Sunday, November 01, 1998

Back Issue: Excerpt, November 1998


(Vertograd-Inform, Moscow)

With the blessing of Right Reverend AGATHANGELOS, Bishop of Simferopol and the Crimea, the Russian Chapter of our Church launched its first official Internet server as of October 15. It is located at

In addition to articles from Vestnik IPC, the official publication of the Odessa and Crimea Dioceses of True Russian Orthodox Church (this is the name under which the Ukrainian parishes of our Church are registered), the server features a historical background of ROCA, material on Orthodox teachings, a list of our Church-s clergy and parishes in the Ukraine, and other interesting information.

According to experts, the Vestnik IPC server is one of the best Russian-language Orthodox servers available on the Web.

(Vertograd-Inform, Voronezh)

On October 12, in Voronezh, unidentified criminals set fire to the house of the clergymen Archpriest Valery Krovets and Priest Roman Krovets of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA). Archpriest Valery Krovets is Dean of the northern parishes of the Odessa and Tambov Diocese of our Church.

According to the Voronezh fire brigade-s operation report, on October 12, unidentified arsonists penetrated the priests- house in Snaipersky Pereulok, spilled diesel fuel around inside and set fire to the house. Neighbors called the fire brigade immediately and joined the arriving fire fighters in fighting the fire. The conflagration was effectively eliminated within a matter of minutes.

Archpriest Valery Krovets told the press that following the incident which was reported by several municipal newspapers the priests have been receiving multiple offers of help from people having nothing to do with ROCA communities.

The local police precinct initiated criminal proceedings in the wake of the arson. So far, the law enforcement authorities investigating the case have found no leads to the arsonists.

(Vertograd-Inform, Jordanville, the USA)

The main gala events dedicated to the semi-centenary of the Holy Trinity Seminary were timed to coincide with the beginning of the new school year (September 14), and Reverend Jove Pochayevski Memory Day (September 10). The Holy Trinity Seminary was founded in Jordanville in 1948 by the late memorable Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko).

The gala Divine Services and the anniversary celebration were attended by His Eminence Metropolitan VITALY, the top ROCA Hierarch, Right Reverend ANTONY, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West Coast, Right Reverend LAURUS, Archbishop of Trinity and Syracuse and Rector of the Holy Trinity Seminary, Right Reverend ALIPIUS, Archbishop of Chicago and Detroit, Right Reverend HILARION, Archbishop of Sydney and Australia, Right Reverend CHRYSOSTOM, Archbishop of Ethna and member of the Synod of the Resistors of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, PHOTIUS, Bishop of Triaditsa (envoy of the Old Calendarist Church of Bulgaria), AUXENTIUS, Bishop of Fotikiya (also a member of the Synod of the Resistors), ALEXANDER, Bishop of Buenos Aires and South America, METROPHANUS, Bishop of Boston, MICHAEL, Bishop of Toronto, and GABRIEL, Bishop of Manhattan as well as many priests who graduated from the Holy Trinity Seminary.

During the gala celebration, His Eminence the Highest Hierarch delivered a homily to the instructors and students of the main spiritual college of our Church, and the incumbent (third) Rector of the Holy Trinity Seminary, LAURUS, delivered a greeting address. The alumni shared recollections of their student years in Jordanville. Students of the Holy Trinity Seminary gave a music and singing concert to the participants and guests of the ceremony. Immediately after the celebration, the ROCA Council of Bishops met in the Holy Trinity Monastery. In addition to the Archbishops who had attended the celebration, the meeting was attended by Right Reverend MARC, Archbishop of Berlin and Germany.



Having withdrawn, in 1997, from international ecumenical organizations, the official Georgian Patriarchate has recently made its next step away from ecumenical jurisdictions. Upon recommendation of the Georgian Patriarchate-s Divinity Commission, in its Synodal meeting of October 8, the Georgian Church officially denounced a number of recent ecumenical documents, branding them «unacceptable.» These documents included: 1) the Shambesy documents of 1990 and 1993 (Union with Non-Chalcedonic (Oriental) Churches); 2) the Framework Agreement between the Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Oriental (Non-Chalcedonic) Church of Antioch [1]; 3) the Balamand Union with the Latins (Roman-Catholic Church) of 1993; 4) Easter Celebration by the Autonomious Orthodox Church of Finland according to the Papal Paschalion [2]; 5) the so-called «Branch Theory» was also denounced; as well as 5) common prayers and intercommunion with non-Orthodox denominations [3].

It is quite obvious that this step back from ecumenism, certain signs of which became apparent as far back as last spring at the Thessaloniki Forum, has been driven by Orthodox zealots who have, over the past two years, been particularly vocal in Georgia. However, this statement of the Georgian Synod represents an unprecedented act of an all but complete rejection of the ecumenical policy, not just a cancellation of membership in a few ecumenical organizations. This move could be assumed to signify the beginning of a comeback of the official Georgian Patriarchate to Orthodoxy, if it was not for certain very important circumstances.

Even if we ignore the fact that the Patriarchate would never have initiated the persecution of Georgian Orthodox zealots, who have recently established the True Orthodox Church of Georgia, if its goals had not been completely at variance with those of True Orthodox Christians; even if we decline to discuss the identity of Patriarch Elias, a veteran ecumenist and follower of Nicodim, and a KGB agent code-named Iverieli since 1962, for whom the beginning of repentance would mean the end of his term in office; and even if we are completely unaware of what is really going on in Georgia-s ecclesiastical life, we can still discern one very essential inconsistency in the above-mentioned Georgian Synodal document which brings to naught all its purported «Orthodox» merits, thus effectively downgrading the document to the level of a mere tactical loophole. Although the Synod does raise its voice against some random particulars of the ecumenical movement, reasonably citing their non-orthodox, i.e. heretical, nature, it proceeds to conclusions which no genuine Orthodox believer facing a heresy would ever make.

Denunciation of any ecumenical developments as erroneous is no proof of the denouncer-s own adherence to Orthodox faith. Denouncement of a heresy from a truly Orthodox standpoint would, first and foremost, involve a severance of ecclesiastical communion with the parties guilty of the heresy. In other words, as Georgian Orthodox zealots reasonably reminded the Georgian Patriarchate back in 1997, it is not enough to withdraw from all manner of ecumenical activities; it is necessary to break communion with all ecumenical jurisdictions, especially with Constantinople which is at the helm of the Orthodox chapter of this heresy. It is necessary to give up the vision of «World Orthodoxy» whereby it is presented as an assembly of local Orthodox churches; instead, it should be viewed as a conglomeration of communities each infected with the ecumenical heresy to a different extent.

