More to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s recent encyclical than meets the eye

As I mentioned last week, I recently became a columnist for Catholic Online. They just posted my latest piece. (They are fast. I submitted it just this afternoon.)


Pat. Bartholomew and Pope Benedict in Rome

Last week Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew released an encyclical castigating what he called Orthodox “fanatics” who object to Orthodox ecumenical involvement. The encyclical was well received in Christian circles outside of the Orthodox Church, but raised eyebrows among those in the fold, not least for the strength of the language.

Here’s the background. The Orthodox Church is emerging out of a period of active persecution that lasted centuries for the Greeks and a generation for the Russians and other Eastern Europeans. Orthodoxy still flourishes in the Middle East although under considerable Muslim pressure. It is growing in Africa, Indonesia (where an indigenous Orthodox Church was started by several Moslem converts), America, Western Europe, and elsewhere in the world.

Two patriarchies dominate Orthodox affairs worldwide: Constantinople (Istanbul) and Moscow. Of the two patriarchies, Moscow is emerging as the leader. Constantinople on the other hand, still labors under the Islamic yoke. Muslim extremists have attacked the Patriarchate and the Turkish government has confiscated property and other resources.

With that history in mind, what is the reason for last Sunday’s encyclical?

All traditional Christian Churches understand that the Gospel is universal. “Go forth and preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Christ commanded His disciples. The Gospel transcends national, ethnic, and tribal boundaries. It is meant for all mankind.

The term “universal” comes from the Greek word katholikos (Catholic) which means “according to the whole.” It is used in the Nicene Creed as “One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”

Roman Catholics understand “according to the whole” to mean the geographical dispersion of the Church united under the Pope of Rome. Orthodox understand the term to mean the unity of faith expressed through shared worship, doctrine, and manner of living that is the same in all places. Protestants understand it as the assembly of believers that transcends denominational boundaries.

In recent years, Constantinople has adopted the Roman definition but with a twist. It rightfully claims a primacy over all Orthodox patriarchies but now argues that the primacy includes a jurisdictional authority over areas of the world not directly under an established Patriarchate (America, for example).

The shifting definition creates a problem for Constantinople. Since Orthodox doctrine limits the Ecumenical Patriarch’s jurisdictional authority to the geographical confines of the city of Constantinople, how can his claim of greater geographical authority be realized? It resolves the dilemma by elevating ethnic self-identity through an appeal to history.

It works like this: The Greeks gave the world both Hellenism and Christianity (from classical antiquity, to the hearing of St. Paul’s gospel in pre-Christian Greece, to Byzantium). Secondly, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the only living institution that embodies that rich historical legacy in the person of the Patriarch. Constantinople’s primacy, in other words, also includes an ethnic component.

In Constantinople’s view, the Greek in Greek Orthodoxy is as important as the Orthodoxy. And since Greek Orthodox believers are geographically dispersed worldwide, Constantinople’s authority extends worldwide as well, especially over lands with a poorly organized Orthodox presence. Moscow and most of the Orthodox dispute the claim.

Elevating ethnic self-identity first arose after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 when Christian world of Byzantium became subject to the Moslems and the Ecumenical Patriarch became the unifying symbol of beleaguered Greeks. It may have been a necessary accommodation that saved them from Islamic assimilation.

All religious communions have believers who do not believe that the grace of God can exist outside the confines of their communion. Orthodoxy is no different. They make up some of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s harshest critics and are probably the “fanatics” he had in mind in his encyclical. Others are more temperate but nevertheless alarmed by the recent hobnobbing with secular and marginally Christian organizations.

Either way, Constantinople invites the criticism. If the universality of the Church is defined first by ethnic identity and only secondarily by the Gospel command to preach to all nations, then participation in the Church is first a matter of pedigree and only second a matter of obedience to the Gospel.

Moreover, ethnic primacy also changes the manner by which Constantinople engages the culture. For example, in America we often see Constantinople lauding Greek Orthodox politicians who are fiercely pro-abortion with no corrective word about their violation of the moral tradition. St. Paul defines this as the salt losing its saltiness.

Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy have plenty of experience with getting too entangled in the affairs of this world. It mutes the Gospel and harms the Church. Rome tries to avoid these entanglements as does Moscow.

