HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL OF ORTHODOX CHURCH

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News Bulletin

OFFICE OF THE PANORTHODOX SECRETARIAT
English Version
Tuesday, 21 June, 2016
Number 1.

HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL
OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

Orthodox Academy of Crete 18-27 June 2016

He divided the nations.
When He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to UNITY.
And with one voice we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.
(Kontakion of Pentecost)

This Bulletin is designed as a work-tool for the information of the Observers and the accredited members of the Mass Media. The translations into other languages do not have an official character.

This Bulletin is published on the web-site of the Holy and Great Council: https://www.holycouncil.org/home

Sunday, 19 June 2016.

The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church commenced on the Sunday of Pentecost, 19 June 2016, with the Pan-Orthodox concelebration of all the Primates of the participating Orthodox Churches, in the Holy Cathedral Church of St. Minas in Heraklion and, on the following day, Monday 20 June 2016, with the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Spirit, at the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonias.

Monday 20 June, 2016.

Following the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Spirit at the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonias, the inaugural session of the Council commenced in the neighbouring Orthod0-ox Academy of Crete with the usual prayer under the presidency of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with the participation of their Beatitudes the Primates of the Orthodox Churches that are taking part in the Council and of their esteemed delegations, as well as of their advisors and ancillary staff.

The Introductory speech of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

His All-Holiness expressed his joy at the eager participation of ten Churches, namely Alexandria, Jerusalem, Serbia, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania, Czech and Slovakia.  At the same time, however, he expressed his bitter disappointment at the non-participation of four Churches at the Council, even though these, namely the Churches of Antioch, Russia, Bulgaria and Georgia, had co-operated in all stages of preparation of the topics for discussion, with great willingness, and made an important contributions.  Therefore, his disappointment at their absence, for no specific reason, was even greater since two of them had agreed on and signed all of the texts of the Council at the recent Synaxis of the Primates of the most Holy Local Orthodox Churches.  In this spirit, at the conclusion of the deliberations of the Council on 17 June – and with the common consent of all the Primates – an invitation was sent out to the Primates of the non-participating Churches, to participate in the Concelebration of the Sunday of Pentecost, or in that of the Sunday of All Saints (26 June).

His All-Holiness, recalled the special significance and importance of the convocation of the Holy and Great Council for which tireless efforts have been expanded by all the Churches, in order to prepare the topics on the Council’s agenda.  The delay in these preparations was due to the well-known adverse conditions of the 20th century for all of the Churches.  His All-Holiness linked the absolute necessity for the convocation of the Council with the initiatives taken by the Synaxis of Primates for the acceleration of the preparation and convocation of the Council – especially at the meetings in the Phanar (March 2014) and in Chambesy, Geneva (January 2016).  His All-Holiness welcomed with especially warm words the presence of the Observers, namely the representatives from other Christian Churches and Confessions, who have demonstrated great interest in the convocation and work of the Council.

In this context he offered severe criticism of those who, on artificial pretexts and for entirely unfounded reasons, seek to impede the convocation of the Council, accusing the participants of an alleged betrayal of Orthodoxy, as if they were the sole guardians thereof.

Council and Conciliarity.

This Council is not a necessity arising from specific events, but from the conciliar identity of the Church, which exists only in Council.  Opposition to the convocation of the Council, represents a betrayal of the patristic tradition of the Church and a complete personal discrediting of its supporters.  He also underlined, among other things, that conciliarity means the transcendence of individuality for the sake of the spirit of universality.  The origin of conciliarity is the Eucharistic assembly, namely “the coming together … to celebrate the Eucharist.”  And the functioning of conciliarity has been the only means for overcoming problems of all kinds, which the Church had to deal with, both at a local and at a wider level.  The decisions of the Councils (Local, Metropolitan and Patriarchal) were invested with prestige and authority, and those disagreeing with them were cut off from ecclesial communion.

Preparatory Committee and Agenda.

Particular reference was made to the Pan-Orthodox Preparatory Meetings, which over a period of fifty years prepared the Holy and Great Council, which is an authentic expression of conciliar consciousness of the Church.  In addition, new issues have arisen over the last few decades, which demanded a conciliar resolution, such as the relation of the Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church, new issues of an administrative nature, which arose in the now very populous Orthodox Diaspora in countries of the West, the attempts to re-establish Christian unity, known by the conventional title of “ecumenism”, as well as new issues of a pastoral nature and bioethical problems, due in the application of new technologies at all levels in the life of modern man.