For true Orthodox Christians, the issues of «intercommunion,» «common prayers,» or «ecclesiastical commission» acquire relevance only in relation to pseudo-Orthodox ecumenical jurisdictions: for example, he who administers a common service with the New Calendarists is an ecumenist. Although the Georgian Patriarchate no longer hails Roman Catholic Church as its «sister church,» it still maintains a «sisterly» relationship with the Constantinople Patriarchate and, therefore, the Georgian Patriarchate cannot be recognized as Orthodox, and the causes of Georgia-s ecclesiastical schism still persist in their undiminished entirety.

Meanwhile, the above considerations do not cover the most outstanding singularity of the Georgian Synod-s decision. If this decision was, indeed, a tactical move, the question is: what sort of object could such a tactic possibly further? I daresay, I do have an answer, and it is based on an analysis of all the reshuffles that have occurred in the Orthodox world over the last 15 years.

The acceleration of the «ecumenical build-up» in a bid to attain «Pan-Christian unity» in most of the world by the year 2000 has made it absolutely imperative to create some kind of «collector» for «the conservatives» since it will obviously take at least one or two generations before «the conservatives» become completely extinct. It was, therefore, necessary to give them a provisional modus vivendi enabling them to avoid the psychological discomfort of being involved in ecumenical activities «too directly» while at the same time preserving them as part of the «great and boundless» ecumenical Babel. Orthodox Church was certainly unable to provide assistance in this task, but a ready-to-wear model did exist: Anglican Church with its two ramifications, High Church and Low Church, which have no dogmatic accord between them and completely abhor each other-s rites (for instance, High Church does not admit women to priesthood and does not recognize homosexual marriages), yet they consider themselves parts of a single church and retain full communion with each other.

Starting in mid-1980s, certain postulates of mid-20th century Saints dating back to the time when hope was still alive that the New Calendarist Greek Church and the Moscow Patriarchate would mend their ways (as they were not aloof to the teachings of Archbishops Chrysostom of Florina and John Maximovich [4]) created a foundation for a semblance of «special divinity» formulated as follows: we are divorcing ourselves from the «official» jurisdictions» on account of their heresies, yet we will continue to regard them as members of Orthodox Church, albeit ailing members. In other words, according to this ecclesiology, the sojourn of such «ailing» members within the Church may be (spiritually) harmful, but at least there is no threat of their full defection from the bosom of the Church, since full defection of ecumenical jurisdictions from the Church may not be effected outside some extraordinary Council involving the participation of the jurisdictions concerned.

In Greece, this theology drove the extrapolation of the Synod of Resisters into a separate organization headed by Cyprian, Metropolitan of Phili and Oropos. Within ROCA, a similar attitude practiced by some of its members vis-a-vis the Moscow Patriarchate made it possible to hold talks with MP which received the enthusiastic backing of what looked like the entire German Diocese. In a rather typical development, the same Council of ROCA Bishops (1994) that gave its go-ahead for the talks with the Moscow Patriarchate, also gave its full approval for Metropolitan Cyprian-s ecclesiology.

«The Third Way» between Orthodoxy and ecumenism may yet prove suitable for small official «local churches» with pronounced traditionalist sentiment among their laity and lower clergy (Georgia, for instance), not just for conservative factions within Old-Calendar Greek or Russian communities. The ecumenical «ocean» will not become any shallower without such a small country as Georgia. However, as far as the building of the new and tortuous «Third Way» is concerned, Georgia could make a good heap of sand and rocks. This new way is, essentially, a way of distancing oneself from ecumenical lies without causing confrontation. It is a way of coming to terms (and even ecclesiastical unity) with lies and, hence, yet another hopeless journey somewhere away from truth.

[1] This agreement, signed in 1991, established very close - to the point of intercommunion - ties between the two churches. The agreement formalized the relationship that had already existed between them for many years.

[2] It was noted that this «canonical violation» did not constitute a schism. The document refers to Letter No. 1214/1997 of the Patriarch of Constantinople wherein he urges the Finnish church, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate, to return to the Orthodox Paschalion.

[3] As prescribed by Paragraph 13, Art. B of the Summary Memorandum of the Inter-Orthodox Forum held in Thessaloniki, Greece, from April 29 to May 2, 1998. Cf: «Evaluation of New Developments in the Relations Between Orthodox Christianity and the Ecumenical Movement.»

[4] Regarding the latter-day views of St. John Maximovich, please refer to the critical essay by Subdeacon Nikolai Savchenko featured in this issue. As for Archbishop Chrysostom, in 1950 he released a Circular Memorandum affirming his utter denial of the ecclesiastical philosophy of the «New Calendarists.» His stance remained unchanged until the day he died (in 1955).


by Basil Lourie
"Skorbnye sobytija, no oni ? predrechennogo sbytie"
(These mournful fortunes are but prophesies come true)[1]
This article was written in the summer of 1996 for another publication which never appeared in print. Nevertheless, the article has gained considerable circulation primarily due to its release on the Internet in Russian and English. In response to critical comments, several people, including myself, have amended and supplemented the text to a certain extent. The version appearing in this issue has seen some further elaborations which do not affect the principal content and message of the article. The focus of the article remains on the most general ecclesiastical issues of the current epoch which has witnessed a sweeping and, apparently, final defeat of true Christianity in the world, its retreat and the onslaught of the adversary. In its retreat, true Christianity-s sole concern is to keep some semblance of order in its ranks, so that its dignified retreat does not turn into a stampede. The ecclesiology of the present epoch addresses only one issue: how to preserve the fragments of a defeated army. We already know that it will eventually fail in this, too. The handful of successors to the true Church that will eventually survive will retain very little semblance to an army. Meanwhile, while there is still an army it has to choose its mission itineraries, improve interaction between its units and, where possible, score victories in minor tail fights.

The subject-matter of this article verges on some vast and vitally important areas which this article has never dealt with, and will never discuss in the future. One of them is an overview (updated to the last minute, not last week) of the present situation in the Orthodox world and analysis of certain problems specific to Russia, Greece, Serbia and other nations with an Orthodox tradition. I have endeavored to adhere to the subjects which may be deemed to be common for the entire Orthodox world or a predominant percentage thereof.

The idea of the reflection, which is now presented to the reader, grew out of informal communication between Orthodox Christians of various local churches. «Various local churches» ? these are words which should express the only possible difference between Orthodox Christians. But is it like that now? What does the concept of local churches mean in our time? Are there not substantial differences between Christians within the «local churches»? The heresy of ecumenism and the various tendencies of ecclesiastical «renovationism» that are closely linked with it engender not only, and not so much theological discussions, and not merely differences in the style of calendar and the «style» of spiritual life. The differences go as far as membership of the Church; some preserve it, while others are deprived of it. How is one to remain among the former and not fall among the latter? These are by no means idle questions, and in order to clarify them we should not confirm ourselves to the limits of those formations which are called «jurisdictions» in contemporary jargon. True Orthodox Christians are divided by barriers of canonical discipline which inevitably arise from human feebleness in times of ecclesiastic uncertainty. In ancient times, these barriers were no obstacle to Orthodox Christians' common understanding of their shared Orthodox faith, and they must not become such obstacles now. This article has emerged as a result of my communication with Orthodox Christians belonging to various Orthodox "jurisdictions" (therefore, I cannot claim its sole authorship). In its turn, this article has encouraged further communication and might, by God's grace, continue to encourage it in the future.

