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Prof. Archim. Grigorios D. Papathomas

The Canonical Orthodox Anti-proposal to the concept of the “National Church”: the Autocephalous Church
(Ecclesiological inadequacies within the bosom of the National Church and the “weaknesses” in the reception of the Autocephalous Church)[1]

— Introduction

A. “Church at a Location” and “Epithetical Church”: How far can this Difference be taken?

• “Location” (locus) and “Epithet” in the Church designation

B. The Autocephalous Church in the bosom of the Conciliar Communion of the Locally Established Churches

I. The Constituent Elements of the “National Church”

• Theology of National Missionism

• National Ecclesiology: the founding Myth of the Diaspora

II. The Constituent Elements of the “Autocephalous Church”

• Autocephaly as Otherness and as Unity simultaneously

— Conclusion

— Bibliography

The issue we are approaching through the present text is a very broad and complex one: the sudden and relatively recent transformation of the Autocephalous Church — which explicitly reflects the ecclesial and conciliar spirit — into a National Church. The title of our topic is general and encompasses numerous situations linked to national — and sometimes ritualistic and confessional — traditions, but the analysis which follows demonstrates that there is an self-sufficient field to which their common origins can be traced back.

Getting to the heart of the matter, it would not be out of place to begin by “visiting the words [terms]”, inspired by the words of Antisthenes the Cynic: “ Αρχή παιδεύσεως η των ονομάτων επίσκεψις ” (“The beginning of instruction is the knowledge of the words”)[2].

A. “Church at a Location” or “Epithetical Church”: How far can this Difference be taken?

Some of the words used by man to designate dissimilar things have a certain meaning, in some sense more general than the other meanings. In the current research, this is the case for the word Church. Through this word, we emphasise a common nature and we do not describe an established or specific ecclesial body, found at a given location and recognised and distinguished by the name of the location. It is true, for example, that the Church of Corinth is just as much “Church” as the Church of Thessalonica, or the Church of Rome, or the Church of Antioch. Therefore, the “community of the signified”, which encompasses all of these Churches, thereby granting them a common name, also needs a “distinctive feature” which not only makes a Church known in general (abstractly), but makes the specific Church known, i.e. the Church at a specific location (locus), the Church which is at Corinth, the Church which is at Thessalonica and so forth.

Names have a particular demonstrative capacity, on account of which the signified “Church” is not taken as “community of nature”, but rather as a “distinctive characteristic” which, in itself, has nothing in common with what is of the same nature, for example the Church of Corinth or the Church of Thessalonica. This nominal group (the Church at a Location) does not refer to the “community of nature” but, from the collective meaning, singles out a particular ecclesial reality, which is designated through the use of names. Thus, taking two or more local Churches together, like the Church of Corinth and the Church of Thessalonica and the Church of Antioch, we seek a definition of nature of the Church. In this case, we do not give a definition of the ecclesial nature of the Church of Corinth, another definition for the Church of Thessalonica and yet a third for the Church of Antioch. Rather, the terms used to define the ecclesial nature of the Church of Corinth will apply equally to the others. The aforementioned points show the common character of “local” or “locally established” Churches.

When, having clarified the matter of the common character, we attempt to examine the individual characteristics by which a Church differs from another, the definition used to designate a local Church, which ever it be, will no longer be confused with the definition of others, even though they may have points in common. Therefore, the preceding analysis which directly concerns local Churches (dioceses) also concerns mutatis mutandis the locally established Churches, whether they are Patriarchal, Autocephalous, Autonomous or semi-Autonomous (henceforth referred to as “Autocephalous Churches”). Etymologically, the epithetical designation “Autocephalous”, in the broad, not technical, sense of the word, defines a locally established Church which, according to ancient ecclesial conciliar Tradition [1st, 3rd and 4th Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea (325), Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451) respectively, which record the earlier ecclesiastical praxis (2nd-3rd centuries)], has its own head, i.e. its own primus-protos [leading head] (caput).

Consequently, it would appear appropriate to follow this line of thought in our common research. Indeed, this assessment allows us to distinguish between ecclesial nature, common to all locally established Churches, and chorogeographic hypostasis, which is specific to each Church. This double reality is evident for the Autocephalous Church. But it is far from clear for the National Church which identifies, consciously or not, its common ecclesial nature with its specific chorogeographic hypostasis, at the expense, of course, of the former and to the exclusive gain of the latter. In other words, this identification automatically brings about the total suppression of the balanced dialectic, which we have just observed for the Autocephalous Church, because it brutally equates the Church with the Nation, which exist at a specific location. It is now obvious that these conditions have not only led to the genesis of Autocephalism[3] and Ethno-phyletism[4], but also of Meionism[5]— all three genuine products of the National Church. We are obliged, however, to first make some clarifications on the issue.

At this point we must emphasise that the choice of grammatical construction used when referring, for example, to “the Church of Greece” or to “the Greek [Helladic] Church”, is not merely a syntactical one, but, on the contrary, is of decisive importance in approaching our issue. In recent years, we have adopted the latter expression without giving it the necessary thought, and this choice has insidiously diffused into our ecclesial life, both theological and institutional. Indeed, we have adopted two different designations to name a Church of one location or one country. The designations are the following: “Church at a location” and “Epithetical Church”, e.g. “Church of Greece” and “Greek [Helladic] Church”, “Church of Romania” and “Romanian Church”. In other words, we use, interchangeably and without any distinction, a local designation next to the word Church, which remains the common ecclesial reality, and, in the second case, increasingly often, an epithetical (adjectival) designation which defines a completely distinct and specific ecclesial reality — astonishingly with the same meaning and in the same perspective.

“Location” (locus) and “Epithet” in the Church designation

Let us firstly examine the relationship, which exists between the “epithet” and the “location”, and then the relationship between the “ethno-phyletic complement” and the “location”. By the nominal group “Church of Thessalonica” we mean a city, a location, a specific territory. Location is a notion for capacity, which defines a whole and contains all the “inhabitants of the location”[6]. Therefore, if we assumed the use of epithetical designations, we would be using words designating the “content” of the “inhabitants of the location”: rich, poor, white, black, young, old, beautiful, ugly, men, women, and thus also Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Greek, and so forth. All these words can be used to designate situations which reflect human reality. However, as it so “happens”, all these last words are adjectives or “epithets designating origin or nationality”. It is evident that we cannot have a “Church of the rich” and a “Church of the poor”, a “Church of the whites” and a “Church of the blacks”, a “Church of the young” and a “Church of the old”, a “Church of men” and a “Church of women”. Analogously, we cannot have a “Church of the Russians”, a “Church of the Serbs” (cf. however, “Patriarchate of the Serbs” [sic]), a “Church of the Romanians”, a “Church of the Greeks” etc, much less have a “Russian Church”, “Serbian Church”, “Romanian Church”, “Greek Church” etc. From the above, then, it emerges that the adjective has exclusive implications and implications of exclusivity, has distinctive implications and implications of distinction, but mainly has comparative, antagonistic and oppositional implications.

