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Pan-Orthodox Synod Postponed

Author: NAT da Polis
March 3, 2011
Pan-Orthodox Synod postponed over differences between Churches

The representatives of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches have not reached agreement on the rules for granting autocephalous status. Moscow will not recognize any kind of primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.


Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Representatives of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches, given the failure to reach an agreement during the last pan-Orthodox meeting last week in Chambesy, on the issues of granting autocephalous status and Dipticha, themes that were outstanding after the penultimate meeting, have suspended all activities emphasizing the latent differences in the Orthodox world.

The final statement, a very laconic and very one signed by the president of the meeting, Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis Zizoulas, makes no secret that there are difficulties due to a certain protagonism present in some areas of the Orthodox world. These preparatory meetings began in 2009, wanted by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in order to prepare the coveted pan-Orthodox synod, which has not taken place since 1054, the year of the schism between Rome and Constantinople. The Synods gather representatives of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

Topping the agenda of this last meeting was the completion of discussions on the issue of granting autocephalous status, ie the granting of independence of self-administration of an Orthodox Church. This self-management includes the ability to elect their own bishops and head archbishop of the autocephalous Church. It also had to consider the so-called Dipticha, that the rules of mutual recognition among the canonical Orthodox Churches. According to practice, any decision taken in these meetings must be approved unanimously by the representatives of the 14 autocephalous churches.

In fact it was at the final act of the debate on how to seal recognition of the autocephalous nature of a Church by the other Orthodox sister Churches that sparked disagreement between the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis Zizoulas and the representative of Moscow, Metropolitan Hilarion. Zizoulas proposed signing the recognition granting autocephalous status this way: “The Ecumenical Patriarch affirms, given the will of the other churches, to grant autocephalous status. This is followed by his signature, and then by the signature of the heads of other Churches, preceded by the word “confirm”, as an expression of consent, according to the canonical order of mutual recognition. The Moscow representative strongly disagreed with this proposed formula which, according to Hilarion, recognizes the supremacy of Constantinople.

At this point we need to provide some background.  In the Orthodox world, historically the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem have existed as autocephalous churches, while the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is called the “mother church” because she gave birth to the Churches of Moscow, Bulgaria, Serbia, etc..

This disagreement, therefore, has revealed that two camps have formed in the Orthodox world. That of Constantinople, which draws within its sphere the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Sofia, Belgrade, Churches of Greek language and culture, and the Church of Albania. And that of Moscow, which includes the Patriarchate of Georgia and the Churches of Poland and the Czech Republic, and, surprisingly, the Patriarchate of Romania. The latter has not failed to hide its hegemonic ambitions, especially among the Orthodox Diaspora.

In an attempt to calm the waters, discussion moved on to the issue of the Dipticha, the rules of mutual canonical recognition among the Orthodox Churches. But even in these discussions, disagreements arose between the representatives of some churches, such as those of Cyprus and Georgia. Given that here too it has been impossible to reach an agreement it was decided to postpone further debate until after a closer examination of the issues.

The reaction was one of widespread and deep disappointment among representatives. Particularly that of a high priest of Slavic language (has asked not to reveal his name) who expressed his regret that, “We really cut a very unchristian figure. The time has come for us to regain the lost spirituality of the great Fathers of the church and together re-examine our life, currently characterized by a rampant secularization, which finds its highest expression in the building of luxurious archbishops residences”.

Finally, the Reverend Dositheos, head of the press office, speaking to AsiaNews declared: “We need to clarify one thing: that the so-called leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not intended as that of Rome, but rather should be understood as the primacy of charity and as a result of diakonia (service, ed) and non-administrative. It wants to express respect through the diaconate. This element expresses the importance of Constantinople’s diaconate, far removed from any identification of national expression. If the Ecumenical Patriarchate expresses itself through the Greek language and uses tools like Greek thought, this is because it is what happens in the tradition of the great Fathers of the United Church. “The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, concluded Rev. Dositheos, has repeatedly pointed out that the Church must get rid of the localisms and provincialisms that afflict it”.

6 Comments to “Pan-Orthodox Synod Postponed”

  1. Andrew Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Pan-Orthodox Synod Postponed”

    What are the odds that the episcopal assembly is one and done???? I doubt 79th Street is going to throw money at this effort if it does not help them politically. Besides if you bring all the bishops together there may be momentum for changes that are not Phanar friendly.

    Time to take SCOBA off of life support and re-instate the rotating presidency that is clearly spelled out in the SCOBA Constitution… Imagine that we know how SCOBA votes and we have a ROTATING PRESIDENCY. This is a far cry from the EA which we do not know how it votes and it has no rotating presidency. Which is better in the long run?

  2. Administrator Says:

    Daca reprezentantii celor 14? Biserici ortodoxe nu pot cade de acord despre felul de a accepta si declara autocefalia in ortodoxie, atunci ce sa ne facem? Se pare ca toate acestea au mai mult de a face cu PUTERE decat cu altceva.

    Aici, cine domina: Patriarhul Ecumenic, PRIMUS INTER PARES in ortodoxie de aproape 2,000 de ani, dar care astazi conduce efectiv o Biserica din Turcia cazuta la pamant, sau Patriarhul Moscovei, reprezentand Biserica cu cel mai mult numar de enoriasi? Primul este sustinut de guvernul Grecesc (si el la pamant) iar al doilea de guvernul rusesc (din ce in ce mai puternic) care se foloseste de Biserica Rusa ca o unealta a guvernului sau, si pe plan domestic cum si pe plan exterior.

    Din pacate Biserica ortodoxa devine din ce in ce mai mult o unealta a sistemele politice si nu o lumina in intuneric care il ajuta pe om sa aleaga drumul care duce la viata vesnica in Hristos. In tari cu o lunga istorie de democratie si unde vedem o separatie clara intre Biserica si Stat, acolo poate deveni locuri unde Ortodoxia ar putea inflori. Da, America, Canada, Australia, Franta, Anglia, s.a.m.d.

  3. George Patsourakos Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Pan-Orthodox Synod Postponed”

    It is unfortunate that the Orthodox Church hierarchs could not agree on how to recognize a church’s autocephaly…

  4. Briton Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Pan-Orthodox Synod Postponed”

    It certainly appears that the Chambesy Conference was derailed by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev.

    One day quite soon, the Russian Orthodox Church is going to have to decide whether it is Orthodox or something else. The rest of the Orthodox world cannot be held to ransom by the likes of Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion.

  5. Viorel Says:

    Sinodul pan-ortodox prevazut pentru 2012 nu va mai fi? Asta nu inseamna ca Adunarea Episcopala II pentru America de Nord, prevazuta pentru mai 2011, nu mai are nici un rost? Si atunci? OCA ramane singura solutie pentru noi de aici!

  6. Christopher Lee Says:

    Tension will continue to persist between Moscow and Constantinople. I’m amazed that Moscow which was not one of the original ancient Sees has risen in power to rival against Constantinople.

    Orthodox faithful will know that in the world of Orthodoxy, the center of power SHOULD LIE in Constantinople. To have a competing center of power spell doom and trouble.

    The disputes here are very petty and immature. They do not reflect any Christian fraternality deserving of ancient churches.

    Lastly, “the coveted pan-Orthodox synod, which has not taken place since 1054, the year of the schism between Rome and Constantinople.” Surely, a reader here will know that historically, the Patriach of the West (the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church) was the one who would summon the call for an Ecumenical Council. The Roman Emperor is no longer here to act on behalf of the Church.

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