1. The local churches in an ecclesiastical time of troubles
The destruction of the external forms of the local churches

The local churches are the communities of believers which are confined to a definite territory (linked, as a rule, to state divisions) and which have a single first-hierarch ? a patriarch, metropolitan or archbishop. The totality of the local churches represents the normal organisation of the Universal Church on earth. There frequently take place more or less serious violations of this normal structure, and sometimes its visible collapse on a universal scale. It is precisely the possibility of the latter which is particularly difficult for us to accept. And yet there is nothing impossible in it, and the visible destruction of the external church organisation at the end of time has been directly revealed by God.

It is difficult for us to comprehend such a catastrophic situation for the simple reason that it has not happened in the Church for a long time now. The greatest tragedy of our millenium has been the falling into heresy of the largest patriarchate ? that of Rome. However, this event did not have a particular influence on the general organisation of the Church. There was «just» one less local church, while the structure of the others remained unchanged.

We have a much murkier idea of, for example, the iconoclast and monothelite periods, when almost the whole hierarchy fell into heresy; it is still more difficult to imagine the period of the monophysite disturbances (5th and 6th centuries) and that of arianism, when there were Orthodox among those who rejected the Orthodox Councils, while there were heretics among those who accepted them. Such ages extended over many decades, and were usually brought to an end by a conciliar decision which condemned the pseudo-Orthodox and accepted into full communion those who had aroused suspicions that proved to be unfounded. Thus, for example, the Second Ecumenical Council condemned Macedonius, who formally supported the Nicene Creed, and accepted into communion St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who had been elevated to his see by opponents of this Creed.

During such disturbances the local churches in the usual, that is, purely external, sense of the word ceased to exist. Instead of them there arose temporary unions of church communities headed by bishops who were in communion with each other. (Such a form of ecclesiastical organisation was foreseen by the holy Patriarch Tikhon in his Ukaz No 362 from 7/20 November of 1920). It was precisely such unions, even if constituted by only one bishop with his flock, that were the true «local» churches. The word «local» is put in inverted commas here because, in reality, in view of the difficulties of communications and the small size of the communities, there could turn out to be several in one and the same locality. Apparently that was the organisation of the majority of Christian communities until the 2nd century.

If we look at the history of such ages of ecclesiastical collapse through genuine documents, they are very reminiscent of the contemporary situation of the Church. Thus in the 4th century very many Orthodox bishops separated from St. Basil the Great because he was in communion with Eustathius of Sebaste, whom almost everyone considered to be a heretic. However, St. Basil trusted him, being well-disposed towards him as to a former elder comrade, almost his mentor, in the monastic life. Years passed, and Basil had to admit that Eustathius was a heretic; then he broke communion with him. But until then he could involuntarily have been a snare for others by his insistence on trusting Eustathius. Were not those who broke communion with St. Basil in his time right? In this way were they not urging the Hierarch to be less trusting in relation to Eustathius' hypocrisy?.. Analogical problems fill the correspondence of the Russian hierarchs of the 1920s and 30s, who in just the same way broke communion with each other because of differences with regard to the admissibility of showing condescension to various kinds of schismatics and apostates.

We shall not multiply examples.

After a thousand years of global stability in the Universal Church we have come to our century, which is marked by the pan-heresy of ecumenism. It has become a new epoch of similar ecclesiastical disturbances. As in the period of arianism, heretics have appeared within the visible limits of the Church, even on the highest rungs of the hierarchy. Far from all the Orthodox have broken eucharistic communion and communion in prayer with them. At the same time many Orthodox have already lost visible eucharistic communion with each other because of canonical divisions and political disagreements. Some adhere to dogmatic and canonical strictness [akribeia] more firmly, others less so, while yet others... do not know what to adhere to, or, more exactly, what to reach for.

Of course, even now there exist organisations calling themselves «local churches» ? as they existed both in the arian and in the monothelite periods. However, hardly any of them is a local church in the true sense of the word. The transformation of the Universal Church into a patchwork quilt of «jurisdictions» (there is no such word in either the Church Greek or the Church Slavonic languages) is glaringly obvious, but it is, alas, far from being the worst manifestation of the global crisis. The most important thing is to be found elsewhere. A true local church does not tolerate in itself, and still more in its hierarchy, and most particularly in the place of the chief-hierarch - heretics. It deprives them of their rank and excommunicates them from the Church following an ecclesiastical trial. But if such a trial cannot be carried out, although the necessity of it is evident, then it is clear that the given hierarchy has lost the capacity to act. Consequently, as a dead structure it cannot be an organ of a local church ? a part of the living Body of Christ.

This reasoning is just in relation not only to heresy, but also to disciplinary questions, in which the indulgence of clear sin becomes a heresy sui generis. Thus St. Theodore the Studite separated from his patriarch St. Nicphorus insofar as the latter had accepted into communion a presbyter who had been banned for marrying a king who was living in adultery. St. Theodore called this act of the patriarch «the heresy of moichism» («adultery»). However, one could still say here that the position of St. Theodore was «better» while that of Patriarch Nicephorus was «worse», although he deserved a certain condescension. But in the case of heresy proper, that is, a real distortion of the Orthodox Faith, there can be no question of condescension. «Never, O man, is that which relates to the Church corrected through compromises: there is no middle way between the Truth and the lie... and although one can say that there is a mean between light and darkness which is called the morning and evening twilight, nevertheless between the Truth and the lie, however hard you try, you will never find a mean.» (St. Mark of Ephesus, from the epistle to Scholarius).

Ecclesiastical authority that is slow to condemn heresy loses its property of being an authority. After all, just as in an ordinary organism the function of the immune system is to cast out all alien bodies, in the same way the basic function of the ecclesiastical, hierarchical authority is to preserve the flock «from the wolves that destroy it» (cf. John : 10.12-13). Therefore the point is not only that the «heresy-loving» hierarchs are themselves naturally suspected of heresy. Independently of their personal heresy, they lose ecclesiastical authority insofar as they do not carry out the main function of this authority. Consequently they cannot carry out as they should the other functions of episcopal service which are subject to, and dependent on, this main one. Such hierarchs should not be obeyed in that which is directly related to heresy. But it is also not always possible to obey them in other matters... In the final analysis, it becomes difficult and even impossible to define where is the boundary between where one can and where one cannot obey them.

