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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Message of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church
28 June 2016
During the deliberations of the Holy and Great Council the importance of the Synaxes of the Primates which had taken place was emphasized and the proposal was made for the Holy and Great Council to become a regular Institution to be convened every seven or ten years.


To the Orthodox people
and to all people of good will

To God, “the Father of mercies and all comfort,” we address a hymn of thanksgiving and praise for having enabled us to gather during the week of Pentecost (18-26 June 2016) on Crete, where the Apostle Paul and his disciple Titus preached the Gospel in the early years of the life of the Church. We give thanks to the Triune God who was well pleased that in one accord we should bring to a conclusion the work of the Holy and Great Council that was convoked by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch. Bartholomew by the common will of their Beatitudes the Primates of the local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches.

Faithfully following the example of the Apostles and our god-bearing Fathers we have once again studied the Gospel of freedom “for which Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5: 1). The foundation of our theological discussions was the certainty that the Church does not live for herself. She transmits the witness of the Gospel of grace and truth and offers to the whole world the gifts of God: love, peace, justice, reconciliation, the power of the Cross and of the Resurrection and the expectation of eternal life.

1) The key priority of the Council was to proclaim the unity of the Orthodox Church. Founded on the Eucharist and the Apostolic Succession of her Bishops, the existing unity needs to be strengthened and to bear new fruits. The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is a divine-human communion, a foretaste and experience of the eschaton within the Holy Eucharist. As a continuous Pentecost, she is a prophetic voice that cannot be silenced, the presence of and witness to the Kingdom of the God of love. The Orthodox Church, faithful to the unanimous Apostolic Tradition and her sacramental experience, is the authentic continuation of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as confessed in the Creed and confirmed by the teaching of the Church Fathers. Our Church lives out the mystery of the Divine Economy in her sacramental life, with the Holy Eucharist at its center.

The Orthodox Church expresses her unity and catholicity “in Council”. Conciliarity pervades her organization, the way decisions are taken and determines her path. The Orthodox Autocephalous Churches do not constitute a federation of Churches, but the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Each local Church as she offers the holy Eucharist is the local presence and manifestation of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In regard to the Orthodox Diaspora in various countries of the world, it was decided to continue with the institution of Episcopal Assemblies until such time as canonical rigor can be implemented. These assemblies are composed of the canonical bishops appointed by each Autocephalous Church and these bishops continue to remain subject to their respective Churches. The due function of these Episcopal Assemblies guarantees respect for the Orthodox principle of conciliarity._



2) Participating in the Holy Eucharist and praying for the whole world, we must continue the ‘liturgy after the Divine Liturgy’ and give the witness of faith to those near and those far off, in accordance with the Lord’s clear command before His ascension, “And you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Ac. 1: 8). The re-evangelization of God’s people in modern, secularized societies and the evangelization of those who have still not come to know Christ remain an unceasing obligation for the Church.

3) In response to her obligation to witness to the truth and her apostolic faith, our Church attaches great importance to dialogue, primarily with non Orthodox Christians. In this way the remainder of the Christian world comes to know more precisely the authenticity of the Orthodox Tradition, the value of patristic teaching and the liturgical life and faith of the Orthodox. The dialogues conducted by the Orthodox Church never imply a compromise in matters of faith.

4) The explosions of fundamentalism observed within various religions represent an expression of morbid religiosity. Sober inter-religious dialogue helps significantly to promote mutual trust, peace and reconciliation. The oil of religious experience must be used to heal wounds and not to rekindle the fire of military conflicts. The Orthodox Church unequivocally condemns the extension of military violence, persecutions, the expulsion and murder of members of religious minorities, forced conversions, the trafficking of refugees, the abductions, torture and abhorrent executions. She denounces the destruction of churches, religious symbols and cultural monuments. Very particularly, she expresses her deep concern about the situation of Christians and of all the persecuted minorities in the Middle East. She calls on the governments in the region to protect the indigenous Orthodox and other Christians and all the populations who have an inalienable right to remain in their countries as citizens with equal rights. Our Council appeals to all parties involved to make systematic efforts without delay to bring to an end the military conflicts in the Middle East and wherever armed hostilities persist and to enable all those displaced to return to their homes.

We address our appeal particularly to those in positions of power to act so that peace and justice may prevail in the countries of origin of the refugees. We urge the civil authorities, the citizens and the Orthodox Christians in the countries in which the persecuted are taking refuge to continue to offer help to the limit or even beyond the limit of their abilities.

5) Modern secularisation seeks the autonomy of man (anthropos) from Christ and from the spiritual influence of the Church, which it arbitrarily identifies with conservatism. Western civilization, however, bears the indelible mark of the diachronic contribution of Christianity. The Church, moreover, highlights the saving significance of Christ, the God-man, and of His Body, as the place and mode of life in freedom.

