Questions


Icon of the Holy Church

Icon of the Holy Church

While this question is not directly related to the focus of our blog, it comes up often enough in our discussions that we thought a brief explanation would be appropriate.

Ecumenism is a complex topic that could easily have an entire blog dedicated (and in fact there are probably several such blogs on the internet). This post will necessarily be brief, but hopefully will give a good enough description of the fundamental points that are relevant to our blog. The interested reader is referred to this article by Fr Timothy Evangelidis (Hobart) for a more detailed description as a starting point.

Fundamentally, ecumenism is the goal of bringing all Christians (and indeed all people) together in one Church. To understand why this might be controversial, we first need to cover a couple of points.

The Orthodox Church is the One True Church

To understand Ecumenism, one must first understand Orthodox teaching about the Church. This teaching is simple that the Orthodox Church is not just another Christian church among many (who are all equal), but it is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by Christ himself. This is a simple but profound & bold claim that we humbly hold as fundamental to our Faith. To contradict this claim is, from an Orthodox perspective, a heresy. It is because of this belief that we view schism as such a serious sin – schism takes people outside of the One True Church.

Ecumenism: The Orthodox way and the heretical way

The most confusing part about Ecumenism (which gives rise to controversy) is that there are two different possible approaches that can be taken to achieve the goal of uniting the world into one Church:

  1. Creating one mega-church comprised of all existing churches (including the Orthodox Church) & other religions, accepting them all as equals as they are, without change, and ignoring all differences as unimportant.
  2. Uniting all Christians into the Orthodox Church by convincing them to change to the Orthodox Faith.

The difference is that the first approach doesn’t consider any existing church to be the true church, which is why a new mega-church has to be created to include everyone, so that all can worship together. In light of the Orthodox teaching that the Orthodox Church is the One True Church, this approach must be considered a heresy. This is why we have canons that (for example) strictly prohibit our clergy from concelebrating with non-Orthodox, and our faithful from participating in their prayer services – because by participating in their services we give the impression that their services (and their churches) are equal to ours.

The second approach, on the other hand, is fundamentally based on the belief that the Orthodox Church is the One True Church -and as such it is not heretical. In fact, this is actually the mission of the Church, because our Lord commanded us to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) – it would be heresy for us to teach or do otherwise!

So does the canonical Church teach the heresy of Ecumenism?

While we are obviously not intimately familiar with the teachings of each and every one of our hierarchs throughout the Orthodox world in the modern era, we are confident though that neither of them openly preach or have preached the heresy of Ecumenism (ie, that they would claim that the Orthodox Church is merely one Church among many).

That’s not to say that there aren’t times when one or two of our hierarchs might have crossed the line on some occasions – there are even those within the canonical Church who have concerns about the Orthodox Church’s involvement in its relations with other churches & religions, and some of these concerns (like praying, or seeing to participate, in non-Orthodox services) are legitimate. Our hierarchs are not perfect, but there is a big difference between making a mistake here-and-there, however, and openly professing a heresy.

Conclusion

Critics of the canonical Orthodox Church claim that the Church has fallen into the heresy of Ecumenism. While there may be some legitimate concerns at the heart of such claims (as noted above), they are exaggerated to hysterical proportions (as is the case in Christodoulos’ letter, for example). Our hierarchs have a difficult job to do in trying to reach out to our non-Orthodox brothers and sisters, and they deserve to be held innocent until proven guilty.

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Who the heck are Meletios and Volodymyr?

Meletios and Voldymyr are two so-called bishops of the so-called “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of American and Canada – Former Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Alexandria“. Meletios is one of the “bishops” who physically came to Adelaide to partake in the “ordination” of Mr Kanavas. Volodymyr is one of the names that appears on Mr Kanavas’ pseudo-defrockment notice for Petros Haros which we discussed in more detail here (it appears Volodymyr’s since had a change of heart).

Let’s go to Meletios:

In August of 2013, Mr Kanavas continued with his perversion of Orthodox Christianity and was so called “ordained” as a “bishop”. At his ordination was a gentleman by the name of Meletios the so called “Metropolitan of Achaia and all of the Peloponnese” who came especially from Greece to take part in this Modern Greek tragedy.

