History of the 1995 Schism
In 1995, five Bishops of the Matthewites, created a schism within the Synod over the issue of a Latin originated icon of the Holy Trinity.
These Latin icons were popular even among the Greek Old Calendarists. For instance, the first seal ("stamp") used by the Holy Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, had the Latin "Holy Trinity" icon as the picture on the stamp. This stamp was used to authenticate all documents, including the consecration certificate of Bishop Matthew, the Encyclical of 1935, and other documents. Additionally, St. Nectarios had this icon on his epigonation, and he gave this epigonation to Bishop Matthew as a gift. Bishop Matthew would wear this epigonation on great feast days, and it is currently kept at the Convent of the Entry of the Theotokos, our Lady the Pefkovounogiatrissa, at Keratea, Attica. This same epigonation is visible in one of the photographs of Bishop Matthew.
So as you can see, despite the fact that this is a Latin icon, and despite the fact that its use has been condemned by a Pan-Orthodox Council, and at least one local council, yet this same icon is still very close to many Orthodox Christians, even True Orthodox Christians, and was even used by St. Nectarios and by our own Bishop Matthew.
However... the truth is that this is a Latin icon, and is not in the Orthodox tradition. When this information began to be preached, in pamphlets and books, and especially by members of our own Synod (Archimandrite Stephanos, his student Chrysaphios, the French Fr. Cassian Braun, etc), back in the late 1980s and early '90s, this caused an immediate dissention among the simple faithful, who could not understand how it was possible that the icon they came to know and love since childhood, happened to be Latin and condemned by the Orthodox Church.
A turmoil began during the early 90's, after several monks and theologians started criticizing this westernized non-traditional iconography (mainly the western icons of the "New Testament" Holy Trinity and of the Resurrection). The majority of the Bishops were strongly opposed to this criticism and condemned the criticism and critics as the "neo-iconoclasm" and "neo-iconoclasts". So what was the result? Schism and division. The Five Bishops, decided to use this issue of iconography to condemn Archbishop Andreas of Athens, and try to have him deposed, in order to take over the throne of Athens. We will show that they really didn't care about the icon issue, but were only using this as an excuse. We know this, because their main spokesman, Chrysostom of Thessalonica, did not use the Latin icons in the past. He knew all too well from his theological studies that they were not Orthodox.
In 1992 an Encyclical (the so-called "First Encyclical") was issued, signed by all hierarchs. It stated, for the sake of "preventing disagreements and dissensions", that all icons "which the Tradition of the Church accepted and established are to be revered and venerated". Later that year the Synod proclaimed, "all pamphlets, undersigned, by pseudonyms or anonymous, do not express the attitude of the Synod and are being condemned and rejected, because they created confusion in the Church and an unacceptable splitting".
However, this Encyclical did not bring peace to the Church. Though monks and theologians accused of the "neo-iconoclastic heresy" all accepted the First Encyclical, and some of them even retracted their writings, the majority of the Bishops kept insisting on "anathematizing" the "new iconoclastic heresy" and the "new iconoclasts" by name. This was in spite of the synodal decision’s statement that "all those who accept the First Encyclical are being freed of all accusations".For that purpose the majority of the Bishops, those to become "the five", insisted on a new ("Second") Encyclical. This “Second Encyclical" was neither a "Synodal Encyclical" nor a "Synodal Resolution". It was a private, unfinished, unrevised, uncorrected, first-draft, temporary encyclical, that was signed only under the conditions that the encyclical will remain as a private file of the Synod, not to be endorsed, neither viewed as an official Synodal Encyclical, nor officially accepted until the next Synodal meeting is convened to validate and/or correct it. The fact that certain people published this private encyclical and falsely presented it as an "official" "Synodal Encyclical" was an uncanonical act. All of the bishops signed the encyclical. However Archbishop Andreas and Archbishop Epiphanios were *FORCED* to sign it!!! Metropolitans Nikolaos and Pachomios were not forced, but when they re-examined it, they announced that they did not agree with it. The entire Synod later re-convened, and *ALL OF THE BISHOPS* retracted the Encyclical! The entire Synod agreed to retract it "until further notice”. The official position of the Holy Synod of Archbishop Andreas is that the "Second Encyclical" is unacceptable. A plan of that Encyclical (a draft, not a definite version) was initially signed by all Bishops, under the condition to be additionally judged, corrected and examined by theologians and all members of the Synod. Despite this decision, one of "the five" (Bishop Matthew of Attica) hastily published this plan as "The Second Encyclical" and disseminated it from the synodal address around Greece and abroad. It is important to note that this "Encyclical" anathematized some, if not entirely truthful, at least controversial statements. (And this was essentially the spirit of "the movement of the five" - they were very quick to ANATHEMATIZE anything they themselves do not consider Orthodox, fully disregarding any precedents in the Church history.) Afterwards, Archbishop Andreas, two other Bishops and a secretary of the Synod retracted their signatures from the plan.
