Abbot of Meteora: Cretan Council undertook “to overthrow Patristic tradition of the Church”

The “Council” of Crete: The Chronicle of a Premeditated Deviation

By Archimandrite Athanasios Anastasiou, Proigoumenos of the Holy Monastery of the Great Meteora

This is by far the most complete historical account and spiritual analysis of the “Council” of Crete to date, giving the reader both an overview and inside look at the events leading up and occurring at the “Council”, with emphasis on the Church of Greece’s involvement. The following translation into English makes this important analysis available to Orthodox Christians throughout the world. We hope that the text will now be translated into other languages, so that the entire Church can become well informed and take the appropriate measures to secure a universal, Orthodox response, and with it Orthodox unity in the face of a divisive heresy. – Fr. Peter Heers

A Note on the Author:

Archimandite Athanasios Athanasios, Proigoume of the Holy Monastery of the Great Meteora and theologian educated at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, is well-known for his active presence in the struggles for our faith and fatherland, as well his prominent place in giving witness to the Faith, authoring many articles, homilies, and other publications in the struggle to defend our spotless faith from the contemporary threat of Ecumenism .

In the text which is reprinted here, “The ‘Council’ of Crete, The Chronicle of a Premeditated Deviation”, Archimandrite Athanasios presents a series of events and testimonies which demonstrate that the results of the “Council” of Crete were pre-determined and pre-fabricated. It was the result of a coherent, organized, and methodical undertaking from the Ecumenical Patriarchate that began nearly a century ago within the framework of Ecumenism to distort and alter Orthodox ecclesiology and to replace it with a new ecumenical ecclesiology which will lead to the final “union of the churches .”

I. Introduction

In the history of our Church, throughout the ages, the faithful people of God have always been the guardians and champions of the truth of our Orthodox faith; they are the final judges of the soundness and validity of the decisions of any Council. It is the people with their vigilant ecclesiastical and dogmatic conscience who approve or reject what the Councils put forth. [1]

In this same manner the “Council” of Crete will be judged. All of us are called as faithful members of the body of the Church to give our assessment. It is incumbent upon of all of us to speak out. It is our duty to express our priestly and monastic conscience, to simply and humbly put forth our thoughts, to express our view before our Shepherds. It is our duty to take our share of the personal responsibility but also our responsibility to our spiritual children and the many faithful believers who entrust us with their agony, anxiety, but also their outrage surrounding the events of the “Council” of Crete.

What we have written here in the present work, as well as our writings on the same issues which preceded it and whatever writings, with the help of God, may follow, constitute our small response to the self-evident truths of our faith, to the deposit of faith handed down by the holy Patriarchs, bishops, clergy, venerable monastics, and lay confessors of our faith, in our duty to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. They constitute our obedience to our Holy Fathers who made clear to us that in matters of faith we must offer an account. Not an account based on personal opinions, but the account [of the Faith] of the Holy Fathers, the Holy Ecumenical and Local Councils, inspired by the Holy Spirit,the authentic and living word of our contemporary elders and of all who remain faithful to Orthodox tradition and continue “following the Holy Fathers.”

1.A Plea of the Saints and of Contemporary Bishops, Clergy and Professors of Theology

Saint Theodore the Studite clearly states that “It is a commandment of God that we not keep silence when the Faith is endangered… when it concerns the faith, we cannot say ‘Who am I? Am a priest? No. Nobleman? No. General? From where? Farmer? Not even this. I am a poor man, trying to secure only my daily bread. I don’t have learning, nor interest in this matter. Woe to you! The stones will cry out and you will remain silent and indifferent? Even the poor man on the day of judgment will have no excuse if he does not speak now, because he will be judged even for this alone.” [2]

In particular concerning the witness of monastics on questions of faith, Elder George Kapsanis, of blessed memory, emphasizes that ‘when the faith is endangered, then the educated from among the monastics, and especially those monks entrusted with the pastoral care of [other] monastics, have a responsibility, both for the correct guidance of those in their spiritual life under their care, and to the dogmas of true piety, to speak, not in order to teach the Church, but in order to confess the faith in accordance with the commandment of the Lord: ‘Whosoever therefore shall confess in me before men, in him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.’ (Matthew, 10:32). The Confession of Christ is not a work of service, but an expression of life. Christ does not say ‘whosoever confesses me,’ but ‘whosoever who confesses in me.’ The confession of Christ is an expression of communion with Christ—of the life in Christ. The life in Christ has as a natural result the confession of Christ. And the monks living in Christ confess and teach Christians in this way. They do this humbly, not in order to teach, but in order to confess. This is an historically justified tradition in Orthodox monasticism.” [3]

Those who inspired and organized this Council undertook, in a violent and authoritarian way, to overthrow the patristic tradition of the Church and to elevate, without conditions, the institution of the Council alone to absolute authority. Their chief aim is the creation of a consolidated bishop-centered establishment—along papal lines and of papal provenance—so that unobstructed and unchecked, they can institutionalize their innovative and heterodox teachings—the attribution of ecclesial reality to heretical groups with the further aim of the “union of the churches” which will eventually lead to the uniting of religions foreseen within the New Age movement.

