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The Recent History of Ecumenism and the Struggle for Orthodoxy (Part A)

- Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis

In light of the recent developments in Greece Orthodox Ethos is pleased to be able to present to English speakers the following translation of Fr. Theodore Zisis' enlightening lecture on the recent history (mainly in Greece) of ecumenism and the struggle for Orthodoxy.

Reverend Fathers,

Elder Joanikios, Fr. Photios, Fr. Symeon, other Fathers, most devout monastics, ladies and gentlemen:

It brings me great joy to be here tonight with you in Askos [a village near Lagadas, about 45 minutes north of Thessaloniki], because we are joined together with Fr. Photios, by strong spiritual ties which go back many years, but also because Fr. Photios - a mature and conscientious clergyman who took on the priesthood as a duty, as a vocation, and who strives to act in a manner consistent with that great grace which God has given him - strives by means of this gift of the priesthood, to enlighten and inform his flock here in Askos concerning these matters connected with the Orthodox Faith.

As you have heard, tonight I will be speaking about a highly interesting matter. Presupposing that many of you are not fully informed about this matter, even though there have been many efforts to [spread this information]. Tonight, I will try to present you, at the very least, with the developments which have occurred surrounding this major theme of Ecumenism, in the last two or three years. I am going to tell you in simple words what Ecumenism is, what the heresy of Ecumenism teaches, because you need to understand why the heresy of Ecumenism makes us so uneasy, and why Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and many others are advocates of this heresy.

Why a great well known Serbian Elder - and now Saint - Elder Justin Popovich, described Ecumenism as a 'Pan-heresy', and the 'summation of all the other heresies'. What is Ecumenism? It is not just one heresy. All of the other heresies are contained within Ecumenism!

How does it contain all the other heresies? We all know that the Monophysites are heretics, and that the Monophysites were condemned by the Ecumenical Councils- the 3rd, 4th, and 7th- and by many of the Holy Fathers. The heresy of Monophysitism is condemned. We all know that Iconoclasm was condemned at the 7th Ecumenical Council. We all know that Papism- the Pope of Rome- was condemned at the councils, and even at Ecumenical Councils; the 8th Ecumenical Council, and the consensus of the Holy Fathers considers Papism to be heresy.

Books by Theologians have been published which show that Papism is a heresy. And a much worse heresy than Papism is its child, Protestantism. If Papism holds twenty heresies, Protestantism holds one hundred heresies, it is deceived about one hundred things.

Now look at this… Ecumenism takes all of these heresies into itself. How? Because Ecumenism teaches that all these heresies are 'churches' and not heresies; that they are 'sister churches'; that we are the same as these; that there is no such thing as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Creed. The Saints at the Ecumenical Councils who condemned Monophysitism were mistaken. Monophysitism is not a heresy; they are Orthodox.

The same goes for the Iconoclasts; the Protestants are Iconoclasts. If you go to a Protestant church you will not see icons. They have gotten rid of them. Papism with the filioque, with Papal primacy, with the Immaculate Conception, with all its other heresies… And Protestantism is worse.

Ecumenism pardons all of these heresies. It says, "It doesn't matter. It is not a bad thing. Our Fathers made a mistake… the Pope isn't a heretic, the Monophysites, are not heretics. We are all sister churches. We all belong to the Church. They are also churches."

Do you see how frightful a thing this is? The Holy Fathers as far back as the era of the Apostles, struggled so manfully… If we look at the New Testament, we will see that the Apostles themselves spoke about false shepherds, of wolves in sheep's clothing, of heretics even in the New Testament.

The Church must condemn such false shepherds and wolves… even the Apostles did this. And in continuation, the Holy Fathers condemned these heresies. And then, now we come along and say that Monophysitism is not a heresy? If we have the time I will provide you with a few recent examples when we entered into joint-prayer with the Monophysites. I will give you a few examples depending on where this talk takes us.

This past year the Copts, the Egyptians, who are Monophysites, elected a new Patriarch and Theodoros, our Patriarch of Alexandria, went and took part in the enthronement of this new Patriarch and even gave him a miter as a gift, and then yelled out 'Axios' during the enthronement service.

In other words, he treated this heretical Monophysite Patriarch as if he were a canonical Patriarch, as if he were not heretical. Our Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria extolled him and treated him as if he were Orthodox. As I said, he had a miter made for him, which means that he recognizes his Episcopal office, even shouting out 'Axios'!

