"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

Saturday, 18 June 2016



Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit: through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net. O Lover of Man, Glory to Thee (Troparion).

When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he divided the nations. But when he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit! (Kontakion)


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Pentecost. Novgorod, XIV century

 "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.
Then they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?
Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs &endash; we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:1-11).
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.

Tradition says that to fulfil the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2: 28-29), the Holy Spirit descended not only on the twelve chosen Apostles, but also upon all those who were with them "with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1), that is, on the whole Church. This is why in Icons of Pentecost there are represented Apostles not belonging to the twelve - Apostle Paul (sitting with Apostle Peter at the head of the circle of Apostles), and among the seventy, Luke the Evangelist and Mark the Evangelist (Ouspensky and Lossky, The Meaning of Icons, Rev Ed, SVS, NY, 1982, p208).

And there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire ...
and they were filled with the Holy Spirit
So that by gradual increase ... and progress from glory to glory, the light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated ... for this reason it was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the disciples. He measured Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him: at the beginning of the gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making perfect their powers, being breathed upon them and appearing in fiery tongues ... You see lights breaking upon us, gradually, and knowledge of such order of theology, as is better for us to maintain, neither proclaiming things too suddenly nor yet keeping them hidden to the end ... He said that all things should be taught us by the Spirit Himself, made clear at a later time, when, such knowledge would be seasonable and capable of being received after our Savior's restoration; when it would no longer be received with incredulity because of its marvelous character. For what greater thing than this did either He promise, or the Spirit teach ... If He is not to be worshiped, how can He deify me by baptism?... And indeed from the Spirit comes our new birth, and from the new birth our new creation, and from the new creation our deeper knowledge of the dignity of Him from whom it is derived ... Look at these facts: Christ is born; the Spirit is His forerunner. He leads Him up. He works miracles; the Spirit accompanies them. He ascends; the Spirit takes His place (St. Gregory the Theologian, Fifth Theological Oration, 26-29).

The Promise of Pentecost

"On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water".
But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet".
Others said, "This is the Christ", but some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"
So there was a division among the people because of Him.
Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?"
The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!" Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed".
Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"
They answered and said to him, "Are you also front Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee" (John 7:37-52).
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12).
If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink...
Those who come to the divine preaching and give heed to the faith must manifest the desire of thirsty people for water, and kindle in themselves a similar longing; so they will be able, very carefully, to retain what is said ... For to show that we ought ever to thirst and hunger, He said 'Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness' (Matt.5:6) ... Elsewhere He calls it, 'eternal life,' but here, 'living water.' He calls that 'living' which ever works: for the grace of the Spirit, when It has entered into the mind and has been established, springs up more than any fountain, does not fail, never becomes empty ... He has represented its abundance by the expression 'springing' ...Consider the wisdom of Stephen, the tongue of Peter, the vehemence of Paul: how nothing bore, nothing withstood them, not the anger of multitudes, not the risings up of tyrants, not the plots of the devils, not daily deaths, but as rivers borne along with a great rushing sound, so they went on their way hurrying all things with them ... When He was about to send them (after the crucifixion) He said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit' (John 20:22) ... and then they wrought miracles (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 51 on John 7).

In Praise of Salvation and Creation
"0 God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyfuI lips. When I remember You on my bed. I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your tight hand upholds me" (Psalm 63:1-8).

The Holy Spirit provides every gift: He inspires prophecy, perfects the priesthood, grants wisdom to the illiterate, makes simple fishermen to become wise theologians, and establishes perfect order in the organization of the Church. Wherefore, 0 Comforter, equal in nature and majesty with the Father and the Son, glory to You... (from The Bible and Holy Fathers for Orthodox ed. J. Manley, Monastery Books, Menlo Park, 1990, pp. 136-9).

In the days of old, pride brought confusion of tongues to the builders of the tower of Babel, but now the diversity of tongues enlightenend the minds and gave knowledge for the glory of God. There, God punished infidels for their sin, while here Christ enlightened fishermen through the Spirit; there the confusion of tongues was for the sake of vengeance, while here there was variety so that voices could be joined in unison for the salvation of our souls (Stichera of Pentecost for Vespers, pp. 891, 894).

