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Meetings Focused on the Church of Georgia’s Response to the Synod in Crete

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(Seated: (L-R): Archpriest Theodore Zisis, His Beatitude, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Demetrios Tselengidis, Hieromonk Miqaeli Bregvadze, Monk Seraphim (Zisis); Standing: (L-R): Hierodeacon Peter, Archpriest Symeon, Protopresbyter Peter Heers, Protopresbyter Matthew Vulcanescu, Metropolitan of Zugdidi and Tsaishi, Gerasimos (Sharashenidze), Metropolitan of Alaverdi, David (Makharadze), Archbishop of Stepantsminda and Khevi, Iegudiel (Tabatadze), Metropolitan of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klarjeti, Theodore (Chuadze), Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos, Archpriest Bessarion.

(Source)

FROM July 25th through July 28th an ecclesiastical delegation of clergy from the Church of Greece were visitors to and the guests of the Patriarchate of the Georgia and His Beatitude the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II. The delegation consisted of Archpriest and Professor Emeritus of Patrology of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, Fr. Theodore Zisis, Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the Department of Theology of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, Demetrios Tselengidis, Protopresbyter and Rector of the Parish of St. Nicholas of the Diocese of Patra, Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos, Protopresbyter and Rector of the Parish of the Prophet Elias, Petrokerasa, in the Diocese of Ierissou and Agion Oros, Fr. Peter Heers, and Protopresbyter and Rector of the Parish of All-Holy Directress, Bokos Hill, in the Diocese of Peiraeus, Fr. Matthew Vulcanescu.

In a series of meetings with hierarchs of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia responsible for inter-Orthodox affairs, as well as with the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, His Beatitude Ilia II, who graciously received and honored his guests at his summer residence, the delegation was warmly received in a spirit of brotherly love and sincere cooperation and shown exceptional hospitality over their 5 day stay. The purpose of delegation’s visit was twofold: on the one hand to express – on behalf of all faithful Orthodox Christians in Greece – their heartfelt gratitude to the Patriarch, Hierarchy and Faithful of the Venerable and Martyric Church of Georgia for their confession of the Orthodox Faith over and against the rise – in council – of syncretistic ecumenism, and, on other hand, to consult and discuss in person with His Beatitude and Hierarchs the proper response to the unorthodox “Council of Crete.”

In particular, the Georgian Church’s faithfulness to Orthodox ecclesiology, as evidenced in the now twenty-year old decision to depart and remain apart from the syncretistic-ecumenist, Protestant-dominated body, the so-called “World Council of Churches,” was praised and held up as a model for all Orthodox Churches. This faithfulness was, moreover, most evident in the stance the Church has maintained via-a-vis the texts and organization of the mis-labeled “Great and Holy Council,” an episcopal conference of a small portion of bishops representing less than half of the Orthodox faithful, which was held this past June in Crete.

The discussions centered on the problems created by the innovative and unorthodox “Council in Crete” and the necessary response to it based upon the dogmas and canons of the Church and Orthodox ecclesiology. The need for a clear rejection of both the methodology and organization of the Council, as well as the innovative and unorthodox texts adopted at the Council, and for a new, Orthodox Council to be called in response, was stressed by the Greek delegation. The Patriarch welcomed his guests and praised their love and devotion to the Church and Faith, assuring them that “there are not many churches, but only one Church, the Orthodox Church,” and that he and the Holy Synod will “work for the unity of all of the Orthodox,” which can only be assured on the basis of the faith once delivered. The representatives of the Church of Georgia to the pan-Orthodox conferences, Metropolitans Gerasimos of Zugdidi and Theodoros of Akhaltsikhe, also, for their part, stressed their Church’s commitment to their pre-conciliar rejection of the unorthodox texts “The Sacrament of Marriage and Its Impediments” and “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” Furthermore, the Patriarch and Metroplitans also stated that the documents of the Council will be translated into Georgian and examined and an official response will be issued after the general meeting of the Hierarchy in October.

In general, both the guests and the hosts found common ground and oneness of mind on all matters of faith with respect to the Dogma of the Church and Her boundaries and the need to continue unwavering in the Orthodox Confession of Faith in the face of the spread of syncretistic ecumenism. They pledged to continue cooperation in this regard in the immediate future.

