Solemn Anathema Against Ecumenism
Pronouncement of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, 1983, signed by all the Bishops, to be permanently added at the end of the Anathemas listed in the "Rite of Orthodoxy," celebrated on the First Sunday of the Great Fast, the Sunday of Orthodoxy:
"To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the Priesthood and Mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and Eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their heresy of ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!"
The ROCOR's Anathema Against Ecumenism (1983)
by then-Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal and Canada
The Council of Bishops of 1983 was a most special council, whose distinctiveness lay in its modesty and inconspicuousness. This was, of course, the first time in the history of our Church that a council had been held at Holy Transfiguration Sketenot even in a monastery. The fourteen hierarchs who took part in the Council traveled from all parts of the free worldat their head the First Hierarch of our Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret. Ten of them were elderly men over seventy years old. In addition, no previous council had been so brief, continuing in all for just under two weeks. The skete, in which all the sessions were held, is situated in a very beautiful locale, far from heavily-traveled roads and surrounded on all sides by coniferous and deciduous forests: one might even describe its location as overgrown.... The wooden "tent" church of our skete, designed by our Russian architect V. G. Glinin, who reposed in the same year of 1983, blends quietly with the tops of the pine trees that crowd around on all sides
Of course, neither the international nor the local press made a single mention of our very insignificant council, which only further emphasizes its modesty. Indeed, none of these members of the press had time for us when at the other end of Canada, 4,800 kilometers from Mansonville (Quebec), a world-wide ecumenical council was being held. All religions were represented there: Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Protestants of every sort, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, and even simple shamans (or to put it more directly and simply: sorcerers). If one adds to this motley collection women priests and the presence among the participants of bare-footed dancers in the style of Eleanora Duncan then one simply cannot find words fit to describe the character of this great world-wide assembly.
It has been almost a hundred years now since ecumenism began its attack upon the one true Church of Christ, invested by Him with the authority to bind and to loose, and began to unite all the countless heresies, both small and great, acknowledging them to be, as it were, sparks of the truth, from which the future ecumenical church is to be formed in place of the historical Church of Christ, which in their opinion has proved to be a failure. Against this monstrous teaching a vast literature has grown up, revealing ecumenism to be the heresy of heresies, but we cannot in such a short article review it in detail. Without doubt, the time for discussion and polemics has passed and the time has come to judge this movement and, however insignificant our Council of 1983 may seem, it has at last condemned ecumenism and anathematized it in the following words:
"Those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!"
The Russian Church Abroad, now headed by Metropolitan Philaret, professes itself to be an inseparable part of the historic Russian Church. As a local Church it has the right to summon its regular Councils and to enforce its resolutions, which are thereupon fully obligatory for all of its children, scattered throughout the world. Time will tell whether or not the other local Churches will adopt our resolution on ecumenism as the acts of the Ten Local Councils were, in their time, entered into the Book of the Canons of the Holy Apostles, the Sacred Ecumenical Councils, and the Holy Fathers of the Universal Church. We well know that all our conciliar resolutions against the Moscow Patriarchate, whose hierarchy is completely subject to the atheist Communist Party, were merely taken note of by the other local Churchesto their spiritual detriment. The local Orthodox Churches tried to justify themselves by saying that their silence was due to the difficulty of discerning all the internal affairs of Russia and that our resolutions against the Soviet Moscow Patriarchate were more political than ecclesiastical, although it is now clear to all reasonable persons that the doctrine of Communism is atheistic and materialistic. Russia is not Nicaragua, and when such a great people, occupying one sixth of the earth suffers, the whole world suffers. The disease of Communism has now penetrated every nation and to say that anyone cannot understand the internal affairs of Russia would be, to put it mildly, amusing if they had not had such a tragic influence on all the Orthodox Churches and peoples. In regard to ecumenism, every local Church has had ample time, more than a century, to spend examining it and, if the local Churches base their teachings and life upon the canons of the Holy Apostles and the other Orthodox Councils, then they cannot but recognize that ecumenism is clearly the most pernicious of heresies, for it has gathered all the heresies that exist or have existed and has called this union a Churcha deed that savors of Antichrist.
By proclaiming this anathema, we have protected our flock from this apocalyptic temptation and, at the same time, have reluctantly put before the conscience of all the local Churches a serious issue, which sooner or later they must resolve in one way or the other. The future spiritual fate of the universal Orthodox Church depends on the resolution of this problem. The anathema we have proclaimed is de jure a manifestation of a purely local character of the Russian Church Abroad, but de facto it has immense significance for the history of the universal Church, for ecumenism is a heresy on a universal scale. The place of the Russian Church Abroad is now plain in the conscience of all the Orthodox. The Lord has laid a great cross upon us, but it is, however, no longer possible to remain silent, for continued silence would be like a betrayal of the Truth, from which may the Lord deliver us all!
Translated from the Russian from Orthodox Observer, No. 58 (April 1984).