October 16, 2009

The Scandal of the Orthodox - Catholic Dialogue in Cyprus (16-23 October)

Most Orthodox in the West are unaware of the great scandal the Orthodox - Catholic Dialogue in Cyprus (16-23 October) is causing throughout the Church of Greece. Since the Church of Greece has no real voice in America, most Greeks being subject under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I feel it is my duty to bring awareness to this very important issue that affects world Orthodoxy.

Thanks to the highly informative www.oodegr.com website, many of the most important texts circulating over this issue have been translated into English. The links are provided below with some of my own commentary.

It was announced back in June that the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox would be meeting between October 16-23 in Cyprus "to examine a crucial aspect of relations between East and West: The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church During the First Millennium". It is to be represented by 30 Orthodox and 30 Catholics.

What differentiates this dialogue from others is the topic of the role of the papacy. It is this topic which is a cause of concern to many Orthodox as there can be no compromise on this subject either from an Orthodox or a Catholic perspective. This concern is best expressed in the following article:

On the Recognition of Universal Primacy for the Pope of Rome During the First Millennium

When this dialogue was announced, the Holy Synod of Bulgaria immediately made its disapproval known:

A Bulgarian "NO" to the Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue

Together with the announcement of this dialogue, the following document was circulating throughout Greece to various clergy and theologians and was fairly well-received:

A CONFESSION OF FAITH: Against Ecumenism

Rumors began circulating that there was a secret intention behind the dialogue in Cyprus. It is believed by some that a statement of union will be signed sort of like that of Balamand back in the 1990's which caused a great disturbance in the Church. One particular hierarch responded:

Announcement by Metropolitan Andrew Regarding the Committee for the Dialogue with the Latins in Cyprus

An official position was also taken by the entire Athonite community:

The Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain on the Dialogue with the Papists

Between the Confession of Faith being circulated and widely accepted, together with the rumors and the protests of clergy and hierarchs, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew responded with a stern letter:

Your Holiness, WHAT "pan-Orthodox decision"?

Among the hierarchs mentioned by Patriarch Bartholomew was the vocal Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim. To understand his views on the matter, here is a link of his recent letter to the Archbishop of Athens:

Metropolitan Seraphim's Letter to Archbishop Hieronymos: Regarding the Committee for the Dialogue with the Latins in Cyprus

To prevent schism and encourage the proper and concentual ordering of this dialogue, at least one Metropolitan proposed the dialogue be postponed:

Metropolitan Seraphim of Ioannoupolis Proposes the Postponement of the Cyprus Convention

Greek theologians were also expressing concern:

The Pancyprian Union of Greek Theologians Expresses Its Concern Regarding the Dialogue with the Latins in Cyprus

Together with the stern letter of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a letter was also sent by Metropolitan John Zizioulas from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to all the Metropolitans of Greece regarding the ecumenical dissent of many throughout Greece:

The Letter by Bishop John Zizioulas of Pergamon to all Metropolitans of the Church of Greece

Finally, just last week, eminent clergy throughout Greece responded by drafting a statement and censured both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan John Zizioulas for encroaching on their right to dissent.

A Letter by the Clergy to the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece Concerning the Letter by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

With heated tensions, the dialogue is set to begin today. Let us pray that our leaders be given the wisdom to guide us into all truth, and avoid all compromises and schism for the sake of the unity of the Body of Christ and our witness to the world.