During the visit he made as the head of a delegation from his diocese to the Phanar, the bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Australia, Makarios, stated, “today we are living through a dark era in the the history of our church, where a number of our brother believers challenge our patriarchate because they do not accept the existence of a protos in the Orthodox Church.” He indicated that all the problems that have arisen are “because of this erroneous notion regarding the protos in the Orthodox Church. They propose holding a Pan Orthodox synod to solve the issues that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has seen to over the centuries.”
There’s no hiding the fact that these words of His Eminence deal with the Ukrainian crisis and its repercussions, which have led to a break in communion between the Church of Moscow and the Church of Constantinople after the latter undertook to change the boundaries of the Russian Church and cancelled, at the stroke of a pen, three hundred years of history, ignoring the existence of the legitimate Church and granting– in an act without precedent in the history of the Church– autocephaly to schismatics who do not have apostolic succession. He also criticizes the position of most of the local churches which have called for holding a Pan Orthodox Synod to find a solution for this issue and the churches which have rejected the theory of primacy “without equals” and accept the primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople as first among equals.
Therefore, perhaps the best response to His Eminence is what Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) quoted in the section on the Great Schism in his book The Orthodox Church from an Orthodox author of the twelfth century, Nicetas, Archbishop of Nicomedia, where he expressed the Orthodox position regarding the papacy in a wonderful manner:
“My dearest brother, we do not deny to the Roman Church the primacy amongst the five sister Patriarchates; and we recognize her right to the most honorable seat at an Ecumenical Council. But she has separated herself from us by her own deeds, when through pride she assumed a monarchy which does not belong to her office… How shall we accept decrees from her that have been issued without consulting us and even without our knowledge? If the Roman Pontiff, seated on the lofty throne of his glory, wishes to thunder at us and, so to speak, hurl his mandates at us from on high, and if he wishes to judge us and to rule us and our Churches, not by taking counsel with us but at his own arbitrary pleasure, what kind of brotherhood, or even what kind of parenthood can this be? We should be the slaves, not the sons, of such a Church, and the Roman See would not be the pious mother of sons but a hard and imperious mistress of slaves.”
Does His Eminence realize that the Orthodox world’s problem is not with the Patriarch of Constantinople’s primacy, but with Constantinople’s distorted understanding of it and with the pride, haughtiness, cruelty, arrogance and ignoring others– all others– that have become the hallmarks of Constantinople’s practice? Does he really think that primacy is exercised through sultanic firmans that are hurled upon the churches from on high and made known through the media? Does he really think that primacy is exercised outside of conciliarity, by a minority over the majority?
Has the time not come for him and for those like him to refrain from theorizing rigid authoritarianism and the self-importance of thrones in the name of history and special prerogatives? Has the time not come to refrain from dividing the faithful and stoking ethnic rivalries among them in support of one church or another? History will have no mercy for those who fuel the flames of schism and mutual estrangement, whether in the name of authority or under the pretext of numerical superiority, after they have become the shame of Orthodoxy and the new tormentors of Christ.