March 24, 2015

Holy New Hieromartyr Parthenios III, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 1657)

St. Parthenios, Patriarch of Constantinople (Feast Day - March 24)

Parthenios was born in the island of Lesvos to very pious Orthodox Christian parents who managed to provide him with a good education. Drawn to the work of the Church early in life, he became a cleric and in 1639 he was elected Metropolitan of Chios, where he was distinguished for his piety and good works. On 31 July 1656 he became Ecumenical Patriarch, succeeding Ioannikios II.

As Patriarch of Constantinople, Parthenios found the Church of Constantinople in great financial difficulties, which is why he turned to the Russians for assistance. He sided with the Russians in the clashes for the control of the Church in the Ukraine, and in 1656 denounced the 1643 Confession of Faith of the previous Metropolitan of Kiev Peter Mogila, which he deemed to be too close to the Catholic doctrine. The Confession of Faith of Peter Mogila had been however already approved by all the Greek-speaking Patriarchs in 1643, and it was again approved in 1662 by Patriarch Nektarios of Jerusalem and by the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem. Parthenios also held a burial for the remains, recovered on a shore, of his predecessor Cyril Loukaris, who was killed in 1638 on a ship in the Sea of Marmara and his corpse thrown in the waters.

In order to raise funds, Parthenios sent letters to the Metropolitan of Nicaea who was living among the Orthodox Cossacks in the Tsardom of Russia, at the time a political enemy of the Ottoman Empire. His correspondence was intercepted by the Tartars of the Crimea and delivered to the Grand Vizier Mehmed Koprulu (the Sultan's chief executive officer and deputy), who decided that Parthenios should stand for trial charged of treason. He had chosen to interpret certain passages of the Patriarch's letter as an appeal for the Cossack's to invade the Ottoman Empire. Though the accusations were proven false, Sultan Mehmed IV ordered his hanging in order to "set an example for those who may try that in future." The only option he was given to be freed was to convert to Islam, but Parthenios refused, saying:

I am not unfaithful to the Empire and I am totally innocent to this charge. I am unjustly accused, and you yourselves know this very well if you were to speak the truth. As to abandoning my faith, I would never abandon my sweetest Lord and God Jesus Christ, even if I were to suffer a thousand deaths in His holy Name, which is something I would do with gladness. As for your honors and positions, I don't want to even hear of them.

This response prompted in the Patriarch being beaten and inflicted with great pain. Patriarch Parthenios received all this with great courage.

On 1 April 1657, which was the Saturday of Lazarus, a long procession walked with Parthenios from his prison to a place in Istanbul named "Gate of the Hook" (Parmak Kapi) where he was hanged. He stayed hanged for three days and then was thrown into the sea. His body was found by Christians and was buried in the Kamariotissa Monastery on the island of Halki.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Parthenios, the Hierarch of Christ for all, you bravely contested in the Queen City, and we sing hymns to you saying: Lesvos your homeland, most-holy father, keep in peace, through your sacred intercessions, as you have boldness, victorious Martyr.