On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, Coming to Her from Other Christian Churches

By Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pogodin)

Originally published in Russian in Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya
(Messenger of the Russian Christian Movement)
Paris-New York-Moscow, Nos. 173 (I-1996) and 174 (II-1996/I-1997).

Translated with permission of the author by Alvian N. Smirensky

Translation Copyright © 2000 Alvian N. Smirensky. All Rights Reserved.
Publication Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved.
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Introductory Notes - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Appendices


The decision of the Constantinople Council of 1756 establishing the baptism (re-baptism) for Roman Catholics and Protestants converting from their faith to the Orthodox Faith. The history of that decision and the opinions about it of Orthodox theologians not belonging to the Greek Church

The 1756 Council in Constantinople, at the time of Patriarch Cyril, carried out the decision that it is appropriate to receive Roman Catholics and Protestants converting to the Orthodox Church exclusively by way of baptism. In addition to Patriarch Cyril of Constantinople Patriarch of Alexandria Matthew and Patriarch of Jerusalem Parthenios signed this decision. This decree reads:[82]

"Among the means by which we are vouchsafed salvation, baptism is in the first place that was entrusted by God to the Holy Apostles. Inasmuch as the question was raised three years ago whether it is proper to recognize the baptism of heretics turning to us (with a desire to be received into our faith) then — inasmuch as that baptism is performed contrary to the tradition of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers and likewise contrary to the practice and decrees of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, — we, brought up by the mercy of God, in the Orthodox Church, preserving the Canons of the Holy Apostles and the Godly Fathers and recognizing our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and her mysteries, among which is the divine baptism, and consequently, considering everything that takes place among heretics and is not performed as commanded by the Holy Spirit and the Apostles and as it is now performed in Christ’s Church, as contrary to all of the apostolic tradition and as an invention of corrupt people — we, by a common decision, sweep aside any heretical baptism and thus receive any heretics turning to us, as not having been sanctified and not being baptized and we first of all, follow in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ who commanded His Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We further follow the Holy and Divine Apostles who established triple immersion with the pronouncing at each of them, one of the names of the Holy Trinity. We further follow the Holy and Equal-to-the Apostles Dionysius[83] who says that the catechumen, having had all his clothes removed, must be baptized in the font, in sanctified water and oil, calling upon the three hypostases of the All-Blessed Divinity, afterwards anointing him in the divinely-created Chrism, then becoming worthy of the salvific Eucharist. Finally we follow the Second and the Quinisext Ecumenical Councils that prescribe that those turning to Orthodoxy be considered as unbaptized who were not baptized by triple immersion, at each of which the name of one of the Divine Hypostases is pronounced, but were baptized by some other means. Adhering to these Holy and Divine decrees we consider heretical baptism to be worthy of judgement and repudiation inasmuch as it does not conform with but contradicts the Apostolic and Divine formation and is nothing more than a useless washing, according to the words of St. Ambrose and St. Athanasius the Great, neither sanctifying the catechumen nor cleanse him from sin. This is why we receive all heretics turning to Orthodoxy as those who were not baptized properly as not having been baptized and without any hesitation baptize them according to the apostolic and conciliar canons upon which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ — the common mother of us all — firmly rests. We affirm this, our unanimous decision which is in conformance with the apostolic and conciliar canons, with a written testament subscribed with our signatures."

As Bishop Nikodim Milash points out: ". . . this synodal decision does not mention Roman Catholics by name and does not say that their baptism should be rejected and that they be baptized upon converting to the Orthodox Church; however, this is quite evident from what and how everything is stated in the decision."[84]

The "Pedalion" (Kormchaya Kniga) openly states that this decision refers to Roman Catholics. In a lengthy discussion about receiving the non-Orthodox by means of baptism we read:

"Latin baptism is erroneously referred to by that name: it is not a baptism at all but is simply a washing. This is why we do not say that we ‘re-baptize’ the Latins, but we ‘baptize’ them. The Latins are not baptized since they do not perform triple immersion at baptism, which has been a tradition in the Orthodox Church from the apostles from the very beginning."[85]

Not a single Orthodox Church, except the Greek, accepted this decision. The Russian Orthodox Church in receiving non-Orthodox converting to Orthodoxy, followed those canons that were adopted in 1667 and 1718, which recognized baptisms performed in the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran Churches as valid and did not repeat them.

