Open Letter to Archbishop Chrysostomos of Athens, First-Hierarch of the True Orthodox Church of GreeceTo: His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos (Kiousis)
We are writing to you, first, to ask you to pray for our spiritual father, Hieromonk Akakije, who is seriously ill, and secondly to express our extreme alarm at the crisis situation that has been created in the Church by the Holy Synod’s reversal of its decision to enter into communion with the True Orthodox Church of Russia (RTOC) under Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk.
We have decided to write to you very frankly and directly, without diplomatic expressions. We hope that you will understand that this is not out of disrespect for you, whom we believe to be the true and canonical leader of Greek Orthodoxy. However, when an iceberg aimed by the devil has hit the ship of the Church, and it is lurching heavily to one side, it is too late to put on dinner jackets and make toasts and compliments and witty speeches – we must act in accordance with the gravity of the situation.
When, on September 13/26, the Holy Synod decided that there was no dogmatic or canonical obstacle to union between the True Orthodox Churches of Greece and Russia, and a date for concelebration was set for November 13/26, the feast of your patron, St. John Chrysostom, many Orthodox Christians around the world rejoiced greatly, and we believe that all the Saints in Heaven also rejoiced. Immediately the decision was published in the Russian ecclesiastical press, and Church commentators from other jurisdictions agreed that this was a very important event, perhaps the beginning of the end of the disintegration of True Orthodoxy throughout the world. Imagine the surprise and the bitter disappointment when, only a few days later, the Synod reversed its decision – so far, with not a single official word of explanation or justification! One commentator who had welcomed the original decision said that this new, completely contradictory one proved that the Greek Synod was “out of control”. In our view, this is, tragically, a correct assessment… Another commentator said that now the Russians should stop seeking union with the Greeks. We fervently hope that this will not happen, but we cannot exclude that even more tragic possibility…
On October 12/25 Metropolitan Kallinikos of Corinth came unexpectedly to Serbia and said that the Greek hierarchs were “unanimous” in their decision to stop the unification process. However, everybody knows that the reversal of the original decision was dictated by Metropolitan Kallinikos, and that the majority of the Greek bishops, including yourself, were in favour of union with the Russians, but that you all submitted to the will of Kallinikos for the sake of the internal unity of the Greek Church. He also said in Serbia that the other Greek bishops who had been in favour of union with the Russians were “inexperienced”!!! So Kallinikos is more experienced even than you, Makariotate! We had no idea that he was so old, and had been a leader of the Church for so long!
The metropolitan also said that in their reception of converts the hierarchs of the RTOC followed the practice of the pre-revolutionary Church in Russia. This is not true! It is obvious that he has not read the decisions of the Council of the RTOC which took place in Odessa last year, which already decree a practice that is considerably stricter than that of both the Russian Church before the revolution and the Russian Church Abroad - from which, of course, your Synod derives its apostolic succession. Moreover, we know from Archbishop Tikhon himself when he was in Athens that he firmly accepts the principle that everyone coming to his Church from the Moscow Patriarchate who has not received a canonical baptism must be baptized.
Of course, it is true that some of Archbishop Tikhon’s priests who were received by the Russian Church Abroad have not had canonical baptism. But if Metropolitan Kallinikos is insisting that these priests must be baptized before he can enter into communion with Archbishop Tikhon, then we would like to ask him the following questions:
1, What right does he have, according to the Holy Canons, to dictate to bishops of another Local Church how and when they should practice akriveia or oikonomia? We believe he has no such right.
2. Will he now break communion with the Bulgarian priest of our Synod, Fr. Ioann Vasilevsky, who has never received a canonical baptism, and with another Bulgarian priest of our Synod, Fr. Martin, who was baptized by an “unbaptized” priest (Fr. Ioann)? If he will not break communion with them, then we consider his refusal to be in communion with the True Orthodox Russians to be hypocritical.
3. Will he now accept that both he and all the bishops of the True Orthodox Church of Greece received their apostolic succession from an uncanonical Church, the Russian Church Abroad, because the Russian Church Abroad contained many priests, and even bishops, who had not received canonical baptism? If he does not accept this, then again he is being hypocritical.
