The official statement on the false deposition of Father Matei Vulcanescu

Letter of Apologetics and the Cessation of Commemoration

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF SAINT EDWARD THE MARTYR 
AND SAINT PARASKEVI OF ROME
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

United Kingdom

20 December 2023

Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial and Undivided Trinity, always now and ever and unto the ages of ages!

Letter of Apologetics and the Cessation of Commemoration

Your Eminence,

With great sorrow and in all humility, I, the sinner, with pain of heart, address Your Eminence and all the Reverend Fathers of our Archdiocese, that it was never in my mind to hurt and cause any upset to You, by publicly bringing into knowledge the open letter to His Beatitude Patriarch John X and the Holy Synod, dated 6 December 2023, signed by our parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome in Liverpool[1]. On the contrary, I just expressed the cry of pain from my heart for the sake of the love of God and the zeal for the salvation of our brothers in Christ, and raised questions which came from an Orthodox conscience.

With reference to the letter of Your Eminence to the clergy of our Archdiocese, dated 16 December 2023, it was stated that: “Those who enter the Holy Orthodox Church from heretical or schismatic communions, who are nevertheless baptized in water and in the name of the Holy Trinity, are generally received by Chrismation, since it is forbidden to baptize twice.”[2] In the context of receiving those “baptised” in heresy or schism, the last clause: “since it is forbidden to baptize twice” is contrary to Apostolic Canon 47 which states: “If a bishop or presbyter baptises anew one having had a baptism according to truth or if not baptising one polluted [baptised] by the impious [heretics]let him be deposed as mocking the Cross and the Lord’s death and not discerning presbyters from pseudo-presbyters.“[3]Also according to Canon 1 of the Third Council of Carthage held during the time of Saint Cyprian (258), it is stated that: “we declare that no one can be baptised outside of the [Orthodox] Churchthere being but one baptism, and this being existent only in the [Orthodox] Church.”[4] According to Apostolic Canon 47 and Canon 1 of Saint Basil[5], it is indeed forbidden to baptise twice but this only applies to those baptised by Orthodox priests, that is within the Church. Canon 1 of the Third Council of Carthage and the Canons of Saint Basil have been ratified by Canon 2 of the Council of Trullo and elevated to ecumenical authority[6].

Therefore, the claim that Chrismation of heretics is due to the fact that it is forbidden to baptise twice, is in contradiction to the doctrine of the aforementioned canons; there is no baptism outside the Church and so there is no danger of repeating baptism when baptising those “baptised” by heretics. If Your Eminence is right, then we must not “generally receiv[e] by Chrismation”, nor “receive converts by either Baptism and Chrismation, or by Chrismation only”[7], but only by Chrismation, otherwise we would be repeating baptism.

Thus, those who teach other canons or corrupt the Canons are preaching another Gospel and they are under anathema. The statement of Your Eminence is inconsistent with and in contradiction to the Canons, and within itself. This is a false teaching of the Canons and as such a heresy, although the interpretation of Your Eminence may not yet have been officially tested by the Holy Synod.

According to St. Cyprian of Carthage, “[…] to approve the baptism of heretics and schismatics, is to admit that they have truly baptised. A baptism cannot be part invalid and part valid. If someone can baptise, he can also give the Holy Spirit. But if he cannot give the Holy Spirit, because he is outside the Church and does not have the gift of the Holy Spirit, he cannot baptise those who come to him; since both baptism is One and the Holy Spirit is One, and the Church founded by Christ the Lord upon Peter, […] is also One.”[8]

By stating that “it is forbidden to baptize twice”[9], Your Eminence has shown in Your written encyclical to the clergy of our Archdiocese which publicly taught that You accept the “baptism” of the heretics, and Your Eminence also stated that this is the position of the Church of Antioch on this matter. This means the acceptance of the heretical “baptismal theory” that is based on the Toronto Statement (1950) [10], which was adopted by the so-called synod of Crete (2016) [11] and which is the basis for participation of the local Orthodox Churches in the “World Council of Churches” (WCC).[12] The public encyclical of Your Eminence has evidenced that You have preached bareheaded heresy condemned by the Holy Synods and the Holy Fathers (Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople).[13]

We would also like to inform Your Eminence that we reject and anathematise the decisions from the 1991 synodal statement of the Church of Antioch on the relations with the ‘Syriac Orthodox Church’ in the time of Patriarch Ignatius IV (12 Nov 1991)[14], which are in contradiction to the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Ecumenical Synods and allow inter-communion and concelebration with the ‘Syriac Orthodox’ who still continue to follow the heresy of Severus and Dioscorus, and they reject the 4th Ecumenical Synod of Chalcedon. We will never commune any Monophysites in our parish.


Based on Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council which states: “not to obey in any way whatever the bishops who have apostatised, or those who remove themselves, or think differently from the Synod” [15], my humbleness will not accept any ecclesiastical punishment from Your Eminence and any forcing of my free will and of my Orthodox conscience, which places a stumbling block to the Gospel of Christ. A bishop at his elevation promises to uphold the teachings of the Church as received from the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers, and he is not above the Holy Gospel and the teachings of the Holy Fathers. By not keeping this promise, Your Eminence has placed Yourself outside the Orthodox Church.

Therefore, based on the dogmatic matters mentioned above, our parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome in Liverpool has voted on the following decision together with my humbleness as the shepherd of the parish: 

With great pain of heart and love in Christ, we inform Your Eminence that we are forced by our Orthodox conscience to cease Your commemoration at all the holy services of the Church, until the moment when Your Eminence publicly and officially anathematise the heretical “baptismal theory”, the pan-heresy of ecumenism, the participation in the ‘World Council of Churches’ (WCC), and the agreements with the Anti-Chalcedonians[16] [the so-called Chambesy agreements (1989, 1990 and 1993)[17], and 1991 synodal statement of the Church of Antioch on the relations with the ‘Syriac Orthodox Church’ [18], that decided to allow inter-communion and concelebration with heretics that have been condemned by the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Ecumenical Councils]. 

This decision is based on the Holy Gospel and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. Not only the Holy Synod of Antioch that made the 1991 synodal statement, “but even if an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema! As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be anathema!”[19]

The Holy Apostle Paul also said to Saint Titus: “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” [20]

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John, the Apostle of Love said: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither greet him; for he that greets him is partaker of his evil deeds.”[21]

The Holy Apostle Peter said: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them.”[22] We observe that the Fathers of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople at the time of Saint Photius the Great have used the term “false teachers” for those bishops who accept heresy.

