03/10/2014, 00.00
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Pan-Orthodox Assembly issues final communiqué

by NAT da Polis
Announcement sets dates and stages of 2016 Pan-Orthodox Synod. Participants express solidarity with the people of Syria and persecuted Christians, and make an appeal for the release of all hostages. They pray reconciliation in Ukraine. Faced with the world's economic and moral crisis, the Churches respond by bearing spiritual witness to the faith and defending human dignity, the relationship between men and women, and the environment.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - With a solemn Byzantine Liturgy officiated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and attended by all the heads of the Orthodox Churches present Constantinople, the Synaxis (gathering, assembly) convened by Bartholomew concluded its proceedings yesterday.

During the solemn liturgy, the final communiqué was read. The latter was signed by all Church representatives, except for those of the Church of Antioch, who in protest did not take part in the liturgy and did not sign the communiqué because the Synaxis refused to discuss the dispute between the Patriarchate of Antioch and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem over who should exert jurisdiction in the case of the Orthodox Church in Qatar. For Bartholomew and other leaders, such a dispute is a bilateral one and should be dealt with accordingly.

The communiqué said that the Pan-Orthodox Synod would be held in 2016, in Constantinople. An Inter-Orthodox Committee will meet in September 2014, and should complete its proceedings by Easter 2015. In preparation for the Synod, a Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox will be also held before mid-2015. It was also decided that all proceedings should be approved by a unanimous vote.

The press release stressed that the Synaxis was convened because the Orthodox Church has to respond to the challenges of contemporary society, characterised by growing pluralism and multiculturalism.

The statement expressed "support for the martyrdom and our admiration for the witness of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world," victims of terrible persecution even in "the land where our Lord Jesus Christ was born and whence the Good News spread to the entire world."

Special sympathy was extended to the Christians of Syria, combined with the condemnation of all forms of terrorism and religious insults, and a call for the release of Metropolitans Boulos and Yohanna as well as all the priests, monks and nuns of the Monastery of Santa Tecla. (The latter were freed Sunday evening.)

As to the crisis in the Ukraine, the communiqué said, "We fervently pray for peaceful negotiation and prayerful reconciliation." It equally slammed the violent occupation of sacred sites, and called on separate Christians brethren (the Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate) to return to communion with the Holy Orthodox Church.

Speaking about to the economic crisis affecting the world, the press release noted that this crisis represents a major threat to social justice, human coexistence and peace in the world.

Selfishness, greed, hedonism and the consequent abuse of power spurn the sacredness of human nature and therefore are opposed to brotherly solidarity and true justice. What is more, this crisis is not only economic, but also moral and spiritual.

In view of this, the Church is called to speak with a prophetic voice, concerned by those tendencies that despise and erode the principles of the Christian faith, and to reiterate values ​​like human dignity, the sacredness of human life from beginning to end, the gift of creation, respect for the environment, as well as the union between a man and a woman, as an expression of the union of Christ with his Church.

In concluding, the statement said that the Synaxis provided an opportunity to reiterate the value of synodality within the Orthodox tradition, and to reaffirm mutual cooperation and communion between the Churches and with Jesus Christ.

At the same time, proclaiming "the message of Orthodoxy" goes hand in hand with dialogue with other people and other cultures, as well as with other Christians and people of other faiths.

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