Despite the absence of some Churches, Pan-Orthodox Synod opens
The leaders of the Churches of Antioch, Russia, Georgia and Bulgaria are not present. They decided not to come a week ago, despite agreeing to the gathering and its agenda. The Orthodox Church must urgently meet the challenges of the contemporary world. Synodality must be a permanent feature of the Church. Pope Francis sent his greetings and prayers.
Crete (AsiaNews) – The first Pan-Orthodox Synod in more than a thousand years opened today following the celebration of Pentecost in the Byzantine rite.
In yesterday’s Angelus, Pope Francis, speaking before the faithful in St Peter’s Square, sent his best wishes, calling on Our Lady to shed her light on the path the Synod must follow.
The meeting is not an Ecumenical Synod, like those of the first millennium, when the Universal Church was united. Since the fateful schism of 1054 between Rome and Constantinople, effectively consummated in 1204 when Venetian-led Crusaders shamefully sacked the city, the two Churches have followed different paths, with disastrous results for the Christian world.
The Western Church, led by the Church of Rome, went through another schism - that of Luther and the Reformation - with nefarious consequences.
The Eastern Church, centred in Constantinople, broke up in national Churches, as most of its territories fell to Ottoman conquest followed by the Ottoman Empire’s implosion, undermining Christianity’s universal principles.
As nationalism and localism prevailed, the Eastern Church became increasingly marginalised, using inappropriately the rich Orthodox tradition.
Archbishop of Albania Anastasios said this morning that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has not stopped in the past, and must continue to inspire us today, if we continue to invoke it.
Within the Orthodox Church, the first attempts to deal with the contemporary world began in the 1960s with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.
The Church in Constantinople is considered the Mother Church of the East, since it has always maintained the universal idea of the Christian message. The Church had already censured the dangers of nationalism to the Christian message in a synodal decision.
More recently, in the service of synodality, Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch, as first among equal, took the initiative of convening the primates of the Orthodox Churches to a Pan-Orthodox Synod.
Like the synods of the past (from the 4th century AD), this one began amid complaints, disputes and absences. In the end, as in the past, a modus vivendi will be found.
Four of 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches will be absent. After initially agreeing on the meeting, its agenda, and Synaxis regulation in January, Antioch, Russia, Georgia and Bulgaria asked for a postponement a week from the meeting, citing various reasons.
For Antioch, the issue was a jurisdictional dispute with Jerusalem over the Orthodox in Qatar, about a 1,000 immigrants living the Gulf State. The other three Churches said that they were not ready to discuss the agenda agreed upon. Constantinople responded to their objections by saying that if they come, their issues would be discussed.
Yesterday, the day of Pentecost for the Orthodox, a leaflet was handed out in all the churches of Crete noting that synodality is the true essence of the Orthodox Church.
The brochure explains that the synodal spirit was founded on the day of Pentecost, when the assembled apostles (Acts 2.1) were awaiting the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
The agreed upon agenda includes the mission of the Orthodox Church in the world; the Orthodox diaspora, its autonomy and recognition; marriage and its impediments; the importance of fasting; and the relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world.
The synod, which is expected to last until 26 June, will discuss and finally approve the agenda.
The most important element is the permanence of the synodal spirit, facilitated by the ecclesiastical economy, that is, the ability to grant exemptions to the canons, since the superior end of the Church is eternal salvation.
For Metropolitan Maximos of Silivri, "The most important thing is to meet and discuss in order to realise in time and history the salvific work of the Church."