Imágenes de páginas

civil and financial administration of the Christian communities, as well as to hear their complaints against their rulers. His position and circumstances, therefore, have enabled him to investigate the matter thoroughly. His estimate of the civil administration of the clergy of the patriarchate from the time of Mahomet II. to that of Mahmoud II.—that is, from the Turkish conquest to the projected reformation in the Ottoman government-is expressed in these words:

"We have seen why it was that the Sultan Mahomet II. delegated the entire temporal power over his Christian subjects to the Patriarch Gennadius and his successors; gave to the religious head of the Christians of his empire the title of Milet-bachi, and rendered him the absolute master of the lot of all his co-religionists, as well as responsible for their conduct and for their fulfilment of all duties and obligations toward the government. Such an arrangement was calculated to produce in its commencement some alleviations and even some advantages to these unfortunate Christians, as in point of fact it actually happened. But it was sure to degenerate sooner or later into a frightful tyranny, such as is naturally that of privileged slaves placed over those of their own race. Accordingly, as we have stated in several places already, the clergy of Constantinople made use of all the means of oppression, of vexation, and of pillage of which the cunning, the depraved conscience, and the rapacity of slaves in authority are capable. The clergy of Constantinople having become in this way the absolute arbiters of the goods, the conscience, the social rights, and indirectly even of the lives of all their Eastern co-religionists, continued to abuse this temporal power not only during the period of the old régime, but even after the destruction of the Janissaries, and, again, after the reform in Turkey, and up to the present moment' (1855).

[ocr errors]

* "L'Eglise Orientale," p. iv., pp. 17, 18.

The allusion to the reform in the last clause of this extract requires a fuller explanation, and this explanation will furnish the most conclusive evidence of the degradation of the patriarchate, by showing that not only have its clergy submitted to be the tools of the Ottoman government when it was disposed to oppress the Christians in the worst manner, but that they have even resisted and thwarted the efforts of that government itself, when it was disposed to emancipate the Christians from a part of their bondage.

The Sultan Mahmoud II., a man of superior genius and enlightened views, devoted all the energies of his great mind to the effort of restoring his cmpire, rapidly verging toward dissolution, to prosperity and splendor. He devised for this end a gigantic scheme of political reformation, one part of which was the abolition of all civil distinction between his subjects of different religions. He was unable to do more, during his lifetime, than barely to commence the execution of his grand project. His son and successor, Abdul-Medjid, continued to prosecute the same work, and, at the beginning of his reign, published a decree called the Tinzimat, enjoining certain reformations in the manner of administering law and justice in the provinces. The Christian inhabitants of Turkey were the ones who ought to have profited most by this decree. On the contrary, the very privileges which it accorded them, by withdrawing them in great measure from the authority of the local Mussulman tribunals, deprived them of their only resource against the oppressions and exactions of their own clergy, and rendered their condition worse. The bishops succeeded in getting a more exclusive control than ever over all cases of jurisdiction relating to Christians, and made use of their power to fleece their people more unmercifully than they had ever done before. Encouraged by the publication of the Tinzimat, these unhappy Christian communities ventured to send remonstrances to the Ottoman govern

ment against their cruel and mercenary pastors. In consequence of these remonstrances, the Porte addressed the following official note, dated Feb. 4, 1850, to the Patriarch of Constantinople:

Since, according to the Christian religion, the bishops are the pastors of the people, they ought to guide them in the right way, protect them, and console them, but never oppress them. As, however, many metropolitans and bishops commit actions in the provinces which even the most despicable of men would not dare to perpetrate, the Christian populations, crushed under this oppression, address themselves continually to the government, supplicating it to grant them its assistance and protection. Consequently, as the government cannot refuse to take into consideration these just complaints of its own subjects, it wills absolutely that these disorders cease. It invites, therefore, the patriarch to convoke an assembly of bishops and of the principal hymen of his religion, and, in concert with them, to consider fraternally of the means of doing away with these oppressions and the just complaints in regard to them, by regulating their ecclesiastical and communal administration in conformity with the precepts of their own religion and with the instructions of the Tinzimat."*

A very edifying sermon this, from a Mohammedan minister of state to the "spiritual head of the ancient and venerable Oriental Church!" Like many other sermons, however, it did not produce a result corresponding to its excellence. The good advice it contained was followed up by levying a new tax. The patriarch sent immediately to all the bishops a circular in which he prescribed to them " to admonish the people, that since the government had imposed upon the church the obligation of conforming to the demands of certain dioceses, and applying everywhere the system of giving fixed salaries to the bishops, the most holy patriarch

Ibid., p. iii., p. 144.