The Functioning of the Holy and Great Council.

His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, made specific reference to the mode of operation of the Council, in particular to the principle of the unanimity of all the local Orthodox Churches for the texts approved and signed up to now.  This principle is, in no way, binding on the Holy and Great Council for the adoption of amendments, on the condition that they will enjoy common acceptance and unanimity, otherwise the accepted text will prevail.  On the occasion of the Feast of Holy Spirit, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke adverting to the Paraclete and the projection of the unity of the Church in the communion of the sacraments, setting indeed as an aim unity in the sacraments of Baptism, the Eucharist and the Priesthood.  His All-Holiness concluded the opening address of the Council with a heart-felt greeting to the observers and the journalists.

His Beatitude, Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II, in his greeting underlined that the Council of the Orthodox Churches represents a victory for the unity of the Church especially on the day of Pentecost when we pray, Come, O Holy Spirit, and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain and save our souls. He referred both to the necessity of conciliarity, and also to the possibility of unanimity within this framework.

His Beatitude, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos, spoke of the unflinching stance of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem to proceed without any further unjustified delay to the convocation of the Holy and Great Council which had been decided on many decades previously.

His Beatitude, Patriarch of Serbia, Eirinaios, greeted all the participating Churches on behalf of the Serbian flock, emphasising his great joy at the participation of the Serbian Church in the Holy and Great Council, which will prove the unity of Orthodoxy.  He would have wished for the presence of all the Churches, but that “it is a little cloud and will swiftly pass away”.

His Beatitude, Patriarch of Romania, Daniel, greeted with warm words all those present and gave thanks to the grace of God through which the much-awaited Holy and Great Council is taking place today, and praying that the illumination of the Holy Spirit will guide us to unity in Christ.

His Beatitude, Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos, spoke of an exceptional and great event in the history of the Orthodox Church, while he judged that the absence of the four Churches is due essentially to reasons fabricated for public consumption. He praised the Ecumenical Patriarch because during his wise tenure of the Patriarchate, the procedures for the preparation of the Holy and Great Council were expedited so that it could take place today.  He also made note of the great contemporary problems which trouble the Orthodox Church with Nationalism being their main source.  He also expressed positions on the holy diptychs, on the manner of proclaiming Autocephaly and on religious fundamentalism.

His Beatitude, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos, pointed out that today’s feast of the Holy Spirit can be a source of illumination for our communion with God and each other.  The Council that is held today is not merely a copy of earlier forms of conciliarity.  Rather, it is a Council, which without differentiating itself from tradition, attempts to give answers to the problems and issues that modern man is facing.

His Eminence, Archbishop of Warsaw and Poland, Savvas, thanked all the participating Churches for showing a spirit of unity in Christ, and for observing the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church.

His Eminence, Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios, praised the historical and theological integrity of the Homily of the Ecumenical Patriarch, while for the absentee Churches he expressed the wish that they pray for the success of the Council, recalling that during the Chambesy meeting, a proposition was made for Pan-Orthodox Councils to be assembled at regular intervals.  He also stressed that the principle of unanimity – consensus – for decision raised many problems at a Pan-Orthodox level and raised the possibility of introducing the principle of the majority, as was already the case at the First Ecumenical Council.  He also emphasized that we ought to face the one and great heresy, in the same way that all Ecumenical Councils had done in the past, namely the heresy of egocentrism, which is the prime divisive disease.

His Eminence, Archbishop Czech and Slovak, Rastislav, expressed his joy at the convocation of the Council and wished for the grace of the Holy Spirit to illumine the deliberations of the Holy and Great Council.

Afternoon session

During the afternoon session the document “The mission of the Church in the contemporary world” was introduced for discussion. The proposals for amendments to the text made by the delegation of the most holy Church of Greece were read by His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and were discussed.  Two of the three amendment proposals were accepted by the Council, while the third one, on the sanctity of the human person, sparked lengthy theological discussions, and as a result remained unchanged.  The session was completed with the proposal of His All-Holiness, President of the Council, to accept the discussed document in principle.

