Eleven of the fourteen leaders of the Local Orthodox Churches have now concluded their meeting outside Geneva in preparation for a major meeting, which may be Pan-Orthodox, that is, may include all of the fourteen leaders. This will now be held from 16 to 27 June 2016 at the Orthodox Academy in Khania in Crete.
Of the original ten items on the agenda for the future meeting, there has been agreement on only five. These, the draft texts of which are to be published shortly, are: The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World; Autonomy and the Way in which it is Proclaimed; The Importance of Fasting and its Observance Today; The Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World; The Orthodox Diaspora. There was no agreement on the draft text for the sixth item, ‘The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to it’, which was rejected by the Georgian and Antiochian Churches. As regards the other four items, on the proclamation of autocephaly, the diptychs, the calendar and ecumenism, these seem to have been abandoned for lack of agreement.
Having seen the Russian draft texts for the first four of the approved items of the agenda, we believe that where they are not controversial, they are at best expressions of the obvious, at worst spiritually flat and mostly expressed in the secular language of administrators and bureaucrats, and not in the theological language of the Holy Fathers and of the dogmas of the Seven Universal Councils. Where, however, they are controversial, especially the draft text on ‘The Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World’, they will cause disturbing division. This will lead even more in the Orthodox world which believes in the Church of the Seven Councils, which defined the Faith for all time and made any ‘Eighth Council’ completely unnecessary, to call for this June meeting to be cancelled before it causes open schism.
We fear that this January meeting has opened up a dangerous path. Surely, amid all today’s secular isms, including Darwinism, the foundation stone of Communism and Nazism and their ‘survival of the fittest’ genocides, the Orthodox people need to hear of the dogma of salvation in the Church (instead of ‘ecumenism’), of the teaching on the Fall of Adam and how sin has polluted human consciousness and the consequent need for repentance, of the need for strict fasting in a world suffering from obesity and chemically-polluted food, and of the Church’s teachings on the Last Times. Instead, we are hearing the trite, secular and humanistic language of diplomats and compromisers about ‘human dignity’, discrimination’ and ‘ecology’.
Let any future bishops’ meeting first confirm the decisions of the Local Council of 879 against the filioque heresy and the Local Council of 1351 against those who opposed the teachings on the Holy Spirit of St Gregory Palamas and the Local Council of 1948 (held in Moscow) against ecumenism. Quite rightly, no ‘Pan-Orthodox Council’ was held when the hierarchy of the Russian Church, and others, was enslaved by an atheist government. And in the same way, you cannot hold a free Council, when its chairman was installed by the government of a country which preaches ‘globalism’, that is, secularist control over the whole world, which is profoundly and actively hostile to the Church and Her Civilization, is responsible for evil genocides around the world, including among Orthodox in Syria and the Ukraine, and promotes worldwide perversion. How long before some decide to hold an ‘Alternative Council?’ Here is the risk.
On 22 January at the Centre of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Chambesy started the meeting of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches. A speech was addressed by His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kyrill to the participants, reports Patriarkhia.ru.
At the beginning of his speech, His Holiness the Patriarch noted that each meeting of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches has a special significance. “This is an opportunity to exchange views and discuss issues of concern to us, to take concerted decisions on Pan-Orthodox values. But first of all – it is an opportunity to once again feel our unity, especially when we jointly partake of the one Chalice, knowing that we all form one Body in Christ, “- said His Holiness, also expressing his gratitude to His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who initiated and organized the meeting.
Later in the speech His Holiness addressed various aspects of the preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council.
“Gathering together, we clearly understand that our Church is One and Catholic, that to preserve and strengthen Her unity is the primary concern, which is the basis of all of our service. The Holy and Great Council is intended to be visible, clear, convincing evidence of the unity of the Orthodox Church and we all understand that the Council will be able to become one only if it reflects the genuine shared vision of the Local Orthodox Churches. In order to achieve this unanimity we all have to work hard in the pre-conciliar period,” said the Primate of the Russian Church.
In this context, His Holiness noted with satisfaction that “concern about the lack common Orthodox recognition of Metropolitan Rostislav, the Primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, which has been repeatedly expressed both by the Moscow Patriarchate and other Church was heard, and His Beatitude today is present among us, as He has now received due recognition of all the Local Churches. ”
Speaking about the problems preventing full unanimity among the Local Orthodox Churches, Patriarch Kirill expressed regret over the breaking of communion between the Antiochian and Jerusalem Patriarchates. Its recovery, in the opinion of His Holiness, is an urgent task these days, when the whole world is following with concern developments in the Middle East, because “it is from the religious communities in this region that people first await an example of cohesion, readiness to overcome differences.”
