the Right Reverend Photii,
Bishop of Triaditza
from the French by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna]
One year has passed since
the date (15 March 1992) that representatives of the local Orthodox Churches,
meeting in Constantinople, signed a joint Communiqué which purports to constitute
an expression of "the unity of all Orthodox."  This Communiqué
was signed on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. By bitter irony, the same day that the
Church celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the Primates of the "official"
Orthodox Churches signed a document, the basic prescriptions of which it would
be difficult to call Orthodox. In the present article, we propose to examine
the fundamental notion, indeed the most debatable point, of this Communiqué:
its concept of Orthodox unity and of the unity of Orthodox Christians today.
It is well known that
the unity of the Orthodox Church is, above all, unity in the Orthodox faith,
or, in other words, unity in the fullness of revealed Truth, unity in the Word
Incarnate (cf. St. John 14:6), that is, unity in our Savior, Jesus Christ. It
is He Who is the founder and the supreme Head of the Church, which is His Body
(cf. Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:15; Colossians 1:18). The members of this Body are
all of those faithful having the same Orthodox faith in the Holy Trinity and
in our Savior, the God-Man Jesus Christ, and who are baptized with an Orthodox
Baptism in the name of the Trinitarian God.
The classical expression
of this concept of the unity of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church
was formulated by St. Maximos the Confessor ( 662). The enemies of this
intrepid combatant against the Monothelite heresy posed the following question
to him: "To what Church do you belong? To the Church of Constantinople,
of Rome, of Antioch, of Alexandria, or of Jerusalem? Now, take note that all
of these Churches, together with their dioceses, are in union. Thus, if you
belong to the catholic (that is, universal) Church, as you say, you should join
yourself to these unified Churches, for fear that if you follow a new or strange
path, you will bring upon yourself some unforeseen danger." The Saint responded:
"God, the Master of all creation, has declared that the universal church
lies in the correct and saving confession of faith in Him, calling Peter
blessed for having confessed His Divinity (St. Matthew 16:18). Besides, I
would like to know the criterion on which the union of all of these Churches
is based, and if it is suitable, I will not remain separated from them."
The Orthodox Church, as
the Body of Christ, is indivisible, invincible, and unerring in its "correct
and saving confession of the faith." It is, however, possible for individual
Orthodox and even entire local Churches to betray the truth of Orthodoxy, such
that they lapse, being cut off from the universal Church, just as the Western
Church long ago fell to the heresies of Papism and Protestantism. It is also
possible for Orthodox to separate and for there to exist "contentions"
in the bosom of the Church, as St. Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth (I
Corinthians 1:10-14). The criteria of truth in such instances are the dogmas
and canons of the universal Orthodox Church or, to cite the words of St. Vincent
of Lérins ( ca. 450), "that which is believed always, that which
is believed by everyone, and that which is believed throughout the whole world."
Thus, the proof of Orthodox
unity is, above all, "the correct and saving confession of the faith."
Now, it is precisely this confession which is missing from the text of the Communiqué
in question. This document reckons the panheresy of ecumenism, in principle,
a positive phenomenon, despite the fact that ecumenism denies the doctrines
of Orthodoxy regarding the Church and, in practice, seeks to destroy the Orthodox
Church of Christ, which was established as "the pillar and ground of the
truth" (I Timothy 3:15). It is precisely ecumenism which, in our days,
has abolished the unity in faith of Orthodox Christians. The participation of
the Primates and Synods of nearly all of the local Orthodox Churches in the
ecumenical movement has divided the members of these Churches into those who
follow the heresy of ecumenism and the calendar reform which it produced, and
those who have defended the pure and whole Orthodox faith and the unity of the
Orthodox Church in that faith. This division has become ever deeper with the
progress of the ecumenical movement, which at two of its recent assemblies,
in Vancouver (1983) and Canberra (1991), openly revealed its intentions: the
accomplishment not only of an amorphous "pan-Christian" union, but
the formation of a syncretistic community which will represent all religions.
