Why Constantinople registered its organization of one person at the address of the Czech monastery.
It has become known from open sources that the Patriarchate of Constantinople began to create a parallel jurisdiction in the Czech Republic, in the canonical territory of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (OCCLS) and registered a “monastery” subordinate to Phanar. What are the Phanariots striving for and what may their plan of forcible takeover of this Local Church be?
Christianity was brought to Moravia by Sts. Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius, who are also called the Moravian brothers. In 869, Pope Adrian II ordained St. Methodius to the rank of Archbishop of Moravia. This was before the fall of the Roman Church, which happened almost 200 years later, in 1054. Thus, the first Mother Church for the OCCLS was precisely the Orthodox Sazavska Monastery, and Orthodoxy disappeared from these lands for almost 800 years. Only at the end of the 19th century Orthodox temples appeared in the Czech Republic, which the Russian Church built for vacationers from Russia in Czech resorts. There appeared a Czech Orthodox community in Prague, which was also led by a priest from the Russian Church.
However, amid political disagreements between Russia and Austria-Hungary, and then World War I, the Austrian authorities did not register this Orthodox community in Prague and it legally belonged to the community of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Vienna. The Serbian Church ordained the first bishop for the Czech and Slovak lands, Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik). Thus, the Serbian Church became the second Mother Church for the OCCLS.
Bishop Gorazd put a lot of efforts in the formation of the Church in Czechoslovakia, and in the interwar period it developed quite actively, while being in the jurisdiction of the Serbian Church. During the Second World War, Bishop Gorazd was tortured by the Nazis and became the first holy martyr of the Church of Czechoslovakia.
At the same time, instead of supporting the work of St. Gorazd, the Patriarchate of Constantinople tried to create a parallel jurisdiction and in 1923 established its Autonomous Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic and Moravia and ordained Bishop Sabbatius (Vrabets) to lead it. However, the believers rejected him and remained faithful to Bishop Gorazd. Bishop Sabbatius retired, while the autonomous Church from Constantinople remained on paper.
During World War II, the Czechoslovak Church was liquidated by the Nazis and revived after the victory but already in the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. Unlike Phanar, the Russian Orthodox Church did not pretend to rule this Church and in 1951 granted it full autocephaly, thus becoming the third Mother Church for the OCCLS.
An act signed by Patriarch Alexy (Simansky) read as follows: “The Russian Orthodox Church, represented by Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia and the entire Holy Council of Bishops, in consideration of the petition of the Church Council of the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia, grants autocephaly to this Church, formerly the Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church with one heart prays to the Heavenly Shepherd, our Head the Lord Jesus Christ so that He sends His Divine blessing to the youngest sister in the family of Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, the Church of Czechoslovakia and crowns Her with eternal glory.”
It is noteworthy that this is the full text of the act.
Constantinople categorically did not recognize it arguing that Saints Cyril and Methodius came to Moravia from Constantinople, therefore this is its canonical territory. Phanar was not at all embarrassed by the fact that Methodius was ordained bishop of Moravia in Rome and that for almost 800 years there was no Orthodoxy in these lands at all,.
But even without the recognition of Constantinople, the OCCLS was developing quite successfully and by the end of the 20th century already numbered several hundred thousand parishioners.
In 1998, the current Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, recognized the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia by publishing his Tomos on the autocephaly of OCCLS. This Tomos is strikingly different from the ROC act. Whereas the act does not contain any terms on limitations of autocephaly, the Phanar’s Tomos abounds with them. Like in the Tomos for the OCU, there is an obligation for the OCCLS to receive the myrrh from Constantinople, to appeal there, coordinate all important issues with Phanar and act strictly in line with the foreign policy pursued by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The OCCLS considered the Phanar-issued Tomos to be simply an internal document of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
However, in 2013, the Primate of the OCCLS Metropolitan Christopher (Pulz) was forced to retire due to the appearance of publications casting a shadow on his moral character. The publications, as it was established later, turned out to be slanderous, but this enabled Phanar to intervene in the affairs of the OCCLS.
On October 19, 2013, at the diocesan meeting of the Prague diocese, which was supposed to choose a new Prague bishop, the well-known Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France turned up and said that Phanar would not recognize any of the candidates proposed at the meeting. This caused confusion and the congregation was not able to elect its bishop.
In December 2013, in Prague, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCCLS was held, to which the locum tenens of the head of this Church, Archbishop Simeon (Yakovlevic) had already invited two Metropolitans of Constantinople – Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France and Arseny (Kardamakis) of Vienna. It was announced to everyone that these hierarchs would participate in the meetings of the Synod of a foreign Church with a casting vote.
The rest of the Czechoslovak hierarchs resolutely opposed to this and asked the Russian Orthodox Church for protection from Phanar’s gross interference in the affairs of the Church OCCLS. Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Department for External Church Relations, arrived in Prague. He negotiated with the Phanariots and ensured that the Synod of the OCCLS would settle its own affairs without interference from other Churches.
The Synod of the OCCLS removed the locum tenens, Archbishop Simeon (Yakovlevic), from office and appointed Metropolitan Rostislav (Gont). And soon after the Local Council of the OCCLS elected Metropolitan Rostislav, who received 87% of the vote, as the Primate.
It is easy to guess that Phanar did not recognize such an election and continued to consider its protégé – Archbishop Simeon – as the locum tenens thus provoking a split in the OCCLS.
In February 2015, Constantinople further aggravated this schism, having ordained Bishop Isaiah (Slanink) for the OCCLS in order to create an “alternative Synod” of the OCCLS.
It is not known how the situation would develop further, but in 2016 Phanar urgently needed the support of the OCCLS in the run-up to the Cretan Council. This Council, as we recall, was supposed to affirm the primacy of Constantinople in the Orthodox world, securing it many exclusive powers, and also open the way to unification with the Latins, recognizing the Vatican as an Orthodox Church along with Orthodoxy.
Thanks to the Providence of God, Four Local Churches did not attend this Council and it did not become pan-Orthodox, in fact. But then, before this Council, Patriarch Bartholomew struggled to ensure the presence of the Primates of all Local Churches and he had no time to fight with Metropolitan Rostislav. As a result, Phanar recognized Metropolitan Rostislav as the head of the Church, while the OCCLS recognized the Tomos of Constantinople of 1998 on its own autocephaly, which puts the OCCLS in actual subordination to Phanar.
A new attack by Phanar on the OCCLS ensued already in 2019 due to the fact that the Czechoslovak Church did not recognize the OCU and declared support for the UOC and His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry. On the same day when Phanar made its lawless decisions on Ukraine, on October 11, 2018, Metropolitan Rostislav sent a letter to the Russian Orthodox Church condemning the gross interference of the Ukrainian government in the internal life of the OCCLS and also stated that the position of the Church on this issue remains unchanged.
“World Orthodoxy recognizes the only canonical head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and reiterated on behalf of all those present by the Holy Primate of the Great Christ Church of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, which took place in Chambesy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches,” the letter said.
And on February 3, 2019, on the day of “enthronement” of Epiphany Dumenko, Metropolitan Rostislav declared the following: “In fact, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has existed for centuries – from the time of Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir and Princess Olga, from the day of the Baptism in the Dnieper, and it has its primate – this is His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. <...> Among the high-ranking hierarchs there were those who decided to refute this, who considered for nothing what had been for centuries and proclaimed this impostor ‘a metropolitan of all Ukraine’ instead of the canonical metropolitan.”
Of course, this position aroused the indignation of Constantinople, which launched a new offensive on the OCCLS. In August 2019, Phanar initiated the creation of a parallel jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Czech Republic. At the constituent assembly, the legal entity “Association: Holy Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (hereinafter referred to as the Association)” was created and the statute was adopted.
Only three people took part in the Constituent Assembly: Konstantinos Kardamakis, who is also Metropolitan Arseny of Austria (Constantinople Patriarchate), ThDr. Igor Slaninka, who is also Bishop Isaiah, and also a certain Roman Rugyko. These three established the Association and elected its chairman – “Dr. Konstantinos Kardamakis, born on October 31, 1973, residing at 13 Fleiskmarket, 1010 Vienna, Austria” and his deputy – “ThDr. (Doctor of Theology) Igor Isaiah Slaninka, born on June 25, 1980, living at the address: Jana Zizky, 1116/13, 434 01 Bridge.”
On October 1, 2019, the Association was registered by the regional court of Ostrava city.
What is noteworthy, in this extract in the column "number of members" there is a number 1. And the most interesting thing is that the monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at this address has already existed for a long while.