On the basis of this unilateral and consolidated system of decision-making, the foundations are being laid, as well, for a First-without-equals in the Orthodox East. This consolidating tactic is expressed in the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” where the following is written: “the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is ensured only through the conciliar system, which has always represented the highest authority in the Church on matters of faith and canonical decrees.” [4]

According to professor of dogmatic theology, Demetrios Tselengides, in this way, “ the Upcoming Holy and Great Council is prejudging the infallibility of its decisions, … the synodical system by itself does not mechanically ensure the correctness of orthodox faith. This only happens when the Synod of Bishops has the Holy Spirit and the Hypostatic Way—Christ—working within it, and thus as “syn”—“odikoi” [i.e., “traversing together on the way”] they are, in practice, ‘following the Holy Fathers.’” [5]

This consolidated, bishop-centered system is completely foreign to Orthodoxy. Equally foreign is the arbitrary and misleading impression which is being deliberately cultivated that supposedly the Church is identified with her Administrative body, that is to say, her Bishops. Based on this erroneous idea, it has become a common habit for many to repeat “whatever the Church says” or “we will be obedient to the Church” meaning the Bishops or the Synod of Bishops,even when those Bishops think and act contrary to the Orthodox faith.

According Professor Tselengides “there is a clear distinction between the Church in herself—as the Theanthropic mystical body of Christ—and the administration of the Church which really and truly only expresses the Church under particular and clear conditions.” [6]

As Fr. George Florovsky observes, “the bishop has not received the full teaching authority from his flock but from Christ through the Apostolic succession. But this teaching authority given to him is his power to bear witness to the catholic experience of the Church. It is limited by this experience. Consequently, in questions concerning faith, the people must judge his teaching. The duty of obedience ceases to exert power when the bishop departs from the catholic standard and in such cases the people have the right to condemn and even depose him.” [7]

And the same great theologian also stresses that “the bishop must embrace within himself the entire Church; he must express and manifest its experience and faith. He must not speak of himself, but in and of the Church ‘ex consensus ecclesiae.’” And he concludes that “the whole body of the Church has the right to verify or to be more precise, the right, and not only the right, but the duty of “confirmation.” With this in mind, the Patriarchs of the East wrote in their well-known Encyclical of 1848 that ‘ the protector of religion is…even the people themselves’” [8]

His Eminence, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos outlines with absolute clarity the role of the lay-faithful in the Councils of the Church: “…and the lay-faithful are witnesses to the truth, they are shepherds (indirectly) of the people of God. They are co-workers of the Shepherds. They even participate as advisors at the Ecumenical Councils and furthermore they accept or reject the decisions of Ecumenical Councils. The people (clergy and lay) did not accept the union of the ‘Churches’ which occurred at Ferrara-Florence.” [9]

Saint John Chrysostom sets forth with absolute clarity the boundaries of the obedience which the faithful owe to their Bishops on issues [where they act or speak] contrary to our faith:

“How then does Paul say, Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves ? Having said above, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, he then said, Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves. What then (you say), when he is wicked should we obey? Wicked? In what sense? If indeed in regard to Faith, flee and avoid him; not only if he be a man, but even if he be an angel come down from Heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious…. Moreover, judge not that you be not judged concerns life, not faith…. Do you see that [the discourse] is not concerning doctrines, but concerning life and works?” [10]

The divine Chrysostom referring at another time to the “human division” of the members of the ecclesiastical body into “sheep and shepherds,” he observes that “the distinction of sheep from shepherds is a human one—before Christ all are sheep both the shepherds and those being shepherded—all shepherded by the one high Shepherd.” [11]

And the Elder George Kapsanis, of blessed memory, writing on the same issue says: “When it concerns administration and teaching, the participation of the people is fundamental, since it is spirit-bearing being also taught by God. It constitutes, alongside the clergy, the vigilant conscience of the Church which bears witness (judges, discerns, approves, and accepts, or condemns and rejects) the teaching and acts of the hierarchy as was put forward by the Patriarchs of the East in their Encyclical of May 6th 1848.” [12]

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