Metropolitan Pachomios did not "retract" his signature alone. Neither did Archbishop Andreas, neither did Metropolitan Nicholaos. They retracted their signatures "synodically" (and so, too, did the five former Metropolitans) when the entire Matthewite Synod agreed to dismiss the "icon issue", and allow the theologians to discuss the issue.In July 1994 the Synod met and unanimously decided that a new plan of the new encyclical should be created, after a thorough theological and philological examination. The same day, after the synodal meeting, the five Bishops separately met and wrote a text ("Clarification") where they stated that the new plan does not mean that the previous one, i.e. "The Second Encyclical", is being retracted. They signed this text as "THE Members of the Holy Synod", which in Greek implies that they are the Holy Synod, and that there are no other members of the Synod beside them. The Archbishop responded, warning them that their action was a parasynodical and anticanonical act and called them to retract the text, but there was no response.
In accordance with the decision of the Synod, the theologians began meeting to examine the controversies regarding the icons (August to October 1994). The last Synodal meeting was on October 16, 1994 (there were 6 meetings of the Synod during 1994 – this is important because the major accusation against the Archbishop, by "the five", was that he did not want to call any synodal meetings). Several days later Bishop Matthew addressed the Archbishop with a request to convoke the Meeting of the Synod. The Archbishop responded that he agreed and in the personal letters to all hierarchs suggested themes for the discussion at the meeting. For two months "the five" metropolitans had not responded to his letter. The Archbishop again addressed them (17 January, 1995) and proposed the date of the Meeting as March 1st. On the 4th of February the five metropolitans sent letter by which they refused to accept the meeting during the days of the Lent, and proposed the 15th of February. The Archbishop responded that it was unacceptable because there was not enough time for the Metropolitan of Cyprus to plan and organize his travel, and insisted that they submit their proposals for the topics of the Meeting. Since there was no response to his letters, he postponed the meeting.On the 6th of March "the five" metropolitans informed the Archbishop that they do not want to submit the proposed topics in writing but only at the meeting of the Permanent Synod, which they, in the tone of ultimatum, requested to be convoked in the following two weeks (note that Lent was not a problem any more). Eventually the Archbishop convoked the meeting of the Permanent Synod for the 1st of June, with only one theme - the convocation of the Meeting of the full Synod and determination of its date (in his letter sent on the 25th of May).
Two days later, on 27 May, the five metropolitans announced "The Act - Decision" (dated 10 May!), by which they accuse the Archbishop of anticanonical actions, remove him from the archiepiscopal throne, suspend him from service, call him to court to give an apology in 30 days, and elect as a locum tenens Metropolitan Gregory.
