The orthodox faith
For the youth



Prof. Hdr. Archim. Grigorios D. PAPATHOMAS
Dean of the St Platon Theological Seminar in Tallinn

— Introduction

A. Difficulties in the Internal Mission of the Orthodox Church

• Religionisation of Orthodoxy and its alienation

• Ideologicalisation of Orthodoxy

• Nationalism-Ethnophyletism

• Fundamentalism wearing the mask of Zealotism

• Prejudice against European Integration

B. Key proposals to overcome these difficulties

• Theological awakening of the Ecclesiastical body

• Restoration of the Metropolitan system
— Conclusion

My interest in dealing with this issue begins from my personal anxiety about what is happening every day in the world. It is a purely human thing, which is considered by the majority of people to be self-evident. The acceptance of a religion, the adoption of an ideology, the incorporation into a social pattern of any kind nowadays constitutes a socially self-evident fact which many times has been forced upon us. However, this fact plays a direct and organic role in the Church’s pastoral and missionary attempt to approach the world.

From the subject, as it has been formulated, one would expect that we will deal with the following questions : « What is internal or pastoral mis¬sion ? », « How can it be organized ? », « How is it implemented today in a traditionally Orthodox country ? », etc. However, there are relevant edu¬cational manuals on these subjects in Orthodox Theological Schools. When I was choose the sub¬ject, I thought I would take this opportunity to raise certain issues and es¬sen¬tially bring to the fore the characteristics, difficulties, and inner obsta¬cles of any missionary or pastoral attempt, as these arise in practice. Therefore, along with the other issues, I believe that the aforementioned issues will give rise to produc¬tive acade¬mic discussion and exchange of opinion.

One final clarification : in Theology we use two terms to define two diffe¬rent situations : the term “mission” and the term “pastoral care”. We talk about mission when in a country, region, or location, there are only a few Chri¬stians or even none. If the number of Christians increases, then, in Christian com¬munities, that result from this missionary effort, we exercise pastoral care, ra¬ther than “mission”. Consequently, a precise definition of the term “internal mis¬sion” (probably it is a copy of the German terminology innermission), for our purpo¬ses, is “pastoral care”, especially as far as a traditionally Orthodox coun¬try is con¬cer¬ned. However, today, we shall approach some matters related to issues of Or¬thodox witness, in mis¬sion, as well as in the pastoral care of peoples.

From the start, if we take into consideration these conditions, we have defined the subject « Internal Questions of the Orthodox Church pastoral and mission ». I have divided the content of this section into two parts : A) Difficulties in in¬ternal mission and B) Key suggestions to overcome these difficulties. As such, it will be easier to follow.


When a Western observer first studies or visits an Orthodox country, as we used to call it, he/she is mostly impressed by the composition of its people. They appear “compact” as far as their Orthodox identity is concerned and they are in a majority whose a percentage approaches the limits of the whole, i.e. in the region of 97 %. This, for example, is the case in Greece, a single case among so many other traditionally Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe. This compact feature fosters a manifest consciousness of supremacy and exclusivity of Ortho¬doxy. Hence, Orthodoxy is taken for granted in the family, school, parish life, the armed forces, the professions, social life and every manifestation of life in general. This originates in infant baptism which makes everyone feel that one did not be¬come an Orthodox Christian, but was born as such. In fact, Orthodoxy, consi¬dered as a personal identity, is — generally speaking — for everyone a situation, a characteristic of the national identity. It is not an empirical conquest ; it is not the result of a per¬sonal struggle nor a personal choice, and certainly neither a demand nor an offer of life that primarily concerns the person himself.

Exactly at this point, the mission and pastoral care of the Church have to intervene in order to make people participate in its experiece. The expe¬rien¬ce of the Church, which has neither ideological nor social content, but rather an ontological one, suggests intervention in the way that the Church it¬self makes use of and proceeds to innovations. Orthodoxy is valuable only when it influences or underpins life ; when it contains life. Otherwise, it re¬mains an empty letter, salt that has lost its “salting savour”, life without meaning or guarantee. However, even if Orthodoxy, in the case to which we refer today, is taken for granted in the personal life of any person who be¬co¬mes Orthodox in an institutional way, this does not mean that this person automa¬tically adopts the gift of life that Orthodoxy promises to mankind.

For this reason, various ways of how to use Orthodoxy exist. These ways constitute a means, not the adoption of Orthodoxy as a way of life and being. With some other people, who appear to be committed Orthodox Christians, symptoms of introversion and self-sufficiency are evident. In addition to this, the overwhelming majority in compact Orthodoxy, which characterizes one people in connection with these last two points, produces the mentality of a makeshift, unloved, xenophobia, which fails to communi¬cate (socialization). As a result, the spirit of opening oneself to the world does not exist. (This will be better demonstrated by the evidence below). In this case, Orthodoxy gives the impression that it is in “Babylonian captivi¬ty” (Fr. G. Florovsky, Athens 1936) and that it is subjected to eternalist visions of national life, which are usually characterised by exclusivity. How¬ever, this is all too general. So, let us proceed to more precise and con¬cre¬te issues.

