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BOOK REVIEW

(From the New Calendar periodical "The Sword," Sept., 1998)


The Struggle Against Ecumenism
is a "must read" book for Orthodox

Most Orthodox Christians in the United states have no idea when the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople scrapped the Old Julian Calendar for the Gregorian Calendar.

Nor do they know the tragic and byzantine circumstances surrounding this significant event.

Now there is a book available to Orthodox Christians that sheds great light on the Old Calendar-New Calendar dispute and the indignities, pain, suffering, and even death incurred by the Old Calendarists in Greece at the hands of the New Calendar clerics, police, government, etc.

The book is called The Struggle Against Ecumenism, which purports to accurately portray the history of the "True Orthodox Church of Greece" from 1924 to 1994.

The book was published this year by the Holy Orthodox Church in North America, of Boston, Massachusetts, headed by Metropolitan Ephraim.

It offers some riveting reading and is highly recommended by this reviewer. It contains nuggets of useful information and can be purchased by writing to the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 278 Warren Street, Brookline, Mass., 02445.

Officially the change from the Old Calendar to the New Calendar took place on March 10, 1924. But before that occurred, many other events unfolded, involving not only Orthodox clerical leaders, but government leaders of Greece as well, according to the gripping book, The Struggle Against Ecumenism. Meletios Metaxakis, a close ally of Venizelos, a political leader in Greece, was a key character in the plot that brought about the Calendar change. Metaxakis was enthroned as Ecumenical Patriarch on January 24, 1922, under some dubious circumstances.

Earlier, in 1921, Metropolitan Germanos had been elected Ecumenical Patriarch by a vote of 16-1. However, one of his lay friends offered him money if he would forfeit his election in favor of Meletios Metaxakis. Members of the National Defense League told the metropolitan that Meletios Metaxakis could bring $100,000 to the Patriarchate, since Meletios had very friendly relations with the Protestant bishops in England and America, and could be useful in Greece's international causes.

"I thought over this proposal all night," Metropolitan Germanos is quoted as saying in the book. ''Economic chaos reigned in the Patriarchate. The government in Athens had stopped sending subsidies, and there were no other sources of income. For these reasons and for the good of the people, I accepted the offer." It was a decision he came to regret.

Ecumenical Patriarch Metaxakis presided over the Pan-Orthodox Congress of 1923, which voted to adopt the New Calendar, in disregard of the Pan-Orthodox Councils of 1583, 1587, and 1593, which condemned the use of the Gregorian Calendar. His reign as Ecumenical Patriarch was short-lived. He fled Constantinople and resigned as Patriarch on September 20, 1923.

When the New Calendar was first introduced in Greece in 1924, virtually all the clergy submitted. Only the fathers on Mount Athos and some pious lay people refused to comply, the book notes. "From the very beginning (the Orthodox faithful who continued to follow the Old calendar) were violently persecuted by the police authorities at the behest of Archbishop Chrysostom Papadopoulos."

We're told in this book that when the calendar change was first implemented in the early 1920s, the New Calendar bishops "unleashed a terrible persecution against clergy and faithful who refused to follow'' the New Calendar. The bishops ordered police to break up any Old Calendar church service. Police, swinging clubs, smashed heads, killed people, pulled priests out of the sanctuary, spilled Holy communion, broke Chalices in half, stripped priests of their rasa, and ripped the habits off nuns. One woman, Catherine Routis, a young mother of two children, was killed by police in November 1927, while trying to protect a priest following church services at a church in Mandra of Attica.

The Struggle Against Ecumenism noted that on September 14, 1925, Old Calendar faithful attending the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross services at St. John the Theologian Church in Athens, witnessed a miraculous vision of a bright white cross appearing directly above the church. Over 2,000 persons, including police sent to disband the service, saw the cross, which hovered directly above the church for thirty minutes.

One of the most interesting parts of this book was the listing of a chronology of events, which clearly spelled out the dangerous drift many Orthodox leaders have followed in their unending pursuit of ecumenism and their abject willingness to water down and dilute our True Orthodox Faith, handed down to us by Christ and the Apostles.

Some key events cited:

1582 -- Pope Gregory XII changes the Julian Calendar and replaces it with the New Gregorian Calendar.

1986 -- Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant leaders in Boston signed an agreement ''to manifest more clearly the oneness of the Body of Christ." One of the signers was a Unitarian minister. The book reported that only 15% of the Unitarian membership consider themselves Christians. One Unitarian minister told a newspaper his work as a minister was not impeded by the fact that he is an atheist!

1989 -- Patriarch Parthenios of Alexandria affirms that "Mohammed is a prophet and an apostle and man of God," and that "those who speak against Islam and Buddhism are not in agreement with God." Not one Orthodox bishop of the New Calendar churches speaks out to demand a retraction.

1990 -- Metropolitan Bartholomew (future Ecumenical Patriarch), during a visit to San Francisco, expresses views tolerant of abortion.

1990  -- Orthodox representatives at a World Council of Churches meeting sign an agreement that confesses "we find ourselves recognizing the need to move beyond a theology which confines salvation to the explicit personal commitment to Jesus Christ."

1991 -- At the World Council of Churches Assembly in Canberra, Protestant and Orthodox delegates participate in pagan purification rites.

1993 -- Representatives of Orthodox Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Russia, Romania, Cyprus, Poland, Albania, and Finland, accept the Roman Catholic denomination as a "Sister Church" with fully valid sacraments

In conclusion, this review heartily recommends The Struggle Against Ecumenism. It is one of the most compelling books on Orthodoxy we've run across, and the first book to give a graphic account of the events leading up to the adoption of the New Calendar by the Ecumenical Patriarch.

---Mike Christopulos