In addition to the above mentioned meetings and discussions, the gracious hospitality for which the Georgian people are so well-known was extended to the visiting clergy with a full program of visits to historic pilgrimage sites of the venerable Church of Georgia.

georgia hospitality

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bishops

(Source)

Greek media is reporting that at least two documents put forth by the recently concluded Pan-Orthodox Council on Crete were not signed by all delegates.

While the names of all delegate bishops from each of the ten represented Local Churches were added to each document by the Secretariat of the Holy and Great Council, there were those who abstained from signing the documents “The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments” and “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.”

It is reported that Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpatkos and Agios Vlasios, who had a lively debate at the Council with Met. John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon over the theology of personhood, withheld his signature from both documents.

Additionally, Metropolitans Athanasius of Limassol, Neophytos of Morphou, Nikolaos of Amathus, Epiphanios of Ledra, and Porphyrios of Neapolis of the Church of Cyprus, and Irinej of Bačka of the Serbian Orthodox Church withheld their signatures from the document “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.”

Unofficial information says that the number of Serbian bishops who refused is much higher.

The official site of the Morphou diocese has posted Met. Neophytos’ declaration addressed to the Council in which he refers to the “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”document as “dogmatically vague” and calls its fruit “diplomatic compromises.” He makes several references to the words of Sts. Paisios and Porphyrios, as well as of Elders Sophrony (Sakharov) and Iakovos (Tsalikis) and other contemporary ascetics, stressing that the document is at odds with their teachings and insufficiently clear about the fact that the Orthodox Church is the sole bearer of the fullness of truth.

While it was previously reported that eight Metropolitans in all chose not to sign the relations document, Metropolitan Vasileios of Constantia and Ammochostos has personally stated that he did indeed sign all conciliar documents.

29 / 06 / 2016

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We thank our friends, the Apostle Paul Brotherhood in Toronto, for their godly work in hosting Fr. Peter to speak on this important and timely topic. Check out the Apostle Paul Bookstore here.

Please keep the Council, our Hierarchs, and local churches in your prayers these days particularly. May God enlighten them!

Holy Saints of God, intercede for us!

 

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empros

The Athonite Monasteries of Koutloumousiou, Xeropotamou, Zographou, Kapakallou, Philtheou, and Gregoriou have all written letters to the Holy Community of Mt. Athos in reaction to the Pan-Orthodox draft documents prepared for the upcoming Council in Crete. In these letters the Holy Athonite Monasteries have responded to the draft documents and methodology of the Pan-Orthodox Council with sharp and pointed reactions. These letters have now been released to the public.

On account of the seriousness of the matter, it was unanimously decided that the texts prepared for approval by the Council be examined in a specially called Meeting of the Representatives and Abbots of the Holy Monasteries, scheduled to take place after the Bright Week of Pascha.

The Athonite Fathers call attention to the danger presented by the Pan-Orthodox Council, as it is being carried out. Namely, among other things, they see:

* The concilarity of the Church being undermined and a theology supportive of primacy being promoted (due to the limited participation of bishops and an excessive authority given to the primates of each Local Church);

*An unacceptable ambiguity in the pre-synodical texts, allowing for interpretations which divert from Orthodox dogma;

*A placing, as the basis of the dialogues, of “the faith and tradition of the ancient Church and the Seven Ecumenical Councils,” such that the subsequent history of the Orthodox Church appears to be somehow lacking or impaired;

*An attempt by some to gain pan-Orthodox confirmation of the scandalous and totally unacceptable texts approved within the World Council of Churches;

*And the unacceptable application of the term “church” to schisms and heresies.

To read the texts in the original Greek see here.

Excerpts and full translations of the letters into English will be forthcoming.

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186719.pANOTHER HIERARCH APPEALS TO THE HOLY SYNOD CONCERNING THE PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL

Met. Seraphim of Piraeus has sent a letter to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church concerning the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council. The main propositions of the document were published on the site Agionoros.ru.

Vladyka styled the decision that every Local Church shall be represented by twenty-four hierarchs at the council “a never-before-seen innovation,” without precedent in two thousand years of Church history.

He noted that at every Ecumenical Council “as many bishops as possible” took part. In practice Churches did sometimes sent representatives, but only in the event that the bishop could not arrive to the Council for one reason or another.

