"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

Friday 10 June 2016


Hesychasm and Theology: A Contribution to the Dialogue concerning the Great and Holy Synod
By Pemptousia Partnership
Jun 03, 2016

On the occasion of the convocation of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, we are publishing a text by George Mantzaridis, Emeritus Professor of Theology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, which deals with the manner in which Orthodox Theology is produced. This text is a contribution to the more general dialogue which is preceding the discussions of the Pan-Orthodox Synod.
Hesychasm is not merely a theological school or ecclesiastical system, but rather a phenomenon which transcends the various schools and systems. It is even more true that hesychasm is not restricted to a particular period in the history of monasticism, such as that of the fourteenth century, when the erudite monk, Barlaam the Calabrian, attacked the Athonite monks and provoked the well-known hesychast dispute. Hesychasm is the cultivation of the tranquillity which is the enduring characteristic of Orthodox monasticism. But what is this tranquillity and of what does it consist?

In the usual sense, ‘hesychia’ (tranquillity) is equated with lack of movement, as opposed to motion; or is considered as being identifiable with rest, in contradistinction to work or occupation. In other words, tranquillity is understood as an external and, in the main, a corporeal state, without any particular spiritual content or any direct connection with people’s inner life. It coincides with what the Fathers call ‘argia’ (inaction).

But in the Orthodox tradition, tranquillity has a very different meaning. It does not equate to immobility, nor with rest. Nor is it treated as some sort of conventional diversion or virtue. Tranquillity is the ‘most sublime insouciance’ [1] and ‘the most perfect virtue’ [2]. It is the path of knowledge of God, which culminates in ‘the vision of God’. The other virtues, which ‘are accomplished through work- by observing the commandments- are the first stage, and are a required condition if we are to continue our progress towards the ‘vision of God’.

Saint Symeon the New Theologian, the great hesychast saint, puts it succinctly when he says: ‘None of the apostles or the God-bearing Fathers promote tranquillity above pleasing works, but in observing the commandments they knowingly show the faith of the love of God’ [3].

Never in the life of the Church has tranquillity been considered preferable to the observance of the commandments. Wilful non-compliance to the commandments is the very opposite of tranquillity. Because of their love for God, hesychasts faithfully observe His commandments and are thus enabled to become acquainted with Him. It is their desire to remain with Him that allows them to pass through the stage of turmoil and anxiety and to embrace the ‘divine fire’ of tranquillity, so that ‘they can hear the tranquillity of Christ’ [4]. This is why the model of tranquillity and of the hesychast life in Orthodox hesychasm is Our Most Holy Lady, who bears ‘the divine Fire’ in her arms [5].

Through the observance of the commandments, we show our love of God and approach knowledge of Him. ‘They who have my commandments and keep them, are those who love me. And they who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and manifest myself to them’ [6]. But the state of prayer of the heart transcends the observance of the commandments. Whereas the observance of the commandments, which is more generally called ‘action’ in the ascetic tradition, leads to ‘contemplation’ tranquillity of the mind is the locus where divine contemplation takes place.
Naturally, before people reach the level of tranquillity of the mind, they have to try to concentrate their intellect, to free it from concerns and remove it from worldly cares. In this way, avoidance of the things of this world is promoted as a way of ascetic cleansing and a process of elevation towards tranquillity of the mind. This is why Saint John the Sinaïte, the master of hesychasm, places renunciation as the first rung of the Ladder, his manual of hesychasm. He says that no-one will enter the heavenly bridal-chamber with a crown unless they perform the triple renunciation: of things and other people; of the severance of the personal will; and of the rejection of vainglory [7].

30 May 2016
(To be continued)
[1] See Gregory the Theologian, Λόγος εις εαυτόν 26,7, PG 35,1237B.
[2] See Symeon the New Theologian, Ηθικά 15,1, ed. J. Darrouzès, Syméon le Nouveau Théologien, Traités Théologiques et Éthiques, Sources Chrétiennes, vol. 129, Paris 1967, p. 444.
[3] ibid. pp. 454-6.
[4] Ignatios of Antioch Προς Εφεσίους 15, 2.
[5] Dismissal Hymn of Our Lady the Consolation.
[6] Jn. 14, 21.

[7] John the Sinaïte, Ladder 2,14, PG 88, 657Α.

Leading cleric says Orthodox Church’s ‘Vatican II’ is a go
John L. Allen Jr.June 7, 2016
my source: Crux
Leading cleric says Orthodox Church’s ‘Vatican II’ is a go
The Rev. John Chryssavgis speaks at Marian University in
 Indianapolis, Indiana, in December 2014.

"Unity is an objective, not a given," says the Rev. John Chryssavgis, an archdeacon and theological adviser to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. "It may be there spiritually and liturgically and sacramentally, but to make it visible is hard, painful, slow work, and it takes time."

