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2. The action of Patriarch Cyril V

            On this point, the case of Cyril V is even more characteristic. The mere fact alone, as we said, that this Patriarch dared to overturn the synodal decision of 1484 shows how little accepted it had been by the Orthodox conscience. The argument is usually propounded that the Orthodox position regarding the Latins would harden during periods when the passions were roused due to the political danger from the West. It is peculiar, though, that Cyril proceeded with his decision at a time of no particular tension, and moreover prompted by a mass accession of Latins from nearby Galatas to Orthodoxy.[290] We consider it useful to dwell momentarily on this particular case.

            Runciman gives very interesting descriptions of Cyril, his co-workers, and his opponents. The Patriarch is characterized as being ‘’of good education, who had risen to the hierarchy on his merits.’’ The other metropolitans also recognized his ability, but they did not sympathize with him, and they fabricated many false accusations against him.[291] According to the British historian, there were material and personal motives for the negative reactions to him: ‘’He laid heavy taxes on the metropolitanates and richer bishoprics and relieved the burden on the poorer congregations…but it infuriated the metropolitans.’’[292] So, whereas the populace (the ‘’rabble,’’ according to some theologians),[293] the monks, and theologians of Argentis’ and E. Voulgaris’ caliber agreed with the (re)baptism of Western converts and supported Cyril, a strong reaction arose on the part of the metropolitans. But, as Runciman observes: ‘’…somewhat to their embarrassment, they found that they had become the allies of the envoys of the Catholic powers,[294] who at once protested to the Porte against this insult to the Catholic Faith.’’[295] As regards the Patriarch of Antioch, who did not sign the Oros of 1755, this same historian writes: ‘’The Patriarch of Antioch would have done so, had he not been on an alms-seeking visit to Russia and had his throne not been snatched in his absence by a usurper.’’[296] As for Argentis, Runciman accepts that he was ‘’a passionate theologian’’ who supported rebaptism on theological grounds, but that ‘’he received no sympathy from the intellectual circles in which he moved.”[297]

            To be sure, the opinions on Cyril and his decision on ‘’rebaptism’’ are very contradictory.[298] We shall not deal with this problem here. Yet in speaking about his motives, as well as those of his opponents, we shall cite the primary sources, that is the synodal and other documents contemporary with Cyril, which, as far as we know, have not yet been taken seriously by those who portray Cyril in a negative light. Likewise, it should be emphasized here that any attempt to compose a historical picture of the Patriarch and his work cannot be considered correct or proven, at least academically speaking, if it is based on the ‘’censorious’’ texts of the time, which in many ways are irresponsible and historically dubious, and which essentially are nothing but libel. Hence, the official documents of that time give us the following picture.

            Having in mind the Council of  Trent’s official synodal sanctioning of aspersion in the West, Patriarch Cyril denounces the Latin baptism as being ‘’polluted,’’ in accordance with the spirit of the early Fathers of the Church as indicated in the first part of this study.[299] Both he and his followers were characterized by those who disagreed with this as being ‘’Calvinists,’’ ‘’Calvinist-minded,’’ and ‘’Lutherocalvinists.’’[300] It was customary, anyway, for all anti-papists either to seek the support of the Protestants, or, even without so doing, to be considered pro-Protestant, or even simply Protestant.

            From the writings of Cyril’s opponents, however, it appears that what was of primary concern for them was to preserve the existing peace and quiet. Thus, the synod of metropolitans of the Ecumenical Throne, among other things, writes against Cyril: ‘’And then, what, at this time, is the necessity, or the demand, or the benefit to our Orthodox nation, of the teaching on rebaptism? Or what nations have come over to us that required us to deliberate on this? Without need, why should there be such a racket and disturbance and scandal?’’[301] Their fear, as stated afterwards, was that ‘’destructive and disastrous’’ evils would follow, and also ‘defamations and disgraces and derision against the Orthodox, and also hate and animosity and persecutions…’’ And if matters were not rectified, they would later result in ‘’great danger and a disastrous end.’’[302] They speak about the disturbance ‘’which overtook the Church,’’ at a time when the Great Church was distressed ‘’woefully by the very heavy burden of excessive debts passed down and accumulated,’’ and therefore she had no greater need than of peace.[303] Thus, they advocate preserving the officially prevailing practice, i.e. reception by chrismation and written statement.[304] Their aim of preserving the prevailing calm is evident from what they write against a certain book by Christophoros Aitolos (A Denunciation of Sprinkling).