There is not much information about it on the Internet. There are some photos on the Czech site “Light of Orthodoxy” and a little information for the pilgrims on the website "Pilgrimage Alphabet":
“The Monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located in the town of Vilemov, which is located in the Czech Republic. Over the long years of its existence, this convent became one of the main centers of Orthodoxy in the traditionally Catholic Czech Republic. Located in a quiet area, the monastery became a place of seclusion for a small Orthodox community. <...> Address: Czech Republic, Olomouc District, 783 22 Vilemov 159.”
What do we have? Phanar creates a monastery under the name "Association" at the same address, on the site of a female monastic community, which has existed for many years. Moreover, the Association formally establishes three people, none of whom has anything to do with this monastic community. The number of members of the Association, according to the extract from the register, is only one person. Furthermore, the Association is subordinate not to the OCCLS, i.e. the Local Church in whose canonical territory it is registered but directly to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Here is a paragraph of the Association’s statute on its goals: “The Association is a voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit association of Orthodox believers under the spiritual leadership of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which united the advocates of the spiritual development of Orthodox citizens living in the Czech Republic and other Orthodox believers to satisfy their spiritual needs, for vigorous activity in this development, to popularize this goal and ensure charitable activities in the field of this missionary work. The task is also to lead a spiritual and liturgical life, to be engaged in charity work, to help those in need, and at the same time to create contact spiritual centers (dependencies) to fulfill this goal. For this purpose, the chairman of the association (abbot) appoints the clergy who received the canonical mission. At the same time, it has to pay attention and help protect the rights of citizens and Orthodox believers, defend their interests in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom and to make sure that no one incites hatred, intolerance, supports violence or violates the Constitution and laws.”
The Association is subordinate to Constantinople; The Association extends its activities to all Orthodox citizens living in the Czech Republic; in the list of tasks of the established monastery (Association) there is not a word about monastic life. This means that under the guise of a monastery, a parallel jurisdiction will be established, which will expand throughout the Czech Republic, and then, possibly, will spread to Slovakia.
The fact that the Association is supervised by the bishop, who lives in Austria, speaks of two things. First, the Association will not attract “seekers of the monastic life” but entire parishes with the clergy, laity, churches and church property. As the recent developments show, Phanar has perfectly mastered the art of “head-hunting” clerics into its jurisdiction using blackmail, threats, financial incentives, political and other pressures, etc. Secondly, if there are not so many people who want to move from the OCCLS to the jurisdiction of Phanar, not only Czech or Slovak priests will be attracted but also Phanar-loyal clergy from other countries.
When the members of the Association are significantly more than one person, Phanar will be able to either carry out a coup in the OCCLS, bringing its people to power (the same Igor-Isaiah Slaninka), or even transfer the OCCLS to its jurisdiction having eliminated autocephaly. Such a renewed (or abolished) OCCLS will definitely recognize the OCU.
Time will tell whether these plans are destined to come true, yet we have no choice but to pray for the Primate of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Metropolitan Rostislav, and the faithful hierarchs of his Church wishing them to have the same stamina and courage as His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
Patriarchate of Constantinople is trying to create another parallel jurisdiction in Europe - UOJ - the Union of Orthodox Journalists
No student of Church history underestimates the important place of the Council of Chalcedon 451, held in modern day Kadıköy (district of Istanbul). This Council established the 2-in-1 [2 natures in 1 Person] doctrine of Christ as opposed to the followers of Eutyches and Dioscorus who wanted to say Christ had 1 single nature [Mono-physite].
Following the Council, there was relative peace between Rome and Constantinople due to Patriarch Anatolius’ obedience to Pope St. Leo I’s annulment of the 28th canon, but soon enough things were destined to change because the Monophysites had been, with relatively strong arguments, pressing for a new Council to overturn Chalcedon. In an attempt to conciliate the Monophysites and the Chalcedonians, Emperor Zeno issued his “henoticon”, a document of Christology sought to pave the way for union. The henoticon would be accepted by Acacius, Patriarch of Constantinople, Peter Mongus, Patriarch of Alexandria, and Peter the Fuller, Patriarch of Alexandria. This brought about what is known as the Acacian Schism, and lasted from 484 to 519, a total of 35 years.
When Pope St. Gelasius entered Papal office in 492, this schism had been operating for already 8 years. Not only was the “reform” on Chalcedon in Zeno’s henoticon an issue of dispute between Rome and the East, but also the assumption that Constantinople should occupy 2nd place in Christendom, which is what Canons 3/28 of Constantinople 381 and Chalcedon had attempted to pass as an ecumenical canon. Acacius must have not taken seriously the words of his predecessor Anatolius who wrote the following to Pope Leo I on this – “the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness.” (Patrologia Latina 54.1082B). Concerning the same canons, Pope St. Leo claimed that “by the blessed Apostle Peter’s authority we absolutely dis-annul in comprehensive terms” (Ep. 105).
No doubt, therefore, Chalcedon is completed by the recognition of Petrine supremacy over the field of an Ecumenical Council. Acacius, however, was of a different mind on this. Though St. Gelasius, as well as his successors Anastasius II and St. Symmachus, attempted to bring the East back into the fold of Christ, it was not until Pope St. Hormisdas that re-union was established through his Formula of Reunion which required a recognition of much of what St. Gelasius had already been writing on. Below, I will be posting material found in the letters of Pope St. Gelasius, drawing from three sources: (1) his letter to the Bishops of Dardania (495), (2) his instructions to a Papal legate Magister Faustus, and (3) his letter to the Emperor Anastasius.
In his epistle to the Bishops of Dardania, St. Gelasius responds to Acacius’ grab at the 28th canon of Chalcedon. Notice how he reviews the history of the exchange between Anatolius and Leo which took place in 453, about 40 years earlier.
This confirms the existence of this letter from Anatolius wherein he conceded to Leo’s discriminate authority over all the canons, which Leo had understood to be derived from St. Peter (see the 2 reference above):
“If the bishops of Constantinople flatter themselves because their city is the residence of the Emperor, and think therefore that their persons are more important, let them listen to Marcian, the Princeps [Emperor] of that city.
When, having interceded for the promotion of the priest of that city, he was not able to obtain anything that was contrary to the canons, he extended to Pope Leo of holy memory the highest praise, because he [the Pope] had not allowed the rules of the canons to be violated in any manner. Let them listen to Anatolius, the Pontiff of that same city, or better, to the clergy of Constantinople, confessing that they were trying to obtain the same thing, and affirming that all was within the power of the Apostolic bishop [Leo].
And let them listen to the same blessed Pope Leo, head of the Apostolic See, through whose authority the Synod of Chalcedon was confirmed…to rescind by a competent refutation that which had again been attempted in a new way at the assembly, and which would be well outside the canons of Nicaea. Noentheless, they can hear Probus, bishop of the city of Canusa of holy memory, legate of the Apostolic See under Simplicius of blessed memory, teaching the same thing in the presence of the Emperor Leo [Marcian’s successor], who asked then that it should not be attempted in any way, and refused resolutely to give his consent to it in any way, and therefore, let them not look at the status of any city, but let them rather properly observe the way of ecclesiastical order confirmed by the tradition of the Father” (Patrologia Latina 59.66D)
Just prior to this in the same letter, he speaks of the Apostolic See as the executor and ratifier of Councils, not by some ecclesiastical privilege that was conferred upon the Roman see, but by divine right in blessed Peter.
“Let no true Christian ignore the fact that the constitution of any synod which has been approved by the consent of the whole church can be executed by no other See than the First, which confirms any synod by its authority and watched over it through continuous supervision, especially because of its principate, which Blessed Peter the Apostle obtained through the word of the Lord and which it has always retained and continues to retain…” (Patrologia Latina 59.66B,C)
And on the freedom of the absolving power of loosing [i.e. the Keys], St. Gelasius writes in the same letter:
“The entire Church over the entire world knows that the Chair of Blessed Peter has the right to loose what has been bound by the sentences of any bishop whatsoever, as the See of Peter is entitled to jurisdiction over any Church, while no one is entitled to pass judgement on its decision, for the canons have permitted that appeals should be directed to it from all the world, but no one is permitted to appeal its decision….
The Apostolic See has often had the freedom (facultas), without a Synod preceding it, to loose those whom a Synod had unjustly condemned, and also, if necessary, to condemn others without the convocation of a Synod….an Eastern synod [Tyre] had rejected Athanasius of blessed memory: but the Apostolic See took him up, denying confirmation of the condemnation by the Greeks, and acquitted him: in the same way a synod of Catholic bishops had condemned too John Chrysostom of Constantinople; him also the Apostolic See released merely by refusing to confirm the sentence.