In a sense, the “Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church”, conceived as a gathering of all the heads of the 14 independent Orthodox churches around the world in Crete June 16-27, has been at least a millennium in the making. More proximately, planning has been underway since 1961, meaning more than a half-century. As a result, it’s perhaps no surprise there have been a few hiccups along the way. Recently, two of the fourteen Orthodox churches have floated boycotting - the Bulgarians, because they’re upset over some of the documents up for discussion and also the seating arrangements, and the Patriarchate of Antioch, over a jurisdictional dispute involving Qatar.

On Monday, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, traditionally the “first among equals” in the Orthodox world, issued a call to all Orthodox leaders to show up and to uphold rules for the meeting agreed upon in January 2016.
According to the Rev. John Chryssavgis, the archdeacon and theological adviser to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who will serve on a drafting committee for the council’s final message, the summit is going ahead no matter what.

“The council is still on,” Chryssavgis told Crux in a June 6 interview, just ahead of his departure for Crete. “If one or more churches don’t attend, all the decisions made will still hold and be binding for all Orthodox churches.”

While conceding there are probably “more differences than similarities” between the Great Council and the Second Vatican Council, Chryssavgis said he hopes the council in Crete may have an impact on Orthodoxy similar to that of Vatican II on Catholicism - especially, he said, in the press for unity, within Orthodoxy and also with other churches and the wider world.
“Unity is an objective, not a given. It’s something we aspire to,” Chryssavgis said. “It may be there spiritually and liturgically and sacramentally, but to make it visible is hard, painful, and slow work, all of which takes time.”

On other fronts, Chryssavgis said:
Relations with the Catholic Church remain a contentious issue within some Orthodox churches, with some worrying that a leader who meets a pope is “bargaining away or betraying” the faith.

Orthodox observers have been as struck by the bonhomie among Bartholomew and Francis as Catholics – they too, he said, sometimes joke the two men seem like “BFF’s” – and added he doesn’t believe it’s an accident these two leaders are heading their churches at the same time.

Echoing Pope Francis when he recently met the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Chryssavgis agreed that when it comes to the pan-Orthodox council, “the meeting is the message.”

Crux spoke to Chryssavgis, a prolific theologian and essayist born in Australia and now a clergyman of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, by phone on June 6. The following are excerpts from that conversation.

Crux: Is the council still on?
The council is still on. I don’t know that there was ever a question it wouldn’t be.In 1992, the Ecumenical Patriarch established a meeting of all the primates of the 14 Orthodox churches, the latest of which was in January 2016, where the rules and documents for the council were adopted by all. This morning, the Ecumenical Patriarchate met in an extraordinary session of the synod and decided that all the various concerns and complaints, including Bulgaria’s withdrawal, are not based on procedural errors or oversights, and therefore the decisions taken in January 2016 need to be maintained.
If one or more churches doesn’t participate, does that change the theological or ecclesiological status of the council?
The simple answer is no … If one or more churches doesn’t attend, or withdraws during the council, or is not present and doesn’t vote, all the decisions made will still hold and be binding for all Orthodox churches. A Great Council is above and beyond any individual church council or synod … and it remains such even without the participation of one or more church.Certainly if somebody’s missing, it’s a vacuum we will feel, and we’ll be very, very sorry. I think it will have an impact not just on the council, but also on the church that chooses not to come … If a church chooses to withdraw and not attend, I think it would be a sad reflection of the self-marginalization of that church.
What do you expect to be the big issues?Keep in mind the purpose of a council, its goal, which is unity. Unity is an objective, not a given. It’s something we aspire to. It may be there spiritually and liturgically and sacramentally, but to make it visible is hard, painful and slow work, all of which take time. Unity comes at the end of the council, not before. It is a consequence, not a condition.For instance, ecumenical relations with other Christians are taken for granted in the Ecumenical Patriarchate [of Constantinople], but not always in other Orthodox churches. Over the last 50 years we’ve become close with the Catholic Church, and we’ve had tremendous collegial relations with Pope Francis. Those gestures and movements are natural for us, but they’re not necessarily reflective of where the whole Orthodox Church lies.This council can be crucial in bringing some sort of a unified response, some guidelines in this response, like the Second Vatican Council did for Catholicism. There are probably more differences than similarities between this council and Vatican II, but it could have something like the same impact.Other issues include, what happens when an Orthodox marries a non-Orthodox Christian, such as a Catholic or Protestant partner?  What does it mean for Orthodoxy to be in conversation, both culturally and in terms of the faith, with Judaism and Islam?Also, what does it mean for the Orthodox Church to function as a united church, as one church, in the diaspora, for instance in the United States, Western Europe, and elsewhere? In the States, we have all 14 autocephalous churches represented . . . and then some. Do we minister just to our own national group, or to the Orthodox faithful altogether?Is there a prophetic word we can offer together about our relationship with the rest of the world, including the challenges of the contemporary world, whether these are social, economic, military, or environmental?Another question is the autonomy of Orthodox churches, and who recognizes someone’s autonomy? In general, the idea is to move towards a more transparent and less political way of putting issues on the table.
How do you do that when there are obvious internal tensions?