Why in 1995, did the five Metropolitans bring the issue into their own hands, and create a parasynagogue, supposedly "suspending" Archbishop Andreas, "in absentia", without his knowledge or presence, and without calling a Council, nor inviting the remaining bishops of the Synod? The truth is that Archbishop Andreas was never canonically "suspended" nor deposed. Then, suddenly, the five former metropolitans could not wait any longer (they wanted to get the Archbishop "deposed" and sent to a monastery so that they themselves can take over the Archdiocese and Monasteries). Hence, the five former metropolitans joined together in their own "meeting" or parasynagogue" (contrary to the canons) and without the knowledge or presence of the Archbishop (again, contrary to the canons), and without inviting the other Metropolitans of the Synod (again, contrary to the canons), "suspended" the Archbishop "in absentia" (again, contrary to the canons), without a trial or council (again, contrary to the canons), and the “five” say they asked the Archbishop to "appear before them", even though they had already broken communion from him and ceased to commemorate his name (again, contrary to the canons), and thus caused a schism in the Church (again, contrary to the canons).The five Metropolitans *NEVER* "asked" for Archbishop Andreas to "present himself to the Synod". Archbishop Andreas *LIVES* at the Synodal headquarters!!! The “five” bishops "suspended" him "in absentia", without a trial, without calling him, without even summoning the entire Synod, or inviting the Archbishop! The five bishops did not invite the Archbishop! They rather called their own "meeting" (parasynagogue) and illegally and uneconomically "suspended" the Archbishop, without inviting the Archbishop, and without inviting the other Metropolitans of the Synod. By going through with this uncanonical "suspension", your bishops ceased commemorating the name of the Archbishop, and thereby your bishops fell into schism. The five former metropolitans then reaffirmed the "Second Encyclical" (which they had previously synodically retracted) and used it as a reason for why they created their schism. The Archbishop, as the PRESIDENT of the Holy Synod, is the only one with authority to call a council meeting!On 2 June the session of the permanent Synod (under Archbishop Andreas) took place and the action of "the five" was judged as a coup, and five metropolitans were suspended from service. During the following two weeks hierarchs, with mediation of Metropolitan Epiphanios of Cyprus, attempted to meet wit "the five", but to no avail. The five Metropolitans proclaimed themselves as "the new Synod", with a new seal, a new protocol number and new quarters.
Archbishop Andreas called the Holy Synod to convene. The “five” bishops did not attend because they had already convened a false "synod" (parasynagogue) of their own, and they fell into schism. The Archbishop and his fellow Metropolitans, as well as Archbishop Epiphanios of Cyprus, elected five new candidates and consecrated them to replace the five bishops that fell into schism. The Synod of Archbishop Andreas, however, continues to regard the 1993 encyclical as null. The Synod of Archbishop Andreas follows a moderate opinion in regards to the icon issue. The icon issue is interpreted with theological accuracy, however the Latin icons are permitted to be venerated because the Orthodox Church has done so for the past two hundred years without problems, and if they were to be discontinued at the present state, it would scandalize the faithful. Hence, the Latin icons are venerated according to the 1991 encyclical. However, the 1992 encyclical is unacceptable and incompatible with Orthodox Patristic Tradition, hence it remains null, as it was never endorsed, never officially accepted by the Holy Synod, never officially signed, never approved, never affirmed, and never revised or corrected. It remains as a temporary, unfinished encyclical of no ecclesiastical value, null and void. In 1995, the five Metropolitans departed from the Holy Synod before the theologians had formally finished their resolution. The five Metropolitans then endorsed the 1993 encyclical as an "official" encyclical and even used it as a basis for a list of anathemas they added to the Synodicon of Orthodoxy in 1997.
Neither Archbishop Andreas nor any of "his" clerics have ever thrown any icons out of the churches, or, God forbid, broke the icons.
Heresy of the Five MetropolitansIn their "Third Encyclical" (1997) they misinterpret and anathematize many traditional iconographic motives, and decree that "from now onwards" the titles of the icons are to be changed - they've changed the title of the traditional icon of the Resurrection, changing its title to "the descent into Hades". They anathematized the Rublov style of the icon of the Holy Trinity, which they do not accept as Orthodox [do you hear, our Russian brothers, Saint Sergius was a heretic and cacodox!]; they change all titles of this icon to "the philoxenia of Avraam". Similarly, they decreed that all icons of the Pentecost on which there is no Theotokos are "irregular" i.e. not Orthodox – they command that from now on all such icons must be written only with Theotokos in the middle. Etc.There were also a few other heretical theories that the five former Metropolitans embraced. Here are the three major ones that caused the schism of 1995:
1. God the Father (supposedly) created forms and images of himself to appear to the prophets, and then caused these forms or images to disappear. They were never real, they were just forms and images created in order for people to see God the Father. (This theory was condemned by the Ecumenical Council under St Gregory Palamas.)
2. Whenever God appeared to the Prophets, the Son supposedly) never appeared in the Father's place, but the Father always appeared in person. (This theory is condemned by many Ecumenical and Local Councils, as well as in the Patristic Writings. This theory also contradicts the Holy Scriptures themselves.)
3. The fundamental basis of Orthodox Iconography is (supposedly) not the ensarcosis of Christ and the theosis of the Saints. (This theory is directly against the teachings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council).
