"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

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


Explainer: The ‘Holy And Great Council’ Of Orthodox Churches
Patriarch Bartholomew I (center) and the heads of other Orthodox churches participate in the Holy and Great Council of Orthodox Churches on Crete on June 20. 

By Eugen Tomiuc
June 20, 2016

The convening of the "Holy and Great Council" of Orthodox churches was meant to promote unity among the world's 300 million Orthodox believers. But the event -- in preparation for 55 years, and the first such meeting in 1,200 years -- has already turned into a showcase of religious disagreement.

Going into the historic meeting, which began this week on the Greek island of Crete, the Russian Orthodox Church -- the world’s largest Orthodox church -- and three other Orthodox churches boycotted the gathering, claiming inadequate preparation.

Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based ecumenical patriarch considered the "first among equals" of the heads of the independent, or autocephalous, Orthodox churches, and regarded as the spiritual leader of Orthodox believers, has been the driving force behind the initiative to hold the council.

But observers say that some leaders in the Russian Orthodox Church view Bartholomew as a rival and consider his push to organize the council as an attempt to diminish or usurp their authority.

What Is The Holy And Great Council?

It is -- or should be -- a synod of bishops of all the 14 recognized autocephalous churches of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Unlike the Catholic Church, which has a single, undisputed leader in the pope, the Orthodox Christians are divided into self-governing provinces, each with its own leadership. The council was meant to be the first meeting of all Orthodox leaders since 787, when the last of the seven ecumenical councils recognized by the heads of both the Eastern and Western Christian church was held in Nicaea (present-day Iznik in northwestern Turkey).

What Are The First Seven Ecumenical Councils?

The first seven ecumenical councils, held between 325 and 787, were meetings of bishops and scholars convened in order to reach a Christian consensus and to restore, continue, and develop a unified Christendom. All were held during the rule of the Byzantine Empire, but by the last ecumenical council, all major western sees, although still in communion with the Byzantine state church, were outside the political control of the empire. The 1054 East-West Schism would formally enshrine the split between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

What Are The Main Issues For Discussion?

The council, preparations for which began in 1961, was convened to address problems within Orthodox Christianity that have appeared since the beginning of the 20th century, ranging from the relations between the different autocephalous independent Orthodox Churches and the organization of church life outside of the traditional territories of these churches to moral and ethical issues.

A six-point list was officially approved for discussion by the council:

·         The mission of the Orthodox Church in today’s world
·         The Orthodox diaspora
·         Autonomy and the means by which it is proclaimed
·         The sacrament of marriage and its impediments
·         The importance of fasting and its observance today
·         Relations of the Orthodox church with the rest of the Christian world

Some of the most contentious issues that have failed to be resolved in advance of the council, such as the issue of a common calendar and official lists of the living and departed that are commemorated in churches, have been struck off the original agenda.

How Many Autocephalous Orthodox Churches Exist?

There are 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches, four of which are boycotting the council -- the Russian church being by far the largest, with more than 100 million members, one-third of the total number of Orthodox believers.

Churches Attending The Council:

Church of Constantinople
Church of Alexandria
Church of Jerusalem
Church of Serbia
Church of Romania
Church of Cyprus
Church of Greece
Church of Poland
Church of Albania
Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

What Churches Are Not Attending The Council?

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said in a message to the council that he would not attend since he considered the Crete gathering a preparatory session for a synod that will unite all the churches "without exception" at a later date.

However, observers say members of the Russian Orthodox clergy have been deeply suspicious of Bartholomew’s actions, voicing concern that the council could pave the way to closer ties with the Vatican, Protestants, and others. Such ideas are anathema to a part of Russia’s conservative clergy, some of whom regard Russia’s Orthodox Church as the new Rome -- the true successor to the Byzantine Christian church after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.  

Another disagreement was over the seating arrangements, with the Russian church strongly opposing, according to some reports, a plan for Bartholomew to take a presiding seat during the council session. Instead, the Russian and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church reportedly insisted that the participants sit at a round table.

The Church of Bulgaria was the first to drop out, citing the seating plan, a lack of “particularly important” topics on the agenda, and the handling of documents.

The Church of Antioch, the Damascus-based patriarchate, refused to attend because of an ongoing dispute with the Jerusalem Patriarchate over the jurisdiction of the Muslim Gulf state of Qatar.

Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of All Georgia said the Church of Georgia would not attend over the council's rejection of a Georgia-proposed document.

Observers say that the Bulgarian, Georgian, and Antioch churches may have been influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church.