Our decision is in accordance with Chapter 19 of Book 2 of the Apostolic Constitutions [23] and with Saint Ignatius Theophorus, who taught to “depart from any shepherd who has changed the faith, even if he seems to be an ascetic or miracle worker” [24], and also is in accordance with Saint Basil the Great, Saint Athanasius the Great, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory the Theologian, Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Saint Maximus the Confessor [25], Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Theodore the Studite, Saint Photius the Great, the Athonite Fathers in the time of Patriarch John Vekkos, Saint Gregory Palamas, Saint Joseph Vryennios and Saint Mark Eugenikos.[26]

Saint Mark Eugenikos synthesised the teaching of the Holy Fathers as follows: “All teachers of the Church, all the Synods and all the divine writings advise to flee from those who have another mindset and distance ourselves from communion with them.”[27]

The Apostolic Canon 31 states with precision that: “If any presbyter, condemning his own bishop, draw people aside, and set up another altar, without finding anything wrong with the bishop in point of piety [Orthodoxy] and righteousness, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is an officeseeker […]”[28] We have grounds for the cessation of commemoration due to heresy because those who separate themselves from their bishop before a synodal decision due to the bishop publicly preaching heresy or implicitly supporting heresy as taught by his synod, are not under the condemnation of the aforementioned canon, but should instead be counted worthy and honoured as the Orthodox, according to Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople.[29]

Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople states that: “[…] for those persons, on the other hand, who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Councils, or Fatherswithdrawing themselves from communion with their president, who, that is to say, is preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it barehead in church, such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a Bishop before any conciliar or synodal verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honour which befits them among Orthodox ChristiansFor they have defied, not Bishops, but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions.”[30]

As Your Eminence has not anathematised all the heresies that we have anathematised, as referred to in our previous letter dated 12 December 2023, [31] and imposed the heretical “baptismal theory” in Your encyclical dated 16 December 2023, [32] we fence ourselves from You but not from the Church of Antioch. The words of Saint Paul of Emesa that “those who do not say and do not think and do not recognise these [anathemas], let them be anathema from the Church!” [33], can deeply shake any Orthodox conscience.

Considering that the cessation of commemoration of the bishop is allowed only for dogmatic reasons, this is implemented by our parish exclusively for dogmatic reasons. Our intention is not to cause schism but to remain faithful to the Orthodox Church of Antioch. We will not commemorate any other bishop instead of Your Eminence, and we remain as a parish in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland. For this reason, we await with sorrow and prayer for the moment when Your Eminence and the Holy Synod will publicly and officially reject and anathematise the heresies that are the cause of this cessation of commemoration, which will then allow us to resume the commemoration of Your name at all the holy services of the Church.

We cannot be accused of schism or that we have departed from the Church because of the cessation of commemoration of our own bishop. On the contrary, we reaffirm that we remain faithful to the Church of Antioch, faithful to the Holy Gospel, faithful to the Holy Fathers and the Holy Canons. Therefore, any ecclesiastical action against my humbleness and the parish following our Confession of Faith is not canonical, has no effect and cannot be recognised in the Church. My humbleness will continue to serve the Holy Liturgy and perform priestly ministry, in accordance with Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council.[34] This is because those like us who have fenced themselves from heresy are Orthodox and should be honoured for protecting the Church from schism. [35]

Remaining faithful to the Church of Antioch,

With all my love in Christ,

Protopresbyter Matthew (Ion-Valentin) Vulcanescu

Parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

The letter continues with the signatures of the parish members, with endnotes and with bibliography.

Endnotes

[1]  Vulcanescu, Open Letter to Patriarch John X and the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch

[2]  Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Letter to Clergy December 2023

[3]  Canon 47 of the Apostolic Canons: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 89-75

[4] Canon 1 of the Third Council of Carthage during the time of Saint Cyprian: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 485-488 op. cit.

[5] Canon 1 of Saint Basil: Orthodox Ethos, On the Reception of the Heterodox into the Orthodox Church, pp. 83-90.

[6] Canon of the Third Council of Carthage and Canon 1 of St. Basil: Orthodox Ethos, On the Reception of the Heterodox into the Orthodox Church, pp. 80-81 & 83-90; Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 485-488 and 773-789 op. cit.; Ramsey, The Church: Deifying Relations, footnote 295, p. 73.

[7] “It is the custom of the Patriarchate of Antioch (in common with other patriarchates) to receive converts by either Baptism and Chrismation, or by Chrismation only, on a case-by-case basis.”: Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Letter to Clergy December 2023. op. cit.

[8] Edited reference of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 69.3: ANF Vol. 5, p. 895. Also, according to Saint Cyprian of Carthage: “For in saying to the one being baptised, ‘Believest thou in an everlasting life, and that thou shall receive a remission of sins?’, we are saying nothing else than that it can be given in the [Orthodox] Church, but that among heretics where there is no Church it is impossible to receive a remission of sins.”: Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 69.2: ANF Vol. 5, p. 894.

[9] Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Letter to Clergy December 2023. op. cit.

[10] Section 4.3: World Council of Churches, Toronto Statement.

[11] Para. 19: “It is their deep conviction that the ecclesiological presuppositions of the 1950 Toronto Statement… are of paramount importance for Orthodox participation in the Council.”: Holy and Great Council, ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’; World Council of Churches, Toronto Statement

[12] Vulcanescu, Historical Approach To The Context Of The Dialogue With The Non-Orthodox: The Toronto Statement.

[13] Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 471. op. cit.

[14] Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on the Relations between the Eastern and Syrian ‘Orthodox’ Churches.

[15] Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council: “And if any of the clerics in any city or village were stopped from the priesthood by Nestorius and those with him because they thought rightly, we have entitled them to be restored to their own rank. And in general, we decree that those clerics who think alike with the Orthodox and the Ecumenical Synod are not to obey in any way whatever the bishops who have apostatised, or those who remove themselves (ἀποστατήσασιν ἤ ἀφισταμένοις Ἐπισκοποις), or think differently from the Synod.”; see also: Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 228. op. cit.

[16] The ‘Anti-Chalcedonian’ Miaphysites/Monophysites are: the Syriac-Jacobites, Malankara-Indians, Armenians, Copts, Tewahedo-Ethiopians and Tewahedo-Eritreans. 

[17] Joint Commission, First Agreed Statement; Joint Commission, Second Agreed Statement; Joint Commission, Recommendations On Pastoral Issues; Joint Commission, Communique: Proposals for Lifting Anathemas (1993).

[18] Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on the Relations between the Eastern and Syrian ‘Orthodox’ Churches. op. cit.

[19] Galatians 1:8-9

[20] Titus 3:10-11

[21] 2 John 10-11

[22] 2 Peter 2:1

[23] Chapter 19, Book 2 of the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: ANF. Vol. 7, p. 902.

[24] Saint Ignatius of Antioch: The Epistle of Ignatius to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch, ch. 2, “Every one that teaches anything beyond what is commanded, though he be [deemed] worthy of credit, though he be in the habit of fasting, though he live in continence, though he work miracles, though he have the gift of prophecy, let him be in thy sight as a wolf in sheep’s clothing…”, ANF Vol. 1, p. 308.

[25] Saint Maximus the Confessor: “Let it be remembered that if a hierarch excommunicates against the purpose of God, he is not following the decisions of the Holy Canons, because he (the hierarch) is obliged to carry it out in accordance to the divine judgement, and not according to his will.”

