"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, 16 June 2016


On the situation caused by the refusal of several local Orthodox Churches to participate in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church
ADMIN | 13 JUNE 2016

The Georgian Orthodox Church will not take part in the Pan-Orthodox Council

Statement of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church

 For many decades the Russian Orthodox Church took and continues to take an active part in the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Since the 1st Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1961 on Rhodes, the outstanding hierarchs and the best theologians of our Church have made their contribution to the work on a great number of the Council’s topics, including those which were not to be included later in the agenda of the Holy and Great Council. For the sake of the earliest convocation of the Council, the Russian Orthodox Church has repeatedly re-affirmed her readiness to achieve decisions mutually acceptable for all the participants in the pre-Council process, even if such decisions diverted from the already agreed rules of the Council’s preparation.

However, the principle of pan-Orthodox consensus has been the invariable basis of the pre-Council process beginning from the 1961 Rhodes Conference, which, on the initiative of the Patriarch of Constantinople, resolved the following: “The decisions of joint meetings shall be adopted with the fullunanimity of the delegations of the Churches” (The Procedure for the Function and Work of the Rhodes Pan-Orthodox Conference, Par. 14). Later this rule was fixed in the Rules of Procedure of Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences adopted in 1986 as follows: “The texts on all the agenda items of the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences shall be approved unanimously” (Article 16). The 2014 Synaxis of the Primate of Orthodox Churches re-affirmed the following: “All the decisions made both during the Council and the preparatory stages shall be made on the basis of consensus” (The Decision of the Synaxis of the Primates, Par. 2a). The same principle was established in the Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which has been developed by the Synaxis of the Primates of Orthodox Churches, which took place on January 21-28, 2016, in Chambesy. This Procedure provides, among other things, that the Council “shall be convened by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch with the consent of their Beatitudes the Primates of all the universally recognized Local autocephalous Orthodox Churches Article 1).

The same Synaxis approved by a majority vote the decision to convene the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church from June 18 to 27, 2016, in Crete. However, this decision, just as the Working Procedure of the Council and the Council’s draft document on “The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to It” was not signed by the Orthodox Church of Antioch. The latter was not signed by the delegation of the Georgian Orthodox Church either. The both Churches pointed out to serious reasons for their decision.

Nevertheless, the Russian Orthodox Church, for the sake of success in the progress towards the convocation of the Council, deemed it possible to sign the above-mentioned documents, expressing, at the same time both at the Synaxis itself and in the correspondence with His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, her conviction of the need to make intensive efforts in the time remaining till the Council (including by the Pan-Orthodox Secretariat established by the Synaxis) for seeking a general Orthodox accord with regard to the documents not signed by the two or one of the Local Churches, which would make the convocation of the Council possible. For reasons beyond the control of the Russian Orthodox Church, no further pan-Orthodox discussion on the existing situation was undertaken.

The Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which took place on February 2-3, 2016, approved the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church delegation at the Chambesy Synaxis and in other pan-Orthodox bodies, expressed its satisfaction with the introduction of the necessary amendments and additions to the Holy and Great Council’s draft documents and having them preliminarily approved on the whole, charged the Holy Synod with forming a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Pan-Orthodox Council, which was done by the Holy Synod in April 2014. The Bishops’ Council called upon the plenitude of the Russian Orthodox Church ‘to lift up an ardent prayer that the Lord may reveal His will to the members of the forthcoming Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church and that it may fortify the unity of Orthodoxy and serve to the good of the Church of Christ and the glory of God and preserve the Orthodox faith intact’.

At the same time, the Bishops’ Council expressed ‘the conviction that the free participation of the delegations of all the universally recognized autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the Pan-Orthodox Council is a necessary condition for holding it’, noting that ‘in this connection, the solution of the problem that has arisen in relations between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem is of special importance’(Resolutions, Par 6).

In the hope that a pan-Orthodox accord will be achieved since without it the convocation of the Holy and Great Council is impossible, the Russian Orthodox Church immediately appointed her representatives to the bodies responsible for its further preparation and, using all possible opportunities she had for personal contacts and correspondence, took an active part in the pre-Council process.

At the same time, the work was carried out to examine critical remarks to the Council’s draft documents coming from the episcopate, clergy and laity and published following the Chambesy Synaxis at the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church. These comments, often accompanied with criticism with regard to the process of preparations for the Council, were also expressed in many other Local Orthodox Churches. Separating constructive remarks from unfounded criticism with regard to the forthcoming Council and its documents, the Department for External Church Relations came out with explanations and comments responding to the confusions arising in the flock. On June 3, 2016, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church looked closely into the proposals, which had come from the episcopate, clergy, monastics and laity, and approved the Russian Orthodox Church’s amendments to the Pan-Orthodox Council’s draft documents on ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’ and “Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World’.