"His Holiness Patriarch Kirill: “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World” is, I believe, the key document on the agenda of the Pan-Orthodox Council"
The participants in the Synaxis of Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches which completed its work in Chambésy a few days ago managed to finalize and unanimously adopt the text of a draft decision of the Pan-Orthodox Council on the Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World.

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill who had taken part in the meeting in Chambésy told about this document to the participants in the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church which is being held in the Hall of Church Councils of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Long discussion and even difficult debates at pre-Council meetings preceded the adoption of the document. It was repeatedly examined both by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church and the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission.

“It is no surprise that the work on this document was so intensive and time-consuming; it is in this very document that the Orthodox Church expresses her concerted attitude to those difficult and rather alarming processes that are going on in the social, political and moral life of today’s society,” His Holiness said and reminded those present that the document neither gives preference to certain existing political concepts nor establishes superiority of one model of economy over another. According to this document, “in carrying out her salutary mission, the Church again reminds the world that almost all challenges and problems of modern society are caused by the fact that people are forgetting God’s law, loosing moral guidelines, and have distorted views on human freedom, dignity and justice.”

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill believes that it is the key document on the agenda of the Holy and Great Council. As he noted, it was the Russian Orthodox Church that made her considerable contribution to drafting the document, since many of the social issues raised in it were already addressed in the “Basis of the Social Concept” and her other important documents.

Information Service of the Bishops’ Council/

DECR Communication Service


by Andrew Stephen Damick and Samuel Noble

6 . 20 . 16

my source: First Things

In his toast this past Thursday night on the eve of the Holy and Great Council, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the first among equals of the bishops of the Orthodox Church, expressed his sympathy for the Church of Antioch, which is suffering in the face of militant Islam. He decried the intense and intricate problems, which the brother Primates and local Orthodox Churches face on the account of intolerance and religious fanaticism, especially the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch and our beloved Primate, Patriarch John of Antioch.
But as His All Holiness raised his glass, these words mixed a bitter cup for the Church of Antioch, whose absence from the council Bartholomew could have remedied. What’s more, Antioch’s presence could have been the key to making the council a universal Orthodox expression of unity and brotherhood—what the Ecumenical Patriarch hoped it would be, and what increasingly seems unattainable.

The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, meeting right now in Crete, has been some five decades in the making. Despite news reports to the contrary, the Orthodox Church has had numerous such councils since either the eighth or eleventh century—depending on whether the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787) or the Great Schism (1054, roughly) is the supposed occasion of the last meeting.

Another misconception that has been repeated in statements and reports (especially by spokesmen of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) is that the convocation of the council was unanimous, signed onto by all fourteen of the universally recognized autocephalous (self-governing) Orthodox Churches. That is not true: Antioch never signed the documents that set the council in motion.

Why is Antioch absent? And what are the implications of its absence for the unity of the Orthodox Churches?

To understand why Antioch never signed onto the council, we must first distinguish its objection from the other objections that have arisen. Some of the council documents contain phrases or themes that have come under fire. On this basis, two churches—Bulgaria and Georgia—have absented themselves from the council. And because there is not a truly pan-Orthodox consensus, Russia has also bowed out.

But while Antioch did have problems with one of the documents, and while it is also concerned that the council not take any measures that would break pan-Orthodox unanimity, the key to its non-participation is the fact that the Patriarchate of Antioch is currently not in communion with another ancient apostolic Orthodox see, that of Jerusalem. While objections to the various documents could be worked out during the council itself, Antioch argues is that it is impossible for bishops to share a council table who cannot share the Eucharistic table.

Why is Antioch not in communion with Jerusalem? In short, because in 2013 the Jerusalem Patriarchate appointed a bishop in Qatar, an area that has been defined as part of the territory of Antioch since at least the fifth century. According to Orthodox canonical tradition, the proper response to an incursion into universally defined ecclesiastical territory is a break in communion—a step that Antioch took after trying to work things out with Jerusalem for about a year. (See this detailed timeline for a full background.)

Qatar is probably not the first place people think about when they imagine Christianity in the Middle East (if they imagine it at all), and indeed, there is only a single Orthodox parish in the whole country. But Qatar has a long association with Antioch and was the homeland of St. Isaac of Syria (also called Isaac of Nineveh).

