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Fr. George Dragas

The Manner of Reception of Roman Catholic Converts into the Orthodox Church

with Special Reference to the Decisions of the Synods of 1484 (Constantinople),1755 (Constantinople) and 1667 (Moscow) *

1. Introduction

The manner of reception of heterodox into the Orthodox Church as specified by various ancient Canons,(2) which have been incorporated into the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church. These include Apostolic Canons 46, 47, and 50, Canons 8 and 19 of the 1st Ecum. Synod, Canon 7 of the 2nd Ecum. Synod, Canon 95 of the 6th Ecum. Synod, Canon 66 of the Local Synod of Carthage, and Canons 1, 5, and 47 of St. Basil. Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council (381)(3) and Canon 95 of the Fifth-Sixth Ecumenical Council (691) are particularly important.(4)

According to these canons there are three ways of receiving heterodοx into the Church: a) by re-baptism (actually, baptism), when the celebration of heterodox baptism is considered deficient or invalid either on account of deficient faith and/or practice, b) by Chrismation and signing of an appropriate Libellus of recantation of the particular heresy that the converts previously held, and c) by simply signing an appropriate Libellus or Confession of faith, whereby the errors of heterodoxy of the person received are properly denounced and the Orthodox faith is fully embraced.

The reception of Roman Catholics into the Eastern Churches, which occurred after the great Schism of 1054, was done in any one of the three above-mentioned ways. Practice varied according to times and circumstances. The key issue in determining the manner of reception was the Orthodox perception of the Roman Catholic baptism. This perception changed for various reasons, including Roman Catholic practice, and it seems that such a change became an important factor in determining the manner of reception of Roman Catholics into Orthodoxy. Acceptance of some validity of Roman Catholic baptism meant that Roman Catholic converts would be received by the economy of Chrismation, whereby what was lacking in Roman Catholic baptism would be supplied by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Νοn-acceptance of such validity, on the other hand, meant that the akribeia of the canons had to be applied, on which occasion Roman Catholic converts were (re-)baptized. What, however, made Roman Catholic Baptism partially valid or invalid was not always clearly spelled out, although it was implicitly suggested.

Already at the time of the great Schism (1054) the baptism of the Latins came under severe criticism. The Ecumenical Patriarch Michael Kerularios wrote on that occasion to Patriarch Peter of Antioch, about the deviations of the Western Church from the ancient tradition and included in them "the unlawful administration of Baptism."(5) The problem was the Roman Catholic practice of single immersion, which had been condemned by the ancient canons, and the use of strange new customs like the use of salt.(6) It is interesting to note here Cardinal Humbert's anathematization of the Eastern Church because of Patriarch Kerularios' practice of re-baptizing Latins who entered the Greek Church, which is reminiscent of Arian practice.(7)

The renowned canonist Theodore Balsamon, who in 1193 argued on the basis of Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council that Latin baptisms, based on one immersion, ought to be considered as invalid because their case was similar with that of the Eunomians, shared the view of Kerularios.(8)

That the Orthodox re-baptized Roman Catholics after the Schism of 1054 is also confirmed by the 4th canon of the Western Council of Lateran IV, which was summoned in 1215 by Pope Innocent ΙΙΙ.(9) Ιn the 13th century, especially after the sacking of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204, the practice of re-baptizing Western converts to Orthodoxy was intensified. Metropolitan Germanos of Ainos pointed out that the reason for this strict practice was the violent aggression, which the Western Church showed towards the Eastern Church at that time. Part of that aggression was the attempt to proselytize the Orthodox by using various devious means, including the declaration of the union of the two Churches through a pseudo-synod.(10) In 1222 the (lawful) Patriarch of Constantinople, Germanos ΙΙ, who was based at Nicaea because of the sacking of the Royal City by the crusaders, wrote a treatise(11) which identifies three types of Western Baptism: the authentic and Apostolic one, which is acceptable to the Orthodox, the Baptism of single immersion, and the Baptism by affusion (pouring) or aspersion (sprinkling), which are highly questionable. At the time of Michael Palaiologos (1261), Meletios the Confessor exposed the invalidity of the Latin Baptism that was based on single immersion and suggested by implication the re-baptism of the Latin converts.(12)

During the 13th century re-baptizing Latin converts was a universal practice in Russia and it must have been transferred there from the Greek Church. Thus, Pope Honorius ΙΙΙ (1216-1227) and Pope Gregory ΙΧ (1241) accuse the Russians for re-baptism practices.(13)