In the letter below we hear Meletios request from the president of GOCSA Mr John Lesses that Mr Prokopios Kanavas stop his “lies, threats, reviles” and “pseudo-defrockments” against Petros Haros and Meletios. It is Petros Haros and Meletios who ordained Prokopios. How is it though, that within three months Prokopios divorces himself from them? Truly a case of corruption begetting corruption.

MeletiosLet’s move on to Volodymyr who is a bit more interesting.

Volodymyr claims that Prokopios was the secretary of Petros Haros’ synod in April 2013 a fact unbeknown to GOCSA and to Haros himself! In any case Prokopios took advantage of the fact that Volodymyr does not speak Greek but only conversational English and that Haros does not speak Ukrainian or English. Prokopios played the role of the interlocutor which meant that according to the language deficiencies of Haros and Volodymyr, he could orchestrate a dialogue that was vested in his own interests and ultimately not coherent with reality. The end result:

  1. Prokopios is seen as a hero because he inducts Volodymyr into what Volodymr believes is a canonical Orthodox Church.
  2. Haros sets up a franchise in the Ukraine all through the efforts of Prokopios.

1.      Volodymyr realizes (for the time being) that he was set up by Mr Prokopios Kanavas and details this in the letter written below (see the original in Ukrainian here). Of course Volodymyr is yet to wake up and accept that he is receiving the just deserts of his own uncanonical actions. To his credit Volodymyr admits the following:

  1. Mr Prokopios Kanavas is uncanonical and that he deceived Volodymyr into thinking that Prokopios was canonical.
  2.  Volodymyr did not sign any letter defrocking Petros Haros.
  3. Volodymyr apologies to the only canonical bishop in Adelaide, His Grace Bishop Nikandros of Dorylaeon and asks for his forgiveness.

The Letter from Volodomyr:

14th December, 2013

God bless all of us, dear bishops, fathers, brothers in Christ Jesus!

I, bishop of Pereyaslav and Bohuslav, Volodymyr (Vilde) from Ukraine am writing to you. I had a phone conversation with Father Silouan, also I have received letters from Bishop Nikandros from Australia about the conflict between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the so called Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Canada. I understand your concern; please forgive me I could not give the necessary answer to you for a long time. In Ukraine at the moment there is a very tense social and political situation and, unfortunately, I could not give my attention to your letters. Please forgive me once more.

I have read all the materials, which Father Silouan from Adelaide kindly sent to me. I am not indifferent about the current situation affecting the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia. I do not wish to participate in any divisions and misunderstandings because of Prokopios’ acts. I wish for the Greek Orthodox Church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to be undivided and united. The thing is that when I was asked to be included into Petro Haros’ Synod, I thought that his synod called the “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Canada” (former exarchate of Alexandria’s Patriarchate) which was led by Archbishop Dionysus Makrogambrakis was indeed canonical.  But Father Silouan explained to me, that Petros Haros’ documents of canonicity were fraudulently obtained. Consequently, Peter Haros and Prokopios do not belong to the canonical church (Patriarchate of Alexandria) of which they proclaim. 

Also, from the documents that Father Silouan sent to me I found out that Prokopios was defrocked from the Jerusalem Patriarchate as a deacon, and that Petros Haros was involved in suspicious and so called non-traditional healing practices. In any case their structure is not canonical and is not recognised by any of the World’s Orthodox churches. Also I discovered that Petros Haros and Procopios Kanavas were involved in several other scandals and caused division amongst the Greek Orthodox Communities of South Australia.

I would like to mention that I do not wish to belong any further to the structure which are led by Petros Haros and Prokopios Kanavas. For the last 2 months I did not sign their letters and petitions.

Also I want to mention that I recognise the authority of the Constantinople Patriarchate and respect their decisions. I do not wish to have conflict with the Ecumenical Patriarchate or to have any misunderstandings with your bishops. I greatly appreciate that Bishop Nikandros of Australia addressed me multiple times with archpastoral love and care, highlighting my mistake. I owe many thanks to Bishop Nikandros and pray for his health and wellbeing.

Keeping in mind everything written above, I repent of my own mistakes and officially declare my exit from the Synod of Haros and Kanavas and beg you to help me to be united with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

I wish to belong to the great Church of Constantinople and wish to hear the conditions on which I can be accepted as an active bishop of the Ecumenical Patriachate. I am inspired and filled with hope by the fact that the Estonian Metropolitinate and the Ukrainian Autocephalic Church in America where included into the Ecumenical Patriarchia. I humbly beg for the same mercy to be granted to me and am ready to listen to your conditions.