Unity doesn’t just mean the Orthodox churches among themselves, but also taking a step towards greater unity even within the individual Orthodox churches.There are differences, for instance, within the Church of Greece, where some elements are more and others less ecumenical. In the Church of Russia, Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion are very open to other churches, they’re always at the Vatican or the World Council of Churches, but their own church has conservative voices very critical of Kirill’s meeting with Pope Francis.These are issues the council can help smooth out, resolving the fears and suspicions that when the Ecumenical Patriarch, for instance, meets the pope, he’s bargaining away or betraying the Orthodox faith. These issues aren’t just inter-Orthodox, but also intra-Orthodox.We’re meeting precisely because we have differences. If there were no differences, what would be the point?
 Where do you think the last-minute jitters come from?

You agree then with Pope Francis, who recently had a get-together with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and said, “The meeting is the message?”I undoubtedly agree with that in this case, and it’s certainly been the conviction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has worked to realize this dream for 100 years. The idea is to move together in the church. The Greek work for a council is “synodos,” meaning being on the same journey; and the first step to be on the same journey is to take a step together.The entire structure of the Orthodox Church is founded on the principle of conciliarity. Without it, something may look like an Orthodox church and may hold to certain Orthodox doctrines and practices, but it’s not Orthodox. It’s only in council that the Orthodox Church is true to its identity, faithful to what it’s supposed to be.It’s also important to remember that the time after the council will be just as crucial as the event itself, because it’s the period of reception. No rule or structure in the Orthodox Church comes from the top down. It’s the conscience of the faithful, the Church itself at large, which is the ultimate protector and guarantor of Orthodox truth and doctrine.
You’re involved in ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church. Does Pope Francis bring something special to it?

I think what Pope Francis brings to the table, which parallels the theological interests of our Patriarch, is a more human face. He understands our two churches can bring much more to the world together in terms of offering hope to the suffering people. By offering a joint voice to a world that’s divided and in pain, we can be much more effective and positive.When Francis and Bartholomew recently met on [the Greek island of] Lesbos, it was hugely significant and symbolical. There are so many refugees there who literally risk their lives trying to get to civilization and freedom, and their presence there together threw a huge spotlight on the crisis, offering an ethical reminder of how we should be responding.When they placed a wreath together in the sea, it was a very meaningful expression of unity.
Did you know that in Rome, we jokingly say that Bartholomew is Francis’s “BFF”?
Yes, that’s made the rounds in Orthodox circles as well!Remember that Patriarch Bartholomew was present at the pope’s inaugural Mass, which was the first time that ever happened in history. There have, in fact, been times in the past when a pope was present in Constantinople for the change of a patriarch, but still never attended. When asked why he went, Patriarch Bartholomew said he felt there’s something different about this man, and he had to be there.
I don’t think it’s by chance that these two people are the leaders of their respective churches at this moment in time. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.

please click on (mp3):

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev): “Criticism of the conciliar documents is completely normal”
Interview with Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk with the National Herald on the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council


06 JUNE 2016Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev): “Criticism of the conciliar documents is completely normal”Pan-Orthodox Council not been convened over a thousand years is under question
– Your Eminence, what are your thoughts in general about the Holy and Great Synod which will be convened in Crete, Greece next month?

Over the last thousand years Councils have been convened on many occasions which to a larger or lesser degree we can call Pan-Orthodox since they were attended by representatives of the various Local Churches. We can include among them, for example, the Council of Constantinople of 1593 which established Patriarchal governance in the Russian Church, and several other Councils. The Holy and Great Council planned for June of this year on the island of Crete ought to be the most wide-ranging and representative of them. It was been in direct preparation for more than half a century. These two circumstances mean that the forthcoming Council should become a historical event. I participated in all of the pre-Conciliar events since the pre-Conciliar process was renewed in 2008 after a lengthy break and I know how difficult it was at times to come to a pan-Orthodox agreement on the important issues of the Council’s preparation. The fact that we managed to reach unanimity on the more important of these issues is a great achievement, and in this regard I have a sense of joy and satisfaction. At the same time I would like to draw attention to the fact that the unity and unanimity, which, God willing, we will bear witness to at the Council, is not the end, but the rather the beginning of joint labours on the path to deepening fraternal co-operation between the Local Churches and the strengthening of pan-Orthodox unity. The successful holding of the Holy and Great Council is the joint capital which we are to increase and not waste, and a great responsibility for this rests upon us.

– What is the significance for the Synod for the Orthodox Church as a whole and also for the Church of Russia in particular since this is the first time that she will participate in such a Synod?

The Holy and Great Council is a Council of the whole Orthodox Church, and therefore I would not say that its significance is any different for the Russian Church than for the other Local Churches. First of all, the fact that it is being held is an confirmation of our ecclesiology, it bears witness to us and the whole world that the Orthodox Church is a Catholic Church, that the principle of conciliarity that has always been her distinguishing feature is not an inheritance of the past, but a reality for our time. The Pan-Orthodox Council is also a visible expression of the unity of our Church, testimony that, in spite of the different political conditions in which the Local Churches live, we are capable of achieving unanimity on the issues that are most important to us, since together we comprise the one Church. I believe it to be exceptionally important that the outward image of the Church serves these aims so that it becomes an exact reflection of the Orthodox ecclesiology by which all the Orthodox Churches, independent of their how ancient their origins or number of the faithful, are equal members of the body of the Universal Church.