[26] Saint Basil the Great: Letter CCXLII, NPNF Vol. 8, pp. 781-782 and Letter CCXLIII, NPNF Vol. 8, pp. 783-785; Saint Athanasius the Great: PG 35.33; Saint John Chrysostom: PG 63:231, PG 55:461; Saint Gregory the Theologian: PG 36:460A-B; Saint Cyril of Alexandria: PG 77:108A, PG 77:124A, PG 77:81B-C, PG 77:128A, PG 77,137A; Saint Maximus the Confessor: Saint Maximus the Confessor, The Life of Our Holy Father St. Maximus the Confessor; Saint Sophronius Patriarch of Jerusalem: PG 87.C:3369D; Saint Theodore the Studite: PG 99:1021, PG 99:1069, PG 99:1088A, PG 99:1417C,D; Saint Photius the Great: PG 102:839; Saint Gregory Palamas: PG 150:863D, PG 150,880D; Saint Joseph Vryennios: Tomadaki, Sacred Codices of the Works of Joseph Bryennios, Vol. 2; Saint Mark Eugenikos: Petit, Confession of faith displayed in Florence, Documents relatifs au Concile de Florence, II, Oeuvres anticonciliaires de Marc d’Ephèse, Patrologia Orientalis 17, p. 442. (in French and Greek)

[27] Saint Mark Eugenikos: ibidem.

[28] Canon 31 of the Apostolic Canons: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 46.

[29] Refer to: Canon 31 of the Apostolic Canons, Interpretation: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 46-47.

[30] Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 471. op. cit.

[31] Vulcanescu, Open Letter to Metropolitan Silouan of the British Isles and Ireland. Refer to: Canon 1 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 428-429.

[32] Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Letter to Clergy December 2023. op. cit.

[33] Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Theological Meetings, Ecclesiastical interventions. (in Greek)

[34] Refer to: Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 228. op. cit.

[35] Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 471. op. cit.

Bibliography

  1. Agapios, Hieromonk & Nicodemus, Monk. The Rudder (Pedalion) of the Metaphorical Ship of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Orthodox Christians. The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 2005.
  2. Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. Statement of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on the Relations between the Eastern and Syrian ‘Orthodox’ Churches, 12 Nov 1991. accessed 28 Oct. 2023. <https://orthodoxjointcommission.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/statement-of-the-orthodox-church-of-antioch-on-the-relations-between-the-eastern-and-syrian-orthodox-churches/>.
  3. Holy and Great Council. ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’, 2016. accessed 26 Oct. 2023. <https://www.holycouncil.org/rest-of-christian-world>. 
  4. Joint Commission Of The Theological Dialogue Between The Orthodox Church And The Oriental Orthodox Churches (Joint Commission). First Agreed Statement, 20-24 June 1989. accessed 28 Oct. 2023. <https://orthodoxjointcommission.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/first-agreed-statement-1989/>.
  5. Joint Commission Of The Theological Dialogue Between The Orthodox Church And The Oriental Orthodox Churches (Joint Commission). Second Agreed Statement, 23-28 Sep. 1990. accessed 28 Oct. 2023. <https://orthodoxjointcommission.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/second-agreed-statement-1990/>.
  6. Joint Commission Of The Theological Dialogue Between The Orthodox Church And The Oriental Orthodox Churches (Joint Commission). Recommendations On Pastoral Issues, 23-28 Sep. 1990. accessed 28 Oct. 2023.<https://orthodoxjointcommission.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/recommendations-on-pastoral-issues-1990/>.
  7. Joint Commission Of The Theological Dialogue Between The Orthodox Church And The Oriental Orthodox Churches. (Joint Commission) Communique: Proposals for Lifting Anathemas (1993), 1-6 Nov 1993. accessed 28 Oct. 2023. <https://orthodoxjointcommission.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/proposals-for-lifting-anathemas-1993/>.
  8. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos. Θεολογικές συναντήσεις, Ἐκκλησιαστική Παρέμβαση [Theological Meetings, Ecclesiastical interventions], vol. 89 (in Greek), June 2003. accessed 24 Nov. 2023. <http://www.parembasis.gr/index.php/el/menu-teyxos-89/2830-2003-89-01>. 
  9. Migne, J.-P. Patrologia Graeca, 162 vols., 1857-1866. (PG)
  10. Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Silouan. Letter to Clergy December 2023. 16 Dec. 2023.
  11. Orthodox Ethos Publication. On the Reception of the Heterodox into the Orthodox Church: The Patristic Consensus and Criteria. Uncut Mountain Press, 2023.
  12. Petit, L. Documents relatifs au Concile de Florence, II, Oeuvres anticonciliaires de Marc d’Ephèse, Patrologia Orientalis 17, 1923. (in French and Greek)
  13. Ramsey, John Patrick, Hieromonk. The Church: Deifying Relations. CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2018.
  14. Saint Maximus the Confessor. The Life of Our Holy Father St. Maximus the Confessor. Holy Transfiguration, 1982.
  15. Schaff, Philip. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900. (ANF Vol. 1)
  16. Schaff, Philip. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian. Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900. (ANF Vol. 5)
  17. Schaff, Philip. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7: Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius,Venantius, Asterius,Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies. Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900. (ANF Vol. 7)
  18. Schaff, Philip & Wade, Henry. Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8 Basil: Letters And Select Works. Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900. (NPNF Vol. 8)
  19. Tomadaki, N. B. Ἁγιορειτικοὶ κώδικες τῶν ἔργων Ἰωσὴφ Βρυεννίου [Sacred Codices of the Works of Joseph Bryennios]. (in Greek) Greece, 1963.
  20. Vulcanescu, Matthew, Protopresbyter. Historical Approach To The Context Of The Dialogue With The Non-Orthodox: The Toronto Statement, 14 June 2017. accessed 3 Nov. 2023. <https://ortodoxiacatholica.com/blog/2017/06/14/historical-approach-to-the-context-of-the-dialogue-with-the-non-orthodox-the-toronto-statement-by-fr-matei-vulcanescu-inter-orthodox-conference-organized-by-the-initiative-committee-of-the-conferenc/?lang=en>
  21. Vulcanescu, Matthew, Protopresbyter. Open Letter to Patriarch John X and the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch, 6 Dec. 2023.
  22. Vulcanescu, Matthew, Protopresbyter. Open Letter to Metropolitan Silouan of the British Isles and Ireland, 12 Dec. 2023.
  23. World Council of Churches. Toronto Statement, 15 July 1950. accessed 25 Oct. 2023, <https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/toronto-statement>.

