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

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

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL - 4



Conciliarity in the Light of Day
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Bishop Maxim (Vasiljevic) - interview for the Serbian newspaper „Politika“ 2016
my source: Serbica Americana


Question: Why is a Pan-Orthodox Council being called at this time, after so long, and what thematics will the Orthodox Churches convey to the world?
Answer: The historical fate of all Orthodox Churches without exception over the prior centuries has at times repressed a conciliar practice of broader proportions. Thus, the upcoming „Holy and Great Council“ has immeasurable significance for the renewing of the conciliarity and canonical self-consciousness in our Church. Conciliarity (or synodality) is not an epithet of the Church. In its very being and existence it is „synodos“, or assembly. In addition, one should not overlook the charismatic character of an Ecumenical council, which is more of an extraordinary ad hoc event, rather than an institutionalized reality. In this „world“, in which divisive powers rule, the Church through the Council calls for a unified attempt of a dynamic preservation of the ontological unity and communal witnessing of love.

Since some of the themes of the agenda of the Holy and Great Council sound anachronistic (the fast, calendar, marital restrictions, autonomy, diaspora, mission, etc.), it is no wonder that some argue the real shortcomings in those texts particularly is that they are overly „contractual “. Important topics resist a „contractual“ existence. Nevertheless, we believe that the Council will address contemporary problems and challenges, send a message to the youth, look back at biomedical technology, family crises, the ignoring of religious identity in the process of integration, terrorism, defense of persecuted Christians, sympathy with the supporters of other religious traditions, etc. It would be frightening if we do not consider the tumultuous life we find ourselves in.

At times we forget how important, and sufficient it is, to assemble and serve the Liturgy. The Church does not save us through words or actions but by its true being.

Question: How will the faithful from parishes in, for instance, Vranje or America, „interpret“ the message of the world Orthodox summit?

Answer: Councils serve to establish and guarantee communion among local Churches within one Church „in the ecumene“—to instill hope in salvation from death. What is the significance and what are the consequences of this Council—the post-conciliar period will show, since the process of acceptance of the Council and its decisions may take time, depending on the vitality of the ecclesial body, and the work of the local bishops among the people.

With this occasion I wish to correct the statement that „the world’s Orthodox summit“ is assembling in Crete. The Council (even an Ecumenical one) does not stand above the Church, it does not rule over it, rather it serves the people of God—the Church, from whence it draws its authority, importance and infallibility. The Church is above the Ecumenical councils and uses them as an organ for the interpretation of divine Revelation.


Question: The Orthodox world often seems, paradoxically speaking, disunited-united. What do you envision of this relationship following this Council?
Answer: The impression of unity in disunity comes for the most part from the tendency of ethno-phyletism in the majority of the local Churches. This has led to some autocephalous Churches operating with a certain self-sufficiency and isolation, and the atrophy of conciliarity on an ecumenical level. Thus, in many Western church histories our ecclesiology is portrayed as a unity of ethnic churches, based on political and state principles. Such a version finds no comparison in Eastern tradition... It is likely that following the „Council of Crete“ councils will be held more frequently, but not as some „universal structure“ of a permanent nature. It can be a new beginning in experiencing and studying contemporary organization in light of the conciliar Church Tradition, all with the aim of achieving its theanthropic mission in today’s world, on both a local and ecumenical level. In other words, beneath the phenomenon of a Council we must uncover its ontology and then put it into practice. The Church has a very tame nature, in that it exceeds all of our calculations and studies.

Question: If Orthodox have preserved unity without such Councils, why do they need it now and is it under the pressure of globalization?

Answer: Substantial unity, as we have already stated, has been preserved, but the crisis of unity splashes the shores of many autocephalous Churches. Namely, even though every local Church is “universal” and in no way truncated, the Church “throughout the world” should be manifested as a community of Churches. Since the structure of the Church (its identity, authority, ministries, etc.) represents, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, an event of a free communion, then unity, to which Christ calls us, is not some established uniformity in an institutionalized sense. The nature of the Church will always be for us an open book in which the Holy Spirit turns the pages.

The question of globalization can be answered with a counter question: if the Church is the messenger of the cosmic message of salvation in Christ is it not therefore global? The very term “ecumenical” refers to a global character. Of course there are differences, but this moment is critical even if the topics are out-of-date. Delighted by the opportunities presented, I believe that the Council in the scope of its discussions and, eventually, with the content of its message will touch upon and address the most important existential, social, and even political issues.