6) In contrast to the contemporary approach to marriage, the Orthodox Church regards the indissoluble loving relationship of man and woman as “a great mystery… of Christ and the Church”. Similarly, she calls the family which springs from this and which constitutes the only guarantee for the upbringing of children a “little church”.

The Church has always emphasised the value of self-restraint. Christian asceticism, however, differs radically from every dualistic asceticism which severs man from life and from his fellow man. On the contrary, she connects this with the sacramental life of the Church. Self-restraint does not concern only the monastic life. The ascetic ethos is a characteristic of Christian life in all its manifestations.

**

Apart from the specific topics about which it decided, the Holy and Great Council notes in brief the following important contemporary issues:

7) In regard to the matter of the relations between Christian faith and the natural sciences, the Orthodox Church avoids placing scientific investigation under tutelage and does not adopt a position on every scientific question. She thanks God who gives to scientists the gift of uncovering unknown dimensions of divine creation. The modern development of the natural sciences and of technology is bringing radical changes to our life. It brings significant benefits, such as the facilitation of everyday life, the treatment of serious diseases, easier communications and space exploration, and so on. In spite of this, however, there are many negative consequences such as the manipulation of freedom, the gradual loss of precious traditions, the destruction of the natural environment and the questioning of moral values. Scientific knowledge, however swiftly it may be advancing, does not motivate man’s will, nor does it give answers to serious moral and existential issues and to the search for the meaning of life and of the world. These matters demand a spiritual approach, which the Orthodox Church attempts to provide through a bioethics which is founded on Christian ethics and Patristic teaching. Along with her respect for the freedom of scientific investigation, the Orthodox Church at the same time points out the dangers concealed in certain scientific achievements and emphasises man’s dignity and his divine destiny.

8) It is clear that the present-day ecological crisis is due to spiritual and moral causes. Its roots are connected with greed, avarice and egoism, which lead to the thoughtless use of natural resources, the filling of the atmosphere with damaging pollutants, and to climate change. The Christian response to the problem demands repentance for the abuses, an ascetic frame of mind as an antidote to overconsumption, and at the same time a cultivation of the consciousness that man is a “steward ” and not a possessor of creation. The Church never ceases to emphasise that future generations also have a right to the the natural resources that the Creator has given us. For this reason, the Orthodox Church takes an active part in the various international ecological initiatives and has ordained the 1st September as a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment.

9) Against the levelling and impersonal standardization that is promoted in so many ways, Orthodoxy proposes respect for the particular characteristics of individuals peoples. It is also opposed the making of the economy into something autonomous from basic human needs and turning it into an end in itself. The progress of mankind is not connected only with an increase in living standards or with economic development at the expense of spiritual values.

10) The Orthodox Church does not involve herself in politics. Her voice remains distinct, but also prophetic, as a beneficial intervention for the sake of man. Human rights today are at the center of politics as a response to the social and political crises and upheavals, and seek to protect the citizen from the arbitrary power of the state. Our Church also adds to this the obligations and responsibilities of the citizens and the need for constant self-criticism on the part of both politicians and citizens for the improvement of society. And above all she emphasises that the Orthodox ideal in respect of man transcends the horizon of established human rights and that ” greatest of all is love”, as Christ revealed and as all the faithful who follow him have experienced.  She insists also that a fundamental human right is the protection of religious freedom–namely, freedom of conscience, belief, and religion, including, alone and in community, in private and in public, the right to freedom of worship and practice, the right to manifest one’s religion, as well as the right of religious communities to religious education and to the full function and exercise of their religious duties, without any form of direct or indirect interference by the state.

11) The Orthodox Church addresses herself to young people who seek for a plenitude of life replete with freedom, justice, creativity and also love. She invites them to join themselves consciously with the Church of Him who is Truth and Life. To come, offering to the ecclesial body their vitality, their anxieties, their concerns and their expectations. Young people are not only the future, but also the dynamic and creative present of the Church, both on a local and on a world-wide level.

12) The Holy and Great Council has opened our horizon towards the contemporary diverse and multifarious world. It has emphasised our responsibility in place and in time, ever with the perspective of eternity. The Orthodox Church, preserving intact her Sacramental and Soteriological character, is sensitive to the pain, the distress and the cry for justice and peace of the peoples of the world. She “proclaims day after day the good tidings of His salvation, announcing His glory among the nations and His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 95).

Let us pray that “the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will, after we have suffered a little, Himself restore, establish, and strengthen and settle us. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5.10-11).