In such a case the collapse of ecclesiastical discipline is inevitable, and this means that the given hierarchical structure ceases to be a real ecclesiastical organisation. In particular, it can no longer exert the exclusive right to a canonical territory, and in practice the presence of various Orthodox «jurisdictions» on one and the same territory is now universally recognised. (The recognition of the possibility of «jurisdictions» does not prevent protests against the tearing away of parishes to a «stranger's» benefit; but then if the head's gone, there's no point crying over the hair...)

The structures which continue to call themselves «local churches» are in an unstable state. They are changing the whole time, and if we examine the direction of these changes in the last 70-80 years, then we have to say: they are disintegrating.

New structures are emerging ? first of all, the Old Calendarist movement in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. This movement is based on the clear principle of separation from those who proclaim heresy. However, it has quite a few internal problems-

All this means that at the present time there exist no Orthodox Christians who live in completely well-ordered local churches. The former structure of Orthodox local churches has collapsed [2], and it is hardly likely to be regenerated in its former form.

2. The Canonical Principles of Relations with Heretics

The regeneration of the normal organisation of church life now must be the aim of Orthodox Christians, even if this aim is not always attainable. At least we must not increase the disorder by our unwillingness to help in the creation of order.

At the present time it is especially important for Orthodox to work out the same practice in relations with the newly-appeared heretics, which is what the ecumenists and modernists undoubtedly are. It goes without saying that such practice would have to correspond to Church Tradition. But it turns out at this point that the inertia of a peaceful period of Church life has been so powerful up to now that it is only with great difficulty that one is reminded of this practice. Thus in Moscow one hieromonk (Fr. Tikhon Shevkunov), having just delivered (and then published) a big speech against the heretical actions of one Muscovite neo-renovationist «priest» (George Kochetkov), himself began to concelebrate with him! Thus the rebuker of heresy without any words gave it to be understood that he did not know what he was saying: he is able to define heresy according to certain formal signs (completely reliable ones, let it be said), but has no understanding of what heresy is in essence! St. Maximus the Confessor, who was not even a priest, categorically refused to have ecclesiastical communion with heretics, although at that time they had not yet fallen under any conciliar condemnation (until the Lateran Council of 649). Whence does such a difference in positions arise, that some resist even to the shedding of blood only so as not to be defiled with the so-called «Divine services» of the heretics, while others, though capable of uttering denunciatory speeches, notice no impediments in the way of concelebration?

But what do the Church canons say about those cases when the person uttering heresy does not belong to an heretical community which has not yet been expelled from the Church? The Church canons distinguish two cases.

1. When the person uttering heresy is not a bishop (in which case it is not important who he is: a layman, a monk, a deacon, a priest, a superior, etc.).

In this case the full force of the words of the Apostle Paul is preserved: «a heretic after a first and second admonition, reject» (Titus 3.10). They are not supplemented by any Church canons.

This means ? and it is precisely such an understanding that is confirmed by the practice of the Holy Fathers ? that one must not wait for any ecclesiastical condemnations of, for example, the priest that is uttering heresy. One must immediately stop praying with him, and going to confession and receiving communion from him, and concelebrating with him. First one must break communion in prayer with him, and only later, if possible, appeal to an ecclesiastical court (juridical authority over a priest is given to a bishop).

2. When the person uttering heresy is a bishop. Here the Church at various times has introduced various elaborations of the apostolic formulation. That which functions at the present time was introduced in 861 at the so-called First-and-Second Council of Constantinople, in canon 15. This canon condemns those who under the pretext of various accusations separate from their bishop; there later follows the clarification that condemnation by no means extends to those cases in which the reason for separation from the bishop is heresy:

«For those who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Councils, or Fathers, withdrawing themselves from communion with their president, who, that is to say, is preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it barehead in church, such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a bishop before any conciliar or synodical verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honour which befits them among Orthodox Christians. For they have defied, not bishops, but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions.»

From these two canons there follow the main principles by which each person must be guided who does not want to fall away from the Church: he must not go to the churches where the priest-heretics serve, or pray together with the heretics among the laymen or monks. He must not go to the church where the bishop-heretic is commemorated during the Divine service. The latter, however, not unconditionally: if we are talking about a bishop who has not been deposed in accordance with an ecclesiastical trial, then one must separate from him without a trial only if two conditions have been fulfilled: the heresy must have been uttered by him for all to hear, and the essence of this heresy must be already well-known and condemned. The latter condition is always fulfilled in the case of ecumenism ? after all, it contains in itself the union of many formerly condemned heresies. But it is necessary to say something more about that which is in principle new in ecumenism. This is linked with a most important feature of our epoch.

3. Ecumenism as a New Heresy on a Universal Scale.
--The Consciousness of a Break with the Tradition of the Holy Fathers.
In order to draw a conclusion concerning the heretical nature of ecumenism it will be sufficient to examine the ecumenist theories (especially those like the «branch theory», which was condemned at the Hierarchical Council of the Russian Church Abroad in 1983) from the point of view of their relations with the heterodox.

But we must not stop at such a conclusion if we want to evaluate the scale and perspective of the development of the new heresy. The fact that its scale is great is evident at a glance. But we must understand the mood of contemporary man that the heresy particularly satisfies. The everyday experience of mixing with ecumenists who call themselves Orthodox very often reveals in their heretical utterances just the same motives that have made people victims of various mass false-teachings in all ages. These can be avarice or non-acceptance of Orthodox asceticism and in general the Orthodox «strictness» of life and discipline of mind. They can also be faith in the «batyushkas» or in the bureaucratic apparatus of the ecclesiastical organisation ? a faith which takes the place of faith in the Church, the Church which the Creed talks about. There are many such people ? they are as it were the stones and debris that have been caught up in the heretical maelstrom. But it is significantly more rarely that one meets people of another kind, who voluntarily and consciously call up this maelstrom. However, it is precisely these people who are capable of expressing the true idea behind the phenomenon ? and at times more precisely even than the most penetrating Orthodox critics.

In the case of ecumenism, such a person was «Patriarch» Athenagoras of Constantinople, who is especially notorious for his «lifting of the anathemas» against the Latin heresy (in 1965). Athenagoras loved the Latins and did not consider them to be heretics. But his denial of their hereticalness was not the manifestation of a special love for them: Athenagoras did not recognise the existence of heresy in general! On hearing of a certain man who saw heresy everywhere, Athenagoras said: «I don't see them anywhere! I see only truths, partial truths, reduced truths, truths that are sometimes out of place...» [3]

The teaching of the Church, of the Holy Fathers, is based on the rock of the confession of the fullness of the Truth incarnate in Christ, which is organically incapable of being mixed with lies. The ecumenists consciously choose the sand of «partial truths» cemented by the lie of the denial of Christ as the true Son and Word of God.

