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Tensions on Ecumenism Continue between Constantinople and Moscow

The Roman Catholic Asia News has reported that Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has condemned the Russian Orthodox Church. This happened just a day after a senior representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, advised Orthodox believers not to pray with members of other Christian confessions.

Interviewed in Asia News, the Metropolitan, without any reference to reality, said that in the ‘Eastern’ (sic) Church, ‘especially in the Russian Church’, there is a degree of ‘insularity’ (!) that ‘leads to conservatism’. He said that the Russian Orthodox Church cannot ‘face the challenges of the modern world’ and ‘uses tradition as an excuse’ (!). Speaking of a Church that for seventy-five years faced atheistic Communism, his words really are pure fantasy.

The prelate, who accompanied Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to Rome, where, to the great scandal of his Greek Orthodox flock, he prayed with Benedict XVI and was treated as a Cardinal, said that the true value of tradition can only be reached when we can ‘reshape’ (sic!) our Tradition. He added that ‘Tradition as the Christian Church’s message does not mean doing nothing, instead it contains ‘truth’s momentum’ and ‘does not fear the challenges of the contemporary world’.

These words justifying apostasy remind us that in Ravenna last October the so-called ‘Joint Commission’ for Theological Dialogue between Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Church and headed by the Metropolitan, made serious and scandalous compromises with the Vatican. This was despite the absence of representatives from the Russian Orthodox world, which includes nearly 75% of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

On the other hand, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has only a few hundred thousand faithful on its canonical territory, which is confined to Turkey and some Greek islands. Other Constantinople dioceses have since the 1920s included the Greek diaspora in Western Europe, the Americas and Australasia, though most Orthodox there, immigrants from Greece and Cyprus, would generally prefer to be under the Church of Greece. Constantinople chronically lacks faithful, money and influence in the Orthodox world, and therefore looks to the Vatican to boost its standing, which the latter is only too happy to do. The present administration in Constantinople is trying to recruit new members by interfering in other Orthodox dioceses in Great Britain, France, Latvia, Estonia and the Ukraine, where modernist splinter bodies are in rebellion against the predominant Russian Orthodox Church.

This latest attack is yet another sign of modernist Renovationism on the fringes of one of the Orthodox Patriarchates. The modernists resent the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church is the fastest-growing Local Church in the Orthodox world, because it refuses to water down the Orthodox faith or compromise Church principles to win shallow popularity.

It is not clear if the so-called Joint Commission will continue its unrepresentative work with the Vatican without the Russian Orthodox world. The Vatican thinks that it could entice a quarter of Orthodox into a new wave of Uniatism. This seems utterly illusory. Worldwide Russian Orthodoxy, the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem and the Holy Mountain would stand firm, as would the Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland and Japan. In fact, even if all the new calendar Orthodox hierarchs, Constantinopolitan, Romanian, Arab, Finnish or Czechoslovak, dared to submit to Rome, their faithful would decamp and probably ask the Russian Orthodox Church to consecrate new bishops for them. This would be done in an instant - with native local bishops, of course, not Russians. As one Greek said: ‘If this continues…, I will go to the Russians!’ That is how virtually all our brothers and sisters, faithful Greek Orthodox, feel, save for a small group of intellectuals and opportunists.

25 February/10 March
St Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople

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