The G.O.C. and R.O.C.O.R. - 1971

Epistle of the GOC to ROCOR - 1976

In 1971 Metropolitans Callistus of Corinth and Epiphanius of Kition (Cyprus) and the Chancellor, Protopriest Eugene Tombros of the GOC (Matthewite) Synod traveled to New York to meet with the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), “in order to come into contact with your Synod and regularize spiritual communion with you for the strengthening of the Holy Struggle of Orthodoxy”.


The ROCOR hierarchs showed great interest and admiration for the True Orthodox struggle in Greece, and when the "Exposition of Faith" of the Matthewite Synod was translated into Russian and read aloud by Archpriest George Grabbe to the Synod of Bishops, they unanimously accepted this confession of the Faith including the ecclesiological statements contained therein. Also, the issue of the ‘single-handed’ consecration was discussed and the hierarchs present regarded it to be an acceptable act of economia. The two Matthewite hierarchs then gave a report to the Holy Synod of the GOC in Athens.


Shortly thereafter, Auxentios Pastras, the "Archbishop" of the Acacian/Florinite faction, traveled to America in order to meet Metropolitan Philaret and the other ROCOR hierarchs, and also to persuade the ROCOR Synod not to accept the Matthewite hierarchs into communion due to the fact that they originate from the ‘single-handed’ consecration of 1948. The ROCOR hierarchs, on the other hand, made it known that they did not consider the act of ‘single-handed’ consecration to be outside the limits of economia. Archbishop Auxentios, however, insisted that the Matthewite orders should at least be somehow corrected; otherwise he will not recognize the ROCOR Synod's decision.


Upon returning to Greece, Archbishop Auxentios stated that the Matthewite hierarchs were "ashamed" of their "uncanonical orders" and sought to have them "corrected" by the ROCOR Synod. This statement of Auxentius Pastras is proven to be false by the very petition the Matthewite delegates sent to the ROCOR Synod. In their petition, the Matthewite delegates clearly stated that they considered their orders to be completely valid and canonical, and not in need of correction. The relevant text of the petition is as follows (see: HOCNA, The Struggle Against Ecumenism, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 88):

"As is well known, in the ancient Church, these acts, insofar as they are in accord with canonical injunctions, brings us to the sure conclusion that a consecration of a bishop by one bishop is canonical and necessary under these circumstances. Consequently, a bishop consecrated under such circumstances cannot be considered uncanonical, and therefore, invalidly consecrated, unless, of course, other factors enter into the picture, which would invalidate the consecrations, such as a consecration outside of the church building itself, simony, etc.

"Furthermore, by condescension and economia, any doubt that might exist concerning the canonicity of such consecrations is dispelled, especially when it is shown that they were performed in a time of persecution when no other bishop was to be found, as mentioned above. "Consequently, it can be clearly understood that a consecration of a bishop by one bishop is, because of the situation that existed, permitted and therefore lawful, because it does not go beyond the limits foreseen by the Church's usage of economia.

"Wherefore, in view of this, we submit our present petition unto Your Holy and Sacred Synod, and we are ready to accept its every decision based, always, upon the divine and sacred Canons. 

"New York, September 1971 The Synodical Committee

+ Kallistos, Metropolitan of Corinth

+ Epiphanios, Metropolitan of Kition

+ Eugene Tombros, Protopresbyter"


The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad resolved the issue according to what they had been informed by various sources, and also acted according to the persuasions of "Archbishop" Auxentios Pastras. In their resolution the ROCOR hierarchs wrote:

"Earlier in an address to the Synod on August 29, 1971, Archbishop Auxentius requested the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia to express its judgement regarding how clergymen of the "Matthewites" (i.e., Old Calendar Greeks who are led by bishops originating from the consecration performed by one bishop) should be accepted.

"The history is as follows:

"When the Church of Greece in 1924 declared that it accepted the new calendar, discontent arose and several groups were formed which did not accept that reform. However, they were not united.

