Monday, February 28, 2011

The Dialogue of the Orthodox with the Non-Chalcedonians

From here.

Suggestions of a Committee from the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain Athos

Concerning the Dialogue of the Orthodox with the Non-Chalcedonians

The third common declaration from the dialogue of the Joint Commission between the Orthodox Church and the Oriental "Orthodox" (Non-Chalcedonian) Churches which took place at Chambessy, Switzerland from November 1-6, 1993, has caused anxiety and fear. The Joint Commission suggests the lifting of anathemas "by the leaders of all churches of both sides by the signing of an ecclesiastical declaration to the effect that each church recognizes the other as fully Orthodox" and that "lifting the anathemas must have as consequences:

a) the establishment of total communion between both sides, and that
b) no condemnation of the past against each other by synod or person is active anymore..."

If we understand the above correctly, a union is imminent. A union that the Patriarch of Antioch has already realized in part.

Surely we should be celebrating the impending union if this union were proper and truly from an Orthodox point of view acceptable, that is, in truth. But since, as we intend to show, in our and other theologians' opinion the presuppositions are not fulfilled, we fear that a rushed union will result firstly to a false and dishonest union and secondly to an internal schism in our Holy Orthodox Church.

Following are our reservations:

1. It is noticeable that in all three official statements the Orthodox have abandoned Orthodox ecclesiology, according to which our Orthodox Church constitutes the only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Non-Chalcedonians are recognized as "Oriental Orthodox" and both churches are two equal families of the same church. In other words, this is a form of branch theory.

Characteristically Professor G. Mantzaridis notes,
"The conscience of the Orthodox Church is that the Orthodox Church constitutes the uninterrupted continuation of the one undivided Church. That conscience is based on the through the ages unity with the Apostolic Church. The unity of the Church as an essential characteristic of its nature can not be placed under negotiation. There are not many churches because there are not many Christs or many bodies of Christ. This position is neither backward nor conservative but self-understood and traditional. It is the position that the Church had from the beginning and has always been projected in the ecclesiastical tradition. For this reason even the way in which the restoration to full communion between the Non-Chalcedonian and Orthodox Church is asserted creates serious worries for the discernment of Orthodox identity itself. It is not possible under the light of new dogmatic agreement for Synods that were condemned by Ecumenical Synods to be viewed as Orthodox in their teaching content, for a teaching is not exhausted only in the formulation of the dogma but also expresses the unity and identity of the Church. Neither is it possible for people who are anathematized in the Synodicon of Orthodoxy to be regarded as fathers of another Orthodox Church which is finally to be accepted as identical with the Church that formed the Synodicon. Always and especially in crucial times as in the present, attention to the through-the-ages identity and conscious of Orthodoxy is imperative. (G. Mantzaridis, Orthodoxy and European Unity, Thessalonika 1994, p.157-8)
2. We Orthodox abandon our historic continuity and identity with the Church of the Ecumenical Synods (4th, 5th and 6th) if we accept that the Non-Chalcedonians were always Orthodox and that their fathers (Dioscoros and Severos) were also Orthodox. Indirectly we accept that the above Ecumenical Synods were in error and now we are correcting them. Any attempt to compromise in these matters is unacceptable. Either the Synods have rightly taught the truth and Dioscoros, Severus and their successors were heretics or, if they were not heretics then the Synods were in error. Let us remember the way that the ballot was cast among the Fathers in the 4th Ecumenical Synod according to the records. The Fathers were called to declare their support for Leo or Dioscoros:
"The magnificent and most honored leaders said: 'Dioscoros said: from two natures I accept, of two natures I do not accept. The most holy Archbishop Leo said: We believe that the two natures are united in Christ, unconfused, without change, and undivided in the Only-begotten Son our Savior.' Then the Holy fathers were asked, 'Whom do you follow; the most holy Leo or Dioscoros?' The most reverend bishop cried, 'As Leo we also believe. All those who contradict are of the Eutychian heresy. Leo has spoken in the Orthodox way.'"
3. The attempt of the Joint Commission to redefine the Orthodox Christology in order to achieve an agreement with the Non-Chalcedonians despite the masterful formulation of the 4th, 5th and 6th Holy Synods seems to us purposeless and dangerous.