At the same session, the Holy Synod noted that essential amendments to the Council’s draft documents were to a great extent consonant with those presented by the Georgian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek Orthodox Churches, as well as the Holy Kinot of Holy Mount Athos, and these amendments need to be thoroughly examined with the aim to find pan-Orthodox consensus necessary for the Council to take decisions.

At the same time, the Synod took notice of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church Holy Synod’s decision of June 1, 2016, on the need to postpone the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church set for June 18-26 and the Bulgarian Church’s refusal to participate in it if it is not postponed. In this connection, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church noted that the non-participation of even one of the universally recognized autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the Council ‘constitutes an unsurmountable obstacle for holding a Holy and Great Council’.

These circumstances, as well as the concurrent ‘uncertainty as to the possibility for the Patriarchate of Antioch to attend the Holy and Great Council, just as the absence of a preliminary consensus on the Council’s Working Procedure and the document on ‘The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to It’ compelled the Holy Synod to recognize the need for urgent pan-Orthodox actions and to propose that His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople convene no later than the 10th of June an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference to consider the situation and search for a way out of the existing extraordinary situation so that as a result of this conference the Orthodox Church could make a judgement as to the possibility for holding the Pan-Orthodox Council at the planned date.

By the decision of the Holy Synod, this proposal was immediately sent to His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and to all the Primates of Local Orthodox Churches.

In His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew’s reply (Letter No. 676 of June 9, 2016) it is stated that the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople ‘deems a new extraordinary pan-Orthodox pre-Council conference impossible since there is no normative basis for it, while very few days have remained till the beginning of the work of the Holy and Great Council’. As for ‘the concerns of some fraternal Churches and the absence of clarity as to the possibility for them to participate in the Council’, the Primate of the Church of Constantinople expressed the confidence that ‘the efforts made to remove arising obstacles will be crowned with success, and all the Churches without exception will take part in the Holy and Great Council. Whereas its postponement or breakdown at the twelfth hour after decades of preparations’ will compromise our Orthodox Church at the inter-church and international level and inflict an irreparable damage on her authority’.

Attached to the reply was a notice about the extraordinary session of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Holy Synod, which took place on June 6 with the participation of bishops coming to Constantinople. It states that ‘the Holy Synod with astonishment and bewilderment heard the recently voiced positions and opinions of a number of fraternal Orthodox Churches and stated that a review of the Council’s planned process goes beyond all the institutional bonds’. At the same time, the date of the convocation of the Council is referred to as established by a pan-Orthodox decision, though, as was pointed out above, this decision was not signed by the Church of Antioch.

Meanwhile, the Church of Antioch Holy Synod, on June 6, 2016, after giving detailed reasons pointing to the need to postpone the convocation of the Council, unanimously resolved:

To appeal to His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, in the time separating us from the date of the convocation of this Council, to exert more efforts to achieve consensus for settling all the concerns expressed by Orthodox autocephalous Churches with regard to the Holy and Great Council. If the efforts to achieve consensus are failed, then the Church of Antioch asks to postpone the convocation of the Holy and Great Council to a later date when peaceful relations prevail among all the autocephalous Churches and Orthodox consensus is achieved with regard to the Council’s issues, its Rules and organization procedure.
The Patriarchate of Antioch will not take part in the Holy and Great Council until all the reasons impeding its participation in the Divine Liturgy in the course of the Council are removed, when a final solution is found to the problem of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s invasion in the territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch, which has led to the discontinuance of communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
To re-affirm the importance of participation of all the Orthodox autocephalous Churches in the Holy and Great Council and their decision-making on the basis of general consensus with the aim to preserve the unity of the Orthodox Universal Church.
To address all the Orthodox Churches, notifying them of the position taken by the Church of Antioch with an explanation of all the reasons that has led to this position.
To call upon all the faithful together with their pastors to pray together that the Holy Spirit may inspire the Church on her way to unity for the sake of their common witness to Christ before this world’.
On the same day, the 6th of June, His Holiness Patriarch Irenaeos of Serbia sent to His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and all the Primates of Local Orthodox Churches a letter in which, having enumerated all the existing problems, he pointed out that due to all these circumstances, the Serbian Orthodox Church ‘will find it difficult to take part in the Holy and Great Council and proposes that its convocation be put off for some time’.

On June 10, 2016, there was a session of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Having set forth the existing problems, it pointed out that they can be solved through an active work, but recognized that ‘we all have found ourselves in the face of the fact that as of today the unity has not been achieved, and ‘the goal of convening a Council was and is to reveal the unanimity of the Orthodox’. For this reason, the Georgian Church, too, ‘together with other Churches is asking for a postponement of the Council until the universal unity is achieved’. In this connection, the Holy Synod resolved ‘that the delegation of the Georgian Church will not participate in the Great and Holy Council planned to take place on June 16-27 in Crete’.