– What do you anticipate to come out of the Synod that concerns the Orthodox faithful of the 21st century?

As is well known, the Holy and Great Council, according to its schedule , will not examine any other topics other than those that have been put on the agenda and the already published six drafts of the conciliar documents. The sole exception is the Encyclical of the Council, the draft of which still has to be finalized. If we look at the documents on the agenda, then the most relevant, in my opinion, is the draft document entitled ‘The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World’. It gives the Church’s view on the many challenges of the modern-day world, the problems of the economic crisis, on what the Church thinks of the problem of discrimination and military conflicts. Many of these problems in their present form arose in our time and are to one degree or another relevant for Orthodox Christians of both East and West. At the same time, this is one of the documents which has attracted criticism within a number of the Local Churches.

– What do you say to those hierarchs, monastics and priests – in Greece – who oppose the convening of the Synod? Do you have similar cases in your Church in Russia?

I know that in the Orthodox Church of Greece, as in the other Local Churches, there is a critical attitude on the part of some of the episcopate, clergy and laity towards the Council, to the way it has being prepared and held and to some of its draft documents. I will not evaluate this criticism here. For my part, it would be wrong to interfere in the internal life of another Local Church. I can only say that among the bishops, clerics and laity of the Russian Church there is also a critical attitude towards the Holy and Great Council. I believe that criticism of the conciliar documents, if it is constructive and founded, is completely normal. This is why the draft documents were published, so that every interested member of the Church can have his say on them. Moreover, I believe that the more important critical remarks should certainly be taken into account and the corresponding amendments should be made in the documents when they are discussed at the Council. This is vital if we want the conciliar documents to be accepted so that as a result they will not be later rejected by the people of God. It is only through this acceptance that we can judge whether this great event has been successful or otherwise, for, as the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs of 1848 states, ‘the guardian of piety is the body of the Church herself, even the people themselves, who desire their religious worship to be ever unchanged and of the same kind as that of their fathers’.

– Could the Synod discuss issues such as the following: a) The second marriage of a priest after his wife’s death or even divorce? b) The rediscovery of the ancient tradition of the Church of married bishops? c) The reinstatement of the order of deaconesses. Even Pope Francis refereed to the issue recently. d) The common celebration of the Resurrection of Christ?

As I have already said, according to the schedule for the organization and work of the Holy and Great Council, no other topics and issues, apart from those unanimously approved and already included in the agenda, will not be put forward for discussion at the Council. At the assembly of First Hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches that took place in January of this year in Chambésy, the calendar issue was removed from the Council agenda, and the issue of reviving the institution of deaconesses was not even discussed within the framework of the pre-Conciliar process. Thus, these two topics will not be reviewed at the Council. Concerning the issues of second marriage for the clergy and a married episcopate, then, as we know, the already prepared and published draft of the Council document entitled ‘The Sacrament of Marriage and Obstacles To It’ does not provide for any reforms in this area. I will admit that some members of the Council may propose similar amendments when the document is discussed, but I am confident that these proposals, which would entail such important changes of the Church canons, will not be accepted by the majority of the Local Churches, including the Russian Church. I think that we should all remember that the aim of the Council is to strengthen Church unity and not to undermine it by proposing reforms which go against already established Church tradition.

– Has the issue been resolved between Antioch and Jerusalem over the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Qatar?

As far as I know, no positive resolution of this issue that is acceptable to both sides has yet been found. For this reason there remains the probability that the Church of Antioch will not participate in the work of the Holy and Great Council. I hope, however, that a resolution on the issue of Qatar that is mutually acceptable to both Churches will be found, allowing the Council to be held in a spirit of unanimity and love.

– Is the Patriarchate of Moscow contributing financially to the expenses of the Synod?

At the assembly of First Hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in Chambésy a decision was taken that the expenses incurred by the convening and holding of the Council are to be shared jointly by the Local Churches. Of course, the Moscow Patriarchate has not been left out of this matter. However, we have yet to receive any official information on the Council’s budget, of its articles and how they are to be fulfilled. These issues, which require pan-Orthodox discussion, at the present time are resolved without the participation of the Local Churches, of which we have several times expressed our consternation.

– How are the relations between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople?

For the Moscow Patriarchate the Church of Constantinople is the Mother Church. For many centuries the Russian Church was part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This circumstance makes our Churches especially close to each other, and at present, in spite of the differences in views concerning certain issues, the mutual relationship between the Patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople is at the highest level. This is witnessed by the fact in recent years there has arose a tradition of exchanging delegates for the name’s day celebrations of our First Hierarchs. I hope that the Holy and Great Council will enhance the development of fraternal co-operation and the strengthening of mutual relations between our Churches.