            This ‘’booklet,’’ they write, ‘’has in no small measure disturbed Christ’s Church and all of us, wishing as it does to create factions…and to provoke public uprising and division within the Orthodox establishment…For this reason, colleague hierarchs heretofore present in this queen of cities took counsel with the prominent noble gentry of this pious City…and we deduced that from this venomous snake shall arise many adversities disastrous for the Church and the nation. For this booklet…which is causing such a disturbance and no incidental harm, appears to be castigating the Latins. But in so doing, it imperceptibly falls into an ignorant misinterpretation of the words of holy Scripture and of the holy Fathers, as well as into overt Lutherocalvinist blasphemies. Therefore, we have unanimously resolved that we ought…to regard this booklet as spontaneous disaster, abominable, odious, unlawful, uncanonical, blasphemous, and excluded and rejected from Christ’s Church and from the reading of the pious Orthodox.’’[305]

            The official documents do not indicate any particular souring of relations with the Latins, and therefore the Patriarch’s action was seen as ‘’a bolt from the blue.’’ Hence his opponents’ arguments are in proportion primarily seasonal-circumstantial, and less theological. What is predominant in them is the fear of provoking disturbances because of the affront to the West. The metropolitans saw no reason to harden the position towards the West. On the contrary, they judged it absolutely necessary to preserve the peace and quiet. Thus, in unanimity with the prominent gentry and leaders, they expressed their opposition to Cyril’s ‘’unjustifiable’’ action, and felt they were adequately served by the decision of the Council of 1484. They maintained that the Latins ‘’have never been judged by any Council or by our holy Fathers as being unbaptized and in need of rebaptism,’’[306] incorrectly, of course, as we saw above.

            Hence the question arises: What were Cyril’s motives? In fact, Cyril was not motivated by any preceding strain with the West, as indicated above (cf. pp. 80f, 95ff). The Patriarch simply represented another tradition, namely the one described above by the Kollyvades and C. Oikonomos. With the spontaneous request of the Latins of Galatas to convert to Orthodoxy as the sole motivation, he proceeded with his well-known decision primarily for theological reasons. Moreover, it was the Orthodox priests of Galatas who posed the question to Cyril, ‘’whether to anoint with chrism the Latins joining Christ’s blameless Church, or to baptize them, as having wholly rejected the Lord’s baptism…’’[307] This confirms that there existed widespread doubt concerning the validity of the Latin ‘’baptism,’’ in spite of the above words of the metropolitans. Cyril simply permitted the priests ‘’to baptize the joining…Latins as being unbaptized.’’[308] This event, first of all, clearly proves that the decision of 1484 had never been universally accepted, as our writers maintained above. And he involvement of Eustratios Argentis in this issue is the biggest proof that Cyril’s action cannot be understood apart from the theological-dogmatic presuppositions, given that the opposing metropolitans were also ‘’vehement anti-papists,’’[309] who preferred, however, to maintain a moderate attitude for the sake of peace.

            To be sure, the reasons were never absent that made the Latin danger felt and the strain on Latin-Orthodox relations ever dawning anew. The age of Patriarch Cyril V knew a Rome which endeavored to conquer Orthodoxy by roundabout ways and means. Very simply, she circulated the claim that there was unanimity among the two Churches as far as the doctrines were concerned, and thus she drew in the Orthodox more easily. But here again is proof that Cyril’s theological presuppositions were Orthodox-patristic, in contrast with his bishop opponents. For the latter did not perceive, as he did, the necessity of guarding the Orthodox fold through a clear demonstration of the existing essential differences, among which was the one observed in sacred baptism.[310]

