Regarding the address of Archbishop to the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece at the opening of the Session of October 5, 2004
Within the framework of his address, His Beatitude, after referring to the successive extraordinary sessions of the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy in the course of last year in order to handle major problems arisen because of the tested relationship of our Church with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, stressed the great transcendence, as he called it, which the Hierarchy effected last May. The Body, he said, unanimously adopted the way out of the crisis, thus creating the sense and the expectation that the solution, which was given, was operative and appropriate. His Beatitude pointed out that up to now it seems to work smoothly and unimpededly, for the good of both Churches.
“In our state of things, the relief of the tension is sometimes imposed for the sake of peace. In this particular case there have been highly serious factors which dictated an arrangement of good faith aiming at reconciliation, which for this reason cannot have any consequences, and even less so negative ones, on the course of our Church”, he noted characteristically, while at the same time pointing out that the different views expressed with regard to the decision of the last extraordinary Holy Synod of the Hierarchy as a “disorderly retreat and a waiver of the rights of our Church” could not be further from the truth. His Beatitude also reminded that all decisions were made synodally and indeed the last one almost unanimously, and expressed his grief at being informed of or at ascertaining whether diglossia or lack of frankness in the Hierarchs’ words. Moreover, his Beatitude emphasised that the recent Ecclesiastical ordeal was not a personal opposition of the Archbishop to the Ecumenical Patriarch, in which case one from out of the Body of the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy would have the right to stand back and watch things from a distance, waiting for the outcome, or safely to judge the President, as if what transpired did not concern one. Besides, as he indicated, a wind of freedom and decency blows in the Holy Synod and everyone has the right to hold his opinion and to express it with the due attention.
The hardship, he noted, which we hope has passed, has nonetheless left behind not only wounds, which time and our mutual and joint effort will certainly heal, but serious concerns about problems which it is not possible to oversee, underestimate or repress into the shadows of oblivion, because they remain and must be faced in time. These are concerns, he continued, which pertain to life itself and to the future of our Church. With sincerity and courage we must answer the question of what at last we wish to be:
-a marginal Church with a parochial spirit or a free and living Church which responds to the needs of our people;
-an independent and autocephalous local Church within the framework of Orthodox Ecclesiology and determined to act in accordance only with the divine truth of the Gospels, with the Holy Canons and with the evangelisation of our people as Her sole raison d’être and mission or a self-censored and self-constrained Church to the level of Canonical freedom and episcopal responsibility, for fear that She may displease beloved and respected Brothers;
-bishops each closed to the affairs of his own house or bishops tackling the burning problems of life and attempting openings to the outer world as well;
-with renewed functions and new ways of pastoral work, as is dictated by the times and the surrounding conditions or attached to outdated forms which have no impact any longer on the souls of modern people;
-with a geopolitical pastoral consciousness or hostages to and bound by perceptions of older times, which act suspensively on our initiatives towards modernisation?
It is not possible, he said, to make a virtue of inertia, nor is it possible to call it “fidelity to tradition” nor is it acceptable to brand the expression of pastoral concern vanity or secularisation.
And His Beatitude carried on as follows: “Are we going to proceed by marching on the spot without a voice and a presence in the modern world ―even if this voice and this presence are most likely to make the powerful uneasy―, so as to satisfy the wishes of many inside and outside our Church or are we going to project Greek Orthodoxy to the world and more specifically to Europe? Shall we be in position to take, wherever the conditions allow it, initiatives for the bilateral relations with the other Orthodox Churches or shall we cede this right of ours to others? Are we going to remain self-isolated, entrenched behind the walls of our self-sufficiency, or are we going to seek co-operation with forces purely ecclesiastic and religious in order to promote and to achieve spiritual and God-loving goals? Are we going to remain ankylosed within the motives of pietism, thus ceding the regulation of our own affairs regarding the internal and external policies of our Church to irresponsible elements, each time self-appointed public prosecutors and instruments of God holding us as hostages by their threats and insults, or are we going to decide by the criterion of the best interest of the Church?” It is my conviction, he stressed, that the delineation of our self-consciousness from an ecclesiological point of view vis-à-vis the new broadest horizons opening in front of us, the projection of our Church as an agent of internal cohesion of our nation and our people and of external witness to culture and peace, and the promotion of our European orientation will be the means by which our Church will be further acknowledged within and outside our state and will be imposed on consciences as a a bearer of diachronic values. The precondition of course, for all this to happen, he said, is our unity and unanimous gathering around our centre, because only then shall we be invulnerable to outer interventions and contrivances.
In view of the new challenges of our era (advance of practical materialism, demystification of life, marginalisation of the Church, desacralisation of our society, secularisation of the family, demographic problem, devaluation of ideals, corruption, abolition of the notion of nation, separation of the Church from the State, heresies and destructive cults, etc.), His Beatitude noted, our Church today gives to every direction the example of a Church which guides the life of a large percentage of the people of the country to the path of morality. Nevertheless, he underlined, we should not let ourselves be filled with narcissistic sentiments, which usually annul action and lead to decay, nor should we give up before what still remains to be accomplished. We need dynamism and inspiration in the tracing of our path, he said, so that all may realise that the Church is not a second-speed institution, but a Sister, equal and beloved, capable and worthy of responding to the needs of our critical times.
Finally, His Beatitude emphatically expressed his hope that substantial solutions to the chronic pending issues of our Church may soon be found in cooperation with the Government. While he recognised the legitimacy of their being postponed due to the Olympic Games etc., he stressed that nothing of what he has reported to the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy time and again has been forgotten or abandoned nor anything of what he had submitted to the Prime Minister in writing and in the form of memorandum and before the national election.
FROM THE PRESS OFFICE