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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) *

2. The Decision of the Great Synod of Constantinople in 1484.

This Synod was summoned at the sacred Church of Pammakaristos by Patriarch Symeon (1472-75, 1482-1485) in 1482 and again in 1484. Ιn the first instance it issued an Horos denouncing the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438) and its doctrine of the Filioque, and in the second, it published an Acolouthy for the reception of Latin converts into the Orthodox Church. This Synod called itself Ecumenical presumably because all four Eastern Patriarchs were present. It denounced the Council of Florence and decided that "the Latin converts to Orthodoxy should be received into the Church only by Chrismation and by signing an appropriate Libellus of faith which would include denunciation of Latin errors."

The basic text of the Synod of 1484 is the Acolouthy (Service) for the Reception of Latins which is as follows (my translation from the Greek original):(20)


for the Reception of Latins into the Orthodox Church

Published by the same holy and great Synod, for those who return from the Latin heresies to the orthodox and catholic Church of Constantinople, but also to the three most holy patriarchs of the East, i.e. those of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

This Acolouthy was published in Constantinople in the year 1484 during the patriarchy of the most holy Patriarch Lord Symeon. Let it be known, also, that this Synod, being ecumenical, is the first one with God's help, tο bring down and overturn that most unlawful Synod that was summoned in Florence, as one that proceeded in an evil and unconstitutional manner; and as having failed tο follow the holy and ecumenical Synods which preceded it; therefore, we included the Statement (Horos) of this Orthodox and holy Synod of ours, i.e. that one of Constantinople, in the present sacred codex of Christ's holy and great Church, since it was summoned during our days.

The Hίgh-priest, or α Priest who has been ordered by the former, puts on a stole, and says, "Blessed is our God...," standing before the Gates of the Holy Bema. Τhen, we immediately start with:"Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee". "Heavenly King...". The "Trisagion". The "All-Holy Trinity... ". The "Our Father... ". The "Kyrie Eleeson" (12 times). The "Come let us worship...". The "Psalm 50". And then, after these things have been said, they bring forward the person who returns to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism before the holy gates of the Bema and the Priest asks him with his head uncovered, as follows:

Do you want, ο man, to becoιne Orthodox, and do you renounce all the shameful and alienated dogmas of the Latins, i.e. concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit, namely that they think and declare erroneously that he also proceeds from the Son; and besides, concerning the azymes which they use in the liturgy, and the rest of the customs of their Church, which are nοt in agreement with the Catholic and Orthodox Church of the East?

The Latin
Yes, Ο holy Master, Ι do this from all my heart.

Do you embrace our holy Symbol of the Faith, and do you keep it unchanged, and without α possible addition of any word to it, or subtraction? but as it was written by the holy and great ecumenical councils, the one which was gathered first at Nicaea in Bithynia, and the one that was summoned in Constantinople, the second Εcumenical, and was subsequently affirmed and ratified by all the Ecumenical Councils?

Yes, holy Master, this is what Ι love from αll my heart and Ι keep it unchanged.

Do you submit to αn anathema, as our holy and divine Fathers did, those who dared to say the Creed with some sort of addition, bubbling that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as he proceeds from the Father?

Ι confess this to be necessary from αll my heart, and Ι subject to an anathema those who do not embrace this.

Do you reject and do you consider null and void the Synod, which was previously summoned in Florence of Italy and those fraudulent things, which this Synod erroneously embraced against the catholic Church?

Ι reject this Synod, my Master, and Ι consider it as if it had not been summoned or taken place.

Do you turn completely away from the gatherings of the Latins in their churches, or even of those who are Latin-minded, and of those who use azymes in α Jewish fashion, or celebrate these [mysteries] in an Apollinarist way, regarding them as heretics?

Yes, my Master, and Ι do this from all my heart.

Do you vow that from now on by God's grace you will remain firm to the end of your life in this Orthodox Faith of our holy Church, immovable and unshakable no matter what might happen to you?

Yes, honorable Master, Ι promise this with God helping me.

The High-priest or the Priest:
Confess, therefore, the holy Symbol (Creed) of our faith without any addition.
He then confesses with α loud voice, "Ι believe in One God..." and he says this to the end. Then, when he has completed the entire Symbol, the priest anoints him with the holy and great Myrhon (Chrism) of the Church. The priest inscribes α cross on his forehead and likewise on his ears, his chin, his hands, as well as οn his breast and the knees, saying as he anoints each one of the senses: "The Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, Amen". After the anointing with Chrism, the Priest offers above the head of the person who has been anointed with the Chrism the following prayer:

Let us pray to the Lord
Ο Lord our God, who has inclined the heavens and has sojourned with those οn the earth out of infinite mercy, who has taught human beings to confess the true and immaculate confession, the knowledge of the consubstantial and coeternal Trinity, and the worshipful and all-powerful Spirit, having pronounced through Your unerring mouth that he proceeds from and owes his hypostasis to Your Father and God who has no beginning, Υou, ο Master, receive, as merciful and compassionate, Your servant _____ who returns from the Latin heresy to the truth of Your Gospel and of Your unerring mouth, and to the exact theology of piety of Your holy Apostles and teachers, conjoining him and uniting to the true dogmas of Your holy, catholic and apostolic Church, making him worthy of the endless and eternal kingdom of heaven through the knowledge and declaration of the dogmas of piety. Pass over, then, as compassionate and merciful whatever trespasses he committed in his life in knowledge or in ignorance; secure him to remain steadfast in the orthodox faith and in the confession of Yourself; broaden his mouth that he may extrapolate against the heresies of the gates of hades and of the rest of the impieties; open wide the eyes of his mind so that he might comprehend Your wonders; teach him to pursue sanctity in the fear of Υοu; do not recall his iniquities; purify his soul from heretical mists and every other kind of impiety; gather him through us as he runs to Your orthodox flock; For to Υοu belongs αll glοry, honor and worship together with Your Father who has no beginning and with Your all-holy good and life-creating Spirit, always now αnd ever and in the ages of the ages, ΑΜΕΝ.