The location unites while the adjective distinguishes and opposes. In order to make this reality more accessible, we will describe an observation, or rather, a comparison, capable of pointing out this particular difference. We say “Church at a location”, e.g. “Church of Corinth”, “Church of Thessalonica”. The common denominator is the Church; it is the Church which is one and common, and can be found in Corinth or in Thessalonica, or elsewhere throughout the Earth. Therefore the “location” simultaneously affirms the otherness (alterity) and the communion of all the members of this location, while the “adjective” affirms only the otherness — and mainly the possessive otherness — and exclusivity, with no particular interest for communion: we assume the use of epithets concerning only certain members independent of location. In addition, the epithetical designation distinguishes itself for its unchanging, permanent ( μονιμότης ) and firm ( σταθερότης ) character. Consequently, it gives the noun in question an unchanging and firm quality. (For example, the “Church of the Serbs” forever and for nobody else... thus “ostracising” non-Serbs...).

We also ought to emphasise that etymologically “epi-thet” means we “add onto” the substantive, onto the substance (the word comes from the feminine genitive “ ούσα ” of the verb “ ειμί ” [to be] = “ υπάρχω ” [to exist]). In other words, it specifies the way according to which we exist. Therefore, “Romanian Church” means that we exist ecclesiastically according to “Romanian exclusivity”, “Greek Church” means that we exist ecclesiastically according to “Greek exclusivity”, while “Church of Romania” refers to the Church which can be found in Romania and which is the same as the Church found any other location and consists of all “Christian inhabitants of the location”, regardless of whether they are Romanian or not, in other words, regardless of their origin. By the same reasoning, “Church of Greece” is the Church which is present in Greece, but which is the same Church as that in other locations, and comprises of all “Christian inhabitants of the location”, regardless of whether they are Greek or not, regardless therefore of their origin. For this reason, Ecclesiology neither assumes epithetical designations nor temporal designations (as, for example, “Byzantine Church”, which ecclesiologically is senseless, etc) to designate an ecclesial body or a locally established Church, but exclusively uses [geographic] designations of location.

Let us return to the matter of the Autocephalous Church. The Autocephalous Church is entirely defined through its designation of location. On the contrary, for the National Church, the adjective constitutes the monism of its expression. Indeed, in Pauline neo-testamentary ecclesiology, we find the expressions “Church of Thessalonica”, “Church of Corinth”, “Church of Rome” or “Church of Antioch”, but we never find expressions as: “Corinthian Church”, “Roman Church” or “Antiochian Church”. From the perspective of historical evolution, these designations do not constitute transformations, but are rather gradual modifications brought on by external and primarily secular influences experienced by the Church throughout the centuries, mainly during the second millennium, a disastrous millennium for Canonical Ecclesiology which, having first been deformed, then profoundly influenced ecclesial orientation and the eschatology of the Church.

All that has been said above concerns only the Orthodox Church. However, similar versions of all these ways of designating a locally established Church appear frequently within other Christian Churches.

In the case of the Roman-Catholic Church, we cannot say “Church of Rome” and through this name designates an ecclesial community, e.g. the Church of Johannesburg. But if, instead, we said “Roman-Catholic Church”, we could very well mean the Church of Johannesburg as well as many others throughout the world. This second designation favours the perspective of the adjective “Universal [Church]”. Therefore, the tendency to reject the designation of location is recurring and it favours the exclusive domination of the epithet and of the Epithetical Church. We must not forget that the Second Vatican Council, besides the ecclesiology of the Universal Church, constantly tried, in vain, to develop the ecclesiology of a Local Church in order to surmount the monism of ecclesiological universality.

The same phenomenon can also be observed for Protestant Churches. As an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church, and without their own territories for the development of the communities having emerged from the Reformation, they have become “spiritual” and “confessional”. In this case, the designation of location has totally disappeared, therefore, only an epithetical designation can be used to distinguish these communities, not only from the Roman Catholic Church but also from themselves. Why? For the simple reason that they do not wish to be mixed or confused. It is not fortuitous that it is the epithet that helped them differentiate and distinguish themselves and not the designation of location, which for Protestant Churches does not even exist. Even the Anglican Church, which was established on a given state territory, achieved its self-definition and self-designation through an epithet — having experienced the same influence — and not through a designation of location.

We have established, then, that the choice of one or the other verbal construction is not arbitrary and without cause, and that the meaning is not the same in each case and, mainly, that because of this fact, every notion, our every position and our every orientation shifts according to the expression used. Therefore, all these insights oblige us to think about the necessities brought about by using an epithet to define or designate a Church. They also point out the depth of the division within Christian communities — whether inter-Orthodox or inter-Christian — and, mainly, the need for distinction between them...

* * * * *

Through the preceding analysis, we established that there are two “types” of Church: the “Church of a location” and the “epithetical Church”. The former corresponds to the Autocephalous Church, i.e. the locally established Church, while the latter is an ad hoc expression for the National Church — or the Universal Church. This distinction does not aim to present a “grammatical ecclesiology”. This venture endeavoured to clarify and to grasp the difference between the two ecclesial notions, i.e. between the Autocephalous Church and the National Church, or better still, between the Autocephalous Church and the “non-Autocephalous Church”. It must not be forgotten that words chosen in “spoken language” or “written language” define, most explicitly, the “intimate language” ( ενδιάθετος λόγος ) of existence. We also endeavour to contribute to the better understanding of the unprecedented situation of the Orthodox Church in the age of European unification, the age of globalisation and, mainly, the age of division between the nations and the cultural groups, which is the counterpart of “globalisation” ( υφηλιακή ολοκλήρωσις ).

B. The Autocephalous Church “without confusion” (ajsugcuvtw") and “without division” (ajdiairevtw") in the bosom of the Conciliar Communion of the Locally Established Churches

Before proceeding to an examination of the existence of the Autocephalous Church “unconfused” and “undivided” in the bosom of the conciliar communion of locally established Churches, it is absolutely necessary to present the constituent elements of the “National Church”.

I. The Constituent Elements of the “National Church”

In this “type” of Church, founded on ethno-phyletic unity, ecclesial communities are organised as an Ethnic People or Nation, which takes the form of a State. Indeed, when speaking of the National Church, we are really referring to a mono-ethnic and patriocentric Church, coloured by the principles, the visions and the national nuances of the respective Nation-State. In extreme circumstances, it could easily become a ethno-phyletic (monochromatic) Church, which constitutes one of the reasons leading to the genesis of “ethno-religious messianism” or to “religious nationalism”, a form of modern idolatry, which is dominating Orthodox Christianity in our age.

The National Church, inadequately and incompletely prepared to face the challenges of the modern age as well as the events of the immediate past (starting from the 1990s), lacks theologically trained clerics, and has no idea of its role in a modern, liberal and pluralistic society, whether European or global. This has happened for two reasons: firstly because it has closed in on itself and secondly, more importantly, because it has focused only on its own ethno-political interests. Within the new post-communist, post-modern and globalised context, it was natural for the disoriented people to turn to the Church, their Church, which wished to be National (patriocentric) in order to affirm their national and/or confessional identity. Face with weakened states and compromised political systems, the National Church remained one of the few reliable institutions, arousing ambitious and unrealistic expectations within society. Today, it could be considered to be the quintessential institution expressing the memory of the Nation in the best possible way. It was asked of the National Church to fill the gap left by the State, mainly in the domains of social security and public morality, and thus it found itself at the centre of civic society. Within this new context, or rather, due to the expectations of civic society for the new role of the Church, a new tendency was dashed, “ethnic missionism”, both on the inside and on the outside of the State. In Eastern Europe, National Churches attempted to re-establish their legal rights and, at the same time, sought new modus vivendi with political authorities. Furthermore, the fundamental rights of religion and religious expression led the National Churches to focus primarily on emigration and the national Diaspora, where they concentrated their “external” and “hyperoria” (sic) activity.