Question: Or is about establishing “firm leadership” in the East, which will be in response to similar leadership of the Catholic Church?

Answer: Quoting an Athonite elder: “It is a divinely sacred and holy thing for the first in rank among the Orthodox Churches to be robed in the cloak of weakness.” Namely, among all others the Ecumenical patriarch today, together with the Antiochian, finds himself in the most unenviable position. I am obligated to say that the conciliar leadership of the Orthodox Church has not served as a weapon of rule over the Church.

In my humble opinion, it is not an issue of a “game of thrones” but of a unified rush to the Tomb of the Resurrection. A great human element exists therein, but we must recall the image of the Apostles Peter and John as they “ran together” to Christ’s Tomb after His Resurrection, whereby St. Gregory the Theologian characterized their run as a “good competition”. If you recognize some of the “Eastern” leaders-runners in this, then you will have grasped the point. It is precisely the Council’s “dialectic” that has driven out the idea of a supreme rule of one over many. Each gathering of the Synod is opened with a prayer of the invocation of the Holy Spirit who unites all Christians in the body of Christ on both a local and universal level simultaneously. What determines an ancient Apostolic Canon is a balance, that is, mutual respect in relations between bishops with the first (presiding) bishop, while the conciliarity (synodality) of all the bishops is emphasized at the same time, in their pastoring and organizing of the entire Church.

Question: There are indications that the Antiochian Church will not participate in the work of the Council, as well as the decision of the Georgian Church to reject one of the documents, which will be presented for approval. Can such actions endanger the convening of the Council, its significance and the unity among Orthodox Churches in general?
Answer: The Council will be an expression of unity inasmuch as it does not close its eyes to the real problems, and if it succeeds, for instance, in a conciliar manner to heal the divisions or problems in relations between Jerusalem and Antioch, Serbia and Romania, Russia and Constantinople, etc., without prejudicing the decisions. Each local Church lives in the reality of the Future age with its own dynamic, thus it is to be expected that in different geographic and political regions different views exist regarding different issues. This, however, must not be an obstacle for the general effort that the universal and unaltered evangelical message be communicated “with one mouth and one heart.” I am afraid that some individuals are too comfortably reclined in the armchair of conservatism. But history provides a lesson: It is indicative that Polycarp, the famous Bishop of Smyrna, at about the year 155 visited his Roman fellow brother Anicetus to discuss with him the disputable issue of the date of Pascha. Although they did not agree in all things, imagine, they nonetheless served the Liturgy together after which Polycarp returned to Smyrna—to his martyrdom.

The Holy Eucharist also heals unseen wounds. I sincerely hope the Council will do the same. In the history of the Church, every heresy or schismatic division inspired the activation of the healthy ecclesial powers for the healing of divisive tendencies in the body of Christ, with the final goal of preserving unity. The Council can succeed in drawing light even from something that is so narrow and dark as schism.

Question: The Pope recently met with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, then with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Can we expect from the upcoming Council specific steps towards the improvement in relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches?

Answer: Those historic meetings witness to the opportunities for sincere dialogue, based on theological principles of the first millennium. For instance, the basic principle of St. Cyprian of Carthage states that each bishop, not only the Roman, sits at the throne of the Apostle Peter. This does not mean that all bishops are equal, but that they are equally successors of the full assembly of Apostles. Cyprian understands “Cathedra Petri” not in relation to the universal Church but in relation to each local Church headed by a bishop.

These meetings have a soteriological and therapeutic aspect. We regret the loss of unity with the Western churches, as it is also a consequence of our sinfulness. A true Christian knows that that loss occured against God’s will. The goal of the council was the healing of the ill human condition and community. This undeniable soteriological perspective of the conciliar institution is explained by the fact that only in the Church can we find true therapy, since Christ is the only true Physician. This historic succession and tradition of healing, which makes up the heart and core of the biblical and patristic tradition and conciliar system, should help us in solving the painful issue of schism.

Question: Does this mean – ecumenism, a change in the calendar, is a renounciation of Orthodoxy as is seen by those who oppose the current manner in communicating with Catholics?
Answer: There are faithful who worry about the “only thing needed” and with confidence look to those with pastoral accountability to face challenges. A sectarian approach exists and it has a raison d’être in introducing the confusions. Out of “ecumenism” they make a sensation which has success with one group of people and with their rebelliousness it only brings further discord and chaos to the world’s turmoil. The Serbian Orthodox Church is truly ecumenical while preserving its calendar is not reluctant to speak with all. It contributes to the existential explanation of contemporary problems which are anthropological, cosmological, cultural-civilizational and others. Synodality as an essential characteristic of the Church can also be a useful basis and prototype for the ecumenical movement. Our Church is not moving towards a legalistic and narrow confessionalistic framework.