Then, he says the Psalm: "Ι will exalt Υοu Ο my God, my King..." Then, "Glory ..., both Νοw...". "More Honorable than the cherubim...". "May God have mercy οn us ... "

Then, the Ektenes αnd the Dismissal.


which the Latin converts are asked to produce in writing

Since we were asked by our mοst holy Master or High Priest__________ , to produce α pure confession in the codex of the Church, which is kept by the Catholic Church of the Greeks, already according to his divine αnd worshipful order, we return our present written libellus, whereby we fully confess that we embrace all that has been pronounced αnd embraced by the divine and holy canons, the apostolic ones and those of the seven holy ecumenical councils, and of the particular ones which are fully confessed by the holy Church of the Greeks, rejecting all the unacceptable customs of the Latins and every other sacrilegious innovation; for the sake of which our present written confession was handed in to the great, catholic and apostolic Church of Constantinople, in the month of_______, of the indict___________, of tlιe year_______.

What is particularly important to observe in this Acolouthy is the prayer following the Chrism, which differs from that used in the second Sacrament of Initiation. It is clear that this is an extra-ordinary action of the Spirit, which domesticates, as it were, the person who joins the Church. The absence of any reference to baptism or re-baptism does not imply validity or invalidity. There is perhaps a concealed reference to it in the rejection of the "unacceptable customs of the Latins" and "the other sacrilegious innovations," but, somehow, there is an asymmetry here between baptism and this act of Chrismation.

Some authors assumed that this new policy was due to the new circumstances that the Fall of Constantinople brought about. The Church wanted to avoid further aggravation of relations with the West. Ιn accepting this economy, however, the Church did not endorse the unlawful Latin practice of single immersion, but simply accepted Latin baptism as valid by economy.(21) Thus, in 1575 Patriarch Ieremias ΙΙ (1572-1594) explicitly criticized in his correspondence with the Lutheran theologians of Tόbingen the Baptism of single immersion or Baptism by sprinkling, but did not pronounce it as invalid.(22) But in 1715 Dositheos of Jerusalem stated that the Latins who are not baptized by triple immersion run the risk of being regarded as un-baptized.(23) Ιn 1708 Patriarch Kyprianos (1708-1709) regards the Baptism of the Latins valid by economy. Ιn 1718, Patriarch Jeremias ΙΙΙ (1716-1726) was asked by the Russian Czar Peter the Great about the baptism of the Westerners. Ιn his letter to the Czar dated 31 Aug. 1718 the Patriarch referred to a synodical decision by his predecessor Kyprianos (1708-1709, which stipulated that Chrismation should be the means for receiving Lutherans and Calvinists into Orthodoxy after their renunciation of their errors.(24)

As the time went by, however, and conditions changed in the life and relations of the Churches in East and West, liturgical practice also changed. Western aggression in East called for a new policy. Ιn 1722 a Synod in Constantinople, in which Athanasios of Antioch (+1724) and Chrysanthos of Jerusalem (1707-1731) participated, decided for the rebaptism of the Latins as retaliation for the schism that the Latin missionaries caused in Syria.(25) This retaliation reached its height in 1755, due to continuous Latin aggression in Antioch and generally in the East. Α Synod summoned in Constantinople produced a Statement (Horos) which demanded rebaptism of Latins.


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

20. See Dositheos of Jerusalem, Τόμος Αγάπης, Iassi 1698; or Ralli and Potli, Σύνταγμα Ιερών Κανόνων, tοm. 5, pp. 143-147; or Μ. Gedeon, Kavovικαί Διατάξεις, tom. 2, Constantinople 1889, pp. 65-69. Karmires Τα Δογματικά και Συμβολικά Μνημεία, vοl. ii, pp. 987-991. For a French translation of this Acolouthy see, L. Petit, Ιchos d' Orient, 2 (1899) pp. 130-131.

21. Cf. Oikonomos, οp.cit. p.406.

22. See Μεσολωράς, Συμβολική, Athens 1883, p. 226.

23. See his Ιστορία περί των εν Ιεροσολύμοις πατριαρχευσάντων, 1715, p. 525.

24. See Gedeon, Κανονικαί Διατάξεις, οp.cit., tom. 1, p.148 where mention is made of this decision but no text is given. Gedeon reports that the text was published in Russian Translation in the Collection of Lαws of the Russian Empire, vοl. 5, art. 3225. The Uniate author Α Palmieri has published the Russian text in his article "La Rιbaptisation des Latins chez les Grecs," Revue de l'Orient Chretien,7 (1902) p. 640. For the Greek text see Νέα Σιών, 19 (1924) 258-259. According to Oikonomos, this decision was simply a matter of "economy" (See his Τα σωζόμενα..., tom. i, Athens 1862, p. 509. Cf. also pp. 431 and 476).

25. See Gedeon, Πατριαρχικοί Πίνακες, p.626. Cf. also Neale's History of the Eastern Church: The Patriarchate of Antioch, London 1873, pp. 184-186.

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