“Temples in the shape of Heaven,” concert.

The first day of the deliberations of the Holy and Great Council was completed with a concert at the theater of the Orthodox Academy of Crete (Nopigia), in which sections from the “Axion Estin,”a setting of the poem by Odysseas Elitis and Mikis Thedorakis, were performed by the artists Maria Farantouri, Dimitris Kavakos, and Tatiana Papageorgiou.  The (ΔΕΗ-ΔΕΔΔΗΕ) choir participated in the concert, under the direction of conductor Kostis Konstantaras, while the Cretan dance group, “Omilos Vrakoforon” (Ὅμιλος Βρακοφόρων Κρήτης) also took part.  The concert was honored by the presence of the Primates and Hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches that participate at the Holy and Great Council.

HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL OF ORTHODOX CHURCH
News Bulletin

OFFICE OF THE PANORTHODOX SECRETARIAT
English Version
Thursday, 23 June, 2016
Number 2.

HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL
OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

Orthodox Academy of Crete 18-27 June 2016

He divided the nations.
When He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to UNITY.
And with one voice we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.
(Kontakion of Pentecost)

This Bulletin is designed as a work-tool for the information of the Observers and the accredited members of the Mass Media. The translations into other languages do not have an official character.

This Bulletin is published on the web-site of the Holy and Great Council: https://www.holycouncil.org/home

Plenary Session Tuesday, the 21st June

During the first morning session on Tuesday, 21 June, His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch condemned the demonstrations organised to exploit groups of naïve or zealous believers every ready to oppose the Holy and Great Council. He prayed that the great fire in Cyprus would be swiftly extinguished. He announced that a telegram had been sent by the Catholics in Greece and that a message of greeting had been received from the Synod of Roman Catholic Bishops in America. He also announced the amendment proposals relating to the text about theMission of the Church in today’s world submitted to the Secretariat of the Council by the Church of Serbia and requested that they be accepted by the Council with certain editorial changes.

Topic: The Orthodox Diaspora

Following the acceptance of the amendments, the text on the Orthodox Diaspora and the associated Regulation for the organization and functioning of the established Regional Episcopal Assemblies was read out. His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch noted that even though the desirable canonical organization of the Episcopal Assemblies had not proved possible, nevertheless significant steps had been taken and the efforts had brought important fruits for their harmonic functioning, in spite of the negative stance of one or two Churches. These positive steps were underlined by the Presidents of the Episcopal Assemblies of America and Germany, as well as by many other members of the Council, while the causes for the present dysfunctionalities were noted by their Beatitudes the Primates of Cyprus, Albania, Romania, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Poland and many Hierarchs, including Alexandros of Nigeria, Seraphim of Zimbabwe, Basil of Constantia, Irenaeos of Batska, Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Theophanis of Moldavia, and others.

Discussions on the Topic

The proposals discussed focused, on the one hand, on preserving the existing text in the form it had been unanimously passed to the Holy and Great Synod by the Synaxis of the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches (Chambesy, Jan. 2016), since it is complete and covers the needs of the Episcopal Assemblies, and on the other hand, on exploiting  the authority of the Council to remove certain non-canonical practices and established dysfunctions for the more effective fulfillment of the important work of the Episcopal Assemblies.

Suggestions

In their responses their Beatitudes the Primates, reviewed constructively the different proposals of the two tendencies, making reference especially to the absence of the four Holy Orthodox Churches not participating in the Holy and Great Council so as to anticipate or avert undesirable misunderstandings or confusions.  Accordingly, His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, as President of the Holy and Great Council, defended both the canonical right and the authority of the Council to protect the canonical order of the Orthodox Church and to guarantee the harmonic functioning of inter-Orthodox and inter-church relations, and so he considered it necessary to accept at least certain amendments on primarily practical matters of canonical order.

HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

News Bulletin

OFFICE OF THE PANORTHODOX SECRETARIAT
English Version
Friday, 24 June, 2016
Number 3.

HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL
OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

Orthodox Academy of Crete 18-27 June 2016

He divided the nations.
When He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to UNITY.
And with one voice we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.
(Kontakion of Pentecost)

This Bulletin is designed as a work-tool for the information of the Observers and the accredited members of the Mass Media. The translations into other languages do not have an official character.