The parish in question, located in Doha and largely attended by immigrant and guest workers from a variety of Orthodox cultures, is not really the subject of a “turf war” between Antioch and Jerusalem, though it might seem that way from the outside. The parish was founded in 1997, through the influence of (now retired) American ambassador Patrick Theros (who now serves as something of an ambassador to the US for the Jerusalem Patriarchate), and its first priest was the now-Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. Though Theophilos was a priest of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, during church services he commemorated the Antiochian metropolitan archbishop of Baghdad, as a sign that he was on Antiochian territory. (This is not a terribly unusual situation. There is, for instance, a Russian parish in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates whose clergy commemorate the Antiochian bishop.)

The situation—a Jerusalem priest serving in Antioch’s territory—was provisional at best. But there is a reason why no Antiochian clergyman had been assigned to the parish in Qatar: The Qatari government wouldn’t allow it. Qatar is fomenting unrest in Syria, and since the Antiochian church is based in Damascus, Qatar will not issue visas to Antioch’s clergy. It is therefore impossible for Antioch to minister directly to this piece of its territory.

The arrangement of allowing a Jerusalem cleric to serve the parish while commemorating the Antiochian bishop worked fine until March 2013, when Jerusalem decided to consecrate its priest in Qatar as the “Archbishop of Qatar.” In Orthodox ecclesiastical terms, naming an archbishop for a territory is claiming it. But what need is there for an archbishop for a single parish? What’s more, the Jerusalem Patriarchate does not maintain a diocesan structure. All of its bishops are essentially auxiliaries to the patriarch, and most of them do not even live in their sees (and haven’t for centuries).

It is hard to see how this act on Jerusalem’s part was in any way a response to a pastoral need in Qatar, especially given the concerns of many of the faithful under Jerusalem’s care. When Antioch responded to this provocation, Jerusalem rejoined by claiming not only Qatar but also the archdiocese of Bosra (Bostra) and Hauran in Syria (all of Syria is under Antioch). In June 2013, an agreement was hammered out in Athens that returned things to the status quo ante. But Jerusalem immediately reneged on this agreement and refused to withdraw its claim.

Since 2013, Antioch has repeatedly attempted to resolve the situation, not least by asking the Ecumenical Patriarch to mediate a settlement, a role traditionally played by Orthodoxy’s most senior hierarch. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has a strong record of influence over Jerusalem: In 2008, Bartholomew successfully removed Jerusalem’s presence in the US, and in 2005, he led a pan-Orthodox council that deposed the previous patriarch. To date, however, he has not resolved the Qatar issue.

That brings us to the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, now convened in Crete without four of the churches in attendance. Enthusiastic for the council throughout the fifty-five years of its preparation, Antioch participated in the pre-conciliar meetings. But it has consistently maintained that the break in communion must first be healed before the council can be held. Otherwise, such a council is not of Christian brother shepherds united in one mind but rather a political body divided into factions.

It should be clear by now that Antioch’s problem is not the same as those expressed by the other dissenting churches; rather, it goes to the heart of how a council can be held at all. The authority of the Orthodox episcopacy is one and conciliar. It is not an authority that is merely administrative; rather, it is primarily Eucharistic. If the Eucharist cannot be shared between the episcopacy, then the authority of the episcopacy is not truly functioning and conciliarity is not possible. And communion cannot be restored temporarily merely for the sake of the council. There is a real wound that must be healed.

Unfortunately, the peculiar character of Antioch’s problem seems to have been lost in the usual media shuffle about rivalry between Constantinople and Moscow. But Antioch is not a football to be tossed between these teams. Indeed, Antioch, much like Romania, is in a peculiar place in the Orthodox world, in that it is not easily aligned with either Greek or Slavic ecclesiastical concerns.

This is why Antioch is the key to the Holy and Great Council. Antioch’s church has traditionally been a bridge between cultures and nations, ever since its apostolic founding in the first century by Ss. Peter and Paul. Its flock has always been multi-cultural, beginning with Greek, Syriac, Persian, Georgian, and Central Asian cultures and now extending to Turkish, North American, Western European, and Latin American peoples. That is why, if the Ecumenical Patriarch would dedicate himself to solving Antioch’s problem, he could show himself a truly honest broker and not merely a representative for the Hellenic churches of Orthodoxy.

Some trust was lost when Jerusalem disavowed the agreement it had struck in Athens and Constantinople did nothing in response. More trust was lost when Antioch continued to insist that Qatar had to be resolved before the council, and Constantinople replied, at the last possible minute, that committees would be appointed to look into the matter only after the council.

