Bishop Matthew of Bresthena & the 1948 Consecrations

Bishop Matthew of Bresthena was completely justified in performing single handed consecrations. The Apostolic Injunctions permit one-handed consecrations “if a group of bishops cannot assemble”. In 1948, a group of bishops could definitely NOT assemble to ordain more bishops. Why? Because this was the situation of the only Orthodox Bishops in Greece:
1. Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina did not believe that apostolic succession should continue among the Old Calendarists. And had betrayed the 1935 Orthodox Confession of Faith and preached heresy, that grace was in the NC mysteries.

2. Metropolitan Christopher of Christianoupolis did not believe that apostolic succession should continue, and had betrayed the 1935 Orthodox Confession of Faith and preached heresy, that grace was in the NC mysteries.

3. Bishop Germanos of the Cyclades was imprisoned by the government for ordaining priests, and was not in communion with Bishop Matthew of Bresthena.

4. Bishop Polycarp of Diavlia did not believe that apostolic succession should continue among the Old Calendarists, and had betrayed the 1935 orthodox Confession of Faith, and preached heresy, that grace was in the NC mysteries.

5. Bishop Matthew of Bresthena was confounded to Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Attica, due to illness and old age. And was the ONLY Bishop still loyal to the 1935 Confession of Faith and the ONLY Bishop who maintained at all times the Holy Tradition and Patristic Teachings of the Orthodox Church

Was there any way possible that a group of True Orthodox Bishops could assemble? The answer is definitely “no”. I respect the fact that you cite the 1st Apostolic Canon, but Blessed Archbishop Matthew’s case should be viewed exactly as those of Blessed Metropolitan Galaction of Romania. Both hierarchs acted because there was no possibility that a group of bishops could be gathered to consecrate bishops together. This is why Bishop Matthew’s acts are equal to those of Bishop Galaction.

For the benefit of the reader, a few clarifications shall be made regarding the issue of the single-handed consecration which Bishop Matthew of Bresthena performed on Bishop Spyridon of Trimythus in 1948. However, we must first understand the background information regarding the poor condition of the Greek Hierarchy at this time:

1. The Archbishop of Athens, Chrysostom (Papadopoulos), and the great majority of hierarchs in Greece had fallen under the anathemas of the Holy Pan-Orthodox Councils due to the uncanonical introduction of the new calendar in 1924. Furthermore, it was discovered that most of the New Calendarist bishops in Greece at this time were deeply involved in Freemasonry, as well as in the Pan-heresy of Ecumenism, marked by the participation of the State Church of Greece in the first conference of the “World Council of Churches” in Amsterdam, 1948. Shortly thereafter, the State Church of Greece also attended the Council of Moscow, which confirmed the election of Sergius the God-betrayer as “Patriarch” of Moscow, thus accepting the heretical Sergianists.

2. The original president of the Genuine Orthodox Synod of Greece, Metropolitan Germanus (Mavromatis) of Demetrias, had fallen into ecclesiological heresy in 1937, and by 1943 he had petitioned to be received into the State Church. His petition was rejected, but Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina broke communion from him anyway, after which Chrysostom declared himself “president”, even though Metropolitan Germanus was still alive. Metropolitan Germanus died in 1944 and was buried by New Calendarists.

3. The former Metropolitan of Florina, Chrysostom (Kavouridis), had fallen into ecclesiological heresy in 1937. In 1943, Metropolitan Chryosostom broke communion from his synodical president, and declared himself “president”. He, together with two other bishops, Christopher (Chatzis) of Christianoupolis and Polycarp (Liosis) of Diavlia, composed the “Florinite” Synod. In 1944, the “Florinite” Synod synodically enforced their ecclesiological heresy as their Synod’s official position. In 1945, the “Florinite” Synod made the following open declaration to the State Hierarchy:

“We assure all the Church and State authorities that, having full awareness that we are only simple keepers of an institution of Pan-Orthodox importance as the old calendar is, and not representatives of a rebellious church, we shall never and in no case whatsoever carry out ecclesiastical acts such as the consecrations of bishops.”