In the same way the Apostolic See released Flavian of blessed memory, who was similarly condemned by an assembly of bishops, merely through not agreeing to its condemnation. Furthermore the Apostolic See condemned by its authority Dioscorus, the Bishop of the 2nd See, who had been admitted there; it dissolved the godless synod by refuting its concurrence, and for the sake of truth ordered, on its own authority, that the Synod of Chalcedon should be held” (Patrologia Latina 59.66C, 67 B,C)
In his epistle of instructions to Magister Faustus, St. Gelasius gives his commentary on the Canons of Sardica (343), and how he would have applied it to the plan of the henoticon in the East:
“These are the canons which decreed that appeals from the whole Church should be directed to this See. They have, however, by no means sanctioned an appeal elsewhere from its judgement; in this way they have ordained that it should sit in judgement over the whole Church, but that it should itself be judged by no one, and never that its judgement should be nulled, but rather ordered that its decrees should be followed” (Patrologia Latina 59.28B)
In his epistle to the Emperor Anastasius, St. Gelasius covers the concept of the “Two Powers”, and in it he reveals his thoughts on the origin of the primacy of Rome:
“If it is fitting that, in general, the faithful should subordinate their hearts to all priests who are correctly administering things divine, how much more should one endeavor to be in accord with the holder of the See, whom not only the divine will wished to be superior to all priests, but whom also the common piety of the Church following the divine will has continually celebrated as such. As your piety can clearly realize, never can anyone elevate himself through any human counsel whatever to that privilege or confession of Peter whom the voice of Christ had placed above all, and whom the venerable Church has always confessed and reverently regarded as its primate. What has been established by divine decree can be attacked by human presumption; it cannot however, be defeated by any power” (Patrologia 59.42 C & D, and 43A )
Catholic Patristic scholar, Robert Eno, interprets St. Gelasius as holding to the concept of Papal supremacy. He has the following to summarize the writings of St. Gelasius:
“Of all the ancient Popes, Gelasius comes closest to making explicit what later theology might term Papal indefecetibility. If Rome were to be allowed by God to fall into error, then who would be left to keep the rest of the Church from falling into the abyss, asked Gelasius ? Finally, he expressed the Roman point of view that it is alone was an in practice had to be, the sole final arbiter of the Church’s doctrinal decisions. Such definitions must be in accord with Scripture, tradition, with canon law, etc. but who is to decide whether this is the case or not? A council ? Gelasius maintained that Rome could accept or reject councils as it saw fit. He recalled the papal rejection of canon 28 of Chalcedon against the wishes of both council and emperor.
Thus we leave antiquity with the final Roman assertion that she is the ultimate decision maker, in doctrine as well as in discipline.” (Teaching Authority in the Early Church, Vol. 14, p. 163)
Eastern Orthodox scholar A. Edward Siecienski has the following to say of St. Gelasius:
“Feliex’s successor in Rome, Gelasius (492-96), had no such doubts about his authority in the matter. Like his predecessors, Gelasius linked his ministry to that of Peter, who was tasked with being ‘primacy caretaker’ (gubernatio principis) of Christ’s flock. When a Roman synod met in 495 to judge the excommunicate Misenus of Cuma, Gelasius received him back using the power of the keys ‘which our Savior delegated to blessed Peter the apostle before the rest’. …..For Gelasius, the chief task of the Roman See , ‘whom the voice of Christ set before all, whom the venerable Church has always acknowledged and in her devotedness holds as primate’ was safeguarding ‘the upright root [that] is the glorious confession of the Apostle’, protecting it ‘from any gash of crookedness, by any infection at all’……By entering into communion with those who denied the truth of Pope Leo’s Tome, the ‘double-dealing’ Acacius had ‘prostituted the catholic faith’ and deserved the sentence of excommunication pronounced against him’……Gelasius’ attack against Acacius and his allies proceeded along two fronts. First, supported by ‘Christ’s utterances and the tradition of the elders and authority of the canons’, Gelasius asserted Rome’s right/duty to intervene in the matter, a fact that had been recognized at Sardica by ‘the very canons that intended the referral of appeals from the entire Church to this see for examination…And by this means the canons have instructed that this See is to sit in judgement on the entire Church, to pass to nobody’s judgment, nor ever to be judged by its judgment, and they have determined that its verdict should never be undone, and ordered instead that its decisions are to be followed‘.”
(The Papacy and the Orthodox: Sources and History of a Debate, Chapter “The Church of Rome in the Patristic Era”, Pp. 181-183)
And if we were to ask Siecienski how the Eastern bishops who maintained loyalty to Chalcedon thought ofSt. Gelasius, he writes:
“Gelasius’s stand against Monophysitism earned him the respect of the Chalcedonian bishops in the East, who praised the Pope and his heirs in glowing terms. Seeking the help of Pope Symmachus (498-5140), [Gelasius’ second successor], they wrote to him how ‘Christ, the best Shepherd, had entrusted the chair of the blessed Prince of the Apostles to you… to tend the sheep of Christ entrusted to you over the whole inhabitable world’….
While his enemies criticized Gelasius as ‘haughty’ and ‘arrogant’, surprisingly we know of few attacks on the papacy itself, or the claims that Gelasius was putting forth on its behalf.” (ibid. , p. 183)
Anglican Patristic historian J.N.D. Kelly writes concerning this Pope:
“Gelasius siezed every opputunity of inculcating his conviction of the supremacy of the Roman see, and was the first pope known to have been saluted as ‘Vicar of Christ’ (at the Roman synod of 13 May 495, which restored Misenus). It was the pope’s prerogative, he claimed, to ratify councils and protect their decisions…Next to Leo I, Gelasius was the outstanding pope of the 5th cent., and he surpassed Leo in theological grasp. His writings leave the impression of an arrogant, narrow-minded, and harsh pontiff; but the extraordinary reverence in which he was held by contemporaries is reflected in a description left by the monk Dionysios Exiguus, who lived in Rome 500-550 and consorted with his disciples.” (Oxford Dictionary of Popes, pp. 48-49)
As to his being in error, one could bring up what Kelly said about the positive statements made by the Scythian monk St. Dionysius Exiguus, who is also canonized for the Eastern Orthodox. Dionysios wrote to his presbyter friend Julian concerning the holiness of St. Gelasius’s life. Rev Alban Butler’s “The Lives of the Saints” (1866, Vol. XI) says that St. Gelasius is:
“extolled for the purity of his manners, his extraordinary humility, temperance, austerity of life, and liberality to the poor, for whose sake he kept himself always poor, as Dionysius Exiguus, who died before the year 556, tells us” (November 21, St. Gelasius, Pope and Confessor – Latin source of Dionysios’s letter , Patrologia Latina 67.203).
French Byzantinist, Francis Dvornik, also writes of St. Dionysios’s description of St. Gelasius:
“Dionysios Exiguus, the author of the famous Collection of Papal Decrees, transmitted to posterity the sentiments of admiration and gratitude felt for their master by Gelasius’ disciples. In the introduction of his collection, dedicated to Cardinal Julian, his benedactor and Gelasius’ disciple, Dionysios inserted a long euglogy on Gelasius, exalting his humility, his labors for the Church, his charity and chastity, and calling him ‘a shepherd and an imitator of the supreme good Shepherd — a chosen head of the Apostolic See who obeyed an taught the precepts of God‘” (The Idea of Apostolicity in Byzantium and the Legend of Apostle Andrew, p. 121)
In recent scholarship, however, a Dr. George Demacopoulos, Professor of Theology at Fordham University, has taken a fresh look at the Gelasian corpus, and has contributed a different perspective. Being Eastern Orthodox himself, it will be a great deal to make clear there is no bias in his historical and theological inferences and arguments. This, no doubt, he seeks to show in his referencing the original sources in context, Roman Catholic historians, and the rather undisputed facts accepted by the breadth of scholarship. However, holes there are, and though here is not an extensive critical review, this article will allow some space to pick out what proves to be the major weaknesses of Demacopoulos’s (whom I will refer as Dr. D) arguments.
For starters, given the aim of this present article, Dr. D only shows that I have hit near the bulls-eye when it comes to the question of what St. Gelasius himself believed. Dr. D admits that St. Gelasius claimed to hold a Christ-ordained universal authority over the whole Church, and that the See of Rome cannot be judged by anyone, and whose judgement are irreformable by anyone else in the Church (The Invention of Peter , p. 98). However, he understands the origin of these claims to be coming from St. Gelasius’s frustration with the dissidence of the Eastern patriarchs, particularly of the See of Constantinople, and so are more fabricated imagination than reliable truth.
Right off the bat, one is puzzled at how Dr. D could so theorize. The claim to Apostolic & Petrine prerogative in the Roman See by divine right had been claimed by Pope St. Stephen I (254), which was before the Constantinian elevation of the Christian society; and Pope St. Julius I (340-343), Pope St. Damasus (366-384), Pope St. Siricius (384), and Pope St. Innocent I (401-417), all of whom reigned in the See of Peter when there was no particular reason for the West to fabricate reasons to bolster its superior authority over the East by way of the loss of secular prestige. What difference is there in the claims of Pope St. Leo the Great (450) and Pope St. Gelasius? And what difference was there from the claims of St. Leo with those of his predecessors?
