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The Holy and Great Synod in Crete At RiskBy Theodore Kalmoukos

Note especially the resolutions of the Holy Synod of Russia. These clearly reflect the influence of the texts by Met. Hierotheos, Prof. Demetrios Tselingides, Fr. Theodore Zisis, ROCOR, Mt. Athos and others. - Fr. P.H.

June 5, 2016

BOSTON. On Monday June 6th, the fate of The Holy And Great Synod Of the Orthodox Church is being decided. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is calling an emergency meeting of the prelates at Phanar, due to the serious complication which has arisen at the last-minute. The Synod is scheduled to begin in Crete on June 16th.

The National Herald’s information indicates that the members of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have been informed to be in Phanar on Monday morning. This is because the Synod of the Phanar had just convened and the members from America had arrived in America on Saturday, making it practically difficult to return to Phanar, except for Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta who was in Veria Greece representing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Pauleia festival.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew appears to be particularly sad and concerned about these last-minute turn of events. He has not yet expressed what should be done, but all options should be considered open.

In addition, TNH information from Athens indicates that there is concern at the senior government levels about the Synod’s developments, because they affect interstate relations.

There has been an underlying crisis involving the texts, the subjects, the economics and the preparatory arrangements of the Synod, there were many opinions and viewpoints expressed, as well as fears and objections, including from the Holy Community of Mount Athos, but the crisis culminated with the decision by The Church of Bulgaria to not participate and its request that the Synod convene at a later date.

In addition, there is the unresolved issue of the rivalry between two of the senior Patriarchates, the Patriarchate of Antioch and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which has arisen from the election of Archimandrite Makarios as the “Archbishop of Qatar” by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, although the Patriarchate of Antioch claims that Qatar falls within its geographical jurisdiction.

On the other hand, according to Minutes No. 35 of the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, which have been made available to TNH, from its session on Friday June 3rd and which was presided over by Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kyrillos, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church came to a decision and requests that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew hold a Pan–Orthodox Conference by June 10th the latest, so that all the Local Churches may have the opportunity to address the matters which have arisen.

The Minutes also mention that the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church considered “serious problems which have arisen in the course of preparations for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church to take place from June 18 to 26, 2016, especially concerning the refusal of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to attend the Council if its date is not put off and concerning the serious criticism with regard to the preparation of the Council and the Council’s draft documents both in the Russian Orthodox Church and several other Local Orthodox Churches.”

In addition, the Minutes of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday June 3rd report the following resolutions:

“That the efforts made by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate representatives for participation in the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in the period after the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which took place on February 2-3, 2016, be approved.”

“That the proposals for amendments made by the Russian Orthodox Church to the Pan-Orthodox Council draft documents on ‘The Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’ and ‘The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World’, formulated on the basis of judgements voiced by bishops, clergy, monastics and laity, be approved.

“That a special mention be made that as a result of the discussion on the Pan-Orthodox Council’s draft documents in the Orthodox Churches of Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece as well as the Holy Community of Holy Mount Athos, essential amendments have been made, to a great extent consonant with the proposals made by the Russian Orthodox Church. They need to be thoroughly examined with the aim to find a general Orthodox consensus.

“Considering that the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Council may be made only on basis of consensus (The decision made by the Synaxis of the Primates of Local Orthodox Churches, which took place on March 6-9, 2016, Point 2a), that is, by a unanimous vote of all the universally recognized autocephalous Orthodox Churches, it should be noted that the non-participation of at least one of them in the Council constitutes an unsurmountable obstacle to the holding of a Holy and Great Council.

“That it should be stated that the decision of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church made on June 1, 2016, as well as the continued uncertainty with regard 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 draft Working Procedure of the Council and the document on ‘The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to It’ mean that at a time when the planned date of the opening of the Council is only two weeks away, there are serious problems that need urgent common Orthodox actions.

“That the way out of the present emergency situation could be found in holding an extraordinary pan-Orthodox pre-Council conference to address the present situation and examine the amendments to the Council’s documents presented by Orthodox Churches with the aim to work out agreed proposals.”

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