† Bartholomew of Constantinople, Chairman

† Theodoros of Alexandria

† Theophilos of Jerusalem

† Irinej of Serbia

†Daniel of Romania

† Chrysostomos of Cyprus

† Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece

† Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland

† Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania

† Rastislav of Presov, the Czech Lands and Slovakia




Orthodox Holy and Great Council calls for protection of Christians in Middle East

Orthodox church leaders from around the world have expressed their concern about the situation facing Christians in the Middle East. They have held a historic meeting in Greece, the first of its kind in 1,200 years.

 The Orthodox Council on the Greek Island of Crete (Photo: AP) 
The leaders of the Orthodox Christian churches concluded their week-long Holy and Great Council on the Greek island of Crete on Sunday with a circular that stated: "The Orthodox Church is particularly concerned about the situation facing Christians and other persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East."
The church "addresses an appeal to governments in that region to protect the Christian populations - Orthodox, Ancient Eastern and other Christians - who have survived in the cradle of Christianity," they added.
In a joint message, the ten church leaders who attended the meeting stated that the proposal was made "for the Holy and Great Council to become a regular institution to be convened every seven or ten years."
However, it is unlikely that churches which did not attend the historic gathering will comply with any decision taken there. The Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill, who represents about 130 million Orthodox Christians - refused to come to the meeting, arguing that preparations had been inadequate. Aside from Russia, the Orthodox churches of Bulgaria and Georgia were absent. The Syria-based Antioch patriarchate also stayed away.
Unlike the centralized authority of the Vatican over Roman Catholics, the Orthodox churches are independent. There are 14 such autonomous churches worldwide, with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, considered as their spiritual head and "first among equals."
At the historic council, the church leaders also voiced concern over the "negative consequences of scientific progress" and "moral dilemmas" caused by rapid advances in genetics and biotechnology.
"Man is experimenting ever more intensively with his own very nature in an extreme and dangerous way. He is in danger of being turned into a biological machine, into an impersonal social unit or into a mechanical device of controlled thought," the council leaders stated.
das/jm (AFP, AP)


Historic Orthodox Council ends with upbeat but cautious message
Orthodox leaders applaud June 24 during the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church on the Greek island of Crete. (CNS/Dimitrios Panagos, Greek American News Photo Agency)Jonathan Luxmoore  | 
Orthodox leaders have concluded a historic council pledging dialogue with other churches, while also reaffirming "no compromise" when it comes to Orthodox teachings.
"The Orthodox church, faithful to the unanimous apostolic tradition and her sacramental experience, is the authentic continuation of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as confessed in the Creed and confirmed by the teaching of the Church Fathers," the Orthodox representatives said in a final message.

"Our church attaches great importance to dialogue, primarily with non- Orthodox Christians. In this way the remainder of the Christian world comes to know more precisely the authenticity of the Orthodox tradition, the value of patristic teaching and the liturgical life and faith of the Orthodox. Dialogues conducted by the Orthodox church never imply a compromise in matters of faith."

The message was issued at the end of the Holy and Great Council, attended in Crete by 220 Orthodox bishops and archbishops, as well as 70 official advisers.

It said the signatories were full of "thanksgiving and praise" that the gathering had taken place, despite boycotts by four of the 14 Orthodox churches, adding that the Council's key priority had been "to proclaim the unity of the Orthodox church" with "a prophetic voice that cannot be silenced."

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"The Orthodox church expresses her unity and catholicity in council -- conciliarity pervades her organization, the way decisions are taken and determines her path," the message continued.

"The church does not involve herself in politics -- her voice remains distinct, but also prophetic, as a beneficial intervention for the sake of man. Human rights today are at the center of politics as a response to social and political crises and upheavals, and seek to protect the citizen from the arbitrary power of the state. Our church adds to this the obligations and responsibilities of citizens and the need for constant self-criticism."

The week-long Council, widely believed the first on such a scale for 1,200 years, ended with a June 26 liturgy at Chania's St Peter and Paul Basilica, presided over by its convener, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.  

It adopted joint declarations on Orthodox mission, diaspora affairs, church autonomy, fasting and ties with other Christian churches, as well as document on marriage, which said heterosexual unions were "an indispensable condition for marriage," and barred church members from "same-sex unions or any other form of cohabitation." 

Speaking on June 24, the Council spokesman, Archbishop Job Getcha of Telmessos, said the Council's decisions would be binding for all churches, despite decisions by the Antioch Patriarchate and Orthodox churches in Georgia and Bulgaria and Russia to stay away. 

As proof, he added that voting procedures were "valid in democratic countries" even if some citizens chose not to participate.

However, this was rejected on June 27 by an official from Russia's Orthodox church, which has cautioned it may not recognize moves by the Crete Council. 