During his speech, His Holiness elaborated on the Church situation in the Ukraine. “Now have been forcibly seized more than 30 churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, at least another 10 are under threat of attack from schismatics and nationalists, happening for alleged voluntary movements of believers to the so-called Kiev Patriarchate – said His Holiness. – In fact, these are real gangster raids: to hold meetings of persons not related to the community, and then with the help of the statutory authorities falsify documents seized by the militant nationalists, and the community together with the priest of the temple are thrown into the street! ”
The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed deep concern about the actions of some bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, who, visiting the Ukraine, have expressed their support for dissenters ostensibly on behalf of His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople, and thereby sow temptations among Ukrainian believers and clergy.
It is inconceivable, said Patriarch Kyrill, that in Switzerland, Greece or another European country in the Orthodox church could come representatives of other faiths to “take a decision” that now this church is theirs. “In the Ukraine it is now a reality. Expelled from the churches of the community of the canonical Church wins all lawsuits, but the dissenters and their bandit militias ignore court decisions “, – said in pain His Holiness Patriarch.
As an example of blatant hatred of nationalists for the faithful of the canonical Church in the Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill noted the situation in the village of Ptichya in the Rivne region, stressing that the followers split “sow evil, deliberately provoke sectarian conflicts, splitting Ukrainian society.”
“Recently one of their supporters publicly stated that if Metropolitan Onuphry still belongs to the canonical Church, it is only because there was no suitable instruments of torture – a soldering iron, or iron. It is terrible to imagine what would have happened if these bandits got canonical legalization and joined in our midst! “- Said His Holiness.
His Holiness expressed his gratitude to the fraternal Local Churches – particularly Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbian, Bulgarian and Polish – for the prayers and support for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irenaeus wrote to me quite right about the Ukrainian schismatics: These people belong to Orthodoxy only in name, and” their contempt for the rules of Christian morality, readiness to hate, lie and shed blood are living proof of that, “- said the Primate of the Russian Church. – For such people, there is only one way into the Church – through repentance. We were asked why we do not want to be with them, they require us to start a dialogue on a nearly equal footing. But how can there be harmony between Christ and Belial? ”
“The Orthodox people of the Ukraine continue to support the canonical Church – His Holiness Patriarch testified, describing the gathering of tens of thousands of worshippers in procession in Kiev to celebrate the memory of St. Vladimir. I believe in the future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Its believers are united in their condemnation of the sschism, and violence and evil only strengthens them in the heroism of love and faith. ”
Later in his speech, Patriarch Kyrill noted that the process of preparing the Pan-Orthodox Council has recently noticeably intensified. His Holiness has focused on the reasons for failure of a number of previous Primates Meeting in the framework of the Special Committee and the Fifth Inter-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference and, in particular, noted the importance of taking into account the positions of all the Local Churches, carrying out their missions in different conditions. In this regard, some have mentioned so far that they have not heard suggestions that the last two years have been made on the topics of the agenda-Orthodox Cathedral near the local Churches, including Antioch, Russian, Georgian, Serbian, Bulgarian.
The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed his conviction of the need to revise the draft document “the calendar issue”, noting that the theme of “to more accurately determine the date of Easter” is absolutely irrelevant to the Orthodox Church and can only sow discord among many believers.
Of equal concern, in the words of His Holiness, is a draft document “Obstacles to marriage”, which contains a dry list of canonical obstacles and does not affect the position of the Church regarding the institution of the family in the modern world.
As one of the very important activities of the Russian Orthodox Church has called the theme “Autocephaly and Method of proclamation,” proposing to adopt at the Council already reached at the meetings of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission agreed in principle to the effect that the establishment of new Autocephalous Churches to be an act of general Orthodox scale requiring reaching a consensus of all the Local Orthodox Churches in each case.
It was also stressed the need for a preliminary study of the draft conciliar document on “The Orthodox Diaspora”.
The subject of detailed discussion in the speech of His Holiness and became the venue of the Council, previously rising in circulation of His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.
“As we can see, many of the issues we still have to work together to solve, in order to allow the convening of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. I’m sure the real reason that many of the documents are still inconsistent – not because of conflicting opinions from different Churches, but in an ineffective methodology for the preparation of the Council, “- said His Holiness. In this regard, His Holiness shared his experience of the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in an open discussion format, which allows any interested member of the Church to express their position.
“I think that it is so open, should continue to undergo preparation for the Council, if we are really interested in its success”, – said the Primate of the Russian Church, stressing the importance of publishing draft conciliar documents and overcome the shortage of reliable information, which raises the suspicions of many believers.
“I am convinced that the long-awaited publication of draft conciliar documents and the ability to free them of discussion not only hinders the carrying out of the Council, but also show us and the world the truly Catholic character of our Church, helping to strengthen Pan-Orthodox unity”, said Patriarch Kyrill, urging all gathered together to pray to the Lord for help in a collaborative effort for the good of the Church, to overcome the difficulties encountered on the way to conducting a Pan-Orthodox Council.