"In 1935 three bishops, who at that time belonged to the State Church (Germanos of Demetrias, Chrysostom of Florina, and Chrysostom of Zakinthos) joined the movement. They immediately proceeded to consecrate four more bishops: Germanos of the Cyclades Islands, Christopher of Christianoupolis, Polycarp of Diavlia, and Matthew of Bresthena.
However those bishops soon developed disagreements and their Synod dissolved. Three bishops abandoned the movement. Germanos of Demetrias died. Only Polycarp of Diavlia and Matthew of Bresthena were left, whereas Chrysostom of Florina separated from them and remained alone. In 1948, Matthew of Bresthena, convinced that under conditions of persecution no other means existed to maintain a truly Orthodox Greek hierarchy, proceeded alone to perform consecrations of bishops. It is impossible for us to clearly decide how far it could have been possible for him at the time to secure the assistance of Bishop Polycarp or Bishop Chrysostom in performing the first consecration..."


Firstly, the above "history" is full of errors. From this it is clear that the ROCOR Synod did not have adequate information regarding this matter, as they themselves admitted. Since the ROCOR hierarchy stated that "it is impossible" for them to clearly decide whether a ‘single-handed’ consecration was necessary in 1948, then it is equally "impossible" for the ROCOR Synod to have made an accurate decision based on historical facts. (Please scroll up to the information regarding the ‘single-handed’ consecration to see the conditions of those times.) The resolution of the ROCOR Synod continues:


"... As often happens in such cases, the Synod is faced by the confrontation of two principals: exactness and economia.

"Before deciding which point of view should prevail in this case, one must decide if it is at all necessary to apply one of these two principals, or, to be more exact, cannot the principal of economia extend so far as to recognize the Matthewite consecrations as valid in general. In other words, one must consider the validity of episcopal consecrations by one bishop..."


The resolution then continues by naming many cases throughout Church history in which ‘single-handed’ consecrations were performed and recognized as lawful. Regarding the last few words in the above quote, "one must consider the validity of episcopal consecrations by one bishop," the ROCOR Synod later proved itself to believe in such a validity since the ROCOR Synod itself recognized the act of ‘single-handed’ consecration which the ROCOR hierarch Barnabas of Cannes performed on Lazarus of Tambov in the next decade. The ROCOR Synod's resolution then lists a number of canons that apply to bishops that have been consecrated without synodical approval. However, these canons do not apply to Bishop Matthew since he himself was the only remaining bishop of his Synod, for the other bishops had either joined the New Calendarists or had denied the True Orthodox Confession of Faith. The canons that the resolution listed, on the other hand, do apply to "Archbishops" Akakios and Auxentios and their "Synod." It is quite odd that the ROCOR Synod did not mention any of these canons when they received the "Auxentian" hierarchy, a hierarchy to which these canons strongly apply; yet these canons were brought up in regards to the resolution regarding the Matthewite hierarchy, to whom these canons do not apply at all.


However, in the resolution regarding the Matthewite orders, the ROCOR Synod does at least mention the Akakio-Auxentian hierarchy's uncanonical origins:

"... It is therefore understandable that the consecration of Archbishop Akakios and the consecrations which followed it raised doubts in many until it was confirmed and legalized by a decision of the Synod [on December 18, 1969]."


The ROCOR Synod's resolution then makes the following statement: "... A simple recognition of their orders could bring scandal as a direct violation of canons: the first Apostolic Canon, Canon Four of the First Ecumenical Council, and Canon Three of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. However, it is evident from the other examples mentioned that there is full reason to apply economia to them, in accordance with Canon Eight of the First Ecumenical Council and Canon Seventy-nine of Carthage."

This statement is very strange to say the least. Firstly because the second and third canons mentioned do not apply to the Matthewite Synod but rather to the Auxentian Synod (!!!), and this latter Synod was simply recognized without a proper examination of the Canons. Secondly, the fourth and fifth canons mentioned apply to Donatists and Novatians whereas the ROCOR Synod assured in the same resolution that "from what was said in the beginning of this Resolution, it is evident that the old calendarists headed by the hierarchy proceeding from Matthew's consecration can hardly be compared with such.