Thus, four Local Orthodox Churches (those of Antioch, Georgia, Serbia and Bulgaria) expressed the opinion that it is necessary to postpone the Council, with three of them (those of Antioch, Georgia and Bulgaria) refused to participate in the Council set for June 18-26, while the proposal of the Russian Orthodox Church to convene an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference was not accepted by the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In this situation, the necessary ground for convening a Holy and Great Council – which lies in the existing ‘consent of their Beatitudes the Primates of all the universally recognized Local autocephalous Orthodox Churches’ (Organizational and Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, Article 1) – is obviously absent.

The only possible decision in this case is to continue the preparation of the Holy and Great Council with the subsequent achievement of pan-Orthodox consent to its convocation at a different date.

In connection with the above, the Holy Synod, in keeping with the decision made by the Russian Orthodox Church Bishops’ Council on February 2-3, 2016, (Resolutions, Par. 6), resolves:

that support be given to the proposals of the Orthodox Churches of Antioch, Georgia, Serbia and Bulgaria to postpone the convocation of the Pan-Orthodox Council for a time which will need to be established as a result of a pan-Orthodox discussion and under the indispensable condition that the Primates of all the generally recognized Local autocephalous Orthodox Church agree to it;
that an appropriate proposal be immediately sent to His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and all the Primates of Local Orthodox Churches;
that in case of this proposal is not accepted by the Most Holy Church of Constantinople while the Council on Crete is still convened despite the absence of the consent of several Local Orthodox Churches, the participation of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church in it, with profound regret, be considered impossible
that effort to consolidate pan-Orthodox cooperation in preparing the future Holy and Great Council be continued by all possible means, as it is called to become a true witness to the unity of the Holy Universal and Apostolic Church;
that the opinion be expressed once again that a successful accomplishment of the Council’s preparation could be promoted by the more intensive work of the Pan-Orthodox Secretariat as a body which makes it possible to examine proposals for the resolution of problematic issues, to settle the existing differences, to finalize the necessary documents and to remove all the obstacles for the convocation and God-pleasing completion of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church;
to consider it desirable that, taking into account the proposals expressed in many Local Orthodox Churches, the future Council could be attended by all the hierarchs of the Holy Churches of God without restrictions, since it will certainly enhance the authority of the decisions made by the Council.
‘The name of the Church is not that of division, but unity and harmony’ teaches St. John Chrysostom(Homily on First Corinthians, 1,1). In the name of harmony and unanimity we are to listen ‘what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Rev. 2:7) in the spirit of condescension and brotherly love, without mutual reproaches and inflicting new wounds on the divine-human Body of the Church, listening to one another and especially to the Divine Revelation sealed in Holy Scriptures and the Holy Tradition, and to draw the necessary lessons for the mistake we made for the reason of our human weakness, which were made in the course of the current preparations for the Holy and Great Council, so that with Godspeed we may achieve the unimpeded accomplishment of this great event to the glory of God and the good of the Orthodox Church.

The Holy Synod calls again upon the episcopate, clergy, monastics and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church to lift up a fervent prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ may reveal His almighty help and His holy will in this pursuit.

The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America issues Statement, Petitions on the Holy and Great Council
ADMIN | 09 JUNE 2016

photo: https://oca.org/news/headline-news/holy-synod-of-bishops-concludes-spring-session2

The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America

Statement on the Holy and Great Council to be convened on the Island of Crete June 16-27,  2016
We greet you in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ,  Who is the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

For many decades, the Orthodox Church has witnessed the efforts to assemble a Holy and Great Council as a contemporary witness to the Holy Orthodox Faith.  The initiative in this modern endeavor belonged to the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.  The long pilgrimage toward the Holy and Great Council began in the 1960s.  There were long pauses in this pilgrimage, followed by a renewed period of intense preparation at the initiative of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Through the decades, Pan-Orthodox conferences, consultations, and meetings of patriarchs and primates have revised the list of topics.  During recent months, as the churches have reviewed draft documents and reflected on their formulations, new proposals have been brought forth and fresh disagreements have arisen.

Even at this late stage, participation in the Holy and Great Council is uncertain, and its outcome is equally uncertain.  In the midst of all this uncertainty, there is one certainty:  the Orthodox Church in America, not being universally recognized as an autocephalous church, is not invited to be a participant.  Our reaction to this is one of sadness, but not alienation.  With gratitude to God, we affirm our identity as the Orthodox Church in America.  We also affirm with gratitude to God our autocephaly, as granted to us by the Russian Orthodox Church, and as recognized by the Churches of Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, and the Czech Lands and Slovakia.  We affirm with profound gratitude to God our Eucharistic communion with all Orthodox Churches, beginning with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  We therefore accept and affirm our right and duty to accompany the Holy and Great Council with love and reflection and prayer.