Purposeless because we are going to start talking all over again about matters that our Fathers with so much toil and effort have debated and in the Holy Spirit defined in dogma "in a few words and much wisdom." (Doxastikon, Sunday of the Holy Fathers) in a manner not susceptible to mistranslation. As the Most Reverend Chrysostomos Konstantinidis, Metropolitan of Myron (now of Ephesus) also notes:
"We view that we cannot alter this dogmatic formula [of the 4th Synod]. We consider it adequate in its nature and position, spiritually, ecclesiologically and Synodically, also adequate and indispensable to express interpret and comprehend the Christological dogma of the two natures of Christ. We have insisted in the past and we insist now that the quest of a new Christological formula or a new editing in, out of or even parallel to the terms of the Chalcedonian Synod is useless and not permissible". (Met. Chr. Konstantinidis, "Dialogue of the Orthodox Church and Ancient Oriental Churches'', in the periodical Theology, Athens 1980, Vol. 51#1, p. 40)
Dangerous, because under the new wording of the Joint Commission, though at first sight Orthodox, there are perhaps interpretations of moderate or even covered monophysitism. If the Non-Chalcedonians accept the Orthodox Christology then what stands in their way to accept also the most Orthodox formulations of the Holy 4th, 5th and 6th Ecumenical Synods? Especially that of the Holy 4th Synod of Chalcedon which also was attested as Orthodox by the well known miracle of the holy great martyr Euphemia?

Denying the terms of these Synods they allow us, with good reason, to suspect that in depth they do not accept the Orthodox Christology of the Synods. [1]

4. The condemnation of Eutychius by the Non-Chalcedonians does not constitute in our view a guarantee of their Orthodoxy. They also must condemn the moderate monophysitism of Severos and Dioscoros. It is notable that also the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Nikopolis considers Dioscoros to be a heretic. (Metropolitan of Nikopolis, Melitios, "Answers to questions", in the periodical Ekklesia, 1-15 January 1992, #1)

Regarding the monophysitic character Christology of the followers of Severos, Fr. G. Florovsky writes:
"For the followers of Severos the 'humanity' in Christ was not totally human, because it was not active, that is, it was not 'self-moving'. According to the monophysite view the humanity in Christ was like a pathetic object of the divine influences. Theosis seems to be a one-sided act of the divinity that does not take into consideration enough the synergy of the human freedom which in no way is accepted as a 'second object'. In their religious experience the element of freedom generally was not emphasized enough and it could be labeled as anthropological minimalism (lessening the human part in Christ)". (The Byzantine Fathers of the 5th Century, translation by P. Pale, Thessalonika 1992, p. 604).
It is a very delicate point but nevertheless a fundamental one. Perhaps on this delicate point lies our difference with today's Non-Chalcedonians. Because of this difference they must explicitly confess the term of the 4th Ecumenical Synod.

That the Non-Chalcedonians accept some moderate monophysitism is evident from the records of the informal meeting in Aarhus. Also it is evident from their declarations such as the address of the Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III in the Mixed Theological Commission in the Monastery of Anba Bishoy in 1989: "We believe that the Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ is perfect in His Divinity and perfect in his Humanity without confusion, without change, without separation and we are not talking about two natures after the mysterious union of our Lord". ("Episkepsis" #442, 7/1/1989, p. 10).

Of course in the Second Common Declaration they accept that "Both families agree that the natures have united hypostatically, naturally, with their proper energies and wills, without confusion, without change, without division and without separation and they are distinguished 'only in theory’".

