Αγαπητέ πάτερ Χριστοφόρε,
Σύμφωνα με τους ιερούς κανόνες της Εκκλησίας μας οι κληρικοί δεν
επιτρέπεται να καταλαμβάνουν κοσμικά και πολιτικά αξιώματα. Στην σύγχρονη
ιστορία όμως έχουμε παραδείγματα κληρικών (Κύπρου Μακάριος, Αθηνών
Δαμασκηνός κτλ.) οι οποίοι φαίνεται ότι παρέβησαν αυτούς τους κανόνες.
Ήταν τούτο επιτρεπτό;
Translation of Question.
According to the
sacred canons of our Church, Clerics are not allowed to take secular or
political positions. But in contemporary history we have examples of
clerics (Archbishop Macarius of Cyprus, Damascenos of Athens ect.) who it
is clear have violated these canons. Was this permissible?
Answer to Question 2.
Greetings in Christ. I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer your second
question [can clerics also have secular and civil positions]: it is
something that maybe the Holy Synods of Cyprus and Greece should answer,
but I will give you a humble Priest’s unbiased and objective reply.
Firstly, you mention that “according to the holy canons of the Church”...
Have you searched the canons or do you mention them from hearsay? You
should have mentioned which canons as that would have emphasised the
seriousness of your question. But yes, there are canons that forbid
clerics from taking civil positions. The clearest of these canons are:
The 6th of the Apostolic canons “A Bishop, or
Priest, or Deacon must not undertake worldly cares. If he does, let him be
deposed from office”
The 83rd of the same “If any Bishop, or Presbyter,
or Deacon is engaged in military matters, and wishes to hold both a Roman
(i.e., civil) and a sacerdotal office, let him be deposed. For (render)
“unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that
are God’s (Matthew 22:21).
The 7th of the 4th Ecumenical Council “We have
decreed that those who have once been enrolled in the Clergy, or who have
been made Monks, shall accept neither a military charge nor any secular
dignity; and if they shall presume to do so and not repent in such wise as
to turn again to that which they had first chosen for the love of God,
they shall be anathematized”.
The Pedalion, the book of Canons compiled by two Monks [Agapius and
Nicodemus] from the Pantocrator monastery of Mount Athos towards the end
of the 18th Century, contains the Apostolic Canons, the Canons of the
Ecumenical Councils, Canons from Regional Synods and Canons from
individual holy fathers like St. Basil and St. John the Faster. Strictly
speaking, the Orthodox Church is the Church of the Seven Ecumenical
Councils, so all the other canons should only be used as a reference, but
not as authoritative. The Ecumenical Councils were gathered from the
fourth century to the eighth century to solve the problems that troubled
the Church during each period. It was the work of these councils to define
the doctrines of the Christian faith, the Creed [a statement of faith],
the canons [rules] for Christian guidance and to prevent men from falling
into error and heresy, and other important issues in the Life of the
Church. We see that many canons for Christian guidance were revised or
updated from one council to the next and that is because something that
was valid in the fourth century could not be applied in the same way in
the eighth century. We are now in the 21st century and if we had [as we
should] an Ecumenical council today, the majority of the canons [for
Christian guidance] would definitely be updated or thrown out of the
Let us take as an example the sin of voluntary abortion. An early canon
condemns the sinner to exclusion from the Holy Mysteries until the time of
Another canon excludes a murderer for 25 years but must spend those years
repenting and fasting from the morning until evening and then eat only
The 20th canon of Ancyra , excludes the sinner for seven years.
The 91st canon of the 6th Ecumenical  condemns the sinner as a
murderer, so the exclusion from the Mysteries is again the life sentence.
The 2nd of Basil excludes the sinner for ten years.
The 21st canon of John the Faster for 5 or even 3 years.
The canons of John the Faster are in general very lenient compared to
Why do we have such vast differences from one canon to the next?
Precisely because the canons are not the Christian Faith, they are not
punishments that condemn sinners to a lifetime outside of the Church, but
are to be used to guide the people to lead a righteous life pleasing to
God, thus helping them find their way to their salvation. We can liken the
road from earth to heaven as a very long motorway. On our journey, we
might be tired or need to refuel our vehicle, so for a while we come off
the motorway to find a suitable inn or fuelling station. Having come off
the motorway we become sidetracked from various things and cannot find our
way back to the motorway. We need assistance and this is where we need the
canons, for the canons are like road signs that direct us in which way to
follow, thus helping us return to the motorway.
When Jesus was asked “which is the great commandment in the law?” He
replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
(Matthew 23: 37-40)
Love therefore is above all the canons and can replace them whenever it is
deemed a canon would do more harm than good.
Today if a woman comes to confess than she had a voluntary abortion, we
would not exclude her from Communion for 3 years because instead of
helping her return to the Church if would in fact drive her away. The
Priest would judge if she truly repented for her actions and possibly tell
her not to Commune for 3 months or maybe not even mention a penance.
Christ is love, the Church is love, and we also must be love. The Church
and her Priests must always show love and compassion for the people. We
are not Judges of the people. We leave that to God and God alone. In the
days when the Canons were written, everyone that went to church, and
remained in the main part of the church until the end, had to receive Holy
Communion. So someone who didn’t commune stood apart from the rest which
must have been a humiliating experience. Today people rarely attend church
let alone have regular communion. To tell someone that they cannot receive
communion for one, two or three years would not really help them repent,
but would rather keep them away from church for that period of time, so
more harm is done than good.
So now, let us return to your question.
I can only take the example of Macarius as I don’t know of the others.
From the times of the Ottoman Occupation, the Church was responsible for
much of the people’s education and holding on to our Hellenic heritage. As
leaders of the people, it was only to be expected that they would also
take a leading role in the fight for independence from British rule. As
far as I know, the British insisted that Macarius become the First
President of Cyprus, because the people had already held him as their
Leader. I sure Macarius knew of the Canons that forbade Clerics from
taking on secular positions of dignity, but I would think that love for
his country and for his people’s independence by far outweighed any canon.
In the case of love, I would say that his actions were acceptable.