"Comparing a church council to democratic procedures is hardly fitting or relevant -- there'll be great embarrassment if church rules are checked for their correspondence to democratic norms," Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, deputy head of the Russian church's external relations department, told the Interfax-Religion news agency. 

"There's been no democracy in the church since the first centuries, and there won't be now, since democracy means the rule of people, and power in the church belongs to God."

A total of 15 observers from non-Orthodox churches attended the Council, including Cardinal Kurt Koch, chairman of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and were greeted by Patriarch Bartholomew at the final liturgy. 

In its document on ties with other Christian denominations, the Council said Orthodox churches had "participated in the ecumenical movement from its outset," seeing this as "a consistent expression of the apostolic faith and tradition in new historical circumstances." 

It added that most were still involved at national, regional and international levels, despite the ecumenical movement's current "deep crisis," and said each church should keep others informed of its engagement "to express solidarity and unity."

All churches should be notified of theological dialogues, the document said, with attempts made to coordinate relevant committees, while any dialogue achievements should depend on "unanimity of all local Orthodox churches."

"The Orthodox church accepts the historical name of other non-Orthodox Christian churches and confessions that are not in communion with her, and believes her relations with them should be based on the most speedy and objective clarification possible of the whole ecclesiological question -- most especially of their more general teachings on sacraments, grace, priesthood and apostolic succession," added the document, which made no direct reference to the Catholic church. 

"In the theological dialogues, the common goal of all is the ultimate restoration of unity in true faith and love. However, the existing theological and ecclesiological differences permit a certain hierarchical ordering of challenges in the way of this pan-Orthodox objective. The distinctive problems of each bilateral dialogue require a differentiation in the methodology followed in it."

Meanwhile, in its final message, the Council said current "explosions of fundamentalism" in religions were "an expression of morbid religiosity," and called on Middle East governments to do more to protect endangered Christian populations, and on all citizens, including Orthodox Christians, to help refugees "to the limit or even beyond the limit of their abilities."

The message said Orthodoxy recognized the benefits brought by science and did not "adopt a position on every scientific question," but also recognized that science could also lead to "the manipulation of freedom, gradual loss of precious traditions, destruction of the natural environment and the questioning of moral values."

The current ecological crisis had "spiritual and moral causes" and was "connected with greed, avarice and egoism," the message added, while the best Christian response included "repentance for the abuses and an ascetic frame of mind as an antidote to over-consumption."

"Orthodoxy proposes respect for the particular characteristics of individual peoples -- it also opposed making the economy into something autonomous from basic human needs and turning it into an end in itself," the Council said.

"She insists that a fundamental human right is the protection of religious freedom -- namely, freedom of conscience, belief and religion, including the right to freedom of worship and practice alone and in community, in private and in public, and the right of religious communities to religious education and to full function and exercise of their religious duties without direct or indirect interference by the state."

Each Orthodox church was permitted to bring up to 25 bishops and six advisers to the Council, procedures for which were finalized last January by the Orthodox Synaxis, or assembly of Orthodox primates, after a century of on-off planning.

Council sources said a total of nine women had been included among the 290 delegates for the first time at a major Orthodox meeting, and said it was hoped a proposal, noted in the final message, for the Council to become "a regular institution, convened every seven or ten years," would be acted on.

However, in his June 27 Interfax statement, Balashov said the Russian Orthodox church, the world's largest, would "make an attentive study" of the final documents at a July session of its governing Holy Synod, and "decide its attitude" to them.

Russian church officials have also warned the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is recognized as holding honorary first place among Orthodox primates, not to act on a July 16 resolution by Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, calling on him to declare the Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent from the Moscow Patriarchate.

In its document on inter-church ties, the Council said Orthodoxy believed in "eschewing every act of proselytism, uniatism or other provocative act of inter-confessional competition," but also condemned "all efforts to break the unity of the church, undertaken by individuals or groups under the pretext of maintaining or allegedly defending true Orthodoxy."

It said most Orthodox churches were members of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, "contributing with all means at their disposal."

However, it added that the churches of Georgia and Bulgaria had withdrawn from the World Council of Churches in 1997-8, and had "their own particular opinion" about its work, while the whole Orthodox communion had "reservations concerning paramount issues of faith and order," believing non-Orthodox churches had "diverged from the true faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church."

"The Orthodox church's participation in the WCC does not signify that she accepts the notion of the 'equality of confessions' -- in no way is she able to accept the unity of the church as an inter-confessional compromise," the document said.

"The unity sought within the WCC cannot simply be the product of theological agreements, but must be founded on the unity of faith, preserved in the sacraments and lived out in the Orthodox church. … From its inclusion in the WCC, it does not ensue that each church is obliged to regard the other churches as churches in the true and full sense."