Theology of National Missionism

In order to better understand the behaviour and, above all, the vision of the National Church, we are obliged to briefly refer to the “Theology of national missionism”, which nurtures it and serves as a foundation for its development. So what is it about?

The “theology of national missionism”, as revealed by its own name, expresses the return to the old idea of the National Church, at the service of Autocephalism and occult Ethno-phyletism — which, however, was condemned as heresy by the whole of the Orthodox Church (Panorthodox Council of Constantinople-1872[7]) — reappearing today under a different guise. According to the Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, “Ethnophyletism, condemned in 1872 by the Orthodox Patriarchs in Constantinople, today broadly mirrors the manner in which the orthodox Diaspora is organised. In this way, eucharistic eschatology is manifestly betrayed by a Church which finds inspiration elsewhere”[8].

Following the socio-political changes taking place in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 1990s, most National Churches of countries whose population was in majority orthodox took new directions. First of all, they attempted to regain the primary control of their respective diaspora, in hope of “reconnecting” them to the “Mother Church” of the country of origin. The Diaspora, which in preceding years had distanced itself from the respective Mother Church[9], had become used to organising itself into semi-autonomous groups. However, the existing autonomisation did not prevent the groups of the diaspora how developing, within this narrow frame, national visions of their country of origin. The communist regimes having fallen, the Churches of the countries that were traditionally orthodox were not only freed of communist politics, but also gained a freedom much greater than even before the socialist regime. The result of this national-nationalising priority, which reigns supreme, is obvious: it fuels antagonism of sister-Churches within the diaspora! Under these circumstances, Orthodoxy is developing by tending towards the nationalisation of the Church, and even towards neo-phyletism or neo-ethnophyletism, this time on a global scale. Furthermore, we need only consider the new situation within which we, members of the diverse (fan-eventail) national diasporas, live, confining our horizons to our narrow entourage while, on the contrary, we should feel that we constitute fundamental members of the Orthodox world — beyond National Churches (of the egataspora[10]) — and of the whole world.

National Ecclesiology: the founding Myth of the Diaspora

According to ecclesial ecclesiology (non-national and non-confessional), it is a locus amoenus that the participation of a person in the ecclesial body depends on the location, i.e. on the local Church, wherever this person may be at any given time, and it is totally unrelated to national origins or location of residence (emplacement). It is a radical and fundamental ecclesiological principle not taken into account by the National Church. Consequently, the typology of national ecclesiology asserts that, regardless of where each faithful is — or rather, each “ecclesiastic national” of the National Church — the Church to which he “belongs” (sic), as we commonly say, is not the respective “Church at the location”, but rather the Church of his country of origin, i.e. his National Church. It is easy to see, therefore, the theological drift caused by national ecclesiology, which leads to the formation of another parallel ecclesiology, homologous and homonymous: the “ecclesiology of the diaspora”.

Indeed, national ecclesiology and the ecclesiology of the diaspora are a pair (Siamese sisters) and go hand in hand, the first being the requisite condition on which the second is based. The fault, or rather, the disadvantage of the latter is that according to Church ecclesiology, there is no diaspora, because the Church has always been territorial. The notion of a diaspora — unavoidable in the context of the Jewish immigration, given that for Judaism the Temple is unique — cannot exist in ecclesial life where there is(are) no unique ecclesial centre(s) and where the Church, the body of Christ, joins together all nations and all people. Consequently, all the Earth is covered by local Churches and locally established Churches ( κατά τόπους Εκκλησίες ). In this situation, not only the concept of a diaspora — a concept which was created and shaped during the time when the National Church dominated (19th-20th centuries) — but also the ecclesiology of the diaspora — homologous and analogous to national ecclesiology — are devoid of meaning and have no reason to exist within the Church. (Only the concept of a National Church and the concept of the Universal Church unavoidably presuppose a unique ecclesial centre which directs, explicitly or implicitly, the totality of the faithful in whatever location the national diaspora or the [quasi-diplomatic] representatives of the [central] universal Church may be found... In this case, therefore, the concept of a local Church remains, from any viewpoint, inexistent).

It is thus national ecclesiology — rooted in the concept of the National Church — that forms the basis on which any notion of diaspora (sic) and its implications originate, and not ecclesial ecclesiology, whose perspective is exclusively eschato-centric and never nationo-centric or patrio-centric. It is time, then, to say that the “local Church” and the “diaspora” are two opposed ontological ecclesial realities which are contradictory and incompatible. It is true that the praxis of the local Church (diocese) or of the locally established Church ( κατά τόπ o ν ) prohibits every possible notion of diaspora. In other words there is, from the onset, a Jewish diaspora, an ethnic diaspora — existing due to the ethnico-political interests it serves — but there cannot, under any circumstances, be a “ecclesial diaspora”. To conclude, the “local Church” and the “ecclesial diaspora” are two mutually exclusive and completely opposed and contradictory realities. Wherever we find the latter, it eliminates and invalidates the local or locally established Church. For this reason, we have to re-examine the issue of the diaspora within the Orthodox Church and in view of the preparations for the forthcoming Great Panorthodox Council. For this reason we must, finally, also re-examine the interpretation of the 28th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) (see below).

II. The Constituent Elements of the “Autocephalous Church”

The “definition of Chalcedon” — i.e. the “definition of faith” of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451), which precisely refers to the two natures of Christ, divine and human — constitutes the main and perhaps only element of the Autocephalous Church.

Indeed, the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, within the frame of Christological[11] doctrine, formulated the hypostatic union which exists between the two natures, created and uncreated, of Jesus Christ. More precisely, the Council adopted the antinomy of two adverbs, which at first sight seem contradictory, to highlight the created-uncreated dialectic. These adverbs are, on one hand, ασυγχύτως (without confusion) and, on the other, αδιαιρέτως (without division). Because, according to Christological dogma, “in the person of Christ, the created and the uncreated have united without division (i.e. in a way which does not suffer division), but, at the same time, are without confusion (i.e. without losing their identity and particularity)”[12]. What is of most interest to us is the Trinitarian hypostasis of these terms of Chalcedon, referring to the existence of Christ.

The liturgical phrase of the Orthos, “ Τριάς η εν μονάδι και μονάς η εν Τριάδι ” (the Triad in a monad and monad in a Triad), “ Θεός ένας και τριαδικός ”[13] (God triune) echoes the way of God's Trinitarian existence, which is simultaneously “personal” (relational) and “communional” (free). God is not at first “one”, subsequently becoming “three”, nor vice versa. He is simultaneously “Three” and “One”, in other words God is “Father” because he is “Father of the Son, within the Holy Spirit”. His uniqueness is expressed within this free and unbreachable personal communion ( προσωπική κοινωνία ) that exists between the three hypostases, and means that their otherness (hypostatic-personal [relational]) does not threaten the uniqueness (communional-free)[14] but, on the contrary, is a condition sine qua non.