Question: Who will represent the Serbian Orthodox Church at this Council?

Answer: The gathering of the first hierarchs, without the fullness of each local Church or without the overall assembly of its hierarchs, does not decide on behalf of others, for in that case it would operate as a collective papacy. According to the ancient practice the heads of the autocephalous Churches are invited to attend with a certain number of their bishops. This is far from the ideal number – all active canonical bishops should participate in the Council. The Church in the region of Serbia and “Serbian and coastal lands” (an expression of St. Sava) is called to nominate 24 of its bishops.

2005 AP Photo/Osman Orsal
At the Liturgy which will be served in Crete, the Orthodox—as an assembly of people around the hierarchs and clergy—will preserve and express in history the icon of Pentecost and the Future world which exceeds mortal division, thanks to its unity and recapitulation in Christ. That Future age is the Church’s force of gravity.

PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA CALLS UPON ALL LOCAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES TO PARTICIPATE IN PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL


  


Alexandria, June 14, 2016


    
Theodoros II, the Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, appealed to all Local Orthodox Churches to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council on Crete, reports Sedmitsa.ru, with reference to Romfea.

In an interview given to radio station 98.4, Patriarch Theodoros regarded as an historical Church Council that which is to take place in June 2016 on the island of Crete. The Alexandrian Patriarch stated that “the Orthodox Church should be far from political, national, and racial affiliations.

“It’s impossible to imagine that it would be possible in the last minutes to not come to the Church Council, in line with personal aspirations and dissatisfactions related to primacy in the diptychs and the role of the coordinator, fulfilled by the Patriarch of Constantinople, although the decision was earlier made unanimously!” Patriarch Theodoros said.

The primate of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church believes that the Bulgarian Church will not change its decision, in contrast with the other three Local Churches, which didn’t say “no” in such a categorical fashion.

According to Patriarch Theodoros, the primates of those Churches which are putting forth such worldly issues as the primacy of honor, “should get up from their richly ornate thrones and visit Africa, to understand the meaning of the poor and humble children of Christ.”

Translated by Jesse Dominick


Pravoslavie.ru



my source: Catholic Herald

CATHOLIC OBSERVERS FOR THE COUNCIL
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople invited Pope Francis to send observers to the meeting on the Greek island of Crete, and the Pope chose Cardinal Kurt Koch and Bishop Brian Farrell, respectively the president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.


Sending the Vatican’s top ecumenical officers demonstrates that “it is the Holy Father’s judgement that this is supremely important for the Orthodox, for our relationship with the Orthodox Church and, beyond that, it’s supremely important for the Christian witness in a world that is ever more confused about the role of religion,” Bishop Farrell told Catholic News Service.





Orthodox Synod to take place despite new pullout, by Russia http://dlvr.it/LZ8Kyk  

Pan-Orthodox Meltdown Ahead of Great Council? 
NEWS ANALYSIS: Denying Catholics status as “Church” is only one point of controversy for the foundering pan-Orthodox Council.
my source: National Catholic Register 
  BY VICTOR GAETAN 06/13/2016 
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople (c) addresses the media in Istanbul, Turkey. Church unity over the long-awaited Pan-Orthodox Church council is eroding just days before it is set to convene.– 2005 AP Photo/Osman Orsal
The Holy and Great Council of Orthodox patriarchs, meeting for the first time in 1,139 years, appears to be unraveling.
June 19 — Pentecost Sunday for Eastern-Orthodox Christians — is when the Pan-Orthodox Council is scheduled to open at a theological academy on the island of Crete.
But on June 1, leadership of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church announced the council should be postponed until numerous unspecified issues are addressed, from guest seating and procedures for editing texts to costs. The Church said it would boycott the meeting if held this month.
Five days later, another Church announced it could not participate: the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, based in Damascus Syria, which has been embroiled in a jurisdictional dispute with the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. The two churches have broken communion.
Since the disagreement has not been settled, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople scheduled mediation for after the council, the Antioch Church considers it impossible to attend a council dedicated to unity.
The unraveling accelerated by the end of the week, with the Serbian Orthodox Church and Orthodox Church of Georgia piling on, adding a specific complaint about the agenda item on ecumenical dialogue.
The discontented communities are close to the most powerful Church in the assembly: the Russian Orthodox Church, with more people and more money than any other.
A total of 350 clerics comprise the council — each patriarch is accompanied by 24 bishops.