The Response Letter of Father Matei Vulcanescu to the Letter of Metropolitan Silouan Oner to Clergy

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF SAINT EDWARD THE MARTYR
AND SAINT PARASKEVI OF ROME
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
of the British Isles and Ireland

17 December 2023

Your Eminence,

With all humility and obedience, I would like to write in response to the letter of Your Eminence to the clergy of our Archdiocese, dated 16 December 2023, to bring to Your attention that all that we have written regarding the baptism of every heretic coming into the Orthodox Church, in our open letter to His Beatitude Patriarch John X and the Holy Synod[1], was done in accordance and obedience to Canon 8 of the synodal decision of the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch in July 1933, which states that “every heterodox who embraces Orthodoxy should be baptised”.[2] This synodal canon adopted the last official Inter-Orthodox statement on the reception of heretics, the 1755 Synod of the Eastern Patriarchs held in Constantinople, which requires that all heretics be baptised.[3]

As far as I am aware, the 1933 synodal decision is the last official decision and there are no other later official synodal decisions of the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch on the reception of heretics. Your Eminence, if there are any other later synodal decisions, I would like to humbly ask to be made aware of them.

With regards to clergy and faithful of our Archdiocese who have been received by Chrismation only in the past, under the omophorion of Your predecessor, my humbleness is not in the position to judge. With all my love in Christ and pain of heart, I only bring this last synodal decision of the Church of Antioch regarding the reception of heretics, to the attention of Your Eminence, for the sake of the salvation of many souls, so that none of the faithful are deprived of the grace of Holy Baptism.

Your Eminence,

Everyone who calls himself a Christian considers the Holy Scriptures to be God-inspired and to contain information about God and about the way people should communicate with Him. There are some communities, however, who adopt beliefs which contradict the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs are called heresies by the Church of the Holy Apostles (that is, the Orthodox Church).

The term heresy means choice or option, and denotes the individual choices of some persons or communities, who distort the Truth (the Truth that is accepted by the whole congregation of the Orthodox Church). Namely, the supporters of such pseudo-faiths are called heretics. There is a wrong widespread impression though, that these terms are contemptuous or that they label someone; however, they obviously do nothing more but describe a state of being, and by no means are they contemptuous nor do they label someone.

According to the Holy Scriptures, the Sacrament that paves the way for salvation is Baptism, as testified in the Gospel of Mark: “He said to them: ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”[4]

It is remarkable that according to the very words of the Savior Himself, the genuine, redeeming baptism is indissolubly related to the True Faith, namely the Faith that is in accordance with the Gospel which the Apostles preached and that has been kept by the Orthodox Church ever since.
The above-mentioned reference from the Gospel of Mark is in accordance with the Gospel of Matthew: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying: All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”[5], which emphasises the connection between Baptism and true Faith.

In this context, could we actually talk about a redeeming baptism in the case of people who are not Orthodox? It is said that since certain heretics are baptised in the name of the “Holy Trinity” their baptism must be valid. But the question is, which “Holy Trinity” do they believe in?

The Roman Catholics (Papists), for example, believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father but from the Son as well, whereas the Orthodox believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father as Jesus Christ Himself teaches, as witnessed in the Gospel of John.[6]

The Papists (as well as the Protestants) do not believe in God working in the world through His uncreated energies, which consequently means that they do not believe that the Holy Spirit works through Baptism. It is obvious that both the Papists and the Protestants are heretics due to the fact that what they preach contradicts what the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Tradition preach about God and His relationship with mankind. As a result, the separation of those communities from the Orthodox Church is self-evident, since they do not share the original teaching of the Gospel and all the Saints.

The Orthodox Church has always considered them heretics since they contradict the Gospel and the Saints in numerous ways. This means that they do not share the Faith that the Apostles preached i.e. the Faith of the Church of Christ; therefore, their sacraments cannot be the work of the Holy Spirit, and neither can their baptism be valid. The baptism of heretics is invalid and false as is their entire faith, which unfortunately discredits the Holy Trinity by stating numerous untruths about God and His relationship with His Creation.
According to the Holy Canons (starting with the Apostolic Canons), heretics should be baptised since they do not have the true Baptism. Also, any clergyman who considers the baptism or any other ‘sacrament’ of the heretics as valid should be defrocked. [7] Taking into account these specific canons, which are part of the foundations of our Faith and which can be easily presented, taught and understood – any heretic who wants to become a member of the Orthodox Church should and must be baptised.

However, some local Churches “receive heretics into Church” by Chrismation only. Also, some local Churches baptise heretics while other local Churches only chrismate them. Consequently, some claim that because of this variety, it is not really clear who should be baptised and who should only be chrismated. And it has been stated that the present state of affairs should not be changed – that it is considered legitimate for heretics to be either baptised or chrismated only.

However, this claim is totally inadequate and unacceptable for the Church of Christ. The Holy Canons state that if it is not clear whether someone has been baptised, then the person should be baptised, so that they would not be deprived of the armour of salvation. This is the reasonable thing to do, following the principle of caution, and even if the Holy Canons would not have clearly prescribed this, we should still have been led towards such conclusions and practice, out of care for the salvation of our neighbour.

Only the Orthodox who denied Orthodox teaching by joining the heretics and returning to Orthodoxy are chrismated, after confessing and abandoning their heretical doctrines. The Sacrament of Chrismation restores the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they received at their first Chrismation (after Baptism), which left them when they cut off their relationship with God by accepting heretical doctrines. Straight after Chrismation, they receive Holy Communion, approaching Jesus Christ again after being separated from Him due to heresy.

On the contrary, in the case of a heretic who was never part of the Orthodox Church, it is obvious that Chrismation has no meaning since they have never been members of the Orthodox Church. As members of another “church” (in fact of a heretical “denomination”) whose sacraments are void, neither their baptism, nor their Chrismation are valid.

Therefore, in their case, Chrismation cannot “somehow” replace Baptism and anyone who claims such a thing ignores the role the Sacraments play in a person’s life and the life of the Church. The Sacrament of Chrismation offers to the baptised (with the true Apostolic Baptism into the Orthodox Church), the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the person and the community. It neither restores human nature, nor replaces Baptism. One cannot replace Holy Communion and the Holy Liturgy with Chrismation. The Holy Sacraments are not interchangeable. Not even Holy Communion, the highest form of union with Christ, can replace the other Sacraments, since every Sacrament has its own unique place, time, meaning, and purpose in the Church, as taught by the Holy Spirit.

In support of Chrismation of heretics instead of baptising them, some invoke the 47th Apostolic Canon forbidding the repetition of Baptism, but without taking into account the fact that the same canon decrees that the priest who does not baptise those who received their “baptism” from heretics should be defrocked. In other words, as also shown in the commentaries to this Canon, it forbids repetition of the authentic, valid (Orthodox) Baptism in the Faith (in the Holy Trinity as stated in the Creed) and form (triple immersion)!

It is also said that since Chrismation of unbaptized heretics has become a widespread practice, it should start to be considered acceptable. But this argument is certainly not right in the sense that if we accept this, then we should also accept that just because at certain times in history, heresies became widespread, therefore, heresies should have replaced the Orthodox Faith. However, what really happened in those days was that God strengthened certain people to fight against heresies and overcome them. The Holy Spirit Himself worked through those people and strengthened them while the majority wandered away from the Truth.

