The following is an open letter I sent to Patriarch Eirineos and to all the Brotherhood, in November 2001, when I realized that he insisted that I accept the punishments of Patriarch Diodoros as justifiable.
TO HIS BEATITUDE OUR FATHER AND PATRIARCH
OF THE HOLY CITY OF JERUSALEM
AND THE HOLY SYNOD
“Remain faithful even to death and I will give you the crown of life.”
These words were the message, Your Beatitude, which inspired all those, civilians and clergy alike, who persevered under the banner of faith to Christ, who suffered untold sufferings and did not hesitate to sacrifice even their own lives for this same purpose.
These heroes of the Faith are promoted by our Church always and are brought up as an example to all the faithful, laity and clergy alike, to imitate. These heroes are the living examples whom I believe I should have in front of my eyes always in my life. I especially found it important to look to them when I decided to dedicate my life to the service of the Holy Sepulchre and our Patriarchate. Even though completely unworthy even to be called a Christian, I tried, as much as I could, to follow their example.
My life in the Patriarchate is well known to our Brotherhood, even though I did not do anything worth mentioning. Only for one thing am I proud: That I loved the Holy Sepulchre and worked always with sincerity and dedication, with readiness and selflessness for the best interest of our Patriarchate, at least as best as I knew. Maybe I did not succeed as much as I should have, but nobody can say that I did not try hard enough or that I showed cowardice in my efforts. And nobody can say that I did intentional harm to any of my brothers in Christ.
I believed that no one agreed with Patriarch Diodoros’ behavior or the way he was running the Patriarchate. I expected that immediately after his death, all the Brotherhood would come to thank me and to congratulate me, as many did privately all along, for my protests against him; to embrace me and to reinstate me immediately after the election of the new Patriarch, whoever he may be. And what do I now face? You have asked me to accept the punishments Patriarch Diodoros imposed on me, with the toleration of the Synod, as justifiable. That was indeed a big surprise to me!
As a Bishop and a member of the Holy Synod, I believed and still believe that it was my right as well as my duty to protest the things and situations which I though were not right. I never claimed that I am perfect or that I knew everything. On the contrary I asked that we should all convene together to discuss the problems that confront the Patriarchate and to decide what to do; something that, of course, was not what Patriarch Diodoros had in mind.
The Bishop, according to the teachings of our Church, represents Christ and acts in His place. He is the successor and equal to the Apostles and he is not subservient or slave of any Pope or anyone acting as a Pope.
Whether we like it or not, we are living in a situation and in an area which is very troubled. The fighting that has gone on for years now, and of which no one can predict the end, makes it very difficult for all of us here. We are living amongst peoples who, if nothing more, at least do not have the best of intentions towards us. On the other hand we have the Christians of other denominations who watch us carefully, ready to take advantage of us. Our society has become one that does not encourage young people to follow the path of the Church. So, as if all these issues were not enough, we also have to deal with the unacceptable situation within the Patriarchate. What more could I say?
Some have criticized me, saying that I proved ungrateful to Patriarch Diodoros, who trusted me and entrusted to me some of the most important jobs in the Patriarchate. If looked at on the surface, it might seem so. However, the truth is that everything I did, I did it out of love and care for the Patriarch, but also out of love for the Patriarchate, because, according to the ancient saying: “May Plato be a friend, but the truth is a closer friend than any one else”. Remembering always that we “must obey God before people”, I tried to protect the Patriarch from the wrong way he was going, leading the Patriarchate towards destruction. I talked to him in private and then inside the Synod. Much later I spoke and protested publicly for his behavior, unfortunately without success. Also responsible for this situation were the other brothers, who hailed and applauded him and did not let him hear my protests so that he could stop on his path to destruction. Just as the brakes of the automobile are needed when there is a danger, but are not needed when everything is going smoothly, likewise the Synod should act as a brake when things are not going well, even if this means that this may cause them trouble. This is what I did. So, who was ungrateful to the Patriarch? Was I, who tried to protect him, or were those who were applauding him while he was going down the cliff to destruction?