Incredibly, at least in light of all of the recent discontent, all 14 churches approved an agenda only five months ago in Switzerland, although some Christian reporters sensed discontent that could derail the gathering, despite planning that stretches back decades.
The discord touches directly on the Catholic Church and its long ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church, dating back to 1964, when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem to begin healing that old wound of division, the Great Schism of 1054.
What is going on?

Disunity
Orthodox churches function, normally, with extensive autonomy.
Most of the 14 autocephalous (self-governing) churches are defined by national jurisdictions — the Orthodox Churches of Albania, Bulgaria, Czech and Slovakia, Georgia, Greece, Poland, Romania, Russia and Serbia — while another five trace histories back to ancient communities: Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Cyprus and Jerusalem.
With authority flowing from the ancient seat of the Byzantine Empire, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is considered “first among equals” in relation to other Orthodox leaders, as a matter of history.
Although he has the power to convene a Pan-Orthodox Council, he can’t command other patriarchs to follow him, a fact the current kerfuffle makes clear.
When dissatisfaction became public, leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church was swift to read discord as potentially fatal.
Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department for external church relations (effectively its foreign minister), recommended that Patriarch Bartholomew convene an emergency meeting to iron out problems before leaders descend on Crete.
Because decisions are supposed to be made by consensus, the absence of even one local Church undermines the meeting’s authority, Hilarion explained to a Russian TV station on June 7.
“If these issues are resolved, then the council will take place. If they are not, then it’s probably best to postpone it,” Metropolitan Hilarion told Russia-24 TV.
Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Chrysostomos Savatos, who will represent his Church at the council, echoed Hilarion in emphasizing that participation of all is critical. But he voiced puzzlement regarding what inspired fractures.
“I am certain that the Holy Spirit will enlighten the minds of primates,” the Greek leader told La Stampa. “I do not understand why this change has come about. This is an historic moment, and none of the Orthodox Churches must be absent from this Pan-Orthodox Council.”
The patriarchate of Constantinople beseeched all parties to stick with the program, noting “with surprise and wonder” that the Churches already had agreed to it. Plus, further discussion could occur during the council.
But the negative snowball only picked up speed after Bartholomew insisted the Holy and Great Council would go ahead as planned.

Power Struggle?
Some observers posit that underlying the tempest is a major rivalry between the Orthodox world’s Greek-dominated Hellenistic pole and its Moscow-dominated Slavic pole.
As the Italian analyst Sandro Magister wrote in January, “The rivalry between the powerful Russian Church, which encompasses two-thirds of the world’s Orthodox population, and the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople, which numbers less than three thousand faithful in Istanbul but boasts a primacy of honor over all of Orthodoxy, has in fact been for years one of the most serious conflicts within the Christian East, with important repercussions for relations with the Church of Rome.”
He continued, “What happens at the Pan-Orthodox Council will show what kind of new equilibrium will emerge between the two most significant leaders of all Orthodoxy, Kirill and Bartholomew.”
“Kirill plainly intends, in fact, to strip Bartholomew of his exclusive status as the top symbolic representative of Orthodoxy in the world,” the Italian journalist predicted.
Yet, just six years ago, the two patriarchs celebrated Pentecost together, in Greek and Slavonic, at a monastery outside of Moscow.
Patriarch Kirill declared, “In raising up praise to God with one heart in different languages, we are once again reliving the miracle of Pentecost,” he said.
And Patriarch Bartholomew has been consistently solicitous of Moscow’s preferences in the lead-up to the council: In fact, the meeting was moved from Istanbul to Crete at the request of the Russian Orthodox Church, concerned about security after the Turkish military blew up a Russian jet.
Originally, the Holy and Great Council was to be held in Hagia Irene, where the Council of Constantinople endorsed the Nicene Creed in 381 — a location that would have affirmed the deeply historical leadership of Bartholomew and his predecessors.

