An inquiry to the Holy Synod regarding the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council
10th of March 2016
Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus wrote a letter to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece regarding the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council. The main assertions contained in the document were published on the website Agionoros.ru.
His Eminence qualified the decision that each local Church would be represented at the Council by a number of only 24 hierarchs, as being an “unheard of decision so far” beyond any example over 2000 year of ecclesiastic history. He added that each Ecumenical Council was attended by “as many bishops as possible”. Sometimes the Churches sent representatives, but only in the case when the bishop due to one reason or other could not attend the Council.
“According to the orthodox ecclesiology, each bishop that leads even the smallest eparchy, represents his flock and is a living member of the Universal Church”, added the Metropolitan in his letter. According to his opinion, “by not inviting all the bishops at the Pan-Orthodox Council it is denied the possibility of the whole Church to express on faith matters, “a fact that apparently the organizers of the Councils aim to.” His Eminence reminds that during the sessions of the so far Ecumenical Councils participated also representatives of the inferior clergy as well as laymen. “It would be an overstatement if we called this Council as a Pan-Orthodox Council which lacks the Orthodox aspect. It is obvious that by the decision regarding the representation in the Council, contrary to the Tradition, was avoided the possibility of some bishops to express against the decisions of the Council, that as a matter of fact might represent a reconsideration of the Tradition.”
The metropolitan Seraphim calls “completely flimsy” the statement of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew by which the Orthodox Church can consider the upcoming Council only “pan-orthodox” and not “ecumenical” due to the absence of the Roman-Catholic Church: “The depart of heretics from the Church does not affect at all its universal character.”
Metropolitan Seraphim disagrees with the principle “A single vote for each local Church”. “In his opinion each bishop who attended the Council ought to have the right to vote.”
The Metropolitan of Piraeus analysis and criticizes the document project entitled “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world”, adopted during the V pre-synodal Conference from Chambesy, 10-17 October 2015.
“This text does not mention anything about the heresies and deceptions as if they fled from the ecclesiastical history after the 8th century.” The Pan-Orthodox Council does not follow a similar principle with the Ecumenical Councils so far, that analyzed and condemned different wanderings, writes the bishop in his message.
The 22nd paragraph of the document is also criticized by the Metropolitan Seraphim: “The Orthodox Church believes that any attempts to shatter Church unity, undertaken by individuals or groups under the pretense of preserving or defending true Orthodoxy, must be condemned. As evidenced by the whole life of the Orthodox Church, the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is only possible thanks to the conciliar structure which since ancient times has been the strong and final criterion in matters of faith for the Church.”
According to the bishop’s opinion, the respective stipulations give the impression that the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council seeks for a “pre-determination for the infallibility of its decisions.” The statement “the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is only possible thanks to the conciliar structure which since ancient times has been for the Church the strong and final criterion in matters of faith” is not in agreement with the historical fact that within the Orthodox Church the final criteria of faith is the dogmatic consciousness of the Church members. Therefore the legitimacy of some organized council desired to be ecumenical was not acknowledged.
Metropolitan Seraphim expresses his disagreement with the decision of the archbishops to invite Catholics, Monophysites and Protestant observers to the Pan-Orthodox Council: In the whole ecclesiastical history of 2000 years no non-orthodox ‘observer’ has ever participated to any local or ecumenical councils.” “This practice characterized only the first and second Council of the Catholic Church from Vatican”, asserted Metropolitan Seraphim and stated: “Is it possible for a Pan-Orthodox Council to adopt papist practices as model?” Metropolitan Seraphim reminds that in the past heretics were indeed invited to the Ecumenical Councils, not as ‘observers’ but as ‘litigants’ in order to call them for repentance. If they persisted in their wandering, they were anathematized from the Church and casted out from the sessions of the Council. In his opinion, the presence of the non-orthodox at the Pan-Orthodox Councils “legitimatizes the heresies, undermining the entire authority of the Council.”