These Neo-Frankish heresies have been condemned by previous Holy Councils of the Orthodox Church. This is why they are unacceptable.
Three years after creating their schism, the five former Metropolitans introduced outright heretical "Neo-Frankish" and "Neo-Iconoclastic" teachings, which were far worse than the "Second Encyclical" itself. The five former Metropolitans then "anathematized" anyone who follows the traditional Orthodox teachings, thereby indirectly "anathematizing" the Holy Scriptures, Councils and Fathers. But these "anathemas" are automatically rebounded and cast upon the heads of the five former metropolitans and their followers, since it is impossible to "anathematize" that which is holy.
The Gregorian Synod was only schismatic in 1995, but ever since then, it has pathed itself closer and closer towards outright heresy, especially after 1998, when the false Christ also appeared to St John the Theologian, after the Resurrection. Christ appeared to him as the "Ancient of Days". Christ said, I am He who lived, died, and behold, I live again! Christ said this at the time that St John the Theologian describes Him exactly the same way that the Prophet Daniel describes the "Ancient of Days". In the hymnology of the Orthodox Church we find excerpts that speak of the "Ancient of Days" being born of a Virgin. Popi, who was born of a Virgin?
The Ancient of Days *IS* the "Image of God the Father". We can venerate the icon of the "Ancient of Days" knowing that it is the "Image of God the Father". But we must remember that the Scriptures and Holy Fathers tell us that the "Image of God the Father" is none other than the Logos, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The "Ancient of Days" can be venerated as the "Image of God the Father". But it is a Barlaamite Neo-Frankish heresy to believe that this "Image of God the Father" was "created", and that it is not the Logos of God Himself. The depiction of the Holy Spirit as a dove is permitted for the icon of the Theophany. The Dove is also permitted to be iconographized alone. In many places, the Dove was iconographized alone. It appeared above altars, above baptistries, etc.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council anathematizes a certain Persian called Xenaeas, because this fellow asserted that it is "infantile knowledge" (i.e. childish) to depict and venerate the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove. The text of this anathema is found in Act 5, p. 819 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records.
Similarly, the "Ancient of Days" has always been iconographized alone, not together with the complete description of the Prophet Daniel's vision.
I have always known that the "Image of God the Father" can be depicted as the "Ancient of Days", just as He was seen in the vision of the Prophet Daniel. We venerate this icon with the knowledge that it is not God the Father in person, but is rather the "Image of God the Father", which is the Logos, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ can be depicted alone as the Incarnate Word of God, for His incarnation is the basic principle of Iconography.
The Holy Spirit can be depicted alone in the form of a Dove, just as it was seen at Theophany.
It is only when these Images are combined into one icon, that the confusion arises. The Symbols are definitely Orthodox, but the assemblage of the western Holy Trinity icon is somewhat theologically unsound.
The "Ancient of Days" has a nimbus because it is Christ and Christ is the "Image of God the Father". There is nothing wrong with portraying the nimbus (the cross within the halo) upon the image of the "Ancient of Days". It should definitely be there.
Christ is not forbidden as a lamb. I checked the canon. It says that wherever a Lamb appears representing Christ, such as was the Symbolic depiction in the early years of Christianity, as "the Lamb that taketh away the Sins of the World", this type is respected, however it would be better if Christ was depicted in the form of his incarnate human nature. The canon does not forbid the depiction of a Lamb to resemble Christ, it only says that Christ in the human form is preferred.
No one contradicts that God *created* images for the bodiless *creatures*. But did God the Father "create" an image of Himself? The Holy Scriptures tell us that Christ is the Eternal Image of the Father. Whoever has seen Christ, has seen the Father also. Yes, the Father did send an Image to be seen by the Prophets. But this image was not "created" (as the five Bishops believe). This Image was the Logos, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, the Eternal Image of the Father.
The theory that God supposedly reveals Himself in "created" symbols is one of the heresies of Barlaam, and this heresy was anathematized by the Ecumenical Council under St Gregory Palamas.