--The New Feeling of Pan-Human Unity and the Expectation of the Antichrist

Why can Athenagoras and people like him, who are characterised by their own kind of deep faith, asceticism and even capacity for sacrifice[4], completely consciously go against, not simply individual Fathers, but even all of them taken together? Why have they come to the decision that certain decrees of the Fathers in relation to the Church and the dogmas may supposedly have lost their force in our time? There can be only one answer: their Orthodox faith has been mixed with certain tares, which have grown up and suffocated the shoots of Truth. The tares are faith in something about which the Lord did not announce to the Church. This is what we read in this connection in Athenagoras himself: «Palestine has again become the centre of the world... We must pray and struggle that Jerusalem may again become a place of dialogue and peace. So that we may together prepare the way for the return of Jesus, the Mahdi of Islam, the Messiah of Israel, our Lord.» «In Jerusalem Abraham met Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God, a mystical foreshadowing of the Word which is present in all peoples and in all religions.» (This is how Athenagoras explains why he and the Roman Pope Paul VI decided to meet in Jerusalem.)[5] The union with the Latins was seen by Athenagoras in connection with this coming advent of the person he called Jesus:

«Unity may be attained unexpectedly, as is the case with everything great. As can happen with the return of Christ, Who, as He said, will come as a thief. Catholicism is now in a vortex. Everything is possible.»[6] Neither Athenagoras nor the other ecumenists refer to any positions based on Church Tradition. And not surprisingly. The teaching of the Church foresees the union of all peoples as taking place, not around Christ, but around him whom the Jews call the Messiah, and the Muslims ? Mahdi. When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18.8).

But this Tradition of the Church has ceased to be of interest to them because they have accepted another: faith that some special age has dawned precisely now. If all the people of this age understand its content, they will turn out to be much more closely united with each other than with their co-religionists of previous ages. The people of this age are united by certain «pan-human», as they put it, values of their own, values which are much more important to them than the heritage of the past, which disunites them. This is that age of which the bearers of the so-called «Russian religious philosophy» (particularly Soloviev, Berdyaev, Florensky and Bulgakov) became the heralds throughout the world. These people expressed in a pseudo-Christian language the idea of the coming of a «new age» ? the age of some new, post-New Testament «revelation of the Holy Spirit», which would be given in the last times, and which they borrowed from occult teachings. (See, for example, the letter on the Holy Spirit in Florensky's The Pillar and Ground of the Truth.). For these people there exists some kind of special «age of the Fathers», which is already completely past. With it have also gone into the past the canons of the Fathers. In our time, instead of the Fathers there are those who have received the new revelation of the new age. [7] And so for the Orthodox Church today ecumenism is not a particular problem which might pass some countries by. But at the same time it is only a particular case of a more widespread phenomenon ? the placing of the whole of contemporary civilisation on a new principle of unity. It is on this principle that the universal religion which Hieromonk Seraphim Rose of blessed memory (+ 1982) called «the religion of the future», the religion of the Antichrist, is being created at the present time.

This principle is much more clearly formulated in various movements of the «New Age» and Masonry type, while ecumenism is called to carry out only one particular task: force the entry into this new unity of such people as would wish to preserve their unity with traditional forms of religion. The Antichrist will have to satisfy everyone.

4. The Duet of Ecumenism and Phyletism
--Phyletism as a Heresy
The nineteenth century, as the age of the fall of multi-national empires, the age of nationalism, made itself felt also in ecclesiastical life, which almost for the first time raised national contradictions among Orthodox Christians to the level of an ecclesiological heresy. Under the name of the heresy of phyletism («tribalism»), it was denounced by the Council of Constantinople in 1872. In this way the Council replied to the demand of the Bulgars to create for themselves an independent hierarchy on the territory where there already existed the hierarchy of the Constantinopolitan patriarchate. Russian society sympathised with the Bulgarian schismatics, in spite of the denunciations coming from T.I. Philippov and C.N. Leontiev, and later the strict position of Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky [8].

The heresy of phyletism consists in the substitution of national tradition for Church Tradition [9], the substitution of flesh and blood, which will not inherit the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 15.50) for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Phyletism places love for one's own people (that is, a creature) higher than love for Christ, thereby violating His commandment (Matthew 10.37). Of course, the preservation of national traditions is vitally necessary for life on earth ? just as it would be impossible to live on earth without flesh and blood. The annihilation of these traditions is equivalent to the murder of the people. Moreover, it is necessary to remember that the division of mankind into tribes and tongues was the salvific punishment of God, Who placed a certain boundary to the mad and suicidal construction of the Tower of Babel. In this sense a certain isolation, and preservation of the peculiarity of the peoples, is necessary and salvific in a world that is striving with all its might to complete the building of the Tower and is rushing into the abyss of destruction (Isaiah 14.14). Both the Holy Scriptures and Church Tradition repeatedly witness to the existence of the special care of God for the destinies of various peoples and countries; St. Dionysius the Areopagite also mentions Angel guardians of the peoples. The salvation of mankind on earth can be built in no other way than proceeding from the Providence of God with regard to each person or people ? Providence, which manifests itself in all the circumstances of life, whether blessing them or permitting them.

It is evident that Orthodoxy is foreign both to the dualistic hatred of matter and to the rationalist, Protestant, dreamily proud attitude to life. In the Church the temporary, earthly peculiarities and differences (including national ones) do not disappear, but acquire another meaning, insofar as they are evaluated from the point of view of the main aim ? eternal salvation. The Apostle Paul writes that in Christ there is neither Greek, nor Jews, neither slave, nor freeman, neither male nor female (Galatians 3.28). However, this does not mean that one can simply cast out all these differences here, during life on earth. On the contrary, we see that the Holy Church in her decrees find a fitting place for each visible, external circumstance; which is why the Apostle Paul gives detailed instructions to men and women, parents and children, slaves and masters (Ephesians chapters 5-6).

Just as it is impossible to be saved by ignoring one's body (St. John of the Ladder), so it is impossible for a Christian people to construct its life in Christ by ignoring national peculiarities. However, this is not a reason for raising national traditions to the status of a cult ? and yet that is precisely what happens when the preservation of the traditions and customs of an Orthodox people is confused with the preservation of Orthodoxy itself.