[Jonathan Luxmoore's two-volume study of communist-era persecution, The God of the Gulag, has just been published by Gracewing in the U.K.]


Holy and Great Council focuses on relations with other Christians in fifth day of discussions
Kolymvari, Crete, Greece
24 June 2016

Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Release

On the fifth day of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Grace Bishop George of Siemiatycze of the Church of Poland at the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonia. Afterward, the Hierarchs continued their work in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth sessions of the Council.

The day’s sessions focused primarily on Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew encouraged an open and honest dialogue among the Hierarchs, and during the fourteenth session the Hierarchs reviewed proposed changes to the final text submitted by the Primates and individual Hierarchs of the local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches. Discussion on this text will resume tomorrow morning.

The Hierarchs concluded their work for the day after reviewing a revised draft of the Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.

In the afternoon, His Eminence Archbishop Job of Telmessos delivered an official news update on behalf of the Holy and Great Council. After the comments made by Archbishop Job, official spokespersons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Church of Serbia, the Church of Romania, the Church of Cyprus, and the Church of Greece gave a common press briefing, answering questions from the press.

The final session of the Holy and Great Council will be live-streamed on Saturday, June 25, beginning at 17:00 GMT+3 (10 a.m. EDT). Orthros and Divine Liturgy, which officially closes the Council, will be livestreamed on Sunday, June 26, beginning at 8:00 GMT+3 (1 a.m. EDT). 

To view recordings of the press briefings, visit https://www.holycouncil.org/video.

As they become available, photos for use without modification or alteration are available at https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/photos. All texts and homilies related to the Holy and Great Council are available at https://media.holycouncil.org/texts.

​Official Documents of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church



Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World





RELATIONS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH WITH THE REST OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD

The Orthodox Church, as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, in her profound ecclesiastical self-consciousness, believes unflinchingly that she occupies a central place in the matter of the promotion of Christian unity in the world today.
The Orthodox Church founds the unity of the Church on the fact of her establishment by our Lord Jesus Christ, and on the communion in the Holy Trinity and in the sacraments. This unity is expressed through the apostolic succession and the patristic tradition and is lived out in the Church up to the present day. The Orthodox Church has the mission and duty to transmit and preach all the truth contained in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, which also bestows upon the Church her catholic character.
The responsibility of the Orthodox Church for unity as well as her ecumenical mission were articulated by the Ecumenical Councils. These stressed most especially the indissoluble bond between true faith and sacramental communion.
The Orthodox Church, which prays unceasingly “for the union of all,” has always cultivated dialogue with those estranged from her, those both far and near. In particular, she has played a leading role in the contemporary search for ways and means to restore the unity of those who believe in Christ, and she has participated in the Ecumenical Movement from its outset, and has contributed to its formation and further development. Moreover, the Orthodox Church, thanks to the ecumenical and loving spirit which distinguishes her, praying as divinely commanded that all men may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4), has always worked for the restoration of Christian unity. Hence, Orthodox participation in the movement to restore unity with other Christians in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is in no way foreign to the nature and history of the Orthodox Church, but rather represents a consistent expression of the apostolic faith and tradition in a new historical circumstances.
The contemporary bilateral theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church and her participation in the Ecumenical Movement rest on this self-consciousness of Orthodoxy and her ecumenical spirit, with the aim of seeking the unity of all Christians on the basis of the truth of the faith and tradition of the ancient Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
In accordance with the ontological nature of the Church, her unity can never be perturbed. In spite of this, the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other non-Orthodox Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her, and believes that her relations with them should be based on the most speedy and objective clarification possible of the whole ecclesiological question, and most especially of their more general teachings on sacraments, grace, priesthood, and apostolic succession. Thus, she was favorably and positively disposed, both for theological and pastoral reasons, towards theological dialogue with other Christians on a bi-lateral and multi-lateral level, and towards more general participation in the Ecumenical Movement of recent times, in the conviction that through dialogue she gives a dynamic witness to the fullness of truth in Christ and to her spiritual treasures to those who are outside her, with the objective aim of smoothing the path leading to unity.
In this spirit, all the local Most Holy Orthodox Churches participate actively today in the official theological dialogues, and the majority of these Churches also participate in various national, regional and international inter-Christian organizations, in spite of the deep crisis that has arisen in the Ecumenical Movement. This manifold activity of the Orthodox Church springs from a sense of responsibility and from the conviction that mutual understanding and cooperation are of fundamental importance if we wish never to "put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ (1 Cor 9:12).
Certainly, while the Orthodox Church dialogues with other Christians, she does not underestimate the difficulties inherent in this endeavor; she perceives these difficulties, however, on the path towards toward a common understanding of the tradition of the ancient Church and in hope that the Holy Spirit, Who “welds together the whole institution of the Church, (Sticheron at Vespers of Pentecost), will "make up that which is lacking" (Ordination Prayer). In this sense, the Orthodox Church in her relations with the rest of the Christian world, relies not only on the human efforts of those involved in dialogue, but especially on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the grace of the Lord, who prayed “that…all may be one” (Jn 17:21).
The contemporary bilateral theological dialogues, announced by the Pan-Orthodox meetings, express the unanimous decision of all local most holy Orthodox Churches who are called to participate actively and continually in them, so that the unanimous witness of Orthodoxy to the glory of the Triune God may not be hindered. In the event that a certain local Church chooses not to assign a representative to a particular dialogue or one of its sessions, if this decision is not pan-Orthodox, the dialogue still continues. Prior to the start of the dialogue or of the session, the absence of any local Church ought to be discussed at all events by the Orthodox Committee of the dialogue to express the solidarity and unity of the Orthodox Church. The bi-lateral and multi-lateral theological dialogues need to be subject to periodical evaluations on a pan-Orthodox level. 
The problems that arise during the theological discussions within Joint Theological Commissions are not always sufficient grounds for any local Orthodox Church unilaterally to recall its representatives or definitively withdraw from the dialogue. As a general rule, the withdrawal of a Church from a particular dialogue should be avoided; in those instances when this occurs, inter-Orthodox efforts to reestablish representational fullness in the Orthodox Theological Commission of the dialogue in question should be initiated. Should one or more local Orthodox Churches refuse to take part in the sessions of the Joint Theological Commission of a particular dialogue, citing serious ecclesiological, canonical, pastoral, or ethical reasons, this/these Church(es) shall notify the Ecumenical Patriarch and all the Orthodox Churches in writing, in accordance with pan-Orthodox practice. During a pan-Orthodox meeting the Ecumenical Patriarch shall seek unanimous consensus among the Orthodox Churches about possible courses of action, which may also include—  should this be unanimously deemed necessary—a reassessment of the progress of the theological dialogue in question.
The methodology followed in the theological dialogues aims at both the resolution of the received theological differences or of possible new differentiations, and to seek the common elements of the Christian faith. This process requires that the entire Church is kept informed on the various developments of the dialogues. In the event that it is impossible to overcome a specific theological difference, the theological dialogue may continue, recording the disagreement identified and bringing it to the attention of all the local Orthodox Churches for their consideration on what ought to be done henceforth.
It is clear that in the theological dialogues the common goal of all is the ultimate restoration of unity in true faith and love. The existing theological and ecclesiological differences permit, however, a certain hierarchical ordering of the challenges lying in the way of meeting this pan-Orthodox objective. The distinctive problems of each bilateral dialogue require a differentiation in the methodology followed in it, but not a differentiation in the aim, since the aim is one in all the dialogues.
