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Wednesday, 5 October 2016


Translated from the original by Costas Balomenos

Father Paisius, who “canonized” by the Eastern Church

n the first Christian community, as we know mainly from the letters of the Apostle Paul, all who were baptized in the name of Holy Trinity were called "saints," not because they were righteous, but because they were baptized, i.e. is because they belonged to this particular new community (church) and were members of the body of Christ: "I send my greetings to the saints of the Church of Corinth", "I send my greetings to the saints of the Ephesian Church". So everybody was holy. Holiness, therefore, is potentially present, and simultaneously has a dynamic...

This practice was followed by the Eastern Church for centuries, writes the Protopresbyter C. N. Papadopoulos :
«From the study of the practices of ecumenical synods we conclude that the Church among the saints classified it under each member of which had kept the correct faith and he had fought for the commands, as the people knew then. There was not any "formal declaration", nor were needed miracles of the deceased, to be considered "saint", with a different meaning from the biblical. Undeniably, the Church of ecumenical synods retained incorruptible the teaching of Scripture, ie. that all believers are saints, the livings and the dead.
The ecclesiastical authority, even when represented by - really big - Cyril, can not "declare" as any "saint" without the reasons mentioned above. The follower and monk Ammonius, which the Eparch Orestes killed by cruel tortures because the monk had flown a stone on the head, St. Cyril called him "martyr" and he buried him inside to church. However the people reacted because Ammonius was killed as unadvised and not as a witness of Christ. St. Cyril left forgotten very soon the case (See. Socr., Eccl. Hist.7,14, P.G. 67, 765C ex.)».
Another look from the tradition of the Eastern Church is that the Saints are shareholders of "divine glory". After Our Lady, are those who have reached to the theosis, which is desired by all of us. Those who have achieved the last resort and have impregnated with the uncreated energies of divinity are with Christ and they live with Him.
So here the question arises: How is defined in our own tradition someone as a saint, how it is done what we call the "canonization"? Note that this term is considered an inappropriate because - for many years - our theology prefers the term "recognition of saints" over the word "canonization", inasmuch as the second term implies the construction and not simply the acceptance of a fact.
Throughout the centuries many famous Saints, have been declared by the Church. But the proclamation of saints, now prevailed in the Eastern Church is a Roman Catholic practice, which was introduced by a Patriarch, who fought with all his strength against the penetration of the Jesuits in the East. This is Cyril Lucaris, who was indeed great, but not unimpeachably Orthodox. So he was the first  that "has proclaimed" the first saint Gerasimos, the miraculous ascetic of Cephalonia, in the embassies of which the believers were running as he was still alive and immediately after his death.
Older, the acknowledgment of the saints was becoming by local Churches, while today is followed a different practice. For example, if the "canonization" concerns the Greek-speaking Church, this becomes from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, although concerns the Slavic Church becomes from the Russian Orthodox Church, etc.
Be taken into consideration that there are very many Saints that "have not declared" and of which ignored the name. That is why we have introduced in our church calendar of feasts the feast of All Saints. In addition there are a number of saints who live among us and we do not know that is saints.
Let us now see it is done the "canonization" of a witness or another equal merit human. The Orthodox Church to approve and integrate it into the church calendar of a witness, only one element: the testimony of people surrounding, i.e. the testimony of christian total that is composed as people around the mystery of the Eucharist. This item alone is sufficient, this popular testimony, to lead the Church to register a saint in his List of Saints.
There is not therefore a question of the Church to approve or not to approve a sainthood of someone. Moreover this is the big difference of the Orthodox with the other Christian Churches. The Synod, either concerns the Patriarchate, or the Church of Greece, either concerns another local Church does not approve if someone is or is not a saint. Just recognizes what is testified by the common consciousness of the people surrounding, i.e. of the people who stands "around" the table of the Eucharist. So the meeting will not examine whether their life was virtuous or not and how virtuous he was. Of course, they need some information, some testimonies but the people themselves are, that lead essentially to the "declaration" of a saint.