The discussions and debates surrounding the draft documents express concerns and objections that emerge in the Orthodox Churches.  It is argued that the intensity of the objections demonstrates that the Holy and Great Council should be postponed so as to avoid possible schism.  Such a conclusion appears to reject the conciliar vision and practice of the Orthodox Church.  The challenges of our time require more theological reflection and debate, not less.  The urgency of such theological reflection and debate calls for more conciliarity, not less.

At the heart of concerns and objections to the Council and its draft documents is the fear of eroding the Orthodox identity and self-understanding, diluting Orthodox theology (the truth about God) and ecclesiology (the truth about the Church).  Today’s challenge to the Orthodox Church is the same it has always been: to bring to all people the Christ who is the way and the truth and the life, to bring the Gospel of Christ to all people with love and compassion, to worship God eucharistically in Spirit and in Truth.  In faithfulness to this Orthodox way lies deliverance from fear and growth in life and faith and spiritual understanding (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

The commitment of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the building of consensus, as shown by periodically convening the Synaxis of Patriarchs and Primates, has opened the path to the Holy and Great Council. Even at these last moments of preparation the obstacles on this path are emerging with even greater strength than before.  The most recent sign of the crisis came at the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on June 3, 2016.  The minutes of this meeting enumerate the procedural and substantive challenges faced by the Orthodox Churches on the eve of the Council – including the unresolved dispute between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem, the demands for changes in some of the draft documents coming from the Churches of Georgia, Serbia, and Greece, and also from the Monasteries of Mount Athos, and finally the decision of the Church of Bulgaria insisting on the postponement of the Council and declaring categorically that she will not participate in the Council set for the end of June 2016.  The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church concludes that this extraordinary situation may be resolved by the convening of an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Consultation not later than June 10.  This Consultation would have as its purpose a review of the existing situation and a study of the proposed changes to the Council documents.  On the basis of the conclusion of the Consultation the Churches could determine whether the convening of the Council on the announced dates is possible.

The convening of the Holy and Great Council as a sign of unity and as a witness to unity is a worthy vision for Orthodoxy pursued with patience and determination by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The painful difficulties in realizing this vision have always been evident.  The dangers on the road towards this vision are now seen in bold relief, yet the beauty of the vision is clear as never before.  Today, the Orthodox Churches stand before the world unable to conceal the wounds of our fractured relationships.  Yet the vision of unity will not be denied, because it comes from the heart of the Orthodox Faith and is intrinsic to the Good News of Christ. Whatever the difficulties and wounds we bear, we are following the Risen Christ and are empowered by Pentecost to witness to the Gospel of Christ everywhere and at all times.

It is our sincere hope and fervent prayer that the pilgrimage towards the convening of the Holy and Great Council will bear fruit for the Orthodox Church’s unity and for her mission and witness in the world.  Just as we pray in the Divine Liturgy for the descent of the Holy Spirit on us and on the gifts that are offered, so let us pray that the Holy Spirit may descend on us all and on the gifts of conciliarity that are offered to God.

Petitions for the Holy and Great Council
To be Included in the Litany of Fervent Supplication at All Services
Furthermore we pray: O Lord our Almighty and Eternal God, Source of all wisdom and understanding!  As Thou didst send Thine All-Holy Spirit upon Thine apostles and disciples, gathered on the great day of Pentecost, confirming them in the fullness of the faith which they proclaimed to the ends of the earth, fill the hearts and minds of our Holy Fathers gathered in Council with that same Spirit, enabling them to discern Thy holy will, that they may serve and glorify Thee, enlightened with right judgment and good purpose to the building up of Thy Holy Church throughout the world, we pray Thee, hear us and have mercy…
Again we pray: O Lord our God, Giver of every good gift, look with favor upon Thy Church and bless and guide the minds and hearts of those gathered in Thy Name, granting them and us by the grace of Thine All-holy Spirit an increase in faith and understanding, that in vigilance, fasting and prayer they may discern Thy holy will with one heart and one mind, we pray Thee, hear us and have mercy…
Again we pray:  O Lord our God, send Thy Holy Spirit upon them and upon us so that, inspired by Thy gifts of discernment and understanding, Thy will might be accomplished throughout the world in these turbulent times, for the good of all Thy People, that all might be one, even as Thou—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—are one, we pray Thee, hear us and have mercy…
Again we pray: O Lord our God, in Thy holy and providential care for Thy Church, grant our Holy Fathers gathered in Council wisdom, understanding, mutual love and respect, sanctity, and the faith and hope to reflect and reveal Thy abundant love for mankind throughout the world, so that Thy Holy Church may be that light on the lampstand and salt of the earth in loving service to Christ our God and thus to one another, we pray Thee, hear us and have mercy…