In fact, the Petrine prerogatives were explained by Damasus and Leo, and both of these Popes receive special attention from Emperors in the favor of the authority of the Holy See (Gratian & Valentinian III, respectively). So it would take much to argue that the Petrine claims originate with the absence of Imperial support. This indicates that the fishing project wherein Dr. D speculates as to the “why” of St. Gelasius’s “grandiose” Papal claims as rooted in an imagination by which to disingenuously subjugate the Monophysite-East is immediately held suspect. Rather, since the Papal claims were consistent in a variety of contexts, and even those not including Pope’s of Rome, such as St. Optatus vs. the Donatist Parmenian, it is more preferable to find the root of it in something else. Now, that does not mean that when the Pope’s were seeing schisms and dissension from its doctrinal influence we will not see a ratcheting up of those claims. That it seems to me is only natural even to an authentic appeal to a widely held and accepted Papal authority.
Secondly, Dr. D attempts to show that the veracity of the Papal claims are to be doubted because of Pope St. Gelasius’ trouble to enforce obedience in his own Roman diocese. He describes how certain catholic citizens of the Roman city, being led by a un-named Christian magistrate (which Collectio Avellana designates as Andromachus), had promoted the pagan custom of the Luperaclia celebration against the directive of the Pope against it. The Lupercalia was a Roman celebration, pre-Christian, held each year on February 15th, and it involved sacrificing a goat and celebrants acting like priests to “bless” Rome by warding of evils such as pestilences and catastrophes. The Pope in Tractate 6 had threatened excommunication to Andromachus and all who participated in this pagan festival.
For St. Gelasius, this was an act of spiritual adultery, and it shows that many of the pre-Constantinian celebrations of Pagan Rome had still continued on , most likely by the more nominal church members. In any case, Dr. D interprets this non-compliance as a proof that the Papal claims were not a reality even in Rome itself, much less anywhere else, and even says that the threat of excommunication by the Pope may have amounted to “little more than a bluster” (ibid. p. 77). The first observation to be given here is that Dr. D is examining an event which exists between what even 5th century Christians all knew to be the ordinary authority of a local diocese, the Bishop, and the members under him. Even modern Eastern Orthodox would accept that a Bishop has the right to impose disciplinary restrictions upon the people of his diocese when he foresees something of spiritual danger to his flock [i.e. in our case the Lupercalia].
So it makes one wonder why Dr. D does not only see this as a threat against Episcopal authority even more so than Papal since that is the most immediate relationship. But since Dr. D presumably accepts the veracity of Episcopal authority (unless I am mistaken), then this sort of non-compliance does not amount to proving the non-existence of that authority. Or does he see that non-compliance with a particular Bishop as evidence that the institution of Bishop was not universally embraced? Second, what evidence do we have of a total non-compliance on the part of the Roman Christians who were following this member of the aristocracy? If the local Bishop orders excommunication, that would carry weight to most God-fearing members of the Church, and Dr. D does not provide any evidence of how this all ended in this particular dimension. And last, it should be duly noted that the persons involved in this act of quasi-rebellion are not the sort [i.e. partaking in a questionable pagan festival] that we would expect to be on deck to obey religious authority, much less representative of persons to be chosen as considerable witnesses against the Papacy.
Next, Dr. D mentions another instance of the Bishop of Rome in possible division with his clergy in Letter 30 of the Gelasian corpus. This Letter includes a description of the proceedings which took place at a Synod in Rome which had re-examined a certain Bishop of Cumae named Misenus, who, as Papal ambassador to Constantinople under Pope Felix III in 484, received holy communion from the Constantinople’s Patriarch Acacius, who was out of union with the Holy See. Felix had swiftly excommunicated Misenus. However, at this new Synod in Rome (495), presided over by St. Gelasius, Misenus openly confessed his wrong-doing and was granted absolution by the Pope himself.
Now, on pages 80-93, Dr. D speculates from this that since a Synod was held for his restoration, there must have been Roman clergy who were unsympathetic with the Rome’s excommunication of the anti-Chalcedonian East, and, on the flip side, since, of the original 76 invited to partake of the proceedings, 18 priests had boycotted the exoneration of Misenus, the Pope did not persuade everyone of his absolution of Misenus. From this, Dr. D implies that Papal power was not even taken for granted even in the Roman diocese, much less in answer to the question of where else.
Though, being truthful to the description of the proceedings in Letter 30, Dr. D recognizes that the Roman Synod had made several statements which made explicit their belief in the supreme power of Peter resident in the person of Gelasius, even referring to him as “Vicar of Christ” and “Vicar of Peter”. But, he infers from this that this was all a cooked up meal in order to cover up for the embarrassment that Gelasius had to endure from the non-compliance of the 18 priests who protested the exoneration (ibid., p. 83). But, once again, this is the local ordinary Bishop of the Roman diocese, holding a Synod in the presence of many, wherein Micenus openly conforms to orthodoxy contra Acacius, and is absolved. What is taking place here that would not call for the obedience of the clergy just on the principle of Episcopal rights?
If Dr. D thinks this is a legitimate witness of the weakness of the Papal institution, would he say the same about St. Thomas à Becket, who was not only resisted by a protesting party, but eventually was assasinated! And why not take the statements made about the authority of the Bishop of Rome clearly laid out in Letter 30 as a genuine perspective of the priests present? 18 out of 76 priests still leave a 58 majority. The sense on gets from this is that Dr. D sees the illegitimacy of authority when it is contested, and especially when we do not have existing documentary evidence of any repentance from the dissidents.
Well, imagine if we carried that into the logic of 4th-century Arian fragmentation. Would that mean that Nicaea 325 did not have divine authority? Certainly, there were many who did belief that, and this is the view which prevailed into the catholic and universal church for centuries going forward. But who would be the ones that held this Nicaean faith in the midst of such division? It was the faithful. Instead of finding witness testimony in some nominal aristocratic magistrate who persists in celebrating a pagan festival and a small minority of priests who did not want to see a repentant Micenus restored to the good graces of Christ’s church, why not look to those who we know were faithful at the time, whose view endures the test of more time?
On pages 84-87, Dr. D discusses how many of the Papal decretals that were sent to various places in the West, such as “suburbican Italy, Sicily, and the southwestern coast of the Balkans” (ibid., p. 84) and how these decretals continually on the Petrine privilege of Rome. In what appears as a desperate search for ways to demonstrate the lack of veracity to the Papal claims, Dr. D speculates that this method of harping on Peter and the divine primacy of Rome thereby shows that it was not accepted in certain places in the East. He refers to this as “rhetorical strategies” (ibid., p. 85). But where is the direct evidence of this? I cannot seem to find any of it in his treatment of these Papal letters.
In fact, we have precedent in Pope St. Leo I for a continual insistence on the Petrine prerogative of Rome in letters to places where it is more than welcomed. I think, for example, his Tome which was written to St. Flavian of Constantinople as well as the letters to the East back and forth. Even going back further to the first Papal decretal which has survived, Pope Siricius’ epistle to the Bishops of Tarragona, which was actually a response to appeals. This decretal has a few references to the Petrine privilege of Rome, and no evidence of trying to make up for outward rebellions is evident by the fact.
Some of the orders that St. Gelasius gives to churches of the regions mentioned includes the requirement of notifying Rome of the planting of new churches, such as Letter 25 (to a Bishop Zeja). But this is akin to the metropolitical rights envisions already in canon 6 of Nicaea for the quasi-Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch. So what is Dr. D really seeing here? A challenge to Papal power, or Rome’s metropolitical power? It would seem that the objective scenario’s involve the latter more than the former.
But if that is truly the case, then one wonders how an Eastern Orthodox would deem as authentic witnesses against illegitimate authority cases where Metroplitical rights are trashed. But again, this is all conjecture. No evidence is provided which proves these Papal decretals are being written to otherwise rebellious and disobedient clergy.
And lastly, Dr. D tries to summarize the Pope St. Gelasius’s interaction with the East as a humiliating inability to capture the obedience of all. He writes: “What is clear is that Eastern bishops will not yield to the papal condemnation of Acacius. While the fact is both obvious and well-known, it must be acknowledged that the Roman See simply did not possess the international respect in doctrinal matters that Gelasius so forcefully claims throughout the letter” (ibid., p. 93).