The “five” have publicly and officially fallen into the Neo-Frankish heresy of Barlaam, in that God "created" images of Himself. Your Synod has fallen into iconoclasm by denying the fundamental principle of iconography as outlined by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Your Synod has transgressed against the Holy Scriptures and Patristic Writings that confirm that no one has seen the Father but Christ, and that Christ is the Eternal Image of the Father, and whoever has seen Christ has seen the Father. These fundamental doctrines of the Orthodox Church have been cast out by your Synod. Your Synod has completely denied them, and has blasphemously "anathematized" anyone who follows the Patristic Tradition and refuses follow the opinions of your Synod.The Synod of the “five” has indirectly "anathematized" the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Holy Fathers of the Council under St Gregory Palamas, the Holy Fathers and Patristic Writers and many of the Saints. But can the Saints be anathematized? Can Orthodoxy be anathematized? Anyone who "anathematizes" Orthodoxy, is himself thrice-fold anathema because all "anathemas" against Orthodoxy are rebounded and cast upon those who falsely "anathematize" the True Faith. Also another factor in the schism of the “five” was that the monasteries of Kouvara and Keratea are stavropegial. This means that they are under the direction and canonical supervision of the Archbishop. Archbishop Matthew was the canonical supervisor of the monasteries until his repose. Metropolitan Andreas of Patras became the canonical supervisor until the election of a new Archbishop. In 1957, Bishop Agathangelos was elected as Archbishop and thus became the canonical supervisor of the monasteries. In 1972, Bishop Andreas of Patras was elected as Archbishop of Athens and therefore became the supervisor of the monasteries. In 1990, Metropolitan Matthew of Attica and Megaris sent an epistle to the Holy Synod requesting to take possession of the monasteries because they were within his diocese. He didn't seem to have that problem for the past decade that he was bishop of that same region, why the sudden change agitation? The Holy Synod resolved that the Archbishop will remain as the canonical supervisor of the monasteries until his repose. This angered Metropolitan Matthew, and... tada... he began using the government forces and state courts to try to take the monasteries away from the Archbishop.That didn't work, so Metropolitan Matthew started spreading lies, calling the Archbishop an "Anti-trinitarian" and "Iconoclast". That didn't work, so he created a schism and took half the nuns of the Keratea Convent with him (these nuns still live in the monastery but they are under the Metropolitan of Attica and Megaris). The entire Kouvara Monastery and half of the nuns of the Keratea monastery remained with the Archbishop, who is the canonical supervisor of the monasteries, as was supported by the decree of the Holy Synod. There is ample evidence of the reasons behind Metropolitan Matthew of Attica and Megara's schism. I have many documents, including a letter dating prior to the schism of 1995 in which Metropolitan Matthew of Attica and Megaris wrote to his nephew on Mt Athos. Among the many things this letter reveals is the words: "There is no iconomachia issue!" This letter was in the archives of the Metropolis of Attica and Megaris, and it was made public before the schism of 1995. Furthermore, we have the testimony of witnesses who were present at the Pascha service in 1994 in which Metropolitan Chrysostom of Thessalonica used the "Tis eis Adou Kathodos" icon for the feast of Pascha! Many of the people that were in favour of the western icons got upset and started to fuss over why Metropolitan Chrysostom had committed this "shameful" act. In the end, it just proves that there never really was an iconomachia issue. The two ringleaders of the five metropolitans (Matthew of Attica and Megaris and Chrysostom of Thessalonica) proved by their very writings and actions *before* the schism that there really wasn't an iconomachia issue. The issue was based on power, control and possession.
Holy Canons and Holy WritingsThe Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople under Patriarch Sophronios II, in 1776: "It has been councilliary decreed that the so-called icon of the Holy Trinity is an innovation, alien and not accepted by the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church. It has penetrated the Orthodox Church from the Latins."
"Anathemas" against the Holy Scriptures, Councils and Fathers were "hurled”. As you can see, the issue has nothing to do with the alleged "Neo-Iconoclasm". The truth is that the five former Metropolitans were using the Latin icons as a means to bring the above three Neo-Frankish heresies into the realm of Orthodoxy. If you wish to continue venerating the Latin icons, then by all means, venerate them. No one is stopping you. But if you are going to use these Latin icons as a means of introducing Neo-Frankish heresies that have been condemned by previous Orthodox Councils, then you are going one step too far. The schism of 1995 was not caused by the supposed "Neo-Iconoclasm" of Archbishop Andreas. The schism of 1995 was rather caused by the real "Neo-Frankism" of the five former Metropolitans.The Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council permit the visions of the Prophets. Christ was seen by the Prophets in the Old Testament, so He can be iconographized the way he was seen.