It is not a secret that not only faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church, but all zealous adherents of Orthodox plenitude considered a hard strike the conciliatory and permissive position taken by the majority of inhabitants of the honored for centuries among church people Mount Athos on Constantinople’s monstrous actions taken from August 2018 on recognizing Ukrainian schism and entering in full church communication and unity, especially liturgical, with schismatics. The Constantinople Patriarchate roughly violated all canonical and moral norms, it has not “legitimated” schism, but it has thrown itself into illegal schismatic abyss, supporting secular persecutors of suffering Church in Ukraine, justifying seizures of holy churches, facts of beating and insulting clerics and faithful by militant schismatics, who have rudely intruded in the core of the Russian Orthodox Church and justified their crimes by preaching dogmatic heresy of “Eastern Papism” – alien false teaching about supremacy of the Constantinople Patriarch over the whole Body of Christ – the Holy Church and alleged rights to judge and abolish decisions of other judges, to bind and loose over all local Churches.
The fact that the community of the Holy Mount, authority of which was based mostly on their steadfast devotion to dogmas and canons of Orthodoxy, not only continues praying for and recognizing their primate heretic teacher and schism leader Bartholomew, who lost his right to be called Orthodox patriarch after joining anathematized mob, but cowardly keeps silent about outrageous schism in Orthodoxy initiated by leaders of the local Church to which this community belongs- this fact upset and perplexed Orthodox people. What can we say about participation of representatives from certain Athos convents (and even father superior of Xenophontos monastery!) in truly Satan action of “enthronement” of false metropolitan Dumenko (Epifany) held in Kiev in canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, while Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine is alive – action during which these Athonite monks participating in blasphemous parody on divine liturgy together with self-blessed, anathematized and suspended false bishops subjected to desecration the holy shrine of the Russian Orthodoxy Cathedral of St.Sophia of Kiev. And what words can describe recognition and even permission to “celebrate” for delegation of Ukrainian schismatics in certain monasteries of the Holy Mountain? Unfortunately, even convents, which did not allow direct desecration of their shrines by schismatics, remained in full church communication with schism leader Bartholomew and with the monasteries, which fell in communication and ecclesiastical unity with the schism.
If previous grievous actions and not actions of the major part of Athonite monks could be explained supposing that they were intimidated and forced against their will by Bartholomew and political anti-Orthodox forces that stand behind him, then statement of four Athos monasteries (Great Laura, Iviron Monastery, Cutlumus and Esphigmenou monasteries) published on February 28, 2019, witnessed not only to joint participation, but also to active ideological oneness of mind confessed by brethren of the monasteries with heretic, schismatic and ultranationalistic doctrine of the Constantinople Patriarchate leaders. It does not make sense to consider each aspect of this extremely long, discursive and at the same time eloquent document. However, it is necessary to stop at certain provisions of this statement. Its authors briefly and quietly, as if it is something natural, describe Phanar’s anti-canonical intrusion to secured by holy rules territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, recognition of Ukrainian schismatics, entering in liturgical communication with them and uniting with them in form of “granting autocephaly to Ukraine and church actions following it.” The statement of the four Athos monasteries call these crimes “realization of certain canonical duties of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and actualization of its certain rights and the Church of the First See based on canons and acting church order established and existing for centuries”.
Everything is “wonderful” in these several sentences. First, undisguised recognition of purely political character of the so-called “autocephaly”, which is given not to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (as it does not seek it and is not asking for it), but to the state of Ukraine.
This act is unprecedented in history, both in church and state history, unprecedented in its absurdity and illegality, but it is described as something natural in the statement of February 28, 2019.
Secondly, they call “church acts” profanation of holy Liturgy, co-celebration with schismatics, desecration of holy myrrh given to sacrilegious hands of impostor, announcement of schismatic mob “a church,” which is a blasphemous and mad attempt to unite the light and the dark, Christ and Beliar.
Thirdly, Bartholomew’s actions on “uniting” schismatics with the Church without repentance (even legal Primates of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church do not have such a right), invading the territory of the other local Church and alien dioceses, hierarchal actions of Phanar’s officials on their territory, for which canons of the Orthodox Church punish by defrocking, all these things, according to the authors of the statement, are considered realization of certain “canonical duties” and actualization of Constantinople’s “canonical rights” supposedly based on canons of existing “in centuries” church order!