Nevertheless, it is essential if necessary for an attempt to be made to coordinate the work of the various Inter-Orthodox Theological Committees, bearing in mind that the existing unity of the Orthodox Church must also be revealed and manifested in this area of these dialogues.
The conclusion of any official theological dialogue occurs with the completion of the work of the relevant Joint Theological Commission. The Chairman of the Inter-Orthodox Commission then submits a report to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who, with the consent of the Primates of the local Orthodox Churches, declares the conclusion of the dialogue. No dialogue is considered complete before it is proclaimed through such a pan-Orthodox decision.
Upon the successful conclusion of the work of any theological dialogue, the pan-Orthodox decision about the restoration of ecclesiastical communion must, however, rest on the unanimity of all the local Orthodox Churches.
One of the principal bodies in the history of the Ecumenical Movement is the World Council of Churches (WCC). Certain Orthodox Churches were among the Council’s founding members and later, all the local Orthodox Churches became members. The WCC is a structured inter-Christian body, despite the fact that it does not include all non-Orthodox Christian Churches and Confessions. At the same time, there are other inter-Christian organizations and regional bodies, such as the Conference of European Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches and the African Council of Churches. These, along with the WCC, fulfill an important mission by promoting the unity of the Christian world. The Orthodox Churches of Georgia and Bulgaria withdrew from the WCC, the former in 1997, and the latter in 1998. They have their own particular opinion on the work of the World Council of Churches and hence do not participate in its activities and those of other inter-Christian organizations.
The local Orthodox Churches that are members of the WCC participate fully and equally in the WCC, contributing with all means at their disposal to the advancement of peaceful co-existence and co-operation in the major socio-political challenges. The Orthodox Church readily accepted the WCC’s decision to respond to her request concerning the establishment of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches, which was mandated by the Inter-Orthodox Conference held in Thessaloniki in 1998. The established criteria of the Special Commission, proposed by the Orthodox and accepted by the WCC, led to the formation of the Permanent Committee on Consensus and Collaboration. The criteria were approved and included in the Constitution and Rules of the World Council of Churches.
Remaining faithful to her ecclesiology, to the identity of her internal structure, and to the teaching of the ancient Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Orthodox Church’s participation in the WCC does not signify that she accepts the notion of the “equality of Confessions,” and in no way is she able to accept the unity of the Church as an inter-confessional compromise. In this spirit, the unity that is sought within the WCC cannot simply be the product of theological agreements, but must also be founded on the unity of faith, preserved in the sacraments and lived out in the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Churches that are members of the WCC regard as an indispensable condition of their participation in the WCC the foundational article of its Constitution, in accordance with which its members may only be those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior in accordance with the Scriptures, and who confess the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in accordance with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. It is their deep conviction that the ecclesiological presuppositions of the 1950 Toronto Statement, On the Church, the Churches and the World Council of Churches, are of paramount importance for Orthodox participation in the Council. It is therefore very clear that the WCC does not by any means constitute a “super-Church.” The purpose of the World Council of Churches is not to negotiate unions between Churches, which can only be done by the Churches themselves acting on their own initiative, but to bring Churches into living contact with each other and to promote the study and discussion of the issues of Church unity. No Church is obliged to change her ecclesiology on her accession to the Council... Moreover, from the fact of its inclusion in the Council, it does not ensue that each Church is obliged to regard the other Churches as Churches in the true and full sense of the term. (Toronto Statement, § 2). 
The prospects for conducting theological dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world are always determined on the basis of the canonical principles of Orthodox ecclesiology and the canonical criteria of the already established Church Tradition (Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council and Canon 95 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council).
The Orthodox Church wishes to support the work of the Commission on "Faith and Order" and follows its theological contribution with particular interest to this day. It views favorably the Commission’s theological documents, which were developed with the significant participation of Orthodox theologians and represent a praiseworthy step in the Ecumenical Movement for the rapprochement of Christians. Nonetheless, the Orthodox Church maintains reservations concerning paramount issues of faith and order, because the non-Orthodox Churches and Confessions have diverged from the true faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The Orthodox Church considers all efforts to break the unity of the Church, undertaken by individuals or groups under the pretext of maintaining or allegedly defending true Orthodoxy, as being worthy of condemnation. As evidenced throughout the life of the Orthodox Church, the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is ensured only through the conciliar system, which has always represented the highest authority in the Church on matters of faith and canonical decrees. (Canon 6 2nd Ecumenical Council)
The Orthodox Church has a common awareness of the necessity for conducting inter-Christian theological dialogue. It therefore believes that this dialogue should always be accompanied by witness to the world through acts expressing mutual understanding and love, which express the "ineffable joy" of the Gospel (1 Pt 1:8), eschewing every act of proselytism, uniatism, or other provocative act of inter-confessional competition. In this spirit, the Orthodox Church deems it important for all Christians, inspired by common fundamental principles of the Gospel, to attempt to offer with eagerness and solidarity a response to the thorny problems of the contemporary world, based on the prototype of the new man in Christ.  
The Orthodox Church is aware that the movement to restore Christian unity is taking on new forms in order to respond to new circumstances and to address the new challenges of today’s world. The continued witness of the Orthodox Church to the divided Christian world on the basis of the apostolic tradition and faith is imperative.
We pray that all Christians may work together so that the day may soon come when the Lord will fulfill the hope of the Orthodox Churches and there will be "one flock and one shepherd" (Jn 10:16).

