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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A pan-Orthodox Council was in jeopardy

Without exaggeration epoch-making event for the Orthodox Church a pan-Orthodox Council planned for the near future, threatens to be disrupted. Several local churches have expressed serious contradictions and called for the transfer of the Cathedral. There is a position on this issue and the Russian Orthodox Church. Again why the Orthodox can’t agree?

The Patriarchate of Constantinople will be in normal mode to prepare for a pan-Orthodox Council, which should begin on the day of Pentecost, 19 June, on the island of Crete. Training continues, despite the obstacles and complaints filed at the last minute by some local Orthodox churches. This was reported on Wednesday, RIA “Novosti”, referring to the decision taken on the eve of the Extraordinary Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

“The faithful are frightened by the fact that the upcoming Cathedral will be the “Antichrist” because it allegedly will be deciding contrary to the teachings of the Church, its dogmas, canons and rules”

“Obstacles and complaints” mentioned by the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is, in particular, the refusal of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to participate in the pan-Orthodox Council. To be precise, the Bulgarian hierarchs requested to change the Cathedral for another time, but if the comments of the Bulgarian Church will not be accounted for, on the arrival of the delegation could not speak. The Bulgarian protest, which became known on June 3, in fact, was the reason for the urgent convening of an Extraordinary Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

But eve had another reason: in the Cathedral refused to attend Church of Antioch, one of the oldest local churches, uniting Orthodox Christians of Syria and Lebanon. In the Patriarchate of Antioch requested the postponement of the convening of the Council to another time, “will prevail when peaceful relations between the Autocephalous (self-governing – approx. OPINION) churches and will be guaranteed an Orthodox consensus on the Council’s agenda, regulations, organizational and practical procedures”.

While on Wednesday it became known that the Cretan Cathedral will head the delegation of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

“In a state of emergency”

As for the largest local Church – the Russian Orthodox, it questioned whether the Cathedral under the chairmanship of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople truly pan-Orthodox, given the differences among the churches.

The Cathedral on the island of Crete would not have such a status, if it does not have to participate at least one of the 15 local Orthodox churches, on Wednesday said the Chairman of the Department for external Church relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev). “It will not be a pan-Orthodox Council, and the inter-Orthodox meeting. Its decisions cannot be binding for all churches who will be absent”, – he explained.

According to his Eminence Hilarion, it is possible that participation in the Cretan refuse Cathedral and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Commenting on inter-Church disorganization, the head of the DECR urged to urgently address “all issues, due to which now the Church, one after another refuse to participate”.

Note that the head of the DECR, according to some observers, one of those bishops, which most were interested in the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in pan-Orthodox Council.

Earlier, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church called for a “pan-Orthodox pre-Council emergency meeting” in connection with “state of emergency” in preparation for the pan-Orthodox Council, as reported by press Secretary of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill, the priest Alexander Volkov.

What can be caused by fears of the Moscow Patriarchate and the harsh reaction of other Orthodox churches?

“Because of the complicated situation with Turkey”?

Problems became apparent even during the preparation for the Synaxis is the meeting of the heads of the Orthodox churches, which was scheduled for January 21. The DECR was called to move the meeting from Istanbul, where is located the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the suburb of Geneva – Chambesy, where is the Orthodox center of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. There is, in Chambesy, in fact, took place V pre-Council meeting.

Due to the deterioration of Russian-Turkish relations was amended and the venue of the Cathedral: if you originally planned to spend it in the Church of St. Irene in Istanbul, in January 2016 at the insistence of the Moscow Patriarchate, was elected as Crete (located under the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople).

But, however, the problems – not only and not so much in relations to the secular authorities of Ankara with the outside world or in the forced dependency of the Patriarch of Constantinople (residence in Istanbul) from the authorities of the Turkish Republic.

“In the course of correspondence between the primates of the Constantinople and Russian Orthodox churches failed to reach agreement on important issues in the preparation of the pan-Orthodox Council”, – said in January the head of Department on interrelations of the Church with society and the media of the Moscow Patriarchate, Vladimir Legoyda. TASS with reference to the Legoyda has announced that the special inter-Orthodox Commission, which was created to formulate the regulations for the pan-Orthodox Council, “met with difficulties that could not be overcome.”