From this it is clear that not only did the “Florinites” fall into ecclesiological heresy, they also desired that the Old Calendarists will not have any bishops in the future. The “Florinites” proved this by their actions also, for by 1955, the “Florinite” bishops had either died out or apostatized to New Calendarism, thus leaving their followers without bishops. By remaining in his ecclesiological heresy and by refusing to consecrate successors to the episcopate, Metropolitan Chrysostom did not fulfill his duties as a bishop. The main two duties of a bishop are firstly to preserve the Orthodox Faith, and secondly to transmit the Apostolic Succession to the next generation. Metropolitan Chrysostom failed in the first duty, due to his ecclesiological heresy, and he emphatically refused to fulfill the second duty, of ordaining successors. By not fulfilling his duties as a bishop, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina proved to be a pseudo-bishop.

4. Bishop Germanus (Varykopoulos) of the Cyclades fell into schism in 1943 and refused to concelebrate with Bishop Matthew of Bresthena for personal reasons. Due to Bishop Germanus’ attempts at union with the “Florinites” in 1945, all of his clergy and most of his followers departed from him and joined under Bishop Matthew. Because Bishop Germanus began to ordain new priests in order to re-establish his own faction, he was arrested, tried and imprisoned for a two-year term by the State authorities. Hence, even if Bishop Germanus of the Cyclades wanted to participate in any consecrations, it would be impossible for him to do so at this time, because he was in prison.

5. Bishop Matthew (Karpathakis) of Bresthena was the only hierarch in Greece who held fast to the Holy Tradition and Patristic Teachings of the Orthodox Church. He never denied the Synodical Confession of 1935, and he was the only Old Calendarist hierarch who was willing to fulfill his duties as a bishop, to wit, he was the only hierarch who was willing to consecrate successors to the episcopate, in order to ensure the Apostolic Succession of the True Orthodox Church of Greece. Not finding any other truly Orthodox bishops in Greece, Bishop Matthew sought to find hierarchs from abroad, such as the Russian hierarchs living in Poland, which Bishop Matthew reportedly communicated with. However, all of these attempts failed. Hence, on August 26, 1948, a clergy-laity meeting of the “Matthewite” Synod decided that:

“…our most Reverend Bishop Matthew of Bresthena should proceed to the consecration of new bishops, insofar as the other pseudo-bishops of the True Orthodox Christians neither understand nor confess Orthodoxy, nor unite with us, nor even agree to make consecrations. We grant him the authority to proceed both to the election of people and to their immediate consecration, in accordance with the divine and sacred canons and the opinions of our canon law experts, and in accordance with the practice of the whole Church of Christ, which has accepted, in case of necessity (as is the case today) such an act of economia [otherwise known as “leniency” or “dispensation”], as we have just heard from our Chancellor, Archpriest Eugene (Tombros), who explained the validity of the consecration of one Bishop by one Bishop alone in accordance with the law of our Orthodox Church…”

Therefore, in September, 1948, Bishop Matthew (Karpathakis) of Bresthena (a former Athonite Confessor) renamed and consecrated the Athonite Archimandrite Gideon (Prohegoumen), as Bishop Spyridon II of Trimythus (to serve the True Orthodox Church of Cyprus, which desperately needed a bishop). Then, together with Bishop Spyridon, Bishop Matthew consecrated Hieromonk Andrew (Anestis) as Bishop of Patras (to succeed him in serving the True Orthodox Church of Greece, as well as taking care of the monasteries). Then, these three hierarchs consecrated Hieromonk Demetrius (a former Athonite Confessor), as Bishop of Thessalonica (to serve the True Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, which consisted of the “Matthewite” communities in Macedonia, Thrace and on Mt Athos). These four bishops then consecrated Hieromonk Callistus (Makris) as Bishop of Corinth (to serve in Greece, as well as to occasionally serve the Greek Old Calendarists of North America). In 1949, Bishop Matthew of Bresthena was elected as Archbishop of Athens, and then the other bishops of the “Matthewite” Synod were elevated to the rank of Metropolitans.