In the first half of the 14th century (around 1335) Matthaios Vlastaris underlines the same problem.(14) Ιn 1355 Patriarch Kallistos of Constantinople (1350-4, 1355-63) writes to the clergy of Tyrnovo that those Latins who have been baptized by single immersion should be re-baptized.(15) At the end of the 14th century, however, Makarios of Ancyra states that the Latin converts to Orthodoxy should be received only by Chrismation in accordance with Canon 7 of Constantinople I (381).(16)

Ιn the 15th century Metropolitan Mark of Ephesus informed the Orthodox that the Latins have two types of Baptism, one with triple immersion and another with affusion.(17) Gregory Mammas (1469) showed that St. Mark favored Chrismation.(18) Constantine Oikonomos, however, believes that St. Mark was using "economy." This explains why Orthodox practice of receiving Latin converts varied: those who have had apostolic Baptism (triple immersion) were chrismated, while those who had been baptized by affusion were rebaptized. This differentiation explains the comment of Vryennios which is cited by Syropoulos that the Latins are "unbaptized."(19)


* This paper was prepared for and read at the Orthodox/Roman Catholic Dialogue (USA) in 1998.

2. Αll of these can be found in Τhe Rudder (Pedalion), ed. by Agapios the Hieromonk and Nikodemos the Monk, transl. from the 1908 Greek Edition by D. Cummings and published by The Orthodox Christian Education Society in Chicago Illinois in 1957, which also contains elaborate and illuminating comments (cf. especially pp. 68-76, 217-220 and 400-402).

3. Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council reads as follows: Those who embrace Orthodoxy and join the number of those who are being saved from the heretics, we receive in the following regular αnd customary manner: Arians, Macedonians, Sabbatians, Novatians, those who call themselves Cathars and Aristeri, Quartodecimans or Tetradiιes, Apollinarians -these we receive when they hand in statements and anathematize every heresy which is not of the same mind as the holy catholic and apostolic Church of God. They are fιrst sealed or anointed with holy Chrism οn the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears. As we seal them we say: The Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. But Eunomians, who are bαptized in a single immersion, Montanists (called Phrygians here), Sabellians, whο teach the identity of Father and Sοn and make certain other diffιculties, and αll other sects - since there are many here, not least those who originate in the country of the Galatians - we receive αll who wish to leave them and embrace orthodoxy as we do [pagan] Greeks. Οn the first day we make Christians of them; οn the second catechumens; οn the third we exorcise them by breathing three times into their faces and their ears; αnd thus we catechize them and make them spend time in the church and listen tο the scriptures;and then we baptize them.

4. THOSE who from the heretics come over to Orthodoxy and tο the number of those who should be saved, we receive according to the following οrder and custom. Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, who call themselves Cathari, Aristeri, and Tesareskaidecatitae, orTetraditae, and Apollinarists, we receive οn their presentation of certificates [libelli]αnd οn their anathematizing every heresy which does not hold as does the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God: we first anoint them with the holy Chrism οn their foreheads, eyes, nostrils, mouth αnd ears; and as we seal them we say -The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. But concerning the Paulianists who afterrwards turned to the Catholic Church α rule was set up thαt they should by all means be rebaptized. The Eunomeans also, who baptized with οne immersion, and the Montanists, who here are called Phrygians; and the Sabellians, who hold the Son to be the identical with the Father, αnd are guilty in doing certain other grave things, αnd αll the other heresies, for there are many heretics here, especially those who come from the region of the Galatians, all of their number who are desirous of coming to Orthodoxy, we receive as [pagan] Greeks. Αnd on the first day we make them Christians, οn the second Catechumens, then οn the third day we exorcise them, after breathing thrice upon their faces αnd ears; and thus we catechize them, and we make them spend time in church and hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them. And those who come from the Manichaeans, and the Valentinians αnd that Marcionites and from all similar heresies we rebaptize receiving them as [pagan] Greeks. As for Nestorians, Eutychians and Severians, and those from other such heresies, they need to give certificates αnd to anathematize their heresy αnd Nestorius and Eutyches and Dioscorus αnd Severus and the rest of the Exarchs of such heresies and those who think with them, αnd all the aforesaid heresies, and so they become partakers of the Holy Communion. For the original Greek see, Vlasios Phidas, Ιεροί Κανόνες, Αθήναι 1997, σ. 176.

