By His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos of Australia (B) In continuing our painful article to prove “the systematic undermining
of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” which was undertaken and undauntedly continued by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens (!), we shall attempt here to put in some order the ‘incongruous’ declarations he has made until now, especially since his elevation to the throne of Athens.
This responsible recording and ‘mapping’ is of course not an easy
matter, for many reasons. Above all because the phenomena are sometimes not only ‘deceptive’, but also capable of leading one to the point of schizophrenia. And yet, the late N.G. Pentzikis has taught us, in a far more compunctious manner, “the architecture of the fragmented life”.
However, for purely methodological reasons, we shall view the topic
at hand under the following three comprehensive and characteristic headings:
Disputation and insatiable expectations of a ‘conqueror’
Negotiations concerning a non-existent jurisdiction beyond Greece
Bureaucratization of services, and complete secularization of Church administration
Unless one carefully sees the complex gamut of each of the above
areas, as well as the latent interdependence of all three, it is impossible to comprehend the truly ‘demonic’ plan which has been concocted for the first time, amidst praise and ‘applause’ of the more popular levels of Greek society, which was until now very reverent, modest and wise.
With this proposed method of studying the phenomenon of ‘Christodoulos’ and ‘Chrysopiyi Monastery’, it will not be difficult to see that each of the three headings above in fact summarizes, somewhat like a ‘definition of a thematic unit’, a host of initially ‘tentative’ actions which, as it turned out, are out rightly confrontational. Indeed, they can come from various angles simultaneously, such that the supposed ‘opponent’ enters – if possible - a state of ‘perplexity’, if not ‘panic’!
We should not overlook this sacrilegiously insensitive tactic and
strategy of the mentioned undermining actions, precisely because they were boldly and cowardly attempted during an historic period when the wordly ‘supplies’ (people and resources) are very restricted in the ‘See’ of the Ecumenical Patriarchate due to political circumstances, while Athens more than ever before offers every facility, to the point of opulence.
How could even the most ‘objective’ observer not feel indignation
especially an Orthodox Hierarch or even the average faithful at such an unequal contest and dishonourable ‘guerilla warfare’? Is the moral authority of the most sacred name of the Ecumenical Patriarchate alone a sufficient counterbalance?
And to think of the tragic irony that all of these things should have
been considered as what was in hindsight ‘owed’ to the suffering Mother Church of Constantinople by the former ‘daughter’ Church, which was elevated to a ‘sister’ Church through blackmail. It must be admitted that such ungrateful ‘pathos’ was absent even from the anti patriarchal phase of the turbulent service of the much criticized late Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, who was promoted by the Junta.
Understandably, he could have felt (and would have felt, humanly speaking) humbled in his old age with the rank of Archimandrite, given that he was continually circumvented by the Bishops of both Athens and Constantinople (without this of course justifying the snatching of the Archiepiscopal throne by
Let us now turn to our topic, paragraph by paragraph, according to
the areas already mentioned.
a) Disputation and insatiable expectations of a ‘conqueror’
Even from the first moment that the then Metropolitan Christodoulos
of Dimitriados became Archbishop of Athens – with the well-known events surrounding that election – the triumphant tones of the statements, events and surprises of the ‘Monastic Brotherhood’ (Chrysopiyi) which had supposedly taken power, left no doubt as to what was to follow.
First of all there was the awkward-sounding renaming of the
Installation speech of the Archbishop from an Enthronistirion to an Epivatirion (!), which has the innuendo of ‘surmounting’. This should not be taken as a naïve expression of a supposed desire to return to an earlier period of the Church’s vocabulary. It was instead an obviously pompous testimony to the thirst of the newly-installed and heavy-handed Head to ‘dominate’ everything!
This initial suspicion on the part of the writer, which was undoubtedly shared by many others who knew the character and history of the new Archbishop, has been verified to the utmost up until the present time. Indeed. Never before had the election of a new Archbishop of Athens seen the inept and hasty promulgation with a corresponding confrontational spirit and audacity – of what
was clearly a longstanding ‘program’ of a few hard core Bishops (of
Chrysopiyi) to directly and quickly ‘get even’ with the Phanar in
Explicit and audacious, both in their language used and actions
taken, Metropolitans Kallinikos of Pireaus and Ambrosios of Aigialeia (above all), stated unreservedly that the election of Christodoulos was absolutely tied to the clear mandate of the hierarchy (!) to ‘demand’ from the Ecumenical Patriarchate the “single and undivided jurisdiction over the entire Greek territory”.