Those Christians who reject the ecumenist heresy naturally strive to find a support in tradition. But at this point a new error is possible: appealing to national tradition instead of the Tradition of the Church. Of course, national tradition among those peoples who were fostered by the Orthodox Church is inspired by the Tradition of the Church. It can and must lead to that height upon which man meets God. The Christian empires became in history that lampstand on which the light of Christ was raised high above the world, a light to give light to the world (Matthew 5.13-16). But if we take national tradition by itself, it is similar to what we see on Mount Sinai or Thabor in their purely material aspect ? piled up with earth and stones. No people except the New Israel ? the Christian Church taken as a whole ? is a member of the Church and a subject of salvation. In each people each person in the final analysis answers for himself; he is either saved or perishes (Acts 10.35). But national tradition and all the links which bind the individual person with the people represent a very powerful factor cooperating in his salvation or destruction. It is necessary to soak the traditions in Orthodoxy for them to help the man towards salvation without hindering him. However, in the end everything is decided by the free will of the man. [10]

From this it is evident that it is wrong to place national differences at the base of the organisation of the Church. Such a tendency is always fraught with the risk of schism. However, in our time it has become a much greater danger, and the Council of 1872 did not call it a heresy in vain.

The phyletism of our time is the other side of the coin from ecumenism. Not one single heresy appeared without its «pair». It could not be otherwise: never has the simple denial of a heresy ? that is, the recital of all its points followed by their denial ? become Orthodoxy. The classic example is monophysitism, which appeared as «anti-nestorianism». But in all other ages, too, Orthodoxy has been found to be, not «to the right» or «to the left» of some heresy or other, but as it were on a knife-edge between the abysses of destruction. One should not look for Orthodoxy on the plane of the spread of the field of action of the heresies ? it is always to be found at an angle vertical to the plane of earthly wisdom. Phyletism opposes to the «spiritual internationale» of ecumenist pan-confusion ? national limitedness. This limitedness can in fact be beneficial. But only when it helps to protect the shoots of true church life. But the zealots of the national principle are not in a position to worry about the fulfilment of this «only». They are familiar with the national forms of church life, but they do not want ? and are not able ? to distinguish the quality of their religious content at each given moment. Moreover, they have no need to do so: in order to support the tribal or state principle, truth is by no means required of religious or quasi-religious ideas, but rather practical usefulness.

We have in the Holy Scriptures a most vivid example of the destructive fruits of a such a distortion: the leaders of the Jewish people rejected the Saviour of the world precisely because His Gospel seemed to them to be unsuitable and even exceptionally harmful for the aims of national and state construction. Such a result is lawful when in the system of values the place of the Heavenly Kingdom is occupied by an earthly kingdom, a human kingdom. We cannot think that we can avoid this destructive result simply by choosing as the object of this carnal, earthly attachment of the heart ? not the Jewish, but one or other of the Christian peoples.

However, there is a certain deep, more hidden kinship between ecumenist pan-confusion and phyletist isolation. This circumstance is much less obvious than the fact of the incompatibility of phyletism and Orthodoxy. Perhaps it is not necessary to understand this in order not to fall into phyletism. But it is without question necessary if we wish to represent the true image of the two-faced religion of the Antichrist.

--Phyletism: pan-confusion through isolation.
By contrast with this or that particular heresy, the religion of the Antichrist will be universal: it will be a genuine pan-heresy. A straight path to it is drawn by the heresy of ecumenism, which, like every heresy, has its mirror-image ? phyletism. However, in the given case ? by comparison with the other pairs of heresies ? the relationship between these twins is unusual. It is by no means a war to the death, but the pursuit of one and the same goal from opposite directions. If for the usual heresies the commonality of goal was attained only beyond the grave ? they all end up in hell, the commonality of goal for ecumenism and phyletism within the parameters of the construction of the religion of the Antichrist is attained on this side of the grave, on earth. This needs to be discussed in more detail.

The True Church is not confined to national or state boundaries. But when they talk about the Church precisely within the limits of such boundaries, then in fact some earthly and completely ordinary organisation is always being substituted for the Church. And such an organisation can no longer be above earthly laws. Its destiny is similar to that of a national state formed after the collapse of some empire. Constantine Leontiev wrote about this at the end of the last century.

«... A state grouping according to tribes and nations [11] is.. nothing other than the preparation ? striking in its force and vividness ? for the transition to a cosmopolitan state, first a pan-European one, and then, perhaps, a global one, too! This is terrible! But still more terrible, in my opinion, is that fact that so far in Russia nobody has seen this or wants to understand it...»[12] «A grouping of states according to pure nationalities will lead European man very quickly to the dominion of internationalism.» [13]

Leontiev based his apparently paradoxical thought on the fact that the very striving of the nations for «liberation» within the bounds of national states was dictated by their striving to be like everyone else: «... having become politically liberated, they are very glad, whether in everyday life or in ideas, to be like everyone else». He produced an example: for a man who has been released from prison, it is not a matter of indifference at what time they released him. If there is an epidemic raging at that time, it would be safer for him to remain in prison. And so, too, «the political nationalism of our time does not give national isolation, because the overwhelming influence of cosmopolitan tastes is too strong. The epidemic has not yet come to an end.» [14]

All this was confirmed to the highest degree by the collapse of the Russian and Ottoman empires, whose preservation at that time, as the same Leontiev warned, was exceptionally important for the earthly fate of the Church. In particular, Leontiev's worst predictions concerning the possible consequences of a premature collapse of the Ottoman empire were fulfilled: the Ecumenical Patriarchate fell into direct dependence on the West, and already in 1920, through an open violation of the canons, the heretic and English Mason Meletius Metaxakis, the leader of the very robbery council of 1923 which officially opened the age of ecumenism, was raised by force to the see of Constantinople.

At the beginning of the 20th century the organizers of «world revolution» were consciously engaged in cleverly mixing doses of cosmopolitanism and nationalism. One and the same Masonic lodge ? the Grand Orient of France ? simultaneously created «cosmopolitan» masonic organisations in Russia (they first composed the core of the State Duma, and then formed the Provisional Government from its midst), and «nationalist» ones in Turkey (the organisation of the Young Turks was a masonic lodge). [15]

But even in the purely ecclesiastical sphere Leontiev's fears were completely fulfilled. From the time of Metaxakis to the present day, the politics of the Patriarchate of Constantinople have been dictated by Greek nationalism: the West is necessary for it precisely for the expansion of a Greek national state, for the possibly more complete realisation of the so-called «Great Idea» ?the re-establishment of the Greek state within the boundaries of Byzantium. Greek phyletism does not let it be understood that Byzantium was great because it never became a national Greek state! The greatness of the Empire of the East Romans was preserved as long as it preserved Orthodoxy. For the successors of Metaxakis everything is the other way round: Orthodoxy for them is only an instrument of national politics, and so the instrument is always being «perfected». Of course, the Russian «great idea» ? the re-establishment of a Russian national state within the boundaries of the Russian Empire ? is not in principle different from its Greek analogue. Therefore if the contemporary «statist» politicians are not inspired by genuine Orthodox faith they can be only temporary and unreliable allies of the Church. Before the Greeks ecumenism has arisen unexpectedly as the reverse side of the coin of phyletism; the situation has changed ? and ecumenism has become useful. In Russia today it is not like that: Russian phyletism is yet anti-ecumenist, but this gives no guarantees for tomorrow. And the most important point is that because of this it will not cease to be a heresy.