In other words, the Holy Spirit is neither Father nor Son. The name “Holy Spirit” characterises His uncreated hypostatic particularity, His personal identity and “the third person of the Holy Trinity”. The person of the Son, in turn, is not confused in His relation to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, and does not identify with the latter two persons of the Holy Trinity. The naming of the Father as “Father” (relational term), reveals that the other two persons are not absorbed within the Father, but are clearly distinct. The otherness of the Persons is absolute: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are absolutely different Persons and none is confused with the other two. The hypostatic otherness of the three uncreated persons is thus assured as an existential characteristic by the coincidence of the Trinitarian otherness ( ασυγχύτως ) and the Trinitarian communion- κοινωνία [15] ( αδιαιρέτων ) in the “person of the Father”.

The adverb αδιαιρέτως (without division), referring to the Trinitarian existence of God, emphasises that the Persons of the Holy Trinity, within the frame of their absolute otherness, do not exist separately, and there is no separation or existential division between them; they do not exist unrelated to/independent from each other. The Son is a unique person who cannot exist without the existence of the other two persons of the Holy Trinity, i.e. the Father and the Holy Spirit, and cannot exist without communion with them. The Father, although remaining, in his relational and communional existence with the other two persons of the Holy Triad, a unique and irreproducible ( ανεπανάληπτον ) Person, cannot “be in life” without being in constant and uninterrupted relation with the other two Persons. Similarly, the uniqueness which characterises the Holy Spirit does not mean that it is communionally separated from the other two Persons. On the contrary, every division or separation is surpassed in the frame of their real, since ontological, communion.

The Trinitarian mode of existence represents a paradox for human reason. The fact that every one of the Trinitarian hypostases cannot exist without the other does not mean that they are unable to live separately, but it is their communion, as a product of their personal liberty, which makes them live αϊδίως (without beginning and without end). Therefore, the simultaneous appearance of “unconfused” and “undivided” — which similarly characterised the Trinitarian existence of the uncreated God as a personal and free event of ontological communion — constitutes an existential and dynamic dialectic of the uncreated life.

Autocephaly as an Otherness (without confusion/ ασυγχύτως ) and as a Unity (without division/ αδιαιρέτων ) simultaneously

Let us return to the issue at hand. The “without confusion” could characterise the hypostasis of “locally established Churches”, while the “without division” could define the content “as the mode of existence” of their communion ( κοινωνία ). So each “locally established Church”, just like the uncreated Persons of the Holy Trinity, exists without confusion in its relation with the others, and thus this relation always remains dialectic. The same applies to the “epithetical Churches”. But the “epithetical Churches”, contrary to the uncreated Persons of the Holy Trinity and to the locally established Churches, do not exist undivided. This fact marks ecclesial life as a whole, i.e. all the domains which receive a negative impact. The “epithetical Church”, on one hand, exists “without confusion” in its relation with the other Churches — from this point of view its existence is positive — but on the other hand, does not exist “without division”. On the contrary, it lives “with division”, in the frame of the existential and communional relations with the other Churches, in contrast to the Trinitarian dimension of both the uncreated Persons and the “local Churches” (Dioceses) or “locally established Churches” (Autocephalous Churches).

In any case, the first of these adverbs, “ ασυγχύτως ” (without confusion), means that the relation between the Churches must always be fully dialectic. From the moment that this dialectic is suppressed, the indissolubly united Churches become confused. To support this fact, we need only recall the ecclesial confusion caused by the presence of multiple Churches at the same location, leading to the existence of multiple Bishops in the same city. Trinitarian existence does not annul this dialectic. It assures the freedom of the person and, by extension, the otherness of the locally established Church. The second of the aforementioned adverbs, “ αδιαιρέτων ” (without division), declares that there must be no separation or division between Churches. Space and time act on the nature of creation (ktisis) in a paradoxical way: they unite and divide simultaneously. However, they ought to become bearers of unity alone, not of division. The more the Church becomes autonomous, existing only by herself and for herself, the more she is threatened by isolation, annihilation and death, since death may follow from the eventuality of division and separation between beings and Ecclesial bodies. The above conclusion is confirmed by Church history, which reminds us that throughout the centuries, Churches which were cut off from the Ecclesial body, which departed from the “Church across the universe”, deteriorated or disappeared.

Essentially, “without confusion” (referring to the existence of Christ) assures otherness (i.e. the created-uncreated dialectic), just as “without division” assures communion. In this way, both terms were adopted by the theological language of the IVth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) to define the two opposed and complementary poles: otherness (alterity) and communion.

In order to preserve our otherness, and to free ourselves from other people, whom we consider to be the greatest threat to our freedom, we attempt to distinguish ourselves from them. In the reach for the undivided, the more we unite two beings (the more we put two Ecclesial entities in comm ? union) until arrive to the “without division”, the greater the danger of their confusion. The “undivided” struggles against our differences with others, i.e. against the “unconfused”. It follows that we seek otherness in individualism — personal or ethnic, it is of little matter — which cuts us off from others and manifestly, but illusively, promises the preservation of our identity (personal or ethnic). But, ultimately, this separation from others, this absolute “unconfused” and autonomisation, is it not isolation and communional death?

It is the ontological coexistence of these two “paradoxically” inseparable realities, i.e. the “unconfused” — ensuring otherness — and the “undivided” — ensuring communion — which creates the double paradox, “personal” and “communional”, of the Autocephalous Church. So in ecclesial life, this paradox is expressed through the event “[undivided] communion of unconfused locally established Churches”, which, for the Churches, remains a reality of grace (prophetic), but also a vocation and a perspective. While the “unconfused” preserves otherness, the “undivided” preserves communion. Indeed, it becomes understood that these categories are not simple “natural” categories, but are truly ontological categories of grace. Indeed, it is through communion — which is not dictated by any necessity given that it is an act of absolute freedom — and through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that Churches can go beyond their creational limits and unite “without division”, and it is through otherness that Churches have the possibility of not losing their own particular otherness in this surpassing of their limits, in this union, but, on the contrary, can preserve it, in this way also preserving their dialectic relation.

It is certain that as soon as we approach this issue from its double perspective, i.e. from the concept of “otherness” and from the concept of “communion” — two notions which Churches, in line with their vocation, are called to develop — we must immediately distinguish between these two interdependent parameters. The notion of the “otherness of Churches” corresponds to a triadological reality, one which is very broad and important to ecclesial theology. The second notion, the “communion of Churches” — parallel to the notion of otherness — is as fundamental as the first, and is indivisibly linked to it — just as the first is to the second. Therefore, this reality immediately acquires an importance and a gravity much greater than we might have believed. Its primary significance is firstly illustrated by the triadological notion of the “person”, secondly by the notion of “communion” and finally by the composite and determining notion “communion of persons”, in the case of Theology is concerned, or by the composite and determining notion “communion of the Autocephalous Churches” in the case of Economy (Ecclesiology). Because, “the person is otherness within communion and communion within otherness. The Person is an identity which emerges through relationship (according to the Greek Fathers). It is an “I” which exists only in its link to the “You”, which certifies both its existence and its otherness. If we isolate the “I” from the “You”, we not only lose the otherness of the “I”, but its own self as well. Quite simply, the “I” cannot exist without the other. This is what distinguishes the person from the individual. Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity is the only path which leads us to the notion of personeity (the status of a person). The Father could not for an instant exist without the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the same applies to the other two Persons, as much in their relation with the Father as in their mutual relation. However, every Person is so unique that there is absolutely no communion between their hypostatic or personal characteristics”[16].