And the Ecumenical Patriarch and others sent congratulatory letters, letters to the same newly elected Monophysite Patriarch. Just now a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate- imagine- went and took part in a Blessing of Waters, wearing his stole, and committed joint-prayer at a service of the Blessing of Waters that the Monophysites held in Egypt. There are numberless examples...

There is a devout Romanian clergyman who some of you know, Fr. Matthew Volkonescu from Veroia, who wrote a letter of protest to the Patriarch of Alexandria saying, "How could you give a miter to a heretical Monophysite Patriarch condemned by the Ecumenical Councils and call him 'Axios'? Is this not showing disdain for the Holy Canons? Is this not showing disdain for the Holy Fathers and the Saints, who condemned Monophysitism as a heresy?"

I am telling you this, to show you how bad things have gotten. I have brought with me some things from the Internet as further evidence, but I don't think they are needed. I have brought you photographs which show our bishops, priests, and so on, praying together with, entering into joint-prayers with, all of these… with Monophysites, with Papists, with Protestants.

A couple of days ago a photograph was circulating on the internet, which showed the new Serbian Patriarch Irenaeos serving an Artoklasia, and at this service Papists, heretics, and others all took part. Moreover, they innovated there in that not only the priests participated in the Artoklasia, but also the laity. Usually the priests alone place their hands on the back of the one in front of them when many serve, but there, all of them including the Papists and the laity, crowded around and placed their hands on the back of the one in front of them.

Ecumenism confounds everything. It does not believe that there is Orthodoxy; that there is Truth for which the Saints and Fathers struggled from the time of the Apostles. The Apostles were the first to struggle to preserve the faith, and then after them the Holy Fathers did likewise.

Now this ecumenism was initially inter-Christian, in other words, it was limited to relations between those who were Christian, heretics but Christian. Now, this ecumenism has become inter-religious, what does inter-religious mean?

It means that Christianity is not the lone path to salvation, that people are saved not only by following the preaching of Christ, the Gospel, but they are saved no matter what religion they are. Be they Buddhists, be they Confucians, be they Muslims, be they Jews, all the religions, all faiths are paths to salvation. All save. One does not have to become Christian, to enter the Church, to be saved… whatever religion he is he can be saved. There is no greater blasphemy than this.

There's no greater denial of the Gospel. Did Christ not come to the world and say, "I am the way, the truth and the life"? That one cannot be saved unless he becomes a Christian? "The one who believes and is baptized will be saved," and, "the one who does not believe will be condemned."

When our Lord sent the Apostles out to preach he told them, "if you go somewhere and they receive you and listen to your preaching, and believe your preaching, then bless that house. But if you go somewhere and they do not believe if they do not believe that I am God, that I am the God-Man, then leave that house and even shake off the dust from your feet." Have no further relations with the unbelievers. And the Apostle Paul clearly tells us, "… What does light have to do with darkness, Christ with Belial?"

What does the light of the teachings of Christ…"We have seen the true light"… have in common with the darkness of delusion found in all these other religions? But now our Patriarchs and the ecumenists are teaching us that it does not matter. This is the great thrust of the new era, the era of Anti-Christ: to take the era of our Lord Jesus Christ out of the middle (way?), to say that the time of Christ has passed, and bring us to the Anti-Christ.

The Ecumenical Movement is therefore, a movement of the Anti-Christ. And daringly I tell you, and let it be heard- the Synaxis of Orthodox Clergy and Monastics has just recently written a text- that Masonry and Zionism have played a large role in this syncretistic movement, syncretistic in that it brings everything together and mixes it all up. They are working behind the scenes. They are not happy with the notion that Christ is the truth.

Even today the Zionists, the Jews, are bothered when we say that Christ is the truth, that Christ is the light. "Is not the Old Testament light? Is not Judaism light? Is not Islam light? Is not Buddhism light?" No, they are not light. They are darkness. The Holy Fathers have written many works against Islam, against these religions, which show that these religions contain innumerable delusions. Imagine.

Today, we find ourselves in the position where there are clergy who teach that Ecumenism, these relations that we have with all the others… You have all heard that the last week of January, has been set aside as the 'Week of Joint-Prayer' by the Ecumenists. In other words, all over the world and even in Thessaloniki- I will tell you now- all over the world at the Pope's instigation, all the Christians get together and pray together. Not just the Orthodox, but all.

