Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Met. Athanasios of Lemesou (Cyprus) Speaks Out on the Pope's Visit to Cyprus

In an interview published on May 23, 2010 in the Cypriot Newspaper "Phileleftheros" the Metropolitan distances himself from the Archbishop's decision to host the Pope in Cyprus.  The following are excerpts from the interview:The Metropolitan of Limassol Athanasius separates his position from that of the official position of the Church of Cyprus on the matter of Pope Benedict's visit to Cyprus.

He boldly declares that he is opposed, with the argument that Papism is a heresy and that the visit here of the Primate of the Catholic Church will scandalize the souls of innocent pious Christians. At the same time, he stresses that there should be no displays of unseemliness, no rudeness, no bad behaviour.  He has personally stated that he will not participate in the reception schedule.


"For us Orthodox, the Pope is a heretic, outside of the Church, and, hence, not even a bishop".

"He [the Pope] has been outside of the Church for ten centuries now, he is not a canonical bishop, he has no relation whatsoever to the reality of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ. It is one thing to receive him as a canonical bishop and quite another to speak to him as [being] a heterodox in order to reveal to him the truth of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition."

"Dialogue is not a bad thing when it is carried out based on correct presuppositions. However, it is wrong to say to these people that we recognize them as a Church, that we recognize the Pope as a Bishop, as our brother in Christ in the priesthood and in [the] faith. I cannot accept this, because we are lying [when we say this], since all of the Holy Fathers teach exactly the opposite. Papism is a heresy and the source of many other heresies which trouble the entire world today. A contemporary Saint of the Church, Saint Justin Popovich, said that in the history of the human race there have been three tragic falls: of the first-formed Adam, of the disciple of Christ, Judas, and of the Pope, who, when he was the first Bishop of the Church, fell from the apostolic faith, was cut off from the canonical Church and lured away a host of people with him until today."

"God is one and the Church of God is one, and that is why we say in the Symbol of Faith [that we believe] "in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." This is the Orthodox Church, there do not exist many Churches."

"When I say to the other that it doesn't matter that you are catholic and that we all belong to the same Church, I am playing with him [or mocking him] since all of the Holy Fathers teach that the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ is one."

"The Orthodox Church preserves the faith of the Apostles and the experience of the prophets unshakeable up until our own days. The Papists, unfortunately, from the time when they were cut off from the Church added many heretics dogmas to their [confession of] faith, changed the Symbol of Faith [the Nicene Creed] and above all elevated the Pope to the level of being the eminent and unique representative of God on earth."

"When you add things to the Symbol of Faith that the Holy Fathers did not write, and many other false teachings, this is heresy. This is the reality of things."
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Q: Why would the Church and her flock be scandalized by the impending visit to the island by Pope Benedict XVI ?  

I believe that the Pope's visit to Cyprus will cause several problems to the conscience of many pious Christians. It would be better if he did not come, because I believe that it will not benefit us in any way, given that I have not seen any positive intervention by the Vatican until now, with regard to our national issues. Enough unrest has already been caused, which was not something we needed at this point in time.

Q: Are we in danger from something?

I am not saying that we are in danger with the arrival of the Pope, or that we will betray our Faith or that the Orthodox Church will be subdued. It has merely given rise to various circles of (schismatic) Old Calendarists to accuse us of being compliant, of having lapsed from the principles of the Orthodox Faith and quite a number of questions have been raised in many people.  Of course the Pope was invited by the President of the Republic and the Archbishop gave his consent.

Q: Did you discuss this with the Holy Synod?

In the last Synod, the matter of our presence -or not- in events with the Pope was brought up. I had refused to participate and said that we knew nothing. We learnt about the Pope's arrival from the newspapers.

Q: Do you usually learn the news from the newspapers? 

The Archbishop of Cyprus has increased privileges and we definitely do not want him to interfere in our affairs. We do however preserve our personal right to say that we did not know that the Pope was coming, and that if asked, I would personally have declared "no", because it would have caused a scandal in the souls of innocent pious Christian Orthodox, the way we are seeing it happening.

Q: Shouldn't there be any communication between the Churches? We are living in the 21st century; we are in the European Union.

We can have dialogues with any person, even more so with the heterodox and those of other religions. But it is one thing for a dialogue to take place, and another to receive the Pope as a canonical Bishop, who, for us Orthodox, is a heretic, outside of the Church, and, hence, not even a bishop .