This Bulletin is published on the web-site of the Holy and Great Council:www.holycouncil.org

News Bulletin for 22nd and 23rd June 2016

On the progress of the deliberations of the
Holy and Great Council.

22ND JUNE

Greetings and Announcements by the Ecumenical Patriarch

During the morning session on Wednesday 22nd June 2016, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, expressed warm wishes on behalf of the sacred body to His Eminence Eusebios the Metropolitan of Samos on the occasion of his name day.  He went on to announce that the texts on the Mission of the Orthodox Church in today’s world and on the Orthodox Diaspora had not received final endorsement and signature on account of the fact that their translation into Russian had not yet been completed and he introduced for discussion the text about Autonomy and the manner in which it is proclaimed.

The Archbishop of Athens. On Autonomy.

His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens Hieronymos, presented the amendment submitted by the delegation of the Church of Greece, concerning the non-establishment of Autonomous Churches in areas whose ecclesiastical status has already been defined by a Patriarchal and Conciliar Tome or by a Conciliar Act, clearly alluding to the so-called “New Lands” in Northern Greece and the Aegean islands.

Position of the Ecumenical Patriarch

His All-Holiness condemned those who deliberately stir up trouble over this issue, not only in order to impede the work of the Holy and Great Council, but also in order to damage the harmonious relations between the Mother and daughter Church.  Thus, he proclaimed that the Mother Church is grateful that the most Holy Church of Greece willingly accepted to administer, as trustee, her provinces known as the “New Lands”, and hence has never considered, nor will she consider in the future, to ask for a change in the ecclesiastical status of these provinces by the proclamation of their Autonomy.  Accordingly, these things are noxious fantasies of those hostile to the harmonious functioning of the sisterly relations between the two Churches.

DISCUSSIONS of the Primates and Delegates on the issue of Autonomy.

Many Primates and hierarchs spoke on the matter to claim that the provisions of the text weaken the canonically established exceptional privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and open up a dangerous path for the administrative fragmentation of the Orthodox Church with unforeseeable negative consequences for her unity.  Other hierarchs claimed that the Autonomous Status established in the Orthodox canonical tradition is being compromised since each Autocephalous Church is able to impose a different type of Autonomous Status and of dependence on the Autocephalous Church to which it refers.  The text was finally accepted after some editorial improvements and clarifications.

TOPIC: About Fasting.

During the afternoon session of the same day, the text on “The importance of fasting and its observance today” was introduced for discussion.  The text was considered in general as a complete and comprehensive expression of both letter and spirit of the entire age-long ecclesiastical tradition, and hence it has received only a minimum of modification in the period following its unanimous acceptance by the Third Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference (Chambesy, 1986).  During the discussions on the matter, their Beatitudes, the Primates, expressed their full satisfaction, both in regard to the completeness of the text and also in regard to the breadth of its perspectives concerning the pastoral distinction between canonical rigor and ecclesiastical economy in the application of these positions by the various Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.  Consequently, it was decided that the theological observations articulated did not touch on the substance of the matter, and so the text was unanimously accepted as it stands.

23nd  JUNE

Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council At the morning session of the Holy and Great Council, on Thursday 23rd June 2016, the Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council was read and approved by the assembly of their Beatitudes the Primates after some additions and amendments.

On the Sacrament of Marriage Thereafter the text “On the Sacrament of Marriage and its impediments”, as extended and supplemented by the Meeting of their Beatitudes the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches at Chambesy in January 2016, was read and introduced for discussion.  The discussions and the proposals for amendment and additions confirmed both the completeness of the text as well as the necessity for the positions therein presented, not only for the sacrament of Marriage, but also for the sacred institution of the Family.  In this context, the discussion centered primarily on the wording of the paragraph of the text on mixed marriages, about which the most holy Church of Georgia had expressed strong objections.

Thus, the proposed amendments, which were aimed mainly at the clarification of the letter and spirit of the particular paragraph, were supported by all their Beatitudes the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches and by all Hierarchs who spoke on the matter, thereby covering the reservations of the Church of Georgia as to the limits of the application of ecclesiastical economy to those mixed marriages.

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