Religionisation of Orthodoxy and its alienation

The reduction of Orthodoxy to a religion is an issue characteristic of traditionally Orthodox peoples. Today, we very easily say that Christianity is a monotheistic religion. First of all, Orthodoxy is not a religion. Jesus Christ did not come to earth to create a new religion ; so many other religions al¬ready existed ! Under no circumstances do the origin or, indeed, any consti¬tuent part of Orthodoxy form a religion. With equivalent facility, we place Orthodoxy among the three main monotheistic Religions of Mankind. Here, it is of value to raise a question in order to understand how misguided is this clas¬si¬fication and characterisation. How can we talk about monotheism, when there are three Persons ? Therefore, we have ...polytheism ! But is this really polytheism, when there is one God ? Our Church reminds us every day in the Liturgy of the “Triune God in Unity”, an ontological event which does not fit into any conventional, rationalistic mould, neither into mono¬theism nor into polytheism, since, finally, it has nothing to do with either of them. Moreover, the theological paradox of Saint Gregory the Theologian, « One and One and One makes One » (3rd Theological Speech), is not compatible with rationalism.

“Religion”, as a form tailored to social expediency, has nothing to do with the Truth, that is a Person, that is Christ Himself, who, among other things, saved us from religions by « breaking down the dividing wall of enmity » and by « making two parts one » (Eph 2, 14). Religion is too con¬venient, whereas Orthodoxy is different : it makes no compromise with any religious convention. From the moment that Christianity becomes a sys¬tem, an ideological system (cosmotheory), “humanism”, Morality, a theory of culture, a political banner, an ideology or religion, the mystery of the li¬ving God is stifled and, as a result, is alienated. Theology is the expe¬rience of God Himself, who is beyond any intellect and any human attempt at interpreta¬tion. Theology does not exist outside (spiritual) experience. Thus, Orthodoxy is a paradoxical fact for the human being ; it is neither knowledge, nor a passive version of a marvellous event, nor a system of perfect Morality. However, the understanding that people have of it today — espe¬cially Christians, the members of the Body of Christ as children of the Church — is one of Morality or Religion. This is why Morality can come to be Chri¬stianity’s betrayal, while Religion becomes its perfect distortion. Subsequently, the first and the must important thing for the Ecclesial Body is to remove the Religion from the Church.

Ideologicalisation of Orthodoxy

In examining the place of Orthodoxy vis-à-vis ideology, we should also note that ideas are intellectual, individual actions. They constitute ideologies when a group of people adopts them and fights on several fronts to promote them through social institutions or attempts to put them into action. Conse¬quently, an ideology is a system of elaborated ideas which reflects in people’s minds certain specific experiences, wishes or even illusions and which serves people as a system of orientation. Ideology as a whole constitutes an illu¬sion ; it has no ontology. Of course, the fanatical devotion to illusions consti¬tutes an organic part of every ideology. All ideologies contend for the privi¬lege to interpret the world or change it, each one in its one way, and to have effect as ultimate truths. However, the absolutisation of their ideas and ob¬jectives constitutes a form of idolatry, since no ideology can either be veri¬fied or denied. They operate in a religious way as long as they are pos¬sessed by the a priori conviction that the truth they comprise is self-evident ; this fosters faith in the followers of the ideology, while its ideas turn into idols.

However, every ideology is partial in interpreting aspects of reality, is contradictory and is finally discredited. This is why everyday human prac¬tice implacably relativises ideas in a way which proves their insufficiency. There are no theories, ideological or philosophical systems that can encompass eve¬ry¬thing and give an overall interpretation of the world and reality that is va¬lid for all subjects and for all historical periods. However, ideologists pose as “Messiahs”, because they believe that their own ideological system (cosmo¬theory) contains this secret thing, which, if adopted by people, will preserve them (from an existential point of view) and will be able to save the entire world. Furthermore, ideologies, as systems of ready-made ideas, make sure that a human being is completely relieved from the trouble of thinking and say the things which he likes to hear. This is the slavery of prêt-à-porter thought. Nowadays, the overwhelming majority of people has reached a state of abandon (even if everyone pretends to be a dissenter) and has laid the es¬sential part of its thoughts and especially of its personal pursuits in the hands of the authorities, the political party, propaganda, con¬sumption, pu¬blicity or the mass media. Ideology is a philosophical and psychological pro¬blem which deceives the faithful Orthodox people as well and creates obsta¬cles to their pastoral care.

Marx was right when he once said, « religion is the opium of the people ». Marx himself was of course completely ignorant of Orthodoxy. Just as people today identify Orthodoxy with Religion, Marx himself only had experience of Western, secularized Christianity. What Marx was unable to imagine was that his remark would also involve himself, because ideology is also the opium of the people. And even more : nationalism-ethnophyletism (that we will consider presently) also exists and functions as the opium of the people. In other words, religion is a downfall ; ideology a drug (opium) ; nationalism-ethnophyletism a new heresy. All of these constitute a deviation from the participation in the fullness and universality of Orthodoxy and an¬nihilate its entire witness.


Let us now examine what nationalism-ethnophyletism has in com¬mon with religion and ideology and how these hinder the Church’s mission and pastoral care. Let us also see why ethnophyletism is a factor that decisi¬vely poisons the Ecclesiastical body and is detrimental to interorthodox uni¬ty. This is a very important issue and it is impossible to examine it complete¬ly within the limits of this short presentation. All the same, a historical refe¬rence can provide a clue to its understanding and open a field for further thought.

The Theology of the Church, had a positive effect on the civilization and cultural success of the peoples of Eastern and Central Europe who were surrounded by four seas : the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Caspian. Church theological choice in the field of internal pastoral and external mission was based on the following fact : The representation of the Church as depicted in the icon of Pente¬cost. In this icon, the Apostles form a semicircle and not a closed circle. All the Orthodox Church mission and pastoral was based in this perspective. This gives precisely to everyone, individuals and peoples, a free choice of participation and communion. Influenced by this theologi¬cal position, Byzantium, as an historical state experience, constitutes the only state entity without frontiers. Having embraced an existentialist way of life and living (in) the atmosphere of Orthodoxy, it considered that all peoples are invited to participate in the same eschatological perspective. This statement constitutes an uncondi¬tional factor which gives a precise explanation for Byzantium’s universality and cosmopolitan character, embracing a host of peoples without ethno-phyle¬tism. The Byzantine Empire believed in this and throughout its historical life, it affirmed the cultural otherness of new-coming peoples into its bosom by offering them the possibility of permanent spiritual unity, the Orthodox faith.