 The Resolution then continues:

"Taking into consideration all the aforesaid, as well as the desire expressed by Archbishop Auxentios... the Synod of Bishops resolves:

"1. To acknowledge the possibility of fulfilling the petition of Metropolitans Kallistos and Epiphanios. To that end, two bishops must perform the laying-on of hands over them. They, in turn, must subsequently perform the same over their brethren, and all bishops over the priests;

"2. To oblige Metropolitans Kallistos and Epiphanios, as well as their brethren, to take all possible steps to unite their hierarchy, clergy, and people with those who are headed by His Beatitude, Archbishop Auxentios;

"3. To inform His Beatitude, Archbishop Auxentios, concerning the aforesaid;

"4. To delegate the Most Reverend Archbishop Philotheus and Bishop Constantine to fulfill the provision of paragraph one of this Resolution at Transfiguration Monastery in Boston.

"For the Council of Bishops,

+ Bishop Laurus of Manhattan, Secretary to the Synod"


Metropolitans Kallistos and Epiphanios at first did not agree with this Resolution, especially since it required the Matthewite hierarchs to receive a "laying-on of hands," whereas the Matthewite delegates believed that their orders were complete and without need of re-ordination. However, the ROCOR Synod assured Metropolitans Kallistos and Epiphanios that the "laying-on of hands" was simply a blessing and a confirmation of the "form" (Greek: ), whereas the "essence" (Greek: ) of the Apostolic Succession of the Matthewite Synod originates from 1948 and is recognized as completely canonical and valid. The ROCOR Synod reconfirmed this in 1974 when the second Matthewite delegation (Metropolitans Kallistos and Nicholas) was sent to the ROCOR Synodal headquarters. Metropolitan Kallistos confirms this also once again in his letter to the ROCOR Synod dated February 4, 1975. Also, the ROCOR Synod explained its interpretation of the "laying-on of hands" in their Resolution (see: HOCNA, The Struggle Against Ecumenism, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 94):

"There is some difference of opinion in regard to understanding the phrase "laying-on of hands"... it seems that a more authoritative explanation was given by Saint Tarasios at the Seventh Ecumenical Council. When someone asked how one should understand the words "laying-on of hands" in Canon Eight of the First Ecumenical Council, the Saint explained that the word "consecration" is not used here, but another one, and that this [latter] term means only a blessing."


Also, St. Nicodemus of Mount Athos, in his footnote to Canon VIII of the First Ecumenical Council, writes (see: OCES, The Rudder, Chicago Illinois, 1957, pp.177): "That my words are true is attested by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. For when this same Canon was read in the first act of the same Council, and it was asked how the expression "laying-on of hands" was to be understood, most saintly Tarasios said that the phrase "laying-on of hands" was employed here in the sense of blessing, and not with reference to any ordination. Hence spiritual fathers ought to learn from this Canon to lay their hands on the heads of penitents when they read to them the prayer of pardon..."

In the above passage, the phrase "laying-on of hands" means a simple "blessing" with the "prayer of pardon" such as is read over a penitent sinner after confession. Indeed, even Metropolitan Philaret of New York, in his letter to Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kition (#77, 15/28-79), referred to the laying-on of hands as a "prayer of absolution". This was because the prayer read over the Matthewite bishops was the same prayer read over a penitent sinner at the end of confession. This was the very prayer the Matthewite hierarchs were asked to read over their brethren and fellow clergymen, to wit, the prayer of absolution. Hence the "laying-on of hands" accompanied by the "prayer of absolution" was read over the already-vested Matthewite hierarchs during the Divine Liturgy on the 17th and 18th of September, 1971 (old style), in accordance with the ROCOR Synod's Resolution. At the very same time, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad also informed Archbishop Auxentios Pastras (the leader of the Florinite-Acacian faction) that they had entered into communion with the Synod of the Matthewites, and had accepted them as already-vested bishops, with only the prayer of absolution read upon them as a simple blessing. Unfortunately, Archbishop Auxentios' reaction was extremely hostile. Upon receiving the news from the ROCOR Synod, Archbishop Auxentius wrote the following in an official encyclical (see: Encyclical of Archbishop Auxentios, # 534, dated 18/9/1971 old style):