The well-known canonist of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Bishop Nikodim Milash, explains:

"Non-Orthodox are received into the Church either: a) through baptism, or 2) through chrismation, or 3) through repentance and confession of the Orthodox Faith. This was established back in the 5th century, to which the Presbyter Timotheus of the Church of Constantinople testifies in his epistle to his concelebrant John. The Kormchaya gives this epistle wherein he writes:

"There are three rites for accepting those coming to the Holy Divine, Catholic and Apostolic Church: the first rite demands holy baptism, the second one — we don’t baptize, but anoint with the Holy Chrism, and the third — we neither baptize nor anoint, but demand the renunciation of their own and all other heresy."

The basis for this is Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council. These three rites for receiving the non-Orthodox into the Church remain in full force today in the Orthodox Church. By the first rite the Church receives those heretics who wrongly teach about the Holy Trinity, who do not recognize baptism or do not perform it according to the Divine commandment. By the second rite, i.e., by means of chrismation, those heretics who are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and do not reject the Holy Trinity, but are in error about certain aspects of the faith; as well as those who do not have a legitimate sacred hierarchy nor the sacrament of chrismation. This includes all of the various Protestants. This rite is also used in receiving Roman Catholics and Armenians who have not been anointed with the Holy Chrism by their bishops or priests. But if they, i.e., the Roman Catholics and Armenians, were anointed with Chrism in their Churches, they are received into the Orthodox Church by means of the third rite in which those who are received, following a certain period of time in studying the Orthodox catechism, then in a verbal or written repudiation of their former beliefs, they solemnly confess the Symbol of Orthodox Faith and then, following prescribed prayers on the part of the Orthodox bishop or priest, are communed with the Holy Gifts."[86]

With respect to the decisions of the 1756 Constantinople Council we read the following views of the same Bishop Nikodim Milash:

"The decision that each Roman Catholic as well as each Protestant who wishes to convert to the Orthodox Church is to be baptized anew was made by the 1756 Council in Constantinople during the time of Patriarch Cyril V. This conciliar decision was motivated by the Western Christians’ being baptized by pouring and not by three immersions. Since the only proper form of baptism is only that which is performed by three immersions, it follows that Western Christians must be considered not to have been baptized since they were not baptized in that manner and consequently, they must be baptized when they want to convert to the Orthodox Church. This decision by the above mentioned Council in Constantinople was called for by extraordinary circumstances, which arose in the 18th century in the relations between the Greek and Latin Churches, and was a reaction on the part of the Greek Church towards the aggression against that Church on the part of Latin propaganda. From a formal point of view the motivation for this decision has some basis since the Orthodox Church’s canons call for the baptism to be performed by triple immersion of the one baptized into the water and the term baptism itself, is derived from the act of immersion, and the same canons condemn that baptism which was done by a single immersion as was done by various heretics of the first centuries of the Christian Church. But the Church has never condemned that baptism which was done by pouring. Not only that, but the Church itself permitted such a form of baptism in the event of need and considered baptism by means of pouring as not contrary to the apostolic tradition. Therefore, the above-noted decision of the Constantinople Council cannot be considered as binding for the whole Orthodox Church since it is contrary to the practice of the Eastern Church of all centuries and particularly, to the practice of the Greek Church itself from the time of the division of Churches to the time of that Council in Constantinople."[87]

And still more:

"As a result of the exceptional conditions that arose in the relations between the Greek and the Latin Churches, the 1756 Council in Constantinople promulgated a requirement to baptize anew every Roman Catholic desiring to convert to the Orthodox Church. A similar requirement called forth by a similar set of circumstances as was faced by the Greek Church was decreed by one of the Moscow Councils in 1620. But these requirements, deviating from many centuries of practice by the Eastern Church, were looked upon as an extreme example of strictness, inevitably called for by the unfavorable circumstances of the times, and do not have, nor can have, a universal significance."[88]

This then is the opinion of one of the best known canonists of the Orthodox Church. We will repeat that not a single Orthodox Church, with the exception of the Greek, adopted the decisions about the re-baptism of Roman Catholics or Lutherans during their conversion to Orthodoxy.