Pentecost - The Descent of the Holy Spirit
In the Old Testament Pentecost was the feast which occurred fifty days after Passover. As the passover feast celebrated the exodus of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt, so Pentecost celebrated God's gift of the ten commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.

In the new covenant of the Messiah, the passover event takes on its new meaning as the celebration of Christ's death and resurrection, the "exodus" of humanity from this sinful world to the Kingdom of God. And in the New Testament as well, the pentecostal feast is fulfilled and made new by the coming of the "new law", the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ.

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed as resting upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:1-4).

The Holy Spirit, that Christ had promised to his disciples, came on the day of Pentecost (see John 14:26, 15:26; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5) The apostles received "the power from on high", and they began to preach and bear witness to Jesus as the risen Christ, the King and the Lord. This moment has traditionally been called the birthday of the Church.

In the liturgical services of the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit is celebrated together with the full revelation of the divine Trinity: Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The fulness of the Godhead is manifested with the Spirit's coming to humanity, and the Church hymns celebrate this manifestation as the final act of God's self-disclosure and self-donation to the world of His creation. For this reason Pentecost Sunday is also called Trinity Sunday in the Orthodox tradition. Often on this day the Icon of the Holy Trinity - particularly that of the three angelic figures who appeared to Abraham, the forefather of the Christian faith - is placed in the center of the church. This Icon is used with the traditional pentecostal Icon which shows the tongues of fire hovering over the Virgin Mary and the Twelve Apostles, the original prototype of the Church, who are themselves sitting in unity surrounding a symbolic image of "cosmos" (the world).

On Pentecost we have the final fulfillment of the mission of Jesus Christ and the first beginning of the messianic age of the Kingdom of God (mystically present in this world in the Church of the Messiah). For this reason the 50th day stands as the beginning of the era which is beyond the limitations of this world, fifty being, that number which stands for eternal and heavenly fulfillment in Jewish and Christian mystical piety: seven times seven, plus one.

Thus, Pentecost is called an apocalyptic day, which means the day of final revelation. It is also called an eschatological day, which means the day of the final and perfect end (in Greek eschaton means the end). For when the Messiah comes and the Lord's Day is at hand, the "last days" are inaugurated in which "God declares: ... I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh". This is the ancient prophecy to which the Apostle Peter refers in the first sermon of the Christian Church which was preached on the first Sunday of Pentecost (see Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28-32).

Once again it must be noted that the feast of Pentecost is not simply the celebration of an event which took place centuries ago. It is the celebration of what must happen and does happen to us in the Church today. We all have died and risen with the Messiah-King, andwe all have received His Most Holy Spirit. We are the "temples of the Holy Spirit". God's Spirit dwells in us (see Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 2-3, 12; 11 Corinthians 3; Galatians 5; Ephesians 2-3). We, by our own membership in the Church, have received "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" in the sacrament of chrismation. Pentecost has happened to us.

The Divine Liturgy of Pentecost recalls our baptism into Christ with the verse from Galatians again replacing the Thrice-Holy Hymn. Special verses from the psalms also replace the usual antiphonal psalms of the liturgy. The epistle and gospel readings tell of the Spirit's coming to humanity. The kontakion sings of the reversal of Babel as God unites the nations into the unity of his Spirit. The troparion proclaims the gathering of the whole universe into God's net through the work of the inspired apostles. The hymns 'O Heavenly King' and 'We have seen the True Light' are sung for the first time since Easter, calling the Holy Spirit to "come and abide in us", and proclaiming that "we have received the heavenly Spirit". The church building is decorated with flowers to show that God's divine Breath comes to renew all creation as the "life-creating Spirit". The word for Spirit, breath and wind in Hebrew is ruah.

Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who has revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit: through them You did draw the world into Your net. O Lover of Humanity, Glory to You (Troparion).
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations. But when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit! (Kontakion)
The Great Vespers of Pentecost evening features three long prayers at which the faithful kneel for the first time since Easter. The Monday after Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church, and the Sunday after Pentecost is the feast of All Saints. This is the logical liturgical sequence since the coming of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled in the faithful by their becoming saints, and this is the very purpose of the creation and salvation of the world. "Thus says the Lord: Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I your God am holy" (Leviticus 11:44-45; I Peter 1:15-16).