† Bartholomew of Constantinople, Chairman

† Theodoros of Alexandria

† Theophilos of Jerusalem

† Irinej of Serbia


†Daniel of Romania
etc.

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​Official Documents of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church

THERE WAS NO INTENTION OF BOYCOTTING THE COUNCIL ON CRETE
Fr. Alexander Volkov




Press Secretary of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Fr. Alexander Volkov spoke in an interview with RIA-Novosti about the circumstances surrounding the preparations for the Council of the Orthodox Churches on Crete, and offered his evaluation of the situation that has grown up around the summit of Orthodox representatives.


—Fr. Alexander, you participated in the pre-conciliar meetings this year in Chambesy and on Crete. Tell us how they made their decisions, what kind of atmosphere there was at the meetings, and how, in particular, the relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church’s delegation with the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople developed?

—The Russian Church has been quite actively preparing itself for the Pan-Orthodox Council, and had in mind no such intentions to boycott or to create some kind of non-operational atmosphere and paralyze the pre-conciliar work. On the contrary, since the January synaxis (the meeting of the heads of the Local Orthodox Churches—ed.) in Chambesy His Holiness Patriarch Kirill made the decision that our Church will be actively involved in the preparatory work. During the synaxis itself the Russian Orthrodox Church’s responsibilities towards the preparatory work were defined. This pertains, in the first place, to the part of the “documents” and, of course, the protocol-organizational, informational and other work.

Already in the course of the direct preparation we, on the one hand, encountered understanding and willingness to work together, and a completely friendly relationship towards us—no one prevented us from expressing our concerns and wishes. But on the other hand—and this is the saddest—we were given already-prepared decisions on all fronts, including the organizational-protocol, and information fronts.

There were no preliminary negotiations or discussions with the representatives of the Local Churches. We were just told how it would be. We’re going to have these colored badges, this emblem for the Pan-Orthodox Council, here’s the logo, here’s the site … And the site, devoted to the Pan-Orthodox Council, we can say, is an elaborate enough resource, however, when it was presented to the Orthodox Churches they just presented us with the fact that “in two days we are launching this resource.” I don’t mean that all fourteen Local Churches have to decide about the color of the badges. Such questions really can be the responsibility of the technological committee. But no one proposed this scheme of decisions to the Churches.

And, unfortunately, it’s characteristic of the style of the preparation process in general. This is what happened across the board. Undoubtedly, such things have distorted the overall goal, which was that all approved decisions should be prepared and accepted by all Local Churches, not prepared by one Church and then offered to the rest for approval.

Although we must note that from the American Archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople was gathered a very smart management team of good professionals in this work. And, I repeat, the Russian Orthodox Church was doing organizational work until the last day, and collaborated with them in preparing the Pan-Orthodox Council.

—That is, it could be argued that in the course of the preparations for the Council there was some kind of dictatorship from the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople?

—I don’t know how correct it is to use such harsh wording, but we see that, although every Local Church has its own point of view, the proposed amendments to the common Church documents and key decisions of the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council are rejected or regarded as unimportant.

The same is happening on the organizational level, where everything has turned out to be predetermined. So, for example, the preliminary budget announced to the Church representatives at the pan-Orthodox preparatory meeting on Crete has caused great consternation. The figures pronounced were unsubstantiated, or in simple Russian, were grabbed from the ceiling, or at least such a feeling arose. Instead of, as was suggested in Chambesy, forming a separate budget committee to discuss the financial side of things, it was just announced that the Council’s estimated budget ran several millions of dollars. Further, this amount was equally divided among all the Local Orthodox Churches. Although it’s obvious that the same amount is in general not small for any Orthodox Church, it could be more or less feasible for a large local Church and practically unmanageable for another.

Overall, the organization of this preliminary work caused an extremely negative reaction, and this atmosphere dominated the second meeting of the Pan-Orthodox Secretariat for preparing the Holy and Great Council, which, I think, to some extent played a role and undoubtedly influenced subsequent developments.

—Will there be some letter or clarification prepared for the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church in connection with the recent events surrounding the Pan-Orthodox Council?

—I think our flock met the recent decision of the Holy Synod with understanding. The decision and the separate letter of the Synod, I think, were more than enough for the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church. The question of the need for any further special statement or address to the believers is not on the agenda.

—During Patriarch Kirill’s recent trip to Athos for the celebration there of the 1000th anniversary of the Russian presence, was the topic of the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council raised during his meeting with the Athonite monks, or with the Athos hierarchy?

—In the most general of terms.

—Are there any bilateral contacts with representatives of the other Local Churches about the Council now starting? If so, who with?

— The Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate is in constant dialogue with all the Local Orthodox Churches, and, of course, such dialogue is now very active. It’s clear it can’t have any degree of publicity.

—Is this the first such scandal in the history of world Orthodoxy?

—I think it’s not worth it to dramatize the situation. It is, of course, unpleasant and demands a solution and clarification. We hope on the understanding of responsibility from all sides in world Orthodoxy. But generally, in different historical periods there developed the most diverse, and at times most complex relations between the Local Churches.

Relations between the Churches can lead to quite unpleasant consequences, for example, to a break in liturgical, eucharistic communion, as there currently is between the Antiochian and Jerusalem Churches. It’s really a problem. From the Church’s point of view the problem of a break in liturgical communion is much more substantial than calling the Council—it’s a tragedy which has deep consequences. But this is all surmountable; in the history of the Orthodox Church there have been much more dramatic events.

Fr. Alexander Volkov Translated by Jesse Dominick




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