It’s Everyone Or No One. The Synodality That Is Sinking the Council
A few days before it opens, the pan-Orthodox Council is in danger of failing. The patriarchates of Bulgaria, Georgia, and Antioch have announced their withdrawal, and Moscow is supporting them. The discord has been sown by the embrace between Kirill and Pope Francis 

by Sandro Magister

ROME, June 9, 2016 – There hasn’t been one for more than a thousand years, it’s been in the works for sixty years, and it has finally been convened for this Pentecost, which for the Eastern Churches falls on June 19 this year.

But just as the launch draws near, the much-implored pan-Orthodox Council is at risk of falling through.

And yet everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. At the end of January the heads of the fourteen Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine tradition, meeting in Chambésy, Switzerland, had come to a final agreement on the venue of the Council (the island of Crete), its starting date (June 19), its duration (until June 26), the procedural rules, and the documents to be brought up for discussion, five of them, on the following topics:

- the autonomy of the Churches and the manner of proclaiming it;
- the importance of fasting and its observance today;
- the sacrament of marriage and its impediments;
- the relationships of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world;
- the mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary world in regard to peace, freedom, and brotherhood among peoples.

On each point the voting was unanimous on the part of all fourteen delegations, except for the rules and the document concerning marriage, not approved by the patriarchate of Antioch. So all of the signs were good, in spite of knowing that at a pan-Orthodox Council only that which is unanimously approved is valid, and that every modification of a rule or document must also have the agreement of all:

> News From the Eastern Front. Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete (30.1.2016)

But then, as the starting date of the Council drew near, from one Church or another the divergences began to grow larger again.

One “peripheral” problem, although not so much, is the contrast between the patriarchate of Antioch and the patriarchate of Jerusalem over the recent appointment by the latter of a metropolitan in Qatar, an appointment seen as illegitimate by Antioch, which claims Qatar as its own canonical territory.

The conflict is still unresolved. And it threatens heavy repercussions for the Council. The patriarchate of Antioch has in fact threatened repeatedly to withdraw from the assembly if the question is not resolved first. And in any case, having broken communion with the patriarchate of Jerusalem and no longer referring to it in the Eucharistic liturgy, it risks wounding the divine liturgy of Pentecost with which the Council will open.

The most serious divergences, however, especially concern one of the five documents that will be discussed at the Council, the one on relations between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world, also available in English and French:

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

> Les relations de l'Église orthodoxe avec l'ensemble du monde chrétien

On April 22, the patriarchate of Bulgaria declared unacceptable some passages of points 4, 5, 6, 12, and 16 of the document that it had however approved three months before.

The document, in the judgment of the Bulgarian patriarchate, errs theologically, dogmatically, and canonically in failing to recognize that outside of the Orthodox Church there is no other “church” but only heresies and schisms; that Christian unity has never been lost, because the Orthodox Church has always been united and will always be so; that those who have fallen into heresy and schism must first return to the Orthodox faith and give obedience to it before being accepted in that which is the only true Church.

As a result, the patriarchate of Bulgaria has warned that it will approve the document only if it is rewritten at the Council as it requests. If not, it will not sign it and therefore it will lack the unanimity necessary for approval.

In reality, by taking this position the patriarchate of Bulgaria has given voice to tendencies that are very widespread in the Orthodox world, which on the whole is not at all ecumenically favorable toward the Catholic Church in the same way that this is toward it.

And the meeting on February 12 between Pope Francis and Moscow patriarch Kirill in Havana did not soothe but instead reignited this aversion in large segments of Orthodoxy:

> The Few Big Things That Francis and Kirill Didn’t Say To Each Other In Havana (16.3.2016)

In addition to the patriarchate of Bulgaria, in fact, analogous objections to the document cited have been expressed by other parts of the Orthodox world.

On May 25, the patriarchate of Georgia charged that it contains “ecclesiological and terminological errors” that demand a thorough rewrite, in the absence of which it will refuse to sign it:

> Minute of the Session of the Holy Synod…

And on the same day, the Orthodox Church of Greece also rejected as unacceptable the name of “church” as applied to Christian confessions other than the Orthodox. So did the patriarchate of Serbia.

At the end of May, a sizable delegation from the patriarchate of Moscow visited Mount Athos. And right on cue, immediately after the visit, the monasteries of the Holy Mountain spoke out as a whole against calling “churches” those that are only “Christian denominations and confessions.”

The monasteries of Athos formulated their point of view in an open letter to the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. They will not take part in the pan-Orthodox Council, but they are influential. In fact, they have supported the veto power of Council members that are threatening not to sign the document on relations between Orthodoxy and the rest of the Christian world:

> Open Letter of the Holy Mount Athos…

Not only that. During those same days the patriarchate of Bulgaria announced that it will not take part in the Council if its requests for corrections are not met first. The flight for its delegates to Crete has been cancelled, as have their hotel reservations. In their absence, the Council would lose its qualification as pan-Orthodox, invalidating the immense efforts made so far to convene it.

