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1. The position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

            FROM THE preceding historical review based on the testimony of our writers, we come away with a picture quite different from the one we had until now. For example, according to I. Karmiris, ‘’the few [sic] instances of rebaptism of Latins can be explained by the rousing of passions during the time of the Crusades, and by the doubts of certain Orthodox [sic] concerning the canonicity and validity of the Latin baptism by aspersion, which had  by then become general practice in the West.’’[284] But according to our writers, the (re)baptism of Western converts was essentially the rule. It was the political threat from the West that led to the application of economia and not acrivia. But this incidental use of economia had as necessary dogmatic – canonical condition the continued existence in the liturgical practice of the West, even until the eighteenth century, of the canonical baptism also; in other words, the fear of doing it again a second time. Of course, in both of these two views we can discern a ‘tendency’ of sorts. The first aims at justifying the way of economia, while the second the way of acrivia. We are assisted in finding the truth better still through a combination of the two.

            In connection with this, however, the question unavoidably arises of how well our theologians’ explanation is historically substantiated. Their basic position is that the (re)baptism of Latins was not imposed originally, for, in addition to the innovation, the canonical form of baptism was also prevalent in the West until the Council of Trent; hence the fear of repeating it a second time. To be sure, the problem became more serious in cases of Orthodox who had Latinized (Uniates), and indeed upon their return to Orthodoxy. But let us see how Steven Runciman, the renowned historian of the Turkish rule, explains the Orthodox position: ‘’The problem often arose because of the number of Greeks born in Venetian territory, such as the Ionian islands, who, either because they came to settle within the Ottoman Empire or because they married Orthodox spouses, wished to return to the Church of their forefathers.’’[285] Thus, the first to undertake to settle the issue was the Council of  1484, which exercised economia, despite the condemnation of the Latin innovation. In the way, the risk of repeating the canonical baptism a second time was definitely avoided. Yet, this decision was not universally accepted. For obviously the Western innovation regarding baptism was spreading daily. Runciman continues: ‘’But as time went on doubts arose whether this [i.e. economia] was sufficient;… These doubts were not purely occasioned by dislike for the Latins, thought that motive was certainly not absent, but from a genuine suspicion that the Latin ritual of baptism was not canonically correct.’’[286] This explains the gradual suppression of the decision of 1484 among the Orthodox, especially in the see of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and also the ‘’bold move’’ of Cyril V and his followers to proceed substantially and officially to abolish that decision through the official Oros of 1755, with the approval, moreover, of the Eastern Patriarchs. And just the Oros of 1755 by itself proves that those who, after 1484, were ‘’rebaptizing’’ the Latins were not ‘’few.’’

            Besides, it can be verified historically that the position on this issue of certain Patriarchs and hierarchs in general, that is of the responsible ecclesiastical figures (and, in practice, official organs of administration), was usually more moderate than that of the theologians, the clergy and the people, and particularly the monks, during the Turkish rule.[287] Runciman provides us with sufficient information to form a clear picture on this point. In reference to the reply of Patriarch Jeremias II to Peter the Great (1718), which recommends to the latter not to (re)baptizer Western converts, he comments: ‘’But in saying so Jeremias did not speak for the whole of his Church. He had on his side the Phanariot aristocrats and intellectuals, who prided themselves on their Western culture and their freedom from bigotry, and most of the upper hierarchy, men many of whom owed their posts to Phanariot influence and many of whom came from the Ionian islands, where the Orthodox lived on good terms with the Catholics and conversion was frequent. Such men saw no need for changing the existing practice.’’[288] They obviously did not have the inner presuppositions that would have enabled to evaluate these things in an Orthodox manner. And it is well known where the ever increasing intercourse between the Orthodox and Westerners was leading; namely, to the blunting of the Orthodox-patristic criteria.[289] And this, at times, was tolerated – and even encouraged – by the local bishops in Latin dominated areas. Hence, the axiom should not be ignored here either: Only the actions of the authentically Orthodox, that is of the saints who have seen God, constitute an expression of Orthodox self-understanding.


[284] Ibid, p. 981 n.

[285] Runciman, pp. 355-356.

[286] Ibid., p. 356.

[287] Ibid., pp. 356-357. The same thing is observed in the case of Cyril V. The best theologians of the time (e.g. E. Argentis, and E. Voulgaris), the populace, and the monks unreservedly sided with him.

[288] Ibid., pp.356-357.

[289] It is sufficient to study the work by P. Grigoriou,Σχέσεις Καθολικών και Ορθοδόξων (Catholic-Orthodox Relations) (Athens, 1958). Thus, e.g. Joseph Doxas, Metropolitan of Sevasteia and President of Paronaxia, by a written document of his entrusted (in 1671) the duties of spiritual father(!) and itinerant preacher(!) to Capuchin monks! (pp. 11-12). For more on this subject, see G. D. Metallinos, Vikentios Damodos, Θεολογία Δογματική κατά συντομίαν ή τε Συνταγμάτιον Θεολογικόν (Athens, 1980), p. 36ff.


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Article published in English on: 14-9-2007.

Last Update: 15-9-2007.