“In accordance with Orthodox ecclesiology, every bishop, governing even the smallest diocese, represents his flock and is a living member of the Universal Church,” wrote the metropolitan in his letter. To not invite every bishop to the Pan-Orthodox Council, in his opinion, denies the opportunity for the fullness of the Church to express its opinion, “which, it seems, the organizers of the Council want.”

Vladyka recalls that in the sessions of the Ecumenical Councils heretofore taking part were representatives of the lower clergy, monastics, and laity. “It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call the impending council a Pan-Orthodox Council without the Orthodox. It is obvious that by the decision on representation at the council, running contrary to Tradition, the likelihood of some bishops speaking out against the decisions of the Council, should they represent a revision of Tradition, was avoided.”

“Completely unfounded,” Metropolitan Seraphim calls “the assertion of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, by which the Orthodox Church can designate the upcoming council only ‘Pan-Orthodox,’ and not ‘Ecumenical,’ because the Roman Catholic ‘Church’ will not be taking part. The falling away of heretics from the Church in no way minimizes her universal character.”

Metropolitan Seraphim expresses his disagreement with the principle of “one Local Church—one vote.” In his opinion, every bishop taking part in the work of the Council should have the right to vote.

The metropolitan of Piraeus exposes the draft document of the Pan-Orthodox Council, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world,” adopted at the Fifth Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Meeting in Chambesy, October 10-17, 2015, to detailed analysis and critique.

“In this text nothing is said of heresies and delusions, as if they stopped appearing in the history of the Church after the eighth century.” As the Ecumenical Councils of that time were occupied with analysis of and conciliar condemnation of various fallacies, the Pan-Orthodox Council is not taking up a similar principle, writes the bishop in his message.

The twenty-second paragraph of the document also undergoes Metropolitan Seraphim’s critique:The Orthodox Church considers that any effort to divide the unity of the Church, undertaken by individuals and groups under the pretense of preservation or protection of the truth of Orthodoxy, is subject to condemnation. As evidenced by the entire life of the Orthodox Church, preserving the true Orthodox faith is possible thanks only to the conciliar structure, which from ancient times has represented for the Church the competent and supreme criterion in questions of faith.

In the bishop’s opinion, the given provision creates the impression that the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council seeks “to predetermine the infallibility of its resolutions.” The statement that “preserving the true Orthodox faith is possible thanks only to the conciliar structure, which from ancient times has represented for the Church the competent and supreme criterion in questions of faith,” is not mindful of the historical fact that in the Orthodox Church the final criterion of faith is the dogmatic self-consciousness of the members of the Church. That is precisely why some councils, undertaken to be ecumenical, were recognized to be robber councils and illegitimate.

Metropolitan Seraphim expresses his disagreement with the decision of the primates to invite to the Pan-Orthodox Council Catholic, Monophysite, and Protestant observers: “In the 2,000-year history of the Church there have never been non-Orthodox ‘observers’ at Local and Ecumenical Councils.” This practice occurred only at the First and Second Vatican Councils of the Catholic church, said Metroplitan Seraphim, specifiying. “Is it permissible for a Pan-Orthodox Council to take papal practices as its model?” asks Vladyka.

Metropolitan Seraphim recalls that in the past heretics were invited to Ecumenical Councils not as “observers,” but as defendants, to bring them to repentance. If they continued to persist in their delusions, they were excommunicated from the Church and driven out of the Council’s sessions. In his opinion, the attendance of non-Orthodox at the Pan-Orthodox Council “legitimizes delusions and heresy, and practically undermines the authority of the Council.”

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The Church of Christ is not of this world but is founded by the Holy Trinity so that she might serve in the world; that she may be penetrated with the truth of Christ, that she may sanctify and lead one back again to God. In this sense, the Church coexists with all phenomena in different epochs of human history, including also that of the pluralism of opinion, one of the characteristic scars of the time in which we live. This pluralism, however, is not inherent in the Orthodox faith and in its dogmatics, just as diversity of opinion is not intrinsic to God, in Whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning (John 1:17).

