(Ecumenical News International) — A group of Orthodox clergy in Greece, led by three senior archbishops, have published a manifesto pledging to resist all ecumenical ties with Roman Catholics and Protestants.
“The only way our communion with heretics can be restored is if they renounce their fallacy and repent,” the group said in a “Confession of Faith against Ecumenism” that they circulated recently.
“The Orthodox church is not merely the true church; she is the only church. She alone has remained faithful to the Gospel, the synods and the fathers, and consequently she alone represents the true catholic church of Christ,” says the document.
The signatories say they wish to preserve “irremovably and without alteration” the Orthodox faith that the Early Church had “demarcated and entrenched,” and to shun communication “with those who innovate on matters of the faith”.
The list of clerics backing the manifesto is said to include six metropolitans (Panteleimon of Antinoes, Seraphim of Kythira and Antikythira, Kosmas of Etolia and Akarnania, Seraphim of Piraeus, Jeremiah of Gortyno and Megalopolis, and Artemios of Raskas and Prizrenis, Kossovo and Metohia), as well as 49 archimandrites, 22 hieromonks, and 30 nuns and abbesses, as well as many other priests and church elders.
The signatories note that many Orthodox patriarchs and bishops have, “essentially placed themselves outside the church” by abandoning its “uniform, steady and unswerving stance,” and attempting to impose a “new dogma and ecclesiology” that all denominations formed part of the church.
“This pan-heresy of ecumenism adopts and legalises all heresies as ‘churches’, and insults the dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,” says the group. “All boundaries the fathers set have been torn down; there is no longer a dividing line between heresy and church, between truth and fallacy.”
Religious minorities have often complained of discrimination in Greece, a European Union and NATO member-State, whose Orthodox church claims the loyalty of 97 percent of the inhabitants and which the State constitution recognises as the country’s “dominant religion”.
Supporters of the document, which emerged from an April 2009 convention of Orthodox clergymen and monks, might point to an incident in May 2009 as an example of what they condemn. Then, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All-Greece addressed a Church of England delegation visiting Greece, and told them that the Church of Greece and the Anglican Communion constituted, “two of the main sources of Christian faith in the old continent”. Ieronymos said that Orthodox leaders remained committed to “more fruitful cooperation on both theological and major social issues” with other denominations.
The 4000-word “confession of faith” rejects such an approach. The Thessalonika-based Theodromia journal has posted the statement on the Internet, along with an appeal for more signatures from clergy and laypeople.
The document says that the Catholic papacy has become the “womb of heresies and fallacies” by promoting “dogmatic minimalism” and causing “moral deviations such as homosexuality and paedophilia among clergymen”.
The “confession” adds that even greater criticisms should be directed at Protestantism, which has “inherited many heresies but also added many more” by rejecting tradition, the veneration of saints, monasticism and sacraments, and tolerating women priests and homosexual marriages.
“The new attempt by ecumenists to project the position that we have a common baptism with heretics is unfounded and hanging in mid-air. For as long as heretics continue to remain in their fallacy, we avoid communion with them, especially in common prayer,” the document says.
A member of the Greek church’s Synodical Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations told Ecumenical News International on 17 June that his governing Holy Synod had not “rejected or accepted” the confession. Still, he noted that the group was right to insist the church “recognised only its own sacraments,” and said the document would be debated if it was brought before the synod.
“As things stand, our church is still participating in the ecumenical movement, with representatives in the World Council of Churches and Conference of European Churches. It is open to serious dialogue with all churches, and it could not do this without contacts with them,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “But everyone has a right in Orthodoxy to express opinions and positions, and there is a strong element here, as in other churches, against ecumenism.”