The Ecumenical Patriarch knows that his rebuke won’t silence his critics. But then the encyclical was not really intended for an Orthodox audience. Rather, the tone and message was meant to assure readers outside of Orthodoxy that Constantinople’s claim to speak universally is valid and that its critics could be ignored. Inside the Orthodox Church however, many remain unpersuaded.


  1. Scott Pennington :

    Perhaps a few facts are in order, just to put things in perspective:

    There are about 15 million Greeks on earth. No other primate of the Orthodox Church of whom I am aware (with the possible exception of the Archbishop of Athens; I’m not sure) recognizes primacy in the Orthodox Church along Constantinople’s reasoning. All total there are perhaps 300 million Orthodox worldwide. Most live in Eastern Europe and Russia. Russia alone has perhaps 90-95 million believers and there are about 125 million under Moscow’s Patriarchate. The second largest Orthodox country in the world, Romania, has over 19 million believers – – more than the total number of Greeks worldwide.

    Anyone who has been in a ROCOR parish or who has been to any of the Slavic churches can testify to the fact that many of the critics the Phanar considers “fanatics” are, to them, normal, pious, likeminded believers.

    Moreover, far from being the “Mother Church” and the “First Throne”, even the title “Ecumenical Patriarchate” was controversial when it was coined and, after a rebuke from the then Orthodox Pope Gregory, it was not used in intra-Church correspondence for hundreds of years. The primus inter pares status that Constantinople enjoys is based on two facts: 1) Rome, the original primus inter pares, fell away from the faith, and 2) Constatinople had been raised to the number two spot because, and only because, it was the new imperial capital. Now, you can’t find “Constantinople” on a map. There are very few Greeks there. It’s the capital of nothing – – not even Turkey. All the pompous titles and bluster coming from the Phanar can’t change any of this.

    Why should anyone take this stuff seriously?

    • George Michalopulos :

      Scott, you are absolutely correct about the numbers and the history and claims of Constantinople, which was in its heyday, truly a great diocese.

      Your impression of the common piety of the normal Slavic believer is more disturbing to me because it’s basically true. These people are no more fanatic than the pious and kindly old Greek ladies I remember from my childhood. For the EP to brand them “fanatics” is a great disservice. Of course some will say that these people (ROCOR/MP/trad OCA) parishes are not the target of his criticism, just the “Athonites.” But unless a distinction is made by the Phanar, I really don’t see how anyone can tell the difference, because as we all know by now, the Athonite monasteries in America attract thousands of Greek-American pilgrims who are indistinguishable in their piety from their Slavic Christian brothers.

      • Scott Pennington :


        Exactly. And in case my post sounded a bit abrupt, I did not mean to impune Greeks in general for the current situation. I just wanted to point out that the Phanar’s attitude is somewhat unrealistic given current demography and attitudes. But, of course, again you could make the observation that he’s living in an echo chamber.

        Also, I’m under no illusions about the piety in Slavic churches in terms of personal morality. They have their problems like everyone else and no one should believe otherwise. Orthopraxis and canon law are a different matter. But orthopraxis and adherence to canonical norms set the tone for the level of piety for each person. It’s a matter of respect.

        I assume that Patriarch Bartholomew’s encyclical was directed against those in GOA and the Church of Greece and Athos who criticize his ecumenical adventures. It may be that Fr. Johannes is right that the intended audience was those outside Orthodoxy. I do not think he was talking to the separated Greek Old Calendarists (who are more prone to the “pan-heresy” language). In fact, I don’t think he gives them much regard. He may have been venting against all traditionalists, but somehow I do not believe that he thinks that broadly. I doubt if he had anyone besides those in Greek churches in mind – – not out of politeness to other jurisdictions, but out of indifference or condescension.

        There’s an organization in Chicago which seems to be mobilizing against the Ephraimite monasteries here in America. There is an announcement on OCL. It may be that the Phanar has decided to turn up the heat on traditional minded folks within GOARCH.

        I suppose conflict is inevitable, given the positions.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Scott, no offense taken. You’re probably right but my broader point I believe still remains: one cannot criticize the praxis that occurs at the Athonite monasteries without the non-Greek Orthodox being offended as they’re almost identical. (Of course you’re right, piety among some does not ensure morality among the many.)