The criterion in which is based the judgment of the people is the so called "signs" of holiness. A "point" of holiness is the thaumaturgy, the experience namely that Saint does wonders. If there are any remains of the saint, “point” is considered their fragrance. Therefore presumption of holiness is neither the accuracy in the Orthodox faith, nor the apparent virtuous life. This is testified by the synaxaria, i.e. the collections of lives of the Saints, because there are people who it appears that live virtuously, but nobody knows the inmost and hidden of their soul, except God. But there are and in the Orthodox Church some rare cases, we may say that happened some “canonization” feasibility for pedagogical reasons of believers.
Dimitris Mavropoulos, referring to the canonization of St Nektarios, writes:
«I'll tell you an example from our very latest, with the canonization of Saint Nektarios. The St. Nektarios, as you may know, he taught for some years in Rizarios School of Athens catechism and doctrinal and he did sermons as theologian. As a "theologian", Saint is not very close to the so-called exact orthodox faith. By following the general climate of theological literature of his time, and in particular the climate that prevailed in Rizarios School, he had taught by textbooks of western theology and his catechism of - if we judge it based on the theological data - not expresses perfectly the theology of the Eastern Church. It is no his teaching that led the Church to proclaim him as a saint. As it is neither and the virtuous life, since, as we said, only God knows the virtue of everyone. So, what is that makes the saint Nectarios to be attested as a saint? First is the testimony of those who lived near him and they confirm the outpouring of love for God's creation and to man, but mainly is the thaumaturgy. From his miracles the people have the experience of the presence and of holiness of Saint Nektarios. And this is the experience of the surrounding people, of the people who were cured before the tomb of St Nektarios, and this is leading the official Church in recognition of his holiness. The people honored him as a saint and the ecclesiastical hierarchy is coming to recognize that holiness».
Let us now see how it is done the canonization of a member of the Catholic Church. And in this Church there are the corresponding elements as in the Orthodox, i.e. the thaumaturgy, the holy relics and the fragrance. But all these are not capable to be canonized someone, because are not deposited as elements experience of the popular body. These elements to be accepted by the Catholic Church as proofs of holiness, must be taken objectively. Namely, it must to be done an objective measure of the reality of these elements. Mainly must be demonstrated the loyalty of someone's life, through the virtues he showed during his terrestrial life.
The method and process of canonization or not of a member of the Western Church followed is this: A local bishop of a region of the Roman Catholic Church, which probably represent and the experience of believers of its jurisdiction make a proposal to the Vatican, where is located the head of the Western Church, for the canonization of a pious Christian who lived among us and who can be a large or small theologian, a large or small witness. Then, is created at the Vatican a kind of court to examine this issue.
Subsequently, one of the Cardinals (supreme ecclesiastical officials, from whom is elected Pope), who is entrusted with this project, aided by a complete crew, undertakes to examine in every detail even the slightest, the life of the prospective saint.
Another cardinal, who has a corresponding research team, undertakes the uninviting role to examine possible black pages of this life, the offenses likely has been doing the potential saint, and whatever reprehensible may be contrary to his canonization.
When the process of investigation by the positive and the negative side is completed, then followed by an ordinary court. In this court, the first cardinal proposes the holiness and the second the rejection, who is also called "devil's advocate» ( "advocatus diaboli"). The role therefore of the "devil's advocate" is to expose and present possible negative elements, which is called to refute the other cardinal and his team, so that the conclusion will come to withstand at any objective criticism.
