06/14/2016, 09.28
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Moscow Patriarchate in favor of postponing Council of Crete

by Marta Allevato

The Synod of the Russian Church has decided not to participate in pan-Orthodox gathering, which should open this week. Now all await Phanar response. According to some commentators, the rivalry between Kirill and Bartholomew I is at the root of the problem: for Russians, Constantinople is seeking hegemony in the Orthodox world, and supports the creation of a Ukrainian Church independent from the Moscow Patriarchate.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Moscow Patriarchate has officially announced it will not be taking part in the pan-Orthodox council to be held June 16 to 26 in Crete, the first after more than a thousand years. At the end of an extraordinary meeting of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, 13 June, the head of the Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), insisted on the need to postpone the Council, because of defections already announced by some local Churches: Bulgaria, Georgia, Serbia and Antioch.

They are all demanding that some of the first documents that the representatives of 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches are expected to promulgate in Crete be amended and the a new Council convened.  The  Constantinople Patriarchate, responsible for organizing the event, has rejected the request.

"All Churches should participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council, and only in that case decisions made by the Council will be legitimate" said Hilarion, quoted by Russian news agencies. The 'foreign minister' of the Moscow Patriarchate, however was keen to stress that "the situation is not catastrophic, is a regular situation." "We we should learn lessons from it and understand that the voices of Churches cannot be ignored," he added.

A statement published by the Russian Patriarchate, after the Synod meeting, called for support of the proposal made by the other Churches to reschedule the Pan-Orthodox Council for the time that will be established later following a general Orthodox debate and with the consent of the heads of all Orthodox Churches. The proposal is "to become a true testimony of the unity of the Holy, Christian and Apostolic Church”. The statement also called for the intensification of the work of the Pan-Orthodox secretariat on studying proposals on the solution of problem issues relating to the Council.

"Our decision [to postpone the Council] is being reported to the head of the [Orthodox] churches, we will wait for a response of Patriarch of Constantinople," spokesperson of the Patriarchate of Moscow Vladimir Legoida, told Rossiya-24 television. Bartholomew I had already been opposed to postponing the council, because "no institutional framework allows for the revision of the Synod process once it is already underway."

"It is not clear why all the difficulties related to the convocation of the Council came forward openly so late and why the positions of the local Churches, which eventually refused to participate, were declared only now, shortly before the opening the Council" wrote Vladislav Petrushko, professor of theology, on the orthodox news website Pravmir.ru. He asks the question if there were errors in the preparation for Crete, why were they not declared openly and adequately addressed in the frictions between the communities and their discontent. "The loss of reputation in the Orthodox world in general, after what has happened, is quite grave - writes Petrushko - instead of demonstrating our unity, we have created a framework of disagreement and enmity between the Churches"

According to many commentators, the main issue that is hampering the council is the long-standing rivalry between the Moscow Patriarchate, the largest and most economically significant, and that of Constantinople, with its historic role of "first among equals" and that in the eyes of Russia is supporting demands for a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent of Moscow.

"Statements arrived from the Phanar - continues Petrushko - that beyond those who participate or not in the Council, its decisions will be binding for the entire Orthodox world. The Patriarchate of Constantinople is evidently going beyond the acceptable limit in relations with the other Churches and beyond which begins an 'Eastern popery' ". He believes that "limits must be set" to this and the participation of the Russian delegation in Crete was very important in this perspective to contain the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ambitions of  an "abnormal hegemony".

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