is obliged to conform himself to the orders of the government and to put them in execution as soon as possible. But since both the general commune of Constantinople and the particular ones of the several dioceses are burdened with debts which amount to about 7,000,000 of piastres, it is just that the people should previously pay off these debts; the bishops are, therefore, ordered to proceed immediately to an exact enumeration of all the Christian inhabitants of the cities, towns, and villages, without excepting either widows or unmarried persons. In this way the patriarchate, taking the census as its guide, can assign to each Christian the sum which he is bound to pay for the pre-extinction of the communal debts, and afterward apply the system of fixed episcopal revenues.” *

The poor people, terrified by this enormous tax, and by the persecution which overtook the prime movers in the remonstrance, as the secretary of the commission on the Tinzimat informs us, "swallowed painfully their grievances and no longer dared to continue their just reclamations to the government." The Ottoman government, intimidated by the threats of the ecclesiastical Janissaries of the Cara-Casan, "was obliged to yield to the force of circumstances, as they were used to do in the time of their terrible confrères, and abandoned the question completely."

The Greek revolution has also in one way aggravated the lot of the Christians of Turkey, by causing the compulsory or voluntary removal from the capital of the principal merchants and other Christians of superior station and influence, who formed the greatest check upon the unworthy clerical rulers. Under the name of "primates of the nation," they had a share in the management of ecclesiastical finances and other temporal affairs, and as their compatriot, Mr. Pitzipios, affirms, "these good citizens, inspired by their charitable senti

*Ibid., pp. 144, 145.

ments, and encouraged by the influence which they had with the Ottoman government, repressed greatly the abuses of the clergy, and moderated, as far as they were able, the vexations of the people."* The men of this class who remained in Constantinople were removed by the government, as foreigners, from all share in the administration of Christian affairs, and their places filled with the creatures of the patriarchal clique, men of the lowest rank and character, who were ready tcols for every nefarious work.

As a natural consequence of the faithless abuse of the sacred religious and civil trust committed to the higher clergy, they and their inferior clergy are detested and despised by their people, who are held in subjection to them only by physical coercion. Mr. Pitzipios assures us that there is among them a very strong predisposition to Protestantism. A form of deism, introduced by Theophilus Cairy, a Greek priest, who died in prison in the year 1851, made great progress before it was suppressed by the civil power, and is now secretly working with great activity in Greece and Turkey.

We cannot but think that the last and most degraded phase of the Byzantine Bas Empire, impersonated in the schismatical patriarchate of Constantinople, is destined soon to pass away. We hope and expect soon to see the end of the Ottoman power, which alone sustains this odious ecclesiastico-political tyranny. The signs of the political horizon appear to indicate that Russia is destined to gain possession of the ancient seat of the Greek empire. However this may be, if the Church of Constantinople, and the other far more ancient churches within her sphere of jurisdiction, are ever to be restored to a healthy Christian vitality, and made to reflourish as of old, it must be by a thorough ecclesiastical reformation, which shall sweep away the present dominant clique in the clergy and the whole policy which they have established.

* Ibid., p. 117.

The beginning of this reformation has already been inaugurated in the kingdom of Greece. The bishops of that kingdom, in recovering freedom from the odious yoke of Constantinople, have recovered the character of Christian prelates and pastors. The severe remarks which we have made respecting the Oriental hierarchy must be understood as applicable only to that particular clique who have heretofore made themselves dominant through intrigue and violence. There no doubt have been, and are, among the higher clergy of the Turkish empire, some exceptions to the gener al rule of incompetence and moral unworthiness. The Greek bishops themselves who were established in their sees under the old régime, manifested by their open or tacit concurreace in the revolution that virtue had not completely died out under the pressure of a long slavery. Since the establishment of Grecian independence, the measures they have taken, in concert with the other members of the higher secular and monastic clergy and the government, for the amelioration of religion, are such as to reflect honor on themselves, and to give great promise for the future. They live in a simple and frugal manner, and some of them, instead of leaving millions of piastres to their relatives, like their Turkish brethren, have not left behind them enough money to defray their own funeral expenses. They endeavor to select the best subjects for ordination to the priesthood and to give them a good theological and religious training. Professorships of theological science are established in the University of Athens. The catechism is carefirlly taught to the young people and children, and every year ten of the most competent among the clergy are sent at the public expense to preach throughout all the towns and villages of the kingdom. Such is the happy result of the successful effort of these noble Greeks, so endearel to every lover of learning, valor, anl

thoroughly Christian empire of the East, we shall rejoice to see them enthroned in Constantinople. If they are destined to restore the cross to the dome of St. Sophia, and to renovate the ancient glory of that temple, desecrated by Christian infamy more than by the Moslem crescent, we shall exult in their achievement. If new Chrysostoms and Gregories shall rise up to