 With or without Russia, spokesman says Orthodox council is ‘binding’
John L. Allen Jr.June 15, 2016


In this Wednesday, June 15, 2016 photo released by Holy and Great Council, Senior Orthodox clergy wait the arrival of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholmew I at the airport of Chania in the Greek island of Crete. Bartholmew I , the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians on Wednesday said a historic meeting of church leaders — the first in more than a millennium — will take place despite a pullout by Russia, the fourth Orthodox church to say it won't attend the June gathering in Crete. (Holy and Great Council via AP)

Despite calls for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to postpone an historic Orthodox "Holy and Great Council," a spokesman says he can't because the decision to hold the summit in Crete beginning June 16 was endorsed by all Orthodox leaders, and Russia's pullout doesn't make the council any less "valid and binding."

A spokesman for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople insisted on Wednesday that not only is a long-planned “Holy and Great Council” in Crete going ahead, despite decisions by several churches to boycott, but it remains a “pan-Orthodox” summit, the results of which are binding on everyone.
“It is a great council, a pan-Orthodox council whose decisions are binding for the Orthodox Church,” said the Rev. John Chryssavgis, an archdeacon as theological adviser to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
He made the statements in an on-line session with reporters from Crete.
The council, set to run June 16-27, was designed to be the first-ever gathering of the leaders of all 14 of the world’s independent, or “autocephalous”, Orthodox churches. In recent days, however, the Orthodox churches of Antioch, Bulgaria, Georgia and Russia have all announced they’re not coming and have called for the meeting to be postponed.
The pullout by Moscow is a special blow, since the Russian Orthodox Church represents roughly two-thirds of the estimated 250 to 300 million Orthodox Christians in the world.
In some cases, the objections are to preparatory documents for the council, in others that pre-existing disputes with other churches have not been resolved.
Bartholomew has been under pressure to postpone the council until there’s unanimity, but Chryssavgis said that Bartholomew doesn’t have the option to do so, because the decision to hold it now was unanimously approved all 14 heads of the Orthodox churches last January.
“No one, including the Ecumenical Patriarch, has right to override that decision,” he said. “I know it’s his dilemma, something he struggles with and agonizes over.”
“No one has right to stand outside the decision about convening the council which was made by consensus, to somehow impose a decision or choose to change their minds about attending,” Chryssavgis said.
Fundamentally, he said, the status of the council remains the same no matter who actually shows up.
“This council is in fact a pan-Orthodox council, convened and taking place based on a pan-Orthodox consensus,” he said. “The fact some churches may not come does not change its pan-Orthodox standing, or the validity or binding nature of its decisions.”
Historically, Chryssavgis said, there’s precedent for councils being recognized as authoritative despite the absence of many important churches and bishops.
“There have been councils in past attended by very few bishops or churches, because of various circumstances,” he said. “This council will be the largest, most representative council in the history of the Orthodox Church.”
“In that respect,” he said, “it truly is a ‘great’ council, greater than any individual synod of one of the sister churches.”
Many Orthodox observers say that privately, some bishops are concerned that the council will endorse progressive positions on contentious issues, such as relations with other Christian churches, that don’t represent a real Orthodox consensus.
Chryssavgis denied, however, that the deck has been stacked.
“No one has precluded revisions” to the documents, he said. “No one has pre-determined decisions.”
Chryssavgis said organizers of the council are still hoping the churches that have announced withdrawals will nevertheless attend.
“It is our prayer that the churches that committed to attend will reconsider, after they changed their minds at the last minute, literally at the 11th hour, and even beyond,” he said.
“Russia’s decision came just 48 hours before the primates were expected here in Crete with their delegations,” he said. “Nothing’s happened between January and June, and all of a sudden people are changing their minds.”
Bartholomew, Chryssavgis arrived on Crete at around 1:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday, repeating his “prayer and invitation that all the Orthodox churches will be here on Friday with their primates, and on Sunday with their full delegations, to take part in this historic and unprecedented step.”
Chryssavgis argued that disagreements among Orthodox churches the run-up to the council has exposed are precisely why the summit must continue.
“Every council in history has met precisely because there was disunity, because there was a problem or a division, whether it’s theological, administrative, or canonical,” he said. “No council ever met just to have a party.”
“It would be dangerous,” he said, “if we missed this opportunity to take the first step towards conciliarity.”
In response to a separate question from Crux, Chryssavgis said Russia’s overwhelming numbers doesn’t make its absence any more significant than the defections of other Orthodox churches.
“It is no less painful that a small church like Bulgaria or Georgia is not attending than a large church like Antioch or Russia,” he said.
“Numbers, size and power have never mattered in the Orthodox Church. They have never served as a criterion of authority or gravity,” Chryssavgis said. “That would run entirely contrary to any element of conciliarity and communion according to Orthodox theology, tradition, and practice.”
Among the issues to be addressed in the council, Chryssavgis cited:
  • The mission of the Orthodox Church in today’s world.
  • The sacrament of marriage (especially inter-marriage among members of different churches).
  • Fasting regulations.
  • The granting of autonomy.
  • The diaspora, meaning “how to organize the Orthodox Church in lands outside its historical roots”.
  • Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world.

