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Friday, 6 November 2009

Metropolitan John Zizioulas writes to the Metropolitans of Greece

In July we carried a report on the Metropolitans of the Orthodox Church of Greece, who had denounced the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its 'heresy of ecumenism', specifically the work of the dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church (see here).

In September, the Greek Ecclesiastical News Agency, Zoiforos, posted this response from Metropolitan John of Pergamon (John Zizioulas) on behalf of the dialogue itself and also for all the Orthodox Churches and their hierarchs whose official commission it bears:

Your Eminence,

Given that much turmoil has been unduly created by certain circles, on the subject of the official theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and that views have also been expressed, which often range between inaccuracy and open falsehood and slander, I am hereby addressing Your affection in order to clarify the following:

  1. The aforementioned theological Dialogue does not constitute a concern of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and much less, that of a specific person, but is something that is taking place upon the decision of all the autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox Churches without exception. Specifically with regard to the present period of the Dialogue, during which the undersigned has the co-chairmanship from the Orthodox side, the agreement of all the Orthodox Churches for the continuation of the Dialogue has been recorded in Memoranda signed by the venerable Primates of the Orthodox Churches, which are hereto attached in photocopy. As Your Eminence will see when reading these Memoranda, even the most holy Church of Greece - and in fact with a Synodical decision - has admitted that "despite the existing difficulties, which spring from the provocative activities of Unia to the detriment of the flock of the Orthodox Church, the said Theological Dialogue must continue." Consequently, those opposed to the said theological Dialogue are doubting and judging pan-Orthodox decisions, which have been reached synodically. By claiming solely as their own the genuine conscience of Orthodoxy, these people are in essence doubting the Orthodoxy not only of certain persons - as they misguidedly insist - but of the very Primates and sacred Synods of all the most holy Orthodox Churches.
  2. The same things apply in the case of the said Dialogue. We are informed that a certain professor in his letter to the Reverend Hierarchs is censuring the topic of primacy [of the Apostolic See of Rome] as a chosen topic for the theological Dialogue, and believes that the Dialogue should be concerning itself with other matters. But the said professor is either ignorant of, or indifferent to, the fact that - again - the topic of the Dialogue was decided on at a pan-orthodox level. The attached Memoranda, signed by all the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, testify to and verify this. The most holy Church of Greece thus accepts that "this discussion (regarding Unia) can, for the sake of facilitating the course of the Dialogue, be conducted within the framework of ecclesiology through the prism of the primacy". This is precisely what we normally intend to do, during the forthcoming discussion of the subject "The Primacy during the 2nd Millennium", which is also when Unia first appeared. The remaining topics that the said professor referred to will by no means be overlooked by the Dialogue. However, during the present phase, as decided at an inter-orthodox level from the beginning of the Dialogue, the focal point of the discussion is Ecclesiology. It is duly respected and legitimate, for the said professor - or anyone else - to have a different point of view, but it is inadmissible to be crying out that Orthodoxy is in danger because the Primates who are shepherding Her do not share his opinion. Where are we heading as a Church, my Reverend holy brother?
  3. It is being propagated very falsely and conspiringly that the signing of the union of the Churches is imminent! A professor emeritus of Theology, who is well known for his ill-will towards my person, had visited a Hierarch of the Church of Greece and had told him that he knew with certainty (!) that the union had already been signed (in Ravenna!) and that the relative announcement was a matter of time!!! Clergy and laity have approached me and asked me if it is true that the union is to be signed in Cyprus, in October! Obviously, a feeling of unrest is being attempted among the people of God through this behaviour, with unpredictable consequences for the unity of the Church. However, those who are disseminating these things are fully aware (as long as they have not been blinded by empathy, fanaticism or a mania for self-projection), firstly, that the ongoing theological Dialogue has yet to span an extremely long course, because the theological differences that have accumulated during the one thousand years of division are many; and secondly, that the Committee for the Dialogue is entirely unqualified for the "signing" of a union, given that this right belongs to the Synods of the Churches. Therefore, why all the misinformation? Can't the disseminators of these false "updates" think of what the consequences will be for the unity of the Church? «He who agitates (God's people) shall bear the blame, whoever he may be» (Galatians 5:10).
Your Eminence, The responsibility of all of us, and mostly of the bishops who have been appointed by God to cater to the safeguarding of the canonical unity of their flock, is an immense one. What is being jeopardized is ecclesiological: What is the authority and the prestige of Conciliar decisions? Do we conform to the Conciliar decisions as we are already doing - and being attacked for doing so - or do we conform to the "zealots" of Orthodoxy? Can there be an Orthodoxy and Dogmas without any Conciliar rulings? We ask you to please place yourself on the matter, before we are led to a complete demerit of Conciliar decisions, and before Your flock disintegrates because of negligence on our part.

In humility and in awareness of episcopal responsibility, we submit the above to Your affection and judgment and remain in Athens the 26th of September 2009

With Respect, honour and love in the Lord

+ John of Pergamon
Orthodox Co-Chairman of the Committee for the Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics
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