The peaceful co-existence and reciprocal cultural perichorisis of Or¬thodox peoples continued in the years of the Ottoman Empire. However, this long-lasting reciprocity was reversed with all its consequent dark sequels during the 19th century by the emergence of the principle of national self-determination, which is the absolute principle of self-determination of peoples accompanied by a restrictive existence of the state. This reversed the previous experience. Statism possibly offered much to Europe’s new state-controlled institutions. However, it contributed decisively to the varied fragmentation of South-Eastern Europe, which had been culturally united. Moreover, in contrast with previous historical experience, statism be¬came a closed circle. State dominance was based on exclusivities : one na¬tion, one race, one language, one religion. Briefly put, the supremacy of only one na¬tionality...

Statism is closed by nature. On account of this particularity of statism, closed political systems (dictatorships, ideologies of extant socialism, etc.) found fertile ground for their development. Almost throughout the entire 20th century, each one of these systems oppressed in its own way the tra¬di¬tionally Orthodox peoples in particular. This happened exactly at the same moment when the other neighbouring peoples of Central and Western Europe realised the many-sided bankrupticy of statism and, abandoning it, progressed to a new historical formation : the European Commonwealth (1948-1993), which restored the freedom of communication and co-ope¬ra¬tion among peoples.

From this brief historical outline, we can see where the source of Ethno-phyletism lies. The term was used for the first time in 1872 by a Panortho¬dox Synod in Constantinople, which made continuous efforts to save the unity of Orthodox people, especially by condemning ethnophyletism as a heresy. The term essentially describes discrimination, which is nothing more than the principle of national self-determination applied in the bosom of the Ecclesiastical body. It is the voluntary discrimination of race and nationality in the bosom of the Church ; in other words, the confusion between Church and Nation. The Church cannot be identified with the expression of only one nation. This is the reason why it cannot be given a theological justification. Furthermore, ethnophyletism is also the privilege and sovereignity of racial origin over ecclesiastical identity. It is the eonistic choice of a way of exis¬tence as a life position (modus vivendi) to the detriment of the eschatological perspective of man.

It is obvious that the Church, having admitted us through baptism, ap¬proved of our national, racial, linguistic and other features ; she did not re¬ject them. However, she gave priority to our eschatological identity, which is a com¬mon demand and right of all human beings. In other words, we are first Christian and then European, Australian or American. First Orthodox and then Polish, Russian, Albanian, Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Arabian, etc. The op¬po¬site is Ethnophyletism, Eonism, Heresy.

Though this issue does not end here, it maybe extended further. Let us take one approach by way of example. It is common knowledge that in tradi¬tionally Orthodox countries newly-established Autocephalous Churches have come into being, especially from the 16th century until the present, and that some of them bear the honorary title of Patriarchate. Autocephaly does not imply a National Church but the possibility of communion within the (national) otherness of every local Ecclesiastical Body. In spite of this, Autocephalous Churches today operate as National Churches — not to say State-controlled Churches, following the Protestant model. Thus, worship mostly has a national character and not an ecclesiastical or eschatological one. We are Orthodox, because it so happens that we are Greek, Serb, Russian or Romanian, but not the other way round. To the same effect, we are not Muslims, precisely because we are not Turkish or Saudi Arabian. This mentality has also penetrated into parts of the Orthodox Diaspora, where its consequences are more significat and decisive in the area of inte¬rorthodox unity as well as, and especially, in the field of missionary witness and testimony to the nations (Mt 28, 12). Hence, national origin and descent come first and as a result they dominate and then follow Orthodox identity and substance.

We all know the result. We are incapable of finding a solution to ec¬clesiastical (dis)unity in the Diaspora. Orthodox ecclesiastical communities are established on the basis of Ethnophyletism and not geo-ecclesiastical bases. They are turned to, and have as their point of reference, the natio¬nal/ecclesiastical centre, and refuse to be in contact and communication (communion) with the real local Church. In both cases (metropolitan and Diaspora), Orthodoxy becomes part of national life and national culture. From “containing”, which is the ontological characteristic of Orthodoxy, she now becomes “contained” and ceases to be of existential benefit to the people who bear her. Dialectically, too there is disruption, because in the name of “their” Orthodoxy, certain people are opposed to other people whether of the same denomination (orthodox), another denomination (heterodox) or another religion (heteroreligian), as well as to different Orthodox national groups in the Diaspora. Everything depends on the length of the “umbilical cord” that connects everyone to the “effigy of Orthodoxy”, whether in one’s own country or in the Diaspora, with the “mother Country”, or with the level of emancipation...

Fundamentalism wearing the mask of Zealotism

Another issue, that depreciates not only some Orthodox “milieux”, but also every form of inter-human manifestation, and that poisons inter-human relationships, is the unprecedented phenomenon of Fundamentalism. Accor¬ding to its modern religious form, it could be characterised as “neo-zea¬lo¬tism”, but, actually, this expression does not adequately cover all of its as¬pects.

