According to the Athens newspaper To Vima of 8 July 2004, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew responded to the "3rd Rome" theory of the Patriarch of Moscow (which had been brought up for discussion during the 8th International Assemblage of the Russian Orthodox Church) by calling it "...foolish, hubristic, and blasphemous," because "...it resounds with the spirit of caesarpapism and vaticanism; something totally unacceptable to the Orthodox Church."
To Vima went on to report that the Ecumenical Patriarch replied specifically to the positions and arguments posited by the attending Church hierarchy and political representatives of Moscow by sending -- via the Secretary of the Assemblage -- letters pertaining to this matter to the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexion; the President of External Affairs for the Russian Church, Metropolitan of Smolensk, Cyril; as well as to some of the politicians in attendance. Along with other matters, the letter contained the following:
To the representatives of the Russian government, Patriarch Bartholomew stated: "The gathering together of Orthodox faithful into one flock under the leadership of a single powerful leader, who would be carrying out the agenda of a particular government, will unavoidably lead the Church into becoming nothing more than an organ of that government, and not the means by which mankind achieves salvation."
To the Minister of the Exterior, Ivanoff, he stated the following: "The involvement of government into the decision-making process of the Church smacks of unacceptable caesarpapism. During the communist era there occurred an intolerable politicization of the Russian Church. ... We hoped that things would be different after the fall of that monstrous system. However, to our dismay, we see that the current Russian government continues to unhesitatingly interfere, and, indeed, to even 'make policy' concerning matters that are strictly ecclesiastical."
The Patriarch went on to ask the following question of the Metropolitan of Smolensk: "Are you telling us that the unity of Orthodoxy is a question of numbers, political strength, secular and diplomatic power?" According to the article in To Vima, the Ecumenical Patriarch went on to declare: "What we have heard regarding the unity of the Church is, in its entirety, an unfortunate echoing of the spirit of vaticanism, which construes unity as a single organizational structure, as opposed to the unity of the spirit and of the heart, which has been the way it has always been construed in the Orthodox Church."
To the Vice President of the Parliamentary Committee, the Ecumenical Patriarch emphasized the following: "The foolish theory pertaining to a '3rd Rome' is hubristic (in accordance with the ancient Greek definition of this word [having to do with overweening arrogance] ), and blasphemous. New Rome may be the first among equal Patriarchates, but she has never sought to dominate and exercise power over the other Orthodox Churches. We recognize her primacy in the stewardship of our unity, and she has performed this function humbly and absent any exercise of power."
Finally, as reported in the To Vima article, the Ecumenical Patriarch, wanting to send a clear and unambiguous message to all Orthodox faithful everywhere, stated: "Those who speak of a 3rd Rome are totally unsuited to hold leadership positions in the Orthodox Church, because they will play a role in transforming her from a Christ-worshipping faith to a feudalistic organization based upon the exercise of raw power."
On the other side of this issue, the official representative of the Russian government, Vladimir Zorin, spoke of the need to unite all of the Orthodox nations "...under the banner of the Russian Church, which is the largest, and, as such, holds the leadership position among the Orthodox Churches."
Russian Minister of the Exterior, Igor Ivanoff, stated: "Our diplomatic service cooperates and works with the Russian Orthodox Church, which represents the connecting link between all of the Slavic Orthodox Churches."
The Metropolitan of Smolensk, Cyril, stated unequivocally that: "The Russian Orthodox Church holds the de facto first place among all of the other Orthodox Churches because of her great spirituality, her ethics and virtues, her tradition, and her political influence; as such, she speaks for the over 350 million Russians throughout the world. Moreover, she exercises influence in all of the Orthodox Churches of the Balkans, as well as in those countries where the Orthodox faithful represent a minority. We are the rightful spiritual heirs of Byzantium."
The Vice-President of the Parliamentary Committee declared that the Russian Orthodox Church was "...the only one able to lead a Pan-Orthodox unity of a multinational character. For that reason, the 3rd Orthodox Capital prophesied by Saint Seraphim of Sarof is needed. We must adhere to the historical necessity of founding a '3rd Rome.' "
The Metropolitan of Minsk, Philaretos, argued that: "The Church of Constantinople was the Church of the Byzantine Empire, and her role within Orthodoxy has diminished as a result of the termination of that Empire; this has resulted in the Ecumenical Patriarchate becoming increasingly animated by papist tendencies."
Finally, the representative of the Metropolitan of Odessa, Milan Gerkas, declared: "We are the leaders of Orthodoxy, and we have to demonstrate that fact."
Orthodoxos Typos. 16 July 2004. p. 6.
(Translation by GRECO REPORT staff.)