          As for the group in Chicago, I’ve seen their polemic, it’s not that impressive. They do make some good points but I detect two underlying dynamics among them: 1) liberlism –both political and theological, and 2) envy. These monasteries are going gangbusters. Many GOA parishioners go out of their way (literally) to regularly attend their services. In other words, they’re voting with their feet. The envy is in no small part due to the loss of revenue.

          This is a quandary: laymen should worship in parish churches. But in a free society, people should be able to worship where they please. What are these monasteries to do? Locate in even more out-of-the-way locations? They’re already out in the middle of nowhere. What are the monks supposed to do? Stand outside the Narthex with axe handles like Lester Maddux, forbidding laymen entry? The more important question is why are these people going to these monasteries?

  2. If the universality of the Church is defined first by ethnic identity and only secondarily by the Gospel command to preach to all nations, then participation in the Church is first a matter of pedigree and only second a matter of obedience to the Gospel.

    Fr. Jacobse,

    In light of your earlier statement, i.e. – “In Constantinople’s view, the Greek in Greek Orthodoxy is as important as the Orthodoxy.” – would it not be more accurate to render the above quote something alone the lines of(?):

    If the universality of the Church is defined both by ethnic identity and… by the Gospel command to preach to all nations, then participation in the Church is both a matter of pedigree and… a matter of obedience to the Gospel.

    Also, in putting these on a par (“the Greek in Greek Orthodoxy is as important as the Orthodoxy”) is the EP really saying that it is a matter of ethnic identity, or more of a philosophical outlook on the world (“classical antiquity” and “Byzantium”)? That is to say, to understand Christianity one must work within a “classical antiquity” philosophy (rather than for example -a Marxist, or Buddhist philosophy)?

  3. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I struggled with that sentence trying to get the concept down. Then I saw that the reason for the struggle was that the concept itself, well, doesn’t work. It is impossible to frame a positive construction of the ethnicity-obedience mix because it does not and cannot exist. It certainly has power in people’s thinking, but it cannot be coherently applied — it is not congruent with reality. If one acts on the concept as if it were true, then you get skewed actions and bad judgments — endorsing climate change, silence when your representatives defend partial birth abortion, all the things that we complain about here. Thus, the best I could come up with was just trying to describe it.

    As for philosophical outlook, Hellenism has already been incorporated into the Tradition of the Church (through the Cappadocians). It’s already done. I think Constantinople merely redeployed the term to give Greco-triumphalism some historical luster.

    • Fr.

      Forgive me, but – in your first paragraph – I have no idea what you are talking about. What is the concept in “the concept itself” phrase? What is the “ethnicity-obedience mix?”

      Are you talking about the EP thinking he has universal jurisdiction? And that because the EP is Greek, then (in the EP’s view) the concerns, opinions, perspectives of the worldwide Greek community should be the same as those of all Christians? If so, how does that automatically translate into support for questionable science and abortion? The Pope have universal jurisdiction among Catholics and he is often lauded here because he does NOT do these very things; and he does not speak only for Italians.

      I am confused. Help.

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    What I am saying is that Constantinople’s construct that ethnicity is a component of primacy leads to compromise with the world. In other words, the places where the teachings of the Church touches the world are often places where the Church has to give offense (abortion for example). Thus, when ethnicity is elevated alongside the Gospel — where ethnicity and the Gospel occupy equal places in the Church’s face to the world — the Gospel will inevitably be compromised in favor of ethnicity. In concrete terms, this means that if a Greek Orthodox politician works for policies that contradict the moral tradition, Constantinople will remain silent about the contradiction.

    • It is indeed unfortunate that The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology is still an open question.

      Thank you for the clarification.

    • Father you are 100% correct. I believe you article hits exactly where the EP and GOA have failed. The inclusion of ethnicity has been a tragedy. Just look at the use of the word omogenia. In the long haul such usage has seriously crippled the GOA and the EP.

      Father, I am thrilled your articles are appearing on catholic online. I hope you will have many more provoking articles in the months ahead.

      I wonder what type of feedback you are getting from the GOA community?

  5. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    It’s being rethought too in Rome. Just to clarify, my piece didn’t challenge the primacy of Constantinople. It challenged the inclusion of ethnicity in the definition.

    • I look forward to what the continued openness to communication between the Vatican, the MP, and the EP will mean for relations between those Churches (including, perhaps a definition of primacy that all can agree on?… Be still, my heart.) We live in exciting times!