Fr. Thomas Hopko

His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria presides over the Divine Liturgy at the Annunciation Church in Kissamos, Crete. PHOTO: © John Mindala
Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Release

Following a doxology and morning prayer service, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened the Synaxis (gathering) of the Primates of the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches. This meeting was scheduled in January 2016 to provide the Primates the opportunity to review a draft of the Council’s Message, review the Council’s agenda, and address outstanding matters. During their deliberations, the Primates acknowledged that they are pained by the absence of the Patriarchate of Antioch, and the Churches of Russia, Bulgaria, and Georgia. They expressed their prayers that the Holy Spirit would inspire them to attend the Council.

The 2016 Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church: Implications for Unity

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Spring 20161

There are many serious challenges to the unity of the Churches, ecclesial communities and confessions and religious groups in today's world. Among these are: secularization, religious pluralism, fundamentalism and ethnophyletism. If the Orthodox Churches one of the Apostolic Churches tracing their succession to Christ Himself, in agreement on faith and morals can achieve agreement on approaching these issues confronting her today, God willing, this will be a witness and model for other Churches and religious communities to do the same. This would be a step toward healing the division among the Churches and communities.

Just such a witness was described in the document issued in January 2016 in Chambésy , Switzerland, by the Synaxis of Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in preparation for the Holy and Great Council that is to be held on the Greek island of Crete during June 2016 - Pentecost as celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This had been preceded by a draft document adopted by the 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council in October 2015, also in Chambésy. Many ecumenical encounters between Eastern and Western Churches have occurred leading to these events.

Among the issues to be considered by the "Great Council" are ecclesiology, (primacy, autocephaly, autonomy), the diaspora (movement of Orthodox Christians from their original Patriarchates to non-Orthodox lands), nationalism and fundamentalism.

The split between East and West started sporadically in the first millennium, culminating with the Schism of 1054 AD and punctuated by the Crusader siege of Constantinople in 1204 AD. In recent times, various attempts have been made to heal the East-West divide. Notably, in 1965, Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, declared invalid the anathemas of 1054. Since then, both Churches have sent delegations to the liturgical celebrations of feasts significant to the other: e.g., the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul (29 June) for the Catholic Church and of St. Andrew (Nov 30) for the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Furthermore, numerous papal-patriarchal visitations have occurred. These events have been much welcomed by many in both the Eastern and the Western Church.

Recently an historic and unprecedented meeting took place between the Patriarch of Moscow, His Holiness Kirill, and Pope Francis I. The importance of this meeting from an ecumenical perspective, is that the Moscow Patriarchate has the largest (and wealthiest) number of Orthodox Christians under its jurisdiction, around two-thirds of the world's Orthodox Christians, which number 200 million adherents.2 Both hierarchs expressed favorable statements about the meeting. It was reported that Pope Francis said "We spoke as brothers. We share the same baptism. We are both bishops," Patriarch Kirill commented: "Yes, things are much easier now,"3 Both signed a joint declaration comprised of 30 sections. Part of the declaration is particularly relevant to the spirit of the Society of St. John Chrysostom: "We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Savior: "So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you ... so that they may be one, as we are one" (Jn 17:21).... May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world..."4

May we join our prayers to those of all who are prayerfully hoping that the upcoming "Great Council" takes a significant step toward an implementing of ecclesial unity. And let us be encouraged by the hope of Pope Francis who has indicated: "there is no longer any impediment to Eucharistic communion which cannot be overcome through prayer, the purification of hearts, dialogue and the affirmation of truth".5

1 The Society of Saint John Chrysostom
The Society of St. John Chrysostom is an ecumenical group of clergy and lay people which promotes Eastern Christianity and Ecumenical Dialogue between the Eastern and Western Churches toward the healing of the sin of disunity. It has sponsored the Eastern Churches Journal and the annual Orientale Lumen & Light of the East Conferences. It has been in existence since 1997 in the United States and for over 70 years in England. (http://lightoftheeast.org...)

2 [http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la- fg-pope- cuba-20160212- story.html]

3 [http://www.religionnews.com/2016/02/12/pope-francis- russian-church- leader-hold- historic-meeting- in-cuba/]

5 [http://www.lastampa.it/2016/01/20/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/the- future-of- the-panorthodox- council-is-to- be-decided- at-chambsy- DGOBGirf09sttqzbqEOvpO/pagina.html]

Orthodox ‘Great Council’ gets underway amid signs of division
Associated PressJune 19, 2016

In this file photo taken on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, left, and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill tour the Kremlin during a meeting in Moscow, Russia. 

The spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians said a historic meeting of church leaders -- the first in more than a millennium -- is taking place on the Greek island of Crete despite a pullout by Russia. (Dmitry Astakhov, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP.)

As a "Holy and Great Council" of the Orthodox churches gets underway in Crete, tensions between Moscow and Constantinople, and between liberals and conservatives, have marred the event, with four churches scheduled to attend pulling out at the last minute while others forge ahead.


MOSCOW - A historic attempt to bring together all leaders of the world’s Eastern Orthodox churches for the first time in more than a millennium has stalled after the powerful Russian church and three others pulled out at the last minute over disputes ranging from the seating plan to efforts to reconcile with the Vatican.
The Holy and Great Council, set to open Sunday on the Greek island of Crete, was to be the first meeting of all Orthodox leaders since the year 787, when the last of the seven councils recognized by both Orthodox and Catholics was held.
The meeting is still on, but with the Russian Orthodox Church and three others staying away, its pan-Orthodox aura has faded.
Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, considered “the first among equals” since the time when Constantinople was the seat of the Byzantine Empire, has been the main driving force behind efforts to bring together the leaders of all 14 independent Orthodox churches.
The gathering, for which preparations began 55 years ago, was meant to promote unity among the world’s more than 300 million Orthodox Christians. But in recent weeks, differences that at first seemed minor escalated as the date for the meeting approached.
The Rev. John Chryssavgis, a spokesman for Bartholomew, said the 10 patriarchs attending the council met Friday and issued a final plea “even at the 11th hour” for the other churches to attend, saying whatever issues they have will be examined.
But he added that the council will go on without them, and organizers say the decisions made by the remaining 10 will be binding - a claim certain to be rejected by Moscow and the others.
Russian Patriarch Kirill reiterated Friday that his church would not attend, saying in a message to the council that he considered the Crete gathering a preparatory session for a synod that will unite all the churches “without exception.”
“Our prayers will be with you in the days of the work ahead of you,” he added.
The argument is certain to further fray the brittle relationship between many of the churches.
Unlike the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox churches are independent and have their own leadership. They also have different priorities, with some in recent years becoming more inward looking and nationalist, while others have turned more liberal as they try to appeal to a more globalized flock, which has been growing distant from what is perceived to be a conservative faith clinging to centuries-old traditions.
The Council was to be an important step not only to show a unity of cause, but to rekindle interest in the faith among an often disparate community of believers scattered in small churches around the globe.
But at the heart of the matter is a struggle for spiritual influence over the world’s Orthodox faithful between the large, rich and dynamic Russian church, which represents more than 100 million faithful, and the older but far smaller Ecumenical Patriarchate headquartered in predominantly Muslim Turkey.
“The Russian Orthodox Church and the churches allied with it are on the rise,” said Roman Silantyev, a Moscow-based scholar, and “can afford to resist any compromise.”
Andrei Desnitsky, a Moscow-based author and commentator on religious affairs, said the rift reflected long-running tensions between the ecumenical patriarchate and Moscow.
“Any serious issues related to Orthodox policies reflect a soft rivalry between the two patriarchates,” he wrote in a recent commentary.
One of the first disagreements was over seating. According to some reports, the Russian church strongly opposed a plan for the ecumenical patriarch to take a presiding seat during the council session, seeing it as an attempt to promote primacy. Instead, Moscow and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church reportedly insisted that the participants sit at a round table.
While the seating issue was settled, other disagreements were more difficult to deal with.
The Bulgarian church was the first to drop out, citing a lack of “particularly important” topics on the agenda, the seating plan, and the handling of documents.
The Damascus-based Antioch Patriarchate said it would not attend unless an ongoing dispute with the Jerusalem Patriarchate was resolved ahead of the council. The two broke relations over the jurisdiction of the Muslim Gulf state of Qatar. The Georgian Orthodox Church cited a doctrinal issue to pull out.
Some observers say the three may have been influenced by the Russian church. Because of an agreement that all council decisions should be reached through consensus, the Moscow Patriarchate insisted on a postponement, arguing that the absence of even a single church would make that impossible.
Chryssavgis said Bartholomew could not postpone the council and unilaterally overturn the collective decision to meet.
“Bartholomew is not the pope, he can’t just decide,” he told the AP, adding that it can’t be ruled out that the 10 churches present could vote for a postponement when they gather.
Some in the Russian church have been deeply suspicious of the ecumenical patriarch’s intentions, fearing that the council could pave way to closer ties to the Vatican, Protestants and others, anathema for conservatives in that institution.
“There are fears that the Orthodox will surrender their positions in the face of the Catholics,” Silantyev said. “There are a certain number of priests and some bishops who share that view.”
“It’s a confrontation between liberals and anti-liberals, and Constantinople represents the liberal side,” Silantyev added.
The “Great Schism” split Christendom in 1054 over the Vatican’s power. Despite a landmark meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian patriarch Kirill in Cuba, many in the Moscow Patriarchate and other Orthodox churches do not want any rapprochement with the Vatican.
Some conservatives in the Russian church have been critical of Kirill’s decision to endorse a set of compromise documents prepared for approval by the council, including one on relations with other Christian churches.
“The Russian church’s leadership has found itself in an awkward position and preferred to dodge attacks for taking part in the project initiated by its Constantinople rivals, posing instead as keepers of Orthodox unity,” Alexei Makarkin, a deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies, a Moscow-based think-tank, wrote recently.
The Moscow Patriarchate has tried to downplay the rift, saying that differences could be settled and a council be held at a later date.
“We aren’t inclined to dramatize it or see it as some sort of catastrophe,” Moscow Patriarchate’s spokesman Vladimir Legoida told the AP. “We don’t see the difficulties that have emerged as insurmountable.”