"... Although we were certain that they would not make any resolutions with them without our knowledge or consent, completely paradoxically and in spite of every expectation, we were informed that the Synod of the Most Reverend Philaret has decided to recognize AS CANONICAL the pseudo-bishops of the deceased Bishop Matthew... This foresaid information greatly afflicted us (Greek: ), but having already regained our composure, we have decided to confront the current situation from its very origin, in a calm and serious manner. We do not know which excuses the Holy Synod of the Russian Church in America shall give for this perfidious act (Greek: )... We shall not occupy ourselves any further with them, and neither shall we recognize the uncanonical acts of anyone regarding this matter." [emphasis added, S.M.]


Archbishop Auxentios’ hostility towards the Matthewites, his refusal to accept the ROCOR Synod's resolution, and his unwillingness to enter into theological dialogue for the purpose of union with the Matthewite Synod, proved that Archbishop Auxentios did not truly care for the unity of the True Orthodox Christians, as he so claimed. On the contrary, Archbishop Auxentios’ hostility and uncanonical acts brought further division. For instance, although Archbishop Auxentios was in communion with the ROCOR Synod, which was in communion with the Matthewite Synod, Archbishop Auxentios proceeded with the hasty consecration of Chrysostom Kiousis of Thessalonica and Akakios Mouskos of Montreal, even though there were already longstanding hierarchs of the Matthewite and ROCOR Synods (Demetrios of Thessalonica and Vitaly of Montreal respectively) that held those very titles. Furthermore, Archbishop Auxentios’ uncanonical acts caused at least four of his hierarchs to individually break communion from him by 1974, and Auxentios’ uncanonical consecration of Gabriel of Lisbon eventually caused the ROCOR Synod to break communion from him within the same decade.

Metropolitan Kallistos of Corinth, Metropolitan Nicholas of Piraeus and Archimandrite Kallinikos (the latter of which later became a bishop of the Kallistite Synod, and is currently within the Kiousite Synod) confirm in their official epistle to the Greek parishes in America (dated February 8, 1975) that the Greek Orthodox monasteries, parishes and communities that found themselves within the ROCOR, would only recognize the Matthewite Synod as the original True Orthodox Church of Greece. Furthermore, it is also well known that these same Greek ROCOR priests and their faithful, while visiting Greece, would only attend services and receive the Sacred Mysteries in churches belonging to the Matthewite Synod. After the Matthewite Synod had fulfilled the ROCOR Synod's requirement regarding the prayers of absolution, Metropolitan Philaret, on behalf of his Holy Synod, sent an official Encyclical (dated October 21 / November 3, 1972) to Archbishop Andreas, President of the Matthewite Synod, which stated the following:


"We make it known to all, that, after the laying-on of hands, which has been fulfilled as a blessing to Your Beatitude's Sacred Hierarchy, our Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia enters into full Ecclesiastical and Sacramental Communion with the Orthodox Church of True Orthodox Christians of Greece, of which Your Beatitude is a Bishop.

"I cordially pray that our Lord will bless and guide the Hierarchy, Clergy and Laity of Your Beatitude's God-protected Church forever.

"Your Beatitude's devoted brother in Christ,

+ Metropolitan Philaret

President of the Synod of Bishops

+ Bishop Laurus

Secretary to the Synod of Bishops"


 However, Archbishop Auxentios, noticing the failure of his initial tactic of not recognizing the ROCOR Synod's decision regarding the Matthewite Synod, began his second satanic campaign by spreading false allegations that the Matthewite bishops were supposedly "re-consecrated" by the ROCOR Synod in 1971. Although this led to much confusion, Archbishop Auxentios failed to provide any evidence for his claims. In fact, most of the evidence proved quite the contrary. For example, the following document was sent by Archpriest George Grabbe, the director of the Public and Foreign Relations Department of the ROCOR Synod (dated October 25 / November 7, 1973):


"Dear Mr. Shallcross,

"Your letter of October 11, 1973 has been received.