Besides, the argument that if something is performed by the majority of people is the right thing to do, this may lead us to think that perhaps we should become pagans since the majority of people are pagans.

Another argument of those who claim that Chrismation of heretics is equated to Baptism is that Chrismation is the result of oikonomia (economy) as opposed to akribeia (exactitude), that heretical “baptism” is accepted by the Church by means of oikonomia. But what exactly do we mean when we refer to oikonomia and akribeia in the Church? Akribeia means using the formally valid canons. Oikonomia means tolerance regarding the temporary, exceptional adaptation of the Tradition for the spiritual benefit of persons who find themselves in exceptional situations. One can define oikonomia as the expression of the Church akribeia in specific pastoral and missionary situations.

In other words, akribeia is the rule whereas oikonomia is the exception. Oikonomia is applied only in special occasions for a good purpose in unfavourable circumstances. True oikonomia involves a soteriological (salvation) purpose and leads to true Faith despite any obstacles. On the other hand, a false understanding of oikonomia does not lead to true Faith, because by making an unwise adjustment to the Holy Tradition, and thus not following their inherent order, one ultimately defies them and actually leads one far away from the Orthodox Faith.

For instance, from the perspective of oikonomia, the Holy Canons allow the accommodation of animals inside a church building if, for example, they carry heavy loads and people might be in danger or when the animals might be injured or killed by a storm or by wild animals. However, apart from these specific circumstances, it is considered a desecration for animals to enter a church building.

Another example is the administration of Orthodox baptism by pouring sanctified water on the entire body of a person lying in bed where triple immersion is not possible because of his or her illness. Here we have an adjustment of Baptism, which is completely necessary in this specific circumstance, so that if the person dies, he or she would not go to hell. On the contrary, the case of not baptising a heterodox, who is not ill or who has nothing to prevent him or her from being baptised in the rightful order of the Church and the Canons, is not considered oikonomia but disorder. Turning this disorder into rule leads to schism and heresy.

Regardless of the times in which we live, as Orthodox Christians, we should respect the Holy Tradition and we should always listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as expressed through the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Tradition.

The Holy Trinity does not contradict Himself and He provides us with every means of salvation, so that everyone has the same opportunity for salvation in whichever era they live in. Salvation depends on the Holy Sacraments, and the teaching of the Church about the Sacraments is quite clear and cannot be revised or adjusted. Trying to ‘revise’ or ‘adjust’ them is only an indication of either ignorance or unbelief of the people who do so.

The 47th Apostolic Canon states: “Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptise again one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptise one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the Cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false.”[8]

According to the provisions of the Fathers, we can also decide when children have no trustworthy witnesses who can undoubtedly testify about their baptism – since children themselves cannot answer whether they were given the Holy Sacrament of Baptism or not, due to their immaturity – that these children should be baptised, so that there will be no doubt about their baptism and consequently they would not be deprived of holiness.[9]

Therefore, if there were synods that stated that heretics (except heresy against Holy Trinity) may be received by Chrismation only, three things should be made clear, according to the point of view of some theologians:

  1. Such canons seem to have been applied to some who were already baptised but fell into heresy and then returned through the confession of faith and the sacrament of Holy Chrismation.
  1. If it were not so, Saint Basil the Great pointed out that this is not the exactitude (akribeia) of the Church; no Ecumenical Synod can impose a canon that is contrary to the Apostolic Canons, which state that every heretic should be baptised. Τhe Ecumenical Canons, in order to claim their ecumenicity, must not be contrary to the Apostolic Canons.
  1. A Canon, in order to be called ecumenical, has to express the Dogma of the Church. The Synod of the Eastern Patriarchs, held in Constantinople in 1755 under the chairmanship of the Kollyvades Patriarch Cyril V of Constantinople and the spiritual guidance of Saint Auxentios the New Wonderworker (who had divine vision on this matter), decided to receive all the heterodox by Holy Baptism. [10]

Economy (oikonomia) is temporary. Its role is to lead to exactitude (akribeia). The 7th Canon of the Second Ecumenical Synod is by economy (oikonomia). The Church cannot refuse Baptism to those who want it, whichever confession they may come from. Dogmatic minimalism (explicitly fought against by Saint Maximus the Confessor) of which the relativist “baptismal theory” is a part of, affirms that if someone that takes part in heresy is baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity, that person’s baptism is valid (thus the person is a member of the Church), is against patristic thinking. One cannot be inside and outside the Church at the same time. Baptism is not an act of magic with magical effects, so the Baptismal ritual itself is not grace-filled if it is not performed by a priest of the Orthodox Church, with the confession of the Orthodox Faith and the renunciation of heresy (if applicable). For example, when referring to Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Synod, Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite explains that oikonomia was used to receive those heretics by Holy Chrismation because of political issues, in order to save an entire people.[11] At that time, the reception of those heretics was valid, but now those reasons no longer exist. Most of the contemporary heretics being received by Chrismation believe that their heretical ‘baptism’ was valid and have a syncretic ecumenist thinking, thus failing to understand Orthodoxy.

The 1st Canon of Saint Basil the Great and the position of Saint Cyprian of Carthage as expressed in the local Synod of Carthage (258), prescribe the baptism of all heretics coming into the Church; this has been adopted at an ecumenical level through the 2nd Canon of the Trullan (Quinisext) Synod, which means that it is applicable for the entire Church. [12]

Saint Cyprian of Carthage also wrote that: “… when we had met together, bishops as well, of the province of Africa as of Numidia, to the number of seventy-one, we established this same matter once more by our judgement, deciding that there is one baptism which is appointed in the Catholic Church; and that by this those are not re-baptized, but baptised by us, who at any time come from the adulterous and unhallowed water to be washed and sanctified by the truth of the saving water.

We are also eagerly awaiting the response of Your Eminence to the other issues raised in our open letter dated 12 December 2023.

With all my love in Christ,

Protopresbyter Matthew (Ion-Valentin) Vulcanescu

Parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

Enclosure: Letter to the Clergy of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland, 16 December 2023

Open Letter to Metropolitan Silouan

Open Letter to Patriarch John X and the Holy Synod

ORTHODOX  CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF SAINT EDWARD THE MARTYR AND SAINT PARASKEVI OF ROME

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

His Beatitude Patriarch John X

And the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East

Patriarchal Residence

Balamand

Koura

Lebanon

6 December 2023

Our Father, Your Beatitude the Patriarch,

And Your Eminences the Metropolitans of the Holy Synod,

Your blessing!