Here, in the Church of Greece, it was rare to see this phenomenon. At least the clergy would not take part in such services. For years this was held at the Frankish church in Thessaloniki and a few laity went, a few professors from the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, but not a single clergyman. And a decade ago it was only one lone professor who went.

Now, Ecumenism has gained so much ground, that the others have been deceived and go to pray together with the Papists, Monophysites, and all the others. Outside of Greece this is going on officially. Bishops, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Orthodox clergy, are officially taking part in these joint-prayers over the last twelve days of January. The last page of the 'Orthodox Typos' has published a column, covering these inter-religious displays, which have taken place.

If one reads this, one will conclude that, we are truly in the midst of a thunderstorm, a tempest, a winter of Ecumenism, a period wherein the heresy of Ecumenism is spreading, is being disseminated. We are in a downward spiral, which no one is trying to stop.

If the Saints… if the Holy Apostles were here today, they would have given their very lives, their very blood, to stop this downward spiral of Ecumenism. They would have labored against all of these Patriarchs, Archbishops, and Bishops who betray the Gospel and ignore the saints. They ignore the Saints… they have officially announced that we ought to leave the Saints behind.

You all know that in the Metropolis of Demetrias, the Metropolis of Volos, a conference was held in 2010 if I am not mistaken, in June of 2010, where Theologians and Hierarchs came to the conclusion that we ought to transitions into the Post-Patristic era. We should leave the Holy Fathers [they say] because the Holy Fathers create problems for us… The Holy Fathers tell us the truth… “The Holy Fathers”, they say, “had their time, but now the situation has changed and we have arrived at the Post-Patristic era, the time after the Fathers. We will change the teachings of the Church because the Church must adapt.”

All that by way of introduction…

Briefly, in whatever time remains Fr. Photios, in whatever time remains, I will quickly speak about some developments that occurred around the time the 'Confession of Faith' was published, and before the 'Confession of Faith'. Here, then, I will present you with a few things connected with these matters. I have previously told you that in 2009 we published the 'Confession of Faith'. The same year, in 2009, the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain published a text which said what? I will summarize it, I have the texts here, but I don't want to use up too much time.

The text of the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain said- the text was addressed to the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece- it said, that we have overdone it with our participation in Ecumenism and in the Ecumenical Movement and that we ought to consider ceasing our participation in the Ecumenical Movement. This was in 2009, a little before the 'Confession of Faith'.

This bothered the Ecumenical Patriarch, and he sent a letter to the Athonites wherein, he tried to justify the Orthodox Church's participation in the Ecumenical Movement, then towards the end- he was not overly harsh with the Athonite Fathers; he restrained himself- but he told them that their response was misguided and overzealous. "You aren't well informed. You must trust us because what we are doing has synodal approval. We haven't decided to do this on our own, but synods have decided to do this."

Also, near the end of that year- the Holy Mountain again- the Athonite Committee on Dogmatic Questions, whose membership consists of three Athonite Elders: Elder Luke of Philoteou, Elder George the Abbot, and the Abbot and Elder of Philoteou… in September of 2009 then, they produced a new document on our dialogues with the Papists. And they said in this text, that we must be very careful with respect to 'Papal Primacy'.

This was around the time, when they were discussing the primacy of the Pope in Ravenna, in Cyprus, and elsewhere, and the Holy Elders said that we must be very careful not to accept the Primacy of the Pope at these dialogues. I will read you one or two texts at the end, to show you how far the Orthodox representatives have strayed with respect to this matter.

Around the same time, I have noted that I should read you the statement of a young Hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Elpidophoros of Prousa, who addressing the Theological College in Boston in America in 2009… I have a photocopy here and will read it to you at the end… said that the Orthodox should not be bothered when they tear talk of the Primacy of the Pope, and that we too must recognize the existence of a universal primacy in the Church. "Whoever does not recognize a universal primacy is a heretic; it is a heresy."

Up until now, there has never been mention of a universal primacy in the Orthodox Church- neither of the Pope, nor of our own, of the Ecumenical Patriarch. There is a view, which says that our own [theologians] are starting to play with the notion of the Primacy of the Pope, so that that can get us to adopt a primacy, so that they can grant the Ecumenical Patriarch a similar primacy.