      I too am glad to hear your voice in the Catholic media.

    • And thank God for it.

  6. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Hans, I too applaud your voice being welcomed in the Catholic blogosphere. My only quibble is that it should be made clear to the RC’s that in seeking union with Orthodox prelates, they should seriously consider the Orthodox bishop’s fidelity to the common Christian witness. Note for example that +Benedict did not seek union with the Anglicans –he merely opened up the RC Church to any and all Anglicans that wanted to enter. Of course he provided them a vicariate in which they would be allowed to keep their liturgies, married priests, etc. This was not a unia however.

    Needless to say, the only Anglicans that will join are those who are in agreement with Rome’s moral authority (i.e. no priestesses, commie-symp retreads, etc.). +Benedict is way too smart to seek a wholesale merger with the worldwide Anglican Communion because he knows that Dr Rowan Williams, the current ABC, has allowed the ECUSA/sodomite tail to wag the Trad/Anglican dog. In my estimation, Rome is taking a hard look at the Orthodox Churches to see which ones are more congruent with them in the things that matter.

    This does not mean unity: As Arb Hilarion Alfeyev stated, there is ample room for “strategic cooperation” between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, primarily in Europe. They won’t cooperate with a Rowan-Williams-in-Orthodox-robes. That would only undermine what they’re trying to do.

  7. From my understanding, Rome had primacy, followed by Constantinople, only because they were important places in the Roman Empire. If primacy had to do with ethnicity, Jerusalem would have primacy.

    Whether or not primacy was meant to be permanent or always needs to be re-evaluated on those grounds, it is clear that primary is separate from ethnicity.

  8. Michael Bauman :

    Of course the question is complicated by not only who has primacy but what primacy is. Unfortunately for the debate, we Orthodox frequently practice a primacy that has more in common with Rome than with our own ecclesiology. Give someone power and it is almost guaranteed to be misused.

  9. George Michalopulos :

    Michael, you’re absolutely right. What bothers me is the fact that such “diptychomania” is an absolute turn-off to those earnestly seeking the faith. That an grandiose titles. Therein lies madness.

  10. Michael Bauman :

    George, not madness, just the lust of power that we pray to be delivered from this time of year, that and simple fear. Most people think that the Turkish Yoke and Sergianism are relics of the past, they are not. They are present to this day (we have internalized them as all abused people do) and altering the life of the Church to the short term detriment of us all. That is part of the cross we have to bear as Orthodox Christians. It requires more dedication on my part to allow Christ to overcome those sins in me that contribute to the problem (and they are many).

    Our leaders reflect us. Our sins are their sins. We can pray that they will be better and more holy that we are, but can we expect it or demand it?

    If folks are looking for a sin-free community, good luck. Christ is in our midst! The communion with the living God in the Church and the fraternal community with the saints and the faithful such commuion allows is unique in Christianity. We know that. We have to live it.

  11. Joseph Hostetler :

    I read your guest opinion over at

    I appreciate your comments and wish more would speak out about the ecclesiological and other perversions of the present Patriarch(ate). Truly, phyletism and ecumenism are two sides of the same coin, even if they appear to be opposite extremes. They both negate the catholicity of the Church; the former by limiting the Church within ethnic boundaries, the later by maing but a part of the whole. And, interestingly, ecumenism’s leaders use phyletism to prop up there power and retain a base – the same base the alienate with their heretical antics.

    With respect to the Patriarch(ate), there seems to be an irrational fear among many Orthodox who know the situation. Say anything you want – just don’t mention the Patriarch’s name! The spirit and mentality which I remember from my days among the papalists, almost to a t.

    But, I will take issue with your comments about the critics of the Patriarch. You badly miss the mark with regard to those the Patriarch is attacking – the so-called “fanatics.” It is not a matter of whether or not or in what way the grace of God exists outside of the Church. That matter is really quite simple and clear in Patristic texts (see St. Diadachos’ teaching, for instance). Rather, it is a matter of the orthodoxy of the Patriarch himself (and Met. Zizioulis, for that matter). The Patriarch has without a doubt “preached heresy bareheaded” again and again.