I kneel before the Ecumenical order of the Constantinopolitan Church.

I hope for your mercy and understanding. I ask for your holy prayers for myself.

Volodymyr (Wilde) – The Bishop of Pereyaslav and Bohuslav.

Where to from here:

Prayer, patience and perseverance are needed by all devout Orthodox Christians. May this be expressed through our personal prayer life, our reading of the Holy Scriptures and our sincere worship in Church. If we all did this there would be no schism.

A final thought:

If schismatics like Meletios and Volodymyr denounce the schism in Adelaide how much more so should we the faithful of the canonical Greek Orthodox Church in Adelaide.

Dear readers,

A discussion happened in the comments of our earlier post last week about the Greek Government’s recognition of the so-called “Holy Orthodox Metropolis of Australia and Oceania (HOMOAO)”. We have also discussed similar issues with respect to GOCSA. But to what extent does this really matter? If an organisation manages to obtain recognition by the Greek or Australian governments, does that make them canonical? We thought to address this point in more detail in a fresh post.

Civil vs Mystical Marriage

Wedding crowns – used in the Mystery of Marriage but not required for a civil marriage

In this day and age when the institution of marriage is under attack, it is important for us to make a distinction between two different types of marriage: civil vs ecclesiastical.

  • A civil marriage is one that is registered with the civil authorities (eg, by the Greek or Australian governments) for the purposes of the law of the land.
  • An mystical marriage (also called ecclesiastical) is a marriage that is conducted as a Mystery (aka, Sacrament) within a recognised Orthodox Church & recognised as such for the purposes of the laws (ie, the canons) of the Orthodox Church.

A civil marriage may be conducted & registered by any authorised marriage celebrant. A mystical marriage, on the other hand, is always conducted by a canonical Orthodox priest in accordance with the canons of the Orthodox church.

From the Church’s point of view, it is obviously the mystical marriage that “counts”.

What is a recognised religion/denomination?

In both Greece and Australia, there are “recognised religions” whose ministers are also authorised marriage celebrants. This simply means that their religious marriages are automatically accepted as civil marriages and that their ministers are authorised to fill out the necessary paperwork to register the civil marriage with the government (we spoke more of this in the earlier post about GOCSA) .

In both Greece and Australia, there are many such recognised religions – non-Orthodox & non-Christian. These included schismatic groups who have also been recognised.

Special recognition of the Orthodox Church of Greece by the Greek Government

Australia has no “state religion” and all religions are treated equally by the law. However, in Greece the Orthodox Church has special recognition in the Constitution as the official state religion, which sets it apart from all other religions in Greece. This special recognition makes the clergy of the Church of Greece public servants (on the public payroll), and also means that Greek government recognises (and, where necessary, enforces) the Canon Law & canonical decisions of the Orthodox Church.

It is also important to understand this distinction between the special recognition of the Church of Greece by the Greek government, and the more general recognition that the Greek government gives to many religions. This is because many schismatic Old Calendarist groups have obtained general recognition by the Greek government (alongside other non-Orthodox & non-Christian religious groups) and use this recognition to make it seem that they are equally legitimate Orthodox churches alongside the Church of Greece. However, such recognition merely puts them on an equal footing with other minority religions in Greece (such as Muslims, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, etc). It does not make them a legitimate Orthodox church nor give them special recognition. Only the Church of Greece (with Archbishop Ieronymos II as its primate) has such special recognition.

 

Sample civil marriage certificate for the Government of Australia (source: Federal Attorney-General’s web site). The certificate for the religious marriage (if any) will depend on which denomination one is married in and will be issued separately to this one.

What are the benefits of having a Church be a “recognised denomination”?

The only real benefits are ones of convenience:

  • It is more convenient for the Government, because they don’t have to find & employ as many of their own marriage celebrants to perform duplicate wedding ceremonies – the denominations do it for them.
  • It is more convenient for the faithful who are getting married, because they don’t have to attend & pay for duplicate wedding ceremonies or two celebrants (one for the Government, one for the Church). Instead, the priest/minister acts as celebrant for both his denomination & for the Government, issuing two separate wedding certificates (one for each).

While these are obviously very practical conveniences for the couple getting married (and are encouraged by the Orthodox Church), they hardly constitute the essence of a mystical marriage according to Orthodox theology and they certainly aren’t what makes the Church canonical!

