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Great Joy in Heaven Over the Repentance of … One Hierarch

Recently, a well-known bishop in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Bishop Athenagoras, attended and applauded the pre-inaugural events of a new Hindu temple — something quite scandalous and irreconcilable not only with the Holy Canons of our Church, but with the innumerable lives of Martyrs and Confessors of our Church who rather than applaud the elevation of idols, destroyed them.

Many of the faithful were most grieved with this departure of His Grace, for many just reasons but also out of concern for the bishop himself. Many prayers were offered on his behalf, for him to “rightly-divide the word of truth” and courageously re-orient himself to the Church’s teachings.

Bishop Athenagoras did just that: he returned, he confessed and publicly repented, convicted no doubt, that a public offense demands a public recompense. The faithful rejoiced with this unexpected turn of events. An event so very rare today, but also, indeed, in Church history generally. By humbling himself in this way, he also moved us to humility. His confession was a powerful lesson for all of us, because the chief shepherd teaches primarily through his example. I must confess that if I were in his place, having fallen and so publicly, I would find it difficult to do what he did. I therefore bow before his example with a humbled heart, thanking His Grace sincerely for this lesson in humility, that I myself and possibly others are so much in need of. We pray that he and all his fellow hierarchs may guide us by example in this much needed way of humility and constant re-orientation to Christ, into all the virtues. Now we can identify with him as co-sufferers and sojourners through this vain and most insane world.

Some have doubted the bishop’s sincerity, no doubt embittered and cynical by the plethora of compromises today, including, perhaps, that of the bishop himself in other matters. Such doubts, however, are unwarranted and, indeed, undermine the very return to Orthodoxy and exactitude that such critics most certainly long for. It’s a Christian virtue to take people’s repentance at face value. One never loses when he does this, nor is he justifying any sin or departure from Orthodoxy in doing so.

Can one repent of an un-Orthodox stance and mean it sincerely and yet nonetheless return again to the same stance, later on? Certainly, for we are free, after all. However, that does not mean that the repentance (return/reorientation) was not true or sincere initially.

While we struggle to follow the Holy Fathers and remain vigilant and prayerful, we can and should also pray for, and welcome with all our hearts, every step of return, even every good intention to re-orient, of everyone, most especially of wayward bishops. This is nothing uncommon or extraordinary; it is just a basic Christian sensibility and a stance of humility, according to the words of our Lord: “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6:15). We would want nothing less for ourselves.

Fr. Peter Heers

The Orthodox Ethos

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Met. Athenagoras has said that he was "ordered" to attend this pagan celebration. So, the questions are: 1. who ordered him to attend? and 2. what did the person ordering him to attend tell him about this celebration?


Very appropriate considering this all happened close to the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Glory to God!


When I first saw that picture at the Hindu Temple, I just knew in my heart one of the Orthodox clerics would turn out to be Bishop Athenagorus, given his unfortunate ecumenist bent. Was very saddened but not surprised. But I commend him now for realizing his blunder & admitting it. He turned a terrible error into a teaching moment, which is proof of the Holy Spirit at work in peoples' hearts. Amen!

I pray all Orthodox bishops finally recognize the larger, sinister agenda at play: step-by-step attempts to destroy Truth in the name of "tolerance" and "unity."


Very well and beautifully said, Fr Peter, with impeccable timing for this Sunday. Thank you so much for sharing these reflections. I do wholeheartedly agree! Amen!

Christine Zeiner


How appropriate for the upcoming Sunday of the Prodigal Son.

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