"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

Thursday, 23 June 2016



According to Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias and Almyros, the first of six texts up for discussion, “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today's World” was unanimously approved at the afternoon session on Monday, June 20 of the council on Crete, reports panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.ru.

The text is the result of the fifth pan-Orthodox pre-conciliar conference held in Chambesy, Switzerland in October 2015 and was signed by the primates of all Local Churches, except for that of Antioch, at the meeting in January 2016.

The text, largely bearing the stamp of Met. John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, was passed unanimously with minor changes. The amendments proposed by Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) in a letter to the Church of Greece on March 5, 2016 were rejected.

21 / 06 / 2016

Why Orthodox patriarchs are meeting after centuries

The Economist (UK) / Jun 21st 2016, 23:02 by B.C.

THERE are some religious statements about the world which made history and affected the way people millions of people thought. One was in Pacem in Terris, a denunciation of war issued in 1963 by a dying Pope John XXIII; an earlier landmark in Catholic teaching was De Rerum Novarum which in 1891 accepted the right of workers to form unions. In comparison, the leaders of the world’s 200m Orthodox Christians have rarely, in recent times, managed to speak together and address a clear message to humanity. It is partly in the hope of doing so that bishops of that church will be deliberating in Crete between now and June 26th. What has taken them so long and what do they hope to achieve? 

The Holy and Great Council now in progress reflects 50 years of religious diplomacy aimed at bringing together, at least briefly, the independent churches which form global Orthodox Christianity. It has been hard work because many of these churches are institutionally weak and beholden to geopolitics; some barely survived communism and others form tiny minorities in Muslim lands. Some liken the gathering to the last of the great doctrinal councils in 787; others compare it to more recent gatherings like one in Jerusalem in 1672. The status of past and present councils is one of many issues on which the Orthodox have arguments which baffle outsiders. In any case, it's an important gig. For the organizer, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, who is first “amongst equals” in Orthodoxy, there were last-minute setbacks: four of the 14 churches that were expected to attend, including the Patriarchate of Moscow, Orthodoxy’s largest, ducked out. But the Istanbul-based Patriarch has insisted that the Council must proceed and that its statements will carry weight.

One document approved by the Council this week (and endorsed earlier by the four churches which didn't attend) looks at the world through an Orthodox Christian lens, using spiritual arguments to denounce inequality, the arms build-up and the ecological crisis as moral diseases. Through statements like this, the Council will enable the Orthodox church to express a “robust theology of global engagement,” says Elizabeth Prodromou, an American professor who is on the team advising Patriarch Bartholomew at the Council. Contrary to the church’s image as exotic and otherworldly, the bishops in Crete will acknowledge their “responsibility for the transformation of the world in the image of the divine kingdom,” or in other words for bringing about practical change.

On a note which some may find startling from a church known for its strict rules and unchanging ceremonies, the Council documents will also emphasise freedom as a precondition for real peace and reconciliation, and the impossibility of imposing beliefs by force. That sentiment comes naturally to Patriarch Bartholomew who apart from his global responsibilities presides, precariously, over a tiny local flock in Muslim Turkey. The only authority he can wield is the moral kind, and he does have that: his sayings on the environment enjoy respect around the globe, and they have deeply influenced Pope Francis. The absence of Moscow and the resurgence of inter-Orthodox squabbles have disappointed him, but the fact that bishops have gathered from places like Albania, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Egypt, as well as Britain, France and the United States, is still a compliment to his diplomatic skills. Bartholomew carries no big stick, and he lives with the reality that people, including his fellow Orthodox leaders, are free to heed him or walk away.

22 June 2016

Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Release

CRETE—On the third day of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej of Serbia at the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonia. Afterward, the hierarchs continued their work in the sixth, seventh, and eighth sessions of the Council.

In the sixth session, the hierarchs of the Council continued their discussion on The Orthodox Diaspora; in the seventh session, they focused on Autonomy and the Means by which it is Declared; and in the eighth session, they reviewed The Importance of Fasting and its Observance Today. Following extensive discussion, various suggestions and clarifications were proposed by the Primates and individual hierarchs of the local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches. It is expected that revised texts that have been accepted by the Holy and Great Council will be signed in the coming days.

In the afternoon, His Eminence Archbishop Job of Telmesos 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 Romania, the Church of Cyprus, and the Church of Greece gave a common press briefing, responding to questions from the press.