Couldn’t I myself have done the same thing many others did and ignore the situation and just try to enjoy myself, (if this could be called enjoyment)? Just avoid any confrontation and pretend that everything is OK? This is what I would have done if this were the case. However, you know very well that since the early years I did not hesitate to speak up when I thought it was for the best interest of the Patriarchate, like when I was in charge of the Boarding School of the Patriarchate; when I escaped to America in order to study there; and when I protested against Diodoros’ behavior. These were all nothing else but an indication that I truly cared about the Patriarchate.
If, again, you think that I was wrong, that I should not protest, then just forget me and continue to do as you do. After all, who is Nikiphoros that you should listen to him? One more hard-headed person who thought that, because he became a Bishop and a member of the Synod, he knows everything and he thinks that we must listen to him. If this is the case, then I am definitely in the wrong. But I have a peaceful conscience that I did my duty, as well as I could, with selflessness and self-sacrifice. You all know that I never asked for any positions or highly regarded posts, and some of you know that when Patriarch Diodoros proposed to put me in charge of the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, the most honorable and famous position in the Patriarchate, I told him that I would prefer that he would put me somewhere else instead. Whenever the Patriarchs promoted me, they did it on their own, never after my request. No matter what, I feel gratitude towards the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre for the opportunity to serve the Holy Sepulchre and I never have or will ever have any demands from it for things that happened in the past.
We all agree that under Diodoros, the situation in the Patriarchate got hopelessly worse. Lies, flattery, deception and all the “virtues” that should be avoided, prevailed. But now we have a new Patriarch who is known for his love and his dedication towards the Patriarchate; who is easy to reach and to talk to; who promised to govern with love, justice and respect for our Faith and traditions. On the other side, voices are heard which sound strange. “Come on” they say, “pretend that you don’t see anything wrong”; “Flatter the Patriarch and everything will be okay”; “What matters most is to settle somewhere and manage as best as you can”; “You cannot change the situation; this is how things are and there is nothing you can do about it to change them”; “Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, the Patriarch is a dictator and there is nothing we can do about it”; “We are condemned and the sooner you get the message, the better off you will be”, and other similar things which present a picture which is hard to believe. And who says all these things? The Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Ancient Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Mother Church of all Churches. Indeed!
We all agree that the punishments Patriarch Diodoros imposed on me are unjust, un-canonical and baseless, and they exist only because they were imposed with an iron hand, by a dictator. Isn’t it then unjust to ask me now to accept them as justifiable, in order for you to reinstate me? To write a letter and ask for forgiveness for what I have said and wrote against Diodoros, and to sign the letter in any other way besides my canonical name in the Brotherhood, would mean that I accept those punishments as rightful. Isn’t it the obligation of the Synod to correct an injustice, I should say a crime, done towards the truth, towards our Faith and the Episcopacy and finally against our brotherhood for the sake of which I did the things I did? Because, if this behavior towards a Bishop of the Church is not criminal, then I do not know what a crime is. Shouldn’t the Synod correct this injustice done against a brother, even the least in the Brotherhood, and restore law and order?
I protested against a situation which, as it was proven many times and again, was very bad. I would like now to know if we are planning to change it or not. I believe that if you reinstate me, it will be a sign that things are going to change. If not, it will mean that nothing is going to change.
I know that we are not living in Heaven and that things were bad in the past too. Is this really a reason to tolerate this in the future? Is this the way to continue our lives, to advance ahead, to reorganize our Patriarchate, to invite new brothers for our Brotherhood, to warm the hearts of the younger ones and to make them feel like whole and sensible people, to feel for ourselves a little comfort and solace from all the situations we have endured all these years, to send a good message to those around us and to help, as much as we can, so that the world around us may become a little better?