We think that the "only in theory" permits interpretations leaning towards Monophysitism and it must be made clear from the Orthodox viewpoint. If the "only in theory" is in reference to the difference of the two natures as it is expressed in the dogma of the 5th Holy Ecumenical Synod, all is well. But if it means that the two natures exist only in theory then that is not Orthodox.

5. Paragraph 8 of the Second Declaration in reference to the Ecumenical Synods raises serious questions and anxiety. Here is the paragraph:
"Both families accept the first three Ecumenical Synods, which constitute our common inheritance. As far as the four following Synods of the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox state that the above points from 1-7 are also the teaching of the four later Synods of the Orthodox Church, at the same time the Oriental Orthodox view this statement as an Orthodox interpretation and with that understanding from both sides the Oriental Orthodox respond positively to the statement."
According to professor of dogmatics Nik. Mitsopoulos:
"The Non-Chalcedonians, the 'eastern Orthodox' as they are called in the 'statement' not only refuse to accept the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Ecumenical Synods as Ecumenical but according to the 'common statement' behave simply condescending[ly] to the Orthodox acceptance of these Synods and especially after the Orthodox have stated the interpretation of the teaching of the above Synods. This interpretation the Non-Chalcedonians deny viewing it as an Orthodox ‘interpretation'." (ibid. Nik. Mitsopoulos 4/1/1992 #6, p. 193) [2]
Next we cite and copy the questions which the professor asks in relation to the above paragraph.
"We ask. If today there were in existence organized Christian communities denying, let us say, the term 'of one essence' as it is stated in the Symbol of the Faith of Nicaea-Konstantinoupolis [-Constantinople] and yet they affirm that they accept the meaning 'of one essence' as it is stated in the Symbol of Faith, but on the other hand do not accept the way it was formulated in the 1st Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea and consequently do not accept the very Symbol of the Faith, could these people be accepted as Orthodox?
"We also ask: Even today exist in small numbers Christians who belong to the 'Minor Churches of the Orient', 'Assyrian Nestorian' and do not accept the 3rd Ecumenical Synod. If these people declare solemnly that they accept the teachings of the Synod but not the Synod and its terms, could we view these people as Orthodox?
"Once more we ask: If we accept as Orthodox the people who do not accept the terms of the Chalcedonian Synod, is it possible to support as an argument of us Orthodox the position that with the filioque of the Roman Catholics there comes an addition/alteration in the teaching of the Symbol of Faith of Nicaea-Constantinople concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit, given that the Roman Catholics insist that with the addition of the filioque, the teaching of the Symbol of Faith is not altered, but is simply interpreted?
"Furthermore we ask: If the Non-Chalcedonians who deny the 4th Ecumenical Synod are accepted as Orthodox and we are led into 'full Communion of the two Church Families in Christ our Lord' according to the 'declaration' would there be in one united Church faithful who accept the Seven Ecumenical Synods and faithful who do not accept them?
"We ask, again: Until now when an enacted bishop is to be ordained it is demanded that he accepts the Seven Holy Ecumenical Synods and that he confesses that the terms of the Synods are inspired by the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit as terms of the true faith. In the case of a union will some be asked to accept it and some not to?" (ibid. 1992, #6, p. 193 and #7, p. 238)
According to the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Ephesus:
"The way the brothers of the Ancient Oriental Churches perceive Synods and authority of Synods is basically different from ours. Consequently the distance of our worlds, as far as Synods are concerned, is great" (ibid. Met. Myron Chrysostomou Konstantinidis, Vol. 2, p. 227) And he concludes "Definitely one such perception of Ecumenical Synods as not indispensable elements of absolute expression of the holiness and authority of the Church should create thoughts and uneasiness not only on the Orthodox side but on the Roman Catholic as well with its well known Synodology". (ibid)
6. It has been expressed with assurance that the lifting of the anathemas which the Ecumenical Synods have placed on the Non-Chalcedonian "Fathers" by the presiding hierarchs of the Orthodox Church is possible. For that they recall certain examples which either lack historical proof or are not concerned with the Ecumenical Synods.