I would like to express the gratitude of our parish community to His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan (Oner) of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland, who received us in November 2021. We are blessed and honoured to be part of the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch, established by the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. It is a great honour for us to be in this Apostolic Church where “…the disciples were first called Christians”.[1]

Since I felt the work of the Holy Spirit in the one and unique Body of Christ, the Orthodox Church, I try to dedicate all my life to Him. I was ordained as a presbyter of the Church of Greece in 2007, and since then I, the sinner, with humility, have been fighting with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength and with all my mind for the Truth of Christ. While I was a clergyman of the Church of Greece, I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with important contemporary theologians in Greece.[2] During our fight against Ecclesiological and Christological heresies, especially from the so-called synod of Crete, we organised conferences and went as part of ecclesiastical delegations to various local Churches.[3]By the grace of God, these conferences and discussions helped the local Churches of Bulgaria, Georgia and Russia, understand and realise the heresies that were about to be adopted in the so-called synod of Crete. Professor Demetrios Tselengidis, a member of the ecclesiastical delegation, is also my advisor on all the theological issues discussed below. I have also written this letter with the blessing of my spiritual father, Archimandrite Maximos (Caravas) of the Holy Monastery of Saint Paraskevi Milochoriu, Ptolemaida, Greece.

With the blessing of His Eminence Seraphim, Metropolitan of Piraeus, on every Sunday of Orthodoxy, we have served the service of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy with its anathemas against all heresies. This service includes the anathemas against the current fallen and uncanonical patriarchs of the Anti-Chalcedonians (Miaphysites/Monophysites). These anathemas are also pronounced by Their Eminences Archbishop Damianos of Sinai, Metropolitan Longhin of Banceni of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Metropolitans Andreas of Dryinoupolis, Seraphim of Kythera, the reposed Paul of Glyfada, the reposed Cosmas of Aetolia and the reposed Jeremias of Gortyna of the Church of Greece. Since I was received into the Church of Antioch, we have continued this Orthodox tradition and proclaimed these anathemas publicly on every Sunday of Orthodoxy. [4]

The two main reasons why I humbly asked to join the Patriarchate of Antioch were the fact that the Church of Antioch did not participate in the so-called synod of Crete and had not recognised the Ukrainian schismatics.[5] I departed from the Church of Greece due to Her recognition of the Ukrainian schismatics as well as at a liturgical level through commemoration at the Metropolis of Piraeus by the Archbishop of Greece. The other two local Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia which did not participate in Crete (even if they are not open to creating and receiving new missions in a multinational context), have issued statements highlighting some of the heresies of the texts of Crete.[6]The Church of Antioch has so far rejected the so-called synod of Crete based on the non-synodality and non-consensus of the meeting. However, this position is unclear, as there is no condemnation of the Ecclesiological and Christological heresies adopted in Crete.[7]

We are very concerned over the recent statement of the Holy Synod on October 21, 2023, to restore ecclesiastical communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which has adopted a non-Orthodox ecclesiology in the so-called synod of Crete, and this is the reason for writing this letter.[8] We have been waiting for the synodal report on the results of the so-called synod of Crete, that was commissioned by the Holy Synod (in 27 June 2016), to be made public.[9] We have not seen any equivalent statement highlighting the heresies of the texts of this so-called synod, as the Holy Synods of the Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia have issued. However, instead of this, the restoration of communion with the Church of Jerusalem was announced. As far as we know, the Church of Jerusalem has not renounced the heretical Ecclesiological and Christological teachings of the texts signed in Crete and has not removed Her bishop from Qatar. This restoration of communion without resolving the original cause of ceasing communion with the Church of Jerusalem, and to which the Ecclesiological and Christological heresies adopted by Her in Crete are added, does not heal the schism but allows it to continue.[10]

Therefore, we would like to humbly ask what the position of the Church of Antioch is regarding the following theological subjects we will describe below: the membership in the World Council of ‘Churches’ (WCC), the fact that the Holy Synod has until now not condemned the heresies of the texts of the so-called synod of Crete, the acceptance of the so-called ‘Chambesy agreements’ (1989 and 1990), the 1991 decision of the Holy Synod to have inter-communion with the Anti-Chalcedonians and receiving the heterodox who have been ‘baptised’ in the Name of the Holy Trinity in their cult without Orthodox baptism.

1.Participation in the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the non-condemnation of the heresies of the texts of the so-called synod of Crete (2016)

The ‘World Council of Churches’ (WCC) defines itself as “a fellowship of ‘churches’ which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour.”[11]The dialogue on the WCC platform is based on Protestant premises, which contradict the Orthodox criteria of the Holy Apostle Paul.[12]  This is evident in the ‘Toronto Statement’ (1950) that is the basis of Orthodox participation in the WCC, and is considered “of paramount importance” by the so-called synod of Crete.[13] The Ecclesiology of the participating local Orthodox Churches has been altered after 75 years of membership in the WCC.[14]

The Ecclesiological heresies of the ‘World Council of Churches’ have been condemned by the Inter-Orthodox Council held in Moscow (8-19 July 1948) signed by 10 of 14 local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches including the representative of the Church of Antioch (His Eminence Metropolitan Elias of Lebanon), and by many others (clergy, monastics and lay people).[15]

The local Churches which adopted the so-called synod of Crete, have adopted all the Ecclesiological heresies of the ‘Toronto Statement’. According to Elder Gabriel of Mount Athos, the synod also has Christological heresy because the Church is identified with the Body of Christ, and heresy against the Church is heresy against Christ. [16]

Based on the experience of the Holy Fathers of the Church over 2000 years, the local Churches that condemned the so-called synod of Crete should cease communion with those local Churches which have adopted it, in this way raising an alarm signal of the gravity of these heresies.[17]

On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in our small parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome in Liverpool, we read the anathemas against all heresies including:

  • “those who teach and accept the so-called “World Council of Churches” (of heresies) which teaches that each Protestant branch is part of the Church of Christ and those who take part in common prayers in the blasphemy and transgression of the Canons, the so-called “Week of Prayer for Christian unity” in January, who consider the heretics as ‘brothers in Christ’: Anathema!”, and
  • “those who teach and accept the Toronto Statement (1950)[…]: Anathema!”[18]

With all the pain in our hearts and with all humility, we ask ourselves how could it be possible to participate in this council of heresies? We feel that we are adopted by You and Metropolitan Silouan and all the other Metropolitans of the Church of Antioch as our natural fathers, and this gives us the courage to raise this question as a parish in our Antiochian family. As we have mentioned above, we proclaim the anathema against the WCC. Considering this fact, are there intentions in the Holy Synod to stop participating in the WCC? We write this with all pain, with all love in Christ and with all gratitude as You are our beloved family that adopted us.

