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Serbian Orthodox Church Refuses to Participate in Pan-Orthodox Council

“Our Church sees obstacles to participation in the Holy and Great Council and proposes to postpone it for the time being,” the letter of the Serbian Orthodox Church Synod to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who is responsible for coordination of the preparations of the Council, said.

Before holding this historical event it is necessary to resolve the differences between the local Churches, reach a consensus and revise the draft documents due to be adopted at the Council, the press service of the Serbian Orthodox Church cited the letter as saying.

As reported, the convocation of the Pan-Orthodox Council, which has not been convened for more than a thousand years, has been prepared for over half a century and has been slated to take place on Crete in late June, was brought into question after the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Antiochian Church refused to participate in it.

The Moscow Patriarchate proposed to hold an urgent Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference not later than June 10. It pointed out that the non-participation of at least one local Church in the Council makes the convocation of it impossible. It also said that several churches and monasteries of Athos proposed amendments to the draft documents of the Council that are in sync with the proposals of the Russian Church, and “require fundamental consideration for the purposes of finding Pan-Orthodox consensus.”

However, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is responsible for coordination of the preparations for the Council, declined the proposal to discuss the problems obstructing the convocation of the Council and said that it will take place regardless of the refusal of several Churches to participate in it.

admin | 09 June 2016

Belgrade, June 9, Interfax - The Serbian Orthodox Church joined a number of local Churches which do not consider participation in the Pan-Orthodox Council slated for late June on Crete possible.

Serbian Orthodox Holy Synod seeks postponement of Pan-Orthodox Council

On May 26, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church released a message concerning the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council, welcoming its convocation, but also wondering as to its true status within the Orthodox world. In specific, the Synod made five points:

The predetermined Code of Regulations limits the catholicity of the Council, and leaves little space for freedom in the Holy Spirit;

That the number of participants and right to vote is limited is unjustified;

As the question of communion between Autocephalous Churches is vital for the work of the Church, the topic of autocephaly and its means of proclamation ought to be discussed, as the Serbian Church has continually encouraged;

The Photian Council of 879/880 and the Palamite Council of 1351 ought to be confirmed as the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils;

The six documents approved for discussion are in need of amendment

Following the decisions of the Bulgarian and Antiochian Holy Synods, and in the wake of serious concerns from a number of theologians, hierarchs, and synods, and considering that none of the above points were taken into consideration by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Serbian Orthodox Synod released another message on June 6, stating its belief that it will be difficult to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council at this time, and that it should be postponed.

The letter is reproduced here in full:

Letter of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church to His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a copy of which has been sent to all the Primates of Orthodox Churches and their Holy Synods

The Holy Synod of Bishops of

the Serbian Orthodox Church

№ 793

6 Jun 2016


To His Holiness

Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch



Subject: Holy and Great Synod

Christ is risen!

Most Holy Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, beloved brother in Christ and co-celebrant of Our humbleness, Bartholomew, most wholeheartedly we greet Your respected Holiness with a brotherly embrace in the Lord.

We deem it unnecessary to stress the measure of hope, sincere commitment and contribution, according to our capacity, with which our Church participated in the preparation of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Catholic Church.

However, having taken into consideration:

1. the dissatisfaction and critical remarks of certain local Churches in regard to particular texts, prepared in the pre-Synodal period;

2. the irrevocable decision of the Patriarchates of Antiochia and Bulgaria to refrain from participating in the Synod;

3. the problems in relations and communion between Churches (Jerusalem — Аntioch because of Qatar; deteriorating relations between us and the Patriarchate of Romania, which are now hard to overcome, due to the anti-canonical incursion of the latter into Eastern Serbia and the founding of a parallel diocese there, which will lead to severing of liturgical and canonical communion of the two neighbouring Churches if the behavior described above is not terminated, and so on), conjointly with the perspective of allowing these problems to not be solved at the Synod but, rather, to be deferred to the post-Synodal period, as if any commission can be an organ higher than the pan-Orthodox Synod, and

4. the unwillingness from our Mother Church of Constantinople to have at least one of the proposals of our Church (such as the discussion on autocephaly, right of bishops to vote at the Synod, on regarding the synods from the ninth and fourteenth centuries as ecumenical already, in the consciousness and practice of the Orthodox Church, and some others, perhaps less significant) included into the thematic agenda of the Synod, and, as long as we remain obligated by the standpoints of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of our Church, officially formulated two years ago, as well as recently, at the end of the past month of May,

we are compelled, with sadness — but also with full feeling of our pastoral and, generally, ecclesial responsibility — to inform Your dear and respected Holiness and Your Holy and Sacred Synod that, since all this is so, our Church feels it difficult to participate in the summoned Holy and Great Synod, and proposes that it be postponed for a certain time: while our pending gathering at Crete, with the help of God, would be regarded as a pre-Synodal inter-Orthodox consultation with the aim of additionally preparing the Synod and improving its texts, or, at the most, as the inaugural phase of the whole synodal process, which is to be completed in subsequent continuation, in the next phase, when all disagreements are removed in favor of unity of mind and consensus of Churches. In this way, with the aid of God, the fruit of the Synod will be seen as a witness to our uncorrupted faith, an answer to the hope which abides in us as the message of salvation in Christ, directed to all, both to those who are close to us and to those who are remote, and in no case, God forbid, as a germination of new pestilent schisms and para-synagogues under the excuse of falsely proclaimed zealousness and alleged preservation of Orthodoxy.

In regard to the said we remain Your Holiness’ humble brother and co-celebrant in the risen Christ

Аrchbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and

Serbian Patrijarch


President of the Holy Synod of Bishops

09 / 06 / 2016

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