It follows that the ontological category of personal and free “communion” which designates the Trinitarian being of God[17] can also designate the Trinitarian being of the “Church of God”[18] within the being, also Trinitarian, of Christ (the Church exists in Christ within the Holy Spirit). The Church must define herself in all her dimensions as “communion”, herself being relational both in its identity[19] and in her structure — and, by extension, in its archetypal model of unity. Could communion, as an ecclesial event (existence in Christ within the Holy Spirit), not then become the model for the sought after unity between Christian Churches?

The Church, at the depth of its being, i.e. her Eucharistic existence, reflects the mode of existence of God, that of personal communion. The necessity “to imitate God”[20] or “to come into communion with divine nature”[21] presupposes that the Church can exist and function “in Christ” only if it adopts the mode of existence of Trinitarian God[22]. In order to understand the being of the Church, it is of decisive importance that God reveals Himself to us as existing in communion between persons. Consequently, when we say that Church is communion, we are referring to the personal communion, which exists between the hypostases of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Individualism — and ecclesiastical individualism expressed through the Epithetical Church — is, by definition, incompatible with the being of the Church, whose essence is communion and relation between persons[23]. In this way we can link Trinitarian communion of personal hypostases of the uncreated God with inter-ecclesial relations “in Church across the universe”[24] (that is, in the personal communion of Local Churches in Christ).

According to this theological-systematic development, the naming of the “locally established Church” as an “Autocephalous Church” (relational term) means that the Autocephalous Church is an Ecclesial entity, by definition, as much free as relational and communional, both in her essence and in her relation with others. It is thus local and conciliar (communional) at the same time. Therefore, Autocephalous Churches exist among themselves “without confusion” and “without division”. In other words, the ecclesial hypostatic qualities of the Autocephalous Church allow it to exist without confusion and without division with another Autocephalous Church — or Churches. In this way, both ecclesial otherness and ecclesial communion are ensured and preserved simultaneously.

* * * * *

Besides, one of the characteristic elements of the Eschata is the synaxis of the dispersed people of God — and by extension the synaxis of all humanity in one ( επι το αυτο )[25] and around the Person of Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew the Church and the Kingdom are paralleled to “a net thrown into the sea which collects fish of every kind”[26], while in the passage referring to the Parousia of Christ we read, “and all the nations will be assembled before him”[27]. Furthermore, the soteriological purpose of the incarnation and of the passion of Christ consists of “gathering into one the dispersed children of God”[28].

Consequently, the Autocephalous Church is always incarnated and grounded in the land of a given location (egataspora) and the tradition of a people (inculturation). It was formed as such mainly to preserve this unique eschatological perspective — but to preserve ethnic otherness as well. The notion of “the whole church meet[ing] in one place”[29] constitutes the central axis of ontological orientation of a locally established Church. On the contrary, for the National Church, this ontological-eschatological perspective is not paramount, if indeed it is not completely obsolete. In other words, for the Autocephalous Church, ecclesial communion and eschatological perspective take precedence, while ethnic otherness follows, and not vice versa. Indeed, the Autocephalous Church places the unity of the Church in the forefront, in the frame of ethnic otherness. In contrast, only ethnic otherness is of prime importance for the National Church, and nothing else.


It is usual and widespread amongst anthropologists, sociologists, historians, philosophers, and even the Fathers of the Church, to use the terminology of categories of human thought to refer to more or less fundamental realities or experiences. Given that these “categories” are considered to be (more or less) organised within a certain system, we say that we are dealing with viewpoints, perspectives, cosmotheories, or — more precisely — different worlds. The present text initially aimed to raise certain general questions relating to the use of terminology in our research and our legal and historico-canonical analysis on the concept of the “National Church”.

Patristic and Ecclesial theology has never taken the modern tendency of the “colourisation of people” or the “colourisation of Geography” lightly or frivolously. If we wish to characterise a Nation as orthodox, and in doing so support that the Church is “Ethnic”, we must remember that for the nation to be “orthodox Christian”, it means that it has been “crucified and risen in Christ”, thereby obtaining a new and eschatological identity, with which it is incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church. In that case, we do not have a patriocentric Church existing through the notion of differentiation in relation to the other Churches (a notion of the National Church), but instead we have an Autocephalous Church which voluntarily confirms the transformed national otherness on one hand, but also her full participation in the common Body of the Lord and, by extension, her full communion not only with the other Autocephalous Churches, but with the entirety of Creation.

Christians of the early Church drew their existence from within a Church in statu viae (eschatological), and not within a Church in statu patriae (at first “imperial” or, from the 4th century to the present, “national”). This is precisely the essential and decisive difference between the “Autocephalous Church” and the “patriocentric Church”, i.e. the “National Church”.

The concept of a nation, e.g. for the French, was formed based on the wish for a common destiny and a common attempt to achieve it (cf. “Nation-State”). On the contrary, the historical course of Orthodox peoples, who have been influenced in the recent past by the principle of nationalities, has been entirely different. In this time, nations gained a self-awareness and revendicated, as a sacred right, the expression of their difference. The above conception led to the revendication of their independence. A Nation without its own State — for itself only — felt wronged and deprived, and this fact resulted in the multiplication of State-Nations. In Nations where Orthodoxy was intertwined with daily existence, multiple National Autocephalies were also witnessed. So State-Nation-Churches came into being. Similarly, in countries of the East, where the orthodox population is numerically greater, there is often a close link between nationality and religion; here, however, nationality was linked to blood. From this resulted the name “State-Nation”, and a blood connection was created with religion, e.g. “Church of the Serbs” (sic). In the West, and especially in France where there is a separation between Church and State, nationality is related to land, not to blood. Thus the name “Nation-State” came about. Consequently, “Nation-State” and “State-Nation” describe two different and obviously opposed perspectives and explain, in the clearest possible way, the developments and the mentalities hiding behind these two conceptions.

In orthodox ecclesiology of the recent decades, the geographical or spatial universality of the pleroma/faithful took second place to national universality. The Autocephalous Church was restricted to the conciliar condition of otherness, forgetting the iconic dimension of communion. When the strategic priority of a National Church is no longer the glory of God and the anticipation of the Future Age, but the glory of the Nation, it loses its primary interest, as it focuses solely on this perspective of eonistic[30] monism, totally alien to the eschatological identity of the Church. Similarly, in the case of the locally established Church, if ecclesial theology does not lead ecclesiastical policy and the visions of the Ecclesial body, or at least inspires them, then canonical deficiency will constantly characterise ecclesial life, as much in the Egataspora as in the “Diaspora”.