Concerning this topic we must state the following:

a) These examples are about isolated individuals and definitely not about leaders of heresies and heretical "churches". Now for the case of Emperor Theophilos, it is important to make clear that at the hour of his death he repented and that St. Methodius did not lift the anathema that included the Emperor and all the iconoclasts but he prayed with the whole Church for the forgiveness of the Emperor's soul. (Synaxarion, Sunday of Orthodoxy, Triodion)
Fr. George Florovsky also notes about the lifting of the anathemas by the 4th Ecumenical Synod. "It is not a case of lifting some simple canonical anathema. The case is much more difficult when the anathema is of theological nature." (ibid. Chyr. Konstantinidis, p. 233).

b) The isolated and the by economia events that took place in the Church do not constitute law, but the Holy Canons prevail as is evident from the First and Second Synods: "The rare (exception) does not constitute a Church law" (Canon 17). If isolated cases prevailed over the Holy Canons then the whole canonical order of the Church would be overturned.

c) The lifting of the anathema of the Ecumenical Synods puts in dispute and doubt the authority and authenticity of the Ecumenical Synod and the infallible expression of the Orthodox Faith. [3]

Also according to the Professor Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisen:
"It is not a matter of interpretation but rather of altering and turning the resolution of the Ecumenical Synods upside-down.
"For instance, what would happen and what interpretation are we to give to the term of faith if the 7th Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea, which recapitulates the whole Orthodox Faith, states the following regarding the Non-Chalcedonians and their saints: 'In addition, we acknowledge the two natures of the Incarnate for our sake by the immaculate Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. We acknowledge Him as perfect God and perfect man, as also the Synod in Chalcedon loudly proclaimed, and which defamed and expelled from the divine court Eutychius, Dioscoros, Severios, Petros and their very blasphemous and mixed up line.'
"We Orthodox view the resolutions of the Ecumenical Synods as infallible because they were conceived by the supervision of the Holy Spirit and were acknowledged by the conscience of the Church of all the ages. Will we offend the authority and authenticity of the Ecumenical Synods with interpretations and theological sophistries? Will we bring forth a schism to the catholic unity that lasted throughout the years in the Orthodox Church, forcing the Orthodox people of the 20th century to believe differently about the Non-Chalcedonians than the Orthodox of the previous generations, especially when this belief was taught and fortified by holy men? Theology is not an easy matter that one can play games with in order to achieve and make deals, aiming to create personal and social relations. If you bring down part of it, the whole building will collapse. The Holy Fathers knew this very well and that is why they suggested that the only way and method for union with heretics is to be their renunciation of their heresy and the acceptance of the Orthodox teachings. We now, from the very beginning, excluded that method, since we have recognized them already as Orthodox and have brought them into the court of the Orthodox Church from which infallibly and by divine inspiration the Holy Fathers expelled them by the decisions of the Ecumenical Synods."
7. The agreements made up until now do not bear the mark of being executed in a synodical fashion. The topics are agreed upon by a limited number of hierarchs and theologians (of the same frame of mind and opinion as far as the Non-Chalcedonians are concerned) and again are approved by synods of a few members without the wider participation of hierarchs of local churches. There is no broad synodical deliberation where freely there may be heard the opinion of those who disagree, and where afterwards the hierarchs would express their opinion.

But also, there is not adequate awareness and acceptance from the whole body of the Church and especially from those who care about the faith for what is taking place.

The Most Reverend Metropolitan of Nicopolis writes:
"Then, accounts are submitted to the Holy Synods. These Synods have the right to judge and push forward the dialogue as much as they want. The texts of the dialogue are simply suggestions for the Holy Synods. After the dialogue accounts of the Joint Commission are submitted and the Synod unanimously has accepted them, then they will be judged by a large Synod which will decide if the results of the dialogue will materialize. This last Synod will take the question to its last stage. Right now, as regards the dialogue with the Non-Chalcedonians, we are at some of the beginning stages." (ibid. Met. Meletios of Nicopolis)
We agree with this process, with the presupposition of course that the conscience of the whole body of the Church will accept those suggestions. The text of the Joint Commission, however, does not foresee such a process, but suggests the immediate lifting of the anathema and union.