--The Occult Roots of Ecumenism and Phyletism
Occult teachings have turned out to be the real, in-depth cause of both ecumenism and phyletism to an equal degree. It is no accident that the same masonic organisations have turned out at different times to be behind both the «internationalist» and the «nationalist» movements. Many extra-ecclesiastical forms of Russian nationalism bear on themselves the seal of theosophy. The «paganophile» currents stand out particularly clearly in this respect; they clamour for a return to some kind of primeval religion of the Slavs. Their Christ-fighting character is evident. However, there also exist other forms of nationalism which cover the same goals with an appearance of Christianity. Their occult, neo-pagan essence remains the same: wherever the «mysticism of the race» or «mysticism of blood» is introduced into religion, there is no room for the sacrament of the Blood of Christ.

If even primitive cultural-political cosmopolitanism can be transformed into an epidemic, what are we to say of the mystical infection of the theosophical teachings?

From the point of view of the inner existence of the Church, it is not so important what the further destiny of a society that has fallen away from the Church because of phyletism is: in any case, it is no longer the Body of Christ, but a spiritual corpse. However, this question is very important from the point of view of the relationship of the Church to the surrounding world, in which very many people are perishing, since they have no other hope of salvation than the Church, the only ark of salvation. At this point the «sanitary-hygienic» aspect becomes important: the degree of danger that this decomposing corpse represents for those surrounding it.

The infection of theosophy and occultism spreads equally through the stench of decomposition presented by the ecumenist and the phyletist false-Christian.

5. Orthodoxy in the Age of Ecumenism.

Circumstances compel contemporary Orthodox to learn how to live and remain Christian in the conditions of the onslaught and apparent triumph of ecumenism.

All the structures of the earthly organisation of the Church that have been inherited from the last century have been more or less infected and ? this is the most important point ? have no immunity against this infection. Therefore they are now in various stages of the process of dying.

By the «dying» of the external ecclesiastical organisation we mean the situation in which the apostolic succession of the episcopate still flickers, although some bishops may have fallen away from it as a result of heresy, while the members of this organisation who have remained faithful to Orthodoxy are no longer able to cast out the heretics from their midst so as to prevent the latter from taking control of a significant part of the former ecclesiastical structure, turning it into a schismatic and heretical one. In other words, the «dying» of the ecclesiastical organisation is the situation in which there are only two possible outcomes: revival through a visible schism or final death. But the possibility of a smooth development has been lost.

Many local church organizations from time to time fall into such a situation. But we have already got out of the habit of thinking that all the church organizations on earth could be in such a situation simultaneously. We have not seen such a thing for more than 1000 years. Andyet from an ecclesiological point of view, nothing special has happened. For the Church as a whole there is nothing new here.

Nevertheless, the creation of new structures in which the episcopate and the whole people of God are united by a common confession of Orthodoxy was always painful and fraught with a multitude of temptations, as the history of the Old Calendarist movement witneses. It is difficult both because it is impossible to rely on the base of an already existing church organization, but also because the new structures being formed cannot renounce their succession for the old (if only for the sake of the succession of the hierarchy), and for that reason they themselves have difficulty in protecting themselves from the same illnesses. And never has it been possible to define beforehand what degree of proximity to the old is permissible, and what degree is not.


Christianity once defeated paganism, but now it finds itself, in its turn, defeated by the pagan world. Both the above statements have a strictly earthly meaning, but Christianity has always been not of this world, and no changes in its relations with the world have ever had any impact whatsoever on the internal life of the Church. They do change a lot in the external life of the Church, though. A huge portion of the planet once used to be divided among ecclesiastical regions... the regions are still there, but they are no longer ruled by Christians. The Church has lost control of the «land.» What has remained of the Church is a small army which can no longer hold strategic heights, but still has time for an organized retreat into the wilderness. It is our duty to organize the retreat quickly without wasting time on useless dealing with the new owners of the land that once belonged to the Church.

[1] From The Two (versified) Centuries on True Church, a Catacomb poem dating back to mid-20th century. Recovered in Saratov Region (unpublished).

[2] I.e. that which existed before the collapse of the Russian Empire and the heretical pseudo-council of 1923 held by «Patriarch» Metaxakis of Constantinople.

[3] Olivier Clement. Conversations with Patriarch Athenagoras. Translated from the French [into Russian] by Vladimir Zelinsky, Brussels, «Life with God», 1993, pp. 301-302. Olivier Clement is a still living «Orthodox» theologian who is very well-known in the West as a «populariser» of Orthodoxy.

[4] One of the contemporary Holy Fathers was the spiritual father of Athenagoras when he was a hierodeacon. This was none other than the future first-hierarch of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece (the Old Calendarists), Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina of blessed memory (1880-1955). Athenagor retained his love for him for life:"...we will treasure the undying reverential memories of our memorable elder Metropolitan Chrysostom..." wrote Athenagor in 1969 (this message was later reproduced in a New Calendarist - yet highly laudatory - book on Chrysostom: E. Angelopoulos, D. Batistatos, Metropolites pr. Florines Chrysostomos Kavourides (agonistes tes orthodoxias kai tou ethnous) [Metropolitan Chrysostom Kavuridis, formerly of Florina (struggler for the Orthodoxy and the people)]. Athens, 1981. P. 9).

[5] Clement. Conversations..., p. 209.

[6] Clement. Conversations..., p. 544. Characteristic of the heretics is their «juggling» of texts of Holy Scripture - cf. Matthew 24:26-27.

[7] Cf. Athenagoras on the influence of Berdyaev on one of the «fathers» who were directly involved in the preparation of the Second Vatican council ? Cardinal Jean Dani?lou, and through him on Athenagoras himself: Clement. Conversations..., pp. 448, 332. So as better to evaluate the degree of influence of the «Russian religious philosophy» in the western world, we shall cite one more recent (12.12.1992) speech of the present Pope. John-Paul II: «... I confess the same Christian faith as was the faith of Soloviev. I cannot accept that the Church is divided. The Church of Christ is one» (Irenikon, 1993, vol. 66, 526).

[8] Leontiev even wrote an article, «Our Bulgar-madness», which could not have appeared if he had not received the blessing of St. Ambrose of Optina, insofar as Leontiev was his spiritual son and undertook nothing without his blessing.