In reality, the announcement of the Bulgarian patriarchate seemed to be an extreme act of pressure on the whole Orthodox Church, the primates of which have planned a meeting the day before the opening of the Council, for a final adjustment of the documents to be discussed and voted on.

And in fact the patriarchate of Moscow, which represents two thirds of the world’s Orthodox, appeared to accept this very challenge on June 3. In a statement released at the end of a session of its holy synod, it proposed an extraordinary conference to be held urgently before the Council and even before the meeting of the primates, to amend the document on relations between Orthodoxy and the rest of the Christian world according to the objections made by the Orthodox Churches of Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, and Serbia, as well as Russia and Mount Athos:

> Session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church

News of this step by the patriarchate of Moscow was also covered in "L'Osservatore Romano" of June 5:

> Una conferenza straordinaria prima del Concilio panortodosso

On June 6, however, a statement by the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople, which has the primacy of honor in the Orthodox camp, rejected the proposal of the patriarchate of Moscow, referring directly to the Council every project for the modification and correction of the contested texts:

> Communiqué

To little effect, judging by the announcement on the following day by the patriarchate of Antioch, which asked that the convocation of the Council be postponed and announced that in any case it will not go as long as the absence of a solution to its conflict with the patriarchate of Jerusalem continues to prevent it from celebrating the divine liturgy with it on the day of Pentecost:

> Statement of the Antiochian Holy Synod

While for its part the powerful patriarchate of Moscow has again proposed the very urgent convocation, by June 10, of a preconciliar conference to resolve the dangling questions.

“If these questions are resolved, the Council will take place. If not, it will be preferable to postpone it,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the department of external church relations of the patriarchate of Moscow, said in an interview:

> If problems on way to Pan-Orthodox Council are not resolved, it is better postponed

Pentecost is getting closer every day. But the thriller of the pan-Orthodox Council is still in suspense. Until the very last.


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

Patriarch of Romania about the Holy and Great Council: “We have to express unity, but also co-responsibility”
my source: Pravmir.com

Source: Basilica.ro
Patriarch of Romania about the Holy and Great Council: “We have to express unity, but also co-responsibility”
In the opening of the works of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania, referred to the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church that will convene in Crete this June. His Beatitude urged all faithful, clergy, monastics and lay people to pray, in a universal (Synodal) spirit, for the good development of the Holy and Great Council.

The Patriarch of Romania offered an answer to those who argue against the participation of a limited number of persons in the Holy and Great Council, saying that “Not everyone can participate, but everyone has the responsibility to contribute, to advise and to pray so that the Holy Spirit, and not a worldly spirit, will guide the works of the future Pan-Orthodox Council”.

As stated in January 2016, in the opening of the works of the Synaxis of the Primates of Orthodox Churches in Chambésy, the Romanian Patriarch stressed out the Synodal (conciliar) character of Orthodoxy, which has to be manifested both at local, and at universal (Pan-Orthodox) levels.

We have to be very responsible, because the unity of faith is very important to us.

When we gather in Synod, we have to express the one and holy faith, the unity of the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church, in order to reflect the faith of the entire Church.

That is why, the parish and monastery clergy, the faithful and monastics are asked to pray, to come together in a Synodal spirit, because the consensus of the Church within a Council, and in her fullness, represents the expression of unity or communion of faith.

Not everyone can participate, but everyone has the responsibility to contribute, to advise and, especially, to pray so that the Holy Spirit, and not a worldly spirit, will guide the works of the future Pan-Orthodox Council.

We have a moral duty to witness together not just at home, but also at Pan-Orthodox level, the unity of faith in the Church.

The greatest gift of greatest price of the spiritual life of the Church is the unity of faith, which is expressed in sacramental unity, but also in the missionary and pastoral ministry of the Church carried out today in the world.

We have to express unity, but also co-responsibility.

Orthodoxy is synodal (conciliar), both at local, national, and at Pan-Orthodox levels. The Synod (Council) is always the institution with the greatest responsibility for keeping true faith, true experience in Christ and the pastoral organization at all levels

from the Catholic Herald - please click:

by Paul Ladouceur
my source: Public Orthodoxy
On April 22, 2016, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church issued a decision containing its objections to the draft document of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church on “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece took a similar decision on May 26, 2016. The brief decision of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which contains no theological justification for its positions, rejects the use of the appellation “Church” to refer to non-Orthodox Christian denominations; it objects to the inference that Christian unity has been “lost”; and it deplores the absence of affirmation that the only way to Christian unity is the return of “heretics and schismatics” to the Orthodox Church. Neither the Bulgarian nor the Greek decision go as far as an earlier declaration of Bulgarian clergy and monastics which postulates that “heretics are outside the ship of the Church and as a consequence, beyond salvation” – but the practical conclusion is the same.   