The way that ecumenists think, their theological language and the terms that
they employ, and their declarations and actual activities adequately demonstrate
It is often the case that
little importance is given to the participation of local Orthodox Churches in
the World Council of Churches. This participation is presented as an official
act without real consequences for the bulk of the clergy and laymen, who constitute
the Church of Christ. But is this true? Effectively, a few official representatives
of the local Orthodox Churches decide on questions of crucial importance without
the knowledge of the millions of Orthodox clergymen and laymen. So it is that
on November 28, 1990, at the ecumenical center of the Patriarchate of Constantinople
in Chambésy (Switzerland), theologians from the local Orthodox Churches and
the "non-Chalcedonian" Churches signed a common Declarationa
document bringing to a conclusion the ecumenical dialogues carried out between
them. In practical terms, this declaration has opened the road to union with
the non-Chalcedonian heretics, who have in no way renounced their heresy or
accepted the decrees of the Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh cumenical Synods.
This action has not been
slow in manifesting its disastrous consequences. In a letter to his Synod, dated
July 22, 1991, and in an Encyclical addressed to the clergy and laity, Patriarch
Ignatius IV of Antioch proposed the common celebration of services, including
the Divine Liturgy, by Orthodox Priests and the (non-Chalcedonian) Syrian Jacobites.
From his side, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, in a message dated August
12, 1992, informed the local Orthodox Churches that an inter-Orthodox commission
has been convened for the purpose of discussing the practical realization of
the decisions made at Chambésy. The consequences of this false union are all
too obvious. All of those who accept the Declaration, or who enter into communion
with clergymen who have accepted it, can no longer be considered members of
the Orthodox Church. The objections that can be made with regard to this statement
("Of what importance to me is it if a Priest or Bishop is an ecumenist?" "Why should I care if he accepts decisions at odds with the Orthodox Faith?" "I go to Church simply as an Orthodox Christianecumenism is of no
concern to me") seem to us misplaced, in this instance. For ecclesiastical
communion, sacramental communion, and, above all, the Mystery of Holy Communion
presuppose that all who participate therein have the same ideas, the same faith.
To quote the words of St. Paul, "we are members one of another" (Ephesians
4:25), just as we are members of the Church of Christ, which is His Body (Ephesians
5:30). The Mystery of Holy Communion is the most profound expression of the
unity of Orthodox Christians in this Mystical Body, of which the Head is our
Savior, Jesus Christ, the very source of Truth (cf. St. John 14:6; Ephesians
1:22; Colossians 1:18). Anyone can understand why, according to the tenth
Apostolic Canon, one who comes into communion with a Priest rightly deposed
by the Church is himself deprived of communion, since he has "trodden upon
the Church of God." Thus, it is important that we not shirk our responsibility
with regard to God and with regard to the holy Orthodox Truth, in searching
out excuses that are wrongly based on the individualism of contemporary man.
The union with the non-Chalcedonians
which we have just cited as an example is but one course among many by which
ecumenismas a way of grappling with these problems in theology, and as
an actual institution, the World Council of Churchesseeks to destroy the
unity of Orthodox Christians in the fullness of Divine Truth.
The result of this distressing
division is the creation of two distinct groups in opposition to one another:
on the one hand, the supreme administrative agents of the local Orthodox Churchesmembers,
along with the clergy and laity who support them, of the World Council of Churches;
and on the other hand, the strugglers for the integrity of the Orthodox faith
and the preservation of unity within that faith.
Orthodox Christians have
the right, based on the canons of the Church, to break ecclesiastical communion
with any Bishop who teaches heresy publicly and openly in the Church and to
cease his commemoration in liturgical services.  If a Bishop or a clergyman
of lower rank is faulty in the domain of the faith, "flee from him and
separate yourself from him, whether he be a man or even an Angel from Heaven,"
St. John Chrysostomos tells us. 
