The greatest religious deception ever perpetrated in history was and still is from the hand of the Pope of Rome who perpetuates the false claims that he is the Vicar of Christ and through his primacy and infallibility he rules the “True Church” founded by Christ. He proclaims to the world that we Orthodox Christians have no right to be called the Church that Christ founded because we are “defective.” The Orthodox Church which was first taught by St. Paul, the Church that through the universal Greek language had the very words of the Gospel spread throughout the oecumene, the Church that gave us the great Fathers too numerous to recount here; the Church that watered herself with the blood of the martyrs; the Church that faced and defeated every heresy, every persecution, every antichrist in its formative years, that Catholic Church was directed and inspired by the five Patriarchates of Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and the second Rome, Constantinople.
That Church still exists except for the one who became puffed up and rather than serve as Christ expects, wants to be served by all the other churches.
For years now, the Patriarch Bartholomaios has been in talks with Rome who wants union with the Orthodox but only on her terms. And we in the United States through our church lay leaders and our Holy Synod have acted as though we were the wayward children wanting to come back to her mother, namely, Rome. For years our well – meaning archons have sent large sums of money to the Patriarchate in Constantinople to sustain the Phanar (Orthodox Headquarters) in Constantinople, (or Istanbul) Turkey. We have been trying through diplomacy and negotiation to settle the Cyprus situations since the Turkish invasion in July, 1976.
But to no avail. Turkey, who wants to be a part of the European Union, has a poor record on human rights both in Constantinople where the Patriarch is restrained significantly in the administration of the Orthodox as first and among equals among all the Patriarchs of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Ukraine, Hong Kong, Asia, and so on.
The archons want the Turks to return Aghia Sophia. That will never happen because Aghia Sophia is a symbol of Islam victorious over Christianity. Islam wants to defeat Christianity with a passion. Halki will never open its doors again. The Patriarchate is in virtual house arrest. How can he function as our Patriarch?
Many years ago I wrote that the only way Constantinople will become ours again, is if the Good Lord returns in the Deftera Paronsia, the Second Coming. Aghia Sophia will have its first liturgy again when the Church is Triumphant. This may not be far off since the whole world awaits Christ’s return. But we don’t know when this will occur. The Prophets Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation give us the signs as does our Lord in the Gospels of Matthew chapters 20-25; Luke 21-22; and especially the Apocalypse or Revelation that is not a myth and which most priests emphasize (to their shame) we should avoid. The very beginning of this book Chapter 1 and verse 3 states “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Could we be living in those times?
Awake our people, Oh Holy Spirit, that they may prepare. Grigorite the saints tell us. Prepare, Be aware, lest we be shut out from the Kingdom.
Years ago in this column, when we were discussing the problems of Constantinople, I wrote an unpopular suggestion. But I feel I must say it again. The Church in Constantinople cannot do what it should: enlighten the people of our times and encourage the faithful not to be drawn away from God, but on the contrary, to fight the everyday battles, our life in Christ, and our battle against all those things which distract us from the Kingdom. The Phanar is so busy fighting a political battle that the real battle is overlooked.
St. Paul teaches us in the book of Ephesians how we are to put on the whole armor of God in order to survive the “T’s” of life: trials, tests, tribulations, and temptations, spoken of in chapters 6:10-17. I am amazed how we go through life taking advantage of God’s goodness with very little evidence shown to Him of our love, obedience, and hope for the return of Christ that the Creed speaks of.
The Phanar will never be a Vatican. The Italian government under Mussolini gave the Pope one very small tract of land in Rome, an independent sovereign state created by the Treaty of the Lateran in 1929 to be ruled by the Pope. It covers 109 acres or .17 of a square mile in the heart of Rome which included the palace, St. Peter’s Church, and has a population of 1000. It is a nation within a nation!
Can you imagine Turkey creating a Christian state in the heart of Istanbul and allowing the Phanar to govern and manage itself in an Islamic nation? That will never happen. I’m sure they wish they could bomb the Phanar and get rid of it. That could happen one day. So much do the Muslims hate Christians.
So what is the solution? I believe we must choose a place, another country, where the Patriarchate could exist in freedom, communicate and travel at will, and enjoy the human rights afforded in any civilized country.
The Patriarch would be free to set up a state-of-the-art communications system. He would not be censored. He could move to and fro in his ecclesiastical garb and his staff & employees would be chosen by him. Here is where the archons can support this small enclave that can work efficiently and without fear.
Such a place I believe would be Switzerland which is a neutral nation and has many of the church organizations located there such as the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, and the World Council of Churches in Geneva, and is a safe haven, civilized country to be respected by all.
Since Patriarch Bartholomaios came to the throne he has been trying to get the assistance of the Pope in backing him in Turkey. But what have we received in return? He did not help us whenever the Patriarch has invited him to the Phanar. The Patriarch has alienated many of the other Patriarchs who are independent and who have a distaste for an “Orthodox” Pope. What about the Uniate problem? Has the Pope (or even Pope John Paul II) tried to stop this practice of deceiving former Orthodox who come under the Pope while allowing married priests and an identical liturgy, and Orthodox vestments to fool the population into thinking they are still Orthodox?
Are we selling our soul in order to get recognized? Would Jesus approve of this unwise compromise? Should we not rather pray and work for the Church. A man such as the Pope has political power. Is that what we want? Should we not be working and waiting for God? Political power is not as powerful as spiritual power. Our Patriarch and God would be a majority. We underestimate God.
The Archons should think more carefully and get some theological minds together and stop throwing their money away. Does any of this money go for bribes? Where does the money go? Do the archons know?
When our Ecclesiastical authorities can do their work freely and meet the spiritual needs of our people and especially our young people, then that’s more important than prestige and power.
Let us not envy the pomp and circumstance of Rome. Let us strive to save souls and spread the Gospel. We Orthodox do not know how God has blessed us and if we could get rid of our inferiority complex we could work miracles. I hope you will consider this, faithful archons. St. Paul had no money, no home, no office (except a jail cell), no titles, no servants, no ecclesiastical garb. He never built a Church of bricks but a church in each person’s heart, Jesus Christ in each soul, and a spirit for participating in the suffering of hardship and persecution knowing that in so doing we participate in the suffering and resurrection of Christ. Concentrate on the next life – the eternal life in God’s kingdom.