5. PG 104:744.

6. See Will's Acta et Scripta quae de controversiis' Ecclesiae graecae et latinae, Lipsiae 1861, p. 182: το θείον βάπτισμα επιτελούντες, τους βαπτιζομένους βαπτίζοντες εις μίαν κατάδυσιν, το όνομα του Πατρός και του Υιού και του αγίου Πνεύματος επιλέγοντες, αλλά και άλατος προς τούτω τα των βαπτιζομένων πληρούσι στόματα, See also, Οικονόμου Κ., Τα σωζόμενα ... τομ. 1, (1862) σ. 490.

7. See Migne PG 104: 744: ως οι αρειανοί αναβαπτίζουσι τους εν ονόματι της αγίας Τριάδος βεβαπτιζομένους και μάλιστα τους Λατίνους. Cf. also PG 120:793 (Kerularios' Letter to Peter of Antioch) and PL 143:1003 (the Ρapal Βull of Excommunication).

8. Ralli-Potle, Syntagma ... Canonon, vοl. 2, p. 10.

9. See Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum ... Collectio, tom. 22, p. 1082 Ιn cl. 990 we read: "Baptizatos etiam a Latinis et ipsi Graeci rebaptizare ausu temerario praesumebant: et adhuc, sicut acceptimus, quidam opere hoc non verentur"

10. Cf. Germanos of Ainos, Περί του κύρους... bibliography above (1952), p. 303.

11. This is mentioned by Leo Allatius in his De Concessione...p.712: "De azymis, purgatorio, et de tribus modis administrandi baptisma." Constantine Oikonomos cites this reference and adds that the Latin baptism by affusion (κατ' επίχυσιν) should be repeated (p. 465). See also Miklosich-Mueller, Αcta et Diplomatica Patriarchatus Constantinopolitani, tom. ii (1862) p. 81.

12. PG 144: 22. Germanos of Ainos, Περί του κύρους... bibliography above (1952) p. 304.

13. Cf. Μ. Jugie, Theologia Dogmatica ... bibliography above (1930), p. 92.

14. Patriarch Dositheos, Τόμος Καταλλαγής..., p. 144. Cited by Germanos οf Ainos, οp. cit.

15. "He calls the baptism by one immersion most improper and full of impiety (πράγμα ατοπώτατον και δυσσεβείας ανάμεσον). His view is based οn the Apostolic canons which clearly state that those baptized by one immersion (εις μίαν κατάδυσιν) are not baptized (ως μη βαπτισθέντας) and should be rebaptized (αναβαπτίζεσθαι παρακελεύονται). See Miklosich-Mueller, Αctα et Diplomatica pαtriarcharum ..., I (1860) p. 439. Cf. Kattenbusch, Lehrbuch der vergleichenden Confessionskunde, Freiburg 1892, p.404.

16. in Constantine Oikonomos, Τα Σωζόμενα...,tom. Ι (1862) p. 468. Also Dositheos, Τόμος Καταλλαγής σσ. 203-204.

17. Dositheos, Τόμος Αγάπης, Ιassi 1698, p. 582, 584.

18. Gregory Mammas (1469) showed that St. Mark favored Chrismation (PG 160: 137). Constantine Oikonomos believed that "St. Mark was using economy.

19. Section 9, ch. 9. Joseph Vryennios, a Studite monk and master of Mark Eugenicos, condemns baptism by one immersion in his treatise, Διάλεξις περί της του αγίου Πνεύματος εκπορεύσεως μετά του λατινόφρονος Μαξίμου της τάξεως των κηρύκων. He relies for this οn the Canons of the Apostles and οn the authority of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. He also notes that the Latins wrongly do this (εις μίαν κατάδυσιν βαπτίζουσι, ως μη όφελον): Ιωσήφ Βρυεννίου τα Ευρεθέντα, edited by Eugenios Voulgaris, Leipzig 1768, vοl. 1, pp. 418-9. Vryennios also referred to an untitled work Κεφάλαια Επτάκις Επτά, which exposes Latin confusion on Baptism. "Some use triple immersion, repeating the names in each immersion and immersing successively first the feet, then the body, and last the head. They also look to the West:" lbid. vοl. ΙΙΙ (1781) p.106.

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