Having commenced with such bravado – which all Greek people
heard repeated up until the first official visit of the new Archbishop to the Patriarchate – the delegation then heard there the austere reminder of the terms which they themselves owed, but never kept, and were therefore forced to ‘come down to earth’ somewhat, in order to salvage at least the appearance of basic social decorum. They gave the pretence of course of wanting to discuss
peacefully some solution to outstanding matters, yet subsequent actions showed that also the new ‘agenda’ of Athens displayed only a steady disputation of the Phanar’s claims, and a rapacity characteristic of ‘invaders’!
So while on the one hand the impression was given that all obligations stemming from the Tome of Autocephaly (1850) and the Patriarchal Act (1928) would be accepted, nasty sentiments publicly emerged between supposedly consanguineous ‘Brothers in Christ’. Furthermore, certain things were dared which had never been dared before against the Mother Church of Constantinople, not even by the Orthodox of other backgrounds.
For example, how could that provocative and irreverent comment be
accepted, with which Archbishop Christodoulos sent to the Phanar the List of Candidate Bishops (in accordance with just one of the conditions of the 1928 Act!): “Purely for your information”! It was as if he was doing a favour for journalists who asked a question in passing.
Then followed the indescribable election (via transfer) of Metropolitan Anthimos of Alexandroupoli as Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, as well as the movement of other new Metropolitans to other Eparchies of the region concerned, which literally exhausted the patience of the Bishops of the Patriarchate. However, those who cunningly conducted the affairs of Chrysopiyi knew how to strategically choose even the ‘weaknesses’ and ‘friction’ between people, so as to advance their own plans in stages.
Similarly, the ‘tactical shift’ and apparent back down of Archbishop
Christodoulos certainly gave the host of scandalized simple faithful some relief – while also reviving, even if temporarily, the terribly tried authority and status of the Mother Church – but those who know persons and situations from within, were certain that the relentless contention would, instead of being resolved for the benefit of both sides, reappear more severely at a later date.
When in due course the list of the Clergy and lay ‘advisers’ or ‘Canon Law specialists’ who assumed the role of guiding both Heads of Church at critical moments is established and substantiated, another curious factor in the ‘tragicomedy’ of this whole ‘conflict’ that will be shown, is that both protagonists used in succession the same individuals of the ‘Marketplace’! And of course it would not be an exaggeration to state that this unacceptable ‘sporting match’ was not only the shame of the ‘Heads’ and those immediately involved, but also of those irresponsible ‘spectators’ from any responsible Church or State position!
It must be said that Archbishop Christodoulos and his supporters
would not have dared to even imagine the unrealistic and sacrilegious things they did, especially in the first stage of the conflict, had they not been misled by two totally erroneous evaluations: Firstly, to undervalue the power of the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate abroad (W. Europe, America, Oceania etc.) as non-existent or at least vulnerable, when they are striving honourably for their large flocks amidst alien environments. Secondly, to consider that the anguished Ecumenical Patriarch, together with the Bishops who remain in Turkey, are still functioning under the unbearable conditions of the implacable political circumstances which existed only until recently.
They should however have realized that, just as international organizations for the protection of human rights took shape in at least the last two decades of the 20th century, the Ecumenical Patriarchate could outspokenly claim with moral strength its ‘proper’ place based on history.
At any rate, Archbishop Christodoulos’ and his officials’ underestimation of Greeks abroad, expressed on various occasions, whether officially or in private, is naïve, if not malevolent. They claim that “Greeks abroad have a use by date due to the increasing number of mixed marriages”! The author’s response to this in a relevant published article at the time, that “mixed marriages should be anxiously noticed by Archbishop Christodoulos in suburbs like Kolonaki and other highlighted regions of modern Greece, rather than by spiritual leaders abroad”, seems to have made them, if not more cautious and just, at least more realistic, so as to begin to appreciate that in an increasingly globalised world, it is not only the institution of marriage which is in danger (when there is no fear of God and corresponding sensitivity towards one’s fellow human being), but also all centuries-old sanctified institutions, including the sacred institution of the Synod!
Still, the childish self-admiration of Archbishop Christodoulos
reached a peak when he publicly stated to Patriarch Bartholomew personally, in a moment of uncontrollable irritation: “Your All Holiness, don’t be jealous” (!).
It was only natural for the Patriarch to give him the come-back: “It
would be strange for the first in seniority to be jealous of the 14th” (!).
In closing somewhere between these tragic and humorous occurrences, we shall look forward to proceeding into the ‘deep water’ in the forthcoming and final part of this trilogy. (To be continued in the next issue)
This Article was published in the Greek Australian newspaper