The National Church is a monopolis, a unique universal city, both from a structural and from a behavioural viewpoint, because it is exclusively aimed to a single nationality. Its global geographical dimension is exerted on a single nationality and, because of this, it is indifferent to the communion between Churches and the vision of the Future Age, which an Ecclesial body at a given location always ought to have. Indeed, every National Church globally expresses an interest for “her” respective people — ignoring all the others — in order not to lose its authority.

From an ecclesiastical point of view, the unique way to designate a Church is by using a name of a location. The “community of the signified” encompasses all Churches and is designated by the name of the location. The “point of distinction” makes the Church known, not generally or by abstraction, but as a Church of a specific location, e.g. “the Church found at Corinth”, “the Church found at Thessalonica” etc. Similarly, “Church of Romania” (and henceforth never “Romanian Church” or, even worse, “Church of the Romanians”) and “Patriarchate of Serbia” (and henceforth never “Serbian Patriarchate” or, even worse, “Patriarchate of the Serbs”, most frequently used in our time). Besides, when we use epithets, we define differences and divergences. It is therefore canonical to adopt geographical names — if our goal is the pursuit of ecclesial reality — in order to designate the location, wherein each locally established Church exists and can be found, while the common denominator still remains the Church of Christ “across the universe”[31]. In this way, we affirm that it is the same Church appearing at different locations. The use of epithets — enjoying thorough appreciation in the West — tends to give a sociological or cultural character to the Church (Russian, Greek, French Church) rather than an ecclesial one (Church at a Location: Church of Russia, of Greece, of France, or even better, Church found in Russia, Church found in Greece, Church found in France).

To give a representative example of the consequences of the aforementioned use of epithets, we will look at the case of Paris. On the facade of the Churches we can easily see the title or, better, the solecism “Russian Orthodox Church of Paris”, “Romanian Orthodox Church of Paris”, “Greek Orthodox Church of Paris” etc, and all this on the territory of another locally established Church. Furthermore, the possibility of using the name “Church of Russia of Paris”, “Church of Romania of Paris” etc, is unacceptable ecclesiologically and impossible canonically, and it does not justify an ecclesiastical representation outside the canonical territory of these Churches. It becomes clear, therefore, why the use of an epithet in modern orthodox Ecclesiology is particularly helpful to national or universalist intentions. This fact, from the point of view of the “Autocephalous Church”, causes flagrant anti-canonicity, while for the “National Church” it gives the “canonical right” (sic) to develop all kinds of ecclesiastical activities without causing any ecclesiological or canonical problems, since the national ecclesiastic vision comes first and overwhelms.

The Church, whether Local [diocese] or Autocephalous [locally established] (but not “specific [Church]”, which bears no relation[32] to the “locally established Church”), advocates otherness within communion and communion within otherness. Similarly, the locally established Church is a geo-ecclesiastical reality, an entity and an identity which emerges “in the relation towards” ( εις σχέσιν προς ) and through communion, but never in isolation and separation. A Local or an Autocephalous Church simply cannot exist without the other local or locally established Churches. This is precisely what distinguishes the locally established Church from the epithetical Church. It is also what distinguishes the Autocephalous Church from the National Church (national ecclesiastical individualism). The National Church holds the unwavering belief that it can exist without the others. Consequently, the Church ought to appear, in all its dimensions, as “communional”, itself being relational both towards its identity and towards its structure, and in this way be the archetypal model of unity. Finally, the Church can exist and function “in Christ within the Holy Spirit” only in her relation to the Trinitarian mode of existence of God.

According to the preceding analysis, the National Church cannot live and flourish under the conciliar light of the “definition of faith” of Chalcedon, while the Autocephalous Church seeks and finds her roots in this conciliar light. In our day, locally established Orthodox Churches — like all Christians in fact — are confronted with a challenge: the evangelical witness of ecclesial unity and ecclesial communion across the world, in our time of globalisation, following the example of the Apostles who, coming from Palestine, gave the evangelical witness to the entire Roman world. It is certain that nothing of the sort will happen through the “National Church”. For if it did, this evangelical witness would be devoid of meaning. Consequently, the ecclesial vision of Ecclesial Orthodoxy does not coincide with the vision of the National Church, but with the vision of the Autocephalous Church. This constitutes not only an ecclesial asset, but also an ultimate purpose.

Herein lies a question: what will become of the “National Church” during the European Age, already begun a decade ago (1993), when there will no longer be Serbs, Romanians, Greeks, but only simply “Europeans”? What epithet will the “National Church” adopt to define itself? The issue under discussion therefore has an expiry date... and we are merely troubling ourselves about its future perspective. Perhaps here is where the gravity of the problem lies: Orthodox Christians will want to keep their “national messianism” — under “threat” by European unification — alive past the expiry date, just as the Jews of the Christian age tried to keep their “old testamentary messianism” alive after its expiry date. The endeavour is rooted in the same logic: believing that they are the Chosen People, they must preserve this “national-messianic choice” at any cost, to keep from being mixed or confused with other people. However, under the light of the resurrection and the expectation of the Future Age, there will be only one chosen people in Christ: the whole of humanity, humankind, “all nations”[33] which have been chosen and invited to co-participate in the Kingdom of the Future Age.

Finally, “the question of the National Church” is not merely a formality but a restoration of ecclesial conscience, which has been shaken on one hand by the idol of ethnocentrism and of patriocentrism — which has brought the scattering and the atomisation of the Church into national units, thus ruining the ecclesial communion promised by the Autocephalous Church — and on the other hand by the idol of policy which transformed the locally established [Autocephalous] Church into an “annex” of the local political parties. The Church has always been territorial and spatial but never epithetical and national. The latter, fully and clearly corresponding to a “politico-national” Church, is a particular trait of the West where “the condition of the States have been influenced by Reformation. This situation is due to historical developments and to the possibility the Churches had of organising themselves without being dependent on an outside power, the Holy See”[34]. Here we can see the influence of the Reformation on the Orthodox Church, generally, and specifically during the 19th century on the Orthodox populations of the Balkans vis-a-vis the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (always preserving proportions). Orthodox National Churches of the present day were born out of this historical-political environment, and remain steadily and unwaveringly attached to it.

At the time, they had a specific request: originating from the Ottomanocracy (the Ottoman Empire), these ethnic groups wanted an independent and National Church at any cost, their own National Church, seeking to align themselves with the principle of nationalities, which was clear: “cujus regio, ejus religio”. The Ecumenical Patriarchate responded justly to this request by granting them not a National Church but an Autocephalous Church. These people were enchanted by Autocephaly, but this fact clearly went on to show what was “received” and “understood” by an Autocephalous Church... Historical developments once again raise a question: historically, did these people grasp the difference between these two perspectives, so different from one another and ultimately diametrically opposed? The answer is probably negative, given that the National Church steadily though erroneously prevails, as frequently in States with an Orthodox majority (egataspora) as in the orthodox national diaspora... Finally, Orthodox people are blamed for having lost the notion of the Autocephalous Church and, dominated or dependent on religious and ethno-messianic nationalism, they put forward as their exclusive Orthodox Ecclesiology, the National Church.