    Just to take one example, due to the limitations of space:

    While in Atlanta last year, he visited the Coca Cola corporation hqs and spoke in praise of the Muslim-Turk president, Muxtar Kent. Besides his speech being filled with anything but an Orthodox message, at the end he gave an “important” (his words) gift: the “holy” (his words) Koran(!). He gave the book which denies the divinity of Christ as a gift. Do you, do we, really understand what that means? It means he has lost the grace of God, he has blasphemed the Lord, he has betrayed Him. In doing this, he has done something far worse than all of his other heretical opinions.

    And, yet, in front and in center were all the bishops of the GOA. What a shame and a sham.

    This present Patriarch is certainly, as you rightly say, inviting criticsm. The sad part of it all is that those who should be delivering it – the hierarchy of the Patriarchate – are too busy boot-kissing to come to their spiritual senses.

    Sincerely hoping that you and many others would begin the process of revealing the fall from grace and Orthodoxy of this present Patriarch, so that the Orthodox people of God can finally come to see that this Patriarch is naked and impoverished of an Orthodox confession of faith.

  12. George Michalopulos :

    Michael, you’re absolutely right. I’ve often castigate the laity for the sins of the Church (I still do). The bishops are only a reflection of us. That being said, as leaders and teachers, they will be called to give a greater account. For all the sins of the laity, there are many good, humble, pious –and dare I say? holy–people among them (of whom I am most certainly not). Many of these people are being led astray by these bishops, whom they respect as holy men. How are they being led astray? By the various heresies that plague the Church, of which you’ve named a few. May add a few more? Jurisdictionalism, phyletism, and simony.

  13. Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy have plenty of experience with getting too entangled in the affairs of this world. It mutes the Gospel and harms the Church. Rome tries to avoid these entanglements as does Moscow.

    Fr Hans,

    I am surprised by this last sentence. Everything I read [see current issue of The Economist] and people who know what is going on in Russia tell me that the MP and Putin (and his crony Medvedev) are connected at the hip, and that the politial leadership in Russia uses the Russian Orthodox Church (and it allows itself to be used) as an arm of Russian diplomacy and influence.

    • Scott Pennington :


      I can’t speak to Fr. Johannes point, but I can comment on the relationship between the ROC and the Russian government.

      We in the United States and Western Europe have this idea of separation of church and state or “secularization”. Setting aside for the moment that in the case of the U.S. this attitude is a misrepresentation of what our Constitution actually says, the idea is foreign to Orthodoxy (and historical Catholicism, for that matter).

      In Russia today, church and state are distinct entities. However, that does not mean that they cannot, or should not, work in symphony. Cooperation of church and state is utterly Orthodox. It may also be necessary in order to maintain any semblance of traditional morality (which hopefully will slowly be restored in Russia).

      From the perspective of Americanism, this is disquieting since we have been taught throughout the grades and college (and even, sometimes, in church) that church and state should remain aloof with a wall between them. I’ve even heard Christians quote Christ’s words, “Render unto Caesar . . . ” as proof for separation of church and state. This quote strikes me as a clever way to escape a trap laid by His enemies rather than political commentary. If that indeed was His point then almost all Orthodox societies throughout history have trampled on His words.

      Russia gets a boat load of bad press in America. The reason is quite simple: Liberals do not like Russia since it abandoned communism and has reembraced Christianity. They know that liberals in Russia have a hard time making any headway against what remains of Russian traditional attitudes. Liberals in Russia also constantly sound the alarm regarding the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in hampering their efforts.

      Conservative liberals (and I call American conservatives this because they aren’t that conservative and they owe much of their philosophy to classical liberalism) also are hostile to Russia. They get shivers up their spine when they think of the “Spirit of ’76”. They believe representative government is more important than morality. They still look at Russia as a [weakened] evil empire, mostly because it has a more authoritarian government (in practice, at least) than they would prefer.

      So it is very easy for Orthodox in America to fall into the trap of seeing Russia as a sinister power. If you hear nothing to the contrary from left-center-right, you just take it as a given.

      We shouldn’t get too caught up in Americanism. Sometimes – and I know this is unthinkable to some – it is the enemy of the Gospel. Our system has not done too good a job vis a vis public morality: abortion, divorce, illegitimacy, promiscuity, feminism, etc.

      I myself refuse to criticize other systems on the basis of American politics. Of Christianity, on the other hand, . . .