Again, this merits the same interesting puzzelment already state above. Why is the Monophysite East being considered as a reason why the Papal claims are close to untrue, or made up on the spot by St. Gelasius as a disengenuous technique or strategy? Dr. D even admits that St. Gelasius does not defend the existence of the Papal prerogative (ibid., p. 96) , but merely asserts it. Well, that sounds a lot like someone who is demanding obedience, and not trying to persuade the East, necessarily, of its existence by apologetics. If you are trying to persuade others who are expected otherwise not to believe in what you are seeking to persuade them of, assertion after assertion is a poor tactic. And so it is very unlikely that Dr. D’s gloss here reflects Gelasius true motive. And if one were to really follow the faithful minority, who were faithful to Chalcedon in the East, you would find the likes of those monks above who Siecienski quoted as well embracing the Papal claim in Rome, regardless of what their Monophysite counterparts said of the powerlessness of Rome.
What implications does this have for Anglican & Orthodox relations with Catholics on primacy? I think it bears great significance, especially since this is an Eastern Orthodox Pope who is to this day venerated in the East, and the commentary of his holiness of life by St. Dionysios. As for the Anglicans, they have already admitted the very same Papal claims as being taught by another Orthodox Pope of Elder Rome, St. Leo I, but that this was not accepted in the Christian East, much less accepted by the polity of Reformed England. I am sure one could argue in this direction. Though, as we saw, Gelasius’s tussle with the Eastern patriarchs is contrasted with the willing submission to the Papal claims by the Greek monks.
So who are we choosing to be Representative of the voice of authentic Eastern Christianity, the anti-Chalcedonian Patriarchs or the Chalcedonian clergy underneath? However, it should be noted that in this thread it was mentioned how the Patriarchs of Constantinople Anatolius and John II, had to admit the authority of the Holy See over the canons of Ecumenical Councils as well as the authority to admit to communion the three main Eastern Sees which returned from the Schism of Acacius. But then, what of Pope Honorius, who was condemned by Constantinople 681 as a Monothelite heretic? I would say that for all that lies behind the difficult history of Honorius, his statements which are “Monothelite”-esque are far more innocent than the persistent claim to Papal supremacy in St. Gelasius.
In other words, if Honorius is worthy of the name heretic for his letters to Sergius, then St. Gelasius would be no less deserving of the same for his Papalism. So I would then ask, are the Orthodox willing to hold a new Council where, like Constantinople 681, they condemn all the former proponents, such as Gelasius, for espousing the very belief in Papal supremacy which Orthodox converts from Catholicism are required to renounce? At the same time, Catholics owe an explanation on Honorius, which we have often given despite its relative weaknesses or strengths under harsh scrutiny. The question that consistently comes up is whether St. Gelasius’s gloss on Papal authority, even if an echo of his predecessors, was held by the ecumenical church. This question immediately leaves the Catholic taken back, since anyone who is familiar with the history of first millennium Christianity is well aware that there were more than a few occasions that the Pope’s were resisted and even condemned by some.
Though, we have to step aside and calculate how much value this would have in light of a consideration of the historical context. Hardly any action of the catholic and universal church was always accepted by everyone. In pre-Nicean Christianity, there were the Judaizers who did not bend the knee to the Apostolic council of Jerusalem (49), the outbreak of the Gnostic communities, the many divergent positions on the person of Christ, Nicaea (325), as already briefed, was rejected by many Eastern communities, and this continued onward up unto the Iconoclastic period (8/9th century). On this scale, we need not be boggled down with the question of whether the Papal theory was an ecumenical one because we have the paralyzing question of whether *anything* was accepted as ecumenical. That is, if we are taking poll from the consensus of every person and community who claimed to the title of Christian or church.
This author concludes that these facts altar the investigation, and requires one to observe for what stands as a moral consensus, endures the test of time, and accomplishes victory over the opposition of heretical onslaught. Without having the space here to go into each and every point, there exists, in the opinion of many, ample evidence that the teaching ministry of the Roman see as it pertained to the occurrence of arbitration, doctrine, discipline, Councils, and/or episcopal trials, there lies a telling tale which might serve as the best clue. I pray that this all is seriously meditated on as we continue studying history and the various points of interest in the East/West dialogue.
As many readers know, the Monothelite controversy occupied the Church’s attention in the 7th century, and it was concluded by a firm condemnation of the belief that in Christ there is only one single will or that his acts were from one theanadric operation. This evil which inflicted the Church was partly attributable to Pope Honorius I, who’s letters to Sergius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, seemed to have supported the idea that Christ had two natures but one will. Shortly after the reception of these letters, the Eastern Emperor, Heraclius, upon the composition of the Patriarch, released an edict called the Ecthesis ( εκθεσις , literally “statement of faith”), wherein Christ is taught to have one will. This was also accepted by the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch , and Jerusalem. It is reported that the successor of Honorius, Severinus, had time before his death to reject it. The successor of Severinus, John IV, clearly condemned it flat out.
Now, on the Roman side, no one read Honorius as an advocate for this one-will doctrine. His successors, up until at least St. Leo II, denied that such was the meaning of his letter. However, the Council of Constantinople III held in 681 was to unashamedly convict Honorius of heresy (though he was already long dead), and put the conciliar anathema upon him and his memory. To our surprise, at least one Eastern saint of repute, St. Maximus the Confessor, agreed with the immediate successors of Honorius and claimed Honorius’s intention was orthodox. Anyhow, the purpose here isn’t to investigate whether Honorius was a heretic or not, but rather whether Maximus believed in the divine origin of Papal supremacy or infallibility.
In the scholarship of Maximus, some have called into question the authenticity of the more Papalist writings of Maximus, many of which exist today only in the Latin. However, the most recent Orthodox scholarship has not ventured to maintain such skepticism. For example, Orthodox scholars such as Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet, Dr. A. Edward Sciecienski, Fr. Andrew Louth , and Andrew J. Ekonomou have all attempted to interpret the texts in Maximus which favor of Roman primacy in their “proper” context. Not surprisingly, they all arrive at conclusions which do not include Maximus as a witness to the dogma of the contemporary Vatican on supremacy, nor infallibility. In the course of this article, I will be interacting with Larchet and Sciecienski, since it is their assessments which deserve the most attention. Nevertheless how interesting it is to see that, in contrast to former times, Orthodox scholars are recognizing that, for Maximus, Rome is certainly the universal primate who even, by their own admission, had even a certain kind of universal jurisdiction when properly qualified and conditioned. That, in and of itself, is a far step away from the equal-pentarchism or equal-episcopalism with which the East may have given off. That is not to say that there is a consensus on the meaning of primacy in the Orthodox Church, since we know that the greatest minds on the subject have to this very day strongly asserted otherwise. But it is to say that there has been more serious attention given to the historical sources which may have been passed over as spurious by earlier Orthodox historians.
On the view of Roman primacy, Siecienski gravitates to the fact that when Maximus was put under trial in Constantinople and told that the Roman see had plans to unite with the Monophysite Patriarchs, the Saint replied by saying: “The Holy Ghost anathematizes even angels, should they command us to give up the faith“, clearly insinuating that if Rome were to engage in those plans, the Pope would be excommunicated from the body of Christ. This, we are told, is clear evidence that whatever strong Papal theory that Maximus held to, it was one that was confined by the very same conditions put upon all churches for their communion with the true Church, and thus he doesn’t serve to be a witness to the Catholic dogma in the slightest. In fact, when seen in this light, the Roman See can’t be said to possess anything intrinsically different, when it comes to preserving the Apostolic deposit of faith, than any other church, since Rome’s membership in the Church is just as contingent upon holding to the orthodox faith as any other church’s membership depends on it. If this is true, it would remove the force of Maximus from the list of historical witnesses to the divine Papal supremacy and infallibility. Perhaps a strong administrative primacy conditioned upon a true and orthodox faith, but, for the Orthodox, no special protection against error is therein claimed by Maximus.
Before I get into the relevant commentary of what St. Maximus has to say about Rome, I will provide a quick refresher on the sequence of events: (1) After Sergius of Constantinople receives the letters of Pope Honorius, he composes the Ecthesis, teaching Christ had one will, and Emperor Heraclius has it published it throughout Byzantium ; (2) Upon Honorius’s death, envoys from Rome travel to Constantinople to obtain the Emperor’s confirmation of Severinus to Papal office, but the clergy of Constantinople would provide no assistance in confirming Severinus unless he accepted the Ecthesis; (3) Severinus held office for about 2 months, and was succeeded by John IV, who convened a Synod condemning the Ecthesis; (4) Pope John IV wrote a letter to Emperor Heraclius and the Church of Constantinople, now presided over by Pyrrhus, that the Ecthesis, and therefore monotheletism, has been condemned; (5) Pyrrhus, who maintained support of the Ecthesis, was exiled to Africa where he eventually debated the issue of one vs twowills in Christ with St. Maximus the Confessor, and publicly recanted of holding to the one will position (only, as we shall see, to later revert to his heretical position once again); (6) The man installed as Patriarch of Constantinople, without a lawful deposition of Pyrrhus, was named Paul, who was excommunicated by Pope Theodore for holding to the Ecthesis; (7) In response to this, Paul and Constans, the successor to Heraclius, trashed the Ecthesis, but installed the Typus in its place, which forbade any discussion on whether Christ had one or two wills, or one or two operations; (8) Pope Theodore convened a Council in the Lateran Basilica in 649 condemning the Ecthesis and the Typus together; (9) Theodore dies, and Pope St. Martin takes his place, and he and St. Maximus hold up Dyotheletism (two wills and operations in Christ) against the East; (10) Both Sts Martin and Maximus are forced into Imperial captivity, and suffer martyrdom for their belief that, in Christ Jesus, there is two wills and operations, both which appertain to the respective natures of God and humanity. This article will mainly cover the events surrounding the captivity of Maximus and his trial.