Q: On account of the Schism?

He [the Pope] has been outside of the Church for ten centuries now, he is not a canonical bishop, he has no relation whatsoever to the reality of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ. It is one thing to receive him as a canonical bishop and quite another to speak to him as [being] a heterodox in order to reveal to him the truth of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition.

Q: The Ecumenical Patriarch has met with the Pope and a dialogue has already begun between the Churches.

As I said, dialogue is not a bad thing when it is carried out based on correct presuppositions. However, it is wrong to say to these people that we recognize them as a Church, that we recognize the Pope as a Bishop, as our brother in Christ in the priesthood and in [the] faith. I cannot accept this, because we are lying [when we say this], since all of the Holy Fathers teach exactly the opposite. Papism is a heresy and the source of many other heresies which trouble the entire world today. A contemporary Saint of the Church, Saint Justin Popovich, said that in the history of the human race there have been three tragic falls: of the first-formed Adam, of the disciple of Christ, Judas, and of the Pope, who, when he was the first Bishop of the Church, fell from the apostolic faith, was cut off from the canonical Church and lured away a host of people with him until today.

Q: What does the Pope say about the Orthodox?

The Pope said that we Orthodox are a deficient Church...

Q: God is One...

Yes, God is One and the Church of God is one, and that is why we say in the Symbol of Faith [that we believe] "in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." This is the Orthodox Church, there do not exist many Churches.

Q: Isn't it egotistic, to regard that it is "only us"?

It is not egotistic. When, for example, you say that "Italians aren't Greek" - which is a truth - you do not offend the other. By saying to the other that it doesn't matter that you are Catholic and that we all belong to the same Church, I am playing with him [or mocking him] since all of the Holy Fathers teach that the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ is one.

Q:  Why is that one Church ours, and not the Papist one?

Because the Orthodox Church preserves the faith of the Apostles and the experience of the prophets unshakeable up until our own days. The Papists, unfortunately, from the time when they were cut off from the Church added many heretic dogmas to their [confession of] faith, changed the Symbol of Faith [the Nicene Creed] and above all elevated the Pope to the level of being the eminent and unique representative of God on earth.  They claim that the Pope is infallible, and that whoever has no communion with the Pope has no communion with God. They teach these things officially, from within their Synods.

When you add things to the Symbol of Faith that the Holy Fathers did not write, and many other false teachings, this is heresy. This is the reality of things.

Q: How does the Orthodox Church encounter/deal with heretics? 

With much love. We love the Pope, we love the papists just as we love every person; we do not despise them, we do not reject them as persons, but we do not accept [their] heresy, we do not accept the false teachings, we do not accept [their] delusions. It is because we love them that we must tell them the truth.

Q:  Of course each one has his own truth...

That is why the dialogue takes place - to prove on the basis of historical sources which Church has preserved the apostolic faith and the apostolic experience of the Saints.

Q: Do you think that the Dialogue can produce results?

It can, if it is done properly and based on the right presuppositions. Unfortunately, as it is carried out today, it does not produce results, and that is why they have carried on discussions for so many years without coming to any conclusions.

Q:  Each one listens only to himself?

They should have embarked on the dialogue by securing themselves behind the Holy Bible with humility and love, and with the aim to prove Christ's Truth. That way, things would be much easier.

Q: Isn't the dialogue taking place with humility and love?

I don't know, I am not participating in the dialogues, but I haven't seen any significant results coming out of the decisions being reached.  There is a movement which circulates books opposing the Pope and they are preparing protests.  None of these things finds me in agreement. There should be no displays of unseemliness, no rudeness, no bad behaviour; it is another thing to express our opinion - after all, we are living in a democratic polity - and another thing to resort to ugly measures. Frankly, and before all, I disagree with the coming of the Pope to Cyprus and I say with my whole soul that the Pope is a heretic, he is not a bishop, he is not an Orthodox Christian and this is what the Holy Fathers say. If I am wrong, I am ready to be corrected, but on the basis of the Holy Fathers, not based on the mindset of globalization. Just because I disagree does not mean that I am being disorderly and am outside the Church [as some have claimed].

Q:  With these statements of yours, aren't you kindling a flame in those who are already being scandalized by the Pope's visit?