Stumbling blocks

From the point of view of the secular observers, “insurmountable difficulties” – this is primarily a debate about the canonical territories.

So, the ancient Church of Antioch, which, as mentioned above, refused to participate in the Cathedral, “not shared” with even more ancient Jerusalem Orthodox Church, the state of Qatar. In this Arabian Emirate, where 78% of the population is Muslim, however there is the Orthodox community. In 2013, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, established here their Metropolitan, although Antioch considers Qatar as part of its canonical territory. On 3 June the Synod of Antioch said that “with deep sorrow and shock” received an offer of Constantinople to proceed to the resolution of the conflict with Jerusalem not until the beginning of the pan-Orthodox Council, and upon its completion.

Not disappeared less severe, but long-standing disputes of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In particular, about Estonia, which are parallel to the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church jurisdiction of Constantinople. In 1996 the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II, protesting about the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Estonia, broke communion with Patriarch Bartholomew. Three months later, the communion was restored, but the friction did not disappear.

Even more complicated situation in Abkhazia. Let’s start with the fact that there is a ‘ forced the unrecognized Abkhazian Orthodox Church, released from the jurisdiction of the Georgian Church, but which were not part of the ROC.

In 2012, the clergy of this Church: hieromonk Dorofei (Dbar) and Andrei (Ampar), employees of the new Athos monastery, demonstratively tore up the decrees of the ruling Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Bishop of Maikop and Adyghe Tikhon the imposition of the prohibition from serving for a period of three years for separatist activities. After that, the priest moved into the jurisdiction of Constantinople, leading the “Holy metropolis of Abkhazia”.

As for the Bulgarian Church, which refused to send its delegation to the Cretan Cathedral, at Constantinople with her traditionally difficult relations since the proclamation of the canonical independence of the BOC in 1872. This led to the Greco-Bulgarian schism, which lasted more than 70 years, until 1945, when the Ecumenical Patriarchate finally recognized the right of the Bulgarians to their own Church.

“Seires of ecumenism”

However, the problems are rooted not only in the debate on the canonical territories of the canonical status and seniority. Separate groups of Orthodox churches have criticized the draft outcome document of the Cathedral, seeing in this document, “ecumenism”, insisting that it the Latins (Catholics) and Protestants are not called “churches”, as heretics.

A number of Greek and Russian Internet resources spread appeal by a group of Athonite elders to the Sacred Kinot – the governing body of the monastic Republic” of mount Athos, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, all the local churches and “the whole fullness of the Church”. The “upcoming “Holy and Great Council” is a phase program for the planting of inter-Christian and interfaith ecumenism and religious globalization…” – said in the appeal, which was signed by the man Gabriel from the koutloumousiou monastery, the elder Savva Lavretsky of the great Lavra Chariton, and the elder of Vatopedi monastery.

In addition, the Athonite monks condemned the decision of the pre-Council meetings about the lack of recognition of the Ecumenical councils of the IX and XIV centuries, which were condemned by the tenets of Catholicism, including the primacy of papal authority and the “filioque”. All this leads to seriesi of ecumenism”, I believe Athos monks.

Russian “Union of Orthodox citizens” has accused Patriarch Bartholomew close ties with the Vatican and “Eastern papism”. “The Patriarch of Constantinople has gone too far, in fact, imposing himself throughout the Orthodox world as the “Orthodox Pope”, – said in the appeal of the public Association.

“Launched this campaign against the convening of the Council”

In addition, in some circles of the Orthodox community there is a version according to which the Council allegedly would attempt to reform the dogma. Metropolitan Hilarion (Was) is credited with the proposal to adopt a new translation of the creed from the Church Slavonic into the Russian language, in which mention of the Holy spirit will supposedly relegated to a “quickening” and the words “in one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” will supposedly be translated as “one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”.