  14. cynthia curran :

    Well, I agree with you Kevin on Russia. I can’t judge Putin faith but he is a typical Russian politican, and Russia of course once seen itself as a third Rome which does give Putin and Medvedev a pushed for power. In fact, the czars once even had one of the royal family of Constantinople among them. The Russians tried to copy the old Byzantine system like the Byzantines copied the Roman system which place too much power in one person and his staff. And yes, Putin and early Russian politicans have use the Russian Orthodox Church. Granted, the Russian Orthodox Church stands more on principle in some issues than the Greeks do but not all the Greeks are bad.

  15. George Michalopulos :

    Kevin, I see your concerns and a superficial glance at Russia would seem to confirm this, especially since Christianity in Russia is much more assertive than it is here. However my Russian friends tell me that +Kirill is is his own man and has clashed with Putin publicly on two key issues: 1) the invasion of Georgia and 2) when he went to Ukraine he visited the monument to the Holodomyr (The victims of the Stalin-induced famine). The present government is not in “denial” about it but like Turkey, refuses to take responsibility for it. Both governments will admit that the situations in each case were more “complicated” than most people believe. (In this, they’re no different than the Japanese who still refuse to acknowledge their massive war crimes except in the most tepid fashion.)

    Getting back to +Kirill, he views his position principally as a preacher of the Gospel beyond the boundaries of Russia. I don’t know what his position is on the so-called Diaspora, perhaps he sees his authority to preach wherever Russian emigres reside in Europe. Regardless, like +Benedict and +John Paul II before him, he understands the transformative nature of the Gospel and its salvific effect on culture. Europe for him is Ground Zero.

    • Scott Pennington :


      I’m sure you’re right about Pat. Kirill. As to the Russian government “taking responsibility” for Soviet crimes against humanity, you all have a point. One thing to keep in mind however: Putin and Medvedev are politicians, Pat. Kirill is clergy. Politicians often go as far out of the way as possible not to offend those to whom they appeal for votes or in order not to offend potential allies on any particular issue. There is still a communist party in Russia. Also, some small but significant minority of the population still long for the economic and social stability (as they see it) of the Stalin era. We can’t imagine this, but bread had the same price for over 30 years. Also, with some justification, they give Stalin credit for victory over Germany in WWII. They tend to forget that it was Stalin’s foolish politics before Germany’s attack on Russia that probably caused them to start the war at a considerable disadvantage. In truth, it was the sacrifice and courage of Russians, and other Soviet people, and aid from the West that made the difference. But Stalin did lead and the USSR did prevail. By early 1944, well before America had set foot on Normandy, the Soviets had crossed the pre-war borders and were gaining ground.

      Putin and Medvedev have to take this significant minority into account so what they seem to be doing is retelling the story so as to spread credit and avoid directly addressing the horror of communism. I can’t agree with the approach but I don’t seriously believe that the horror is not widely appreciated even within Russia regardless of what they do. Krushchev began the de-Stalinization crusade and was pretty frank in denouncing him as a psychopath.

      It is natural for a populace to want to be proud and, especially, not to loathe itself.

  16. FOCUS North America has been running a program with prominent Greek Orthodox Christian Troy Polamalu and his wife Theodora that focuses on helping address the needs of the poor in America. The Polmalus are Greek Orthodox and are observant but when you read about them it is apparent their primary community is the local monastery. This is all fine.

    I do have an question for the GOA however. Why is the the GOA ignoring FOCUS and the Polmalu Family? One would think the GOA would celebrate the Polmalu family service and hold them up as an example for others. Troy is a national sports star. They are also a fine example of how a family overcomes the whole omogenia propaganda to live a healthy Orthodox life.

    However if you look on the GOA website their is no mention of FOCUS North America or the Polamalu Family and their outreach.

    If you ask me it looks like their is already a defactor schism in the GOA between those who find their fellowship more traditional settings such as the local monastery and those who get all excited about the local Greek festival, march in a parade or two and read the National Herald.

    I wonder does 79th street and the Phanar consider the Polamalu family fanatics. Shame on them if they do. Orthodoxy and the world need more people like the Polamalu family. They are wonderful examples for all of America.

    Why is 79th Street ignoring them?