Orthodox Christians who
have separated from the "official" Churches for these reasons are
not subject to canonical punishment. They are, rather, deserving of the "honor
befitting Orthodox,"  since they have not threatened the unity of the
Church by schism, but, on the contrary, have demonstrated themselves diligent
in seeking to avoid division and schism.  It is indeed the person who teaches
heresy or introduces innovation into the Church who provokes schism and division.
By contrast, it is one who opposes heresy and separates himself from it who
truly demonstrates that he has endeavoured to preserve the unity of the Church.
For canonical separation in such an instance has as its object the defense of
the Orthodox faith and the preservation of the unity of Orthodoxy itself.
The division caused by
ecumenism has made it necessary to employ a distinctive term: "official"
Orthodox Churches. This term has been appropriated by the local Orthodox Churches,
members of the World Council of Churches, whose directors, synods, and administrative
agencies defend ecumenism. On their side, "Orthodox" ecumenists and
their followers characterize as "schismatic" those who are separated
from them in an effort to preserve the purity of their faith. In the Communiqué
from the Primates of the Orthodox Church that we cited at the beginning of this
article, it is indeed these separated Orthodox who are accused of endangering
the canonical and spiritual unity of the Orthodox Church: "Unfortunately,"
we read in the text of this Communiqué, "...[Church] unity is often threatened
by schismatic groups which are on the fringes of the canonical structure of
the Church. Having exchanged views on this subject, we have agreed on the need
for all of the holy Orthodox Churches, acting in full solidarity, to condemn
these schismatic groups and to abstain from communion with them."  We
behold here a tragic confusion in thinking. The representatives of the "official"
Orthodox Churches, fervent followers of ecumenism, caught in the snare of the
World Council of Churches, are striving to transform the unity of Orthodox in
the faith, which they have themselves abolished, into a purely external unitythe
unity of administrative structures, institutional unity, which they accept as
The following example
demonstrates just how this kind of thinking is erroneous. It is well known that
the Orthodox Church of Finland celebrates the Feast of Pascha (Easter) according
to the new calendar, separately from all of the other Orthodox Churches, but
at the same time as the Catholics and Protestants. Nonetheless, this disgraceful
fact is completely ignored by the "official" Churches. It is of no
importance to them that the unity of Orthodoxy, expressed in the common celebration
of Pascha, is ruptured by this Church, which is self-condemned by inviting the
severe sanctions appointed by the canons (the seventh Apostolic Canon [which
deposes any clergyman for deviating from the universal formula for the celebration
of PaschaTr.]; the minutes of the First cumenical Synod
[which reiterate Canon VII of the ApostlesTr.]; and Canon I of
the Council of Antioch [which, in addition to reiterating Canon VII of the Apostles,
calls those who resist the rules for the common celebration of Pascha "alien"
to the ChurchTr.]). The Church of Finland is simply considered
a wholly "official" Church, the canonicity of which is unquestioned.
At the same time, the defenders of Orthodoxy, separated canonically from the
"official" Churches, are considered "schismatics" and the
Communiqué in question suggests that "all of the holy Orthodox Churches...condemn
these schismatic groups and...abstain from communion with them." A strange
logic which speaks adequately for itself!
The result of this confusion
in thinking is truly tragic. In reducing the unity of the Orthodox Church to
a visible unity, a matter of the administrative structure of the "official"
Churches, the "Orthodox" ecumenists strain to hide their flagrant
violations of the very canons which they themselves evoke and to disfigure the
Orthodox faith. In other words, under the guise of the exterior unity of institutions,
they have prostituted the "correct and saving confession of the faith,"
which is the measure of true Orthodox unity. It is perhaps useful to recall,
in this regard, the warning of the American Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose): "In
the final analysis, all of the official institutions will submit to the Antichrist."