It is therefore of value, for a true understanding of the Orthodox Church’s mission, that, before everything else, we attempt to define, the term “Fundamen¬ta¬lism”. Its Latin root “fundamentum” means the “foundation” that supports an entire edifice. It refers neither to an ideology, nor to a philoso¬phy, religion, political system, or theory. Indeed, the term was used picto¬rially or typologi¬cally to denote the fundamental principles, ideas or values, on which a theory, a religion, or an ideology, a political system or even a scientific proposition or assumption is founded. Thus, speaking literally, this is a neutral term of the media vox that assumes a particular meaning whether from its historical phenomeno¬logy and semantical change or from attributes belonging to it. Hence, we observe national, ideological, religious, aesthetic, political and scientific fundamentalism, whose significant elements have much in common. Furthermore, fundamentalism underscores what is persis¬tent in something that is fundamental, in the founding formulations of a theory or teachings, as well as in the invitation to return to initial authentici¬ty. For this reason, fundamentalism could be rendered in Greek with the terms “qemeliokrativa” [“themeliokratia”] or “ajkeraiofrosuvnh” [“akeraio¬frosyni”] (preservation of the integrity of fundamental authority). As a phe¬nomenon, it should be associated with zealotism, and militant conservatism. At the same time, it can also be differentiated. However, it is completely op¬posed to modernism and secularism even though it is essentially nourished by their existence. So, in that it constitutes, under this form, a peculiar sym¬ptom of the universal community and tends to affect the life and expression of the Orthodox experience, it would be appropriate to continue with a brief ana¬lysis of its constituent elements.

Fundamentalism first appeared in the United States in 1919. It determi¬ned the identity of a wider religious (Protestant) movement that rejected mo¬dernism (especially the Darwinian theory of evolution) and the subsequent secularisation of theology as well as the relativisation of moralism’s de¬mands. Today, the term/tendecy has a wider meaning. It describes fanatical conservative manifesta¬tions of any form of religious or ideological dogma¬tism. Such phenomena appear in areas of the Orthodox world too, and one could identify the zealotist movements of the Old-Calendarists, as well as other religious groups such as the “zealots” in Greece, the Raskolniki in Russia, and contemporary political groups in the world of former (existen¬ting) socialism. Of course, a more dynamic form of fundamentalism develo¬ped in the bosom of Islam, as result of its confrontation with the secularised spirit of the West. And as Islam unites powers both religious and political, there is a direct relationship between religion and politics in its fundamen¬ta¬list movements. Finally, fundamentalist movements of no particular religious character appear in several areas of the world, having instead national, po¬li¬tical and social pursuits.

We could say that the basic elements of today’s fundamentalist pheno¬menon are, among others, traditionalism, a “one-way” attitude towards life, lega¬lism, and moralism. An absolute position is given to the “letter” of the founding formulations of a theory or teachings, while at the same time these formulations are converted into an objective authority and an infallible law. Canonical principles of individual and collective behaviour always arise from the founding formulations, in that they include a detailed casuistry (mora¬lism) and violation of external conventions. This is seen in the rejection or disobedience to the initial precepts of the teaching. Every form of funda¬men¬talism is coupled with intense psychological fanaticism, unshakeable encapsu¬lation into one-sidedness and militant passion in the defence of its principles. This also explains its incapacity for dialogue and, consequently, its rejection. Fundamentalism is dominated by the feeling that the integrity of authority is threatened and resorts to “purification” and a reorientation to au¬thenticity.

On the basis of this brief survey of its main features, the consequences of this phenomenon are obvious. It generates introversion and isolationism, deviation towards extreme reactions and fanaticism as well as aggressive in¬tolerance. It releases expansionist forces (eg. the Crusades, colonialism, fi¬nancial submission) and produces a chain of conflicts among people (cf. the Balkans). Since its understanding of tradition is static and absolute, those who threaten its authenticity are considered dangerous. For this reason the use of violence is neither unknown nor rejected (eg. Islam, recent incidents in Larissa/Greece, etc.). Besides, fundamentalism regularly demands a return to the roots (conservatism, ancestor-worship) and is characterised by austerity in religious expression (standardisation of religious life, unwavering applica¬tion of external conventions, such as old-fashion dress style, etc.), biblical and apocalyptic trends (antichristo¬logy, Satanist phenomena), the legalisation of the relationship between man and God, and moralism in every form of everyday life. Another basic aspect of the semantic approach of fundamenta¬lism is how it regards its place in the relationship between faith and its ex¬pression, which entails other relations and di¬cho¬tomies, such as those bet¬ween the truth and the historical expression of truth, between essence and formality, spirit and letter, signifier and signified (con¬servatism, Old-Calen¬darism). Hence, devotion to tradition means a funda¬mentalist invocation of antiquity, the absolutisation of the past, partiality (which is contrary to uni¬versality) and submission to conservatism (in fear of freedom). In brief, a static and not dynamic understanding of Tradition.

Another aspect concerns the absolutisation of the symbols of the ex¬pression of the truth. The ostentations placing of crosses in highly visible places, apart from the fact that it echoes a Western, Roman Catholicism prac¬tice, is part of the phenomenology of fundamentalism. Provided that Chri¬stian fundamen¬talism uses Christian symbols, which naturally coincide with symbolic issues of the Church, it is not always easy to detect from its exter¬nals. Specifically, funda¬mentalism is distinguished by the way it makes the symbolic system autonomous and absolute. For this reason, the symbolic system itself can express freedom or obscurantism, genuine spiritual life or fundamentalism.

Finally, differentiated from interpersonal inelasticity, it denies dia¬lo¬gue, because through dialogue one may bring the part under the organic whole of the truth, so that the part is not imposed on the whole. Funda¬men¬ta¬lism, however, in seeking the opposite, operates as a serious threat to civili¬zation itself and to the whole of revealed truth. Indeed, fundamentalists seek the title-deeds not only of truth but also of its authentic explanation, the¬reby excluding any constructive dialogue with dissenters or even non-conformists.