We will now look at the circumstances that prompted the decision of the Constantinople Council of 1756, which was cited above in full. Professor A. P. Lebedev in his "History of the Greco-Eastern Church under the Power of the Turks" writes as follows:

"The Council under the patriarchate of Symeon (taking place in Constantinople in 1484) required on the part of a Latin renegade (i.e., a person desiring to convert from the Roman Catholic faith to the Orthodox faith) that he would only renounce his Roman Catholic errors. The act of reception was that the renegade was anointed with the Holy Chrism, as it is done during the baptism of infants. The rite was notable for its simplicity. In this respect the Greek Church of the 15th century stood much higher than the Greek Churches of the 18th and 19th centuries. As is known, the Greek Church in the 18th century raised a noisy argument about the means for the reception of Latin converts — as well as of Protestants — to Orthodoxy, and began to lean towards the opinion that such renegades must be re-baptized as actual heretics who do not believe in the Trinitarian dogma. As a result of those arguments, there arose in the Greek Church a practice contrary to the canons which could serve to cool the desire of the renegades to convert to Orthodoxy, with the result that those seeking the Orthodox truth began to be re-baptized."

Professor Lebedev writes further:

"One of the most convincing examples, which serves as evidence to what a great degree of instability existed in the Church in Constantinople, was the history accompanying the arguments about the baptism of the Latins. In 1751, during the reign of Patriarch Cyril V, in the region of Katirli in Nicomedea there appeared a certain monk, Auxentius, who was a deacon and who began to preach to the people about the errors of the Latins. With a particular insistence he began to preach against the validity of Latin baptism coming to the conclusion that the Latins (and the Protestants along with them) must be re-baptized upon their conversion to the Greco-Eastern Church. Patriarch Cyril, although fully aware about Auxentius’ preaching, gave the appearance of knowing nothing about it, acting so out of fear of bringing about a hatred from the papist side, although deep in his soul he was in full accord with the preacher. The number of those in agreement with Auxentius’ teaching grew from day to day, but the Patriarch out of caution expressed neither sympathy nor a lack of sympathy with the prophet, as Auxentius was looked upon by the people. Auxentius insinuated himself as a prophet by malice and cunning. He managed to learn from their confessors about the sins of some of his own and their spiritual children and upon meeting them would accuse them of their sins when they believed that these sins were not known to anyone, and insistently admonished them to refrain in the future from the greater of such sins threatening them with eternal punishment. The one who was so accused, naively believed that Auxentius was privy to secrets. Because of this he was perceived as a prophet. Auxentius was seen as a holy man, and he attracted any number of men and women who would hang on to his every word, repented of their sins, begging for an imposition of his hands and asked for his prayers and blessing. Soon, in the following year of 1752, there was a change in the patriarchate. In place of Cyril, Paisius II became patriarch. He immediately ordered Auxentius to stop his preaching about the re-baptism of Latins and Armenians. Yes, Armenians, because the seer of Katirli pronounced that Armenian baptism was invalid. But, the latter did not want to listen to the voice of the patriarch of Constantinople. Once or twice Auxentius was summoned to the synod where he was admonished collectively, but he had no thought about leaving his delusion. Then, in order to admonish Auxentius of Katirli, a didaskolos [teacher], a certain Kritios, was sent, but the crowd, aroused by the fanatical preacher, could barely be restrained from tearing the didaskolos to pieces. The public excitement grew and grew. Auxentius was listened to not only by the simple people, but also by archons and archontes, and a large part of his hearers came over to his side and joined him in expressing their obvious dissatisfaction with Patriarch Paisius and the synod. Supported by the mob, Auxentius not only did not want to hear the reproofs and the orders of the patriarch and the synod, but he publicly dared to name as heretics the patriarch himself along with the synod, declaring them to be devotees of papacy. In opposition to