When the envoys from Rome traveled to Constantinople in order to receive confirmation of the election of Severinus to Papal office, but were told that no such thing would happen unless the newly elected Pope signed off on the Ecthesis, St. Maximus records the following description of this event as it was reported to him:
“Having discovered the tenor of the document [Ecthesis], since by refusing [to sign] they [the legates] would have caused the first and mother of Churches and the city [ecclesiarum principem et matrem et urbem] to remain so long a time in widowhood [i.e. without a confirmed Bishop], they replied quietly: ‘We cannot act with authority in this matter, for we have received a commission to execute, not an order to make a profession of faith. But we assure you that we will relate all that you have put forward, and we will show the document itself to him who is to be consecrated, and if he should judge it to be correct, we will ask him to append his signature to it. But do not therefore place any obstacle in our way now and do violence to us by delaying us and keeping us here. For none has a right to use violence, especially when faith is in question. For herein even the weakest waxes mighty, and the meek becomes a warrior, and by comforting his soul with the divine word, is hardened against the greatest attacks. How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now, as the elder of all the Churches which are under the sun, presides over all? Having surely received this canonically, as well from councils and apostles, as from the princes of the latter [Peter & Paul], and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues of synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate, even as in all these things all are equally subject to her according to sacerdotal law‘. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers of the truly firm and immovable rock that is of the most great and Apostolic church at Rome, had so applied to the clergy of the royal city [Constantinople] it was seen that they had conciliated them and had acted prudently, that the others might be humble and modest, while they themselves made known the orthodoxy and purity of their own faith from the beginning. But those of Constantinople, admiring their piety, thought that such a deed ought rightly to be recompensed; and ceasing from offering them the document, they promised to produce by their own care the issue of the Emperor’s order with regard to the episcopal election. When this was accomplished, the apocrisiarii [representative of Rome in Constantinople] dear to God thankfully returned home’.” (Ex Epistola Sancti Maximi Scripta ad Abbatem Thalassium, PL 129.585-6, taken from Chapman 5)
Here, Maximus quotes what he was told was the statement made by the Papal legates in his letter to Thalassium. Notice that the legates say that the Church of the Romans:
(1) Presides over all churches under the sun (global church)
(2) Received (1) from canons, councils, and the princes of the Apostles (Peter & Paul)
(3) On account of her authority, is subject to no synodal documents
(4) and holds all in subjection to her according to sacerdotal law
Maximus does not diminish any of this, and appears to go along with it by referencing Rome as the “firm and immovable rock“. The basic message of his is that the clergy of Constantinople should have never given the posture that it did towards the Church of Rome, since that Church is the head of all churches, is not subject to any authoritative measures from any other church or council in the world, and holds all in subjection to her own authority. Now, this text is only preserved in Latin, and so would be one of those texts whose authenticity has been doubted.
When Pyrrhus had returned to his former error, after having publicly recanted the Monotheletism after debating Maximus in Africa, the latter wrote to a certain Eastern official named Peter on the terms of which the twice heretical Pyrrhus could return to the Church and find pardon:
“If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus, anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God…It is not right that one who has been condemned and cast out by the Apostolic See of the city of Rome for his wrong opinions should be named with any kind of honour, until he be received by her, having returned to her, and to our Lord, by a pious confession and orthodox faith, by which he can receive holiness and the title of holy…Let him [sc. Pyrrhus] hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. [For] he is only wasting words who thinks he must convince or lure such people as myself, instead of satisfying or entreating the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of Rome, that is, the Apostolic trone, which is from the incanrate Son Himself and which, in accordance with the holy canons and the definitions of faith, received from all the holy councils universal and suprem dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God which are in the whole world. For with it the Word who is above the celestial powers binds and looses in heaven also. For if he thinks he must satisfy others, and fails to implore the most blessed Roman Pope, he is acting like a man who, when accused of murder or some other crime, does not hasten to prove his innocence to the judge appointed by law, but only uselessly and without profit does his best to demonstrate his innocence to private individuals, who have no power to acquit him from the accusation. Wherefore, my blessed Lord, extend yet further the precept which it is known that you have made well and according to God’s will, by which Pyrrhus is not allowed to speak or misspeak with regard to dogma. But discover clearly his intention by further inquiry , whether he will altogether agree to the truth. And if he is careful to do this, exhort him to make a becoming statement to the Roman Pope, so that by his command the matter concerning Pyrrhus may be canonically and suitably ordered for the glory of God and the praise of your sublimity…” (Opuscula 12, Patrologia Graeca 91.141-146, taken from Chapman 8 and The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor, page 553)
It is without any doubt that Maximus understood the Roman See to have been possessed of universal supremacy by divine right. In particular, the comparison of making satisfaction and proving innocence before a Judge appointed by divine law and who has power to acquit with Pyrrhus’s obligation to satisfy the Roman See would put to rest any further objection to this. But notice the grounds upon which Maximus saw the Roman primacy to have rested on. The “Incarnate God Himself” ordained the supremacy of the Roman Church. Even if, as Siecienski interpreted, Maximus did not believe in the permanent and invincible infallibility of the Roman See forever, he certainly believed that the Roman See held supreme jurisdiction over the whole universal Church *if she was orthodox*, that, not by man’s design, but by God’s.
And if there was any further doubt, one could also read Maximus’s letter from Rome to the East which says:
“For the very ends of the earth and those in every part of the world who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly to the most holy Church of the Romans and its confession and faith as though it were a sun of unfailing light, expecting from it the illuminating splendour of the Fathers and sacred dogmas…For ever since the Incarnate Word of God came down to us, all the churches of Christians everywhere have held that greatest Church there to be their sole base and foundation, since on the one hand, it is in no way overcome by the gates of Hades, according to the very promise of the Saviour , but holds the keys of the orthodox confession and faith in him and opens the only true and real religion to those who approach with godliness, and on the other hand, it shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks unrighteousness against the most High“. (Opuscula 11, PG 91.137-140; trans. Cooper 2005:181; taken from Oxford Handbook, 552)
St. Sophronius of Jerusalem
Patriarch St. Sophronius of Jerusalem had commissioned St. Stephen of Dor, bishop in the Jerusalem Patriarch, to appeal to the Roman See in order to procure the condemnation of the Monothelites. Stephen, who traveled to Rome, describes this aloud at the Council of Lateran 649, of which Maximus took part. This Council was held as Ecumenical by Maximus, and so this open statement at the Council carries some significance: “And for this cause, sometimes we asked for water to our head and to our eyes a fountain of tears, sometimes the wings of a dove, according to holy David, that we might fly away and announce these things to the Chair which rules and presides over all, I mean to yours, the Head and Highest, for the healing of the whole wound. For this it has been accustomed to do from of old and from the beginning with power by its canonical and apostolical authority, because the truly great Peter , head of the Apostles, was clearly thought worthy not only to be entrusted with the keys of heaven, alone apart from the rest, to open it worthily to believers, or to close it justly to those who disbelieve the gospel of grace, but because he was also first commissioned to feed the sheep of the whole Catholic Church; for ‘Peter’, said He, ‘Do you love me? Feed my sheep’, and again , because he had in a manner peculiar and special, a faith in the Lord stronger than all and unchangeable, to be converted and to confirm his fellows and spiritual brethren when tossed about, as having been adorned by God himself, incarnate for us, with power and sacerdotal authority…I was urged by the requests of almost all the pious bishops of the East in agreement with the departed Sophronius…Without delay I made this journey for this purpose alone; and since then thrice have I run to you Apostolic Feet, urging and beseeching the prayer of Sophronius and of all, that is, that you will assist the imperiled faith of Christians”
(Acts of Lateran Synod 649, pg. 143-44)
Fr. Andrew Louth, in his The Ecclesiology of Saint Maximus the Confessor , attempts to undermine the witness of Maximus to contemporary Catholic teaching by saying that Maximus is referring to the “church” of Rome, and not the Papal office. I thought this rather odd since even the Council of Vatican 1870 speaks of the prerogatives of the Roman “See” (it comes up no less than 8 times). There is an internal relationship between the bishopric and the church of which it is committed, and thus the authoritative prerogatives of the church would be subsumed by the bishopric. Louth goes on to say that Maximus was saying this all out of gratitude, thus implying that there was fanciful though unrealistic hyperbole being utilized. However, I could not help but recall that when Maximus could have spared his life in the face of Theodosius and the Imperial consuls by simply being willing to communicate with the Eastern Patriarchs on the condition that they had revoked the Typus (which had been the source of doctrinal contention), he refused to comply unless both they and the Eastern Patriarchs had formally submitted to Rome and the decrees of the Lateran synod of 649. If all he had was a flowery commitment to the Papal institution, then why further risk his life ? I think the answer is put forth very clearly in Maximus’ own words which, in sum, is that communion (not just agreement) with the Roman See *is* communion with the holy Catholic Church. Under that premise, one could understand him risking his life at this very crucial point of his trial. This reminds me of what Dom John Chapman writes in his The Condemnation of Pope Honorius : “When St. Jerome spoke tremendous words about the Pope [Damasus], we are asked to believe that he was exaggerating, or even that he was sarcastic. When the Council of Chalcedon wrote in like strain to St. Leo, we are [asked] to put down its words as empty Oriental flattery. Whatever may be thought of such comments, they cannot be applied to the words in which we have heard St. Maximus again and again set forth the privileges of Rome. Men do not shed their blood to blunt a sarcasm or to justify a [flowerly] compliment” (page 70-71). And finally, Louth mentions how Maximus denied an obedient following with a heretical Pope, which I will address more below.