Trust could be built if the Ecumenical Patriarch were to show sensitivity to the ways in which different Orthodox cultures understand “consensus”—a concept that has been mentioned often in connection with the council. For the Arabs who make up most of the Antiochian Patriarchate, there is hardly a word for “consensus” in Arabic that doesn’t essentially mean “unanimity.” And while unanimity is a long and painful form of consensus to build, if the Ecumenical Patriarch were to take that approach—or at least recognize its validity—he would set his council, and his primacy, on much surer footing. If the Ecumenical Patriarch were to bring Antioch’s issue into open council, so that all the Orthodox churches could discuss it and form a binding agreement, he would demonstrate his primacy—showing himself the first among equals that many Orthodox Christians hope he can be.

With the raging of ISIS and other jihadi groups throughout the Middle East, Antioch is being martyred once again: Not only the faithful but also clergy are being persecuted and killed in the name of a radical form of Islam. It has now been three years since two bishops (including the brother of Patriarch John of Antioch) were kidnapped without word of their whereabouts. And one of Antioch’s sister churches has taken advantage of her weakness with an aggressive provocation. In response to her appeals, there has been alternation between silence, betrayal, and deferment.

If there will be unity between the Orthodox churches, it can only be found by a realization that when one member of the Body is hurting, then all are hurting. The unity of love is above all other forms of unity and the source from which they all flow. There is now an opportunity to exercise that love in a way that not only will restore communion between two ancient churches but will demonstrate that all Orthodox Christians truly do belong to one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Near the end of his toast last Thursday, His All Holiness added this:

God knows how to produce sweetness even out of bitterness. This is certainly where the responsibility of all of us Orthodox Primates lies. . . . Thus, we fervently believe and pray that the Holy and Great Council shall contribute decisively to this unity and to the promotion of the message of Orthodoxy to the whole world, since Orthodoxy does not constitute a political structure or philosophical belief, but the revealed salvific truth of life, both worldly and eternal.
Antioch has been calling for help and working for reconciliation for years now. Who will hear her voice? Who will aid the chair of Peter in Antioch? Who will unite the Orthodox by healing her wounds?

Andrew Stephen Damick is pastor of St. Paul Orthodox Church of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and author of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and An Introduction to God.

Samuel Noble is a researcher in medieval Arab Orthodox Christianity, a Ph.D. candidate in Religious Studies at Yale University, co-editor of The Orthodox Church in the Arab World 700-1700 and co-translator of Arab Orthodox Christians Under the Ottomans 1516-1831.



Syrian Orthodox church patriarch escapes suicide bomber attack
ADMIN | 20 JUNE 2016

Syrian Orthodox church chief Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II had a narrow escape after a suicide bombing in Qamshi in Syria targeted him on Sunday.

The patriarch was attending the commemoration of the thousands of Christians killed by Ottaman army in 1915, called the ‘Sayfo’ (sword) massacre.

When the security officials of the Patriarch blocked the suicide bomber who tried to enter the commemoration hall, the bomber detonated himself and three security officials died on the spot.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemned the incident.

In a statement, the Chief Minister said, “It is a relief to hear that the religious head was not injured.”

“We share the concern of all those who love and respect him,” Vijayan said, adding the incident was “extremely painful”.

Budget of Orthodox Churches Council Amounts to $2.8Mln, 60% From US Donors
Source: Sputniknews

The budget of the council of Eastern Orthodox Churches underway on the Greek island of Crete has amounted to 2.5 million euros (some $2.8 million), including $1.5 million from US donors, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said Tuesday.
ADMIN | 21 JUNE 2016
KOLYMBARI (CRETE) (Sputnik) — According to Father Alexandros, the US funds have come from non-state sources only, and the US government was involved neither in organizing nor in financing the Council.
Budget of Orthodox Churches Council Amounts to $2.8Mln, 60% From US Donors
© AP Photo/ Holy and Great Council
“It is 2.5 million euros. All these are funds from donors, mostly from Greeks living in the United States and Greeks in Greece itself. Donors from the US have provided 1.5 million euros, from Greece — one million,” Reverend Father Alexandros Karloutsos, the assistant to the archbishop for public affairs, told RIA Novosti.

A significant part of budget has been allocated to communications, transport and security measures. Father Alexandros noted that the Greek government had provided the Council with police forces to maintain order, as well as with vehicles and infrastructure.

The historic meeting of Orthodox Churches, which is due to end on June 26, has been on the ropes after  four churches have refused to take part in the historic council after disputes about the agenda and the date of the event. The Serbian Church has also insisted on postponing the council meeting, but eventually decided to send its delegation there.

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