AGORAS K., Personne et liberte ou “L'etre comme communion”, Paris, Doctoral thesis in Theology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Paris IV and Faculty of Theology of the Catholic Institute of Paris, 1992, 451 p.

BASDEVANT-GAUDEMET Br. and FORNEROD An., “Existe-t-il une politique europeenne concernant les confessions religieuses?”, in J.-P. FAUGERE and Fr. JULIEN-LAFERRIERE (dir.), EUROPE, Enjeux juridiques, economiques et de gestion, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2000, p. 103-117.

BELOPOVSKY Al., “Dix ans de transitions, les Eglises en Europe de l'Est : un defi pour l'avenir”, in SOP, n. 264 (1/2002), p. 26-29.

DVORNIK Fr., “Eglises nationales et Eglise universelle” in Eastern Churches Quarterly, t. 5 (1943), p. 172-219. Also, in Istina, t. 36, n. 1 (1991), p. 9-52.

GOUNELAS S., “Nationalism and Orthodox Faith. The research for ‘universal conscience' beyond the dilemmas of the type ‘Christian or Greek?'”, in Kathimerini 16-4-2000, p. A 2-49.

PALIERNE J.-L., Mais ou donc se cache l'Eglise orthodoxe ? La trop longue errance des Francais [But where does finally the Orthodox Church stay in hiding? The so long errance of the French], Lausanne, L'Age d'homme (series: Mobiles theopolitiques), 2002, 136 p.

ZIZIOULAS J., “Christology and Existence. The dialectic between created-uncreated and the dogma of Chalcedon”, in Synaxis, n. 2 (1982), p. 9-20, and in Contacts, t. 36, n. 126 (1984), p. 154-172.

ZIZIOULAS J., Metropolitan of Pergamon, “Eucharist and Kingdom of God (A-B)”, in Synaxis, n. 47 (1-3/1994), p. 7-18, and n. 51 (7-9/1994), p. 83-101.

ZIZIOULAS J., Metropolitan of Pergamon, “Communion et alterite”, in SOP, n. 184 (1/1994), p. 23-33. Also, in Contacts, t. 46, n. 166 (2/1994), p. 106-123, and in St Vladimir's Theological Quaterly, t. 38, n. 4 (1994), p. 347-361.

ZIZIOULAS J., Metropolitan of Pergamon, “Eschatologie et societe”, in Irenikon, t. 73, n. 3-4 (2000), p. 278-297.

[1] Text published, in French, in L'Annee canonique [Paris], vol. 45 (2003), p. 149-170. The same, in Archim. Grigorios D. Papathomas, Essais de Droit canonique orthodoxe (Treatises on Orthodox Canon Law), Firenze, Universita degli Studi di Firenze/Facolta di Scienze Politiche “Cesare Alfieri” (coll. Seminario di Storia delle istituzioni religiose e relazioni tra Stato e Chiesa-Reprint Series, n. 38), 2005, ch. III, p. 51-76. Also, in Greek, in Archim. Grigorios D. Papathomas, Ecclesio-Canonical Questions [Essays on the Orthodox Canon Law], Thessaloniki-Katerini, “Epektasis” Publications (series: Nomocanonical Library, n. 19), 2006, p. 67-106, and in Charalambos K. Papastathis — Archim. Grigorios D. Papathomas (eds), The State, the Orthodox Church and Religions in Greece, Thessaloniki-Katerini, “Epektasis” Publications (series: Nomocanonical Library, n. 16), 2006, text n. 5, p. 89-128 (in Greek), and in Charalambos K. Papastathis — Archim. Grigorios D. Papathomas (eds.), The State, the Orthodox Church and Religions in Greece, Thessaloniki — Katerini, Epektasis Publications (series: Nomocanonical Library, n. 17), 2008, text n. 5, p. 111-146 (in English).

[2] Antisthenes the Cynic, in Επικτήτου, Διατριβαί (Epictetus, The Discourses), 1, 17, 22.

[3] Here, this neologism, which designates a relatively recent and manifestly anticanonical tendency, has two facets. On one hand, it expresses the ardent desire of obtaining, at any cost and even when geopolitical and geo-ecclesiastical conditions do not permit it, the status autocephalus of a territorial unit. On the other hand, there is a specific tendency of exerting ecclesial hyperoria jurisdiction on the territory of another Autocephalous Church — or within the Diaspora — under the pretext of exercising some indefinite ecclesial rights. In reality, it undeniably consists of an “ecclesiastical nationalism” which cultivates a “global national autocephaly” and a “monocameral ecclesiology” (of national ecclesiastical exclusivity). Here, with great caution, we must guard against the enemies of ecclesial unity hiding behind the idea of autocephaly. Every time that nationalism and phyletism, or cultural identity, demand priority over the unity of the Church, they must be clearly denied and rejected. Orthodox ecclesiology cannot ascribe any value of ultimate reality to any historical reality but to Christ and to the Eschatological recapitulation of everything in His Person, whose reception paradoxically is realised in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. This is what is proclaimed during each Divine Liturgy. Finally, autocephalism really does consist of a modern distortion and a “protestant” interpretation of autocephaly, which incorporates a national “confessionality” into ecclesiastical Community and ecclesial communion and unity.

[4] Ethnophyletism (from φυλή = race, tribe [tribalism]) consists of adopting and applying the principle of nationalities into the ecclesiastical domain. It advocates the voluntary application of phyletic (racial) and national distinction within the Church, in other words, leads to confusion between the Church and the Nation, and to the assimilation of the Church with the Nation. The term Ethnophyletism is the name given to an ecclesiological heresy according to which the Church organises itself by racial, national or political/cultural basis, in such a way as to accept the existence, in a specific geographical area, of multiple ecclesiastical jurisdictions, each one directing its own pastoral solicitude exclusively towards the members of a specific ethnic group. It was used by the Great and Holy — and “broadened” — Panorthodox Council of Constantinople of [September 10th] 1872, which officially defined it, and condemned it as contemporary ecclesial heresy (“Balkan heresy”). Indeed, phyletic (religious) nationalism supports the idea of establishing an Autocephalous Church based, not on the territorial [ecclesial] criterion, but on a national or linguistic ethnophyletic criterion. Consequently, “the formation, at the same location, of many locally established Churches, founded solely on ethnicity, receiving the faithful of only one ethnicity and excluding the faithful of other ethnicities, and led only by pastors of the same race, as advocated by the supporters of phyletism, is an event without precedent” (Metropolitan Maximus of Sardes). The Church must therefore not be linked to the fortune of only one ethnos/nation. Orthodoxy is undoubtedly hostile towards any form of phyletic Messianism. We ought here to emphasise the difference in meaning between ethnism (which has positive connotations) and [ethnicism] nationalism (which has a negative connotations, and in Greek is called εθνικισμός ). Ethnism serves the nation, whilst nationalism is the enemy of the Nation (and, by extension, of the Church).

[5] The modern National Church functions according to the practice of Meionism. The term meionism (from μειονισμός / μείον = less, minus), which could be translated as “reductionism”, was coined by the Russian philosopher V. F. Ern to define the act of causing “reduction”, “shrinkage”, “devaluation” or “debasement”. In his opinion, these words describe ecclesiastical mentality most adequately. Through Meionism, all the canonical distortions bring about the absorption of ecclesial life by national — or even cultural — life, and the degradation of Trinitarian Revelation into sentimental sensitivity as well as the devaluation of pastoral ministry into a militant nationalist vision.