As we realize, this is a difficult issue, so I will cite an incident, re¬cen¬tly recorded by the ecclesiastical press in Greece. The title of the two-colum¬ned article was : “Massive demonstration and dynamic protest against Jeho¬vah’s Witnesses”. And it goes on : « The following has been communi¬ca¬ted and pu¬blished from Kassandra in Chalkidiki. The demonstration “against the Mille¬na¬rians” that took place in the central square of Valta, tur¬ned into one of the lar¬gest meetings to have taken place in the post-war pe¬riod in Chal¬ki¬diki. Thou¬sands of Chalkidiki’s inhabitants, using every means of transport, buses, taxis, pri¬vate cars and tractors, and coming from every part of the peninsula, gathered at the old See of Kassandra’s Metropolis, Valta. The de¬monstration was organized by the municipality of Kassandra, the local Church and several authorities of the region.

» The main demand was for a room intended for the religious services of the Jehovah’s Witnesses not be constructed in Kassandra. The atmosphere was particularly electrified, especially after the attack made by a Jehovah’s Witness ten days ago on Archimandrite Nektarios, vicar of Kassandra, after they had an argument. As a matter of fact, on Friday, some inhabitants of Valta and its neighbouring villages prevented works from starting in the place where the Jehovah’s Witnesses plan to install a prefabricated building. They formed a human chain and barricaded the area with agricultural ma¬chinery and a bus. Jehovah’s Witnesses arrived hurriedly from Nea Flo¬gi¬ta, Moudania and Thesssaloniki, where they maintain powerful cells and orga¬ni¬zed an informal meeting in ...a fish restaurant in Siviri »... (Orthodox Press, issue n° 1328/16-7-1999, p. 6).

Everything mentioned so far applies in some manner to fundamenta¬lism, but there is more. However, I do not wish merely to give evidence pas¬sively. Since this issue is of vital importance for our time and also for the outlook of the Ecclesiastical body, let us move quickly on to suggestions con¬cerning its ontological overcoming.

The symptoms of the phenomenon already existed before its historical crystallization in 1919, but no one denies any longer that fundamenta¬lism consti¬tutes an important phenomenon of religious and socio-political psy¬cho¬logy. It is the human person that constitutes its focal point and not the stru¬c¬ture of society or its political organization.

Fundamentalism seeks for foundations and identifies them with the ab¬solute even though they may be on the level of the created and not of the un¬created. Fundamentalism of every kind absolutizes created elements and ab¬solutization of the created means restriction within the space of the world (ejgkosmiovth" [egkosmiotis]) ; in fact, it means idolatry. Consequently, such a posi¬tion mutilates the truth for the human person. The created, as corruptible and perishable, is lo¬cated within the limits of death. Therefore, it cannot save human beings from the fear of death or offer them freedom and fulfillment. It cannot help them to integrate as persons, and creates insecurity. Uncertain¬ty and the feeling of emptiness, which lead to the emergence of fundamen¬ta¬lism, do not consitute morality or anything similar, but ontologi¬cal situa¬tions. Fundamentalism does not have ontology even though it ma¬nages to convince its followers, and those who express its beliefs, to accept its moral pretensions or deontology as ontology. Its fatal illusion and weak¬ness is lo¬ca¬ted here, as is its fanaticism and intransigence.

However, people, who have tasted and have lived the experience of free¬dom, love and resurrection, are alien to neuroses from fundamentalist phenomena and such mentalities. Therefore, since fundamentalism’s preten¬sions are ontological, it is natural that it shoud be overcome on the level of ontology. Only on that level can fundamentalism be approached and over¬come. Because the history of fundamentalism is a history of man’s agonized effort to fill his inner emptiness with objective certainties. For this reason, the “ontological overcoming of fundamentalism” may be the only realistic way to confront it.

Prejudice against European Integration

The year 1993 constituted the symbolic starting point of a “new state” insitution, or, better, the starting point of a new geopolitical entity. Even from the early years, its visionaries called it United Europe. Today, after ten years (2003), its champions, deprived of any concept of vision, even of essentials, call it the European Union. Of course, beyond any obvious and daw¬ning national(ist) (nation-centred) behaviour of individual-centred priori¬ties, this concerns a new cosmogony that is still insufficiently appreciated in our everyday and instritutional life. Since traditionally Orthodox countries (Greece, Finland, Cyprus, Estonia, Poland, Czechia-Slovakia and shortly Bulgaria, Romania, etc., are about to enter) have already started to take part in this new geoentity, it is advisable that we continue with an anatomic appreciation of this new pros¬pect and of its rela¬tion with the Orthodox body.

The fact that the Ecclesiastical body remains indifferent in the face of European developments should make us think. The Orthodox attitude vis-à-vis this cosmogony is, at the worst, hostile and at the best, dull. By definition, this means that the Ecclesiastical body of the Or¬tho¬dox Church is obviously absent. It is absent not because we have not been invited to participate, but because we have, in one way or another, cho¬sen not to participate in these historic develop¬ments, the main reason being that we were remiss or prejudiced against it. Of course, the causes are ob¬vious, whereas the issue remains serious and of major im¬portance. Let us now take a quick look at a basic aspect of primary impor¬tance.

