On the late Fr. Juan Nadal Cañellas

August 23, 2017

Juan_Nadal_Cañellas
[source: De Onsoño – Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50496270]

I learned earlier this year about the death, a year and a half ago, of Juan Nadal Cañellas (7 October 1934 – 16 January 2016). He was a Spaniard, born in Mallorca, a Jesuit priest of the Byzantine rite, archimandrite of the Byzantine monastery of Santa Petronila de Orient in Mallorca, and one of the most important Byzantine scholars of the past generation. He was, it appears, the person who advocated to Pope Paul VI the removal of the filioque clause from Catholic churches of the Greek rite, a change which formally took place in the year 1972. His main field of research was the life and writings of Gregory Akindynos, an early friend of Gregory Palamas who later became one of his main opponents. Nadal Cañellas edited Akindynos’s major writings and wrote some important studies on Akindynos’s thought; one of the most notable results of his research is to have established that Akindynos actually was himself a practicing hesychast and the spiritual advisor to the Princess Irene-Eulogia Choumnia.

So far as I am aware, almost none of Nadal Cañellas’s writings are to be found in English. Back in 2009, I published on this blog an excerpt from his historical introduction to his French translation of Akindynos’s four Antirrhetic Treatises against Gregory Palamas, under the title Nadal Cañellas on Meyendorff. Today, I have posted to the blog a new page (see the sidebar). It contains a translation of an article by Nadal Cañellas titled “Le rôle de Grégoire Akindynos dans la controverse hésychaste du XIVe siècle à Byzance,” which was published in 2007 in the volume Eastern Crossroads: Essays on Medieval Christian Legacy edited by Juan Pedro Monferrer-Sala, pp. 31-58. The article is a kind of abridgment and popularization of a book Nadal Cañellas published in 2006, the second volume of his study La résistance d’Akindynos à Grégoire Palamas. Enquête historique, avec traduction et commentaire de quatre traités édités récemment; it consists of a long historical commentary upon the works of which, in the first volume, he gave a translation.

Nadal Cañellas clearly had some major disagreements with the late Fr. John Meyendorff over matters both theological and historical. If Gregory Palamas is the great hero of Meyendorff’s historical researches, he is, for Nadal Cañellas, a much more questionable figure. To give one example: in his article, Nadal Cañellas gives two citations from Akindynos describing two occasions on which Palamas and his supporters sought to have Akindynos murdered. He also, near the end of the article, mentions that Akindynos died very soon after Kantakouzenos’s triumphant entry into Constantinople in the year 1347, a change in political circumstances which put the party of the Palamites in power; we have no explicit information about how Akindynos died, but, given the two previous murder attempts, it is difficult to refrain from speculating.

I never met Nadal Cañellas, and was sorry to learn that he had died; I had hoped one day to meet him. His photograph, in the Spanish Wikipedia article and in an obituary from the Diario de Mallorca, presents a bearded face that reminds me strangely of Don Quixote. Perhaps the idea of changing people’s minds about Akindynos is not unlike jousting with windmills.

Αἰωνία αὐτοῦ ἡ μνήμη.


(29.viii.17)

A postscript. I speculate above that Akindynos may have died at the hands of those who had tried to kill him before, the party of the Palamites. I should make it clear that that is in fact my own speculation, not that of Juan Nadal Cañellas; neither in the article which I have translated, nor in the monograph (La résistance d’Akindynos à Grégoire Palamas) of which this essay is an abridgment, does Nadal Cañellas speculate one way or the other as to how Akindynos died. In La résistance d’Akindynos à Grégoire Palamas, pp. 284-285, he provides the sole piece of definite information we possess about when and how Akindynos died: it occurs in a note in Philotheos Kokkinos’s Treatise VII against Gregoras. In the note, Philotheos states that, a year after his ordination as Metropolitan of Heraclea (which took place sometime between May and August 1347), he wanted to meet Gregoras, an opponent of Palamism about whom he had heard a great deal, “since Akindynos, the promoter and defender of the impiety after the first one (Barlaam), was already out of the way, having passed most wickedly from this life along with his heresy” (ὁ γὰρ τῆς δυσσεβείας μετὰ τὸν πρῶτον ἔξαρχος καὶ προστάτης Ἀκίνδυνος ἦν ἐκποδὼν ἤδη κάκιστα σὺν τῇ αἱρέσει τὸν βίον μετηλλαχώς). The English Wikipedia article on Akindynos suggests that Akindynos may have died as the result of the plague that broke out in 1348.

Secondly, since the blog format may not be an ideal way of reading Juan Nadal Cañellas’s article, I am supplying here a link to the same text, on Google Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zQV60b6LP2Dj-u01xFoJoW-wTQBYkrw6_CHUczLkLaw/edit?usp=sharing

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