Weakness of Bartholomew
Instead, the specter of churches peeling off just days before the council convenes underscores Bartholomew’s weakness with regard to settling inter-Church disputes — an especially precarious aspect of relations within Orthodox Christianity, according to Father Cyril Hovorun, a research fellow at Yale Divinity School, who previously served as chairman of the department for external relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and as first deputy chairman of the educational committee of the Moscow Patriarchate.
At first, it seems surprising that a community facing genocide, as is the Orthodox Church of Antioch, would take action to undermine a united council, especially since the existential crisis of Middle-Eastern Christianity is one threat arguing for greater unity.
Yet the Antioch grievance seems to be a legitimate complaint: The patriarchate has historically governed Orthodox communities on the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, including Qatar.
In March 2013, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem ordained as archbishop of Qatar a priest serving there with permission of the Antioch Patriarchate, without consulting Antioch Patriarch John X — more importantly, without jurisdiction to make the appointment.
The Antioch Church has spent the last three years urging the Patriarchate of Constantinople to rectify the “illegal interference” of the Jerusalem Church.
A Catholic source on the region, AsiaNews.it, considers the conflict to be indicative of complex regional rivalries embedded in international struggles.
But Orthodox lawyer Carl Saba, who serves as communications director for the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France, wrote a year ago, “This is not a mere ‘territorial dispute’ between two sister churches, but an issue that touches the very heart of the unity of the entire Orthodox Church, a unity that is based on the one hand on communion of faith and on the other hand on respect by all the Orthodox churches for the canons of the ecumenical councils,” including canonical jurisdiction, a problem festering for several years.
Saba also highlights the key issue of Orthodox relations with its far-flung diaspora, which expects more pastoral care, more evangelization and more engagement than some old-school leaders seem to realize.

Catholics Are Heretics?
For Roman Catholics, most worrisome is a development among some Orthodox communities that could put a huge wedge in more than 50 years of dialogue.
When the churches of Georgia and Serbia renounced the Pan-Orthodox Council last week, they singled out a specific document, accepted in January, as problematic: “the relation of the Orthodox Church towards the rest of the Christian world,” the council agenda item most relevant to the Catholic Church — and one of five documents already accepted in January.
Some Orthodox leaders, including a group in Bulgaria, don’t think Catholicism should be described as a “church,” because they consider it a heresy.
A wing of the Greek Orthodox Church promulgates this anti-Catholic attitude, too. Outspoken Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Serafim of Piraeus even disapproves of having non-Orthodox observers at all.

Top Vatican Advisers Engaged
Pope Francis is sending two observers to Crete: Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and the council’s secretary, Bishop Brian Farrell.
Bishop Farrell discussed the council’s complexity with America magazine’s Vatican correspondent last week, explaining that the document on ecumenical relations “sets out a vision that is very conservative; it insists on the point that the Orthodox Church is the only one, true church. It recognizes that relations with the Catholic Church are hugely important and positive, but there is no recognition of the Catholic Church as church in the proper sense.”
“The atmosphere is very difficult, and we have to wait and see if the reality of the ecumenical relations down these years is recognized or not,” observed the Irish bishop.
“Over past decades we have called ourselves ‘sister churches,’ we have cooperated together, and we have made theological agreements and signed them as ‘sister churches.’ But now we have to see whether the tremendously conservative trend that is dominating in some of their churches will prevail,” he told America.
Bishop Farrell was quick to explain the Russian Orthodox Church is not one of the “conservative” churches, to which he alluded: “We don’t have this problem with the Russian Orthodox; they are quite positive about our relationship with them.”
In La Stampa last week, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan, Chrysostomos Savatos reassured readers that only a minority among Orthodox leaders consider the Catholic Church inferior: “The Catholic Church has always been considered a Church. What you are referring to is a proposal put forward by some conservatives who do not want to place the Churches on the same level. But I think it is unlikely the proposal will go through. There are many others who do not agree with this amendment.” 
Is there a role for the Holy Father in helping smooth some of the diplomatic edges?
He has excellent relations with many of the interlocutors: from Patriarch Kirill and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Antioch Patriarch John X  and the ruling family of Qatar, with whom he met last week.
Invariably, the Holy Father sees his — and our — chief role as praying for the Orthodox Church and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Senior Register correspondent Victor Gaetan is an award-winning
international correspondent and a contributor to Foreign Affairs magazine




The Holy and Great Council: Orthodoxy’s Opportunity


Evagelos Sotiropoulos
Orthodox Christian



“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” records Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist (5:37).

Five short months ago a Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches took place in Chambésy, Geneva. At that time, all autocephalous churches agreed to convene the Holy and Great Council.

They said ‘Yes.’ They said ‘Yes’ to unity. They said ‘Yes’ to conciliarity. But the ‘Yes’ of all has unfortunately become the ‘No’ of some.