Evagelos Sotiropoulos, political scientist, freelance columnist
Unity the Focus of Holy and Great Council Opening Session; Patriarch Irinej of Serbia Calls All Orthodox Churches to Participate
23 June 2016

The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church has commenced in Crete.

Ten of the fourteen Church Primates concelebrated the Divine Liturgy yesterday for the Sunday of Pentecost.

The following morning, Monday of the Holy Spirit, a Divine Liturgy — presided over by Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem — was celebrated in a monastery beside the Orthodox Academy of Crete where the Council has been convened.

The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated each morning during the Council, concluding with a second Synodal Divine Liturgy for the Sunday of All Saints (June 26th).

This sacramental, Eucharist unity is the most important part of Orthodox worship and the glue that binds the fourteen Orthodox autocephalous (self-headed, or administered) churches into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church whose Founder and Head is Christ.

It was the issue of unity that every participating Primate focused on in their own way during the opening session of the Holy and Great Council.

As chair, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew first addressed the Council and allotted much of his time to the issue of unity, highlighting three areas specifically:unity in the sacraments, the faith, and the canonical structure of the Church.

He also addressed critics of the Council, condemning those who characterized it as a “Robber” council before it had even began. The Orthodox faith, Bartholomew said, is protected by the synodal system, which defines the boundaries between the Church and heresy.

The Ecumenical Patriarch delivered his opening statement with resolute joy and cautioned that all Orthodox sister churches need to be vigilant that differences do not lead to divisions.

Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria followed Bartholomew as the second in order of honour and delivered a passionate plea beseeching his brother hierarchs to undertake the sacred work of the Council with a deep sense of obligation.

Each Primate addressed delegates with humility and an Orthodox ecclesiasticalphronema (mindset); a standout speech, however, marked by blunt and candid commentary, was delivered by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus.

He confronted “inter-Orthodox one-upmanship due to ethnophyletism,” argued that the state — and state interests — cannot be allowed to influence ecclesiastical affairs, and denounced the actions of some who have made the Orthodoxy seem “ridiculous.”

The Archbishop said that a main purpose of the Council is to create a framework for Church unity and in doing so “put forth the spiritual treasures of Orthodoxy” for the world to see.

Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, echoing Bartholomew’s sentiments on synodality, said that the expression of different opinions is suitable with conciliarity but that individual opinions should be rejected.

Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, taking the issue a bit further, addressed, in his opening remarks, those “little drops of poison” from some who wish to derail the work of the Holy and Great Council. He was one of a number of Primates who asserted that the Council in Crete is not a “copy and paste” of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, nor is it a “facsimile” of the councils in the West (e.g., Vatican II).

The Archbishop also criticized the need of unanimity, a system which was “unknown as a principle previously” and which has led to a number of recent trials, including the participation, or lack thereof, of the four absent churches (Antioch, Russia, Bulgaria, Georgia) and called for majority rule.

Finally, Anastasios remarked that the “Heresy of our time is egocentrism,” a sentiment shared – both directly and indirectly — by a number of Primates.

On the issue of unity, the youngest Primate, Archbishop Rastislav of Czech Lands and Slovakia, in his succinct yet insightful address, closed it by declaring that despite differences, including linguistic, “We are one Church.”

Each Primate, without exception, thanked and praised the Ecumenical Patriarch for his patience and perseverance in working towards and realizing the Holy and Great Council. Bartholomew remarked that pan-Orthodox unity has been his guiding star since being enthroned nearly 25 years ago, even confessing to the Council that his early efforts to call a Synaxis of Primates was resisted by some of his own bishops.

Imparted with a sense of brotherly love and unity by the concelebrated Divine Liturgies, the opening session of the Holy and Great Council has cultivated a constructive and positive environment; a number of participating hierarchs confirmed this to me privately following the session.

Of course, the hard work, deliberations, and decisions are still to come but the foundation has been set by the Primates that Orthodox unity and the need to address contemporary challenges is of utmost importance.

Moreover, this Council may not be the last — there was talk of gathering together every five or ten years depending on circumstances.

While much of the media attention has focused on the participatory withdrawal of some churches, especially Russia, the opening session showed that the Orthodox Church, as the entire body of faithful, is greater than anything earthly.

Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland summed up well what is needed this week from hierarchs: “A mind of Christ, not human wisdom.”

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