Certainly, the Holy Orthodox Church does not deny freedom of human thought, but attempts to direct this freedom in a salvific direction. This way, in connection with confirmed and true Church teaching, many personal theological opinions arise—for example, the teaching of St. Gregory of Nyssa on the “garments of skin,” the interpretation of St. Filaret (Drozdov) on the petition “For the peace of the whole world, the well-being of the Holy Churches of God and the union of all,” the position of Fr. Sergey Bulgakov on the “feminine principle” (“Sofia”) in God. Over time, mass heretical communities are also appearing and are frequently privileged through political protection. But this cannot, in some way, weaken or violate the holiness of the Church and her uniqueness, neither can it deny her creed, her sacred tradition, and her holy scripture.

Today the entire Orthodox world is excited about the upcoming Holy and Great Council, which is planned for June 2016 on the island of Crete. Various expectations and positions, apprehensions and hopes, are being expressed.

Right now the community of the Church is exchanging and discussing a host of letters, petitions, documents, and epistles. Everyone is expressing his view in accord with his internal feelings. But in as much as no person is infallible, and in as much as none of us is more great or wiser than the teachings of the Church that have been confirmed in the Ecumenical Councils throughout the centuries, personal bias should give priority to the true, eternal, ubiquitous, and unanimous confession of the Orthodox faith.

This is essential for all of us in as much as it is not theoretical theology, theological “diplomacy,” or the cultural and social activity in the Church that are the means for the eternal salvation of our souls, but our trueness before God, humility, faithful love, and life in His Spirit and His truth, in Him Himself, Who is absolute Truth. It is not possible for any of our particular, variable, and self-servingly adjustable “truths” to save our lives.

It has always been a gift of grace for the Church when heresies appear and intensify, in as much as she has thereupon formulated and reconfirmed the pure teachings of holy Orthodoxy. Such is the case today—different heresies and sects, including the heresy of ecumenism, allow the Church to express its unchanged and principled position through its archpastors, pastors, theologians, and laity, which is just as beneficial for us, Orthodox, as it is for the non-Orthodox.

At the moment, revived Orthodox discussion is flowing freely about the nature of the Church and about what should be her relationship to other Christians—Roman Catholics and Protestants. The Georgian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Ilia II, metropolitans such as Athanasy of Limassol, Hierotheos (Vlahos) of Nafpaktos, and Seraphim of Piraeus, elders of the Holy Mountain such as Sava (from the Great Lavra) and Gabriel (from Koutloumousiou Monastery), professor and priest Theodore Zisis, professor Dimitrios Tselengidis, as well as many others, have over the past few months shared their position publicly, according to established patristic teaching, that the Church of Christ, that is, the Orthodox Church (ecclesia), is one and only she is holy, ecumenical, and apostolic. The remaining heretical communities are referred to (sometimes in the Orthodox lexicon as well) with the term “church”/”churches,” but for our part, this should be a provisional commemoration, that is, in the sense of an “assembly” (the old meaning of the Greek word ecclesia). The Orthodox Church is required to preach the truth to these communities, that it might be possible for each of them to be saved by turning to Orthodoxy.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is not a member of the ecumenist organization “World Council of Churches,” but in as much as it is a part of universal Orthodoxy and the world in which we live, there is no way to remain on the sidelines in light of all these issues—as much on the level of its hierarchy, the Holy Synod, as on the executive level of the clergy, monastics, and laity.

In light of this, the canonization and celebrations of St. Seraphim of Sofia, the Wonderworker, which took place on February 3 and February 26, 2016 respectively, have symbolic importance for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, in as much as this enlightener of God very accurately has pointed out the shortcomings of ecumenism and the correct relationship that we Orthodox should manifest towards the rest of the Christian world, a relationship namely of active and not sentimental love, a relationship filled with missionary concern and dogmatic integrity.

In this regard, we recommend the following article by the Bulgarian Schema-Hieromonk Dmitry Sografskiy, in which valuable and sincere citations of the Holy Fathers of the Church are proffered. In these quotations breathe the universal voice of Orthodoxy in relation to the nature of the Church and our relationship to non-Orthodox Christians.

The contemporary challenges before our Orthodox conscience are a divine gift—a gift for the clarification of our Orthodox self-awareness, for a kindling of correct confession of the faith, and for living in sacrificial love towards all our neighbors.

Dr. Daniel Panayotova is the general editor of the official site of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Dr. Daniel Panayotova

Translated by Christopher Criswell

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