How well we recall the letter of Fr (now St) Justin (Popovich) of 7 May 1977, ‘On the Summoning of a ‘Great Council’ of the Orthodox Church’. In fact, we still have translations of it in Russian, French and English. In it he stated that there could be no Council of the Orthodox Church because most of the Orthodox Churches were not free and those that were, (he cited the Russian Church Outside Russia, the Church in America and the Japanese Orthodox Church), were not being invited. Instead, the seats were to be filled by a host of titular bishops from the Patriarch of Constantinople and KGB-vetted bishops from, as it was then called, the ‘Moscow Patriarchate’. The Saint’s plea was heard, perhaps not in the courts of men, but by the angels above, and the Council never took place. Now again, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is pushing forward for yet another ‘Pre-Conciliar Meeting’ in March this year and for the Council to take place next year.
It seems to us that although the situation of the Local Churches in Eastern Europe has radically changed since the fall of atheistic Communism, since when freedom has come to them, in other respects little has changed. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has, if anything, even more become a colony of the US Department of State. The latter has misused it ever since they installed their own US Patriarch in 1948 and exiled the legitimate Patriarch Maximos to Switzerland (who said on his ejection ‘The City is lost’) in order to undermine the Russian Orthodox Church by setting up schisms, for example, in France, Finland, Estonia, England and the Ukraine. In no way can there be a formal meeting of the Orthodox Churches, while the Patriarch of Constantinople and its allies are enslaved by the CIA (and also the Turkish government).
The US Administration appears to think that it can deal with the Orthodox Churches as it dealt with the Vatican, which accepted US Protestantisation in its Second Council fifty years ago and then saw imposed on it an anti-Communist Polish Pope for the 1980s Reaganite Crusade against Communism. Significantly, Roman Catholic sources, like the papist AsiaNews, are pushing Constantinople to arrange this so-called Council so that it will become a modernist Orthodox (therefore pseudo-Orthodox) Second Vatican Council. This would make the Orthodox Church into a mere Uniat department of the Vatican and, in that way, of the US Department of State. This is not going to happen. (In any case a meeting of bishops is not a Council; to become a Council the meeting must first be ‘received’ by clergy, monks and people; paradoxically, Church Orthodox Christians are a lot more democratic than the Non-Church Protestants and Roman Catholics, and always have been).
Thus, the attempts by Constantinople to make the recently set up Regional Inter-Orthodox (called ‘Pan-Orthodox’ by enemies of the Tradition) Assemblies of Bishops in the Diaspora into bridgeheads for their conquest of the Diaspora have failed miserably. Thus, for North and Central America, Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco has eloquently voiced the opposition of all free Orthodox to such attempts (http://www.synod.com/synod/eng2014/ 20140115_ensynodletterarchbpdemetrios.html). Indeed, in some places the Assemblies have virtually closed ‘for lack of things to talk about’. Much more than this, the agenda proposed for a future Inter-Orthodox Meeting (illogically called a ‘Council’) is looking increasingly tired, a leftover washed up from 1960s liberalism, denounced at the time, even more so now. Let us remind ourselves what the ten items on the agenda are – or were: The Orthodox diaspora; The granting of autocephaly; The granting of autonomy; The diptychs; The Church calendar; Marriage; Fasting; Relations with Heterodox; Ecumenism; Peace, Brotherhood and Freedom. (See our article of several years ago: http://orthodoxengland. org.uk/panorth.htm).
The last six questions are absurd, because the canons are clear and of course unchangeable; the tenth is in particular a piece of masonic nonsense from the 1960s. As regards the fourth issue, the diptychs, if people want to argue about what place they should have on an irrelevant, artificial and anachronistic list, then we say they should first read Mark 10, 37-45. In fact, only the first three issues are discussable – and there will be no agreement on them because they have already been discussed, and with Constantinople in the pocket of the US State Department, a former senior representative of which (Brzezinski) has already declared that the Russian Orthodox Church is its greatest enemy, what point is there in discussing them?
Thirty-three years ago a saint prophetically wrote: ‘Should this Council, God forbid, actually come to pass, only one sort of result can be expected from it: schisms, heresies and the loss of many souls. Considering the question from the point of view of the apostolic, patristic and historical experience of the Church, such a Council will, instead of healing, open only up new wounds in the body of the Church and inflict on Her new difficulties and new misfortunes’. We will not contradict the voice of a Saint.
Introduction: ‘We Have Lost Western Europe’
‘We have lost Western Europe’. These were the words that a senior Catholic layman said to me last week as we discussed organising the arrival in England of the Czestochowa Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God and its visit to the London Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. His words are not exact, for Catholicism has lost not only Western Europe, but also North America and Australia.
