John S. Romanides

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Father John S. Romanides (1927 - 2001) was a prominent 20th century Orthodox Christian priest, theologian, and writer.

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Life

Fr. Romanides was ordained in 1951 while studying at Yale University Divinity School, and served at Holy Trinity Church in Waterbury, Connecticut, from 1951 till 1954. After finishing his studies at Yale he was transferred for the summer of 1954 to Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York City until he left for studies at St. Sergius Orthodox Theological School in Paris (1954-55). He did his doctoral work at the University of Athens from 1956 to 1957. He was appointed professor at Holy Cross, Brookline, Mass. where he taught between 1957 and 1965 while continuing his studies and research at the Harvard Divinity School and then at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. All this time, between 1957 to 1968, he was also a parish priest. He was appointed to the parish of Newport, New Hampshire in 1958. Then in 1959 he was appointed the first priest of St. Athanasius The Great Orthodox Church in Arlington, Mass. which he helped found and organize. He resigned from Holy Cross in 1965 in protest over the removal of Father Georges Florovsky from the faculty by Archbishop Iacovos. Between 1965 and 1968 Father Romanides served as the pastor of Holy Apostles' Parish in Haverhill, Mass. He was professor of dogmatics at the University of Thessalonike from 1970 until his retirement in 1984. From 1970 on, he also taught at the University of Balamand in Lebanon. He continued to teach even after his retirement.

He also represented the Church of Greece as member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and in the dialogues with the Lutherans and the Oriental Orthodox.

His legacy lives on through his more then 2,000 students, including many priests, monks, and at least 10 bishops.

Works

Romanides argued for the existence of "national, cultural and even linguistic unity between East and West Romans" until the intrusion and takeover of the West Romans (the Roman Catholics) by the Franks (German tribes).


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  • Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine: An Interplay Between Theology and Society (1982)
  • Ancestral Sin (2002)
  • An Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics (2004)

Criticism

Fr. Romanides work has had many critics.

For example, Timothy Bratton makes the following points:

  • The Franks were among the earliest converts to the Orthodox faith (well, so were the Burgundians, but they were absorbed by the Frankish kingdom), so they could hardly be accused of persecuting "Roman Catholics" (which is misleading terminology in itself at this period);
  • Clovis himself converted to Orthodoxy, as did his Frankish subjects. Indeed, the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Visigothic Gaul openly worked on behalf of Clovis, since the bishops preferred the Orthodox Franks to the heretical Arian Visigoths. Far from regarding Clovis as an anti-imperial barbarian, the Eastern Emperor Anastasius (reigned 491-519) granted Clovis the highest honors normally granted to distinguished senators in Constantinople -- the coveted ranks of consul and patrician in 508. As J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, no blind admirer of Clovis, put it in his *The Barbarian West* (N.Y.: Harper Torchbooks, 1962), page 74-75, "the Emperor had for some time been in touch with the Franks and was glad to recognize them, at the appropriate moment, as a counter-balance to Gothic power in the West." From this point on, the Eastern Empire and the Frankish Kingdom were usually allies pitted against the Arian barbarian kingdoms in the West. The Papacy too smiled on the Franks as protectors of the true faith, and called upon the later Carolingian dynasty to protect Rome from the Lombards when the Byzantine administration in central Italy collapsed in the early 8th century.
Relations began to sour when Pepin "the Short" handed what had been the Exarchate of Ravenna over to the Pope as the nucleus of the Papal States (at that time, the "Patrimony of St. Peter"). But as the Byzantines had lost that area to the Lombards, who in turn lost it to Pepin, it was his by right of conquest, and the Roman claims were admittedly weak. Later, Charlemagne had a brief border war with the Eastern Empire, but this was to force his fellow emperor in Constantinople to recognize Charlemagne's comparable position in the West.
  • There never was any Carolingian "conspiracy" to overrun the Eastern Empire. (This issue has been discussed at length on the Byzans-L listhost)
  • Professor Romanides and his followers appear to confuse the Greek usage of "Franks" -- which later writers applied indiscriminately to _all_ Western Latin Europeans, including Germans! -- with the original tribe that occupied Gaul. Yes, the sack of Constantinople in 1204, an event which almost everyone on this list deplores as one of the most short-sighted tragedies of history, was carried out by "Frankish" (i.e., French) minor nobility, but let's not forget the Venetians Italians!) either. The Great Schism of 1054, which split the Latin and Greek churches apart, was carried out during the pontificate of Leo IX -- a German, not a "Frank." Professor Romanides, either through ignorance of Western history or perhaps because he has an axe to grind, has blamed the poor "Franks" of the Merovingian and Carolingian states for the excesses of later people who might not have recognized nor used that name.
  • Justinian was issuing his *Novellae* in Greek, not Latin, throughout his reign, because Latin was becoming a forgotten language in the East, just as Greek was vanishing in the West -- which makes claims of a prevailing linguistic and cultural continuity questionable at best.


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Sources

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