In the Orthodox Church, primacy is only local. The Bishops recognize a primacy of the Metropolitan, or within a Patriarchate, the Metropolitans recognize a primacy of their Patriarch. But the notion of universal Primacy, that there is a Patriarch in Orthodoxy who has universal primacy, is completely incomprehensible for us.

Our polity is not monarchic. The Papal polity is monarchic; there is one at the top. Our polity is synodal. Theologians and bishops are starting to cultivate the notion of primacy, so that we can create bridges in the dialogues with the Papists, so that we get used to the idea that the Pope ought to have universal primacy, and that we come to recognize a sort of primacy in Orthodoxy. All that happened in 2009 roughly… two or three years remain… I will be brief. I will give you just a few indicative examples.

At the beginning of 2010, the persecution of Bishop Artemios occurred within the Serbian Church. A confessor of the Orthodox Faith, who in the past had sent a memorandum to the Holy Synod, to the Hierarchy of the Serbian Church, recommending that the Serbian Church withdraw from the World Council of Churches, this Bishop Artemios was the Ethnarch of Kosovo.

After NATO laid waste to Kosovo and Serbia with bombings, in 2009 remember… NATO laid waste to that area… it appears that the politicians in Serbia decided, "We cannot resist America and Europe… we must submit. But submission means that we must accept the Pope. And how do we signal our submission to the West in the ecclesiastical sphere, except by allowing the Pope to visit?"

And because they knew, that Bishop Artemios was both in Patriotic terms, the Ethnarch of Kosovo with its Monasteries… there are hundreds of monastics in Kosovo… and that he labored the most forcefully against Papism; sadly the Church of Serbia, sadly led by three Hierarchs well known to many of us, and considered fellow disciples along with Artemios, of the holy Elder Justin Popovich; Artemios' own brothers and fellow disciples, decided not only to remove him from his throne, but also to defrock him, leaving him a simple monk... because Artemios stood in the way of a Papal visit to Serbia.

I do not have the gift of clairvoyance, but at the beginning of 2010, I wrote a text where I said that the reason Artemios and his co-strugglers were persecuted in Serbia was… and we have had the joy and honor of having here with us for a few years Artemios' protosynkelos and the first among his co-laborers, Fr. Symeon, who is with us here tonight. He was persecuted… he is persecuted. He lives in exile from his homeland. He came to us seeking vindication and found it… he too suffered ecclesiastical punishment… Not having clairvoyance, at the beginning of 2010, I wrote that the whole movement aimed against Artemios is taking place so that the Pope can visit Serbia. And the Pope is now coming to Serbia this year, in 2013.

If Artemios were still within the Hierarchy, it would have been difficult for the Pope to come! Artemios would have protested, so they deposed him. And I am obliged to tell you, that the same thing is slowly beginning to happen here.

The Orthodox voices that are speaking out and being heard, like the very daring and lion-hearted, Metropolitan of Piraeus, and some of us who have struggled against this for years, are being threatened- I said this in the homily in church this morning- we were threatened… the Metropolitan of Piraeus was threatened by a Hierarch who said, that soon all of the voices of the zealot anti-Ecumenists will fall silent.

And using as my base, the appointed epistle passage wherein the Apostle Paul, imprisoned in Rome, writes to Timothy in Ephesus and says, "I am in bonds, in jail, but the word of God will not be bound!" They can persecute us, they can slander us, they can punish us and put us in jail. They deposed Artemios, and they put Fr. Symeon in jail, but Orthodoxy cannot be suppressed.

"The word of God will not be bound!"

At the beginning of 2010 then, the persecution of Bishop Artemios occurred. On the Sunday of Orthodoxy of the same year; a Patriarchal and Synodal Encyclical, was circulated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And this Patriarchal and Synodal Encyclical- on the Sunday of Orthodoxy- was defensive. It said that those who accuse us, those who say that we betray Orthodoxy, do so unjustly. We do not betray Orthodoxy [he writes].

The same year, the Synaxis of Orthodox Clergy and Monastics published the 'Confession of Faith', they produced a text supporting the persecuted Bishop Artemios and Fr. Symeon, their co-laborers and monastics, Kosovo emptied of monastics.