“Many of these issues,” he said, “have received a local response but have grown to be contentious on a global level, and sometimes divide rather than unite the faithful.”
Chryssavgis argued that holding councils is part of the “stuff” of what it means to be Orthodox.
“It’s been over a thousand years since we met in a council, and over a hundred years since this one was conceived,” he said. “If we’re a conciliar church, this is the only thing we should be talking about, and the only place where we should bring our problems and disagreements.”


June 9, 2016

    Are the accelerating Orthodox developments a crisis or an awakening? Both the Bulgarian and Serbian Orthodox Churches have withdrawn their signatures, having previously signed all the decisions by the preparatory conferences and committees for the Great Orthodox Council, including the Synaxes of 2014 and 2016 in Geneva (I myself was present at the latter). Today they are withdrawing and today they are saying the opposite of what they said yesterday. Is this an awakening from an extended coma or was there yesterday a watchword for signing, then today there was a watchword for withdrawing the signature? Is the Orthodox world today at the end of a crisis and the beginning of an awakening? Are things escalating and colliding or will there be a course-correction and a renewed course of unity? I have previously said and written that there is an "official agenda for the council" and then there is the "agenda of the Holy Spirit" who sometimes intervenes without us realizing it, especially when we do not leave the way open for the Holy Spirit to blow along our paths.

Are we at the beginning of an awakening or the beginning of a state of fragmentation because of the Orthodox world's inability to reconcile tradition and modernity? Modernity isn't "modernization" in the sense of taking the superficial aspect of modernity but remaining in essence petrified. Not everyone who uses an iPhone or WhatsApp has reached modernity. Rather, it is a modernity of thinking and vision and a capacity for looking forward to the future. It is as though today, the Orthodox Churches, each of which until now has acted as though it sees itself as the entire body and not one of the members of the body, have started to realize that today they need the rest of the members of the body and that they cannot continue to live in parallel to the other churches because each is a member of the body and not the body itself and so, consequently, each must interact with the rest of the members of the body in order to build up the unity of the body. It appears that today "the razor reached the chin" and a brake was necessary. It remains that unity is not given to us so that we can treat it like someone making a withdrawal from a savings account.

For a long time now, Antioch has not ceased repeating and cautioning the churches that unity cannot be divided as it is a state of mutual participation between all the members, that if one member suffers, all members must heal its wounds, and that the issue of Qatar is not an issue of a boundary disagreement between two patriarchates, but rather an issue of indivisible communion between all the Orthodox churches. Their unity is based first of all on communion of faith and secondly on respect for the canons of the ecumenical councils in cooperation with each other, so any attack on a part is an attack on the whole.

Yes, unity is the "stature of Christ" which is indivisible and to which we must rise. It requires of all the members effort, taking things slowly, patience, and awareness, ways of communion and cooperation, ways of unity, spiritual discernment and apprehension. Is what is happening today part of the agenda of the Holy Spirit, who enters into us like a fireball, corrects the course, and brings us out of competing policies between the churches to mutually complimentary policies among the Orthodox churches? The council is not a goal in itself. Unity is the goal. Not a simulated unity, but actual unity in the image of the Trinity: unity and diversity. Let us pray to the Lord!

Below is what I wrote in the preface to my study for the latest meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch, before all the latest developments, whose positive and negative aspects we must analyze equally and take from the positive aspects, so that the Lord may speak to us through them.

* * *

Conclusion One: The Orthodox Churches' Accelerating Crises

+ The Orthodox world is experiencing a great crisis, a crisis of "fleeing forward", a crisis that in essence is not a crisis of faith, but which may lead to a serious ecclesiastical crisis and a crisis of unity if matters are not set in order and the course leading to the abyss-- which, in the words of Fr Touma (Bitar), is taking the Orthodox world in the "wrong theological, ecclesiological and pastoral direction"-- is not set aright.

+ The driving forces behind the crisis are many and varied. There is no room to delve into them here, but two fundamental driving forces can be highlighted. The first of them lies in the repercussions of the "age of globalization" which is hastening-- indeed, exploding-- the conflict and collision within the Orthodox churches between tradition and modernity. The second is the repercussions of the acute political competition that has been accelerating for two decades between two basic Orthodox pole: the Hellenic, Greek pole on the one hand and the Russian, Slavic pole on the other hand. It is a crisis of competition of a new sort, whose goal is to strive by all available means for primacy in the leadership of the Orthodox world. It is striking deeply at all the elements of Orthodox conciliar life and communion, on which the Orthodox Church's ecclesiology is based.