"The Bishops Kallistos and Epiphanios were not ordained by our Synod. They were accepted into communion as Bishops with only laying on of hands on them, already in bishops' vestments, according to the 8 Canon of the First Ecumenical Council. That was to rectify beyond doubts the irregularity caused by the founding of their hierarchy through the consecration originally performed by one bishop.

"Sincerely yours,

+ Archpriest George Grabbe"


 The above statement clearly shows that the Matthewite hierarchs were accepted into communion as Bishops in full rank, and already vested in their hierarchical vestments, including omophorion, before the prayer of pardon was read upon them.
In 1974, in order to clarify the facts and dispel Archbishop Auxentios’ false allegations, Archbishop Andreas of Athens and all Greece (the President of the Matthewite Synod), wrote that the spiritual communion and union between the Matthewite and ROCOR Synods in the year 1971 occurred:


"a) After the "Exposition of the Faith" of our Church was read so as to be heard by the Synod of the Russian Bishops, and only after the Russians unanimously and loudly confessed and accepted the confession of our Orthodox Faith;

"b) Since they promised that they would also send a written statement [containing the same confession], and since they united with us in this very sense and this very opinion... and with that also they recognized the Orthodox and valid Episcopacy (Greek: ) of our Hierarchs;

"It would have been perhaps important if our hierarchs also showed the obligatory Christian and brother-loving (Greek: ) humility to accept the fulfillment of the external form of the laying-on of hands, [which was] entirely in form alone, and not in essence.
Our Hierarchs had their Episcopacy complete and perfect from the very moment of their consecration and nothing at all was missing from them, neither charismatically nor dogmatically, that is, they possessed the entire fullness of the Episcopacy. They had, and they continue to have, their Episcopacy full and operative (Greek: ). The Russians, on the other hand, did not supplement their Episcopacy, nor did they add anything, but [rather], they RECOGNIZED the already existent Episcopacy [of the Matthewite Synod] and not the inexistence thereof.

"The laying-on of hands that occurred was, and is, nothing other than the performance of an external form, and this [took place], not for any reason other than to shut the unobstructable mouths of the those [who] were long ago proscribed for this offence and always contradict and oppose the truth, [to wit,] the "Florino-Auxentians." This was so that one of their arguments [i.e., their only worthy argument that of the ‘single-handed’ consecrations] would be completely deducted; and so that those who are "the true and real Genuine Orthodox Christians and Shepherds would indicate the proper humility, conciliatory mood and brother-loving opinion towards union." [N.B. emphasis added, S.M.]


Throughout this time-period, the Matthewite Synod constantly sent epistles and encyclicals asking the Auxentian Synod to enter into dialogue with the Matthewite Synod for the purpose of communion and union for the sake of the True Orthodox Struggle, in accordance with the desire of the ROCOR Synod as expressed in its Resolution. However, Archbishop Auxentios refused to enter into dialogue with the Matthewite Synod, but rather continued to spread false allegations against the Matthewite hierarchs. Nevertheless, the fact that Archbishop Auxentios’ false allegations contradicted one another was humorous, yet quite sad, to say the least. At first, Archbishop Auxentios refused to recognize the Resolution of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops because the latter had "uncanonically" recognized the Matthewite Synod as canonical. However, when this initial position was no longer suitable, Archbishop Auxentios then began stating that the ROCOR Synod had "re-consecrated" the Matthewite hierarchy. When hierarchs of both the ROCOR and Matthewite Synods proved that this latter allegation was false, Archbishop Auxentios then stated that the Matthewites had received a "regularization" but that they had supposedly later "reverted it" by denying that it was ever a "regularization" at all.