            We believe that the above case studies adequately prove the realism of our theologians’ line of thought. These theologians do not deny that opposing views always existed among the Orthodox in their positions regarding the West. However, they also accept – and this too is proven to be true – that there existed – again, always – a significant segment of Orthodox who considered the Latins heretics, their sacraments without substance, and their (re)baptism wholly natural.[311] The use of economia even by representatives of this segment was due to the fact that aspersion in the West was not universally predominant.[312] But after the imposition of aspersion in the Roman Catholic world by the Council of Trent, then even the slightest doubt disappeared. To this segment belonged Patriarch Cyril V, and also our writers. It was that segment which, standing its ground even today, sees the differences between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy in their real dimensions, i.e. not as mere ritual and administrative differentiations, but as buoys indicating the deep alteration which the Christian truth has sustained in the regions of the papal West.


[290] See O, p. 477. Metropolitan Germanos, p. 310. Skouvaras, p. 52. For a detailed exposition of the matter, see the work by Philaretos Vapheidis, ÅêêëçóéáóôéêÞ Éóôïñßá, vol. Iii 2 (Alexandria, 1928), p. 146ff.

[291] Runciman, p. 357. Extremely significant is the description of the Patriarch given by Sergios Makraios. According to him, Cyril ‘’was…straightforward in opinion; simple in manner, even if to some he seemed intricate, diversely opposing as he did the many schemes of his enemies; fond of virtue; benevolent; lenient; fond of learning, devoted as he was to reading the divine books. Having chosen for himself the more perfect life-style, he therefore kept longer vigils and more protracted fasts, and he was fond of longer church services. And all in all, he seemed brave, sharp in regard to what needed to be done, vehement in reference to what was decreed, immovable and fearless in the face of resistance. Hence, he was known as a fervent zealot of Orthodox dogmas, and he was talked about and exceptionally loved by the entire populace, charming and drawing to himself the souls of all by the splendor of his personal virtues, even if detractors variously contrived to cover the true zeal of the man, calling him cunning, even as the heretics defamed as a heretic him who was most Orthodox…’’ See ÅêêëçóéáóôéêÞ Éóôïñßá by C. Sathas, ÌåóáéùíéêÞ ÂéâëéïèÞêç (Venice, 1872), pp. 206-207. In other words, the celebrated Patriarch had all the marks of the ‘’traditional’’ churchman, who followed the hesychastic tradition of  the Kollyvades.

[292] Runciman, p. 358.

[293] ‘’…and published under the pressure of the rabble,’’ notes Karmiris, vol. II, p. 984. The historian-philologist T.A. Gritsopoulos writes: ‘’In the anti-papist struggle, the religious took part, not the frenzied rabble.’’ See the article, ‘’Êýñéëëïò Å’’’ in È.Ç.Å.7 (1965), col. 1195. The opponents of Cyril and of (re)baptism were the first who rushed to characterize the populace as rabble (‘’rabble and a mod of people…’’ writes the versifier of ‘’Planosparaktes’’). See Skouvaras, p. 95.

[294] Ware (p. 77) calls Cyril a ‘’victim of an alliance between Latins and Orthodox.’’ And S. Makraios likewise observes (p. 221): ‘’Thus the hierarchs and the gentry of the nation wavered, being tossed about by the force of winds from without!’’

[295] Runciman, pp. 358-359. And even Skouvaras accepts that the reaction of the hierarchs occurred because ‘’the matter was stirred by Cyril inopportunely and thoughtlessly, without foreseeing its unfavorable effects on the relations of the Orthodox with the Christian world of the West, from which they always hoped to receive help and national recovery’’ (p. 54).

[296] Runciman, p. 358. Ware (p. 76) also accepts that the Patriarch of Antioch refused to sign, ‘’not because he disagreed with the Definition as such, but because Cyril lacked the support of his Metropolitans.’’

[297] Runciman, p. 357.

[298] It is sufficient to look at the position on this issue of but two writers, non-theologians: on the one hand, that of E. Skouvaras, who was influenced by Cyril’s opponents; and on the other, that of T. A. Gritsopoulos, È.Ç.Å. 7 (1965), col. 1193-1197, and Å.Å.Â.Ó., vol. 29 (1959), pp. 367-389.