Whatever we have to say, we say it with every responsibility and sincerity; we are not setting fires, because I do not wish to otherwise be presented as agreeing and lightheartedly accepting the Papal presence in Cyprus.  The Archbishop confronted our differences in a very democratic manner during the Synod.

Q:  Did you agree to the Archbishop's visit to the Vatican?

We weren't asked, but neither is he obliged to ask us. We were informed by the newspapers. What did his visit to the Vatican result in?

Q:  I don't know.  Didn't he inform you?

He informed us, but I personally didn't have any special interest. The Pope always speaks in a formal manner, says things which are customary [to his position], as he will say now that he will come to Cyprus, but he will do nothing of essence, because he is not the leader of the Church but a political person who cannot come into conflict with the political establishment and system. Did the Pope ever speak up for the Orthodox Church? We have had so many conquerors - when did he ever defend us? Not to mention that during the Frankish rule we suffered under the Popes and the Papal Bulls that wanted to exterminate us. This evening we had celebrated the 13 holy martyrs of Kantara, who were killed by order of the Vatican. We spent 400 years in cruel slavery during the Frankish reign... But I will not go back [to the past]. The reasons I am reacting today are purely theological. When I was consecrated a bishop I pledged to preserve the Orthodox Faith.

Q: Aren't the priests who will be receiving the Pope preserving the Orthodox Faith? 

The Apostle Paul said that those who eat idol-offerings should not censure those who do not. So do I not judge those who will participate, but I likewise do not want to be censured because of my non-participation.

Q:  Last Sunday an encyclical by the Holy Synod was read in the churches and it made an impression on the people, when the names of the Conciliar hierarchs were cited, one by one.

All of us decided to issue an encyclical addressed to the people exhorting them to remain joined to their Church, to not listen to the (schismatic) Old Calendarists who want to break them away from the canonical Church. What was not clarified in the encyclical was that not all of us were informed and in agreement with the invitation towards the Pope.

Q:  Why do you think that the Pope is coming to Cyprus?

As you can understand, the Papists are going through a serious crisis with all the scandals that have seen the light of publicity.

Q: Pederasty (child molesting)?

…I don't wish to name them, but every day the Press does publish very sorrowful things...  I am not censuring, but the Pope is under the impression that he is the first and only Vicar of Christ on Earth, and that is why he is on such missions.

Q: The Pope said that he wants to make a pilgrimage following the steps of the Apostle Paul.

Except that the Apostle Paul didn't move about in a bulletproof car which cost 500,000 euros, which, I read, was to be purchased by the Cypriot government for the Pope to travel around Cyprus for the two days he will be here. I was personally quite scandalized by this news and said that a bulletproof car does not befit a Vicar of Christ.... And for the people to have to bear such a cost, in the midst of an economic crisis...

Q: The announcement from the representatives of the Pope says that he is coming to Cyprus in order to promote human and Christian values and principles, and that he wants to walk in the steps of the Apostle Paul and in a spirit of the brotherhood meet the Orthodox Church with a good disposition.

We do not doubt his good intention - may it be that this is the case. May it be that he resembles the Apostle Paul and acquaints himself with the wealth of the Orthodox Church. We pray that he returns to the Orthodox Church and becomes once again an Orthodox Bishop as he was before the Schism. This alone is the proper path to unity.

Q: What do you think is the hidden agenda?

The Vatican does not perform random actions or make naive moves. Every tour of each Pope has as its aim to present him as the worldwide leader of Christianity. At the moment, however, he is neither a canonical Bishop, nor Orthodox, so that he is not in a position to present himself as having first place as a Bishop.

Q: Could there be hidden political interests here?

I don't know; I believe that we [the Cypriot people] have nothing to gain politically from the visit of the Pope - only a lot of expenses and an immense upheaval in the conscience of the faithful.

Q: The Archbishop said that all those who disagree will be placing themselves outside the Church.

I am not aware of the Archbishop's statements, but I don't think that whoever disagrees with the coming of the Pope places himself outside the Church. I disagree, and I am stating it boldly, and I am not outside the Church.

Wait!

The Church, like the Archbishop himself stresses, has a democratic polity; it is a different thing to argue in a dignified manner and another, to resort to unbecoming behaviour.