+ In this context, the Great Orthodox Council appears to be a cover for these competing ecclesiastical politics-- competition that will be ongoing before, during and after the council set to be held on Crete this coming June. The truth is, one can say more than this-- that by not addressing the Orthodox Church's real dilemmas, the council is a facade of simulated unity for Orthodox churches that have not yet undertaken a historical evaluation of their path in today's world.

+ Consequently, there are enormous real dangerous hovering around Orthodox unity,with an increasing escalation of criticism against the hasty, hurried approach to the preparation and call for the Great Orthodox Council. This growing critical movement comes from various Orthodox actors in Greece and elsewhere, whether episcopal, theological, academic or in many circles of the faithful in the East and the West. Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus in Greece has expressed its seriousness when he said, "the Pan-Orthodox Council is a council without the Orthodox." This movement may subject the Orthodox world to dangers of schisms that might appear here and there and which may grow today more than at any time in the past because of the effect of rapid communications that link various actors across borders in a networked world.

+ The crisis of the Orthodox churches today is not a crisis of faith or a crisis of unity or a crisis of dogma. Rather, it is a crisis of modernity and of how to deal with the modernity of today's world. It is in form and essence a crisis of fractiousness that is increasingly keeping the Orthodox world away from the engines of true witness to Christ and from the engines of evangelism in today's world. It may lead the Orthodox world to modernization in form and petrification and museumization in content. The transformations in today's world, which the Orthodox world has not yet analyzed sufficiently, are a lightning-bolt that is exploding the internal situations in all the Orthodox churches inclined toward traditionalism that are living in history more than in geography and reality and are therefore completely estranged from the geography, psychology and sociology of today's world.

+ The greatest evidence for this is the ambiguous relationship between the mother Orthodox churches and their diaspora across the five continents. This dossier is the heart of the issue, and the arena for strife, competition and hot and cold wars between the two poles and between the churches. It is the axis of all the battles before, during and after the Great Orthodox Council. This relationship between the mother church and its diaspora exists and is understood-- implicitly, not openly-- in a single administrative direction. That is, the direction of the mother church which does not realize that its diaspora is a new life for it and for the Orthodox Christian message. It does not realize the necessity of prioritizing evangelism over management, since the Orthodox diaspora is a grace from God's economy that can only be aright through a mutually-participatory and mutually communicative relationship between the mother churches and their diasporas.Today's world, the world of networks, globalization and the revolution in digital communications has exploded the situations of all the Orthodox churches inclined toward traditionalism. A significant proportion of these churches have not yet realized the importance and necessity of undertaking a critical review of the Church's ways of governance and of launching them into today's world and the necessity of departing from traditional approaches that have become obsolete in order to renew pastoral care and evangelism in today's world. Consequently, the most important challenge that the Orthodox Church is experiencing today is the challenge of fractiousness and petrification and of holding back from looking at the reflection in the mirror.

+ The Orthodox churches that have started to understand these dynamic factors in today's world, the interconnected world of networks and not the world of a unilaterally-acting center-- churches such as Romania, for example-- have started putting into place mutually-participatory, cumulative policies to build up the influence between the mother church and the local churches spread around the world. Here the Russian and Romanian Churches seem to be leading the way in this direction, each of them in its own way and with its own means, while the other churches that are still stuck, to varying degrees, in old-fashioned methodologies are candidates for increasing the elements of the crisis and deviating toward becoming historical museums.

+ The Great Orthodox Council is an outward facade that does not address these critical dilemmas, but rather ignores them while at the same time expansionist ecclesiastical politics continue on the ground. Consequently, the escalation of internal crises in the churches that do not protect themselves in these new situations and continue to act internally and externally in an old-fashioned manner, have not endeavored to develop their concepts, and have not undertaken historic reviews in order to modernize their positioning, discourse and their ways of working are now subject, more than any time in the past, to predation and proselytization by other Christian churches that are more dynamic and active in today's world.

Carol Saba

Notes on Arab Orthodoxy

10 / 06 / 2016


Balamand, June 1, 2016
The Patriarchate of Antioch has received with much distress and astonishment the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, dated Tuesday, March 31st, 2016, calling for the setting up of a committee of representatives from both the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem, under the coordinating responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This committee is to begin meeting right after the Holy and Great Council, for the purpose of finding a solution acceptable to both parties for the current conflict.

The Church of Antioch painfully recognizes, through this aforementioned decision, that all the efforts undertaken in the past three years, from the time of the aggression of the Jerusalem Patriarchate on the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch in Qatar, and all the peaceful initiatives that the Antiochian Patriarchate has initiated through the Ecumenical Patriarchate in order to find a final solution to the aggression, have failed.