First of all, a United Europe, considered as a historic reality, corre¬s¬ponds more to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and less or even not at all to the state, which gave birth to the prevalence of the com¬mit¬ted principle of national self-determination. Consequently, European unifica¬tion constitutes a challenge to our national individualism so powerfully promo¬ted by European statism during the last two centuries. The perspective of unifi¬cation has, even by coincidence, theological characteristics, such as the com¬munion of peoples, the communion of persons, etc. Europe, by preserving a framework of equality of people before the law, will moderate their diffe¬rences and will facilitate their unity, but also, unwittingly and unwillingly, the unity of Orthodoxy.

But let us take a look at the approach of Orthodoxy and Europe, as well as the mode of contribution of the Orthodox Church to common European developments from a theological point of view. All of these things are equally apparent from the example that we mentioned above, to illustrate the issue of Ethnophyletism : the example of the representation of the Church on the icon of Pentecost. I simply wish to remind here that on this icon the Apostles form a semicircle and not a clo¬sed circle, giving precisely and freely to everyone the possibility of par¬tici¬pation and communion. Historically, unprecedented statism provoked the creation of state formations (nation-states) in the bosom of Europe ; it deci¬sively contributed to its varied fragmentation. Moreover the state, in contrast to its former historical experience (which we described above), became a closed circle. Hence, the states where Orthodox people lived became closed systems, because statism is selective by nature. United Europe, considered as a fact or as an idea, moves to the very opposite pole of statism and catalyses this change, provided that it does not take the form of a closed circle, but rather embraces more and more peoples. Therefore, European unifica¬tion, as well as our simultaneous incorporation into it as Orthodox Christians, constitutes a spiritual fact of major importance.

Futhermore, I would like to remind here of two historical factors : Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity which constitute the spiritual “godfathers” of Europe. They give a reference point to the historic condi¬tions that form the geo-entity called “Europe”. Consequently, Western civili¬zation is not conceivable without Orthodoxy. It becomes clear that Europe is our preoccupation ; it is an area belonging to our spiritual responsibility for what has already taken shape. We are the heirs of the ecumenical dimension of two empires, the empire of Alexander the Great and that of the Romans. Orthodoxy cannot be exhausted within the utopic limits of a state.

On this point exactly, the issue regarding the substantial offer that the Orthodox Church will shortly be invited to make to Europe is raised. And here, special attention and care will be required from those responsible in today’s Church : mainly bishops, clergymen in general, theologians and of course the youth, the new generation. Perhaps, Orthodoxy con¬stitutes the only hope of the Western world. Do not take what I say in a mes¬sianic way ; but sooner or later the testimony of Orthodoxy will be “conditio sine qua non”, indispensable in tomorrow’s European society under Western domination. Because, « those who consider History as a combination of se¬veral elements, which are bound together by the keystone called attitude to¬wards the world and understanding of life, will turn to Orthodoxy with greater expectations » (J. Zizioulas) than they turn nowa¬days to Islam and other Far Eastern exotic creeds. This is why time has come for Orthodoxy to be present in Europe.

In this sense, it is now worh making an attempt to decode the terms Europe and Orthodoxy. The first concept hides the dimension of cultural poly¬phony, while spiritual unity constitutes a mode of relationship for Or¬thodoxy. The affirmation of otherness in the perspective of ontological unity constitutes a harmonious conjunction with existential consequences. In other words, we unite by distinguishing and we distinguish by uniting. The wealth of every people should be harmonized with a unique spiritual factor of syn¬thesis and transcen¬dance. This is something no one to date has managed to accomplish in Europe, not even in the second millennium. Therefore, only the Church, through the ex¬perience of the Pentecost, is able to make the communion of people and the com¬munion of individuals ontological and consequently substantial.

Today, some people talk about danger coming from Europe. Orthodo¬xy is not in danger because of Europe, it is in danger because of its inertia and its incapacity to let people know about its wealth and to show this wealth to them with humility and respect. It is in danger of closing itself up, while it has so much to offer. Orthodoxy is not afraid of the West, whereas the West seems to need Orthodoxy more and more. Its power is in itself, in its Truth and spirit, because it constitutes an ontological dimension that is not absorbed by its environment. On the contrary, it influences the environment with au¬thority and ontological power.

The Orthodox Church has a determinative testimony of life to give to the Old Continent. The realization of what our particularity possesses may have pionnering consequences. Standing on the threshold of the 21th century and also of the 3rd millenium, we are invited to devote ourselves to a cutli¬va¬tion and deep familiarity with Orthodoxy and to its interpretation in the con¬temporary Western world. In two words, we should demonstrate self-con¬s¬ciousness and witness (martyria) ! If this does not happen now, then it might be too late not only for the destiny of Europe, which absolutely needs Orthodoxy to survive, but also for our own national identity, which risks being altered and completely eliminated.

However, apart from the general theological dimension of the subject, if we are specific, it ever remains a missionary and pastoral issue. The “Ortho¬dox Church in Europe” as well as the “Orthodox Church in the World” means a¬mong oher things a way of conduc¬ting pastoral care of people in a unique geo¬po¬litical area.

Ten years ago (1993) Europe entered a new era that will soon be called by historians “European”. The constant factors that till now determined the Eu¬ropean status quo seem obviously to be relativized. Europe leaves behind the experience of statism and wounded, she seeks for new paths to continue her historical course. By being Orthodox, we fulfil the conditions for an enter¬prising itinerary, because these conditions are neither nationalist, nor cultu¬ral, nor anything else ; they are primarily theological. Julian the Apostate experienced failure and along with him the vision that he wanted to resu¬sci¬tate also failed, because he stepped backwards, because he aimed at retro¬gres¬sion. At that moment, Orthodoxy won the future of (idolatrous-pa¬ganistic) Hellenism, because it did not constitute a way back, but rather a creative synthesis. This is the heritage and, at the same time, the duty and the mission of Orthodoxy in United Europe and in the Mankind.