The fact is that Catholicism in Africa, Asia, Latin America, let alone in Catholic Eastern Europe, is a very different sort of Catholicism from elsewhere. It is a sacral Christianity that values and respects the sense of the sacred – a Catholicism in other words far closer to the Christianity of the Orthodox Church than any other type of Catholicism. I know this as a Russian Orthodox priest, for on a weekly basis I meet Catholic Poles, Italians and Lithuanians who come to me and tell me that they want to come to our Church, because ‘Catholic churches in England are no good. They are Protestants’. Not my words, but theirs.
A Sad Fiftieth Anniversary
Most Catholics in Western Europe today are lapsed. It is an extreme rarity to find any Catholics, including practising ones, who agree with the official policies of their Church. There is no doubt that the Second Vatican Council that opened fifty years ago in Rome is in part responsible. Perhaps in great part. Certainly it led to the protestantisation of the vestiges of the Orthodox Christian Tradition of the first millennium, still kept by the then Catholic world, by introducing the desacralising rationalism and humanism of the Northern Protestant world.
Twenty years ago in France, where I then lived, a senior Catholic priest spoke to me of the effects of that Council, saying: ‘We created all the sects’. He was referring to the explosion of exotic sects in France since the 1960s. He blamed his own Church for this; the fact that the new Catholicism had removed all sense of mystery and the sacred from its services, demystifying the Church and no longer satisfying the spiritual needs of the people, was for him responsible for the disaffection of the masses and their absorption into all manners of sects, often founded by dangerous charlatans.
The Errors of the Council
We can see this clearly if we look at areas of change and unchangingness as a result of the Second Vatican Council. As regards change, the great change was in ‘the Mass’. Latin was replaced by local languages. This seems good in principle, but when we look in reality, we see that it was a disaster. You do not exchange something for something worse, but for something better. In other words, the vernacular translations were often vapid, spiritually uninspired. And once Latin was replaced, so a whole liturgical, cultural and musical tradition was also jettisoned – and not replaced. The whole feeling of the Mass changed, illustrated, for example, by the fact that Catholic priests no longer faced God, but turned to face the people, as though worshipping them and not Him.
For many, clergy included, the Catholic Eucharist became, as in Protestantism, a mere commemoration of bread and wine – or rather of biscuit-like hosts. Received in the hand, distributed by laypeople, crumbs swept away into bins, without any meaningful fast beforehand, without confession (now called ‘reconciliation’) beforehand, the Eucharist lost any remaining sacral reality. The same attitude was taken towards the Virgin Mary, relics, the priesthood and a multitude of practices of Catholic piety. Though most of these relatively recent practices were alien to ancient Orthodoxy, they at least represented popular piety – and they were not replaced. They were lost.
What Should Have Changed – and Did Not
As regards unchangingness, the first error was surely keeping Papal centralisation and infallibility – despite all the verbiage about promoting Local Churches. As regards birth control, there was another tactical error. To keep the ideal of no artificial contraception is good, but why make this into what many outside Catholicism now view as its central tenet? And what of pastoral economy or dispensation? The rigid dogmatism of this policy lost Catholicism hundreds of millions and made at a stroke almost all its married couples into hypocrites. Worse still. This policy was to be implemented by a priesthood on whom celibacy was enforced. Tens of thousands gave up the priesthood as a result and at the same time feminist revolt was ensured.
This also guaranteed that a large number of homosexuals and pedophiles were drawn into the Catholic priesthood – in Ireland the figure in a much depleted priesthood is said to be 25%. This was already hypocrisy, since for centuries Catholicism had allowed a married priesthood for its Uniats and today allows a married priesthood for its ex-Anglican Ordinariate. It was even more hypocrisy in Africa and Latin America (not to mention France, Italy, Spain and Portugal), where many priests are in reality married and have families – and always have been. But the main result of compulsory celibacy for the Catholic priesthood is simply a chronic lack of priests and hosts distributed by laypeople.
Conclusion: The Baby and the Bathwater
By the early 1960s a Roman Catholic Council was needed – if only to attempt to shake off the vestiges of Fascism, with which Catholicism had so cruelly compromised itself during and after the Second World War – not least in Croatia. However, it has often been said by Catholics themselves that the Second Vatican Council threw out the baby (the essentials) with the bathwater (the non-esssentials). But not even this is not true. The Second Council threw out the baby BUT KEPT the bathwater. More exactly, the Second Vatican Council threw out the remaining traditions of the Orthodox Christian First Millennium and kept the inessentials of its semi-secular Second Millennium.
The present ‘celebrations’ of the Council in the Vatican by a Pope who supported the changes then but regrets them now, are highly symbolic. Many have called for a Third Vatican Council. However, this means two different things. Some want a Third Council that will sweep away any heritage that remains and fully desacralise, rationalise and humanise Catholicism. Others want to restore the old-fashioned Catholicism and its Latin Mass, taking it back to the past before the Council. Neither is the solution. Let him who has ears hear.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
4/17 October 2012