  17. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew: Ouch! Your point is well-taken. I’ve heard from people in Pittsburgh I can confidently rely on and know that the Polumalus have long made their church the nearby women’s monastery at Saxonburg. Question: did the Phanar get the memo? Otherwise, like myself and several of my friends (and my parish priest and his family) who annually make pilgrimages to these monasteries, I am humbled to be considered in the same category as the Polumalus (Go Steelers!)

    As for their championship of FOCUS, God bless them and grant them many years!

  18. Kevin Allen :

    Speaking of FOCUS and the GOA (I interviewed Troy and Theodora Polamalu for the recent promo), as I have previously stated, despite an official “blessing” by SCOBA [I love Dorothy Day’s great quote that you don’t need permission to do what Christ commanded!) unfortunately several of the GOA hierarchs [not the forward-thinking Metropolitan in Pittsburgh!] are being obstructionist with regard to the formation of FOCUS committees in their dioceses. This is becoming a real source of frustration and – yes, obstruction – as we attempt to form local FOCUS organizations to serve the poor and needy. Please pray that God will soften and illumine the hearts of these hierarchs.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Kevin, I heard the AFR podcast you did w/ the Polumalus. Great stuff. I did’nt realize about the “obstructionism,” though I can’t say I’m not surprised. That saddens me. But Dorothy Day was right, I’m glad you dredged up that quote. We need to make it operative from now on. Bishops themselves may have to step out of the way.

      Just a thought: maybe if Jennifer Aniston and/or Tom Hanks had done this (FOCUS) then the local diocesan councils of the GOA would have moved heaven and earth to be in the shadow of the glitterati. What do you think?

      • Kevin Allen :


        Troy Polamalu is a big enough Orthodox “star”, one would think! I fear it comes down to control- FOCUS NA is not run by the GOA, or (yet) officially under SCOBA (although given its “blessing”). The good news: local Greek priests and Greek laity are enthusiastically supporting FOCUS efforts, when it has been presented to them. In some cases however they have been told not to become involved, requests to meet with hierarchs have been denied to FOCUS leaders, meetings to present our work to GOA groups have been summarily cancelled (at the order of the hierarch), etc. It is very, very sad and frankly I would not want to be in the shoes of any bishop who stood in the way of their flock wanting to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless.

        • George Michalopulos :


          Amen. I believe tomorrow’s Gospel lesson is about the sheep and goats. To my knowledge, that is the only place in the Bible where Jesus says what are the requirements for getting into Heaven. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked are right up there if memory serves. I quake for my own sins when I stand before the dread judgment seat of Christ, I certainly don’t want to be a bishop (of whatever ethnicity) who stands athwart the simple command of the Gospel.

          Lord have mercy.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Mistake alert: I got today’s Gospel reading wrong. That was a couple of weeks ago. I think the point still stands however. Why would anybody want to fight turf wars or be lukewarm about such an exciting and worthwhile ministry?

  19. cynthia curran :

    That great that Krill is not following Putin. What happen in the Ukraine is not known in the west. I believe that both the Webbs that talk about the evils of 19th century Britian believe that the labor camps in Russia were only reforming crimmals and believe there was no famine in the Ukraine during the 1930’s. I read Robert Conquest’s book and saw people starved to death like the Jews were under the Nazis.

  20. Besides his speech being filled with anything but an Orthodox message, at the end he gave an “important” (his words) gift: the “holy” (his words) Koran(!). He gave the book which denies the divinity of Christ as a gift. Do you, do we, really understand what that means? It means he has lost the grace of God, he has blasphemed the Lord, he has betrayed Him. In doing this, he has done something far worse than all of his other heretical opinions.
    And, yet, in front and in center were all the bishops of the GOA.

    There are some things which are of primary importance: The Church dogmas, the Holy Trinity, the Godhood of the Holy Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must be ready to suffer martyrdom for these truths. There are other things which we regret, but they do not have the same importance.

    It seems that Constantinople had gone astray for quite same time now. In the late 1960s it was Eugene Rose (Fr Seraphim Rose) and Gleb who called Patriarch Athenagoras to return to genuine Orthodoxy. Getting complaints about being so outspoken Eugene went to Viadika John (St. John Maximovitch) for advice:

    But glory be to God, Vladika John fully supported us and blessed us to continue in the same spirit.

    (See: Concerning Hasty and False Union with Rome)

    There is a precedent, the infamous Pope John Paull II Koran kissing incident.

Care to Comment?