I wish to conclude this article by devoting the last section to responding to Siecienski’s scholarship on the Maximian view of Roman Primacy. In his section in the Oxford Handbook on Maximus the Confessor, Siecienski takes clear note of the above statements of Maximus on the authority of the Pope. However, he has some reservations before interpreting this as a support for the contemporary doctrine of Papal supremacy. He writes:
“Following the promulgation of Pastor Aeternus (Vatican Council I, 1870), Catholic authors increasingly used Maximus’ writings to support the claim that the pope’s universal jurisdiction and doctrinal infallibility were recognized in the East during the first millennium….Perhaps the most detailed study of Maximus’ views on the papacy come from Jean-Claude Larchet, who examined all the texts in question (Larchet 1998). Larchet tried to contextualize Maximus’ ‘enthusiasim for the papacy in light of the monothelite debates, when Rome was his sole ally against the heretical hierarchs of the East. For Larchet and others, Maximus’ exalted language about the See of Rome manifest ‘the glow of gratitude he must have felt following the Lateran Synod, for the support he had found in Rome’ and besides, it was ‘written about the Church of Rome, not the papacy as such’ (Louth 2004:117). This does not mean that Maximus was being disingenuous, but instead simply recognizes that these texts were written at a time when Rome alone held the line against heresy, and thus had earned the kind of praise Maximus heaped upon her“. (Oxford Handbook, 553-54).
When considering the question of whether Maximus understood communion with the Roman See to be absolutely necessary in order to be in the Church, Siecienski takes note from the trial of Maximus where he was told that the Roman See would be entering communion with the 4 Monothelite Patriarchs of the East:
“Maximus replied: ‘The God of all pronounced that the catholic church was the correct and saving confession of the faith in him when he called Peter blessed because of the terms in which he had made proper confession of him’ (Ep. Max., Allen-Neil 2002:121)”
and Siecienski deduces:
“….if communion with the See of Rome was normative, this state of affairs was entirely contingent on Rome’s continued orthodoxy, which remained a necessary precondition for all the praise and powers he had received….In fact, during his trial Maximus accepted at least the theoretical possibility that he might be forced to break communion with Rome should it too fall victim to the monothelite madness” (Oxford, pg. 554-54)
However, in the record of the trial, Maximus also says the following when he was told Rome was to enter into communion with the Monothelite patriarchs:
“Those [Papal legates] who have come won’t prejudice the See of Rome in any way, even if they do communicate because they haven’t brought a letter to the Patriarch. And I’ll never be convinced that the Romans will be united with the Byzantines, unless they [the Byzantines] confess that our Lord and God by nature wills and works our salvation according to each [of the natures] from which He is, and in which He is, as well as which He is” (ibid, pg. 63)
So we see here, even during the midst of this trial, that Maximus was not going to be convinced that Rome would commit heresy. When pressed even further that Rome has certain plans to enter communion with the Monothelites, Maximus concedes:
“‘The Holy Spirit, through the apostle, condemns even angels who innovate in some way contrary to what is preached” (ibid pg. 555)
Siecienski concludes: “..Maximus, it seems, had not made the logical leap from ‘Rome has not erred’ to ‘Rome could not err’, although the Popes themselves had already begun to think along these lines.” (ibid)
I think Siecienski is wrong that Maximus did not confess the supremacy and infallibility of Rome. Here’s why. If you read the citations from above, Maximus refers to Rome as the sun of unfailing light and the sole base and foundation which cannot be overcome by the gates of Hades, according to the promise of the Savior. Quite literally, Rome teaches the Apostolic faith and cannot fail to do so by virtue of the promise of God. So my argument would be this: Maximus understood the teaching ministry of the Church of Rome to be protected from heresy by the power and promise of God. Therefore, he believed in Papal infallibility. I understand there is a way to interpret him as if he were just merely being hyperbolic or overly enthusiastic, seeing as how Rome was the only orthodox church in the oikumene at the time. That is possible, and I will address this, and it will be clear why I don’t prefer that explanation.
Moreover, Siecienski thinks this interpretation does not run the risk of making Maximus disingenuous, but I disagree. How can you run claims of supremacy and doctrinal infallibility on the basis of Christ’s own divine intention (in letters not even to Rome) as an enthusiastic artwork just to bolster one’s argument? If Maximus’s argument depends on the cogency of his arguments from the church fathers, then it would be redundant to appeal to the divine status of Rome. If anything, by falsely insinuating Rome is infallible, Maximus runs the risk of undermining himself. Were the Popes themselves hyperbolic when they claimed the infallibility of the Roman See (Formula of Hormisdas, Letter of Agatho to Constantinople III)? It is far more likely that Maximus’ claims about Rome are just as genuine as those made by others, regardless if he was wrong or right on the matter. I see no compelling reason to read him any other way.
But what about his statements during his trial? Did not Maximus just come out and say that Rome could fall into heresy? Well, I would argue there is more in between the lines here. Just like some interpreters would take the clear attributions of supremacy and infallibility in Maximus and then fudge them (i.e. make them mere enthusiastic hype) in light of the latter’s willingness to possibly endure separation from Rome if it meant being faithful to the truth, a Catholic is doing nothing different when he interprets the clear admissions of Maximus when under trial and fudges them based on the clear statements of supremacy and infallibility in his other writings. In other words, Maximus could have answered his accusers under trial in such a way that he is willing to concede, as a matter of possibility for the sake of argument, that Rome could fall by the wayside, for which case he would remain faithful to the truth even if it meant he alone was the only orthodox Christian left on the planet, but not actually believe this would ever materialize. On that level, both interpretations are fair and square. But there is more.
As we saw, the record of his trial includes a push-back from Maximus that he would not be convinced of Rome’s concession to heresy. When he was pressed on what he would do if Rome really did commune with the Monothelites, it is quite possible Maximus thought, in his head, “alright, let me concede to what would happen if the impossible actually did happen, hypothetically”. That might sound like a far-fetched interpretation which only reveals my own bias. However, we have objective reasons to interpret it this way. After his trial, where he gave the answers he did, Maximus wrote to Anastasius, his disciple, informing him that he had been told that Rome would be entering into communion with the Monothelite patriarchs, and requested that he and others are to pray for holy mother Church, and to send his letter of concern out for others to read. At the end of this letter is an additional text which was added by a compiler as a set of instructions given to him by either Maximus or Anastasius (some scholars say it was Anastasius himself who added it):
“…in order that, when you have found out about the trial from these, you might all bring a common prayer to the Lord on behalf of our common mother, that is the Catholic Church, and on behalf of us your unworthy servants , for strengthening everyone and us also, persevering with you in it, according to the orthodox faith rightly preached in it by the holy fathers. For there is great fear in the whole world because this [church] endures persecution by everyone at the same time, unless He [God] offers aid by his customary grace, He who always come to aid, leaving the seed of piety at least in older Rome, confirming the promise He made to the prince of Apostles, which does not deceive us” (Maximus the Confessor and His Companions, Page 123)
Even if this additional Latin schola (for it does not exist in the Greek) was added by Anastasius or a contemporary compiler, the person is doubtless connected to the same spirit of Maximus, and the compilers’ statement on the divine promise to Peter and Rome would surely serve as corroborative evidence that Maximus’s contemporaries held to precisely the same view about the Roman See. The compiler who added this states the whole catholic church is threatened by this monstrous evil of monotheletism, and it will take no less than God Himself to come and fulfill His own promise to Saint Peter which includes, at least, the preservation of “seed of piety” in the Roman See. And then to put it on par with the preservation of the Catholic Church herself? Even if the compiler is Theodore Spoudaeus, and not Anastasius the disciple of Maximus himself, it would still be a contemporary witness. I am convinced it is Anastasius who added this to the end of Maximus’s letter, since a similar message exist in the latter’s letter to the monks of Cagliari (see below).
