The personality of the Patriarch Jeremias II was so powerful and influential that the composer of the inscription on the patriarchal throne was inspired to write: «He shines more than the sun in the East».
A descendant of the noble and illustrious family of Tranos, the surname under which he passed into history, he was born in Anchialos, Pontus, in 1536. In his chronography, Dorotheus of Monemvasia tells us that Jeremias had been the pupil of three outstanding scholars: Hierotheos of Monemvasia, Arsenios of Tirnovo and Damascenos the Studite, all three students of the famous Theophanes Eleavoulkos. He also studied for a while under the scholar Matthew the Cretan.
The date Jeremias was appointed Metropolitan of Larisa is unknown. What is known is that while still young, at the age of 36, he was elected to the throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 5 May 1572. He reigned three times (1572-1579, 1580-1584, 1586-1595), and his biographers describe him as «a man of learning and wisdom». The main characteristics of Jeremias's patriarchy are described below.
The adventures of the Ecumenical Throne
While Jeremias «toiled with great zeal to raise the Church from its state of decline... and restore its former resplendent glory», envious pretenders opposed his restorative programme. The previous Patriarch, Metrophanes III (1565-1572), succeeded through intrigue to depose him and re-occupy the patriarchal throne from 29 November 1579 to 9 August 1580, when he died. Jeremias was deposed, for the second time, in 1584. Without any reason, he was first imprisoned and then banished to Rhodes. During his absence, Pachomios II (1584-1585) and Theoliptos II (1585-1586) sat on the Ecumenical Throne. The most tragic event occurred, probably in 1586, when the deacon Nikiphoros had the responsibility of the patriarchal throne on behalf of Jeremias. The monastery of Panagia Pammakaristos, the patriarchal headquarters, was annexed and converted into a mosque, which the Sultan named Fethiye Camii. When Jeremias, on his return from banishment, heard the sad news, he was «greatly grieved» and moved the Patriarchate temporarily to the church of the Theotokos Paramythia, also known as Vlach Saray.
Jeremias's correspondence with the Lutheran theologians of Tubingen
Jeremias played a very significant part in the relations of the Eastern Orthodox Church with the other Christian Churches. In the patriarchy of this enlightened ecclesiastical lead¬er, the Lutheran theologians of Tubingen presented official proposals for a union of the Orthodox and Protestant Churches. The first letter was delivered to the Patriarch by Stephen Gerlach, an eminent Lutheran scholar, who was also appointed chaplain of the German Embassy to the Sublime Porte. This letter was signed by Martin Crusius, a professor of Greek and Latin at Tubingen, and by Jacob Andreae, Chancellor of the University of Tubingen. The purpose of the text was to ascertain the inclinations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – of which little had been known until then – before proceeding to the second stage, which involved the union of the two Churches.
The first meeting took place on 15 October 1573, at the Pammakaristos. Gerlach was greatly impressed by the sincerity and unpretentiousness with which Jeremias received him and by the cordial atmosphere that prevailed. He handed over the letter, and at once wrote his impressions to Tubingen expressing his admiration for the brilliant personality and outstanding character, the simple manner of dressing and the frugal table of the Greek Patriarch. At the same time, he informed Tubingen of the Patriarch's intention to reply to the letter. When Crusius heard of the Patriarchate's positive attitude, he impatiently wrote a second letter. On 4 January 1575, Jeremias gave his answer to the Lutherans, writing with a friendly disposition and circumspection. In the meantime, Crusius and Andrew had sent the «Confession of Augsburg» translated into Greek by Philip Melanchthon, with the request that the Orthodox comment on the doctrines contained in the articles, stating whether they agreed or disagreed. Gerlach delivered the «Confession of Augsburg» to the Patriarch on 24 May 1575, whilst the Holy Synod was in session.
Jeremias and his close collaborators, Leonard Mindonios, a Chian doctor and scholar, John Zygomalas and his son Theodosios, Damascenos the Studite, Metropolitan of Nafpactos and Arta, Arsenios Bishop of Tirnovo, Metrophanes Metropolitan of Veroia, the hieromonk Matthew, the Logothete Hierax and probably Gabriel Siviros, studied with great care the 21 articles of the «Confession» and composed an answer, the «Epicrisis on the Confession of Augsburg», dated 15 May 1576. The receipt of the «Epicrisis» (Comments) was hailed at Tubingen as a major event. In this historical text, Jeremias, on the basis of the two sources of true faith, the Holy Bible and the Sacred Tradition, indicates the points on which Lutheran and Orthodox doctrines agree and those on which they disagree, expounding the Orthodox views on each question of dogma.