Historic Orthodox meeting marred by Russian no show

Orthodox churches from around the world met in Greece Sunday for the first such gathering in a millennium, but the absence of several branches of the communion threatened to mar the event.

The religious leaders celebrated Orthodox Pentecost in the town of Heraklion on Crete where a “divine liturgy” was given as part of the gathering that will last until June 27.

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios called the so-called Holy and Great Council on issues including wedlock, fasting, and united representation in dioceses in countries such as the United States and Australia.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos took part in the mass that was aired live on state broadcaster ERT.

But the absence of Russian Orthodox leader Kyrill, who represents some 130 million faithful - half the world's Orthodox population - threatened to undermine the image of unity that the gathered leaders had sought to project.

Aside from Russia, the Orthodox churches of Bulgaria and Georgia are also absent. Both are considered close to Moscow.

The Patriarchate of Antioch is also staying away because of a spat with Jerusalem over the appointment of clerics in Qatar.

“This great and holy council will carry the message of unity... it will help to escape the deadlocks of the present,” Patriarch Vartholomaios of Crete told local media.

The last such meeting was in 1054 when Christianity split between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, in the so-called “great schism” - and working out the details of the new council has taken over 50 years.

“The unity of Orthodoxy is good for us all. It is those who are absent who will miss out,” said Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

The Orthodox communion has about 250 million followers worldwide and consists of 14 autonomous churches though it has been shaken by the upheavals in the former Soviet bloc and the Middle East in recent decades and is frequently plagued by national and political strife.


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June 19, 2016
Homily by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Concelebration of the Divine Liturgy of Pentecost
Homily by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Chairman of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, at the Concelebration of the Divine Liturgy in the Metropolitan Church of St. Minas in Heraklion, Crete, with their Beatitudes, the Primates of the Holy Orthodox Churches

Sunday of Pentecost, June 19, 2016

Your Beatitudes, Holy Brother Primates of the local Orthodox Churches, Theodoros of Alexandria, John of Antioch, Theophilos of Jerusalem, Kirill of Moscow, Irinej of Belgrade, Daniel of Bucharest, Neophyte of Bulgaria, Ilia of Georgia, Chrysostomos of Cyprus, Ieronymos of Athens, Sawa of Warsaw, Anastasios of Tirana, and Rastislav of Prešov, together with Your honorable delegations,

Your Excellency Mr. President of the Hellenic Republic,

Your Eminence Archbishop Irenaios of Crete, together with the Most Reverend and beloved brothers who, together with you, comprise the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Church of Crete,