Now, the Holy and Great Council - which begins this week on the island of Crete in Greece - is being held hostage by whimsical arbitrariness.

Beginning with Bulgaria earlier this month, a number of local churches began reversing course, letting their ‘Yes’ become ‘No.’

As one church mused about not participating, another would say the same thing, creating a negative narrative about the Holy and Great Council. The timing and message alignment mimicked the exquisite choreography of a St. Petersburg ballet performance.

Under demanding circumstances - and despite continued criticism - the Ecumenical Patriarchate and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew calibrated a careful response.

In short, Constantinople called for previous agreements and procedures - note agreement, not imposition - to be respected and followed. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has responsibilities unlike no other local church, focused its efforts to safeguard the unity of Orthodoxy, especially with the world watching.

The Holy and Great Council will proceed as normal; whether it is actually ‘Holy’ and ‘Great’ will be determined only after the Council - not necessarily by who is present but by what is decided.

It is not enough for Councils to follow formal regularity; moreover, participation by all autocephalous churches does not make them automatically valid.

One of the shortcomings of the entire pre-conciliar process was the rigid requirement for unanimous consent from all local churches thus giving each of the fourteen Primates a veto over pan-Orthodox decisions - which is inconsistent with the tradition and spirit of Orthodoxy.

“Indeed, those Councils which were actually recognized as “Ecumenical,” in the sense of their binding and infallible authority, were recognized, immediately or after a delay, not because of their formal canonical competence, but because of their charismatic character: under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they have witnessed to the Truth, in conformity with the Scripture as handed down in Apostolic Tradition.” -Georges Florovsky
Orthodoxy’s Opportunity: Creative Destruction

There are six agenda items to be discussed in Crete, each having its own supporting document adopted with unanimous approval (with the exception of the document dealing with marriage).

Setting aside some serious theological concerns that have arisen, the documents themselves are rather unexciting, dare I say uninspiring. This should not come as a major surprise.

Most of them have been developed over decades, by a relatively small group of church representatives, each, presumably, with their own contributions, with compromises made along the way in order to reach consensus.

In their current form, some of the documents - even those pre-approved - will not receive unanimous support. A number of local Synods have formally suggested changes even before the Council begins.

The texts, therefore, will have to be updated; and, contrary to some who suggest otherwise, the Council’s Organization and Working Procedure - despite being rather rigid - do allow for “Modifications of Texts” under Article 11.

Enter “Creative Destruction,” an idea popularized by Joseph Schumpeter in the mid-twentieth century. An economic theory originally developed for industry, its premise is simple: destroying an old structure to create a new one.

Applied to the Holy and Great Council, the proposal for creative destruction is to amend (read: strikethrough) the pre-conciliar documents (they can be used as reference and/or building block language, where appropriate).

The creative part will come in Crete, where the assembled bishops would discuss and draft one inspiring, authentically Orthodox, spiritually relevant document that will truly make a mark in an increasingly fragmented, distracted, and dangerous world.

A rejoinder to this proposal is how could 300 or so individuals, including about 200 bishops (depending on how many actually attend), develop such a document in one short week?

It would be a formidable task indeed, and not without its challenges; but, there are two points worth mentioning.

First, Council participants will have the world watching them and, most acutely, missing Orthodox sister churches. They will not be isolated, working with no specific deadline. Instead, bishops will have to collaborate with no time to dawdle.

Second, and most importantly, participants will be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Instead of only making minor, albeit important, changes and having the hierarchs then rubber-stamp the existing texts, let them, together with their chosen consultants, be inspired and guided by God the Holy Spirit to develop a document worthy of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which alone possesses the fullness of truth.

Church leaders should set the prepared texts aside and use their freedom to draw attention to and stress the uniqueness of Orthodoxy, its freedom-granting ascetical and spiritual life, in addition to resolving matters of Church administration.

The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church is decades in the making, and without precedent for centuries: therefore, Church leaders should not be held captive by discord and dissension but instead put their trust in God to guide them to develop a document that seems good to the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 15:28), is a witness to the Truth and is received by the Body of Christ, that is, the entire Church.

If this happens, history will not remember the naysayers, and the Church will, with time, receive into its conscience the decisions taken in Crete. Despite the participatory withdrawal by some, the Holy and Great Council still offers Orthodoxy with a historic opportunity.

THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL

For previous news of the Holy and Great Council, please click on:




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