It is also worthy of note
that the "Orthodox" ecumenists often shamelessly and in a brutal manner
betray their Orthodox brothers, who have the courage to defend the purity of
their faith. Let us recall, for example, the expulsion of the monks of the Skete
of the Prophet Elias on Mt. Athos, who had refused to commemorate the ecumenist
Patriarch of Constantinople in their services. By contrast, the "Orthodox"
ecumenists are, if anything, overly friendly towards heretics and their communities,
following the prescriptions of ecumenical diplomacy. If perchance they direct
any critical remarks to the heterodox [e.g., various complaints from the national
Orthodox Churches with regard to Uniate and Protestant missions in their territoriesTr.],
these are carefully meted out in the context of this same diplomacy. In fact,
these critical remarks are nothing more than words which are immediately forgotten.
Finally, let us draw some
general conclusions. Those whom the Communiqué signed in Constantinople calls
"schismatic" are in fact Orthodox Christians who stand firm in their
correct and saving faith, "which was once delivered unto the Saints"
(St. Jude 1:3) and which was bequeathed to them by the Fathers of the Church.
To cite once again Father Seraphim (Rose), these servants "follow Bishops
who oversee a small number of Orthodox dioceses and who stand in resistance
to the apostasy of our age. One can mention, here, one part of the Russian Orthodox
Church, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and the True Orthodox Christians
(i.e., the Old Calendarists) of Greece."  We can add to these the Old
Calendar Orthodox Church in Romania and the Old Calendarist Orthodox in our
country [BulgariaTr.]. It is precisely this "small remnant"
of the children of Israelthe Israel of the New Testamentwho are
characterized by a "correct and saving confession of the faith," the
sole criterion of true Orthodox unity. Scorned, slandered, and often even persecuted
by those who supposedly hold to the same faithindividuals who pretend
to be Orthodox, this "small remnant" is nothing less than a
"stumbling-stone" (Romans 9:32) for ecumenism and a solid buttress
of Orthodoxy. Small in number, perhaps, but true to the faith of the Fathers,
the Old Calendar Bulgarian Orthodox Church rallies unreservedly around this
"small remnant," which responds, to be sure, to the inspired words
of the Russian Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Blessed Memory: "Ecumenism
will not celebrate its victory, so long as it has not encompassed within its
worldly fold all of the Orthodox Churches. We must not permit it this victory.
Knowing its true nature and aims, we must wholly reject the ecumenical movement,
since in it there are made manifest apostasy and the betrayal of Christ."
BISHOP PHOTII received his theological education at the Academy of Theology in Sofia and his training in classical philology at the University of Sofia, where he was an assistant professor of ancient Greek. A spiritual son of the renowned Archimandrite Seraphim (Alexiev) and an erudite scholar, His Grace serves as the sole shepherd of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria.
1. Tcherkoven Vestnik,
XCIII, No. 12 (March 23, 1992), p.1.
2. "In Vitam ac Certamen Sancti Patris Nostri ac Confessoris Maximi,"
Patrologia Graeca, XC, col. 93C,D.
3. "Commonitorium Peregrini pro Catholicae Fidei Antiquitate et Universitate
Adversus Profanas Omnium Haereticorum Novitates," Patrologia Latina,
L, col. 640.
4. Canon XV of the Protodeuteron (First-and-Second) Council in Constantinople.
5. "Homiliae in Epistolam ad Hebraeos ," Patrologia Graeca,
LXIII, col. 231.
6. Protodeuteron Council, op. cit.
8. Tcherkoven Vestnik, op cit.
9. Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), Sviatoe Pravoslavie (Donskoi Monastyr:
1992), XX, p. 26.
11. Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev), "Nado li Rousskoi Pravoslavnoi Tzerkvi
Outchastvovat v ekoumenitcheskom dvijenii?," Deyania Sovechtania Glav
i Predstavitelei Avtokefalnyh Tzerkvei v Sviazi s Prazdnovaniem 500-Letia Avtokefalii
Rousskoi Pravoslavnoi Tzerkvi, July 8-18, 1948 (Moscow: 1949), II, p. 383.