The divines of Tubingen replied on 18 June 1577, attempting to justify their novel doctrines. The Patriarch was on a pastoral tour of Greece, when the reply reached him in Thessaly on 4 March 1578. When he had the opportunity, Jeremias composed, again with the help of his collaborators, a reply that was despatched from Constantinople. «In addition to the zeal in favour of Orthodoxy, this wise pastor's wide knowledge and correct judgement shine throughout this second statement» (C. Sathas).
In this letter the Patriarch Jeremias, in a friendly but clear manner, answered the Lutheran arguments and in a fatherly way suggested adherence to the Sacred Tradition. After long discussions on Jeremias's letter, the Lutheran divines sent their reply on 24 June 1580, at the time when Jeremias was starting his second patriarchy. The Patriarch realising that no common ground for an understanding could be found, refuted the Dual Procession of the Holy Spirit arid the Lutheran views on Free Will, and put a friendly end to the correspondence.
The «Comments on the Confession of Augsburg» and the «Replies» to the Lutheran divines gave the Protestants the opportunity to become acquainted with the Orthodox Church in a most responsible manner. They also gave the Ecumenical Patriarchate the possibility to make its God-inspired mission and spiritual presence known to a wider part of the world, through the enlightened personality of the Patriarch Jeremias.
Meanwhile, the Church of Rome followed closely the exchange of letters on questions of dogma between the Protestants and the Orthodox, fearing a union that could turn against the Papacy. With the help of envoyees and the Jesuits, Rome tried to influence matters within the Eastern Church. It was to this effect, but also to discuss and convince the Orthodox Church to accept the proposed correction of the Julian Calendar, that Pope Gregory XIII sent a mission to Constantinople. On 20 November 1583, Jeremias issued a Tomus on the question of the calendar, in which the principal idea was that already expounded to the Venetian mediators: «Our Church upholds what has been handed down to us, the Western Church can do as she wills and wishes».
The most important decisions and acts of Jeremias II
Those who study the period of Jeremias's patriarchy are astonished by his tireless activity. In addition to his efforts for the improvement of the Patriarchate's finances, the compilation of Holy Canons, and the spiritual contact maintained with Orthodox personalities of his time (like Meletios Pegas, Patriarch of Alexandria, Maximos Margunios, Bishop of Kythira, Gabriel Seviros, Metropolitan of Philadelphia, et al.), Jeremias gave his attention to a great number of different matters and solved many problems, including:
(i) The repair and restoration of the patriarchal church (St. Mary Pammakaristos) and its embellishment with a splendid patriarchal throne and with the donations of ecclesiastical vessels, vestments, etc.
(ii) In 1577 Jeremias transferred the see of the Metropolitanate of Philadelphia to the church of St. George of the Greeks in Venice, and appointed to the position his collaborator and well-known scholar Gabriel Seviros. Later, in 1579, he proclaimed the famous church of St. George as «stauropegial», i.e. under direct patriarchal control.
(iii) Jeremias validated the last will and testament of the venerable Theophanes Apsaras, founder of the monastery of Varlaam at the Meteora, Thessaly.
(iv) A patriarchal sigil dated 1575 confirmed the rights of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem on the Archiepiscopate of Mount Sinai.
(v) With a synodic resolution of 1572, Jeremias interdicted simony and the embatoikion (the sum of money paid voluntarily by priests to the bishop who appointed them to a parish).
(vi) The Greek Orthodox community of Pola, Istria, founded an Orthodox church in 1583.
(vii) In 1584 Jeremias presented a finger from the relic of St. John Chrysostom and a hand from that of St. Andrew in Krisi to Pope Gregory XIII.
(viii) In January 1589, while on a journey to Russia, Jeremias established the Moscow Patriarchate, raising the Metropolitan to Patriarchal rank. This historical decision was sanctioned on 12 February 1593 by a Synod convened in the church of the Theotokos Paramythia. The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia was thereby added, after the Patriarch of Jerusalem, in the order of Orthodox Patriarchs.
(ix) Jeremias condemned the Gregorian Calendar established by Pope Gregory XIII.
The celebrated drawing published by Martin Crusius in his Turco-Graecia is the result of Jeremias's acquaintance and correspondence with the Lutheran divines of Tubingen and his frequent travels. The Patriarch is portrayed clad in the typical garments of the period and wearing a Byzantine headdress known as skiadion.
[author: Athanasios Paliouras, translation: Helen Zigada]