Representatives of four Athos monasteries not just take the side of just dogmatic, but with ecclesiastical heresy of Eastern papism expressed with the language of canonical, or precisely, anti-canonical actions. They creatively develop this false teaching of Phanar. “All these things, they say in their statement, deal with canonical connections of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the people of God and other Orthodox jurisdictions, but do not refer to the questions pf faith at all.” Jesuits could have envied the wording of the phrase. On the one hand, the authors of the statement decisively speak about direct and immediate connection of the Constantinople See with all people of God, thus approving Phanar’s jurisdiction over people, laymen of the whole Orthodox Church, which has the direct parallel with Roman-Catholic dogma of papism. On the other hand, they at the same time say that this question is purely canonical and thus it does not refer to faith and dogmas.
Besides the fact that such affirmations are bold and cynical lies, authors of the statement try to make its addresses accept as evident truth the next distortion of Orthodox teaching: saying that canonical questions do not refer to the question of the faith, and thus, as the statement further reads, do not refer to Athos. “The question of non-Athonite and non-dogmatic character, thus the statement calls the problem of joint services with schismatics, so brethren of Russian St.Panteleimon monastery who refused to celebrate with them is accused of laying their own problem on the monasteries which accepted schismatics and the monasteries communicating with them. And this, according to the statement, “can be a great spiritual problem for our holy place.”
What a perversion of Christian conscience is to consider the attempt of Russian Athonites to defend themselves from communication with schismatics their own problem, which they are trying “to lay down” on the monasteries that canonically criminally opened their altars and sees to schismatics. And even say that non-permission of schismatics is a bold novelty, while traditional for monks devotion to canonical Orthodoxy is a source of a great spiritual (!) problem. But the main distortion is not in this field, but in the mentioned above false affirmation that canonical questions do not refer to faith, and thus they do not refer to Athos. If only dogmatic questions can give Athonites a reason to express disapproval, then they should announce all canons of Orthodoxy unnecessary and senseless and refuse authority of Ecumenical Councils, which adopted them. How can canons, including those referring to schism, do not matter for faith and Athonite brethren, if their not observance leads to falling out of the Church, which means from Our Lord Jesus Christ?
If four Athos monasteries do not consider important questions of falling away from the grace of Holy Spirit, loosing from apostolic succession, salvation – then what is their monasticism about? Perhaps, they have a club for people with common interests in sphere of certain spiritual practices, studying old Byzantium traditions of reading prayers, forms of standing and throwing themselves in prayer – but their way of thinking and actions does not have anything in common with Orthodoxy and the Church. Confrontation to schism given in the Russian St.Panteleimon Monastery irritates these Athonites as it interrupt their steady life in “peace and prayer away from events and noise,” it “disturbs,” and they do not want to be disturbed, they do not want “peripeteia and anxiety.” Let self-blessed and anathematized bishops enter their monasteries, let them blasphemously “celebrate” and desecrate churches, but only do not interrupt usual schedule, only let us avoid noise and anxiety. In fact, it is usual cult of comfort, only some people consider comfort as physical convenience, while authors of the statement consider it comfort of their souls, for which church Truth is too exciting, it too loudly reminds about itself to pleasantly dozing conscience.
In fact, a terrific thing took place. Hierarchy of the local Constantinople Church, to which Athonite monks belong, officially entered in Eucharist and hierarchal unity with graceless schism, false hierarchy that do not have apostolic succession. Authors of the statement, Athonites who soon followed the example of their hierarchy believe that most important thing for Athos monks is to keep calm, do not worry, ordinary swallow this communication and go further. And the question of hierarchy, apostolic succession and its actuality caused decades of struggles, disputes, wars in Protestant world! In this sense, even Thomas Munzer or Martin Luther were more sincere believers than some “elders” of the Holy Mount. Yes, they were mistaken, but they sincerely and ardently worried for fundamental questions of the Church, which they certainly settled heretically.
