No other Council has been so misunderstood, yet so quickly referenced as the “Council” of Constantinople (1872). Time and again the charges of phyletism are leveled against nationalists and culturalists, alike. All one has to do is type in “phyletist” into a search engine, and one will get scores of hits, with 99% of the links giving the same historically illiterate answer that the Orthodox Church opposes: nationalism, racialism, and/or culturalism, due to this pseudo-Council. One must ask, in light of the history behind this council, are the Clergymen who promote this understanding simply ignorant, or are they being dishonest? Let us look at the facts behind what led up to 1872, and the results of said “council”.
To understand what led up to the “council” of 1872, we must go back to 1762 and the work of Saint Paisius of Hilendar (History of the Slav-Bulgarians), which led to the Bulgarian National Revival.
“But some do not like to know about your family Bulgarian, and turn to a foreign culture and language and do not take care of their Bulgarian language, but learning to read and speak Greek and are ashamed to call themselves Bulgarians. Oh foolish and silly fools! Why are you ashamed to call yourself Bulgarian and do not read and do not speak its language? Or Bulgarians had no kingdom and country? So many years they reigned and were glorious and mrochuti throughout the land, and many times have taken strong tax Romans and Greeks wise. And kings and kings gave them their royal daughters for wives to have peace and love with Bulgarian kings. The Slavonic race most glorious were Bulgarians, first they called themselves kings, first they had patriarch, first they were baptized, most land they conquered. So the Slavonic race were the strongest and most honored and the first Slavic saints and shined from Bulgarian people and language, and this in turn wrote in this story. And for that Bulgaria the witness have a lot of stories because everything is true for Bulgarians, as already mentioned.”
Saint Paisius was decrying the Bulgarians for giving up their language and culture, and their natural love for such, as to become more Hellenized:
“I saw that many Bulgarians do so and go on foreign language and custom, and its blaspheme.”
Saint Sophronius of Vratsa would, also, take up the fight for his Bulgarian homeland, due to the work of Saint Paisius, which further strengthened the Bulgarian National Revival:
“Love, loyalty, and self-sacrifice for the motherland and for the Bulgarian nation – this is what Sophronius’ life was all about…He was deeply impressed by the Paissi book, and it did give a new direction and focus in his life. Sophronius became a fervent promoter of the Bulgarian national cause. He was teaching children, served in Church, and even joined the first efforts for organized national-liberation struggles.”
This Saintly inspired struggle for national liberation led to much repression of the Bulgarians, by not only the Ottomans, but the Greeks, as well.
By the mid to late 1800’s the Greek Phanariotes (prominent Greek merchant and/or moneylender families residing in the Phanar district of Constantinople) wielded unprecedented influence over the Orthodox Church and Her Faithful, with the use of the heresy of Simony. They were not happy to see their grip over Bulgaria slipping, so they used the Church against the people of Bulgaria. Bulgarian Priests were defrocked and excommunicated, and Greek Priests reigned over the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria. They enforced a strict policy of Hellenization, by refusing the Bulgarian language at Church and school, and imposing Greek culture upon the Bulgarians. This led to a massive revolt by the people, who demanded an independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church, free from Phanariote domination.
The Phanariotes and their Clerical henchmen were unmoved by the Bulgarian’s cry for liberty (which they were originally granted back in 927, with their Autocephaly, and only came under Constantinople’s rule after the Ottoman occupation, and the Martyrdom of their Hierarchy), so a number of Bulgarians began threatening to leave the Orthodox Church, altogether, and become Uniates. Upon hearing this, the Russian Orthodox Church came to the aid of their Slavic brothers, and impressed upon the Sultan the need for an independent Bulgarian Church, which was realized in 1870 as the Bulgarian Exarchate. While the Sultan attempted to not offend the Greeks, to much, by only granting an Exarch vs the title of Patriarch to the Bulgarians, this was still too much for the Greeks to handle, especially the Ecumenical Patriarch (Anthimus VI), who was a well-know Slavophobe; thus, the “council” of 1872 was convened.
The “Council” of Constantinople of 1872, which is constantly pimped as some Ecumenical and binding Council had very little representation by the Church Hierarchy, far less than even the pseudo-council of Crete (2016). Those present were: the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Patriarch of Alexandria, Patriarch of Antioch, the Archbishop of Cyprus, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and 25 Metropolitans and bishops. The Patriarchs of Serbia and Russia refused to attend, and the Patriarch of Jerusalem (Kyrillos) refused to sign, which led to his unCanonical deposing, for being a “Muscovite traitor”. Nonetheless, the “Great Synod” (sound familiar?) excommunicated the Bulgarian Exarchate, which led to a 100 year schism.
If Orthodox Christians, Clergy especially, cannot see how flawed this pseudo-council was, then they are certainly promoting it for personal reasons (multicultural and/or anti-nationalist sentiments) versus for reasons of the Faith. No one can look upon the history of this “council”, especially in light of our Saintly Bulgarian works, and take it for anything more than a Grecophile sham. We the Faithful, in the SSJG, call for an honest approach to Ecclesiastical matters, not a whitewashing of history to suit Clericalist personal will, both past and present.
(In our next article, we will look into the Scriptural, Saintly, and Canonical support for nationalism, culturalism, and ethnocentrism)
*Note: We use parenthesis over council, due to the fact that said “council” did not embody the conciliatory nature that a true Council should.