What matters today is not so much the reinstatement of Nikiphoros but rather the reinstatement of truth, justice, and order in the ranks of our Brotherhood. Only if we do that will our Brotherhood have the blessings of God and only then it will succeed in its mission. Otherwise, it will continue its downfall and soon it will fall apart and disappear. I pray this will never happen.
I think there is a misunderstanding somewhere. Some members of the Synod think that I beg for their mercy and their compassion for myself. No, this is not what I beg them for. I beg them to restore law and order in the Patriarchate, things that were made a mockery of, with the punishments imposed on myself. I did not stay in Jerusalem after the punishments of Patriarch Diodoros because I could do nothing else, but rather because I love the Brotherhood and wanted to offer my humble services to it. If you think that Nikiphoros is the problem, just forget him and go ahead. If Nikiphoros stands in the way of the Brotherhood going ahead, then I will go. However, I do not think that this is the case.
Some have said, “Let’s invite an expert professor from the University to examine the case and decide what to do”. Are they implying that the Holy Synod doesn’t know whether the punishments imposed on me are right or wrong? Doesn’t it know how to correct an injustice without the advice of an expert? Supposedly, everything done in regards to my case done in order, with the proper procedures and in full agreement with the laws of the Church and a plain sense of justice, but now we must pay great attention so that nothing improper may be done concerning the solution of this problem? I have no objection to that, however I would like to see the expert examine the whole case from the beginning and decide whether the punishments imposed on me by the Patriarch and his willing Synod were right or wrong.
Some brothers told me that if I want to prove that I am a good monk, I should show humility and do what the Patriarch asks me too, that is to sign, as a civilian, my application for reinstatement to the Patriarch and the Synod, even though my punishments are unjust. Let’s assume for a minute that I were to do that. How about those who condemned me unjustly? Are they not also monks, and shouldn’t they, at least, show the same humility they ask from me and ask for forgiveness for the unjust punishments they imposed on me?
Some others say: “No matter what, this was a Synodal decision. We will not examine its validity”. But this is exactly what you must do: Examine the whole case and decide what you must do. If not, then why are we even having this conversation? It is very convenient for you to not want to reexamine the case but want me to just accept it is canonical. Incredible logic!
They also say, “This was a Synodal decision, good or bad, and we must respect it”. That is convenient too. For you it doesn’t matter whether it is right or wrong. Fantastic! If the decision is right, then I will be the first to ask you to leave it alone. However, if it is wrong then it must be changed immediately, because the longer it stands the longer it offends our Christian name. Since when are the decisions of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem infallible! As far as I know, even though I am not a graduate of the Theological School of the University, no decision of a Synod is final if it is not approved by another Synod and accepted as such by the whole body of the Church. Therefore it may be changed. If you think that the decisions against me are correct, then do not change them.
You asked me to sign my petition to the Synod in order to reinstate me, as a civilian, according to the decision of Patriarch Diodoros. By doing this you are asking me to accept that I was to blame for the problems of our Patriarchate during the times of Patriarch Diodoros. You rejected my application because I wrote in it that I was punished unjustly. I would like you to declare whether I was punished correctly or not. If you believe that I did right in protesting against Patriarch Diodoros, then now is the time to say so.
You have committed an injustice with your decision against me. I know that I live on earth and that this is my fate as a Christian to be wronged, so it is not too hard to accept your injustice against me. I am not the first, nor the last one to suffer injustice. This is a blessing for me, being punished unjustly, for Jesus Himself said: “Rejoice and be happy when they punish you unjustly…” But it is not right to inhibit a Bishop from saying the truth.
By not restoring justice in my case you are actually depriving yourselves from the opportunity to clear yourselves from the guilt of the crime against a Bishop of the Church, who justly expressed his opinion and tried to help the Brotherhood and yourselves to escape from the bondage of slavery; the slavery of a dictator.