We believe that if you do not resist the “zeal without knowledge” of Metropolitan Kallinikos, there will be very wide and very serious implications both for True Orthodoxy as a whole and for the credibility and canonicity of the True Orthodox Church of Greece in particular, for the following reasons:
a. The present situation is humiliating for you personally, and detrimental for the whole structure of synodical government in the Church. According to Apostolic Canon 34, the bishops of every nation must have a head, an archbishop, and the archbishop must confer with the other bishops, and the other bishops must confer with the archbishop. “For in this way there will be unanimity and God will be glorified”. However, we now see that there is a second head of the Synod, Metropolitan Kallinikos, and that he is more powerful than you. He overrules the opinions of the other bishops, whom he calls “inexperienced”, and then proclaims the lie that they all agree with him. This situation was perhaps not well known outside of Greece before, but now the whole world knows it. If you are to restore the credibility of your Synod, and of your personal position as head of the Synod, then it is necessary to put Kallinikos in his place. In any case, what have you gained by surrendering to Kallinikos’ blackmail? You have certainly not gained the support of our American bishops and clergy, who are furious – but whose excellent letter of protest has been suppressed for diplomatic reasons. You have certainly not gained the support of your West European and Serbian flock, who are very isolated and need the communion of the True Russian Orthodox. And you have alienated the best representatives of the great Russian Church and nation, which provided you with your apostolic succession. What a terrible price you have paid already! And this is only the beginning…
b. Formally speaking, if you refuse to be in communion with the Russian True Orthodox Church, you place yourselves in a schismatic situation in relation to the Church of Russia. Bishop Photius has already thoroughly examined the dogmatic and canonical situation of the RTOC, and has come to the conclusion that they are Orthodox. We believe that this conclusion is correct, and that your decision (as we have heard) to make a further review of their canonical status is simply “excuse for excuses in sin” – an attempt to cover up a lack of love for the Russian Orthodox, and fear of the threats of Metropolitan Kallinikos, with the fig-leaf of canonical rectitude. Since, as we have heard, many of the bishops have not even read Bishop Photius’ 40-page report, why should another report bring any more enlightenment? And why should another report by another man be any better, since Bishop Photius, we are convinced, knows more about Russian Orthodoxy than anybody else in the Synod? Therefore if you refuse to be in communion with the True Russian Church, you place yourselves in schism from it. This will weaken your authority throughout the Orthodox world.
c. Although your Synod’s decision has publicly hurt and humiliated the hierarchs of the RTOC, and through them the whole of Russian Orthodoxy, we are not sorry for them, because we know that they have acted for the sake of the Unity of the Church, in truth and love, and so God will not abandon them. But what will happen to you? In the seventeenth century the Russian Old Believer schism was created because the schismatics did not want to be in union with the Greek Orthodox, suspecting that they were still heretics and their rites incorrect. Are you not now repeating the same mistake in relation to the Russian Orthodox? We know that Metropolitan Kallinikos has already for several years been a “Greek Old Believer”, a phyletist and an enemy of the Slavic Orthodox. We know this because he wrote this in “Themata Pisteos: Orthodoxoi kai Ellines”, volume 1, nos. 4-5, July-October, 1994: the Slavs – unlike the Greeks, who believe “first in Christ, then in Greece” – believe “first in their fatherland, and afterwards in Christ”. And so, he continues, the Slavic peoples “… have used Orthodoxy as a means for the realization of their national interests. This means that they were never good Orthodox… Such are the various people of Slavic descent, as are, above all, the Russians” (pp. 57-58, 60). This terrible attack on Slavic Orthodoxy and the Slavic saints was never punished by your Synod. And now you are reaping the fruits of that refusal to correct Kallinikos: he has destroyed the union between Greek and Russian True Orthodoxy – unless you act now to restore canonical order and uphold the Unity and Catholicity of the Church…
Finally, we should like to place some questions before the whole of the Holy Synod. Both of us have already received communion in the Russian True Orthodox Church, with the full knowledge and blessing of hierarchs of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, and we know that the American bishops allow intercommunion with the Russian True Orthodox in America. But Bishop Photius has announced in Serbia that the Holy Synod has now decided to forbid communion with the Russian True Orthodox Church. In view of this, we wish to ask the Holy Synod: does the True Orthodox Church of Russia have the grace of sacraments? If not, when did it cease to have that grace? If, on the other hand, it is agreed that the Russian True Orthodox Church does still have that grace, what right has anybody to order us to break communion with our brothers and sisters in the Russian Church to whom Christ continues to give His Most Holy Body and Blood?
Asking for your holy prayers,
With love in Christ,
Schema-Nun Euphrosinija, superior of the convent of Novostjenik, Serbia.
Reader Vladimir Moss