Bedides, if the questions of not dogmatic character considered, including canonical ones, are considered secondary and should not cause rejection or disproval on Athos, then these poor Hesychasts (and the statement appeals to Hesychasm as Russians’ struggle against just a simple schism disturbs it!) should be ready to embrace not only schismatics, but also “priests” who married second time, female bishops, consecration of open homosexuals, or transgenders and so on as it does not refer to dogmas, to the faith, but “only” to canonical and moral bans.
Text of the spacious statement made by monks, pretending to know how to set up life on the Holy Mount strikes the eye with absence of quotations from the Gospels and the Holy Scripture, to position of holy fathers and zealots of piety. Perhaps, the only sympathetically quoted source is “the holy father” – US ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Ross Pyatt, Who traditionally speaks from anti-Russian and Russophobe positions. It reveals true orderer, inspirer and beneficiary of Athonites’ scandal statement. Today, some residents of the Holy Mount have such authorities. Slanderously accusing Russia of political pressure on Athos authors of the statement without any doubt and embarrassment demonstrate their relations with the official of the state that does not have anything in common with Orthodoxy, the state, interfering in canonical life of the Russian Orthodox Church and publicly accepting this interference. Reference to G.Pyatt in context of exposing “Russian interference” sounds especially spicy as he publicly met with the governor of Athos, raising the questions of recognizing Ukrainian schism, and on the day when the statement was published he was carrying out a kind of the Tomos-tour along Greek dioceses to promote recognition of the so-called “holy church of Ukraine.” What are the reasons that make these representatives of Protestant-secular state care for reorganization of the canonical order of the Orthodox Church?
This nationalistic pride and bloated ethnophilism are only curtain of words voiced by monks, who have become helpful and loud, but, nevertheless, inferior service in major geopolitical game, running errands even not for princes of this world, Washington elite, but for their local official on Athos, whose will they frankly broadcast without any embarrassment not only by their statement, but also by inflicting schism to the Body of Orthodoxy. For Mr.Pyatt who represent new masters of the so-called “holy Hellenes” (who do not have anything in common with the true spirit of Greek Orthodox people), Orthodoxy is only a bargaining chip in geopolitical war against Russia, Russian world and Russian people as well as against thousand-year old identity and independence of all Orthodox nations, including Greeks. In this war self-proclaimed “successors of Byzantium basilisks,” whether it is schism monger Bartholomew in Istanbul or certain monks on Athos filled with nationalistic pride, play the role of smokescreen to deceive faithful of Christ’s flock, allowing real thief and criminal to penetrate to the yard “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
Their wish to defame at all costs the Russian Orthodox Church and many times mentioned in the text Russians makes the authors of the statement contradict themselves.
Two appalling examples can illustrate it. On the one hand, Russian benefactors are accused (precisely, accused!) of donating to Athos monasteries about €200 mln., and then the authors quote Pyatt saying that it works as “Russian investments of mild force.” On the other hand, the same people condemn our hierarchs for their calls to donate on Russian, not Athos monasteries. Whatever these Russians do, they are always guilty. When they donate – they bribe, when they do not
do it – they devastate.
The second example – wordy and bold accusations of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state, including the Russian Empire, in their attempts to interfere in affairs of Athos, to press on it, to “exceedingly” stress Russian-Athos relations in order to infringe on “Hellene” rights on Holy Mount.
Open Russophobe position is distinctly seen all through the text of the statement. At one passage its authors are outraged that Russians clerics dare consider St.Panteleimon monastery “ours.” Should they consider it alien? At other passage Russia is accused of implanting popular in the 19th century ideology of Pan-Slavism as if it was heresy. It is not clear why it should be considered evil for Orthodox as it stood for liberating Slavic nations from Muslim and Latin governance under protection of Russian Orthodox monarch. It is also not clear, what does it have to do with current situation on Athos, in Orthodox Church. Absolutely inadequate is accusation of Russian St.Panteleimon monastery in “ignoring” the fact that “Russia have recognized the state of Skopje as Macedonia twenty six years ago.” What does it have to do with the Church, monasticism, Russian monastery on Athos? What is the essence of church or even juridical crime? The Russian Orthodox Church and Russia are accused of establishing in Moscow a center on reviving Russian monastery on Athos in “its grandeur of the past” (Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying), as is restoration of the holy convent is something sinful and condemnable. Greek ultranationalists in frocks have short memory and forgot that past and present grandeur not only of St.Panteleimon monastery, but many others convents and hermitages of the Holy Mount is based on centuries-old non-stop flow of investments, gifts and donations made by pious Russian tsars and emperors, hierarchs, nobility, merchants and ordinary pilgrims.
