TO THE APOSTOLIC EXARCH OF THE
HELLENIC-RITE CATHOLICS OF GREECE
Voula, the 4th November 2008
Protocol No. 1562
The Apostolic Exarch
Of the Hellenic-Rite Catholics of Greece
Mr. Demetrios Salahas
«Rejoice always in the Lord»!
A few days ago I was informed of the content of your homily, during your ordination-enthronement as Bishop of the Hellenic-Rite Catholics of Greece. It is with this occasion that I am writing my personal thoughts, with the outspokenness of an Orthodox Bishop of the Church in Greece; one who was born in Hermoupolis of Syros Island, and raised and residing in his native island up until the completion of the Secondary Education cycle in the renowned High School of Syros.
Your homily, quite extensive, was addressed to the flock “of a small in number ecclesiastic community of faithful, in Athens and in Yannitsa”. These faithful, according to your address, are “fully united with the Church of Rome”, albeit “belonging to the Eastern Byzantine tradition”. And you continue, stressing that “this double ecclesiastic identity of theirs – as Catholics and Easterners – being in full communion with the Apostolic Seat of Old Rome and its Primate the Bishop of Rome, and simultaneously remaining loyal to the sacred Patristic traditions, the theological treasures and the divine Worship of the Christian East, enriches that very Catholic Church of Greece - which historically belongs almost in its entirety to the western Latin tradition - and it constitutes an expression of the “co-inheritance”, the communion and the unity within the bosom of the Catholic Church itself.”
This spirit, which infused many more paragraphs of your speech, was further embellished by the position that “our vision and our mindset is a unifying one and not a ‘Uniate’ one”, and was accompanied by your entreaty: “Do not consider me a Uniate, but a unifying hierarch”, additionally condemning “categorically every act of proselytism, from wherever it may originate”.
Because of your above positions, kindly allow me to ask you a few questions - which spring from my own experiences of living many years in Syros, as well as a familiarity with the manner of coexistence between Orthodox and Roman Catholics – which questions of course express my own, personal concerns:
Are you aware to what degree the mode of operation of your Ecclesiastic Community causes confusion amongst the faithful of the Orthodox Church, in the multitudinous urban communities of those two cities, and especially in the densely populated Athens suburb of Patisia, on Acharnon Street, where many Orthodox approach, not knowing the true Ecclesiological and Theological background that lurks beneath the Orthodox appearance?
Why do your clergy need to wear the canonical attire of the Orthodox Tradition, erect Temples in the Byzantine style, perform the Sacred services according to the Rubric of the Orthodox Eastern Church, use mostly the Liturgical Books published by the “Apostoliki Diakonia” [=Apostolic Ministry] organization of the Church of Greece ? Isn’t that what Unia is about? Aren’t you a Uniate Bishop ? What exactly does “unifying hierarch” mean?
What is the need for a Uniate to be present in the Theological Dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Confession? Is that how the Union will prosper? Would it perhaps be a gesture of good will on behalf of the Pope – for the progress of the Theological Dialogues – to no longer appoint a Uniate Bishop-Apostolic Exarch of the Hellenic-Rite Catholics of Greece? Why such a persistence for Unia by the Pope?
Are you able to reckon how many comprise the “small number of members” of the Community of Hellenic-Rite Catholics of Greece and justify for what reason there is a need to elect and instate a Uniate Bishop in Greece?
If your Community is indeed small in number – even with the recent, artificially increased groups of faithful – why can’t they be poemantically served by the clergy of the Roman Catholic Confession of Greece? Why can’t these people be ministered by Roman Catholic Bishops, who are evidently and manifestly connected to the Vatican; whose attire is according to the Latin tradition – just like those who attend your ordinations (as apparent in related photographs) – so that the members of your Community might come to know Jesus Christ in that manner?
Furthermore, whenever I recall the excellent hospitalization of my ever-memorable mother twenty years ago in the “Pammakaristos” Hospital, that memory is always tainted by the question posed at the time by the Orthodox-looking (but Latin in dogma) Hospital minister: “Would you like me to minister Holy Communion?” Despite the fact that my mother’s theological preparation and awareness gave him the appropriate response: “No thank you; I have a son who is a clergyman and he will make sure that I receive Communion in an Orthodox manner”, we do wonder if you continue with this same tactic, in the sensitive realm of pain and consolation… What, indeed, do you do, in other Hospitals?
What, I wonder, were the motive and the objective behind the performing of a “Trisagion” service during the funeral in Rome of the recently deceased Pope, by Orthodox-attired Uniate clergymen, Bishops and presbyters, according to the Orthodox Rite, and in the Greek language?
The above facts give the impression - to a multitude of intelligent and prudent people - that they comprise actions of proselytism and attempts to seize the souls of Orthodox Christians with underhanded means.
It is our wish that the aforementioned do not reflect reality. That is why it is our hope that your sincerely written intentions are indeed sincere and do not hide any deception, thus offending Christ’s “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”.
With prayers in the Lord,
The least among Bishops.
† PAUL OF GLYFADA