The action of one bishop consecrating another bishop alone, without the assistance of other bishops, such as the case of Bishop Matthew of Bresthena consecrating Bishop Spyridon of Trimythus, is an act of economia (otherwise known as “leniency” or “dispensation”), and is permissible at such times of necessity. Bishop Matthew used economia to fulfill (not violate) one of the Apostolic Canons, and Bishop Matthew only used this act of economia once. All subsequent consecrations were performed according to acryveia (to wit, the “strictness” or “exactness” of the Sacred Canons). Accordingly, only one canon, the following canon, was not fulfilled according to acryveia, but rather by economia: CANON I OF THE HOLY AND RENOWNED APOSTLES:

“A Bishop is to be ordained by two or three other Bishops.”

However, in the interpretation of the above-quoted Canon, as found in the Holy Rudder, we find the following clause by St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (see: Orthodox Christian Education Society: The Rudder, Chicago, 1957, p. 4, lines 11-13):

“The Apostolic Injunctions (Book 8, Chapter 27), on the other hand, commands that anyone ordained by a single bishop be deposed from office along with the one who ordained him, except only in case of persecution or some other impediment by reason whereof a number of bishops cannot get together and he has to be ordained by one alone, just as was Siderius ordained bishop of Palaebisca, according to Synesius, not by three, but by one bishop, Philo, because of the scarcity of bishops in those times.”

According to the Apostolic Injunctions, writes St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, the consecration of one bishop by another bishop alone is permissible in a case of persecution or any other impediment by reason whereof a number of bishops cannot be gathered together. This definitely applies in the case of Bishop Matthew’s action of single-handedly consecrating Bishop Spyridon in 1948. There definitely was a persecution in Greece, and this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Bishop Germanus of the Cyclades, at the time of the consecration, was serving a two-year term in prison, simply because he ordained a few priests. There were also many other impediments, such as the fact that the great majority of hierarchs in Greece were anathematized New Calendarists, heretical Ecumenists and Freemasons. And of the very few who did not fit this criteria, the “Florinites”, in other words, were in ecclesiological heresy, and emphatically refused to assemble for the consecration of new bishops, as a result of putting their ecclesiological heresy into practice. The final impediment was that, although bishops from abroad (e.g., Russian bishops in Poland, etc) were contacted, there was no possibility that any of these bishops could assist Bishop Matthew in the consecration of new bishops to continue the Apostolic Succession of the True Orthodox Church of Greece. Also, since the single-handed consecration in 1948 was at a time of heresy and apostasy, the following explanation by St. Nicephorus of the Holy Land also applies: “In times of heresy, according to the necessity, not everything is to occur in accordance with the canons which are established in times of peace.” (see: St. Nicephorus, Answer to Question 1 of Monk Methodius).

Therefore, the single-handed consecration performed by Bishop Matthew of Bresthena was canonical, and it was similar to many other cases in the history of the Orthodox Church. For example, in the early history of the Orthodox Church of England, in the life of St. Augustine of Canterbury, (see: Moss, Vladimir: “St. Augustine of Canterbury”, Traditionalist List, 2000) we find the following narration:

“From Yorkshire Augustine headed for the borders of Wales, in order to meet the British bishops whose fathers had fled to the West to escape the invasions of the pagan Anglo-Saxons. Augustine had been given authority over the British bishops by [Pope] St. Gregory [of Rome]; but the task of uniting with the British Christians did not prove to be easy. The first obstacle was that the British, having suffered much from the Anglo-Saxons, were not willing to join with Augustine in trying to convert them to the Faith. The second obstacle was that as a result of their isolation from the Church on the continent, the British Church had slipped into practices which were at variance with the apostolic traditions… Augustine stipulated three conditions for union: that the British should correct [their] two canonical irregularities; and that they should cooperate with him in converting the Saxons. However, the British refused to accede on any of these points.”