2.Agreed Statements and Proposals for Lifting Anathemas with the Anti-Chalcedonians (Chambesy Agreements)

[19]

I would like to humbly express my pain caused by the un-Orthodox decisions made by the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch in 1991 towards the Anti-Chalcedonians (Miaphysites/Monophysites)[20], as an effect of non-patristic and non-Orthodox theological dialogues, according to Father Theodore Zisis.[21]

Archimandrite George Kapsanis, the reposed Igumen of Grigoriou Monastery of Mount Athos, also stated in many theological letters and books about the heretical character of the adopted texts in Chambesy (1989 and 1990), in the dialogues with the Monophysites.[22]

In the ‘First Agreed Statement’ in Chambesy (1989), the Orthodox agreed that “when we speak of the one composite (synthetos) hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ[…] to form an inseparably and unconfusedly united real divine-human being[…] Who in these last days became a human being and was born of the Blessed Virgin.”[23]

In the formulation, “to form an inseparably and unconfusedly united real divine-human being”, the formula ‘divine-human being’ is the same as the formulation of the heretic Severus of Antioch, “composite divine-human nature”.[24] The Coptic Pope Shenouda III in his book ‘The Nature of Christ’, talks about “one nature of Christ” and “only one divine-human nature”, following the heresy of Severus.[25]  Saint John of Damascus states that “the Lord’s natures are hypostatically united without [mixture], with each nature keeping its own distinction.” [26]

Based on the evidence above, it is demonstrated that the Anti-Chalcedonians are still Monophysites in their Christology and under the anathema of the 4th and later Ecumenical Councils. This position is also the conclusion of the Orthodox theologian, Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet, in his very well-researched book ‘Person and Nature’.[27] A similar theological analysis was undertaken by the Holy Synod of the Church of Georgia which led them to conclude and declare that the so-called ‘Chambesy Agreements’, ‘Balamand Agreement’, the 1991 preliminary agreement with the Monophysites, are unacceptable from an Orthodox dogmatic viewpoint.[28]

Based on the statement of the Georgian Church and many other theological statements, we can conclude that the ‘Chambesy Agreements’ (1989 and 1990) and the 1991 Synodal Letter of the Holy Synod of the Antiochian Church, contain Ecclesiological and Christological heresies.[29] The 1991 Synodal Letter also allowed inter-communion and con-celebration with the Monophysites, as shown in the following decisions:

  • “Both Churches shall refrain from accepting any faithful from one Church into the membership of the other…” (No. 3),
  • Meetings between the two Churches, at the level of their Synods…” (No. 4),
  • “If bishops of the two Churches participate at a holy baptism or funeral service, the one belonging to the Church of the baptised or deceased will preside.” (No. 6),
  • “The [order of concelebration] is not applicable to the concelebration in the Divine Liturgy.” (No. 7),
  • “[The order of concelebration that] applies to bishops equally applies to the priests of both Churches.” (No. 8),
  • In localities where there is only one priest, from either Church, he will celebrate services for the faithful of both Churches, including the Divine Liturgy, pastoral duties, and holy matrimony…” (No. 9),
  • “If two priests of the two Churches happen to be in a locality where there is only one Church, they take turns in making use of its facilities.” (No. 10),
  • “If a bishop from one Church and a priest from the sister Church happen to concelebrate a service…” (No. 11), and
  • Godfathers, godmothers (in baptism) and witnesses in holy matrimony can be chosen from the members of the sister Church.” (No. 13). [30]

As mentioned earlier in this letter, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in our small parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome in Liverpool, we read the anathemas against all heresies which also includes: 

  • “To Jacob the Armenian, Dioscorus of Alexandria and Severus, Sergius, Paul and Pyrrhus, with Sergius the disciple of Lycopetrus: Anathema!”,
  • “To the fallen and the anticanonical patriarchs denying the Fourth Ecumenical Council, Karekin II of Armenia, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria the Coptic Patriarch, Abune Mathias of Ethiopia, Ignatius Ephrem II of the Syrian-Jacobites, Baselios Thomas of the Malabarian Indians, who mistakenly call themselves “orthodox” and those who are in communion with them: Anathema!”,
  • “To those who deny the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Holy Ecumenical Councils, monophysites, monothelites and monenergists: Anathema!”, and
  • “To the Eutychianites, Jacobites and Artzivurites: Anathema!”[31]

There are cases of mixed-marriage families between the Orthodox and the Monophysites, where the Monophysite spouse communes in the Orthodox parish. Does this also apply to our Archdiocese in the UK and Ireland?

Another question that we would like to ask, with all humility and obedience, is if there are any plans in the Synod of the Church of Antioch regarding the re-evaluation of 1991 synodal decision and the ‘Chambesy Agreements’ that led to heresy and blasphemy against the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Ecumenical Councils? In our little and modest parish, we pronounce the above anathemas. They are also on the Internet in the Greek, English and Romanian languages.[32] These questions arose in my mind when I heard about the restoration of communion with the Church of Jerusalem, which was done without explaining the dogmatic and canonical basis of the action. This can lead to the possible conclusion that there are no real concerns about such important dogmatic matters, but we do not want to make our own conclusions.

3.Acceptance of heterodox ‘baptism’ in the Name of the Holy Trinity

We would also like to humbly ask if the statement in several English liturgical books and the statement of the Metropolitan of the North American Archdiocese in 2018, regarding the reception of the heterodox into the Church by Holy Chrismation are valid?[33] These statements affirm that the condition of reception is that the heterodox believe in the Holy Trinity and have been ‘baptised with water in the Name of the Holy Trinity’, and because of this, the ‘baptism’ cannot be repeated. 

Canon 47 of the Apostolic Canons forbids the repetition of a true Orthodox baptism in the Orthodox faith and form (triple immersions).[34] Canon 1 of Saint Basil and the Canon of the Third Council of Carthage under Saint Cyprian (258), which has been ratified by Canon 2 of the Council of Trullo and elevated to ecumenical authority, also requires that all heretics must be baptised into the Orthodox Church.[35]

The last official Inter-Orthodox statement on the reception of heretics is the 1755 Synod of the Eastern Patriarchs held in Constantinople, which is still valid today.[36] The Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch in July 1933 issued a synodal decision (no. 8) that all heretics are to be baptised, which adopted the 1755 Oros.[37]

There are also clergy in some Orthodox Churches that have been received by Chrismation only. Unfortunately, they were not given the chance to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church.

In conclusion, we would like to ask in our humility, what the position of the Church of Antioch is on all the matters mentioned above. Is Her intention to fight against all heresies by: withdrawing from the WCC, condemning the so-called synod of Crete, cancelling and condemning the so-called ‘Chambesy agreements’ (1989 and 1990), and the 1991 synodal decision for inter-communion with the Monophysites, officialising the anathemas to condemn all heresies, including against Miaphysitism/Monophysitism, Papism, Protestantism, the pan-heresy of ecumenism, the ecclesiological and Christological heresies of the so-called synod of Crete, and receiving every heretic who comes to the Church with Holy Orthodox Baptism?

We are humbly waiting for Your response on these theological matters that are crucial for the salvation of souls.

Kissing Your right hand and asking for Your prayers,

With all my love in Christ,

Protopresbyter Matthew (Ion-Valentin) Vulcanescu

Parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

Footnotes

[1] Acts 11:26.

[2] Emeritus Professor of Orthodox Dogmatics Demetrios Tselengidis of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, a disciple of Protopresbyter Professor John S. Romanides, Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Emeritus Professor of the School of Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the reposed Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Emeritus Professor of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Protopresbyter Peter Heers and Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos.