religion for the memories of their glorious antiquity, to shake off the yoke of the sultans and the patriarchs of Constantinople. It is this misera ble amalgam of Moslem despotism, and usurped or abused spiritual power in the hands of a degenerate clergy at Constantinople, which is the great obstacle in the way of the regeneration of the East. We have already seen that the ecclesiastical tyr-efface the dishonor of their predecesanny of the patriarchate is now confined to the one hundred and fortytwo small bishoprics, and the few millions of people included in them, which are situated in Turkey. Nevertheless, the political views of the Russian emperors, and the traditional reverence of the Russian clergy, still maintain the patriarch and his synol in a modified spiritual supremacy over the Russian Church, to which two-thirds of the Oriental rite belong. If Constantinople should fall into the hands of any of the great powers of Western Christendom, of Course the Cara-Casan, or system of mixed ecclesiastical and civil despost, will be overturned, the patriarch will become a mere primate among the other metropolitans of the mation, and the patriarchate be to a simply honorary dignity Ike that of the Western patriarchs of Venice and Lisbon. If the Czar becomes the master of European Turkey, the same result will take place, with this only exception, that the See of Constantinople will become the primatial see of the Russian empire, and the Russian hierarchy will take the place of the effete Byzantine clergy, which they are far more worthy, from their learning and strict morality, to Creupy.

What is to be the political and ecclesiastical destiny of the East, and Russia, its gigantic infant, who can foretell, without prophetic gifts? If the Russian emperors prove that they are destined and are worthy to begin anew and to fulfil the grand design of Constantine, Theodosius, Justinian, Pulcheria, and Irene, by creating a

sors, we will forget the past, and give them the homage due to true and worthy successors of the saints. We have no desire to see the Church of Constantinople degraded, or the Easttern Church humiliated. The Oriental Church is orthodox and catholic in its faith, and its several great rites are fully sanctioned and protected by the Holy See. The heresies which are found among a portion of its clergy are personal heresies, and have never been established by any great synod, or incorporated into their received doctrinal standards. We do not condemn the great body of its people of even formal schism, but rather compassionate them as suffering from a state of schism which has been forced on them by a designing and unworthy faction, and is perpetuated in great part through misunderstanding, prejudice, and national antipathies. The causes and grounds of this unnatural state must necessarily come up among them very soon for a more thorough investigation. Study, thought, discussion, and contact with Western Catholicism, as well as Western Protestantism and rationalism, will compel them to place themselves face to face with their own hereditary and traditional dogmas; and either to be consistent with themselves, and submit to the supremacy of the Roman See, or to give up their orthodoxy and open the doors to a religious revolution. We cannot deny that the latter alternative is possible, although we are sure that Dr. Pusey, and men like-minded with him, would deplore it as a great calamity. We trust it will be otherwise. The Easter morning of resurrection, which

we are now celebrating, dawned for us in the East. It is the land of Christ and his apostles, the birth-place

of our religion. We hope the day of resurrection for its decayed and languishing churches may not be far distant.

From The Monta.



1. Abbot Antony pointed out to a brother a stone, and said to him, "Revile that stone, and beat it soundly." When he had done so, Autony said, "Did the stone say anything?" He answered, "No."

Then said Antony: "Unto this perfection shalt thou one day come."

2. When Abbot Arsenius was ill, they laid him on a mat, and put a pillow under his head, and a brother was scandalized.

Then said his attendant to the brother: "What were you before you were a monk?" He answered, "A shepherd." Then he asked again, “And do you live a harder or an easier life now than then?" He replied, “ I have more comforts now." Then said the other, Seest thou this abbot? When he was in the world he was the father of emperors. A thousand slaves with golden girdles and tippets of velvet waited on him, and rich carpets were spread under him. Thou hast gained by the change which has made thee a monk; it is thou who art now encompassed with comforts, but he is afflicted."

3. When Abbot Agatho was near his end, he remained for three days with his eyes open and steadily fixed. His brethren shook him, saying, "Abbot, where are you?"

He replied, "I stand before the judgment seat."

They said, "What, father! do you you too fear? think of your works."

He made answer: "I have no confidence till I shall have met my God."'

4. Abbot Pastor was asked, "Is it good to cloak a brother's fault?"

He answered: "As often as we hide a brother's sin, God hides one of ours, but he tells ours in that hour in which we tell our brother's."

5. The Abbot Alonius said: “Unless a man says in his heart, I and my God are the only two in the world,

he will not have rest."

6. Abbot Pambo, being summoned by St. Athanasius to Alexandria, met an actress, and forthwith began to weep. "I weep," he said, "because I do not strive to please my God as she strives to please the impure."

7. An old monk fell sick and for many days could not eat, and his novice made him some pudding. There was a vessel of honey, and there was another vessel of linseed oil for the lamp, good for nothing else, for it was rancid. The novice mistook, and mixed up the oil in the pudding. The old man said not a word, but ate it.

The novice pressed him, and helped him a second time, and the old man ate again.

When be offered it the third time, the old man said, "I have had enough;" but the novice cried, "Indeed, it is very good. I will eat some with you."

When he had tasted it, he fell on his face and said: "Father, I shall be the death of you! Why didn't you speak?"

The old man answered: "Had it been God's will that I should eat honey, honey thou wouldst have given me.”

« AnteriorContinuar »