Not-with-standing these matters, let us go on to the selection and exa¬mination of some suggestions, since criticism becames constructive only when it is accompanied by positive counter proposals.

Our times are characterized, perhaps more that ever before, by the simplification of everything. There are many more issues to be raised other than those mentioned hither-to, as seen through the apostolic (missionary) tradition and life of the Church. There are also their extensions and it would be meaningful for the issues raised today to refer to some cases by first as¬king the question : How can the Ecclesiastical body overcome these difficul¬ties, some of which have already been mentioned, so as to be able to give leadership in a historically suitable way, according to its mission, that is to say ontologically and eschatologically. In our opinion, there are two levels and they are focused on the life and on the administration of the Church.

Theological awakening of the Ecclesiastical body

Father Georges Florovsky in the 1st International Inter-orthodox Theologi¬cal Congress, which took place in Athens in 1936, said with bitter¬ness and emphasis that Orthodox theology is under a “Babylonian captivity” on account of its westernization, its secularization, its nationalism and its lack of the Patristic tradition. Sixty years and more have passed since then. Can we truly say that this does not happen today as well ? Especially, when the evidence just presentes confirm it ? Consequently, there is a “famine of the Patristic word”, theological speechlessness (aphasia) and “the issues of the Church are not pastorally faced” (St Gregory the Theologian). This explains why the mission and the pastoral work of the Church do not progress. In or¬der to demonstrate what I want to say, I will make a comparaison and a de¬duction.

For example, during the 4th century, our Fathers, among other things, showed a unique capacity to face and solve successfully the problems that arose. They faced with daring and dialectism and solved decisively with crea¬tive synthesis whatever problems they had inherited from philosophical anti¬quity, but also whatever problems were raised in their times. In this way, the Chri¬stians of the early 5th century had the certainty and the pride that the Theolo¬gy of the Church had solved whatever problem had faced mankind till then. Have we, the Christians of the 21th century the courage to say the same to¬day ? We are theologically confused to such an extent that our theology to¬day, instead of solving problems, adds to and increases the existing ones that still lie in the bosom of the Ecclesiastical body.

Orthodox Theology has been disfigured by external influences brought about by Orthodox theologians, whether by tolerance or choice, who were unable to engage in discussion with secular theologies. Therefore, as mentio¬ned above, it has in its bosom pure Western and Eastern elements, that is Calvinistic, puritanist, moralistic, scholastic, Muslim, neo-philosophical, le¬galist, and of course eonistic, nationalist, secularist, etc. A medley of influen¬ces that have corrupted even the phenomeology of the Church’s own expe¬rience. It will take hard work, study, prayer and struggle to clarify its pro¬fi¬le.

However, the situation is definite and clear for the diachronical life and tradition of the Church : her members are in communion to the extent that they participate spiritually and empirically in the Body of the living Christ. Obviously, they do not commun(icat)e, because they do not parti¬ci¬pa¬te. This is the point from which the theological awakening of the Ecclesia¬sti¬cal Body which I envisage needs to start. This means an awakening that cros¬ses through liturgical life, monastic tradition, the ascetic aspect of Ortho¬do¬xy, the Fathers’ guidance, the harmony of mutuality and participation of the four charismas (St Hippollytus of Rome), namely, the local Church, synoda¬lity, the co-love (syn-agape), the communion of persons, sanctity of life, humility and theosis. It is about a perspective that goes through the “doing and teaching” (Mt 5, 19) of the Lord. First to do and then to teach... But, to¬day, we teach before having undertaken the doing. God’s people are ready to move forward as long as they find open theological horizons which should be eschatologically oriented...

Restoration of the Metropolitan system

I will insist on this point at some length. There are several areas that require theologically conceived functions in a pastoral form in the Church. I believe that the key condition for such a perspective is the restoration of the Metropolitan system not only in traditionally Orthodox areas, but also in Europe and the Australian-American Diaspora. Statism recently abolished (20th century) this canonical system in almost every place, inspite if the fact that it had functioned from the 4th century until the 19th century. And this after an experience of 16 centuries, and it is directly related to the pursuit of solutions or the creation of possibilities by the Orthodox Church in the newly-established fields of both United Europe and the New World (United States-Australia). It is also a matter of crucial importance for many other pa¬rameters of ecclesiastical administration and life. Here, we will simply pre¬sent it briefly and finish the presentation.

Geopolitical changes have always influenced the institutional basis and the external structure of the Church. By the 4th century, the Church’s will to adapt her administrative systems to each new geopolitical context appears in the Synods. For example, the 1st Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325), first introduces the metropolitan system as a criterion of canonical continuity and as good will for practical harmonization of the administrative structure of the Church. This followed the geopolitical readjustment of the administrative situation in the Roman empire of Diocletian and Constantine the Great. This fact turned out not to be immediate. The canons 17/IV (451) and 38/Penthekti [Quinisextus] (691) echo the same synodical practice that suggests a geo-ec¬clesiastical adaptation of the same or a similar type : « The order of eccle¬siastical affairs should be followed according to political and public models ». This canonical order and practice that were formed have always functioned as a co-efficient of the harmonization of “the order of ecclesiastical matters” with “political and social models” for purely missionary and pastoral rea¬sons. This is something that we forget today. Institutional initiatives and priorities regarding any geo-administrative reform always belonged to the Empire/State. Having this geopolitical restructuring as a criterion, the Church organizes afterwards its local churches and dioceses and she develops activities connected to her pastoral and soteriological work.