Paisius, Auxentius praised the former patriarch, Cyril V, as a truly Orthodox person because, to be sure, Cyril was inclined to share the views of that extreme and unreasonable opponent of the Latins. The patriarch and the bishops, in an attempt to end the controversy and to dampen the discord between the Greeks and the Armenians and the Papists, once again forbade Auxentius to continue his illegal preaching. But these new pressures on the part of Church authorities against Auxentius resulted in the public’s expression of their hatred towards the patriarch and the bishops. The opposition of Auxentius’ partisans against the Church authorities took on the characteristics of a riot. Thus the Turkish government became involved in the affair, in all probability at the insistence of the patriarch and the synod. That government approached those responsible for social unrest in its own fashion. It understood that a direct and open action against Auxentius would not be without danger and thus initiated a ruse. Once, during the night, a very important Turkish official was sent to Auxentius in Katirli in order to invite the false prophet to Constantinople, supposedly for a distinguished audience with the Grand Vizier. The plan was successful. Ambition reared itself in Auxentius. His admirers on their part urged him to accept the Vizier’s invitation. But as soon as Auxentius got into the boat and moved away from the shore, as if on a previously arranged cue, the troublemaker was strangled and his body was thrown into the sea (according to another version, Auxentius and two of his chief admirers were hanged). On the following day Auxentius’ followers arrived in Constantinople and went right to the Grand Vizier’s palace; but they did not get any news about the fate of their leader. Following this they, as a mob, moved towards the Patriarchate, yelling and screaming abuses against the patriarch. Finally they seized the patriarch and subjected him to a beating. The Phanar police were barely able rescue the patriarch alive from the hands of the enraged mob. Then the patriarch hid himself and sailed into the sea. The mob could not be calmed. Some 5000 people moved towards the Porte and started to yell in one voice that they did not want Paisius as patriarch and demanded the restoration of Cyril V to the throne. The mob yelled with fury: "We don’t want Paisius! He is an Armenian! He is a Latin! That’s why he refuses to baptize Armenians or Latins! He wants to destroy the Venerable One (Auxentius)! We don’t want him!" And so Cyril became patriarch. In ascending the throne he did everything he could to benefit the party of Auxentius. He issued an official document by which he decreed to re-baptize Roman Catholics and Armenians when they convert to Orthodoxy. Not everyone went along with the Patriarch’s determination — the more senior of the bishops were against it, an especially strong protest in defense of the truth came from Metropolitan Acacius of Cyzicus and Samuel (later patriarch) of Derconium. There was even a tract proving the illegitimacy of re-baptism. There is a strong attempt in the patriarch’s document to tone down the effect of that tract upon the mind. We read in Cyril V’s document: ". . .We triply condemn the senseless and anti-canonical composition. Whosoever would now or in the future accept this composition, we proclaim them to be excommunicated, whether they be priests or laymen. Their bodies upon their death would not turn into dust and will turn into timbrels. Stones and iron will decay, but their corpses, never! Their fate should bring them a pox and strangling like Judas! Let the earth swallow them up like Dathan and Abiram! May the angel of the Lord pursue them with his sword to the end of their days." A learned Greek author, Vendotis, filled with a feeling of indignation towards Cyril’s determination about re-baptism, could not find sufficient words to express his feelings adequately. He noted: does not Cyril wish to proclaim God himself as a protector of every profanity and heresy? Does he not want to proclaim that the Holy Apostolic Church is capable of falling into error? He writes that Cyril was able to support his determination only with the help of Turkish authorities. According to him, the incumbent Sultan, Osman, having learned about Cyril’s determination said that the patriarch acted like an Islamic Mufti who had the right to define Islamic religious teaching and that all metropolitans are obliged to defer to the patriarch in this decision, and whoever does not wish to do so, let him return to his diocese so that the arguments may cease in the capital.