These Athos monks demonstrate the same amnesia when it comes to “tsar regimen” as they contemptuously and Bolshevik-like call old Russia and its Orthodox rulers, whom they accuse of almost systematic anti-Greek policy. We should remind that the dawn of Greek liberation started from the Cesme victory of the Russian Imperial Fleet, the first independent Greek state of the New times was established by holy Russian admiral Feodor Ushakov. In the 19th century Russia provided independence for Greece, it fought for it and did not spare diplomatic efforts to guarantee it. We should also remind the Crimean war started by Emperor Nicholas I to restore desecrated by Osman government rights of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. Our country was not ready for that war, suffered hard losses, drunk the bitter cup, but stood for Greek believers of the same faith. Much Russian blood was shed in these conflicts. But such virtue as gratitude perhaps is not listed among values of the Great Laura, the Iviron Monastery, the Cutlumus and the Esphigmenou monastery.
Among reproaches of Russia they list peace Treaty of San Stephano peace of 1878 and setting up “Great Bulgaria.” Just think, liberation by Russia of Orthodox Bulgarian brothers from centuries-old alien-faith yoke is considered evil by allegedly Orthodox monks of the Mount Athos. Such position brightly illustrates cave nationalism, which fills the statement of four Athos monasteries. The statement comes to heretic ethnophilic affirmation that Orthodoxy is an expression of …”Greek Orthodox spirit” (quotation: “Greek Orthodox spirit which, without doubt, always brings positive contribution in ministry to Orthodoxy, being its expression and being expressed by it.) There is certainly direct connection with scandal, if not to call it Nazist, statement of Constantinople patriarch Bartholomew that Slavic people should accept Greek supremacy in Orthodoxy.
Finally, the last worth mentioning thing in the statement – blaming of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian monastery on Athos of hypocrisy. They follow such logics: how you, Russians, can accuse us of communicating with Ukrainian schismatics when the Russian Orthodox Church “allows even Catholic “priests” for joint services, recognizing their Baptism and priestly consecration by ordinary prayer of absolution” and brothers of St.Panteleimon monastery had communications with schismatics from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in the past (assumingly before reunion of 2007) and allowing them to participate in the services.
As to the reproach in joint celebrations with Catholic clerics and form of the admission rite from Catholicity to the Russian Orthodox Church, here the authors demonstrate the mixture of slender and ignorance, which often go together. Certainly, there was not any permission to celebrate together with Catholic clerics or any other clerics of different confession in the Russian Orthodox Church and such permission is impossible. If there were any hypothetical excesses, they were performed on personal initiative of violators strictly reproached by hierarchs of our local Church.
Accusers should better direct their staged “zeal” against their master and father Bartholomew (Arhondonis), who more than once conducted tempting liturgical and ecumenical experiments, including joint celebrations of certain parts of the service with the Pope of Rome.
As to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, we should say that their hierarchy, clerics and laity have never been anathematized at the councilor level.
As we see, all “arguments” of Athos schism apologists is dust taken away at close consideration. Evidently, all these reasons were invented and feverishly composed together in order to hide true improper goals of the authors, and, what is the most important, their overseas interested parties, who are standing behind them and do not even hide their faces. In conclusion, I would like to remind to residents of once glorious monasteries of the Holy Mount that the things they do are not only juggling with church history, not only kindling of nationalistic dispute among fraternal Orthodox nations, not only fulfilling political order of the hostile to the Holy Church geopolitical centers, not only humiliating and insulting the name of the Holy Mount Athos. First of all, it is a direct way to the eternal death of their own souls and souls of those who are tempted by their pretended “authority.”
Archpriest Andrey NOVIKOV,
member of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Biblical and Theological Commission
March 21, 2019