Obviously, this approach is in direct relation with the new geopolitical formation of the European Union and the fermentations in the New World, and therefore with the canonical demand for a re-activation of the Metropo¬litan system. It is advisable to remember ourselves that the concept of the na¬tio¬nal state gives way to the framework of the European Union and along with it ecclesiastical centralism, which, fed on statism, is relativized. The ba¬sic vision of the European Union is admistrative decentralization and the streng¬thening of local authorities, two elements that also constitute the func¬tional features of the Metropolitan system, such as metropolitan districts and putting into effect the institution of local (metropolitan) synods.

There are also other essential reasons that suggest this restoration, since our age is undermined, perhaps as never before, by individualism. The personal feature of pastoral work is set forth within the Metropolitan system and makes its operation more essential. Another basic element of this adop¬tion deals with its practical dimension and brings consequences in the streng¬thening of relations between pastors and faithful, in the decentra¬li¬zation of the Church’s administration, in the confrontation of pastoral pro¬blems on a local basis, in missionary activity, and in the confrontation of he¬retical groups, and so on. In one word, the Ecclesiastical body should face direct¬ly and accurately the “issues arising”, as mentioned in the canon 19/IV. The ca¬no¬ni¬cal system suggests by its nature a larger number of local churches and, therefore, smaller flocks for pastoral care, thus preser¬ving personal identity in the Church’s pastoral work. Its absence means for the most part that « the issues of the Church are not pastorally fa¬ced » (St Gregory the Theologian).

In order to face the new historical challenge of our time, our Church is invited today to bring again into effect the Metropolitan system, which exi¬s¬ted until the 19th century, and which still exists in some Orthodox countries. This matter in relation to the issue of European integration concerns not only the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but also the Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Poland and Czechia-Slovakia, which along with the Autonomous Churches of Finland and Estonia, are the only some — for the time being — that are already incorporated into United Europe. However, pre¬sup¬positions increase as European integration continues day by day.

The proposition of the restoration of the Metropolitan system in the per¬s¬pective of United Europe is supported by the Church’s canonical tradi¬tion and by the contemporary pastoral demands of the new European era that have already started to emerge. We should have detected in time its necessity and its spiritual value. I need to clarify that this is not a proposal either for reform or administrative change, nor is it an attempt at institutio¬nal innova¬tion. The (Canonical) Tradition of our Church is characterized by fullness and as a result it is the means for an innovative line “with a spirit of leader¬ship” in a world with unquenchable spiritual pursuits, but also at the same time with a weakness in ontological orientation.

Therefore, every metropolitan synod of the Metropolitan system will be responsible for the geopolitical mainland, In the same way, the Me¬tro¬politan system will not only make more positive the operation of the Eccle¬sia¬stical body and produce wider cooperation on a local level, but will also preserve its quality, canonicity and polyphony without showing the canonical weakness we have detected ; and this will happen within the bounds of the synodical communion of local churches.

This evidence has a clear canonical basis, if we take into conside¬ra¬tion the specific decisions of the 2nd Ecumenical Council (381) that echo a long-lasting and well-tried ecclesiastical tradition : « […] It is obvious that by the observance of the canon concerning administration, the cases of each district will be settled by the synod of the (metropolitan) district, according to what has been determined in the Council of Nicea […] » (2/II). However, each at¬tempt presupposes discernment and a suitable way, so as not to harm the or¬der of the liturgical life, of the the canonical tradition and of the pastoral diakonia that take place in the bosom of the Church. Nothing can replace personal relationship and the personal character of every synodical effort. Any other means are helpers with the particular objective of strengthening personal communication — not to replacing it — and are to be incorporated into the eschatological perspectives that differentiate and characterize the Church. Our generation assumes this responsibility on the threshold of the 21th century. Our current and future behaviour will determine the future of the Church’s mission in the contemporary world.


I would like to remind here of the practice of the Fathers that proved to be precious in history and that will contribute to issues we have raised. One of the characteristics of the Fathers’ attitude towards the world as well as its exclusive success consists in the fact that the Fathers achieved something new that made them to be and to remain pioneers in the bosom of the Church and in its historical evolution. They took action so as to succeed in receiving con¬temporary reality, acting like an amoeba, which takes and assimilates, accepts voluntarily and transforms... In practice, this means that the Ecclesiastical body is invi¬ted today, as never before, to receive contemporary reality, which, due to its fast rhythms, has brought to the Ecclesiastical body, among other things, at present, certain contradictions, like those mentioned above. It is im¬por¬tant that we know the conditions of every alteration that takes place every day. However, it is far more important to be able to reach vital con¬clusions from these a prioris and from similar considerations and to raise suggestions for the current and future course of the Ecclesiastical body, « in order to live in newness of life » (Rm 6, 4 ; 7, 6). I believe that this con¬sti¬tutes the golden key for every missionary and pastoral effort.

In conclusion, I would only like to say that, in this presentation, I have simply tried to set forth, using a proportional method, the problems through their extensions (the pessimistic as well as the optimistic per¬spe¬cti¬ves) ha¬ving as a keystone the fact that behind the particular problems of ecclesiastical life brought about by the world of today lies hidden, our attitude towards the way we approach truth... Through a missionary and pastoral evaluation of these matters, I submit all these thoughts together in order to make think and also as a form of counter-proposal for possible action that could trans¬pire in the future, even in the prospect of transcendance, of synthesis or even restoration. Not only that ! We have the example of the Fathers before us. Their clear-sightedness and their holiness let them go beyond the future and be ahead of their time, thus becoming leaders in History, pioneers and Ecu¬menical teachers. I believe this verifies what I have said, and with its rich message for our topic of study, gives us all hope for the future…

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