Concerning the term “Church,” the Bulgarian statement reads: “Besides the Holy Orthodox Church there are no other churches, but only heresies and schisms, and to call the latter ‘churches’ is theologically, dogmatically and canonically completely erroneous.” The Bulgarian statement thus identifies the Church entirely and exclusively with the current Orthodox Church. As we pointed out in another post on Public Orthodoxy (“On Ecumenoclasm: Who Can Be Saved?”), this theology reposes implicitly on a rigorist and narrow interpretation of St. Cyprian of Cartage’s famous dictum “No salvation outside the Church.” Orthodoxy has never accepted an interpretation of Cyprian’s dictum which limits the Church to a visible institution, but instead recognizes that Christ and the Holy Spirit act outside the visible limits of the Orthodox Church. As Fr. Georges Florovsky expresses this notion, the canonical and the sacramental boundaries of the Church do not coincide – the boundaries of the Church of Christ are a mystery known to God alone.

By limiting the Church to a visible institution, the Orthodox (Byzantine rite) Church, the Bulgarian approach negates the Pauline notion, taken up by many Fathers of the Church, of the Church as “the Body of Christ” (1 Co 12:12-31; Eph.4:11-13; Col. 1:24 etc.). In much patristic and modern reflection on the Church, this came to be expressed as the “mystical Body of Christ,” emphasizing that the Church extends well beyond the limits of the limits of the Orthodox Church. Christ is “the Way and the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). The three characteristics form one whole. Thus wherever there is Truth, there also are the Way and Life – the way and life that are Christ Jesus. The essence of Church is the possession of Truth, the witness to Truth, and access to the means of salvation. While non-Orthodox Churches and communities do not possess the fullness of the Truth found only in the Orthodox Church, they nonetheless possess elements of the Truth, to the degree to which they witness to Jesus Christ and manifest his teachings. They thus participate in the Church of Christ and hence are indeed members of the Body of Christ, which entitles them to refer to themselves and to be referred to as “Church.”

The statement of the Bulgarian Church also repeats the affirmation in the earlier document of Bulgarian ecclesial figures to the effect that “‘Christian unity’ has never been lost, because the Holy Orthodox Church has never lost its unity and never will.” The statement cannot be refuted as such because it is a tautology: here, the “Holy Orthodox Church” is implicitly identical to “Christian unity.” By implication too, not only are non-Orthodox ecclesial bodies not “Church,” but their adherents are not Christians, since they do not figure in Christian unity.

In a broader context, the statement is, of course, historical nonsense. The ancient Coptic Church of Egypt, and the Armenian and Syriac Churches, and indeed the Church of Rome, were all part of the Catholic (=Universal) Church up to the Council of Chalcedon (451) for the first group, and until the beginning of the second millennium for the Church of Rome. These Churches are no longer in communion with what became known as the Orthodox Church. Where is the continuous unity of the Orthodox Church so confidently proclaimed in the Bulgarian statement?

The statement also conveniently disregards recent ruptures in the Orthodox Church itself, such as the 1996 break in communion between the Churches of Constantinople and Russia over jurisdiction in Estonia, not to mention the current squabble between the Churches of Antioch and Jerusalem over jurisdiction in Qatar. During the period when Constantinople and Russia were not in communion, was the Church of Russia no longer “Church”? Or was it the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

The Bulgarian declaration complains about the absence of affirmation in the draft document of the Pan-Orthodox Council that the only way to Christian unity is the return of heretics and schismatics to the Orthodox Church. Georges Florovsky, a leading Orthodox ecumenist for some four decades, expresses this more delicately: “For me, Christian reunion is just universal conversion to Orthodoxy.” Both Florovsky and Sergius Bulgakov, who disagreed on many issues, were united in affirming that only the Orthodox Church possesses the fullness of the truth of Christ – but they never resorted to hitting fellow Christians over the head with insulting epithets (such as “heretic” and “schismatic”), which may be technically accurate, but are far removed from Christian charity. As Jesus taught: “Whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Mt 5:22).

The declaration of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church seeks to derail the engagement of the Orthodox Church to dialogue with other Christians. Orthodoxy must stand firm in its fundamental commitment to act in accordance with Christ’s priestly prayer: “That they may be one just as We are one” (Jn 17:22). Witness to the truth of the Orthodox Church must not proceed by hurling insults and manifesting hostility towards fellow Christians, but by humble witness to the Orthodox tradition in sincere Christian love and respect towards all seekers of Truth.

Paul Ladouceur is Adjunct Professor, Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College (University of Toronto), and Professeur associé, Faculté de théologie et de sciences religieuses, Université Laval (Quebec).

