By Protopresbyter Dr Georgios Lekkas of the Diocese of Belgium
At the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Archangels in Brussels, after the lifting of most of the Covid measures, a large number of Orthodox of different nationalities came together around the person of Metropolitan Athenagoras, the Most Reverend Metropolitan of the Diocese, in order to honour the memory of the Restoration of the Holy Icons, and to affirm in a gathering of the faithful, the dogmatic position of the Orthodox Church towards them.
This blessed tradition, which was inaugurated in 1983 by his late predecessor, Panteleimon, formerly the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Belgium so that all the Orthodox who have settled in Belgium might celebrate this great Church feast together, has now continued to be enthusiastically celebrated for many years by our Most Reverend Metropolitan Athenagoras.
Celebrating alongside our Metropolitan were also the Georgian Bishop, Dositheos, and Ioakeim, the Auxiliary Bishop of our Diocese, together with a large number of priests and deacons from other Orthodox Churches, including Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine, as well as from our own Diocese.
In contrast with other years, however, this year’s gathering of worshippers, rather than celebrating the unity of the Orthodox people, inevitably had the character of a united prayer for the immediate and rapid restoration of their ecclesiastical unity, which is now bleeding daily, thanks to the escalating military incursion of one fraternal Orthodox nation into the territory of another.
At the end of the service, unable to hold back his tears, our Most Reverend Metropolitan appealed with deep emotion, before of the diplomatic missions of the respective countries, for an immediate ceasefire: not tomorrow, but ‘today, and now’.
His emotion pierced all the brothers present who were joined in prayer, when they saw that their silent feelings were given physical expression in the face, eyes, and voice of their spiritual leader.
It is terrible even to think it, but the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, by giving its support to a war of aggression against a fraternal Orthodox nation, has in effect been walled off from the ecclesiastical communion of Orthodox Churches, with the innumerable negative consequences which will follow for generations and generations of its children, if God permits them to survive.
In my humble opinion, one of the main reasons that Christianity has retreated in Europe over the course of its history, is the convergence of ecclesiastical leadership with secular power. This betrayal of the Person and Ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ has historically had as an immediate consequence the loss of a huge number of the Flock of the Church of Christ, who have seen the representatives of the Lord Jesus on Earth act in complete opposition to what He Himself willed as its Founder.
Indeed, when complicity with political power even goes as far as indirect support of the monstrous crime of genocide, as is the case here, those who until yesterday were ecclesiastical accusers of the Roman Catholic Church, are today accomplices in grave crimes, not only against a fraternal state with which it shares the same faith, but also against all humanity, which is in danger of being drawn into the vortex of a new world war, one far worse than could ever be imagined.
The current spiritual leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church has thus walled itself off from the ecclesiastical communion of the Orthodox Churches by succumbing to the third temptation of Christ. The result is that in practice it denies that the Church was established by the Holy Spirit and treats it as a merely secular association at the disposal of the anti-Christian plans of the rulers, in exchange for the right to reap a share of the spoils from a fratricidal conflict.
As a result, there is, I believe, an urgent need for a Pan-Orthodox Alliance under the wise guidance of the Venerable Leader of Orthodoxy, our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, so that this evil can stop ‘today’ and ‘now’.