Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has criticized Greece’s state church for anti-ecumenical statements. Photo: Massimo Finizio
The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians has written to Greece’s Orthodox state church, deploring anti-ecumenical statements by its leaders. "Critical voices about ecumenism, long heard in the bosom of the church of Greece, have hitherto been limited in scope – but what has occurred recently has reached unacceptable levels," said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
"Such opinions evoke anguish and sorrow by running counter to the Orthodox ethos. They risk unforeseen consequences for church unity in general, and the unity of our holy Orthodox church in particular," he wrote.
In a late March letter to Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All-Greece, the patriarch said he was especially concerned by a recent statement by Metropolitan Seraphim (Mentzelopoulos) of Piraeus, invoking an "anathema" against the pope, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and ecumenists.
He added that the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate and church of Greece had traditionally supported each other as "ecumenical witnesses to Orthodoxy" in the World Council of Churches and other inter-denominational bodies.
"I urge you to reject and act against these unjustified and dangerous statements," said Bartholomew. "They contradict the decisions taken jointly by Orthodox churches to participate in bilateral and multilateral theological dialogue with the heterodox," referring to those who are not Orthodox.
Religious minorities have often complained of marginalization in Greece, whose constitution recognizes Orthodoxy as the "dominant religion."
In his statement on March 4, Orthodoxy Sunday, Seraphim said he was anathematizing the "fallen arch-heretic," Pope Benedict XVI, "and those in communion with him," as well as "all heretical offshoots of the Reformation," "rabbis of Judaism and Islamists," and "those who preach and teach the pan-heresy of inter-Christian and inter-religious syncretistic ecumenism."
His remarks were criticized by professors at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, who said in a letter to the Greek synod that they were "unable to discern or even speculate as to the spiritual and pastoral benefit of this unprovoked, violent attack by one bishop against people of a different religion."