In 2012, Metropolitan Hilarion, dispelling rumors, wrote on the official website of the DECR: “Some marginal media launched this campaign against the convening of the Council… the Faithful are frightened by the fact that the upcoming Cathedral will be the “Antichrist” because it allegedly will be deciding contrary to the teachings of the Church, its dogmas, canons and rules: introduce a married episcopate, abolition of posts, will review the basics of faith. And then the Orthodox Christians will have no choice but to leave the fold of “official” Church and look for other ways of salvation. Such arguments have no real Foundation”.

Newsentence Cathedral and “normal” Patriarch

Now the Orthodox Church recognizes seven Ecumenical councils, the last of which took place in the eighth century. Prepare the Cathedral on Crete is not claimed as universal, however it should be presented to all the Orthodox world.

Explain: local or Autocephalous Orthodox churches, independent of each other, but linked in a single liturgical communication, the world has 15. This is referred to the Patriarchate of Constantinople (officially called the universe, with its center in Istanbul’s Fanar district), and Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch (Syria), Jerusalem, Georgian, Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Cypriot, Greek (Greece), Polish Orthodox Church, and Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia and America.

Although the Patriarch of Constantinople since the Byzantine era and holds the title of Ecumenical, and the Church of Constantinople in Greek literature called “great Church of Christ”, it is not dominant. The Patriarch of “new Rome” does not have those powers which, for example, has the Pope as head of all Catholics. The Primate of the Church of Constantinople is “first in honor”, but an equal among equals. Each local jurisdiction conducts its Affairs independently, without guidance from Istanbul.

The Church of Constantinople with its 17 dioceses, 3.8 million members in Greece and 1.5 million in the Diaspora – not the most numerous, but very influential. In 20-ies of the last century among the Greeks from the Patriarchal environment (the so-called “phanariotes” – the name of the district Fanar) spread the idea that the head of the Church of Constantinople has only a primacy of honor but also primacy of authority, that is, can interfere in the Affairs of local churches.

This doctrine is not officially adopted, however, in some Church circles it is considered that in practice Constantinople leaning towards the “Eastern papism”.

The canonical Diaspora

It has been suggested that such a policy of the patriarchs of Constantinople moves that the vast majority of the congregation is in the Diaspora (in Turkey no more than 2 thousand Orthodox Greeks), their own canonical territory of the “new Rome”, in fact, not.

By the way, note that through the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew hoped the Ukrainian authorities, promoting the project’s own local Church for Ukraine (on the basis of non-canonical, that is unrecognized, so-called schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate”). This project was actively lobbied by Viktor Yushchenko. After the 2014 Maidan self-proclaimed “Patriarch of all Rus-Ukraine Filaret (Mikhail Denisenko) newly developed activity in this area, so far unsuccessfully.

Expert comments

William Schmidt, theologian, Professor, Ranepa, doctor of philosophy
Is there a danger that some of the local churches will arrive at the Cathedral? Probably, Yes. Time there is still there, and even on the last day someone from the delegates, may take a decision about whether to participate. I see no threat for the opening of the Cathedral, but the question is whether in fact it can be regarded as a pan-Orthodox Cathedral will changed the agenda took into account the views and observations of the churches. In the end, it will be possible to postpone or revise some questions.
Among included in the agenda – one of the most difficult issues about the interaction with non-Orthodox and other churches. Some people and some churches see this as a trend to ecumenism as such. Unfortunately, we have different refers to the issue of cooperation and ecumenism. Some radical sentiment is certainly present. But the position of the Russian Orthodox Church has already determined.
One of the delegates of the UOC – MP Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa, for example, said that would not be present at this Council. It is clear that each Bishop is responsible before God for his flock and, most importantly, for the purity of doctrine. Every Primate of the Church understands the difficulties he might face in their activities depending on how the congregation reacts.
It is clear that the various churches because of the historical context have their own views and their unresolved issues. Such issues have the Bulgarian Church, the Georgian, now we know about several subtle unresolved issues in the relationship between the Antiochian and Jerusalem Patriarchates.
Would it be useful to link these issues with the context of the pan-Orthodox Council, to put them on the Cathedral? I think that it is the sovereign right of each Church. But as you rightly said and his Holiness, Patriarch Kyrill, and Metropolitan Hilarion, there are questions of the first order questions about evidence obserwowano unity – and questions of the second order.

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