In a letter of the same Anastasius to the Monks of Cagliari, we read of the following:
“Therefore, because the affairs of almost the whole church of God, which has been established as catholic and apostolic, are in great danger on account of these things, we pray on behalf of her and we beseech you, most holy people, that you do not despise her being in danger, but that you help her while she is labouring in the tempests, knowing that love which is in the Holy Spirit grows in the time of tribulation. And if it is possible, [we ask] that you go across more swiftly, as if for some other reason, to the pious men of older Rome, who are solid as a rock, who clearly always protect us as you do, and are most fervent fighters for the truth , to beseech them with supplicatory words and tears n behalf of all Christians , in order that they may gain reward from the Lord, preserving for all, as for themselves, the orthodox faith without newly-invented innovation, and taking up nothing more or less beyond those things, nor approving anything beyond that which has been defined by the holy fathers and synods“. (ibid, 124)
Finally, even if Maximus had come to a point of doubt where he thought about giving up his belief in the supremacy and infallibility of the See of Peter, that does not necessarily mean he did not believe that the whole entire time. He could have very well believed it when he wrote it, but then changed his mind later on. There are Catholics today who go from being ardent Papalists to becoming Orthodox or Protestant, and then give up on their belief in Papal infallibility. Nevertheless, for the reasons I’ve given, I think the best interpretation is that Maximus conceded the fallibility of Rome for the sake of argument, together with some fear that this might actually be true, in which case he wrote his sincere letter to Anastasius.
Now, lest I prove to be the only one who sees this in Maximus, I give you a quote from a Lutheran Scholar on Maximus, Dr. Lars Thuberg, and he explains our Saints view of Roman primacy:
“In a somewhat fragmentary letter to Peter the Illustrious (from 643 or 644), which is preserved only in a Latin version, we find some explicit expressions of a very advanced theology about the position of the bishop of Rome. Maximus simply identified the see of Rome with the Catholic Church and he spoke of ‘the very holy Church of Rome, the apostolic see, which God the Word [Jesus] Himself and likewise all the holy Synods, according to the holy canons and the sacred definitions, have received, and which owns the power in all things and for all, over all the saints who are there for the whole inhabited earth, and likewise the power to unite and to dissolve….’ (Patr. Gr. 91, 144 C). Finally, in a letter written later in Rome, he made himself even more clear in the following maner: ‘...she [the Church of Rome] has the keys of the faith and of the orthodox confession; whoever approaches her humbly, to him is opened the real and unique piety, but she closes her moouth to any heretic who speaks against [divine] justice’ (Patr Gr 91, 140). This invites us to evaluate what Maximus had to say about the primacy of the pope. As Fr Garrigues has clearly shown (in an article in Istina, 1976), Maximus was convinced that Rome would never give way to the pressures of Constantinople. Once more forced to consider the possibility that in the case of Monotheletism the Romans might accept a union with the Byzantines, he answered through the paradoxical words of St. Paul, and said: ‘The Holy Spirit condemns… even the angels that would proclaim anything which is contrary to the Gospel’. (Patr Gr 90, 121). This implies that he did not want to discuss an improbable hypothesis, but would rather declare that he was prepared to die for the truth. This statement is a good starting point for a clarification of his own attitude. His personal experience of the doctrinal position of Rome confirmed his conviction that the promises of our Lord to Peter were applicable to the Church that preserved his relics. Thus, for him the communion of the Churches expressed itself as ‘a Roman communion’, a communion with the bishop of Rome. One must remember that for Maximus there existed only one alternative, represented by Imperial policy with its linke between Church and State, and that alternative could not enjoy the same promises. Even sacramental signs were missing in the latter case.”(The Vision of St Maximus the Confessor: Man and the Cosmos- Lars Thunberg, Page 25-26)
“The Eastern Churches and the Papacy” by S. Herbert Scott
“The Condemnation of Pope Honorius” by Dom John Chapman
“The Building of Christendom” by Dr. Warren Carrol
“Catholicism and Papacy : Some Anglican and Russian Difficulties” by Mgr. Peter Batiffol
“The Ecclesiology of Saint Maximus the Confessor” Fr Andrew Louth (International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church Vol. 4, no 2, July 2004, 109-120)
“Church and Papacy” Trevor Jalland
“The Oxford Handbook o Maximus the Confessor, Edited by Pauline Allen & Bronwen Neil
“The Papacy and the Orthodox” A. Edward Siecienski
“The Acts of the Lateran Synod 649” Richard Price
“Maximus the Confessor and His Companions: Documents from Exile” – Pauline allen & Bronwen Neil
On June 3, Philaret Denisenko, the “Patriarch” of the “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) and “Honorary Patriarch” of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), met with rectors of the parishes of the OCU’s Kiev Diocese, where the possibility of convening a Local Council of the KP was discussed.
At today’s “For the Ukrainian Orthodox Church! For the Kiev Patriarchate!” forum, Philaret announced that a Local Council of the KP will indeed be held, on June 20, reports BBC News Ukraine.
Philaret thus intends to fully restore the KP that he had nominally agreed to liquidate on December 15 before the start of the “unification council” that created the OCU out of the KP and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” (UAOC).
The Patriarchate of Constantinople had previously lifted the Moscow Patriarchate’s anathema placed upon Philaret for his schismatic actions and received him into its jurisdiction on October 11, claiming that the sanction had been placed upon him unjustly, though Patriarch Bartholomew had previously recognized the anathema.
“We are convening a Local Council that will not approve the decision of this council on December 15, 2018. That means it is not mandatory for us. We will thereby show that the Kiev Patriarchate was, is, and will be. We are convening the council on June 20,” Philaret announced during today’s forum, stressing that it will be a Local Council of the KP, not the OCU, which is headed by “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko.
“There was no Local Council of the Kiev Patriarchate on December 15, but a collection of signatures under the resolution of the local council. We will reject this resolution at the Local Council and it will be invalid for us,” Philaret further explained.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople insisted that both the KP and the UAOC vote to liquidate themselves before the “unification council” on December 15 in order to unite into a new structure. Amidst Philaret’s loud statements about restoring the KP, Makary Maletich, the primate of the UAOC, announced that his structure also continues to officially, legally exist.
Given that Constantinople’s pre-conciliar stipulations were not met, the status of the OCU is unclear. The OCU is legally registered with the state, and thus, as OrthoChristian has previously reported, the “unification council” resulted in two schismatic structures becoming three, rather than one.
Moreover, Philaret repeated that had he known the contents of the tomos of autocephaly written by Constantinople, that leave the OCU dependent upon Constantinople in important ways, he would not have accepted it. However, he went further this time, declaring that “We do not accept this tomos… Had we known the contents, we would not have voted for autocephaly on December 15, because we don’t need to go from one dependence to another,” reports Gromadske.
“The Moscow Patriarchate serves the interests of Moscow, the OCU serves the Greeks, and who will serve Ukraine?” Philaret asked.
“Epiphany is a servant of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He established a Greek vicar bishop to watch and transmit information to the Ecumenical Patriarch, to transmit through him instructions on what to do,” Philaret said, referring to Archimandrite Epiphanius (Dimitriou), formerly of the Greek Orthodox Church, who was “consecrated” as a “bishop” of the OCU.
With references to its sources in the OCU, BBC reports that the Local Council could be attended by “Metropolitan” Joasaph of Belgorod, who has also publicly criticized Epiphany Dumenko, and perhaps another “bishop” of the former KP parishes in Russia, and a small part of the clergy of the Kiev Diocese of the OCU, which is headed by Philaret himself.
However, Philaret remains undeterred. The Local Council, he says, will allow them to “preserve the Kiev Patriarchate. Though it will be small, it will grow into a large church.”
The participants in today’s forum also intend to address President Vladimir Zelensky and ask him to “support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate against any encroachment.”