Elder Artemios, was not your usual Bishop. He was a Bishop who resurrected the ancient Episcopacy, when the Bishops were Monastics. He was a monk and an Abbot. He has tons of monasteries, all of which had Artemios as their spiritual father. They deposed him, and the monastics left Kosovo, turning it into a spiritual desert.

Again in the same year, 2010, another matter arose. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messenia, a Metropolitan of the Church of Greece, formulated a teaching. What was this teaching he formulated? He taught that our Church- the Church, the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church- is not One. Why? Because, from the time of the schism of the Roman Catholics, the Church ceased to be One. The Church is divided.

In other words, though we say in the Creed that we are the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, because Papism went into schism and heresy, because they broke away and left the Church, we ceased to be the Church. We are half, or a part of the Church. We are a division, a part, of the Church.

Bishops reacted to the Metropolitan of Messenia's teaching, Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira, a humble Hierarch, reacted, denouncing this teaching concerning the dividedness of the Church. He denounced it to the Holy Synod. Demetrios Tselengides, Professor of Dogmatics at the University of Thessaloniki, came along and supported him and strengthened his case, rebutting the Metropolitan of Messenia for his heretical teaching concerning the dividedness of the Church.

Again the same year, 2010, sadly the Pope visited Cyprus. The Pope, as we say colloquially, has gone door to door to all the Orthodox churches in order to have each of the Orthodox churches bow down to him. All of the Orthodox churches!

And as I have written in the past, this calls to mind the Book of Revelation where, all are led to worship the beast. I have written an article entitled: "With the Lamb or with the Beast? Should we follow Christ or the Pope?"

He has passed through all of the Orthodox Churches one after another: Romania, Bulgaria, Greece. Do you remember the battle we had in 2001 with His Eminence Archbishop Christodoulos, in an effort to prevent the Pope from coming?

This shouldn't seem strange to you. All the evil that has occurred, all the tragic events [we have been discussing] began the second the Pope set foot in Greece. Holy and Orthodox Greece was polluted by the Pope when he set foot down here. We allowed the heresiarch Pope, the worldly Pope to come… Papism is not a Church. And we received him as a Hierarch, as a Bishop. And the other churches did the same.

The only Orthodox countries which have yet to receive a Papal visit are Russia- it is holding on but he is trying to corrupt Russia- and Serbia. And now under the pretense that the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan is approaching, they are preparing… the new Patriarch is preparing… under the previous Patriarch, Paul of Serbia, and with Artemios within the hierarchy, they did not dare to discuss the idea of the Pope visiting Serbia. But now he is going to Serbia.

So in 2010 the Pope planted his foot on Cyprus. And some of the Cypriot Hierarchs protested this. And a very well known Orthodox monastery- the Monastery of Stavrovounio in Cyprus, which has an excellent spiritual father, Elder Athanasios-, also protested.

At the beginning of June 2010, a very important event occurred. A conference took place in Volos. This conference, hosted by the Metropolis, by the Academy of Orthodox Studies of the Metropolis, the Holy Metropolis of Dimitri of Volos, had as its theme… A conference was hosted there- listen to the title:"Neo-Patristic Synthesis or Post-Patristic Theology: Can Orthodox Theology be Contextual?"

Basically, they said at this conference, that the Fathers have been surpassed; that they do not speak to our age. The Fathers stand in the way of what these people want to do. They want to get rid of them. Imagine. There are Metropolitans, theologians, professors of theological schools, who participated in this conference, which said, "We don't need the Fathers! We now live in the Post-Patristic age."

Thankfully, a number of Hierarchs reacted to this. First, again, Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, then Metropolitan Paul of Glyphada who produced a catalogue of the ideas expressed by the speakers… a frightening catalogue.

If you were to read this catalogue you would say: "Why are we still sitting here in our chairs and couches? We should get up and start an ecclesiastical revolution, asking that all of these Post-Patristic theologians be defrocked!"

And he submitted this catalogue of positions, to the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece for consideration. It is still considering it. In addition to the Metropolitans of Piraeus and Glyphada, the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, also wrote a piece characterizing this movement as a new heresy: this new Post-Patristic theology is a new heresy. And the Metropolitan of Gortyna also reacted.

- - -

*Fr. Photios also ceased commemoration of his bishop (together with Fr. Theodore) on the Sunday of Orthodoxy of 2017.

Translated by F.J.P. Transcribed by M.S.

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