8. We believe that a true union presupposes that the Non-Chalcedonians will accept the Seven Ecumenical Synods, and also that they will accept all the fathers of our Holy Church such as St. John of Damascus, St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Gregory Palamas as saints who truly express those Synods. Every attempt that took place even from the time of Holy Photius until today to unite the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians has asked their acceptance of the Holy 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Ecumenical Synods. This is the first time in history that no demand is made on them to accept the Holy Synods. As the Rev. Met. of Ephesus notes,
"Firstly, the 5th and 6th Ecumenical Synods without contradiction have added new elements for the understanding and acceptance of the Christological dogma and were not limited merely in maintaining the traditions. And as for the 4th Ecumenical Synod, the contribution to the Christological Dogma is well known. The 4th, 5th, and 6th Ecumenical Synods, after the first three Ecumenical Synods, have been the base and presupposition of the whole analytical Christological Faith of the Church. Not accepting these Ecumenical Synods precipitates not accepting the whole Christological teaching of the Church, and naturally takes away the possibility of discussion and dialogue on the subject not only of the Ecumenical Synods but also on the very subject of Christology."
The next point is in reference to a view that we cannot explain and even dare to say is most unsettling. This view was expressed recently by the Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III during his discourse in front of our Orthodox community for the dialogue with the Ancient Oriental Churches in Chambessy, last February [1994]. At that time the Coptic Patriarch said: "As regards the Ecumenical Synods, we accept the first three...we deny the Synod of Chalcedon...I can say completely openly that all the Oriental Churches cannot accept the Synod of Chalcedon...You have Seven Ecumenical Synods; if you lose one you are not losing a lot." (ibid. Met. Chry. Konstantinidis, p. 229-230)
We ask what kind of union will it be when we will accept the Ecumenical Synods and they will not? Will we hold Dioscorus and Severus as heretics while they hold them as saints? [4] Will we have the Synod of Ephesus as a bandit synod while they have it as Orthodox? And how can they achieve a union with us when they do not accept our Church as it is, but only under certain conditions and mutilated?

If the Non-Chalcedonians believe that they are fully Orthodox and therefore their salvation is not at any risk, why then do they wish to unite with our Church, the Church which they do not accept totally, and why aren't they coming towards it with humility and repentance? Also what is compelling us to accept their conditions and to violate our own fundamental ecclesiastical principles?

It is possible that this expedient union is of political nature which is initiated by heretical groups plotting a union to confront their own needs. Is that a sufficient reason for a union?

Or perhaps ecclesiastical unions of peaceful coexistence are being pushed along to serve the political plans of unification and coexistence in our century?*

9. In spite of the acceptance of common points in the Orthodox Christology by the Non-Chalcedonian theologians who are in dialogue with the Orthodox, still we have to examine if the clergy and the whole body of their Churches accepts that Christology. For we have information that the architects of this union differ in opinion from the fullness of their Churches. Also there are opposing statements by Non-Chalcedonian Patriarchs and theologians against these resolutions. Characteristically Professor N. Mitsopoulos ascertains:
"From what I have studied and especially,
a) by the position which the Fathers of the Church take regarding the Non-Chalcedonians 

b) by the texts of the two common statements of the Joint Committees of 1989 and 1990 and,

c) by the personal conversations with some of my very dear students and graduate students, most of whom excel in their studies, not only am I not convinced that the Non-Chalcedonian Christology is not Orthodox, but furthermore I have the conviction that their Christology is not Orthodox, and in particular is not Orthodox as regards the dogma of the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ." ("Dogmatic presuppositions", from the newspaper Orthodox Typos, #1061 2/4/1994).
10. We observe in the dialogue with the Non-Chalcedonians two basic directions to be in force which also characterize the dialogue with the Roman Catholics. Namely:

a. The recognition of the other heretical Church either as a "Sister" Church or as an equally honored "family," while giving up the claim that the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is only our own Orthodox Church. And,

b. The acceleration for union by going around our differences which are either silenced or minimalized.