[6] Cf. Luke 13, 4. Also, Acts 15, 30.

[7] See the full text of the conciliar decision in J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, vol. 45, Synodi Orientales (1860-1884), text number 65, Graz, Akademische Druck-U. Verlagsanstalt, 1961, columns 417-546.

[8] John Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon, “Eschatology and Society”, in Irenikon, vol. 3-4 (2000), p. 294 (in French).

[9] The notion of a Mother Church, at this point, refers exclusively to the genesis of a new locally established Church and in no case does it refer to the ecclesial communities of the diaspora. See below.

[10] The Egataspora, as a canonical neologism, defines an antithetical perspective to the Diaspora. We use this term when people, living in Diaspora where they have already integrated themselves and are ready to develop in a sustainable way, attempt to settle in this new environment or choro-geographic location which traditionally exists and belongs to them.

[11] For the approach, which follows, we have used as primary text the article of our professor at the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessalonica, J. D. Zizioulas, “Christology and Existence. The dialectic created-uncreated and the dogma of Chalcedon”, in Synaxis, n. 2 (1982), § 4, p. 17-20, and in Contacts, t. 36, vol. 2 (1984), mainly § 4, p. 165-171.

[12] As above, p. 166.

[13] Cf. “ Σε τον εν Τριάδι και Μονάδι [...], τον Πατέρα, και Υιόν, και Πνευμα Άγιον [...]”; Doxastikon of the 9th Ode of the Orthos of August 5th.

[14] See the pertinent development of this issue in C. Agoras, Personne et Liberte ou “L'etre comme communion” (Person and Freedom, “The Being as Communion”), Paris, Doctoral thesis in Theological Science, presented at the Philosophical School of the University of Paris IV and the Theological School of the Catholic Institute of Paris, 1992, chapter 6, section I, §§ 2, ii and 3.

[15] The term “communion” ( κοινωνία ), firmly rooted in the Bible, summarises the mode of relational existence of the uncreated Persons. At the same time, it summarises the mystery of God and the mystery of the Church and, by extension — in this way defining the final destination of human community — the vocational content of the persons and of Christian Churches, i.e. reinforcing, between them, the communion within alterity and vice versa. To clarify this even further, we provide the following extract: “The original Greek term ‘communion' has a different meaning to that which is attributed today to the terms ‘communion' or ‘community'. Indeed, the term communion in Greek scriptural texts and in the patristic tradition has a special meaning, which profoundly influences ecclesiology. The basic elements of the term communion exclusively emerge from Theology [...]. Which are the basic elements which found the theology of communion? Communion is not a product of sociological experience or ethics, but a product of faith. We are called to live “in communion” not because it is “good” for us and for the Church, but because we believe in a God who is, at the depths of His existence, communion. If we believe in a God who is first and foremost an individual, His own existence preceding His relation with others, then we approach the sociological conception of communion. In that case, the Church's being is not firstly communion, but is communion only secondarily, according to the concept of “bene esse”. Therefore, the teaching of the Holy Trinity acquire decisive importance. The being of God is Trinitarian, i.e. God is Trinitarian, He is relational. A God who is not Trinitarian would not be communion. Ecclesiology, if it wishes to be an ecclesiology of communion, must be founded on Trinitarian theology”; J. D. Zizioulas, “Church as Communion”, in SOP, n. 181 (9-10/1993), p. 34-35.

[16] J. D. Zizioulas, “Communion and Otherness”, in SOP, n. 184 ? 1/1994), p. 31.

[17] St John Chrysostome makes the following remarks: “ Όπου γαρ αν μια της Τριάδος Υπόστασις παρη, πασα πάρεστιν η Τριάς ? αδιασπάστως γαρ εχει προς εαυτήν, και ηνωται μετ ' ακριβείας απάσης .”; [Latin translation] “Ubi enim una Trinitatis hypostasis adest, tota adest Trinitas, non potest enim omnino separari, et accuratissime unita subi est”; Idem, To the Romans, Homilia XIII, 8, in P.G., t. 60, col. 519A.

[18] Apostle Paul appears to be the first who used this term in his epistles. Cf. 1 Cor. 1, 2; 10, 32; 11, 16. 22; 15, 9; Gal. 1, 13; 1 Thess. 2, 14; 2 Thess. 1, 4; 1 Tim. 3, 5. 15. Cf. Ath. Jevtic, The Ecclesiology of Apostle Paul according to St John Chrysostome, Athens 1984, primarily p. 27-50 (in Greek).

[19] Diversity among the faithful is considered necessary in order for a true communion “in Church”. In this case, life in Church is a sign of the diversity within communion.

[20] Luke 6, 36 and its parallels.

[21] 2 Peter 1, 4.

[22] Cf. the definition of the Persons of the Holy Trinity as a “mode of existence” given only by the Cappadocian Fathers.

[23] Cf. J. D. Zizioulas, “Communion and Otherness”, as before, p. 36.

[24] “Across the universe”, according to the expression of the 57th canon of the Local Council of Carthage (419). Cf. Canon 56 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council in Trullo (691).

[25] 1 Cor. 14, 23.

[26] Mat. 13, 47. Italics added by us.

[27] Mat. 25, 32. Italics added by us.

[28] John 11, 52. Italics added by us.

[29] 1 Cor. 14, 23. Cf. Rom. 16, 23.

[30] The term Eonism (from the word eon, αιων ) designates the mentality of people who, though certainly believing in God, cannot (Ephes. 2, 2) accept Him as “pantocrator”, i.e. the “centre of their lives” (abbot Dorotheos). This fact (Math. 13, 22; Mark 4, 19) resulted in the formation of a “heterocentric perspective” which estranges (2 Cor. 4, 4) man from God “because of his love for the current age” (2 Tim. 4, 10) and places him (Luke 20, 34) in the dimension “of this world” (John 18, 36-37). This is an intracreational category — i.e. the restriction to what is created, forgetting the eschatological perspective (Ephes. 1, 21; Hb 6, 5; Tit. 2, 12) — which is based on the model (Rom. 12, 2) [civitas terrena] “of this world” (secular eschatology — εγκόσμια εσχατολογία ) and which gives a greater importance to this century than to the future century. Finally, ecclesiastical eonism leaves no place for the coming of eschatology. This category is based exclusively in the present time, age and world.

[31] Cf. 57th canon of the Local Council of Carthage (419) and the 56th canon of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council in Trullo (691).

[32] In this case, the same words/names refer to different realities with very different ontological divergences.

[33] Cf. Math. 28, 19.

[34] Br. Basdevant-Gaudemet and An. Fornerod, “Existe-t-il une politique europeenne concernant les confessions religieuses?” (“Is there a European policy concerning religious confessions?”), in J.-P. Faugere and Fr. Julien-Laferriere (under the direction of), Europe, Enjeux juridiques, economiques et de gestion, (Europe, juridical, economic and managerial stakes), Paris, ed. L'Harmattan, 2000, p. 107.

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