Russian Orthodox Church to gather Holy Synod prior to Pan-Orthodox Council — official

Syrian Orthodox Church refuses to participate in Holy and Great Council on current terms
MOSCOW, June 7. /TASS/. The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) will gather in Moscow prior to the Pan-Orthodox Council the Holy Synod to decide how to act in conditions of some local churches’ refusal to take part in the Council on June 17-26 in Crete, Greece, a senior ROC official said Tuesday.
"We will monitor what is going on in local churches, will attentively listen to voices from local Orthodox churches, and I think we will need to hold one more session of the Holy Synod to understand how to act in such a situation," Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion told TASS.
He said he regrets that conditions of participation in the Council, which are principled for ROC, are actually ignored by the Constantinople Patriarchate.
The ROC believes that the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Council is either to be attended by all the fourteen local Orthodox churches or be postponed to a later date, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's External Church Relations Department, told TASS on Tuesday.
"I think if the Council is held in the absence of any of the local churches it will not be a Pan-Orthodox Council. It will rather be an intra-Orthodox meeting. Naturally, its decisions would not be binding on those churches which are absent from it but I will hope this will not take place," he said.
Metropolitan Hilarion said he hopes that either a solution that could be acceptable for all the local churches will finally be offered in the days before the Council, or "in case such solution is not found the Council will be postponed to a more favorable time and the local churches will direct their efforts to solve these problems, to somehow bridge the diversities so that all the churches could finally hold the Council in peace and accord."
"Over the entire pre-Council process, we have been stressing the importance of the Pan-Orthodox Council and we have been saying we support the very idea of such Council. But we have had certain conditions from the very beginning," he said, adding that among the mandatory conditions is consensus in passing decisions. Other conditions, in his words, are to address at the Council only preliminarily agreed subjects and to ensure attendance of all local churches.
"If these conditions are not observed, it gives grounds for a serious question about the status of this Council, its legitimacy and about whether it should be held when it is unprepared," he said.
According to Metropolitan Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox Church wants to hold a Council "that will unite all of us, that will reconcile us and will be a factor of unity."
"We cannot put the Pan-Orthodox Council at risk," he underscored.
The legitimacy

Patriarch Kirill: by denying God's truth we ruin the world
The Russian Orthodox Church will not recognize the legitimacy of the Holy and Great All-Orthodox Council, which is going to be held on the island of Crete, Greece, on June 17-26 provided any of the 14 national (local) Orthodox Churches is absent, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's External Church Relations Department, told TASS.
"We have always been saying that the Council’s decisions are to be passed by consensus. We believe that consensus implies not mere agreement of those present in the absence of those who have not come. Consensus should mean unanimous opinion of all recognized local Orthodox Churches. If one of them is absent we think it means that there is no consensus. So, the refusal of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church [to take part in the Council] was an alarming signal we were supposed to react to, I think," he said, adding that Syria’s Antiochian Orthodox Church has followed the Bulgarian Church’s lead and refuse to attend the Holy and Great Council.
"Can the Council’s decisions be regarded legitimate if two Churches are absent from it? Or can these decisions be called consensus? We think not. It means we have a kind of emergency situation which requires urgent solutions," he said.
Earlier, he said the Russian Orthodox Church will convene a Holy Synod meeting in Moscow ahead of the Holy and Great All-Orthodox Council.
Should at least one of the 14 churches be absent from the Council, it will lose the Pan-Orthodox status. The Russian Orthodox Church proposed convening an urgent pan-Orthodox consultative conference before June 10 ahead of the Holy and Great Council. The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on June 6 made a decision to proceed with routine preparations for the Council.
Russian cleric accuses Constantinople Patriarchate of destroying pan-Orthodox unity
Russian expert: Constantinople Patriarchate seeking dictatorial powers for itself
Opinion: Constantinople Patriarchate trying to impose papacy on Orthodox world
Constantinople Patriarchate says date of Pan-Orthodox Council to remain unchanged
"Our initiative was geared to save the Council. We have been asked by local churches, even by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to save the Council," Hilarion said. "Naturally, we were upset to hear such reaction from Constantinople. It means that the Patriarchate of Constantinople takes little interest in what local churches say - ‘the Holy and Great Council will be held in any event.’"
The Holy and Great Orthodox Council, preparations for which started as far back as in 1961, is supposed to become the fullest and most authoritative assembly of top clerics of the Orthodox Christian world in almost a thousand years. Each of the fourteen national (local) Orthodox Churches is expected to delegate 24 high-rank representatives there. The autocephalous (local) Orthodox churches are the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Patriarchate of Alexandria, Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Patriarchate of Moscow, Patriarchate of Serbia, Patriarchate of Romania, Patriarchate of Bulgaria, Patriarchate of Georgia, Church of Cyprus, Church of Greece, Church of Poland, Church of Albania, Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. The Russian Orthodox Church is largest of all. The latest Holy and Great Council the Russian Orthodox Church agreed to recognize was held in the 8th century.
The Pan-Orthodox Council is convened by the Constantinople Patriarchate in Constantinople (currently Istanbul), the traditional venue of all Councils. This time in view of the strained geopolitical situation in the world the Greek island of Crete was selected as an alternative venue.
Problems sprang up in the course of final preparations for the assembly recently, with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church saying its clerics will not attend the Council, since more preparations are needed.
Reports in the Russian media said the Bulgarian Church has objections against the contents of certain basic documents the Council is due to endorse. The Georgian Orthodox Church, too, has voiced objections against the documents on Christian marriage and the contemporary mission of the Church.



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