06/08/2016, 10.04
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Pan-Orthodox Council, Moscow Patriarchal Synod holds emergency meeting to decide their participation

by Marta Allevato

Metropolitan Hilarion: "shocked" by Constantinople’s refusal to hold an extraordinary preconciliar meeting to resolve the issues raised by the local churches. "The decisions of the Council shall be taken by unanimous consent and that is not possible if some Churches are missing".


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian Orthodox Church has called an emergency meeting of its Synod to decide whether to participate in the pan-Orthodox council, set for mid-June in Crete, after some local Churches announced their defection, according to the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev).

"We have always said that the decisions of the Council must find consensus to be promulgated - he told the Tass - we believe that consensus cannot mean the agreement of only those who are present, if others are absent. Consensus must mean the unanimous opinion of all local Orthodox Churches. If one is absent, we believe it means that there is no consensus".

The refusal of the Bulgarian Church to attend, following that of the Patriarchate of Antioch, said Hilarion, is an "alarming signal to which we must respond." "We are in an emergency situation that requires urgent solutions," he said, adding that "if these issues are not resolved, then it is better to postpone the council”.

The Bulgarian Church and the Georgian Church, wants to renegotiate and amend some of the documents that the Council of Crete is set to promulgate, many of which have underwent an already arduous drafting process.

The main issues of contention are documents on the sacrament of marriage, the Orthodox Churches and the contemporary world and the relationship with other Christian denominations. These groups criticize the "ecumenical" emphasis contained in the texts and insist that Catholic and Protestant are heretics and not "Churches as defined". The Patriarchate of Antioch has expressed grievances, but more related to the failure to resolve the dispute with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem on the jurisdiction of the Orthodox of Qatar.

In light of this, the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate had sought the convocation, for June 10, of an extraordinary pre-conciliar pan-Orthodox meeting, to evaluate the amendments drawn up by national churches on the documents to be promulgated during the Council and the possible need to postpone it.

However, Constantinople (in charge of organizing the event) has rejected this proposal.  Moreover, it has emerged from the meeting of 14 heads of autocephalous Orthodox Churches, held in Chambésy, in Switzerland, last January, that Constantinople had initially tried to limit the discussion of the texts as much as possible,. "We are naturally shocked Constantinople’s reaction - denounces Hilarion - it means that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has little interest in what the local Churches say ".

The pan-Orthodox council has not convened for over 1000 years and preparations have required more than 50 years. In 2014, the Orthodox spiritual leaders had decided to hold it in 2016 in St. Irene, the ancient cathedral of Constantinople, where the second ecumenical council of the undivided Church (in 553) was held "unless there are hindrances due to unforeseen circumstances."

The Turkish city, however, was "uncomfortable" for the Russian delegation, after the explosion of tensions between Moscow and Ankara over the shooting down of a Russian jet on the border with Syria. This the choice was made to hold the encounter on the Greek island of Crete, under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

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