In fact, in many parts of the world and at various times in history, the Orthodox faithful are forced to live without these conveniences because the canonical Church and/or its marriages aren’t recognised by the government. For example, the Orthodox Church was not recognised by the Roman Empire (and in fact was outlawed!) in the early centuries, and so Christians who were married mystically in the Church would have to register their civil marriage separately. And in fact, not every mystical marriage would  be recognised by the civil authorities – eg, marriages between slaves, which the Church permitted (because there is “neither slave nor free” – Galatians 3:28) but the Roman Empire did not.

So why is it important for a Church to be a “recognised denomination” by the Government?

Ultimately, as Orthodox Christians, it isn’t important if our Church is recognised by the Government (or at least, it is of secondary importance) – as noted above, this is merely a convenience and it doesn’t define the essence or nature of the Orthodox Church or the Orthodox Mystery of Marriage. As if the Orthodox Church (which we believe was founded by God Himself in the flesh) requires the approval of secular authorities for its legitimacy! As we noted, Orthodox Christians have been marrying & given marriage in many parts of the world and at many times in history the Church was not/is not recognised – or worse still, is/was outlawed.

Rather, for the Orthodox faithful, of primary importance is whether our marriages are recognised by the Orthodox Church

This is why all of GOCSA’s and HOMOAO’s claims about recognition by the Greek and/or Australian governments are really red herrings – a smokescreen distracting from the real issue that should concern every faithful Orthodox Christian: are these institutions’ marriages (and other mysteries/sacraments) recognised by the Orthodox Church?

So are GOCSA/HOMOAO & their mysteries recognised by the Orthodox Church? Are they canonical?

It will come as no surprise to our regular readers that the answer to this question is a resounding NO!

  • They are not recognised by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
  • They are not recognised by any of the other Orthodox jurisdictions in Australia (Serbian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, etc).
  • They are not recognised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
  • They are not recognised by the Church of Greece.
  • They are not recognised by the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
  • They are not recognised by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
  • They are not recognised by the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate Russia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Serbia, or any of the Orthodox Churches throughout the world.

Regardless of whether or not they manage to secure Greek some form of government recognition (as it appears HOMOAO has at least), it will not change the answer to any of these questions. The only way for them to secure recognition of their marriages & other mysteries/sacraments by the Orthodox Church is for them to become part of the Orthodox Church. And the only way for them to do this is to unite with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.

GOCNSW eventually saw the light & rejoined in 2010, and have not looked back since (they’ve even managed to keep their churches!). Let’s pray that GOCSA and HOMOAO see the light soon too so that this confusion can be eliminated once and for all.

In the announcement of the schismatic community of Clayton, Victoria, in the program for the “feast day” of St. Spyridon, mention is made that “the first and only church that is dedicated to St. Spyridon” is the schismatic one (see announcement above). The “parish priest” at the helm of all this is George Athanasiadis. Mr Athanasiadis for those who are not aware of it has been defrocked twice. As a former canonical priest he would officiate at weddings and baptisms without declaring and registering these sacraments with the civil authorities or the Archdiocese. All this naturally met the protests of the disturbed faithful including members of his family (see relevant article here).

We must remind you that Mr Athanasiadis is the one that advertises his services to conduct weddings at non Orthodox churches because he shamelessly boasts of being “independent” and therefore it follows cut off from the Orthodox Church. Ironically Mr Athanasiadis criticises Clayton’s canonical Greek Orthodox Church “The three Hierarchs” for having a “nonexistent chapel” dedicated to St. Spyridon, labelling its autonomy to worship on this great feast day as an “unholy parody”.

All Greek Orthodox Churches across the world will be celebrating the Divine Liturgy for the feast day of Saint Spyridon on the 12th of December. According to Mr Athanasiadis and his fellow schismatics these churches are nonexistent and have no ecclesiological status, they are an “unholy parody”. Indeed we ask who are the schismatics to speak? They are the ones who are unholy since they have cut themselves off from the body of Christ as they themselves know all too well.