I heard this too: The members of the Synod are afraid to reinstate me because I may in the future protest against Patriarch Eirineos, as I did against Patriarch Diodoros. Does this mean you think that Patriarch Eirineos may do what Patriarch Diodoros did? It sounds like you are telling Patriarch Eirineos: “Your Beatitude, we are afraid that Nikiphoros is a threat to you, so we do not want to reinstate him. This way we can prevent him from protesting against you. You can do as you please, without any fear of any protests.” I think you should tell him clearly, “If you plan to do the things that Patriarch Diodoros did, then we will all become like Nikiphoros and protest against you.” I can if Patriarch Eirineos doesn’t want to reinstate me, but why the Synod?
Some say: “This was a Synodal decision and we must uphold it”. I do not understand why numerous other decisions were never implemented or were changed, and yet this decision against me must be upheld. Of course, if you believe the decision against me was right and should be upheld, then there is no problem. You say that when the Patriarch decides something, his decision may be withdrawn or changed. So when the Patriarch doesn’t like a decision he may cancel it? Great!
You say, “Well, you have gone too far with your protests.” Ok. I would like you to tell me what the acceptable limits are for a protest: What is allowed and what is not? What can be said and what cannot in a similar situation? What or whose example should we follow? Which one of the members of the Synod has exerted an acceptable criticism? As for myself, I would say that I did not speak as forcefully as I should have, because, it doesn’t seem that anyone paid any attention to my protests.
Patriarch Eirineos complains that the members of the Synod did not speak up against Patriarch Diodoros and left him to act as he pleased and destroy the Patriarchate. However, His Beatitude forgets that he too was a member of the Synod and he had an obligation to speak up. Think about what I went through, and am still going through, for speaking up, even though Patriarch Diodoros is gone, and you will understand why they did not speak up. Even so, this doesn’t justify them in any way, and it does not make me regret my protests in any way.
What is beyond comprehension is the demand of the Synod that I must erase from my application the words “unjustly defrocked”. Everyone, including the Patriarch, the last member of the Brotherhood, and the last resident of Jerusalem will say that I was unjustly punished, and yet, I myself, the one who suffered this injustice, must not insist on this point, so that the members of the Synod may not be offended. If this is so, then Your Beatitude and Holy Fathers, I do not want such a reinstatement. I prefer to die punished. Such a reinstatement is not reinstatement but rather an eternal condemnation. Thank you for your love, I am indebted to you for it.
If you do not reinstate me it will mean that you consider me guilty for protesting against Patriarch Diodoros. If you don’t think that I was wrong in protesting, then how am I wrong now because I do not accept as rightful the punishments of Patriarch Diodoros and his Synod? In my opinion, asking me to accept the punishments of Patriarch Diodoros as justifiable is like you telling me: “Nikiphoros, the situation we had under Patriarch Diodoros has not changed a bit and that is why you must accept his decisions.”
If you think that I am really guilty, then just leave things as they are. You do not have to do anything. If your conscience is calm that you have done the right thing, then just forget Nikiphoros. What is important is to do what our conscience directs as to do. As for me, I read somewhere in the Gospel.. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. If these words of the Lord are true, then I have something to hope for. If not, well, then I guess I made a mistake.
Your Beatitude, “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why you strike me?”
I have waited for this reinstatement for 13 years now. If would like to. then you can justify me. If you do not want to, then it is okay; I can hope for my justification by God. However I still believe that if you want it, we can, all together, make our Patriarchate what it should be by its nature: The Church of Christ and the Mother Church of all Churches. This will happen only if we are organized and work together, with diligence and love for our mission, with respect for each other and with unwavering faith to Christ, our Lord. Our possibilities are unlimited.
With love in Christ,
+Bishop Nikiphoros of Constantine
Jerusalem, November, 2001
THE CHRONICLE OF MY PROTESTS
LETTER TO PATRIARCH DIODOROS
OPEN LETTER TO PATRIARCH EIRINEOS
ANNOUNCEMENT OF MY REINSTATEMENT
LETTER #1 TO PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS
LETTER #2 TO PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS
OPEN LETTER OF RESIGNATION
ANNOUNCEMENT OF ANATHEMA