, Ecumenical) Synods, 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, Unia. Despite all these, we Orthodox continue the so-called traditional exchanges of visits, bestowing honors 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 “re-interpret” them – in other words, to veil them.”
“ Unia is being reinforced and reassured in many and various ways, despite the proclamations by the Pope to the contrary. This dishonest stance is witnessed, 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 Uniate Archbishop of 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 two-fold: on one side, 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 Fanarion and the Archbishop of Athens to the Vatican, without the prerequisite of a unity in the Faith, may on the one hand create false impressions 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 corpus 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 preserve 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 9th / 22nd of 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, an 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 the hallowing Grace, the true Sacraments and the Apostolic Succession…”
(You may read the documents from Mount Athos in their entirety under the link, News From The Orthodox World, in this website. They are important Orthodox documents.)