[299] See above page 24. Cf. Mansi 38:607C. Just the fact that the question was raised concerning the (re)baptism of the ‘’Latins of Galatas’’ proves that there was a problem of alteration of the sacrament in the West. The historian Sergios Makraios also affirms this: ‘’…for a time it seemed to the priests in Galatas worthy of wonder and discussion, whether to anoint with chrism the Latins joining Christ’s blameless Church, or to baptize them, as having wholly rejected the Lord’s baptism and preferred the inventions of their own priests’’ (p. 203; cf. pp. 220, 408f.).

[300] Skouvaras, pp.161, 194-195, 197, et al.

[301] Mansi 38:601.

[302] Ibid., col. 602.

[303] Decretum Synodale… from 28 April 1755, in Mansi 38:611A f. Skouvaras, judging the attacks against Cyril, also accepts that ‘’the Latins and Uniates saw this as a ‘disturbance of the smooth social relations,’ and ‘an insult launched against their faith.’’’ The ambassadors of the Western kings were troubled. ‘’They correctly perceived that with this spreading and becoming established, their interests within the borders of the Ottoman empire are in many ways harmed. Hence they tried to counter-act it, both openly and behind the scenes.’’ They fought Cyril, ‘’cleverly rousing against him the Ottomans in power,’’ while on the other hand, they ‘’threatened to proceed with economic reprisals and to take religious countermeasures against the numerous Greek diaspora’’ (p. 53).

[304] Mansi 38:611A – 613A.

[305] Mansi 38:615AB. Apparently this book by Christophoros Aitolos circulated in manuscript form before its publication in 1756.

[306] Mansi 38:613CD.

[307] Skouvaras, p. 52.

[308] Ibid.

[309] Ibid., p. 53.

[310] Cf. Vapheidis, p. 59. That Cyril’s aim was to guard the Orthodox flock from proselytism by revealing the difference in the baptism is also repeatedly noted by the historian of Cyril’s time, Sergios Makraios, p. 214f. And specifically he writes that Cyril ‘’spoke against their innovation from the throne, and he permitted those who wished to censure the Latins’ new inventions against the correct faith, and their strange beliefs, to speak out and to write without fear, correctly judging hollow friendship more harmful than overt enmity. For what evil, small or great, did they not do, fabricating friendship and pretending Christianity?’’ (p. 217).

[311] Runciman accepts something to the same effect (p. 357).

[312] Here we must return to Sergios Makraios’ exposition (see above n. 238). He continues: ‘’…for they preserved the ancient and God-given baptism; but even if something of this sort did occur in some places, i.e. affusion or aspersion which later became prevalent, it was not common or known to all. Actually, it was reported that something of this sort was being practiced in some places; it was an occasional error, not a crime of the Church at large. But because during the eighteenth ecclesiastical century the ill-introduced aspersion overflowed and abounded in the West, and the God-given baptism was rather neglected, or was converted into affusions and aspersions, she [i.e. the Church through Cyril] pronounced those who were thus sprinkled unbaptized, as not having received the God-given baptism, and urged that such converts be baptized. But she had not as yet issued an inviolable definition on this, hoping for the conversion and correction of the West, and for the purging of their faulty and irreconcilable ritual…, hence, it is necessary to baptize those who come over to the Orthodox Church, some as being unbaptized, and others as being questionable because of the confusion regarding the ritual. So it was from this time on [i.e. the 18th cen.] that the Eastern Church began to cry out against the Western Church, accusing the latter of having rejected the Lord’s baptism…and accordingly she pronounced those who had undergone affusion or aspersion unbaptized, and permitted her priests to baptize converts…’’ (pp. 408-409). So, in explaining the reason for Patriarch Cyril’s decision and motives, S. Makraios accepts that it was then that ‘’for the first time’’ an official decision was taken concerning (re)baptism of Western converts. And this is true. What is significant here, however, is that he describes these things in exactly the same way as our writers do, and indeed C. Oikonomos, who was aware of Makraios’ text. Makraios does not condemn Cyril’s decision in any way, but as an historian he is interested in showing why the East was forced to take such a decision, and when this occurred.


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

Last Update: 15-9-2007.