If one reads further, in the same narration, the following interesting events are revealed:

“On his return to the East, Augustine baptized King Sebert of Essex and consecrated St. Mellitus as bishop of Sebert’s capital, London. In the same year he consecrated St. Justus as bishop of Rochester. Then just before his death he consecrated St. Laurence as his successor at Canterbury. These consecrations by a single bishop were blessed by [Pope] St. Gregory [of Rome] as an exception to the apostolic rule that bishops should be consecrated by no less than two bishops, because of the fact that there were no other canonical bishops in Britain.”

The fact that Pope St. Gregory of Rome permitted St. Augustine of Canterbury to perform single-handed consecrations is also confirmed by the Venerable Bede, in his book titled, “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People”. The Venerable Bede narrates the events in which St. Augustine of Canterbury sent messengers to Pope St. Gregory of Rome in the year 599 A.D., asking him various questions of great importance. The messengers returned to England in 601 A.D., with St. Gregory’s answers. St. Augustine’s sixth question and St. Gregory’s answer thereto were as follows:

“VI. Augustine’s sixth question. Whether a bishop may be consecrated without other bishops present, if they are at so great a distance from one another that they cannot easily meet. “Gregory answered: In the English Church of which you are as yet the only Bishop, it is not possible for you to consecrate a bishop otherwise than alone. For how often do bishops come from Gaul who can assist as witnesses at the consecration of a Bishop? But, my brother, we wish you to consecrate bishops in order that they may not be separated by long distances, and thus there will be no lack, so that at the consecration of a bishop, other pastors may easily be present: for their presence is extremely useful.”

It is interesting that Pope St. Gregory of Rome not only suggests that St. Augustine should consecrate bishops alone, but also clearly demonstrates his opinion that, in the consecration of a bishop, the other bishops present at the mystery only “assist as witnesses at the consecration” and that their presence is merely “extremely useful.” However, this is not the only example. For instance, in the history of the Celtic Orthodox Church in Britain and Ireland, single-handed consecrations were not only performed, but they were considered to be the normal procedure¾it was a distinctive feature of the Celtic Typicon. A professor in Celtic historical and ecclesiastical studies makes the following observation (see: Warren, Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church, Eastern Orthodox Books, Willits, California, 1979):

“In the Life of Saint Kentigern [Mungo, of Glasgow, c. 610], it is related that he was consecrated to the episcopate by a single bishop who had been summoned from Ireland for that purpose, according to the custom of the Britons and Scots. A similar fact is recorded in the legendary lives of the Welsh SS. David [c.590], Dubricius [545], Teilo [580] etc. There is a curious legend of the consecration of St. Columba [+597] by Bishop Etchain… In Ireland the custom of single consecration still obtained in the eleventh century… It is strange that such a custom should have prevailed in the British Church, as three British bishops had been present and had subscribed to the canons of the Council of Arles [314]…”

Therefore, the Orthodox Church of Ireland, which was established by the holy and renowned St. Patrick, the “Equal-to-the-Apostles”, as he is known¾a Church that has exuberated hundreds of Orthodox Saints throughout its history¾had traced its hierarchical orders, not merely from one isolated event of a single-handed consecration, but rather from a long succession of continuous single-handed consecrations, even as late as the eleventh century.

But insofar as the above examples are concerned, these single-handed consecrations pertain only to the early Orthodox Church of the West. Have such single-handed consecrations ever occurred within the boundaries of the Greek Church, and in more recent times? Certainly! The following is an historical account regarding a number of single-handed consecrations which took place within the Greek Church in fairly recent years (see: HOCNA, The Struggle Against Ecumenism, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 91):

“In 1825, Bishop Gabriel of Zarna consecrated three bishops [single-handedly]. Later those consecrations were recognized as valid by a Council in 1834. However, his consecration of Procopius as Bishop of Andrubis in 1832 was considered unjustified by the circumstances, and, hence, not valid, and he himself was deposed because of it. Later both bishops, Gabriel and Procopius, were pardoned after their repentance and were reinstated as bishops.”