The controversy, which arose about the question of re-baptism, continued during the time of Cyril’s successor — Callinicus IV. This is what happened to this patriarch. When Callinicus celebrated for the first time in his new office, as he stood on the solea to impart his blessing to the people he heard a frenzied cry from those present: "Down with the Frank, brothers! Down with the Frank!" Then the mob threw itself upon the patriarch and dragged him out of the church not wishing to desecrate the church’s dais with blood. It was barely possible to rescue the unfortunate patriarch from the hands of Auxentius’ fanatical followers. The patriarch, half-dead and stripped of his clothes, barely survived with his life thanks to the bravery of his clerics. The people’s anger was directed at the patriarch completely by chance. It was said that he supposedly thought like the Latins and this view was based on the fact that prior to becoming patriarch he lived in multinational Galata, and so they thought that he was a creature of the Latins who also lived there. Callinicus remained patriarch for only several months. These then, were the lamentable circumstances which brought about the repeal of the Church’s ancient practice of receiving Latins and Armenians who converted to the Orthodox Church — by means of their rejection of their former errors and followed by chrismation."[89]

It can be added to the words of our great scholar that this determination about the re-baptism of Latins who converted to Orthodoxy was the result of ignorance and bad faith in the preparation of the determination. There is a total absence of any reference to the decisions of previous Councils, opinions of the Holy Fathers such as St. Mark of Ephesus and St. Gennadus II (Scolarius) Patriarch of Constantinople. It was the result of demagoguery and narrow chauvinism. Thus, this determination can in no way be called "Ecclesial" but as something alien to those great Church canons and the opinions of the Holy Fathers that were known to the Universal Orthodox Church. Thus, it is clear why the other Orthodox Churches did not accept it as such.

Although it is an uncontroversial fact that this was an expression of hatred towards the Latins, the circumstances can in no way be compared to what happened in Russia at the time of Patriarch Philaret and what took place in the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the 18th century. There was an unprecedented and cruel onslaught of Latins upon Russia. There was the martyrdom of Patriarch Hermogenes and a persecution of the Orthodox Church and her bishops. There were malicious plans on the part of the Latins, working through the False Dimitri, to destroy all champions of Orthodoxy in Russia. In the Greek world there was the presence of Latin propaganda spread primarily by Jesuits (such as what they spread in all other lands). That propaganda had a minimal effect in Greek lands and was even contained by the Turkish powers and, it can be said, was of a rather limited scale.[90]

As was pointed out, Greek chauvinism that was to grow in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in monstrous strides, played no small part in Patriarch Cyril V’s determination. After Byzantium ceased to exist, the great-power pride of Byzantine Empire and of its Church was replaced by an unhealthy chauvinism among the Greeks and especially among the Greek hierarchy. This chauvinism projected in a passionate hatred towards the non-Orthodox, a contempt towards other Orthodox peoples and malevolence even towards Russia, her people and her Church, from which the Eastern Church received countless benefits and wealthy gifts, enjoying the protection of the Russian monarch and the Russian Church. They looked down upon the Russians and would not look for anything authoritative in the legislation of the Russian Church, which could have been of benefit to them.

In his book "The Character of Russian Relations towards the Orthodox East in the 16th and 17th Centuries," Professor N. F. Kapterev writes:

"Arriving in Moscow to beg for alms, the Greeks went out of their way to praise and glorify the Russians. They would be touched upon encountering their proper and firm piety, however, in this case they frequently spoke without sincerity, without a genuine respect for Russian piety, but with a desire to please the Russians in every way, to be liked by them and thus curry favor with them in anticipation of more generous alms. They looked upon the Russians as a people, although strong and wealthy, but at the same time coarse and ignorant who were still in need of care and guidance from the more mature and educated Greeks. It is self-evident that the Greeks did not express their unflattering opinions while in Moscow, where they were strictly watched, but when they were out of Russia they were not so constrained."[91] "In the eyes of the Greeks, the Russian people were coarse and ignorant and stood on the lowest step in their Christian understanding and life."[92]

Further Professor Kapterev gives several examples of Greek bad attitudes towards the Russians. He gives some of the Russian complaints about the extreme and contemptuous attitude of the Greeks:

"In 1650 Pachomius, a cleric of the Chudov monastery, upon returning from Moldavia, reported to the Tsar: "Those Greeks abroad hate the Russian people from Moscow and Kiev, and those who come through are called dogs." He writes further: "And the icons that your Royal Mercy gave as gifts to the Greek elders for various monasteries in Palestine, the Greek elders sell them and carry them about the marketplaces as if they were plain boards. They do not venerate those icons and do not place them in their churches."

The Greeks burned the service books that the Tsar sent to the Greek monasteries in Athos, which extremely upset the Russians and which was done for lack of respect towards them. The compiler of the Russian Menologion noted that ". . . the Greeks are proud and contemptuous" towards the Russians, scorning their piety. One of the Greeks, in a letter to his kin in Constantinople, writes: "God wants to rescue me from the crude and barbaric people of Moscow . . . they are hardly Orthodox Christians."[93] Especially characteristic was the information — based on primary sources — given by Professor Lebedev:

"It is pointless to think that the Greek hierarchy looks kindly upon the Russians, who hope to do away with the triumph of the crescent over the cross in the ancient lands of Orthodoxy. The Greek hierarchs know very well that there is no greater threat to the Ottoman Turks than that from Russia. However, blinded by their Phylletism, they look down upon her from on high hardly concealing their contempt. According to their thinking, to fall under the dominion of Russia would mean to be embraced by crudity and barbarism. The Greeks think: "What is there in common between the Russian whip and the noble Hellenic nation? Between despotism and freedom? Between the Scythian darkness and Greece of the South? What is there in common between that radiant and noble Greece and the gloomy Ahriman [the spirit of evil in Zoroastrianism.- Tr.] of the North? The dreams about their spiritual union is merely the fruit of the mob’s ignorance for whom the peal of bells is worth more than those enlightened thoughts accessible only to the best of the Greeks."

The Greeks have looked down on the Russian with such scorn not just since recent times, not only in the 19th century. They did so even earlier. Already in the middle of the 17th century some Greek peddlers, dealing in their moldy merchandise in Moscow, afterwards dared to spread preposterous stories about Russia in Constantinople. For example, they said that there were no teachers in Russia and that the Tsarevich himself was taught by them, the peddlers, to "play with spears" and that some monk "conjured the Russians" never go to war against the Tartars and that the Russians paid heed to that monk. They made light of the Russian Tsar himself saying that he got so involved in the crafting of a silver font for the baptism of the (Danish?) king’s son that he completely neglected all of the most important matters. But the disdain towards the Russians, as towards people less cultured than the Greeks, was not the only reason. This was the fear among the senior clergy of a possible conquest of Constantinople by the Russians. The hierarchy was afraid that if the Russians expelled the Turks from Europe, the bishops would be forced to live and act according to the Church’s canons, something that the bishops were no longer accustomed to do. One very learned Greek bishop, in the 1860s, summed up the thinking of all the earlier bishops when he said: "You Slavs (i.e., Russians) are our natural enemies. We must henceforth support the Turks. As long as there is Turkey, we are taken care of. Pan-Slavism is dangerous for us." As the result of all these attitudes on the part of the Greeks and especially the bishops, one Russian traveler to the Middle East noted that beginning with the lowest monk and ending with such representatives of the Church as the patriarch, all the Greek clerics hate us instinctively, but also from the bottom of the heart. We will give some examples of this hatred with which the most senior hierarchs of the Greek Church are animated. These facts bring about a morally difficult situation, and we will refrain from any comment. Let the facts speak for themselves.

The Right Reverend Porphyrius (Uspensky) in one of his works dedicated to the study of Greek church life relates an incident, a "marvel of marvels" as he describes it. The Patriarch of Constantinople Meletius (in 1845), when he appeared before Sultan Abdulla-Medjid, kissed his foot and said: "Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared." (All this was directed to the Sultan.) The narrator adds: that patriarch was a friend of the Turks and an enemy of Russians and allegedly he said: "Let me have a small piece of some Russian’s flesh, and I will chop it into the tiniest particles." The same Right Reverend Porphyrius writes in another of his articles: "In 1854, when the war was raging in our Sebastopol, the ecumenical patriarch (naturally, of Constantinople, but the author does not give his name; probably Anthimos VI), in response to Sultan Abdulla-Medjid’s orders, published a prayer for Orthodox Christians, composed by him in the flowery style, in which God is begged for victory for our enemies and for us (i.e., for our Christ-loving army) — defeat. The prayer reads:

"O Lord our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who hast created all in wisdom . . . O King of glory, receive Thou now the prayer of Thy humble and sinful servants, which we now offer on behalf of the most-sovereign, meek and most-merciful king and autocrat, Sultan Abdulla-Medjid, our master. O Lord God of Mercy, hear us Thy humble and unworthy servants in this hour and by Thine invincible might protect him, strengthen his army, grant him every victory and spoil, destroy his enemies, who rise up against his power, and do all in his favor, that we my live a quiet and peaceful life, praising Thy most holy name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