When this court is satisfied and ruled in favor of holiness, the people are now free and allowed to honor the new saint. With newer research, that may be made, if it is proved that had omitted some crucial elements that impede the holiness, the Western Church has no problem and can delete a saint from his List of Saints. This also happened relatively recently, in the 1960s, after the Second Vatican Council, when a few dozen saints were deleted, because in the meantime the investigation has progressed, they had thrived the hagiological studies, the sources had better read, and were found new documents and it was found that there was not the objectivity and the guarantee of holiness.
This happens because in the Western Church the holiness has to do with the virtue and has nothing to do with the entheosis (en+theosis), as it happens in the tradition of the Eastern Church.
We conclude our article with the canonization - from the Western Church - of Pope John - Paul II, Karol Wojtyla in the world, as was described in the Greek newspaper "To Vima", 03/11/2014:
«In April, Pope John Paul II, with the secular name Karol Wojtyla is going to sanctify. The German magazine “Der Spiegel” presents the story of a woman from Costa Rica, which supposedly healed from a severe brain aneurysm, after prayed to the late Pope. It was a "providential" gift for the "machine-making of miracles" of Vatican.
In Rome there is a place where are concentrated the "miracles" and their authenticity is examined scrutinized. Head of the Vatican for the process of proclamation of the "sanctification" of John Paul is Monsignor Slawomir Oder. In his office is a folder entitled «Positio super vita, virtutibus et fama sanctitatis» (Fair for the Life, the Virtues and the Reputation of Holiness). "The folder «Positio» includes a great, miraculous story that unfolded three years ago and ten thousands of kilometers away, or to be more precise, in the right temporal lobe of Florimpeth Mora Diaz", writes Der Spiegel.
In April 2011, the Señora Mora became convinced that her head was ready to explode. She could no longer feel her left leg while she continually made vomiting. The husband of the 50 year old woman went to the best hospital in San Jose, of the capital Costa Rica. There, Dr. Alejandro Vargas examined her, "a doctor so young, handsome and clever that one could easily believe that is an actor of soap opera". Before Dr. Varga - who is considered one of the best doctors in Costa Rica - perform a surgery says: "With the help of God, we begin ...".
It was words that Mora took this as a positive omen. She was told that he has an aneurysm in inoperable point. "These cases operated on in Mexico or the United States. I wrote anti-hypertensive drugs as also tranquilizers. Furthermore the aneurysm was not broken. There was still hope, "said Dr. Vargas. But Mora believed that would quickly die: when does not crying, was praying. This she did when she saw in front in the newspaper "La Nacion" (The Nation) one black and white photo of Pope John Paul II who was giving his blessing to the faithful.
The morning I looked at the photo of the newspaper. I heard a voice. Yes, he was a male voice. Yes, it was in Spanish. He said: "Get up and do not be afraid." The two hands came out of the picture "remembers Mora and continues:" I got up and I said: "Yes, Senor." I went into the kitchen. I was feeling a little better. I was feeling an inner warmth. I was sure that I was healthy, even if my body was telling me the opposite. "The headaches that had due to aneurysm gradually subsided. In July, Dr. Vargas, was surprised when his patient came back without symptoms. Making the necessary tests he concluded that the aneurysm had disappeared.
When the story of Mora became known in the Vatican, invited her to Rome in order to ascertain and there, he had now become well. "It is not a miracle that makes him holy. It is simply the final confirmation "explained Slawomir Oder. On July 5, 2013, the Holy See announced that Pope Francesco had recognized the second miracle needed for the canonization of John Paul Pope (the first ascribed to be the cure of a French nun who suffered from Parkinson's). The Roman Catholic Church found the miracle needed and Mora continued her life. "What would happen if another aneurysm will be formed in her brain? According to canon law it is a new disease”, Oder said. Then you need a new miracle - or a better doctor ", concludes the reportage of Der Spiegel».


1. Dimitris Mavropoulos, "Passing through the Temple", Domos editions, Athens 2009.
2. Dimitris Mavropoulos, "In communion of holy spirit" Domos editions, Athens 2013.
3. Magazine "Synaxis", issue 102.
4. Greek newspaper "To Vima",

          Writer Christos Pal

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