Most Reverend and Right Reverend holy brothers,

Blessed Orthodox Clergy and Laity from all across the world,

A joyful day has now dawned, in which we celebrate the historic manifestation of the institution of the Church, which is constituted by the Holy Spirit, and we Orthodox brothers, who represent all the local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, have gathered together in a liturgical assembly, so that we may carry out the duty and responsibility of the one Orthodox Church to the people and to the world today, by convening our Holy and Great Council.
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew concelebrates the Divine Liturgy of Pentecost with the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches at St. Menas Cathedral in Heraklion, Crete. © 2016 JAROSLAW CHARKIEWICZ.
Today is a day of unity, as we are all united in the faith and the sacraments through our liturgical gathering in one place and have come together “in the breaking of the Bread.” The Holy Eucharist truly reaffirms the unity and catholicity of our Orthodox Church.

The event of Pentecost, which took place in Jerusalem, marked the Church’s starting point in its historical journey and laid the foundations for the sanctification of human history in its entirety. The Apostles and the three thousands Christians who were baptized by them at that time comprised the first Church, which is a theanthropic reality of Christ, present in all of its members. Today, we, too, are filled with the same inspiration from the tongues of fire – from the Holy Spirit – and we are one Church, one body, even though we come from different ethnic, linguistic, and cultural traditions. Christ the God-man, the “firstborn among many brethren” (cf. Rom. 8:29), is present in each of our members.

Today, the fulfillment of the purpose of Divine Economy in its totality is taking place. Because, at Pentecost and after Pentecost, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). There is one Christ and we are all His joints and members: “All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).

Through our distinctness, each Orthodox Church, as well as every faithful Orthodox Christian, are joined to one body, each with his own gifts, over which we should not look to others with suspicion or anger, but rejoice as if they were our own: “The treasure that my brother acquires … I possess also,” proclaims Macarius of Egypt (Spiritual Homilies 3, 2, ΒΕΠΕΣ [Library of Greek Fathers and Ecclesiastical Authors], 41, p. 156).

Every local Orthodox Church has its own treasure and offers it to Christ. The eye cannot say to the hand “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet. Within the Church, there is no individual local Church that does not hold significance in its own right, so as to enable the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church not to be in need of each and every one of its members, nor can one member exist independently and absolutely sovereign, as is being attempted by those outside of the Church; especially during these last days. The Orthodox Church Militant, most honorable brothers, which is present on earth, perpetually continues the “upper room” of Pentecost, our local Churches, which are represented by all of us here today. We represent the mystical body of Christ, which extends unto the ages and delivers the human race from manifold suffering and impasses, and we are united with the Church Triumphant, fulfilling God’s dispensation and unifying the earthly with the heavenly (see the Kontakion of the feast of the Ascension). This is precisely the mission of our Orthodox Church.

At the same time, today is a day of crying out to the gracious Paraclete to come and abide in us and keep us in Its Truth and Its sanctification, as stated by our Lord during his agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. This entreaty of our Lord, which is fulfilled here on this great day of Pentecost, is and remains the primary request of all humanity in a divided world that is full of strife, and which thirsts for unity, on behalf of which the Son of God gave up Himself so that all of us may have life, and that we may have it more abundantly.

Our Orthodox Church has the supreme gift and blessing of possessing the treasure of truth and preserving intact the gift of the All-Holy Spirit, which “has filled the whole world” (Wis. 1:7), and it is obliged to give the contemporary world a testimony of love and unity, and to reveal the hidden hope that lies within it. Of course, we do not boast over the truth of our Church. We sense its singular splendor, but also our own personal weakness and unworthiness. However, this is not enough when it remains on a theoretical level. It behooves a response on the practical level, where, unfortunately, we are greatly lacking.