It is more painful to see that all the efforts were intensified on the eve of the Holy and Great Council, which had as a purpose to find a permanent and an ecclesiastical solution for the aforementioned aggression. These efforts have been specifically made before the beginning of the Holy and Great Council, so that this Council would be an expression of Orthodox Unity. This unity is best manifested in the Divine Liturgy on the day of Pentecost, with the concelebration of all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches. This act of concelebrating is the right way to deal with the issues pertaining to the Orthodox Church worldwide, and to express unanimity about them.

This new development, which is the call to postpone solving the issue of the aggression till after the Holy and Great Council meeting, invalidates the purpose of the Holy and Great Council, being as the “Expression of Orthodox Unity.” The indifference of the Jerusalem Patriarchate towards several Antiochian peaceful initiatives threatens the convocation of the Great and Holy Council at its specified meeting date, a matter which the Antiochian Church has repeatedly warned about.

Today, we call upon all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches to work diligently in order to preserve Orthodox Unity, facing all what threatens this unity. Our Holy Synod has kept its meetings open, and will meet in the next few days in order to study the special developments related to the Holy and Great Council, and take the proper decisions about them. As we await the coming of Pentecost, we pray together, and hope from the Holy Spirit, to inspire the Church and Her leaders, that they may find the right way to witness for the unity which the Lord called us to fulfill, today more than ever before.

Antiochian Patriarchate (Facebook)

02 / 06 / 2016

Serbian Church changes its decision not to take part in Pan-Orthodox Council
Source: Interfax-religion
ADMIN | 16 JUNE 2016

Moscow, June 15, Interfax - The Serbian Church has changed its position on the issue of its participation in the Pan-Orthodox Council, which was scheduled to be held in the second half of June on Crete.
Serbian Church changes its decision not to take part in Pan-Orthodox Council
Statement of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
“The Serbian Patriarchate will still take part in the forum on Crete. We are expecting the details of this decision,” the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Church told Interfax-Religion.

The Greek Church news agency Romfea confirms this information, citing a statement issued by Metropolitan of Montenegro Amphilochius, a representative of the Serbian Church, on Crete this morning.

Last week, the Serbian Patriarchate joined the local Churches that do not consider participation in the Pan-Orthodox Council in the designated period, on June 18-27, to be possible. The statement issued by the Serbian Church proposed to delay the Council “for some time” to resolve the differences between local Churches, reach a consensus and make improvements to draft documents.

That statement by the Serbian Church was one of the reasons why the Moscow Patriarchate refused to send its delegation to the Council. Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Department for External Church Relations, told an emergency session of the Synod in Moscow on Monday that “all Churches should participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council and only in that situation will decisions made by the Council be legitimate.”

JUNE 15, 2016
Preparing for Participation
H/T: Pravoslavie.ru (here)

Syn. No. 840
15th June 2016



In brotherly love, while with responsibility and hopes preparing for the participation in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which, God willing, is to be held at the Orthodox Academy at Crete around Pentecost, from June 17 to 26, 2016, the Holy Synod of Bishops in its broader composition at its session held at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, on June 15, 2016, regarding the situation created after the ordinary convocation of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, takes the following decision:

First of all, having in mind the importance and significance of the Council, our Church wants, in a spirit of ecclesial upbuilding, to contribute to this Holy and Great Council fulfilling the criteria and the measure of true Councils in the history of the Orthodox Church, thereby justifying its title.

On the other hand, our Church requests that problems and matters not only of the Serbian Orthodox Church, but also of the other most Holy Churches that cancelled their participation in the Council, be considered at the Council.

With this aim in mind, the Holy and Great Council should last as long as these questions are to be considered, and must not be hostage to previously layed-out and accepted rules. Exclusively with the full consensus can the Council be considered as a Holy and Great Council.

At last, our Church insists that the gathering on the island of Crete be the beginning of the Conciliar process, that the matters in question should be solved during its working process, but in the spirit of the conciliar tradition of the Church of Christ.

In the case that the Churches present at the Council, with the Ecumenical Patriarchate at its head, persist in the position that the absent Churches boycott the work of the Council without any real reason, and in the case that the already present Churches refuse to take into consideration all the matters in question, problems and disagreements, the representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church at the Council will be, regretfully, forced to leave the sessions of the Council and in that way join the Churches that are already absent.

This is by no means a threat or ransom, but a consequent implementation of the position and decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church held in May 2016.

In the spirit of our ecclesial and pastoral responsibility, we present these positions hoping in the illuminating action of the All-Holy Spirit.

Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade – Karlovci
and Serbian Patriarch
President of the Holy Assembly of Bishops

sign.   I R I N E J

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