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The Stance of St Paisios the Athonite on the Reception of Converts in the Baptism of the Heterodox

An excerpt from Apostle to Zaire: The Life and Legacy of Blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou

— A follow up to a recent post “The Stance of St Iakovos of Euboea on the Reception of Converts and the Baptism of the Heterodox”.


“Many have commented: “How is it that the Africans, being only recently baptized, can maintain such an intensity and exactness in their Orthodoxy, while many of us in parishes in Greece, America and elsewhere are much more lax?” The answer, I believe, lies partly in that Father Cosmas, their father, guide, and example, was himself strict and precise in his living and imparting of Orthodoxy. He was a monk in the long tradition of Athonite monasticism, and he hailed from the city of Ss. Cyril and Methodios, Thessaloniki, known for its rich ecclesiastical tradition. He kept with exactness, as well as discernment, the canons and standards of the Church, not out of some kind of reactionary conservatism or unfeeling zeal, but out of humility and because they provide what is best for man’s soul, derived as they are from the experience and wisdom of the Saints and Fathers of the Church.

One such issue, in which he consciously chose the blessing of God’s Saints over the transient benefits of our ecumenical age, was baptism. “When baptizing,” he says, “I implement the Athonite order of things. We’ve done 250 baptisms, and, not only with idol worshippers but also with Catholics who become Orthodox, we baptize them in deep rivers. My actions will have consequences when news reaches the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which holds that the Protestants are only in need of chrism. Until then, however, we will only do baptisms so as to have St. Nicodemos’ blessing.”14 Father Cosmas, as is clear further down, was not one to fly in the face of ecclesiastical authority. His decision to baptize those coming from heterodox confessions was done purely out of love for their souls and their eternal salvation, as well as love for God and His Saints, not suffering his conscience to disobey their sacred teachings. He acted not only out of respect for the Saints of ages of past, but out of humility and obedience to the wise counsels of living saints: “I remember the words of Father Paisios, who told me that, most of the time, the baptism that the heretics perform only passes over their skin.”15 Having this in mind, his love for the catechumens dictated that he provide them with the complete and saving initiation into the eternal life of the Church. This had consequences, of course, but not only for his relationship with the upper hierarchy. Primarily it had consequences for the establishment of a spiritually healthy, powerful and faithful Orthodox Church, before which the Orthodox world now stands in admiration.”

- Apostle to Zaire: The Life and Legacy of Blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou.

*Note: they have rememberable and amazing missionary to Africa, Fr. Cosmas, was a monk of Grigoriou Monastery on Mt. Athos and his abbot and elder, George, who was renowned and universally respected, also - with all of Athos, essentially - held (of course) the same stance (and his monastery still does).

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