[9] It is more accurately expressed in the words of the 1872 Council: "By Holy Spirit, we hereby resolve that: 1. we reject and denounce tribal segregation. i.e. tribal distinctions, popular strife and dissent in the Church of Christ as they are abominable to the teachings of the Gospel and the sacred commandments of our blessed fathers upon whom this Holy Church rests and who make the humankind proud of them by leading it to divine virtue. 2. Those who accept such tribal segregation and dare found upon it hitherto unheard-of tribal gatherings, we do hereby declare under the Holy Canon alien to the Unified Holy Universal and Apostolic Church and we do hereby declare them schismatics (dissenters)." (Russian translation by T.I. Filippov. Sovremennye tserkovnye voprosy [Modern Ecclesiastical Agenda]. St. Petersburg, 1882. 186; my italics) The above-mentioned Council, the decisions of which were recognized by the Russian Synod, branded the formation of ecclesiastical associations by tribal affinity a heresy. We will discuss philetic trends as trends leading towards this heresy. (ROCA was established under canon 39 of the 6th Universal Council which provides for immigration of members of a local church together with the whole hierarchy. ROCA's fundamentally un-philetic nature is proven by its ability to admit "converts" and create parishes where divine services are administered in the local language)

[10] One can see a vivid example of this in Russian society before and after the revolution, when there arose against the Church both Russians brought up in the Orthodox tradition and Jews who had grown up in a Christ-fighting environment.

[11] Here and below the italics are the author's. Let us recall that phyletism revealed itself in Bulgaria precisely during the hullabaloo of a struggle of «national liberation».

[12] «Tribal Politics as a Weapon of Global Revolution», letter 2. Constantine Leontiev, Selected Works, edited and with an introductory article by I.N. Smirnov, Moscow, 1993, p. 314 (in Russian).

[13] «On Political and Cultural Nationalism», letter 3. Op. cit., p. 363.

[14] Op. cit., p. 360.

[15] The most complete collection of documents is V.I. Startsev. Russian Political Masonry at the Beginning of the 20th Century, Saint Petersburg, 1996 (in Russian).


North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
Washington, DC, October 31, 1998

1. In March 1997, a consultation jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, meeting in Aleppo, Syria, issued a statement "Towards a Common Date for Easter." The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, meeting in Washington, DC, October 29-31, 1998, studied this Aleppo Statement and reviewed reactions to it thus far. Our Consultation strongly endorses the Aleppo Statement.

2. The Aleppo Statement rightly calls attention to the centrality of Christs resurrection as the basis of our common faith. As "the ultimate expression of the Fathers gift of reconciliation and unity in Christ through the Spirit," the resurrection "is a sign of the unity and reconciliation which God wills for the entire creation" (paragraph 5). Yet by celebrating the feast of Christs resurrection, the Holy Pascha, or Easter, on different Sundays in the same year, "the churches give a divided witness" to this mystery, "compromising their credibility and effectiveness in bringing the Gospel to the world" (paragraph 1). The question of the date of Easter/Pascha, therefore, is not simply an academic issue, void of pastoral implications. It is a matter of concern in our own North American context. It has become an even more urgent issue in some parts of the world such as the Middle East, where Christians constitute a divided minority in a larger non-Christian society.

3. After reviewing 20th-century discussion of the question of a common date for Easter/Pascha and historical background to present differences of calculation among Christians, the Aleppo Statement recommends:

- maintaining the norms established by the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (325 AD), according to which Easter/Pascha should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring, and

- calculating the necessary astronomical data (spring equinox and full moon) by "the most accurate possible scientific means," using the Jerusalem meridian as the basis for reckoning.

4. Noting that in the year 2001 the Paschal calculations now in use in our churches will coincide, the Aleppo Statement also recommends that, in the interval between now and then, the churches study and consider means to implement these recommendations.

5. Our Catholic-Orthodox Consultation welcomes the Aleppo Statements recommendations for the following reasons:

- The Aleppo Statement does well to call attention to the continuing relevance of the Council of Nicaea - a fundamental point of reference for the traditions of both our churchesand in so doing, to reject proposals to establish a fixed date for Easter/Pascha.

- As the Aleppo Statement points out, the Council of Nicaea was willing to make use of contemporary science to calculate the date of Easter/Pascha. We believe that this principle still holds valid today. Scientific observations about the cosmos reveal the goodness and wonder of Gods creation, which he embraced in the incarnation of his Son. Moreover, to deny an observable truth about the world is to reject Gods gift to us. As they witness to Gods love for the world, our churches need to use the findings of contemporary science as did the Fathers of Nicaea.

- The Aleppo Statement accurately presents historical circumstances relating to such matters as the Council of Nicaeas treatment of the relationship between the Christian Pascha and the Jewish Passover. The practice of continuing to celebrate Pascha according to the ancient Julian calendar has often been defended, by some Eastern Christians, as resting on a decision associated with that council prohibiting the churches from celebrating the Paschal feast "with the Jews." As scholars of both our traditions have very clearly demonstrated, this prohibition was directed against making the calculation of the date of Easter depend upon contemporary Jewish reckoning, not against a coincidence of date between the two festivals. In fact, a coincidence of Passover and Easter dates continued to occur from time to time as late as the 8th century. Only later, when the increasing "lag" of the Julian Calendar made any coincidence impossible, did the prohibition come to be misinterpreted as meaning that the Jewish Passover must necessarily precede the Christian Passover each year.

- In short, we consider that the implementation of the recommendations of the Aleppo Statement would allow our churches to adhere more exactly to the mode of calculation mandated by the First Council of Nicaea.

6. As the Aleppo Statement indicates, its recommendations will have different implications for our churches "as they seek a renewed faithfulness to Nicaea." For the Eastern churches, "changes in the actual dating of Easter/Pascha will be more perceptible than for the Western churches" (paragraph 13). The fact that the recommendations of the Aleppo Statement substantially repeat proposals already developed by the Orthodox themselves in connection with their preparations for a Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church should significantly enhance the Aleppo recommendations prospects for success. At the same time, as the Aleppo Statement notes, in many of the Eastern churches adherence to their present method of calculation often has been a symbol of the Churchs integrity and freedom from the hostile forces of this world. Implementation of the Aleppo recommendations in these circumstances must proceed carefully and with great pastoral sensitivity. The material presented in the Aleppo Statement can be of great help to these churches should they attempt to carry out this effort to be faithful to the great tradition of the Church

7. The Aleppo Statement is faithful to the decisions of the First Ecumenical Council regarding the date of Easter/Pascha. At the same time, it takes into account the contemporary situation, which calls for a common witness to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the central mystery of the Christian faith. Our consultation therefore urges our churches to give serious consideration to its recommendations.