[3]  Holy Monastery of Pantokrator of Melissochori, Theological Seminar on “Holy and Great Synod: Great Preparation without Expectations”; Metropolis of Piraeus, “Holy and Great Council” (Crete, 2016): Between Providence and Failure (in Romanian); Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Meeting of the Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte with Professor Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis (in Bulgarian); Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Discussion on the topic: “Orthodoxy today” took place in the building of Sofia Metropolis (in Bulgarian); Orthodox Ethos, Gathering of Clergy and Monastics in Moldavia Petitions the Patriarch of Moscow to Reject Crete; Orthodox Ethos, Ecclesiastical Delegation from Greece Meets Patriarch and Hierarchs of the Church of Georgia.

[4] Video recordings of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy proclaimed have also been sent to His Eminence Silouan, Metropolitan of Great Britain and Ireland: Vulcanescu, The Sunday of Orthodoxy 2022; Vulcanescu, The Sunday of Orthodoxy 2023.

[5]  Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch, 6 June 2016; Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch, 27 June 2016.

[6]  Russian Orthodox Church, Resolutions of the Holy Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (29th Nov.– 2nd Dec. 2017); Bulgarian Orthodox Church, “The Final Decision of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on the Council in Crete (2016) and the text ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’” (in Bulgarian); Patriarchate of Georgia, Minutes of the Meeting of the Holy Synod on the Great and Holy Council. (in Georgian)

[7] Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch, 27 June 2016, op. cit.

[8] Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Holy Synod of Antioch, 21 Oct. 2023.

[9] Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch, 27 June 2016, op. cit.; Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch issued 9 June 2017.

[10] Canon 2 of the Second Ecumenical Council, Canon 8 of the Third Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Jurisdiction of Jerusalem and Antioch, Session 7 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council: Schaff, NPNF Vol. 14, pp. 348, 442 & 490.

[11] World Council of Churches, Constitution and Rules of the World Council of Churches.

[12] Tselengidis, The importance of dogma in dialogues with heterodox. (in Romanian)

[13]   Para. 19: “It is their deep conviction that the ecclesiological presuppositions of the 1950 Toronto Statement… are of paramount importance for Orthodox participation in the Council.”: Holy and Great Council, ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’; World Council of Churches, Toronto Statement; Vulcanescu, Historical Approach To The Context Of The Dialogue With The Non-Orthodox: The Toronto Statement; see also: Serdaru, Analysis from the point of view of logical principles of the texts of the Council of Crete. (in Romanian)

[14] Refer to: Holy Monastery of Pantokrator of Melissochori, Letter of Protest to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece on the WCC decision in Busan. (in Greek))

[15]   Ioniță, The Decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Meetings From 1923 to 2009, p. 151-154(in Romanian), Vulcanescu, The official anathema of the ROCOR against ecumenism; Heers, The 1998 Synodical Decision of the Orthodox Church of Georgia on the Chambesy and Balamand Agreements; Vulcanescu, Confession of the Orthodox Faith against all heresies by His Eminence Damianos, Archbishop of Sinai, op. cit.; Metropolitan of Piraeus, “Stop fruitless dialogues with heretics” (in Greek); Synaxis of Orthodox Clergy and Monastics, Orthodoxos Typos, no. 1984, pp. 1 & 6. (in Greek)

[16]   Vulcanescu, Discussion with Elder Gabriel about the Council of Crete; Vulcanescu, Elder Gabriel the Athonite: The Synod of Crete fell into Christological heresy. (in Greek)

[17]  Papadakis, The Struggles of the Monks for Orthodoxy. (in Greek)

[18]  Vulcanescu, The Sunday of Orthodoxy 2023, para. 25-27 & 30-36, op. cit.

[19]  The ‘Anti-Chalcedonian’ Monophysites are: the Syriac-Jacobites, Malankara-Jacobites (Indians), Armenians, Copts, Tewahedo-Ethiopians and Tewahedo-Eritreans. Refer to: Joint Commission, First Agreed Statement; Joint Commission, Second Agreed Statement; Joint Commission, Recommendations On Pastoral Issues; Joint Commission, Communique: Proposals for Lifting Anathemas (1993).

[20]   Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on the Relations between the Eastern and Syrian ‘Orthodox’ Churches.

[21]   Zizis, Letter to Patriarch Daniel. (in Romanian)

[22] Kapsanis, Contemporary Iconoclasts; The Sacred Community of Mount Athos, Concerning the Dialogue Between the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonian Churches.

[23] Joint Commission, First Agreed Statement.

[24]  Refer to: Zizis, “St. John of Damascus and the ‘Orthodoxy’ of the Anti-Chalcedonians”.

[25]  Shenouda III, The Nature of Christ, ch. 3.

[26]  Chase, St. John of Damascus: Writings, p. 284, op. cit. (emphasis added)

[27] Larchet, Person and Nature. (in French)

[28] Heers, The 1998 Synodical Decision of the Orthodox Church of Georgia on the Chambesy and Balamand Agreements, op. cit.; Vulcanescu, We ask the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church to follow the example of the Orthodox Church of Georgia… (in Romanian)

[29] Kapsanis, Contemporary Iconoclasts; The Sacred Community of Mount Athos, Concerning the Dialogue Between the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonian Churches; Grigoriatis, Theological Notes On Recent Proposals For Inter-Communion Orthodox And Anti-Chalcedonians. (in Greek); see also: Zizis, “St. John of Damascus and the ‘Orthodoxy’ of the Anti-Chalcedonians”, op. cit.

[30] Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on the Relations between the Eastern and Syrian ‘Orthodox’ Churches.

[31] Vulcanescu, The Sunday of Orthodoxy 2023, para. 6, 8-10, op. cit.

[32] Vulcanescu, The Sunday of Orthodoxy 2023, op. cit.

[33] See officially approved books in English by the Archdiocese of North America: Najim & O’Grady, The Services of Initiation: Into the Holy Orthodox-Catholic and Apostolic Church, p. 91-93, footnote 34; Hughes, The Service for the Chrismation of Converts into the Orthodox Faith, p. 4-8; Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Baptism: Baptism Given to All Persons; Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Statement Regarding Reception of Converts to the Orthodox Christian Faith.

[34] Canon 47 of the Apostolic Canons: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 89-75; Vulcanescu, Arguments on receiving the heterodox into the Orthodox Church, op. cit.

[35] Canon of the Third Council of Carthage and Canon 1 of St. Basil: Orthodox Ethos, On the Reception of the Heterodox into the Orthodox Church, pp. 80-81 & 83-90; Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 485-488 and 773-789.

[36] Orthodox Ethos, On the Reception of the Heterodox into the Orthodox Church, p. 301, op. cit.; Metallinos I Confess One Baptism…, p. 34.

[37] Lacombe, Échos d’Orient, vol. 33, no. 173, (Paris, 1934), p. 99. (in French); Orthodox Ethos, On the Reception of the Heterodox into the Orthodox Church, p. 299, op. cit.

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