Perhaps Clayton’s canonical Greek Orthodox of “The Three Hierarchs” which neighbours Clayton’s schismatic community needs to seek permission from Mr Athanasiadis and Mr Pizanias (who by the way has been defrocked twice and married twice) to serve the Divine Liturgy! “Stubbornness” and “opposition” is not new to Clayton’s schismatic community, for forty years they have been rejecting to be united to the body of Christ, which in Australia for the Greek Orthodox faithful is the “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia”. Thankfully Sydney’s former schismatic community has now been regrafted into the body of Christ.

Only canonical clergy can celebrate in Orthodox Churches, only they have the validity to impart the grace of sanctification on the faithful through Christ’s gift of priesthood. For Mr Athanasiadis and Mr Pizanias all they can ever do with any degree of validity on the feast day of St. Spyridon, is to create a gathering where the consumption of food and loukoumathes will take place. To quote Saint Cyprian from the third centuary “Outside of the Church nobody is saved”.

In terms of what is “unholy” and provocative, this is personified with the presence at Clayton’s schismatic community of the fake “His Eminence Bishop Christodoulos of Trimythous”. Not only has Mr Christodoulos been defrocked twice  but as we read in the newspaper “O Parikos”  his “tourist” visa has lapsed forcing him to take occasional trips to New Zealand or the islands of Fiji. His visa status is further compounded by the alleged belief that he is a carrier of the Hepatitis B virus.

On account of the above Christodoulos is no eminent bishop of any Orthodox Church. Of course the faithful will tell you this, in particular those who understand, listen, read and discern.

A couple of valid questions were raised on our face book page regarding some of the clauses in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Archdiocese and GOCNSW.  Although we cannot answer for the Archdiocese in any official manner it is relatively obvious why such clauses would be inserted into the MOU and we will try to explain their purpose.

The first question is

 Operative part 1 states that the Community’s assets are to remain undisturbed ie. real estate, and other assets shall remain within its sole ownership, custody and control. Yet, in part 5 it states that the Community are not to make any changes or modifications to the Church without prior consultation and written approval of Archdiocese? Why so?

The clause in question is actually 4 b)

The community agrees:  ….. Not to make, or cause to be made, any changes, additions or modifications to those church’ internal decoration, including all iconography, ecclesiastical articles, fittings and furnishings, without prior consultation with, and the written approval of, the Archdiocese;

The Archdiocese is concerned foremost with ensuring that Orthodox temples remain as recognisable and functional Orthodox churches and this clause promotes this.  If this clause was not inserted then it would be possible for a community to modify the church building in some completely unorthodox manner such as adding a statue or an icon of Buddha within the church building.  This is not a completely ridiculous concern.  For instance in a Brisbane catholic church a Buddhist statue was set up in recent times.

In our own lives we have sole ownership of our homes yet we are still subject to council regulations with respect to modifications to the house.  The church operates in a similar manner with community parishes.  The parish retains full ownership of the church building but it is subject to the authority of the church with regard to modifications.  The bishop retains the final authority on what is allowed in an Orthodox church to prevent potential anomalies that could mislead faithful Orthodox Christians.

The second question was:

More importantly, please explain to me the Proposed Amendments to the GOCNSW constitution, in particular clause 7 where it states that any real estate assets of the Association which are used as places of religious worship (churches), such real estate assets to be held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia as custodian and trustee. What is the exact meaning of this clause?

The addition to clause 7) states

‘…(except for any real estate assets of the Association which are used as places of religious worship, such real estate assets are to be held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia as custodian and trustee for the members of the Association and to continue to be open to the public as Greek Orthodox Churches.)’

Clause seven appears to be the “windup” clause of the association’s constitution, and this phrase is being added to the end of the clause.  This is the section of the constitution which specifies what will happen if an association is brought to a close. This protects the sacred places of Orthodox worship from misuse if GOCNSW should close down for any reason, and it only comes into effect if GOCNSW closes down.

Heaven Nightclub

Heaven Nightclub


Again the concern of the Archdiocese is that Orthodox temples remain as Orthodox temples.  The Archdiocese has never closed or sold a church in Australia yet nor does it wish to see a temple once used for Orthodox worship turned into a secular building or used for worship by other religious groups.  Here in Adelaide we have many examples of this happening to churches belonging to other Christian faiths.  For instance, St Paul’s cathedral in Adelaide which was sold and became Heaven nightclub.

We should be grateful as Orthodox Christians that these protective clauses were inserted as it helps ensure that Orthodox churches remain in the future recognisably Orthodox and open to the public for worship.