+ + +

After all that has been said above, we conclude that until now the presuppositions for union with the Non-Chalcedonians have not been met and that a rushed union not only will not unite our divisions and bring harmony, but will destroy the unified parts.

Therefore the most reverend fathers and brothers who participate in and accelerate this dialogue, as well as all the individuals who are occupying leading positions in the venerable hierarchy, must reflect the responsibility of creating a new schism much wider than the schism of the Old Calendar, and must help to stop the advance of the proceedings for a union in the immediate future. But before anything, all the reverend Hierarchs, the Holy Clergy and the whole body of the Church must be widely informed and must discuss this issue.
After enough time is given to the conscience of the Church to function freely and without any haste, only then should be done whatever will rest and comfort the conscience of the Church.

This text should be taken as one more indication that part of the Church's conscience is not at peace with the decisions made until now neither will it accept such a union.

In the Holy Mountain 1st of February 1994

The Committee Members:

From Vatopediou Abbot Archimandrite Ephraim
From Dionysiou Elder Epiphanios
From Philotheou Elder Luke
From Gregoriou Abbot Archimandrite George


1. Professor Ioannis Karmiris characterizes the Non-Chalcedonians Churches as leaning toward monophysitism. (By Nik. Mitsopoulos, ''The Term of the 4th Ecumenical Synod of Chalcedon and its denial by the Non-Chalcedonians of today," in the periodical Ekklesia 3/15/92, #5, p. 154 footnote 6).

The Most Reverend Metropolitan of Nikopolis Melitiou accepts that they have a mixed-up Christology. (Metropolitan Meletios of Nikopolis, The Fifth Ecumenical Synod, Athens 1985, p. 82, footnote on preceding page).

Professor Nik. Mitsopoulos writes: "the denial of the Non-Chalcedonians of the 'in two natures' and the 'there is not any kind of confusion in the way for the two natures to unite' in spite of their very positive acceptance of 'without confusion', ‘without change', ‘undivided’ and ‘inseparable', still is a denial of the truth as the Holy Spirit dictates." (ibid. 4/1/92 #6, p.192-3)

2. The Most Reverend Met. of Nikopolis acknowledges that, parallel to their statement, "Naturally, if there is to be any union having as a base the above statement even then they must accept solemnly the Ecumenical Synods that until now they deny, that is the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th." (Met. Meletios of Nikopolis, "Answers to questions", p. 12). Professor I. Karmiris acknowledges the same (in his "Introduction Before the Conference of the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonian Theologians", Athens 1970, p. 69).

3. The opinion of the canon expert Archbishop Ieronymos Kotsonis is characteristic: "The Church has always demanded absolute unity in dogma, and whenever an understanding was to be reached with the heretics who were outside of the Church, the Church has found it preferable to keep them separated from the Church, rather than adulterate the dogma of the Church and thus achieve an erroneous union" (Arch. I. Kotsonis, "Problems of the 'Eccesiastical Economia'", Athens 1957)

4. Concerning the "holiness" of Dioscorus Professor Trempelas wrote: "Furthermore how is it possible to proclaim Dioscorus a Saint who not only is accused as the ethical perpetuator of Patriarch Flavius' death but also he anathematized Pope Leo for the Tomos from which full clauses were included in the terms of the 4th and 6th Ecumenical Synods." (Trempelas Pan., "On the Ecumenical Movement and the Theological Dialogues Semi-official Documents," Athens 1972, p. 39-40 footnote 234)

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