The Lord began His preaching to the world by calling on the people to repent. The work of a Christian throughout the duration of his life is repentance. We, the leaders of the Church, especially, are obliged to provide a good example and embrace the entirety of the truth which we have received; because our opponent tries to scatter misguided ideas in our hearts which negate the truth of our faith. Those fellow men and women of ours who are misled about the truth spread these misguided ideas, which appear novel and worthy of attention, and often manage to lure away a good amount of faithful through the repeated skillful presentation of these ideas. For this reason, we Bishops ought to gather together to discuss the matters that are confronting the Orthodox Church at different times and throughout the world, so as to adopt the appropriate measures to protect the faithful from the prevailing errors. Especially in our time, there is a very large number of errors that are circulating, and the arguments used by the deceivers are particularly sophisticated, which means that a coordinated effort on the part of the shepherds of the Orthodox Church is required in order to inform the faithful. The number of religious factions that are attempting to lead the Orthodox faithful astray are in the hundreds. The discussions and exchange of related experiences on the manner in which to counter the methods of the aforementioned organizations during the Council will have much to offer to the Orthodox Church.

The Lord of the Orthodox Church, Who is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” worked with us so that we could reach today’s historic moment of the Holy and Great Council, this liturgical Gathering, and communion from one Common Cup. Regardless of our different opinions, we Orthodox Christians ought to point out that the only road on our course in this world is unity. Of course, this road demands a living sacrifice, much work, and is achieved after great struggle. It is certain that this Council of ours will contribute towards this direction by creating a climate of mutual trust and understanding through our meeting in the Holy Spirit and through an edifying and sincere dialogue.

The unity of the Orthodox Church and its faithful represents our mission. It is followed by the testimony of our Church, so that the world may see “its good works” – our good works – shining brightly, be refreshed, and glorify “our Father who is in heaven.” Our ecclesial unity does not take on the form of a federation, nor does it stem from the congregating around some mortal figure. It proceeds from and is made complete by our common faith, which is synonymous with salvation, with eternal life. “And this is eternal life,” to know the Father and Him whom He sent, Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, as he is depicted in our Orthodox Iconography as well.

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew concelebrates the Divine Liturgy of Pentecost with the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches at St. Menas Cathedral in Heraklion, Crete. © 2016 JOHN MINDALA.

Your Beatitudes, Holy brethren,

Your Excellency Mr. President of the Hellenic Republic,

Blessed Orthodox Christians, clergy, monastics, and people everywhere under the heavens,

We are convinced – and we proclaim at this historic moment from the altar of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Island of Crete, which is an extension of the one belonging to the Holy and Great Church of Christ, the church of the Haghia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), Haghia Irene (Holy Peace), and Haghia Dynamis (Holy Might); that is, the Holy Synthrone of John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, and Photios the Great – that only in unity and by living out our Orthodoxy as an experience of faith and life is it possible to navigate through the modern world’s dramatic history and give a testimony of salvation to those both near and far.

Setting aside the problems that arise from our different ethnic backgrounds, we beseech the descent of the Paraclete upon all of us as well, so that illuminated by Him – by the “Light and Life, and living fountain of reason; by the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding … the Spirit of sovereignty and the Spirit that expiates sins; the God Who deifies” (cf. sticheron for the vespers of Pentecost) – we may issue a message of truth, genuineness, and hope all across today’s world, which thirsts, and our Churches as an institution and we as persons may reaffirm that we are precious vessels.

The Holy Spirit unites us in the Church through the “bond of perfection” and love, and is expressed and borne witness to by the persons of the Holy Trinity, which is of one nature, but reveals itself in three persons. Similarly, the Orthodox Church is One, but reveals itself in the world through its individual local vines, which are unbreakably and indivisibly attached to one – to one Church, to one body.

Brothers, fathers and children, today the totality of our Holy Orthodox Church is represented here in Crete: “we have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.” Therefore, we bless the Lord of Mercy and Compassions, and every supplication with one voice and one heart, for He is “the source of our existence, our breath, our understanding, our knowledge of God, the Holy Spirit and the Father Who is without beginning, and His only begotten Son … the One Who gave us to comprehend the beauty of heaven, the sun in its course, the orb of the moon, the order of the stars and the harmony and different movements that prevail among them … the turning hours, the changing seasons, the flowing air, the cycle of years … our hope of gaining the heavenly kingdom, equality of honor with the angels, the contemplation of glory.”

To this All-Holy Spirit, which brings to perfection all good things, and today’s concelebration, and the testimony of our Orthodox Church to the entire world in and through this Holy and Great Council of ours, to It, together with the Father and the Son, do we dutifully offer praise, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


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