There is no doubt that the patriarch of Constantinople and the Greek bishops prayed not only with one mouth but also with all their hearts. This prayer, the Rt. Reverend author adds, was even sent to Athos. But there it was not read, not in churches nor in the cells." And finally, an episode from the last Russian-Turkish war over Bulgaria. When the Russians occupied Bulgaria, the chief military commander, Count Totleben was returning from Livadia, i.e., from the Russian Tsar himself. In Adrianopole he was met by clergy of all denominations — Bulgarians, Armenians, Jews and even Muslims. They all came to the count to demonstrate their gratitude for the protection provided by the Russian authorities. They all came, — with the exception of the Greek Metropolitan Dionysius. The Russian military authorities concluded from this and other incidents that "the attitude of the Greek clergy towards the Russians was not friendly and that they attempted to express that even in the smallest details." Adrianopole again reverted to the Turks. When the new Turkish governor-general Reut Pasha arrived there, the Greeks arranged a solemn reception, and it was said in one of the speeches: ". . . for too long we were in captivity, finally we see our liberator."[94]

In the "Letters from the Holy Mountain" we see that the Greek monasteries in Athos refused to admit Russian scholars to use their libraries under the pretext that the Russians steal their ancient manuscripts.

Whether as a result of deteriorating relations between the Russians or the Greeks, or independently of that, the Sacred Ruling Synod in 1721, according to Professor Kapterev, ". . .solemnly and officially repealed the elevation of the patriarch of Constantinople’s name during divine services, which up to this time was always done in Russia, — not wanting to see even a hint or shadow of preference or pre-eminence of the patriarch of Constantinople in the Russian Church."[95]

This has all been discussed not to bring about some kind of antagonism towards the Greek people and their Church. All this has changed and improved over time and become past history. Today relations between the Greek and Slavic Churches are fraternal and collegial. Even relations with the non-Orthodox, that have at times been hostile, now reflect mutual respect and cordiality.

We have discussed all of this to show the atmosphere that existed during the era when the Church of Constantinople promulgated its decrees about the re-baptism of Roman Catholics and Lutherans that desired to convert to Orthodoxy, and when there were debates and interpretations of the canons in the Pedalion (Kormchaya). This was taking place during the gloomiest period of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate’s history, when the Church’s decrees, although written in flowery and ecclesiastical language, were in substance motivated not by the true needs of the Church, but came about because of ignorance, demagoguery and extreme chauvinism, and were regressive with respect to the Canons of the Universal Church and a repudiation of the beneficial experience of the Russian and other Slavic Churches. The great Russian Church, moving along the path of magnanimity, broad vision and kindness as well as upon canonical principles of the Universal Church and her own experience, not only rejected this Greek decision about the re-baptism of Latins and Lutherans who converted to the Orthodox Church, but even made the path towards Orthodoxy easier for the non-Orthodox. We introduced the reader to her wise and considerate Canons in the previous chapter of our essay.

Footnotes and Endnotes

Web Editor's note: the original publication had both footnotes and endnotes. For Internet publication all notes have been converted to endnotes.

[82] Given in Nikodim Milash, Canons of the Orthodox Church with Commentary, 1911, vol. I, pp. 589-590. Back to referring section.

[83] The reference is to the works of Pseudo-Dionysius, which are not of the apostolic times but of later centuries. Back to referring section.

[84] Milash, supra, p. 590. Back to referring section.

[85] Pedalion, 1800 edition. English translation, 1857 edition, pp. 68-76, p. 402, note 9. Citations also taken from Bishop Nikodim' Orthodox Canon Law, p. 591. Back to referring section.

[86] Bishop Nikodim Milash, Orthodox Canon Law, pp. 590-591. Back to referring section.

[87] Ibid, pp. 591-592. Back to referring section.

[88] Bishop Nikodim Milash, Canons of the Orthodox Church. . . , vol. I, pp. 119-120. Back to referring section.

[89] A. P. Lebedev, History of the Greco-Eastern Church under the Turks, 1903, pp. 270, 323-328. Back to referring section.

[90] See Pichler, Geschichte der kirchliche Trennung, 1865, v. II, S. 107. Back to referring section.

[91] N. F. Kapterev, The Character of Russian Relations towards the Orthodox East in the 16th and 17th Centuries, 1914, p. 427. Back to referring section.

[92] Ibid, p. 435. Back to referring section.

[93] Ibid, pp. 428-429. He also says that the Russian monarchs, during a period of two centuries, spent massive sums for the benefit of the East (Ibid, p. 144). Back to referring section.

[94] Lebedev, op cit., pp. 174-177. Back to referring section.

[95] Kapterev, op cit., p. 473. Back to referring section.

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Introductory Notes - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Appendices