Articles Deacon Andrei Psarev

Protest of Met. Philaret against Pat. Athenagoras about his Cancellation of the Anathemas

Loosing Old Friends and Gaining New

On this day in 1965, Metropolitan Philaret of New York, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad (in the middle of the photo), sent his protest to Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras about his cancellation of the anathemas.

In 1965, the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople, Athenagoras I (d. 1972), together with Pope Paul VI (d. 1978), cancelled the mutual anathemas issued by Patriarch Michael Kerularios and Cardinal Humbert in 1054. Some monasteries on Mount Athos ceased to commemorate Patriarch Athenagoras, and Archbishop Chrysostom of Greece spoke out vocally against this act. Metropolitan Philaret joined this chorus of voices. Canon 15 of the First and Second Council of Constantinople (861) gives permission to temporarily stop commemorating a superior hierarch if he preaches a heresy which had been condemned by the Councils of Holy Fathers. Using this canon as a point of reference, Metropolitan Philaret and his Synod decided to receive clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate without canonical releases. Under Metropolitan Anastassy, the Russian Church Abroad had a good working relationship with the Greek Archdiocese. Now this relationship had been terminated. Here are excerpts from this letter of protest:

Your Holiness,

We have inherited a legacy from the Holy Fathers that everything in the Church should be done in a legal way, unanimously, and conforming to ancient Traditions. If any of the bishops and even primates of one of the autocephalous churches does something which is not in agreement with the teaching of the whole Church, every member of the Church may protest against it. The 15th Canon of the First and Second Council of Constantinople of the year 861 describes as “worthy to enjoy the honour which befits them among Orthodox Christians” those bishops and clergymen who secede from communion even with their patriarch if he publicly preaches heresy and openly teaches it in church. In that way we are all guardians of the truth of the Church, which was always protected through the care that nothing of general importance for the Church would be done without the consent of all.

Therefore our attitude toward various schisms outside of the local limits of particular autocephalous churches was never determined otherwise than by the common consensus of these churches.

If in the beginning our separation from Rome was declared in Constantinople, then later on it became a matter of concern to the whole Orthodox world. None of the autocephalous churches, and specifically not the highly esteemed Church of Constantinople from which our Russian Church has received the treasure of Orthodoxy, may change anything in this matter without the foregoing consent of everybody. Moreover we, the bishops ruling at present, may not make decisions with reference to the West which would disagree with the teaching of the Holy Fathers who lived before us, specifically the Saints Photios of Constantinople and Mark of Ephesus.

In the light of these principles, although being the youngest of the primates, as the head of the free autonomous part of the Church of Russia, we regard it our duty to state our categorical protest against the action of Your Holiness with reference to your simultaneous solemn declaration with the Pope of Rome in regard to the removal of the sentence of excommunication made by Patriarch Michael Cerularius in 1054.


We declare firmly and categorically:

No union of the Roman Church with us is possible until it renounces its new doctrines, and no communion in prayer can be restored with it without a decision of all churches, which, however, can hardly be possible before the liberation of the Church of Russia which at present has to live in catacombs. The hierarchy which is now under Patriarch Alexis cannot express the true voice of the Russian Church because it is under full control of the godless government. Primates of some other churches in countries dominated by communists also are not free.

Whereas the Vatican is not only a religious center but also a state, and whereas relations with it have also a political nature, as is evident from the visit of the Pope to the United Nations, one must reckon with the possibility of an influence in some sense of the godless authorities in the matter of the Church of Rome. History testifies to the fact that negotiations with the heterodox under pressure of political factors never brought the Church anything but confusion and schisms. Therefore we find it necessary to make a statement that our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia as well as, certainly, the Russian Church which is at present in the catacombs, will not consent to any “dialogues” with other confessions and beforehand rejects any compromise with them, finding union with them possible only if they accept the Orthodox Faith as it is maintained until now in the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. While this has not happened, the excommunication proclaimed by the Patriarch Michael Cerularius is still valid, and the canceling of it by Your Holiness is an act both illegal and void.

Certainly we are not opposed to benevolent relations with representatives of other confessions as long as the truth of Orthodoxy is not betrayed. Therefore our Church in due time accepted the invitation to send its observers to the Second Vatican Council, as well as it used to send observers to the Assemblies of the World Council of Churches, in order to have firsthand information in regard to the work of these assemblies without any participation in their deliberations.

We appreciate the kind reception of our observers, and we are studying with interest their reports showing that many changes are being introduced into the Roman Church. We will thank God if these changes will serve the cause of bringing it closer to Orthodoxy. However, if Rome has much to change in order to return to the “expression of the Faith of the Apostles,” the Orthodox Church, which has maintained that Faith impeccable up to now, has nothing to change.

The Tradition of the Church and the example of the Holy Fathers teach us that the Church holds no dialogue with those who have separated themselves from Orthodoxy. Rather than that, the Church addresses to them a monologue inviting them to return to its fold through rejection of any dissenting doctrines.


“Letter of Saint Philaret to Patriarch Athenagors on Lifiting of the Anathemas of 1054,” Center of Orthodox Thought under the call of Saint Martyr Nicephorus Archdeacon.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.