Please note that, in the first circumstance contained in the above passage, although the Church of Greece consisted of many canonical Orthodox hierarchs, Bishop Gabriel of Zarna consecrated three bishops single-handedly in 1825, and these consecrations were later recognized by a Council in 1834, because Bishop Gabriel was truly isolated, and his actions were based on his fear and conscience regarding the war and the persecution of that time. However, Bishop Gabriel’s action of single-handedly consecrating Bishop Procopius in 1832 was rejected because, neither was there a war, nor any form of persecution at that latter time. However, both Bishops Gabriel and Procopius repented, and were thus pardoned and accepted as bishops at a later Council.

However, Bishop Matthew of Bresthena performed his single-handed consecration during the persecution brought about by the apostasy of the twentieth century. Were there any other cases, one might ask, wherein bishops performed single-handed consecrations during the twentieth century, due to the same form of persecution and apostasy? The answer is definitely positive. The True (Old Calendar) Orthodox Church of Romania¾a Church that struggled and suffered at the same time and for the same sacred cause as the True (Old Calendar) Orthodox Church of Greece¾also exercised the act of economia, in that one bishop consecrated another bishop single-handedly, and it is from this consecration that the hierarchy of the True Orthodox Church of Romania descends. In his article titled, “The True Orthodox Christians of Romania” Bishop Cyprian (Koutsoumbas), the leader of the “Cyprianite” faction (one of the many “Acacian” splinter-groups), writes:

“Finally, in 1956, Metropolitan Galaction, seeing his strength dissipating and seeing that it was impossible to contact a bishop outside of Romania (since he was kept under surveillance) or to find a bishop of like mind in Romania, proceeded with the consecration of a bishop on his own, so that the suffering Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Romania might not be once again orphaned. This unquestionably necessary (albeit technically uncanonical) action was, of course, an exercise of economia. Nonetheless, dogmatically and sacramentally the validity of the consecration was indisputable.”

It is acknowledged that even the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has exercised this act of economia, wherein one bishop was consecrated by another bishop alone. In fact, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad established its hierarchy in Russia by a single-handed consecration, due to the terrible persecution of the Communist Era. Hence, both the “Free Russian Orthodox Church” (FROC) and the “Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church” (ROAC) trace their episcopal orders, in part, from a single-handed consecration performed during the 1980s. In his book The Free Russian Orthodox Church: A Short History, Dr. Vladimir Moss writes: “The origins of the FROC go back to January 5/18, 1981, when a priest of the Russian Catacomb Church, Fr. Lazarus (Zhurbenko), was secretly received into the West European diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) by Archbishop Anthony of Geneva and Western Europe (ukaz no. 648/818/2). Shortly after this, in 1982, another cleric of the West European diocese, Fr. Barnabas (Prokofiev), was secretly consecrated as Bishop of Cannes and sent to Moscow, where he [single-handedly] consecrated Fr. Lazarus to the episcopate. The candidacy of Fr. Lazarus had been put forward by the dissident MP priest, Fr. Demetrius Dudko, with whom Archbishop Anthony had entered into correspondence.”

Insomuch as the actual service of consecration is concerned, if one observes the process of this Mystery, one will understand that even if many bishops are gathered to perform a consecration, all the bishops “participate”, but only one of them is considered to be “the consecrator”. The fact that only one bishop serves as consecrator in the service of an episcopal consecration is a reality that even the “Acacians” themselves acknowledge and confess. Hence, in his email message to Archpriest Anthony Gavalas (dated December 9, 2000), Bishop Christodoulos of Theopolis, a member of the “Kiousite” Synod (yet another of the many “Acacian” splinter-groups), sent the following excerpt from what seems to have been a news announcement [N.B. all brackets in original document; only emphasis added by present author, S.M.]