The closest the Matthewites ever got to receiving a written confession of faith from ROCOR is the following letter from Archbishop Vitaly of Canada to the Matthewite Archbishop Andrew:


“Your Beatitude, …with regard to your... epistle № 803/May 13, 1972, addressed to His Beatitude, since the President of our Holy Synod, Kyrios Kyrios Philaret has been for a long time absent abroad, I am undertaking the needed answer, so that your epistle may not remain unanswered for long. The fact that the calendar innovation of 1924 brought schism to the Holy Orthodox Church could not be more obvious and no Orthodox and judicious person can ignore that sorrowful reality. So that no one may wrongly think that our Holy Russian Church - which is authoritatively represented by our Holy Synod - partakes in the most bitter taste of this damnable schism, allow me to make mention to your Beatitude of just two among many disasters which we, as Russian Orthodox, have undergone as consequences of that coup d’йtat, which was carried out by ... Meletios Metaxakis and Chrysostomos Papadopoulos of sorrowful memory... Our Greek brothers have informed us about similar cases on... the Holy Mountain, Cyprus, etc.... It is wrong for one to think that there was a time during which we ourselves, the Orthodox Russian people, have not lived through the drama of the calendar change. The calendar issue was settled during the time of Pope Gregory, when the Orthodox Church was called to join the mentioned change. Already from that moment the Church has expressed her opinion, the Church has condemned and anathematized it. And the ecclesial conscience has many times and in many places confirmed that condemnation by many acts, declarations and actions.... Also, during the 20th century, on the Holy Mountain, where our Synod was not represented, but the Serbian Church, which at that time sheltered us and with which we were spiritually and ecclesiologically united, was, the then Bishop of Ochrid, Nikolaj Velimirovich, did not consent to serve the Liturgy with the other innovating hierarchs in the monastery of Vatopedi.... So our Holy Synod from the very beginning has been conscious that the calendar problem is the cause of a schism... During the lately convened Great Hierarchical Council in the cathedral of St. Nicholas in Montreal, the seat of my mediocrity, the eternal condemnation of the papist calendar was repeated, when we in a conciliar manner condemned the heresy of ecumenism, the door to which heresy has been shown in detail to be precisely this issue... With the authority of that Council, ... the President of our Holy Synod wrote ... the Second sorrowful epistle... in which he profoundly dealt with the calendar issue as the forerunner of ecumenism... So our Holy Synod, having from the beginning the correct understanding with regard to that issue, never acknowledged the calendar change as an irrevocable act, but always awaited the opportunity for a Pan-Orthodox Council to be freely convened, not in order to give its opinion on the issue, because the Holy Church has already done that from the beginning, but in order to reject the infiltrated deceit, no longer administering the condemnation as a preventative measure, as was the case in the past, but concretely in the case of the coup d'йtat that had already taken place... If our Holy Church has until recently practiced condescension in the sphere of relations with other churches, it was in the hope that a free Pan-Orthodox Council would be convened, which in our opinion cannot happen without setting free the Russian Church... Seeing, however, that the desired Pan-Orthodox Council not only cannot be free, but also that it may not condemn the innovation and bring peace back to the Church, but that it will actually adhere to the heresy, we, obeying our hierarchical conscience, are ringing the warning bells... What further proof is needed... to show that the confession of Faith of our Holy Synod concerning the calendar change, as one that is the cause of a schism, is clear and consistent?… In conclusion, we inform your Beatitude that a Greek Presbyter, Basil Sakkas, a parish priest in Geneva in canonical subordination to our Holy Synod... has presented me with a voluminous work concerning the issue, justifying the conscientious stance of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece… Our Blessed President Kyrios Kyrios Philaret in the form of a preface has blessed the English translation of the work. In that detailed preface your will find the expression of the opinion of the whole of our Holy Synod with regard to the validity of the anathemas regarding that issue, together with the eternal Pan-Orthodox and Conciliar opinion of the Eastern Orthodox Church. I believe that the mentioned preface can be used to remove any doubt and as a theoretical Definition of faith of our Russian Orthodox Church in Exile ...” (Kirix Gnision Orthodoxon, August-September, 1972.


In 1976 the Matthewites severed communion with ROCOR. ROCOR had broken their promise to give them a OFFICIAL written confession of faith that the new calendarists were without grace, and were continuing, especially in the person of Archbishop Anthony of Geneva, to have communion with the new calendarists/world orthodoxy. Archbishop Anthony was continuing to concelebrate with the new calendarists at this time, causing several priests and parishes to leave him for the Matthewites.