In July of 1274, the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII accepted a union with the Roman Church at Lyons, France. Faced with dangers from Charles of Anjou, the Ottoman Turks, and other enemies, the emperor found such an alliance with Rome expedient. The Union of Lyons required the Orthodox to recognize the authority of the Pope, the use of the Filioque in the Creed, and the use of azymes (unleavened bread) in the Liturgy. Patriarch Joseph was deposed because he would not agree to these conditions. The monastic clergy and many of the laity, both at home and in other Orthodox countries, vigorously opposed the Union, denouncing the emperor for his political schemes and for his betrayal of Orthodoxy.
On January 9, 1275 a Liturgy was celebrated in Constantinople in which the Pope was commemorated as “Gregory, the chief pontiff of the Apostolic Church, and Ecumenical Pope.” The emperor’s sister remarked, “It is better that my brother’s empire should perish, rather than the purity of the Orthodox Faith.” Recalling the infamous Crusade of 1204 when Latin crusaders sacked Constantinople, many of the people also preferred to submit to the infidels than to abandon the Orthodox Faith.
Twenty-six martyrs of Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos were among those who were persecuted by Emperor Michael VIII Paleologos (1261-1282) and Patriarch John Bekkos (1275-1282) because they would not obey the imperial command to recognize the Union of Lyons. They steadfastly kept the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, and fearlessly censured those who accepted Catholic doctrines.
When the authorities came to Mt. Athos to enforce the imperial policy, the monks of Zographou shut themselves up in their monastery. From the tower they reproached those in favor of the Union, calling them lawless men and heretics. The attackers set the monastery on fire and burned the twenty-six martyrs alive.
The names of the martyrs are: Igumen Thomas, the monks Barsanuphius, Cyril, Micah, Simon, Hilarion, James, Job, Cyprian, Sava, James, Martinian, Cosmas, Sergius, Menas, Joasaph, Joannicius, Paul, Anthony, Euthymius, Dometian, Parthenius, and four laymen who died with them.
The above martyrs’ confession of the Orthodox faith is perhaps not dissimilar to the below confessors of our own time.
The final versions of the texts of the Cretan Council are now available online at theolcom.ru, where you can see which hierarchs signed which documents, reports Orthodox Ethos.
Of particular interest is the controversial “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World” text, which, as is now known, thirty-three of the 162, or twenty percent, hierarchs present declined to sign, including five from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Notably, seventeen of the twenty-four Serbian hierarchs attending the council withheld their signatures, only seven signing. Given that a primate’s signature was said to express the consensus or majority of his Church, it raises the questions of what Patriarch Irenej intended by signing the document, and how it represents the conciliarity which was to be a touchstone of this council.
As the text deals with ecclesiology, that is, the theology of Christ’s very Body, it is inseparable from Christology, as all Orthodox theology is a seamless whole. In this light it remains a question how a text could be passed with such a large dissenting minority, or, in other words, how such differences in profession of faith could be tolerated and pass without comment or action.
Readers can find the English version of the texthere, and the Greek version here.
For convenience, Orthodox Ethos has listed those who did not sign the text below, in order of their appearance in the text:
From the Ecumenical Patriarchate:
1. Isaiah of Denver
2. Nicholas of Detroit
3. Amphilochios of Adrianopolis
4. Antonios of Hierapolis, Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox in the USA
5. Gregory of Nyssa, Head of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox in the USA
It is interesting to note that four of the five dissenting hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate serve in America.—O.C.
From the Patriarchate of Alexandria
6. Jonah of Kampala
7. Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola
From the Patriarchate of Jerusalem
8. Benedict of Philadelphia
9. Theophylaktos of Jordan
From the Patriarchate of Serbia
10. Amphilochios of Montenegro and the Littoral
11. Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana
12. Vasilije of Sirmium
13. Lucian of Budim
14. Longin of Nova Gracanica
15. Irinej of Backa
16. Hrizostom of Zvornik and Tuzla
17. Justin of Zicha
18. Pahomije of Vranje
19. Jovan of Sumadija
20. Fotije of Dalmatia
21. Hrizostom of Bihac and Petrovac
22. Joanikije of Niksic and Budimlje
23. Milutin of Valjevo
24. David of Krusevac
25. Jovan of Slavonija
26. Ilarion of Timok
From the Church of Cyprus
27. Athanasios of Limassol
28. Neophytos of Morphou
29. Nicholas of Amathus
30. Epiphanios of Ledra
From the Church of Greece
31. Chrysostomos of Peristerion
32. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Aghios Vlasios
33. Anthimos of Alexandroupolis