Advanced priest John Romanides

Father Romanides:

Father Romanides revealed in an introduction about himself, something he rarely did, that:

“My parents came from the Roman city of Castropolis in Arabassus, Cappadocia, the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Maurice (582-602), who appointed Saint Gregory the Great (590-604) as Pope of Rome, who in turn appointed Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

I was born in Berea on March 2, 1927. I left Greece with my family to immigrate to America on May 15, 1927, at the age of only 72 days, and I was raised in Manhattan in New York City.

I am a graduate of the Greek College of Brooklyn, the Divinity School of Yale University, with a doctorate from the School of Theology of the National University of Athens, and from the School of Philosophy at Harvard University (Faculty of Arts and Sciences). “I am an honorary professor at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Thessaloniki and a visiting professor at the Saint John of Damascus Theological Institute at the University of Balamand in Lebanon, since 1970.”

To these we will add that he also studied at the Saint Vladimir Institute in New York, the Saint Sergius Institute in Paris, as well as in Munich, Germany. He was ordained a priest in 1951, and since then he has served in several dioceses in the United States of America. He also served as a professor at the Holy Cross College of Theology, but resigned in 1965, in protest against the dismissal of Father George Florovsky from the college.

He was appointed to the chair of doctrine at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Thessaloniki on June 12, 1968, but he did not join because he was accused of communism. He eventually committed there in 1970. He resigned in 1984 for personal reasons and was given full compensation, but what was not appropriate was giving him the title of professor emeritus.

His works

Among his writings is an abundance of studies, most of which remain unpublished, and should be published in their entirety in a series of parts. These monuments should be preserved because they have a lot to offer and show.

His doctoral thesis on “original sin” was revolutionary research in every sense of the word as it opened new avenues in our theology, followed by his relevant books on Romanism in the field of history. Father John revived both research and understanding. Andrew Sopko wrote his doctoral thesis entitled “The Prophet of Roman Orthodoxy – The Theology of Father John Romanides,” in Canada in 1998. In this thesis, Sopko systematically examined the works of Father Romanides and his contribution to science.

Equally important was his contribution to our Church, by participating in theological dialogues with non-Orthodox, especially Anglicans, as well as with non-Christians (Jews and Muslims). The fact that English was his native language helped him and provided him with the facility he needed to accurately articulate the positions of our church. In the dialogue with the Lutheran World Federation (1978), I had the opportunity to get to know him better, to become his friend, and what is more important than that for me is that I became his student, in addition to devoting myself to the extensive and continuous study of his works. In these dialogues, his knowledge of the patristic tradition was clearly evident, in parallel with his knowledge of the falsification to which this tradition was exposed in the East as well as in the West. His knowledge of the theology of Saint Gregory Palamas, the cornerstone of the Orthodox tradition, was particularly evident.

Father John was an advocate of the connection between theology and the experience of the Holy Spirit, and a campaigner for teaching about the stages of saints’ spiritual progress (purification - enlightenment - deification) as basic requirements for ecumenical councils and for their sincere acceptance, which was neglected in the West, and even in our Westernized theological thought. This tendency towards patristic thought as a form of ecclesiastical authenticity was a continuation and completion of the trend of Father George Florovsky, whose path Father Romanides followed in the ecumenical dialogue, and following his example he also turned into a source of nuisance and rigidity in dealing with it. One day, all of this will be written, and the prominent personality of this deceased will appear, along with his true contribution to the global and ecumenical presence of Orthodoxy.

Before and after Romanides

When reviewing his theological, educational, literary and militant works, we are naturally obliged to refer to two periods: before Romanides and after him. He introduced a real break and rift in our scholastic history, which was tantamount to a Babylonian captivity of our theology. His thesis sealed this revivalist path to the point that its influence on theological thinking appeared even in the writings of those who criticized it for various reasons or opposed it intellectually. Among Father John's achievements in particular:

  1. He restored priority to empirical patristic theology in the field of academic theology, ruling out the rational-speculative-metaphysical method of theology.
  2. He linked academic theology to worship and the patristic Philokalia tradition, demonstrating the interconnection between theology and spiritual life and the therapeutic spiritual quality of dogmatic theology.
  3. In his theological method, he realized and embraced the strong connection between doctrine and history, and thanks to this method he was able to understand, like few others, that theology became Westernized in Western Europe and died under the influence of the force imposed by the Frankish occupation. In addition, his extensive knowledge of Frankish and Roman history (he was a professor of history at Yale University) helped him identify and analyze the opposition between the Frankish and Roman civilizations while providing Roman standards for examining our history and civilization.
  4. Thus, he has helped in the broad research on Hellenism as well, beyond the fabricated Western scenarios, through his correct and qualified use of historical names, their importance, and their role in the course of our history.

Non-Orthodox

 In fact, the non-Orthodox, more than us, recognized the personality of Father John and his importance to Orthodoxy. He was considered the most senior Orthodox researcher in Augustine’s thought, even helping Western theology understand it. He was distinguished as “certainly the most important Orthodox theologian whose works included a critical study of Augustine’s thought in the light of patristic theology.” We must mention that we are indebted to Father John for his very important assertion that the teaching of Barlaam of Calabria, which says that the experiences of the prophets in perceiving God are “natural phenomena, which can be accomplished or neglected,” is a teaching derived from Augustine’s treatise on the Trinity.

Dear and respected Father John, your friends and colleagues who speak on your behalf all express their gratitude for everything you have given us by God’s grace, and with them are thousands of direct and indirect students. We cling to the theological truth that was left to us, to be a torch for us in the darkness sown by ignorance, evasion, indifference, and expediency. You have united us with the patristic element embedded in the world of academic theology with the constant stimulation towards worship and ascetic practice, where true theology emerges. Thank you.

My colleague and partner in service, may your memory be eternal and we will meet again at the heavenly altar.

Advanced priest George Metalinos
Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Athens.
This text is from a speech he gave at a memorial service for Father John Romanides.

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